So today we continue our journey into this series called Different. The whole idea is to be different spiritually from our encounter with Jesus. Which is a big time focus for us because when we are different it means that God’s love is in us, flowing through us, and transforming us. You see I it means that things are getting real, and we like the real thing here at MRC! Over the last few weeks we have watched this series shift from an idea of how we can be set up to be different spiritually in a way that will stick with us…which was basically a time of building a foundation to actually see real life change in our lives. That foundation being brokenness and faith. Then we shifted the series a couple of weeks ago to a time where we are starting to be challenged to make some big time commitments in our lives to actually be different. This really is where the series, starts to heat up if you ask me!
So where did these commitments begin? Well they began with what Jesus tells us is the two most important things we could do…which is to love God and to love others. We built two weeks off of this particular scripture and frankly today I want to show you something else in here that is really important.
Matthew 22:35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” NIV
I love this thought. In this moment, Jesus takes something that we make so complex (Spirituality), and He makes it so simple. He says in the end this whole Christianity thing boils down to two things, love God and love people. But can it really be that simple? The answer is yes, yes it can be, but and it’s a pretty big but here…we have to be able to get past ourselves if we are going to love God and love others as God would intend. I told you last week, the whole idea of loving God was actually a very challenging talk for me to preach on. Now it’s not because it’s such a mind blowing topic, because let’s face it there may be nothing more obvious that you would hear in a church…yes, we want you to love God, but I will say it was tough to preach on because even as I was speaking to you about it, I just kept thinking, this sure is easier said than done. I mean it almost didn’t seem fair in way. We spent a lot of time that day really looking at the idea that loving God first, which is such a big deal because it just isn’t our natural default setting as people to do that. But even as I was speaking on that particular day I was just thinking more and more about how much easier it is to say than it is to actually live out in our lives. I mean there is a lot going on in this world isn’t there? It’s hard to love God first and stay focused on God in the world that we live today because everything on this planet seems to pull our attention off of God and onto everything and anything but Him! Our lives are so busy, so hectic, we have so much going on, so many details to hold together in our minds…and let’s be really honest here today sometimes the kids, the phone, the calendar push notifications, and our jobs are screaming much, much louder than God in our everyday lives. So while loving God first is the most important thing you can do spiritually it isn’t really all that easy to do with a world that is designed to pull us from God in every way.
Then last week I have to say we really added something extremely messy to the intensity of all you have to do in life…we added people to it. We looked at life and I think you can agree with me here, life would just be easier without all the people right? So as busy, stressed out, over worked, and distracted as you are, so are other people, and now we are all running around this planet bumping into each other and things can really get messy, really quickly. That is where we really hung out last week. We are to love others, and if we are going to be honest with each other, we can admit that life with people is hard, and loving others isn’t easy at all.
I really enjoyed that talk because it allowed us to look at some very important things in life and I will just tell you that I enjoyed working terms like into a sermon like “Vague Booking” and “Adulting” but hey, when you are me, you are just happy to pretend you are still cool and in the know at some level. But the bigger thing I really wanted us to see is that Jesus came to this Earth and simplified everything. He took all the complexities of spirituality and made things so simple. He was dealing with a lot of religious and educated people who would have loved to sit around and debate Him on any theological thing they could get their hands on…and they did at times, but Jesus says, “let’s just take all the details, questions, debates…and let’s just put that stuff aside and work on loving God, and loving others.” Which is just awesome! Frankly it’s a relief in a way isn’t it? Jesus makes something so complicated so easy and clear. It may be hard to live out, but at least it’s easy to understand right? But as that talk unfolded a theme started to come out of it, and that was that as simple as Jesus made this whole Christianity thing, when it comes to love…Jesus seemed raise the bar and make it even more challenging in the area of love. Do you remember that? Jesus takes loving others to a whole new level and it’s intentional…
Matthew 5:43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. MSG
Yikes! So Jesus wants us to love others well, which is one thing, but this includes those that aren’t that easy to love, and that is a whole other thing isn’t it? I mean this isn’t going to be easy, and really I believe that is the whole point of what Jesus is doing…if we are going to love our enemies we are going to need God’s help. It won’t be easy, and the whole point of the loving others talk was that God needs to be in it, and and what we will keep building on today is that God wants us to grow up. Our spiritual growth always ties back to love. I mean right after this huge challenge Jesus said this…
Matthew 5:48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. MSG
We really spent a lot of time in these early weeks as a church pointing out that God isn’t after our religious acts. God is after our hearts. God wants us to grow up and I want you to hear me. Sometimes growing up is bigger than just doing the comfortable thing or the easy things in life. Sometimes growing up means that we are going to step up to a challenge, and sometimes it means that we are going to allow God into our lives and allow Him to lead. Sometimes growing up is risky…and sometimes it’s a little scary but we are learning some important things about growing spiritually. When we see a challenge to grow up in Scripture it is going to tie us back into love. Remember the key point of loving others is that our spiritual growth level comes out in how well or not well we are relating to others.
So this is pretty clear, love really ties into me growing up and the Bible says that God wants us to grow up. But can I just be really honest with you here? This isn’t easy to do. Jesus is challenging us to actually love our enemies…to literally love on those that aren’t all that nice to us…how in the world do we do that. Well I think this is actually the point, that you can’t do that on your own. So this is where we have been…looking at the two most important things we could commit to doing according to Jesus, to love God and love others…let’s face it, we are going to need God to do that well…which is the point.
So today we are going to look at the next big commitment that we can make so that we can be different spiritually in 2018 and beyond. Today’s commitment is to takes steps to follow God. Basically this means that we are going to make the commitment to grow, which we already know ties back into love in Scripture. I want you to see that these steps won’t always be easy, and will often mean we are leaving safety and comfort, and heading towards risk…rather than running towards what appears safe.
So let’s think about love…if you are tracking with where we have already been when it comes to love, there is some risk involved isn’t there? Think about this, to love well means you are putting your heart out there…which isn’t all that easy to do, and leads to times where your heart is broken or hurt right? I mean it’s not easy to just throw your heart back out there after you have dealt with hurts, and pain, and real issues in your life right? It isn’t easy to put yourself out there heart first and many just don’t, or won’t, or did at one time and were hurt and are just never willing to do it again. Well when it comes to following Jesus, and becoming His disciple there is something you need to know. And it’s important to know this going in, there is risk involved in stepping out and following Jesus…Jesus didn’t really apologize for it either, and he really never said it was going to be easy or comfortable.
Luke 9:57 On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. 58 Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” MSG
Jesus isn’t unclear there is he? He is making a pretty strong statement and it’s where we are headed today, we are making a commitment to follow Jesus, and that may mean stepping away from everything we know to be comfortable and clear and safe so that He can lead us in a new way. This is what it’s all about. You will have to step out into life to follow Jesus at times, and this means that we may not clearly know what comes from those steps you are taking to follow Him. So here’s the thing about following Jesus, it can mean you will take some risks in your life. Odds are, Jesus will pull you away from comfort, and I want you to know that is a good thing. There will be fear, there will be pain at times, there will be wins and losses, there will be good times and bad times…there will be things we want to post on social media…and other things that we just would never want anyone to hear about…it will be messy at times. Jesus really challenges us to go all in, and I think for many of us this is the biggest risk we will take because it means opening up our heart fully to Christ…which isn’t easy for us to do…remember how we are to love God? We have spent two weeks in this scripture but I want you to look a little closer at verse 37 here…
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
So I’m supposed to love God first, but it’s bigger than that isn’t it? Jesus says with ALL of my heart, and with ALL of my soul, and with ALL of my mind. This to me is Jesus saying throw all your cards on the table, and go all in for God. For so many of us this is a very risky thing. Opening up ALL of our heart, our mind, and our soul to God…that’s different than showing up and doing church on a Sunday morning isn’t it? I want you to hear me say something, you are called to do great things for God. God has a plan and a purpose for your life. And when you step into God’s plan for your life, you will truly live. Life will be different. Actually this is why Jesus said that He came to this Earth, very important scripture here…
John 10:10 …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV
Jesus says that He came to give us life and life to the full. I believe that life to the full happens as we stand in the purpose that God has for our lives. But just because God has a plan for your life, and a greater purpose for your life, it does not mean that you will ever stand in that purpose. I want you tracking with me here. Just because Jesus came to give you life and life to the full doesn’t mean that you will choose to live your life this way. Some will stand in it, and some will not, which to me is an absolute tragedy that someone would never stand in their God given purpose. We do actually have some choices to make in the process and if we aren’t willing to take the risk of going all in for God, we will not experience that life that Jesus says you can have through Him. You have a choice to make, will you love God fully with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your mind…or not. Living as a disciple of Christ is an awesome thing, but you will have to step up, and maybe a better way to say it is that you will have to step out of your comfort zone to do that. Jesus never really told you it would be easy. In fact he told you that it takes work and focus and energy to find life with God.
Matthew 7:13 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. 14 The way to life — to God! — is vigorous and requires total attention. MSG
So do you see something developing from Jesus’ teaching? We have been spending a lot of time looking at Jesus teachings so far here at MRG. Jesus says we are to love the Lord our God with ALL of us, ALL of our hearts, minds, and souls…and here what do we see? There are no shortcuts to God. The way to life to God is vigorous and requires total attention. This is not a popular way to look at life is it? Well this is what it’s all about engaging God with everything we have. For some of us this means that we will have to open up our hearts in a way that could open us up to heart ache. For some of us we have struggled with giving God control in our lives…this may be in the area of loving others, or just allowing God to have full control of our future. Maybe for you it’s in the area of finances or just giving God control over all your fear, doubt and worry on anything from your children, to where you will go on vacation next summer…but make no mistake about this, Jesus wants us to go all in. He wants ALL of us, and our natural instinct will often be to pump the breaks on this and stay in control of our own lives.
Jesus is constantly pulling us away from comfort, because as nice, and warm, and fuzzy as comfort can feel…it doesn’t lead us into the life of a disciple who is completely dependent on God. I see this as Jesus’ way of protecting us from getting stuck spiritually. We talk about getting stuck a lot when it comes to our walk with God. We don’t want that, well I’m telling you comfort can often become the number one blocker to us fully engaging God. It allows me to stay focused on myself and not God. It allows me to not have to rely fully on God, frankly it allows me to stay in control of my own life which is why I think Jesus pushes so hard against comfort. Remember Jesus says love with ALL of us! He says there are no shortcuts to God, the way to God is vigorous and requires ALL of our attention. Make no mistake about this following Jesus isn’t going to lead to comfort. It will require you and I to step out and take some risk. There will be good times, but there will also be challenges, and scary moments too. You know there is a great example of this in Scripture, and it’s really the story I want to look at with you today. It’s a time where we get to see Peter do something pretty incredible, even if it’s just for a moment because he is willing to step out of safety to follow Jesus. Remember if we are to be different spiritually it means that we will make a commitment to follow Jesus, and to Jesus this means we will go ALL IN…or not. In this story we see Peter go all in.
Matthew 14:22 Immediately after this, Jesus made his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake while he sent the people home. 23 Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost. 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “It’s all right,” he said. “I am here! Don’t be afraid.” 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.” 29 “All right, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him. “You don’t have much faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 And when they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. NLT
So this is a pretty special story, and I want you to see a couple really cool things that are going on here. So to set this up Jesus has just spent a bunch of time ministering to crowds of people, he has just fed 5000 people with some fish and some loaves of bread and now he heads out for some time with God. Yet another moment where Jesus is modeling the importance of our own one on one time with God. This is a big deal for us right? Jesus once again modelling for us how to live life on this Earth. Work hard, minister to others, love others well…but spend time with God as Jesus does! He tells the disciples to head to the other side of the sea…and a major storm rolls in, here’s why we know it’s a bad storm. It’s because a lot of the disciples were actually fisherman, this means that they understand how to handle themselves on the water, and they are having a really hard time. The storm is so bad that are terrified, thinking they are going to die. This is when something unbelievable happens. They are fighting for their lives, and all of a sudden Jesus comes walking by…on the water! So I’ve never been in a fishing boat fighting for my life, in a raging sea and then had a human being walk by me in the middle of the night…but you can understand why they are thinking this is a ghost. And why they are so afraid right? This is a very intense moment to say the least, and what happens next is amazing.
Peter steps out of the boat and begins walking towards Jesus. For so many of us, life looks a lot like a raging storm, and for many of us we are clinging to the rails of the boat, hoping to stay safe, hoping not to drown in the chaos of life, clinging to the comfort and safety of the boat. But remember sometimes following Jesus requires us to step away from comfort and into the unknown, and for a minute or two…or at least a few steps Peter is doing something that no other human outside of Christ has ever done or experienced…he is walking on water. Peter is experiencing God in an amazing way…and I want you to see this, as he stands on that water and is taking steps towards Jesus the likes of which no human has or ever will take again he is doing great as long as he stays focused on Jesus. He is in the unknown now, he has left the safety and comfort of the boat, and now is completely reliant on Jesus…and frankly this is a beautiful place to be. This is Peter, literally stepping out in faith, and living that life to the full thing that we keep hearing about.
So it wouldn’t be Peter story without there being a bit of a hiccup along the way, and as most often goes down with Peter, that moment comes…something happens and Peter starts to sink. Do you know what it is? The wind blows harder, and the waves grow bigger and Peter loses his focus. His eyes shift from Jesus to all that is going on around him and he begins to sink. You know in so many ways this is such a great image of life for us…there are so many things that pull our focus off of God, and we can find ourselves in trouble very quickly…but something beautiful happens. Jesus saves him there…he doesn’t let him drowned, Jesus was with him in the water…I just love this story. There is so much to look at here, so much to learn from. But let’s just focus on this one idea…who of these disciples actually experienced Jesus on this day in this moment? It was Peter. Where were the other disciples? Well they were hiding in the boat, where most of us with any rational thinking would have been…trying to survive, it was Peter who took the steps towards Jesus and it was Peter who experienced something no one else ever will or could! Peter walked on water.
Peter heard the voice of Jesus and got out of the boat and walked on water…and while we could say he didn’t do it well, he did it better than we ever have…because no one has ever done anything like what Peter did. The other disciples didn’t do it and because of that they don’t experience Jesus the way Peter did which is something that should make us all think today. By staying in the comfort of the boat, they do not experience Christ. Which is not good.
So I am wondering if you can relate to this story at all today. If there is something we have been pretty clear on here in the early goings of this church, it’s that life isn’t all that easy. Let’s just say it, life is crazy, and it can often make us feel like we are out in the water in the middle of the night, with the wind and the waves crashing in all over us…and I wonder in all of this if Jesus doesn’t have something He is asking of you too? Sometimes following Jesus is all about stepping out of comfort, it can feel risky. Sometimes obeying God is scary from our perspective because we don’t know if we will sink, or stand on that water we call life. But I want you to think about something that may be a new thought today, maybe the bigger risk is to not obey God. Maybe it was the eleven disciples who didn’t get out of the boat that actually missed out on something greater, didn’t say it wasn’t scary but maybe what Peter got was more. Maybe by not making the choice to take the next steps to following Jesus you are missing out on experiencing that life to the full thing that Jesus came to give us, all in the name of safety or comfort.
So I want you to think this for a moment. Jesus wants ALL of us, and sometimes following Jesus isn’t easy. It will often require us to step out of our comfort zones, and actually commit to doing something that in the end is a little scary. Peter went all in here and his reward is experiencing Jesus in an amazing way. Listen so many people think Christianity is boring, or just something we do that is nice, and safe, and that somehow following Christ means that the adventures of life are over…no that isn’t it at all. Jesus told you that He came to give life and life to the full. That only happens if you can get past all your fears, and do something! It’s time to go all in or not.
Today’s commitment is to grow. It is to literally step out of your comfort zones and move towards Jesus. Yes this can be scary, and yes it will not always be easy…but then again, Jesus never told you it would be did He?