So we are rolling right along now in our series Different, which I have really enjoyed it so far!  I feel like things have really heated up in this series as we have really turned from the foundational parts of life change, to making actual commitments to actually being different from our encounter with Jesus…which is real, which makes it fun and if you have been around us any length of time here at MRC you know that we like things to be real.  Every week all the way to Easter we are hitting different commitments that we can make to be different spiritually…which has been a lot of fun to teach in and to be a part of.  I have also enjoyed reading what Ken was teaching on as well.  I felt like last week, Ken hit on a subject that is so important.  I don’t know what it is, if it is me getting older or what, but I don’t believe there is a bigger battle going on in us people today than the one our enemy is waging over our thoughts, and perceptions, because what we perceive is often what we end up believing, it is what we make our reality, and it is probably not necessarily all that accurate most of the time.  I believe this is one of the enemy’s biggest assaults on us as people.  Once we believe lies about ourselves, and others it becomes our reality, and once it becomes are reality it is what we accept as fact or truth, which is very dangerous, especially when it may not necessarily be the truth.  Somehow our own acceptance of a lie, or assumption it becomes truth if we aren’t careful and it effects our relationships with God and with others.  I think in our world of technology this has even gotten more challenging for us.  Have you ever sent a text and gotten a flat response back that just felt a little off, or maybe you got no response at all from someone that you know has their phone in their hand at all times.  Do you ever start to think about why they haven’t responded?  Is the person mad at me?  Why are they ignoring me?  You start thinking back to anything stupid you may have said or done around them, and wondering what is going on, and even maybe working out an argument or defense for this horrible confrontation you must be in and then you run into them somewhere and realize their son dropped their phone in the toilet or something and they just simply never heard from you and everything was fine!  How about walking in and out of church, someone looks at you funny, or just isn’t talking to you, or they just don’t SEEM to want to be around you…and what can you assume?  They are mad at me, or they don’t like me…and we can walk away thinking the worst of ourselves right?  “I’m a loser.” Or “I wonder what I did wrong?”  We walk away assuming a lot about ourselves when maybe they were just having a bad day, or just didn’t feel well, or just didn’t see you in the lobby that day as they walked by!  It’s often our perception that can shape our reality and if we aren’t able to see those moments clearly, we can be creating a very different reality than what is actually going on.  This gets very dangerous with our spiritual journey, and is a really quick way to get stuck spiritually.  We have to be careful, in assuming things about ourselves, and our relationships with both God and people.  I think maybe especially in the area of God because He works and thinks so much bigger and different than we do as humans, and if we aren’t careful we can believe things that simply aren’t true, and get ourselves into real trouble, really quickly spiritually speaking…and there with eternity on the line, the stakes are simply too high!  I mean when it comes to spiritual things we are talking about eternal destinations and eternity is a really long time!  As I read Ken’s talk last week, I just kept thinking about how important this subject is, and that it should probably be an entire teaching series, it matters that much.  Your enemy is after your thoughts, and perceptions, which is why last week’s commitment was so important.  Last week Ken challenged us all to commit to loving the truth.  This is so important because if we can’t see what the enemy is doing and we don’t see the lies for what they are, we live in our own version of reality which isn’t good!  If we live this way, and accept this deception as truth and it becomes our reality it can destroy our relationship with Christ and with others.  So we know where these lies come from because the Bible tells us all about it…

John 8:43 Why can’t you understand one word I say? Here’s why: You can’t handle it. 44 You’re from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him. He was a killer from the very start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him. When the Liar speaks, he makes it up out of his lying nature and fills the world with lies. MSG

Jesus is pretty clear here isn’t he?  Your enemy is a liar…he is THE Liar, there is no truth in him and we know what Satan is up to right?  He wants to rob us, kill us and destroy…that’s why he is here.  I know really cheery stuff right?  Well it’s important to see!  I read John 10:10 with you often because Jesus tells you why He came to this Earth.  He also tells you why your enemy is here too.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV

The best way your enemy can steal and kill and destroy starts in your mind with very small lies.  Last week Ken shared a few of these lies with us.  There were lies about ourselves like we must be perfect or have everyone’s approval which are devastating because we can’t win in either of those two fronts.  We aren’t perfect and no matter how nice you are somebody isn’t going to like you…trust me on that.  There are lies about this world and our material stuff, lies about our marriages, sex, religion, relationships, and all of them set us up in a warped reality, and can lead to The Liar getting exactly what he wants…remember why he came…to take you out, to rob, kill and destroy…and he is The Liar but thankfully we have Jesus…who is The Savior, and Jesus came as The Truth to reveal the truth.

John 8:31 …Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” NIV

So this became a huge moment for us last week, and it is so important to see this. Your enemy is coming to destroy you with lies.  Jesus came to set you free; and He does it by opening us up to the truth.  I can’t stop thinking about Jesus’ words there…that if we can hold on to His teaching we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.  That is such a big deal, and it becomes how we really jump into our next commitment, and that is to literally break free from bondage and live free lives spiritually.  You know, as I read that verse from Ken’s talk last week I felt like we needed to keep building on this idea of freedom, which makes sense if we are getting away from bondage and I want to jump into one of my favorite phrases in scripture and that is the idea of living a bold and free life.  I think that is something we would all say we want.  But I also think in the end, it may surprise you just how we can live a bold and free life.  I mean how do we do it?  Do we lift weights and eat better?  Is it about more knowledge and more discipleship classes?  Is it about my church attendance and religious activities?  Well know it isn’t about any of that, but I do think it is interesting where this type of life can be found, the beauty is that you can have it, so I want to really focus on the source of that type of life is…which makes sense, I don’t know too many people who wouldn’t say they want a life described as bold and free…you know a life and life to the full type of life, it sounds pretty good right?  Bold and free, it certainly seems like a good direction to go with life…especially as we know Jesus told us he came to give us this life to the full thing.  But I want you to see something so important about this, as we commit to breaking free from things spiritually the key is going to be found in living a life of love.  Hmmm…that doesn’t seem right.  Bold and free, life to the full I should have to work harder, or eat better, or take vitamins, or do more at church…but you know what, scripture tells us this life to the full thing, this bold and free life is found in love.

So Jesus is a pretty big deal right?  I tell you often that everything we believe centers on Jesus, a blood stained cross, and an empty tomb…that is everything, that is the whole list, everything centers on Him! So because of Jesus we can walk in a personal and intimate relationship with God.  There is no divider between us and Him anymore.  Jesus also modelled for us how to live life as humans in His time on Earth, which is pretty awesome.  We also know that Jesus came to give us life to the full from what we read earlier in John 10:10 but there is more, more than we can cover in one sermon that is for sure!  Jesus came to bring us truth that sets us free and today I want to keep building out of this idea, that we can be set free by Jesus to live a very different life than we would without our Savior…it’s a “life and life to the full” type life that sounds a lot more fun to me than what I typically see in a Christian.  It doesn’t sound boring, it sounds ferocious.  Living this way sounds awesome.  It’s more than a life that is lived by being timid and afraid and stuck in bondage spiritually…it’s even bigger than just following rules and going to church every Sunday.  Jesus has opened the door to us having a full and personal relationship with God.  We get to walk through life with God.  This is a thought that should be very empowering for you and I.  So what does that mean to you today?  Well I will tell you what that should mean…it should mean that we can stand tall as the people God created us to be!  This really is my heart for the talk today, that because of Jesus, because we now have life and have it to the full, because he knocked down every barrier between us and God, because we stand in the truth that He came to give us we should and can live bold and free lives.  We do not have to be in bondage anymore, we don’t have to drag ourselves through life anymore because we are walking with Jesus living and active in our lives!  We can be bold and free not tired and stuck.  Doesn’t that sound awesome?  I think that the idea of living bold and free sounds so good, but for a lot of us it seems so far away from the lives we are actually living…but you know what?  It doesn’t have to be that way.  So today I want to break down a chunk of scripture that I think can really help pull us out of a lot of the spiritual bondage that so many of us walk in, and to help us live the kind of life that God intended for us all along.  So this is where we go today…

1 John 3:18 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. 19 This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. 20 It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 21 And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! 22 We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. 23 Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. 24 As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us. MSG

Oh man, do I love that scripture and in it we see something that quite frankly has come up in every talk at MRG throughout this entire series…and that is the importance of love when it comes to Christianity or our spiritual lives.  We also see the key to living lives that are bold and free and not being stuck spiritually.  So what I would like to do is really break this all down, as we look at breaking out of bondage and living bold and free lives.  If we are being really honest, generally speaking, we don’t see a ton of Christians living bold and free lives…so there is some irony in this.  Jesus came to give us life and life to the full which should be great and exciting news but we aren’t often describing Christians that way are we?  Well this becomes really important, how do we get to that whole life to the full thing?  Well I think the key is found in the very first verse here…

18 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.

Ok, we are told to not just talk about love but to practice real love.  Basically we need do more than just talk about love, we need to live it out.  I spent all of last week at MRG pounding away on the idea that God is after our hearts.  One of Jesus’ biggest points of contention with the Pharisees back in the day was that what they taught wasn’t coming out in their own lives.  They were fake.  They knew what God said but it wasn’t part of the lives they actually lived.  This is really what people outside of church struggle with when it comes to church people right?  Jesus challenged these religious leaders of that time to live out the words they were teaching on or have memorized in Scripture and so should we.  We can read this all through scripture it is about being living it out!  God wants this to be real!

Matthew 23:1 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. 2 “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. 3 You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer. MSG

God is always after the real thing, it is always more than what we say, it’s how we live that actually matters to God.  I can take you all over the Bible and show you different places where we see how important living this life of love is, it’s about what we do not what we say.  This is such an integral part of being a true disciple of Jesus, to not just talk about it but to live it out.  It’s in showing real love that we actually show God to people in this world…you can talk about it all you want, but if you aren’t practicing real love it is very empty.  Showing up at church and pretending in here is a really empty thing to do, it’s nothing, it’s fake, and there are probably better things you can be doing with your time then impressing people in a church on Sunday and acting a completely different way all week long.  It has always amazed me how many people want people to know they are a Christian.  They are quick to tell people about it, but then their actions just simply don’t line up with their words.  It’s like they want you to be a Christian by what they say, then they show you through their actions why you would never want to be one of those!  It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters what you do.  Now this is not me saying you need to be perfect, and this isn’t me saying you can’t tell people about Christ, but this is me saying our words and our actions need to line up!  You ever been driving down the road and had some raging person give the finger and as they pass you, you see the WWJD sticker or a fish on the back of the car?  Ha, weird isn’t it!  Actions and words aren’t lining up there are they!  Again this isn’t about perfection. We are human beings and none of us are perfect but this is me saying that there are so many people out there who have been hurt on job sites and in the community by Christians because they have spent some time with someone who told them they were a Christian and then spent the rest of their time together proving to them why they would never want to be one!  We must not just talk about love we must practice real love…and what happens when we do?  Well this is where things really get good.

19 This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. 20 It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 21 And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! MSG

This real love that we live out is the way we know we are living in God’s reality.  Love is the key, not just talking about it, but living out a life of love is what proves our relationship with God!  And check out that next line, it’s also the way to shut down all our self-criticism because God is greater than our worried hearts and He knows us inside and out.  How awesome is that?  I really see this as a nod to what Ken was talking about last week, it’s this life of love that can break through the false perceptions and lies that our enemy has put on us!  All of our worry, all of our doubt, all of our guilt is taken away as we walk with God…he is greater than our worried hearts!  And because of that we can actually live bold and free before God!  All of this happens through Jesus.  So we can stand in who God created us to be, we can have peace in our hearts, we can break free from all of the lies and deceptions and false realities that our enemy throws at us, and it happens through Jesus.  This is such a big deal, and I want to keep building here…

22 We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. 23 Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. 24 As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us. MSG

So there is a huge push here on us to love.  Not to talk about love but to actually live it out…did you catch that “because we are DOING what he said”  It’s in that real life of love we see our relationship with God and we know we are being true to Him.  Because of this love we get to live bold and free lives…do you see it?  We get to live so opposite of the way our enemy would want us to live, we get to break free and be different spiritually.  As we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus our hearts our filled with His love and that love then comes out of us…which if you think about it takes us right back to what Jesus says that everything builds off of spiritually which is loving God and loving others.  Amazing isn’t it?

Today’s commitment is about being able to break free from spiritual and emotional bondage and move forward in a new way, and I wonder if you thought it would be tying back into love like this?  Love is the way we do this…bold and free doesn’t come from anything we do.  It’s not going to come from eating healthy or working out, or more discipleship classes or Bible studies, this whole bold and free thing, all this life and life to the full talk, it comes from God’s love!  Now I’m not talking about love as we humans would see it.  I’m talking about the kind of love that happens as we stay in step with God.  The kind of love that we receive from all that Jesus told us He came to give us.  Remember this is a love beyond us humans, without God’s help we just can’t do it.  So how do we get it?  We get it by staying connected to Jesus.  Watch how closely our scripture we studied today lines up with Jesus’ words here…

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. NIV

It is so interesting how often we see things loop right back to living a life of love.  Look at how Jesus’ words are so similar to what we are studying today, Jesus says as you remain in Him you will bear much fruit…without Him you can do nothing.  So what is it that we are to produce…what is the fruit?  It’s love!  We are to live out a life of real love.  Now, I really want you to see this, when we live this kind of life where we are connected to Jesus, He says that God will give you whatever you wish, just as John would later say we can stretch out our hands to receive whatever we asked for because we are doing what pleases God!  Now if that is true don’t you think having the God of the Universe on my side, watching my back, and providing all that we ask for…wouldn’t that allow us to live with a little bit of confidence?  Now that confidence isn’t in who you are but in who He is and all He is doing for you!  Again I get to live bold and free as I follow God’s command which is to believe in Jesus and to love!

So why does it always come back to loving God and loving others?  It’s so interesting to me how often we see this in scripture.  God furious at people because they act religious on Sunday mornings and don’t live out a life of real love all week long.  Jesus always bagging on the religious leaders of His day, why?  Because they weren’t living out lives of love.  They are hard hearted towards others…they have all the good spiritual knowledge but it isn’t leaving their brains and coming into and out of their hearts and into their actions.  I’m always so relieved at how simple Jesus makes things.   Jesus literally takes all the complexities of religion and spirituality and makes it so much easier to understand.  We are to love God and love others and figure the rest out from there, and it really holds true, everything comes back to loving God and loving others.

So let’s go back to today’s commitment for a moment, today we are working on not being stuck spiritually, and as we worked our way through Scripture we can see that in the end that means that we are going to live a life of love…real love.

Are you tracking with this?  Your ability to break through spiritual bondage and live bold and free lives actually ties directly to the love that is placed in you and works through you by God.  Have you ever thought this way?  That love is the key to living a bold and free life?  Well if I am being honest I wish more of us would think this way, both inside and outside of the church setting.  I mean how many Christians are you seeing really living out the whole life to the full thing that Jesus told us He came to give us?  It’s pretty rare to see bold and free Christians, most of us seem so tired and stuck, and frustrated…which isn’t at all what Jesus told you He came to give you.  So what do we do?  We must engage God in a big time way.  Because when we do we can love in a way that isn’t possible without God’s help.  This is why we must stay connected to Him, and thankfully we can stay connected to God because of Jesus and what He did for on the Cross!

Have you ever noticed that when you come across someone who is living out this whole life to the full thing you know it don’t you?  There is just something about them that is so, different.  It’s amazing isn’t?  They seem so centered, so peaceful, so filled with patience and joy.  Do you know why that is?  It’s because they are consumed with God’s love.  It is pouring into them, and pouring out of them through their actions.  It’s changing their decision making.  It’s changing what is important to them.  It’s changing what they focus on.  It’s even changing how they see people!  They can forgive others because they understand they are forgiven, they can love others because they are wrapping their minds around God’s love of them.  This is such a big deal, God’s love changes everything and allows us to live out our lives focusing on the two most important things Jesus told us we could do, love God and love others this is what it’s all about, living a life of love and it’s that life of love that leads to a life described as bold and free, which if you ask me sounds like a lot of fun.

So today we hit another big topic where we were literally looking at trying to find the answer to living in bondage and being spiritually stuck, and quite frankly the answer is found in scripture over and over again.  The answer is to live a life of love…not to talk about living a life of love but to live it out…not to just learn about a life of love on Sunday mornings at church but to actually love in a real way, in a way that shows God to this world, in a way that can only happen with God’s help.

So many people think life is over when they become a Christian, part of this is because they haven’t experienced God’s love yet, and they think that living for themselves is the way to have fun right now, in this moment…but the other part of it is that they haven’t seen too many Christians living bold and free lives and it’s time that we start to model that to the world.  When we do, we break out of spiritual bondage and move into a new type of freedom…when we do, we discover the fun days aren’t behind us, they are actually in front of us as we walk in step with Jesus.  When we live this life of love we actually, finally get to experience that whole life and life to the full thing that Jesus told you He came to give us.