So ever since we began this church in January we have been working our way through one big series called ‘Different.’  This series has meant a lot to me, because the whole idea is that we should be different because of our encounter with God and His amazing love for us.  When God’s love is pouring into and out of us we can’t help but change, we can’t help but be different.  I think this has been a phenomenal way for us to start this church because it has allowed us to talk about who we are and what really matters when it comes to this whole God thing.  In the end life change is a really big deal.  We should be different because of God’s love, it just can’t help but change us.  It’s that life change that really is our focus because it makes our relationship with God so real…His love is so big, and so powerful, and so consuming that it leads to life change.  It’s really our prayer each and every week that this whole church experience leads you to God’s love, which leads you to life change, because that is real…and we focus on and celebrate doing the “real thing” here at MRC.  When we started this series the idea early on was to move us towards life change, so the first couple of weeks were really foundational times where we intentionally were laying the building blocks of life change and I would like to go back to for a moment.  The two building blocks were brokenness and faith.  It was important for us to start with these two foundational pieces.  So the first big subject was brokenness and while that sounds like a really cheery thing to preach on it is such a big deal because so many people are so prideful that they simply see no reason to change.  So what does it mean to be broken?  It means that we get to a place in our lives where we understand our deep need of Jesus.  This is so important.  We need to get to the place where we realize just how much we need God.  Think about this, without true brokenness (which is our understanding that we need God) I would never really see the need to change, in anyway would I?  If I want to be different, I need to understand that I need God in my life, without understanding my need of Him, why would I ever do anything different?  Jesus says this…

Matthew 5:3 God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.  NLT

This is so important. When we are broken we understand just how much we need God and we are so blessed to walk through life in that kind of understanding.  This is pretty rare in our culture, to see people get to a spot where they are actually broken before God.  But it’s that brokenness that becomes a true catalyst of life change.  Check this out in Psalms this is David speaking here, a man after God’s own heart…

Psalms 51:16 Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. 17 I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. MSG

How special are those words?  God isn’t after perfect performances, or us going through the motions of life and religion.  God is after our hearts, and when our hearts are pure God can shape and mold us.  This is why the first real step towards change is brokenness, because without understanding that we need to change why would we?

So this was where we started, and then we looked at the second building block which was faith.  Faith is an incredible thing, which the Bible actually defines for us in Hebrews…

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  NIV

So we really spent a lot of time looking at how important faith was that Sunday, it leads to our healing, and literally leads to our salvation which is so huge!  We simply believe and we gain eternal life!

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV

So yeah, faith is a really big deal.  It is an essential step towards life change, towards our own healing, towards peace and rest for our souls and probably most importantly it’s the key to our own salvation but you know what, there is something else.  Faith is very important to us because life isn’t easy.  I know, that was a bit of a challenging thing to get into with you all, but it’s so important for you to understand, faith is a big deal because life is hard…life won’t always go right for you…even if you are on Jesus’ team.  Now this isn’t the most popular thing to talk about but it is important…life isn’t easy, and many think when they become a Christian, life should all of a sudden be easy, but that isn’t it at all, and we spent a lot of time setting up the reality of life with you.  One of the most challenging and important scriptures on this subject is found in James…

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  NIV

Listen, no one once to hear this when they are walking through tough times, but it’s so, so true.  Faith will be important because life is hard.  It will test you and push you and challenge you and we love you too much to pretend life won’t keep happening just because you are doing the church thing now.

So those two pieces became the foundation to this whole series, brokenness and faith.  Once we laid that foundation we began to build out from there every week looking at different commitments that we can make spiritually that lead us to life change.  We spent time looking at loving God, loving others, and lots of different commitments from loving giving, to living bold and free lives to even celebrating others instead of competing with them…and today we are going to conclude this series by trying to wrap our minds around something that is so important…yet something that many struggle with.  It’s important because if we get it, the entire world can change for us.  Do you want to know what it is?  It’s really the key to this life to the full thing I bring up every week.  It’s the thing that will lead you to live on a mission and with a mindset that can make you absolutely unstoppable as a disciple of Christ.  Do you want to know what it is?  The mindset is getting to a place where you understand that in the end, it’s simply not about you!

Wait, what do you mean it’s not about me?   Well ok, hang with me here for a little bit, I want to show you something that I think is so important, and frankly it’s something that not too many people ever really wrap their minds around…even though Jesus is pretty clear about this.  So many people come to church and never can center their lives around God and His desires…they stay centered on themselves and their desires, now they wouldn’t say that…but it’s true because they come to church and to God really, wondering what is in it for them…and I want you to see something today.  That coming to God with that motive doesn’t lead to life and life to the full…it never gets you to where we all would want to go.  You see Jesus wants to give us so much more, but we have to change our mindset and our hearts towards Him.  We are invited into so much more.  We are invited into more than just doing a fun thing on Sunday mornings, or being entertained by our churches.  We are being invited into the mission of Christ, where we would actually get to help others find Him as we are finding Him.  Where we would actually get to help others start to experience His grace as we are starting to experience His grace…and there is nothing more important than helping someone else’s eternal destiny change by introducing them to Jesus!  It’s in this mission that we find purpose, and focus, and so much more, yet few ever really see that they were created for more than just living out their moments on this planet.  So we do the church thing, we read Jesus’ words and sit back and wonder what else the church could do to entertain us, or feed us, or build community or programming for us, and we miss out on everything that could be if we could simply get past ourselves and realize that in the end it’s just not about us.  Have you ever read things that Jesus said and wondered what in the world he was talking about?  Things like this…

Matthew 10:39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. MSG

These two sentences really can be challenging to understand.  We can read them and think what in the world does Jesus mean there?  If I want to find myself why would I need to lose myself?  Doesn’t that seem so opposite to the way you and I would think we need to find ourselves.  It seems like we should have to work harder at finding ourselves, yet Jesus says the opposite.  He says instead of centering on ourselves, if you want to find yourself we need to lay our lives aside and center on Him and in that moment we will find everything we are looking for and more!  If we forget about ourselves and look to Jesus we can find everything we are looking for, but frankly that is really hard to do…especially in our church culture of today.

You know over 17 years ago, Ken Landis invited me to be part of a church plant called MRC.  We would be meeting in the Dillsburg area and the whole idea was this…we were going to be a church built for people who don’t go to church.  We were going to really try to stay focused on people who need to know Jesus, with the idea of reaching and staying focused outside of church.  Frankly us Christians were headed to heaven and so many don’t yet know God so I was excited to be part of it from the beginning!  We would say things in those early launch team meetings like, “We are built to help people find and fulfill God’s plan for their life.”  We would read stories like this one where Jesus would explain what the heart of his church should be…

Luke 15: 3 So Jesus used this illustration: “If you had a hundred sheep and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it? 5 And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. 6 When you arrived you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found.  7 Well, in the same way heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who haven’t strayed away! ” TLB

I love this story, what do we see Jesus saying here?  What makes heaven the happiest?   It is when the one finds God!  In this story we see so much about the heart of Christ.  He isn’t worried about numbers, but He is focused on people coming to know Him.  As a young church plant years ago we would say this and read this and celebrate this…and the irony was, as the church started we would then wonder why more Christians didn’t come to our church!  We would be excited when we had high church attendance on Easter but we would be bummed out when we had low church attendance 4th of July weekend, as the church got rolling we seemed to read and say one thing, but we seemed to want another which confused me because we all agreed with Jesus’ words there.  We had people who were so excited to tell people that they going to a church whose slogan was “It’s not about me.”  All the while behind the scenes they were wondering and maybe pushing in on the Pastor as they were trying to figure out what was in it for them and that confused me too.  As some came to that young church and found Christ and got the concept of the mission of Jesus you would watch them come to life as they helped connect people to Jesus in a real way, and for others they couldn’t get past what they needed from this young church and they eventually moved on if they weren’t getting what they wanted out of it…which was tough to see, but in the end it was very important too.  In the end, when we can get past ourselves we can live different lives free from so many things of this world…and in that we gain more than we could possibly ever fathom, but it doesn’t come from working hard on or centering on ourselves.  It comes as we center on Jesus and as we follow Him.  The secret to all of this is really found in those challenging words from Jesus that we read earlier.

Matthew 10:39  If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. MSG

Isn’t this interesting?  It’s right there in scripture, but we don’t often see people wrapping their minds around this in such a way where they jump in fully into a life of living out what Jesus is saying.  Let me step back to the context of what Jesus is saying here and add the surrounding verses, because he is helping us find ourselves…he is doing so by inviting us into a greater mission!

Matthew 10:38 “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. 39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. 40 “We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. 41 Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42 Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” MSG

What do we see here?  We are to go all the way with Him, through thick and thin which again implies that this will be challenging at times and is why we need faith and what does it come back to?  Serving others and helping them find God too.  This harvest work is something we are all called into yet so many don’t jump into it because they are trying to figure out what is in it for them.  I can’t serve you if I’m worried about me!  And according to Jesus if I can’t get past myself not only can I not serve you, I can never truly find myself either.  Which leads to a pretty empty existence if you ask me.  But, if I can get past myself, and lose myself in God’s love I end up living a very different life, it’s a life of love where I find purpose and meaning to live in this harvest work that Jesus talks of here.  It’s so true if I want to find myself I need to lose myself…Interesting isn’t it?  It’s so opposite of the way we think, but it’s the key to finding purpose, and meaning, and life to the full.

It’s interesting to be part of a church that is outward focused like this for the last 17 years.  Early on I would have people come to me with concerns about MRC.  I would hear things like this; “Sam, you need to be careful serving at a place like MRC…you need to be somewhere you are being fed.”  The irony was as I served, and jumped into the mission of Christ I was finding God in a way I never did in churches where I was in programming to actually be fed.  What they missed as they warned me of not being able to grow was that we never said we didn’t care about the 99 who are going to heaven…but we celebrate and engage the 1 lost sheep who hasn’t yet had the benefit of eternal paradise, of God’s love…and by introducing people to God’s love and grace and mercy, I was finding me in that process too!  It came through serving, not through another church program and it made me finally understand Jesus’ words here…

“If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” Jesus

What an amazing process to be part of, can you imagine a church that thought this way?  That truly thought outward?  And if we think outward does that mean we aren’t growing as Christian’s or does it mean we are finally growing into the people that God calls us to be?  It really comes back to this secret…in the end it’s simply not about you!  It’s tough to see so many Christian’s missing this beautiful principle…it’s tough to see so many churches competing and working to attract Christians when Jesus said there is more happiness in heaven when the one finds God, than over the 99 that already have found Him…and it’s our goal to be the kind of church that can get past ourselves and look to Jesus, and pursue the lost sheep…and do you know why?  Because at one point in our lives we understood what it felt like to be on the outside of this looking in, the pain, the hurt, the lonely hopeless feelings of being far from God…and at some point someone cared enough to introduce us to Jesus, so that we could experience His love and grace…this is why we are so passionate about this, because we all need Him!  This is what it’s all about and somehow in all of our serving we find ourselves in the process too…somehow as we serve it takes Christianity from this thing we show up and do on a Sunday morning and it makes it real!  So let’s check out Jesus’ very practical instructions on how to prioritize to reach someone far from God…and how to make this Christianity thing real.

Mark 6:7 Jesus called the Twelve to him, and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition. 8 He sent them off with these instructions: “Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple.  10 “And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.  11 “If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”  12 Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; 13 right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits. MSG

Basically, Jesus said, hang out with and meet people right where they are.  Tell people about my love and my grace.  Be yourself and don’t create drama.  Go to work, be great at work! Go to school, be great at school!  Be part of the community and engage people right where they are. Sign your kids up for sports or band or whatever and love on people right where they are.  Did you notice how simple it is?  You don’t need a lot of money, or a lot of special things.  You just need to be yourself and love on people right where they are.  This is about love.  God’s love pouring into and out of us, so that we can help connect people far from Him to Him so they can experience God’s love and grace as we are…and if we aren’t doing this, we will always miss out.

Can I ask you something, have you ever thought that of your Christian faith this way?  Where your faith is more about God and His love and sharing that than it is about you?  How does that sentence that I just spoke hit your heart today?  Could it be true?  Is it even possible to grow if I’m not centered on myself?  I think these are the real questions that we need to wrestle with, and maybe today is the first day that you ever were introduced to these questions…if so that is great!  I would like you leaving here today thinking this all through.  Could your faith be bigger than just showing up at church on a Sunday morning?  What if it really did leave the church moments of a Sunday morning and became part of your everyday life, all week long.  What if it was part of all of your life?  Twenty Four hours a day, seven days a week, and what if it was about those around you who don’t yet have God’s love and grace and your eternal destiny yet?  What if that actually is real Christianity.  I want you thinking about this today, is this what Christianity looks like to you?  If your faith is more of a Sunday morning thing where you just show up at church and expect the Pastor or the church to feed you and set up ways for you to grow, I need to tell you something, if this is your mentality you are missing out on something pretty special.  You are missing out on all that life could be if you could get past that thinking and engage your faith differently.  It’s about engaging people all week long, and serving the greater mission that Jesus invites us all into…frankly not many do find what they are searching for in their faith…many slide into the going through the motions thing, or the show up and feel better on a Sunday morning thing, but we want more for you!  We want you to experience all of it!  Do you see it yet?  If you don’t get it yet, that is ok, it’s my prayer is that someday you will be able to wrap your mind and your heart around this one very simple statement from Jesus…

“If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” Jesus

Because when you do here’s what I know will happen for you.  You will begin to find and fulfill the plan that God has for your life not because you are worried about you, but because you are focused on God and His love and His goodness…and everyone around you who doesn’t know God will have an opportunity for a different eternal destiny because you will get the greatest secret of the Christian faith that in the end…it’s just not about you!