I’m just going to come right out and say this as we get started today, I think today we are going to get into the true reality of life today, and if we are honest, reality isn’t always pretty.  So as we jump into the next story in our “I Am Second” series you need to know, this one is going to be very raw.  I know it might not be the world we show people on social media or want to put out their publicly but the true reality of life is that it isn’t always really all that pretty.  There are hurts.  There is pain.  There is sin, there are secrets, and life if we are honest for most is just an absolute mess…and I think we need to talk about it.  I know for some, talking about the pain and brutal way life beats us up isn’t necessarily why they would get up early and show up at church on a Sunday morning.  For some of us we don’t always want to see truth, let alone deal with the reality of life, but we need to understand that there is a lot going on in all of us, and it needs addressed and dealt with.  This is why here at MRC we say it’s ok to not be ok AND it’s ok to do something about it!  We should not be ignoring it.  We need to deal with it.  I think for many of us it can feel easier to just keep on smiling and never engage the mess of life, but we must.  One of my favorite quotes is from one of my favorite authors in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality…

“There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality. In fact the true spiritual life is not an escape from reality but an absolute commitment to it.” Pete Scazzero EHS

Think about that statement for a moment, ignoring truth…ignoring reality is a disaster to your spiritual life.  This isn’t always a popular way to think and live, but it is an important one.  We often want some nice or happy moment to make us feel good, especially when we come into our church setting am I right?  But is that your reality in life?  Because I think for most of us we can be very honest and say that life isn’t necessarily a walk in the park.  It’s not always happy time.  Life is hard.  There is pain.  There are major hurts, and wounds, and insecurities…there is so much going on in our lives, and none of it is all that easy.  So maybe you are resonating with me saying that life is hard because you are sitting here today hurting, feeling the beat down that life can bring.  Maybe you are sitting there right now wishing you tried another church because this idea of talking about truth and pain is making you uncomfortable…can I tell you something, that is ok too.  I’m glad your here, and hopefully you can give this a chance today.  Today we are going to get very real which excites me.  We are going to look at the testimony that is probably as raw as it gets in this series and that excited me too.

You know I am not sure if it is just how life is in 2018, or if I’m just a little more aware than I used to be but I realizing something about people at a whole new level.  People are hurting in this world.  In fact I would go as far as to say as you look around this room today you can assume the people all around you have hurts and wounds in their life, and I think it’s safe to assume that they are hurting, and dealing with way more than you realize.  They are dealing with way more than you realize…life is hard.  There is so much pain out there, and I’m amazed how many hurting people there are in this world.

Have you ever wondered why someone responds in a weird way to you?  Have you ever wondered why someone seems to act so strange?  Have you ever gone to church, or your child’s sporting event, and wondered what in the world is wrong with this person or that as they seem to respond in such a crazy way to a call in a soccer game, or a commitment they have made?  Did you ever think that response is maybe because that person is profoundly hurt inside?  Did you maybe think that as hurt as you feel about your past, or things that are or aren’t happening in your life, they have that pain too?

I have been saying this a lot lately as I talk to different people in the community, I’m realizing that however much of a mess you think someone might be in, multiply it by 50 and that is probably closer to where they are in life.  Life is hard…and people are hurting.

This is why our church MRC exists…this is what I want to give my life to, helping people who are busted up by life, who are believing a lie that there is no hope and no way out realize that there absolutely is hope and there is a way out, and it comes in the name of Jesus.  Jesus is the way through the mess, and He is there for you today.  Jesus is the answer to your pain, he understands your pain, he gets your hurts and took all your mess so that you may live differently.  Check this out…

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.  NIV

This is such a big deal, and I don’t want to get too far away from this thought, by his wounds we are healed…look at this same scripture in the Message version…

1 Peter 2:21 This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. 22 He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. 23 They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. 24 He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. 25 You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls. MSG

This is what it’s all about, we need Jesus in our lives.  Jesus went to the cross while we were still sinners, to take our mess, our pain from us so that by his wounds we are healed…we can live new lives, and walk in a new kind of freedom that just couldn’t be bought any other way.  This is why we worship, this is why we are so thankful, because God loved us this much!

But with all that good news that we just looked at wouldn’t that mean that everyone around us would be allowing Jesus into their lives?  It should right?  Well that isn’t necessarily the reality of the world we live in today is it?  Well I want to tell you why that is.  It’s because we (as in people in general) need to know that we need Jesus in our lives and for most of us we either don’t, or we aren’t willing to accept that.  Can I tell you something here today?  This is where pain comes in very handy.  And this is what we need to talk about here today…the hurts, the wounds, the pain you feel is very real, I am not trying to be insensitive to it, but I think it may also be essential.  Because without pain for many of us myself included, I don’t think I would have ever gotten to a place where I understood just how much I needed Jesus in my life.  It’s not easy but pain is a pretty incredible teacher isn’t it?  I can tell you that is probably how I learned best, once I felt it, I knew something needed to change, how about you?

It’s interesting isn’t it?  When it comes to pain in our lives, we can really question why God would let it happen.  I know I can.  I know the moment there is a natural disaster it’s the first thing everyone asks right?  I mean I have a friend who is an atheist, and the moment a hurricane or earthquake hits what do he do?  He wants to ask me why my God would allow that…my response is always the same to him, if you don’t believe in Him a) why do you always want to talk about Him, and b) if God doesn’t exist you can’t get mad at Him when things don’t go well.  But this is what we do right?  When life is singing like a song we are just rolling through life and we don’t give God or eternity a lot of thought do we?  In that same thinking it is amazing how often God comes into your mind in the difficult times of life.

So let’s think that idea through, God created you.  This means He has the blue prints, and wiring schematics of your brain.  He knows how you think.  He knows how hard it is for you and I to focus and learn with so much going on in our lives, so maybe pain isn’t always a bad thing?  Is that insensitive?  Well I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think in many ways without pain, I would never learn and I do not think I’m alone in that.  So if you can hang onto that thought and entertain it for me then maybe it’s not about asking, why is their pain in my life?  The bigger question then becomes, what am I doing in response to the hurts?  Scripture tells me I really can respond to pain in one of two ways, and one way leads me to God, and the other, well it does not.  Check this out, this was the verse I couldn’t get out of my mind as I watched the video and as I put this talk together…

2 Corinthians 7:10 Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. MSG

So maybe today as we get into this video testimony from David Robbins and his wife, we shouldn’t be questioning pain, but maybe we should be more focused on what direction that pain takes us.  Will it turn us to God, or will it drive us away from God.  With that said, let’s watch this testimony.

Let’s watch David Robbin’s story –  I am Second Video

I told you this one is as raw as it gets right?  I mean wow.  First I would like to hear more from his wife, and how she journeyed to a place of forgiveness because that is incredible.  She had to have worked through so much anger and pain and through her pain she did something really incredible.  She moved closer to God.  She forgave, and then led her husband towards God.  I would love to hear more from her because that is absolutely incredible.  When it comes to David did you pick up on the fact that He is in a band.  He was living the life.  He had fame, and success, and all of those things…and I think it is safe to say that He didn’t recognize that he needed God in his life at all…why would he.  But then life took a dark, and painful turn for him and it all came undone.  And it was in the pain that David realized something…life isn’t working my way.  It took pain.  You know, I saw three main directions this video could have taken us, dealing with temptation, forgiveness, or the one I’m really seeing here today and that is repentance.  Repentance is a really big deal.  Let’s go back to our verse again and think about this word repentance.

2 Corinthians 7:10 Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. MSG

So pain can take us one of two ways towards God or away from Him.

Direction 1-Pain that leads to repentance – I love this idea that pain that drives us to God gets us turned around, it gets us back on the path of salvation.  This is what it means to recognize your deep need of God, this is what it means to repent.  It’s a literal u turn on life where your actions and behaviors change.  I just don’t know if we can get to a place where we understand our need to repent without pain.  Pain can lead us to repentance which leads to life change.  When we take everything to Jesus and lay our lives down saying you lead now not me, we begin a process of being recreated as new.  This is when we start to become those image bearers that I was talking about with you a few weeks ago!  And Paul goes on to describe what this repentance that comes from pain brings into your life.

2 Corinthians 7:11 And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart. MSG

When we turn to Christ, He makes us brand new, giving us grace to live like Him!  It often takes pain to lead us to a place where we realize our need of God.  It’s in this humbling process where we can repent and turn towards God.  When we do we become more alive, more loving, we literally become the very people God created us to be in the first place.

Direction 2-When pain doesn’t lead to repentance – Unfortunately not everyone decides to turn to God in the pain do they, and we need to talk about this…

2 Corinthians 7:10 …But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. MSG

You know we are using some important words today, words like repentance, humility, and phrases like how we respond to pain.  But unfortunately not everyone turns towards God in the pain.  Many times we turn towards other things, and as Paul warns here this leads us to more regrets, a deathbed of regrets.  Pain hits and we get angry with God or ourselves, and we either take it out on ourselves, or we run from God and try to mask or numb the pain somehow.  This can happen through substances, alcohol, escapism, people, lustful things…but somehow we are trying to find some relief from the pain, and in that we just refuse to admit or see our need of God.  I know for me personally I can tell you what it feels like to live and lay in that deathbed of regrets as Paul says there in our key scripture for the day.  And over time thankfully I was able to get to a place in my life where my pride was shattered and broken and I was able to surrender my will to God’s and repent, and start a journey towards Jesus.

I know you are hurting.  I know there is pain in your life.  I know however much you may be hurting it is probably 50 times worse than I realize.  The question in my eyes isn’t if you are hurting, the question is what are you going to do with that hurt?  What if the pain you are walking through is leading you to a moment in your life, a decision…the decision to turn towards God, or not.  The decision to repent and move towards Jesus…or not.  I want to take a moment today and pray for you all and then I would like to walk us through a communion service where we can reflect on everything Jesus did for you and I so that we don’t have to walk through life full of regrets but a life overflowing with God’s grace, and strength, and victory.

The way I see it we have a choice to make, we can turn towards God or away from Him.  One of those ways leads to life and life to the full, the other does not.  It’s time to recognize that maybe the pain and mess you are walking through is more than a nuisance and is more than just hurt and a mess, maybe its a call to repentance…to a new life in Christ.  I want you thinking about this as we walk through communion today, this is the opportunity we have because of Jesus and everything He did for us on the cross.  You have all the opportunity in the world because of Jesus.  Remember the verse we started with as you come to the communion table today…

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.  NIV