Today I close our series called, “What Is The Point Of Church?’  We took over thirteen weeks to talk about Church.  To give you a snapshot of what is happening in the Churches across North America today, we shared lots of stats with you.  We talked about how people view Church verse how God views Church.  Church, we discovered, IS God’s body on earth.  As God’s body, it’s God’s primary way he wants people to know about His forgiveness, grace, and righteousness.  We explained how Church is our spiritual family.  We said God created Church to be dependent on us.  And Church is 100% dependent on the Holy Spirit to come and breath life into us.  You might remember how scripture calls that a mystery.

We shared the MRC Vision that is based on the words of Jesus.

Imagine a church that wasn’t built on the likes and dislikes of people but instead was passionate, relentless, and unapologetic about reaching people far from God.  And of course, we invite Christians into that mission.

We talked about what it looks like to join God in what He is doing.  Remember what Sam said last week?  When we experience God’s love, we then live a life of love.  The things God wants from us are just a reflection of how much we have enjoyed God’s love.  Remember, the five choices we make to be a Christian?  Love God.  Love others.  Love growing.  Love serving.  Love giving.  Sam said, ‘We here at MRC are inviting you into what it means to be a Christian.’  Here’s a great question to think through your choices, “If everyone at Church made the choices you made, what would your Church look like?”

Sam and I loved this series.  It gave us a chance to share how God views Church.  It gave us a chance to share our passion.  However, as we prayed and thought through this series, we wanted to address one more thing.  Remember how Sam ended his talk last week?  He asked, do you feel like you aren’t worthy of God’s love?  Sam said, “We struggle to be a Christian because we just don’t believe, accept, or understand how big God’s love is for us.”

Today, I want to talk about that more.  One of the biggest struggles Christians wrestle with is this; Christians seem to struggle to fully understand and experience God’s love.  And because of that, in general, they don’t live with passion or courage.  They seem to settle and live a life of ‘struggling to go through the religious motions.’

To understand this, we need to go back to Genesis 3 and read what happens immediately after Adam and Eve sinned.

8 When they [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God. 9 God called to the Man: “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.” MSG Genesis 3:8-10

God is looking for Adam and Eve and asks, ‘Where are you?’  How did they respond?  Because they were naked, they were afraid, and they hid.  Please notice this.  God is pursuing them because He wants to be with them.  But they knew something was wrong.  They were naked.  They didn’t like who they were.  Notice their reaction to God wanting to be with them.  They were afraid of God and hid from Him.

That’s a picture of us today.  God loves us and wants to be with us.  But we know something is wrong.  We have sin in our lives.  We have made mistakes.  We don’t like who we are.  Like Adam and Eve, even when God pursues us, we are afraid and we hide from God.

Think about it, don’t you find it interesting that every time you are invited to be in a relationship with Jesus, many struggle to make that happen?  Why do you think that is?  Do you find it odd that you struggle to pray?  It tells us in scripture, because of what Jesus did, we can walk into the throne room of God with courage.  But many don’t.  Why do you think that is?  Jesus’ offer to us is His forgiveness, grace, and righteousness and many push Him away.  It really makes no sense.  For many Christians, we settle to hang our heads and think, ‘I don’t know if that’s true for me’ and we hide from God.  We can settle.  We settle to live a life that struggles to walk through the religious motions.

We not only hide from God, but we hide from others too.  We hide behind our fake smiles.  We can keep our conversation surfacy.  We try to make ourselves appear to be more important and busy than we really are.  And when things get real, we can start joking.  Sometimes, people find it easier to pull away from relationships altogether and then complain how lonely they are.

Again, why do we hide?  We know something is wrong.  We don’t like who we are.  When we hide from God and from others, we push through life feeling defeated with low self-esteem and self-rejection.  And every time we are criticized, every time we come up short, every time we feel rejected, and every time we feel alone, we think, ‘See, there it is, I’m worthless’.  Our minds spin with endless thoughts of, ‘I’m no good, I’m a loser, I deserve to be treated poorly.’

In that pain, we look for solutions to our pain, anything that will numb our self-hate.  I want to point out, it’s common that we look for any solution but God.  We believe the solution might be found in fun things that become addictions.  The solution to our pain might be our success, our popularity, more power, or more comfort.  We pursue those things because they make us feel good.  We don’t even give it much thought, but all those things are from the world, not from God.  As a result, those things sadly leave us only feeling worse over time, but we keep pursuing them.

Please hear me.  God is looking for you this morning because He loves you.  My question for you is this, are you hiding from God?  Do you believe God’s love, somehow, isn’t for you?  Are you afraid of God?  Do you not like who you are and because you don’t like who you are, you assume God doesn’t like you?  Do you walk through life refusing to forgive yourself?  Do you hold on to the mistakes of your past and believe those things somehow disqualify you from God’s transformation?

I want you to hear me today and prepare yourself because you may have never heard this before.  Jesus wants you to change how you view yourself.  Did you know that?  Jesus doesn’t want you to have low self-esteem.  Jesus doesn’t want you to live a life of self-hate.  Jesus wants you to forgive yourself.  Jesus wants you to stop hiding.

The first step you take to see yourself differently begins when you accept who you really are and stop hiding from God and allow God to love you.  This is very important to understand so I will say it again.  You need to fully embrace who you really are.  That means, stop faking.  Be honest about who you really are and go to God and tell Him, I’m a mess, I’m done hiding, I need You to love me.  Until you are honest and stop hiding, you won’t fully experience His love, His grace, and His righteousness.  And being a Christian will be a struggle of going through the religious motions.

This is important to understand.  You can go to church, pay your bills, get the kids to the right sports fields, save up a ton of money, and at the same time be hiding from God.  And you may never fully experience God’s love that will transform you.

Here is a picture of what it looks like to come out of hiding and know that you are loved by God.

I don’t have to hide anymore and distract myself with constant fun, TV, movies, social media, shallow conversations, living in gossip, and drama, and my addictions.  I can stay in the present moment and not have to escape into the past or project into the future.  I can be relaxed.  I’m not jittery.  No need to impress or dazzle others or draw attention to myself.  I can be calm, unafraid, no anxiety about what’s going to happen next.  I no longer see people as objects I leverage to get things from instead, I see them and realize, they need me to probably encourage them.  I fully embrace how I come up short and how God has met me there.  Why?  Because I know God loves me just as I am today, right now.  Finally, I can be at peace.  Finally, I know, God will care for me.  [Brennan Manning].

Today, God is looking for you.  There is no reason to be afraid of God.  Today you can stop hiding from God and take your first step toward God.  That means we fully embrace who we are.  All our sins, mistakes, insecurities, fears, and wounds and say, ‘I’m done hiding, I’m a mess, God I need You.’  At that moment, because of what Jesus did for you, you are holy and blameless before God.

This is what the Bible says.

21 You who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.  NLT Colossians 1:21-22

Today, I want you to take your first step toward God here at MRC.  I have slips of paper on your seats for you today.  I want you to answer four questions and pray.  When you answered the questions and prayed the prayer, I want you to bring them up front and throw the slip of paper away.  Why?  Because when you are honest about who you are and your need of Jesus, those things are gone.  You can walk out of here with passion and courage.

Question 1: Am I hiding from God?

Question 2: When I look at my spiritual condition/life, what is it that I don’t like?

Question 3: Have those things stopped me from going to God?

Question 4: Am I ready to come out of hiding, get honest, embrace who I am, and ask Jesus for help?

Prayer: Father, I don’t want to hide from You anymore.  I want to come out of hiding and surrender my life to You.  Please forgive me for [ list whatever you are thinking about ].  Father, I also forgive myself for all my past mistakes and regrets [ list whatever you are holding on to ].  I want to have a relationship with You and experience Your love so much so, it transforms me.  I want a relationship with you that changes how I see myself and how I see and treat others.  Father, I pray, in the Name of Jesus, anoint me with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

What it means to be in a relationship with Jesus is, we stop hiding from Him.  It means we come to God every day, maybe even five times a day if needed.  It means we embrace who you really are and be honest every day.  Stop hiding.  Go to Jesus and tell Him, “I’m a mess, I need You.”  And in that very moment, Jesus forgives us, begins healing us, and gives us the Holy Spirit.

That’s what Jesus meant when He said this.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. NLT John 15:5

That’s why we go to Jesus.  We are a mess and we need Jesus, every day.  Remember, when we go to Jesus this is what the Bible says about us.

21 You who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.  NLT Colossians 1:21-22

When you leave here today, you need to understand, believe, and accept what God says about you.  When you meet with Jesus during the week, you need to understand, believe, and accept what God says about you.  Ready?

Because of Jesus, there is nothing between me and God – nothing, no sin, nothing.

Because of Jesus, God loves it when I pray to Him – I never have to be afraid or hide from God.

Because of Jesus, I am holy and blameless – regardless of how I see myself, God said I am holy and blameless.

Because of Jesus, I can walk through life knowing, I am filled with the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.

Because of Jesus, I now have the courage to face my messy life today.

Now think about this, how many Christians do you know who live like this?  How many Christians unapologetically spend time with Jesus?  How many Christians walk with courage because they know the Holy Spirit is in them?  How many Christians view themselves as holy and blameless and live like it?  And that’s my point.  Christians can struggle to fully understand and embrace God’s love that will transform them.

Today, take the first step.  Come out of hiding and be honest with God.  “This is who I am – God – please come and love me.”