The reason MRC exists is because we want to help people be in a relationship with Jesus.  Why?  Because when we were at our worst, we discovered that God’s grace forgave us and healed us.  And it was in that moment, we felt God’s love.  That’s why we do what we do.  To help people be in a relationship with Jesus, we are emailing Alpha videos to you.  These videos ask and answer questions that everyone has about life, faith, and Jesus.  If you signed up for our announcements, you could get these videos.

On Sunday mornings, we ask and answer those same questions.  We started this series and asked, ‘Is there more to life than this?’  In that talk, we said there are two realities that you need to wrestle with.  Reality 1 is life is never enough.  Reality 2 is only Jesus can give you what you are looking for.  And how you deal with reality will determine your life.  You can choose to ignore reality, or you can surrender to reality.  That’s why Jesus said this.

John 6:35 I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. NLT

Last week Sam asked, ‘How can I make the most of my life?’  Sam led us right to the words of Jesus.

John 15:8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. NIV

Remember what Sam said?  He said the fruit here references, love.  He said we aren’t told to produce love.  We are told to be in a relationship with Jesus and that’s when Jesus produces love in us.

John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 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. NIV

Do you want to make the most of your life?  When you remain in that relationship with Jesus, that is when Jesus produces love in you.  That is when you make the most of your life.

Today we talk about faith in Jesus, and we want to answer, ‘How can we have faith?’  We must start with the obvious here: everyone has faith.  Everyone believes in something.  Here is my proof.  When you are at a red light and it turns green, you believe, you have faith that the others will stop so you go.  That’s faith.  When you wake up in the morning, you believe you have faith that the sun will rise and set.  That’s faith.  When you buy groceries and bring them home, you believe, you have faith that the food is good, and you eat it.  That’s faith.  Everyone has faith.  Everyone believes in something.  Faith is a part of our everyday living.

When it comes to faith in Jesus however, that’s where people are divided.  Let me share a scripture with you.  David wrote this.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. NLT Psalms 19:1-4

For some people, they will see nature and its beauty and the scientific precision in how it is held together and it’s clear as day to them that there is a loving God.  To them it’s obvious.  Others will see nature and its beauty and the scientific precision in how it is held together and claim they don’t believe in God.  I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you.  I think it takes more faith to not believe that there is a God than it takes to believe there is a God.

So how can we have faith in Jesus?  A kind of faith that gives us the courage to live life.  Let’s start with what Paul wrote about having faith in Jesus.

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! TLB 2 Corinthians 5:17

What does it mean to be a Christian?  Some people would say, I’m a Christian because I believe in God, or I go to church now and then.  That doesn’t make you a Christian.  A lot of people believe that there is a God, but they wouldn’t call themselves Christian.  James, Jesus’ brother, said even demons believe that.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? NIV James 2:19-20

Some people would say, I’m a Christian because I try to be nice and follow the rules.  That doesn’t make you a Christian.  The truth is there are a lot of atheists who are very nice and kind people.

Some people would say, I’m a Christian because I grew up in a Christian home or I went to a Christian School.  That doesn’t make you a Christian.  For example, you can go to a garage to get your car inspected and sit in the lobby all morning.  Sitting in that lobby doesn’t make you a mechanic.  It makes you a visitor.

Let’s read how scripture defines a Christian.

To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. NLT John 1:12

And in Romans.

It’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. MSG Romans 12:3b

That means when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and we surrender the control of our lives to Jesus, we are Christians.  It’s called repenting.  I come to the end of myself and give my life to Jesus.  And it’s really important to understand, being Christian is a gift given by Jesus.  And because of this gift of grace, we can have a relationship with God through Jesus.  It’s not something you can ever earn.  It’s not something you inherit.  It’s a gift you receive when you repent and surrender to Jesus.

The Apostle John wrote about what God does for us.

What is it that God has said? That he has given us eternal life and that this life is in his Son. So whoever has God’s Son has life; whoever does not have his Son, does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life. TLB 1 John 5:11-13

John is saying that you can believe, you can have faith, that as a Christian your sins are forgiven and when you pass away, you will go to heaven.  That’s a fact based on scripture.  That’s a fact based on the words of Jesus.

Some people may continue to wrestle with this.  They will say things like, I’m not good enough to be a Christian, I have sinned too much, or I have too many regrets to ever be a Christian.  But that’s not how it works.  Remember what Romans said?

The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. MSG Romans 12:3b

So regardless of what you think of yourself or what others have said about you, being a Christian is about what God has done for you.  Being a Christian isn’t about how good you are or what you have achieved, it’s about what God has done for you.  It’s a gift.  Total forgiveness of your sins is a gift from God.  He did it.  You have nothing to do with making that happen.

I want to stop here and talk to people who have been Christians for a long time.  My question for you is, is this how you view yourself?  Scripture says The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.  Is that how you see yourself?  I ask because many times we hear the gospel message about God’s grace and tune out a little because it’s so simple or basic.  What is interesting is, that the people who have been Christians for a long time still struggle to believe and live out the gospel message.  If you view yourself based on what God is and what he does, you wouldn’t live in regret or guilt anymore, would you?  You wouldn’t allow your past to define your future, would you?  You wouldn’t be so self-critical, would you?  Please hear me Christians, The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us.

Paul explains God’s gift like this.

Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. MSG Romans 3:23-24

So what does being a Christian mean to my life?  Let’s read what happens in a person’s life when their faith is real.

What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. MSG Galatians 5:22-24

Remember Sam’s talk last week?  Be connected with Jesus and Jesus will produce fruit in your life.  When faith is real, when you surrender your life to Jesus, things change.  There is a disruption in our lives.  Being a Christian doesn’t mean I stay the same.  Being a Christian means I turn my back on my selfish ways of living so I can live a new life.  Being a Christian doesn’t mean we are better than others, it means we want to be better than who we were.  If faith is real, the Holy Spirit in you changes you.  The Holy Spirit changes how you relate to Jesus.  You will run to Jesus for a relationship.  The Holy Spirit changes how you relate to others.  When you see people you won’t think, ‘What can I get from them,’ you will think, ‘How can I encourage them?’  And the Holy Spirit changes how you view yourself.  You will be at peace with who you are.

James, Jesus’ brother, talked about what it looks like when our faith is real.

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? …Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? MSG James 2:14-17

Real faith means our lives are disrupted for the better.  That means I pray and read my Bible.  And when realize that how I am living is different than what the Bible says, I surrender my will and change what I do.  That’s why I say, real faith disrupts our lives.  That’s why James wrote, God-talk without God-acts us outrageous nonsense.   He is saying if we don’t allow Jesus to disrupt our lives, our faith isn’t real.

Do you remember when your parents told you to clean up your room?  Have you ever asked your teenager to clean up their room?  What do they do?  They do what you used to do – right?  They take their mess and stuff it under the bed and in the closet and say, ‘My room is clean,’ and it’s not.   How do people tend to respond to, ‘Clean your room?’  We try to do the least possible while at the same time claiming everything is great.

And if we aren’t intentional, that is how we can treat Jesus.  He wants to disrupt our lives for the better, but we want to do the least possible while at the same time claiming everything is great – and it’s not.  Real faith disrupts my life and I surrender my will.

Real faith questions.

Do I spend time with Jesus in prayer, scripture reading, and worship and does it change my life?

Am I aggressive in surrendering my will to live differently, or is Christianity a Sunday thing?

Do I allow Jesus to disrupt my life, or I am trying to do the least possible?

Do I criticize others while at the same time, I don’t allow Jesus to disrupt my life?

Has Jesus disrupted my life in the following areas, love and compassion starting at home, fear of life, sex inside and outside of marriage, money, forgiveness, lying, criticism, gossip, priorities, laziness, indifference, and on and on.

Why do I ask those questions?  Because real faith disrupts.

How can we have faith?  Take a moment here and realize, you already have faith.  Everyone believes in something.  To decide to have faith in Jesus means you make a decision based on facts.  The fact that God is speaking quietly through the precision of nature.  The fact that Jesus came to die for your sins.  The fact that everyone around Jesus, His disciples, gave up their lives to tell others about Jesus.  If you think about it, why in the world would anyone give up their lives for a lie – there is no benefit.  The fact that our souls are empty without Jesus.

And when you surrender your life to Jesus, that’s when you experience Jesus.  You experience your sins being removed.  You experience Jesus in worship, in prayer, and in reading scripture.  As you surrender, you experience Your heart is filled with more love for others, for God, and yourself.  That’s when your faith disrupts your life for the better.

Let’s close with a story.  I want to tell you a story because it’s a story about how God views you.  It’s a story Jesus told in Luke 15.  There was a very wealthy man who owned a very large Estate.  And he had two sons.  One of his sons came to his father and asked for his inheritance early.  This was extremely disrespectful, but the father agreed.  The father added up the value of the estate and gave him the money.  By doing this, the son was turning his back on his family.  He just wanted the money he never earned – he didn’t care about the family.

The son takes the money and leaves for the big city.  There, the son did everything he wanted to do.  He partied and partied hard.  He lived the high life.  It wasn’t long until he blew all the money – he was broke.  Because he was broke, he ended up working on a farm feeding pigs.  Imagine, living on money you never earned.  Partying and having it all – now – feeding pigs.

He’s broke.  He’s hungry.  He has no way of getting out of this mess.  Then the son has a thought.   Even the servants in my father’s house eat well.  I’ll go back to my father’s house and maybe I can be a servant.  So, the son goes home.

What happens next is amazing.  The father is waiting and looking for his son.  So, when the son is near, the father runs to him and with tears, hugs him.  The son says, “Father, I rejected you and I don’t deserve to be your son, Can I work for you as a servant?”  The father ignores him and gives him a ring, and sandals, and prepares a party.  This means, the father accepts him as a son.

Why do I tell you this story?  This story is a story Jesus told to explain God’s love for you.  You see, the father in that story represents God.  The son in that story represents us.  And no matter who we are, what we have done, what regrets we have, God is always waiting and looking for us.  And when we turn to God, God will love us, forgive us, and restore us.  It’s a story of love, forgiveness, grace, redemption.

How does God view you?  He can’t wait till you come home.