Are you having fun yet? I hope so, but if you aren't sure, I hope that you will be able to answer with a resounding yes soon. Let me explain.
Many of you know that I have a brother named Steve. Steven does not know it and may not admit it, but he has been one of the most influential people in my life. There are many reasons for this, but I am going to tell you about the greatest way by far.
Over 20 years ago, Steve married Debbie. It was thus that I saw his life change. In a short period of time, almost immediately Steve's focus changed, it was like he became a new person.
The Steve before
- Was very self centered
- Focused on himself
- Bought a Corvette
- Went out with his buddies
- Didn't have lots of direction
Then came part to of the transformation:
- The center of his world changed
- It was Debbie
- Steve was thoughtful
- Caring, loving
- He sold the corvette
- Bought a chevette
- Built a home
- Rachel was born
- The whole world's change was complete
- Tiny child became the focus
- The dog was history
- The world revolved around Rachel
- Continued with the twins
CHANGE AND TRANSFORMATION
Over the past two evenings Jim has brought us in touch with the saving actions of Christ and the change that they bring in our lives.
Tonight something extraordinary has happened.
This old world is not a very good place. I don't want to be too pessimistic about it all, but our old world and our old lives are based on
Each builds upon the other and we are all in competition:
- for top of the class
- being the smartest
- getting into a good school
- getting a good job
- making money
- being popular
- being the prettiest
- the holiest
- the best
And you know what? We are all doomed to failure. Did you get into Harvard, become President of the US, make millions of dollars, win a beauty pageant, on and on it goes.
The worst of the matter is that our religion even says that we need to perform up to par – and we have lots of rules to live up to.
And in the end if we aren't perfect, we can all look forward to burning in purgatory.
Folks – this isn't good news.
WE MISSED SOMETHING
But then into this old world comes God in Christ and turns everything upside down.
The Jewish people were tired of being at the bottom of the political heap. They got conquered by Babylonia, Assyria, Greece and now Rome. They were looking for a Messiah who would conquer the world and put them and their God at the top. Along comes Christ:
- Christ should be the strongest, but came as the weakest
- He should have been rich, but came as poor
- He should have been in charge, but was just one of the crowd
- He should have been popular, but died with few supporters
- He should have been recognized as important, but was crucified as a criminal
- He should have been successful, but seemed to be a failure.
Christ did not meet our expectations:
- Its seems that weakness is strength
- The be last is first
- To be persecuted is to be blest
- To be a sinner is the way to salvation
Competition is now gone. Anybody can do this. Why has have so few tried?
Jesus wants to eat with sinners. He is gracious and loving to those who are treated like garbage. He doesn't seem to fit into this old world and this old world can't hold him.
Success now seems to be failure and failure, success. It seems that being imperfect is okay. God loves us any way. God loves us anyway.
It doesn't have anything to do with what we do…God just loves us. We don't have to deserve it or earn it…God just loves us.
While growing up I was always taught that if I lived a good life God would reward me. If I did something good, God liked me. Now its all turned upside down. God loves me anyway and always did and always will. I have been acquitted of all charges against me, not because I deserve it, but only because God chooses to do so.
There is nothing I can do to make God love me more, because God already does.
Paul seems to know this better than anyone. He says that Christ saved him while yet he was a sinner. And then he makes this really incredible statement: "I am no longer I, but Christ living within me."
I am no longer I.
Well something has happened. And we did nothing to earn it. It's as if we were given a free gift. Paul was hateful and murderous, but God still chose him.
Paul came to know God not by doing it right, but by doing it wrong. "Saul, why do you persecute me?" You? I am not persecuting you, I am persecuting those who believe in you. Oh!
That can mean only one thing. You are Christ. Now Thursday makes sense. Now Friday has meaning.
Its not a matter of doing things right. It's a matter of who I am.
To Paul, you belong to Christ. Christ is in you and you in Christ and no matter who you are you have a place in the body of Christ.
Whether you are male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, good or bad.
If you are a foot, you belong, a hand, a pinky, an eye, a nose. And the least important are given more dignity so that they may regarded as equals.
And now it does not matter if you love God or not, for God loves you. Whether you know it or not, God has written your name in heaven.
It is like Jesus came down and said to you, "You're my boy, or you're my girl." And you giggle with enthusiasm. This is far easier for a child of four to accept than we. You say to a little child, "don't you look pretty." And he or she will beam and believe it….you say it to an adult and they'll they'll tell you they not or wonder what you want.
This changes things. This changes how I look at God. No more is God a demanding parent, a judge. God is my love.
This does not make the world a Utopia, far from it. This does not mean that life will get better or the future will be brighter. This only means that all creation has come from God and is returning to God and the more I let that sink in the happier I will be.
This is not easy. It is not easy to feel loveable, because we still think we need to earn it.
We don't…its like falling into love. Your lover didn't earn it, you just loved them.
By Christ's resurrection we are now shining bright stars of glory for we know that God dwells within us. You are sons of heaven and daughters of God.
You are saints right now! Yet you are also full of garbage at the same time. That's the mystery. It is the mystery of the human and the divine coexisting. Now you can admit your faults and not hide them. You can face who you are, because God says its okay.
God is no longer our police. We can make mistakes, because that's how we learn when God is in our middle.
This is freedom. God has come to set you free! You are now free to be yourself. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Free to act according to your deepest DNA.
And that will be the most courageous thing you ever do. Love and accept yourself worts and all.
Look at the birds of the air. They give glory to God just by being a bird. They are content being birds. They don't want to be dogs or cats. Our problem is that we want to be who we are not.
This is good news:
It has giving us a level playing field. All people have access to God equally, we are equally God's children: This is the democratization of religion.
So are you in love yet with God? Does this change your life? Are you having fun yet?