7/31/16 - Tweetables - We Renew

Tweetables: We Renew                                                                                    Sunday, July 31, 2016

10:00 a.m. Lower Dauphin Middle School

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Hey, before we get started today, I want to celebrate...we can show the picture. This is us loading the truck and me taking a picture of the "Welcome to Pennsylvania" sign a year ago this week {congregation applauds}. So, hey...I don't know what you're clapping for; I want to clap for you guys. We've loved this community so much. This has been a year of blessings for us, so we are ecstatic to be here and so pumped for what the future holds the many more years we're going to be here, and we just love you guys, and we love The Bridge, and it's an awesome fit, so we thank you guys so much for all the grace and love you've poured out on us {congregation applause}. Give yourself a round of applause for that.

So today we continue our Tweetables series, and this series is small passages of the Bible that pack a big meaning. So, kind of like Twitter, this crazy thing that actually literally in certain parts of the earth, we're going to be looking back in the future and looking back and being like, 'Wow, this small little tool social media called Twitter that really just sends out these random messages of 140 characters or less caused like uprisings in certain parts of the world. You know what I mean? That toppled leaders, like that Twitter had a huge part in some of that. Like you're just sitting here like, 'How can some small thing like this have that much impact?' And so, even as we read the Bible, as we open the Bible, even these small passages that are 140 characters or less can have a huge impact in our life.

Sometimes we open the Bible, we see how small the words are, right? Like, text-wise, and we see how huge the book is and we just get intimidated, and we're like, 'I don't even know where to start. I don't know what to do.' We talked a little bit about this last week. But, hey, guess what, this series, small little passages, but they can have a transforming impact in your life, and I really think today's is a huge one.

And so, just a real quick note about last week. I had a lot of you guys reach out to me and really say like last week's message was really helpful for you. And I would say if you're still processing last week's message or if you missed it, go check it out. If you didn't, if you were here and you're still processing it, I would love to sit down and chat if you have questions or anything. We talked a little bit about the Bible, and just, I thought for many of you it was very helpful, so I would love to continue that conversation if that's something you want to process further.

Today, we are reminded that we renew, so here's our Tweetable for the day:

Do not conform. There are words right there – do not conform – that every like angsty teenager loves, right? You're like, 'Do not conform? Yes, please! I'll take more of that!' Right? And I've never really got out of that stage, so I'm still good with that. Like I'm like, 'Yeah! Okay. Don't conform. You have my attention.' And so if we're honest, there's probably a little bit of rebellious spirit in each of us. Some of us maybe walk the straight line a little better, but really the scripture at the very start is telling us be a non-conformist. Be a rebel. And then you're like, 'Hold on! You have my attention. What are we rebelling against?' Right? Like that's the next question, like what are we rebelling against? Like, what, are we fighting for our right to party? What are we doing, right? That's a Beastie Boys reference if any of you got that.

But we're rebelling against the patterns, the patterns – as this passage says – the patterns of this world. And so take a moment to think to yourself what are some of the patterns of this world? Just think what are some of the things that are kind of fixed and set patterns? Maybe things throughout history that we've seen people be prone to do, struggles people have been prone to have. I can think of a few. Greed. Right? Gluttony, envy, laziness, excess, bitterness, hatred, anger, dishonesty, violence, disunity. And I mean, I'm just getting started. We could sit here all day and talk about a variety of patterns that we're handed in this world.

And so as we think about that we're like, 'Wow. Okay, so I'm supposed to be a non-conformist, I'm supposed to be a rebel against these patterns that the world hands me. So, the cool thing is there's this portion of the scriptures called The Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks, and He gets really...like it's His first sermon and He's like, He's 0 to 100, like just really fast, like going for it. And you're just sitting here like, 'Wow, Jesus, what are you talking about?' And really what it is, The Sermon on the Mount is a rebel's guide to following God. He's constantly saying, 'You've heard it said this way, but I tell you...' He's saying you've heard it said this way and you've created a pattern around this, well, let Me tell you what's it's like. And usually whatever He's telling them to do is like rebelling against this old idea. It's like, 'You're not going to have it very easy in this world, you're going to be a little bit of a non-conformist, people are going to misunderstand you probably more often than they're going to understand you if you follow what I'm teaching right now.'

And so even in the life of Jesus, we see this call for us to rebel. Jesus, you could argue, was a rebel Himself. I mean, I don't even think you could argue it. I think it's pretty obvious if you understand His time, place, and context that He was quite the rebel to the system that He was thrown in. So there's this new thing that we have access to, but it causes us to have to rebel against this old thing. Jesus was encouraging transformation, and if we read the rest of that passage, it says, "Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but..." One of my professors would always say whenever you see a 'but' in the Bible, it's probably big. So think, when you see that 'but,' this is a big but. I need to...you're like, 'Stop. Stop, Professor. You're not understanding what you're saying! He's like trying to teach us hermeneutics – like hermeneutics is the study of the Bible – and making sure you don't look over, you know, important words, and you're just sitting here like, 'You don't even understand what you're saying.' Like it wasn't even a joke to him, it was like, 'It's a big deal when you see the word "but."' And you're like, 'Shut up!' You know, but he's talked about how those are connecting words that connect ideas, and so don't miss what comes after that because it's really important.

So it says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. And so we gotta ask well, what's that about? You know, Paul said if anyone comes to Christ, he is...a new creation has come, the old has gone, and the new is here. The old is gone; the new is here. If you're a new creation in Christ, the old is gone, the new is here. Let's take that in, let's absorb that, let's think about that, let's maybe even believe that. How many of you guys believe...I'll read it one more time. If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old is gone, the new has come. The new is here, has come as a different version.

Think about that, though. Do we really believe that? Do we really believe we're new creations? We've got so much negativity, I think, like stored in us because of the pattern of this world that so often it's hard for us to believe, to absorb, to really meditate on the idea that I, through the power of Christ, am a new creation. The old is gone. Like gone. Like let's talk about what that...gone...right? And the new is here, and sometimes we're like, 'No, Justin, the old's not gone.' That's so tough. Because before you can be renewed – we're going to talk about what that means in a minute, this picture of renewing our mind – but before you can be renewed, you must accept that you're a new creation.

Let me say that one more time. Before you can be renewed, you must accept that you're a new creation because this comes first. And so many of us get hung up on this because we still live in a world that's trying to hand us the same patterns, and we haven't quite gotten rebellious enough. Right? How many of you guys want to get rebellious this morning? That's a question I've never asked in church before, but I'm excited to ask it. Right? Like how many of you guys want to get rebellious? This is exciting stuff. I'm pumped to preach this message.

So the question, though, is why don't we always feel new? Why do we sometimes feel like for some reason we're junk. Or that like the struggle is so real and difficult that we just feel like there's no way I could be made new. Like I want to believe that, and there's certain moments of certain days where I believe that God could make a new creation out of me, but, man, those moments are so small, and then it just...the reality hits that God can't create anything new in me. And these are all lies that we buy into and we believe that keep us conformed to the patterns of this world.

So let's talk about this – a few ways, a few things that get in the way of us recognizing that we are a new creation.

Our history. Our history gets in the way. We ruminate on what we have done in the past, the person that we were, the old that Jesus says is gone. We sometimes bring it back and like a slideshow focus on it. And it can hit us at different times because there might be different triggers. It might be a friend we haven't hung out with in a long time and then we remember all the stuff we're ashamed of that we did with that person. Or it might be whatever, fill in the blank. But we begin to believe the lie that our actions define us, that our previous actions have defined us, and grace is not possible for those anymore. And it keeps us believing that we are in fact not a new creation, the old is still here, maybe the new's here a little bit with it, but the old is still here, and we go right back to those patterns. And here's the deal: It might not be that we go back to those old patterns, it might be that we really do live a life where we stay away from some of those patterns, but we never really have the freedom of believing and owning our newness and renewing our mind.

Another thing that happens is our hurts get in the way because, you know, what we talked about a moment is maybe what we've done to ourselves, our history, but then our hurts, things people have done to us, maybe your road to even faith has been abuse. Maybe you've had a lot of people really hurt you in deep ways. Maybe you've had friendships that have gone south, by really no fault of your own, just people letting you down. And so that hurt sits there and it starts to say, 'I'm not worth that much. Why would God create something new in me? I'm not really worth His time, His effort, His energy, the desire that He would want to make me new. Why would God want to make me new?' And so we get hung up on that.

So it can be our history, it can be our hurts, and then it can also be our habits. It can be that maybe we really have experienced a level of freedom from our history and a level of freedom from our hurts but now we have unhealthy, negative habits that are in our lives that we're maybe not even trying to get freedom from and they keep bringing us down, bringing us down. And this can take a portion of our life to get over. Trust me, habits aren't necessarily easy to break. I'm not here to say that's easy, but I am here to say a new creation is possible within each and every one of us. And sometimes we don't focus on it enough because we buy into the lie. One of the things we're told in the scriptures about Satan is that's he's a deceiver, that there's this like something even within us that is sinful, and this thing within us that's sinful seems to be the lie consistently in our ear. 'Hey, you're not good enough. Hey, that thing you did? That defines you, not God's grace.' 'Hey, guess what? This habit, it's never going to go away no matter how much you work on it. It's always going to be here, so why even try?' 'You're not worth God's grace or love. You're worthless.' And I know some of you today, this is really connecting. Because this is, this is...you've had these kinds of movies, these slideshows playing in your head.

So today we're going to talk about what it means to be renewed. We have six take-home tweets today. So the first three are going to be to talk about how we are a new creation in Christ, and then the last three are going to be some helpful practices for us to continue to renew our minds because here's the deal: We live in a place that's constantly throwing other information our way, and so if we're not in the rhythm of renewing, then we will digress. We will go back.

Take-home Tweets:

Your past is forgiven. Ephesians 1:7 reads this way: "In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." In Romans 8:1, this is one of my favorite passages, this is a great passage. If you struggle to believe you're forgiven, you should write down Romans 8:1. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." No condemnation. You are not condemned, so if something in your head keeps saying, 'Oh, man, I'm condemned for that thing I did way back here,' that is not Jesus. That's either you, Satan, fill in the blank, friend, whatever. Something in the world is throwing that your way, and it's not good. And so you have to believe I don't have condemnation; in Jesus there's no condemnation for that.

Your hurts are healed. Jesus, when He comes, He heals the sick. This is one of the biggest things Jesus does, constantly healing people. Jesus is very interested in healing, and I would say even in an emotional way, interested in healing. I think of Jesus sitting down with the Samaritan woman at the well, and I think of this story as a story where He sits down with this woman who's broken, who's been hurt so much in her life. I mean, most people would believe that she probably has suffered abuse in her life, and Jesus sits down and has this lengthy conversation. And if we just read it and we forget, we forget that like Jesus is a rabbi. Jesus is not supposed to talk to a woman alone. Jesus is a Jew; He's not supposed to talk to a Samaritan at all. But He lowers Himself because He recognizes this woman needs healing. He humbles Himself. Wherever you are, whatever hurt you're experiencing, don't think it's so low that Jesus won't come meet you in that place because Jesus does. Jesus meets us in our deepest hurt, our darkest place, and Jesus heals in that place.

Let me read this passage from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."

At the very least, even if we go through this world and we struggle to find healing for a particular hurt that we've been dealt, we certainly can take heart in that we're comforted by Christ, that Christ comforts us in our times of pain.

You are set free from negative habits. John 8:36 says it this way. "If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. Ephesians talks about putting the new self on and putting the old self off and experiencing freedom. Now here's what I want to say really quick, though, this isn't easy. I don't want to act like this is like easy to leave negative habits, that this isn't a process; it takes time. But freedom is available, it really is. And here's the deal, there's some great stories of freedom here at The Bridge. People who have experienced habits and found freedom from something they might have at one point in their life said there's no way I'm ever going to experience freedom from this.

Now let's get practical. Three things we can do to renew our mind because that's what we're talking about. We're talking about how we're non-conformists, we're rebels, we're rebellious today, and we're going to stay that way, right? And then, what are we rebellious against? The patterns of this world. But not just to be rebellious against the patterns of this world, but to renew our mind so that we pick up something different. Usually the inverse. If the world's telling us to be greedy, Jesus is saying, 'No. Give. Give it away. Be compassionate.' One of our values here at The Bridge: Give compassionately. Right? The world's telling us, 'Don't forgive; harbor bitterness. Bitterness is so good because that person deserves it.' And Jesus is saying, 'No, no, no, no. I forgave you, you can forgive them.' And you're just like, 'Whoa.' This is like an upside-down way of thinking. That might be another way of inserting this concept outside of 'rebel.' It's flipping things upside down, living in a different economy even, right, where for us it might be that greed gets you ahead. In the Kingdom of God what gets us ahead is when we are generous maybe. So all of these concepts.

One thing we can do is start small. Two simple words: start small. And here's what I mean. Don't think you are going to rebel against a system that you've been raised in, that you've lived your whole life in, in like a week. Right? Have you ever seen the person who goes on the diet and they're like, 'Yeah, man, I'm totally done with this. I'm eating this way forever.' And then you see them like three days later and they're like having a Big Mac and fries, and you're like, 'What happened to that diet?' They're like, 'Yeah, I was like totally gung-ho at the start because I was looking like three months down the line instead of looking at just today, right now, what do I need to grow in.'

Sometimes we can have too much vision and lack the ability to be disciplined right in the here and now. And so what I would encourage you to do is start small, and here's what I mean by that. Think of one character trait – one, just pick one – the fruits of the spirit would be a great place to start. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control, faithfulness. Think of these and say, 'Okay, which one of these do I need more of? Which one of these am I struggling with? Alright, this week is going to be my week of patience,' and then expect God to throw everything at you to make you go crazy. Right? Because trust me, it will happen, okay? And so this week, I'm going to focus on being patient. And what that means is I'm going to...at the start of every morning, I'm going to focus on it, I'm going to pray on it, I'm going to read what Jesus says about it and how He lived, patient life maybe. I'm going to navigate my relationships with patience. Right? And just get through that week and then at the end of that week do some inventory. Was that helpful? Wow, I actually feel different this week even though it was a struggle. It was really hard. And it may be patience is again next week because you have a lot to learn in that area. But maybe you switch to something else. The hard part is if we think we can just digest it all at once. It's really difficult, this renewing of the mind. We have to be focused; we have to start small.

Next, and this is part of us renewing our mind and part of us even on the traits that we talked about.

One of the patterns of this world is to mask our ability to see even ourselves, to see what's happening internally, and the thing that does this is noise. There is so much noise in your life, whether you're aware of it or not. And I'm guilty of this, too. I hop in the car, I turn on the music. Right? We just got a newer minivan and it has DVDs in it, so now every time we get in the car, the kids are like, 'What are we gonna watch?' Right? And we're like, well, we were just going to use it for trips, but now we're like, 'If that means you're going to be quiet on the drive to Wal-Mart, then sure.' Right? Does that make sense? So for us it's a little bit of silence actually, but for them it's like another thing to be in front of them, another noise to be in front of them.

I mean, we live in a world of noise, right? We live in a world of busyness, and that can be a certain level of noise in our head. I've got to get this next thing done, I've got to go here, I've got to...and we're never present with our thoughts. Information is coming at us so fast whether it be the television or Facebook. We're constantly thinking about oh, what have I got to post, Instagram, oh, how many people liked it, oh, what about the comments, I've got to get back to this person and comment on their thing. So all of these things are coming at us, all of this noise, and how often, be honest, are you left quiet and alone to really just be with your thoughts? To really say what's going to pop up here in this moment?

You know, withdrawing is a spiritual practice. When we see the life of Jesus, He's constantly withdrawing, and I would argue He has this rebellious call to rebel against the powers of His day, and He recognizes 'I have to step away sometimes. I have to be alone. I have to connect with God. I can't have all this noise.' There's this crazy story where Jesus stays up all night healing people, and they keep bringing Him people, and then He just leaves. Everybody was like, 'Where'd He go?' And He's gone, like He didn't tell the disciples where He was going, He didn't tell anyone where He was going, He just had to get away. It was so busy, it was so noisy, He needed to reconnect with His Father. Hey, we can't renew unless we reconnect. If we're constantly going to be running around in the noise, we aren't connected. There's not a chance for renewal to happen in that place, and so we have to pause, take time for prayer, for meditation.

And hey, let me tell you, I just read actually a really great book on the Christian practice of contemplation, which is kind of like the Christian version of like meditation. It's called Into the Silent Land: A Guide To the Christian Practice of Contemplation, and it is amazing. And it talks a little about what we've been talking about today and kind of how when we sit down like the first week or two of like really like serious like meditating and really thinking on God and really like being alone with our thoughts, it's scary because we don't spend enough time alone with it and so we start to like be like, 'I had that thought. Why did I have that thought? Why would I think that?' And so he actually walks through some practical steps for like how to go about that practice, so if you're into that, that's called Into the Silent Land: A Guide To the Christian Practice of Contemplation and it's by Martin Laird, so check that out.

Finally our last point:

Community. One word. What a great tweet, you know? If you can tweet with one word, that's perfect, right? You were designed for community. Whether you believe it or not, you were. Even if you're a loner, even if you're a person who likes to be alone. Solitary confinement will drive anyone crazy. There's a reason for that...because we are not designed to live alone. We are designed to be with others. God, for example, in the Garden, looks at all He created, and He says, 'It's good.'  And then He sees man and He says, 'But what's wrong over here? Man's lonely.'

Even at the very onset of creation, we are told we are designed for community. Renewal is not an individual process. Sometimes we think this way. 'Renewal is just about me.' No, no, no, no, no. It's a communal process; we're all part of it. We renew together. This is discipleship. You know, the great commission says, 'Go and make disciples.' It's a picture of community, not just you. It's not, 'Go and read the Bible and pray a lot and get smarter.' Right? That's not what... {chuckles}. Go and make disciples. This is a communal thing.

And so we share our burdens with one another because James tells us that when we share our burdens with one another, when I come up to a brother and I say, 'Hey, I'm dealing with this,' and I share that burden? James says times of refreshing come in that moment. Think about that. Have you ever had that happen? Where you like say something that you've been holding for so long and you finally find someone to put your arm around and say that to, and it's like 'Ohhhhh, I can kind of breathe again.'

The scriptures are true on this. We need others. We need love, encouragement, support, accountability, people that can even call us on our garbage. Like people that we're like, 'Okay, no matter how hard it is, I'm going to listen when you tell me that thing that I said I didn't want to do that I know I'm probably going to go back to, I'm going to listen to you.'

There's a band I love called Me Without You and they have this song called The Sun and the Moon (off the album Brother Sister), and one of the lines reads this way. It says, "Find a friend and stay close and with a melting heart tell them whatever you're most ashamed of."

There's something profound and beautiful about a community that you can grow deeper in trust with. It's a renewing thing to have these types of relationships, and so we believe that this space on Sunday morning is part of that. This is a space where we lead with Belonging by Acceptance so that in this space, we can share our hurts together, we can share our history together, we can share our negative habits together, and we can seek freedom. We can express that we're a new creation despite all of that in this place.

Even deeper, we have what we call life groups. These are groups that meet a couple times a month, and these groups are groups where you can even go deeper and have more trusting relationships with people and meet regularly with them and connect and so we need community. Don't try to renew your mind without community. You need that piece.

Finally, I want to share a story. There was once a businessman. He owned a warehouse property, and he decided to sell this property. And so after a while, he got a taker, a bidder, and they met at the property, he met to show him the property. The buyer was actually really serious; he wanted to buy the property. He was like, 'I'm pretty sure I want it, I don't...you know, I don't even know if I need to see it.' He's like, 'Well, I better show it to you,' and so they get there, and the businessman arrived a few minutes early to find that the warehouse had been vandalized. The door had been kicked in, there was spray paint all over, there were windows that were broken out, trash was everywhere, and the buyer showed up just a minute later.

He showed the prospective buyer the property; the whole time he was apologizing. He said, 'I'll fix the windows, I'll fix the door, I'll clean the garbage, I'll fix any other damage in here, I'm really sorry.' And then the buyer says, 'You know what? Forget about it. Forget about the repairs.' The businessman said, 'What? Why? Why would you tell me to forget about the repairs?' He says, 'Well, when I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building; I want the site.' You and I are the site. God is not interested in what you've built, no matter how cool it might be. Truthfully. God doesn't care if your warehouse is ratty, old, with graffiti all throughout. God isn't coming into your life to renovate it...your history, your hurts, your habits...renovate that. God's saying, 'I'm not in the business of renovating; I'm in the business of renewal. I make all things new.' That's what the scriptures say.

And so don't live your life in this old, ratty building. Right? And hoping that like a new one is kind of fused in it. Like, 'Oh! We finally got the living room done. It looks a little better.' Right? {laughs} No. We, as we renew our mind, we recognize that we live a whole new structure. Like this is new creation. Yes, it is the same site. It is us, it is Justin, it is you. But at the same time, it is something altogether new that me left to my own would have no ability to do. Not even close. It is all God, and this is why we give glory to God because we say, 'Wow. You can create something new even though the doors are kicked in, the windows are busted, there's trash everywhere, there's graffiti all over. You have the power to create something new in me and You would want to? Wow.' So we commit to renewing our minds because we're like, 'Wow, I want to experience more of that. Where do I go to get more of that?' So we renew our minds. Let's live in the new creation. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we are so thankful that You declare we are new creations. We desire to follow You as we seek You. We don't always get it right, but the beautiful thing is Your grace, Your mercy, Your love, is there for us. So we thank You so much that even when we have no idea where our mind is that You're calling us a new creation, and You're desiring that we would renew our mind, that we would seek You in everything, that we would not conform to this world, but we would be rebels, but rebels with a cause and the cause is to come closer to You, to look more like Jesus every day, that our traits, the way we live in this world would reflect the fruit that we see in scripture. So be with us on this journey. Allow us to get away from the noise, allow us to connect with You more, allow us to connect with each other more so that we might be renewed. In the name of Jesus, amen.


THE BRIDGE CORE VALUES

Belonging by acceptance. We believe people need relationships, with God and others, in which they will be received with non-judgmental love. We desire to give people the right to explore, ask questions, and voice doubts in a community that accepts and expresses the love of God.

Relating with relevancy. We believe in meeting people where they are on their spiritual journeys. We desire to express faith within the context of real life in today’s world.

Identifying with Jesus. We believe in the significance of a connection with the authentic Jesus. We desire to develop a faith that is based on a relationship with Jesus rather than a religion about Jesus.

Developing healthy people. We believe God guides people into meaningful life transformation which impacts every area of life in a healthy way. We desire for God to continually develop people in who they are and how they live.

Giving compassionately. We believe Jesus modeled compassionate giving. We desire to encourage people to give and serve generously outside of themselves.

Extending the mission of Jesus. We believe a relationship with Jesus changes a person’s perspective on the world. We desire to join Jesus in his mission – locally, regionally, and globally.