Welcome to Easter at Life Center! We have an Easter tradition here at Life Center. I say, “Christ is risen!” And you respond, “He is risen indeed!” Let’s try it. (Twice)
He is risen; and when God raised Jesus from the dead, He started a revolution! Jesus started a revolution that would change everything. He came to change us—change the way we think, act, live and relate to God and each other. The Jesus Revolution is far more radical than just being a nice person and going to church! It’s a whole new way of living and being that changes everything. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
New series: The Jesus Revolution. We’re kicking it off today! We’re going to explore the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ description of a radical new revolutionary lifestyle. What does it look like to follow Jesus, to join the Jesus Revolution and live a new life? That’s what we’re going explore all summer, starting next Sunday. Speaking of next Sunday…
Bloomsday weekend: Saturday 5 PM, Sunday 5 PM.
ILL: My friend Bill Long admires people who come to church with their offering already prepared; he is often scrambling during the offering, looking for a pen, writing the check. But a few years ago, he came to church ready. As the offering started, he got the check out of his wallet and stuck it in his pocket; when the bag went by, he put it in with a satisfied smile. But when he put his hand in his pocket, he felt something, and pulled out the check. What had he put in the offering? The bag was now being passed down the row behind him. He turned around, asked for the bag, and began to sort through it, and finally found what he had put in: it was the check-out slip for his kids. He had given his kids to the Lord! How many of you have days when you’d like to give your kids to the Lord?
Bill took quite a ribbing after the service from his friends, who had seen him rummaging through the bag and asked him if he had made out all right in the offering.
If you are our guest today, please don’t feel obligated to give anything; if you are a regular here at Life Center, thanks for your generosity. But please, keep your kids!
Are you ready to let Jesus start a revolution in you?
What is a revolution and why am I talking about it? Let me give you two definitions of revolution.
First, a revolution is an overthrow of a government, a ruler or political system. 2011 has already been a year of political revolution. Revolutions have swept across northern Africa and the Middle East, including Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. It was all ignited by a young fruit vendor in Tunisia named Mohamed Bouazizi. When he was insulted and mistreated by authorities, he was so humiliated and frustrated that he stood in front of the government offices and lit himself on fire. His death a few days later triggered the revolt in Tunisia, which then spread to Egypt, Libya and other nations. One frustrated young man lit a match—and the fire spread across the Middle East!
Second, a revolution is a major change, a dramatic change in ideas or practice—like the Industrial Revolution, or the Information Revolution. 2000 years ago, another young man gave His life and ignited a revolution that has swept the world—the Jesus Revolution. But it wasn’t primarily political in nature. It was revolution in the second sense: a major change in ideas or practice.
Here’s the Big Story in a nutshell.
Designed for good: God created the world and He made it good; and God made us for Himself. You were made for God. In the words of Augustine:
“You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” Confessions, 1:i:I.
If God made a good world and made us for Himself, what went wrong? How do we explain all the evil and suffering around us?
Damaged by evil: Human beings, from the beginning until now, have rebelled against God and gone their own way. We alienated ourselves from God, and in the process, alienated ourselves from each other and from the world we live in. The world is a mess, starting with me, and you. Is there any hope for change?
Rescued by God: Rather than giving up on us, God came after us. He entered our broken world and became one of us. God became a man: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus lived a perfect life, showing us not only what God is like, but what God intended us to be like. But we needed more than a good example; we needed rescue. And for that, God allowed broken people to nail Him to a cross. In that dark moment, God took all our evil upon Himself, and defeated it. He absorbed all our sin and forgave us. And then God raised Jesus from the dead, defeating death itself. This is the good news: that God has acted in Christ to rescue us, defeating sin and death. In Christ, God offers us a new life, a whole new way of being. It was the start of the Jesus Revolution. But it was just the start; it doesn’t end there.
Sent to heal: When you join the revolution, when you become a follower of Jesus, you become God’s agent, an agent of change and healing in a broken world. God transforms you and sends you to transform the world. God changes you and sends you as a change agent. You become infected with the God’s truth and grace, God’s justice and love, and you infect others—but it is an infection that heals a sick and dying world. God works in and through you!
This is the Jesus Revolution. And at the very heart of it stands the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Jesus Revolution was ignited by His death on a cross and God raising Him from the dead.
The Jesus Revolution is “a major change: a dramatic change in ideas or practice.” What did Jesus change? The short answer is “everything”! When you join the Jesus Revolution, your entire life is changed.
Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Paul says that when we were baptized into Christ, our old person died with Christ and was buried with Him. The old life is dead and buried—the old is gone. Then, just as Christ was raised from the dead, we are raised to live a new life in Christ. It’s a whole new life, a new way of being—this is much more radical than just being a nice person and going to church! It’s a whole new life! Here is how Jesus describes the new life.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
The new life is life to the full, abundant life. It is the life you were made for, the life God intended for you. It’s a whole new life! Paul describes it this way.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Say that with me: The old has gone, the new is here! It’s a whole new life! The old has gone, the new is here! It’s the Jesus Revolution; Jesus changes everything. Let me break it down for you.
1. Our relationship with God.
The first and most important thing that Jesus changes is our relationship with God. Jesus goes straight to the root of the problem: our personal brokenness, our messed up relationships, our sick and dying world, all stem from our alienation from God. God made us for Himself, and we walked away, and then everything went south. So to fix everything, you go back to the source of the problem. Jesus heals our broken relationship with God. Jesus reconnects us to God.
ILL: I’ve got some gadgets here. This is a coffee grinder; this is a hair dryer; this is a boom box; this is a happy-lamp. They’ve all got the same problem: none of them work. The grinder isn’t grinding, the dryer isn’t drying, the boom box isn’t booming and happy lamp isn’t making me happy! We’ve got a problem.
What is the problem? They are not plugged in. They all need to be connected to an electrical power source. Without being connected, they cannot do what they were made to do. Without being connected, they are just in the way, taking up space.
There is one way to solve the problem: plug them in! Connect them to power and they do what they were made to do.
You were made by God, for God; without Him, you can’t be what you were made to be, or do what you were made to do. Nothing about you will work the way it is supposed to until you get connected to God.
This is why the first thing Jesus changes is our relationship with God. He connects us; He brings us together again. Let’s go back to the last verse we read:
2 Corinthians 5:17–21 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God reconciled us to Himself through Christ. We were at war with God, disconnected from God; we were God’s enemies. This is a very important point: the Bible never says that God was our enemy; it says that we were God’s enemies.
Romans 5:10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
We were God’s enemies; He wasn’t our enemy. We walked away from Him; He didn’t walk away from us. We rejected Him; He didn’t reject us.
Colossians 1:21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.
You were alienated from God and enemies in your mind because of your evil behavior.
ILL: Christian songwriter Carolyn Arends shared a personal story that shows how easy it is to view friends as enemies when we are the one who did wrong. She writes:
When I found a brand new lap-top for half price on eBay, I told my friend and musical colleague Spencer about my find. He was worried: “Usually when something’s too good to be true…”
“I know,” I replied impatiently, “but the seller has a 100 percent approval rating.”
“Be careful,” warned Spencer.
“Of course,” I assured him, annoyed. I wasn’t born yesterday.
I sent the seller $1,300 and discovered in short order that I had fallen prey to a classic scam. A fraudster had hacked someone’s eBay identity in order to relieve easy marks like me of our money.
I felt [like a] fool—and didn’t want to tell Spencer. The next time I saw his number on my caller ID, I didn’t answer. I could just imagine his “I told you so.”
Soon, I was avoiding Spencer completely. And I started to resent him. Why did he have to be so judgmental? Why couldn’t he be on my side? Why was I ever friends with that jerk?
Eventually, we had to fly together to perform at a concert. “Whatever happened with that computer thing?” he asked an hour into the flight. Cornered, I finally confessed my foolishness, dreading the inevitable response. But as soon as I told Spencer about my mistake, a strange thing happened. The enemy I had turned him into evaporated. Spencer turned into Spencer again, my friend.
As embarrassed as I was by my eBay error, I felt even dumber about the way I had allowed my shame to distort my perception of a friend. If my hand had not been forced, I would have remained estranged from him indefinitely.
This is what we’ve all done with God. We rebelled; we did wrong; but we blame Him and are enemies with Him. But the good news is that even though we started the war, God ended it. In Christ, He has made us His friends again. In Christ’s death and resurrection, God absorbed all our sin and rebellion and overcame it—and forgave us.
This is the first and most important thing Jesus changes: He reconciles us to God; He reconnects us to the God who made us and loves us. This change starts all the other changes, and the next thing that changes is:
2. Our character.
You get a new relationship with God and that results in a new you. You become a new and different person.
ILL: I was 13 year-old wild child when I became a Christian. Within a few days of my saying yes to Jesus, my buddies at school started asking, “What happened to you? You’re different!” I had changed. Don’t misunderstand me—I wasn’t suddenly perfect; I hadn’t gone from wild child to angel overnight. That took at least two weeks! I still had lots of junk to be sorted out, but the change had started, and my friends noticed. You can’t follow Jesus and stay the same!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have words to express what had happened, so when they asked, I said, “I got religion.” It makes me gag to think I said that, because I didn’t get religion, I got Jesus! There is a big difference! Jesus changed me—that’s the gospel. Religion is just me trying to change myself. Religion is all about what I do for God; it’s spelled D-O. The gospel is all about what God has done for us; it’s spelled D-O-N-E. I got Jesus and Jesus changed me!
You can’t follow Jesus and stay the same! He changes you. You become a new and different person. The old has gone, the new is here! So what kind of a new person do you become?
Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
What is the destiny God has chosen for you? He wants to conform you to the image of His Son; He wants to make you like Jesus.
2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
We are being transformed into His image. God is steadily changing us—notice the present tense, “we are being transformed”. It is a process. Following Jesus is a process; it’s a lifestyle; it’s a new way of living every day. And as we follow Jesus, we become more like Him. God is steadily changing us—more and more like Jesus each day. What does that look like?
Galatians 5:22–23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
How many of you would like this list to describe you? Me too! I want to be more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, and so on. All of these are character qualities that the Spirit of God produces in us—they describe Jesus, and they describe the new you—the person God is changing you to be!
One thing is not on the list: being a pansy is not a fruit of the Spirit. I want to talk to all the men for a moment. Before I became a Christian, one of the things that kept me away was that I thought Christianity was for weaklings, for women and children and old people who were afraid of dying (sorry, I’m just telling you how my 13 year-old mind worked at the time); it was for pansies. But I was Man, a Tough Guy, a Stud. Still am.
ILL: When my granddaughter Jenna was two, her daddy was explaining the differences between men and women. “Daddy is a man, Mommy is a woman. Nanna is a woman, Grandpa is a man.” Jenna said, “Huh-uh; Grandpa is a stud!” Amen!
But at the time, I thought Christians were pansies. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Jesus said, “If you want to follow Me, you’ll have to take up your cross and die.” Try doing that—pansies won’t get very far.
ILL: During one of our Holy Week Worship sessions in the Commons, I was talking with my friend Todd Ulrich who loves hockey. He challenges men to watch “The Passion of the Christ”, particularly the scenes when Jesus was being whipped and crucified. Then he reminds them that Jesus knew that was coming and walked right into it—deliberately. That’s courage. That’s strength. That’s no pansy.
That’s our leader. Men, when I tell you that God will change you and make you more like Jesus, don’t ever think God will change you into a mousy little pansy; our leader was a man’s man; He is going to make you a strong man, full of love, joy, peace and so on.
Jesus changes our relationship with God—He reconciles us to God.
Jesus changes us—He changes our character to become more like Him.
The next thing that changes is:
3. Our relationships with people.
The way you relate to others begins to change. You begin to love people instead of use people. You become
A better husband or wife.
A better mother or father.
A better son or daughter.
A better sister or brother.
A better friend or neighbor.
A better boss or employee.
When you get connected to God, and His power begins changing who you are as a person, your relationships will change for the better. You can’t follow Jesus and stay the same!
ILL: In his book It Came from Within, Andy Stanley tells this story:
I met Joe at Starbucks. He was sitting in one of those overstuffed chairs with headphones on and a scowl that said, “Don’t anybody come near me.” Everything about him communicated anger.
As I was waiting for my latte, Joe approached me and said, “Aren’t you Andy?” At that particular moment, I wasn’t sure if I should be Andy or not. “Somebody gave me one of your CDs,” he said. “I’ve been listening to it. But I’ve got to tell you, I have a real problem with God, and the church, too.”
Joe had been through two difficult divorces, and was lonely, and a recovering alcoholic. As far as he could see, there was no evidence for the existence of God.
I got Joe’s phone number and connected him with one of our pastors, John Woodall. John called Joe, met him for coffee, and struck up a friendship. That was the last I saw of Joe, for a while.
Three months later, I was sitting in that same Starbucks when in walked Joe. When he saw me, he headed straight for my table. The first thing I noticed was that he was smiling. The second thing I noticed was that he was carrying a Bible, a notebook, and a book on marriage.
“I’m getting remarried next week!” he announced. I wasn’t sure what to think. “To who?” I asked. “To Susan!” he exclaimed. Susan was his ex-wife. “Susan and I are getting remarried. John is doing the wedding.”
I could see in Joe’s eyes that something remarkable had happened. And it had. Over the course of several meetings with John, Joe’s faith in Jesus came to life, and with it, Joe found the courage to face his anger. The transformation was so remarkable that Susan noticed and began asking questions. Soon after, she put her faith in Christ. The week before Susan and Joe were remarried, John baptized her in one of our morning services.
Andy Stanley, It Came from Within (Multnomah, 2006), p. 58-60.
The new you results in new relationships with others.
Jesus changes our relationship with God—He reconciles us to God.
Jesus changes us—He changes our character to become more like Him.
Jesus changes our relationships with others.
The next thing that changes is:
4. Our destiny.
The moment you begin to follow Jesus, your future changes; your destiny changes. It changes in two ways: short term and long term.
Short term, your destiny here on earth changes. You become an agent of God, a change agent in a broken world, a healing agent in a sick world. You live the rest of your life for God, for God’s purposes, to do God’s will. This is what means to follow Jesus, to join the Jesus Revolution. It is much more radical than just being a nice person and going to church. It is living full on for God. It is following Jesus wherever He leads, and doing whatever He asks.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to do the thing you were made to do? Wouldn’t it be awesome to know that your life made a lasting difference? Wouldn’t it be awesome to know that you were part of God’s Great Story of redeeming and changing the world? There’s nothing like it!
ILL: In 1983, Steve Jobs was trying to lure CEO John Scully away from Pepsi to come run Apple. Scully resisted Jobs’ overtures, citing his lack of experience in technology. Finally, Jobs asked, “Do you want spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do want to change the world?”
What about you? Do you want to spend the rest of your life living for yourself or do you want to change the world? The moment you begin to follow Jesus, your destiny changes. You become part of the Kingdom of God that is bringing God’s will to earth. “May your Kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that every day, and make ourselves available to God to make it happen.
God made you for Himself, and God made you to make a difference in the world. When you are reconciled to God, you become an ambassador of reconciliation, telling others the good news that God has reconciled us to Himself in Christ. When you begin to follow Jesus, you start working with Him to feed the hungry, bring water to the thirsty, healing to the sick, peace to the war-torn, and hope to the poor. In the short term, your destiny here on earth changes. You are living for God.
Long term, your destiny changes for eternity. The Bible says in Ephesians 2 that without Christ, you were dead in your sins and were “by nature children of wrath.” We deserved God’s wrath as creatures that rebelled against their creator. Simply put, we were headed to hell. But God sent Jesus to rescue us from the wrath and judgment we deserve. Jesus reconnects us to God, and changes our eternal destiny, from hell to heaven, from death to life. His resurrection from the dead guarantees ours. Our eternal destinies have been changed because of Jesus.
This is the Jesus Revolution: everything changes, starting with your relationship with God; then you, then your relationships with others, and finally your whole destiny. Does this sound good to you? Jesus has overcome our sin, our rebellion, and even death to change everything! Would you like a new life? Are you ready to join the Jesus Revolution? Think about it while you watch this.
Song: Take Heart.
He has overcome.
Whatever obstacle that stands between you and God, He has overcome.
Whatever sin or brokenness that plagues you, He has overcome.
Whatever damage has been done to your relationships, He has overcome.
Whatever hopelessness you feel for the future, He has overcome.
Christ is risen! He has overcome and is offering you a new life.