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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - Questions That Make You Question

James Meehan - Questions That Make You Question

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    James Meehan - Questions That Make You Question

So today, I want to tell you about my story of unfollowing Jesus. Have you ever had questions for God that made you question God? Maybe you had struggles with the Bible or doubts about Christianity. If so, I want you to know that you're not alone. I remember being 12 years old, right. I was in the seventh grade and being confronted with this situation in my life that I just didn't know how to explain that honestly rocked my world in ways that caused me to question my faith in different areas that I never thought that I would, right. I grew up going to church every single weekend because that's what my family did but all of a sudden I hit middle school and life just starts falling apart.

I remember my parents were fighting all the time because of the poor financial situation that we were in. My older sister was partying, selling drugs, getting into fights and I remember 12 year old me just being so angry, frustrated and not sure how to process these emotions that I was dealing with and it led me to this place where I can specifically remember praying and crying out to God asking him to fix the situation but things weren't getting better. As a matter of fact, things got worse. I remember the conversation when my parents sat me and my siblings down to let us know that they were getting a divorce. They had separated for a while, filed for divorce and again, this is me growing up where my parents are telling us that, "Hey, everything you've ever known is changing. Everything that you've ever found confidence in is going away".

And it led me to this place where these prayers I had went unanswered. These questions that I was asking, I couldn't find good answers to and so I started to doubt. I started to question. I started to find myself in a situation that I just didn't know how to deal with. So here I am a few years after being confronted with the revelation that my parents' marriage was falling apart and having these questions about God and now not only do I question Christianity but I actually make fun of it, right. Like never in my life did I imagine being in that place and that was honestly my story for about seven years as I went through middle school and high school and then even after graduating high school as I'm trying to grapple with, where do I go next? What is my life supposed to be about? Do I go to college? Do I start a career? Like, what is this supposed to be?

And again, along this journey, I kept on finding more and more reasons to believe that God was not real and Christianity was not good and maybe you find yourself in a similar place right now where you're questioning some things that you've been taught. You're wondering if these things that you were told are even real, if they're good or if they're true. Wherever you are on that journey, what I hope you understand is that you are not alone.

Now, obviously as I'm sitting here telling you this story today, I'm in a very different place than I was so many years ago because it was at the age of 19 when I was honestly at rock bottom. Had no idea what I was supposed to do or where I was supposed to go that I got a phone call from my mom and when she called me, she just said, simply, "Hey James, I think it's time for you to come home". Because at the time I was living off on my own in another state doing whatever I could to avoid God, to avoid the things that I had been running away from for so long and when my mom called me and invited me to come home I said, "Yeah, I think that would be really, really good".

So I moved back in with my parents and I started going to church because at this point my parents' marriage had actually been restored, right. So my parents who had filed for divorce so many years ago, their marriage today was stronger than it had ever been and they were going to church together as a family. So I moved back in with my parents and what I'm told is, "Hey, if you're gonna live in our house, you're gonna go to church". And I said, "Okay, sounds great". Didn't actually sound great but it was definitely cheaper than going and finding somewhere else to live.

So I did it and over the course of the next several months, I was introduced people who didn't just talk about loving God and loving others but who actually loved God and who really loved me and this began to open up my eyes to the possibility that maybe there's more to this Christianity than I had walked away from so long ago and after going on this journey of seven years of deconstructing my faith, of deconverting from Christianity, of unfollowing Jesus, I was being surrounded by all of these people who cared about me in ways that I couldn't explain and even though I was skeptical of what they believed, I wanted what they had because they had purpose. They had hope. They had a love that poured out of them that I couldn't understand or begin to explain and so eventually it led me to this place where when I was confronted by the truth of who Jesus is and what that means for my life that I decided to take a step of faith.

I decided to put my trust in Jesus, to give Christianity another chance and that was seven years ago now and for the last seven years, I have been passionately pursuing Jesus with everything that I have and every step of the way what I found is the beauty that comes from following Jesus. The fact that life is so much better when we follow Jesus not because things get easier but because we're not doing it on our own and I've been able to come into contact with so many Christians who have really great answers to the questions that I was asking so long ago. Who have wrestled with the same struggles and doubts that I've wrestled with to the point where now I'm more confident than ever before that not only is Christianity good but it's true and so what I wanna do is I want to help you understand the three different stages in the spiritual journey so that as you're making your way, you can know where you are and where you're supposed to be going.

So here are the three stages in the spiritual journey. The first stage is construction. The second stage is deconstruction and the third stage is reconstruction. Now, you might be familiar with some of those words. Right now there are a lot of people in the Christian world who are talking about this thing called deconstruction and really what I want us to be able to do is to have a good understanding of what that is, why it matters and how we can do it wisely. Because unfortunately, for so many people that are navigating through the stage of deconstruction, their deconstruction doesn't lead them to reconstruction. Instead it stops at deconversion and instead of continuing on the journey and arriving at the destination that they were moving towards, they get lost and they give up and so, as we navigate this journey called faith, we have to understand is that, we are building a system of beliefs.

We're putting together our worldview and this belief system has a tremendous influence on how we view the world. That's why it's called a worldview and so in this first stage of building this belief system, we're calling it construction. It's kind of like building a house for the first time, right. It's usually pretty simple. We're getting the basics in place. We're laying a foundation. We're putting up walls. We're putting all of the pieces together so that we can have a house we can live in and it's during this phase of faith that we're answering some of the fundamental questions about God. Who is he? What is he like? What does it mean to be human? Who am I, where do I belong? What am I supposed to do in this world? Speaking of which, what's wrong with the world? What's the solution? What happens when we die? Is there an afterlife?

These are some of the basic questions that shape our worldview and it's these questions that shape how we not only see the world but also how we see ourselves, God and others and this is so important for us to recognize that what we believe shapes how we behave. What we believe about God, ourselves and the world shapes how we interact with God, ourselves and the world and this is why it's so important for us to ensure that our worldview, our belief system is built on what's good and what's true. But unfortunately for the vast majority of us at some point in our lives, some bad ideas will sneak in and distort our worldview. They will distort and corrupt the house that we're building in ways that are not good and are not true which will lead to some serious issues down the road, right.

If you've got a crack in your foundation of this house you're building, everything's gonna be crooked and for those of us who are in this phase which is likely most of us, we've gotta be really, really intentional to make sure that we do this part of the journey wisely because the better we do on this first part, the easier the next parts of this journey will be and so what I'll do is give you two tips to understand how to walk through the phase of construction wisely. So here are two tips to navigate construction wisely.

The first tip is to evaluate the fruit. The second tip, you've gotta investigate the root because there is nothing more dangerous to your faith than letting bad ideas sneak in and infiltrate your belief system. I've seen so many examples of young Christians who grew up in a great church and a great family end up walking away from Jesus because at some point along the way, bad idea snuck in and distorted their understanding of who God is and corrupted their understanding of who they are as people. This is why it matters so much to evaluate the fruit and investigate the root because what we believe shapes how we behave and if our beliefs are not good or true, they will cause us to do things that are not good or true.

So here's some questions for you to ask as you are evaluating the fruit of your belief system and investigating the root that is producing those fruit. Some questions are these. Are these beliefs actually good and true? Are they serving others and honoring God if not where did they come from? How did they get there? I know in my own journey of navigating faith I recently had to go through this process of unearthing some of these bad ideas that had snuck in and replacing them with ideas that are good and true because what I found was that there were some things that I just assumed to be true about God in the Bible that weren't and it was through this journey of evaluating the fruit and investigating the root that I was able to replace these bad ideas with ideas that are so much better.

Ideas that helped me better understand the character of God. That helped me understand how to live as one of God's people. To serve others in a way that's honoring to them and glorifies God and so wherever you are in this journey, take some time to evaluate the beliefs that are running your life, of doing the work of figuring out if these things that you've assumed to be true are actually true. These things that you've been told are actually good because along the journey of us building our belief system is gonna be really, really hard to not allow these bad ideas to sneak in. But when we can do the work of making sure that we are building a strong foundation, that we are building a solid set of beliefs, then we're so much further in our journey of understanding who God is and how we're called to live as His people.

Now, here's the thing. The more messy your construction phase is, the more painful your deconstruction phase will be because eventually all of us are going to be confronted with a question that we can't answer, a situation we can't explain or an experience that will rock our world and it's often that difficult situation that kick-starts the deconstruction phase, right. You've discovered that there is a problem with this belief system you've built and oftentimes it doesn't appear as just a little problem but like a big one. It's sort of like if in the process of having built this house and then living in it for a significant amount of time, all of a sudden you discover that your house is infested with mold and termites and you're like, "Oh, shoot. If I don't do something about this, then this problem will lead to significant harm in the future".

So my wife's parents just realized recently that they had a mold infestation in their home that had likely been there for like years and years and years and the mold infestation was like centered around the place where my wife's room was when she was growing up and it's really likely that that mold infestation contributed to the significant health issues that she's dealing with today and the thing that's so dangerous about these bad ideas infesting our belief system is that they can cause longterm issues that we're not even aware of because it's all playing out behind the scenes, right. They didn't realize there was a mold problem until they had to like replace one of the air conditioning units and once they got to that place they realized, "Oh, shoot. This has been here for a really long time and it has likely been causing problems that we weren't even aware existed".

And the same can be true of our beliefs. If we aren't careful, these bad ideas will sneak in and they will take what started out as a wonderful home and distort it into a place that causes harm. It can cause our belief system to be corrupted in ways that are not good and aren't true and so, as we are navigating this phase of the journey, we've discovered a problem. There are some beliefs that we have that aren't good and aren't true and they need to be replaced. Here are two tips to make sure that when we do this, we do it wisely because this is the place where I most often see people get into trouble because they don't know how to deconstruct well.

So two tips for deconstructing well. Tip number one, don't wreck it, work through it and then tip number two, don't do it alone. The two biggest mistakes I often see people make. The first one is they assume that some bad ideas and some false beliefs mean everything they believe is bad or false. Listen, deconstruction is not the same thing as destruction, right. Don't come in like a wrecking ball. Instead, do the work of identifying what's wrong and replacing it with what's good and true. It's really easy to tear something down. It is much harder to take something apart and then put it back together and we'll talk more about that in the next stage but here's the thing.

If you blow up this house you've built instead of having pieces to rebuild with, you'll just have fragments and splinters. This is why we don't want to wreck it, we want to work through it. The second thing is, man, we do not do this alone because when you try to navigate this season alone, first of all, it's not easy and it's definitely not fun. But if you are willing to put in the work, surrounded by people you love, what you're going to discover is that there's so much fulfillment on the other side of not wrecking it but working through it and if you want to do it well, you've got to do it with others because they will help you navigate it wisely and help you work through the questions that you don't know how to answer on your own. This part of the journey has been called by many theologians, the Long Dark Night of the Soul.

Based on a poem from a 16th century Christian mystic named Saint John of the cross and this part of the journey is called the Long Dark Night of the Soul because as we're navigating this journey, it's kind of like we arrive at a place where we can't see the path forward anymore, right. It's like, you're trying to navigate through the woods at a dark night where the clouds are covering the moon and you have no light to guide your path and so, as you're wandering in the darkness, it can be really scary, discouraging and honestly frustrating because this journey that seemed so good and clear before, now you have no idea where to go and this is unfortunately the part of the journey where so many people give up. They get lost and they decide to stop moving forward and it's at this point when we are presented with a choice.

Do we end our deconstruction with deconversion or do we move on to reconstruction? Do we keep moving forward? Do we keep working through it? Do we move until we get to the other side where once again, we know the path that's before us? These words were likely never more true than the night before the first Easter Sunday. You see Jesus's disciples had gone through the stage of construction. They had spent three years following Jesus, learning from him, doing life with him and then all of a sudden, they were confronted with a situation that they couldn't explain. A question that they couldn't answer. They arrived at deconstruction and their deconstruction took place at Jesus's crucifixion because the man that they called friend, the person that they believed was God's Messiah, the chosen one who was going to restore the nation of Israel had been killed on a cross by the Roman Empire.

Their faith was shattered. What they believed seemed to no longer be true and so they're spending the next several days wondering what are they supposed to do now that their Lord and their Messiah was dead. They found themselves in the Long Dark Night of the Soul but just like those words say, the night is darkest just before the dawn and what those disciples didn't yet understand is that the dawn was coming and at that dawn, on Easter Sunday, the tomb was gonna be empty because Jesus was going to rise from the grave. They went through the process of construction. Then at the crucifixion, their faith was deconstructed but it was about to enter into reconstruction at the resurrection of Jesus. Construction, deconstruction, reconstruction.

That's exactly the journey that Jesus's life and his ministry went on. It started with his life, then his death and then his resurrection. The thing that we have to understand is that the Christian story is the story of the God of heaven and earth making all things new. He doesn't just make all new things. You see what God did with Jesus was he took Jesus's body that was now dead and he raised it from the grave. God didn't throw it out and replace it with something new and this is what's so challenging about deconstruction is the temptation is to take what we once had and throw it away. But what God is inviting us to do is to go on the same journey those first disciples went on. To not throw out their old beliefs but to rebuild them in the light of Jesus's resurrection.

As we're navigating this journey of faith, we're gonna go through these different stages. It's gonna start with construction. Then we will move to the phase of deconstruction. But eventually if we can keep moving forward, if we keep following Jesus, if we keep trusting God, we will arrive at reconstruction where we will get to understand better than ever before who God really is but the journey to get there requires us to go through every single stage. As much as we would like to skip stage two, we can't skip it. We have to walk through it. We have to work through our questions and so wherever you are in this journey, I want you to bring your questions to God. My hope is that you will process your doubts with people you trust and my prayer is that you would commit to following Jesus anyway because what we have to understand is that our doubt doesn't disqualify us.

It certainly didn't disqualify the original disciples because what's amazing is that as Jesus was standing on a mountain post-resurrection, right. He had risen from the grave. He's standing on a mountain getting ready to send his disciples into all the world to continue the mission that he started and here's what we're told. In Matthew chapter 28 starting in verse 16, we're told that the 11 disciples went to Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. Now get this, verse 17 says that when they saw him, they worshiped him but some of them, some doubted, some of Jesus's disciples who are standing with him in the flesh post-resurrection. Some of them still have doubts and those doubts do not disqualify them and they certainly don't disqualify you because the very next verse tells us that Jesus came to them and he said to all of them, not just some of them but to all of them. The worshipers and the doubters.

Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age". This journey of faith isn't easy. Sometimes it can be really messy and really complicated but the beautiful thing is, that when we are willing to bring our questions to God, to process our doubts with people we trust and commit to following Jesus, we will discover that on the other side of deconstruction is reconstruction that on the other side of death is resurrection as we continue to do the work of following Jesus faithfully even when it seems like it doesn't make sense and so wherever you are on this journey, just remember that your doubt doesn't disqualify you. As a matter of fact, your doubt is oftentimes an invitation to better discover who God is and who He's made you to be.

Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for the fact that our doubts don't disqualify us. God, I pray that we would be willing to bring our questions to you, to process our doubts with people we trust and commit to following Jesus with our doubts and with our questions.

What I know is that there're probably some of you right now who you would consider yourself a follower of Jesus but honestly you've got questions that you don't know how to answer. You've got doubts that are continuing to trip you up and cause you to struggle, wondering, "Okay God, are you there? God, do you care? Are you real? Are you good"?

And what I hope you understand is that those questions are fair questions and that God actually wants you to bring those questions to Him and so for some of you, maybe today's gonna be the first time where you actually bring those questions to Him. Maybe for others of you today's gonna be the first day that you actually process those doubts with other people so that instead of trying to work through it on your own, you surround yourself with others who care about you and are gonna be there with you. Whatever that looks like for you, I wanna pray and ask God to give you the courage and the wisdom to bring up those questions and to process those doubts and along the way, that God would give you the strength to continue to follow Jesus.

God, I pray for those students right now and I ask that you would work in their lives, that you would give them courage and you would give them wisdom to bring those questions to you, to process those doubts with people they trust. That God if they don't even know who those people are, I pray that you would give them those people, that you would put them in their life this week so that they wouldn't have to continue to wrestle with these questions on their own.

Now, in an attitude of prayer with head bowed and eyes closed, there are others of you right now where you're thinking of all of the reasons that you don't even believe in God. You're thinking of all the questions that have created a distance between you and the idea of faith altogether but in spite of that, there's something stirring inside of you that you can't explain. What I want you to know is that that is the spirit of God working inside of you, opening your eyes to the possibility of what life with Jesus could be.

The meaning and the purpose that is found in relationship with Him because every single one of us as human beings, we were created to live in relationship with God. But because of our sin, the things that we've done to hurt ourselves and others, we have created a distance between us and God but God is not okay with that. He wants so desperately to be reunited with you that God left heaven. He entered history in the person of Jesus to be reunited with you through Jesus's life and his death on a cross. He made a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and Jesus did not stay dead.

This is the good news of the gospel that through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, sin and death have been overcome that as human beings, all of us can be made right with God in relationship with Him and that is exactly why you're here today. To take a step of faith. To choose to put your trust in Jesus. To give him your life, to be made new and there are some of you right now who are ready to say, "Jesus today I wanna give you my life. I wanna turn from my old ways. I wanna turn to you. I want to be made new. I need your grace, your mercy and your forgiveness".

If that's you, simply lift your hand or click in the chat below. Let us know that you're saying, "Jesus today I give you my life". There's no better choice that you could ever make than to be made new through a relationship with him and as people are making that decision, what we're gonna do is we're gonna pray together out loud because here at Switch, we are a family. We are a movement of students from across the country and around the world and even though you had to make the decision on your own, you don't have to pray alone because we are praying with you as you step into this relationship with Jesus. So everybody together, repeating after me praying out loud:

Heavenly Father, forgive me. I'm turning from my sin. I'm turning towards you. I need your love. I need your grace. I need your mercy. In Jesus name, Amen.

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