James Meehan - Navigating the Big Questions
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Welcome to Switch In Real Life. AKA Switch IRL, AKA SWIRL, come on somebody. Yes, that is going to be a thing. My name is James Meehan, and I'm just so thankful that you're joining with us for the first night of the four semester of Switch. Whether you're joining with us at Switch IRL or Switch online, or maybe you're watching this later on YouTube, either way. The fact that you're here and watching this message means that you are now officially invited to be a part of the Switch family, because what we are is a community of students from around the country and across the world that are committed to seeking Jesus and serving others. And our hope is that through you being a part of Switch, that you would experience the transformation that comes from being a part of God's kingdom.
Now I told you my name is James Meehan, but I'm going to show you a picture of my son and my wife. You can check that out. And in that picture, you just need to take a moment and see how cute that kid is. Are you kidding me? That is my son, Jace, Quattro, kiddos, little man, the boy, guy, chunkers or milkers, depending on the mood that we're in. He has a lot of different names and I love the kid. He's about six and a half months old. So he is crawling, he is climbing things. He's throwing himself off of things. It's absolute chaos, but every day is a blast. And then you also got to see my wife, Mandy, who is 100% the apple of my eye, the honey in my tea, and the love of my life.
And my family is crazy about Switch because what we believe is that you are not the leaders of tomorrow, but you are the leaders of today. That your generation is a generation that has been called and positioned by God to bring the good news of Jesus to every corner of creation. But what we recognize is that your generation is a generation that is having to navigate really significant challenges that previous generations haven't. You're having to navigate all the craziness of a post COVID, but also kind of still a part of COVID world. You're having to navigate all the challenges of the internet age, where everything you say and do can end up on the internet and there's no way to get rid of it after it's up there.
You're having to navigate, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in a world where every bad idea under the sun is available and at the tip of your fingers? But what we believe without a shadow of a doubt is that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is living in you. And that is why we are so committed to doing everything we can to help you understand just how good God is and just how meaningful and significant the life that you've been called to live, is. But like I mentioned, there are a lot of challenges that you're going to have to navigate, right? Any part of our lives, where we're going through transition is challenging. And there are many of you that are not just starting a brand new year of school, but you're like going into middle school for the first time. Or you're stepping into high school for the first time.
Maybe you're at a new school as your junior year is about to begin trying to figure out like, what does this mean? Where do I go? Where do I turn? Whatever it is, you're navigating transition. And transition can be really challenging because this entire season of your life, your middle school and high school years is a season of transition. Because you're transitioning from being a kid to becoming an adult. You're transitioning from being defined by your parents and your family, to starting to define who you are as an individual. And as you're navigating this time of transition, there's gonna be three really big questions that you will be searching out the answers for. Those questions are, Who am I? Where do I belong? And what difference do I make? Who am I, where do I belong? And what difference do I make?
Those are three of the questions that, to be honest with you, all human beings are wrestling with at some level or another. Because all of us want to know who we are. We want to know who our people are. We want to know what our purpose is, and until we can find those things, we will find ourselves feeling restless and a little bit lost. I remember all throughout middle school and high school, having no clear understanding of who I really am, of the place that I really belonged. And the purpose that I had been created for. You see, when I was in middle school, my parents were going through a really difficult time where they actually separated. They had filed for divorce. And here I am my seventh grade year of school, trying to figure out how to navigate all of that craziness and also trying to navigate puberty. And it was bonkers.
I had no idea what to do or where to look and I didn't have my people. And it was during this time where things were so frustrating and difficult and challenging that I honestly came to a place where I just gave up on God and faith altogether. And so I tried to figure out how to define myself. And what's really interesting that you need to know about me is I really liked getting into fights with people and like growing up my dad's rule was, hey, if you're gonna get into a fight at school, you are not allowed to throw the first punch. And if you're gonna get into a fight outside of school, you have to throw the first punch. So, yep, those were the rules in my household, right?
When my parents would drop us off for school in the morning, if it was my mom who brought us to school, she would say, make good choices. If it was my dad, he would say, keep your head on a swivel. Yeah, that's my childhood. And so I'm navigating my middle school years. I'm navigating my high school years. I'm angry, I don't have a relationship with Jesus. I don't have good friends around me. And so I defined myself as a fighter and I didn't have any community that I belong to. So I always felt alone and frustrated, and I had no greater sense of purpose in my life. So I was constantly looking for something to add meaning and significance to my life. And so I legitimately defined myself as a dude who got into fights and chased girls. And that was what my life was all about. And after I graduated high school, somebody invited my family and I to Life Church. I got involved with the host team. I started serving.
And at this point I was not yet a believer in Jesus. I only started serving because my mom said, if you don't go to church and serve, you're gonna have to find somewhere else to live. And I realized that wow, going to church was a lot less expensive than finding somewhere else to live. and it was during that time where I was surrounded by people who genuinely loved me and who were serious about pursuing God with every part of who they were. And that changed things for me, it was the first time where I honestly felt welcomed and accepted for who I was. It was the first time where I felt like I had a place to belong. And there were people who cared about me. And it was at the age of 19 years old, where I first encountered the radical grace of Jesus that changed everything.
And that was seven years ago. And for the last seven years, I have been committing my life to doing whatever I can, to help as many people as possible experience the goodness of God and discover that it is through the gospel of Jesus, it is a part of the family of God, where we find the answers to those questions of who we really are, of where we really belong. And the purpose and calling that we have been created for is through the truth of Jesus that those answers are found in ways that are good and true rather than empty and meaningless. And so, whatever it is that brought you here today, my hope and my prayer is this, is that you would just be a little bit curious about this movement of Christianity that started 2000 years ago, and is continuing to build and grow and strengthen His people throughout the ages and across the planet have come into contact with the raisen savior Jesus.
And that has changed everything for them. And so here's what I'm not gonna try to do. I'm not gonna try to answer every question you might have about Jesus, God or the Bible, because I can't do that. Like I'm not even gonna try to get you to agree with me about everything that I personally believe. That's not the goal. My goal is to do the best that I can to model what following Jesus could and should look like. My goal is to do the best that I can to introduce you to just how beautiful and compelling Jesus is and how wonderful the life that He's invited us into can be. And so to do that this four semester of Switch, we're going to start with a series titled Kingdom People where we're gonna be exploring the words of Jesus.
As we walk through one of his most famous sets of teachings, title The Sermon on the Mount. Where it's legitimately three chapters straight of spiritual haymaker after spiritual haymaker. Where Jesus is laying out His vision for what life in the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like. And He cast this beautiful and compelling vision for a life that is radically different, than what so many of us have been shown or introduced to, or even modeled. It is a life defined by goodness, grace and mercy. And so that's what we're gonna do is we're gonna allow the words of Jesus to be our guide. And we're gonna follow His words, His wisdom, and His example, so that we can discover the truth of who we really are, the place that we really belong and the purpose that God has created each and every one of us for.
Now this first week, we're going to give kind of an overview of where we're going for the rest of this series by actually starting in the chapter that proceeds The Sermon on the Mount. So the Sermon on the Mount is Matthew chapter five, six, and seven. And we're gonna start off in Matthew chapter four with the announcement of Jesus's mission. So just to give you a little bit of context, we're gonna be reading from the gospel according to Matthew. Matthew was one of Jesus's earliest disciples. One of His followers who after Jesus's life, after His death, after His resurrection, Matthew wanted to record the things that Jesus said, the things that Jesus did so that later generations, people like you and me could read the story of Jesus and be transformed by everything He said and did.
And so we're gonna be picking up in Matthew chapter four, about halfway down in verse 17, where we're told that from that time on, Jesus began to preach. Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near, repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near. So we're picking up with Jesus's announcement of His ministry. Now, right before this Jesus had been baptized by His cousin, John. He had then been led by the Spirit of God, into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. And Jesus resisted every single temptation. And then Jesus withdrew into Galilee in order to fulfill the prophecies that were written about Him until the time had come for Him to announce His message and His mission to the world. And the way that He announced it was by preaching, repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Now what's interesting is sometimes when we read this, we read things into it that are different than what Jesus said. So I want to break this down for us real quick. Jesus starts by saying repent. What does that mean? It means change your life and turn to God. Then He says that the kingdom of heaven has come near. The kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is the realm where God rules. what is a kingdom? A kingdom is a people ruled by a king. So what Jesus is saying is that the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom where God rules. And then He says, has come near. The kingdom of heaven has come near. And I think this is where we start to miss it because here's what Jesus, didn't say. He didn't say repent so that you can go to heaven someday. He said, repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Repent because the kingdom of God is coming here. It's not about us going there, but it's about the rule and reign of God taking root and history. It's not some wish that will something good will happen in the future. It's the announcement that in Jesus, God's kingdom is coming on earth, as it is in heaven. This is why the gospel is called good news because the Kingdom of God is a place where goodness and justice reign. we're told in the Psalms that God's throne is built on a foundation of righteousness and justice and that love and faithfulness go before Him. So what Jesus is announcing is that there's a new king and a better kingdom that is coming to town. And everybody is welcomed in. And for Jesus, His first hearers of this announcement for His first disciples.
This would have been radical to them because for Jesus to say, the kingdom of heaven has come near. What He's claiming, is that the real king of the world is God. And that means that Caesar is not the emperor of Rome. What Jesus is saying is, hey, I know that you have grown up in all you've ever known is Roman rule. Oppression from these Romans who have invaded and conquered your ancestors. But the time has come for the God of heaven, the God of your ancestors to arrive. And He is bringing a new way of being, a new order into the picture. And you have been invited in. You see, the kingdom of heaven is a place where the least, last, and the lost are prioritized.
Whereas in the kingdoms of this world, the things that we really care about are me, myself and I, the kingdom of heaven is a place where when other people do things wrongly, we don't cancel them, we forgive them. The kingdom of heaven is a place where, because of the goodness and grace of Jesus, we can live with nothing to hide, nothing to prove and nothing to lose. The kingdom of heaven is a place where God's rule and reign is at hand. And it has been made available to all of us, through the person of Jesus and the invitation that He's extended. And so we're gonna do over the course of the next several weeks, is we're going to explore Jesus' vision for what life in the kingdom of heaven is supposed to look like. And like I said earlier today is gonna be sort of an overview of that.
And so what I want to do is, I want to give you three big ideas that define what it means to live as kingdom people in our world today. But before we do that, I want to read a little bit more of this chapter of scripture, where Jesus, after making this announcement in verse 17, in verse 18, we're told this happens. Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee. And as He was, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother, Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake because they were fishermen. And here's what Jesus says in verse 19, come and follow me. And I will send you out to fish for people. At once, they left their nets and followed Him. Then going on from there, Jesus sees two other brothers, James son of Zebedee, and his brother, John. They were in a boat with their father, preparing their nets. And Jesus called them.
And immediately they left the boat. They left their father and they followed Jesus. What does it mean to be kingdom people? The first thing that we've got to understand is that when we accept the invitation that Jesus offers to us, to be a part of the Kingdom of God that is taking root in history, is that we become a people who are led by Jesus. We become a people who are led by Jesus. That's what it means to be kingdom people. I love what theologian Scott McKnight says when he says this, he says, hey, those who are not following Jesus, aren't His followers. It's that simple, followers follow. And those who don't, aren't followers. to follow Jesus means to follow Jesus into a society, into a kingdom where justice rules, where love shapes everything. To follow Jesus means to take up his dream and work for it.
You see when this announcement that Jesus gave would have been heard by His first followers, they would have known that what Jesus was saying is that there's a new king in town. That no longer does Caesar decide what's good and what's right, now, it's God. And so, as we are doing the best we can to follow Jesus in our daily lives, what we have to remember is that following Jesus means following Jesus. If you've ever played the game, follow the leader, and you know that whoever is at the front of the line is the leader. And everybody else behind that person has to do and say the things that the leader does. And I think sometimes we can get it confused because we can sort of think that just whoever's like one step or two steps or three steps in front of us, is the leader that we're supposed to mimic, but we can never lose sight that at the front of the line, it has to be Jesus, because if it's not Jesus, then we aren't actually living as kingdom people.
And so to make it crystal clear, I am not at the front of the line. Your youth pastor is not at the front of the line. Your small group leader is not at the front of the line. Jesus is. And so everything we do is supposed to reflect the Jesus that we are following. And so, as you are navigating your life, yes, look to those people that are a few steps in front of you as an example to follow. But at the end of the day, the person you're following isn't me or them, it is Jesus. Because we will fall short, we will mess up. We will let you down, but Jesus never will. And when you follow Jesus, here's what I can tell you, is that He will lead you to what is good and what is true. He will lead you to the life that is truly life. He will lead you out of captivity and in to freedom because that is who Jesus is.
So how do we live as kingdom people? First we have to remember that we are a people led by Jesus. The second thing is that we are a people shaped by grace. We are a people shaped by grace. What is grace? Grace is the unearned favor of God. It is the gift that we didn't earn and we do not deserve. Dallas Willard, one of my favorite theologians says that the most important thing is not what you do, but who you become. Because that's what you take with you into eternity. And this is why we talk all the time about the heart of this journey of following Jesus is about becoming more like Jesus for the sake of others, because that's what discipleship to Jesus is. Following Jesus should lead us to become more like Jesus, because His grace transforms us from the inside out.
And that's what's so beautiful about this story that we're reading, where Jesus shows up to these fishermen. And He says, come and follow me. Because here's what Jesus didn't do, He didn't go to the synagogues or the schools where the best and brightest students were learning and studying. He showed up and found these fishermen, these people who honestly, weren't a big deal in their society. And he says, I'm calling you to be my followers. It's kind of like if Jesus were to show up today, instead of going to like, Harvard's graduation, He would go to Walmart's parking lot, right? Like He's finding the people that everybody else assumes don't have something to offer. And Jesus is saying, I see something in you and I want you to be my followers. And what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna change you from the inside out, by the power of my grace, so that you can extend this movement that I'm launching to every corner of creation.
Imagine if Jesus could change the world with 12 disciples, 12 uneducated followers, a bunch of whom were fishermen, what could Jesus do with you? What does it mean to live as kingdom people? The first thing, as kingdom people, we are led by Jesus. The second thing, is that we are a people shaped by grace. And the third thing, is we are a people moved by love. We are a people moved by love. That's what it means to be kingdom people. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once famously said that only love gets close enough to know. In verse 23, we're told that Jesus is traveling throughout Galilee. He's teaching in the synagogues. He's proclaiming the good news, the gospel of the kingdom. And He is healing every disease and sickness among the people.
News about Him spread all over Syria. And people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures and the paralyzed, and Jesus healed them. Only love gets close enough to know. It's really easy to preach the truth from a distance. It's really easy to preach the truth on social media or on stage. It's really hard to practice love up close. Because it's when we get close to people, we realize just how messy life is. You realize how much work it really is to carry the burdens of other people. But as kingdom people who are led by Jesus and shaped by grace, we are called to get close to those whose lives look a little bit messy because it is in the mess that Jesus does through miraculous.
What we're told is that Jesus went to the people who were sick, demon possessed, who were crippled, and Jesus healed them. Because Jesus was never afraid to get His hands dirty. He was always willing to get close to the people whose lives were a mess. I mean Kevin's life was a mess. Kevin from a really young age had this dream that he would put a smile on the face of millions of people, but it wasn't too long before Kevin's dream soured because his life had become a nightmare. At a young age, Kevin experienced all the kinds of abuse that no child should ever have to go through. Physical, verbal and sexual abuse. And so Kevin found himself in a place where he didn't know what to do, where to look or even what right and wrong were anymore because his view of the world had been so flipped upside down by the terrible things that had been to him. And the terrible things that had been done by him. Because here's what we know, is that when you experience significant trauma like that, it messes you up and you don't even know how to respond.
And so later in his life, Kevin found himself in a place where he was out on the streets at the age of 16 years old, trying to do anything he could to numb the pain that had been following him everywhere he went for years. And so Kevin found himself out on the streets, disconnected from family with no positive support in his life. But I mean, he found people to be around. They just weren't good people. He got involved in gangs and fighting and drugs and in alcohol, anything and everything he could try to numb the pain and fill the void that he had been carrying for so many years. And then one day Kevin is leaving the grocery store. And he sees his brother, his brother who had been taken from their home at a young age to live with their grandparents. And they immediately saw each other. And Kevin's brother Gary was moved by love. And Kevin's brother Gary came to Kevin and said, hey, I know it's been a long time, but I think you should come and live with us.
And so Kevin accepted the invitation and moved in with his brother and his grandparents. And Kevin stayed with Gary and his grandparents. And then at some point in the journey, Gary invites Kevin to go to church with him at Life Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma. And Kevin shows up to church the first weekend, the second weekend, the third weekend and the fourth weekend. And he does, he's like, yeah, this is good. There's great people here. But I just don't think that this is what my life has been missing. But then on that fifth week and something happens in Kevin because every single weekend he's being surrounded, he's being cared for. And he has having people come up to him and showing him the love of Jesus up close. Because the thing that Kevin had never experienced was happening. He was being accepted in spite of his mistakes because the people that were coming to him were people led by Jesus. They were people shaped by grace. They were people moved by love.
And that brought Kevin to the point where on that fifth weekend, he said, you know what, I'm done trying to figure this out on my own, And I'm gonna give this Jesus guy a chance. And so Kevin makes the decision to say, Jesus, I want to follow you. And Kevin would tell you that in that moment, his life was radically changed. Not every problem went away. The process of becoming like Jesus for the sake of others takes time. But in the moment that he chose to be led by Jesus, he started experiencing this grace that he couldn't describe, and he couldn't understand. And that grace was moving him to care for others in the same way that he had been cared for.
And here's what I love about Kevin's story. Is today, Kevin is heavily involved in his church at Switch in Shawnee, Oklahoma, doing everything he can to make sure that other kids that had gone through terrible things like he had gone through, have a place that they can belong. They have people who care for them so that they can discover who they are because of Jesus. They can experience the radical grace of God and they can be transformed by the love of a community that is committed to putting them first. This is the power of the gospel. It changes us from the inside out. It turns us into people who are led by Jesus, shaped by grace and moved by love.
I didn't think there was any better way to end the first week of this series than by actually inviting Kevin on stage with us to pray over all of you. Because Kevin is a living example that the grace of Jesus changes everything. It changes us from the inside out. It takes us in our brokenness and in our pain. And it sees past all of that. And it awakens our potential inside of us so that we can become the kind of people who can love others, the same way that God through Christ has loved us. And so Kevin, if you wouldn't mind just praying for all of our students that are hearing this right now, because what we know is that there are probably some of them who are going through a really dark time and they're just desperate for a place to belong. They're desperate for a true sense of who they are in Christ. They're desperate to understand and to know that God can use even them. And so with that being said, Kevin, would you pray for all of us as we close out this message.