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James Meehan - Back to the Basics

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    James Meehan - Back to the Basics

So 20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, a guy who formally hunted Christians, eventually started planting churches and became a devoted follower of Jesus, wrote a letter to an early Christian community, because they had gotten some bad ideas about what following Jesus is really like, and he wanted to remind them of what Christianity really is, of what the message of Jesus is all about. And so in this letter that he wrote we're gonna read a little snippet here, it's 1st Corinthians 15:1-2, the Apostle Paul says, "Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the good news I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you, unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place". This is why we are beginning a message series called "Christianity Deconstructed," because 20 years after Jesus' life, death, and resurrection some of the early Christians had some bad ideas. They had some misunderstandings of what it was really all about.

So the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to remind them of what's true, to deconstruct the bad ideas and give them the essential ingredients to reconstruct a faith that is built on what is good and true and beautiful. And so what we're gonna do in this beginning series of this semester is try our best to introduce you or perhaps reintroduce you to Christianity as it really is. Because you get this, like a first impression is a big deal. Like if you've got a friend who you are trying to introduce to something that you're really passionate about, you're probably gonna be pretty thoughtful and strategic about how you introduce them to that thing. So my friends, they loved the "Fast and the Furious" movie franchise. I was really skeptical though, because the only "Fast and the Furious" movie I had had ever watched was "Tokyo Drift," the third one, which basically everybody agrees is the weird uncle that nobody talks about, but that was the only one I had seen because it showed up on TV one day and I thought, let me give it a chance. And because that was my only exposure to the "Fast and the Furious" movies, I just was not about it.

It took quite a while for my friends to finally convince me to give these movies another chance. And so they brought me all the way back to the beginning, the original movies that started what has become a pretty iconic franchise in the movie world. Now, maybe for you, you're less of a "Fast and the Furious" fan, but you love soccer. If you were to try to get a friend of yours to be interested in the sport of soccer it is very unlikely that you would take them to some local YMCA 10 and under soccer game, right? Like it is way more likely that you would turn on one of the games games from this most recent World Cup or you'd throw up a highlight reel of Messi or Ronaldo, depending on who you prefer, showcasing the athleticism on display in the sport of soccer at the highest levels. Or if you're somebody like me who is a gamer and you want to introduce somebody you care about to the world of gaming, you're not just gonna find some random Atari game that your dad played when they were younger. You're gonna be really thoughtful to figure out what is this person like and how can I introduce them to a game that lines up with their interests that is accessible but is also really, really enjoyable? That's why to try to convince my wife to become a gamer.

We coupled our birthday presents together, bought a Nintendo Switch and got "Super Mario Odyssey" and "Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" because I knew both of those games masterpieces and also way less intimidating than the "Soulsborne" franchise and "Elden Ring" and some of my personal favorites. So I tried the best I could to introduce gaming to her in a way that she would be able to appreciate it for all that it is, because first impressions make a really big difference. The problem that exists today is that we're not just 20 years removed from the event of the resurrection of Jesus. We're 2,000 years later. And because of that, there are like 2,000 years of bad ideas that people have about Jesus and what following him is really like. And so what we're gonna do is rewind back close to the beginning, to a time before the Bible as we know it was fully assembled, before it was readily available, when these early Christians came together to figure out what are the essential ingredients of our faith and how can we pass that on to others in a way that will help them see just how beautiful the message of Jesus really is.

What they did is put together something that has become known as the Apostles' Creed, not to be confused with "Assassin's Creed," the video game franchise. This is the Apostles' Creed, a creed is a formal statement of beliefs, and the apostles were Jesus's earliest followers. This creed, this statement of beliefs was called the Apostles' Creed because it is believed that the statements in here are consistent with what Jesus passed on to his apostles and what the apostles passed on to later generations of Christians. And so what's gonna happen is I'm gonna read to you the Apostles Creed from beginning to end. Don't worry, it's pretty short. And then we're actually gonna take some time to discuss some questions, maybe in a group, maybe on your own, because the goal of this series is to not just simply get you to nod in agreement with everything I say, but to actually help you think critically, to evaluate wisely what following Jesus is all about. So if you are ready, I'm gonna jump in and then we're gonna go to some time of discussion and reflection. The Creed begins this way. It says:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, he suffered under Poncho Pilate, he was crucified, he died and was buried, he descended into hell, on the third day, he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From there, he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

The first thing you need to know is that as followers of Jesus, we believe in God. But what do we mean when we say that? To help us answer that question accurately, we're gonna go through three big questions in today's message. The first question is, what do we mean by God? The second question is, is belief in God actually reasonable or is it just wishful thinking? And the third question, does any of this even matter? Starting with question number one, what do we mean when we say God? Here's what we aren't talking about. We are not talking about some impersonal force like the universe or karma. We're talking about a God who is personal. That means he thinks, he acts, he chooses, he has a will, and he wants to be in relationship with us. We're not talking about some dictator who is distant and detached. We are talking about a father who is close and compassionate, who wants what's best for his kids.

God is not some cruel tyrant sitting in the sky waiting to dish out punishment when we do wrong. He is a God whose very core, the very essence of what makes him him is love. That means everything he says and does, every word indeed is drenched in love. This is why we say that God is loving. The thing we're not talking about is God with a little g, like lowercase, like Zeus or Thor or some spiritual superhero who exists in the universe somewhere. We are talking about God with a capital G. We're talking about the God who is behind and beyond it all. He's the one who spoke all that is into existence. He's the one who has been there from the beginning and before the beginning because he exists outside of space, time matter and energy. He is beyond it all. That's why we say that God is the creator of everything. He is eternal. He has always been, he always will be. Everything that is exists because of him. That's what we're talking about when we talk about God, someone who is loving, who is personal, and who created everything. The most famous verse in the entire Bible tells us this about God's relentless love.

John 3:16-17 reads that God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him. What do we mean when we say God? We're talking about a God who is a good and loving Father that wants a relationship with his kids. We're talking about a God who is Jesus, the Son, our loving savior who sacrificed himself to save us from our sins. We're talking about God, who is the Holy Spirit, who fills us with new life and power when we put our trust in him. That's why we say that God is three in one, because God is three distinct people all united in one being.

Now, I know that as I say that it can be a little bit confusing and may not even make sense at first. But this idea, what Christians call the Trinity, is probably the most complicated, the most unique, and the most wonderful characteristic about the God we believe in, that God is three persons united in one being. This three-in-oneness is the Trinity. God is three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, and he is one being, three in one. Now, I know some of you middle schoolers might be hearing this and thinking, "This sounds like some weird algebra that we haven't actually learned yet". And at the same time, there might be some of you high schoolers who are in AP calc saying, "Yeah, bro, that's not how math works. That's not even how language works". And you're kind of right. But this is what's so important to understand is that if God could be fully understood by our finite human minds, our limited ability to understand, then that would make for a pretty small God.

But the God that Christians believe in is not just like an extra powerful human being. He is the God of the universe who created everything and everyone, who stitched the whole thing together as an act of love. That's why it's important to recognize that while we cannot understand God fully, we can know him truly, because God is loving and God is personal. And because of that, he has made himself knowable. So what do we mean when we say God? We are talking about a being who is the personal, loving creator of everything who wants a relationship with you. That's why in the Creed it says, I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, and I believe in the Holy Spirit, a God who is three in one. We talked about what we mean when we say God.

Now we're gonna ask the question, is belief in God actually reasonable? Or is it just wishful thinking? And this is a really important question because I don't know about you, but I don't want to be the kind of person who goes through life believing in a lie just because it sounds good or just because it feels good. Because if it's not actually true, then how do we know if it actually is good? And the good news, if you were to ask me, is that there are really, really good reasons to believe that God is real, that Christianity is true, and that there is nothing more important than following Jesus. You see, as human beings, the way that we come to know things is through experience, reason, and revelation. Experience, reason, and revelation. Let me illustrate by talking about a stove, like an electric stove.

You know the kind where you don't see the fire or not. If you were to try to figure out if the electric stove in your home is on, you could find out through experience, through reason or revelation. Like experience would be going up to the stove and just slamming your hand on top of it. And very quickly by experience, you would know if it's on or off, because your hand would be burnt or it wouldn't. That is a way to learn something through experience. Another thing is you could reason whether or not it's on or off by looking at the buttons and the dials and seeing if it's turned on. So you don't actually have to touch it. You can just kind of look and use your brain to figure it out. Or the third option is you could find out through revelation. You could ask your mom or your dad or whoever's around, "Hey, is the stove on"?

And then they could reveal the answer to you by saying yes or no. We come to know things through experience, reason, and revelation. And we can use those same categories to figure out whether or not belief in God makes sense or it's just an empty fantasy. For me, the thing that brought me to faith in God started actually with experience. I experienced the love of God through people, people who took their faith seriously and loved me sincerely. And that was like a really big deal. And what it started to do at a time where I didn't believe there was good evidence for Christianity, it started getting me to ask my questions again, like maybe I'm wrong? Because these people are different and I wanna know why they are. And so as I began to ask questions. As I began to look into the facts, I discovered a whole lot of really strong arguments backed by evidence from science, history, and philosophy, from brilliant thinkers people way smarter than me that were all pointing to the same conclusion that Christianity is true.

And then, through the experience, through the reason I found myself in a place where I was sitting in a church service not too unlike the one you're in right now where the gospel of Jesus, the good news of who he is, what he's done, and what that could mean for me was presented in a way that just made sense. And I felt like God was revealing himself to me in that moment by inviting me into a relationship with him. And so I responded in faith, I decided right then and there that I'm gonna give this whole thing a chance. I committed my life to Jesus. And now 10 years later, I can tell you that I am confident that God is real, that Jesus is good, that Christianity is true, not just because I want it to be, but because I have seen evidence through my own experience, through the really wise arguments of brilliant people, and through God revealing himself to me.

Now, maybe for you, it's not gonna be the experience of receiving the love of God through his people, but it it could be seeing the beauty of a sunset and having that awaken something in you that causes you to realize that maybe there's more to life than just going through the motions. Or it could actually be you being a part of a church community like this and beginning to take the wisdom of the Bible, applying it to your life and seeing firsthand the difference that it makes. Maybe for you through reason you're going to investigate the origins of the universe and see how both science and scripture agree that the universe began to exist at some point in time. And you'll realize pretty quickly that anything that begins to exist has to have something that made it begin to exist.

And the most likely explanation, if you ask me, is that the thing that made it all begin to exist is the great beginner that we call God. Or maybe it'll be through studying the fine tuning of the universe, how there's all of these different constants that if they were just the tiniest bit off, the entire universe would no longer have any space for life to exist. It would not be life permitting at all. But it is, almost like it's designed that way. And if it's designed that way, then that seems to be evidence that there is an intelligent designer who put all of the pieces in place just so. Or maybe you will look into the facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus.

You will look at history and see that the best explanation for all of these things that took place is that Jesus did what he said he was gonna do, that he died and rose again to save us from our sin.s But no matter what, whether it's experience or reason that gets you moving on the journey, at some point there will be a revelation. God will reveal himself to you and you will have the choice: Do you respond in faith or do you simply turn a blind eye and keep going about your life as you always have? Here's what God promises. In Jeremiah 29:13, he tells us this, that You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. When you seek after God, when you are looking for him, what he says is that you will find him. That's why we believe that Christianity is so much more than just wishful thinking. We believe that not only is it reasonable, but it is the best explanation for the world that we exist in, because of experience, because of reason, and because of revelation.

And now for the final question, Does any of this even matter? Now, that's a great question. But what I would say is if it's true, then there's nothing more important than this. If it's not, then it doesn't matter at all. There is an atheist professor who later became a Christian, his name is C.S. Lewis, and here's what he said. He said that "Christianity, if false, is of no importance and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important". Because if Christianity is true, then that changes everything. Because if it's true, then that means that you are not an accident, that this universe did not come about through random chance but it was the intentional design of a creator, which means that you are more than a bag of meat made of molecules and matter. You are a masterpiece created by a master artist who wants a relationship with you.

If Christianity is true, then that means that sin is real, that all of us have been infected by this disease of selfishness, and this disease is always fatal, it always leads to death. But if Christianity is true, then grace is also real. That the free gift of forgiveness, healing and salvation has been made available to all of us through the sacrifice of Jesus. If Christianity is true, then all of us have a choice to make. Do we put our faith in Jesus and allow him to rid us of this disease, or do we stay trapped where we are? If Christianity is true then Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross. He died so that we could live. If Christianity is true, then the good news is that he didn't stay dead, that he actually conquered death. He conquered sin, he overcame the devil, so that anybody who puts their trust in him could be saved.

If Christianity is true, then your life matters immensely, because that means that you have been created with and for a purpose to partner with the God of everything, to be a part of his plans to restore the world, to undo the wrong things that have been done. If Christianity is true then someday Jesus is coming back to finish what he started, and he's invited all of us to be a part of the beautiful ending that he is writing. So if you are a follower of Jesus listening to this message, I wanna invite you to allow God to help you sift through the bad ideas and come back to the truth of what it means to follow him. If you're not a Christian, then I wanna invite you to ask God to reveal himself to you, to bring your questions to church, because this is a place where your questions are welcome.

And I wanna ask you to give Christianity a fair shot. And then hopefully you'll join us again next week as we continue in this series, "Christianity Deconstructed". Maybe you're sitting there right now as you're watching this message and God has already started revealing himself to you, that you are feeling something stirring inside, and that's the Holy Spirit inviting you into a relationship with God, because you are not here on accident. You're not just not here on this planet, but you're not here in this moment on accident. We believe that you are here on purpose for the most significant moment of your life, where you'll be given the chance to respond to God's revelation.

What we believe is that God became a human being named Jesus, that Jesus walked on this earth, that he lived a perfect life so that he could be the sacrifice for our sins, and he didn't stay dead. He rose from the grave so that anybody who puts their trust in him, who enters into a relationship with him, that they would be saved and forgiven, that their relationship with God would be fixed, that their purpose would be restored, that they would gain eternal life. This is what you were created for. And so right now, as God is revealing himself to you, will you respond in faith? Will you choose to put your trust in him, to devote your life to him? If that is you and you wanna say yes to a relationship with Jesus, then right now take a minute and type in the chat: Jesus, I give you my life. Right now, type it in, Jesus, I give you my life, because you want a relationship with your heavenly Father. And as people are making that choice right now, what we're gonna do as a Switch family is pray together out loud, altogether repeating after me:

Heavenly Father, forgive me of my sins. I'm turning from my old life. I'm turning towards you. I need your grace. I need forgiveness. I put my faith in you. In Jesus name, amen and amen and amen.

Are you Human?:*