Faith Church

Epic Stories – The Story of Us | Sermon from 10/23/2016

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For the past 5 weeks we have looked at some of the epic stories found in the Old Testament and each story told us something about the character and nature of God.  The story of Creation told us that God loves us so much that he created us in His image.  The story of Joseph told us that God is forgiving.  The story of Ruth told us that God is all about making us a family and more important God wants us all to be part of His family.  The story of Noah told us that God gives us strength to overcome great obstacles and the story of Jonah told us that God wants to give us all a second chance.

Because these stories talk about the nature of God they also point to Jesus.  Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love.  John 3:16 says, for God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son.  Jesus came to forgive us and that forgiveness makes us one with God and brings us into the family of God.  Jesus gives us his strength to overcome great obstacles and it is Jesus who calls us to share his story of love and grace with others.  So these stories are epic because they all point to Jesus.

As epic as these stories are, the most important story of all is not found in the Bible and it is not a story from the pages of history.  This story isn’t going to be found on TV, made into a movie or go viral on Youtube, it is the story of you.  Our story is the greatest and the most epic of all because it is the story God has given us to live and share and no one else in all the world can tell it.  The single most important thing to remember today is that each one of us is living an epic story.  God has created us in God’s image.  God has placed us here for a purpose.  God wants our lives to reflect His power and love and glory and what can be more epic than that?

Now you may be saying to yourself that your life really is not that important or influential.  I just work at Penn State.  I’m just a teacher, or a nurse so how can my life be epic?  Or maybe you saying to yourself, I am just a stay at home mom or dad, I am retired so not even working or I’m just a student so how can my life be an epic story?  Joseph probably said the same thing when he was sitting in jail.  I’m just an ex-slave and now a prisoner, how can my life be epic?  And yet look at how God used him.  Ruth must have said, I’m just a widow, but remember how God used her.  Even Jonah probably said, I’m a failed prophet who has been thrown up onto the beach, and yet God used him and made his life’s story an epic one.

What made these people different and their lives epic is that they were willing to step into the story God had for them.  They allowed God to speak in them and through them and when they surrendered to God, their lives became epic stories.  Our lives become epic stories every time we step into the story of God and every time we allow God to tell His story through us.

The story of God that we all step into is similar to every other story in the world.  There is a beginning, there are twists and turns in the middle and then there is an ending.  The story of God begins with creation.  Genesis 1 tells us that God created all things and the gospel of John tells us that God’s word is the story that brings life to everyone and everything.  That’s the beginning, but then there is   the fall.  What God created turned away and left Him.  Sin, pride and selfishness entered the story and people were separated from God but this sin also separated us from each other.  The next chapter of God’s story is called redemption because God doesn’t leave His creation in a state of brokenness and death.  God redeems his world from sin and sorrow, God saves us.  While John 3:16 talks about the love of God it is John 3:17 that talks about God’s redemption.  God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.

Then next chapter of God’s story is called restoration and this is the new life God gives each of us to live.  In this new life we are not only restored into a relationship with God but God’s grace helps us get along well with others.  And then God’s story has an end, not the end when Christ returns and the Kingdom of God is established forever, but a call for us to share God’s story with others.  One of the final words of Jesus to his people was, Go and make disciples of all nations.  The story of God needs to be told and shared and lived out so others can know this story of God.  .
So we see that there are five parts of God’s Story:
• Creation
• Fall
• Redemption
• Restoration
• Call.

This is the very story we have watched unfold these past 5 weeks.  In the story of Creation were heard about the beginning.  In the story of Joseph we heard about the fall and how sin divided a family and how we all need to be forgiven.  In the story of Ruth we heard about the power of redemption and that we all need a redeemer like Boaz who will save us.  In the story of Noah we heard about God restoring the world through the faithful work of Noah and his family and in the story of Jonah we heard that we are all called to share the good news of a second chance with others.  The 5 epic stories we have heard tell us the full story of God and our lives become an epic story when we allow this story to be told in us and through us.

So how do we step into God story, or how do we allow God’s story to be told through us?  It starts at the beginning when we acknowledge that we have been created by God and that we have a story to tell.  We were created in the image of God which means that every one of us has value and dignity and every one of us has something offer.  Accepting the gifts and talents God has given us and using them means we are living the story God has for us.

Can you remember a time when you realized that you had something worthwhile and valuable to offer the world or some God given gift you could share?  Do you remember when you realized that you could be something or do something that could make a difference or help other people?  For me, much of this happened through music in my home church.  We had a wonderful children’s choir with an amazing director named Judy Mack.  Mrs. Mack directed a couple of musicals and I was encouraged to sing and take part in those activities and I loved it.  That experience helped me see that I had gifts to offer and that I could tell God’s story.

Not only do we need to find our beginning and learn how we were created by and for God but we also need to encourage others to see the amazing life God has given them.  I would not be here today if it was not for Mrs. Mack, and my Sunday School teacher Mrs. Barrett, and my youth group advisors, Ed & JoAnn Foster.  They helped me see that I could do more and be more than I thought or imaged and they helped me see God’s story of creation and God’s story in me.

When we find ways to use God’s gifts we are telling God’s story.  Our jobs, our hobbies, our passions, our desire to serve and our encouragement of others tells God’s story of creation and that is a where we start, but the story continues.  We also step into God’s story and tell God’s story when we come to terms with the brokenness of our lives and when we acknowledge the brokenness and pain of the world.  The fall is a difficult part of God’s story to live and tell because it comes every time we come face to face with our sin and failures.

I remember the day God spoke to me clearly and said, Andy with me there is life but without me, on your own, there is death because you can’t make it on your own.  It was October of 1982 and I was coming face to face with my own sin and how I had made a real mess of my life.  I had to own up to it, confess it to God and others.  Admitting our need for help is not easy and it doesn’t just happen once in our lives, it happens often.  I can’t tell you how many times in the last 34 years I have had to again confess my sin to God and others.  Every time we confess our sin we are stepping into the story of God.

Can you remember a time when the sin of your life confronted you face to face?  Can you remember a time when stepping into this part of God’s story was painful and yet powerful?  It’s an important part of our story because until we admit our own sin, we can’t really see the sin and the pain of the world and until we confess our own sin God can’t forgive us and that is the next chapter in God’s story- redemption.

Every time we turn to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and every time we accept God’s forgiveness and acknowledge Jesus as our savior we are stepping into God’s story and living life to the fullest.  I’ll be honest, every day I am reminded of just how much I need Jesus in my life.  Every day I need Jesus to save me from myself and my own pride and self-centeredness.  Every day I need Jesus to save me from my own will and way which are never as good as God’s will and God’s way, and every day I need Jesus to redeem me or rescue me when I fall.

The first time the power and joy of redemption was made clear to me was also back in October of 1982 because it was after I understood how sinful I really was that I was able to understand what a savior we really have in Jesus.  For some of us that moment in the story is powerful, for others it might be more ordinary, but for all of us it needs to be clear.  Jesus is the one who saves us from our sin.  Jesus is our redeemer and the redeemer of the world.

While living this part of the story is vital to our life, it is not enough for us to just live this out, we also need to share it.  We need to tell people that God is right here to redeem us.  We need to tell people that God forgives us and that God loves us no matter what we have done if we will turn and accept God’s grace.  There are so many people who need to know that they are truly forgiven by God.  While there may be some people who really think they are living good and perfect lives, most people wrestle silently with guilt and feel the brokenness of sin and shame not just in their relationship with God but with others as  well and we can make a difference in their lives by telling them the story of God.  We can and need to tell people that they have been redeemed and forgiven by the God who created them and that this forgiveness can set them free from guilt and shame and help them live a new life.

That new life is called restoration and it comes when we accept Jesus as our redeemer.  Back in October of 1982 when I fully realized not only my own fall but that God was there to redeem me, I experienced the absolute joy and fullness of God’s life being born in me.  I was truly being born again and the love and joy I experienced was wonderful.  There is a freedom and power and peace that comes when we are restored into a right relationship with God and that restoration leads us into healthy and strong relationships with others.

The story of restoration is one where we live into all the promises God has for us.  It is here we being to experience the fruit of God’s spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  This is the life God wants to give us.  I know I have shared often about the summer I spent in Yellowstone NP and what made that such a remarkable summer for me was that it was one of the first times in my life that I was living a fully restored life in God.  I was living God’s story and it was amazing.  This is such a sweet place to be and when we are there we have the greatest opportunity to share God’s life with others because they just see it in us.  When we experience restoration in our relationship with God and others than we will be living life large and loud and people will see and hear God’s story in us and they will begin to want that story in for themselves.

The last chapter isn’t the end it’s just that moment when we realize God is calling us to share His story with others.  I knew from the moment of restoration and reconciliation with God that God wanted me to share His love and power with others.  I knew that this story was to be part of my life, but it took me a long time to figure out how and when and where to tell it.  For me living the call meant seminary and working in the church full time, but that is not what it means for everyone.  Wherever you are today, God is calling you so share his story with others.  At work, in school, in the community, in your family, in your circle of friends and your sphere of influence, God is calling you to live your story and tell of his love to others.

Maybe you have heard the saying, you may be the only bible someone will ever read.  It’s true.  You may be the only story of God someone will ever hear and see and if they are looking at your life and hearing your story today, what will they know of God?
Will they know that God created them and loved them?  Will they know that we all fall and have failures but that God doesn’t give up on us?  Does our life tell the story of God’s forgiveness and redemption?  Can people see in us the savior, Jesus Christ?  Can they see in us God’s story of restoration and new life?  We tell God’s story through our actions but we also tell God’s story through our words and testimonies and we can’t be afraid to share what we know with others.

So each of our lives is an epic story God wants told to the world.  Where are you in God’s story?  What chapter can you share with others?  What testimony can you give to family and friends?  What attitude and actions of your life can reflect the heart and hands of Jesus?  When we are willing to step into God’s story, our lives become epic.  When we are willing to make God’s story our story, our lives become epic.  The most important story we have to tell is not a story from the Bible, it is the story God has given to us.  It is the story of God told through us.  It is the epic story of you.

Next Steps
The Story of You

God’s story has five parts:
Creation – Fall – Redemption – Restoration – Call
Take one “chapter” each day of this week to live and tell God’s story.

1. Tell God’s story of creation.
Read again the story of Creation in Genesis 1.
Identify all the ways you have been created in the image of God.
Thank God for your very unique life.
What gifts has God given you that you can use to share His story?
Find one way to share that story this week.
Identify the gifts you see in your family and friends and encourage them to embrace them and use them.

2. Tell God’s story of the fall.
Where are you experiencing brokenness in your life?
Confess your sin to God.
What brokenness in the world breaks your heart?
Lift that situation to God in prayer.

3. Tell God’s story of redemption.
Accept the forgiveness Jesus offers you.
Open your heart and life to God’s healing power.

4. Tell God’s story of restoration.
Identify where you are seeing and feeling new life.
Memorize the fruit of God’s spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.  Let this fruit be evident in your life.

5. Tell God’s story of call.  
Step into and live fully this story of God
Give your life to helping others see and hear God’s story for their own lives.

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