Wherever you are in your faith journey, you aren’t going to want to miss this challenging look at what it takes to move your faith forward.
We want to focus on ways for each of us to strengthen our faith, move forward, and avoid stagnation. Being a faith-filled follower of Jesus does not mean we don’t ever experience fear – it just means that FAITH is the FUEL that propels us through our moments of FEAR. And trusting that faith requires building your “faith muscles” through training and repetition.
I don’t know if you caught what I said, there is a couple busloads of middle school kids that are coming back from you know, being deprived of sleep and lots of sugar. And so, be praying for them as they return back and praise God for our leaders, our staff, our volunteers that invest in the lives of our students. It’s powerful. So just thankful for what God has done and cannot wait to hear how that all turned out.
This weekend, as we are still in this first month of a new year, we are launching into a new series. And we’re launching in this series, and the idea for this and the opportunity that we have is to really understand, what does it mean for us to take some steps in our faith? What does it mean for us to move forward? And I don’t know if you’re like me, maybe sometimes you think, “Man, I’m really good at starting some things but I get stagnant or I find myself in a rut.” And it happens with our faith as well. So our opportunity is to dive in to see, what does it mean for us to strengthen our faith and to move forward in our faith?
So we’re gonna spend four weeks talking about encouraging us and equipping us, understand the fundamentals of our faith so that we can run strong. So we’ve called this Boot Camp. Kind of this idea of, how do we move forward? What are the elements that we need to move forward in our faith? And so we’re gonna be talking about it today. Today I’m going to launch on this idea, what is faith? What does it mean to exercise faith? Can we all have faith? And what does it look like? Is faith something that you have or don’t have or do you choose faith? That’s what we’re diving into and that’s exactly where we’re going.
Because no matter where you’re at in your journey with God, maybe you’ve been a Christ follower for a long time, maybe you’re new to this Christian idea, this Christian walk, this life with Jesus. Maybe you’re not a Christ follower, and you have questions. Or maybe you’re like, I don’t even want to be a Christ follower. Somebody made me show up here today. No matter where we’re at on the spectrum, I just wanna say I’m glad that we’re here because I hope that we can unpack some of the fundamentals and just kind of some of the basics of what does it mean for us to experience God. And take God from this theory, and how does God live out and play out in our everyday life.
And so today, we’re going to take a look at one narrative, one historical account of God’s people and how they had to display faith to get to a destination that they were going to. And my hope is that today that we all would glean from this Scripture and from this historical account, what does it mean for us to have faith and to walk through things in our life? And I wonder if in just some capacity, I think most of us, if not all of us, have this understanding that our lives as Christians, of those of us who call ourselves Christians, that our lives are supposed to be marked with this reality and they’re defined by our trusting God.
For a lot of us we ask, you know, what does that mean? Like, what does that even look like? Like, faith isn’t something that I can have. That’s only for the spiritual giants. That’s only for people that get paid to do all that Christian stuff. That’s not for me. Faith is something that I wrestle with, or I struggle with, or maybe like, I’m just not even sure I can have faith. And I think everything boils down to this question. And this is a fundamental question that I hope to help us address today and send us on a pathway of discovering.
We’re not going to answer this question in its entirety today. But here’s the question that I wonder if it’s rolling around in your heart because it rolls around in my heart. And the question is this. How? How do I live by faith? What does it look like for me to live by faith? And where we’re going today, I think what we’re gonna see is that faith isn’t a one time decision that we make, but it’s a choice that we all have the opportunity to choose as we go in and out of circumstances, we go in and out of situations in our life.
Last week, Pastor Craig made a really good distinction between belief and faith. You know, we hear the verse John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And so we have this idea that belief is a big part of our faith. You see, belief is a choice. Belief is a decision. Belief is the foundation but faith, displaying faith, walking by faith, that’s optional. And walking by faith is a choice that you and I get to make, and that’s what I hope to uncover for us.
As I do this, I want to introduce us to an Old Testament character by the name of Joshua. Joshua was an aide. Joshua was the right hand man of a man named Moses. I would guess that many of us are familiar with the story of Moses even if you didn’t grow up in church. I grew up Muslim, and I know who Moses is and kind of his story. Moses is God’s chosen instrument to lead God’s people, the Israelites, out of bondage, out of slavery, out of Egypt. God chose Moses to lead his people out of Egypt because God had prepared a specific place. The specific land, the Promised Land. The land that the Scripture defines is flowing with milk and honey. This land that is abundant. This land of abundance. This land where God provides. This land where God would be with his people.
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they didn’t go straight out of Egypt into that land. But Moses had to lead them through a journey in the wilderness before they got to that land. And a part of that journey’s purpose was because, for 400 years, God’s people had adapted some of the cultural things of Egypt that weren’t honoring to him. So through that journey, that 40-year journey, God’s people, they had to almost in a way burn away some of the ways that they were living, that they had gleaned from the Egyptians. That they had gotten too comfortable in that type of culture and worshipping the ways the Egyptians worshipped. Treating people the way the Egyptians treated people. You know, viewing God the way the Egyptians view God.
So that 40-year journey through the wilderness that Moses led them, actually had a lot of purpose to it. That 40-year journey helped develop their faith and helped build their faith because when they were hungry in that journey, God fed them. When they were thirsty, God gave them water. When they were cold, there was fire. When it was hot, there was clouds. That God was showing them, what does it look like to journey out of an old way of living? What does it mean to journey out of Egypt and start to learn how do you live being dependent upon God? Essentially, what God was doing, he was teaching them how to have faith.
And we’re gonna take a look at a story where things are actually changing. There’s a shift in leadership. And you can go back and read if you want towards the end of Exodus and understand this little change in leadership. You see, Moses was leading God’s people through that wilderness, but right before they got to the Promised Land, they were on the cusp of the Promised Land and Moses dies. Moses, even though he led the people out of Egypt, even though he led them to the Promised Land, he wasn’t able to experience it himself.
And you can read the story yourself. He acted in disobedience, and he did some things that he wasn’t supposed to, and so he died before the people got into the Promised Land. And that’s where we find ourselves in the narrative here today. That Moses has died, and God taps Moses’ right hand man, Joshua on his shoulder. And he actually tells Joshua, “Joshua, you’re gonna lead my people.” Like you’re the one that’s gonna go and you’re gonna lead my people into the Promised Land. And Joshua is this ill-equipped you know, insecure person that…
And this is kind of frustrating sometimes with God. God didn’t consult with Joshua and be like, “Hey, do you wanna apply for this job?” Like, give me a couple references, fill out this application, and maybe you can do it. Like God taps him on the shoulder and doesn’t say, “Hey, do you wanna do this?” God essentially says, “Hey, Joshua, this is what is going to happen.” Take a look at it, Joshua chapter 1. I’m just gonna read it really quick. Just a couple of verses. Joshua chapter 1.
After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua, son of Nun, Moses’ aide, “Moses, my servant is dead. Now, then you and all these people get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I’m about to give them, to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot as I promised Moses.” You see, this is pretty key. This is pretty foundational. Because Joshua was insecure, Joshua was a little bit nervous becoming this leader. God didn’t consult with him. But God assures Joshua, “Hey, Joshua, you are going to lead my people into the Promised Land. That you are gonna lead my people to this place. That you are going to make it.”
And some of us have to come to a place, just like Joshua did, to simply trust God’s Word. To trust God’s promises in our life, as Joshua had to trust God’s promises in his life. You know, as you read through the rest of Joshua chapter 1, you come to this passage, Joshua chapter 1, verse 9, be strong and courageous. Like Hobby Lobby has made a lot of money off of Joshua 1:9. Like, be strong and courageous. Do you know why God had to keep telling Joshua to be strong and courageous and repeated a few times in Joshua chapter 1? Because Joshua didn’t feel strong, and he didn’t feel courageous. So God had to continue reminding him that, hey, you are going to make it. And that’s going to be important as we walk through this passage.
Because again, in this passage, the Israelites had been on a physical journey going to a physical place called the Promised Land. Their journey of faith was gonna take them to a physical destination. Our journey of faith probably isn’t going to lead us to a physical destination. But just as the Promised Land was a place of abundance, was a place flowing with milk and honey of God’s provision, you and I, we have a “promised land” emotionally, spiritually, relationally that God wants us to get to. It’s this abundant life that Jesus continues to talk about through the Gospels.
It’s the message of the Gospel that Paul and the rest of the apostles write about through the words of the New Testament. That there is an opportunity for us to experience abundant life. But the pathway to experience this abundant life for you and I, emotionally and spiritually and relationally is not a physical destination. It’s one that we walk through by faith. It’s paved by faith.
And so here we come, we are at Joshua chapter 3, if you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to Joshua chapter 3. If you’ve got a device, you’ve got an app, you got the Mission Hills, go to Joshua chapter 3. And we’re going to read through this and walk through this narrative. And I would like to highlight just a few principles for us to understand a little bit, what does it mean for us to exercise faith? What happens when odds seem completely…the odds are unfavorable when it comes to our situation? What does it mean to overcome obstacles when things don’t look like they should go? Or maybe we don’t feel fulfilled, that God has abandoned us? That’s exactly where we’re going to be.
So Joshua chapter 3, verse 1 is where we’re gonna pick up. It says, “Early in the morning, Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim.” You don’t want to mispronounce that. “And went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days, the officers went through the camp.” This is what the officer says. So they are at the banks of the Jordan they were about to cross over, verse 3, this is what the officer said. They gave orders to the people. “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go since you’ve never been this way before. But keep a distance about 2,000 cubits between you and the ark. Do not go near it.”
So here’s what’s happening. There’s this thing, and if you’ve ever seen Indiana Jones, you’ve heard of the ark of the covenant. The ark of the covenant is essentially this chest, and it represents, it’s got some things inside of it that represents some pretty significant parts of God’s people’s history in their journey in the wilderness. It literally represented the Spirit of God, the presence of God within the people. And so what the officers…what Joshua told the officers to tell the people that he heard from the Lord was tell the Levitical priests, tell the priests to carry the ark of the covenant. And it wasn’t this little, it was a big ark. And so they put it on poles and they would carry it.
He said, you’re gonna see the priests, they’re gonna carry the ark of the covenant, and we’re gonna have to cross the Jordan River and get to the other side. And all of the people were to follow the ark of the covenant. All of the people were to follow God’s presence. For you and I we’re to follow God down a path that might seem scary, that might seem uncertain, but we follow him because we’ve never been that way before. And this is exactly what God was laying out for his people. So the people were to get ready because they were about to cross over.
I want you to think about this. For 40 years, they have been journeying through the wilderness. Many of the people were still alive when they came out of Egypt. Some had passed away, new babies had been born. But sure enough, they knew the significance of this moment. They’re standing at the banks of the Promised Land. They’re standing at the banks, right at the cusp of what God had promised to each and every one of them.
So here’s the first principle for them to get there. The first principle is this, walking in faith. We’ve gotta leave our yesterdays behind. You see, Joshua had to walk out of his role as being Moses’ aide. He had to walk out from under the shadow of Moses, and he had to step in being a leader even though he felt insecure and even though he was ill-equipped. You see, for us to step into the abundant life, for us to step through these waters of faith as you will through this passage, that we have to leave our yesterdays behind. Whether our yesterdays are good, whether they’re bad or whether they’re ugly.
You see, our yesterdays actually might be really good. We might have some times where we think back and say, “God was really good in that moment. God did these great things.” And we look back and we remember all the things that God did. But yesterday has the ability to hold us back because if all we have to talk about God in our past, then I wonder if we put ourselves in a place where God is relevant to us in our current circumstances.
You see, we gotta leave our yesterdays behind even if our yesterdays are bad. Like, we gotta leave our sins or even those things that we’ve done, those things that we’ve engaged in. Maybe relationships, maybe decisions, whatever it might be. That we view those things that we know, man, we’ve done wrong, or I’ve done bad things. But we’ve gotta leave those behind.
You see, there’s this interesting thing about guilt. Many of us experience guilt when we think back to our past, or even things that we engage in today. Like guilt is an interesting thing. Guilt actually says…guilt says, “I’ve done bad things.” Like, we understand that. But there’s something else associated with that guilt, and that is shame. You see, shame doesn’t say I’ve done bad things. Shame actually says I’ve done bad things and therefore I myself am currently bad.
You see, that’s not the voice of God. That’s the voice of our enemy. That the voice of our enemy would like us to think that just because we’ve done bad things, that means we ourselves inherently are bad. That’s not the voice of our Heavenly Father. That’s the voice of our enemy. And our enemy absolutely would love to confine us by our past. But the reality is, God will never define us by our past. You see, there are things that we’ve done that we’ve gotta leave behind because the reality is, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this, but God can hit a bull’s eye with a crooked stick. Like he doesn’t need us to be perfect. He doesn’t need us to have a picture perfect past to be able to walk through this life of faith.
So we step forward in Joshua chapter 3, verse:5. Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Like, this passage is beautiful, because this passage actually gives us what our role is and what God’s role is. You see, God’s role is to do amazing things among the people. The people’s role is to simply consecrate themselves. That word consecrate, it’s this weird spiritual word. The word consecrate simply means to set yourself apart. To maybe separate yourself from maybe actions. Almost like, you know, clean up some things that you know you’ve got to step out of.
Then Joshua tells the people, “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” My job is not to do amazing things. Your job is not to do amazing things. That’s God’s job. Amazing always follows obedience. You see, God told the people, hey, I just need you to set yourself apart, put yourself in a place so that you might be able to see me work. And I’ve tried to do amazing things. And every time that I try to do those amazing things, they don’t typically end up very amazing. But that was what God wanted the people to do. He wanted to show them that there was something amazing that he wanted to do.
I’m gonna continue in verse 6 and just finish out the narrative. Verse 6, Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people”. So they took it up, and they went ahead of them. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today, I will begin to exalt you Joshua in the eyes of all of Israel, my people, so that they may know that I am with you just like I was with Moses.” God is saying, “Joshua, I know there are some people that don’t think you can lead them. They didn’t vote for you, you weren’t their first choice but I wanna show them that I’m with you, just like I was with Moses.”
Tell the priests to carry the ark of the covenant, “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go in and stand in the river.” So, the priests were to go and stand in the river. Now, we might think, well, that’s not that big of a deal. We’re gonna find that actually was a pretty big deal. Verse 9, Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here, and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you’re gonna know the living God is among you.” Like I’m gonna show… This is how you will know. “This is how you have confidence in God. This is how you know the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perrizites, the Girgashites, the Amorites and the Jebusites and the mosquito bites.”
And in verse 11, “See the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. So the ark of the covenant, the ark of the Lord is gonna go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now, choose 12 men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe, one from each group. And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth,” listen to this, “set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap” So they were to walk into the Jordan, and then God gives them this promise, that when you stand in the middle of the water, the water will stop upstream.
But here’s what’s interesting. When they were standing in the water, they didn’t know that the water was actually going to stand upstream. Like they had heard this promise, but they started to walk in the water. And if the water stopped upstream, guess what that meant to the rest of the water? It was still flowing. And so the priests, they had to walk into the water even when the water was flowing. And then we pick up in verse 14. So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them.
Now, the Jordan is at flood stage during harvest. Like, couldn’t have God wait? Like, didn’t God know like it’s harvest? That means the river is going to be flowing at flood stage? Like, don’t you think God would have waited until it was maybe like late summer, and it was just a little bit of a trickle or something? But it was a time of the harvest and the water was at flood stage. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touch the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. So what God said was true. It piled up in a heap a great distance away to a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people cross over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan, and stood on dry ground, while all of Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
You see, the next principle for us is we think about walking and journeying in faith is this. Faith is a journey that we choose to walk, not a simple decision that we make. You see, I wonder when the priests stepped foot in the water, when their toes touched the banks of that river, oh yeah, by the way, it’s at flood stage. That they took one step, and then guess what? They had to make another decision to take the next step, and then the next step, and then the next step, and then the next step, and then the next step. And then they find themselves at waist high in the middle.
Like the middle, when you take steps of faith like this, the middle is like the worst place to be and some of us might feel like we’re right in the middle of a faith walk right now. Because when you’re in the middle, you’re too far to go back, but then you still haven’t gotten to your destination, and maybe you don’t even see your destination. You see, but what they had, they had to step into the waters and remember, the water stopped upstream. So as they were walking, they didn’t realize God had stopped the waters.
They heard the promise but as they were walking, they were thinking to themselves, “Okay, when is the water gonna dissipate? When’s the water going to dissipate?” And it wasn’t till they got to the middle, till they were waist high. Maybe they thought, I’m gonna drown. This is it. Can I really trust God? And then maybe a few moments go by and the water starts getting lower and lower as the water continues to flow downstream and downstream and downstream. And they’re standing in the middle, holding the ark of the covenant, and the people are able to step in, and to walk through. Like, do you catch the courage necessary to be able to step into a water at flood stage?
You know, these last couple of weeks, these last two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak in three schools. One middle school and two high schools. Two of them were public schools, the middle school, and one high school is a public school and one is a Christian high school. And I remember, I do the same thing. I talk to the teachers, administrators and they invite me to come in and speak. And I ask and I say, “Well, what’s happening in the school? Like, how would you like me to share?” And all three said the same things, that our students simply need courage to be able to live by the principles that they wanna live by and not be tossed back and forth by what their friends are doing.
Courage is an interesting thing. Because when you display courage, you never feel it. Like it’s not like you’re stepping into something like, man, I’m feeling very courageous. Because we have this idea that courage means we don’t have any more fear. Courage is not the absence of fear, students. If you’re a student in this, I don’t care what grade, kindergarten through, you know, getting your PhD. Like if you’re a student, I want you to listen to this. That yes, courage is something that we need as you walk in and out of conversations and environments and scroll through social media. Courage is huge. But courage to say certain things or stand for certain things.
Courage does not equate to the absence of fear. But courage is simply the determination that something else is more important. Courage doesn’t mean we’re not afraid. Courage means that even in our fear we’re determining something else is more important, so we’re gonna continue to walk through. This is exactly what the priests were experiencing the courage to step into the water. Understanding that it was more important for them to trust and obey than it was to give into their fears of drowning.
And the last principle is this, faith focuses on God’s motives, not necessarily his methods. Like, do you remember the last time God’s people, the Israelites, this exact same group of people came to a body of water? Remember the story, Moses had just led them out of Egypt, they’re on their journey, they’re excited, they started this, they’re exhilarated, they’re going, and then all of a sudden they turn around and they see Pharaoh and his armies. That they’re barreling down on them. And Egypt started to feel a little bit of remorse and think, “We shouldn’t have let the Israelites go.” So Pharaoh wanted to come and destroy all the people. And they find themselves up against the Red Sea.
And what did God do? God tells Moses, lift up the staff, the waters part open, and all of God’s people walk through on dry land. That was the last time they came to a body of water. And I wonder if God’s people were looking at this river at flood stage thinking to themselves, “Oh, here we go. Like, we know how this is gonna work. God’s gonna open the waters and we’re gonna walk through.” But that’s not how it worked this time.
They had to step into the water and take steps after steps. And here’s the reality. That sometimes we’re so focused on God’s methods, and how he did something in the past. And we’re so focused on God’s methods on how he did it in the past, we might miss what he has for us in our current circumstance, or in the future. But see, God wanted them not to dwell on what he did in the past, but he wanted them to remember that he was there for them in the past.
That there are moments of our lives that God did step in. That when we were afraid, he gave us courage. That when we didn’t know where to turn, he showed up. That maybe we’re in a season of life, we felt alone and we sensed his presence. That we can look through the course of our life and the course of our past to understand God was there, God was there. Remember, remember, remember. But then, God also doesn’t want us to dwell on how he showed up, because he wants to do a fresh new thing in people’s life. And that’s what grows our faith muscles.
One of the most famous and concise definitions of faith is found in a letter in the New Testament that we call Hebrews. Hebrews chapter 11, verse 1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we don’t see.” Do you know what we have confidence in? That even if we don’t see it, we go back to the very end. And God has revealed to us in the Book of Revelation, that God has given us this picture that there will be a day that Jesus returns, and all that is wrong will be made right. Every tear that falls will be wiped away. That death will be defeated once and for all. Evil will be wiped away, and Jesus will reign. That’s the confidence that we have.
And so when Hebrews 11:1 says, faith is confidence of what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see, essentially in a way, what faith is is borrowing from the bank of the future knowing of what’s gonna happen, confidence in what’s going to happen. Borrowing currency for my current circumstances because I need courage to do this daily faith walk. That’s what faith is. And then chapter 11 of Hebrews goes in and it like lists different people. It’s almost like this Hall of Fame or Hall of Faith of people that have shown great faith. And you get people like David and Abraham and all these people.
But then you look at people’s lives and you think Abraham, yeah, he showed a lot of faith but he also did some pretty dumb things. Like he came to a king and like literally told the king that his wife was his sister because he was afraid. So the king took his wife in to be one of his wives. Even there’s a prostitute named Rahab that is listed in the Hall of Faith. These people that showed great faith.
You know what that shows me? That means, when we exercise faith, God’s not looking for perfect people. God’s not looking for squeaky clean pasts. Because remember, faith is leaving your yesterday behind and walking forward into what God has for us. Faith isn’t based on perfection, it’s based on heart posture. And this is what we have. This reality that God’s people come up to a body of water, the Jordan River. They are promised that they’re gonna see the Promised Land. They’re gonna get to the other side but there’s an obstacle in front of them.
Here’s our last thought about faith. Faith will not eliminate the difficulty. Faith does not remove the obstacle, but it shifts our attention. Faith actually lifts our eyes off of what’s in front of us, and it lifts our eyes up to the One who is before us. See, when we exercise faith, it doesn’t mean we’re not scared. You can exercise faith, and be fearful at the exact same time. It’s just having confidence knowing that we have a God who has called us to an abundant life, and who will lead us there even if we don’t see it. It’s almost like faith takes us from what we see with our eyes to what we hear God’s Word speaking to our hearts.
And then they cross over to the Promised Land and then generations, after generations, after generations of people are blessed, because of their walk of faith. I simply wonder, what would our walk of faith mean for those that come after us? What would our continual daily decision of faith look like if we lived in a way that would honor those that will come after us? So friends, in this series, this is where we’re going. This is just the beginning. What does it mean for us to launch a life and walk in a life of faith? And I hope that this week and in the next couple of weeks, you will be encouraged and empowered to take these next steps in your faith journey.
I’m gonna read a few lyrics from a song that was very popular about 10 years ago that really, I think, hits home on what we’ve talked about. And then I’m gonna pray, and then we’re gonna end our service a little differently than we’ve ever done. We’re gonna end it with a spotlight on a local ministry partner because of the specific weekend that we’re honoring and celebrating here. But let me just read these words of this lyrics of the song called Oceans. Many of you have heard it, we’ve sung it here at this church for years, but just listen to these words, and then I’ll pray.
It says, “You God, you call me out upon the waters into the great unknown, where my feet may fail, and there I find you in the mystery in oceans deep, my faith will stand. And I will call upon your name and keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise. My soul will rest in your embrace for I am yours and you are mine. Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wonder and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”
Lord, thank you so much for passages like this, these historical accounts that we could read and understand and know that there are people, generations, our spiritual ancestors that have gone before us, that have exercised incredible faith. So Lord, we ask that you would show us what it means for us to have confidence in the things hoped for, and assurance of things that we may not even see. We thank you Jesus. In your name we pray, Amen.
We can feel pressure to keep quiet on matters that don’t follow popular opinions in the moment. But a public faith is a faith powered by the Holy Spirit and that power is available to you.
Now, last week, Reza talked to us about having faith in the fog, about trusting God when things are uncertain, about trusting God when it can be scary. Today, we’re gonna talk about powering up our faith by engaging in a practice that I think has gotten harder in recent years. And I’m talking about the practice of living publicly, I’m talking about the practice of living with our faith kinda out there for everyone to see it.
A couple years ago, I was in England, and I was eating at a pub, I was by myself. And I was just kinda listening to conversations around me because everybody was talking in a British accent, and everything they said just sounded brilliant. And because I was doing that, I heard the guys behind me start to talk about Americans. And one of them said… it really caught my attention, he goes, “I hate Americans.” And I was like, “Oh, interesting.” So, I listened in and it was kinda some big burly British guys, and basically, they went off at how much they hated Americans. And then they kinda worked off each other and they got built up. And finally, one of them goes, “Yeah, they’re so loud and they’re so arrogant. And, honestly, you know what? I think the next American I see, I’m just gonna punch him in the face.” And then right then, like, everything in the room just got really quiet. And at that moment, the waitress chose to come up to me and go, “Hey, so what do you want?” And I was like, “Right, then. I think I’ll have me a spot of fish and chips, please.”
Because here’s the thing, right. Like, we all feel pressure to keep private what isn’t popular, don’t we? We all feel pressure to keep private what isn’t popular. We’ve all felt that. You’ve had an opinion that wasn’t popular at work, or in your family, or at school, or on a team, and we’ve all felt the pressure to keep private what isn’t popular. Or maybe you’re a Patriots fan, but you live in Denver and you’re not stupid, right. You have felt the pressure to keep private what isn’t popular.
You know, maybe back to the beginning of this pandemic, you were one of those people going, “I don’t think face masks are an unreasonable thing to ask us to do.” But you had people around you going, “Oh, so you’re a sheep?” Right? You felt the pressure to keep private what isn’t popular. And that can happen with our faith.
We can feel a pressure to keep private what isn’t popular when it comes to our faith. And the early followers of Jesus felt that really significantly, because for the first couple centuries after Jesus rose from the dead, claiming that you are a follower of Jesus was not a popular thing to do. It could get you disowned by your family, kicked out of your community, in some cases, you could be arrested or even killed because of your faith. By the way, that’s still true in some parts of the world today. But it hasn’t been true in the Western World for a long time because in the Western World, an amazing thing happened. Christianity went mainstream. Christianity went mainstream, and somehow, by the power of God, what had been an oppressed religion by the Roman Empire became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Incredible testament of the power of this thing that we call the Gospel.
But at that moment, things changed in the Western World. Following Jesus was no longer unpopular. And so, a lot of that pressure to keep it private really went away. But I think that’s changing. I think in the last couple of decades, in the Western World, and here in America, too, that there’s been an increasing tendency to think about following Jesus as an unpopular thing to do. If you’re a follower of Jesus, and especially the kind of follower of Jesus like we are at Mission Hills that you think your thinking should be informed by God’s Word, if you think your actions should be driven by what God has to say in the Bible, that’s an increasingly unpopular position. And so more and more I think we’re feeling the pressure to keep private what isn’t popular.
But, church, look at me for a second. This is so important. The more private we are about our faith, the less we experience the power of that faith, the power because of that faith. Hear me? The more private we keep our faith, the less power we experience because of that faith. Let me show you what I mean. If you wanna follow along, we’re gonna be in the Book of Acts chapter 1 today. You can follow along in your Bible, you can grab the Mission Hills app. You’ll get some notes there, you can also see some of the questions that you’ll wanna reflect on this week as we think about what is looking to put this teaching into practice.
But in the Book of Acts, basically, it’s the story of what happened after Jesus rose from the dead. After Jesus rose from the dead, there was a period of about 40 days where he kinda hung out with the disciples. And it’s interesting. We don’t really know what he was doing during those 40 days, the Bible doesn’t really say, which is weird. I mean, he taught for about three years, and we got Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all telling us what he taught during those three years of public ministry. But the 40 days after he rose from the dead, the Bible says almost nothing, which leaves us some freedom to make some guesses.
Here’s what I think. I think he was repeating everything that he said that they had just forgotten because I think they forgot a lot of it. I mean, I think, you know, that they wanted to listen. I mean, Jesus was clearly an impressive guy. He was making blind people see and walking on water. Like, we should pay attention to this guy. But the moment Jesus rose from the dead, they’re like, “Whoa, you just changed everything.”
He’s no longer just an impressive guy. They realized he’s the Son of God. And then they started thinking back like, “Wait, what did he say about that? I can’t believe it.” And so, they were like, “Jesus, can we get a do-over? Now, that we know who you are, can we get a do-over? Can we hear it all again?” I think that’s what they did for 40 days. Jesus just repeated everything that he taught them. We don’t really know, but we know at the end of that 40 days, Jesus gathered them on a hillside, a little way outside of Jerusalem. And he said this to them, he said, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you’ve heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So, he made them this promise, he said, “I want you to wait in Jerusalem because the Holy Spirit’s coming and you’re gonna be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Now, if you’re kinda new to church, or maybe, honestly, you’ve been going to church your whole life but you’re just a little bit confused about the Holy Spirit…by the way, can I just be honest with…how many of us don’t feel like we fully understand the Holy Spirit? Can we just be honest with each other? Yeah. There’s a word for you, it’s normal. Okay. Maybe I can clear it up. I can help you understand the Holy Spirit a lot better. I’ll tell you this, he’s the third person of the Trinity. There you go, right. You’re like, “Yeah, that just made it worse because I don’t know…” How many of you don’t really understand the Trinity? Well, Christians have not understood the Trinity for 2,000 years, okay. So, it’s complicated truth.
Here’s the only truth you really need to know to understand what we’re gonna see today. Here’s the only thing you need to know about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers God’s people, okay. Holy Spirit empowers God’s people. He’s the third person to Trinity, he is a person…he’s kinda, like, the personal manifestation of the power of God in our lives. Okay. That’s all you really need to grab a hold of for today, the Holy Spirit empowers God’s people. But the question we wanna ask is, what does he empower us to do. What’s the purpose of that power? Well, here’s what Jesus says, if you can drop down to verse 8, he says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
So, there’s the purpose of the power of the Holy Spirit, that we will be his what, his witnesses. Okay, what’s a witness? A witness is somebody who testifies the truth. Think of, you know, a court setting. The witness is somebody that the lawyer calls to the stand, and they get up and then they tell the truth, they tell the truth so that everybody else can know the truth. That’s what a witness is. They’re just people who are testifying or telling the truth.
And Jesus says, “Holy Spirit is gonna come on you, and the purpose of the power of the Holy Spirit is that you would be my witnesses in Jerusalem.” That’s kinda like home base, that was their central capital city. But not just there. He said, “You’re also gonna be my witnesses in Judea and Samaria.” That’s the surrounding regions. And he says, “To the ends of the earth.” Now you’re gonna take this message everywhere, and say, “This is our mission.” It’s not just the mission that was given to the apostles, it’s a mission that was given to us. Every single one of us as a follower of Jesus has the same mission to be his witnesses in our hometown, in the surrounding regions, and really to the ends of the earth. It’s not something for the apostles, it’s not for preachers, it’s not for church elders or church staff, it’s for every one of us.
Here in Mission Hills, you’ve probably heard us say, if you come in here, if you’ve been coming in here for any length of time, we say, “The church is not a building we come to, it’s a mission we choose to be part of.” Jesus didn’t say, “Come follow me. I booked some rooms of the Marriott. We’re gonna hang out and have a good time.” No, Jesus said, “Come follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.” That’s mission. It’s being witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Now, if that feels like a big ask, if it feels like a big ask for you to be taking the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth, it is a big ask. But the good news is, it’s not a big ask of you. You don’t have to make this happen, you don’t have to somehow come up with a strategy, you don’t have to somehow come up with, you know, the ways to do it, how to persuade people because the power isn’t in you. The power to do this mission isn’t in you, it’s in the Holy Spirit. Now, the Holy Spirit, if you’re following Jesus, the Holy Spirit’s in you, but it’s his power that’s gonna make that mission possible. So, here’s what Jesus is saying is the Spirit’s power makes our mission possible. This big, crazy mission God’s given us to be his witnesses to the very ends of the earth, it’s the Spirit’s power that makes that mission possible. You know, it’s interesting. I have people come to me, pretty frequently, and they’re like, “You know what? You talk about the power of the Spirit. Can I just be honest? I’ve never experienced it. I’ve never really experienced this power of the Holy Spirit you’re talking about.”
I had a friend come to me a couple years ago, and he goes, “You know, you’re always talking about the power of Spirit. I listen to podcasts, things like that. And people talk about the power of the Spirit. I’ve never really experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.” And by the way, maybe you feel exactly like that. Maybe you can relate to my friend. You feel like we talk about it, but you’ve never actually experienced it.
My friend said that to me, and I said, “Well, can I ask you? Like, tell me about your faith, tell me what it looks like.” And he goes, “Well, I go to church, but I’ve never experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in church.” I said, “Okay.” He goes, “I listen to the messages, and I’ve learned some things, I’ve grown, but I haven’t experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “I read my Bible, but I haven’t really experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.” I said, “Okay.” He says, “I read Christian books and I listened to Christian podcasts, but I haven’t experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.” And I kind of stopped and I said, “You know, it’s interesting. Everything you’re describing is consumption. You’re describing everything that you’re consuming, all the content you’re consuming. And listen, that’s great. I’m so glad that you’re consuming that content. That’s good stuff to help you grow as a Christian. But here’s the thing, the power of the Holy Spirit isn’t the power to consume. The power of the Holy Spirit is the power to contribute. It’s the Spirit’s power that makes the mission possible. That didn’t give you the Holy Spirit to power you up so you could just take in more and more stuff. He gave you the power of the Holy Spirit so that you could actually begin to contribute to the mission of the church.”
So, listen, you should not be surprised if all you’re doing is consuming and you’re not experiencing the power. You’re not gonna experience the power until you start to contribute because that’s what the power is for. It’s so weird to me. I have Christians tell me, “I’m just not experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because you’re like a truck driver sitting in a semi going, “I thought this thing is supposed to be powerful, but I don’t feel any power.” I’m like, “Dude, you got it in park. If you wanna feel the power of that thing, put it in drive, and then come back and talk to me.” That’s when, and that’s only when you’re gonna experience the power. Way too many of us are sitting in park. We’re consuming. Like, “I just don’t feel this power they’re talking about.” Yeah, and you’re not until you start living on mission with Jesus, until you start looking to contribute to the purpose that God gave us the power for.
So, here’s a question I had to ask my friend. And I think it’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. How am I living on mission with Jesus? How am I living on mission with Jesus? I asked him, I said, “Are you serving?” He goes, “I don’t really have a lot of time.” Okay. “Are you giving? That doesn’t take a lot of time.” “My finances are really tight.” “Ever invited anybody to come to church with you?” “My friends really are not into church.” “Yeah, I think I’ve identified the problem. I think I figured out why you’re not experiencing the power, because you’re not moving towards the purpose of that power.” How are you living on mission with Jesus?
Jesus told them about this power, and then he left. I mean, literally left, he pulled a Peter Pan. He rose into the sky, and then a cloud came and covered him over. I don’t know. Like, Peter Pan, that didn’t sound real theological so I’ll make it more theological for those of you concerned about it. This is what we call the Ascension of Christ, but he pulled a Peter Pan. And the disciples did what I think any of us would do in a situation like that, they were just like…and they just stood there for a long time. I don’t know if they thought he was gonna eventually, like, come back down. They just stood there. They stood there so long that eventually a couple of angels had to show up and go, “Guys, you’re supposed to be in Jerusalem.”
And I was thinking about it this week. I don’t know about you, but, for me, at least, I find that often I’m waiting on what was to be restored rather than what will be to be birthed in me. I don’t know if any of you ever struggle with that. Even this pandemic, I’ve struggled with it. But I miss what church looked like before this pandemic. And God, I’m just waiting for you to let us go back to what we were, and the thing is, God’s been doing all kinds of other things. I’m like, “I miss full rooms.” And God’s like, “Yeah, but you understand that there are, like, thousands of rooms around the world that people have found Mission Hills and you’re enabling them to live on mission, and their communities are communities you could never have touched if it hadn’t gone bigger than you were imagining.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but I still miss…” And he’s like, “Yeah, stop waiting on what was and get busy waiting on what will be.”
The angels had to tell these guys, “Go to Jerusalem. You’re supposed to be waiting in Jerusalem for something new that’s about to be birthed in you.” And so they went. But 10 days later, there was a big festival, it was called Pentecost, big Jewish festival. And there were Jews from all over the world, all kinds of different cultures and different languages, and they’re all in Jerusalem for the Pentecost Festival and the Christians, the followers of Jesus were wandering around, and all of a sudden, in the middle of this festival, the Holy Spirit came on them, just like Jesus promised. The Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak in tongues, is how the Bible describes it. And in that context, it’s pretty clear that tongues meant they were speaking in other human languages that they didn’t learn naturally. They were supernaturally enabled to begin speaking all these languages. And the people from all these places where those languages were spoken went, “Hey, how did you guys learn that language? Where are you from?” They could tell from their accent that they weren’t, like, really educated people, they weren’t from, like, the really up and coming provinces of Jerusalem. They were basically what they would think of as kinda hillbillies, honestly. They’re like, “You guys don’t know these kinds of languages. Where’d you learn these things?”
And Peter, follower of Jesus named Peter, stepped up to the plate, and he began to explain what was going on. He told the story of Jesus’s life, and what he’d done, and what he taught. He told the story of how Jesus was arrested and how he was eventually put in front of a crowd of Jewish people and asked, “Hey, do you want me to release Jesus, or do you want me to release this murderer, Barabbas?” And the Jewish crowd called, “Crucified Jesus.” And they crucified him. Peter told how they crucified him. And he told about how three days later, he rose from the dead. And then he closed a speech with this, if you wanna look with me, it’s Acts chapter 2, verse 36, this is how he closed that speech. He said, “Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this. God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” And can we just agree that’s a pretty bold thing to say? Can we agree that’s an unpopular thing to say? To look at the crowd, some of whom would’ve been the ones that actually said, “Yeah, crucify him,” to look at that same crowd and go, “Yeah, whom you crucified. God made this Jesus that you crucified, both Lord and Messiah, you guys screwed up big time.”
That’s an unpopular thing to say. And I promise you, Peter felt the pressure to keep private what wasn’t popular. He felt the pressure not to say that, he probably felt the pressure before we started saying anything when everybody’s going, “Hey, what’s going on here? Why are these people doing these languages? What’s happening?” I guarantee you Peter felt a little bit of a temptation to be like everybody else like, “This is really confusing. Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on.” And to fade into the background, but he didn’t do it. He didn’t give in to the pressure to keep private what wasn’t popular. Why not? Because I think, Peter, maybe more than anybody else in that moment, Peter understood that there’s a price to keeping our faith private. Hear me, church?
There’s a price to keeping our faith private. Yeah, there’s a price to keeping our faith public, too. Going public with your faith has a price. Absolutely. But it’s nothing compared to the price of keeping your faith private. Peter knew that better than anybody else because Peter was the guy with Jesus on the night before he was arrested. And Jesus was telling him what was gonna happen, and Peter was like, “Dude, I’m with you. Man, no matter what happens, I’m with you.” And Jesus was like, “Yeah, I’m not so sure that’s really the case.” He’s like, “Hey, I will die for you. I don’t know about the rest of these losers, but, man, you and me, like, we’re tight. I will die for you.” Jesus said, “No, you know, you won’t, you’re actually gonna deny me. You’re not gonna die for me, you’re gonna deny me three times.” Peter’s like, “Not a chance.”
But then they came and they arrested him and Peter ran. And three different times he denied that he even knew who Jesus was. The third time as he was doing it, he happened to be doing it in a place where Jesus could see him. Jesus looked over at him in the moment that he was saying, “Yeah, I don’t even know that guy.” And Jesus looked at him and they locked eyes, and they had a little moment. And the Bible didn’t say that Jesus looked disappointed. The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus shook his head, disgusted at Peter. It just says they locked eyes. I promise you, in that moment, Peter’s heart broke. Peter felt the searing pain. He paid the price in that moment of keeping his faith private.
So, here he is in this crowd, and he goes, “I’m not doing that again. I’m not paying that price again.” So, he stepped up and he went public.
And when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and they said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” People heard this. They were cut to the heart. And that phrase, cuts at heart, it just means they were convinced this was true and they needed to do something about it. They were convinced that it was true, Jesus was who Peter was saying he was and they needed to do something about it. They couldn’t just file that away and go, “Oh, that’s an interesting piece of trivia, that was the Messiah. Okay, good to know.” No, they had to do something about it. That’s what it means to be cut to the heart.
Years ago, I was a young youth pastor, and I went to hang out with a youth pastor friend of mine, and I could tell he was down. I said, “What’s going on?” And he told me a story about this girl he’s been trying to love in his youth group. She’s kinda new to the youth group, new to church. He was struggling to do that, and she kept pushing back. And that morning, she’d pushed back. And this is what she said to him, she said, “Yeah. Tell me this, why is it the only person in this church who loves me is the guy who gets paid to?”
And I heard that and I’ll be honest, I was cut to the heart. I realized, in that moment, that’s true. A lot of people have that experience. Feel like the only people who really love them is the people who get paid to in the church which is the pastor, it’s the church staff. Now, I can’t live that way anymore. I gotta do something about that. And that was the beginning, for me, of a lifelong goal of trying to do church a little bit differently, doing church in the way that we talk about it here which is where we say, “The church isn’t a building you come to, it’s a mission you choose to be part of.”
Every one of us who says yes to following Jesus, joins Jesus on the mission, to love other people into the Kingdom, to speak the love of God into their lives. In that moment, I was cut to the heart like they were…I realized this was true, and I realized, I can’t just file it away. I’ve gotta do something about it. That’s what they’re talking about. And they went, “What do we do, right? Well, I understand this is true, but I can’t just follow this way. What do we do now?” And what’s interesting about this, is if he asked the question, what caused that to happen. What caused them to become convinced that this was true, and they needed to do something about it? Was it Peter’s rhetorical prowess? Was it his oratory magnificence? Was it his persuasive logic? All Peter did was tell the story. All Peter did was communicate the truth. All Peter did was be a witness. So, how is it that all these people are now cut to the quick, they’re realizing this is true, and I gotta do something about it? How did that happen? Power of the Holy Spirit.
Listen to me, church, look at me, this is really important. It’s our job to communicate. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convince. You hear me? It’s our job to communicate the truth, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convince, to cut to the heart, to convince people it’s true and they gotta do something about it. All we have to do is communicate. And I find way too many Christians struggle to live on mission with Jesus because they’ve got their role wrong. They go, “Well, I can’t be a witness. I can’t share my faith. I can’t invite somebody to come to church. I can’t tell the truth about who Jesus is because I don’t have all the answers.”
You know, who else doesn’t have all the answers? Me. I promise you I’ve got more questions than you do. They might be better questions after my years of theological study, but there’s not fewer of them. And people go, “I can’t. I can’t be on mission with Jesus. I don’t have all the answers. I haven’t read enough of the Bible. I don’t know enough theological terms. I don’t know how to talk about this. I can’t do that.” And it’s interesting to me. It’s almost like when people think about the courtroom setting, right, because we’re supposed to be witnesses, right, think about the courtroom setting, they’re not thinking of themselves as the witnesses. They’re thinking about themselves as the prosecuting attorney. It’s like, “No, our job is to convince the jury.” Listen, you’re not supposed to be the lawyer. You’re supposed to be the witness on the stand. All you gotta do is speak the truth. All you gotta do is communicate. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to be the lawyer. It’s Holy Spirit’s job to convince.
And that’s what he was doing. He said, “This is the truth, guys.” And the Holy Spirit said, “Yeah, it’s true.” He whispered into their hearts. And Holy Spirit said, “You gotta do something about this.” And they felt that respond, and they said, “So, what do we do?” And so, Peter replied, he replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. That’s what you gotta do.” You gotta repent and be baptized.
Let’s make sure we understand both of those words. Two things he said to do, repent and be baptized. Now, repent equals to turn around. It’s what repent means, it means to turn around. See, because of our sin, we’re basically born living in rebellion against God. We’re born with our backs to God moving away from him. That’s the direction we’re moving. It’s what sin does. And to repent means to realize, “Hey, I’m living in rebellion against God, I’m sinning. I don’t wanna do that anymore. And to turn around. It’s what it means to repent.
Now, what’s interesting is a lot of people think, “Well, the problem is that, you know, while I was moving in that direction, I covered a lot of distance. I did a lot of sin, I did a lot of wrong, and now I’m here and I’m turning around and God’s way back there, and I don’t think I’m gonna be able to cover that distance. I don’t think I can make it up.” They’re like, “I guess I gotta start doing good things. I gotta go to church, and I gotta give at the church, and I gotta maybe join the kid’s ministry team, and I gotta do all these things to try to, you know, balance the scales. I gotta somehow cover all that distance back.” And honestly, there’s a despair that creeps in at that moment because we realize I can’t do that. I’ve gone away too far. I’ve covered way too much distance to ever get back. How can turning around be enough? Because this is the truth of the Gospel, and this is the power of it.
The Gospel is that no matter how far we’ve gone, God still loves us and he sent his Son Jesus after us. Jesus chased after us, he died on the cross to pay the price for our sin. He rose from the dead. And having risen from the dead, he offers a salvation by faith. So, what happens is the moment we repent, the moment we turn around, we find that Jesus is right there and is saying “All it takes is faith. All it takes is you gotta trust me.”
Listen to me, this is so important. Listen, the problem isn’t the distance we’ve gone, it’s the direction we’re going. Do you hear me, church? The problem isn’t the distance you’ve gone, no matter how far you’ve gone. That’s not the problem. The problem is the direction you’re going. The moment you turn around, you will be saved. Some of you need to do that right now. Some of you right now need to repent, you need to turn around, you just need to say to God right now, you can just do it right now. You’re gonna say to God, “God, I’m sinning, and I’m sorry. I don’t wanna go that direction anymore. I’m turning back to you. Jesus, I’m gonna put my trust in you. Thank you for dying on the cross. I believe you rose from the dead. Jesus, I’m gonna trust you from here on out.” Peter said, “Repent for the forgiveness of sins.”
Now, he also said, “Be baptized.” He said, “Repent and be baptized.” So, what’s baptism? Well, baptism is a public declaration of our faith in Jesus. The traditional way of baptism that we practice here at Mission Hills is immersion. What happens is when somebody goes into the water, there’s symbolizing that they’re dying to their old way of life, their old direction, and then when they’re raised out of the water, they’re symbolizing that they’re changing direction, they’re rising to new life in Christ because of their faith in him. It’s a public declaration of their faith in Jesus.
So, Peter says, “You need to repent for the forgiveness of sins, and you also need to be baptized.” Now, why does he say that? Do you have to be baptized to get saved? You don’t. It’s not necessary. And I know that because throughout the Bible, that consistent message is you have to have faith to be saved. Jesus said, very familiar verse, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him…” That’s faith. “That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” A little bit later in the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, whoever hears my Word and believes him who sent me,” that’s faith, “Has eternal life, and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.” There’s no baptism.
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, there was a thief next to him. And the thief expressed faith in Jesus, the thief said to him, “Would you remember me when you come into your Kingdom?” In other words, I see it, I see who you are, and I’m gonna trust you, I’m gonna depend on you. And Jesus’s response to him was, “Truly I tell you, today you’ll be with me in paradise.”
Do you see baptism anywhere in there? I don’t even know what that would’ve looked like in that situation. Jesus would’ve been like, “Okay, I’m gonna spit on you.” And like…okay, so, if you don’t have to be baptized to be saved, why does Peter say you need to repent for the forgiveness of sins, and you need to be baptized? Why does he say that? Well, it’s because of something else Jesus said. Matthew 10:32, Jesus said this, he said, “Therefore, whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” Whoever acknowledges me, whoever’s public about their faith in me, I’m gonna be public about their salvation in front of my Father. And what Peter is picking up on, what Jesus taught is that saving faith is public faith. Saving faith is public faith. Now, that doesn’t mean that it has to be public before it saves you, but it means that genuine saving faith will always express itself publicly. It’s the natural way it’s gonna play itself out. It’s one of the ways that you know it’s a genuine faith. It’s not the public part that saves you, but the genuine faith that saves you is always gonna show itself publicly. And so, Peter said, “Yeah, you need to be baptized because saving faith is public faith.”
But that wasn’t where he stopped. He also went on to say this, he says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.” And he said, “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children, for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord, our God will call.” He says that when you go public with your faith, the Holy Spirit comes into you. He said, “This is a promise for you and for your children, for all who are far off.” And by the way, that’s us. We’re all the far-off ones. We’re, most of us not Jewish so we’re ethnically far off. It’s been 2,000 years, so we’re far off in that way, but the promise is still true. The promise is still for us. The promise of the Holy Spirit. When we put our faith in Jesus and we’re willing because of the genuineness of that faith to go public with it.
But, of course, what’s the purpose of that power? Its mission. It’s to be his witnesses, right? And check out what happens next. Now with many other words, he warned them and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. And those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day.” That is church growth, right. Three thousand that day, man. And again, how did that happen? Was it because Peter was so convincing and persuasive, and such a powerful speaker? No, it wasn’t Peter’s power, all Peter did was communicate. It was the Holy Spirit who convinced, it was the Holy Spirit working him. All Peter did was go public.
Listen to me, public faith is powerful faith. And if you’re here today, and you’re feeling like, “I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced that power,” then you might need to engage in this really important practice of going public because that’s where we experience the power because that’s what the power is for. When I look back on my life, all the instances where I’ve experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, most tangibly have been periods where I was living in faith, and I was looking to live on a mission.
Maybe the most powerful, for me, years ago, I was in Eastern Europe with a Christian rock band, not long after the Iron Curtain came down. We were sharing the Gospel in places that had never heard it. But those were different days, I had hair, it was actually in a ponytail. We were out in the edge, we were going public in a place where, honestly, it wasn’t popular. But this one day I was singing and playing guitar, we were doing this concert. And there were a group of satanists that had showed up. And they got to the front row, and eventually, they started throwing stuff at us. I’ve never done music where I was, like, singing about Jesus and dodging beer bottles.
And at a certain point in this…so I was looking at them. Something came over me, I think the power of the Holy Spirit began to move in me. And before I knew what was happening, I had set my guitar down. I had gotten off the stage and I was walking up to the satanists. The whole time, I’m like, “This is a bad idea. This is a bad idea. What are we doing? What are we doing? What are you doing?” But I couldn’t stop. And then I walked up to these…and there was this one guy. And he had, like, upside-down crosses painted on his face with mascara. And I walked up to him and I said to him, I remember saying to him, “What are you so angry about?”
And he said something, and I don’t remember what he said, I don’t even know what language it was in but we started a conversation. And I kid you not, I don’t remember anything was said. I don’t even remember what language the conversation was in. I might have been speaking in tongues. It’d be my only instance of that, if that’s what it was. I don’t know. I don’t remember what happened in the conversation. I do remember it and I’ll never forget that when it was over, this guy, he was kneeling on the ground and he was praying to ask Jesus to be his Savior. He was committing to follow Jesus, and he began to weep. And as he wept and his tears began to flow, they started to wash away those upside-down crosses on his face. That was the power of the Holy Spirit.
Power the Holy Spirit is yours, but not to consume, to contribute. Listen to me, saving faith is public faith, and public faith is powerful faith. That’s where you’ll experience the power. If you wanna experience more of the power, if you wanna fast-forward your faith, you need to start living publicly. So, here’s what we’re gonna do. Look at me. We’re all gonna do this. Okay? I want you to find one person this week, find one person who doesn’t know you follow Jesus and tell them that you follow Jesus. One little step, but little steps, enough little steps in the right direction take us places we wouldn’t have thought possible. So, just find one person who doesn’t know you follow Jesus and tell them you follow Jesus. But don’t make it weird. Okay? But don’t make it weird. Like, don’t be like at Walmart, and when the cashier hands you your stuff, you’re like, “I wanna let you know I follow Jesus. Okay, bye.” That’s super weird. Don’t do that.
You’re like, “Well, how do I not make it weird?” Pray about it, just pray that the Holy Spirit would go before you and provide an opportunity and make sure that you don’t miss it. And I promise you, as you respond to that, you’re going to begin to see the power of the Holy Spirit flowing in you in a way that you haven’t yet, maybe. Find that one person, and maybe even ask yourself this question, what’s my next step in powering up my faith by going public about it. What’s your next step? You know, maybe you’ve said yes to following Jesus recently, but you haven’t told anybody. Maybe you said it earlier today when I was talking about repenting, or maybe you said it over the last couple of weeks, but you haven’t told anybody about it. Maybe your next step of powering up your faith by going public is to let somebody else know about it.
Here at Mission Hills, we make it really easy to take that first step, just text the word Jesus to 80875. And you’re gonna let us know that you made the decision. We’re gonna get you some resources. But maybe that’s the first step, or maybe your next step is to invite somebody to come to church with you. Well, actually, no, don’t invite somebody to come to church. I like to tell people, “Don’t invite other people to church, invite people to the series that we’re doing at church.” You know why I say that? Because if you invite somebody to church, and they say no, then, you know, next time you’re like, “Well, we’re still doing church,” and they already said no to that so it doesn’t really make sense to ask again, but you invite them to the series and they say no, we’ve got another series coming around. You’re like, “Well, hey, they hadn’t said no to this series. I’ll try again.” We got another series coming up in a few weeks called Unleashed. It’s gonna be a very powerful series, great opportunity to invite somebody. Maybe that’s your next step, to invite somebody to come to church with you.
Or maybe you need to get baptized. Maybe at some point, in the past, maybe it was 15 minutes ago, maybe it was 5 days ago, maybe it’s 50 years ago, you said yes to following Jesus but you’ve never been baptized. You’ve never gone public in that way. In just a second, we’re gonna baptize a whole bunch of people who are gonna go public with their faith today. But maybe you need to join them, maybe right now the Holy Spirit’s moving your heart, and you’re like, “I think I need to do that,” then you need to do that. In just a second, we’re gonna watch a video, we’re gonna see some of their stories. During that video, if you’re realizing right now that that’s my next step in powering up my faith by going public with it is to get baptized, during this video I want you to walk down to this side of the room. At the back of the line there’s gonna be some people that you just tell them, “Hey, I wanna go public with my faith in Jesus, I wanna get baptized.”
We’ve got some clothes for you. You don’t have to walk out of here soaking wet. We’ve got some new clothes for you. Last service we had several…a bunch of people who decided to do it on the fly, and it was awesome. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you need to make that decision right now. So, during this video, go down there and tell them you wanna get baptized, go public with your faith in Jesus.
Matthew 16: 13-18
Christians sometimes talk about finding what God is calling you to do within the church. Do you find that to be daunting? Many do. What if that task has been overly complicated? Our message this week has a different take on finding your place in God’s purpose, and everyone has a purpose.
But before I do that, I do wanna ask you a question. Do you know that God has a purpose for your life? Do you know that? Because I know there’s some people listening who don’t know that or they’re struggling to believe it. And before we do anything else, I just need you to hear of the truth, God has a purpose for your life. I love what my friend, Chad Moore down at Sun Valley said to me recently. He said, “You know, there are accidental parents but there are no accidental children.” That’s good, isn’t it?
Yeah, there are accidental parents. Absolutely. But there are no accidental children because the Bible says that God created you. He created you on purpose and regardless of the circumstances of your birth, God created you on purpose and with a purpose. And that’s what I wanna talk to you about today. I wanna talk to you about finding your part in God’s purpose. Now, on one level, we all have kinda the same purpose. We all have a foundational purpose. It’s the same for every human being.
The Bible says we are created as God’s image, which in its simplest terms means that we were created to represent God and to manifest his presence in creation. Okay. That’s what it means to be human. We represent God, we manifest his presence in creation but we don’t all do that the same way. We don’t all represent God in the same way. We all have different ways that we were created to manifest God. We have different gifts that God gave us so we could go manifest his presence and represent him in creation.
And so, what we have to do is we have to find our particular part in God’s bigger purpose. And that’s what I wanna talk to you about today. Sometimes in Christian circles, we talk about finding our part in God’s purpose. We say it’s about finding our calling. How many of you ever heard that? We need to find our calling. And here’s the thing, sometimes in Christian circles, sometimes in the church, we overcomplicate that. And sometimes we even over-spiritualize this business of finding our calling.
Years ago, I went through the process of ordination, which means that a group of older pastors sort of examined me to decide if I was qualified to become a pastor. And I remember it, I sat in the center and there was a semi-circle of older pastors around me. And for three or four hours, they grilled me on my theology, my doctrine, my way of thinking about doing ministry, all those kinds of things. And I thought I was doing pretty good, honestly. But at one point they asked me a question that I hadn’t really expected.
They said, “Hey, tell us about your calling.” And I was like, “Well, what do you mean?” They said, “Well, tell us how you know that God has called you to be a pastor.” And that was the first time I really got nervous because I didn’t have a good story. See, I felt like what they were asking for was some sort of profound spiritual experience. Like, I was supposed to say, “Well, one day I was walking up to of my house and all of a sudden the bushes caught fire and a really deep voice spoke out of the bush and said, “Thou shall become a pastor.” And I didn’t have a story like that.
So, here was my story. So, I said yes to following Jesus when I was 12 years old. I was in college and I was kinda starting to think that I really wanted to serve God with my gifts. And I had a gift for music. So, I was thinking, “Oh, maybe I go into the music business and serve God there.” And a friend of mine, Dave Smith, he led the Bible Study I was part of when I was in college, he took me out to lunch and he sat down with me and he said, “Hey, I got a friend who is leaving a youth pastor position at a church in Cincinnati. And I think you should apply for that job. I think you should become a youth pastor.”
And I was like, “Yeah, I don’t wanna do that.” I mean, I didn’t really wanna be a youth pastor but honestly, I didn’t really wanna serve in the church. I didn’t wanna be in vocational ministry because, like a lot of you probably, I had a mixed set of experiences growing up in the church. I had some good experiences, absolutely, but I had some baggage from church. Anybody else got church baggage? Am I the only one?
Actually, I’m gonna be really honest with you guys. When I was in my… I think, I don’t know, it was 9th or 10th grade but I got kicked out of my 9th and 10th grade Sunday School class, which is not what you wanna hear from your pastor. I understand that. But I had a lot of questions and I wasn’t real satisfied with service-level answers. And so, I kinda got kicked out of my Sunday School class. I had some baggage and so I didn’t really wanna serve in the church.
But I’m gonna be honest with you, completely honest with you. This is my motive. I thought, you know, what I am attracted to is getting paid to serve Jesus. I was like, “That’s a pretty sweet deal.” I knew I wanna serve God and getting paid to do that sounded like a pretty good deal. And I was like, “Well, you know, I need to figure out this music thing. So, if I could get paid to serve God in the church for a year or so, while I figure out this music business, that would be a good deal.” So, I applied and they hired me.
I still don’t know why. I don’t think I would’ve hired me but they hired me. And so, I became a youth pastor and Coletta and I thought we’d stay there for a year. We ended up staying there for three years and God used us. But more importantly, maybe God really kind of caused us to fall in love with ministry in the local church. And so, three years in, we decided that was kind of where we were headed. And so, we needed a little bit more education.
So, we moved out to Denver, Colorado to go to Denver Seminary, put my resume in at the seminary and a church called. And they said, “Hey, we’d like you to be our youth pastor. And we also noticed you played guitar. So, how about becoming a worship pastor?” And I was like, “Okay.” And so there I was. Now a few years later, I was sitting in front of all these guys and they said, “Tell us about your call to be a pastor.” And I was like, “Yeah, I said yes to Jesus. And then I said yes to some opportunities to serve him and here I am.”
And I didn’t think they were gonna ordain me but they did. They did. Just so you know, that’s the ending of that story. I did get ordained but I tell you that because I think it’s interesting that we sometimes, we overcomplicate this business of finding our calling and finding our part in God’s purpose. We sometimes even over-spiritualize. I don’t think it’s all that complicated but I think it’s really important that we all do it because we all have a part in God’s purpose.
And so, what I’ll talk to you today is about finding your part in God’s purpose, finding your calling. It’s not that complicated but there are a couple of ground rules. And the first ground rule is this, is that we can only find the part we play when we understand what we’re part of. You hear me? We can really only find the part that we’re supposed to play when we understand what it is that we’re part of. And to help you understand what I mean by that, I brought a little object lesson. Let me zoom in real close so you can see this.
You might wanna guess what this is. You might think, “Well, you know, it’s a washer. Yeah, a washer.” It’s not a washer. You might think, “Well, maybe it’s one of those parts that you put when you’re putting plumbing together to hold the seal tight.” No. This is actually a cutter. Here’s the part that it’s part of. You put it on the tip of a long handle when you’re doing woodturning. And this is what digs into the wood as it’s spinning around on the lathe so you can shape a vase or a bowl or that kind of a thing. That’s what it is.
But you would never understand the part that it plays unless you understand what it’s part of. Does it make sense? And it’s like that with us. You’re never gonna find the part you’re supposed to play unless you understand what it is that you and I are part of as followers of Jesus. And what we’re part of is this thing that we call the church. And so, I wanna talk to you about what this church is. If you wanna follow along, we’re gonna be in Matthew, Chapter 16 starting at verse 13 today.
You can follow along in your Bible or you can follow along in the Mission Hills app. There’s some notes there you might wanna reflect on later in the week. But Matthew 16:13 says this, “Now when Jesus came to the region of Caesarea of Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Now, when Jesus uses that phrase, the Son of Man, well, what he means is, “Who do people say that I am?” Because this was his favorite title for himself.
It’s a title that comes from the Book of Daniel. Several hundred years before this, Daniel had predicted the coming of one like a Son of Man. And by Jesus using that phrase, the Son of Man for himself, he’s basically going, “I’m the one you’ve been waiting for. I’m the one that Daniel predicted hundreds of years before.” So, basically what Jesus is asking though is, “Who do people say that I am?” And we’re gonna get to their answer but before we do that, I want you to notice the setting where this conversation took place.
This happened in a place called Caesarea Philippi. And you may not know anything about that. You don’t need to know it but here’s what you do need to understand. It’s a strange place for Jesus to be. Caesarea Philippi was way to the north of Israel and that’s not a place where Jesus spent much time. In fact, almost all of his ministry was way down to the south. He didn’t really spend any time north. This is the farthest north he’s ever been.
And honestly, it’s unusual for any Jewish person to go this far north because it wasn’t a place that good Jewish people went because it was a place full of pagans. Pagans, people who didn’t know anything about the God or the Bible. They worshiped all kinds of false gods and Caesarea of Philippi was filled with shrines to false gods. So, good Jewish people didn’t go there but Jesus went there. He took his disciples there and it’s in this place that he had this particular conversation.
And what’s interesting about that is, as we’re gonna see in a minute, this is the perfect place for Jesus to talk about launching his new project, the church. This is the perfect place for Jesus to talk about this new project. But he starts with a question. He says, “Who do people say I am?” And they replied, “Well, some say John the Baptist and others say Elijah, and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
These were all prophets. And so basically, they’re like, “Well, people say that you’re a prophet. People say that, you know, God’s speaking through you. God is sending messages to us through you. You’re a prophet.” “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” He says, “You’ve had a front-row seat. You guys have had a backstage pass. So, who do you say I am? I’m not really interested in what they say about me. I’m interested in what you say about me.”
And by the way, this is probably the most important question that you and I have to answer. This is the question that Jesus asks every human being. “Who do you say that I am?” And how we answer that question really determines the course of not only our life but of our eternity. We gotta get this one right. And it doesn’t matter what your family says. It doesn’t matter what your friends say. It doesn’t matter the church that you grew up in, what they say. It doesn’t matter what your culture says. What matters is what you say about who Jesus is. So, who do you say that Jesus is?
Simon Peter led out with the answer that ultimately Jesus wants us to be able to come to give. Simon Peter answered, “You’re the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” He says, “You’re the Messiah.” Which means Chosen One. He says, “You’re the guy that God told us to expect. God, hundreds of years before had said he was gonna send a Savior.” And so, Simon’s going, “You’re the one we’ve been waiting for. You’re the Savior God sent to save us.”
But Simon goes a little bit farther than that. That’s a big deal to call him the Messiah but he goes a little bit farther than that. He makes it an even bigger deal and he says, “You’re the Son of the living God.” He says, “You’re not just a prophet. You’re not just a guy who knows about God. You are God. You’re God in the flesh.” That’s a really big deal. Right? That’s a huge answer. But that’s ultimately the answer we all need to get to for ourselves.
And Jesus replied, “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father in heaven.” So, if you can kinda picture the scene, Jesus says, you know, “Who do people say I am?” They’re like, “Well, they say you’re a prophet. You’re kind of a big deal.” And Jesus goes, “Yeah. But who do you say I am?” And there’s Simon going, “Nobody else is gonna answer? Well, you’re the Messiah but I think you’re also…” Okay. Big risk here. “I think you’re the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus goes, “Oh, you got it. You got it. And you should understand you didn’t just figure this out. This was revealed by my Father. My Father revealed this to you.” You know, and Simon’s there like, “Yeah. You guys hear that? God talks to me. Not so much to you, John, but you know.” But it’s interesting. I want you to notice this. Jesus says, “This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood. It was revealed by my Father in heaven.”
So, this is a revelation. He’s received a revelation but what’s interesting is that we have no record that Peter received or that Simon Peter received this revelation in a big supernatural way. There’s no statement that there was a burning bush that told him this. There’s no statement that there was an angel who showed up and let him know this. Really what happened was it was a realization. As Simon spent time following Jesus and he’d said yes to following Jesus and now he’d said yes to a bunch of opportunities to be on mission with Jesus, he began to realize that Jesus was more than he first thought he was. He began to realize that Jesus was a much bigger deal even than he had thought previously.
And now Jesus says, “Hey, that realization you’ve come to, that was actually a revelation. God was working in you. God was bringing you to this point.” And I think this is so important because when we talk about finding our part in God’s purpose, when we talk about finding our calling, so often what we’re looking for is that big supernatural whoa moment. We’re like, “Whoa, I got it, God. I hear you.” But here’s the truth. Sometimes a revelation takes the form of a realization. Do you hear me, church?
In fact, for most of us, most often the revelation of God takes the form of a realization. It’s a gradual process of coming to understand something and it’s no less supernatural. It’s no less a work of God than those big moments we get so excited about. But sometimes it’s a little bit more subtle and it takes a little bit more time. And sometimes revelation takes the form of a realization. That’s how it happened for Peter. He realized this but Jesus said that was a revelation.
And he says, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Two really important things there. First off, I want you to notice that Jesus gives Simon a new name. His given name was Simon but now Jesus looks at him and goes, “From now on I’m gonna call you Peter.” And you may know that there’s a little bit of a play on words happening here because in Greek that this was originally written in, the word for Peter is Petros, which is also the word for…does anybody know? It’s a word for rock.
So, basically, Jesus looks at Simon and goes, “Hey, from now on, I’m gonna call you The Rock.” This was the first The Rock. Sorry, Dwayne Johnson, Simon had it first. Now, what’s interesting about this is that of all the disciples, honestly, I think Simon was the least rocklike. Because, you know, a rock is solid, it’s steady, it’s stable, it’s secure. And that was just not Simon.
You read through the Gospels, you’re gonna see that Simon was, look, he was enthusiastic. I’m gonna give him that one. He was enthusiastic but he was inconsistent. He wasn’t stable. He wasn’t steady. He was the guy that when Jesus was walking on water and he told his disciples, “Get out of the boat, walk with me.” Simon’s the only one who got out of the boat. And he started to walk on the water for a little bit but he’s also the guy who started focusing on the wind and the waves and his fear overwhelmed his faith and he began to sink and Jesus had to rescue him.
He was enthusiastic but he was inconsistent. As we saw all last week, he’s also the guy who said to Jesus, “I’ll die for you.” But then when they came to arrest him, he denied that he even knew Jesus three times. He’s enthusiastic but he’s inconsistent. He doesn’t have a lot of good follow-through. And just a little bit later on in the Gospel of Matthew here, right after this, Jesus starts to tell his disciples. “I’m gonna go into Jerusalem. I’m gonna die for the sins of the world.”
And Simon jumps in and goes, “Hey, I’m never gonna let that happen. Not on my watch, Jesus. I won’t let that happen.” And Jesus looks at him and goes, “Get behind me, Satan.” So, he goes from being the guy that God talks to, to being the devil in a span of moments. Simon wasn’t a rock. And yet this is the guy that Jesus looks at and goes, “From now on, I’m gonna call you The Rock.” And I love that. I love that so much.
Because listen, my favorite teacher in evangelism is a woman named Rebecca Ann Pippert and she says it this way. She said, “Jesus has a new name for each of us. That if he whispered it to us right now, we’d say that could never be me.” You hear me, church? Look at me. This is really important. Jesus has a new name for you. But if Jesus whispered it to you right now, you’d go, “That could not be me. That’s not who I am.” And it may not be who you are but it is who you could be.
See, enough small steps in the same direction take us to places we never thought possible. But enough small steps of obedience following Jesus also take us to being people we never thought we could be. Jesus has a new name for you. What’s the name? What could it be? Maybe it’s forgiven. Maybe that’s the name that you need to understand Jesus has for you, that you are forgiven. Maybe it’s that you’re free. Maybe it’s overcomer. Maybe it’s breaker of chains. Maybe it’s bringer of light. Maybe it’s shaker of worlds.
Jesus has a name for you and you can’t believe that it could be true but it will be if you’ll follow. By the way, this is so interesting. In this passage, we see the two most important things about every human being. First off, what do you say about Jesus? Who do you say Jesus is? That’s the first important thing about us. And the second thing is who does Jesus say you are. You see that? Those two things define us as we were meant to be. They define us as God created us to be. Who do you say Jesus is? And who does Jesus say you are?
Jesus looked at Simon and even though I guarantee the rest of the disciples were going, “That didn’t make any sense.” Jesus said, “You’re The Rock.” And he says, “On this rock, I will build my church.” This is his big project. This is what he’s brought the disciples to this place to talk about. He says, “On you, Peter, I’m gonna build my church.” And by the way, I’m just gonna cut through 2,000 years of church debate here. Can I just do that?
Because people debated, “What exactly does that mean, that Jesus says you’re Peter, you’re The Rock? And on this rock, I’m gonna build my church.” People have gone, “Well, I think it was just about his declaration. He’s building it on what Peter said, not on Peter.” And other people, like, in the Catholic church have gone, “Well, no, it’s Peter. Peter’s the first Pope and all the popes after him. That’s the foundation of the church.”
It’s none of those things. It’s Peter. It’s Peter the man. What Jesus is saying is, is that Jesus had an important part for Peter to play in getting the church up and running. That’s what he’s saying. He says, “Peter, I’ve got an important part for you to play. This is the part in the purpose.” I’ve got an important part for you to play in getting the church up and running. And we saw it. If you’re with us last week, we saw it. Peter’s the first guy who goes public with his faith. And 3,000 people say yes to following Jesus. And the church is up and running. He had an important part to play. He found his part in God’s purpose. His part was to get the church up and running.
So, now we need to talk about this church business for a second. What is the church? People think of different things. Maybe you’re a little bit like me. Growing up, I always thought of the church as a place because we went to church. It was that place there. But the church isn’t a place. The church is a mission. That’s why we say here at Mission Hills all the time, “The church isn’t a building we come to. It’s a mission we choose to be part of.” Church isn’t a building we come to. It’s a mission we choose to be part of. It’s the people of God saying yes to living on mission with Jesus. And what is that mission? Well, Jesus gives us two really big clues here.
First is where he was having this conversation. He was having it at Caesarea Philippi. Remember what we said? This is a strange place because what Jesus did to get to Caesarea Philippi was to leave the place where God’s influence had been felt for hundreds of years in the Nation of Israel, God’s influence had been felt but Jesus left that place where God’s influence was and he took him into a place where God’s influence wasn’t. Where it hadn’t been felt for thousands of years since Adam and Eve said goodbye to God or they rebelled against God.
So, what Jesus did was he took them out of the place where God’s influence was, and he took them into the place where God’s influence wasn’t yet. And that’s key because that’s part of the mission of the church. The mission of the church is to extend God’s influence wider in the world. Are you with me, church? That’s the reason the church exists. People say, “No, no, the church exists for discipleship.” And I go, “No, it doesn’t. Discipleship is how we help people grow to be like Jesus so they can extend his influence wider in the world. But discipleship is not the purpose of the church.” That’s like saying physical fitness is the purpose of the Marines. It’s not. Discipleship is indispensable. It’s key. Helping people become like Jesus is central to what we do but it’s not why we exist. The church exists to extend God’s influence wider in the world.
The second clue he gives us is in what he says to Simon. He says, “You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church.” And then he says, “And the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
By the way, I’m not crazy about that translation because the gates of Hades will not overcome it kinda sounds like the church is cowering, fighting against and then the gates of Hades are attacking us. And here’s my question to you. Have you ever seen anybody use gates as an offensive weapon? Can you imagine “Braveheart”? They may take our land but they’ll never take out freedom. Give me that gate. Okay. It doesn’t make any sense. Gates aren’t offensive weapons. They’re defensive ones. You understand?
Jesus isn’t saying the church will survive the attacks of Hades. He’s saying Hades will not survive our attack. What’s this Hades business? Some early translations translated as hell. The gates of hell but that’s not right. Gates of Hades is the better translation because in the ancient world, in first century, Greek thinking, Hades was the realm of the dead. It was the realm of death. And the purpose of the gates was to keep out the living and to keep in the dead. It was to keep dead people in their graves.
Jesus says, “Those gates won’t survive the attack of the church.” And if you think about it, what did Jesus do? He died but then he rose. The gates of death couldn’t keep Jesus in. And Jesus says, “And they’re not gonna keep you out. They’re not gonna keep my church out.” And this imagery is beautiful. Isn’t it? Jesus says, “The gates of death can’t keep me in and they can’t keep my church out.” So, here’s the thing.
The mission of the church is to storm the gates of death with the message of life. That’s the purpose of the church, to storm the gates of death with the message of life. And what’s this message of life? We call it the Gospel that God loves us even though we sinned and turned away from God, ran from him and our sin separates us from God and lead us to death. God loves us so much. He sent his own Son after us and he died on the cross to pay the price for our sin but then he rose from the dead. And if we will say yes to following him, if we will put our trust in him, we’ll be forgiven of our sin, adopted into the family of God, and become part of his mission in the world.
That’s the message of life. And he says, “That’s the purpose of my church is to storm the gates of death with the message of life.” And so, the question that we all have to ask ourselves as followers of Jesus is simply, “What’s my part in God’s purpose for the church?” What’s your part in God’s purpose for the church? Because we don’t all play the same part. At the moment, my part is pastor. It hasn’t always been that and it won’t always be that.
By the way, I’m not announcing anything. It’s not what this is about but someday I’m gonna retire. And I’m still at that moment gonna have to figure out my part in God’s purpose because as long as I’m on earth, as long as I’m part of the church, I’ve got a part to play in it. You gotta figure out your part in the church. How do you do that? How do we find our part in God’s purpose for the church? How do we play our part?
You know, it’s interesting. Again, we have this tendency to think that it’s this big moment. It’s this supernatural thing that happens. Or we say things like this. How many of you ever heard this? You gotta follow your passion. Anybody ever heard that one? Here’s the problem with following your passion. Many of your passions are stupid. You know I love you, right? But I know that because as I look back on my life, I have had a lot of stupid passions. A lot of our passions are stupid. Don’t follow your passions.
I love what Mike Rowe says. Remember Mike Rowe from “Dirty Jobs”? Mike says this, he says, “Don’t follow your passions, follow your opportunities.” That’s good. It may be the first time he’s ever been quoted in church. I don’t know. You wanna find your part in God’s purpose, follow your opportunities because see, that’s what Peter did. He said yes to following Jesus and then he said yes to opportunities. And he had a realization that it turns out to have been a revelation, not only about who Jesus was but about what his part in God’s purpose was.
That’s what it was for me. I said yes to following Jesus, I said yes to opportunities and I had a realization that actually turned into a revelation about the part that I was supposed to play. That’s what all of us have to do. We have to follow those opportunities.
Can I tell you about a person that I know, a friend of mine that inspires me so much in this whole area of finding your call? Her name’s Nancy. I got to know Nancy because she’s the friend of a pastor friend of mine. He’s been a friend and a mentor to me for many years and I got to know his wife, Nancy. And I love Nancy. You know, my friend is one of those kinda bigger-than-life pastors. You know, he kinda dominates the room everywhere he goes. But that’s just not his wife. It’s not Nancy at all. She’s very quiet. She’s unassuming. She doesn’t like to be in front of people. She has never at any point occupied an official position in that church or any other church. But what Nancy does really well is she listens.
You know, she goes to a restaurant and she meets the waitress and she goes, “How long have you been working here? And you know, what’s your biggest challenge here?” And she listens to their answer and they tend to open up to her. It’s a spiritual gift actually, I think. Or she goes to get her hair done and she talks to the stylist and she says, “You know, what’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in your life right now?” And they open up and she listens.
And at the end of the conversation, she goes, “Wait, I’m gonna be praying for you.” She doesn’t even pray for them right then because that’s just not who she is. And then she goes away and she prays and she does pray. And then she comes back and she asks them, you know, “I was praying for you about that thing we talked about last time. How’s that going?” And she just keeps doing that. And at some point, in that relationship, she also finds herself going, “Hey, like, you know what? We’re doing a series at church that I think really would speak to this issue you’re struggling with. Would you wanna come to church with me for this series?”
And here’s the thing, and some people will struggle with this. This may be a little controversial for some of you, but Nancy has never actually shared the Gospel. She’s never actually explained the Gospel and how people can say yes to Jesus and invited them to do it.
She’s never done that. She hasn’t prayed with them to receive Christ. She’s never done that. But over the years with what she has been doing, dozens and dozens of people have found Jesus. They have said yes to following Jesus. And they found their own calling, their own part in the verse. They’re following Jesus. They’re making a difference in the world because of what Nancy has done because she’s been playing her part. And I love that.
She’s never actually shared the Gospel and asked anybody to pray with her to receive Christ. But Nancy has been storming the gates of death with the message of life for 50 years. And there are dozens and dozens of people whose eternities have been changed because of that. So, what did she do? She said yes to following Jesus. She said yes to opportunities. And she found her part and she played it. So, how do we find our part?
We find our part in God’s purpose by saying yes to following Jesus and saying yes to opportunities to live on mission with him. Some of you need to say yes to Jesus. That’s what you need to do today. You need to put your faith in Jesus. You need to turn from your sins and say, “I don’t wanna go that way anymore. Jesus, I believe you died on the cross. You rose from the dead. I wanna follow you from here on out.” Some of you need to make that decision today.
And if you’re ready to make that decision today, we want you to let us know about it. You can do that by just texting the word Jesus to 80875. Let us know you’ve said yes to following Jesus. We wanna know about it. That’s the first and all-important foundational step. But after that, you’ve also gotta say yes to those opportunities. So, what are the opportunities? Well, maybe you do what Nancy did. Maybe you invite somebody to come to church for a series.
On your way out today, the greeters are gonna have cards about our next sermon series called “Unleashed”. Maybe you take one of those cards, pray over it and give that to somebody and say, “Hey, I think this might speak to you. Would you think about coming to church with me at the start of this series?” Or maybe you need to find a serve team to be part of. We’re big believers in being part of serve teams because when we serve in the church, we’re learning how to serve as the church in the world, which is what it’s really all about.
We make it really easy. You can go to missionhills.org/serve and you can sort through all kinds of opportunities. And if one of them doesn’t work out, try another one. You’re not necessarily gonna say yes to an opportunity and immediately like, “That’s my calling.” It could happen. But for a lot of us, it’s a slow realization that turns out to have been a revelation. So, find a team to serve on.
Or maybe… I’m gonna push in on this one a little bit. Maybe you need to step outside of your comfort zone so you can begin to hear what God is calling you to. And one of the best ways to do that is to be part of a short-term trip. We love short-term trips. Not only because we get a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, but because it allows us to get outside of our comfort zone and to begin to see how God wants to work in us and through us, as we begin to find our part in God’s purpose. I wanna challenge you to think about being part of a short-term trip. I wanna introduce you to a few people who have experienced God speaking to them about their part in his purpose through short-term trip. Would you listen to their stories?
For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about what we can do to move our faith forward because we know that the more progress with make in our faith, the more of a difference we make in the world. And today we want to talk about living generously because we believe that living generously is a keystone habit.
For instance, I was really, actually, a little disturbed to learn this, but did you know that making your bed is a keystone habit? I really did not wanna know that because that’s not my natural thing. How many of us are, like, natural, get up in the morning, first thing, make your bed? Yeah. Okay. How many of us are like, I would prefer to get back in bed as soon as possible, so I want it to be ready, so I’m not gonna make…? Okay, that’s, though, you’re my people, okay? I don’t actually do that. But I saw this study recently, it’s really interesting. And it said that 62% of people who make their beds on a reg…I’m sorry, 62% of people who don’t make their beds, in my camp, they report that they’re really kind of unhappy in life. And 71% of people who make their beds report that they’re generally pretty happy in life. And I was like, “Oh, no.”
Now, just so you know, that’s not because making your bed makes you happy. It’s not because making your bed releases all these endorphins or anything. It’s because making your bed, it’s a thing you do regularly, leads to automatically some other things. And one of the things that they found happens is when you make your bed, what you’re basically telling yourself is, “I’m a disciplined person.” And disciplined people, then, they make good decisions about eating, and they make good decisions about exercise, and that means they sleep better, and there’s all kinds of things. It just kind of cascades into a whole lot of other stuff that then results in some happiness, right? So, it’s a keystone habit. It’s something you do automatically, that, or regularly, that leads automatically to other good things. And what I’ve come to understand is that living generously is a keystone habit.
Living generously is something that if we can do it regularly, it actually leads automatically to other good things that we really all want in life. But, for me, and maybe for you, I have to acknowledge that living generously doesn’t come naturally. And as much as I’ve worked on this over the years, and God has grown me, the reality is there’s still places that I realize I am not as generous as I should be. I mean, there’s other little ways it comes out. One of them is, I see this, that whenever I’m thinking about buying something that I want, I’m always like, “Hey, it’s just really not that expensive.” When Coletta wants to buy something, my mind, like, my default reaction is, “I don’t know, hon. That seems really expensive.” Right? And that’s just a sign that there’s still room for improvement when it comes to living generously, for me, right?
Or how about this? Like, and I don’t wanna toot my own horn, but I am not the kind of person who gets front spaces in lines. I just, not the first guy in line. I, like, tend to hold back, let other people go first, because I’m just really spiritual that way. But there is one exception, and that exception is when there’s cake at the front of the line, and especially if there’s an edge piece up for grabs… You guys know what I’m talking about? Like, the piece with the, you know, it’s got two sides that are thoroughly iced. Maybe it’s got piped icing on both sides. Maybe there’s even a good icing rose kinda thing. In other words, it’s got the perfect, you know, icing to cake ratio. Like, if that piece is up for grabs, I will take out your grandma to be first in that line. And if I’m not first in line, I’m gonna be anxious and upset the whole time, afraid somebody’s gonna take my piece. Right?
And that’s just a little sign that there is still room for improvement in my life when it comes to living generously. So, how about you? Are you like me, that living generously doesn’t come naturally? If so, it’s normal, because we’re sinful, and sinfulness and generosity don’t tend to go together. But the good news is that by God’s help and his grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can actually make progress, and we’re gonna find that it does really good things in our lives. And by the way, this is true regardless of your, sort of, faith position. Even if you’re not a follower of Jesus, living generously can be good for you. But if you are a follower of Jesus, living generously is a keystone habit, because living generously is foundational for living missionally. If we wanna live on mission with Jesus, living generously is a keystone habit to move us in that direction.
So what I wanna do today is I wanna share three truths about generosity that you may not know. And they come from a short little teaching Jesus did in the Gospel of Luke. If you wanna follow along, we’re gonna be in Luke chapter 6, starting in verse 37. One short little teaching, but Jesus teaches us three things here that you might not know about living generously. He says this. He says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you’ll be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Short little teaching, and first thing we need to recognize is that teaching is all about generosity. And we know that because the heart of the passage, the center of the passage, and then the, and really, the entire second half of it, is all about something we naturally associate with generosity, and that is giving, right? The heart of this passage is a command and a promise. The command is to give, and the promise is, “and it will be given to you.” And then he goes on and expands that. And so we know this whole thing is really, it’s a teaching about generosity. But what’s interesting is, even though he’s teaching about generosity, he begins the teaching, not by saying something we’re supposed to give, but by something we’re not supposed to give, right?
And here’s your first truth about generosity that you may not know. Living generously is also about what we keep to ourselves. Do you know that? We tend naturally to think about generosity is always the things that we give away, and that’s certainly part of it. But what Jesus teaches us here is that living generously is also about what we keep to ourselves else. What does he say? He says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” In other words, he says, if you got judgment and condemnation in your heart, here’s what you can do. Just keep that stuff to yourself. And that’s actually part of living generously, is to keep things like judgment and condemnation to ourselves. Now, there’s a distinction that we need to make here between judgment or condemnation and something the Bible calls discernment. Okay. There’s a difference between judgment, condemnation, and discernment. Okay?
And here’s the difference. Discernment is about the appropriateness of behaviors. Okay? It’s about the appropriateness of behaviors. Judgment and condemnation are about the value of people. Now, as followers of Jesus, we have to be discerning. The Bible tells us we have to be discerning about the appropriateness of behaviors. In other words, as followers of Jesus, we have to look at some behaviors and go, “Hey, that’s sin, and I can’t have anything to do with it. That’s wrong, and I can’t let it be part of my life, because it’ll get me out of alignment with God’s character, and it’ll get me off track of God’s will in my life.” And so, we have to discern the appropriateness of those behaviors. And, because we care about other people, sometimes we have to say to somebody that we love, we have to say, “Hey, I love you.” And by the way, that’s how you have to start it. Say, “I love you. And because I love you, I need to tell you that what you’re doing is sin, it’s wrong, and it’s going to hurt you.”
So, sometimes, we have to be discerning about behaviors for other people as well. The danger, of course, is that we can easily move from discerning the appropriateness of behaviors into judging and condemning the people who are caught up in those behaviors, right? One of the groups of people that Jesus had conflict with most frequently was a group of religious leaders called the Pharisees. And it’s interesting that the Pharisees and Jesus didn’t clash about discernment, that they kind of agreed on most of their discernments about what was and wasn’t sin. They clashed because the Pharisees weren’t just discerning sin, they were dismissing the people caught up in that sin. Essentially communicating, “You don’t have any real value.”
There was a very famous story where some Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who’d been caught in adultery. And they threw her down in front of Jesus. And they said, “Hey, this woman was caught in the act of adultery, and according to the Old Testament Law, the Law of Moses, we’re supposed to stone to death anyone caught in adultery. So, what should we do, Jesus?” And they thought they had him. And Jesus said, “How about this for a plan? Whichever one of you is without sin, why don’t you go ahead and be first one to throw a stone.” And one by one, they dropped the stones and they walked away, until it was just Jesus and this woman. And Jesus looked at her and he said, “Is there no one left to condemn you?” She said, “No.”
And then Jesus said, “Then neither do I condemn you.” But he also said, “Now, go and leave your life of sin.” See, that’s discernment. It’s even discernment spoken into the life of another person. But it’s discernment spoken with love. It’s discernment spoken with a value on that human being made as God’s image. Okay? The Pharisees didn’t have a problem with discernment, but they were full of condemnation and judgment, and they didn’t keep it to themselves. They were quick to lay that on people. And so, Jesus says, “Hey, as far as this judgment and condemnation stuff goes, just keep that to yourself.” And that’s actually part of living generously. Why? Because living generously is about giving things to people that will help them, right?
But judgment and condemnation don’t help. In fact, it often weighs them down, and it anchors them to their past because it makes them feel like this is just who I am. I’m just somebody who does these things. This is… I’m a disgusting sinner. And there’s no hope in that. There’s no possibility in that. And so, Jesus says, if it’s good for somebody, if it will help them, what do we do with it? We give it away. But if it’s gonna hurt them, what do we do with it? We keep it to ourselves. Let’s do that together. If it’s not good for them, if it’s gonna hurt, then what do we do? We keep it to ourselves. He says, “This is living generously.”
See, here’s a question to wrestle with. What do I need to work on keeping to myself in order to live more generously? Maybe it’s judgment. Maybe it’s condemnation. Or it might be something less obvious than that.
It could be something like one. I have a little bit of a hard time with. It could be opinions. I have a lot of opinions. And I like to share my opinions. But one of the things I’m realizing as I have adult children is that to live generously with them, and to give them space to grow into the women that God’s designed them to be, I need to be a little less forthcoming with some of my opinions. Now, understand, we’re not talking about sin stuff. They’re making really consistently wise decisions. It’s just like, “Oh, this is what I think,” or, “This is what I would do.” And you know what? That’s not giving them some of the space they need. And so, God’s been working on me, that I just need to be a little bit less forthcoming with some of my opinions, and that’s actually a process of learning to live generously with them.
So, what is it for you? What do you need to work on keeping to yourself in order to live a little bit more generously? That’s the first surprising truth, that living generously is as much about what we keep to ourselves as it is what we give away.
The second thing…he does begin to move here to something that we give. And the second truth we’re gonna find is that living generously is about more than money. We naturally tend to think about generosity in terms of money, and certainly that’s part of it, but it’s not just about money. In fact, the first thing that Jesus says we’re supposed to give has nothing to do with cash. What he says is this. He says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” That’s the first giving thing he points to when he starts to talk here about living generously. He says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Living generously is about more than just money. Forgiveness is actually a thing that we can give in order to be generous. Now, why is that generous? Why is forgiving somebody generous? Well, because it has the two big ingredients that go into living generously. The first one is that it’s gonna be helpful. Forgiving other people is helpful. It’s helpful in your relationship with them. It also can be helpful in their relationship with God, because sometimes, being forgiven by a human being is their first glimmer of hope that maybe there’s a God who could forgive them too. So, it has that first ingredient of being helpful, but it’s also got the second key ingredient of generosity. And that is that it’s costly. It’s costly to the one who gives it. And forgiveness is costly, isn’t it? Giving somebody forgiveness for something they’ve really done wrong, that costs you something.
I’m gonna tell you a story. And I just want you to know before I tell you the story that I got permission from my wife to tell you this story. Okay. You’ll see why in a second. But we’re committed to living publicly in the things that we get wrong, as well as some of the things that God’s teach us and we’re getting right.
And several years ago, you’re not gonna believe this, Coletta forgot my birthday. And my birthday’s on Valentine’s Day, so it’s hard to forget. Okay. Now, in her defense, we had already decided we were gonna celebrate it after we got back from a trip, because we were traveling out of the country, and so, it wasn’t that she completely forgot it. And then, the day of, like, we were with some friends, and they had some stuff going on. We were spending time with them, and we had a very small baby who was colicky, and she just, she cried from, like, 3:00 in the morning constantly. So we were wiped out. And so, there was a lot of stuff going on, but, you know, the day got later and later and later, and Coletta hadn’t realized that it was my birthday. Hadn’t said happy birthday or anything like that. And then late, late, late in the day, she suddenly went, “Oh, no. I forgot your birthday.” And I was like, “Yeah, you kinda did.”
Now, when Coletta and I have a conflict, I’m gonna tell you right now, the most frustrating thing that she does. Okay? I got permission on this. The most frustrating thing she does when we have conflict… See, here’s the thing. Some people go, “Oh, the most frustrating thing about conflict is you realize that you were wrong, she tells you and shows you that you’re wrong, and then you have to apologize.” No, no, no. I’ve done that so many times I’m used to that. That’s not a problem. Okay? No, the most frustrating thing she does is she realizes when she was wrong, she goes, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” I hate that. Because there’s a nasty little part of me that doesn’t want to forgive it. Right?
There’s a nasty little part of me that wants to be able to hold the wrong that she did against her at some future date. Like, and let me tell you what, somebody forgetting your birthday, your wife forgetting your birthday, that is a get out of jail free card, that, like, you want to hold onto. Right? I mean, I could use that constantly. Like, “Hey honey, you know, you said, you were gonna fix the sink and you forgot.” “Well, I seem to recall once that you forgot my birthday.” “Hey Craig, you really hurt my feelings. You’re kind of insensitive.” “Well, probably not as badly as you hurt my feelings when you forgot my birthday that one time.” Like, that’s a card I wanna keep in my back pockets.
But she goes, “I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me?” Dadgummit. “I guess I’m gonna have to forgive you.” And here’s the problem. See, forgiveness is giving up the right to hold someone’s wrong against them. Right? That’s what forgiveness is. It’s giving up the right to hold someone’s wrong against them. And there’s a nasty little part of me, and there’s probably, if we’re really honest with each other, there’s a nasty little part of you that kinda wants to hold onto that wrong someone’s done, so that you can use it against them.
But when we forgive, we give that right up. And that’s costly. But see, that’s the two elements of generosity, right? See, generosity is giving help to others at a cost to ourselves. That’s generosity. Giving help to others at a cost to ourselves. And Jesus says, “One of the powerful ways you can begin to live more generously is you can start to be more forgiving.” Who do you need to forgive? Who has done you wrong, that you’re holding onto the rights to hold that wrong against them? Because if the Holy Spirit speaks to you about a relationship where that’s an accurate description, there’s a call of God on your life in that place to begin obeying his call to live more generously by extending that forgiveness.
See, living generously is about a lot more than just money. And if it’s about things like forgiveness, then that opens the door to the possibility that living generously is about a whole lot of things that we haven’t really thought much about. It’s about a lot more than just money. One of the things we talk about here at Mission Hills when we talk about living generously is we talk about living generously with our time, our talent, and our treasure. Just because those are convenient categories to begin to think about all the resources God’s put in our lives, our time, and our talent, and our treasure. By the way, notice it’s time, talent, and treasure, not time, talent, or treasure.
Because living generously is about being generous with every resource God has put into our lives. And what most people do, the reality is… I know what I’m always tempted to do, and I think you’ll probably find that you are as well, is we kind of pick one of those categories. We go, “I’m being really, really generous with my time, so I don’t need to be generous with my treasure, with my money.” Or maybe, maybe you’re one of those people you’re like, “I am really generous with my treasure, so I don’t need to be generous with my time. I don’t need to be serving. They got that covered. Other people can do that.” And here’s the reality, too. It’s interesting. For me, at least, what I tend to do is I tend to be most generous with those things that I feel like I have the most of. And unfortunately, that’s when I’m actually being least generous. Because if I have the most of it, then I don’t feel the sacrifice, in which case, it’s not really generosity, because, remember, generosity is about giving help to others at a cost to our ourselves, something we feel.
And so, maybe you’re going, “Hey, I’m giving really generously financially,” but the Spirit’s saying, “Yeah, but let’s talk about whether or not you’re living generously with your talent and your time.” Or maybe you’re being really generous with your time, and the Holy Spirit’s going, “Yeah, but are you being really generous with your talent and with your treasure?” It’s a question we need to wrestle with. Am I living generously with my time, talent, and treasure? Because living generously is about more than money.
Third truth about generosity you may not know is that generosity is good for us. Living generously is good for us. We kind of know that being generous is good for the people that we give to, right? But what the Bible teaches consistently, and what Jesus leans in on here, is that living generously is actually good for us. It’s good for those who give. What does he say? He says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Meaning a generous measure, right? Because if you take a measuring cup and you scoop up some wheat, there’s a lot of air between the particles of wheat. And so, if you shake it and you push it down, you create more space, and then you can get more in there. The point is, this is a generous measure. It will be poured into your lap. It’ll be given to you. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
This is generosity is good for you. And there’s a couple of ways that plays out. One of ’em is that generosity has what I sometimes think of as a boomerang effect. True generosity tends to come back to us, right? Well, what God kinda says here is that whatever posture we adopt with other people is the posture that he adopts with us. And if we adopt a generous posture with other people, then he adopts a very generous posture with us.
So, there’s a boomerang effect, that we give and it’s given to us. Now, there’s an important thing to understand here. This isn’t saying that God is a guaranteed slot machine, okay? This is not God’s get-rich-quick scheme. This is not saying that if you give God a dime, you’re gonna get back a dollar. It’s not saying that if you give God a dime, you’re always gonna get that dime back. Some people read these promises of God, and they’re like, “Oh yeah. If I wanna get rich, then I just need to give lots of money away, because then God will give me even more back.” And that’s not what God promises.
Here’s what God promises, that God generously rewards generous people. God generously reward generous people. That principle’s all over the Bible. But it’s not always financial. Some people have experienced that. They’ve given financially, and God has given them more resources financially, but that’s not true for everyone. Sometimes God richly rewards in other ways. Sometimes people live generously, and God rewards them with peace. Sometimes, people will give generously, and God rewards them with joy, or with a community of people that are there for them no matter what. I mean, there’s lots of different ways that God rewards, but God always rewards, generously rewards, generous people.
See, the problem with, you know, if I give money, then I should get money back, the problem with reading His promise that way is that it misunderstands that if you’re giving to get something back, then you’re not really being what? You’re not really being generous. And it’s only true generosity gets rewarded. Which is interesting, when… I call it the boomerang effect… I had a boomerang when I was a kid, and I realized something interesting about the boomerang. The harder I tried to get that thing to come back to me, the less likely I was to get it to come back to me. If I was just trying to throw it as hard as I could, like, to get it away from me, inevitably, it came back. And it’s kinda like that. If we’re giving to get something back, we’re not really being generous, but when we’re being generous simply for the sake of being generous and being obedient to God’s call to live generously, we do find that God richly rewards that generosity. So that’s one of the ways that we find that giving is good for us, that living generously is good for us.
The other way that we find that it’s good for us is because living generously sets us free. It sets us free. Because the reality is that the blessings that God has given can become a curse, if we use them for something they were never intended for. You hear me, church?
Look at me. This is really important. The blessings God pours into your life could become, potentially, a curse in your life, if you don’t use them for what they’re intended for. And the blessings that God pours into your life are intended to be a blessing to others. And if we don’t use them that way, they actually become a curse to us, which is why Jesus, a little bit later in the Gospel of Luke, said this. He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you’ll be devoted to the one and you’ll despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Does that mean money’s bad? No. Not at all. Sometimes people misquote the Bible. They go, “Well, doesn’t the Bible say that money is the root of all kinds of evil?” No. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Big difference.
Money is a good gift from God. But money is a dangerous gift in some ways, because money has a tendency to attract our loyalty. It has a tendency to attract our attention, and to mistakenly cause us to believe that money is a source of security. That if we have enough of it, we’ll be secure, we’ll be safe, we’ll be good to go. And money can’t provide that. And it certainly can’t provide the deeper things in life that we need, like joy, and peace, and love. But money tends to want to become our master. And so, Jesus says, you gotta be careful. You can’t serve both God and money.
Or, if you prefer the words of the famous theologian Bob Dylan, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” And the question is whether or not it’s a God who loves you or money that’s incapable of love, and can’t provide any of the things that the world tries to teach us it could provide. So no, you can’t serve two masters. You can’t serve both God and money. Money is a blessing from God, but it’s potentially a dangerous blessing. So, how do we stay out from under the suffocating weight of money? How do we keep money from becoming our master?
One of the things people will say is, “Well, we just don’t have to worry about it as long as we don’t have a lot of it.” Don’t have to worry about how to keep it from becoming my master because I don’t have enough of it to be mastered by it. And that’s a massive mistake. Because let me teach you a truth. The issue isn’t how much money we have, it’s how much money has us. You hear me, church? It’s not how much money we have, it’s how much our money has us. And I can tell you, from somebody who spent a lot of his life in a place where I really wasn’t sure how I was gonna make the next mortgage payment for many months, I didn’t have a lot of money. And money could absolutely become my master in those moments, too. Because I could get focused, I could get fixated, “Well, how can I get some more of it? If I just had a little bit more of it, then, you know, then there’d be peace, there’d be security.”
And so, not having a lot of money, there was still a danger of putting an emphasis on money, that actually made it my master. And then you go onto the other side, and God’s blessed us financially, and we’re in a different place in life right now, and we have more money than we need. And then there’s that temptation to hold onto it. Because, “Hey, I might need it.” It’s not how much money you have. It’s how much your money has you. So it doesn’t matter whether you have a lot or a little. You need to understand how to keep money from becoming your master. And how do you do it? God’s principle for keeping money from becoming your master is generosity.
Listen to me. Generosity is how we keep money from becoming our master. Generosity. That’s what it is. Living generously is how we keep from being mastered by any particular blessing. And this is where it’s so important that you understand that what I’m teaching you, what God says consistently in his Word is for you, okay? It’s for you. This is nothing God wants from you. It’s nothing I want from you. This is something that we want for you. We want you to experience the peace and the joy that comes from being free from the dangers of a blessing turning into a curse because you’re unwilling to give it away.
Here’s the thing. You are made to be a river, not a reservoir. You’re made to be a river, not a reservoir. Okay? The blessings of God are intended to flow into your life and to flow out of your life, blessing other people. That’s true of every blessing, financial and otherwise. You’re a river, not a reservoir. This is the rhythm of life. This is the way that God designed the world to work. And when it’s working that way, there’s health, right? The rain falls, and the river carries it out, but the reservoir holds it in.
We see it all over the world. We, you know, we see that the tides come in and then the tides go out. We breathe in, we breathe out. And if we don’t breathe out, we pass out. It doesn’t work. Life doesn’t work that way. In and out, in and out. That’s the rhythm of life, and it’s the rhythm God calls us to when we think about the resources that he’s blessed us with. This is nothing God wants from you. This is something God deeply wants for you because he loves you. So listen, one of the most powerful ways to move our faith forward is just to take the next step of generosity. Is to take the next step of generosity.
So, what’s my next step of generosity? That’s the question you wanna ask yourself. What’s my next step of generosity? And by the way, if you’re new with us, you’ll notice that I’m using the word “next step.” I’m not setting some arbitrary standard, going, “You gotta get to this level. You gotta become a super generous person.” Because the reality is, as we say often here at Mission Hills, its that small steps in the same direction will get you to places you hadn’t thought possible. You might look at your life and go, “I am not living generously in any area of my life.” And you may even, right now, in this moment, begin feeling a little bit of the stagnation that’s happening because of that. And you’re like, “But I don’t know how to get from where I am to this idea of a generous life.” Listen, all you have to do is take the next step, and then the next step. So, what’s your next step of generosity? That’s all you need to think about today.
Let me give you a roadmap for the next step of living generosity. We use this here at Mission Hills, and we’re gonna talk about money, not because that’s where all generosity comes from or because that’s the only thing we’re interested in, but because it’s easiest to grab hold of the concepts, when we just talk about money. It’ll just be simpler, but you’ll get the concepts you can apply in other areas of your life. So, here’s the roadmap to the next step. It’s nothing to something. It’s something to something sacrificial. It’s something sacrificial to what we call a tithe. And it’s a tithe to what we call spirit-led generosity. Those are your next steps. Let me just break ’em down for you. So, if you’re giving nothing, your next step is to start giving something. It really doesn’t matter how much.
The next time we do an offering, and by the way, we’re not doing another offering today. The next time you have an opportunity to give, give something. Maybe $20, maybe it’s $10, maybe it’s $5. And you might think, well, what’s $5 gonna do? Well, first off, understand that it’s gonna do something for you. You’re beginning to build a habit, something you do regularly, that’s gonna have an incredibly powerful impact on you over time, automatically. So it’s powerful in your life, even if it’s only $5. And the reality is that, you know, interesting statistic, we have several thousand people who join us at Mission Hills every weekend. We figured there’s probably 2000 to 3000 people who don’t give at all, and that’s okay. There’s no judgment. There’s no condemnation. That’s fine.
But here’s the interesting thing. If two of those thousand people started to give $5 a week, that’d be half a million dollars a year just at Mission Hills. And you’ve heard stories. Every week, we tell stories about what good God is doing with that in the world. Half a million dollars could do a lot of good in the world, advancing the cause of Christ and bringing good to people. So $5 would be good for you, and it would be good in the world. So if you’re giving nothing, your next step is just start giving something.
Now, if you’re already giving something, your next step would be to start giving something sacrificial. And what I mean by that is something that you feel a little bit. Because the reality is, a lot of us are never gonna feel $5. Okay? Now, some of you will. For some of you, $5 would be a sacrifice, and that’s fantastic. It’s different for everybody. But for a lot of us, $5 a week, we wouldn’t even notice.
So what we need to do is we need to start getting something that we feel a little bit, because the reality is that it’s when we start to feel the sacrifice that we start to feed our generosity. Okay? It’s when we start to feel the sacrifice that our generosity begins to grow. I mean, think about it. If you got a backpack with 100 pounds in it, and somebody takes out a little pack of Kleenex, your hike did not get easier. Hike gets easier, things begin to change. You begin to feel the power of generosity growing in your life when you’re actually feeding it with a sacrifice that you feel, okay? Maybe that’s an amount. Maybe it’s a percentage amount. Coletta and I, that was one of our big next steps. We started giving a percentage of our income. Now, if you’re giving something sacrificial, your next step might be what we call a tithe.
And tithe, if you don’t know that word, it’s an Old Testament concept, the before Jesus part of the Bible, and basically the idea is that the people of God would give the first 10% of whatever God blessed them with back to God as a way of honoring him. That’s what a tithe was. The first 10% of what we get from God, we give back to God in order to honor him. Now, I realize that’s a lot of math, right? Like, I’ve got, like, mathematical, like first…anybody confused yet? Ten percent? Like, I know, like, decimal points. What do we do? So, to simplify this, I asked a friend to break it down for us. So, check this out.
Child: Today, we are going to talk about tithing. It’s a simple topic that everyone should understand. Grown-ups love their money, but I’m only four. What’s this thing? So, I’m gonna teach you this lesson using donuts. Pretend these donuts are monies. Money doesn’t taste good as donuts. I want to eat one bite of you. They’re not my donuts, they’re God’s donuts. Since I have 10 donuts, God just wants the first donut. Just the first, not the last. If you don’t give him the first donut, you might forget. There’s car payments. Gotta pay for your house. Might have a kid like me, and I like toys. Before I take any bites, well, next time, I’m going to give God my first donut.
Craig: It’s pretty simple, right? Yeah. If you’re giving something sacrificial, maybe your next step is start giving a tithe. Coletta and I made it a practice many years ago to, whenever money comes in, we just move the decimal place one place to the left, and whatever that is, that’s your 10%. We give that to the church. And if you’re not there yet, maybe that’s the next step God’s calling you to. If you’re giving a tithe, of course, you’re done. Nowhere to go from there. Can’t possibly be any more generous than that, right? Now, you know what they say? That the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. There’s always room for a next step. And the next step, if you’re giving a tithe, the next step is what we call spirit-led generosity. Spirit-led generosity. And what that means is that you give your first 10% to your local church, whatever church that is, and then above and beyond that, you look for opportunities to bless others and to advance the Gospel in the world, by giving opportunities. And so, Coletta and I give our first 10% to Mission Hills, and then above and beyond that, we support a number of missionaries and compassion children. And we’re always looking for other opportunities that God would lead us to, to give and bless in those ways.
Now, whether it’s nothing to something, something to something sacrificial, something sacrificial to tithe, or tithe to spirit-led generosity, there is a really important principle here, and that is that we give to God first, right? Not last. We give to God first. And what we say here at Mission Hills is that giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom. And living on the rest builds contentment. It’s a pretty good principle to live by. If you wanna grow in generosity, giving first honors God, saving second, putting some money aside, save, and then living on the rest, that builds contentment.
So, what’s your next step of generosity? Understanding, of course, that the God who calls you to be generous is a God who has modeled for us a generosity that we can’t ever hope to match, right? God doesn’t just tell us to be generous. He is generous. Greatest demonstration of that, a very famous verse, even if you’re new to church, you may have heard this perverse before. For God so loved the world that He… What’s, that word church?
Together: He gave.
Craig: He gave. He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. That’s a generous God right there. He loves us so much he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay the price for our sin that separates us from him. And then God raised him from the dead, and then he offers us salvation simply by putting our trust in him, by saying yes, to following Jesus from here on out. That is generosity we can never hope to match.
And so, our call to live generously is actually the call of a generous God to begin to experience the life of so many good things that he longs for us because of that generosity. It may be for some of you, your next step of generosity is not to begin giving, but simply to receive. To receive this gift of forgiveness and eternal life that God offers. In fact, I wanna give you a chance to do that right now. Would everyone, wherever you are, just close your eyes, bow your head. If you’re not yet a follower of Jesus, if you’ve never received his free gift of eternal life that he purchased for you on the cross, I encourage you to accept that gift right here, right now. Here’s what it looks like. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God. You’re gonna say something like this. Just repeat it in your heart after me.
God, I’ve sinned. I’ve done wrong. I’m sorry. Thank you for giving the gift of your Son. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to forgive me. I believe you rose from the dead. I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness and salvation, eternal life, in return for my faith. So, Jesus, I’m giving you my trust. I’m saying “yes” to following you. I’m gonna follow you from here on out. Amen.
Can we celebrate those who’ve made that decision to receive God’s generosity today? Hey, if you made that decision for the first time today, we would love to celebrate with you. Would you do something for me? Would you just let us know? Let us know you made that decision by just text the word JESUS to 80875. Just text JESUS to 80875. Let us know you made the decision. Let us know where to send some other free resources that we wanna generously give you, to begin living this new relationship with our generous God. We can never hope to match the generosity of God. And it’s actually his generosity and his desire for us to experience good things that calls him to call us to live generously.