Join us for a special Mother’s Day message about a woman’s highest calling to be a woman who hears and honors the word of God. Jesus’ mother, Mary, was an example of how even God’s chosen may be required to set aside our plans for that of the Lord. The “word of God” isn’t a message to hear, it is a mission to accept.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mother’s Day at Mission Hills, so good to have you with us today. Hey, can I just be honest? They didn’t tell you that Mother’s Day is probably one of the hardest weekends of the year for a preacher, because here’s the thing, writing a good message for Mother’s Day feels a little bit like somebody’s lined up like four or five needles and given you a piece of thread and said, “Good luck. You got one shot to get this through all of those needles,” because there’s several different kind of needles we’re trying to thread on Mother’s Day. On the one hand, one of the things we wanna do is we wanna make sure that we honor all of our moms. We know that being a mom is not easy. We know you’re not women, you’re warriors, and we love you, and we respect you. And so we want you to be honored in a way that feels genuine and authentic and not pandering or cliché. So there’s that one.
But then there’s also the needle of the fact that we recognize that not everybody listening is a mom. I mean, first off, 50% of you are men, so you’re out, right? And then you got little kids and people at different stages of life that may not have kids. And then we don’t ever want anybody to walk away from a weekend in Mission Hills not feeling like they got something from the Lord for them personally. So there’s that needle to thread. And then there’s the reality that some women don’t have kids, and that’s a point of pain. You’re maybe even trying to have kids, but you’re struggling with infertility or something like that, and so it’s a painful moment, and Mother’s Day rather than being joyous is a reminder of that pain. And so there’s that needle we wanna be threading. We need to be sensitive to that.
And then there’s…honestly, there’s this reality. And we don’t ever say this on Mother’s Day because Mother’s Day is all about all moms are awesome, and we all know that’s not true. And you might have had a mom who wasn’t awesome. You might’ve had one of the bad moms, honestly, and that might have been a relationship that’s incredibly painful. And so Mother’s Day is a reminder of how bad that relationship was or maybe even still is.
And then, of course, there’s the needle of the fact that sometimes you have kids and you love your kids, but they’re prodigals, not protégés, prodigals. They’ve gone off. Maybe there’s an estrangement in that relationship or there’s pain and there’s suffering there. And so there’s just all kinds of different things that we’re trying to do on Mother’s Day, and it’s really hard, I think, to navigate all of those kind of rocky shores there.
Now, one of the reasons that…this is one of the reasons one of the churches sometimes just kind of skip over Mother’s Day entirely. They’re just like, “Yeah, it’s just too tricky. We’ll let the worship leader say Happy Mother’s Day, and then the preaching just doesn’t do anything at all with it. Sometimes that is messy too. I was the worship leader once for a Mother’s Day weekend where the pastor preached on hell.
I don’t think he did it on purpose. Like, I don’t think he was going, “You know what moms need to hear about?” I don’t think that was what happened. I think he just kind of forgot it was coming, had a series plan, hell was the topic, and then he got closer, he was like, “Oh, you know, it landed on Mother’s Day.” And he’s like, “Yeah, it’s a Hallmark holiday. Let’s just do this thing, right?” I was the worship leader, and I can just tell you, from my vantage point, it did not go well, okay?
I mean, everybody came in. They were all happy. The moms were dressed to the nines, little girls in spring dresses, little boys in, like, suit coats and bow ties. It’s always been interesting to me that for some reason, like, little boys end up in bow ties at church on Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is the one day moms all get what they want, right? And apparently what a lot of moms want is little boys in bow ties. So they were looking good. Everybody was looking good. The dad’s not quite as much. I’m gonna be honest with you, okay? The dads, a lot of them were sporting little bits of pancake batter in various places, some bacon grease, and a kind of a shell-shocked look in general in their eyes.
But, overall, everybody’s pretty happy. And they came in. I made sure we did kinda upbeat songs. Everybody’s feeling really good by the time the message started. But then the message started. You could feel the joy being sucked out of the room. Like worst Mother’s Day ever, right? So I learned my lesson. We are not gonna be talking about hell today. We’re gonna talk today instead about something I think is much more appropriate to Mother’s Day, sexual sin.
Okay. I’m glad you laughed. I’m totally kidding. We’re not gonna do that either. What we are gonna do today is we’re gonna take a look at an incident, an event from Jesus’s life that I think demonstrates what Jesus values most in his own mom and by extension really what Jesus values most in all of us. So if you wanna join me, we’re gonna be in the Gospel of Luke today, chapter 11, Gospel of Luke chapter 11. And while you’re turning there, let me just say this, Gospel of Luke is one of four books in the Bible, four things that we call the Gospels that record the life of Jesus.
And it’s interesting that in some cases all four of the Gospels record the same incident from the life of Jesus, sort of big moments in his ministry, they all talk about, but there are some things that only each one of the Gospels sort of picks out as their unique things. And the story we’re gonna look at today is something that is one of those sort of unique elements from the Gospel of Luke. Luke is the only one who tells us that this happened, and yet it’s a really interesting kind of a story. It says this, it’s Luke chapter 11, we’re starting verse 27 today, “As Jesus was saying these things.” So Jesus teaching, he’s in the middle of a teaching time, “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you,'” which is a little bit of an awkward kind of a thing to yell out in a crowd, isn’t it? And, actually, it’s more awkward in the original. This was originally written in Greek, and in the original… The New International has cleaned it up a little bit.
In the original, it literally says that she cried out, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you.” Can you imagine if somebody yelled that in the middle of a sermon? Like, why are you talking about wombs and breasts? This is way too much TMI, right? What are you doing here? Right? But that’s what she does, and understand that she’s speaking out of respect, okay? She’s impressed by Jesus, and she wants to honor the mom who did this amazing thing, who made this amazing contribution to the world by bringing him into it. And so she yells out essentially, “Hey, you know, blessing and honor on your mom because she brought you into the world.”
It’s also, I think, important to understand that what she’s doing is she’s speaking out of an issue, is articulating a belief that was very, very common in the ancient world. In fact, it was probably the only belief about women in the ancient world. And it’s actually a view that I think we find pretty commonly even today. And that is she speaking out of the belief that the greatest contribution a woman can make to the world is having and raising kids. That’s what she’s doing. She goes, “Hey, your mom did it. She succeeded. She managed to live up to her highest calling. She had and raised you.” There’s that belief that having and raising kids is the highest contribution that a woman can make to the world.
What’s interesting is that Jesus, instead of confirming that belief, he confronts it. Look what he says, “And he replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.'” So he stops, right? I mean, he’s teaching, this woman calls this thing out, and he stops what he’s doing to address it. He says, “No, blessed rather…” And that word rather is actually very strong. In the original Greek, that word was a word that you typically use for a rebuttal. It was a word that you would use when somebody said something, you went, “I hear what you’re saying. I know where you’re coming from, but you’re wrong, and I can’t let this one pass. I can’t afford to allow you to continue to believe this, so I need to lean in, and we need to change your thinking about this, okay?”
So this woman essentially interrupts her, and he goes, “Hey, what she just said was wrong enough that I need to stop what I was talking about, and we need to talk about this thing.” So she says, “Hey, your mom is blessed because she had and she raised you.” And he goes, “No, blessed rather,” or some translations say, “on the contrary, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it. And what Jesus is doing, it’s important you understand this, is Jesus says that a woman’s highest calling isn’t to have kids. It’s to hear the Word of God and obey it. He says, “That’s a woman’s highest call, it’s to hear the Word of God and obey it.”
And I think it’s important to understand that Jesus isn’t dissing his mom here, okay? He’s not taking honor away from his mom and giving it to other people, okay? He’s actually…I believe he’s honoring his mom. Really, listen to me. Jesus isn’t refusing to honor his mom. He’s insisting that she be honored for the right reasons. He’s insisting on honoring her for the right reasons. He wants to honor his mom. I believe he’s thinking about his mom when he said this. And part of the reason I say that is because, as I said, this is a story that’s unique to the Gospel of Luke. But Luke is also the only Gospel that records the details of a time that the word of God came to Jesus’ mother, Mary.
The word of God came to Mary when she was a young girl, an unmarried virgin. The angel brought her the word, and the word was essentially, “Hey, you found favor with God, and there is a reward for that. You’re gonna become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. In a culture that takes sexual promiscuity very seriously, you’re gonna become an unmarried pregnant girl by the power of the Holy Spirit.” And Mary understandably had questions. And it felt like what God was saying was impossible. It felt like what he was asking her to do was impossible. And she asked those questions, and the angel basically said, “Trust God.” And then he said this. He said, “For no word from God will ever fail.” No word from God will ever fail.
And Mary had a choice at this moment. She had to decide, “Am I gonna obey that word or not? I’ve heard it, sure, but what am I gonna do now? Do I obey it or not?” And this is what she said, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. That’s obedience. She said, “Your word matters more than my plan. Your mission for me matters more than what I was expecting to do. I’m the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”
So the word of God came to her, and what did she do? She heard it, and she obeyed it. I think it is probably also important to recognize this. Sometimes in the church, in fact, most of the time in the church, when we use the phrase, the word of God, we’re referring to the Bible, right? And that’s not wrong. The Bible is the word of God. But sometimes we hear the phrase, the word of God, and we tend to go, “Oh, it’s a message from God. The Bible is a message from God. The word of God is a message from God.” And what we need to understand is that in the Bible the word of God isn’t a message to hear. It’s a mission to accept. You hear me, church?
That’s not the phrases used in the Bible. It’s not a message from God to hear. It’s a mission to accept. A man named Abraham heard the word of the Lord and the word of the Lord was, “Leave your father’s country and go to a place that I will show you.” That was a mission to accept, and Abraham accepted it. A man named Moses heard the word of the Lord, and the word was, “Go down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let my people go.” That was a mission to accept, and Moses accepted it. A man named Nathan, a prophet, Nathan heard the word of the Lord, “Go to King David and confront him on account of his sin.” That was a mission to accept, and Nathan accepted it.
A young woman, an unmarried virgin heard the word of the Lord, and that word was a mission. It was, “Trust me, come with me. I’ve got a mission for you, and it’s not gonna be easy. I promise you, it’s not always gonna be fun. You’re going to get hurt. But if you come with me, the world will never be the same.” The word of God isn’t just a message to hear. It’s always a mission to accept. And that’s what Mary did. And that’s what Jesus is thinking about as he says, “Yeah, the real blessed ones are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
It’s interesting to me too. You know, Mary had another son. His name was James, and I feel bad for James, don’t you? I mean, he grew up with Jesus as an older brother. Anybody have an older sibling that thinks they’re God’s gift to the earth? Yeah. You gotta feel for James, don’t you? And James didn’t always buy it. He didn’t believe it. In fact, at one point, James, I think, was part of a group that went to Jesus in his ministry, and they tried to take him home because they thought he’d lost his mind. And yet somewhere along the line, James actually became a believer. James came to believe that Jesus was in fact the Son of God. Can you imagine the mental shift that has happened for you to begin to believe that your brother is in fact God’s greatest gift to earth because he’s actually the Son of God himself?
How does that happen? And the answer is the Resurrection. The Resurrection is what convinced James. James knew he was dead. And James also knew, and then he wasn’t. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And the only way that’s possible is if God was on the move. And the only reason God would be moving in that way is because Jesus is exactly who he’s been telling us he is. And so James actually became a follower of Jesus. He became the leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem.
And James wrote this. It’s so interesting. He said, “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,” that’s the word of God, “and continues in it not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it, obeying it, they will be blessed in what they do.” He says essentially the same thing that Jesus says. This woman interrupts Jesus and says, you know, your mom has lived up to her highest calling. She’s made her greatest contribution to the world by having and raising kids, by having and raising you. And Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word and do it, who hear the word and obey it, who hear the message and accept the mission.”
So understand when Jesus says this, he’s not refusing to honor his mom. He’s insisting on honoring her for the right reasons because she didn’t just hear the message, she accepted the mission. She’s been living on mission with God. And what Jesus is essentially saying here, and this is so important to understand, is that a woman’s greatest contribution to the world isn’t having kids. It’s living on mission with God. You with me, church? A woman’s greatest contribution to the world is living on mission with God.
Now, does that mean that motherhood doesn’t matter, that it’s insignificant? Does that mean that having kids and raising kids is not a high calling or a sacred privilege? Not at all because it’s all of those things if we see them in the right light, if we see it in the right light, if we see it as God sees it. I love what God says about parenting. Probably my favorite statement about parenting comes from Psalm 127, Psalm 127:4 says this, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the one whose quiver is full of them.” Like arrows in the hands of a warrior.
But I’m curious. How many of you have heard that before? Yeah, a lot of hands. Okay. I grew up in church, and I heard that all the time. And what people seem to mean by it was children are a blessing because they’ll take care of you when you get old. That’s how people have always used it. And here’s the problem with that. An arrow is not a caregiving commodity. Like, nobody’s ever been going, “I’m just in need. I’m just feeling raw. I really need something. Could somebody send an arrow my way?” It’s never happened, okay? It’s not a caregiving commodity.
And a quiver is not where you store up resources for later. It’s not where you keep your snacks. It’s where you keep your weapons. It’s where you store up weapons for future attacks. Understand, let’s not miss this, okay? Understand God says raising kids is an act of war. And I know a bunch of you’re like, “Hallelujah, my pastor gets it. God allowed him to listen in to bedtime in my house. God must’ve allowed him to have a glimpse into my last family road trip. By the Spirit, God has given him insight into my last conversation with my teenager,” but that’s not the kind of war I’m talking about.
See, ever since Adam and Eve sinned, the people of God have been at war against the evil that we let into the world, that we invited into the world. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, God’s people have been at war against evil and its agents. I see four primary agents that we fight against every single day. There’s hatred, there’s injustice, there’s apathy, and there’s lies. No wrong that’s ever been done, no evil that’s ever arisen doesn’t depend on at least one or more of those four things. Those are the agents of evil that we do battle with every single day. And as followers of Jesus, we need to understand as followers of Jesus, our mission is to wage war against hatred, injustice, apathy, and lies.
We extend the influence of God wider into the world, doing war against those things. Now, understand winning the war is not up to us. God has done what’s necessary to win the war. He’s dealt evil its fatal blow. He sent his own Son, Jesus, who lived a perfect life, died on the cross to pay the penalty of all the wrong that we’ve done so that evil is satisfied, so that sin is canceled. Three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead, and Jesus offers us salvation, forgiveness of sins, eternal life in heaven, adoption into the family of God. And he offers us the opportunity to become children of God who are on mission with him both now and forever all by faith. That’s the fatal blow that’s been dealt to evil, but evil’s not gone. We continue to do battle as God’s people against evil and its agents.
And if you think about the evil in the world, and if you think about those things, hatred, injustice, apathy, and lies, and if you think about how prevalent they are in the world, then the idea of doing battle against them might begin to sound like a big ask. It might begin to sound like an impossible task. And it’s only when we feel the enormity of that that we begin to understand how it is that raising kids is such an important part of living on mission with Jesus, because reality is you and I are not going to see the end of evil. This is a fight that has to be carried on long after we’re gone. And that’s where kids come in.
Listen to me, raising kids is how we carry the fight into the future. Raising kids is how we carry the fight against evil into the future. And that’s why raising kids is such an important part, is such a powerful part of being on mission with Jesus. Listen, we’re not raising kids. We’re raising warriors who will carry the fight against evil into the future.
Listen, moms, you’re not an M-O-M mom. You’re an M.O.M. mom. And this is gonna be cheesy. But if I can’t be cheesy on Mother’s Day, I don’t know when to do it, okay? This is the one day you get a pass for cheesy. You’re an M.O.M. mom. What I mean is you’re a mother on mission. You’re a mother on mission. Your highest calling in life is not to be a mom. But if you are a mom, your kids are your mission field. They’re one of the most important ways you can be on mission with Jesus right now. And that’s an awesome responsibility. It’s a sacred privilege. It’s a powerful reality, but you need to understand that you’re a mom or a mother on a mission. Remember that the next time you hear that little voice in the middle of the night, “Mom.” The next time you get that phone call, “Mom.” And you’re like, “I’m a mother on mission. This is my mission field.”
So what Jesus is doing in challenging this idea that a woman’s greatest contribution is having and raising kids is he’s helping women, but also really he’s helping all of us understand something so important, which is that our greatest contribution to the world is living on mission with Jesus in whatever mission field he’s called us. That’s my greatest contribution to the world. That is your greatest contribution to the world as a follower of Jesus, is to live on mission with Jesus in whatever mission field he’s called us. If you’re a mom, your kids might be your mission field. Embrace that.
If you’re a dad, your kids might be your mission field. Embrace that. But understand that you’re embracing something larger than parenthood. You’re embracing the call by God to be on mission with him in a particular mission field. Yeah, your kids might be your mission field, lean into that for all that it’s worth, but understand that’s not what defines you. It’s not how God decides whether or not you’re his child or not. It’s not how God decides whether or not you have value or significance or identity.
All that comes from the decision that, “I’m gonna look at whatever mission field I’m in. I’m gonna figure, ‘How do I be on mission here?'” Maybe you’re a coach. Maybe you’re a teacher. Maybe you’re a mentor in business. Maybe you have neighbors that you can pour into. If you’re a teacher, I mean, there’s just so many different places we pour into the next generation, and that’s our opportunity to continually the fight, carry the fight into the future. But all those things, again, they’re our mission field. And our greatest contribution to the world is choosing to be on mission in whatever mission field God’s called us.
I know it’s Mother’s Day, and I know there’s some moms out there going, “My kids are not an arrow. My kids are a boomerang. Like, I don’t think they’re carrying the fights to evil. All the pain’s coming back at me.” And that that happens. It’s not easy. Raising kids is not easy. There’s pain in that. There’s always those moments. Like, Mary had to have understood in that moment when God called her on that mission, “It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be hard. But if you do this with me, the world will never be the same.” We deal with that on a regular basis, and as moms, you deal with it all the time.
So let me give you some ideas about sharpening the arrows. These are things that God’s taught me from his word, things that God’s taught us through other people. Coletta and I have had the privilege of having several great parents that we learned from and tried to model our own parenting after. And so let me share with you some insights that God’s given us about sharpening the arrows.
The first one is this, is see your sacrifices as an act of worship. Look, I know that as moms you make sacrifices every single day. We wanna honor you for that. And we wanna honor you for that in part because we know that you don’t always get thanked for it, right? Because our kids don’t see the sacrifices that we always make. They don’t see them as sacrifices. That’s just the world they live in, right? And if you’ve ever had the thought, “You little ingrate.” And tell me none of you have ever thought that, right? Then you know exactly what I’m talking about. And then the problem is in that moment the sacrifices can be the root of bitterness and resentment and anger and frustration that will poison the well of your parenthood.
So how do you keep that from happening? And the answer is you learn to see your sacrifices as an act of worship because an act of worship really is almost it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice. This is a privilege. I mean, in terms of finances, like, I really believe that our finances are a gift from God. And so as a family, every time money comes into our house, we give 10% immediately back to our local church, and then above and beyond that, we give to other kingdom work. And the thing is I don’t resent that. I don’t look at my bank statement and see that that money went to Mission Hills or it went to this organization or that. I don’t look at that and go, “Dog gone it. That burns.” I don’t feel that way at all. I actually feel privileged to be able to do that because I don’t see it as a sacrifice. I see it as an act of worship.
And the thing is you can think that way about the sacrifices you make for your kids too. And as you do, it doesn’t really matter how they respond because you’re not really doing it for them. It’s an act of worship for the God who was sacrificed for you. That’s powerful.
Another thing you can do to sharpen the arrows is, this is gonna be a little controversial, don’t make your kids the center of your world. I know in our Christian climate these days there’s this idea, I think, sometimes that the most important thing you can do as a parent is to make your kids feel like they’re the center of the universe. And I disagree. Because here’s the thing. If you have 18 years or 28 years today, whatever it is, right, where your kids grow up as the center of the world. And then we send them out into the world, and they’re like, “Here I am,” and the world’s like, “Who gives a rip? You’re not the center of my world. You’re not the center of the world.” And that we actually do them an incredible disservice.
Look, they need to be loved. They need to be cherished. They need to know they’re valuable. They need to know they’re important. But they also need to know they’re not the center of everything. Look, I hope our kids feel loved and valued and cherished. I know they do, but they also know that when they’re out of the house, Coletta and I are gonna have some good days. We’re gonna have some fun. We’ve been investing in our marriage. And they know that. They know that when they’re not part of our world in the same way that our world will continue. And I think that’s a healthy thing. Don’t make them the center of your world. Love them, honor them, cherish them. But don’t make the mistake of letting them think that the whole world revolves around them. It doesn’t. So don’t make it that way in your home.
Third thing you can do to sharpen the arrow is do make Jesus the center of your world. Do make Jesus the center of your world. Let the kids know that he’s at the very center of everything, and they need to see that you pray. They need to see that you read God’s Word. They need to see that you make church a priority, worshiping together with God’s people, learning from God’s Word together. They need to see all that.
And that points them to the future. It makes them arrows and sharper arrows carrying the fight in the future. They need to see that. I love some of the ways that my wife just raised our kids to understand that Jesus was the center and that we were waging war against evil. One of the things that happened years ago was that our kids were pretty little, I don’t know, maybe 8 or so was Rochelle. And Lynae was 4 or 5, and my wife heard about a group of people who were living in an apartment complex in Denver. They were refugees from Burma, and they’d been brought over here. And they were just poor in a way that most of us have never really experienced.
And she heard that they didn’t really have shoes. And so she took up a shoe collection, and she and our two girls took those shoes up to this apartment complex. And they gave out these shoes to all these kids. And Rochelle was so impacted. She’s our oldest. Rochelle was impacted by that and the poverty that she saw and realizing, “There are kids even in my own, like, state that live completely different than I do.” She came home, and she and her friend started a snow cone business out on the streets selling snow cones at, like, exorbitant prices, I should say, but they were cute, and people would pay them, right?
But they were using like 50% plus of the profits to buy bags of rice, and they would take them up there whenever they could afford to get one and give them to these families. I love that. They learned that by seeing my wife make Jesus the center of her world, and they began to adopt that same thing. It’s awesome. So proud of my wife for doing it that way.
Fourth thing you can do is pray missional prayers every day. Pray missional prayers. And what I mean by that is it’s really easy to get into that place where we pray prayers that are primarily asking, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s so easy to pray those kinds of prayer for as a kid, “You know, God, you know, lead them to great spouses. God, give them great jobs. God, help them get through this, you know, this thing that they’re dealing with on their team or with their friends. God, you know, provide for them, take care of them, give them good health, all that.” And that’s great. Do that. I pray that every day for my kids, but it’s not the first thing I pray for them every day.
For many, many years the very first prayer that I’ve ever prayed for my kids is this, “God, lead them to lives of significance for your sake. God, lead my kids to lives of significance for your sake. Help them to be on mission for you.” That’s always the first thing I pray. Model it for your kids, for yourself too. Pray this, pray, “Hey, God, show me how to be on mission with you today.”
See, Ephesians 2:10, one of my favorite verses in the Bible says that God has prepared works in advance for all of us to do. Literally, it’s prepared works in advance for all of us to walk around in, implying that they’re everywhere we go. There’s opportunities everywhere we go that God’s prepared in advance. He’s put them in front of us. The question is not whether or not there are opportunities every day to live on mission. The question is whether or not we will see and seize those opportunities every day. And so let your kids hear you pray, “God, show me how to be on mission with you today. Show me the ops that you’ve set up for me.” That’ll sharpen the arrows.
Another thing you can do to sharpen the arrows is you can look for opportunities to honor God in non-traditional ways. And here’s what I mean by that. I mean, you know, we tend to think about honoring God, like, “Well, okay, I’m reading the Bible. I’m praying prayers. We’re giving financially. Maybe we’re serving at the church. We’re making sure it’s a priority for our kids and for our family.” And those are all great. Do those. Absolutely, do those, but understand that there are ways to honor God that go way beyond those, but they’re not always the opportunities that we immediately see and recognize to bring God into conversations and into our everyday life.
One thing I love about my wife is that she was a science teacher before we had kids. She taught middle school and high school science. And for a while, we homeschooled our kids because of our travel schedule. And so my wife did science with our kids, and they began to learn to see that science is awesome because it allowed them to see the Creator in the creation. And my wife brought God into that, which is kind of a non-traditional thing to do, but she did that. And here’s the cool thing. My youngest daughter, Lynae, now she’s heading off to CU Boulder, and she’s halfway through her degree already, and she’s studying chemical and biological engineering.
She loves science, and every day that she comes back from her science class, she comes back, and she’ll tell me some story like, “Oh, it turns out that this is what’s going on at the cellular level in the body. This is happening. And I saw that. I learned that today, and I just had to go, ‘Good one, God.'” Like, that’s awesome. She finds worship moments in her chemical and biological engineering classes because she learned to see the Creator in the creation.
One of our highest goals is to actually contribute to the intelligent design conversation. That’s a movement within science trying to communicate to the rest of the scientific world there’s no way that life is an accident. It doesn’t make sense. The science doesn’t support that. There’s no way it’s a series of random mutations again, right? It doesn’t work scientifically. I don’t care what you think about the Bible, okay? This doesn’t work scientifically. There is a mind behind this, and we should probably be asking who he is. My daughter wants to be part of that. That’s mission. That’s ministry. And I believe that she learned that love of seeing the Creator in the creation from her mom, finding opportunities to honor God in non-traditional ways. Be creative. I don’t mean have a Bible verse for every single thing you say to your kids. If you wanna see eyes roll so far in the back of their heads that they might stick, then that should be your approach. Just make sure everything has a Bible verse attached. No, I’m not talking about that. But I’m talking about finding ways to honor God in the midst of every, defining the holy in the commonplace. That will sharpen the arrows.
And the last thing I would say is this, remember that who you are isn’t defined by this moment. Who you are, your significance, your value, your identity, it’s not defined by this moment. Maybe you’re a mom, and it’s a great season of life. That’s awesome, but you’re not always gonna be in this season of life, so don’t look to this season as the source of your identity, your meaning, and your significance, because you’re meant for more than this.
Your greatest contribution isn’t having and raising kids. It’s living on mission with Jesus, whatever mission for that he is called you. Maybe you’re in a season where it’s not good. It’s bad, it’s hard, and you feel like you’re messing up. You feel like you’re doing it wrong. You’re getting way more boomerang than arrow. You’re not defined by this moment there either. Maybe you weren’t able to have kids. That doesn’t define you. Maybe you’re mom, maybe you’re not. Maybe you wanna be a mom, maybe you don’t wanna be a mom. Maybe you would like to be a mom, you can’t be a mom. It doesn’t matter. Whatever moment you’re in, that does not define you. That is not where Jesus says that’s where the blessing comes from. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hear and obey the word of God.”
Don’t just hear the message but live on mission. There’s your blessing. There’s your identity. There’s your value. There’s your significance. Would you pray with me? God, we wanna pray your blessing on all of the moms in our midst and the grandmothers and the teachers and the youth group leaders and the coaches and the mentors and everybody in every way that pours into the next generation. Lord, we hear and we accept the mission that that is how we’re carrying the fight into the future. We thank you for the truth that the greatest contribution that we can make to the world is simply choosing to live on mission with Jesus in whatever mission field he’s called us to.
I pray encouragement on all of those who hear this word today. I pray strength upon all those who hear this word today, men and women alike. I pray courage to seize those opportunities for living on mission and whatever mission field we happen to be in. Speaking of mission, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me? Would you begin praying right now for those who are listening to this message that are not followers of Jesus? Would you just begin praying for all those watching online, joining us in person?
And if that’s you, if you’re not a follower of Jesus, can I just speak to you for a moment? Maybe you’re here because your mother brought you, or maybe in some other way, you ended up here, but I promise you, it’s not your mom. It’s not a set of circumstances. It’s actually God drawing you. He’s brought you here for a reason. Maybe for the first time today you heard God’s ultimate plan for evil. He’s won the battle. He’s dealt the decisive blow. He sent his own Son Jesus. Because he loves you so much, he sent his own Son Jesus to pay the price for your sin. Jesus died on the cross, canceling our debt. Three days later, he rose from the dead, and he offers us forgiveness, a relationship with God, eternal life in heaven, a chance to be on mission with him beginning now and going on forever. He offers all of that simply by faith, by trusting in what he did for you.
And if you’ve never said yes to following Jesus, today’s the day. There’s no reason to waste one more day not being on mission with Jesus, not being on mission with God. Here’s how you do it. If you’re ready to say yes to following Jesus, here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with him in your heart right now. Say something like this to him, say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. If it was convincing enough for your brother, James, it’s convincing enough for me. And I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, you’re offering me adoption into the family of God, you’re offering me eternal life. You’re offering me an opportunity to be on mission with you. I’m ready to receive all those things. Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, I’m going to trust you from here on out. I’m gonna follow you for now and forever. Amen.”
Hey, can we just celebrate those who’ve made that decision today? It’s awesome. So excited about that. Hey, listen, if you made that decision for the first time today, I would love the opportunity, all of us here at Mission Hills would love the opportunity to celebrate that decision, to pray with you, pray for you. So if you made that decision, would you do this for me? Would you just let us know you made the decision? If you’re watching online, you can do that by clicking the button below me that says, “I committed my life to Jesus.” If you’re at one of our campuses, you can text the word Jesus to 888111, text Jesus to 888111. And whichever way you do it, what’s gonna happen is you’re just gonna let us know so that we can be praying for you. The other thing that’s gonna happen is there’ll be an opportunity. You don’t have to take it, but if you want to take it, you can give us an address, and we will send a book to you.
We’ve just finished a book. It’s called “I Just Said Yes to Jesus, What Now?” 10 days to Following Jesus Forever. We’d love to send that resource to you free of charge. We just need to know where to send it. And so when you tell us you said yes to Jesus, we’ll give you the chance if you want to let us know about where to send it. You can also, if you’re visiting online, I’m sorry, if you’re visiting in person, you can head back to the welcome center on your way out and say, “I said yes to Jesus.” They’d love to give you that and some other gifts as well. Happy Mother’s Day. And there’s nothing you can say back to me at that point, is there?
Now that Thanksgiving is over, how do we stay thankful moving forward? Jesus doesn’t ever demand gratitude; however, expressing thankfulness unlocks an opportunity for us to be in relationship with God. We must move from just having grateful hearts to employing grateful habits which lead to appreciation that shows itself through actions.
Reza: Wow. Well, Mission Hills, it is so great to see you and to be in here with you, those of you that have joined us here in the auditorium, thanks so much for coming and being a part of us here. If you’re joining us online, I know there’s many watch parties happening with small groups and in living rooms, and some of you are streaming by yourself, some of you are gathered with others, no matter where you’re at, if you’re here, or you’re joining us through technology, I’m thrilled that you’re here. Because I believe the Lord has a word for us, and I’m excited to dive in. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes like, I’m this eternal optimist. And I get like when people say, “Man, 2020 is a hard year and it’s been really hard.” Like, I’m the kind of person that’s like trying to find the silver lining. Like, “Oh, it really hasn’t been that bad.” Or “Really like, maybe you’re just really pessimistic.” But you’re all like, “2020 has been like, it’s been crazy.” And even thinking about Thanksgiving this last week, and thinking about how disoriented we are, and how discouraged some of us are, and how much despair we’re in. And yet, I also kind of chuckle because I wonder maybe not all of us are feeling this way. Maybe you are somebody that back in 2018, you bought a mask company, and you might be sitting pretty well. Or maybe in 2019, you kind of got on a wild whim and you kind of got online and said, “Man, I see this little company called Zoom, I’m gonna buy some stock in Zoom.”
Some of us might be doing well. But I would guess that most of us don’t own a mask company. I would assume not every one of us own stock in Zoom. But yet, there is something with the COVID and elections and racial issues and emotional things and political things and the election that all of this stuff is swirling around us. And yet, in the midst of this, we’re supposed to have this holiday called Thanksgiving. And a lot of us we participated in Thanksgiving, although it look different for a lot of us this year. Maybe you didn’t have those friends and family travel, you probably didn’t. Maybe you gathered by yourselves or maybe you had other people and you were careful with that no matter how we celebrated Thanksgiving. It seems like the word thankful was all over the place. But how do we be thankful in a year, like, 2020?
You see, it’s easy to say that we’re thankful on a day. Like I scrolled social media, I saw some of the posts, you know, our happy family posts of being together. And we took the picture, we took the selfie, we posted whatever we wanted about Thanksgiving, and we set it up. But now that Thanksgiving is over, does that mean the thanks is over? And I think that’s what I want us to look at Thanksgiving in our home looks very similar to Thanksgiving in a lot of your homes, that we wake up and we try to do something active in the morning to justify what’s gonna happen the rest of that day. And then we cook together, and we eat and sometimes we’ll have some friends and family come over and then we gather and we play some games, we play board games, and it’s a ton of fun. But something started happening the last few years as my kids started getting older and older on Thanksgiving, that there was this person that would deliver something on Thanksgiving Thursday morning. And it was the Black Friday catalogs being delivered to our house. And so our kids would sit around and circle all of these toys that they wanted on a day that they’re supposed to give thanks for what they actually had. And so I decided next year, I’m actually gonna hire a photographer back in September, he’s gonna come into our house, or she’s gonna come and she’s gonna take pictures of every toy my kids don’t play with, we’re gonna put that in a catalog. And we’re gonna give that to them on Thanksgiving morning. So that they can circle everything that they are thankful for.
You know, we’re gonna be talking about a passage today and I’ve almost titled this passage kind of graduating to gratitude. But I wanna talk about what does it mean to be blessed? How do we move past giving thanks? And if you would, if you have a Bible, if you have a device open on the app, would you meet me in Luke chapter 17. So we’re gonna be in Luke chapter 17. And this is one of the instances of Jesus doing a miraculous healing. And so we’re gonna talk just very briefly about the miraculous healing, but we’re gonna actually move more towards the response of the men that were healed. And so we’re gonna take a look at it. So Meet me in Luke chapter 17, verse 11 through 19. I’m gonna read through the passage, and we’ll come back and we’ll break it down verse by verse and see what the Lord would have for us. And here’s my hope for today. My hope would be that we would not just gain good information. It’s not that we would say, you know, good things, or maybe have some things we might be able to post or maybe one-liners. But beyond that, let’s move to maturity. And actually think, “God, how can I apply what I’m gonna learn today in my life?” Because when we move from information and we allow it to become transformation we become mature in Christ. So my hope is that we would be transformed. And we would think differently about ourselves and how we walk and how we respond throughout our lives. Luke chapter 17, verse 11.
“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the borders between Samaria and Galilee, as he was going into a village ten men who had leprosy met him. And they stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, Jesus, Master have pity on us. When he saw them, he said, “Go show yourself to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them when he saw he was healed came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’s feet, and he thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed. Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well. ”
You see friends, we’re gonna walk through this passage. And I believe that there’s some things for us to learn not just in our culture, we’re not gonna talk too much about them having leprosy and standing at a distance, although that would be a very relevant conversation for how we are to interact with each other because of the pandemic that is happening. But I wanna talk specifically about these men and how they responded to Jesus’s interaction with them. The Scripture starts off in verse 11. And it says, “Now on his way to Jerusalem,” so Jesus is with his disciples, and they’re going around the region from Galilee to Jerusalem, and he is healing. And he is teaching he’s right here in the midst and Luke, who writes this account, he tells us that Jesus is right in the midst of his ministry. And he travels along the border between Samaria…and he travels along the border, between Samaria and Galilee.
See, this is an interesting perspective. Because Jesus did a great job of walking along the lines of people that are on the outside, and people that are on the inside. You see, the Jews lived in Galilee, and the Jews lived in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans were actually enemies, spiritual enemies, or racial enemies of the Jewish people. And we can go down the long list of how this happened, essentially, when the Kingdom of Israel was split back in the Old Testament, those who went with the northern kingdom, they kind of intermarried with other nations, and they were worshipping other gods. And so they were almost seen as these half breeds of people, by the Jews. And so they were on the outside, and actually Samaritans the way that they worship God that Jews believe that the way they worship God just really wasn’t right. And so Samaritans were on the outside spiritually. And the Jews were on the inside, spiritually. And the Scripture very clearly says, and I believe Luke did this on purpose. On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. Friends, if we are only interacting with people that are on the inside, I wonder what we’re missing in who Jesus wants us to interact with?
You see, if all I have around me is people that agree with me, spiritually, relationally, politically, I wonder if we’re actually doing this thing right. I don’t think Jesus wants us to only interact with those who agree with us. And he models that by walking that line between Samaria and Galilee on the way to where Jerusalem was in verse 12. “As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, Jesus, Master have pity on us.” You see, due to the fear of being contagious, people with this skin disease called leprosy, they were actually not just asked that they were supposed to stand out a distance. And so these ten men were a part of a leper colony, presumably, being together, because that’s the only place they could have community people that are broken, and separated from God’s sometimes can only find solace in the presence of other people that are going through what they’re going through. And they see Jesus walking by and they shout out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Jesus, would you have pity on us.”
They must have heard about some of the other healings that Jesus had performed, maybe some of the cleansings that have happened or the blind that had been given sight. It’s interesting because they knew where to go, they knew who to go to, to find healing. You know, as I interact with people in society and as I serve in this world of athletics, and some of you know, I’m on staff with a organization called Athletes in Action. And so, we work with college and Olympic and pro-athletes and so I spent a lot of my time on a college campus around people who may necessarily may not follow Jesus. And I’ve met a lot of people have a lot of issues with Christianity have a lot of issues with church, some are warranted, and some really aren’t warranted. I have never met a person who’s outside, “outside of the church,” who’s outside of faith that has an issue with Jesus.
And so it’s interesting because they knew where to go to. And yet they come to him. And they say, “Jesus, Master have pity on us.” You see here’s an interesting tactic of Jesus, Jesus could have very easily healed anybody. They didn’t need to utter a word. But sometimes it’s almost as if Jesus is baiting somebody to just ask the question, “Hey, will you heal me?” It’s almost as if Jesus is almost like, it’s almost like he’s too much of a gentleman to do a hostile takeover of our life, that he waits to be invited. You know, earlier this year, we walked through a series here at Mission Hills through the miracles of John early at the very beginning of this year. And in John chapter 5, there was a man who was disabled and Jesus asked him a very interesting question. And he says, “Hey, do you wanna get well?” And we would look at that and say, “Well, Jesus, of course he wants to get well. ” But I wonder if Jesus is simply waiting for us, his followers to cry out, making a statement that he is our only hope?
You know, there’s some things that we could learn about people in Scripture who experienced the healing of Jesus. First and foremost they exhibit great faith, even when others walk away from them. It’s almost like they never give up hope. The second thing that we see about people just like these lepers in Scriptures, Jesus knew that the condition they were in, he never walked up to someone and say, “Okay, you want me to help you? What’s going on with you?” Like he knew exactly what was happening with these lepers. Now presumably, he probably saw that they were lepers. But I believe that’s a word for us in our hearts, that Jesus knows what we are walking through, and yet waits for us to invite him into the circumstance. And lastly, typically, obedience to impossible things is involved in all these healings. Because take a look and see what happens in verse 14. He says, “When he saw them, he said, Go show yourselves to the priest.” You see, they hadn’t been healed yet. But he said, “Go show yourself to the priest.” And what must have been going on in their minds as they were hearing Jesus say this is, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, Jesus, you’re a Rabbi, you understand? Because of our uncleanliness, we are not able to go stand before the priest. That’s why we’re calling out for your mercy.” But look at the end of this verse says in verse 14, “Go and show yourselves to the priests. And as they went, they were cleansed.” It doesn’t say they were cleansed first. And then they went on their journey to go show themselves to the priests to show that they are now ceremonially unclean, and they can stand in the presence of God and worship, that they’re no longer under a curse. As they went, they took the first step of obedience and in their step of obedience, what happened to them? They were cleansed.
I wonder what that says to us. What does that say to us that sometimes we’ve got to take that step of that… when Jesus calls on us. Do you remember when Peter was stepped out of the boat? Do you remember when Peter steps out of the boat, and in he says, “Hey, Jesus, if that’s you, tell me to come walk out to you,” when Jesus was walking on the water. And Jesus says, “Hey, come on out. Peter.” Peter was not… I don’t believe Peter was just walking on water. He was walking on faith, that he was walking on the Word of God. He was walking in obedience. And some of us that know that story. We know what happens next, that he takes his eyes off of Jesus. And instead of walking on faith, he starts walking by sight, and he sees the wind and the waves and then he sinks. And yet Jesus isn’t angry with them. In that passage, the accounts in Scripture in the gospels that tell us about Peter walk on water says that “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and he rescued Peter.”
And in verse 15, it goes on, after they went back and they showed themselves to the priests, and as they went, they were cleansed. Verse 15, one of them, how many of them? One, one out of how many? Ten only 10%. “One of them when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.” Verse 16, “He threw himself at Jesus’s feet and he thanked him, and he was a Samaritan.” You see, it’s really, really funny here because he’s giving praise to Jesus, as he praises God the Father, and up until this point, Luke doesn’t tell us the nationality of these people, until he tells us very specifically and I believe for dramatic effect, actually out of the ten, only one of them came back to give praise to God. And oh, yeah, by the way, he’s a Samaritan, that he’s actually one of those that’s on the outside. You see Samaritans as I said, they didn’t worship correctly. They didn’t have their theology correct. But yet they still had faith.
One of the athletes that I get to work with at Colorado State is a sprinter. This is a phenomenal young man, I love this young man. We’ve got to know each other very well as he’s been on campus the last couple of years. He’s a sprinter on the track team, incredible athlete. And he became a believer, he became a believer in high school, he grew up in the inner city, and so didn’t know his father really broken home. And he came to faith through Fellowship of Christian Athletes as an athlete in high school, and he came to Colorado State to be on the track team. And so we got to know each other, we built a relationship. He’s come over to our house for dinner, he came to my kid’s choir performance last year, he’s kind of become like a little brother. And so I’ve been discipling him and yet he’s really, really, really green, really new in his faith. And he calls me up one day over the summer. And he says, “Reza, guess what?” And I said, “Hey, what’s going on?” He said, “I actually had the opportunity to lead my cousin to Jesus.” And I said, “Really?” Like, and I’ll be honest, like, I was a little shaky about his faith. And I was like, “What bro? Like, what did you say?” And he like, breaks it down. And he’s like, talking about it. And as he’s talking in myself, like, I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, my word like, you totally messed up the Gospel.” Like that’s not what it’s about at all. But okay, but he kept going and going, and then you know what he said at the end. He said, “And now, my cousin has trusted in Jesus, and she’s getting baptized at our church.”
You know what that shows me? That shows me that sometimes we think people that don’t have their theology correct, are actually incapable of being used by God. You see, this Samaritan was the only one that came back to actually give praise to God. You see, here’s the reality. We plant the seed. Jesus fills in the blanks. And then it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to develop and sanctify somebody. We think it’s all up to us. But yet we plant the seed. Jesus is the one that fills in the blanks. And the Holy Spirit develops people as we live a life of sharing the Gospel with all of them.
And then Jesus in verse 17, he asks, and he knew the answer to this. “Hey, wait a minute, weren’t not all ten of you cleanse?” Like it’s not that Jesus was wondering, “Oh, wait, did I do this right or not? Did I not say the right words?” Jesus knew “Hey, all ten of you weren’t all ten of you cleansed? Hey, where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” And do you know what that passage means. That means that all nine of the others were presumably Jewish. That all nine of the others should have had it right. But there’s one who is on the outside, is the only one that came back to give praise to God because of this healing and verse 19. Then he said to him, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well. ” It was the faith of one of Israel or the Jews, loathed spiritual enemies. A Samaritan is actually elevated in faith above the Jews. And so this passage, I wanna talk a little bit about the difference between being thankful and actually having gratitude. And how do we graduate from being thankful? And how do we graduate to gratitude.
We’ve heard the phrase that gratitude is an attitude. We’ve seen it, it’s posted. It’s all over Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It’s all over Instagram, all of gratitude is an attitude, but I actually believe it’s a dangerous saying. Because just because you have an attitude of gratitude does not mean that you put your gratitude into practice. Just because you have an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean you actually have a grateful heart, that attitude does not equal action. Look, I can have the attitude of a worship leader. I can dress like a worship leader and have skinny jeans; I can’t fit in skinny jeans, but I can have the attitude of a musician. I can dress like a musician; I could pick up a guitar and try to practice I can have all the attitude I want. But if I don’t actually practice and put things into practice, or actually stand out and put it into action, I’m not gonna be a worship leader. Look, I can have the attitude of someone who does CrossFit, but unless I throw an ungodly amount of weight over my head and let my shoulders break. And eat like a crossfitter and not put into action doesn’t matter what kind of attitude I have. Gratitude is not just an attitude, it’s an action, and we’ve got to move beyond the attitude and becoming something that we practice. Because gratitude does not come natural to us, it’s not a part of how we naturally express ourselves. And if you don’t believe me, try to feed a two-year-old, some broccoli. Like there’s not this like, two-year-old, maybe even a 12-year-old, like, there’s not this natural gratitude that comes from us. But it’s something that we have to practice is something that we have to put into place. And again, I look at this, and I think to myself, attitude without practice is a lot like faith without works. It’s just lifeless.
I would assume that all ten of these lepers who were healed, were very thankful. I would assume that all ten that were cast aside from society had no part in merely being able to be in community with anybody. They interact with this Jesus, they yell out, Jesus have mercy on us. Jesus says, “Hey, keep going, I want you to go show yourselves to the priests,” as they went, they were healed. I imagined in their mind that at one point, they were able to stand in the temple and worship. But because of their leprosy, they couldn’t. But Jesus cleansed them so now they get to go back and worship. I believe that they were thankful. But only one of the nine actually put their thankfulness into action and came back and praising God. Only one put their gratitude into practice. And we’ve got to graduate from having grateful hearts, or thankful heart to having grateful habits. So the question I want us to consider is, what does it mean for us? What does it mean for me? What does it mean for you to have these grateful habits? You see grateful habits lead to appreciation. And appreciation always, always shows itself through action.
So, we got to understand that grateful habits lead us to appreciation and appreciation always shows itself through action. You see, Jesus isn’t going to demand your gratitude, you see he’s not going to demand your appreciation, he’s not like, the power company. Like, the power company demands your appreciation every month. And if you don’t show your appreciation every month, they’re not only gonna keep asking you to show your gratitude, through letters, they’re gonna call you. And they’re gonna say, “Hey, we’re providing you some power.” Like, if you ever tried to call the electric company, you’re gonna get lost in like phone, wherever you end up. But you fail to show your gratitude to the power company for providing you the energy to heat your home and have the electricity if you fail to show them your gratitude, they’re gonna cut you off. Yet Jesus doesn’t demand it from us, but yet he asks it from us. There’s this phrase that is thrown around a whole lot. And it’s online, but we’ve used it for decades and generation after generation. And we hear in interviews when something good happens to an actor or an athlete. And it’s this phrase, and someone praises somebody for something good that has happened to them, whether they got a promotion, maybe something happened, and they got something that they’ve always wanted, and they use this phrase, “Man, I’m blessed. I’m so blessed to have this. I’m so thankful. And I’m just blessed.”
You see, the problem with that word, blessed is I’m just not sure we know exactly what being blessed means. Because we think that being blessed means certain circumstances in our life is going the way that we hoped they would turn out. But if we look at the word blessed, and what blessed actually looks like through Scripture in God’s version of blessed, it’s not about us getting what we want in this world. Being blessed isn’t just because we have a full table for Thanksgiving, or we have all of our friends and family around us or we have that happy family that maybe we don’t have but we portray to other people. Being blessed goes much deeper. The first sermon that Jesus preached was a sermon called the Sermon on the Mount. And he starts off the Sermon on the Mount with these things that we now call the Beatitudes. Blessed are, we would think the Beatitudes would go something like this. Blessed are those who get the promotion, blessed are those who move into their dream home. Blessed are those that finally found that spouse. Blessed are those that everything turned out the way that they wanted? But actually, you know what Jesus says what blessed people are? He says, actually, they’re meek. And meekness doesn’t mean weakness. It means something else it means having a soft heart towards God and towards other people.
Jesus says blessed people are people that are humble at heart. Blessed people are people that are peacemakers, not people that win, not people that conquer. Blessed are those who are peacemakers. You see, the word blessed is something that we’ve got to understand the core of. And one of the most famous blessings that’s ever recorded in mankind is found in Numbers chapter 6, verse 24- 26. And Numbers chapter 6, verse 24-26, very clearly gives us this priestly blessing. “The Lord bless you, and keep you, the Lord make his face shine on you.” That’s important, “And be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.” You know, in this passage, Numbers chapter 6, verse 24, you know what this tells us that what it means to be blessed. What it means to be blessed is to have God’s face turns towards us. That’s what being blessed is.
Being blessed isn’t about our possessions, being blessed is not about our possessions. It’s about our posture before God, that we have this certain posture before God because we know we intuitively know that his face is turned towards us. The way that my children know that I have affection towards them, is when I turn my face towards them and look at them in a certain way. See, we’re not blessed because of our possessions. We’re blessed because of his presence in our lives. And we live a life that is blessed. Not by just saying, “Hey, I’m blessed when I get good things,” we live a life of blessing when our heart posture towards God is the heart of gratitude. That the power of gratitude is able to unlock things. There’s this wonderful paraphrase of the Scripture is called the Message. I love to read the Message just in my devotional life, and when I study I use another version but I love the way that Eugene Peterson has put some of these words together for us to understand in Psalm 100:3-4, listen to how this paraphrase of the Scripture says it says, “Know this God is God. And God, God. He made us we did not make him where his people, his well-tended sheep. Enter with this password: “Thank you! Make yourselves at home talking praise. Thank him and worship him.” The NIV takes that phrase of you see that password thank you? And it says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” There’s a difference between saying thank you. And having a heart of thanksgiving. In Scripture, the heart of thanksgiving is this word that we call in our English language, gratitude. It’s having gratitude.
You see, and if we take cues from the Samaritan, the proper response to God’s provision for us in the blessings that he gives us, it’s not just a thank you. But it’s worship. You know, an elementary version of worship is simply singing, and singing is wonderful, and it’s great. But we actually graduate in our thankfulness, when we worship, not just in singing, but we worship by how we live our lives. And we live a heart of gratitude. You see it’s not enough to just say thank you. I teach my seven-year-old to say thank you. When she gets something, I’m trying to train her to say thank you, my 10-year-old and my 12-year-old and the people that I get to influence, I don’t wanna teach them just to say, “Hey, when someone gives you something, just say thank you.” Like, that’s just polite, like that’s what you’re supposed to do. But we actually move from saying thank you to having a heart of thankfulness and a heart of gratitude because there’s something about thanksgiving that unlocks our opportunity to enter his presence.
So not only does thankfulness unlock something allows us to enter into his presence. There’s something else that having a grateful heart and a heart of thankfulness is able to do in our lives. And I believe this is something that we can apply even today. In Philippians chapter 4, again, we last year walked through Philippians last fall as a church and we talked about this passage, but the Apostle Paul is writing this, and I want you to hear what he says. If we find ourselves anxious. If we find ourselves worrying if we find ourselves fixated on something. Listen to what the Apostle Paul reminded the Philippian people. He says in Philippians chapter 4, verse 6, “Do not be anxious about anything. But in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Here’s why this passage is so powerful for us, because it actually gives us an antidote to anxiousness. It tells us this. Are you anxious about something? Are you worried about something? Are you not just concerned? But are you consumed about how this is going to turn out?
You see, when we’re anxious about something or worrying about something, typically, we are worrying or anxious, or we’re fixated, or we’re consumed about something that hasn’t yet happened. And we’re afraid that thing that’s gonna happen, is actually not gonna go the way that we hoped it would go. And so we fixate on it. And we think about it, and we think about it, and we think about it. And Paul says, “Hey, look, don’t be anxious.” You don’t need to be anxious about anything. But here’s what I do want you to do. If you find yourselves anxious. There’s not a lot of formulas in Scripture. There’s not a lot of, “Hey, do this. And then this will happen.” Yet here’s one of them. If you find yourself anxious, I encourage you to pray. But don’t just pray. I want you to pray with thanksgiving. You think to yourself, “How does praying and thanksgiving why is that the antidote to anxiousness?”
Well, here’s the reality. When you’re thankful, you’re typically thankful for what God has either given you in the past, or you’re experiencing in the current reality, that when you’re thankful you’re thinking about what has happened and how God has come through in the past. And Paul says, “Hey, if you’re anxious, I want you to pray, but pray in thanksgiving.” Thank God for what you have had this heart of gratitude, that you’re grateful for what God has done. Because it is impossible to be grateful and anxious at the exact same time. Those two emotions cannot hold the same space in our souls. You’re either thankful, or you’re anxious and Paul says, “If you find yourself fixated, if you find yourself consumed, I encourage you to pray in thankfulness.” And it’s almost as if that we borrow, we borrow from the strength of what God’s done in the past. And we borrow from the reality of what God has done. And we employ that today because we’re experienced, we’re not sure if God’s gonna come through in the future, or in our current circumstance.
And if God has come through, and if God has given, and you’ve experienced his provision, and you’ve experienced his abundance in the past, he’s the God that never changes, you can trust that he’s gonna do the same in the future. If you find yourselves anxious, pray, and pray in thanksgiving. When you pray in thanksgiving, you know the peace of God, you’ll be able to experience peace in the midst of the storm. If you fixate on being thankful for what he’s done, instead of worried about what might happen. You’ll experience peace and that peace surpasses all understanding. And then he follows up with these words, we’re gonna close with these words in verse 8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”
You put good things in your life, you’re gonna focus on good things, garbage in, garbage out. If the first thing that we look at in the morning is our news feeds, guess what? We have a toxic soul for the day, because the news really isn’t that great a news right now. But if we open up and we start our day, and we allow ourselves to think about and to contemplate what is pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, were to think about such things. Listen to these words, whatever you have learned, received, or heard from me, or seen in me, put into practice. Don’t just say thank you have a heart of gratitude, and the God of peace will be with you. The gratitude unlocks the gates for us to be in his presence. And when we’re in the presence of the one who created us, we can experience peace.
You know, just the other night, one of my kids had a nightmare came into my room terrified me when he woke me up. And said, “Dad, I had a bad dream.” And this is what that typically means he doesn’t want me to fix his dream. What he simply means is, “Hey, would you come just lay with me for a while”. So I grabbed my pillows and I go and I lay in his room. You see my son didn’t need me to fix his dream. My son just needed my presence right next to him, because he was scared. You see what that passage said? Whatever you have learned to receive or heard from you’re seeing me put into practice and the God of peace will be with you. Friends, Let’s pray.
Lord God, I thank you for today, and this opportunity to experience your goodness, and experience your peace. That Lord that we would be men and women that would move from being thankful and move from just saying thank you to actually having a heart and a soul of gratitude. And we wouldn’t just say that we have an attitude of gratitude, we would put that gratitude into practice, and develop habits. When we live our lives as an opportunity of worship and providing things to you. So Lord Jesus, we simply sit here and we say thank you for who you are, as you lead us, and as you guide us. Jesus, I thank you so much for your grace in our lives. Thank you that we don’t have to be anxious. We can be thankful, have a heart of gratitude. So Lord, we pause in this moment, we recognize that you are God. We remember the ways that you have led us in the past, and we borrow from that bank of the past, to give us strength for today and tomorrow. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
THE BURNING EMBER
2 Timothy 1:3-8
Join us for a special Father’s Day Weekend message from Greg Stier, CEO and Founder of Dare 2 Share.
Danny: We have a little bit different weekend. Craig is not here; he’s taking a much needed break. And we have a fantastic service planned for you. And we’ll tell you a little bit more about that in a minute. But we know that during this time many of you are excited to gather again. And we want you to know that we’ve been working with our county commissioners to request a variance to the state restrictions on large gatherings. And now we’re waiting for the state officials to rule on the variance that’s been requested. And during this time, we’ll continue to be patient. We’ll continue to be respectful, and we will look forward to when we can gather again and hopefully that won’t be too long. But this weekend, we have the privilege and I get the privilege personally of welcoming one of my oldest and closest friends. I’ve known Greg Stier for over 30 years now. We traveled for a long time on the road. We’re roommates on the road together.
And as I was thinking about this weekend, this is Father’s Day Weekend, usually after church, a lot of guys go home, and they watch the U.S. Open. It’s a big golf weekend. And I thought, “Wow, Greg’s coming here to church on this big golf weekend,” and I remember a story. Greg is not the best golfer, and this is just a few years back, they had this big tournament come up, a corporate thing. And he thought, “I’m gonna go to the range and kind of warm up a couple days for the tournament, so I don’t look silly.” So he gets there, he gets a small bucket of balls, and he starts hacking away and he’s not a great golfer. And he breaks two, literally two clubs, in one small bucket of balls, breaks two clubs. And there was an older man who worked at the course. And he called him over, he said, “Son, can I talk to you?” He was, “I’ve been here a long time. I’ve seen them come and I’ve seen them go. You are the worst golfer I have ever seen.” So, with that said, Greg may not be a great golfer. But he’s a fantastic teacher, and he’s been a great friend of this church, the president of Dare 2 Share Ministries. Please welcome Greg Stier.
Greg: So glad to be with you here today, Mission Hills. And that story is absolutely true. I’m highly competitive, and extremely uncoordinated, especially when it comes to golfing. So, I wanna talk to you today, not about golfing, I wanna talk to you about why I feel such a connection with this church, because this is a church on mission. And I love the leaders here. I love Danny Oertli, he traveled with us at Dare 2 Share for many, many years, traveling and training teenagers how to share the gospel of Christ. He led worship, awesome guy. I love Dave Eloe. He is the youth pastor here. And I’ve known Dave since he was a little kid. I was in high school, and he was in elementary school and just a great guy. I’ve known him all these years. I had to be nice to him, because his dad was the principal. Anyway, but he is leading the way. By the way, the youth ministry here is leading the way when it comes to reaching this next generation. I love Pastor Craig. I’ve been able to get to know him over the last few years. What I love about him, he believes in prayer fueled evangelism and expository preaching. And you put those two things together, it’s like nitrogen and glycerin. It’s powerful. And I believe that’s one of the reasons this church has experienced such explosive growth because of the leadership of Craig.
I love Reza, one of the teaching pastors here. I got to meet Reza at our National Senior Send Off. I’m the father of a high school senior and my heart was broken because my son was not able to experience prom or a graduation in a normal way. And so I conspired with Reza and a few others and we pulled off an event to bring in NFL football players, and professional athletes, and top Christian musicians, from TobyMac to for King & Country and David Crowder and others. And we had a high school senior give a senior speech and I kind of did the baccalaureate service and it was powerful. We broadcasted it on May 28th. It was on our Facebook page, but also live on CBN. So literally tens of thousands of families experienced this night together, including me in our own home. We gathered around my son, Jeremy, and as a family, we sent him off, we prayed for him. I encourage you, if you have a high school senior, it’s not too late. Just go to nationalseniorsendoff.com and as a family, watch this together, and then commission your high school senior for the glory of God. Because you know what, teenagers today are really struggling. Teenagers struggle as it is with anxiety and depression.
Number one cause of death among high schoolers in the United States is… The number one cause of death among high schoolers in the State of Colorado is suicide. And I believe that students are struggling with depression and anxiety like never before and we need to get them the message of the hope of Jesus Christ. That’s why at Dare 2 Share, our vision is every teen everywhere hearing the Gospel from a friend. Every teen everywhere hearing the Gospel from a friend. And we are excited to be partnering with Mission Hills to reach every teen everywhere. As matter of fact, on October 10th, we’re gonna be doing Dare 2 Share Live, which is a live simulcast event. It will be across the country. Last year, I was in 125 cities from Anchorage, Alaska, to Puerto Rico, live from Denver students trained, equipped and mobilized to share the Gospel of Christ. They had over 22,000 gospel conversations last October. This October, we’re praying hundreds of cities are involved and tens of thousands of teenagers are trained, equipped and mobilized with the message and the mission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Check out this short video. It really unpacks the power and potential of the Gospel unleashed to and through the next generation.
Announcement: A spark starting. A fire building. A revolution spreading all over the world. Because we Dare 2 Share. We got the skills. We have the tools. To share face-to face. And face-to-face. Day, nights, whenever, Okay, that’s it. I am everywhere. I share Jesus anywhere. I speak Mandarin, Arabic, Hungarian, because I speak Google. That’s how it is. Oceans can’t stop me. Jungles and swamps and deserts and mountains can’t stop me. Guns, and gangs, and tyrants, and thugs can’t stop me.
It’s like this. Phone, touch, text, boom, connection. What’s on my heart is on your heart, is on her heart, is on his heart. One voice becomes 1000 becomes a million. More people than any tent or stadium can hold. We’re taking charge of this revolution, this Gospel revolution. This generation is gonna get it done, while we’re young. Our hearts are open. A billion teen hearts are at stake. Whole countries are at stake. The future of the church is at stake. We get it because we’re fearless. Through Christ we’re fearless. And we won’t stop until every teen everywhere has Jesus in their life. And fire in their soul.
Greg: I believe that God wants to raise up this next generation now. I’m gonna invite you to be praying for Dare 2 Share Live, that God would use this partnership with Mission Hills to reach a generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, across the country and around the world because we need it now, more than ever. I mean, you watch the news, you can’t help but be concerned of what is happening in our country. It feels like our country is being torn apart. And what is the answer? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer. And I believe if we can raise up a young generation and an old generation, we can see every generation transformed by the power of the Gospel. Let me just tell you political solutions, they’re not ultimately the answer. Moral education, ultimately, not the answer. Listen, the only answer is spiritual transformation. Henry David Thoreau said this, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, one strikes at the root.” And the only thing that can strike at the root of evil, ultimately, the evil of racism, the evil of hate, the evil of violence, the only thing that can strike at the root is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:16, Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”
And I’ll tell you, I’ve seen this in my own family growing up. I don’t come from a typical religious church going, pew sitting, hymn singing family. I come from a family filled with bodybuilding, tobacco chewing, beer drinking thugs. And that’s just the women sadly. Three of my uncles were competitive bodybuilders. A fourth one was a bouncer at the toughest bar in Denver. The fifth one was a Golden Gloves boxer and judo champion. My mom was the only girl in the group. And they were all afraid of her because she was like the woman at the well with a baseball bat. My family was raised in North Denver, before it was the highlands, before it was skinny jeans and organic salads. It was one of the highest crime rate areas in Denver. And my family was right in the thick of it. In the middle of the racism, in the middle of the hate, in the middle of the violence. But then the Gospel began to change everything. The toughest one of my uncles is my Uncle Jack, which I believe we have a picture of Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack kind of looks like a beefed up version of Wolverine. Uncle Jack once went to prison for choking two cops unconscious at the same time. Uncle Jack, in and out of jail his whole life. Everybody was afraid of Uncle Jack.
Even the believers that knew him were afraid to share the Gospel with Uncle Jack. And there was one believer his name was Bob Daley who knew my Uncle Jack but was too afraid to share the Gospel with him. So he dared a preacher from the suburbs of Arvada, who had planted a church. This preacher, his nickname was Yankee, even though he spoke with a southern accent, long story, but Bob dared Yankee to share the Gospel with Uncle Jack and Yankee was fearless. He went to Uncle Jack’s store, he knocked on the door, my Uncle Jack came to the door, no shirt on, tats everywhere, two beer cans, one for drinking beer, one for spit and chew. You did not wanna get those mixed up, he goes, “What do you want?” Yankee said, “I’m here on a dare from Bob Daley to tell you about Jesus.” Jack said, “Well, I don’t know Jesus, but I know Bob. So, I’ll give you five minutes.” Invited him in, they sat down at the kitchen table. And Yankee opened his Bible to Ephesians 2: 8-9 and explained the Gospel of Jesus Christ to my Uncle Jack and my Uncle Jack had never heard that Jesus came for sinners just like him. That Jesus died on the cross for sinners just like him. That all he had to do is put his faith in Christ. And after explaining the Gospel, Yankee said, “Does that make sense?” Jack said, “Hell yeah,” that was a sinner’s prayer was, “Hell yeah.”
And have you ever met a new believer that doesn’t know the rules yet, right? About loving your enemy, because Jack began to tell other people about Jesus. And if they didn’t take Jesus, he may give them Moses right upside their head, right? So Jack, man, he came to Christ. He began to tell other people. He brought 250 people out to Yankee’s church in one month, because the Gospel changed him. And then the gospel changed my Uncle Bob, and one, by one, by one, the Gospel of Jesus Christ transformed my entire family. And I began to see a transformation in them. I was just a little kid. But I remember the transformation. Let me tell you, we wanna see this country change. We wanna see our community change. There’s only one hope the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So my question to you is, are you willing to share that message? Are you willing to get set on fire with that truth? That burning ember down deep inside of you? Are you willing to find it, fan it, and fuel it? So it shines brightly to everyone around you. Timothy was the Apostle Paul’s younger protégé. And he sometimes struggled with being timid. So Paul wrote to him in 2 Timothy 1, verses 3-8. “I thank God whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day, I constantly remember you in my prayers recalling your tears. I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I’m reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I’m persuaded now lives in you also. For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you to the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, his prisoner, rather join with me in suffering for the Gospel by the power of God.”
I love this passage because it is a bold apostle, who was used to standing up before riots, crowds of people that were angry and preaching the Gospel. Challenging his younger protégé who was more timid, to find that Gospel ember down deep inside. To fan it to the power of the Spirit and to fuel it by faithfully proclaiming the message no matter what the cost. So, Paul’s charge to Timothy is the Holy Spirit’s charge to us. I wanna challenge you because you may feel more like timid Timothy when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel than the bold Apostle Paul. So what do you do? Number one, you find it. You find that burning Gospel ember down deep inside. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul says, “I’m reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois, and in your mother Eunice, and I’m persuaded now lives in you also.” Paul is reminding Timothy of his spiritual heritage. He’s like, “You had a grandmother who’s a believer and a mom who’s a believer, and they passed on to you this legacy, this message.”
So I wanna encourage you, you look to find that burning Gospel ember, never get over your story. And maybe you have a powerful story, right? Like my Uncle Jack’s conversion to Christ. But maybe your story is more like, “Timothy, you were raised in a Christian home, you trusted Christ as a kid, you don’t feel that it was that radical or that worthy to share.” Let me just encourage you. Radical stories or typical stories are all powerful stories. As one Twitter feed read not too long ago, “On the day we got saved, God turned a criminal proceeding into an adoption ceremony.”
The day of your salvation, whether or not you remember the exact day or not, that day was a day of utter absolute transformation. An adoption ceremony where you were brought into the family of God. And I just wanna stop just for a moment and ask this question. Do you know for sure you have that salvation story? Do you know for sure you have a relationship with the God of the Universe? If you don’t, let me just share this message with you very quickly. I want you to lean in, it’s important. God created you to be in a relationship with him. God loves you so very much, but our sins, they separate us from God because he’s a perfect and Holy God, and he cannot be in the presence of sin. And those sins could never be removed by good deeds. It’s like putting frosting on a burnt cake. You just cover up your sin with your good deeds, and God sees right through the frosting right to our sinful hearts.
So no matter how much we turn, or try, or cry, we turn from our sin, or try to be a nice person or cry tears of contrition when we fail to be nice. No matter how much of that we do, it will never get rid of the stench of our sin in the nostrils of a Holy and perfect God. But 2000 years ago, that same God sent his only Son into the world, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that’s Jesus, the Son of God became the Son of Man.” Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, lived the perfect life we could never live and then died the horrible death that we deserve. Hanging on the cross, the Creator of the Universe, now in human form, screamed out these words “Elohi, Elohi, lama sabachthani” Which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Because in that moment, God the Father took all of his wrath and all of his hatred for all of our sin. And he poured it out, instead of pouring it on us, he poured it out on his Son and Jesus scream, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And then he uttered the words that would change the course of humanity. “It is finished.” And he bowed his head and he died.
Jesus paid the price for the sins you committed in the past, the sins you committed today, the sins you commit in the future. Jesus paid the price. And three days later, he rose from the dead, victorious over death, over sin, over Satan. And now everyone who trust in him alone has eternal life. You see, getting into this relationship with God is not a matter of trying. It’s a matter of trusting. You put your faith in him you receive the gift of eternal life and that life with Jesus starts now and last forever. You enter into a personal, permanent relationship with the God of the Universe that can never be broken by you and will never be broken by him. And if you’ve never put your faith in Jesus, today is the day, right where you’re sitting, you can say this silent prayer in your heart to God, “Dear God, I’m a sinner. I mess up, I fall short. But I believe that Jesus died for all my sins. I believe he rose from the dead. And I trust in him alone to forgive me for my sins, to give me eternal life, and to adopt me into his family.”
If you just put your faith in Jesus, you were saved, not because you said a prayer. But because you trusted in Jesus Christ and what he did for you on the cross. Welcome to the family of God. We wanna help you grow in your relationship with Jesus. So I want you, if you just trusted in Jesus, take out your cell phone, I mean, it’s probably already out. And I want you to text the word “Jesus” to 888111. Text the word “Jesus” to 888111. And you’re gonna get some stuff that’s gonna help you grow in your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome to the family of God. Now you have your story. Never get over your story. Find that Gospel ember.
Secondly, fan it. Find it, fan it. 2 Timothy 1:6. “For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you to the laying on of my hands.” Now here’s the deal. Paul, the Apostle laid his hands on Timothy and parted to him a gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of a commission, a mission to go and preach the Gospel and in the same way, you have that same gift. You need to fan it into flame. You know, again, you may feel like the timid one when it comes to sharing the Gospel. I felt like that kind of person in my own family. I’m, obviously, not a bodybuilder like my family members. I didn’t like to crack skulls, I liked to crack books. Matter of fact, it didn’t even feel like I was a part of this family. I wondered if I had any of my family in me. And I remember once I went to this little Christian school, and during this Christian school gym period, they would make you do different sports, and one of the sports they would make you do is boxing. And I didn’t really wanna box anybody, but they put me up against Steve Salazar and Steve Salazar was 20 pounds heavier than me. Steve didn’t like me very much. And Steve, legend had it, was trained by a Golden Gloves boxer. So everybody was afraid of Steve. And we found out on Monday who we’re gonna box and that boxing match was gonna happen on Friday. And so 9th through 12th, all the guys are there surrounding and watched the boxing matches unfold.
So I knew that my manhood was on the line. So what did I do that Monday night? I rented the movie Rocky, because I wanted to learn how to box. And I remember watching that movie over and over every night and I would just shadowbox in the mirror. And I was gonna mentally get ready to box Steve, I was gonna try to box him and win him in a fight. And I’ll never forget Friday when it was time, it was gym class. All the guys were there, 9th through 12th grade guys, in this big kind of square around this basketball court outside and our names were called, “Steve Salazar, Greg Stier, come to the middle.” We put on our gloves, and they were regulation size gloves. We put on headgear and we’re standing there. And I’m just thinking, “Okay, remember the movie Rocky. Remember the movie Rocky.” I’ll never forget Steve just kind of sitting there like this with a smile on his face. Because he knew I didn’t know how to box, and in that moment, I realized, “Oh, no, I’m in trouble. I am depending on watching a movie, watching Rocky to help me win a fight. I’m gonna get clobbered.” And then something deep inside, began to smolder, began to burn. There was my family ember there after all, and I begin to fan it into flame. And I begin to realize, “You know what? He can’t box without a head. If I take off his head, he ain’t gonna be able to hit me.”
And so they ring the bell I ran out, and I hit him so hard that his head gear turn and he couldn’t see me. So I did, not what Jesus would do, but what Moses would do, I hit him again. And then I jumped on him and I think I was drooling at the time. And boy, I tell you what, I found that down deep inside, there was my family ember somewhere down deep inside. And I fanned it and I won by God’s grace. I’m not a good golfer, but now I can box. Let me tell you, down deep inside, there is a burning Gospel ember that needs to be fanned. How do you fan that Gospel ember? It’s not by watching the movie Rocky. It’s by yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” You may think, “Well, I can’t share my faith.” You know what? The Holy Spirit, who is in you, can enable you to share your faith. He can give you the power that you need. John 15:26, Jesus said, “When the helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” He bears witness about Christ through us. So if you’re full of the Holy Spirit, he’s gonna empower you. He’s gonna propel you to proclaim the name and fame of Christ to bear witness about Jesus.
When you plug into the power of the Holy Spirit, it dwells inside of you. It’s like plugging in into a nuclear reactor. The same God, the Father, Son, the Holy Spirit, that same power that enabled them to speak the universe into existence. According to Colossians 1, enables them to hold the universe together by the word of their power, that same power that raised Jesus from the dead and set him above every name that is above… his name is above all names. That same power that conquered sin, and Satan, and death. That same power is in you because that same person through the Holy Spirit dwells inside of you. So if you’re afraid to share your faith, yield yourself to the Holy Spirit. Find that Gospel ember then fan that Gospel ember. Because the Holy Spirit when he dwells inside us, you know what he does? He can’t help but set our tongues ablaze. Don’t believe me? Go read Acts 2, the early believers. They’re waiting for Jesus to send his Holy Spirit. He’s died, Jesus has died, risen again, spent 40 days with them ascended into heaven. For 10 days, they have a prayer service and on the day of Pentecost, they’re waiting for the Holy Spirit to come, and a mighty rushing wind blows in. And they know this is it.
And then the Spirit of God appears. How does the Spirit of God appear, as an eagle? That would have been cool? Caw, caw. I don’t know if that’s how an eagle sounds. As a dove? No, not an eagle, not a dove. But as a tongue of fire. Which is, I mean, honestly, it’s kind of weird. I don’t think we take a step back and look and say, “That’s kind of different?” Right? Why did the Spirit of God come as a tongue of fire? Have you ever seen a tongue in a butcher shop? It is not a beautiful cut of meat, let alone set on fire, right? So I want you to imagine you’re praying, and all of a sudden the doors blow open. And here comes a tongue of fire, which separates into smaller tongues of fire and lands on every believer and sets their tongues on fire for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And 3000 end up being added to the church that day. Because their tongues were set on fire, by the Spirit of God.
I want you to find that burning ember. And then I want you to fan it. How do you fan it? You yield to the Spirit of God. And when you yield to the Spirit of God and ask him to take control, He will set your tongue ablaze for Jesus. He will testify about Jesus through your tongue, He’ll set your tongue on fire. You find that Gospel ember, you fan that Gospel ember and finally you fuel that Gospel ember. Find it, fan it, fuel it. How do you fuel it? 2 Timothy 1-8, “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner. Rather join with me in suffering for the Gospel by the power of God.” How do you fuel that Gospel ember? You share the Gospel.
And the more you share the Gospel, the more you open yourself up to risk and rejection. And the more you open yourself up to risk and rejection, the stronger your faith gets, and the stronger your faith gets, the more you proclaim the name and fame of Jesus. I’ve seen this at Dare 2 Share for almost the last 30 years doing this. We train and equip students to share the Gospel. Then we mobilize them, we actually take them out to share Christ. And they come back, many of them have been rejected. Matter of fact, our early years of doing Dare 2 Share, some of them came back discouraged, I go, “Why are you discouraged?” They said, “We were persecuted. We were rejected.” I said, “Don’t you remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:11-12, ‘Blessed are you when men persecute you and say all sorts of evil things against you for my namesake, for the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you and great is your reward in heaven.'” We came up with a thing called Persecution University.
So if you get slammed for the sake of the name of Christ, you get a standing ovation. If you lead someone to Christ, you get a standing ovation. If you give somebody a Gospel track and ran, you get a standing ovation, because you’ve risked something, how do you fuel this burning ember? You share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m gonna ask you the question, “Would you be willing to risk by sharing the Gospel with your neighbors?” Well, you may be thinking, “Well, I can’t because of the Coronavirus, the pandemic.” Right? Let me just encourage you with something. You can share Christ from 6 feet away with a mask on. How do I know? I’ve done it? And let me just tell you something very interesting.
We are living in a day and age, I don’t know what happened 8, 9, 10 weeks ago whenever this thing hit. I woke up one day, you woke up one day, looked out the window, and all of a sudden, we’re living in the ’50s because moms and dads and kids are out, they’re walking their dogs. I’ve never seen so many people walk and ride their bikes and out and about and you know what? They’re longing for connections. Do you know, according to a New York Times article that recently came out, the number one day, the number one day of phone usage in America is not Father’s Day. Sorry, dads. It’s Mother’s Day. Did you know that the average day of phone usage in America now is twice the typical Mother’s Day? Every day. Why? People are longing for connection. In that same article, the number one problem now telemarketers have is not getting hung up on, it’s getting off the phone because people want to talk.
This is the greatest opportunity. And now, I mean, as bad as some of the things that are happening across the United States, people wanna talk about it. People wanna engage, and we have the opportunity to engage them with a message, the hope of Jesus Christ. I wanna challenge you, take that opportunity, and risk something, risk something. I really wanna challenge dads, fathers, would you lead the way in your own home when it comes to risking something for the Gospel of Jesus Christ? You may be thinking, “Well, I don’t exactly know how to do that. I don’t know how to risk. I don’t know what to say?” Let me tell you, we have a free app at Dare 2 Share, it’s called Life in 6 Words, you can go to the App Store, download it. And on that app, you can ask somebody how they would describe their life in six words. They choose the six words. You ask them why they chose those six words, and you hear their story then you can share the six words from Scripture, gospel sentences that spell out on the cross to gospel.
Not only that, there you can add people to what we call your cause circle. And you can begin to pray for people as a family to come to Christ. You can, together as a family, hold each other accountable. I encourage you right now, to take your phones out and download Life in 6 in Words from the App Store. If you’re over the age of 60. Just hand your phone to the youngest person around you. They’ll do it for you. Download Life In 6 Words app from the App Store, or Google Play, it’s free, and put the name of one person or two people you wanna reach with the Gospel in that cause circle. And then begin that gospel conversation with that one person. And dads, I wanna encourage you in your living room right now, if you’re together as a family, I want you to encourage you to lead the way with this. I want, after this service, you to be talking with your family about, “Hey, who are we gonna reach?” You know, one of the things we do in our family after every online service, is we answer three questions. Number one, what did you learn? What were you reminded of? Number two, what are you gonna do about it? Number three, who are you gonna tell? Who are you gonna tell about Jesus this week?
And every week we talk about how it worked out last week, and what our plan is for this week. And I take the lead of doing that because I’m the Dad, I’m the initiator. I’m the one called to do that. And I wanna really encourage you fathers, if you’re a dad, lead the way with your family. Lead the way like my Uncle Dave. My Uncle Dave was in the Vietnam War and he was shot five times. Hit at least four times with mortar. We were at Perez in an Italian restaurant at 44th and Tennyson in North Denver. And he was showing us his bullet holes in his body, which is kind of awkward in a restaurant. He goes, “Oh, yeah, I got burned at it.” I’m like, “What?” He pulled up his shirt. There’s a five-inch gash right in his stomach. I go, “What’s the story?” My family’s locked in to listen into a story. He goes, “Well, I was a crew chief of a rescue helicopter during Vietnam.”
And again, he won 40 medals and commendations. Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldiers Cross, all sorts of stuff, Purple Hearts. He said, “And we were landing in a hot zone. The battle was still going on.” They’re there to rescue people. He goes, “I was the first one out of the helicopter because I saw an American soldier being dragged by three enemy soldiers into the jungle and I ran out there and I got ambushed by three enemy soldiers. They took my gun they threw me on the ground. One stood on one arm, one stood on the other arm, the other stood over me with an AK 47 and a bayonet at the end and he began to gut me.” I’m like, “Oh my goodness, what did you do?” He said, “I prayed to God and kicked him in the groin.” I’m like, “Okay.” And he said, “Greg, it was a miracle when I kicked him. Those enemy soldiers jumped off my arms. And the guy holding the bayonet dropped his gun and it flipped and landed in my arms. I killed them all. I rescued my friend. I was back in on that helicopter and I flew another six hours.”
I go, “What about your cut?” He goes, “Duct taped it.” I’m like, “Dude, you are Rambo.” And I asked him, I said, “Why were you so passionate? Why were you so passionate?” Because I found out he flew day and night. He never got any sleep. He was only there for one year one tour of duty and 40 medals and commendations. But he went on every dangerous mission he could. And I said, “Why?” He said, “Because I was older when I went to Vietnam.” And I looked at these young soldiers, they look like kids to me. He goes, “Let me ask you a question, Greg, what would you do to rescue your kids? You’d do anything. You’d fly into the danger zone, you’d be the first one out of the helicopter, you would do what it took to reach them, to rescue them. You would lead the way for your fellow soldiers.” I wanna encourage you to do what it takes to rescue the people around you with a message of hope, to think of that one person. And after this service, I want you to talk as a family, download that Life in 6 Words app, put the name of that one person in your cause circle that you’re gonna pray for, care for and share the Gospel with. And I want you to talk about who those people are. And I want you to stop and pray as a family. Or maybe you’re by yourself. Just pray by yourself that God would use you to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And if you’re a dad, just like my Uncle Dave, I challenge you. Like he was the first one off the helicopter. Would you be the one to lead the way in that conversation? Thank you so much for the opportunity of sharing with you today. Happy Father’s Day.
FIVE O’CLOCK GRACE
DR. MARK YOUNG
Dr. Mark Young visits this week to discuss God’s grace, given to us unexpectedly and undeservedly, as the core issue in our relationship with him.
Craig: Hi, Mission Hills. I am so honored to be able to introduce our guest speaker for this weekend. Dr. Mark Young is a great man of God. He’s an amazing communicator of God’s Word. And he has a long history of helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission all over the world as a missionary, and then as a faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary. We’re not gonna hold that against him. But now he has seen the light, and he is the President of Denver Theological Seminary, right here in South Denver. I’m so excited to have him bring God’s Word to us today. Would you join me in welcoming Dr. Mark Young?
Dr. Young: Thank you. I love your pastor. Well, even before he said those nice things about me, I liked him. What a tremendous leader he is for this congregation, a shepherd, a pastor, a teacher. I’m so thankful that he is here with you. And I’m so thankful that you support him in that role.
Is God fair? It’s a question that’s been asked throughout the ages. In fact, my wife and I just got through reading through the Book of Job and that’s a question that comes up again, and again, and again, is God fair? Job’s complaint is God, you’re not fair. This is a question that troubles people, bedevils them. And sometimes, in fact, it keeps them from wanting to know the God who they believe is unfair.
It’s not just a question in the Old Testament. There is in fact, a number of places in the New Testament where the question comes up. And we’re gonna look at one of those today in Matthew chapter 20. So if you have a copy of the New Testament that you’d like to use, whatever medium you prefer, turn to Matthew 20. Now, before we start this passage, we need to be aware that we’re talking about a parable. We’re gonna read a parable together. Parables formed a way that Jesus taught and communicated. Parables were based in life.
And so when the people who heard Jesus teach heard his parables, they could immediately relate to what he was talking about. They didn’t have to go to a lexicon, or they didn’t have to get some high falutin theologian to explain it to them. He told stories that were grounded in their lives. And that was great, that’s the way they connected with what Jesus was saying.
But for you and me, he’s telling stories when we read these stories, they’re stories that aren’t a part of our daily lives. In these parables that we read, we sometimes see behaviors that aren’t what we do, we hear words that aren’t our own words, we encounter people who aren’t necessarily like the people we know.
So in order for us to understand what Jesus is saying, in a parable, we have to try to enter into their world, into that 1st-century Jewish world and understand the parable as Jesus told it. So I’m gonna try to help us do that today as we dive in into this parable and ask the question, is God fair? So let’s look at it together. Matthew 20:1.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner, who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day, and sent them into his vineyard.” Now, what Jesus does is lay out for us two different kinds of people in the 1st century world, in the 1st century economy.
At the top of the pile were landowners. Israel was essentially an agrarian society, an agrarian economy. So those who possessed land were those who had the opportunity to generate wealth, and to sustain wealth. So landowners were those who had the resources necessary to live prosperous and respected lives in the 1st century. If we were to break down the economy of the 1st century, we could see another class of people just underneath those landowners, these would be those who had a trade.
For example, Peter, who was a fisherman. Peter was able to apply his trade, to ply his trade so to speak, and from that earned enough money to survive. Now, it’s wrong to think of Peter as a business owner. Peter, more likely than not didn’t own his own boat. More likely than not, he had to pay someone to use a boat to get out on the Sea of Galilee. And more likely than not, he had to pay severe taxes when he brought in the fish. So although Peter was a tradesman, so to speak, or had a profession of sorts, he still wasn’t wealthy. Only the landowners were wealthy.
So the landowners, the tradesmen, and then below them were those who are the household servants. Those who owned land would take into their house in an indentured way, people who would work for them. Now in the 1st century world, according to Jewish law, and according to Roman law, landowners had certain legal obligations and responsibility in relationship to the household servants. They worked for the landowner. They lived on the estate. And in many regards, he was responsible to make sure they had a place to live and food to eat, much, much unlike, in this particular case, the evil of slavery that we had in our country.
And below the household servants, were the day laborers. So in this parable, we hear the landowners and the laborers. Now, who were the day laborers? For whatever reason, they didn’t possess land. They could be Jewish. They could have been those who weren’t a part of Israel earlier. They could be those who lost their land because of indebtedness. They could be those who, for whatever reason, had violated the law or fallen out of favor.
But here’s what you have to know, no one looked out for these people. These day laborers lived day to day. If they didn’t work today, there would be no bread tomorrow. It kind of puts some perspective into the Lord’s prayer, give us this day, our what?
Congregation: Daily bread.
Dr. Young: Daily bread. There were no legal requirements that anyone hire these day laborers. They would gather in the city, hoping that someone would come by and hire them so that they can work for a day in order to eat for another day. They were the poorest of the poor.
Now, this landowner, Jesus tells us went out early in the morning, verse 1, to hire some day laborers. Now what you have to know to make sense of this parable is that the workday in the 1st century was a 12 hour workday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Clearly, we’re not talking about the French in this parable. So they worked from 6 a.m., 12 hours until 6 p.m. So he goes out into the city, and he hires a group of workers at 6 a.m. to work a 12 hour workday. And he says to them, or he agreed that he would pay them a denarius for the day. And then he sent them into his vineyard to work.
A denarius was the standard wage for a day’s labor. It was the custom that you would pay a day laborer a denarius for that 12 hours of work.
Now, verse 3, “About 9:00 in the morning, he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, you also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right. So they went. He went out again about noon, and about 3:00 in the afternoon, and did the same thing. About 5:00 in the afternoon, he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ And they answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
And he said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.'”
Now some of you may be reading a translation of the Bible that talks about the 3rd hour, the 6th hour, the 9th hour, and the 11th hour, that’s basically 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., okay? So this landowner goes out all those different times, 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and hires workers. And if you’re listening to Jesus tell this story, you’re thinking to yourself, okay, I understand that a landowner would go out and hire workers, but why is this landowner going back five different times to get what he needs? It kind of reminds me of me and Home Depot when I have a home project I have to do.
So he might be a particularly lousy businessman. So he had to harvest his grapes, or perhaps prune his vines, or do some clearing of the land or whatever. And he started the work, he says, oh, I don’t have enough workers. So he goes back and he gets more workers and he still doesn’t have… So he goes back and gets more and he still doesn’t have enough, so he goes… That doesn’t make sense. And so if you’re listening to Jesus tell this story, you’re thinking to yourself, I’m not really sure what’s going on here. This is very unusual.
There’s nothing in this story to indicate that he was an incompetent businessman. In fact, his integrity and his goodness throughout the story are clear. I think there’s a little bit of an issue here we have to pay attention to. When we read that phrase, “Why are you standing around doing nothing?” that may give us the impression that these were lazy people. That’s not the case. They were doing nothing because nobody hired them and there was no work for them to do.
Now think with me. If you were gonna hire day laborers, to do the work that you needed them to do, you would obviously hire the youngest and the strongest, and the most skilled day laborers at the beginning of the day, wouldn’t you? So by the time you get to that 5 p.m. hiring of those laborers, there’s no doubt that these were the least desirable workers. Perhaps they were too old. Perhaps they were too young, too weak. Perhaps they’d been accused of being dishonest. Perhaps it was known that they were drunkards. For whatever reason, even at the end of the day, no one had hired them.
And so this landowner goes back again and again, and even the least desirable workers, he hires. The way Jesus tells this story, he makes you think that there was no one left to hire after the landowner had hired these.
Verse 8, “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'” And you’re saying, hmm, that doesn’t seem quite right. It would make sense if you paid the first workers first, and the last workers last. So my contention is, if you were standing there listening to Jesus teach, at this point, you would be a little bit on edge wondering what is it he’s getting at? The landowner has been involved in unexpected behavior, and now he’s going to pay the last workers first. What is Jesus getting at?
Verse 9, “The workers who were hired about 5:00 in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.” Now if you were a 1st century person, and you heard that line, “The workers who were hired last came and each received a denarius,” you would say something like, what? I’ll give you a chance. I’ll read it again and you can try to enter into this. “The workers who were hired about 5:00 in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.”
Dr. Young: Exactly. Exactly. By the way, when you read Jesus’ parables, particularly the ones that are more developed and involved like this one, always look for the surprise. In these parables, there are always those moments when Jesus says something or does something or a character does something that is least expected. And it’s in those moments that the point Jesus wants to drive home is made most salient. What?
He promised that if you worked 12 hours, you would receive a denarius. These guys worked one hour, and they didn’t receive one-twelfth of a denarius, they received an entire denarius. This is completely and totally unexpected generosity. It is undeserved. It is something that they were not owed at all. Unexpected and undeserved favor from someone who owes us nothing. The Bible calls that grace. Unexpected, and undeserved favor from someone who owes us nothing, that’s grace.
The vineyard owner literally had no legal obligation to pay them anything. By convention, he agreed to pay them a wage. They in turn, had no one to whom they could appeal for justice if he didn’t pay them because they had no rights. They were completely dependent on his willingness to bless them because of their work.
Years ago, I heard Stuart Briscoe talk about the relationship between God’s justice, God’s mercy, and God’s grace. And he described it like this. I think this will make sense to you. God’s justice is getting what we deserve from God. Because we have sinned, God’s justice is poured out upon us.
God’s mercy is not getting fully what we deserve because we deserve the punishment for our sins. God stays His hand of judgment and allows us to continue to live. And God’s grace is getting what we do not deserve. That is God’s favor given to us simply because he wills to give us his favor. God’s grace, my dear brothers and sisters, is the core issue in the relationship between God and his people.
Paul could hardly find language to describe God’s grace. In Ephesians 1:6, he writes of God’s glorious grace, “Which he has freely given us in the one he loves, Jesus Christ.” Later in the same passage, he writes “In Christ, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he has lavished upon us.” It’s almost like Paul can’t even come up with the right language.
So he talks about the riches of it. He talks about God lavishing his grace upon us. It’s out of control grace. It’s opulent grace. It’s extravagant grace. It’s jaw-dropping, eye-popping, head shaking, breathtaking spine-tingling favor poured out on us by God. That’s God’s grace. That’s God’s grace. It exceeds anything that we could possibly imagine.
God’s grace doesn’t make sense, by the standards of the world. You cannot reason your way to God’s grace. And if you try to, you will lose its wonder. For those of us who have believed in Jesus Christ and received the grace of God, it ought to cause us to step back in silent awe and then to burst forth in glorious praise. This is the grace of our God. But not everyone responds to God’s grace that way.
Look at the next verse in the parable. “So when those who came who were hired first, they expected to receive more.” Well, of course. I mean, they could do the math. I’m a theologian, and I could do that math. If a person worked 1 hour and got a denarius, what’s fair is for a person who works 12 hours to receive 12 denari, right? That seems fair. And by the way, let me ask you a question. How many of you ever had to teach your children to say, “That’s not fair?” Anyone ever have a child in their home who never said, “That’s not fair?”
We all have this keen sense of injustice, especially when we think it’s perpetrated toward us. So these guys know. They see that the person who worked for an hour got a whole denarius. So they’re standing in line thinking, I worked 12 hours. Like if we had a cartoon, their eyes would be bulged out and there’d be big denarius signs right there on their eyes. They thought they were gonna get 12 days of wages for 1 day of work. They expected. They felt they were owed 12 denari for this day of work.
And then Jesus says in the parable, “But each of them also received 1 denarius.” And all God’s people said, “That’s not fair. That’s not fair.” They didn’t think it was fair. Do you think it’s fair? By the world’s standards, it’s intensely unfair. Jesus goes on in the passage, and he says, “When they received their denarius, they began to grumble against the landowner.” That may be a milder term than actually what was going on. Those who were hired last worked only one hour. And they said, “You have made them equal to us, who have borne the burden of the work, and the heat of the day.”
And they had, they’ve worked the whole day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. through the heat of the day. They had borne the bulk of the work, and they got the same wage as those who had come at 5 p.m. and only worked for an hour. Is that fair? Grace, my dear brothers and sisters, grace violates our sense of justice. It disturbs our equilibrium. Grace is disruptive. We feel like the rules have been changed when we come face to face with the grace of God. I love what Philip Yancey has written, “Grace has about it the scent of a scandal.”
Years ago, I was teaching in a youth camp in southern Poland. I couldn’t speak Polish at the time so I was using an interpreter. The way these camps work, the students came in for two weeks. We were out in the remote village. They came in for two weeks and I would teach for four hours a day, five days a week, and basically teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So because I needed an interpreter, a woman by the name of Alina came down to interpret for me from English into Polish. She was an English student at the university in Warsaw.
And I found out that she came simply because she wanted to hear a native…be around a native English speaker. This was during the Communist era, and they didn’t have a lot of opportunity to interact with native English speakers. So, you know, I thought to myself, man, if you knew the way I talked, you probably wouldn’t wanna come. But anyway, she came and so for four hours a day, five days a week for two weeks, she interpreted me teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then that camp was over and another group of campers came, she decided to stay for the second set of…for the second camp.
So once again, for two weeks, five days a week, four hours a day, she interpreted me teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And then she stayed for the third camp. So Alina interpreted for me for six weeks, five days a week, four hours a day, and she heard about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And the way these camps worked at the end of the camp, the campers would build a big cross. It was about that big around, that big log. It was probably close to 3 meters long, maybe longer and the crossbar was a meter and a half, 2 meters.
And we put it on our shoulder, and we walked through the mountains, dragging that cross for a short period of time reflecting on what Christ had done for us on the cross. So throughout the course of the six weeks that we were together, Alina and I didn’t have a lot of conversation. She was an introvert. I’m basically an introvert as well. So we didn’t talk a lot. As the camp went on, she would show up, I would teach, she would interpret, we just didn’t get to know each other very well.
But on this last weekend of this last camp, as we were walking through the mountains, she pulled me aside, and she fixed me with her stare, with her eyes. There was an intensity that I had never noticed before. And she said to me, “Mark, I have a question for you. If Adolf Hitler had believed, in the last moment of his life, what you have been teaching would God have welcomed him into heaven?” And I said, yes. And she said, “I will never believe in a God like that.” Grace violated her sense of justice and she walked away.
I came to learn from her friends that eight members of her father’s family had been murdered by the Nazis in the camps in Poland. Grace disrupted her sense of justice. It violated her sense of justice. She could never believe in a God like that.
The parable goes on. “The landowner answered one of them, ‘I’m not being unjust to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last, the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money, or are you envious because I am generous?'”
What a conundrum. Can we believe in the grace of God and still believe that God is just? One commentator has written it this way. “The God who is generous, far beyond what could be expected is also never less than just.” And so the question comes up, how then can we possibly bring together the justice of God, and the grace of God and have it makes sense? Let me give you three ideas if we wanna try to make sense of God’s grace.
God’s grace only makes sense when we realize the hopelessness and the helplessness of the human condition, before God. Ephesians 2:1, Paul says it’s this way. “As for you, you were dead, in your transgressions and sins.” I’ve done a lot of funerals and I can say to you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, dead people can’t do anything to change their situation. They’re dead. Not mostly dead, fully dead. And they can’t do anything. They’re dead.
And you and I, Paul says, are also dead because we are reaping the consequences of our sin. Paul wrote it this way, Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Now listen, I’m not in any way going to diminish that the rebellion against God that was perpetrated, that was worked out through the evil of Nazi Germany is an evil and a sin and a rebellion that wreaked havoc in the lives of millions of people, destroyed millions of lives. I’m not beginning to say that our sin begins to equal the destruction that was a part of that particular individual’s sin.
But I will say this, each and every one of us in this room has intentionally pursued evil at the cost of other people. Each and every one of us has pursued our own ends, and we have wrought damage in the lives of others through that. And we are dead in our trespasses and sins, unable to do anything, to bring God’s favor upon us. That’s the first point we have to make.
Secondly, we can make sense of God’s grace when we see that Christ’s death on the cross satisfies God’s justice. Paul says it this way, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.” And then Peter goes on and adds, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.” You see, God has to judge sin, because he’s holy, because he’s righteous. The sins, your sins, and my sins have to be judged. The penalty for that sin is death.
And so the sentence of death has to be executed. That was executed. And it was borne on our behalf by the person of Jesus Christ. He paid the penalty for our sin. God’s justice and wrath were poured out upon him so that God’s justice could be pure, and grace could abound because in the death of Christ, he accomplished not just the justice of God, but the grace and the mercy of God. And in him, we have newness of life. Our sins are forgiven, because of what Christ did on our behalf. And we will not pay the ultimate penalty for our sin.
The third thing that we have to do to make sense of grace, we have to realize if there’s nothing we can do, if God’s grace is completely not earned and undeserved, then what we must do is receive it as a gift through faith. Paul said it this way, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, this is not from yourself, it is the gift of God not by works so that no one can boast.” Faith turns what seems like a senseless, an offensive, an unjust act when God pours his grace out upon us into an awareness of just how magnificent God’s grace is. Faith turns, “I could never believe in a God like that,” to, “That’s the God that I want to believe in.” That’s God’s grace.
I’ll tell you a story here to finish up. I had an uncle by the name of Clarence. We loved Uncle Clarence. He retired from the Marine Corps 30 years, as a master sergeant, heart and soul of the Marine Corps. He came to live in our little town where my family had grown up, and we got to know him, we loved him. So many times I shared the Gospel with Uncle Clarence. He had lied about his age so that he could join the Marine Corps and go fight in Korea, which he had done. Then after Korea, he was in Vietnam before we were officially in Vietnam.
And when I would share the Gospel with him and talk about the forgiveness of sins, he would always say the same thing to me. He would always say, “God could never forgive me for what I have done.”
He would never talk about what he had done. He wouldn’t talk about what he had seen, and what he had experienced, and what he himself had done in war. But he knew one thing, no one could ever forgive him for that. We loved him. We shared the Gospel with him. We brought him into our family.
And at the age of 79, he came to faith in Jesus Christ. Man, he was set free. God’s grace was lavished upon him and he was set free.
Now, I told you, I’m a theologian so basically my math skills stop at Father, Son, Holy Spirit. But I did a little math. I took his age at his death, age of 87, and I divided it by 12 hours, the number of hours in the workday. And then I multiplied it by 11, and I came up to age 79. Uncle Clarence experienced 5 o’clock grace, 5 o’clock grace. And he’s not living in just one-twelfth of heaven, he’s got it all. He’s reveling in all of the grace of God, in the presence of the One who could forgive him because the wrath of God had been poured out on his Son.
I have no idea what you’re thinking of as you think about your relationship to a just God. But I do know this, it’s time, it’s time for you to recognize that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins. And the just God is pouring out his grace upon you, and all you have to do is believe. It’s time to let it go and allow God to save you.
Let’s pray together, shall we? So our Heavenly Father, I pray that if there is someone here who cannot make sense of grace, that through your Holy Spirit, you would convince them that your justice is satisfied by the death of your Son on the cross. And that your grace is poured out on any and all who would believe. And I pray Heavenly Father that you would give whoever it is, who is receiving by faith, this great news that their sins are forgiven in your grace, I pray that you’d give them the courage to tell someone, maybe those who are gathered to pray at the front, maybe me, whomever.
And I pray that you would convince them every second of every day that your grace is lavished upon them. And it is sufficient, no matter what they have done, or where they have been. And for those of us who believe, Heavenly Father, I pray that our lives would be characterized by constant gratitude for your grace. And that we too would live in the freedom of knowing that your justice is satisfied, that Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins. And that you are continuing to pour out your grace in our lives, day by day by day. We thank you for this in the name of the One who was crucified, rose again, and will come to complete your great work of redemption, our Lord Jesus. Amen.
Our Identity should fuel our Activity in Christ.
Frozen in Time
As you look at your heart…to get very, very honest about what your heart has exchanged for counterfeit. I want you to know, It doesn’t compare. When you hold up your idol it pales in comparison to the person and work of Jesus Christ…What I want the Holy Spirit to do in my life today is allow me to hold up my idol… To let my heart honestly see that Jesus Christ is infinitely more beautiful, infinitely more valuable, infinitely more hope-giving and worthy of my affections, than whatever it is right now that has become my savior that only the true savior can give me.
When God Goes Silent
God never hides, but He waits for us to return to Him– He is constantly calling for our trust. When I learn to trust the heart of God, then hearing His voice is seemingly irrelevant. We treat God as if He is another person, assuming we ticked Him off somehow and He is giving us the silent treatment. Even our close friends give us the cold shoulder sometimes, so why wouldn’t God? Listen as our guest speaker takes us through what it means to listen for God’s voice in times of silence.
Who is My Neighbor
There are blessings and benefits found in living as a good neighbor to others.
The Various ‘Ups’ of Isaiah 40 // Isaiah’s prophecy concerning God’s people came at the most pivotal moment in their history. They were a divided nation, riddled with immorality and idolatry, and they needed someone to speak a message to them that was stern enough to dissuade them from the course they were on.
The Bible’s tweets about your future.