In celebration of Father’s Day, and every day, you are encouraged to persevere in what you are called to do. Even when you’re overwhelmed, the fact that you stay engaged matters even more than how you perform throughout each moment. Keep going; the race is won by those who keep taking small steps in the direction of where they want to go.
MOTHER’S DAY – SHE DID WHAT SHE COULD
We often feel weighed down by a sense of being “not enough.” Not enough as a mom, a dad, a daughter or son, a sister or brother, a worker or neighbor. What if what God longs for is not for us to do all we can but rather what we can? Jesus’ response to Mary of Bethany opens our eyes to the real difference we can make by doing what we can. Just that.
Elisa: Thank you, Pastor Craig. I think you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be right now, yes. And I’m very honored for the invitation to share this platform with you today. You probably came in here like me, feeling way weighed down by the everyday load of bringing home a paycheck and putting food on the table, and shuttling the kids around. And you’re burdened by this sense of not-enoughness, you’re not smart enough, you’re not fit enough, you’re not wise enough to raise these kids, you know, oh, and that’s just right here. What about beyond ourselves? What about the needs around us? We feel like we can’t make a dent in the needs in our world, the war in Ukraine, the fires and tornadoes, the price of gas. I mean, it’s just so much all the time, right? And then Mother’s Day arrives. We want so much to celebrate our moms and our wives. And yet the twinkly pink of cards leaves us feeling kind of, like, “Is that all we got here?” All kinds of emotions bubble up during Mother’s Day. There is some of us who had the most amazing mom and we feel like, “Oh, I can never do what she did.” And there are others of us who had a mom who didn’t do the best job. And Mother’s Day leaves us feeling just kind of weird. There are others of us who miss our mom who was now absent from this planet, and we feel a sadness. There are others who are moms and have lost a child. And Mother’s Day comes with a spot more than a spot of hurt, a hollow kind of thing. Then we want to bless our wives, we want our children to rise up and call them blessed, but all the plans we come up with just seem kind of lame, you know, just kind of trite.
Turning it around, Mother’s Day can be a big mirror for how not enough we are as moms. I mean, take me, way long ago, I remember coming home from work and opening the back door and going in, my kids were already home from school, they were at that age. But as I hit the landing on the stairs, I took in this gray-green kind of blob, blob of encrusted what could only be cat vomit, okay? Cat vomit on the stairs. And I look at it and I think my kids have been coming in and out of the house and up and down the stairs for hours,
stepping around the cat vomit. And my hands fly to my hips, and I bellow out, “Is the mother the only one who knows what cat vomit looks like? Is the mother the only one who knows where the paper towels are?” Great moment of mothering, you know, so when we come to Mother’s Day, we just went at, “Really, I’m not sure I deserve a whole day for that kind of stuff going on.”
And then there’s the not-enoughness that assails, the infertile, “I’m not even enough to become a mom.” It can be all kinds of painful on this day, all kinds of painful. You know, I’ve struggled with a not-enoughness pretty much all my life to just be straight up with you here. When I was about five years old, my father called me into his home office and put me up on his lap and turned me toward him, and said, “Elisa, I’ve decided I don’t love your mother anymore, and we’re gonna get divorced.” I thought, “Wow, if I was enough, he would stay, right?” Kids don’t know how to think about stuff like this. It wasn’t my fault but I couldn’t really absorb that. My teen years began with trying to get my then single mom up and off to work. Her alarm would blare down the hall in our ranch-style home, and it was my job to go and wake her up because she couldn’t wake herself up because my mom struggled with alcohol. So I had to get her up and out the door every day. And I thought, “Surely, you know, if I was enough, she wouldn’t drink.”
My husband and I got married and we found out that we weren’t gonna be able to have children biologically. So we began the forever process of adoption. We waited for any minute phone call for four and a half years. It’s kind of like being dilated to a nine for four and a half years. And then, there was the call that I received one day from a board member at this international nonprofit called MOPS International, Mothers of Preschoolers. It had been run by volunteers for 15 years, and the board was looking to consider hiring their first president, she wanted to know if I’d like to apply and start the process. I thought, “Me, you want me from this messy background to lead a mothering organization? Are you sure you want mother Elisa, not Mother Teresa here?” And now today, after serving there for 20 years moving on, I serve with Our Daily Bread Ministries. I write for their devotional, I serve on the radio. And I think, “I don’t know enough about this book to do some of that stuff.” It’s a not-enoughness all the time, all the time, a not-enoughness. And Mother’s Day brings it right up to the head.
I was surprised during my journey to stumble, and I really did stumble across a story in the Bible that rearranged my thinking about not-enoughness. And that’s what I want to share with you today. If you have your Bibles, grab them and turn to Mark chapter 14, we’re going to be reading Mark 14:3-9. “While he was in Bethany,” this is Jesus, “reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly. ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She’s done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you and you can help them anytime you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.'” This is God’s Word. How many times have you read that story? Like 5 million? Yeah, I mean, it is so familiar. I remember the whiny disciples, the expensive perfume, Judas getting all pantsy, you know, just not okay with anything. But I had never seen this one sentence before. And it popped off the page at me. She did what she could. Five words of Jesus, she did what she could S-D-W-S-C. They grabbed me. They changed me. They moved me into a kind of a permanent paradigm shift in my thinking about this whole topic of enoughness or not enoughness.
And so I want to walk us through these five words. You ready? The first one, She. She did what she could. God chose a girl. God chose a girl, Mary of Bethany. We know her as the sister of hard-working Martha in Luke chapter 10. And up from the grave, Lazarus, in John chapter 11. The setting is in their home in Bethany about a mile and a half from Jerusalem. It’s just a few days before Jesus is going to ride atop a donkey into Jerusalem while people lay their cloaks down and fan him with palm branches and hail him as King Hosanna in the highest. And just about a week before he’s going to die on the cross for the sins of all humankind. And at this juncture in human history, God chose a girl, a woman, a sitter at his feet, rather than a dissenter, who would betray him. God shows a woman who acted out her love for him. He paired her act with the Gospel for all time to come, proving that a relationship with Jesus results in a response in us. She did what she could.
And before I lose every single man in this auditorium, let me be really clear here. All Scripture, all Scripture is for both genders, right? It’s just that God chose a girl for this story. We women are really used to translating from male to female. I mean, it’s David and Goliath. And it’s Moses and the rod. And it’s Joseph and the coat. It’s the disciples, it’s Paul, we get it. We know how to read through Scripture and see that God is speaking to us through men, we love that. You just get to do the translating this time, okay? God chose a girl for this particular story. And as you look at that, if you look at that sentence, she did what she could, you see that he did what he could popping right out of there for you too.
Second word is, Did. Mary didn’t just think about acting. How many times do we do that? She actually got up and did something. She was intentional. There was a nowness to her decision. It’s like she knew that she was living in a moment right, then that would never be repeated in the history of time again. And so she got up and invested herself right, then, she anointed Jesus’s body before his death, when he could receive it, and benefit from it. She did what she could. What? The “what” that Mary chose is significant. She probably thought to herself, “Well, I could do a dance or I could recite a poem or maybe I might sing a song.” She wanted to act out our love and thank Jesus for who he was because she was understanding his identity. And instead, she settles on this gift of nard.
Now, nard was a rose-red oil substance that came from the spikenard plant that grew in India, super valuable. In fact, we’re told in this passage that the amount that she brought forward was worth a year’s wages like 300 denarii. That’s a lot, kind of like the Chanel No. 5 of its day. And such a valuable essence was transported in a very valuable container. It was made of marble or alabaster. And it was like a vial that had a long neck, and the end would had a stopper that was also carved out of the alabaster or marble. And it usually took the shape of an animal’s head, or a flower, it was like a work of art. It was accessed by breaking the neck of the vial and then pouring out the oil, and whatever wasn’t poured out and used in that moment was wasted, because you couldn’t put it back in and keep it pure, it would grow rancid. So Mary gets up and she invests this, this very expensive anointing. I picture a smile that grew across her face as she gave this lavish gift. But lest we send ourselves over the edge of self-sacrifice here, pay attention to this sentence one more time. She did what she could. That’s what Jesus said, “She did what she could.” He did not say, “She did all she could, and then she did some more, and then she did some more, and then she did some more, and then she felt spent in a heap at my feet.” Yay, you go do the same thing. No, he said, “She did what she could.” It was a lot in that moment.
But Jesus’s point is not the lavishness, Jesus’s point is the intentionality and the connection of her being to gift him with her love. She did what she could. She did what she could. Mary of Bethany, she gave from the context of the relationship that she had with God. And it was a deep context. And we can miss that if we just pick up this one story and don’t thread through her story in all of the four Gospels. When we do that, we find out that Mary, as a woman, sat at the feet of Jesus, who was a rabbi, and learned from him. That was radical in New Testament times for a rabbi to teach a woman, for a woman to be allowed to learn from a rabbi, and Jesus pronounces over her that she has chosen the best part. She learned from Jesus. We see her again at the tomb of her brother Lazarus, who has died. And here her sister Martha is really believing in Jesus but Mary is struggling. Anybody ever have a little bump in your faith? Mary is struggling big time. In fact, she says to Jesus, “If you had been here, he wouldn’t have died.” She’s kind of ticked at Jesus. And in that wrestling moment, it goes on for verses, it’s a great story to read, you see the reality of her faith, that it’s tested, and that she still chooses to come to him and to trust him. She gets out of that context here. Her gift touches Jesus in that moment, as it goes down his head, onto his hair, onto his cheeks, onto his neck, onto the fabric of his robe, this aroma wafts up to him in this room of disciples, none of whom have gotten up, only Mary has to anoint him. And I wonder, I wonder if Mary’s gift gave back again to Jesus, as he stood before different religious authorities, as he was shuttled back and forth from Pilate to Herod to Pilate, as a crown of thorns was smashed down on his head and his robe was removed, and he was whipped with lashes, as he had to carry his own cross, and then as he was nailed to that cross for the sins of all humankind, and his head, dipped under the weight of what you and I have done.
I wonder if Mary’s gift gave, yet again, reminding him that someone on the planet understood the sacrifice he was undertaking. There is this lavish way in which her gift to him gave a gift back to herself. Mary seemed to understand that Jesus loved her. She did what she could. She let him love her. That’s the hardest thing, isn’t it? Jesus loves you, this I know. The hardest thing in the world is to believe that and receive that and to let him. We think, “Oh, no, I’ve got this list of 9 million things that make me the exception of God’s love.” You know, “I’m tacky. I’m mean. I’m blah, blah, blah,” all these things, by just this morning coming in, you shouldn’t…I know. And yet Mary illustrates what it means to let Jesus love us, she lived, loved. She changed. She lived, loved herself. She did what she could. She did what she could. She did what she could, she grabbed a hold of what she possessed, what was within her reach, what was real for her, and she invested it, she acted. And for Mary, that meant acting in public. All the other disciples were present. She pulled out all the stops. It’s like she practically baptizes her soul in front of this room of people who are supposed to be his followers saying, “This is who I believe Jesus is. What do you think?” It’s like she’s the first evangelist, sharing her faith with those who are still following. And as a result, she was ridiculed. Judas picks up the first spear of criticism and hurls it across her. “What a ridiculous waste.” He says, “This perfume could have been sold and the poor taken care of.”
And you know, I get that. Many socially minded people would say, “Does our God really require this kind of extravagant expression?” I love Jesus’s response though. He gives a command. The command is not to Mary to stop, the command is to the disciples. “Leave her alone. Stop bothering her. She’s done a beautiful thing.” And he goes on and he says, “The poor you will always have with you.” And we think, “Yeah, we’re always gonna have poor people, you know, those guys with the cardboard signs at the intersections, rescue missions, okay, just get used to what Jesus said.” That’s not the end of the sentence. “The poor you will always have with you and you can help them anytime you want. But you will not always have me.” So whatever is really wasted when it’s invested in the only moment it can be invested in, Mary anointed Jesus’s body while he was standing there living in that moment when he could receive that gesture. As a result of her action, she was honored. In fact, he went so far as to say, “I tell you the truth, what she’s done will be told every time the Gospel is proclaimed all over the world.”
I mean, I don’t know about you, but that made me scratch my head. I think to myself, “I don’t hear about Mary of Bethany every Easter Sunday. Christ the Lord is risen today and Mary of Bethany was a cool lady.” No. What did he mean by that? For Christmas, “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, and Mary of Bethany.” No. What did he mean by that? That everything could be told about her every time the Gospels is proclaimed? And I have to put it together to think, “Isn’t the Gospel love lived out?” Think about John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him won’t die, but will have everlasting life.” God so loved the world, God lived out his love. That’s the Gospel. That’s what Mary did. She lived out her love. She let God love her. And then she loved him right back because a relationship with Jesus results in response because his enoughness comes into our not-enoughness and makes us enough, and we can unashamedly and unapologetically be who he made us to be. She did what she could.
So I began to wonder, “What if I do what I could?” You know, I’m getting ready for the day. And I think about this couple in my church, and they’re having just a huge like toxic season with their kids. It’s just hard, hard, hard, hard. And I know I can’t fix it. But I think “Well, we could have them over for dinner, my husband and I, and we could listen, you know, maybe give them a break.” And it even goes so far as to think about that lasagna thing I can get at Costco that…you know, the one you can slide into your own Pyrex baking dish and make it look like you made it, you know, that one, and I think, “I’ll get that.” But you know, my day gets going. And the whole thing leaves the front of my mind and goes to the back of my mind. So why don’t I do what I could?
When Evan and I were first married, we lived in this really cute, tiny suburban little cul-de-sac with little, tiny homes. And I was very “just right” in those days. You know, everything had to be matchy, matchy, perfect. I mean, I even wallpapered like the outlet covers. It was just a season. My next-door neighbors, I’m just going to call them Rusty and Janet, had a little bit different taste in decorating, I’ll just put it that way, okay? I mean, like, they had a once upon a time super nice camper in their driveway but it was all rusted out, it was kind of hanging off the cinder blocks now. Oh, they love their children so much. They would have like fudgesicles grins all summer long, I loved watching that. And they would make snowmen in their yard. And they would put a little stocking cap and two little mittens on the sticks. And then in July, the stocking cap and the mittens would be laying a little heap in the gravel in their yard kind of like, goodwill moment right there in front of you. I just thought it was tacky.
So one day I’m out doing my matchy, matchy thing in our little flower bed. And Janet came out of her house and I’m like, “Oh,” snap, she saw me and I didn’t know what to say to Janet. So I kind of tried to hide but it was too late. She hollered out, “Hey, Elisa.” And I’m like, “Hey,” put on my little sweet Christian smile, “Hi, Janet.” She comes over. “Elisa, you know, I just wondered if you have a second, Rusty and I are going to a marriage retreat at our church in a few weeks. And we just kind of wondered if you and Evan would like to come with us?” Okay, now, inside me, I’m going, “Huh, you don’t go to church. I watch these things. You know, your garage door doesn’t go up and down on Sundays, mine does as we back out with my little Bible under my arm and we drive off to church, and you’re just kind of quiet over there,” I’m thinking, but out loud, I said, “Oh, Janet, when did you guys start going to church?” She said, “Ah, Elisa, we just went through the worst season last winter in our marriage. I mean, we almost didn’t make it. Everything was just disintegrating. And honestly, we didn’t have anybody to turn to. So I got out the Yellow Pages. And I started going through it and I found a church and it’s not far and we started going there. And Elisa, Rusty and I gave our lives to Jesus. And we just wondered if maybe you and Evan would like to know Jesus too?” Y’all, Evan and I were seminary graduates in full-time Christian ministry. And Janet and Rusty didn’t have anyone to turn to, no one.
Why didn’t I do what I could? Why didn’t I? And I know why. It was the stocking hat, it was the mittens, it was the camper, it was the not perfect, perfect, matchy, matchy. Why didn’t I do what I could? Whoa, what if I, Elisa acted? What if I put my faith into action? What if I lived, loved? What if I did that thing that’s right before me today to do? What if I let go of the pressure to do everything and just did that one thing, not everything, and then the next, and the next, and the next, and then fall in a heap myself? What if I believe that God’s love is enough for me to be enough, me, the daughter of divorce and alcoholism, me, the sister of multiple-step and a half and whole siblings, me, the wife of a husband whose love I will never equal, me, the woman, the mother, who never carried two children, but I cannot lay the ones I have down either, me, the one who was called to guide and form and then release an organization, me, the grandmother of two boys who are amazing I love like sons, but they’re not my sons? What if I offered my unique offering every single day? How would I be changed? How about my world be changed? I might march into the principal’s office and demand that my child be tested because I just know something’s off. I might apologize to a co-worker. I might give control over of holiday celebrations to the next generation. I might hand over the remote. I might stay married. I might forgive my mother. I might embrace the reality that I am not responsible for my children’s choices. I am responsible for my responses to their choices. I might share my story, my struggles, my sins, right up here, for everybody to see so that you know that it’s okay to be real and messy and new.
And you know, just by the way, if I were a kid, and this happened to be Mother’s Day, I might say, “Mom, I love you.” I might empty the dishwasher. I might feed the dog, I might make my bed. I might be really sweet. And then I might say, “Mom, I love you in such a way,” and we give you a big old smooch. And I might write on that card that Dad bought for me to give you and say more than just love. But I might say, “Here’s why I love you.” Just a little commercial break for that. Okay. I might, what if I did what I could?
So, one day, I opened up my email, and there is an email. It’s the kind it’s like a rant. It’s like all in caps with exclamation marks and a percentage sign and a number sign, you know, and this woman is just, “I am so mad at my teenage daughter. She tells me she’s pregnant.” I’m like, “Who is this woman?” I’m looking at all of the addresses to try and figure it out. And I’m like, “Oh, I know who this is.” She goes, “I’m sorry. I’m so upset. But I guess I just need to talk.” I opened my calendar and I found this little hour slot. And I wrote her back, “Would you like to meet for coffee?” She writes back, “Yes,” exclamation mark, exclamation mark, percentage sign, number sign. And so I drove to Starbucks. And I sat across from her, and she shared her story and I listened. And at the end I said a prayer for her, I did what I could. You know, I did not invite her teenage daughter to come and live in our basement for the duration of her pregnancy. I didn’t become her doula. I didn’t start, you know, a whole teenage, mom Bible study for the county. I just went to coffee. I did what I could.
One night, our grandsons are spending the night with us. I’d love to listen to children when they’re asleep, it’s awesome, through a monitor, you know, you hear this. And it’s like pure peace. You don’t have to do anything. You know they’re alive. It just feels awesome. But I woke up at about two o’clock. And I heard that, but something seemed a little off inside me that the noise sounded similar, but kind of, not. So I decided to better go check because it’s my watch. I can’t let him go on my watch, right? So I go upstairs and I look over the youth rail of one of my grandson’s beds. And I think, you know, ‘He looks a little stiff. I’m not sure he’s okay. I better make sure he’s breathing, right?” So really carefully put my hand down. I do not want to wake him up. Okay. We do not want to wake him up. I put my hand really carefully down on his little three-year-old body. He pops up, “Hi, Yaya.” I’m like, “Oh,” snap. “Dude, are you okay? Do you feel all right?” I said to him. He goes, “No. My tummy hurts. Would you lay with me?” I’m like, “Lay with you? Oh my gosh, you’re gonna throw up all over me. I have to get up in the morning. I have meetings. I’ll have to wash your sheets. I don’t want to lay with you.” God just goes, “Elisa, he didn’t ask you to catch his vomit. He said would you get over the rail and lay with him?” So I climbed over the youth rail and I lay down with my grandson. And he went back to sleep. I did what I could.
Sometimes it’s a tiny thing like these, sometimes it’s a big thing. But in each moment, God’s enough can enter our not enough and make us enough. What if I did what I could? What if we did what we could? Wow, think about that. When we look at all the struggles in our world, I can’t make a dent but what could we do? Look at all these people here. What if we all did something? Because you, plus me, equals we, right? I think about my friends, Rick and Debbie, they own a company in Colorado Springs, and every year, they would send me an evergreen wreath with a big red bow on it for Christmas. And I loved it because when it would arrive, I would unpack it and throw it on the door. And it was like, one thing done, yes, right? One year though, no wreath arrived, and instead I received a card. And on the card it said instead of wreath this year, we’ve purchased a red plastic bucket, dove soap, wash cloths, sponges, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. And we’ve sent them to a mom in India. Merry Christmas in the name of Jesus. Wow, what if there was a Rick and Debbie and every company? Or Doug and Cindy. They love to have young married Bible studies in their neighborhood. They did it for years. But his company transferred them over to London. And as they tried to get to know the neighbors, they couldn’t seem to connect and couldn’t seem to find anybody home, and they asked around, “Where are all the young marrieds?” “Well, they’re in the pubs,” they were told. So, Doug and Cindy went to the pubs, took their Bibles and started having Bible studies with all the people there. What if there were a Doug and Cindy in every pub, in every bar, doing young married Bible studies? What if we did what we could? What could we accomplish together that we can’t do alone? You know, she might feed the hungry, he might work with kids. They might fight for justice and against sex trafficking. What would it mean for you to do what you could and you to do what you could and you to do what you could, you, the son or the daughter of blank, the sibling of blank, the spouse of blank, the grandchild of blank, the grandmother of blank, the grandfather of blank? Still think you’re not enough?
I learned a lesson almost 40 years ago that has been carrying me through each decade of parenting especially. I had just put my kids to bed. One was about three, the other was just under a year. It was an exhausting season and I was so tired. You know, and I got through the evening, and my husband was out at a meeting, I’m pretty sure. I got through the evening, I did the whole drinky, drinky, bookie, bookie, lovey, lovey, kissy, kissy, all of that, pray, pray. And I turned out the light. And y’all, I was so excited because it was mommy time, you know, and I just could not wait to get my diet coke and my whole bowl of popcorn that I can have all to myself and get in my bed and pull up the covers. And in those days, pick up the remote on Thursday night and turn to ER and watch my George Clooney. Oh, I couldn’t wait. So just as I got all settled in, I hear this, “Mommy,” down the hall, and I just throw the covers off and pick down the remote and stomp down the hall and turn on the light. And what? You know, here’s this Godly mom praying three seconds ago and now here she is monster mom just. They want another drinky, drinky and another bookie, bookie and another kissy, kissy and more of me, and I am on e-e-e-e-empty. And I get through the moment, I grit my teeth, I turn out the light, and I just start slugging my way back to my room because now I don’t deserve mommy time because I am the worst mother in the world. And I get in bed and I pull up my covers, and I just say, “God, would you take these children?” I mean, it’s just I pray just like Hannah, “God, I give you these children, for all of their lives, I give them over to you. You know, I’m gonna ruin them.” And it’s like God goes sweet pea, “Sure, I’ve already got them. But do you trust me with them?” And I’m like, “Yeah, You’re a much better parent than I am.” He goes, “Well, do you trust me to see your daughter through a life-threatening illness?” “Yes, You’re the divine physician.” Okay. “Do you trust me to see who’s going to marry whom and when I’m going to introduce them and how that’s gonna all work out?” And I’m, “Yeah, I’d like to pick, but I’ll let it go.” Okay. “Do you trust me, Elisa, to give you wisdom to decide whether or not your kid should go to a public school or a private school or be homeschooled?” I’m like, “Oh, can we have one of the first two please, God? Yes, I trust you” And then, “Okay. Do you trust me to pick the very best mother for who I know these children will become?”
Wow. That has sat in me for nearly 40 years, as we’ve crossed moment after moment, from toddlerhood into the school-age years, and I don’t know what I’m doing. Do you know, nobody’s ever been a mother before? Nobody’s ever been a father before. God gives children every time to people who completely don’t know what they’re doing, every time. He could give them to the grandparents, we are awesome, but he doesn’t. He gives it to the parents. And each season I’ve stood on this truth, do I trust God? Some of the seasons have been great swim meets and happy things of elementary school. And some of the seasons have been potholes of awfulness, where the kids just seem to find them after I put detour signs all around them, and they dive down them, way down, and I have to go down and get them up, right? Some of the seasons are beyond imagination. How did we get here moments? And each one of those seasons God whispers, “Do you trust me to have selected the mother that I know this child needs for who she or he will become?” Do I trust God? Do you to have picked you to be the father of those children for who they will become or the stepfather or the stepmom? Turn it around, do you trust God to have picked and selected the best mother or father for you? I kind of would have replaced myself into another spot, but I look now back at my mom’s illness shaping my resilience and my father’s absence, making me wholly present.
God does stuff with our stuff. It’s not a formulaic being, it’s all perfect and twinkling, it’s Mother’s Day. It’s a real commitment to be real, and messy, and new because God loves us and he leans his enoughness into our not-enoughness. I love what my pastor says, “God loves you. And there’s nothing you can do about it, nothing.” What if we did what we could? What if like she did what she could? Would you pray with me? Father, thank you. Oh, thank you. You don’t leave us. Thank you that you choose us. Thank you that you place us, thank you that you use us. Thank you that you love us. And may we walk out of here in freedom to be the people that you call us to be, receiving the love that you died to provide for us. In your name. Amen.
REZA ZADEH | read his bio
Thanksgiving is a posture to be taken all of our lives. Being grateful is an action; when we choose not to express gratitude, we convey an attitude of ingratitude.
I wonder if you have some special things that you have started to do with your family over Thanksgiving. My family and I, my wife and I, as we’ve grown our family over the years, it seems like there’s always new traditions and new things being added on to our Thanksgiving Day and our Thanksgiving celebrations and even all the other holidays. And this year, we are actually adding something new, my son is 11 years old. He is in sixth grade. And this last fall, he started a sport that I know nothing about called cross country. And so he loves to run.
I’m not a good cross country dad. I am not a runner. I’m from Iran, there’s not a lot of people taking leisurely jogs in the streets of Tehran, you know, in the Middle East. So I did not grow up around running, but my son loves it. And so one of our family members invited us and so I will be participating in a Turkey Trot on Thursday morning. And notice I said I am participating, I’m not running. I will be trotting during the Turkey Trot this Thursday, but at least it’ll lead to guiltless eating all day long. But I’ll be honest, I would just be fine with that part without the trotting. But here we are because we’re dads and we try to do things that our kids love to do. And so that’s what I am doing.
This is a week, this is a day, Thanksgiving. We are not the only country, we were the first country to set aside a day to express thankfulness. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, those of us that are Christians, we get to look at this day as a way of expressing our thankfulness to God for all that we have. To express our thankfulness for his presence in our lives. But you know, in Scripture, this idea of thanksgiving is actually all over Scripture. But in Scripture, thanksgiving is not about a day where we gather with friends or family and feast on food. That thanksgiving in Scripture throughout the Bible, the story of God’s people actually has a posture that we are to take on a regular basis.
And so, today as we dive through the Scriptures, we’re gonna take a look at, I wanna launch us with Psalm 100, verse 4. Psalm 100, verse 4 actually gives us a little bit of insight of what it looks like for us to be in God’s presence, not just on a Thursday in November, but every moment of our lives. Listen to how the psalmist shares this with us. Psalm 100, verse 4, “Enter his gates, with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise, give thanks to him and praise his name.”
That the Scripture gives us this picture, that when we walk through life with a posture of thanksgiving, it’s actually a key that opens the doorway to an unblocked and an uninterrupted relationship in the presence of God in our lives. So there’s this idea that we get to experience God’s presence on a regular basis as we walk through this thing called thankfulness. But there’s even something deeper than that. And as we take a look at the Scriptures, we’re gonna look at the principle that we’re gonna examine, we’re actually going to find that living life with a posture of thanksgiving is Kingdom living. That walking through life with a posture of thanksgiving of our heart, is the abundant life, is the Kingdom living. Is the fullness of life that Jesus calls us, and offers to every single one of us that is found in his presence. So we’re gonna talk about this idea of Thanksgiving.
And today’s Scripture passage we’re gonna take a look at, the principle we’re gonna take a look at actually has an opportunity to not just enhance our lives, to enhance our relationship, but it actually has the potential to impact and enhance the way that we relate to Jesus, the way that we view God, and the way we go about our lives. So the core of Thanksgiving as we go through Thanksgiving week, the core of Thanksgiving is being thankful for what we’ve been given. It’s a moment for us to pause and to look around our lives and to take inventory and to just pause and say, “God, thank you for what I have. Thank you for who I have. Thank you for the opportunities. God, thanks for showing up in ways that you showed up for in my life in moments where I was desperate.”
But there is a danger in thanksgiving. There is a danger with this because if you and I aren’t careful when we view Thanksgiving, the way we’re gonna view Thanksgiving, is we’re gonna view it all through the lens of me. I’m thankful for what I have. I’m thankful for what our family possesses. I’m thankful for what you have done for me. And if we’re not careful, the core of Thanksgiving can be all about me and all about us.
And so what I’d like to do for us today is I kind of wanna flip this thing around, and literally flip that and turn it upside down. And so instead of focusing on Thanksgiving, and giving thanks for what we have, I wanna talk about, I wanna flip the word Thanksgiving around, and focus on giving thanks to other people for what they’ve done for us in our life. So that Thanksgiving doesn’t become about us, but it becomes something where we give thanks away.
So I wanna talk about this word that many of us are familiar with, this word gratitude. Gratitude is a word that I think that we would resonate with, we know what gratitude means. But there’s a rumor about gratitude that goes around that I kind of wanna dispel. And that rumor goes like this, that gratitude is an attitude. But we’re gonna take a look and we’re gonna expose this reality, and I wanna put an end to that phrase because gratitude is not an attitude. Gratitude is an action. You see, the problem if we take a look at an attitude of gratitude, that doesn’t mean that we’re actually gonna live out our grateful heart. Because having an attitude does not mean we’re acting it out, attitude does not equal action.
Like I can have the attitude of a worship leader. Like, I can have Justin’s attitude. Like I can have an attitude like that and be dedicated and dress like him. That’d be really easy. But I can’t sing worth a lick. Like I can’t play an instrument, like I’m one of those people in church, the only time I clap in church is when there’s someone on stage clapping as well. And once they stop clapping, I stop clapping, like I can’t even find the beat. I can have the attitude of a worship leader but that doesn’t mean I can be a worship leader. I can have the attitude of a triathlete but I’ve already told you about how well I enjoy running. It doesn’t matter what our attitude is because an attitude doesn’t equal action.
And whenever we have an attitude of gratitude, we may not always follow through on it. And so the opposite of gratitude is ingratitude. I love the English language. It’s so simple. So we’re gonna look at this juxtaposition between gratitude and ingratitude. And what does it mean to express one or what does it mean to not express? What does it mean to experience ingratitude from other people? And here’s the problem with not intentionally expressing gratitude. When you intentionally don’t express gratitude, you are inadvertently and almost intentionally expressing ingratitude. Even if we don’t mean to, that’s just what happens. When we choose not to express gratitude, what we’re actually choosing is to express ingratitude.
And I wonder if many of us, we mean to express gratitude, like we’re gonna get around to it, like, I’m gonna, I’m just a little bit late on it. And then maybe we get distracted. And maybe we just forget. So we have this intention of expressing gratitude, but for whatever reason, we just don’t. Or maybe you might have the perspective and I get it, sometimes this happens in jobs and sometimes it happens in relationships. But in a job, it could be maybe you have employees you work with, co-workers. Maybe it’s, you know, actually, you’re a boss and you have people that work for you. And then we think to ourselves, “Well, I’m not gonna express…I don’t have to express gratitude to them like they’re getting paid for it anyway. Like, isn’t that how it works? Like they do their job, they do their job for me, they get a paycheck, that’s the gratitude. Like, why do I have to say anything? They’re getting money for it. That’s how it works.”
Or if I might step on some toes here. In our relationships, if you’re married, it could be, “Well, she’s the wife, like she does the laundry.” That’s like how it works. Like that’s how it worked in my house. That’s how it works in this house. Or, he’s the husband like he works and he takes care of the car and he does the lawn and all. Like, that’s what he’s supposed to do. That’s what she’s supposed to do. That’s what that person is supposed to do at work, why should I have to thank them for it when that’s their job, that’s their role. And it’s totally fine, if you wanna have that perspective. I’ll tell you, things won’t go very well for you. But you can have that perspective for yourself.
But here’s the problem with that perspective. Here’s the problem, when we choose not to express gratitude for even the people that are doing things for us, they might work for us. The problem with not expressing gratitude is what we’re actually communicating as I see what you do, and I like what you do but I’m choosing not to see you as a person. It’s almost like we’re saying, I see what you’re doing, but I don’t see who you are. It’s like we’re not dignifying the person, we’re just thankful for the job that is done. And the problem with that is anytime we do this, ingratitude is what’s experienced. You see, a lot of our relationships need to be injected with gratitude because when gratitude is never expressed ingratitude is always experienced.
Like, think about that for a moment, when gratitude isn’t expressed ingratitude is what’s experienced by the other person. And when that happens, there is a shift that occurs in the relationship. And when that shift occurs, is because a gap actually forms because the person that doesn’t receive that gratitude, and is experiencing ingratitude, you know what they’re gonna eventually stop doing? They’re gonna eventually stop doing the thing that they were doing on a regular basis because they don’t feel valued. They don’t experience what it’s like to be seen. And when someone isn’t valued or someone doesn’t feel seen, they’re simply gonna stop doing what they were doing in the first place.
And the weird thing about this is the person not expressing gratitude may never realize that ingratitude is being experienced by the other person. But the recipient knows. You see, the recipient of ingratitude is always aware, but the culprit is rarely aware. You see, this is something that we take a look at as we examine our relationships. And I’ll be honest, this is what terrifies me that there are some people I know that there are just some people in my life that have served us, that have done things, people that have helped me along the way that I have missed expressing my gratitude towards.
My wife and I were missionaries, we literally live off of the financial support of people that give on a monthly basis or an annual basis at fundraisers, or send it, you know, whatever. It terrifies me to think of the people in our past that have given to our ministry that they have fallen through the cracks. That we haven’t taken a moment to simply pause and write a thank you note towards. Like, that scares me. And the reality of this is unexpressed, gratitude is experienced as ingratitude. But here’s the thing. The person who didn’t express the gratitude might be incredibly grateful in their heart, they might be incredibly thankful for what the other person has done. But when it stays only a feeling, or it remains only an emotion, the other person is never able to experience what it’s like to hear that person say they are grateful.
And so when somebody chooses not to express gratitude, that doesn’t mean that they’re not grateful in their heart. It’s that they haven’t communicated that through words, or actions. It’s the expression of gratitude that’s essential, not the emotion of gratitude. So is this resonating? Is this hitting you? Are you understand where I’m going here?
Let me give you this illustration, teenagers, if you’re teenagers in this room, I wanna talk to you, and if you’re younger than teenagers, you can listen. If you’re a parent, you’re not allowed to listen, all right? This is just for teenagers and younger. Like if you’re in a home, teens, if you’re in a home and you just wish that your parents would like just loosen the grip a little bit or maybe give you a little bit of freedoms that you like, don’t have yet. Like I want you to listen because here’s the secret, like parents are notorious for getting taken advantage of, all right, so like this is gonna help.
If you can just shift your attitude just a little bit, teens, if you can just shift your perspective a little bit, and instead of saying, “Well, of course, my parents were paying for my phone.” Like, of course, I have my own room. Of course, I’ve got a Disney plus and a Netflix subscription that I can use any time I want. Like, that’s just what parents do. Like all my friends’ parents do it. Why do I need to say thank you? And of course, when I go to the pantry, there’s like plenty of food that I can choose from, like, they’re my parents, that’s what they’re supposed to provide. And when I go to college, yeah, I’m gonna live in the dorms and take my car and not have a job and take my classes. Like, that’s what my parents are supposed to provide me because I’m the kid, they’re the parent. Like, that’s how it works.
Can I just like, give you a little secret? If you can be ridiculously grateful, and express that gratefulness your parent’s hearts are gonna be putty in your hands. Do you know why? Because gratitude is the language of the heart. That gratitude is what connects with us in our hearts, parents, you’re welcome for that.
You see, gratitude doesn’t just come natural to us. It’s a language that the heart speaks, but it’s not something that’s natural. You know, when you’re 2 years old, you don’t ever hear a 2-year-old saying, “Hey, thanks, Mom, for the broccoli. I know, it’s good for me, or, you know, thanks for changing my diaper, I was really hoping somebody would.” No, like, we have to learn. Like as humans, we have to learn and grow on what it means to be thankful and to express gratitude. You see gratitude without practice, gratitude without being expressed it’s a lot like what James says, in the Book of James chapter 2, it’s like faith without works, it’s lifeless. And so gratitude without practice is just like faith without works. It’s dead. It’s lifeless. We’ve got to learn to put our gratitude into action.
So we’re gonna take a look at a narrative of Jesus and his interaction with some men, ten men in particular, and these ten men, Jesus served them in a specific way. And we’re gonna see this kind of juxtaposition play out between being grateful and expressing it or not expressing gratefulness, which is actually expressing being ungrateful.
And so we’re gonna take a look at this passage in Luke chapter 17. So if you have a Bible with you, or if you have an app with you, would you turn to Luke chapter 17? And here’s where we find ourselves. Jesus is right in the middle of his ministry. And he’s done some healings. He’s gathered his disciples. He’s preached sermons. He’s performed miracles. So Jesus is right in the middle of his ministry on earth, and the Gospel writer, Luke, is capturing this for us. And here’s where we find this.
So Luke chapter 17, verse 11, and it says, “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” And I’m gonna stop right there. If you’ve gone to church for any amount of time in your life, you have presumably heard a pastor or someone like me say something like this, that the word Samaritans comes up. And then we say something like, the Samaritans and Jews hated each other. And we kind of just go about it. And I don’t know, if you’re like me, I remember thinking to myself, “Well, why?” Like, why do Samaritans and Jews not like each other? Why is it such a big deal, that Jesus was walking the line in the border between Samaria and Galilee? Like, what’s up with that?
Well, I wanna give us just a little bit of background on the Samaritans. Because that’s gonna be not only important what we talk about today, but actually important as we journey together throughout the course of the next weeks, months, years, decades, as we walk with Jesus, understanding who the Samaritans were. If you go back in the Old Testament, you find some books that are history books, they’re called the First and Second Chronicles, First and Second Kings, First and Second Samuel. They give a lot of the history of Israel, God’s people in this nation that God established in the Old Testament, where his people lived.
And it was ruled by a king, there was one king specifically, that made a pretty poor decision. And because of his decision, the kingdom of Israel was split. There was a northern kingdom, and then there was a southern kingdom. The southern kingdom was where Jerusalem was. And so the people in the southern kingdom stayed pretty pure in the relationship with God. They were committed to God, committed to the rules, committed to the commandments. The people of the northern kingdom, they actually started straying away. They were invaded by the Assyrians. The Assyrians came and invaded them and they actually went against God’s command not to intermarry with other people, they started worshiping other gods.
And so the northern kingdom of Israel just basically became a disaster, so much so that after generation after generation after generation, the people in the southern kingdom, the Jews that were in the southern kingdom, stopped associating with the people of the northern kingdom because of the ways that they’d been living. And it was almost as if like, they were completely different ethnicity now, because of how much intermarrying had happened with all the other nations and the cultures that were anti-God.
And so their worship was different. Their ethnicity was different. Their race was different. Politically, they were different. So the Samaritans, is actually what came out of that group of people, and the Jews in the first century, when Jesus walked on this earth, had this incredibly big divide between them. But the problem is they shared a border. And so the Samaritans were on one side of the border, and the Jews were on the other side of the border.
So when we read this passage in Luke chapter 17, verse 11, this is why it’s important when the Gospel writer says, “On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” He’s not just giving a geographical description. I believe he’s giving a spiritual principle that Jesus walks the line between groups of people that are divided between one another. And this isn’t just a divide, like two people that just didn’t like each other. I guess there’s like, even deeper than like, you know, Republicans and Democrats. Like, it’s this like really on the opposite sides of not just the aisle, literally opposite sides of world views. But Jesus walked the line of unity.
And then it tells us in verse 12, “As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. And they stood at a distance, and they called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us.'” So there’s this disease called leprosy. And I believe for what we have gone through or what we’re still going through, or wherever we’re at with COVID right now, like, we understand a little bit of what we’re gonna see in the Scripture here. You see, leprosy was a skin disease. And it was such a severe skin disease, it was so contagious, that people that had leprosy actually had to be…it was like being quarantined on steroids. Like they had to live in another colony, like they couldn’t interact with anybody at all. Not only they face coverings like you and I would understand, but there was actually rules that they had to live by so they can even interact as little as they were able to interact with people in that society. And so when they would walk up on people, or people would walk up on them, it was by law, they had to shout out leper, leper, leper. So that the people would realize, oop, there’s some lepers there and they better keep their distance.
Now, wasn’t just a physical skin disease, a lot of people felt it was actually a result of spiritual uncleanliness in the person that caused that leprosy. So somebody that didn’t have leprosy, not only would they catch the skin disease, but they would actually be spiritually unclean because they came in contact with somebody else that was spiritually unclean. And so here we find these ten lepers. Jesus was going into the village, ten men who had leprosy met him, they stood at a distance, and called in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”
Now, it’s a little interesting that they called him Master because that’s what the followers of Jesus called him. And we’re gonna see a little bit presumably, these people were not followers of Jesus just yet but in their desperation, in their pain, in their alienation, these people that should have been…we’re gonna find out there was a mix of Jews and Samaritans in this group of ten. These people that should have been separate were actually united in their pain, in their need, which actually is a pretty good word for us in our country. When we have common pain and common alienation, that maybe there’s things that bring us together more than divide us.
But yet in their pain and in their need, presumably they have tried everything else. And they’ve heard of this Jesus, and they’ve heard of some of the miracles. They’ve probably heard of the healings and so they thought to themselves, “Well, we got nothing to lose, we might as well try Jesus.” It’s almost like the essential oils didn’t work and the probiotics, like that mix in the water really didn’t do what it was supposed to do. So we might as well give Jesus a try.
You know, in the work that my wife and I do as missionaries, we engage college students as we engage athletes as we engage people sharing the Gospel. We come across a whole lot of people that have a lot of hurt and pain in a past with church. Or just have something about Christian culture, whether it’s politically, so whatever it might be that they just can’t get over. Like there’s barriers in Christian culture that prevent people from wanting to engage, because of their past experience, whether we think it’s valid or not this is their experience. But as we engage with people, do you know what? I have never, never, even with my Muslim family members, I have never met somebody who has an issue with Jesus himself or any of his teachings. Like there is something about Jesus that is attractive, the words that he says, the stories about him, the healings that he performs, it’s uniting to people.
And here you’ve got these lepers that find themselves in a place that they are in incredible need. And they say, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” And in verse 14, Jesus says…it says, “When he saw them, Jesus said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priest.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” Do you know the only way that somebody who was a leper can re-engage into society and render their quarantine over, was they would have to go to a priest? And the priest would examine them in the temple. And then the priest would make a decision on whether or not that person was ceremonially clean or unclean. So Jesus, knowing this, and presumably, these men knowing this, Jesus looked at them and said, “Go, go show yourself to the priest.”
But the Scripture gives us a little bit of insight that I think we’ve got to understand. It doesn’t say they were immediately healed. It says, and as they went, they were cleansed. You see, here’s the thing. You and I, if you pray, maybe I’ll put myself in here and you guys choose whether or not you’re like me or not. When I pray, sometimes when I pray, it’s like, “God, I want you to answer this prayer and I actually need you to answer it right this moment.” Like, I pray, and then I’m like, “All right, Lord, when?” Like I did my part I prayed, like, God, when are you gonna heal me? God, when are you gonna provide that? God, when are you gonna intervene in this relationship? Or when are you gonna give me a relationship? Or whatever it might be.
Then when we pray, we have this perspective that when we pray, when we ask Jesus for something, it’s like, we need it right this moment. But the Scripture tells us they weren’t healed in that moment. But Jesus told them, go and show yourself to the priest. And I wonder if like, one of them was like, “Dude, does he understand like, we can’t, because we have leprosy?” And I don’t know how this happened. I wish I could see this interaction between the ten. And they’re having this conversation like, “Dude, he told us to go see the priest.” And the one was like, “Well, we might as well do what he said we got nothing else to lose the, you know, essential oils didn’t work or the candles or whatever.”
So they start going to the priest and some way, somehow, between the moment they left Jesus, and they showed up to the temple, their skin clears up, and they’re completely healed. And they show themselves to the priests. And the Scripture says, “They show themselves to the priest, and they were cleansed.”
Let’s see what happens in verse 15. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back. Like, think about that. Ten went to the priest, ten of them were healed, ten of them stood before the priest, ten of them heard the priest say, “Hey, you’re fine. You can actually re-engage into society, you can be a part. You don’t have to quarantine, cover your face. You don’t need to do any of that anymore.” Like hallelujah, like, can’t wait for that day. But it says, “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.”
You see, I am sure that the other nine, like I am sure they were pretty grateful for being able to re-enter into society. Like I just imagine that they had this thankfulness in their heart, but here’s the problem. The gratitude was just an attitude. Like looking back if this was today, you know those other nine like took a selfie posted on Instagram with a Scripture about Jesus, like, you know that’s kind of how they would react. But they didn’t go back. Only one of them chose to go back. Only one put their gratitude into practice. And Luke gives us this detail about the one that is if you’re a Jewish audience reading this thinking to yourself, “What? Only the Samaritan, like the loathe enemy of the Jews, like that’s the one that actually went back and expressed his gratitude to Jesus?”
You see, friends, you see why it’s not enough to have this attitude of gratitude. It’s not enough to just be thankful in our hearts, that there’s something about putting our thankfulness in action. And that’s why this week, I love Thanksgiving. But what if we flipped it and live this week giving thanks, actively giving thanks. And this wasn’t lost on Jesus, number 17 passage closes out. “Jesus asked, were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” And then he said to him, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.” The faith of this one is what’s elevated because they chose to come back and give praise and glory to Jesus for what he done on his behalf.
You see, friends, we’ve got to move from having grateful hearts, to engage in having grateful habits. It’s not enough to allow them to sit and to stay in our hearts, grateful habits lead to appreciation. And appreciation always shows itself through action. Like that’s how it works for you and that’s how it works for me.
So here we are, the week of Thanksgiving. And this is what we’re taking a look at. My challenge for us is to move from an attitude of gratitude or an attitude of thankfulness to actually move into giving things away to other people. So let me come back to the passage we started with, Psalm 100. Do you remember that Psalm? That there was a way for us to have a posture of thankfulness, and might I even say, a posture of gratefulness, that we put in action. And when we put our thankfulness in action and our gratitude in action, it actually unlocks the presence of God that we can experience on a daily basis.
Listen to how the paraphrase of the message talks about Psalm 100. Know this, God is God, and God, God. He made us. We didn’t make him. We are his people, his well-tended sheep. Enter his presence with the password, “Thank you.” Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thanking him and worshiping him.
What would it look like for you? What would it look like for me to take some cues from this Samaritan and put our gratefulness into action? And examining what the Samaritan did that the proper response to God’s provision and his blessings, is word praise. Do you remember the Samaritan ran to Jesus, got down on his knees, and gave praise to God? He did an action. Do you know what praise expressed is called? Praise expressed is called worship. Like an elementary perspective of worship is singing, like it’s good, it’s good to sing. But that’s just the bare minimum. That gets elementary. An elevated view of praise is having a heart of praise, or an elevated version of worship is having a heart of praise in all that we do.
In a few moments, I’m gonna share one more passage. I’m gonna pray. And then Justin is gonna come back and he’s gonna lead us through Communion. If you grew up in a liturgical church, you maybe have heard the phrase Eucharist, which is a word that has been used traditionally for Communion, the Lord’s Table. The word Eucharist is literally translated as thankfulness, an act of thankfulness for what God has done on our behalf. So when we hold those elements in our hands that represent the Body and Blood of Jesus. When we partake of them, it is an action of gratitude, expressing how thankful we are for what God has done on our behalf.
You see, it’s not enough to just settle for thankful. Like for my kids like when they were little, I just wanted them to just say thank you, like, “Can you just say thank you?” Like that’s what we do when our kids are little. But as they grow, we want them to mature. We want them to mature to not just say thank you but actually being appreciative and display thankfulness through action. And just like our kids, we must all eventually graduate to expressing gratitude.
One more thing I just wanna mention, before we end, that I know that for some of us here in this room, some of us that are hearing me online. That the moment I even brought up Thanksgiving, it’s almost like your mind just stopped listening. Because Thanksgiving for you doesn’t seem like it’s gonna go very well this year. Maybe there’s been loss. Maybe there’s been tragedy. Maybe life is just hard and confusing right now. And I get it. And I just wanna say that we see you. That we recognize that this is difficult for a lot of people. We recognize the fact that this could cause a lot of anxiety this week for people. And that’s real. And that’s not just something that we just slap a Bible verse on and say, “Get over it.” We wanna sit with you in the midst of a week that actually might be difficult, as everyone else was talking about celebrating, celebrating is like the last thing on your mind.
And yet, the Apostle Paul, as he was planting churches, he wrote letters of encouragement to those churches. Knowing that they were gonna experience the exact same things that we experienced here today. Listen to how the Apostle Paul connects this idea of thankfulness and actually connects it to this thing that we all experience called anxiety. Listen to how Paul says this, 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.”
And so as we read this passage, we hear the Apostle Paul pleading with the people of Philippi. There is gonna be trouble. You are gonna experience anxiousness, but can I encourage you, don’t let anxiousness run your life. Because when you experience anxiousness, what Paul is saying is there is a spiritual weapon that God has provided as we experience anxiousness. And this spiritual weapon is intended to go along with the counselors and the mental health professionals that I encourage you to see, the medication that we may need to be taking. There are some physical things that we do, but yet there is a spiritual weapon that God has given us in the midst of difficult times. And that spiritual weapon is called thanksgiving.
And here’s how thanksgiving works when we’re walking through difficult times, or facing a week where Thanksgiving, the holiday, might be difficult. Because when we focus on thanking God, the Scripture says when we feel anxious, we pray, but don’t just pray any prayer, pray prayers of thanksgiving. Because when you’re praying, and thanksgiving, you’re focusing and being fixated on things that have happened in the past. Ways that God has showed up here, ways that things were provided in this moment, times when you were desperate, and God came through. That when we’re thankful, we’re focusing and fixated on things God has done for us in the past. When we’re anxious, we’re focused and fixating on circumstances and situations that we’re facing today, or might come in the next couple of days, or weeks. And we don’t know how that’s gonna turn out but it’s probably not going to turn out well.
Here’s why Paul says to pray and thanksgiving, because when we pray and thanksgiving, it is impossible to feel anxious and thankful at the exact same time. You can’t do that. You can’t be thankful and act anxious at the same time. It’s one or the other. So what Paul is saying is when you pray, why don’t you borrow from the bank of the past? Why don’t you borrow from the bank of those moments when you were thankful? Borrow from them, so you can have the emotional currency to walk through what you’re experiencing here today. And when you do that, when you’re able to pray and thanksgiving, to be fixated and focused on how God has come through in the past, there’s a peace that comes. This peace makes no sense, this peace that surpasses all understanding.
So friends here in a moment, I’m gonna pray. Then after I pray, we’re gonna be led into this time of reflection and acting out in gratitude by receiving Communion together. And as we do that, I simply just wanna ask us a few questions to consider. Is expressing gratitude difficult for you? And if it is, it’d be a good time to ask why? Why is it hard for me to not just keep…like, why is it easy for me to keep that gratitude inside and not expressing it? Or maybe who is it in our lives that we’ve taken for granted but we know that we need to express gratitude towards? Lastly, can you find ways to be ridiculously grateful for people around you that do everyday things that you may have overlooked, but you greatly appreciate?
Let’s pray. God, thank you so much for the reality of your Word. I thank you, Jesus, that your Word surpasses understanding. It leads us to see things in us that we don’t always see about ourselves. Lord, we don’t want our gratitude for what you’ve done on our behalf to stay in us, we want to express it. And in this moment, would you prepare our hearts to express it through the simple act, this holy act of receiving the elements of your Body and your Blood. Thank you for what it represents, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
2 Samuel 11:1-12:13
This week provides us a story of a godly man who lost his way through sin that he worked to keep secret, altering his values and behavior. Find out about how God knows our sins and is the only one we know can save us and still love us.
And this is definitely one of those stories that it’s got a lot of gross, it’s got a lot of rough around the edges. And because of that, actually, it’s a story that a lot of people don’t know I’m talking about David of David and Goliath fame here. And most people know that story, or at least some portion of it, right. But this is a very different side of David, if you grew up in church, I can almost guarantee this was not one of the stories that made it into the Sunday school curriculum. Okay. If you did not grow up in church, and honestly, even if you have been in church, there’s a good chance you have no idea that this story is in the Bible but it is. And I love it partly because, listen, the Bible speaks the truth, even about its greatest heroes it speaks the honest truth, even when their lives are messy. And in that, there’s hope that there’s grace, and there’s redemption for the rest of us. But I really believe this is one of the most powerful stories of grace and redemption that we find in the Bible.
So we’re gonna start in 2 Samuel chapter 11. David has become king. He defeated Goliath, he fought through a bunch of other just junk that he had to do, and he’s become king. And then 2 Samuel 11, says this, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.” And immediately we know we’ve got a problem, right? Samuel is making it really clear, he goes, “Hey, at the time of spring, when kings go off to war, David didn’t so much go off to war, right. He used his power as king, his privilege as king to send other people off to war, but he didn’t.”
And one of the real ironies of this is that David’s only the second king of Israel, and when the Israelites begged God for a king, they specifically said, “We want a king to lead us in battle.” So now they’ve got a king to lead them in battle, and he’s chilling while he sends everybody else out into battle. Now, this is the first of a series of mistakes that David makes. And I wanna make sure that we don’t miss it because it’s a mistake that a lot of us can make but sometimes we overlook the significance of it. And here’s the reality, we tend to think about sin as being the wrong that we do. We tend to think of sin as the wrong that we do.
And that’s certainly accurate but what we sometimes forget is that sin often starts with the right that we don’t do. Let me say that again, sin often starts with the right that we don’t do. We shirk responsibilities. We don’t do what we are supposed to do like so you know, we don’t invest in our marriage and so our desires end up drifting in a place they shouldn’t be. We don’t study and so we end up having to cheat on a test. We don’t save enough money and so we end up stealing. We don’t work hard enough to earn a promotion so we end up sabotaging somebody else so that they don’t get ahead of us, right. And even in our relationship with God, we don’t invest in our relationship with God, we don’t pray, we don’t read the Bible, we don’t worship together, we don’t learn from his Word together. And because of that, we don’t have the spiritual strength to avoid temptation when it comes. A lot of sin starts with the right that we don’t do. David has a job, he’s supposed to lead the people in battle. He’s protecting them from their enemies, establishing the borders, but he’s not doing that. And that’s the beginning of a whole series of mistakes, but it all starts here.
And so I actually want us to ask each other this question and ask ourselves this question, “What am I not doing that I should be doing?” We should lean into that question for a second. What are you not doing that you should be doing? What responsibilities are you shirking? What duties are you setting aside? What necessary things are you neglecting? What should you be doing that you’re not doing?
Because unfortunately, neglecting this part of it, getting this wrong leads to a whole lot of messier stuff. On the other hand, if we could get this one, right, if we could ask ourselves this question regularly, “Hey, what should I be doing that I’m not doing?” and fix that, we could save ourselves a whole lot of pain and heartache.
He sent out the armies and then we’re told this, they destroyed the Ammonites and they besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. I just want to make sure that we don’t miss that David’s still making the same mistake. Now, he sent out the army and the army had won one big victory, they had a big win, and they were on the verge of another and they’re besieging another enemy city. So they’re on the verge of another big one, their success, right? It didn’t all fall apart.
And here’s another reality that we need to be aware of, it’s that success hides sin for a while. Success hides sin for a while. David’s sin wasn’t immediately evident, it wasn’t immediately clear, oh, everything’s falling apart and he had to deal with it. Actually, no, the army’s winning, it’s going okay. And that meant that he didn’t need to sort of focus in on the sin. See success was hiding it.
And I think we all tend to think that, like, sometimes we do something wrong, we’re like, “Oh, no is everything gonna fall apart? Is this disaster that’s gonna overtake me?” And then it doesn’t, in fact, sometimes our sin actually leads to success for a bit. And we begin to think that maybe it’ll stay that way, that maybe our success will continue to hide our sin but it won’t. The reality is that our sin always comes out, it always does.
Years ago, I was working on a house helping to renovate it and there was a wall that had this nasty stain on it. I was in charge of getting rid of that stain. And so I painted over it, and it looked fantastic. And then I went away I came back the next day, and I was like, “There’s that stain again.” And I had one of these moments have you ever had one of these moments like, “Well, maybe I didn’t paint it, maybe I only dreamed that I painted it. I don’t know.” So I painted it again and I went away the next day I came back and there was the stain again, and I was like, “Okay, wow, okay, again, maybe I just dreamed that I did or sure thought I did.” I painted it a third time went away came back still there. It was some kind of oil and no matter how much paint you put on it the same kept coming back. Eventually, we actually had to cut out a piece of wallboard and put it back in and patch it and then repaint it and get rid of it.
And sin is sometimes like that. Sometimes we paint over it. Sometimes our success paints over and we go, “Oh, I’m good. Nobody’s gonna know it’s in the background, it’s gonna stay in the background. It’s never gonna be a problem.” But the reality is, it’s always going to be a problem. Sin always comes back out. So I’m gonna encourage you to ask yourself this question, “What sin am I hoping success will hide?” What sin are you hoping success will hide?
There may be a place in your life where the Holy Spirit’s been saying to you, “Hey, you’re not living the way you’re supposed to be, you’re outside of God’s will. You’re doing things that are not in alignment with who he is and what he’s created you to be and all that stuff.” But you’re like, “Yeah, but things are going pretty well. I’m killing it at work, my family is doing really well. My marriage is okay. Nothing’s really falling apart, doesn’t seem all that shaky.” And so you’re hoping success will continue to hide that sin but it won’t. So we got to ask that question. What sin am I hoping success will hide?
David hoped it would hide his. Unfortunately after that things just kind of got worse. It says, “One evening David got up from his bed. And he walked around on the roof of the palace. And from the roof, he saw a woman bathing.” By the way, I’ve heard people try to gaslight the woman on this one. I’ve heard people say, “Oh, you know, she was tempting him. She’s really the problem.” I don’t think so. And the reason I don’t think so is first off, it’s night okay. It’s already dark. We know that because David got out of bed, right? He got out of bed to do this so it’s probably already dark. Almost certainly she was bathing in the appropriate place, which would be the courtyard of her own home. So she was hidden from prying eyes. She’s probably bathing by lamplight in her own courtyard. Nobody can see her at that time of day, except for the one guy who’s walking around on his roof in the middle of the night. And he happens to be on the one roof that’s higher than all the other roofs, all the houses in town. I don’t think this is the woman’s fault.
The question we wanna ask at this point is what is David doing walking around the roof in the middle of the night when women are bathing in the courtyard below him? That’s the question we wanna ask. Because here is an interesting thing, right? His first mistake was that he didn’t do the right that he should have done. Now we find that he’s where he shouldn’t be, right. And that’s another reality we got to wrestle with.
See, a lot of sin comes from being where we shouldn’t be. A lot of sin comes from just being where we shouldn’t be. So let’s ask ourselves that question. What dangerous situations am I putting myself in? Going into the gym, when you know that woman’s there. Going into that bar, hanging out with that group of people. Getting on the computer late at night, when everyone else has gone to bed. We put ourselves in dangerous situations and that’s where a lot of sins start. So what dangerous situations are you putting yourself in?
So David sees this woman. We are told this, “The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her.” It’s interesting, again, David’s not doing what he’s supposed to do as king, but he’s still enjoying the privilege of being king, right? He’s still enjoying the power he has, he’s able to send Joab. And now he’s able to send people to find out about this woman.
But by the way, if you were with us last week, we talked about the three stages of coveting, the three stages of building a passion to possess something you don’t. The first stage is when you see it and you make a positive evaluation you go, “Oh, that’s good. She’s good. She’s beautiful,” right, that’s what he did. He saw her, she’s beautiful. That’s not necessarily a problem. The second stage is where things go wrong. The second stage is when we keep looking, we keep thinking, or we find out a little bit more in his case, he sent somebody to find out more. That’s preoccupation. And that’s the turning point to a passion to possess.
So he sends somebody to find out a little bit more about her. And the man that he sent, the man said, “Well, she is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Actually, in the original Hebrew, it’s phrased as a question. It’s, “Well, isn’t that Bathsheba, the daughter of your good friend Eliam?” Isn’t that Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” He’s sort of giving David an opportunity to step back. And I really do believe that God provides lifelines all along the way. If you have a relationship with God, and you’re moving towards sin, God provides lifelines all on the way. A lot of times we just kind of ignore them, though.
This man’s giving David one of those, he’s telling him, “Hey, there’s some pretty clear boundaries here. She is the daughter of one of your close associates,” which also strongly suggests that, like, she’s way too young for David. But also he says, “She’s the wife of Uriah the Hittite,” and a Hittite, meaning he’s not an Israelite, he’s not a Jewish person. But we’re gonna find out in a second Uriah is actually out in the field with the Israelite army, doing what the Jewish king should have been doing. So there’s all kinds of really clear boundaries here. And so the question, okay, you know, you sort of expect David to go, “Oh, okay. Yeah, well, she’s off-limits.” But then David sent messengers to get her.
Here’s the reality, sin picks up steam. You hear me, church? Sin picks up steam, the small decisions that we make that don’t seem like a big deal, they don’t seem like a big compromise, they begin to build momentum. They begin to pick up steam, and they move us into place, we never would have thought possible. And, you know, we say here at Mission Hills all the time, small steps in the same direction will take you to places you never thought possible. And that’s both positive and negative. As followers of Jesus, sometimes we go, “I just don’t know that I can ever really become a holy, righteous person.” But you can, with God’s help and those small steps in the right direction, you can actually become a holy and righteous person that you could never believe yourself to be. Small steps in the right direction will take you to the place you never thought possible.
Unfortunately, it’s also true on the other side, on the negative side, the downside, small steps away from where you’re supposed to be headed, can take you to places you’re just not gonna believe that you got to that place and became that person. And then, unfortunately, that’s what David is doing. He’s blowing past all the boundaries, his sin is picking up momentum. She came to him, or literally, she was brought to him. And he slept with her. And she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.
And that’s a little uncomfortable. But the point of it is that David’s broken two Old Testament commandments. I mean, not only is he committed adultery at this point but he’s also disobeyed clear teachings in the Old Testament that you’re not supposed to have relations with a woman as she’s ritually purifying herself. David’s just blowing past all kinds of boundaries because his sin has picked up steam. He’s moving in a direction that it’s pretty hard to imagine for the Israelite king, but that’s where he’s headed. Small steps in the same direction. Just listen to what happens next.
And then she went back home and the woman conceived and she sent word to David saying, “I am pregnant.” Woo, things just got real, right? What’s David gonna do? He’s done a pretty terrible thing. What’s he gonna do? So David sent this word to Joab the commander of the army who’s leading his armies that David should have been, who’s leading Uriah the Hittite there. He sent word to Joab, oh, what’s he gonna say? “Now, I screwed up. I messed up big time. You need to send Uriah, I have to make this right.” Not exactly.
This is the message, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. And when Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, and how the soldiers were and how the war was going. He says, “Hey give me the details, how’s it going? How’s Joab? How are you guys doing out in the field, is everything going okay?” And then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And so Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him.
You understand what David’s doing, right? He’s orchestrating a cover-up. He wants Uriah to go home and sleep with his wife so they’ll think that the child is his child. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master servants and he did not go down to his house. And David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Wait, haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?” And Uriah said to David, “The Ark and Israel and Judah are staying in a tent or staying in tents. And my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will do no such thing.”
And then the great irony here is when he says, “As surely as you live,” what he’s doing is he’s kind of making a solemn oath on what he considers to be the honor of his king. Of course the reality is that he’s way more honorable than the king he’s swearing on. And David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I’ll send you back.” And so Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And at David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening, Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master servants, he did not go home. It didn’t work. In the morning, David wrote a letter to Joab, and he sent it with Uriah. And in it, he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front where the fighting is the fiercest. And then withdraw from him so that he will be struck down and die.”
And understand, like Uriah has to carry that letter to Joab. He’s carrying his own death sentence. He doesn’t know but he’s carrying his own death sentence. And so while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. And when the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell. Moreover, Uriah the Hittite died. And Joab sent David a full account of the battle.
He instructed the messenger, “When you’re finished giving the king this account of the battle, the king’s anger may flare up. He may ask you, ‘Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you know that they would shoot arrows from the wall? Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman drop an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez?'” That’s a past experience they’ve had that happened when they were in the battle together earlier? “‘Why did you get so close to the wall?’ If he asked you this, then you say to him, ‘Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.'”
And understand Joab is worried that David’s gonna blow up, he’s gonna lose his temper because Joab just lost a bunch of key men. I mean, some of the language that’s being used suggests that these were kind of some of David’s sort of mighty men. They’re his close companions. They’re the guys that he’d fought shoulder to shoulder with. So some of David’s friends now are dead because of this thing, and he’s worried that David’s gonna blow up. So he says, “Hey, hold this until last when he asks, you know how it went. And why on earth were you in that place? Why were you doing such a dumb thing? Tell him Uriah is dead.”
So the messenger is set out, and when he arrived he told David everything Joab had sent him to say. The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and they came out against us in the open, and we drove them back to the entrance of the city gate. And then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the men, some of the king’s men, some of your friends, they died. And moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.”
And what we expect at this point is for David to get upset for him to get angry. That’s why Joab sort of gave him a strategy for it. But David told the messenger, “Say this to Joab, don’t let this upset you. Don’t let this bother you, don’t get bent out of shape over this. It’s not a big…Yeah, I know a bunch of people are dead. But you know what, don’t let it get you down. Tell him the sword devours one as well as the other. Press the attack against the city and destroy it. Say this to encourage Joab.”
Can I get a, “That’s messed up?” Is that not a little bit messed up? I mean, that is so messed up. I mean, David’s not upset that these people have died because Uriah’s dead. And he thinks his sin is gonna stay hidden a little bit longer.
And here’s an interesting reality, when we see this change in David and what he values, what he cares about, what’s important to him, see how messed up his values become one thing we begin to realize is this. It’s that hidden sin changes our values. You hear me, church? Hidden sin changes our values, the things that we try to keep hidden, they can actually change us from the inside out, turning us to people, honestly, that we would probably never recognize if we saw where it’s taking us. We’re like, “Well, that can’t be me. That’s not what’s important to me. I care about this, I care about these things. These things matter to me, not that stuff.” But hidden sin changes our values.
And then there’s an interesting reality I think that we sometimes forget. And it’s this, it’s that changes in behavior lead to changes in belief. Let me say that, again, changes in behavior lead to changes in belief. So we usually think of it the other way around we go, “Well, no, when I change what I believe, then it changes how I behave.” And that’s certainly true. The problem is it works the other way around too, that when we change what we’re doing, it can actually change what we’re believing. It can change our faith.
Every now and then I meet somebody who says, “Well, yeah, you know, I used to follow Jesus, I used to believe in the Christian faith. I used to believe in the cross and the resurrect… I used to believe in all that, but I don’t anymore. And whenever I meet somebody who tells me that, I’ve started to ask them a question, and the question is this, “Hey, what are you doing now that you used to think was wrong?” When they tell me, “I’ve lost my faith,” I go, “Hey, would you be honest with me? What are you doing now that you used to believe was a sin?”
And what I’ve discovered over the years is most of them have a very quick answer. And then I can go, “Hey, let me ask you this, did you start doing that before or after you lost your faith?” And the answer is always before. I got into something that I knew was wrong, I really believed was wrong. But then there’s this attempt to justify to make ourselves feel better about it. And so eventually, well, that’s not really sin, and then often leads to well, there really isn’t any sin. And if there’s no sin, the only way for there not to be any sin means there’s must not be a God.
And so what happens is actually a change in behavior led to a change in belief. It’s this insidious thing that happens, people worry sometimes about losing their faith. And then they go, “How do I keep from losing my faith?” The answer is very simple. Live out your faith. Live your faith as consistently as you can. And you’re not gonna have this inner turmoil that’s gonna create this schism within your soul.
So we need to ask ourselves this question, too, today. What behavior is undermining my belief? What are you doing right now that you know is wrong, that you know is not in alignment with God’s will for you? What behavior are you engaging in that’s in conflict with your belief? And you need to understand you need to deal with it because it will change your belief. It will change your faith. It will change your relationship with God. So what behavior is undermining my belief?
Well, we see this radical transformation in the life of David. He went from David the giant killer to David the husband killer. How did that happen? And the answer is embracing behavior that wasn’t in alignment with his beliefs. Now when Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned him. And after the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house and she became his wife and she bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
And can I get a, “Well, yeah?” Right? Forget amen. That’s well, duh, of course, the thing is done. My only question is which thing? Which one of it, right? It’s the whole package of stuff, though, right? I mean, think about this. Can you imagine and this is David the giant killer? This is David, who as a young man went up against this massive guy who was heading the Philistine army, and everybody else is running in fear from him. And David said, “Hey, but with the help of the Lord, I can take him down.” With the Lord, he did. Can you imagine? Can you imagine going to that man as he was standing victorious before his fallen enemy, and telling him, “Hey, in a few years, you’re gonna turn into a peeping Tom who’s doing the peeping Tom while you’re shirking your duties? You’re gonna orchestrate a cover-up. You’re gonna order a murder? Do you think he would have gone, “Oh, wow, what do I need to do to keep that from happening?”
Or he would have looked at you and gone, “You’re out of your mind, I’m never gonna be that guy. There’s no possible way I’m gonna get there.” But see, here’s the reality, hidden sin can turn you into somebody you wouldn’t recognize. You hear me, church? Hidden sin can turn you into someone you wouldn’t recognize. You’re looking at yourself in the mirror and go, “How did I get to be this man? How’d I get to be this woman?” And the answer is hidden sin. The answer is hidden sin. David went from being the giant killer to being the guy who was a creepy stalker, to being an adulterer, to organizing a cover-up, to ordering a murder, to not caring about how many other people got killed in the process as long as his sin stayed hidden.
The thing that David had done displeased the Lord. And that’s our bad news and our good news. Yeah, the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, but God is a God of grace. He’s a God of mercy. And he extends lifelines all along the way. And this is so important to understand because here’s the thing, some of you listening to this message right now, you’re in the same place that David was. Not necessarily the same behaviors, but you’re in that place where you’re looking in the mirror, and you’re going, “I don’t even recognize this person. How did I get here?” You’re filled with shame, and guilt, and deep, deep fear that it’s going to get out, it’s gonna become public knowledge.
Or maybe you’re not all the way there but you’re on the road, you’ve started taking the small steps in that direction, and you feel the momentum picking up, you feel sin picking up steam. And you can see where it’s headed, and you’re terrified, but all your energy is going into just trying to make sure nobody else knows what you know. And that fear and that shame, and that guilt is eating you alive.
Here’s the bad news and the good news. The bad news is that you might be able to fool some other people for a while, but you’re never gonna fool God. He knows. And the real bad news, I guess, is the one person whose knowledge of you and their opinion of you matters the most is the one person you can’t fool. Here’s the good news. The one person that you can’t fool, you can’t keep it hidden from, this is also the one person who can fix it. He’s the one person who can redeem you, the one person who can pour grace on you. He is the one person who can actually get you out of the mess you’ve gotten yourself into. And God wants to get you out. He’s throwing lifelines.
He throws David one. Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And when he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town. King, I wanna tell you a story.” He said, “There were two men in a certain town. There was one rich and the other poor. Now, the rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him,” which is weird okay, let’s just acknowledge that that’s weird, okay.
“Now, a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who’d come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against that man. And he said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die. He must pay for that lamb four times over because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
See the reality sometimes we’re much harder on the sin of others than we are on our own. In fact, sometimes it’s a defense mechanism. And then Nathan said to David, “You are the man.” Might be the first time that phrase was ever uttered, actually, “You the man.” It was just not quite as positive as we use it.
He said, “You are the man. And this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, he says, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all of this had been too little, I would have given you more. Why did you despise the Word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and you took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. And now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despise me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ “This is what the Lord says, ‘Out of your own household, I’m going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes, I will take your wives and give them to one who was close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'”
And you’re saying what God’s saying to David is your hidden sin is not gonna be hidden forever. I’m gonna bring it out into the light. So this is what God does, God brings light on things. He brings really good things to light, unfortunately for us, sometimes he also brings the nasty stuff to light. And understand he doesn’t do this out of anger or out of wrath he actually does it out of love. Because here’s the truth, nothing healthy grows in the dark, you hear me, church? Nothing healthy grows in the dark and God wants health for your life, and so he is going to bring that hidden stuff to light for your sake. The very thing that we’re terrified of allowing to happen, or that will happen God says, “Yeah, I’m gonna make it happen because I love you so much. And nothing healthy grows in the dark. So we got to get this stuff into the light.”
So God says this to David, and honestly, what we’ve seen so far of David, and the way he’s handled things, how his hidden sin has changed who he is. We expect him to blow up at Nathan, right? We expect him to come down on Nathan. But listen, this is the most amazing thing. And then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” He says, “I’ve sinned.” And it’s interesting even after this, David is called a man after God’s own heart, which is pretty hard to believe, right? After everything we’ve seen him do how can he be a man after God’s own heart? And the answer is because of his response to this confrontation, he said, “Yeah, I’ve sinned, I was wrong.” And Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You’re not going to die.”
Now, let’s be clear this doesn’t mean there were no consequences. Everything that God prophesied through Nathan did come to pass, there were earthly consequences for his sin, but the eternal consequences are gone. The relationship and the rupture and the relationship between David and God, it was repaired, he was forgiven. Well, we’re gonna see David someday in heaven. You can go up to David someday, and you can go, “Hey, tell me about Goliath.” You can also go, “Hey, tell me about Bathsheba.” I wouldn’t suggest it, seems kind of rude, but it’s gonna be an option because he’s there, even after all the stuff. And somebody will go, “That doesn’t seem right. Like how could God forgive all that stuff?” And the answer is what we call the Gospel.
The answer is that God can’t just say, “We’ll just forget about it, we’ll pretend like it didn’t happen.” No, our sin, the out-front stuff, and the hidden stuff, it has a price. The Bible says the wages of sin, the price of sin is death. But God loves us so much that he sent his own Son to die in our place. That’s Jesus on the cross. He died to pay the price of our sin. He rose from the dead three days later, and he offers us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sin if only we’re willing to say the three most powerful words. How did David get forgiven after all that he’d done? Because he spoke the three most powerful words ever. You know what the three most powerful words ever are? I was wrong. That’s the three most powerful words ever, “I was wrong.” He said, “I have sinned.” And God said because you said that you can take a hold of the lifeline I’m throwing because I’ve said that you can take a hold of the forgiveness that I’m offering.
Those are the most powerful words ever. As the Apostle John put it 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins,” if we say I was wrong if we say I have sinned if we admit it, he, “God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That’s the power of those three words. Those are the three most powerful words you will ever speak. I was wrong. I have sinned. Because when we do that, God says, “Okay, now you can take a hold of the grace, now you can take hold of the redemption that I paid the ultimate price to purchase for you.”
Now, here’s the thing, it would have been really great. How much better it would have been if when David didn’t go off to war and he heard that there were winning wars he’s like, “I should be there.” And he said, “Oh, I was wrong,” and went. That’d be so much better, right? Would have been so much better if when he was walking around on the palace, and he saw this woman he went, “Oh, that was dumb. What am I doing up here? No, I gotta get back. I gotta get right. I was wrong,” so much better. When he heard that it was his friend’s daughter and one of his soldier’s wives he should have said, “That was wrong. What am I doing? Why am I even thinking about this?” Everything would have been better all along the way. At every stage, it would have been better.
But here’s the powerful thing. As far as he goes, he doesn’t go beyond redemption. As far as he allows it to take him, he doesn’t go beyond God’s grace. And here’s an incredibly important truth for us to grab ahold of, it’s never too late to use the three most powerful words. It’s never too late. Maybe you’re convicted today, you’re starting on a road that you have no business being on, you see where it’s going. It’s not too late to use the three most powerful words. Maybe you’re at that place where you’re looking in the mirror, and you go, “I can’t even recognize me.” It’s not too late. It’s never too late.
So we’re gonna take a moment right now just to go before the Lord. And I encourage you to take this time to reflect on some of the questions we’ve already asked like, what am I not doing that I should be doing? What sin am I hoping my success will hide? What dangerous situations am I putting myself in? Or what behavior is undermining my belief? I’m gonna encourage you to take a few moments right now as we pray to go before the Lord with those things. Let him speak to you. Bring some of those things to the surface. So that you can use the three most powerful words right here right now. Would you pray with me?
God, thank you for your light. Thank you for your commitment to not leaving things festering in the dark. Well, we confess that we have things that we would really prefer to stay hidden but we know they’re not hidden from you. So for the person who matters most, they were never hidden. Holy Spirit, we just invite you right now to bring that stuff to the surface for each of us. Lord, as we come before you right now we humble ourselves. We’re ready to do deep work with you. So move among us show us what needs to be confessed brought out into the open so we can be forgiven free.
God, as you continue to move in our hearts, as you reveal these things to us, some of them are things we came in here knowing about and some of them were things that we’re only now really becoming aware of. As we recognize these things, we come before you. And all together we pray this. I encourage everybody in your hearts to pray this with me. God, I was wrong. I have sinned. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. I put my trust in you, Jesus. I receive your forgiveness. Thank you for setting me free. I’ll follow you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
I know that some people that are listening to this message, they prayed that with us for the first time ever. That’s how you begin a relationship with God. And if you did pray that for the first time ever today, I would love to know about it. We’d love to be able to celebrate it and give you some resources to help you begin living out this new relationship with God. So if you prayed that with us today and you prayed it for the first time, would you let us know. You can text the word ‘Jesus’ to 80875. That’ll let us know. We’ll send you some resources. You can also text the button right below me if you’re watching online. Or on the campus, you can stop by the Welcome Center and say, “I said yes to trusting Jesus today,” and they’d love to give you those resources. But let us know. Because it’s in that willing to say I was wrong, to take hold of the hope, the forgiveness that we have in Jesus, that we find redemption and we take hold of grace.
And by the way, as we wrap up here, let me just say this, it’s not just in our relationship with God that those words are powerful, they’re also powerful with each other. We’ve seen marriages restored, we’ve seen friendships restored, we’ve seen families restored. But that willingness to say to each other, “I was wrong.” They are the three most powerful words you will ever speak to anyone. So if there’s something you need to say them to today, say them.
ARE YOU HUNGRY?
2 Kings 7:1-16
God wants to satisfy you at the deepest level. What an encouraging weekend with Dan Hash! We pray that you can take a moment to thank God for the FEAST available to you by His grace.
So well, here we are. Thirty, no, 28 years ago, we moved to Poland, and you probably don’t know this, but in the last 20 years, there’s been upwards of 400 people that have come out from Mission Hills to visit or be a part of a team, like a high school youth group team that came, or college interns. Great internship program, will tell you more outside if you wanna hear more. Teams that have come to teach kids, and work teams. And I just wanna say thanks. I wanna say thanks from our adopted homeland that you as a church are so missions-minded and you think beyond the walls of what God is doing in this area of Colorado in your own church. So, thank you. Thank you.
Well, I’m gonna tell us a story today. And so I would like to start by saying something that you almost never hear from the front of this church, and that is please do not open your Bibles this day. The reason why is because if you do, you’re gonna get ahead of me in the story. And some of you would think, “I’ve already read the Bible, I know the stories.” Well, this one is probably a while since you read it. It’s a little bit obscure, and so I wanna let it kind of unfold. Okay. So don’t maybe come down there and take your Bible away. Okay. And some watching you online, I see you too. So but just stay with me.
Now, let me give you some context that will help you as we jump into this really fun story. It’s a battle. One group of people is trying to take over another group of people. And they’ve figured out that the best way to take over is to just camp outside the city gates because they’ve got them outnumbered, and they’re just gonna wait and starve them out. That’s the cheapest way to handle this problem. And so the people in the city are just hungry and sitting there, and they know they can’t do anything. And that’s where we pick up the story. So I’m gonna read to you from what I promise is the Word of God.
Okay. You can check up on me later. Says this, “Sometime later, Ben-Hadad, King of Aram, mobilized his army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city, and the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver and a quarter cab of seed pods for five shekels.” Now, I don’t know how much you pay for donkey heads, but eighty shekels strikes me as way overpriced. I just…I think that’s…I think they’ve taken advantage. And it says…and then it goes on with a prophecy and says this, “About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.” And basically, he says, four gallons of flour is going to be the same price or eight gallons of barley is gonna be the same price as what is now a donkey head.
Okay. So there’s gonna be a significant change in the economy. And where they sit in the city, starving to death, with no food, this looks like an absolute impossibility. It’s just, “Wake up, not gonna happen.” Okay. That’s pie in the sky, it’s just not gonna happen. You ever been in a situation where you look out and you go, “There’s just no way, you know, we’re just stuck here. We’re gonna starve to death. We’re eating donkey.” Well, why donkey heads? Well, you know, I checked it out a little bit because I was a little curious about that. And actually, up in the cheek bone, up here, of a donkey, there’s a little bit of good meat that you can kind of get a little something out of. Okay. Some places is delicacy, mostly it’s a last-chance meal. All right. So that’s the deal. So the contrast is quite severe, quite significant.
Well, let’s get into the story. Now, there were four men with leprosy. Now there are four men with…when I say that, when you think about four men who have leprosy, what comes to your mind when you picture leprosy, what you know about the disease or what you know about how they were treated back in Bible times? I’ll give you just a little primer. They were put outside the city gates and kept out there primarily because this disease is really infectious, you catch it by touch. And it’s not a good disease. I mean, it deteriorates your body. You lose things. It’s just…it’s a really bad disease. So in order to control it, they just put everybody with leprosy in a group and put them outside the city gate, said, “Stay away.” They would have a bell on that would let people know that they were getting close in proximity. And, so it was really not a good thing to have.
So anyway, there’s these four lepers, and they’re at the entrance to the city gate. Okay. Now that means…well, they say this, “They said to each other, ‘Why stay here until we die? If we say, “We’ll go into the city,” well, the famine is there, and we will die. But if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live. And if they kill us, we die.'” So let me review their four options for you. Okay. Let me just review these four options just to make them really clear. Go to the city, die. Stay here, die. Go over to the camp of the enemy, little bitty chance of living, but most likely fourth option is die. Okay?
So you got four options. They pray, “Lord, give us wisdom in this difficult decision.” Okay. Well, sarcasm. And then they go over and they try out their one option. And this is what happens. So, they go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. “‘If they spare us, we live. If they kill us, we die.’ At dusk, they got up and went to the camp. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there. For the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of the chariots, the horses, a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the King of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptians kings to attack us.’ So they got up and fled in the dusk. They abandoned their tents, and their horses, and their donkeys. And they left the camp as it was. And they ran for their lives.”
Wow. This isn’t an unexpected reality. This is not at all part of their calculation in their four options, is it? So they open the flap of the tent and peek in, and what? What? God has intervened. God has intervened. The men who had leprosy reached the edge of camp, entered one of the tents, and they ate, and they drank, and they took silver and clothes, and they went off and hid them. And then they returned, and they entered another tent and took things from it and hid, and repeat, and eat and hide and repeat, and eat. They are just…this is a good day for the lepers. This is a good day, you know? Like, they just seem, looking at it, “Did you get…did you…what? Silver over there? What? I can’t, my pockets are full.”
This is great. And then this is where the movie should end. This is where American movies sometimes end. But this is where it should, but it isn’t. that’s where the twist comes. “Then they said to each other, ‘What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news, and we’re keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. So let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.'” I see four factors in here that are interesting and significant to me. First of all, “They say to each other.” I wonder how four of them…I wonder how it would have been if this was just one leper who’d gone out there and found all this. And he was alone, eating and stuff. But there’s something about being with the others, being with the guys, being with the family, being with the group, being on the team that regulates us. It adjusts us a little bit, you know.
Last week, if you were around here or listen online, if you didn’t, you can go back, Craig, pastor, talked about, the importance of spurring each other on to love and good deeds, and the importance of putting yourself in a context with other people, small group, something like that, where you’re rubbing on each other. One of my professors, Larry Crabb, when I was studying, said that the time we leave a small group is just about the time it’s starting to work. You know what I mean? Because we’re kind of bugged by those idiots that don’t have anything. I’m exaggerating, but, you know, we go there, “I’m tired of those people, they’re driving me crazy.”
That’s just the right time when your small group is starting to work, hang in there. You know, iron sharpens iron, you know, then we find a group where everybody agrees with us. That’s helpful, you know. Sees the Bible exactly the way we do and stuff. You know, it’s part of the way we are created. We need other people standing beside us. And by the way, they need you standing beside them. So just wanna remind you, that’s a really important part of a relationship with God, is walking with him together. Isn’t it interesting that that’s how he’s designed it? And so if you’re not in one, get one. But anyway, okay.
The second thing is they say, “What we’re doing is not right.” It’s that intrinsic compass, conscience, that God has put inside of all of us. You know that moment where you’re going on, everything’s going, and you just go, “Ooh, let me think about this. Is this what I should be doing?” Often there’s…some people call it a check in your spirit. Just go, “Hmm, something’s off here.” Listen to that, and check with the Holy Spirit. He actually communicates really well. Stop and ask him, “Am I missing something? Is this right? You want me to do something different?” And if it’s not, if it’s just bad pizza or whatever, move on. But check, maybe there’s something more going on, right? Maybe there’s something more going on.
And then he says, “A day is coming.” A day is coming. This is bigger than what is going on today. Man, I’m telling you, over in Poland, corona and all, we went with, it was really easy to get focused down and just getting through this thing. But a day is coming. This is…life is bigger than the day, the moment that we’re in right now. There’s a lot more ahead. And they are gonna punish us. They. Now, part of us wants to say, “Well, they’ve treated you badly. They deserve to not know.” You know, “They left you out at the city gates and didn’t give you any food. And they got the only donkey’s head around, and you’re out here. And so you just don’t have…” They go, “No, no, no, no. We’re part of a bigger community,” as are you. As are you. As am I. You know, my adopted homeland is Poland. I’m part of a bigger community. And I gotta be careful with what I have and what I know.
So anyway, they make the hard decision. They decide they’re gonna go, they’re gonna go tell everybody in the city. And they’re heading off there. And as they’re heading that direction, I just want you to picture how poorly this is going to go. Okay? I just want you to picture, you know, them yelling up to the city gates, “Hey, us lepers, we know something you..” it’s just wrought with problems. And it goes exactly as bad as I’ve just predicted. So here we go. Let me just read it. It says this, “So they went out and they called to the city gatekeepers and told them, ‘We went into the Aramean camp and no one was there, not a sound of anyone. Only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.’ And the gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace.”
So they got the news from those guys, let’s say, they reported in the palace. The news probably got to the king. And this is along about midday, as best we can determine. But it isn’t until late at night that there’s any response from the king. The king got up in the night and said to his officers, he was obviously thinking about this, “I’ll tell you what the Aramean’s have done because I know. They know we’re starving, so they’ve left the camp to hide in the countryside thinking, ‘They will surely come out, and then we will take them alive and get into the city.'” So he’s figured out exactly what’s going on. He’s assessed the situation based on the knowledge that he has. Okay. Logical. That’s a logical assessment based on the information that he has. He’s just missing one really, really large piece.
So, I’m just turned 60 years old, and I’ve lived in the states 12 years. And I lived in Poland for 28, and I grew up in the Philippines. My parents were missionaries. So, a wonderful, beautiful place. And, when I was moving into second grade, we moved to the holy lands, Denver, Colorado. And, I remember, it was about October, end of October, something like that, beginning of November. And I was sitting there, getting my sack lunch and my stuff together to go to my little American school. And I looked out the window, and I saw something that shocked me. My dad had gone out to start the car. And I saw that while he was waiting for us because we were moving slow, he was having a cigarette and having a quick smoke. Now that may not surprise you, except that every family grows up in a home where they have their special issues that they harp on. Well, my dad had quit smoking when he was in the military. And so his thing was, “I don’t care how you die, but it will not be from smoking. You will never smoke. None of you will.”
So I heard this thing all the time about no smoking. So it was shocking to me to see him smoking. So he came back into the house. And so I got on him pretty good. It turns out I was a verbal kid, rather shocking. And so he comes in, and I said, “Dad, what…I saw you have…what are you doing? I saw you smoking.” He goes, “What?” I go, “Dad, I saw.” And he goes, “You what?” “Dad, I saw you,” and I didn’t know the word hypocrite, but that’s basically what I called him. And he goes, “Oh, hey, come here.” I stand up. He goes, “Step outside.” I step outside. And he goes, “Breathe.” And I kid you not. I could see my breath. Because I’d never been in a climate in my life up until that point below 0 or, you know, below 32. Right? I’d never been below freezing.
Now, if you’d told me five minutes earlier, “Do you know what? Sometimes if the weather changes, you can see your breath, and it has colors and music,” you know, I would’ve thought you were ridiculous. That is the most…think about what a ludicrous idea that is, that you can’t see your breath, and then all of a sudden you can because the weather changed. Do you hear how dumb that sounds? That requires you having access to a whole body of knowledge that I did not have. So my assessment of my father’s behavior, when I saw the smoke, was logical because everybody in the Philippines smokes where I grew up, you know. So when you see this, there’s a cigarette behind your back, right? That’s the one possibility.
That’s where the king was, too. He goes, “Based on what I…my body of knowledge, I know that this is a setup.” He did not calculate in the miraculous intervention of God. That was not one of the tools…that was not one of the pieces of data that he incorporated in. Is it possible you and I are living the same way sometimes? Do we have all these doubts and all these ways we think things are going to go because we’ve not calculated in the power of our God? His desire to have a relationship with us, to do something big. And we haven’t calculated that in. Some of us, we’re just…we’re living with doubts. We have so many, many doubts. We just, “It can’t be that, it can’t be this. It can’t be that.”
And I think it’s really important when we have doubts to assume that there’s something bigger going on than what I’m calculating into my assessment, you know. There’s something bigger going on than what I’m calculating into my assessment of the situation. God is bigger than what you see or what you know. There could be more. Actually, in my life, I see three different kinds of doubts that I have. One is a doubt of the mind, where I just don’t know everything. You know, I just don’t…I don’t have all the information. I see this, but I don’t understand how that fits with that. With doubts of the mind, you need to do the work and find out what’s going on, get into the work. Have other people who know more than you encourage you and challenge you to see it wider, read, study, know. Doubts of the mind need information.
But there’s a second kind of doubts, which I call doubts of the will. One time my mom came home and a window was broken, and it was broken because we’d been playing baseball. And my mother asked the most ridiculous question a parent could ask. And she said, “Didn’t you know that you’re not supposed to play baseball in the house?” Well, mom, if you’d have told us that, that would have saved a whole lot of pain for everybody, you know? Now we know. No, actually, I knew, you know. Actually, I knew, but I chose to play baseball in the house anyway. Are you with me? That’s a doubt of the will. That’s a, “Yes, I know. Yes, God, I hear ya. Nope. I won’t. I will not. I’m gonna do it my own way.” That’s a doubt of the will. And you need to respond differently to doubts of the will than you do to doubts of the mind.
And the third doubt is the most complicated one. And that is a doubt of the heart. That’s a doubt of heart. That something painful or something unexplainable that touched you, that wounded you, a loss, a damage, so costs you that you go, “There’s no way he can be good.” There was a girl in our youth ministry. You know, we train youth leaders all around the country in Poland, and there was a girl, and I was answering all her questions, and before I’d get halfway through an answer, she’d asked me another one. And finally I said, “Hey, if I answered all your questions to your satisfaction, would you put your faith in Christ?” She goes, “Nope. Nope. I won’t.” I said, “Why not?” “How would I ever trust a God that allowed that to happen to my mom? How could I ever put my faith in God?” So she disguised her doubts. She packaged her doubts of the heart in a doubt of the mind, you know, and it’s a straw man. It’s not that.
Do you have doubts of the heart that need…what do you do? With doubts of the mind, you need to get them answered. With doubts of the will, there’s gonna come a point where you’re gonna have to bend your knee. And there’s lots of company at the foot of the cross where you bend your knee. But man, there’s a release that happens when you let go and unfurl that fist. That’s a great way to live. It’s costly, but man, it’s worth it. And it calculates his intervention into your life. With doubts of the heart, you’ve just gotta bring it before him and put it in his lap, and go, “You must know something that I don’t know. And I’m going to trust you.” We just sang about that, doubts.
Well, anyway, let’s get back to the story. The king has these doubts. He goes, “Yeah, nope. This is what’s gonna happen.” He’s got it all assessed. Well, one of his guys says…”One of the soldiers and officers answered, ‘Have some men take five of the horses that are left in the city, dangerous animals, their plight will be like that of the rest of the Israelites left here. Yes, they will only be like us, who are all doomed. So let us send them to find out what happened.’ So they selected two chariots with their horses. The king sent them after the Aramean army.” I need just to throw a little thing out there, just, like, a little faith, a little hope, a little try. Maybe, maybe, just maybe, the lepers are saying something real here.
“They followed them as far as the Jordan. And they found the whole road strewn with clothing and equipment that the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight.” So the messengers return and report to the king. I mean, this is a garage sale. It looks like a skier going down the hill, you know, when they’re dry, the glove and the boot, you know what I mean? It’s that kind of a feel. They’re just getting rid of stuff. They’re just running away from the enemy that doesn’t exist, but it’s God making them think it does. There’s a supernatural aspect to this. And I mean, the guys come back, go, “You won’t believe it. It’s just…they just left everything and ran.” What? And so you can picture what…you would just picture the people flooding out of the city gates and heading over there, you know, and to see all this stuff.
So the people they went out and they plundered the king. Oh, they were plundered. “Honey, how was your day today?” “I plundered. It was…yeah, I did some plundering. It was good.” “The people went out and they plundered the camp of the Aramaeans. So a seah of the finest flour sold for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel, as the Lord had said,” and there’s no donkey head soup on the menu at all. You know, we’ve moved all the way past that. We’re back to the richest of fare. We’re back to the good, good, good food.
Now, I think you’ve picked up where I’m going with this story. It’s not that complicated. And yet it kind of is. I’m suggesting that this is a metaphor for what…excuse me, for what we know about God, for the Gospel. That you have come to know him, that you have a relationship with him, you know about God, but you also, you know God. So many of you have had a chance to put your faith in God. And that’s your personal relationship with him. Great. And then there’s a suggestion. Why don’t you talk to other people about your faith? And right away, just like you, we back up a little bit, you know, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I don’t…I just…you know, I just need to do that. I just need to talk more honestly about my faith.”
Well, it’s not that simple, is it? It’s much more complicated. Excuse me. And I wanna suggest that there’s four reasons that you and I don’t point people to the Gospel. There’s good reasons why we don’t. Then try these out and see if one of them fits you. The first one is, “Actually, it doesn’t taste that good to me.” Actually, it doesn’t taste that good to me. I mean, if you’re eating something that you don’t like, you’re not gonna be a very good endorser. Ever watched a celebrity endorse a product that you can tell he or she’s got nothing to do with? You know, you go, “Yeah, really? Really?” And we can sound the exact same way.
So I can just force you into endorsing the Gospel. Does that feel good? Go out of here and tell people how great it is even though it’s not that great for you. Why is that? Well, some of it is because we’ve lost our first love. We’ve lost our connection to our own God. Or we believe it’s all truth, but there’s no much passion that flows out of us when we talk about. Well, why not? Well, some of it’s because it’s transformed in our lives. Our belief, our Gospel, our relationship with our God has transformed into something else.
Great way to illustrate that is a number of years ago when I was dating Laura, before we got married, there was one particular night where she was kind of quiet and I didn’t know why. And so I asked her, “Honey, what’s wrong?” And she said, “You know what? I just…” she was having all kinds of doubts. She goes, “I just…I’m not sure. I’m just not sure, you know, you really love me.” “Okay. Well, what would show you that I love you?” “Well, I just wish you were more creative. I wish we could do things,” this, that, and the other. And she listed all these things. And so I kind of took mental notes and set out to do them. And, because I wanna be a good boyfriend. I wanna do that. Right. And so, and I don’t wanna brag or anything, but nailed it.
I mean, bowling, and chocolate, flowers. I mean, it was just like, I was just Mr. Romance. And, I knew she was feeling pretty good about me, which is why it surprised me when a couple of weeks later, there was another quiet moment, and I said, “What’s wrong?” And she goes, “I don’t know. I just don’t feel like you love me.” Okay. Now I’m mad, but I didn’t show mad. I did something that was extremely effective. And I just started listing off all the things I’d done correctly. Right? So like a Rolodex, I’m going, “Flowers, remember that? Chocolate, bowling, you want, remember.” There’s some disagreement about whether that was a gift or deserve, but whatever. And then I listed all these things, thinking that her response would then be to me, “Thank you. Now I see it. Yes, you do love me. I feel great.”
Shockingly, as every woman in this room and online can imagine, she had a different response, right? And she says these words, I want you to catch her words. They’re really significant to this point. She goes, “Dan, I believe that you want to convince me that you love me. I have no doubt. My question is, do you?” Okay, now we’re in a whole different galaxy, right? Because I’m going, “Do I? Do I? But I mean, I want you to believe I do, but do I?” Do you see how that lands at a very different place?
And so church, that’s my question to you. Do you? Do you love him? Don’t tell me what you’re doing. Don’t tell…yes, “By what you do, you will know that you’re my disciples.” That’s true. But you got to back up and go, do you? Do you love…? Do you do swim in his love for you? Maybe that’s a good place to start. Maybe just back up and go, “Let’s back up here. God, why’d you choose me? Why do you wanna have a relationship with me?” That’s a great place. So that’s the first reason. And by the way, it’s a little bit like a red light on the dash of your car. When you were not talking about where the food is, when we’re not talking about God at all in our lives, it could be that there’s something more going on. That could be a signal to you that maybe you’ve lost part of your first love. And rather than just kicking into gear and give them the list, maybe it’s time to back up and go, “God, would you meet me again?” Maybe you need a fresh connection with your God.
Another reason that we don’t, maybe that one doesn’t fit you, maybe another reason that you don’t is, “I don’t believe that they are THAT hungry.” I don’t believe that they’re that hungry. I was, others are, but that guy, and you’ve got his face in your mind or her face in your mind right now, I don’t believe they’re that hungry. And sometimes the reason people don’t appear hungry is because there’s maybe full with other stuff.
A little while back, I was driving around the city. I had lots of errands, and I was really hungry, and I knew we were going over to friend’s house that we’d met to have coffee and cake, I thought. In Poland, we do dessert before we do the main meal. So they got that one, right, don’t they? Yes, they do. And then we have dessert after as well. So it’s just like a dessert sandwich. Love it. And anyway, so I’m just driving around city, and I’m just so hungry. And so I go into a drive-thru, and I get myself a Big Mac, large fries, extra large fries, and a shake. And so I’ve got this huge meal, and I’m eating these things, and it’s, you know, whatever. And it’s just filling my stomach. And you know, that feeling when you’re eating stuff like this, you don’t usually…I’m not getting down on McDonald’s, it’s not my point, but all this stuff is…and my stomach is full, and awe, and the phone rings and it’s Laura. And she says, “You better get over here quick. It’s not just coffee and cake.”
So I go over there and I walk in the door. And as I walk in the door, there’s this feast spread out on the table. I mean, they’ve been going at this for days. So it’s all the Polish delicacies, all the fish, and bigos…and the Poles just…I mean, they can do food. Let me tell you. And I’m looking at all this, and I’m convoluted in my feelings. Do you know, like, “Yes, no. Yes. Where?” You know, because my stomach is already full with so many substitutes of what I could have had if I just would have left empty spot for what was coming. It’s just a metaphor, but sometimes people don’t seem hungry and we don’t because we’re full with other stuff. What is that? Is it the joys of this good life? Is it…? I don’t know, but you know. What is it that fills it up so there’s no place and no sense of hunger? You know, sometimes it’s great to make space for hunger. That’s actually a great gift. And what enjoyment that brings.
The third reason we don’t is because I don’t believe it will taste that good to them. I don’t believe that the feast will taste that good to them. And I believe it tastes good to me, but I don’t think it’s gonna taste that good to them. And what we do is we come to the conclusion that that feast is not going to be what they really need. We decide for them, we reject the Gospel before they have a chance to, in order to help them out. We reject the Gospel for them. Do you see it? Rather than saying it’s good. And just grabbing their hand and bringing them to the table, you know, we don’t do it. We reject the Gospel for them. You know what it sounds kind, Hey, I don’t wanna bother you. I just, you know, because maybe that’s not something you want.
You know what people actually do just fine rejecting the Gospel all by themselves. They don’t need your help. They did just fine. I do, you know, I’m rejecting God’s truth many, many times during my day. I don’t need your help to, you know, I can do that without you. Do you see what I mean? It’s actually a real kindness to just, tell them what’s important to you. Talk to people about what you believe. You know, what’s interesting that God’s plan A delivery system is the Gospel put inside of you. Isn’t that cool? That’s his plan A delivery system. That’s not a plan B. He calculated in my weakness. He calculated in my subjective point of view, my limited understanding of the Gospel. And I’m telling you to go, yeah, it’s easy for you to say you’re a missionary. You know what? I’m a geographically challenged food director. That’s really what I am. I’m just like you, just geographically challenged.
You know me, and that brings me to the fourth reason, well, no. I want to say one more thing. When we sat down with Asha, the little video you saw, what Laura talked about, right before Asha put her faith in Christ, we were sitting in the room, Laura and I, others, her daughter we were reading Scripture to her, nothing to either of them, nothing. And I remember thinking we had to go, because this is going nowhere. And I basically decided internally that there was going to be no response. And actually there was no signals or whatever. And the Spirit of God through Laura, turned the Bible around, putting in front of her, and she read the verse first time, she’s basically read the Bible for herself ever. And she read the verse and, John 3:17, there’s no condemnation. And she started, crying and you just, you watched the Spirit of God, come in and open her eyes. And she just goes, wow. And it all happened. I did not calculate that in. I did not.
So maybe it will taste good to them and if they choose to walk away. Okay. But that’s the last one is, last reason I don’t want to is I don’t want to impose my view on them. You know what? You’re not imposing, but can you just grab somebody’s hand and say, can I show you something really cool? I’d like to lead you to this and just go and just go ta-da what do you think? Huh? And they’re gone. Yeah, this is gone. And, or maybe it won’t be, maybe they gone, you know what? I’m really kind of a Big Mac person. So thank you. Okay. Do they have that freedom? Yeah. So can you. Do you know who you are? You are a person who’s basically called to show people where the food is. Can you do that? Hey, it’s right over there. I’m serious. It’s that simple. It really is. We’ve made it so complex, but I’m telling you, I love this. You might too. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Taste and see that the Lord is good and just let them choose.
Would you close your eyes for a minute and bury your head and just let me take you, let me walk with you together into the throne room of God and just invite the Holy Spirit to say anything he wants to say to you right now.
And first of all, is there a chance that you just need to go back to fall in love with him again? Would you tell him that’s what you want? Would you declare that to him? God, I just wanna fall back in love with you. I wanna know. I wanna taste and see. Secondly, could you trust his assessment of the people in your life that they are that hungry? Maybe they won’t appear that way, but that’s his problem. He does just fine drawing people to himself. He sees their hunger. He’ll get in touch with it, he’ll draw. And third, do you really believe that the Gospel is what they need? That just didn’t help out of their dilemma or whatever. What do you really believe? To believe the food is gonna taste good to him? Because I’m telling you it will, and third, get out of the way. Do you need to just go? This is not about my view, their view, his view, that view. This is about pointing to where the feast is.
Just point. Can you do that? If you’ve never put your faith in Christ, if you’ve never known this, God. Then you’re like me looking out the window and you don’t get it, and you’re not gonna get it. You got to let the Spirit of God change something inside of you. Just say to him right now, “I am a sinner. I don’t have the whole picture. Would you save me God? Would you come in and redo my thinking? Would you let me have a relationship with you? Would you forgive me for my sin through Jesus and what he did on the cross? Get rid of that sin that has separated me from you. I accept you right now into my heart.” Would you do that right now?
Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us where the food is. We don’t know why you chose us. We don’t get it, but you did. And we’re loving it. We really are. We wanna love it more. Would you connect us back with you and God, God, let us tell others. Would you show us this next week moments where we can point to where the food is? Have you tried this? You’re gonna love it. And if they say no, okay, it’s not rejecting us. It’s rejecting you. And you seem like you’re doing okay with that. I’m so glad I’m free. I’m free to point where the food is. Here’s the feast. Thank you, Lord for saving us, save more, and get glory all for yourself. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. Amen.
Online and here in the room, like you do to an invite, I would like to invite you to do something a little unorthodox. What we do in our little church that meets in our home, back in Poland, I would love to invite you to turn to the person next to you. Don’t introduce yourself. Don’t tell them how much you make, nothing. Just turn to them and say the most important thing that I heard or that I thought that came into my mind during this mission that I need to remember is this. So tell him, okay. Take a couple seconds. Turn to the person next to you. If there’s somebody over by themselves, pull them in. You got a couple of seconds. Turn them and say, “The most important thought for me that I do not wanna forget if from the Spirit is this.” You do that right now. I know a little awkward, sorry, Poland guy. So do that. And then and listen carefully to what they have to say.
Being ready matters when we’re waiting expectantly for Jesus’ return. Perfection doesn’t matter, but progress does. It is all about finding and taking our next step of becoming and being more like Jesus. No matter where you are in the journey, there is always another step of obedience in moving forward.
And it’s also one of the most often ignored commands, I think, we find in Scripture. He says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on,” and I actually really like that translation. I’m reading the New International Version. Some other translations go with slightly different words. A couple of them say, “Well, let’s consider how we may motivate each other. Or let’s consider how we may stir each other up.” And those are perfectly okay words, but I like spur because the reality, sort of the implication of spurring is that it’s not always super pleasant. And the word that’s being used here, the original Greek word that was used in that passage isn’t necessarily a pleasant word. In fact, if you want to flip back with me in Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 29:28, that particular word that’s being used there is only used four times in the entire Bible. And there’s a use of it in Deuteronomy 29:28, in the Greek translation, the Old Testament that I think gives us an insight into what kind of word this is. In furious anger and great wrath, the Lord uprooted them from the land and thrust them into another land as it is now. And in English, that word uprooted, it’s the same Greek word that’s being used here in Hebrews 10:24 to say, “Let’s spur each other on.”
Spur is a great translation because it’s not always pleasant. This isn’t a cheerleader word. Okay? This isn’t a you can do it, I believe in you kind of word. This is a lot more like so which part of your butt needs kicking to get your moving kind of word. That’s the kind of word it is. It’s not a cheerleader word. And the reality is that sometimes what we need is something that’s not entirely pleasant, but it’s entirely necessary, right? Okay, and what are we spurring each other on towards? He says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.”
Now, if you’ve been in Mission Hills for more than a week, you’ve probably heard us say this at least once. Here at Mission Hills, we’re all about helping people do two things, become like Jesus and join him on mission. We’re all about helping people take their next step of becoming like Jesus, join him on mission. And that’s what’s going on here. He says, “Spur each other towards love, take a step forward, move towards love,” which is the Jesus stuff. It’s the becoming like Jesus stuff. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must also love one another.” So when we love one other, we’re becoming like Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.” Jesus came because of love. Love and Jesus are kind of big-time overlapping terms and the Venn diagram of who Jesus is and what love is, they overlap almost perfectly.
And so the more that we grow in love, the more we’re actually becoming like Jesus. But he also says, “To spur each other towards good deeds.” That’s the living-on-mission stuff that we talk about here a lot. Good deeds are the good things that we do for other people to point them to the goodness of God. And of course, the greatest good that we can do for anybody is to introduce them to Jesus and the Gospel of Grace, that God loved them so much he sent his own Son Jesus, who was willing to come to die for us to pay the price of our sin and then to rise from the dead and give us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sin and to belong to God for eternity by putting our trust in what he’s done. That’s the greatest good we can do. This is all living on mission stuff. And this is the bottom line. Well, what the author of Hebrews says here is basically, listen, we need to be thinking, we need to be consciously thinking about how to kick each other in the butt to keep us moving forward in becoming like Jesus, and joining him on mission.
And the reason that we need to do this is because the reality is that making progress like that, moving forward like that, progress is not always pleasant, right? Actually, that’s not right. Progress is always pleasant. Making progress is not always pleasant. Right? We all love progress, right. I mean, we all like to lose weight. We all like to get better at our jobs or to make the varsity team or to move up at work. We all like deepening our marriages. We all like overcoming addictions. We all like making progress. But we don’t always like what it takes to make progress. The reality is that making progress is often unpleasant. And what we need is we need people around us who help us push past the pain that makes progress possible, right? That’s the reason why people hire personal coaches, fitness coaches, right. I’ve never hired one. And now you’re like, “You did that all by yourself?” Yeah. Yeah. It’s the reason why we join “Weight Watchers.” Okay? It’s the reason why we join “Alcoholics Anonymous.” We recognize that we need other people around us. God made us as social creatures. There’s strength and power that comes from putting people around us who help us push past the pain that makes progress possible.
And that’s what the author of Hebrews is telling us here. And he gives us this command. And he also gives us the context for which it’s supposed to happen, the context in which we’re able to spur each other on. He says, “And not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the Day approaching.” He says we always need to do this. But it’s all the more important as we see the Day approaching. And let’s just deal with that phrase, because it’s an interesting phrase, “the Day,” if you’re not quite sure what that means. Because it’s not a day, it’s the Day, right? Most translations put it with a capital D, tell you this is a really important day. But what day is he talking about? He’s talking about the Day that Jesus returns. He’s talking about the day that Jesus comes back. The Bible sometimes calls it Judgment Day. And there’s a lot of different things the Bible says about Judgment Day. But one of the most important things that comes up over and over and over again is this very clear idea that when Jesus returns, he wants to find us ready. When Jesus returns, he wants to find us ready to greet him. Okay? He doesn’t want to show back up and we’re like, “Oh, hey, did you send a calendar invite for this? Because I didn’t know.” It’s awkward, right?
When I was right out of college, I was probably, maybe a year out of college, I was serving in a church in Cincinnati. And the guy who discipled me through college, my Bible study leader called me and said, “Hey, my wife and I are gonna be there on this day. And we wonder if we could take you and Coletta to lunch?” And I was like, “Absolutely, that’d be awesome.” I was really excited to see him. Now, this is the day before we had phones that had calendars on them. And so I was like, “This is a big day. I’m gonna see him for the first time in a year. He was really influential in my life. There’s no way I’m gonna forget this. I don’t need to write this down.” I needed to write that down. I forgot. And then one day, I came back from going out to lunch and I came in and there was Dave and Shelly sitting on the tailgate of their car in the church parking lot. And I was like, “Oh, no.” Right. And I’m saying hello and I’m racking my brain trying to…like, how do I spin this? In the midst of my thinking, Dave looks at me and goes, “You forgot, didn’t you?” And I’m like, “Yeah.”
Let me tell you something. When somebody comes to see you, and they’re excited to see you, and you forgot they were coming, it’s awkward. It’s all kinds of awkward. We don’t want that when Jesus comes back. Jesus doesn’t want to find us going, “Oh, whoa, I wasn’t expect…” He wants us more like the kids at the window while they’re waiting for Grandma and Grandpa to come at Christmas time, right? Noses pressed to the window. “Oh, you’re here.”
So we’re told very clearly that when Jesus returns, he wants to find us ready. Okay, so what does that look like? What does it look like to be found ready? Well, one foundational thing that’s sort of underneath everything that we’re gonna talk about today is that being ready means having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, that’s just foundational. Okay? It’s having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. Not practicing a religion, not doing a bunch of spiritual things, but actually having a relationship with God that’s changing us from the inside out. It’s still astounding to me how many times when I talk to somebody and I ask the question, so are you a follower of Jesus? And how often I get the answer, “Well, I’ve gone to church my whole life.” That’s not what I asked. I’ve spent a lot of time at Chipotle, does not make me a burrito. It just doesn’t work like that.
There’s a moment where you have to commit, there’s a moment we have to say, “This is not about the things that I do. This is about who I know, this is about my willingness to put my trust in what Jesus did on the cross for me. It’s about my willingness to put my faith in the resurrection that brought new life to those who’ll trust him.” We have to have that as the foundation. Being ready means having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. By the way, if you are here today, and you’re like, “I don’t have that,” we’re gonna show you how to have that before the day is done today. Just hang on. But there’s a couple of other things. Maybe you have that relationship with God and you’re like, “Okay, does that mean that I’m ready?” Not necessarily. There are two other things that we need to have to be found ready when Jesus returns and one of them is loving others. That’s what Hebrews is talking about here. It says, “Spurring each other on towards love.” Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must also love one another.” When we’re loving others, we’re ready.
There’s a third one, and that is living on mission. We’re living a mission, what Hebrews here calls good deeds, that point people to the goodness of God. We’re called to be living on mission with Jesus, we’re called to be sharing the light of the Gospel with other people. We talk about it here at Mission Hills, to live on mission, really, it’s to honor God, and it’s to extend his influence into every area where you have influence. Every one of us has areas in life where we have influence, maybe it’s a little influence, maybe it’s a lot, but everywhere we have influence, we’re called to honor God and to extend God’s influence into that area. So in our marriages, check. In our families, check. At work, check. In your apartment complex, check. In school, check. On teams, check. In your neighborhood, check. In the world check. Anywhere that we have any kind of influence, we’re called to honor God and to extend his influence. That’s living on mission. And what we’re told is that when Jesus returns, he’s gonna find us ready if we have the relationship, and we’re loving others, and we’re living on mission.
I think one of the most interesting places where Jesus teaches about what it looks like to be found ready is in Matthew chapter 25. If you want to turn with me there, we’re gonna be in Matthew chapter 25, verse 1, for a moment here. What’s happening here is Jesus is talking about the day that he’s gonna return, and he says this, he says, “At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” Now in the ancient world, in ancient Israel, especially, the role of the virgins was a little bit like the role of the bridal party, not exactly equivalent, but something like that. And one of their jobs was to meet the bridegroom as he was coming and then bring him back into the wedding feast. Okay?
Now, what we need to understand here is that the ten virgins represent the followers of Jesus, the people who say that they’re followers of Jesus trying to live on mission with him. And the bridegroom, of course, represents Jesus. And I think it’s very interesting. And I don’t think it’s coincidental that the ten virgins who represent the followers of Jesus have ten lamps, they each have a lamp. I think it’s fascinating because throughout the Bible, it’s made very clear that as the follower of Jesus, our major task is to shine the light of the Gospel into the darkness of the world. Living on mission, right? Jesus very famously said, “I am the light of the world.” But he also looked at his followers and said, “And you are the light of the world,” it’s not our light, it’s his light. But we’re called to hold it up high, to shine it into the darkness, and to drive back the darkness with the light of God’s love and the Gospel of Grace. So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these ten virgins who represent the followers of Jesus all have a light.
And Jesus says this. He says, “Five of them were foolish. And five were wise.” Which I think we need to acknowledge does not give any of us real good odds. Right? I mean, it sort of leaves the impression that Jesus looks about half of us and goes, “That is so not what I was talking about.” I would much prefer this was like, there was one foolish and nine wise, that’d give me a much better option, right? But 50-50, I mean, that means you look at somebody next to you and go, “Which one of us is it?” I used to think that was really, like, overly negative. And then I began to see signs that there’s a lot of foolishness in the Christian world. And I actually mean that literally, I mean, I saw signs. We don’t have a lot of these in Colorado, but if your back east or down south, there’s a lot of churches that have a sign out front, and they put little sayings on the sign to try to get people to come in. And they’re horrifying. Like, I saw one that said, “Don’t let your worries crush you. Let the church help.” I see where you’re going. I don’t think you quite made it. I think maybe my all-time favorite one is, “Do you know what hell is? Come hear our preacher.” Is that really something you wanted to have said? And sometimes they’re just…honestly they’re just sad. I saw one back in Ohio several years ago that said, “Don’t get burned, use sunblock,” but it was S-O-N. Really, we’ve reduced the Gospel of Grace to a bad pun. And I’m making kind of a light-hearted point. But the reality is, I think there’s a lot of foolishness in the church. There are a lot of different ways the Christians go, “Oh, this is what Christianity is all about.” And Jesus goes, “It’s not.”
So maybe honestly, 50% is generous. Five of them were foolish and five were wise, but you know what actually may be the most interesting part of that is that they occur in groups. You got a group of five who are foolish and a group of five who are wise. Because Jesus could have easily made the same point with one foolish example and one wise example. Right? But he didn’t, he did it with groups. And I think the reason for that is actually a principle that I see throughout the Bible, and it comes up over and over and over again, I call it the C three principle. The C three principle basically says, “Company creates character.” Company creates character. The company that we keep determines the kind of character that develops in us. This is the reason why the Bible says, “Walk with the wise and become wise. But the companion of fools suffers harm.” If you hang out with wise people, guess what, you become a wise person. You hang out with fools, you end up doing foolish things which cause you harm. It’s the reason that Paul writing to the church in Corinth said, “Do not be misled, don’t make a mistake about this one. Bad company corrupts good character.” You might think you have great character, and you might have great character. But if you spend enough time hanging out with people of bad character, your character gets tarnished, it gets rusted and it gets holes in it and pretty soon, it just begins to fall apart. Bad company corrupts good character because company creates character.
So it’s interesting here. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the foolish and the wise are occurring in groups because what’s happening is they’re reinforcing certain kind of character traits. Now, here’s the interesting thing that I think we need to acknowledge, we cannot always control our company. Look we all have some company that we keep, and it’s not really up to us, maybe it’s family, maybe it’s at work, or it’s a school situation. We can’t always control the company we keep. And sometimes the company we keep is potentially corrupting our character. But what we can do is we can be intentional about balancing that with company that creates good character.
The problem is, we rarely do that. The problem is most of us are not very intentional about the company we keep. Most of us drift into the company we keep, and therefore, we drift into the character that creates. We’re not nearly careful enough about being deliberate about surrounding ourselves with people that are creating the right culture. And it’s so important. I’m really proud of my youngest daughter, we dropped her off at CU Boulder last week. Kind of a hard moment, honestly. And my oldest daughter told our youngest daughter and she said, “Hey, CU is the party school.” And my youngest was like, “No, it’s not. And even if it is, I’m in the engineering program. The engineers are not partiers.”
She called us midway through this past week, she’s like, “I was wrong about that. I mean, we’ve already sent three kids home with alcohol poisoning. Everybody’s talking about who they’re sleeping with,” and we’re like, okay, big parenting moment. Right. “So what are you doing with it?” She goes, “Well, I was walking through the quad and I saw the Navigators had a booth,” Navigators is a Christian organization, “so I let the engineering students get a little ahead of me. I ran over there to the Navigators, I was like, ‘When are you meeting?'” They said, “Well, we’re going on a night hike tomorrow. Be there.” Like, whoa, my kid didn’t even like youth group. She wasn’t really a youth group kind of kid. She’s kind of a loner, right? But she immediately recognized if I’m gonna keep the same kind of character that I want, I’m gonna have to be deliberate about the company that I’m keeping. Really proud of her. She’s doing honestly what many of us learn far too late in life. Company creates character.
Here’s an interesting question you probably should wrestle with a little bit, what character is being created by the company I’m keeping? Encourage you to ask yourself that. What character is being created by the company I’m keeping? Is it wise? Is it foolish? Is it helping spur you on to take your next steps of becoming like Jesus and join him on mission? Or is it actually getting you stuck where you are? The reality is I talk to people all the time who go like, “I just feel like I’m stuck in my Christian faith. I’m stuck in my Christian growth. I just don’t…maybe it feels a little bit lifeless and I’m not really making progress anymore.” And it’s amazing to me how often what it comes back to is ultimately the company that you’re keeping and whether or not you have people in your life who are spurring you on.
Jesus says, “The foolish ones. They took their lamps but they did not take any oil with them.” And you can see how that played out. Right? You know one was like, “Hey, are you taking any oil?” Nah, we’re not gonna need it. Okay good. Well, I feel better not taking any oil. They reinforced it, right? The wise ones, however, took oil in their jars along with their lamps and one of them said, “Hey, are you carrying a little bit more oil?” “Yeah, I definitely think we should. We don’t how long it’s gonna be.” “Okay, well, if you’re going to I’m going to. Are you taking? Okay.” See how it reinforces, right?
Now the bridegroom was a long time in coming. And they all became drowsy and they fell asleep. Which is a really interesting statement. For the last 2,000 years in every generation, somebody has said, “I think Jesus is coming back this month, this year, at the very least this generation.” And it says here even before Jesus left, he said, “You’re gonna be surprised by how long it’s gonna take.” But most importantly, the potential is there for all of you to fall asleep, to drift into a forgetfulness about this really big day that’s coming. They all fell asleep. The foolish and the wise, nobody is exempt from this danger. Nobody is exempt from the possibility of being found not ready. And at midnight a cry rang out. Here’s the bridegroom, come out to meet him, and then all the virgins woke up and they trim their lamps. And the foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, our lamps are going out.” “No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, you go to those who are selling oil and buy some for yourselves.” But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. And the virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And then the door was shut.
I mean, the bottom line, what Jesus is saying here is, “Listen, unless we’re found ready, we’re not going to get to enjoy the party.” Unless we’re found ready, we won’t get to enjoy the party when he returns. So being ready matters. Then the question becomes okay, well, how do I do it? How do I stay ready? Well, here’s the good news. Being ready isn’t about perfection. It’s about progress. Being ready isn’t about getting perfect. It’s about making progress. It’s about moving forward and becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission. We know it’s not about perfection because when Jesus returns, they’re gonna be some people who said yes the day before. They haven’t made much progress when Jesus returns, but Jesus is still gonna find them ready because they’ve taken the all-important first step. They’re looking for their next step. It’s about progress, not perfection. Really, the bottom line is being ready is all about finding and taking our next step. It’s about finding and taking our next step of love, of good deeds, of becoming like Jesus of joining him on mission. It’s about finding our next step. And there’s always a next step. I don’t care how long you’ve been following Jesus, there’s a next step for you. Maybe you said yes to Jesus last weekend, fantastic. You’re probably fully aware of your next steps. Maybe you’ve been following Jesus for 70 years, and you’re going, “I feel like the road is running out.” Nope.
There’s always a next step. There’s always another step of obedience in moving forward and becoming like Jesus joining him on mission, loving and doing good deeds. And when we’re doing that, when we’re constantly taking the next step, we’re ready. That’s good news, right? Because it doesn’t mean that to be found ready, we have to hit some incredible spiritual level that seems unattainable. It just means that we constantly go, “I’m not done. I’m taking my next step.” That’s fantastic news. So then the question becomes, okay, so how do we do that? What’s the right context for making sure that we’re doing that? Let’s go back again to Hebrews 10.
He says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” That’s the context for it.
Do you see the key ingredient to making sure we’re always taking our next step? It’s community. But not just any community, it’s what I would call missional community, a community that’s focused around helping us to stay on mission. The reality is that being ready depends on having a missional community. Being ready, always being able to take that next step, it depends on having missional community. And missional community if you’re not familiar with that term, it basically just means this, mission community is a small group of people who gather regularly to spur each other on to take their next step. That’s all it is. Small group of people who meet together regularly to spur each other on to take their next step.
And by the way, I use the word small group for a very important reason. This passage here, this verse here is often used in the church to tell people you need to come to worship services, you need to attend church. In fact, I can virtually guarantee you right now as we’re… I don’t know if we’re coming out of COVID or going into the next wave of COVID. I don’t know what’s going on with COVID. But I can guarantee you right now there are churches out there that are preaching this passage and they’re using it as kind of the hammer, the whip to go you need to come back to in-person attendance. And I actually think that’s a misapplication of this verse. I think in-person attendance is really important. There’s something powerful that happens when we gather together that doesn’t quite happen in the same way online. But this verse is not actually the way that we force people to get feeling guilty about not being in church.
And here’s the reason I say that. In the first century when the followers of Jesus first began to gather together, they didn’t gather together in large rooms. In fact, there were no church buildings in those days. And so really, every church met in a home. They were house churches, and the homes were pretty small, which means that almost every church probably maxed out at 15 to 20 people. Now, in that context, when he says, “Don’t give up gathering together or meeting together,” he is actually talking about going to church, but he’s talking about going to church with a pretty small group of followers of Jesus, who can know each other who are doing life together in a way that they understand who you are, and they understand who I am and so we can spur each other on, we can do that little uncomfortable thing that he says. We can figure out which part of their butt needs kicking to keep a movement, and they can do the same thing to us. Because they knew each other. I mean, the reality is doing what we’re talking about here, it happens up close and over time. It happens in the context of relationships, and it takes time to develop those. In the first century, you could do that in a normal church setting. But the reality is that as Christianity began to grow and eventually as congregations grew larger and buildings were built where more and more people were able to gather for worship services and hear the teaching of the word, all really good stuff, by the way, but as those groups grew, it became impossible to do what’s being told here in that context.
The churches were too large to pull it off. And by the way, I would say that once a church goes over 20, the worship services can’t accomplish that anymore. So what is he talking about then? And the answer is he’s talking about small groups. He’s talking about creating within the church, the smaller groups where people come together on a regular basis to encourage each other to take their next step. Worship services are powerful. Worship services are important. But the real context for discipleship for becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission and constantly taking that step, it happens best up close and over time, and that requires smaller groups. That’s what we define missional community as a small group of people who gather together regularly to spur each other on to take that next step.
So let me just be really blunt with you. You need to be part of a small group. You need to be part of a small group. Attending a worship service isn’t enough to spur you on. Hopefully, you get some great content, hopefully, you have a powerful experience of worshiping God together that’s really significant. It is a part of the rhythm of the Christian life. But you need more than content, you also need a context where people are helping each other spurring each other on to figure out what do I do with that content? What is my next step of love or good deeds? What is my next step of becoming like Jesus on joining him on mission? You need to be part of a small group.
Mission Hills, we believe really strongly in groups. And we work hard to create easy on-ramps to make this kind of thing possible. We have all kinds of groups. We have serve teams. Serve teams are the people who accomplish the work of the church. We have kids teams, we have prayers teams, we have student teams, we have the Life Center Team, we have the Guest Service Team, we have a lot of different teams, and what they’re doing is they’re doing the work of the church, they’re doing the ministry of the church, but also they’re they’re building relationships with each other. They’re building relationships where they can do what this command tells us to do which is to spur each other on. And those are really powerful. I would argue that they’re really especially powerful for men. Because men when they hear groups and small groups, I don’t know about you, but for a long time, I was kind of like, so we’re gonna sit around in a circle and share our feelings. Yeah, no. Like, I get it. Okay. I don’t want to be offensive here. But just generally speaking, I think this is a fairly true stereotype. Women kind of like that thing. Women are good at coffee shops, right? Women are good with, how you doing? Men are like, get me out of there, right.
Men are not as good with coffee shops. Men are better with golf carts, right? Let’s sit side by side and move forward together. Right? That’s what serve teams are kind of like that. We’re doing things that need to be done. We’re doing good deeds. We’re loving on people. But we’re also beginning to build relationships with people, really powerful way to do that. So serve teams are one option. We’ve got Sunday schools. We’ve got classes that meet on Sundays to do some of this kind of thing. And they’re often studying the Bible together, but they’re also building those relationships. I love our Sunday schools. The problem with our Sunday schools in Mission Hills is many of our Sunday schools are larger than churches.
And so those groups often need to go a step deeper in finding another group, whether it’s a serve team, or maybe it’s a women’s group. Women’s groups, it’s a Bible study they’re doing together or maybe they orient around a special interest. We have a quilting group and they’re awesome. They meet together and they quilt, but they’re also using the things that they produce to love on people and to be on mission. It’s awesome. We got men’s groups who do the same thing. We have men’s groups that do Bible study that meet around special interest groups. We have a new classic car group that’s getting started. All kinds of different groups, they form around this idea of different interests, whether it’s a Bible study or some kind of another thing, but the real purpose of all of them is the same, which is to build relationships where we can spur each other on to love and good deeds, spur each other on to becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission.
We have student groups in our middle school and high school that do that. We have sports and rec groups where they do that around softball or basketball, those kinds of things. We’ve got hope groups. Hope groups come together around particular phases in life where people need support. So we have regeneration to help people get through addictions. We have Re-Engage which is about helping people strengthen their marriages, whether they’re in a difficult season, honestly, maybe you’re in a good season, but you want to go to a great season. We got Re-Engage. We have an adoption hope group. We got all kinds of hope groups. But again, they’re all about building relationships.
And then, of course, we have life groups. Life groups are built around sermon discussions. Our staff produces more questions even than I have for you. At the end of every message, I typically have questions designed to help you try to figure out what’s my next step to take. Well, we have a great team that produces even more of those and some guided discussion groups. And our life groups get together, and they talk about it. They’re like, “Let’s not just keep it as content, let’s figure out what it looks like to actually do something.” And they know each other so that they can actually begin to help each other figure out what it looks like for them to do that. And they do that for each other. And so they’re moving forward and taking those next steps. We’re making a little bit of a change with our life groups, by the way right now. And really, with all of our groups, we’re trying a couple of things.
Number one, we’re gonna start an experiment where every semester, we basically deform all the groups and then reform them. Now, if you find a group of people you really click with, you can sign up for the group with the same people. You can do that year after year, that’s fine. But by deforming and reforming every semester, it’s easier on-ramps for people who haven’t been part of a group yet. We’re all gonna do it together. And so that’s just what we’re gonna do as a church, we’re gonna get into those relationships. The other thing we’re doing, I’m really excited about this is that all of our groups, we’re moving towards having a mission that the group is a part of together. So maybe it’s as simple as well, hey, we’re a life group. We meet in this house, and we’re just down the street from an elementary school. So our mission, we’re gonna love the teachers in that elementary school in the name of Jesus this year, cool. We’re moving each group to have that missional connection. Again, it’s not just becoming like Jesus, but also joining him on mission because there are two sides of the same coin, right.
All of our groups are moving towards that direction. But here’s the bottom line with all of these groups. And I think sometimes in the church when we talk about groups and relationships that spur each other on, relationships that help us take the next steps, I think sometimes it feels maybe just a tiniest bit too much too spiritual. And so can I just be honest with you, you know what we’re really talking about here, we’re talking about making friends. You need friends. Christianity is not a solo sport. It’s something we do together. It’s something we do with each other. People need friends. I can tell you the number of people that I’ve seen visit other churches, and they say things like, “Well, yeah, I really liked that church that I was in. I really liked the preaching. I really liked the worship in that church, but I just never connected.” Or other people who go, “Yeah, I’m actually not crazy about the teaching or the worship at my church, but I’ve got my people there.”
And so we stay. You need friends, missional friends, friends who will do for each other what we’re told to do here, spur each other on towards love and good deeds. You need a small group. You need friends. We worked really hard to create a set of systems and processes where you can try those out where you can find those relationships, where you can find the relationships where you’re spurring each other on to take your next steps.
Here are a couple of questions for you to wrestle with. Number one. What relationships have I drifted into? As we’ve said, we often drift our way into relationships without being deliberate about it, without being intentional. What relationships have I drifted into and what kind of character are they creating? Or maybe honestly, your answer is, I don’t have any relationships. Anybody else felt isolated during COVID? Yeah. I don’t think we’ve ever been as isolated as we are. So maybe you can think of some relationships that are not super healthy, but you’re engaged in them because otherwise, it’s so lonely and you feel so isolated. Maybe it’s time to be deliberate about forming some other relationships that can help you move forward.
Which is my second question. Do I have a group that’s helping me take my next steps of becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission? Do I have one of those groups? I have several of those groups, to be honest with you. They form around different things. They have different rhythms of meeting, but I have at least three, maybe even qualify a fourth one. Because I have to have that. I have to have it. We all do. Do you?
And if not, last question, what step will I take to find one? It’s Group Link Week. Group Link, I got that right. It’s Group Link Week here at Mission Hills. And so if you’re at the Littleton campus, or if you’re at the Español campus, you can actually stop in the lobby outside and there are all those groups that are out there. And I encourage you to go and spend a little bit of time looking around there and trying to figure out what’s my next step and kind of taking a step of faith to find my people, to find a group. If you’re online, you can use the group’s finder, missionhills.org/groupsfinder, and you can sort through all the different options in a lot of different ways to find that group of people who will spur you on to taking your next steps. By the way, if you’re online, one of the things we’re looking to do is we realized that our church has grown and there are a lot of people who consider Mission Hills home, and they’re nowhere near any of our physical locations. And if that’s you, we want to help you connect, you need that groups too. And so we’re looking to build online groups. And if you want to know more information about those, we encourage you to email our groups team at firstname.lastname@example.org. By the way, also, you might be going, “I could host a group, I could host a life group. God has given me space.” And maybe there’s something stirring in your heart that says, “Maybe I could be the kernel around which some of that forms.” Our groups team would love to talk to you about hosting a group. Hosting groups is a good way to begin being part of such a group.
But what’s your next step? Encourage you to take it today. Would you pray with me? God, thank you that you took the initiative to come for us. You didn’t leave us alone in our sin. You loved us enough to come and rescue us. And thank you, Lord, that the Christian life is not built around all of our own efforts and activities. It’s supposed to be done in community. And so Lord, we thank you for this command, even though it’s a little bit uncomfortable for many of us and taking that step of faith to get engaged with a group of people who’ll help us, who will spur us to take that next step. It’s a little uncomfortable. We acknowledge with your Spirit that that’s an important thing to do. And so we ask that you give us the courage to lean into it to take a step of finding that group. Lord, I know there are people listening right now that their next step is really their first step. They don’t have that foundational thing we were talking about, they don’t have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. And if that’s you if I can just speak to you for just a moment here, your next step is the first step. It’s to begin that relationship.
God loves you so much, he sent his own Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for your sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead and he offers each of us salvation, forgiveness of sin, adoption into the family of God, eternal life. All of that is offered to us by faith by putting our trust in what Jesus did for us. And if you’ve never put your faith in that, that’s the only step that matters for you today. And today is the day to take that step. Here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God right now. Say something like this to God. Say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for coming to rescue me. Thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead. I’m ready to accept forgiveness, belonging, and eternal life. Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, I’m choosing to follow you from here on out.” Amen.
Hey, can we celebrate those who have made that decision for the first time this weekend? Love that. So excited that you’ve taken this all-important first step. And if you have, we so want to celebrate with you. Would you do me a favor? Would you just let us know you’ve made that decision? If you’re watching online, you can click the button below me that says “I committed my life to Jesus.” If you’re at our Littleton campus or the Español campus, you can stop by the welcome center on your way out. If you don’t see either of those as good options, what you can do is just text the word Jesus to 80875. Either way, just let us know that you made that decision today and we’re gonna put some resources in your hands so that you can begin experiencing what this relationship is all about. Can you just stand with us before we head out to find our people who will spur us to take our next steps. Let’s worship the God who has made it possible to take those steps.
FATHER’S DAY | LIVIN’ ON MISSION
As a Navy SEAL, Todd Peters had to lead his men into the most dangerous places in the world and bring them back safely. And that’s what dads are called to do today. This Father’s Day weekend, Todd will share stories from the field and will challenge men to step up to their calling.
But by far, the greatest thing that I got to do during my time in the United States Army was serving in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division, almost 10 years ago. And little did I know that there is this crazy Navy SEAL running around the same sand at the same time. And almost a decade later, we got to meet yesterday. And of course, I’m talking about our guest speaker this morning that also wants to talk to you about the idea of legacy and the thing that he has learned through his service in his life and what that means as a dad, and what it means to lead.
And so, our guest speaker this weekend is Mr. Todd Peters. He currently serves as a campus pastor at McLean Bible Church in McLean, Virginia, and he is a retired former Senior Chief, the United States Navy SEALs and he’s with us this morning, would you please give a warm Mission Hills Welcome to Mr. Todd Peters?
Todd: Well, good morning?
Congregation: Good morning.
Todd: All right, you guys are wide awake. I also want to wish a Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. And before we get started, I have to share selfishly, that I have experienced a Father’s Day miracle this year, my first one. You see, in the 30-plus years of marriage, of our 3 kids, every vacation we took was to go home from coast to coast so we could be with our family. And not complaining, that’s just the reality with the budget that I had. And so recently, we had a wonderful vacation down at the beach. And we had a great time of fellowship, remembering, you could see the family up there, and it was just so good. But here’s the miracle part. My kids paid their own way.
So for you dads and moms out there, there’s hope. And that’s why I’m here, I’m a minister of hope today. So that’s just a glimpse of the hope that’s in store for each one of you. I also want to comment to you if this is your church, I hope that you know how blessed you are to sit under the teaching of Pastor Craig as he opens up the Word and feeds you from God’s Holy Word each and every week. It is a great thing for you to be just involved in that. If you’re looking for a church, this is what you’re looking for, you’re looking for a church that feeds you the Word of God. And I say that with a disclaimer, my mission and my tasking today is to share a testimony. And so for my Bible scholars, don’t abandon me when I read from the text and then share 30 minutes’ worth of stories, because they will have a point and the goal is to point people to Jesus today. And I believe with all my heart, there are two things that last forever, ladies and gentlemen, that is the Word of God and the souls of mankind. So if you have a Bible, would you open them to Acts chapter 3, and let that frame our discussion and then we’ll also revisit it at the end of our time today.
And remember, as I read this, this is the Word of God. Acts chapter 3, starting with verse 1. “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate, to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have, I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up and immediately, his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk and entered the temple with them walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
I identify with the beggar in this story. Before I met Christ, I too, was spiritually born lame, unable to walk with God. And before I met Christ, I was also born spiritually poor, I had nothing to give Christ. And then lastly, I was certainly born outside the temple with no access to God, I was completely separated from him. But I met God, and he restored me by his grace. And I was taught as a little boy that grace means God’s riches that Christ expensed. Everything that has happened in my life is because Jesus has taken care of me. And so with that, know that my prayer for every man, woman, boy, and girl here today, is that you would leave here walking, and leaping, and praising God, too. So let’s ask him to do that on our behalf now, let’s pray. “Father, I thank you for this privilege to open up your Word and I do pray that you would just bless the reading of it. And I pray now that you would remove distractions from our minds and our hearts. And help us to be encouraged by your Word and by testimony of a simple person like me, and may you receive all the honor and glory. In Jesus’ name.” Amen.
All right. So normally, when I get to speak in places like this, they want me to get right after and just do the big war stories. But Justin pulled me aside and he said, “Man, my heart is really hurting, and I need you to tell me a good romance story. Could you do that for me?” So you guys know Justin, I mean, he’s pouring his heart out here. So for Justin, we’re gonna start with a romance story, and then ladies, we’ll get to the war stories later. All right? So picture a long time ago, me as a teenager walking in the university. It’s lunchtime. One of the things I excelled in, kids, throughout school, was recess and lunch. And so there I was, dressing from the not-so-dirty pile, I had a pink and red Hawaiian shirt on with Canadian sweats from my mission trip when I was a senior in high school. And I was studying to be a youth pastor. And so I was pretty pleased with myself. And then there she was, she was sitting there. And it was my future wife, and she didn’t know it. But I introduced myself to her anyway.
And when I began to visit with her, and I asked her, “Hey, would you like to study 1 Corinthians with me?” She’s like, “Sure.” Now I knew chapter 13 was the love chapter, so 13 weeks away, we would be discussing love. But for you theologians, you’ll appreciate that I did not know the landmines I would have to navigate those first 12 chapters. But lo and behold, with much effort on both our parts, she appreciated the love I was offering, and she said, “I think it’s time for you to announce that love to my mom and dad.” Now, what you don’t know is that my wife is a full-blooded Choctaw from Oklahoma. And her daddy is a pastor. And he loves his daughter. Yes. So remember as I proceed, I was 19. I thought it would be really cool to drive late at night, and to climb up on her roof to declare my love for her. It was very late at night. I was 19. And I did the best native war dance I could by the chimney. I danced, and I hooped, and I hollered. And then I stood and I waited for the applause. And the screen door opened and I was like, “This is going to be good.” But did you know instead of applause, her dad shot a gun at me? Not once, not twice, but three times.
And I did what every one of you would have done, I jumped off that roof and ran for my life. And for you younger people, I did not have a cell phone. I ran and found this ancient invention called a payphone. You put money in it. I know those are things you don’t hold today, either. And did you realize, my sweet love of my life, she wasn’t even there. And her sister answered the phone in the kindest way I can say and repeat what she said is, “You are dumb.” She said, “Don’t come over tonight because my dad wants to kill you.” Even though I was 19, I received that counsel. And I thought it would be wise to wait until the next day to apologize. And so that’s exactly what I did. And believe it or not, he forgave me, and eventually, he allowed me to date his daughter. And then we got married. And after we were married, he gave me a letter. And in the letter, I will summarize my favorite part that I share with my wife on special occasions. It said, “No take-backs.”
Now I share the goofy story about my teen years and my first gun battle, not really a gun battle. Because, men, it’s really important that we practice love. It’s really important that we express it. And obviously, I made some mistakes at 19. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I certainly loved this young woman and I wanted to let the world know. And my encouragement to you, as men, especially fathers today, is don’t be stingy with that love. Let your wife and kids and even the friends and the family you have, let them know you love them. It is so pivotal, and it will transform their lives. And I will tell you this from experience, one of the best ways that you can shepherd your children is to love your bride well, they will pay attention to that. And you’ve heard that in testimonies today, it is so important that as men, we love well.
Now, in a SEAL platoon, we have multiple roles and multiple responsibilities, and I certainly don’t have time to go over all of them. But in a patrol, we have different responsibilities given to us. Some of them are well known, you’ve seen the movies where you have the radioman, and he’s always calling for help to get the planes or drop the bombs, and so that’s pretty exciting. But it’s also one of the guys that’s targeted the most by the enemy, and so it’s a sobering reality if you’re the radioman. And then there’s the corpsman, he’s the guy that’s expected to perform like an ER surgeon if you get shot or blown up. And that was one of my responsibilities for many years. And I had the privilege to go through something called 18 Delta, which the nickname is jungle Voodoo doctor school because you basically learn how to deliver babies, to do vet medicine, to debris gunshot wounds, and everything in between. But it certainly equips you to deal with some of the battlefield injuries. And then there’s the point man, the point man’s job is to navigate the platoon to the objective, and then to bring them home safely. Now everybody is responsible to know where they’re going, but it’s the point man’s responsibility to lead them through the hazards. To give you an example of how real this is, picture you in a jungle at night. It’s hot, it’s sticky, you’ve had about 1000 bug bites already and you’ve only been there for 15 minutes.
And I want you to shut your eyes for three seconds, just to see how dark it is. Go ahead, no one’s gonna hurt you. Three seconds, shut your eyes. That is how dark it is in the jungle at night, no exaggeration. And we feel like giant slinkies when we’re walking in there, because you keep bumping into each other because you don’t even know who the guy is in front of you. And as you proceed, your job is to navigate through natural hazards, including wild beasts. And would you believe the animals and the reptiles in the jungle are not impressed that you’re a Navy SEAL? They see you as food. And then there’s the enemy. The enemy doesn’t want you to make it to your objective, either. And he’s laying traps, and possibly an ambush. And it’s a really hazardous job. And it can be quite intimidating.
But let’s make it more personal. Dads, you’re now the point man. And instead of a bunch of Navy SEALs behind you, it’s your children and your wife. You look behind you and you see your little boy, he’s scared. He’s wondering, will his dad be able to navigate through the next hazards that are to come? You see your daughter being held by your beautiful bride. And she’s looking at you too. And she knows you’re a superhero, but she’s also scared. That’s our calling as dads, we’re to lead. Not only are we to love, men, but we’re also to lead. The Bible makes it very clear that the responsibility is on us as men to lead our families. Now, I am super thankful that I don’t have to do this alone. My wife is a great teammate, we meet together and we discuss things. But I will also say, careful what you wish for men, because I have a godly wife that at the end of the discussion says, “You’re the man. Make the call, I’ll follow you.” It’s important that we lead well. And I believe with all my heart, we have a lot of men today that have abandoned their posts to lead their families. So my encouragement to you is not only to love well, but to lead well too.
Now, children, I’m about to talk about an ancient device that you probably have never heard of. It’s called a beeper. A beeper is this really cool little black box that you would wear on your belt. And it signified to the whole world that you were cool. I thought it was pretty cool too for the first week until they actually started using that thing, because then it meant it’s time to go to work. And so they would recall us for fun just to see if we would respond and we’d show up, and we’d be there at 3 a.m., and they’re like, “Just a test, you can go home.” I’m like, “Oh, man.” But then one day in December 1989, my beeper went off, I went to work, and then they put us in isolation. No outside media could talk to us, they start feeding us. And as I sat there, the old man, the commanding officer came out, and he told us the top-secret name of the mission we were about to go on. Are you ready for my first top-secret mission name? It was called, “Operation Blue Spoon.”
I thought so too, my first real-world mission and it’s called blue spoon? Now you guys know “Operation Blue Spoon” as an operation that just caused the invasion of Panama. And our tasking was to go down there and remove Noriega from power. So we gathered, and then we immediately were dispatched to do different roles. And I was with a five-man team that rode old Vietnam patrol boats through the locks in Panama, where they would lower the water in these boxes, then raise it so you could continue on, and I went to the Colón side, which is the Atlantic side of the ocean. That night, on the other side of the locks, we lost four teammates, one of them, a father with his first child on the way and his wife was eight months pregnant. The very first night of battle was very real for us, 12 teammates wounded, 1 paralyzed for life, a very good friend of mine. And so the reality of war hit me very quickly as a young man. A few days later, in Colón, the enemy engaged us, we approximated that it was 60 men shooting at us the 5, and so we thought this is going to be a pretty good scrap. And so we engaged the enemy back and we proceeded to have a pretty decent gun battle. So much so that the enemy didn’t think things were going well for them so they called for reinforcements, 200 men.
So from our flank, 200 men were approaching us, and we didn’t know it. But, it just so happened, that helicopters were on their way for another mission. And they looked down and they realized that we were in jeopardy, and then they lend a huge hand in delivering us that day. When it was all said and done, after about two and a half hours of exchanging gunfire, 30 men were left that surrendered to us 5. Now the point of the story is this. As one of the captives was sitting in front of me and I was sharing my canteen with him and giving him water and my MRE, I felt the Holy Spirit remind me of Romans 5:8. It’s a wonderful verse that reminds us that God loved us so much that even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. As I felt God reminded me of that verse, I didn’t feel like I was as generous as originally I thought when I was giving this man who was trying to kill me just a few moments earlier, my water and an MRE that’s probably 50 years old.
And God really convicted me that I need to be a man that practices forgiveness. And that’s my challenge for each one of you too. Men, we are not only to love well, and to lead well, we need to practice forgiveness. And I will also tell you something that’s very painful for me, as a pastor to share, so I’m putting myself on report here. Yesterday, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “There’s no way you can preach about forgiveness unless you reach out to your dad.” Again, my dad has not spoke to me for over eight years. I believe he’s horribly lost. And occasionally I reach out to him, but I will tell you, in my own flesh, I don’t want to. It grieves me that I have a dad that doesn’t want anything to do with me, my wife, my kids, my grandkids, it breaks my heart. But I can’t stand up here in good conscience and tell you to forgive somebody if I won’t do it too. And so I called him, went to voicemail. Then I sent him a text and said, “I love you. I hope you forgive me for anything I have done to offend you. And if you’re listening, dad, I do love you. And I sure hope that you’ll reach out to me.” But guys, forgiveness is a lot easier to talk about than it is to live out. So my challenge to you is if God’s placed someone on your heart that you need to seek forgiveness from, do it. Reach out to them. Again, this is something that if you model it for your wife and your children, it will have eternal impact. We need to be men who love, and lead, and forgive, it is so important.
About a week later, we all consolidate back in Panama. We’re getting ready to do a big push on Flamenco Island, Noriega’s stronghold, and it’s really one of his last strongholds. It’s Christmas Day, and it’s a very memorable day. And as one of the new guys, our headquarters unlike you guys get to see these cool TV shows with all the briefing rooms and all the electronics, it was a picnic table with some overhead imagery and a map. That was our briefing room, very cool. As I looked down on the water, my tasking that night was to be the point man and the swimmer scout, so I was supposed to find safe places to bring other SEALs to navigate through the jungle to hit the fortress. As I look down there, I see a line in the imagery in the water. And I just asked a question because I’m not an expert by any means, “That looks like a shark net.” “Oh, yeah, you’re just scared, new guy.” I’m like, “I’m not scared, but it does look like a shark net.” Well, no one listened to me because I’m a new guy. And so one of my old bosses, the LPO, he and I are the swimmer scouts, we proceed with the insert. Everybody’s out there and lots of SEALs waiting on us to do our job. We slide into the water. And this is when I used to carry an M16 with a 203. It’s a grenade launcher, pretty cool invention when that came out. Then I had a revolver that was a 357. I know we really shouldn’t talk about these things in church, right? But it was fun.
I slid into the water, it was pitch black dark, and we start swimming together. And we’re definitely staying close. And I probably was swimming about three to five minutes, when something hit me in my ribs, really hard enough that I bumped into my buddy, and I hit him. Well, he wasn’t really pleased with me breaking noise discipline, so he grabbed me by the throat and he’s like, “What are you doing? You’re going to give us away.” I’m like, “Something hit me.” He’s like, “You’re just scared.” I’m like, “Here we go with the scared stuff again.” So he keeps swimming. And maybe another minute later, I get hit in the ribs again, this time pretty hard where it lifts me out of the water and I hit him. And then he grabs me by the throat, almost holds me underwater and he’s like, “You gotta calm down.” I’m like, “Something hit me.” He’s like, “You’re scared, switch places with me.” Like that matters in the ocean.
So we switch places. We keep swimming. And do you know what happened? Something hit him. And you know what he did? He climbed me like a ladder. And he’s like, “PD, something hit me.” I was like, “No kidding.” And I looked at him. And as I looked at him, the moon just broke through the clouds and shined down on the water. And dorsal fins start circling us. Now my wife reminds me to be truthful because over time, there are more sharks and they are bigger. So because she’s listening, I will stick to the original story. There were at least a dozen sharks that were much bigger than me circling us. And I will tell you, if you know anything about sharks, they like to bump you to taste you. And there was a lot of tasting going on that night. And I told my buddy, “I’d rather take my chances on land with the guards.” And he’s like, “Me, too.” So we made our way to land. We did our things. We brought all the SEALs in, we took down the compound. And things went surprisingly well. But I share this story with you as men, because I know having pastored for almost nine years now. And having led and been led in the SEAL teams for 26 years, that every one of you are facing hard things. Just like me looking at that imagery and seeing that shark net, it was a precursor of things to come. But this is what I’ve learned, men, we are to endure, and we are to stay our ground, and we’re not to leave. Matter of fact, when we see trouble, we’re to go towards it. I know this for a fact, if you don’t go towards trouble, it will only get bigger. That’s spiritually, that’s physically, that’s emotionally, we have to go towards trouble. If we do not, it will be bigger, and it will become a monster that you’ll be terrified to confront one day. So, men, I challenge you to love well, to lead well. And then, you also have to have forgiveness and you need endurance. It’s hard being a dad, isn’t it? It really is. But I’ll also tell you this, few things worth doing aren’t hard. And it is so worth it at the end of the day, especially when you can see your children following the Lord. So, men, be men of endurance.
I then had the privilege years later to have a break and teach mountaineering and survival in Alaska. And when Justin and all these others are talking about Alaska, it kind of just reaches me in the feel spot in the heart. I love Alaska and everything about it. And I remember one day we were working in a whiteout with SEAL students, so they’re not SEALs yet, but they’re learning. And being Colorado residents, most of you have probably experienced a whiteout. They can be fairly intimidating, especially if you’re in the mountains. And I remember we had a disconnect as instructors. One instructor was supposed to go with a SEAL squad of students, and he didn’t go. So we had eight men that went out to the mountains in a whiteout with sustained 80 miles an hour winds with gusts well over 100. And so I was the next able body so I start skiing after these guys. And those of you that are backcountry skiers, you know we got the skins on there to help us go up steep terrain. Then when it gets too steep, we put the crampons on there, there’s the spikes that allow us to go up. But I will tell you this, at some point, it’s really steep when you see the tip of your skis in front of your face.
That’s a good time to transition to crampons on your boots. And that is a whole nother story in itself. But I was pretty pleased that I was able to stay on the side of a mountain with my ice axe and actually transition. And I then just stayed on the compass bearing that they were following, because that’s all I had. I had to trust that compass to get me to where those guys were. And thankfully, I found them on top of the mountain, kind of just figuring out what to do. And I said, “Boys, we need to get out of here, we’ve had rapid snow loading for 36 hours. This is primetime avalanche country.” Now I had ski poles with Whippets on there. If you’re not familiar with Whippets, they’re built-in ice axes. And would you believe if you go to local ski resorts, they frown upon you using those? Like they would hurt somebody or something. But as soon as I grabbed the guys, I said, “Follow me, we’re out of here,” I probably took three steps, and the whole mountain gave way. I didn’t have time like the Bugs Bunny cartoon with the coyote to hold up a sign saying, “I’m falling.” I fell, and I fell really fast. But God allowed me to have that Whippet to catch a rock and then my feet swung under. The crampons, I was able to stick in and I was able to climb myself back up. And as I was leaning, I was telling the boys, “We really need to go.” And a side note medically, I think it is possible for your heart to leave your chest and hit your feet and bounce back up. That was quite an experience. But as we commenced navigating out of there thinking, “Okay, the worst is behind us,” I triggered another avalanche all by myself, and fell again and caught myself with the other hand. And again, I caught on a rock, I was able to get the crampons on there and I was able to get myself out of there and get us safely out of the mountain by following that compass bearing.
And then this is where my beautiful bride comes in. I remember after 72 hours of working really hard in the weather, and just, really just, yeah, I was tired. And she said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Well, I’m gonna go to bed because I’m exhausted.” She said, “Pastor Jack’s birthday party is in an hour, and you promised you’d go, so go get cleaned up.” I was like, “Baby.” And she’s like, “Don’t baby me, go get cleaned up.” And so I did what any good husband would do, I got cleaned up, and I went to that birthday party. But, to me, one of the takeaways from that event is that I had a trust in something because in the whiteout, I had no bearing. And men, there’s a verse that we teach children that’s so applicable for us, and it has such significant meaning today, Proverbs 3, verses 5 and 6, says this, says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he’ll make your path straight.”
Isn’t it fascinating how big that word all is if you actually apply it to your own life? How many of us can say we’re trusting the Lord with all our heart? I’m reminded of the psalmist in Psalm 139 when David said, “Search my heart and reveal unto me any wicked way.” I can’t finish that prayer without God unveiling a scroll and reminding me of the things I need to get right, and to confess to him. So, men, you need to be men who learn how to trust God’s Word and to teach it to your family, and to model it. There’ll be days it’ll be difficult. There are days you want to lean on your own understanding. That’s what we cram down our throats here in the West, right? If you do something, then you get it and you earn it. But sometimes we have to trust God’s Word, and I would comment to you that all the time, we should trust God’s Word. But it’s challenging, and it’s difficult to do.
About a week later after that storm, I remember driving home and it was a rainy day. We lived on Kodiak Island, so we got a lot of maritime weather, a lot of snow and rain. It’s in the 30s and it was sleeting, probably blowing at 30 miles an hour. And in our neighborhood, we had some nice streetlight poles that were about 30 feet high, because it’s really dark in Alaska. As I’m driving, I look up there, and there’s a kid playing Karate Kid on top of the streetlight pole, I mean, he’s literally doing a one-footed leg dance and jumping back and forth and I’m like, “What an idiot.” And as I get closer, I realize the idiot’s my son. From the mother’s side, I’m sure. And I thought, I need to be careful on how I approach this, because if I yell at him, he might fall off. So as I pull up, I’m like, “Son, how’s it going?” And he’s like, “Hey, Dad.” I said, “Why don’t you come on down?” He’s like, “Okay.” Slides down. Keep in mind, there’s no cell phones in this timeframe. There’s nobody even watching him. It’s in the dark by himself, playing Karate Kid. Again, from the mother’s side. And as I’m visiting with him, I said, “Son, did you think about what might have happened if you fell?” He’s like, “Ah, no.”
I was like, “Well, let me paint a picture for you. It could have been really bad.” He’s like, “Yeah, I guess you’re right, Dad. Thanks for letting me know.” I was like, “Oh, man.” I called him this week before I came out here and I let him know what I was doing. And I said, “Son, I’m not looking for a pat on the back, but what could I share in just a good conscience? What have I done well for you as a dad?” And the very first thing he said, it was surprising to me, is he said, “Dad, you spent time with me. Your time meant more to me than you’ll ever know.” And that really kind of hit me in the heart because the pace and the tempo I kept for 26 years as a SEAL, I did not feel like I spent a lot of time with my children or my wife. But he said, “You were very intentional and you did not bring work home.” And that meant the world to me.
Now my son appreciates it from another angle today, he’s been serving for 10 years in Special Forces with the Air Force as a PJ. So PJ’s are paramedics that are attached to SEALs and Green Berets, and they’re our primary medics when we go into battle. And so he has a better understanding of what goes behind the scenes now. And he said, “Dad, it means the world for me that you spent time.” So my encouragement to you as dads is spending time with your kids developing the relationship, even if they’ve left home, is so important for them. And then for you to be big enough to share with them the difference between relationship and fellowship, each one of our kids at different points in their life, kind of went off the rails where we had to actually demonstrate the Gospel and forgive them for some big mistakes. And it was during those times I wanted to make sure my kids knew there is nothing you could do to make you where you’re not my child, you will always be my son or my daughter. Now the fellowship can be broken, right? When our children are disobedient, certainly, the fellowship can be broken, but it can be restored and there’s forgiveness there. And that’s so important for us dads, to model, to love our kids as we spend time with them, to develop that relationship with them, and to really make them secure not only in you, but also who they are in Christ.
Last story. I remember teaching a bunch of SEALs in Kodiak, Alaska, mountain area, and I was teaching a retrieval rappel system. And I will say that raising teenagers prepares you well to teach Navy SEALs, because they know everything. And so they’re all standing around like this. And they’re grumbling, they’re like, “I can’t believe we got to do this.” I was like, “Listen, guys, just demonstrate that you know how to do this retrievable rappel.” And it was something as simple as taking a rope around a tree, a really nice tree as an anchor. And then we had double fishermen to join the ropes together, we had figure-eights, and we locked those together through a carabiner, threw the ropes over the side so that two guys could go over the side of the cliff together. This is one of those contests where if you and I are rappelling at the same time, you don’t want to win the race because I might kick off a 100-pound rock and it will land on your head. So we want to go together.
So we demonstrated that, my instructors took it down, and I said, “Have at it guys.” And they were so upset. And I can’t really repeat any of the vernacular that I learned that day, but they set it up. And as their chief was setting it up, and the guys were like [grumbling sounds]. Eventually, he had two guys, and they were hooked up. They were at the very edge of the cliff. And he looked at me because I was the official rope master and he needed my approval. And he said, “They’re good to go.” And I looked at him and I said, “You’re telling me they’re good to go?” And then just like venom in his breath, he’s like, “I said, they’re good to go.” I said, “Fair enough. You two unclip from the rope and come here.” And then they looked at me, and they said, “He said we’re good to go.” “Unclip from the rope and come here.” Then the whole platoon, 16 guys, it’s a little intimidating. They all yelled at me and said they’re good to go. “Unclip from the rope and come here.” And as they did, and they’re clear, I picked up the bags that were on top of the ropes and the whole rope system went over the side of the mountain. In his pride, he never took the rope around the tree. He was so disgruntled with being told what to do, he did not realize there was no anchor for his two guys. That was day three in a 30-day course. And believe it or not, the next 27 days, they were very receptive to any instruction that took place there.
Here’s the point. Did you realize every one of you are in this story? Every one of you. Some of you, who are believers, are in the same position I was. Some of you, know family, and friends, and neighbors, and co-workers who are on the edge of a cliff and they’re about to head into eternity and they have no anchor because they don’t know who Jesus is. Now, some of you might use the excuse, “Well, the pastor hasn’t visited him yet,” or, “One of the ladies on staff here hasn’t really met with him yet.” And may I encourage you and challenge you that scripturally, you’re the one that God’s placed in their life, you have the responsibility to confront them with the fact that they’re lost and let them know that they need Jesus. And I’ve learned this, the most effective evangelist is someone who already knows you. It’s not some preacher they don’t know, it’s someone they know and trust and they’ve seen how you’ve loved and cared for them. Maybe it is a neighbor you’ve given cookies when they’re sick, or whatever it is, use your imagination. You’re the person that God can use the most to reach that person who’s horribly lost. And I’ve learned this also, we need to talk to God about people before we talk to people about God. It’s so important. But there’s another person in the story that might be here today. You might be here today, and you think you’re good to go, and you’re going to head off to a cliff into eternity and you have no anchor because you have no Jesus.
Right before I came in early this morning, I received a text from my executive assistant to let me know that one of the men in our church, his 25-year-old son took his life last night. He’s gone off that cliff, we can never get him back. Ever. For all of eternity, he’s gone. Now, I don’t know if he was a follower of the Lord or not, but I know he’s gone. The Bible teaches us very clearly from Proverbs 27:1 that, “We are not to boast about tomorrow, for we do not know what today will bring forth.” And that’s why I want you to hear this last part. And I want to make sure that you know, who you are in Christ. The Bible makes it very clear that God created you to be with him, created me to be with him. That’s good news. But the Bible also has some bad news and says that our sin separates us from a Holy God.
And to make matters worse, the Bible also says our sins cannot be removed by good deeds. And that’s a hard pill to swallow because here in the West, from very young, we’ve been taught if you do something, you get something. But that is not what the Bible says, the Bible says that our very best works are like filthy rags to a Holy God. And I will tell you this, I would not count on the best five minutes I’ve ever lived to earn my salvation, I’m gonna base my eternity on what Jesus Christ did for me. But God knew that, and that’s why he sent his Son Jesus to die in your place, to die in mine. And God, three days later, raised him from the dead to show he has power over the grave. And my favorite part that I get to share all around the world, is that everyone, that’s you, everyone who places their faith and trust in what Jesus has done, can have eternal life, and that eternal life can begin today.
Then, you too can be like the beggar, completely restored. And you can walk with God, you can leap with God, and you can praise God. It’s so important. And here’s something I’ve also learned. A lot of people, they hesitate to come to the cross thinking they need to clean themselves up. But just like that beggar, what happened to him in verse 7, he immediately was restored. Now, will you have plenty of work to do on the way to your sanctification? You bet. But will you be saved instantly when you turn your heart to Jesus, and confess your sin? The Bible says yes. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my hope that not one man, woman, boy, or girl would leave here without that hope found in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. Don’t buy into the lie of the devil, that you can earn anything. Realize he’s gunning for you. You want to talk about warfare? That’s the ultimate war, isn’t it? With ultimate consequences. My heart breaks for this 25-year-old who’s gone. But you don’t have to be that 25-year-old, you don’t have to leave here today without hope, you can have hope. So I want to pray for you now, would you join me?
“Oh, Father, I pray that you were honored by the reading of your Word. And I want to pray for my brothers and sisters. I just feel through experience that every one of them, you have placed names on their hearts. And then I pray that they would not put off what you’re leading them to do. They know neighbors, they know friends, they know family, could be someone in their own house who doesn’t know you. Would you give them the courage to share the Gospel with them? Oh, Father, maybe so. And Father, I do pray for every man, woman, boy, and girl here. If they don’t know you, that today would be their day of salvation. Oh, Father, thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be a beggar who’s found the bread and I’m simply trying to show other beggars where the bread is. Father, may you move on hearts all for your glory for your Kingdom’s sake. In Jesus’ name.” Amen.
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.