New years. New beginnings. A time of change. A chance for a clean slate. Some of us will make goals, but not do anything at all. Some of us will actually try for a while. Some will stick to it and make new habits. We do this every new year. Why? Why do we really believe that change can actually happen? Why do so many of us have things we want to change? And why do we always try to do it on our own? People seem to think this is the only season to start building new habits.
So, we make resolutions and we build. And yet, sometimes, it still doesn't go as planned. So, what? Wait until the next New Year's rolls around? Well, what if we had access to a reset for our lives? What if Jesus was offering each and every one of us a chance to be renewed regardless of who you are, where you have been or what you have done? It's time for a restart; a redo. It's time to reset.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and our mobile app. We are in a series called "Reset," and for those of you all have been at Grace for a few years, you know that we do this at the beginning of every year. But, if you're new, this is a great time to be here because what we do at the beginning of every year is we sort of go back and look at the things that are important to us as a church. We try to talk about our vision, why we do what we do and look at some things that are important as a church so that we get moving forward with all the right vision. Then we also maybe look at some things in our own personal lives that maybe we need to reset.
I'm a big believer that this is a great time, at the beginning of the year, to revisit some of these things that make Grace who they are and to also look at some things in our own lives that, as we approach 2017, put us in a position to be everything that God has called us to be. So, what we're doing in this series is we're just sort of resetting. I think a good example I got is I have this controller that I got at Best Buy. It's really cool because you press it and it turns on the speaker system and the TV and the cable box. And it's awesome until it gets reconfigured by my 35 kids and then it doesn't work and it starts turning on the microwave and everything else.
But, when you press it, it turns everything on. It's great. Well, there's a little button called reset, and you hold it towards and you press it and it reconfigures everything and it's off running again. And that's what we're really trying to do here in this series is just press that reset button in our lives and get going again. And for some of us, those resets are big and they need a lot of work. And I want you to know that God's got the grace to help you get through that. For many of us, it's just sort of pressing that button and getting back on target again and on focus and on point to doing what we're supposed to be doing as Christians.
So, here's what we've been doing so everybody's up to speed, because I really do want people, if you've been here for a week or two weeks or you just walked in here today, I want everybody to feel like they know what's going on. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the vision of our church. The vision of Grace Community Church. We call it our "why." Why do we do what we do? We want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. That's why we do the things that we do. The outreaches, Women on the Go, First Fridays, and we're involved in the community because we really want to reach unchurched people by being intentional neighbors. In other words, we really think about what we're doing and we ultimately want to reflect Christ.
Last week, we talked about the fact that God wants you and me to be on mission. And if you remember – if you were here, hopefully you remember. If not, this will help you remember. And if you're new, it'll bring you back up to where we're at right now. I started in Luke 10. At the beginning of Luke 10, Jesus calls 72 to Himself and He tells them that He wants them to go out and do two specific things. And the beauty of this is that Jesus has now expanded from the 12 to 72 people. So, He's expanded the franchise and He's included average people. You know, the disciples were average people, but they were still the disciples. Now He's included other people and it's like, "Okay, great. I can do this too," if we're reading this that way.
So, He takes 72 people and He says, "I want you to do two things. I want you to go out and I want you to say peace to the houses that you enter. Whether they're good or bad, it doesn't make a difference if they're living right or living wrong. I want you to have a message of peace. And then what I want you to do is, if they respond, I want you to heal the sick."
In other words, I want you to be a community that heals the sick. And we said, "Hey, look. That is the mission that we're really supposed to be on. We're supposed to be a place that speaks good news and peace to those out there in the world and we need to bring healing and restoration to the people."
That's really what the Church is called to do. And it's easy to get off mission when we don't just remember how simple it is that Jesus wants us to do. And then He told them to say that when you do these things, let them know that the Kingdom of God has come near. And that's really important. Jesus sees you and me as Kingdom-bearers. So, we're going to pick up where we left off last week in Luke 10 and sort of follow along.
There's a couple of things that I want to do. One, I want to show you how Jesus, as He continues to do in Luke, as he writes what's going on in Jesus' ministry and in the lives of the people, how He's sort of walking us through what it would be for us to be change agents. And that's what I want to talk to you and me about today is that every single one of us is called to be a change agent for the Kingdom of God. Secondly, we're going to learn how to sort of read through a biblical passage and go through a chapter. And hopefully we'll learn to read, because we're committed around here to the Scriptures. We believe that they are the Word of God and we want to make sure that people learn how to read the Word of God so that they can interact with God and become everything that God wants them to be.
So, let's do a real quick recap and then we'll get into the lesson today. We left off at the very end where Jesus had told the disciples to go out. He had told them they were messengers and they needed to stay on message. That they were speaking a message for Him. It's so easy for us to get caught up in doing our own message. I know probably nobody in here has ever got off message with their Christianity, but the 9 o'clock service, they do because they're a bunch of scoundrels. But the deal is Jesus says, "Hey, we need to stay on message and do these things."
He said, "But listen, there's going to be times when people don't respond to your message. And you don't need to take that personally."
And then He sheds some light and He says, "Hey, there's this town called Chorazin and a town called Bethsaida and a town called Capernaum. Those towns heard what you had to say. They saw me do miracles. There's going to be consequences for their rejection."
And He actually says that compared to Tyre and Sidon – which, in the Old Testament, are really bad towns – "It's going to be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than it's going to be for these towns, because these towns actually saw me. They saw the works that I did."
So, that's where we sort of left off and we're going to pick up right there in Luke 10:16 where Jesus is talking.
He says, "'The one who hears you hears me,"
In other words, what He's saying is, "You're messengers. You don't get to do the message. You're just the messenger. You're the mailman. You deliver the mail. And if they hear you, they're not really hearing you."
It's not you and I. We're not getting results. A lot of times you think that I'm going to put little notches on my belt or whatever. Results are not ours. We're just messengers. We tell the message.
He says, "If they hear you, they hear me."
"'And the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.'"
And I think what Jesus is really saying here is that the way people respond to Him matters, but we don't need to take it personally. But, there's consequences. There's consequences to not listening to who Jesus is. And then what Luke does is he picks back up with the 72. He doesn't tell us where they went necessarily. I mean, we sort of have some ideas where they went. But, he doesn't tell us. But, they come back and here's what he tells us in the next verse.
He says, "The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!'"
And this is really important here. Let me unpack this. Lean in and make sure that we understand this. The disciples have gone out, all 72 of them, and they probably felt like they were a little bit inadequate, as most of us do. They probably didn't have all the full training. I mean, we even see all the way up into Acts when they are filled with the Spirit, they still do things and make mistakes because they're people. So, they probably went out a little bit like, "We're going to do this. We're going to do this."
They went out and did it, but they came back and they're like, "Man, this was awesome, man. Jesus, this was really awesome. You know, You told us to do two things and we did it. We did exactly what You told us to do. We went out and told everybody peace whether they were good or bad. We did the Gospel thing. We didn't get our own judgments and finger-points going in. We didn't try to play courtroom. We really tried to play the Gospel and the good thing. Exactly what You told us to do. And we prayed for people that were sick. We did exactly what You told us to do. And You won't believe what happened. Man, we started praying for the sick and it was like, remember, Jesus, when You were praying for people and sometimes evil stuff would come out and stuff would go on? Dude, same thing happened to us, man. We're praying for people and evil starts rearing its ugly head and we just prayed in Your name. And man, it worked. It really worked. And we're just excited about this. I mean, this was awesome."
And then Jesus says to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."
That's sort of an interesting little jump there. You probably wouldn't be expecting Him to say that. So, what's He saying? What He's saying is is He says, "Listen, when you guys went out and you were doing kingdom work, not telling everybody how to live and not telling everybody all the checkmarks that they do. When you were just saying peace to people and giving them value and dignity and telling them that God loves them and you were doing exactly what you were supposed to do, which is a restorative community, being people that bring healing to people that are sick, what you're doing in effect is you are pushing back the kingdom of darkness when you do that. And I saw Satan fall from heaven like lighting."
In fact, Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning when he fell from heaven the first time and Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven when He eventually would die on the cross. So, this whole thing has a sort of present and a future look.
He says, "'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.'"
Now, I want you to listen. This is so important. When you and me are doing what God has called us to do, what He's saying right here is, "I have your back."
Nothing, not anything is going to harm you. Now, He uses metaphors that they would understand. Like, we go, "Snakes? Okay. We got that."
I mean, here in Florida, we know about snakes. If He'd have said, "Snakes and alligators," we'd have been like, "I get that."
Snakes and scorpions? Not so much. If you're in Arizona, you'd definitely know about scorpions. But, the reason He said that is because when you lived in the first century, you had open-toed sandals. Some of you all still have open-toed sandals, and that's cool. We haven't really come a long way, have we? But anyway, they didn't have close-toed shoes. So, what they would do is they were constantly looking to make sure there wasn't a snake or a scorpion that would get them. He's like, "Look, you don't have to worry about those things. Like, the things you worry about? You don't have to worry about it. I've got your back. There's no power the enemy has over you. You're my children. I've got your back. Nothing's going to happen. It's cool. Everything's okay."
And I want to expand this to everybody. Because, some people go, "Well, yeah. But, you know, what if I'm doing missionary work and somebody takes my life?"
Let me tell you something. The Bible says that nobody took Jesus' life when He was on the cross. He freely gave His life. Nobody can take your life. Read the Bible. It doesn't end here. This world is not all that there is. If somebody were to take your life, you're going into glory. It's going to be way better. Nobody steps into glory and goes, "I want to go back."
You know? So, here's the deal: You're not going to lose doing what God's called you to do. He says, "I've given you authority. It's all there over all the power of the enemy. Nothing is going to harm you."
Man, can you imagine if we actually believed this? I mean, seriously. This is God's Word. I'm not going raise hands, but if I go, "Does everybody believe the Bible is God's Word?" Everybody at Grace would be like, "Amen, Chip. Preach."
And I'd go, "Great. Well then, why don't you believe it?"
"Well, I do. But, not really. Sort of. Yeah. Move on to the next one."
But, the deal is this: He's given us the authority and the power that we need. He has our back. Then He says this: "Nevertheless..."
"Although that's true and you don't have to worry..."
"Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you,"
That's not where you get your sense of rejoicing. You don't get your sense of rejoicing by how well you went out and prayed for people and pushed evil back. Because, quite honestly, you might go out sometimes and you might not have as good a journey the next time. And if you're going to get your rejoicing based on your results, it's going to be fleeting. What you find your joy in, what you find your comfort in, what you find your security and peace in is that your names are written in heaven, that you and I are children of the Most High God.
Now, after Luke has written this to us, he tells a quick little passage where Jesus prays and says, "Father, thank You for revealing this stuff to the disciples. They're like children and they're starting to see what's going on."
Then, as this is going on, a man comes and says, "Hey, who is my neighbor? Who's my neighbor?"
And Luke tells us a parable that Jesus told in Luke 10:25-37, which I would like for you to go home and read. But, I want to tell it to you in story form so that you can get maybe the impact of it right here and right now.
Jesus said, "You want to know who your neighbor is?"
"Okay. How about this? There was a guy that was coming down from Jerusalem and a bunch of people, maybe a gang, maybe some people that were mad, maybe people that were frustrated, maybe they were mad at society, they beat this guy up, they take everything that he's got, and they leave him for dead. And all of a sudden, a religious person comes along."
They're probably think at this point, "Oh, man. Alright."
"Well, the religious person just keeps walking. And another religious person comes along."
And you go, "Okay, good. Good. This is going to be the one."
"He goes on."
If you're in the first century, you're set up for, "Who's going to be the third person? Who's it going to be?"
And He says, "The third person came along and they were a Samaritan."
That's when it just would have gone, "Ugh..." because they hated the Samaritans. I mean, not a little bit. A lot. Like, hated. Like, I don't want to drudge up some feelings of something in the past where you've been so mad at somebody that it's like just hatred and anger was just swelling up in your body. You couldn't sleep at night. I mean, all of that stuff. Some of you may be going, "I'm feeling that way right now."
Don't tell your neighbor. Anyway, if you could imagine that that person, if Jesus would use that person that you were so mad at to be the one that was right to tell you that you were wrong, can you imagine what you'd feel like? I mean, all that. You'd feel like, "Man, I'm so right. This person has done me so wrong."
All of a sudden He says, "So, the Samaritan comes along, and what does he do? Well, he goes over and gets the guy and puts him on his animal. So, he dismounts off of his animal and puts him on his animal."
And of course, if you're in the first century, you're going, "I can't believe He's telling this story. These people are terrible. They're evil. They're so bad."
"And the Samaritan takes him to an inn and he gives him all the medicinal stuff that he needs and he pays for his room and he leaves."
And then He looks at the guy who asked, "Who is my neighbor," and He says, "Which of these three was a neighbor?"
And of course you know how that went. The guy was like, "Well, yeah. It was the Samaritan."
And Luke, what he's done here, is he said, "Seventy-two people went out, they went on mission, they went out to do something great, they were praying, they were being led by God."
And as you're following along as a reader and you're reading the Bible, he says, "And if you're going to go out and do these things, you're going to have to rethink what it looks like as a change agent for God, doing the things God's called us to do."
We're going to have to rethink what does it look like to be a neighbor. And that's tough. And then, to just continue the story, he tells us right after that. I mean, right after that is just like, "Boom." Luke leads you right in to a story of Mary and Martha. If you've ever been in church, you probably have heard Mary and Martha. If you haven't, I'll tell you that story. You can read that. There's the text right there. You can read it.
What happens is this: They come to a house. I mean, the disciples are probably thinking, "Goodness gracious, man. That's a tough parable, man. I mean, to love people like that? I mean, that is really tough."
So, they come in and sit down in the house, and the way the customs were at the day, the men would sit in the public room and the women would go to the kitchen and start to provide some food and stuff like that. So, Mary is sitting at Jesus' feet in this story and Martha is busy in the kitchen working. And when you take this passage and you just sort of lift it out of its context, normally it gets taught this way: Martha is in there doing works, works, works, works, works, and Mary is sitting there doing grace, grace, grace, grace, grace. So, we don't want to do works. We want to be like Mary and have grace.
And I'm not denying the fact that yes, we can't work our way into heaven and we do need to have grace to get in, but that's not what Luke is telling you and me in this story at all. What Luke is telling us in the story is this: That in Jesus' day, the social norms of culture were simply this: Women in the kitchen, men in the public room. Because, women could not be disciples. So, Mary is in the public room, seated at the feet of Jesus in the position of a disciple, and Martha is mad at her, not because she's not working, she's mad at Mary because she's upending the social norms. Women aren't disciples. That's for men only. And she's seated at the feet of Jesus as a disciple and she's mad.
Luke is saying to you and me that, hey, you're going to follow Jesus, right? Let me tell you the story here, because Luke's writing to Christians. He's writing to people that are going to read this story. You and I are going to read this story. Follow along and you'll be people of the Kingdom of God. We're going to go out and do these things. We're going to stay on message. And if we're really going to be change agents, we're going to have to learn to love people that we probably would never love. We've got to learn to be really good neighbors. And on top of that, Jesus is going to come along and do things in our lives and put people in positions that maybe we don't think they should be in. And let me tell you something, church, that's great news for you and me because that means that maybe you and me could be somebody that Jesus could use even though people may have told you that He could never use you.
So, you can imagine if you were the disciples, you're going, "Dude. That's pretty tough stuff, man. I mean, loving people like that? Man, you're messing up my culture, you know? You're messing up my deal, man. This is going to be tough."
So, they start looking at Jesus because, you know, the Bible doesn't have chapters and verses. And they walk over to Jesus and they're like, "Hey, do You think You could teach us to pray? Because, You know, we've been watching what's going on here. And quite honestly, there's just people that I don't want to love. I mean, I just don't want to love them. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to love the. And You evidently love them. And I'm supposed to follow You and look like You. But, I don't love them. And maybe this thing You're doing over here where You're praying, maybe there's something there that would maybe change the way I am so maybe I would be a little bit more like You. Can You teach me to pray?"
And Jesus says, "Yeah. Absolutely."
He teaches the Lord's prayer. But, in the Lord's prayer, He says something that's very important. He says, "Your Kingdom come. Pray, 'Your Kingdom come.'"
Now, this is interesting because Luke has started off chapter 10 saying, "Hey, you're going to go out and you're going to be a messenger. You're going to be on message and you're going to tell people peace, you're going to heal people, you're going to do what I've called you to do. And what you do is, every city you leave, whether they accepted you or didn't accept you, you tell them the Kingdom of God has come near."
So, if you really want to be these people of change, you really want to be these people that do what I want you to do, you're going to have to learn to pray "Your Kingdom come."
In other words, you're going to have to learn to get my kingdom out of me and get Your kingdom into me. It's not going to be what I want anymore. It's going to be what you want. And whatever that looks like, I'm going to follow because I signed up to follow You. And whatever it is that You want me to do, I'm going to do. Now, you're probably sitting there going, "Wow. That's really cool, man. I've never really read Luke 10 that way. Man, that's pretty cool and everything else. But, Chip, I've got to be honest, man. That all sounds good. That's like some good, biblical teaching. But, it's 2017, dude. We don't have serpents and snakes running around like that stuff. I heard some of that stuff. I'm not quite sure what that meant. And I don't know anything about Samaritans. I think we did something like Christmas for Samaritan's Purse or something. What's that mean? It sounds great. But, how in the world do I even look or do this or apply this to my life in 2017?"
I'm glad you asked because I'm going to tell you how we do that, okay? Good stuff? This is called the take-homes section of the sermon. This is where we take what we just studied and looked in at the Bible and say, "Hey, what's the Bible have to say to us?" And now we're going to pull that into 2017 and we're going to say, "How would that look in my life today for God?"
So, get out your sheet of paper. Get out your bulletin or whatever. Get your phone or your iPads or whatever you have to take down these notes, because this is the stuff I want you to chew on and think about over the next week and month here as we reset around here.
The first one: We have to, at some point, realize that being a change agent, which is what we're all called to be, is realizing that we're Kingdom-bearers in the present. Now, I spent a lot of time thinking through this, and I wanted to make it simple. I really try my best to communicate and realize that what I say is what's important because, if I don't say it right, you hear it wrong. And that means that's on me. It's not on you. I need to make sure that I communicate this effectively. So, I sat back and I said, "How can I make this make sense?"
So, here's what I want you to do. I want you to look in here. I want everybody to look. If you're watching via the internet or mobile app, please pay attention here. Put your coffee down and look here. This is earth and this is heaven. When God created the universe, He created heaven and earth together. He was God; they were His people. He walked with them in the garden. They were created together. We see that in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. But, in Genesis 3, something happened called sin and it disrupted heaven and earth being together. They were disrupted. Now, what's God's plan? This. What's happened? This. What's God's plan? This.
So, when you read in Revelation 21 and 22, everybody's not whisking away to heaven. Heaven is coming back to earth, because God's original plan is that the two would be together. And the city, the new Jerusalem, comes down to the earth. And God becomes God and they become His people. It's the paradise again and there's a garden there and the tree of life. It bookends perfectly together. But, we live today here, knowing that one day this is going to happen. But, we live here. Now, what's interesting is what the Bible says about you and me. And this is huge. The Bible tells us, Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20, that our citizenship is not here. We're not citizens of here.
We say, "Well, yeah. But..."
No, no, no. The Bible or what you want. Paul says your citizenship is in heaven. That's where your citizenship is. Paul says, in Ephesians 2:6, that you're seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 5, that we're called to be ambassadors for Christ. Do you know what an ambassador is? An ambassador is someone who comes from a land that goes to a foreign land and speaks on behalf of the leader. We are citizens of heaven. We live here. But, our citizenship is not here. It's here.
So, when we do our Christian thing, we are citizens of heaven, bearers of the Kingdom that are bringing heaven to earth, which is why Jesus says, "Pray that Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," because you're citizens of heaven. Your citizenship is in heaven. You are ambassadors for God. You speak on His behalf. Which is why Peter says we're pilgrims. No matter where you live, no matter what you do, you're a pilgrim. This isn't your world. You're citizens of heaven. So, when we get this and we understand we're citizens of heaven that are bringing heaven to bear on earth – because that's ultimately what God wants and He's ultimately going to do that – what we cannot afford to do is somehow think that we're going to take this as our citizenship and this as who we are and cram that up into heaven. Because, now what you've done is you've taken culture and tried to fuse it with Christ. That doesn't work.
So, what would it look like practically? Well, first of all, we would be able to love the unlovable and enter their lives. Listen to our language. This is the earthly language. The earthly language says, "There's a word that we all learned called the unlovable. I'm not loving them. They're unlovable."
We actually have a word that we use. It's in the dictionary. It says "unlovable." And some people go, "They're unlovable. I don't love them. I don't love them at all."
Okay. Well, if we're Kingdom people, we love everybody. Period. We don't have a chance of having unlovable in our vocabulary. We love everybody and we enter into their lives just like the Samaritan did. Not only that, but we affirm the value of people. Everybody. Listen to me. Lean in here. This is so important. So important. The reason people wanted to be around Jesus, the reason they wanted to hang around Jesus, is because He made them feel like they had value and dignity. Nobody ever made a prostitute feel like they had value. Nobody ever made a tax collector feel like they had value. In fact, tax collector was a term. Do you ever read in your Bible where, like Luke 15 says, "Tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to Him?"
Tax collectors were so bad they weren't even called sinners. They were called tax collectors. I mean, that's how bad it was. They had names for these people. It was like, "Sinner? That's bad. Prostitute? That's bad. But, hey, a tax collector, baby?"
These people never felt like that God would be for them or with them. Ever. And Jesus came into their life. Lepers? Nobody touched lepers. If you don't have physical touch and you don't have love, we die. What did Jesus come and do? He said, "You're a leper? I'm going to touch you."
What was He doing? He was giving him value and dignity. What was He doing when He looked at the woman caught in adultery? "Where are your accusers?"
She's like, "You've got to be kidding me. I thought I was going to get stoned."
And she didn't even live in Colorado. She goes, "You've got to be kidding me. This guy loves me like that? This guy cares about me like that?"
"You mean you're going to call me, as a tax collector, to follow You?"
"I'm Simon. I'm a zealot. I kill people."
See, the reason people wanted to be around Jesus is because He spoke dignity and value to people's lives. It is high time as the Church that we realize that the power of life is in our tongue and the power of death is in our tongue. We need to get off the negative stuff that pushes everybody away from God and start speaking life in abundance and destiny. Listen to me, we need to walk around calling destiny out of people's lives going, "Man, you're a future king for the Kingdom of God. You're a future prophet for the Kingdom of God. God's got plans for your life."
Can you imagine if we spoke those words what would happen? But, instead, we fall down into the culture and everything else and argue and do all this stuff when we're citizens of heaven. We affirm the value of all. And here we go, we're used by God to bring healing and hope to the people that are outcast. Listen to me: I've pastored for a long time now and I've met many people that have tried to kill themselves. Not one of them, when I met them, did they have hope. None.
We've got the greatest hope in the world and we run around with fear and doubt and arguing and all this stuff and we get mad at each other and we shoot each other in the crossfire. It's time for the Church of the Living God to understand that you are citizens of heaven. You have value, you have dignity, God wants to use you. I don't care what you did, I don't care who you cheated on, I don't care who you lied to. If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, you are forgiven. Those things are done with. Stand up, rise up and be the citizens of heaven that we're called to be and let's be people of hope.
Man, I'm about to preach. Anyway. Number two: Choices have consequences. And the most important choice – that's God calling right now saying, "Y'all better listen to that boy from Kentucky."
Anyway, the most important choice of all is our response to Jesus. We need to understand that how we respond to Jesus matters. That's why I say around here all the time, "Growth is the only option as long as heaven and hell exist."
Seriously. It's pretty full in here today. If 30 more people walked in here, we'd be in trouble. If 30 more people walked in here and said, "Hey, I want to sign up for the Kingdom of God," anybody in here want to say, "Hey, hey, hey. We're a little too crowded in here. A lot of churches down the road. They've probably got some seats."
We'd be like, "No." I'd be like, "Get up out of your chair and let them sit down."
See, it's not an option as long as this exists. You can try to act like hell doesn't exist. I mean, you've got people doing all this stuff. The fact of the matter is when these two things exist, we don't have any other choice but to make sure that we tell people about Jesus. Because, the answer to Jesus and what people do with Jesus has eternal consequences.
Third: Growing comes in the doing. And this is so important that we get this. Because, going produced, in the disciples, more. They thought they were going to do a message, peace, and heal people. And instead, they realized, as they started doing what God told them to do, God starts doing more. Let me tell you about your Heavenly Father. He can do exceedingly, abundantly above all that you could ever ask or think. And here's what we do. This is the way the Church works. You can study it in Church history. It's not just this church or the church in America, it's the Church in general in history.
Here's what happens: Somebody goes to this extreme – because we don't like middle even though Paul says that our moderation and reasonableness should be known to all in Philippians 4 – and then we get tired of that extreme so we run over here to this extreme. People 20 years ago, it was all, "Do this. Do this. Do this. Do this."
We had the moral majority going on and it was, "You have to do this and be this and act like this and act like this and do this and do this and do that," or you weren't in. And everybody got tired of that. They're like, "That doesn't sound like grace. That doesn't sound like unmerited favor. That sounds sort of like I almost have to work my way in."
So, what did the Church do? Rather than going, "Okay, you know what? We're saved by grace. But yeah, we do want to be people of ethics and morals."
Oh, no, no, no. We ran all the way to the other side and said, "It's all about grace. Don't worry about doing anything. If anybody tells you to do anything, that's just the Law. No, no, no. Just sit, just sit, just sit. Don't do anything."
But, the Bible's filled with all kinds of ethical stuff and moral stuff and living right and not doing all this stuff. Did you act like it would liquid paper that out? The bottom line is this. It's very simple. There's nothing you and I can do to earn our salvation. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Nothing you can do at all to earn your salvation. It's freely given to you by God by grace. But, to act like we don't respond to that grace or that grace doesn't transform us and make us better than where we are is not being biblical either. And the reason we can go and do for the Lord is not so we can get His love, it's because we're responding to what He's told us to do. And when we respond to what He's told us to do, we grow.
People say, "Well, we need Bible study."
Yeah, but let me tell you something. Bible study really matters when you've gone out and shared your faith and you didn't even have an answer and you came back and you're like, "God, man. I need to find an answer, man."
Man, you're really having Bible study then rather than just sitting around and talking about it and having an intellectual, academic conversation. Prayer really matters when you've gone out and somebody's rejected you and hurt your feelings and you felt like you tried to step up for God and it didn't work. Prayer really starts to matter then because it's like white knuckled prayers in your car. Those matter. God knows that.
Fourth: To truly be a change agent requires us to walk by faith. I'm convinced, with all of my heart – and I may offend somebody here – that as a general rule, the American church walks in their talents and abilities and does not need to really operate in faith at all. We do exactly what we can do, just with the abilities and talents that we have. It requires faith to get out of the boat and walk on the water. It requires faith to love your enemies. It requires faith to give of those who ask of you.
"I can't give to everybody."
It requires faith to do that, doesn't it? You've got to start believing, "Man, maybe God might provide. Maybe God really will do this thing."
We've got to start walking in faith. And here's the deal. So many people don't want to walk in faith because of this: They feel in their heart, "Man, everything you've said is good. I'm in. I want to do this. I want to be a part of this. But, somewhere deep inside, there's those voices that say, 'But, man, you did this and you lied and you cheated on her and you cheated on him or you were a bad mom or dad.'"
Those voices are just there and they're powerful. And those tapes run and run and run. There's a reason why Jesus said to the disciples, "I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning."
There's a reason. Because, his accusations against you are meaningless. And I want to show you how John, in the book of Revelation, sees the same thing that Jesus saw. He says, "I heard a loud voice in heaven," and I hope that everybody here, mobile app, internet, that you will hear a loud voice right now. The salvation and the power in the Kingdom of our God under the authority of His Christ have come and the accuser of the brothers has been thrown down who accuses them day and night before our God.
Listen to me and hear me well: If you are a child of God, the devil has been thrown down from heaven and his accusations that you are a liar, that you're no good, that you're guilty, that you can't do this or you can't do that has no merit whatsoever, because he's been thrown down. And the blood of Jesus Christ that He shed on the cross for you and me allows you and me to stand, not only anymore as a guilty person, a liar, a thief or any of those things, we stand in the absolute perfect holiness and righteousness and completeness of Jesus Christ which means you don't have to live that way anymore.
And see, that's what we have. We have a message that will change the world. Don't get off message living down here. Understand who you are and what God's called you to do. And I'm going to tell you this: If we do that, this town will change.
Somebody said, "Pastor, how can I pray for you this year?"
I said, "The way you pray for me this year is simply this: You pray that what God does in my life is beyond what I can do with the gifts and talents that I have."
And what I've started praying for right now is I've started praying that God will send revival to Lakewood Ranch and that at Nancy's BBQ and at Hana Sushi and at Ed's Tavern, people will start coming to faith in the street because of the power of God. That's a prayer of faith. That's a prayer that, as a church, we can go, "You know what? We're Kingdom-bearers. Nothing Hell throws against us can take us down. We have the power and authority of Jesus Christ."
Let's go walk in it and let's go do it and don't listen to those voices anymore. Let's pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for Your goodness and Your mercy. I thank You for the people here at Grace. I thank You for this church. I thank You for what You're doing here. God, I pray in Jesus' name right now that You would help us to understand that for 2017 we need to get on vision, we need to get on mission and we need to get on commission in our role of being a change agent. Lord, we reset here at 2017 and we ask You to lead and guide us for Your glory.
So Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us. I pray, God, that You would bring us back safely until when we meet again. Help us, Lord, to be the light that You've called us to be as a church in Lakewood Ranch for Your glory. We Love You and thank You for it. In Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.