What's Your Baggage? | Dr. Chip Bennett

3 months ago

Sermon Transcript:

Now, I don’t know if you’re like me. You may not be at all. But when I travel, for many, many, many years, I wanted to try to thread the almost mythical needle of travel where I would have enough stuff in my luggage that I would everything I needed for the trip, and just a little bit extra in case life came my way. Maybe something happened, or maybe there was some weather change, or maybe I had spilt something on a pair of pants. I wanted to have a little extra, but I wanted to travel as light as I possibly could. Sometimes those things don’t seem like they go together. So, I went to a luggage store because, back before I was pastoring, I did a lot of traveling in the business world. So, I went to a luggage store and said, “This is what I want to do.”

They said, “Well, it’s not going to be that easy, but this is what we would do.”

So, they got this bag, and they showed me these cubes you could pack things in. So, you could put all these cubes in the bag, and it was great. There was this bag that had all the stuff that I needed, and a little extra. I could check that when I would fly, and then I would just have my backpack to carry on the plane because I didn’t want to have anything on the plane, at all. I don’t like carrying stuff. I’m a minimalist. So, that was awesome. It worked really, really well until, one time, when I was over in Europe and I had landed in France, as they were stamping my passport to let me know that I had arrived in France, the baggage claim area told me that my baggage had not arrived. It was still in the United States.

So, that was a problem because I had some meetings that I had to go to. Typically, I would fly in a day early to acclimate, but this time I didn’t. So, I had to go buy stuff because I didn’t have anything but my handy-dandy backpack that had nothing in it but a computer and some other stuff. My tickets and other stuff.

So, I go down front and I did my best “parlez-vous François?” They tried to say, “We did the best we could.”

This was before Lyft, Uber, and all of this stuff. This was years ago. So, they told me, in broken English, that I could go to this place where I could buy some of the stuff that I needed. Well, I walked. Of course, what seemed to be, maybe, not that far for them — because I think everybody walked in this area. It was like a 15-minute walk for me. Which was fine, except that it was raining, and I didn’t have an umbrella because, in my handy-dandy backpack, I didn’t pack an umbrella. Why would I do that? Because I had my piece of luggage, with all of my cubes and all of the things in there, that still happened to be in New York. So, I go into the store, I’m finding stuff. I’m actually thankful. Have you ever had that moment where you’re in a store, and you really shouldn’t be spiritual, but you’re just like, “Thank God.”

You know? I mean, like a ram in the thicket. So, I’m putting all this stuff together, I pull up, and I’m ready to check-out. The lady says, “Passport.”

I said, “Passport? What do you mean, ‘passport?’”

She said, “Well, you can’t buy without a passport.”

I guess they wanted to mark what you were buying for taxes or whatever else. Well, I mean, I left my passport back in the hotel. I didn’t think I would need my passport. So, what do I have to do? Well, I have to go back and get my passport. So, I tell the lady, “Listen, it’s going to be like a 15-minute walk. I’m going to be more wet when I come back. It’s going to be 15 minutes back. Can you just leave this here?”

She’s nodding, but I’m thinking maybe we’re not communicating. So, she acts like she’s going to leave my stuff there, clothes, toiletries, and all the stuff that I need. I go back, get my passport, come in. I’m soaking wet. I walk back in and, of course, they decided to put everything back, onto the shelves, that I was trying to purchase. But I put it all together and got it. Well, that forever solved my traveling problem. It created another thing for me. Now I decided that when I travel, what I’m going to do is I’m going to make sure that I have my handy-dandy backpack, because I’ve got to have that with my computer and stuff that I need, and then I’m going to get me this nice, little roller thing that I didn’t really want to do because I’m a minimalist. But in that, what I’ll do is put a day’s worth of clothes, some toiletries and stuff in case my really cool piece of luggage with all my cubes doesn’t get there again.

Now, if you’ve traveled — and you know this — I’m not the only one that tries to bring on one of those bags because the luggage people, the people of the airlines, let you know that this is the actual shape and size of the thing that you can bring on. If you’ve traveled overseas, it’s actually smaller than this. So, this creates an issue because many people don’t want to just take the little thing. They want to take everything. They don’t want to check anything with their baggage, at all. So, if you’ve ever flown and been a part of this, you know how it is. It’s sort of embarrassing. Somebody always brings, on the plane, a bag that will not fit in the top of the luggage bin. You’ve been there too because, typically, for whatever reason — maybe it’s the sense of humor God has — whoever has it, usually the bag is sitting over a little woman who’s about 5’2, she’s sort of frail, and you’re just watching this thing, going, “Please, God, don’t have it fall and crush her.”

Then all of the stewardesses come around and they’re trying to explain to the person that they can’t bring this on the plane. Typically, there’s some back and forth. Typically, the bag goes off. So on and so forth. But here’s the reality. Whether you travel like me, whether you don’t travel like me, whether you travel in a plane, in your car, or whatever it is, here’s what we all know. We all would agree with this. Everybody wants to make sure their baggage arrives because you’ve put everything in that baggage that you need for your vacation or for your trip. Like, you want what’s in there. The reason being because what’s in your baggage is, primarily, to you, at least, good. Like, your stuff’s in there. It’s not like you went, “Do you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to take a trip, and I’m going to fill my luggage up with all kinds of stuff that I hate and don’t want to wear.”

No. We all put what we sort of want in our luggage. So, we would know that. But I’m sure, I guess, if we decided to go to the airport, or we decided to go somewhere where we could pull out people’s baggage — like, if we could play TSA for a day — we might find, in everybody’s baggage — and maybe, in your baggage, you would agree with this, too. Primarily, the stuff that you packed in there is good, but there might be some stuff that’s not needed. You know? And if you’ve ever traveled a lot, when you come back from a trip, sometimes you have some stuff that you just didn’t even use. You’re like, “Well, I could’ve maybe not taken that.”

For us, when we travel, because we have a large family, there’s always bags of stuff that I’m going, “Why did we take all this stuff?”

I mean, it really looks like, if we’re going somewhere for three days, that we’re moving somewhere for the rest of our lives. I mean, it’s like, “Here come all these bags.”

You know? So, some stuff, maybe, is not needed. You’d go, “Yeah. Maybe I didn’t need that,” or whatever. There might be some stuff in there that needs to be replaced. You might go, “Yeah. You know, I’m looking in your bag here, and those shoes, man, they look like they’ve had some better days.”

Or maybe you’ve got a shirt that’s got some holes in it that you think are comfortable, but maybe all of us would go, “Yeah. That needs to be replaced.”

Maybe, in your luggage, there’d be some stuff that needs to go. You know? Like, those pants weren’t cool in the 80s, so they’re not cool now. You know? But what’s interesting to me — and this is sort of just an interesting thing, as a pastor, and as someone who thinks critically about stuff. Basically, when we’re traveling, we’ve got our luggage. Here it is. We’re carrying it along. Most of the stuff that we would carry in here is stuff that we would want to have in here. Like, it would be good stuff. Which is interesting because when it comes to using luggage or baggage as a metaphor, we often say, “Oh, that person? Don’t date them. They have baggage. Oh, no, no. You don’t want to.”

It’s almost like, “Hold on. Everything in here is stuff that we probably would want. There might be some stuff in here that we might not want, but most of it would be stuff that we would want. It wouldn’t be terrible stuff.”

So, why do we sort of take the negative things and apply that to life like our luggage or baggage is necessarily bad? I mean, I’m sure we could find somebody that’s got some baggage that’s not good, but most of us wouldn’t travel that way. So, what happens because we do this, invariably, is we start talking about people with baggage, and we say, “Oh, that person’s got some hurt that’s been buried,” or we say things like, “You know, they had some expectations that were never met, so they’re carrying that with them. They sort of see the world through those lenses. Or maybe they didn’t have the coping skills that they should’ve had. Or maybe they had an unrealistic view of life.”

Whatever it may be. So, this idea of baggage becomes negative. And then what happens is sermon series are done and books are written about baggage. Everybody says, “Here’s the deal.”

This is what, normally, you hear when it comes to something on baggage, even though we know, deep down inside, that most of the stuff that was in there was pretty good. There might’ve been some stuff that wasn’t good, or maybe some stuff that wasn’t needed, but I wouldn’t put a bunch of just junk in my bag. But invariably, because, metaphorically, we tend to look at baggage as negative, sermon series and books typically start off with something like this: Baggage is a problem that needs to be removed.

And here’s the inherent complication with this: Sermon series will go on for four or five weeks, and what’ll happen is the people that went, “Yeah. You know, you’re right. I’ve maybe got some baggage here that I shouldn’t have,” or whatever, but by the time four or five weeks go by, you’ve still got it. You read the book and you still have it. People are like, “Well, it’s got to be removed.”

That would be awesome if God would just come in and go, “Okay. Here’s some stuff and problems gone,” but, typically, none of us experience that. Most of us are like, “Oh, yeah. You know, I mean, I love God, I lift my hands in worship, and God’s done some miracles, before, in my life, but when it comes down to it, most of the stuff that is in my life is a progress. It’s like God is working.”

It’s like in the creation narrative where there’s stuff that’s without form and void, and God gets involved and makes it good. It’s like we go, “Hold on. Is that really what we should be thinking? Should baggage, especially stuff that’s primarily good, be removed?”

What I’d like to do is I’d like to get you to think a little bit differently here because I’m way past just trying to preach sermons just to make people go, “Oh, that was a good sermon.”

I’m preaching up here. I really want to see people’s lives changed. I really want you to see God move in a way that’s tangible and real. I don’t think me telling you, “Hey, you might have some baggage in your life. Do you know what we’re going to do in the next four weeks? We’re going to just have God Normandy-bomb the sanctuary. He’s just going to come in and remove all the baggage. All of us are going to be baggage-free in four weeks.”

I mean, that would be great. I wish I could do that. I wish I was that cool of a preacher, but I’m not. Okay? But what I’m going to tell you is the truth. Rather than looking at baggage as a problem that needs to be removed, I would like for us, in this series, to see baggage as an opportunity for God to move. Big difference. When you pull your luggage up and open it up, there’s good stuff in here, and maybe stuff that you don’t need, and some other stuff that — all of it, the good stuff, are you going to use it for God’s glory? Are you going to use it for His will? Are you going to allow God into your baggage to allow Him to sort it out and look through it with you? Because this is what I want you to do. I want you to say, “Hey, my baggage is a place that God can actually move.”

In fact, what I want you to do is I want you to see something that maybe you haven’t seen in a long time. I want you to see possibilities. “Wow. God can take stuff — the good stuff, the not-so-good stuff, the marginal stuff — and shape it and form it into something incredible. He can do things and He can move in our lives in ways that are incredible.

So, I want to give you a name of somebody in the Bible. I want to tell you just a little bit about her. Then what we’re going to do is we’re going to take what I just said, put it in the back of our brain, and come back to it at the end of this message. But there’s a lady in the Bible named Mary Magdalene. I want to use her to intro this sermon series because she’s a very interesting person in Scripture. We don’t know a lot about her. There’s a lot of conjecture that’s made — “Oh, she was a prostitute” — but the Bible never says she was that. What the Bible tells us, what this Gospel tells us, is that she was a woman that had been possessed by seven demons.

Now, it doesn’t tell us this, but I think it would be reasonable to conclude, when we look at the demon-possessed people in the New Testament, most of them had lives that were not fully flourishing. There was some sense of a compromise in somebody’s life that was demon-possessed. Some of them cut themselves. Some of them hung out in cemeteries. Some of them would fall down and froth at the mouth. Some of them would try to throw themselves into the fire. But what we can say, probably, is that this woman who was possessed by seven demons probably had a life on the margins, at least in some part of her life.

In the first century, living in a community, people would’ve known who she was. This woman who maybe never thought she could do anything great, who maybe never thought that God could take her life and how she got there. I’m sure she had some things that she did that were good. I’m sure she had some things that were issues and other stuff. But Jesus comes along, and He delivers this woman. This woman, we’re told in Luke 8, is part of the group of people, primarily women, who were taking care of Jesus, who were involved in His ministry, elevating them to a place that was a little strange for the first century.

But what’s really incredible is what happens to her on resurrection morning, which we’re going to come back to. So, just hold Mary Magdalene in your mind for a moment, and then we’re going to go there at the end, on resurrecting morning, and I think we’ll be ready to have a sort of a-ha moment that will get us primed to open up this series and see, “Hey, do you know what? Maybe, just maybe, this is the time that God has brought me to, right now, to open up my baggage, to allow Him to go through it in a way where He starts to order it in a way that’s pleasing to Him.”

So, to do that, and to get to resurrection morning, which is in John, I’ve got to sort of set this up a little bit. We’re going to go through the whole Gospel of John here. We’re not going to do it line-by-line, obviously, or we’d be here for several weeks. I know the people tomorrow would be upset because we’d still be going through church while they showed up. Then there would really be no seats here, at all.

So, scholars have realized, early on in the book of John, that John starts off his Gospel with “in the beginning was the Word.”

This word “Logos.” En archē ēn ho Logos. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. Pros ton Theon. Face-to-face. He was close in proximity with God. And the Word was God. This “Logos.” Then John tells us, in John 1:14 — and this is how we know who the Logos is, for sure.

He tells us that the Word became flesh. That’s Jesus. We call this, theologically, the incarnation. This is when the God of the universe, the one who created all things — you can read that in Colossians 1:15-16 and following. The one who was there in the beginning, John 1:1, took on human form. This is what Paul talks about in Philippians 2 when he says He took on the form of a human. He came as a servant. This is the incarnation. The word became flesh. This is Jesus. The Logos, the divine second part of the Trinity, took on human flesh and dwelt among us.

“…and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Scholars have realized that this word “dwelt,” — which is a fine translation, by the way — comes from a root word that means “tent.” So, this idea of dwelling — see, a tent is a portable dwelling place. Any of you all who do camping, God bless you. For me, that’s why there are hotels. But if you all like to camp, it’s fine. That tent is a portable place for you to dwell. Well, scholars have realized that the “tent,” this idea of Jesus tenting or coming and dwelling with us, that sounds a lot like the Old Testament tabernacle that was a tent of meeting. They could set it up, and when they set it up, God’s presence would come, and it would be there. Then they could take it down and move it somewhere else. When they put it back up, God’s presence would come. So, this idea — and you’ll see, in some translations, they’ll say that He tabernacled among us. That’s how they’ll translate the word, which is not necessarily bad. Or He pitched tent among us. In other words, they tie it in because they see that He dwelt, and we have seen His glory. Because the Shekinah Glory would come into the temple, and wherever they moved the temple would be where the presence of God is. So, John is saying, “Hey, Jesus, in His person, in His fleshly body, has the glory of God. Where He moves, it’s like a portable tabernacle.”

What people have seen — and, I think, rightly — is that, well, maybe John is telling us that Jesus is, in fact, the human tabernacle. If that’s the case, are there, maybe, some literary cues that we might see through his Gospel, along with many other things that he’s doing? Are there are some literary cues? Well, the only way we would know that is if we sort of knew what the tabernacle looked like. You know? Because most of us don’t know. It’s not like you woke up this morning, going, “I’m ready for a pop quiz on the tabernacle.”

That’s, normally, not what we’re thinking, as Christians. But if you were to go into the tabernacle, the first thing that you would see is the altar of burnt offering where they would offer up a lamb, be burnt, and it was a sacrifice for sins. The next piece of furniture, if you will, would be the laver. There was water in a bronze laver, they would wash their hands, and that’s what it was. It was there to wash hands for cleanliness. Then if you went into the tabernacle proper, where the tent would be, you would have the table of showbread, which had 12 loaves of bread, which signified the 12 Tribes of Israel. Then you would see the golden lampstand, and that’s what would provide the ability for you to see in there. You had these seven lampstands with this thing — we’ll look at it in a minute. It had seven candles on it. It would illuminate the area. Then, of course, you had the incense altar where the high priest would pray before the veil that would take you into the holy of holies. And what was in the holy of holies was the covenant box where the Ark of the Covenant was. Once a year, what would happen is the priest would go in and put blood on top of the Ark of the Covenant, and there were two angels — one at the head and one at the feet — who were looking down upon the top of the box in amazement. We all see these things, we see the Old Testament, all of this, and we now that Jesus says the Old Testament is about Him. But many people have said, “Hey, John has given us a little clue here. Jesus dwelt among us, and His glory was seen. Jesus is the tabernacle. He is God in human form.”

Well, if that’s the case, then we should maybe expect, as we go through the book of John, to get some clues along the way. If this is true, we might see some things. Well, people have noted that when we come to this first piece of furniture, the altar of burnt offering, if John is walking us, somewhat, through the tabernacle in his gospel, then we know what this is. This would be where a lamb was lifted up and offered in sacrifice. People have noted that, in John 1, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God. This is the place in the Gospels where this happens. It’s not like Matthew, Mark, and Luke refer to Him in this way. John does. And in John 3, we’re actually told that the Son of Man will be lifted up. Which is the phrase that you would lift up of the lamb. What’s interesting is this passage here, where Jesus is lifted up, if this is, in fact — and I’m not saying that it is, at this point. But if it is, in fact, sort of emblematic of the altar of burnt offering, it’s interesting that the altar where a lamb would be sacrificed and sin would be atoned for, it’s interesting because the very next verse has probably put more sins away than any other verse in the whole Bible. That verse is John 3:16.

“‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’”

Now, that doesn’t mean we’re walking through the tabernacle just because we found a couple of cool words that are going on, but it should, at least, raise our attention to, “Well, what about this bronze laver? If we’re walking through the tabernacle, we should expect to see something with water or something else.”

Well, when we come to John 4, we come to the woman at the well. Jesus says that He is going to give her living water. Not only that, but in John 5, He heals an invalid of 38 years in the water at the Pool of Bethesda. Now, that may not be probative at this point, but it definitely should raise at least an eyebrow. “Hey, maybe John has some sort of literary development that he’s trying to show us. Maybe he’s trying to say, ‘Hey, the God of the Old Testament that lived in the tent and had His glory there, that was Jesus. Jesus is this.’”

So, if that’s the case, then the table of showbread would be next. You know? Are we going to have 12 loaves or something, or bread or whatever else? Well, when we come to John 6, Jesus feeds the 5,000. When He feeds the 5,000, after the miracle is done and everybody’s been fed, they pick up the leftovers, which is just bread. We’re told that they gathered them up and filled 12 baskets with fragments from the 5 barley loaves left by those who had eaten. Which is an incredible miracle. How do you feed 5,000 people and have just enough left over to also feed the 12 disciples? The 12 disciples are emblematic of Jesus being the new Israel, just like Israel went to Egypt, came out of Egypt, went through the waters, went into the wilderness, and went up on the mountain. Jesus does all that. He goes to Egypt. He comes back. He goes through the waters of baptism. He goes into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He goes up on the mountain. Sermon on the Mount. “You’ve heard it said, but I say unto you.”

He reconstitutes the 12 tribes with His 12 disciples because He is the true Israel. In fact, in John 6:35, He says, “I am the bread of life.”

Could be. May not be. Well, if that’s the case, then we should find the golden lampstand if this is sort of a literary movement through the Gospel that we’re doing. This lampstand is not like the Hanukkah one that has nine candles. You might’ve seen that one. The golden lampstand had seven. Like in the book of Revelation when it talks about the seven churches, that’s where that’s coming from. So, what did it do? Well, it gave light. So, is it coincidence or is it more than coincidence that in John 8:12 and John 9:5, as we work through the gospel, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”

Or is it just starting to become like, “Whoa? Hold on. Maybe there is something here.”

Because in John 9, there is a man that’s been born blind. Nobody knows why he’s been born blind. We’re told, in John 9, seven times — in John 9:10, John 9:14, John 9:17, John 9:21, John 9:26, John 9:30, and John 9:32. Seven times we’re told that his eyes were opened. He could see. Is that just coincidence, is that just happenstance, or is John telling us something here? Is he trying to get us to see something by saying, “Hey, He dwelt among us and His glory was there?”

Well, if that’s true, then the altar of incense should appear. Well, there’s not any commentary that I’ve ever read on the book of John — and I’ve read many, many of them — that doesn’t say anything other than that John 17 is the high priestly prayer of Jesus. So, if that’s true, then the only thing we’re missing is the Ark of the Covenant, which brings us back to Mary Magdalene, and brings us back to resurrection morning.

We’re told, “Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look in…”

That is such a posture of humility, to stoop to look in. Now, I’m not going to set this up, but this should jump off the page to you. If it doesn’t, don’t worry. I’ll make it make sense. But having heard everything I’ve said up to this point, this should leap off the page. She stoops to look in, and she saw two angels, in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.

This is the real-time Ark of the Covenant. This is not what it was symbolically talking about, or typologically referencing. She’s actually seeing the real deal where the blood that had been put on the top, with the two angels looking down — she’s seeing it in real time. Now, you may not realize the significance of this. You may not realize — “whoa” — the moment here but let me remind you that the only person that could go into the Holy of Holies and see that was the high priest, and that was once a year. The only person that could go into the Holy of Holies and see the Ark of the Covenant, which was typologically pointing us to Jesus, was the high priest, who was a man.

We have a woman veering in. The person who gets the image of the Holy of Holies on resurrection morning — meaning the veil has been torn, meaning access is there for everybody. The first person in to see it is a woman. This is radical. This should be just popping off the pages when we read it, but because, sometimes, we’re just sort of reading and maybe not flowing along with what’s going on, we don’t see, “Wow. What does that mean about the possibilities? What does that mean about Mary Magdalene? What does it mean that a woman who had been possessed by seven demons could be used by God to be the first evangelist, the first preacher, and the very first high priest of the New Testament era?”

It’s like — wow. It’s almost like — man. It’s just almost so “wow” when you see it. What I want to do is I want to leave you with two things, just two, to set the series up so that we can come in here and be ready for working through this stuff and seeing the possibilities that God has for you and I.

The first one — and I’ll explain this to you — is that the Gospel, which means the Good News, the euaggelion, has a literary trajectory. I’ll explain that in a minute. The Gospels are literature. They’re the Word of God, but they’re also literature. They’re making a point. They’re intentional in the way that they’re written. It has a literary trajectory that has massive possibility implications for you and I. Not just for Mary Magdalene and all the “wow” that we would see, but for you and I. The open tomb just absolutely changes everything. It turns everything that we’ve known upside-down.

So, let me explain what I mean by the literary trajectory. Most of you, probably have gone to a theater in your life. You’ve gone to a theater, and you’ve seen the masks. These masks are not there just because. They’re not there just thrown up there. They mean something. They’re two forms of literature. There are only four ways to tell a story. The only four ways to tell a story are tragic, comedy, epic — which is a combination of both comedy and tragedy, or tragedy and comedy — and lyric, which is a love story. There are only four ways to tell stories. So, the masks represent, basically, the whole trajectory of humanity. Tragedy and comedy. And comedy, by the way, is not ha-ha funny, although it does have funny parts to it. Comedy is a literary trajectory.

So, the trajectory of tragedy is this way. It starts high and it ends low. That’s just the way tragedy is. It usually happens in one day in literature. We have the ultimate tragedy with Adam and Eve. They start high but, very quickly, end low and they’re out of the garden. If that’s the only part of the Gospel that we had, it would be ugly. But this is part of the Gospel because this part of the Gospel tells us how bad it actually is. And if we don’t know how bad it actually is, we don’t know how good the other part is. So, it’s tragedy. But the opposite of tragedy — and it’s the complete different literary trajectory — goes this way. It’s comedy. Comedy is the other literary trajectory from tragedy. Comedy starts low and ends high. The resurrection is the great comedic turn of all of humanity. It takes as low as it could be and gives possibility. In fact, for our sermon series, baggage becomes possibility. It becomes what God can do. And you see it in the empty tomb. You see it as the light is coming in and Jesus has walked out. You see that everybody’s life is just being changed.

Peter. Could you be at any more deficiency than having denied Jesus three times? I don’t know what you’ve done in your life, but as a pastor, whatever you’ve done, I’m going to go, “Peter denying Jesus after walking with Him and seeing everything, he wins. He beats you. Whatever you’ve done, he wins.”

Like, that’s bad news. Okay? So, when Peter walks into the tomb, what does he see? He sees the linen cloth. Why does he see that? Because if we understand our Bible, when Jesus was born, there was a group of people that were given a sign. They were the shepherds. They were given a sign that they would find the baby wrapped in linen cloth. Why does Peter see the linen cloth? Because the tomb is opened, Jesus has risen, and possibilities are endless. Peter is given the same sign that was given to the shepherds because he’s being restored to a shepherd.

Mary Magdalene. First preacher. First evangelist. First person to see the real Holy of Holies, and it’s a woman. Like, we don’t even know what to do with that, even today. But the possibilities are there. They’re exploding. Disciples. They go from being fear-cringed to, all of a sudden, something changes them in so many ways that the possibilities are endless. They’re even willing to give their lives for Jesus.

Which leads me to the second thing. This is what we’re going to deal with in this whole series. Can we learn — as the people of God, can we learn to embrace and cultivate a biblical imagination? Not the imagination that you may have for your dreams, your desires, and all of that stuff. And I’m not here to give you a hard time on that stuff, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re God’s, and it doesn’t mean they’re godly. Can we cultivate, can we embrace, what it really means to have a biblical imagination about the possibilities of what God can do in our lives?

In fact, the writer of the Hebrews says it this way: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Do you have an imagination that is so colored by God in His infiniteness, in His awesomeness, in His miracle-working abilities, that transcends anything you could think about, and you believe it? You have the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

So, here’s the question to start this series off. Is it possible that God can take the broken, the shattered, the chaotic areas, even the good things of our life, and shape them and mold them into something even more beautiful than we could’ve ever thought? So, what I say to you, this weekend — as I reach into this bag, I want to give you a word. Your word is “possibilities.” Do you believe that God can make a way when there is no way? Do you believe in your marriage, right now, that there are any possibilities? Could you start to imagine and embrace that God can do things that You didn’t think He could do? Could you see this with your finances? Could you see this with your lost loved ones? Could you see this with the dad that you have no relationship with, or the sibling? Could you see possibilities?

Because when Jesus stepped out of the tomb, what He did for every one of you, and me included, is He opened up a way for there to be possibilities in our lives that would have never been possible without Him. If you’re not a believer, this is your chance, right now, to go, “Man, do you know what? I need to get in on this.”

If you are a believer, it is your time to embrace the fact that there are possibilities for your life. I want to pray for you. I want you to say, “Okay. What I’m going to do, here, is I’m going to open up my baggage. I’ve got good stuff in here and I’ve got other stuff in here, but what I’m going to do is say, ‘God, here it is. I’m opening it up. What I want You to do is get in here, and I want You to order it.’ There’s some good stuff. I’ve got some dreams. I’ve got some other stuff. There’s probably some stuff in here that I don’t really need. Here’s some stuff that was in here. Yeah. But God, I’m going to let You in here. I want You to move in here. I want Your will to be done in here. I’m tired of doing it my way. I want You to start to go through my baggage. I’m going to check it with You and let You tell me how to put it together in my life.”

And that’s what we’re going to do. What I want you to do, right now, is I don’t want you to leave. Please don’t leave. We’re going to sing one last song, and I want you to sing this song. I want you to have a moment of reflection with the Lord. I want you to be willing to set aside your comfort zone for a moment. Set aside your nice, little, tidy way that you see what Jesus can do, and I want you to believe that maybe, just maybe, God might be doing some things and in working in your life, right now, in a way that you may have no idea. Over the next several weeks, we may just deal with some things that we go, “Oh my gosh. I’ve never seen it that way. I’ve never embraced it that way. But wow, maybe God can even work here in ways that I didn’t even know. Maybe He can use these things. Maybe it’s not removing them, but maybe it’s the place that He moves.”

Next weekend, we’re going to deal with disappointment. You’re going to learn things about disappointment that you never even knew existed. Every single one of you have had it, and you’re going to see it’s an area that God can move. But for right now, I want you to believe, anew and afresh, that God is at work. Will you pray with me?