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October 9, 2022

Baggage Check? Week 8: Character Check

So, just a little inside for me. One of the things that I struggled with for the first couple of years when I was starting Grace was I didn’t know how to make sure that when you come to the end of a series, if someone had come in new, they wouldn’t feel like, “Aw, man. We should’ve just come next week because we’re coming in at the end of a series.”

We’re ending our series, this weekend, and I want to put you at ease, if you’re new, because I want to tell you what I came up with years ago, and why I think it’s important. In every series for many years now, when we do a thematic series like this, I try to have a big idea. The reason I try to have a big idea is because, number one, as a teacher, which is sort of what I am by nature, I want to make sure that everybody, every weekend, knows what we’re doing, that we’re clear and concise with where this thing is going. It gives a sort of umbrella that we can stand under.

It also helps those who have maybe missed a week or two during the series to come in and feel like they’re a part. But if you are new, coming in, going, “Aw, man. It’s the end of a series,” let me put you at ease. I’m going to get to the big idea here, in a minute, and you’ll feel like you can come right in and be a part of what’s going on. And if you like what you hear, you can go back and watch the other ones. If not, you can show up next weekend, and we’ll be doing something different. But it’s a big deal to me. It’s sort of my mind that anybody who comes to Grace, they feel welcomed, and they feel like they can hang out here with us. We have a thing that we say around here: You can belong here before you believe. And we do mean that. So, if you’re new, it’s great. If not, you sort of know what we’ve been doing. But let’s go back one more time and talk about what we’ve been trying to accomplish in this series.

So, when I started the series, I was telling the guys behind the platform here, right before service, that when Mindy and I had gone, I think in May, to Nashville — we’d never been there. We went there. I’m not sure if it was for a birthday or for a celebration. I don’t know what we went for, but we went for a few days just to get away as a husband and wife. It was a great time. We attended church. I always like to go to church when I’m out of town because, number one, we don’t usually get to attend church together. You may not ever think that, but pastors don’t get to attend church with their wife because I’m preaching and she’s listening. So, I don’t get to sit with her, and all that stuff.

So, we went, and the pastor, that I can remember, was talking about running in a ruck race, where they carry these bags and stuff. He had a bag, and he was talking about what was in his bag. I thought, “Man, that’d be cool. We could have a bag, and we could pull something out of the bag every weekend.”

So, that was where the seminal thoughts for this series came from. So, what I wanted to do, though, is I knew people had talked about baggage before, as pastors. Typically, when they talk about baggage, it’s stuff that they feel like, in a metaphorical way, is a negative. It’s like, “That person has baggage.”

So, when you talk about that, baggage is sort of something that needs to go away or be removed. And I was like,

“I don’t want to talk about it that way,” because, typically, God doesn’t always just remove stuff from us. What He does is He gets in there with us, and He grinds with us to get us where, maybe, there are some things where you should be better. And He works on them. Even the good stuff, the bad stuff, the indifferent stuff. So, I thought, “Man, when I check my bag, as a guy going on a plane, I want my bag to show up. I don’t want it to go away. I want my bag. There’s stuff in here.”

So, what I’ve tried to do in this series, every week — and it’s been something that was sort of the big idea of the whole series — was rather than seeing baggage as a problem that needs to be removed, what I’ve tried to do over the last several weeks is to show that baggage is an opportunity for God to move. I came in, I think it was yesterday, and took all the wooden plaques that we had done — whether it’s disappointment, shame, availability, mental health, spiritual gifts, worship, intentional neighbor, all those things, and I put them up here because that’s sort of what we’ve been going through in the bag. What was interesting is I felt like it was a great series that had a lot of great feedback on here, but then Hurricane Ian came. It was sort of like we weren’t expecting that. Then I started thinking, “Man, the last two things that I’m going to speak on are really good.”

Last week, I couldn’t have spoken on something more important than being an intentional neighbor. I’m not that good to make it, in the spur of the moment, and say something so good. It was just something that was there. Then I started thinking, this week, “Man, this is a really important subject that I’m going to speak on this weekend.”

In fact, whereas last weekend I felt like there was nothing I could say more important to us, as a church, than to go be intentional neighbors, this weekend’s message, I feel, is so important for not only us, but for the Church. So, I’m going to ask you to lean in. There’s a lot of stuff I’m going to go through this weekend, but I think it’s going to be profound. I really think there may be a shift in many of our lives when we’re done. I hope and pray that. My prayer is, always, that you don’t leave the same way as when you came in, and that those people online don’t tune out the same way they tuned in online.

So, to talk about what I want to talk about this weekend, we’re going to have to go back into the Old Testament. That’s always a scary thing to begin with because, let’s be honest, most of us don’t really know the Old Testament as well as we would probably like. It’s difficult to understand sometimes. I know many of you all have started a Bible-reading process, and you start off excited about Genesis, you’re excited, and then you get to Leviticus and give up. You move on to Matthew. I know. We’ve all done that. Right? You’re reading Numbers, going, “What in the world? I don’t really care about ‘begat.’ I’ve never read ‘begat’ so many times in my life. I want to begat myself into Matthew.”

But we’re going to go back to the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is hard, but there’s a subset of genre in the Old Testament that’s really difficult for us. We don’t even know what to do with it at some times because, number one, it’s pretty biting in the fact that it says things, like, “Oh, that’s tough.”

Then they say things that we don’t quite understand. They use language, sometimes, that we don’t understand. We’re like, “What does that mean?”

It’s this group of books called “the prophets.” If you’ve never been in church before, that’s not P-R-O-F-I-T-S, like “bottom line profits.” That’s “the prophets.” P-R-O-P-H-E-T-S. These people are interesting because when the prophets come on the scene, they’re always, by and large, talking to the people of God. When they come on the scene, the one thing we can tell you about the prophets is that time is very late. You may say, “What do you mean by ‘time is very late?’”

When the prophets come on the scene, they’re telling the people of God that it’s gone on too long, they’ve not

lived the way that they should live, and judgment is coming. So, time is very late. Whenever a prophet speaks, it’s late. And what you don’t know when you’re reading the prophets, especially in their time, or when they spoke — you didn’t know. Even when we read it, it sometimes bounces back and forth, and we only know how late time was because we can go back, historically, and realize.

But when the prophets speak, sometimes, when they say that time is very late, it’s too late. There’s nothing anybody can do. There are no prayers that can be made. It’s just too late. God is going to show up, and He’s going to bring judgment because that’s just what happens when you don’t do it God’s way. Oftentimes, though, it’s almost too late. Sometimes you read it in the prophets, and it sounds like it’s too late, it may be too late, it’s almost too late. Sometimes it’s almost. There are still things that people can do that would make a difference. We see that when Jonah goes to Nineveh. He says, “God’s coming in judgment,” and they repent and change their ways. They’re spared from that judgment. So, when the prophets speak, time is very late. So, when you read the prophets and study the prophets, you’ve got to know that time is late.

When they come on the scene — and we get enamored, here in America, with reading all these things and trying to figure out what all this stuff is. The cosmic language they use, and all this stuff. We fail to really understand what the fundamental issue is of what the prophets are really talking about. They’re really saying to the people of God, “Have you thought, for a moment, about the way that you are living? Have you thought, for a moment, about what you’re doing? Have you really thought through the real question of, ‘What is the worthwhile life? What does it really mean to live?’”

Because the prophets would say to the children of Israel, “What you’re doing is not the worthwhile life. You’re leading yourself to ruin. You may think that you’re in a kayak, having a great time, but there is a waterfall coming, and you don’t see it. There’s a way to live that’s better. God has said that way.”

So, the prophets, oftentimes, as you read them, will say, “Are you going to be wise or are you going to be foolish?”

You see that in the wisdom literature. Psalms and Proverbs. Who’s wise? Jesus said, “What does the wise man do? He builds his house on the rock. What does the foolish person do? He builds it on the sand.”

How are we going to live our life? The reason the prophets say those things, and they’re so concerned with what the worthwhile life is, is because they know what you know and what I know. There are consequences to the way that we live. Oftentimes, those consequences are immediate. Many of us have had things that we’ve done in our lives that we wish that we wouldn’t have done, and when we did them, within 24 hours, we had a consequence. Sometimes you had a consequence within an hour. But sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. Sometimes it seems like, “Well, maybe I got through this. Maybe I got through that particular thing.”

But sometimes the consequences are years later. Sometimes, in the Bible, the consequences of what people have done are hundreds of years later on other people. But there are consequences for the way that we live. Really, if we boil it down to what the prophets are really saying, when we pull out all of the stuff that we get focused on in prophecy, and thinking about how everything is all future, that is a very small part. That’s called foretelling. Most prophets are forthtelling. They’re saying things in the moment. What is the worthwhile life? Why didn’t you do the right things? Why did you do this? Why? Why? Why?

Because they realize — and we know this — character matters. Who we are, how we live, and how we respond really matters. We’ve seen that this week. I mean, we cut through everything this week. There wasn’t anybody arguing about all the stuff that we argue about. There wasn’t anybody trying to take a poll of who you’re going to vote for, what this issue is, and all that stuff. There wasn’t anybody talking about whether or not somebody was this skin color or that skin color. The bottom line is people came together and did what needed to be done. It just cut through all of the clutter because when we’re doing the things that God has called us to do, God just makes a way to cut through all of the garbage of life in every way. So, the prophets — and you know that, and I know that, because we know that our talent can take us places that our character can’t keep us. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen great men and great women do great things with great talent, only to fall, only to mess up, whether it’s in the secular world or in the Church world.

So, the prophets, when they speak, are more worried about integrity over image. They’re more concerned about truth over convenience. They’re more concerned with people over personal gain, and they speak into that world. In fact, because it’s so important to them that we live the life that God has called us to lead — I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer probably says it best. He encapsulates, maybe, what the prophets really want, and what God wants when He speaks to the prophets. Your life, as a Christian, should make non-believers question their disbelief in God. Or as Paul would say to the Philippian church, and via them to us, we should be blameless and innocent children of God, without blemish, in the midst of a crooked, twisted generation, among whom you shine His lights in the world.

That’s why the prophets come. They come to say, “Hey, what happened? We’re the people of God. We’re supposed to be the people that set the standard. We’re supposed to be the light that shines. We’re supposed to be the ones that really show people, in the Old Testament, who Yahweh is.”

For you and I, we show people who Jesus is. We’re followers of God. So, when we go back to the prophets, what they’re really saying is, “Hey, our character matters.”

If there’s ever been a time in my life — and maybe in your life. If there’s ever been a time where the Church really needs to be on task and on point, it’s right now. You look around the world and at all the things that are going on, I mean, we have wars, we have threats, we have all kinds of stuff. We have a hurricane that just hit in our backyard. We have all kinds of stuff. Division, issues, problems if there’s ever been a time in our life — that doesn’t mean that there have never been times like this. I love Paul Harvey. Does anybody like Paul Harvey? He’s deceased, but Paul Harvey used to say, “You know, it’s always good to know, in times like these, there’s always been times like these. Good day.”

And it’s true. There have always been times where things are fragmented and problemed, but for many of us, we’re living, sort of, in crazy times, times that are different. So, it’s important that we think about our character, who we are, and what it means to sign up to be a follower of Jesus. We’re not saved by how well we perform. We’re not saved by how well we run the hamster wheel. We’re saved solely by what God did for you and I. But it’s not like it stops there. God wants you and I to be the people that show others who He is.

So, I want to go back to Jeremiah and look at a passage in Jeremiah 9. Time is very late in Jerusalem when Jeremiah writes. In fact, time is too late in Jerusalem when Jeremiah writes. But they probably wouldn’t have known. Is it too late or is it almost too late when they heard? But he speaks. I want to show you what he says because what he says is so 2022, as well. I think when we read it, please, please, please refrain from pushing it onto the other group, the other people, or the ones who are not in your silo. Maybe let it read you and I. Let it speak to you and I. Let’s see if maybe we can go back and read a prophet that might just open up some things for us to see that get us in a place where we’re mobilized and focused. I can tell you, that is the worthwhile life, doing it the way God has called us to do.

So, here’s what he does. In Jeremiah 9, in Jeremiah 9:2, and in Jeremiah 10, he uses the same Hebrew word. The ESV translates one “desert” and one “wilderness,” but it’s the same word. This is called an inclusion in biblical interpretation. It’s where what is sandwiched between these two words is telling you that the stuff here is making things a desert and making things a wilderness. In Jeremiah 9:2, God is talking about running away from the people of Israel. The prophets use poetry. They use imagery. They use all kinds of words to try to get us to think about what’s going on. God is saying He’s going to leave the children of Israel and go to a desert.

In Jeremiah 9:10, he says that Jerusalem will actually be judged, and it will become a wilderness or a desert. What he says in the middle of this, what he’s sandwiched in here, what leads to the desert, what leads to the wilderness, what leads to this is that ungodly character leads to social disintegration. We’re seeing that in our world, right now. We’re watching a lot of things disintegrate. But at the same time, we’re watching storms bring people together in ways that they put aside all of this stuff. Is it too late or is it almost too late? Is it possible that God could use the thousands of people who go to our church to be a light? Is it possible? I hope that all the other churches do it. I hope everybody does it. But I’m not their pastor. I only pastor here. I just want to raise the question, as we go through some pretty tough verses, “Is it possible that if we really got on assignment, is it possible that if we really decided, ‘You know what? I’m not just going to come to church. I’m not just going to do this. I’m really going to be a follower of God, and really get in the mix, right now.’ Is it possible that what we could do is make a difference that none of us could have ever anticipated?”

What I can tell you is that over the last week, I’ve only become more and more and more convinced of when the Church gets on message, and when the Church does what God has called it to do, it cuts through all of the clutter, and it reaches right into people’s lives which is why people are coming to faith because of what the Church is doing around this area, right now. It’s massive. So, let’s read. Jeremiah’s going to read like today’s world. You’re going to go, “Wow. How did Jeremiah know what was going on in America today?”

Here’s what he says: “‘They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land.’”

Resist the urge to go, “That’s right. Them people, all they do is lie.”

No, no, no. No, no, no. When you’re ripping people that you don’t know because somebody, who’s a third party, told you something that they did, there’s a really high change that what you’re saying is not completely factually accurate. Can I get an amen? So, let’s read this.

“‘For they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the Lord.’”

Then Jeremiah speaks. He explains what society looks like.

He says, “‘Let everyone beware of his neighbor,’”

He doesn’t say that you should beware of your neighbor. He’s like, “This is the way it is, right now.”

“‘…and put not trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.’”

I just would ask — and there’s no snarkiness here or anything. I’m just trying to be honest. I’m trying to be a pastor that leads into the midst of what God would have us to do. I’m not here to placate, whip everybody up, and make everybody feel good. I’m here to try to lead, to say, “Hey, we have a mission. We are in a war against the kingdom of darkness, and we have the Holy Spirit of God, we have the Gospel, and we have the message that saves.”

If we can get on point, who knows what God could do. Who knows what He might be able to do through you and I. Who knows. He says, “Everybody is slandering everybody. Everybody’s talking bad about everybody. Everybody’s got something to say about somebody else.”

I feel like we live there. I mean, it’s hard for me to even have conversations with people, sometimes. They want to tell me all the bad things. I’m like, “I don’t care about that.”

Do you know what I care about? I care about these generators that got put on a boat, taken to Pine Island, and people freaked out that somebody sent it. When they realized it was a church, they were like, “Well, you know, maybe I hated the Church before, but it’s really hard to hate the Church when they’re showing up with generators.”

We took generators to a church down in Cape Coral. Grace Baptist. These were big men. I went down the day before. These were big men. They weren’t men like me. They were big men. They were like, “Whose son is this little boy?”

I’m like, “I don’t know. I’m the pastor.”

“Oh, he’s a good little boy. It’s nice that you came. Don’t hurt that pallet, little boy. Just pick up that one thing of water.”

The next day, we took down generators. Do you know what they told me? They said that those grown men broke down in tears because they hadn’t had power. There were women who got generators and were able to go home. I mean, the food, the water. We showed up at places where they ran out of water. And here we were. “Here is the truck with agua, baby.”

You know? It was incredible. He says, “This is the way it is.”

He says, “‘Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.’”

Time is very late in Jerusalem, and society has disintegrated.

“‘Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the Lord.’”

He says, “So, what am I going to do?”

“‘[I’m going to] refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people?’”

In other words, judgment is going to come. And God never judges just to judge. He judges with the hopes that there will be repentance, that there will be a turn in people’s lives. Judgment is never just judgment. It’s always with hope. That’s why, when you read the prophets, He says, “I’m going to do this, but I’m going to restore, but I’m going to do.”

God never does things without the endgame being getting His people where they need to be. He says, “‘Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart, he plans an ambush for him.’”

I’ve been around too long, and I’m pretty straight up at this point. I’ve just talked to Christians, and I see them. They’ll be nice to somebody, then turn and just rip somebody as soon as — that just shouldn’t be the way it is. That’s just not what God’s called you and I to be. When we’re that way, society disintegrates.

He goes, “‘[Am I going to] punish them for these things? [Am I not going to] avenge myself on a nation such as this?’”

Then He tells us why. How did they get there? He tells us.

He says, “‘Because they have forsaken my law…’”

“They don’t do my Word.”

“‘…and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it,’”

“They’ve just tossed it.”

It’s crazy. If flip on social media, and I can’t believe the people who are just saying, “No. That’s not what God’s Word says. No. That’s not what God’s Word says. No. That’s not what it is. We’re just going to make it be whatever we want it to be.” I mean, I’m telling you, it doesn’t make a difference if I run everybody off. The fact of the matter is I’ve got to stand before God, one day, and I’m going to tell you, right now, God’s Word is God’s Word. He knows what He said. He knows the way it is.

“‘…but have stubbornly followed their own hearts…’”

“Well, I don’t like what God says here, so we’ll just sort of change it and move it over here to make it feel a little bit better.”

He says that’s idolatry.

He says, “‘Therefore […] I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink.’”

This is poetry. He’s not literally giving them poisonous water. He’s saying, “It’s going to be ugly.”

“‘I will scatter them among the nations whom neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.’”

Then He gives us the great triad, in Jeremiah 9, of the wise and the foolish. The foolish people, their triad, and the wise.

He says, “‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,’”

Which is what, whether we intend to or not, we’ve sort of enculturated into our own lives.

“We need to be mighty, we need to be well, and we’re so wise that we know more than everybody else.”

He says, “No, no, no. If you’re going to boast, boast that you understand and know me, that you know who I am, that I am the one.”

You and I never practice these things perfectly, but we represent the one who does.

“Let them boast that I am the one who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

What Jeremiah is saying is that the way we interact with people, the way we represent God matters. Character matters. So, I’ve got a couple quick things that I want to share with you about character, and I want you to really lean in here and hear my heart. First, our character will be shaped by what we allow to be authoritative in our lives. Listen to me. Hear me. Hear your pastor. Every single person has a line that they draw somewhere of what’s morally and ethically too far. I don’t care if someone’s an atheist or if they’re a Christian. Everybody has a line somewhere. Everybody draws a line and says, “No. I’m okay with this, but I’m not okay with this.”

Well, who gets to draw the line? Do you and I get to draw the line or does God get to draw the line? And let me tell you something. If there is no God, there are no lines. You’re only fooling yourself. If you really believe there’s no God, and you really believe this just happened, and this is just a random occurrence, then to say that anything that anybody does is wrong is just your opinion. But if there is a God, if there is a lawgiver, then He’s the one who gets to say what’s right and what’s wrong. And Scripture tells us that we have a hard time understanding it. We’re told to trust the Lord with all of our heart and what? Lean not to our own understanding. Because see, something is going to be authoritative in our lives. Is it going to be what you think? A book you read? What you feel? Emotion? What’s going to be authoritative? Jeremiah tells us how they got there. They got to this whole social disintegration because of Jeremiah 8. Here’s what he says in Jeremiah 8.

“‘How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.”

The people that should be teaching you God’s Word have perverted it. They’ve said, “No, no, no. That’s not really what it says. Don’t follow that.”

He says, “‘The wise man shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?’”

“What wisdom is in these people?”

He says, “‘They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”

Judgment is actually coming, and they’re telling people, “Everything is okay. Don’t worry, it’s okay. God’s got you, man. God’s got you.”

He’s going, “No, no. Character really matters.”

He says, “‘We’re they ashamed when they committed abomination? No,’”

Because they had seared their conscience. They no longer cared what God’s Word said. So, when they did wrong, they didn’t care. They didn’t know how to blush.

He says, “‘Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.’”

Here’s what I can tell you for a fact: Rejection of God’s Word always leads to ruin. And not only that, but rejection of God’s Word always leads to misaligned character. See, as your pastor, I’m looking around our world, going, “Oh, man.”

Everybody else is probably looking around, going, “Man, it is dark, deep, and ugly.”

I’m going, “Man, when it’s dark in a room, when you shine a light, everybody sees that light.” I’m thinking, “Man, this might just be the time that God has said, for you and I, that if we can get focused on the things that God has called us to do, and we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in every way that we can, who knows what God might do in our communities.”

Who knows. But the question is — and it’s the real question. Are we willing to just presume and say, “Well, I know God saved me. I mean, I don’t really need to go that far in, Chip. I mean, I sort of like my life. It’s comfortable.”

In Amos 6:1, he says, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion.”

Like, Christ didn’t call us to always be comfortable. He called us to be conformed to His image. I’m looking around, going, “Man, we’ve got an opportunity here.” Second thing: Character is displayed through how we treat and speak of others. We tend to not think of this, as Christians, but I’ve been saying it for years, and I’ll continue to say it. Your vertical relationship with God is always really shown in how you treat, speak about, and talk about others. And you see that here. They bend their tongue like a bow. Falsehood and truth have grown strong in the land. Let everyone beware of his neighbor, put no trust in his brother, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.

I’m just here to say, listen, I know the world’s crazy, I know there are things going on that you and I know are not right, but let me tell you something: The answer is not to become a negative tongue. The answer is to become a proclaimer of the Gospel, to let people know that there is a man named Jesus who died on a cross for their sins, rose again on the third day, and He can make a change in their life.

Lastly, character flows from either our need to control — we’re either going to shape ourselves with a need to control — who doesn’t like to control? Don’t you like to know the outcome? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re just like, “I don’t care what goes on.”

I doubt it. Or do we want to be faithful to God’s covenant? You get the triad here. The wisdom, might, and riches. Let’s be honest. Most of us live here, in some ways. As long as we’ve got enough power to control, and enough this, then we think we’re wiser than everybody else. The Lord says, “No. No. What matters is if you understand and know me. I’m the one who practices steadfast love. I’m the one who brings justice. I’m the one who brings righteousness.”

And in the Old Testament, justice and righteousness is usually how you treat other people. How do we serve? How do we give? That’s the abundant life. The prophets don’t come to give everybody a hard time. The prophets come to remind the people that they’ve got off-task. In the Ten Commandments, when it talks about taking the Lord’s name in vain — that’s not a curse word, by the way. What he’s saying is, “Don’t ascribe the name of Yahweh to yourself, and then not let that light shine to other people. Don’t take His name…”

Like, Mindy took my name. She was Mindy McCallum and now she’s Mindy Bennett. She took my name. Don’t take the name of the Lord and then not live up to what that looks like. I’m not here to give everybody a hard time. I’m here to say that I believe that this could be a moment for all of us. If we were open to opening up our bag and saying, “God, what I want You to do, right now, is I want You to work on my character. I want you to work on what it looks like for me to really be a follower of Jesus.”

That’s not to give anybody a guilt trip. None of us are going to arrive here all the time. None of us are going to get this right perfectly. Let me put you at ease. But I believe that many of us could step it up a little bit. I’m going to tell you something. It’s not going to be you and I, in our power, who are going to create this. It’s going to be us saying to God, “Will You be the change in me? Will You lead me by Your Spirit? Will You grow me as a Christian?”

It’s going to be saying, “God, I am dependent upon You in every way. God, I need You in my life more than I’ve ever needed You before.”

That’s all I’m asking. I’m asking that because, this week, I’ve seen so many great things as the people of God have just been the people of God. For me — and everybody’s got a different story. For me, it was when we opened up this bag and, in the bag — somebody brought it to me. In the bag were these three pieces of paper — little, small pieces of paper — that kids had put in the bag. One of them said, “Jesus loves you.” The other one said, “I’m sorry that your house has been flooded.” The other one said, “We’re praying for you.”

These were kids. These were small kids. I was going, “Man, if we can get this thing right, if we can just be people who say, “God, I am sold out. I am so open to You messing up my life. God, I realize this might be the moment to shake me out of my complacency,” I’m here to tell you the world is desperate for the people of God to shine their lights. I’m just asking you a humble question. Would you just allow God right now, in this moment, to say, “God, come into my life and start to work on my character. Be the change in me. Spirit, wreck me. Spirit, move. Allow me to see things the way You see it, God. Allow me to see people the way You see them. Allow me to serve in the way that would be pleasing to You.”

I called the music department, this week, and said, “I want to do this song.”

They’re busy and they’ve got a million things going on. I said, “This is a song that I want to sing.”

I’m just going to ask you — because I really believe this, because I’ve prayed for you. I really believe this. I believe if we’ll sing this song together, God will start to melt and to move. All I want to do is just — I believe — I mean, I’m crazy. I really believe that God wants to do things through you more than you could ever imagine. I really believe He wants to use you and I in ways that we could’ve never imagined. Nobody in the town of Cynthiana, Kentucky, which had 6,600 people, would’ve ever believed that Chip Bennett, who was the way he was, and the way he acted, would ever, in a million years, have been a pastor to begin with, but not to have been a pastor that would’ve been here.

I look back, like, “I don’t know how I got here. I didn’t do anything to deserve this.”

But God wants to do things. Honestly, this is nothing. What’s going on out there, the people who are being touched, the people who are being ministered to is incredible, but we have an opportunity to do this 24/7, right around here, in people’s lives. All I want you to do — I’m just asking you, humbly, would you please just be open to singing this song and allowing God to speak to you? Because I really believe God wants to do something great with His Church.

Keep learning

Learn about our Discover Classes and Grace University. Browse through topical short video series, view interviews with Christian thought leaders, or take an in-depth systematic theology video class with Pastor Chip.