Identity Theft: Loved
Well good morning, everybody. I'm glad you're here. I'm glad I'm here, and I also want to thank those who watch via the internet. Some of you watch via the internet and you're just sort of dialing through different churches to find the one. You've just found it. Come on down, and welcome to you as well. We're in our series called Identity Theft, and most of us are very aware of identity theft. Most of us have a good idea of what that looks like when people steal our Social Security Numbers or credit card numbers, and it's a financial thing. But we're talking about an identity theft of where people don't understand what God has done for them, what God has said about them, and a lot of times, if we don't know that then we miss out.
And this box, as you know, and some of you all that are new you can catch up, we're in the middle of a series. The first series we did, I talked about this box showing up at my house and I didn't open it up. And five or ten years later I remember that I hadn't opened it up. And when I opened it up, I realized that there were things in there that I should have opened up but I didn't. And so the box actually becomes sort of an analogy to the Word of God that many of us don't open up and read and see what God has said about us. And so we are going to the box and pulling things out that God says about us.
And last week, if you remember, we talked about being chosen. And I hope that you were here. If you weren't, please get that, you pick it up, Jennifer, you can see it on the Internet, whatever. And I did tell you, and I'll tell you again, if we were a bigger church I'd have cooler props, but this is what I've got to work with. Okay. So, you'll just have to deal with it. So today, we are going to talk about being loved. And what a great subject to talk about, that God loves us. Jesus said it this way in John 13:34. And for those of you all who are new, I always put the scriptures up here. So you can open up your bibles, and that's great. But I always put everything up here so that you can see it so that you can follow along.
Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." This is interesting because in the Old Testament we were told to love our neighbor. Now we're told to love everybody basically, but we're told to love them the way Jesus loved them. So there's two items on the agenda here that we've got to deal with this morning. And the first one is, how does God love me? Because if I'm going to love people the way God loves me, then I've got to know how he loves me so I can return the favor. So it's pretty self-explanatory here. I need to know how God loves me, because if I'm to love people the way God loves me then I need to know how he loves me. There's one fundamental issue though and problem that we've got when we do that. We, as creatures, normally define God's love by the way we feel. And let me explain this to you because you're going to have the light bulb go off. It's not that we mean to do this. We don't want to think that we do this, but we do this. Here's the way it works. So Monday morning comes and you go to work, and all of a sudden you get a raise. And then you go out that night and you find somebody that you think is pretty. And the next thing you know you're in a date. And now you've got some arm candy, and you're walking around, you go to the mall, you get a new pair of jeans. You're feeling good and you walk in on Sunday, and guess what? Songs start, you've got your hand in the air. You're thinking, "Man, God is great! He is awesome. It is fantastic. I feel good, so God loves me. All is great." Then the next Monday comes and you lose the arm candy because she didn't like you anymore. And you lose your car, and whatever else and everything else, and the next thing you know you're going, "Hey, where did God go? How come he doesn't love me?"
So if we're being honest, let's just be real and raw here, many of us determine the things we think about God's love based on what's going on in our life. We're very circumstantial with that. And you know it. You know it as well as I do. You have a great day. Maybe you and the wife or you and your husband had your slap and five and everything's great. You drive out on the road, and somebody's on the side of the street. And you actually get out and help them. You're feeling good. God's loving you, everything's great.
But then you have a fight at home and your kids act like pagans, like mine, and you do all this stuff that goes on. And the next thing you know, somebody's on the side of the road. And you're like, "Yeah, forget it, man. I'm going on." And then somebody says, "Hey, can I have help?" And you're like, "Go help yourself." And you do that, and we go, "Why do we do that?" Because we ultimately think that that are circumstances, and the problems, and the issues and the things the way we feel, that's how we determine how God loves us. And it's not new. Because in the New Testament Church, and Paul wrote to one of these churches, the Roman church. And what had happened was a lot of stuff going on, Claudius, who was the Emperor, had kicked all the Jewish people out of Rome. And, he just kicked them out, and then the Gentile church had sort of started to come in, and there's people believing in Jesus. And then all of a sudden, the Jewish people were able to come back to Rome.
And so the church was trying to figure out, "What do we do? How do we work together? We've got different ideas. We've got different things. How do we put this together?" The book of Romans is really a treatise on how the church, which is both Jew and Gentile, works together. That's what that book is really about. That's what the focus is. And in this book, Paul addresses something that they're dealing with in Rome, because if you could go back into the first century, here's the way it worked. It was basically an agrarian society. So let's say you were a corn guy. You did corn or you did carrots or whatever it was that you did. We'll just pick corn. I don't know why I picked corn. I'm just picking corn. I don't even really care that much about corn. But corn it is, okay. So we're going to be the corn planter. Well what you did, is you had to go to the corn god. That's what you had to do. The corn god had to be the god that you started doing the sacrifices to and pay a little bit of money here and do whatever. Because if you did the right things then the corn god would bless you, and you would have corn. That's the way it worked. Sounds like church, doesn't it? Sort of. You'll get that in about a minute.
But anyway, so you did this stuff. But then what would happen is, is when you were doing these things to get this God to do for you what you thought it should do, when it didn't happen and it didn't work, then everybody said, "God's mad at you. You must have done something wrong, man." I mean come on, man, the corn god can produce corn. That's what corn gods do, don't they? Corn gods produce corn. That's what they do. They don't do tomatoes. They don't do potatoes. They do corn. They're the corn god. That's what the corn god does. If the corn god's not giving you corn and you're the corn guy, then something's wrong with the corn god. Because you and him are not synced up.
And so, Paul, knowing that was the pervasive way in which gods were understood in his day, he writes to the Roman church. He's going through all kinds of stuff. They've got internal conflict going on. They've got an idea of who's really the people of God. Is it the Jewish people? Is it the Gentile people? Is it both? They're sort of fighting. They're sort of going at it. And then on top of it, the Roman government isn't looking too kindly on either the Jews or the Christians. So they've got some persecution going on, and Paul writes into this venue, this is what he writes. He says, "Who will separate us from the love of Christ"? And I highlighted love because it's used three times in this passage. And this is a great question. Because if your understanding of God and his love is based on the way you feel, and you're going through a lot of bad stuff, then you might not think God loves you.
So he says, "Who's going to separate us? Tribulation?" Some of you all are real religious and you're going, "I didn't think I was going to go through the tribulation." So anyway, you'll get that in a minute too. So who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? So we're going through some tribulation. How about some distress? Anybody ever had some distress at work or home, or family or brother-in-law, sister-in-law, out-laws, in-laws, whatever else? You had that distress. Everybody's had that from time to time. And what happens is, it happens all the time. People come in church. They're happy, they're excited. They tell them man, it's great. Great message, great worship, everything is fine. And then disaster hits, some distress hits, or some tribulation hits. And they're out in the hub going, "Man, I don't know what happened, man. I was doing so good with God, and now I think he's mad at me," and everything else. Paul says, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! What about the love of God here. This isn't going to get God's love out of your way." How about some good persecution? You're trying to do the right thing, trying to be right person, persecution.
How about some famine. We don't deal with, we don't even know what famine is in America. I don't know if you know this or not but they did a study. It's really cool. A seminary did it. They brought in 100 Americans, and they brought in 100 people from third world countries and they put them in a room separately. And they had them read The Parable of the Prodigal Son. And then they had each one tell what they had learned. And of the 100 Americans everybody told the story, nobody mentioned one of the important facts in the story. But it was 97 of the third world country people caught it. And it was this line in The Prodigal Son's Parable, "And a famine arose."
The American people didn't even see it because we don't have famines. So no big deal. They did because they had famines. What about famine? What if famine hit you? What of famine? Does that mean that God doesn't love you anymore? We don't have any food. God, what is up, man? I thought I was your kid. I thought I was your child. Do you not love me? I don't have any food. I'm in famine. How about nakedness?
Then the last one is just pretty good here. He says "danger," and he concludes it with "sword". And the sword is the Roman sword that can take your head off, which they dealt with. Paul dealt with that. Paul had his head severed by the Roman sword in AD 54 under Nero's persecution. He says, "So let me ask you a question." He says, "Are any of these things, any of these circumstances, any of this stuff going on in your life, does that somehow mean that God doesn't love you?" He says, "As it's written for your sake, we're being killed all the day long. We're regarded as sheep to be slaughtered". Now we read these passages, and I'm not quite sure we really, really pay attention a lot of times. That's not me being negative and getting critical, just this is the fact, we just sort of read in the bible. Well this passage comes out of Psalms 44. And it's important that you understand where this passage comes from that he quotes because it makes a lot of sense. In is this passage the writer says, "All this is come upon us." They're getting ready to be slaughtered. It's not a good thing. He goes, "All this is come upon us though we've not forgotten you. We've not been false to your covenant. Our heart is not turned back nor have our steps departed from your way." So it's not like they had done the wrong thing and all of a sudden things were going bad. These people had done the right thing. So Paul is going, "Listen, man, you can be loving God, you can be doing the right stuff, and circumstances can come into your life, but that doesn't mean God doesn't love you." And where you would naturally intuit maybe he doesn't because of circumstances and because we base a lot of our love on the way we feel, Paul says, "I want you to understand, God loves you in none of these things." And here's what he says. He says, "No." He says, "In all these things, the distress, the famine, the persecution and sort, in all these things we are more than conquerors."
Now listen, this is important. A conqueror is the one who has the sword who can take your head off. A conqueror is the one that can take your clothes. A conqueror is the one that has the food. A conqueror is the one that can create distress in your life. And he says, "No, no, no, no, no. No mater what's going on, because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, we're more than conquerors. We're above what it means to be a conqueror," listen, "through him who loved us. Because of his love, because of how great his love is, no matter what's going on in our life, we can rest secure." And he goes on to say, "For I'm sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth", and then Paul's like, just in case I missed something or anything else in creation. Maybe they were sort of thinking about something, let me just go ahead and get all of it out there, ". . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord". How does he love us? You know how he loves you? God loves you unceasingly, passionately, personally and unquenchable. You may have walked in here today and you may have said, "Wow! I thought the gist I was supposed to clean up first." Let me tell you something, if we had to clean up first, you wouldn't have Chip Bennett as the pastor. Okay. And some of you know me well enough to go, "I'm not sure he's even cleaned up yet."
But the deal is, God loves you and me. And what happens is we get these ideas of feeling, and then what we do is, on top of it, we put these filters on it. And what we do is we go, "God loves me. I'm in, which means somebody else has to be out." We don't have to love those people, or I don't like that person or what he does, or what he says, or what she does, or the way they live or whatever else. And all of a sudden, we're totally off base, because God loves every single person with a passionate, personal, unquenchable love. In fact, love is God's eternal disposition towards you and me. That is his disposition towards people is love. And here's the problem because see what we're doing is we're taking all this stuff, and we're putting it in a blender. We've got our feelings that get in. Some of our theological understanding gets in. And then here's the deal, we go, okay, but you don't understand, Chip, when I grew up, this is the way it worked, when my mom told me to do something and I did it, Bam! Snicker's bar. It was great. Bam! I got to go to my friend's house for the evening. Clean my room. Bam! I got to go out. But then when I didn't do it, I didn't get to go anywhere. And so you don't understand the way it works is this, is when you do the good things, you get the reward. When you do the bad things, it's Kabam! It's the big hammer on top of the head. And so what I want to do is, I get this idea that God loves me but I don't want to get too close. Because if I get too close to God I might have to like tell him several things or stuff going on in my life, the pictures I look at at night, and the things I think about, and the people that I curse in my head, and so on. What I want to do, I just want to have this polite and casual relationship with God.
Because the deal is like, "Come on Chip. I had my dad, and my dad he was an okay dude. It was like, my dad always told me all the things that I did wrong and he always told me all the things that I didn't do right. And I didn't really want to be around him that much. I knew that he sort of loved me, I got that part but not really that much. And so I know that you tell me God loves me but, man, if God really knew what was going on inside of my life, if God really knew everything about it, man, he'd be beating me over the head and he wouldn't be giving me a Snicker's bar, and I like Snicker's bars. And I wouldn't get anything else."
And so what we do is, especially Christians, we develop this sort of casual and polite relationship with God. And what God wants from you and me, he wants intimacy. He wants intimacy with you and me because he loves us. And what we do is this, this is what we do, because we're the Church. We go, "Well, I'm doing pretty good. My bible, I put it on my coffee table at night. And I never set a Perrier on top of my bible. I do the right things. I voted right in the last election, and I did this right. And every once in a while when I'm going by and somebody has a flat tire, I'm not going to get out. It's Florida. It's hot. But I say a pray for them. And every once in a while when the plate comes by, I give a dollar or something. And I showed up on Easter and I think I showed up one other day around church. Come on, I'm doing this thing right. I was sort of there. Me and God are sort of cool. It's polite. I've done all the check marks. I don't live this way, and do this and do that. Me and God are cool."
And God's going, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, I want to have an intimate relationship with you". And let me show you how this works because this is a passage most people are not aware of. It's in the book of Revelation. And I don't want you to turn there because some of you all like go into seizures when you flip to that book. And I get it okay. It's like bad movies and some bad books have been written out of that book. So anyway, the way you find Revelation, if you ever want to know, you go to the maps and the concordance and you turn left and you're there. It's pretty easy.
But in Revelation, John, the guy who's writing Revelation is writing to seven churches. That's who he's writing to. And it's important. When you read the bible, you need to understand who it's been written to. It was written to seven churches. Okay. The Bible wasn't written to you and me. It was written for you and me, not written to you and me. Think for instance, if I wrote to the Atlanta people 400 ago and said, "Hey the Braves are out playing". They would think, okay, the Indians are out. If you write them today, they'd think the baseball team. See words have meanings depending upon who it's written to. So he's writing to this church at Laodicea. And I don't know about you but I grew up in Church, man, where the Laodicea church, I think it appeared like every Sunday. It's the hot and cold passage. Anybody ever dealt with that one? The hot and cold that, like God's going to vomit you out of his mouth type stuff. And you're going, "My God, love, yeah right? He's going to vomit me out of his mouth, stay away from that dude. Goodness gracious, not even my dad, as bad as he was, would vomit me out of his mouth. This is rough stuff." And the preacher would get up and go, "You'd better be hot or you be cold. God would rather you be in a ditch drunk than praying around in church, playing tip-toe through the tulips lukewarm. You need to be hot." And I'm going, "My God, there's no way in the world I could ever be hot. I'm hot for like 30 minutes after church service, and next thing you know, I'm as cold as ice going all the wrong directions. I am in trouble. So, God, if you're going to come, could you just come like on Sunday like 11:30 when I am right because I've got to be hot in this cold stuff." And then I went to school and learned that that's just not really what's going on there, that Laodicea had water that came to it via aquadox, and the hot water and cold water are both good things.
It was affected when it got there. It was tepid. And the idea too is that, when you are in Laodicea if you ever get to go there, if you're in the city, you can look out and you can see where the rocks are, where the water comes over and it’s this real alkaline water. It's like white stains. And everybody who always walk through there he doesn't know anything and they might take some water and drink it, it tastes nasty and they spit it out of the mouth. It's not vomit. King James says vomit. It's just that it's not good water. And what Jesus is saying is, is that, I wish you were either hot or cold. I wish you were something that was useful because cold water's good and hot water's good. You can bathe and do municipal things in hot water and drink cold water and everything. But this is not useful stuff because what happened is that you guys think that you're there. That's what he says to the Laodicean church. You think that you're good. You think everything is there. This is a church he's writing to. It's not like he's writing to people that are not church people. He's writing to Christian people who think they're good. They've got it all together, the box checked, everything's fine. And there's just like one little problem. You're not doing the things that I've asked you to do, which is to love people and do things right and live right because you think you're cool. And so what he says to them is this. He says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. And if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I'll come in to him and eat with him and he with me".
And you probably don't see the real cold glass of water that this is. But this is what's going on, Jesus is saying, hey, you guys are having church like, right. And the guy is preaching and they didn't have guitars back then, but flow with me. And guitars are going, and drums are going and everything. And, I'm outside of the church and I'm knocking on the door. I'd like to come in. I'd like to be a part of what you all are doing but I'm outside. I'm knocking on the door of the church. I know you guys are inside. I know you're talking about me. And I know a guy got up and said, "Where two or three gathered, he's there". Actually, I'm not. I'm actually outside the church waiting for you. That's not what means anyway. God said, "He'd never leave you or forsake you." You don't need two or three people to have his presence, but that's a whole other message for a whole other day.
He's knocking on the thing. And he says, "Hey, I want to come in. Hey, and if anybody hears my voice…" Wow! And how many people are in the Laodicean church thinking they're hearing God's voice. And he says, "You're not really hearing my voice because I'm outside. You guys have this casual polite thing going on. You've got all the religion. You've got the check marks. You've got all the stuff that you did, but I'm not there. Because what I want is, I don't want that. I don't want the performance stuff. I don't all the check mark stuff. What I want is you. I want you. I want to come in and I want to eat with you."
And we don't understand the idea of eating. In the first century, it was very intimate. It was a real moment. I want to eat with you. And what I want to do is, I want you to look at me and say, "Hey, I've got some problems." It's not like he's going to go, "Really, tell me about it." He's going to be like, "Yeah, I know. And I love you. I just want you to talk to me. I want to be intimate. I want you to understand that I love you with the love. It's not based on some performance, on some duty, on some life, on any of that stuff. I love you just the way you are." Now the good thing about God is, God loves us so much he doesn't necessarily always keep us where we are, because we need to look more like Jesus. But that's not the deal. God loves you and me right where we are. And he says, "What I want to do is I want to come in, and I want to have fellowship with you. I want to be intimate with you. I want you." Some of you may be in here today and you've had churches, preachers, stuff, you've had guys like me tell you all this stuff.
You've had church throw bullets at you. You've had church throw darts at you. You've had church throw spears at you. Listen to me and hear me well, I am imperfect man. I do not walk on water. If you don't believe me, come to my house, and I'll show you. I sink in my pool. I've tried. I tried to do the Peter thing, but I didn't, I went right in. And the bad thing is, Jesus wasn't even there to pull me out. So I just drowned. So that's all there is to it. But the deal is, what I'm saying to you is that God wants to have a relationship with you. This is not religion. It's not about religion. It's about a relationship. That's what he wants from us. He wants to be connected. He wants to be a part with us. That's what he wants more than anything. And here's the problem, religion is when you have that polite and casual relationship. Intimacy with God is the anecdote to religion. Let me show you how this looks. Because I don't know that I can pick a better passage that would really make this make sense.
In John 16, he says to the disciples he said, listen I've said these things to you, the disciples. These aren't just like dudes. These are the disciples. He says, "I've said these thing to you to keep you from falling away." So he's saying to the disciples, I don't want you to end up away. I want you to stay straight. Because here's the deal, this is going to happen, they're going to put you out of the synagogues. Who? Well, the religious people. The people that do the temple stuff and the Torah stuff, and the sacrifice stuff, they're gonna kick you out church, which is interesting because I've been in a lot of churches that really like to kick people out of church. Come on. Jesus says, "I've said these things to you so that you don't fall away," because I don't want you to be the people that are kicking people out of church. They're gonna kick you out of church because they're not going to like the way you do church and they don't want to have you in their church. He says, by the way too, they're gonna think that when they kill you that they're offering service to God. They kill them in the name of the Lord. That's what religion looks like. You see religion can't go anywhere but judgmentalism and negativity, and us four and no more, and I'm in and you're out. That's what it has to do because it's not intimate with God. He says, listen they're gonna think that when they kill you they're doing God's work. Wow! I know some of you are going... Hold on, it gets better because this is gonna make my point right here. The next verse. I always like the next verse, the next verse is always a good thing. The next verse is, "And they do these things because they don't know the Father nor me." They're not intimate. They don't know me. It's not a matter of doing. It's a matter of knowing. It's a matter of connecting.
They're so many people in the church that do the church thing well, that do the religion thing well, but they're not intimate, they're not tied in. And because they don't understand God's love they can't in turn reflect that love to others. Because the way you view God is the way you're going to turn it on others. And if you think God's chosen you and not chosen other people or you're special and they're not, then what you're gonna do is you're gonna treat other people with contempt and disdain in judgement and religion. And what God wants is he wants intimacy. Let me show you what it looks when Jesus comes on the scene. Jesus is like the perfect example of what it looks like to really do the Jesus thing because he was the Jesus thing. Okay. And here's what it looks like in John 15.
And I think when I read this, you're going to just read it, but then I need you to really hear me here. He says, "The tax collectors and the sinners were all drawing near to him and the Pharisees and the Scribes grumbled saying, this man receives sinners and eat with him." I need you to see this here because this is huge. Listen to me, it's huge. The tax collectors and the sinners, they liked Jesus. They wanted to be around Jesus. He made them feel something inside that nobody else did. He gave them dignity. He made them feel valuable. He didn't treat them based on what they had done or who they were. He loved them for being a human being and they wanted to be around him. Well, the good church folks, they grumbled. It ain't a good word, grumbled. You’ve been around church where, I can't believe we let that person in here. I can't believe that. I think that person was at Outback last night at the bar and now they're up there singing. I don't know what's going on. Well, do you know for sure? No, but I just know that you avoid all appearances of evil. Get them off the stage. We can't have that going on in this church. We've got to be holy. We've got to righteous, we've got to be . . ." Really. See, we do that, don't we?
How does God love you? What is his love towards you? To walk in your identity, what does it look like to be loved by God and then to turn that and reflect that to others. The story goes on because Jesus tells a couple of stories because he gets them. And one of the things that he does is he tells the story that we call The Prodigal Son. Those little things that are on your bible that says, those are not inspired, people put those in. Okay. They're not there. This is really the story of just two brothers. One of the boys goes away. He's the tax collector and sinner imagery. He goes away, and he comes back. And remember when he comes back what does he have prepared. He has a speech prepared. He's ready to give a speech. Well, the dad doesn't even let him give the speech. The dad says, "No, no, no, no, party time, party time. Get the calf, get the robe, get the ring." And everybody else is grumbling going, "No, we need to hear the speech first before we let him in. We need to hear the speech and make sure he's really changed, make sure he's really in." No, no, no, dad's throwing parties, man. He is all in, ready to go.
The brother on the other hand, he's out in the thing. He said, "Man, you’re letting this dude in?" He didn't even call him his brother, he said, "Your son." "You let him in. You know what he done? Do you have any idea? He's been out with prostitutes, that's who he's been out with. He's been running around. You're gonna throw a party for him. I don't get it. You know what I've done? I've been doing it all the time, man. God, I've been keeping it, keeping it, keeping it. Dad, I've been obeying, obeying, obeying, and you're gonna throw a big party for this dude that's sleeping around and doing all this stuff that you didn't even want to hear his speech. I would have like to have heard the speech because I'm not quite sure the speech is actually there. I'm not quite sure he really is what he says he is. And you're going throw a party for him?" And the dad says, "Hey, son, you're always with me."
The dad didn't care about the stuff. He cared about the with. In that story both those sons are with the father. We're looking for everybody to kick out. The father is not kicking either one of them out. They're his boys. They may be imperfect. They may be broken. They may not see it the right way but the father loves both of them. So what I would ask is this, if we truly got the love God understood, nothing separates us from the love of God and that while I was a sinner, Romans 5:8, Christ died for me. If you get that, then what would it look like. And I phrased this, "We're starting to get it in. What would it look like for us to be a church that really walked in our identity in Christ? What would it look like?" Now I said get it, sometimes when you say, you get it, it means others don't get it and then it means you're back in the same thing, we're in, they're out. And that's not what I'm trying to say. I'm just saying this for a way for you to understand. What would it look like if we started to truly walk out our identity as a church?
Well, first thing, we would love to marginalize even more. We love marginalize too. We do a good job but we would love them even more. I would tell you go home, type in marginalize in today's society and look at the list. And then ask yourself the question, are those people that you are loving even more? Because if we really walked in our identity, Jesus loved to marginalize. And what we don't see is because we have this whole thing of, we judge ourselves based on what we see others do and we go, "Well I'm pretty good. I don't do all that stuff." What we need to understand is, all of us at some level are marginalized when it comes to the holiness of God. We are the marginalized which means we can love the marginalize because we were a part of the marginalized but to love them even more. How about to continue to accept and embrace diversity? And I'm not talking just about maybe economic or racial diversity, because I think we do a pretty good job of that in here. But how about some facts of, everybody doesn't see it just the way you do. I can't tell you people walk into the church, you all maybe believe this and some of you may be the ones that have done it, and I'm not trying to give you a hard time. But what I'm saying is people walk in and go, what do you believe on this? Why don't we talk about what I believe about Jesus? Isn't that the important thing? Isn't the important thing that he died and got up and is going to come back and we're going to sit here and argue whether or not I dumped you in my pool or whether somebody sprinkles you. Are you and I gonna to go to blows and call each other not Christian over that stuff.
I've got a book in my office 800 pages long called "Baptism in the Early Church," and I can tell you that every form of baptism that you can even think to believe and more, was practiced by the early church, and everybody thought they had it right. So we're going to get all bent out of shape. We've dunked you in the pool. You've been to my house, you know that. We’ve dunked you in the pool. That's the way we do it. I think that's probably the biblical way. But I'm gonna tell you right now I am not going to the mat for baptism. I'm not going to the mat for how Jesus comes back. Some of you all go, "What do you think about this crown, what do you think about this horn?" I'm like, "Dude, you're a pre-trib, you're a post-trib. How about I'm a pan-trib. It's all gonna pan out in the end. Okay. How about that. Is that okay. Let me tell you something, the whole church is fumbled with that book. So are you gonna make that the criteria for stuff." "Yeah, but I've got to know if Genesis here. Are these literal days or these are periods. You don't believe the word of God if you believe that." I'm like, "Really? Really? Augustine didn't think they were literal 24 hour days. So I guess Augustine's out like the great church theologian and kick him to the curb. You're no longer a Christian Augustine." And if it's six 24 hour days, hallelujah, praise God, pass the plate and the ammunition. That's great. Fantastic. But the fact of the matter is why are we gonna get so bent out of shape about that when nobody knows for sure. We're gonna go to Genesis 6, and we're gonna figure out who the sons of God were. Really, great! If you get that, please write me a paper and some footnotes and a bibliography. I'd love to read it and grade it. That'd be fantastic. We need to understand that what brings us to this table is the fact that we believe God clothed himself in flesh, and became a man, and died on a cross, and got up on the third day and is gonna come again. And that's enough to bring us to the table.
How about looking forward and not backwards? Can I just bust somebody's bubble here. Nostalgia is not spirituality. I know we like it and I tell you I learned something just recently. I grew up, my dad loved Elvis Presley. I could not, for the life of me understand. And he's here. I couldn't understand for the life of me how anybody could like Elvis Presley. By the time I got a hold of Elvis Presley, he had the gut hanging out, those big things sticking up and, "I lived a life that's full" And I'm going, yeah, you've eaten the whole buffet dude. And girls are running around and I’m going, what is up with this dude in rhinestones and everything. I'm like, there's no way in the world. My dad loved Elvis Presley. Well, I realized I'd become my dad. Scary stuff. I was showing my kids, my favorite band, and I told you is, my favorite band is Van Halen. And I was showing, Grace, my oldest daughter, Van Halen. And she's looking at David Lee Roth and she calls him wiggly giggly. She like, "He’s ugly." An I'm like, here I am, I'm stuck in the 80's and it's 2015. I've become my dad.
God. We do that in the church though. We go, well this is the way we did it before. And this is what feels good to me. It's what I like. God didn't say, Jesus didn't say, "Hey I've come to anoint the status quo." He said, "I came and I make all things new." Loving people, walking in our identity would mean that we would be open too. Can I just say this in love? And I say this in love. We are doing something here that very few churches can do. We're actually mixing younger families with older people. It's very tough to do. What I would ask you to do as younger people, honor your elders. Honor them, listen to them. They've traveled a long way. They've experienced a lot of things. We need to listen to them. But I'm gonna ask the older people to understand something, that some of the things that we're doing is to reach these younger people and help us do that by not holding on to the past and moving forward. Because to really love means moving forward and we don't go backwards.
Let me drop this one on you. This is a good one here. How about when tragedy in our society and world becomes an opportunity to show love rather than express fear or judgment? That's when they call it dropping the mike. Because we're really good at the fear and judgement part when stuff goes on in our world. We're really challenged to show love. And lastly, and this is my heart, what would it look like to walk in your identity, to be a church that truly understand we were loved by God, and understand that we're loved by God in such a way that we can make mistakes and he still loves us? I'm not telling you to go out and try to make the mistake. I'm telling you, you're never free until you're free to fail. Listen to this, how about when people who are not usually accepted at church start showing up here regularly and having life changing experiences? Here's what it looks like to be a church that walks in the love that God has for them and reflects that to the world.
And this is my vision. This is my vision. Somebody comes in and like, "Man." They go home after coming to Grace. They're a visitor. They go home. They sit down with their friends and go, "You won't believe this man, this guy at work, man, he kept handing me these little cards to come to this series, and telling me that it was good. Telling me that the preacher wore jeans, and I'd feel comfortable and all this stuff. And I don't know why I showed up. Man, I showed up and man, it was in the back of some professional parkway. And it didn't even look like a church and everything. I walk through the door, and what I'm thinking, man, my life's terrible. I don't even know why I'm showing up. And when I showed up, dude, you won't believe it. This girl in cowboy boots and a dress comes and grabs me and starts hugging on me. And I was like, whoa! Man. And I thought man, she's pretty. Then I saw her husband. He's like this nine foot dude. I was like, man, stay away. Step away from the vehicle. But man, she loved on me and man I felt like that's like the first time in a long time I actually felt accepted somewhere. I actually felt some dignity. And then I started walking through this place called the Hub, and they're asking me if I want coffee. And people are shaking my hand, they're smiling and I'm thinking man, they don't know me. They don't know the stuff that I've done. I thought they were gonna look down upon me or whatever.
Then I come around the corner, and they've got this children's church room. It's pretty cool. And I walk through the door and somebody else says hi to me. And then somebody else says hi to me and now I'm like feeling, this is crazy stuff. Then they start this music and they've got this dude with tattoos that looks crazy and he's singing these songs and he’s jumping up and down, and I'm going, whoa! And then they've got this drum thing. I don't know what it is. It looks like something off of fear factor that they're gonna drop a bunch of roaches in or something. And they've got all this stuff going on. And then this dude got up and he was terrible. Gosh, he was so bad. He had jeans on and glasses, and he looked like he should be in some sort of school but he's preaching. And I couldn't tell if it was Red Bull or Mountain Dew, it's Perrier, but I couldn't tell which one it was. And I don't know why he had it up there. And I don't know what he was thinking. And he's got a jacket on and jeans. I don't know who he's trying to please. And he's like whatever. But what he told me was that, man, God loved me. And I felt that because I came to the church. That's what I experienced. And Wow! That was life changing. In fact, I might want to go back there because it didn't feel normal." When the tax collectors and the Pharisees start drawing nearer, we are a church that's walking in their identity. It's love.
Dear Heavenly Father, I've done the best that I can do today to try to share what it means to be loved by you and what it means to be a church that loves others. I'm asking for your glory and for your honor, that you would speak to our hearts right now. Lord, I believe if we can get this message, and we can walk in intimacy with you, and we can shun religion, and we can be the church that carries the gospel banner high, Lord I believe we can see a revolution. Lord, we need a church in town that all the religious folks would grumble, they'll let anybody in there. I can't believe they have no morals, they have no ethics, they have no nothing. And Lord, they'll be wrong as can be. Because we do believe that there's truth and we do believe that your words say certain things but what we do know is, God, it starts with your love when we were sinners. God help us to be that church that lives in your love and understands your love and reflects it back to others. I pray that that would be something we take out of here today that it reverberates around our head and we walk out of here differently than we came in. In Jesus' name, and everybody says, Amen.