Hot Mess Week 1: Chutes & Ladders
How about giving it up for the creative team, huh? We're starting a new series called "Hot Mess," and I want to tell you a little bit about the genesis of how this sort of all comes together. Because, there's a lot of planning and effort that goes into what we do. Believe it or not, the creative team has shot five different videos at different houses. Thank God that Esty Downes did that rather than coming to our house, because our house is worse.
Anyway, the reality is that towards the end of last year, I started thinking through how I wanted to develop 2017 for Grace. And I knew at the beginning of the year we'd be talking about some of the things that were important during the Reset series. But, I knew that the very first series that I wanted to do was going to take into account some things that are really, really a burden to me and that I'm passionate about. You may not know this or you may know this, but the American church is in decline. When you look at the statistics, we're in decline. As a pastor, that bothers me. It bothers me to see God's Church not growing. It bothers me to see people finding that the Church is not relevant to them.
So, as I was putting this together knowing that I was going to come out of the gates right after Reset with a message that I felt was so important for all of us, because I wanted to talk about real life transformation; one of the things that the American church does not seem to be happening in it. We've got a lot of people that will tell you what we should believe, like belief systems, but we don't see a lot of change in people's lives. And when you look at the Scripture and you look at people that follow Jesus and you look at the early Church, what attracted people to them was not what they told people to believe. They didn't even have a Bible for 300-400 years. It was the transformation that people saw in the lives of those that followed Jesus.
So, I wanted to come out of the gates with a series that would bring real life transformation to us. Well, in the process of putting this together and making this series and compiling all the information to do each sermon for the week, I started reading a book called "Rise of the Nones."
Now, some of you all, if you're Catholic, you're thinking N-U-N-S. That's that what I'm talking about. It's the rise of the "Nones." They are the largest religious affiliated group in America at 20%, and what they believe is this: We're not shut down to the idea of God, but we are not going to church at all because it's completely irrelevant to our lives. And that group continues to grow in America at a very rapid rate. When I read that book, already with the fact of the passion and burden that I have for what I was going to speak on, it just became a thing for me that I said, "Man, this is a real timely, timely, timely message."
So, here's what I'm going to say. We've put a lot of time and effort into making this series great. If after this weekend you feel like I've said something that really speaks to your life, I'm going to ask you to make a commitment to be here for the next four weeks, because I really believe we're going to see some massive transformation in our church and in our lives.
So, here's what we're going to do today. I'm going to start off and tell you what I'm going to try to accomplish over the next five weeks. I'm going to give you sort of a big idea overview. Then what I'm going to do is I'm going to explain how we've gotten to the place that we've gotten as a church and when I say that the Church in America, how we're in a place where people don't even see us as relevant and don't even want to be a part of what's going on. Then, what I like to do at the very end, I want to talk about a couple of terms that I think we need to look at and tweak, and I think that'll peak our interest going into the next four weeks.
So, that's what we're going to do and I really hope that you will enjoy this. Especially if you're new. If you're new here, this is a great time to be here. Many of you, maybe, have come in and you haven't been to church for a long time. You're probably going to hear me say some things today that you've never heard said in church. And I just want to be up front. Sacred cows make the best hamburger meat. So, we're going to get raw and real here. And I also want to welcome all those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. Welcome. We're glad that you are here. Even those who watch in Seattle, Washington. We have a group that meets in Seattle. So, maybe we want to give them a hand clap. We're glad to have you watching us. Sort of cool. Like, man, this stuff is going everywhere.
So, anyway, here's the deal. These are the two things that I want to accomplish over the next five weeks as a church, and I hope that we will all learn. First of all, I want us to learn that Christianity is not performance based, but is relational in nature. And some of you may go, "Well, I get that."
Well, I'm not sure that we do. I think we understand the cliché. I think we understand the, "Yeah, it's not what I did. I get that part. It's about grace or whatever."
Here's the deal though: You can't reproduce something that you aren't. And what we're reproducing out in the world when people are asked about the Church, they say, "What's the Church about?"
"Well, you don't do this and you don't do that. You don't do this."
We know what they're against. So, even though we may say that we don't believe that Christianity is performance based, I'm not convinced that we live that out. What I want to do is make it not a cliché. I want to make sure that it's something that is downloaded in you and me. Christianity is based solely on the performance that Jesus Christ did for you and me. It's not based on what we do, and it's relational in nature.
I'm hoping over the next five weeks we can move from seeing God as tolerating us to learning to see God as desiring to spend time with us. Now, if we can get that, that's great. But, there's something else that we've got to get. Because, even if we know that we know that we know that it's not a performance based thing, that it's not what we do that makes us a Christian, that's going to be one element. But, the other element is this: To embrace the fact that every single one of us is a hot mess. The religious people, they squirm and they're like, "Oh, brother. I'm sanctified. I've got it together."
Let me tell you something: You don't. Nobody in here has it together. If you were to come into my life – I'll use my life – and see everything that I said, everything that I did, every way that I interacted with my kids or my wife or everything else, you would find stuff to throw at me. Because, especially if you think it's performance based, you could probably kick me out of the Kingdom of God. Here's the deal: If everybody was able to get into your life and look at what you look at on the internet when nobody's around, the way you talk to your spouse, they way you treat people when you're driving down the road and all of those things, the way you tip when you leave a tip at the store, the deal is if people were able to look at us, they would realize our lives are not together.
Every one of us is a hot mess. And I love how the dictionary defines hot mess. It says, "A person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful." Isn't that great? I mean, not a little bit. Spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered. I mean, it's like, "Yeah, that's right."
And the second part is even better: "Especially one that is a source of peculiar fascination."
It's like, "Man, it's so bad I want to watch this. This is good stuff."
Every single one of us – you don't have to embrace it. We don't like to do it in the church. You know? We like to roll in like, "I've got it all together. Me and God, we're good, man."
Then you get in the car and you're yelling at your wife and the kids are going crazy and all of this stuff. We've learned how to put on the facades and the veneer and nobody wants to talk about this stuff or whatever. But, the fact of the matter is Christianity is not based on a performance. It's based on a relationship. Every one of us is a hot mess, but we are God's beloved mess. And that's important.
So, if we can get those two things, I think what's going to happen is we're going to see some real life transformation. But, it needs to be something that gets downloaded into you and me. Let's talk about how we got to the place that we're at. I bet nobody here knows what this is. If you do, that's pretty cool. This is an Indian game. It's been played for hundreds and hundreds of years. By Indian, I don't mean Tonto, part of the Lone Ranger, Indian. I mean Indian over in India, you know, in the eastern part of the world.
The deal is this game was based on virtues and vices. So, if you did good and you did the right thing, you moved down the board game to when finally you got up here to bliss, because you did all the right things. If you did the wrong things then you went backwards, and that's what these snakes were. They were things that took you back. And some of us have been like, "Yeah. I've had one of those."
And some of you are like, "I had one of those in my life one time."
Well, this game was presented to Milton Bradley in 1940. They looked at it and they were like, "Yeah. That's just not going to work in America. That's just not going to work."
So, what they did is they decided to make a board game – it came out in 1943 – called Chutes and Ladders. Now, I know some of you all are going, "Are we playing games in church? Can we get Tom back?"
The deal is it was Chutes and Ladders. Although it was an exciting up and down game for little children, imbedded in it was this virtue and vice thing. If you look here at the ladders and you land on a square with a ladder, you get to go up the ladder. Wherever you're at on the ladder, whatever the person's doing at the bottom of the ladder is something good. At the top of the ladder is the reward. So, you do good and you get something. Right? Well, at the top of the chutes or the top of the slides, somebody's doing something mischievous. It's a vice. And, because you do that, you slide down and then you reap what you sowed at the bottom of the slide.
Well, this speaks to something that all of us understand. If you teach philosophy or theology like I do, you hear a word called "world views" or what we call "noetic structures," from nous, the Greek word for mind. Noetic structure is the way you see the world; your worldview. And here's the way all of us grew up. Every single one of us, not anybody in here didn't grow up this way. You grew up where if you do good, you get a reward. If you do good, you do good. Life's going to turn out good. You say it to your kids all the time. Do the right thing. Do the right thing. Life's going to end out good. If you do the right thing, do the right thing, life's going to end up good. You're going to do the good.
Then, if you do bad, if you don't do the right things, what's going to happen is you're going to end up in a bad situation. So, do good and everything's going to turn out good. Do bad and it's not going to end up good. What happens is we grow up and, as we take that worldview and it gets into the blender with life, all of a sudden something starts to happen. The do good, do good, do good ends up in a divorce. Or the do good, do good, do good ends up with a kid who's killed or lost. And you go, "What's going on?"
And that's where people go, "This isn't fair."
The reason they say it's not fair is because you believe and I believe, at some level, that if we do good, we do good, we do good, we get a reward. And if we do bad, we do bad, we do bad, we don't. Then we go through life and we see people that do bad and they win. And we see people that do good who don't. And what that creates is a problem for everybody. But, nobody wants to talk about it. What we do is just talk about, "Yeah, everything's good, man. It's all great."
Then you find out, "They got a divorce? We didn't even know."
Because, nobody wants to talk about problems. So, most of the world has to cope because it's not fair and we don't know what to do. We can't go, "Man, I feel gypped," because I think somehow, deep down inside, if I do good, it should be the right thing. I mean, it shouldn't be that way. That doesn't make sense. So, I've got to cope."
And what happens is we turn to drinking or serial dating or addictions or whatever else new thing today. And there's nothing against exercising, but people want to even turn to that and get all in that. And I want you to know that I decided at the first of the year I was going to lose 20 pounds. I've got 38 to go. Come on, now. So, anyway, the deal is that people get all caught up in all of that stuff. And what we're doing is we're trying to cope. It's like, "We don't know what to do, so we're going to go do something to sort of get away from the fact that there is a problem."
Well, some people here walk into a church or they walk into a synagogue or they pick up a spiritual book or maybe another religion. And somebody comes along and says, "I've got the answer to your problem. The answer to your problem is God."
And, all of a sudden, to the worldview and to life we add religion. We put that in there and we spin everything around. And, all of a sudden, we're trying to do good, trying to do good, and it's not working out and we don't want to tell anybody we've got problems. But now we're going to serve God and God's going to help us out. But, God's got sort of a list of things that we need to do too. So, we start trying to do those things and we realize that we can't do it. But, we can't really talk to anybody about it. Because, if we talk to somebody about it, we might not be in because it really is performance based even though we say that it's not. And we can't talk about it. And now what we've got is problems on steroids. And nobody wants to talk about it.
So, what happens is some people walk out completely. And all littered through Lakewood Ranch are people that said, "Hey, I was at a church one time. I put my hand in the air. I did the Jesus thing. It was miserable. I'm out."
Some of us go, "Well, we'll stay in this thing. We'll stay in this thing."
And we're in long enough, maybe we switch churches or maybe we hear something or somebody turns us on to some pastor and, all of a sudden, we hear this message that says, "Oh, man. God loves us. That's going to be the answer. Now I've got the answer. I know my worldview thing is not working out very well. I'm doing some things. It's not always working out and sometimes the bad things don't work out. They even work out better than the good things. I'm not quite sure how that works because it doesn't seem like it's right. But now I'm serving God. I'm trying to do the God thing. But, I'm not really doing the God thing very well. But, I can't tell anybody because if I tell anybody that I’m not doing the God thing very well, they might not think I'm actually in the God thing. So, I don't want to tell anybody that's going on. But, now I've found grace which means God loves me, which means that I can sort of do the bad thing even though I'm not supposed to do the bad thing. But, God can love me in the process and I can do whatever."
And you go, "Man, what's going on there?"
That's just called schizophrenia and nobody wants to talk about it. Every once in a while you get somebody in the office and, seriously, it's sad. They come in and say, "Pastor Chip, I'm trying to serve God. I'm trying to live for God. But, man, I'm a mess. And I'm not quite sure if I'm saved. I'm not quite sure. I mean, I don't want to tell anybody this."
It's sad. So, what happens is some people just walk out completely, and Lakewood Ranch is littered with people that got ahold at one time of Jesus, religion, God or something, learned a little bit about grace and they said, "It doesn't work. It doesn't work at all. I'm done. Done, done, done."
Some people, though, do what about 85% of the Church has done. This is where 85% of the Church is at. We're living in this world that we know we're trying to live up. We can't. We don't know what to do. We're struggling. We don't look any different than anybody in the world. We're just as nasty and mean as them. The only deal is we've got our things right. So, here's what we do: We create the doctrinal system or the checklist. And that's the answer for us. For most of the Church, that's the answer. The answer is, "Well, I vote this way and I see this way on a social issue. I read Genesis this way and I've got that."
And that becomes a get out of jail free card. No transformation in life. You've just got the right system. And people in the world are going, "Why would I want your stuff? You're just as nasty as I am, you're just as broken as I am. You're just as much of a hot mess as I am and you're going to tell me the answer is I just have to believe a couple of things the way you believe and I'm in now?"
And because we hold on to that – because, see, if any of those checklists aren't right, by the way, like, if we were wrong, we're in trouble. Because, we put everything that we have on that. Because, we can't live with this other stuff. And we can't talk about it. We can't talk about the fact that we're broken and everything, because then people won't think that we're in. Because, it's all based on performance. Even though we say it's not, it is. We hold on to that checklist. And you see it so much right now. Christians absolutely ripping one another for belief systems as if those belief systems would change your life.
And I want to say something. I'm going to tell you right now: I'm not here to build a church for Chip Bennett. I gave that up a long time ago. I'm here to build His Church. You're not my people; you're His people. This isn't my church; this is His Church. And I'm going to tell you right now: Grace Community Church is never, ever, ever, ever going to get in the political trench. I want you to know that Democrats and Republicans are both welcome here, because we're not about politics. We're about Jesus. And everybody gets all bent out of shape, gotta do this, gotta do that, as if the guy on the cross, when he's hanging there and says, "Jesus, can I enter into the Kingdom with You," and He's like, "Well, how'd you vote in the last Palestinian election, dude? What's your stance on this social issue?"
None of that. But, because we don't want to talk about the situation that we're in and we don't want to talk about the fact that we're trying to live up and we're not and we can't share it because then we're not in. We create these systems and we fight for them and we're nasty and the world looks at you and me and they say, "You mean I want to come there and listen to you tell me all these things that I have to believe and that's it?"
Because, see, that's not the way the early church did it. But, we create these doctrinal systems. I'm going to poke a little fun here a little bit. I mean, we've got crazy ones. We've got stuff like did Adam have a belly button? People are like, "You've got to believe he had a belly button? If you don't believe he had a belly button, man, I'm going to tell you right now you don't believe in the Bible."
It's like, "Really? That's the deal?"
Like, all the way to installing rapture hatches on people's houses. And you're like, "Is the rapture hatch a thing?"
It sure is, because you don't want to let pesky roofs and ceilings keep you from the loving arms of the Lord, right? Come on. The religious people are crawling right now. You know? Somebody's in here for the first time in a long time and they're going, "This is the church for me, man. This guy's stepping all over it."
We're going to go from 1,000 to 15 tomorrow. It'll be like start-up again. Anyway, that's where we're at. And now, because we're so impotent and all of that stuff, we are the most ripe for the most egregious teachings that have hit the Church, and it's running through the Church like crazy right now. Because, everybody's tired of the stuff. Nobody knows the answer. So now what we've got is we've got people running around teaching a warped sense of grace.
"Oh, God just loves everybody, man. He just loves everybody. Everybody. Grace, grace, grace, grace, grace. Grace, grace, grace, grace, grace. Just grace, grace. Man, grace, grace, grace, grace. He loves."
And you're going, "Yeah, but, you know, there's some things in the Bible where God's like holy..."
"That's not what it means. Not what it means. It's grace. God loves everybody. Everybody."
And you're going, "Yeah, but Uzzah touched the cart and he died."
"Oh, that's old covenant. Old covenant. Old, old, Old Testament. Old Testament."
And you're going, "Yeah. But in Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira lied and God struck them dead."
"Acts 6. Move out of there. Move to Acts 6."
You're going, "Yeah. But, when the Lord's in Heaven and they're flying around, they're not going, 'Love, love, love,' or, 'Grace, grace, grace.' They're saying, 'Holy, holy, holy.'"
People are going, "Yeah, that's not what it means though. Just God loves."
And see, here's the deal: While you have believed this maybe, there's no transformation. I've never met anybody that has a warped sense of grace that does anything. Because, when you say, "Let's go do something," they go, "La, la, la. Don't put that on me. Don't put that on me. Don't tell me what to do. Don't tell me."
And you're going, "Dude. The whole Bible, the whole New Testament is all about living an ethical life; living a life of transformation."
"Oh, yeah. Don't put that on me."
Here's the deal: While they're alleviating some real pain in people's lives – and it is real pain – they've sacrificed real life-transforming change as a result. And there you go. That's what we have to work with in the Church right now. That's your buffet of what you can pick and choose. And you wonder why the "nones" are rising? Because, they go, "I don't want any of that. None of that. None of that looks like biblical Christianity. None of it."
So, what do we do? Well, what were going to do here is we're going to start a journey and a dialogue over the next four weeks after today. So, what we're going to do this morning is we're going to talk about two terms that I don't even think we know what they mean anymore. You put 15 people in a room and ask them about this and you'll get 39 different opinions.
"What's sin? Well, it's not really sin. It's sort of sin, but not really."
Have you seen the Matrix? It's like this is what they're saying: "Have you seen the Matrix? It's sort of like it is, but it's not. It's sort of like... but it's not really. We're all sort of good, but not really sin. It's sort of there. Have you read Buddha? You know, it's like sort of there, but it's not."
"Well, what's grace?"
"Well, I think that's the pastor's daughter's name. And, well, it's something like this. God loves you, but I'm not quite sure."
So, since we don't really even know what these terms are – because we don't – we just sort of create floundering as a people. What do the original people say about this? How about Paul? What did Paul say? What did Paul say about the human experience? Here's what he says. He says, "All have sinned. Everybody."
Like, he's not trying to win a popularity contest or anything. He's like, "Everybody's sinned."
Well, what's sin? The Greek word means to miss the mark. I've never had anybody say, "I've hit every mark in my life, baby. Every single one of them. I've never made a mistake at all."
I'm like, "Really? How about the test you took in school? Was it like a 98%? That's missing the mark."
"Well, yeah, yeah."
Everybody knows that. He says, "All have sinned."
This is past tense, too. He's like, "We've all done it. And, we continually fall short of the glory of God."
What's the glory of God? Well, every time the glory of God shows up, everybody's on their face. Jesus shows up and Peter's like, "Depart from me. I'm a sinful man."
Isaiah, the Prophet, who speaks the Word of God, sees the Lord high and lifted up in Isaiah 6 and he says, "Man, touch my lips, man. They're dirty. When I see how holy You are. Man. It couldn't be worse."
See, Jesus told the parable to a Pharisee about the woman that He had forgiven. He says, "You know, dude, when you think that you've been forgiven a little, you love a little. But, when you realize what you've really been forgiven of, you love a lot."
What we do is we look and go, "Yeah, man. I've probably done a few things. But, dude, have you seen the stuff on TV? I mean, those people are whack. I would never do that."
That's called pride. Let me put this in 2017 terms. We may not exhibit our hot mess in the same way as others, but the seeds of the hot messes that we see in others are in us as well. That's why Jesus said before you start telling everybody how to live, maybe you ought to yank the plank. The problem is that plank never goes away. We're always a hot mess.
And he says, "Let me tell you how it is. Let me explain to you how it is. Sin came into the world through one man."
You've seen those movies where people are on an airplane and somebody sneezes and the snot rocket goes out or whatever. You know? Maybe I shouldn't say that. Y'all are like, "Man. He'd say that in church?"
The technical guys are back there going, "Can we delete that scene?"
But anyway, somebody breathes in and it gets in them and then it's a contagion that's going. Paul says, "You may not quite agree or understand, but here's the deal: This problem that we've got? It come through one man. It's like a contagion and death through sin. So, death spread to all men because everybody sinned."
He's like, "Even if you don't believe the contagion part, you've done it. So, you have to ask where did it come from."
Well, he's telling you it came from a contagion. It spread. Everybody's got it. Everybody's got it. Everybody's got the same level of it. Just because you don't exhibit it the same way someone else does doesn't mean the seeds aren't there. Whoa, what a difference we would live in the Church if we got ahold of that message. We might have a lot less judgment for other people, might we? He says, "It's bad. It's really, really, really, really bad."
If that was the message, we could all just tune out and leave. But he says, "That's not it. I've got to show you how bad it is. Because, if you don't get how bad it is, you're not going to understand what we call the "good news." Because, the good news is only good news if you've really got some bad, bad, bad news to go with some really, really good news. And here's what he says. He says, "See, the free gift that God wants to give you isn't like that. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more greater have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many."
He says, "Check this out. Look here. The result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but God's free gift leads to our being made right with God even though we are guilty of many sins."
What he says is, man, this grace thing, it's greater than you could even imagine. It's greater than your past, your secrets, your shame, your arrogance and all that stuff that we don't want anybody to know. God knows. And see, for us to be truly loved, we have to be truly known. And we think if our spouse knew this thing or if our friends knew this thing, they wouldn't love us. And you know what? That may be very correct. But, God knows every single thing you've done. He knows you and I's hot mess and He said, "I've got grace that's greater."
But, it doesn't stop there. It's even greater than that greater. Because, the grace that's greater than all of our issues and problems is also greater than our excuses to not live a transformed life. It's greater. And for us to get moving in a life of transformation, we're going to have to understand the depths and the heights of these things. And what we're going to have to do over the next four weeks is dialogue about what this really is. Not what maybe we've heard or we read in a book or we watched on a DVD or it made us feel good. What is it? Mixed with new life. Not just life, but new life. That God's given you a new life. There's a new Chip Bennett. There's a new you. The life I now live I live because of what Jesus has done for me. There's a new life in me. I'm a new creation. Something has changed in me.
What is that new life? And what's this new worldview? It's not longer "do good, do good, do good, do good and things will happen" or "do bad, do bad, do bad and things won't." The new worldview is God says, "I want to spend time with you relationally."
And if anybody's ever been in a good relation in their life, you know when you're really tight in that relationship, things are easy. Flowers come naturally. Notes come naturally. But, when that relationship is broken, it's a grind. It is an absolute grind. God says, "I want you to get a new worldview."
And what's going to happen is you're going to get some hope and transformation in your life. Paul says it this way: "I used to think I was pretty good. I had the thing with all the sin and all that stuff. I was on top of the world. I did it all right. I had it all good. Until I met Jesus. Formerly, I was a blasphemer. I was a persecutor and an insolent opponent. One time, I thought I was really good. One time, I thought I had it together. But, when I met Jesus and I saw what was really going on, I realized how bad off it was. I received mercy because I'd acted ignorantly in unbelief and the grace of our Lord Jesus overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
"See, this was massive. I mean, when I realized where I was at, man, it was not good. I thought I was good. I thought I had it all. I had the checklist down. Man, when I really came to understand, I realized how much this grace cascaded over me and flooded my life. So, you can take this home. You can take this to the bank. This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That's why He came. He came to save sinners, of who I am the foremost."
I can say, as your pastor, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of who I am the foremost. The reason I can say that is because I realize the seeds that are in me. I understand the depths of my own depravity and I realize that everybody's on the same level playing field. Jesus came for all of us, of whom we all are chief. And he says the reason he does this is because when people see this, He might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. He says, "The change that happened in me, not only did it go from me seeing where I was at, but it changed me completely. It changed everything about me. I gave everything I had at that point to the Lord. I didn't do it to gain something. He'd given me the things I need. But, I realized what this grace was all about and it transformed me."
I want to dialogue with you all about that transformation over the next four weeks. But, if you didn't hear a word I said, if you tuned out, if you didn't like what I had to say or it's daylight savings time and you needed to catch that hour back up in church or whatever, I'm asking you to lean in right here and just listen to this last thing I want to tell you.
Matt Chandler is a pastor. He tells a story when he was in school. He says he was sitting next to a lady that was considerably older than him and was a single parent. She was in a relationship with somebody outside of marriage as well. Even though she'd been divorced and was a single parent, she was sleeping with someone else. And he decided that she needed Jesus. So, he did what all good Christians do and told her he was going to take her to a concert and didn't tell her it was a Christian concert. Come on. Y'all have done that before, right? The little trick into the Kingdom.
"Put a bag over your head. Trust me. It's going to be really good."
Take it off.
We've all done that, right? Come on. All good Christians have pulled that one before. So, he takes her to this concert. The band's playing. It's a Christian concert. At the end of the concert, a guy gets up and starts speaking. He stands up and he goes, "I want to talk to you about STD's. I want to talk to you about this sexual freedom people have got today and all the promiscuity that's running around.
"Give me a rose."
He picks the rose up.
"Do you see this rose? Smell it. It smells good. Look how it is. Pretty, right? Here, pass it around the room to all the thousands of people here."
He goes and just starts railing.
"I can't believe people do this. I can't believe you would do this."
And Matt is like, "Oh, man. I can't believe I brought her here."
She's all hunched over and feeling humiliated. The pastor says, "Where's my rose?"
They bring the rose up and it's broken because it's been passed around and the petals are off.
He says, "See this rose? Who would want this rose?"
She just cowers down. Matt said on the inside of him, with everything that he had, he wanted to scream, "Jesus wants that rose. That's who wants that rose. Jesus does. He died for that rose. That's who wants that rose."
And that's the message of the Gospel. Every single one of us is a broken rose with petals off, and Jesus has come for you and me and He wants to change our lives and He wants the testimony of the changed rose to be your testimony. Not your belief system, but the transformation that He's done in your life. That's what the early Christians did and they changed the entire empire without a Bible. With just their testimony of what God had done in them.
Let's begin the conversation and the dialogue of how we go from a broken rose to God's beloved mess.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You right now and I ask that You would hover right now over this congregation. God, I pray that if there's anybody in here that's just going, "Man, I want to start a journey with Jesus. I really want to move forward. God, I feel something tugging at me." Lord, I pray that right now they would just say, "God, I want to move forward with You. I'm tired of living my life without You. I want to move forward with my life with You."
And Lord, I pray that they'd find somebody with a name tag, a pastor on staff or whatever and say, "I want to move forward. I want to get involved in next steps. I want to get baptized. I really want to get into this thing."
Lord, if there's anybody in here, I pray that would happen for them. But Lord, for the rest of us, I pray, God, that we would lay down all of this stuff that we bring in with us; all of the hot mess that we try to hide, that we would lay it down and that we would allow You to start working in us in a real way. In a way that we can start to say, "Yes, I am all of these things, God. But, Your grace is greater."
So Lord, I pray that that would be a reality for our church and that in five weeks this would be a much different place than it is right now, for Your glory and for Your honor. So Lord, I pray that as we leave today, you would watch over us and protect us, lead and guide us, bring us back safely to when we meet again for Your glory and for Your honor. Help us to drag some friends and family in, because they need to hear this wonderful message. I pray, God, that You'd go with us and help us to truly start to allow Your grace and Your Gospel to really transform our lives for Your glory. In Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him that you love Him. God bless everybody.