Risk Week 3: The Holiness Lie
Many people, many Christians, live a normal, routine life, and most Christians are happy with that life. They don’t have to face adversity. They don’t have to live in guilt. They don’t have to deal with being rejected. It’s safe. It’s within the box. Play it cool and never cross the street to the other side. How’s your life? Somewhere inside, don’t you feel you were made for something more; something greater? What if you could shed the normal, mundane life? What if God wants us to live radical, invitational lives? What if just securing our eternity isn’t enough? What would it be like to get outside of the normal? What if God called us all to a life of risk? Would you take it? Can you imagine a seat on the front row of God’s amazing work? What if we are all called to reach out to others and live the invitational life? Would you take the risk? Would you jump?
Well, good morning to everybody, and also good morning to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. Let me let you into a little of insider, behind-the-scenes preacher stuff here before I get talking about what we’re doing in this particular series.
You know, I do my best every weekend when I preach to make sure that I say something that informs you, something that’s biblical. I pride myself on making sure that we do some work in Scripture and not just a bunch of stories or illustrations. Not that those are bad, but I want to make sure that we really work through Scripture. But, ultimately what I’m trying to do is to say something that will help transform your life so that you’ll leave differently than when you came in. It’s a big deal to me with, what I do and the messages that I speak and put together, that you feel that way and that you feel like, “Hey, that pastor at least really tries hard to deliver something every time he gets up.”
But, what’s interesting about this particular sermon – and I knew that as we were dealing with this series and I knew this particular sermon would be a part of this series – is this sermon is really an amalgamation of my 30-year walk with Jesus. So, it’s a mixture of the ups and the downs, the things that I’ve struggled through, and trying to put together who Jesus is with other various parts of my life, so on and so forth.
So, I say all of that to say that this is probably one that you really want to listen to. So, if you normally sleep during the 10:15 service, this would be maybe a good time to try to stay awake. But, let me tell you what we’re doing here. We’re in a series called “Risk.” The whole idea of this series is to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing that we’re called to do above everything else as Christians – the main thing – is we’re called to reproduce our faith into others. We’re called to make disciples. And it’s interesting that when you look at Jesus and what He said after He resurrected, you go to the Gospel of Matthew and what did He do? He took them up on a mountain in Matthew 28:19. Many of you all know that Scripture. You’ve memorized it.
He told them to go into all the world and make disciples. We see in the Gospel of Luke that He tells them after He’s reassured, “I want you to stay here around the temple until the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
And then, in Acts 1, which is the two-volume set of Luke – Luke wrote both Luke and Acts – Jesus says that when the Spirit comes upon you, what you’re going to do is you’re going to be His witnesses. In other words, you’re going to share your faith to the next generation. And, even in the Gospel of John, who writes a little bit stranger than the other Gospels – I think if you’ve read the three Gospels and you get to John, it’s a little bit of a different gig. At the end of John, Jesus breathes on the disciples and He says some words that seem a little unfamiliar about binding and loosing sin or whatever. What He’s basically saying is that your message that you go out and share with others is going to be a message of freedom fro sin or, when the hear the message, if they reject it, they will still remain bound in their sin.
So, every single Gospel, other than Mark that ends with everybody running around in verse 8, and then there’s those longer editions that people struggle with. “Was that in the Bible or not in the Bible?” So on and so forth. All the Gospel writers record to us that Jesus wants us to go and share our faith. So, that’s a big deal. It’s a big deal that when He rose from the dead, what He told us to do is to go share our faith.
So, what we’re doing in the series is simply this: We’re trying to keep the main thing the main thing. Because, really, sometimes we forget what that is or we lose sight of it. It’s so easy to do, to forget that what we’re called to really do as Christians is to share our faith. And it’s so easy to get distracted on that. It’s so easy for a church to become a country club. It’s so easy for us to sort of gather on the agendas and the things that we like and little doctrinal things that we like rather than understanding that at the end of the day, you and I are called to really reach other people with the Gospel.
And that’s a tough gig. Because, if you’re here – and especially if you’ve not been here for the messages – normally when a pastor gets up and starts talking about sharing their faith, or going out and making disciples, most people cringe. You know, the only other sermon in a calendar year that’s worse than sharing your faith is the sermon on giving, right? You know? It’s like, “Oh, great. Here we go. I hit the jackpot. I’ve got to share my faith.”
Because, most of us feel inadequate. Most of us feel like we can’t do the things that God has called us to do. And what I’m trying to do in this series is to convince you that that’s not true. You can be dangerous for Jesus just where you are. And I want you to know something. I am not here to preach a message of guilt in any way, shape or form. Our church name – I don’t know if you noticed on the way in – is not Guilt Community Church. It’s Grace Community Church.
So, I’m up here to inspire you, motivate you, encourage you to believe that God can really use you to do something great for His kingdom. I’m like a coach. You’re the stars. You’re the ones who slam the ball. You’re the ones who hit the puck into the goal. You’re the ones who kick the ball into the goal. I’m just the coach. I’m the guy that gets everybody up and says, “Hey, we’re going to go do this and do this.”
You’re the stars. You’re the ones that God has called to go do all the great things. He’s called me to do that too. But, as a pastor, my job is a little different when I’m doing what I’m doing here. When I step off the pulpit, I’m just like you. I’m called, as a Christian, to go do all the things that you’re called to do. But, as a pastor, I’m really called to encourage you and equip you to do the things God has called us all to do.
So, that’s what we’re trying to do in this series. So, today I want to talk to you and I want to get real and raw about some things that I struggled with when it came to sharing my faith. When I became a Christian at 17, radical wasn’t the right word for me. I had long hair, I would get T-shirts and I would put crosses in marker on them and Scripture on them. My Ford Escort that I had had “Jesus saves” across the windshield. You know? It was a really cool car. It had one of those electric seatbelts. You know? You’d get in and shut the door and “zzz.”
I tried to make that to be part of my car that was cool, and nobody thought it was cool because it was a Ford Escort. But, anyway, that being said, I believed it was my responsibility to tell everybody that I met about Jesus. So, my mom would send me to the grocery store and I wouldn’t come back for like five hours. And she was like, “What happened?”
I’d go, “Well, I was telling people about Jesus.”
See, the thing about the grocery store is people keep coming in. So, that milk was warm by the time I got home. Well, I grew up in a Holiness and Pentecostal denomination and I was out doing my thing. You know, being radical and reaching everybody that I could. Even in college I was doing all of those things. And it wasn’t long before somebody came along and said to me, “Make sure to keep yourself from the ungodly, Chip. Better make sure you keep yourself from the ungodly. Because, Chip, if you hang around the wrong people, you’ll become just like them.”
I started thinking, “Well, that makes sense. There’s truth to that, somehow. I know that there’s some truth there.”
So, it was like, “Wow. Okay.”
And then somebody would come along and go, “Hey, God’s standard is holiness. Chip, remember: When the angels are flying around God’s throne in Revelation, they’re not singing ‘grace, grace, grace’ and they’re not singing ‘love, love, love.’ They’re saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy.’ That’s God’s standard.”
I remember one time I said to a pastor, “But, Jesus hung out with all the wrong people.”
Like, “Yeah, that was Jesus. You can’t do what He did.”
It’s like, “Really? Wow. Okay. Wow. That’s awesome. Good deal.”
So, what happened in my life as a result is there was this wedge that sort of formed between my idea of personal holiness and the ungodly. And there’s plenty of Scriptures that I could find to support that view. Easy. It was very easy to support that. The idea of separating from the ungodly, the idea of getting away from the ungodly. You can see that. It’s sort of infested in all of the Protestant churches to some degree, because all of the Protestant churches, to some extent, really find their roots in the puritan experiment in the New England colonies as that sort of spread all over and different denominations came out of it and different people saw different things. There was this real emphasis on holiness.
You can see why we, as a church, have gone on the street corner and preached at people across the other street, because we don’t want to be tainted with their ungodliness. You can see why we’ve erected boundaries and said things to people.
“You can’t come in here. You’ve got to clean up before you get together.”
Because we don’t want to be conflicted with our holiness. And there’s no question that God wants you and me to live right lives. That’s not a debatable point. But, is that really what it’s all about? This idea of separation?
You know, when I think of separation, I think of this story. Many of you have been around church for a while. They do marriage conferences from time to time. You know? Somebody will get up and somebody that’s got a PhD or something, or a counselor, will hold these big marriage conferences. Or pastors will do it. They held this one marriage conference and what happened is they had everybody stand up in this auditorium and they said, “If you’ve been married for 10 years or less, will you sit down?”
A large majority of the people sat down and they all gave them an applause for being married for that long. He said, “20 years or less, sit down,” and they’d give them applause. “30 years or less?”
And of course, now the number standing up are going way down.
“If you’ve been married 50 years or less, sit down.”
And then it went to 55 years or less and there was only one couple standing up. So, the guy who was doing the conference said, “Hey, take them a microphone back there.”
He goes, “How long have y’all been married?”
He said, “We’ve been married for 51 years.”
He’s like, “Man, that’s awesome.”
Everybody clapped or whatever. He’s like, “Man, that’s fantastic. What did you all do for your 25th wedding anniversary?”
The guy said, “Well, I took my wife to Beijing.”
Everybody in the auditorium is going, “Well, of course he took her to Beijing. Like, if I could afford to take my wife to Beijing, our marriage would be good too. You know? They picked the one guy with all the money. Of course. It’s like The Bachelor. He’s got the private jet, probably the private island. No wonder they’ve been married for so long.”
And he’s like, “That’s fantastic. What did you all do for your 50th wedding anniversary?”
He said, “I went back and picked her up.”
So, this idea of separation is part and parcel of, unfortunately, the church and some of the ways that we define holiness. And it’s nothing new. It was rampant in Jesus’ day with the religious leaders. Listen: The Jewish leaders of Paul’s day genuinely believed they were doing God’s work. Nobody debates that. There’s not any scholars that get together and go, “You know, all the Jewish leaders of Paul’s day and Jesus’ day, they all knew they were frauds. They all knew that they were doing wrong.”
No. They really, genuinely believed they were doing God’s work. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. They missed it, but they really believed that they were doing God’s work. Secondly, out of fear of being polluted with the world, they used God’s Word to erect boundaries. They found Scriptures that they could pull out and say, “This is why we don’t eat with these people. This is why we don’t do with those people. This is why we don’t do this. This is why we don’t do this.”
Although, there were other Scriptures that said they should be lights to the nations. There were other Scriptures that said they should be a kingdom of priests to the nations. Even though there were those Scriptures, they chose those Scriptures because they didn’t want to be polluted by the world. They didn’t eat with certain people. They didn’t drink with certain people. They didn’t hang out with certain people. They didn’t do those things.
Their mandate for all of this was holiness. You see, God’s called us to be holy. And since God’s called us to be holy, we can’t hang out with certain people. We can’t do certain things. In fact, we know how stringent they were on this idea of holiness, because in the archeological digs that have been found throughout the years, we’ve found some of the plaques that hung on the outside of the temple.
This is what they read. I want you to feel the weight of this:
That means if you were like a Gentile. You weren’t a chosen person of God.
“No foreigner can enter the barricade which surrounds the temple and the enclosure. Anyone who’s caught trespassing will bear a personal responsibility for his ensuing death.”
If you come past this wall, we’re going to kill you because we believe in holiness so much. Can you imagine the Ethiopian eunuch that in Ethiopia had come to understand that maybe Yahweh was God, and he traveled all of those hundreds of miles to Jerusalem to come to the temple to worship this God that he was trying to find and, upon getting there, he can’t even go in because it says, “If you come past this wall here, we’ll kill you.”
That was not very welcoming. It surely wasn’t coffee cakes and coffee from Jennifer when you walk into Grace Community Church, right? They didn’t great you at the temple with, “Hey, baby,” or anything like that. In any way, shape or form. You know, we laugh and it’s funny, but the reality is when you think about it, at a lot of churches it’s hard to get in. At a lot of churches, you walk in and it’s unfriendly. I mean, we’re doing sort of the same thing, just not really thinking through the ramifications.
Well, Paul, who is a follower of Jesus and knew that Jesus hung out with all the people that you shouldn’t have been hanging out with, did the same thing. He was a tent maker. He’d go into a city, go down in the middle of the commercial section of the city, make tents and hang out with the commoners, the Gentiles, and he’d tell them about Jesus and they would come to follow Jesus. He did stuff like that in all kinds of cities. We know he did stuff like that in Ephesus, because he planted a church.
Here’s some of the stuff he would say to those people, those Gentiles, that if they’d gone to Jerusalem and couldn’t go in because they weren’t the right people – here’s what he said to them, because we have a recording of it in Ephesians:
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
You felt far off. You know how you felt far off? Yeah. You’ve been brought near by the blood of Christ.
“For He is our peace, who made both groups into one...” – both Jew and Gentile into one – “...and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”
Well, now you can understand how radical that statement is. Because, if you would have lived in that first century, you’d have known what that meant. He tore down the wall. He’s told everybody that they’re equal before God, that there’s only one group of people. There’s not two; there’s one. And He’s our peace. Well, the religious leaders of Paul’s day went wild. I mean, you can read that everywhere Paul went, it was either a riot or a revival, right? Often it was both. But, the Jewish leaders would be upset at him. The religious leaders would be upset at him because he was teaching something that was different from what they taught.
They taught, “We’re the special people of God, and they’re not. And they’re not allowed in because they do all the bad things. We’re going to separate ourselves and we’re going to be holy.”
Well, this all comes to a head. Paul goes to Jerusalem for a feast and, because Paul is a good man and he wants to reach both Jews and Gentiles, he decides to do a purification ritual, which is a Jewish ritual. He doesn’t feel like he needs to do this, he does this because he wants to win them to Christ. So, he’s in the middle of the seven-day ritual of purification, and we’ll join here in the book of Acts as Luke tells us what happened. You’ll see what’s going on here, because he meets some Jewish leaders from Ephesus on the way who recognize someone from Ephesus, and this huge problem ensues. Let’s pick up here in Acts.
It says, “When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia,” – that’s Asia and Asia Minor. That’s where Ephesus would have been, and we know that they were from the synagogue at Ephesus because they recognized someone here in a little, you’ll see, from Ephesus.
So, “The Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him.”
They’re like, “We know this guy. We know what he says. He says the dividing wall: Torn down. This guy says that everybody has access into the Holy of Holies and doesn’t even have to come to Jerusalem. This guy doesn’t say that we’re the chosen people of God anymore. He says that that’s open to everybody. This guy is a heretic. Seize him.”
“Crying out, ‘Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere...” – listen – “...against our people...”
“He doesn’t honor us anymore as God’s chosen people. He preaches against our people.”
“...and the law...”
“This guy actually says you don’t even have to keep the law to become a follower of Yahweh. He says, ‘You’ve just got to believe in Jesus and you’re in.’ This guy’s crazy. And he preaches against this place because he says there’s no dividing wall. Seize this guy. This guy’s taken away everything that’s important to us as the followers of God. This guy’s crazy. He’s a heretic. Besides, he’s even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”
Well, why would they say such a thing? Well, Luke tells us why.
He says, “For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesians with him in the city,”
They knew this guy. The people were from Ephesus. They knew this guy.
“And they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.”
Well, of course they would suppose that. If Paul’s running around telling everybody that the temple has no value anymore and that the wall’s been torn down and there’s no more dividing wall and Jesus is all that matters and he’s telling everybody that they’re the temple now, like he tells in 1 Corinthians where he says, “You’re the temple of the Holy Spirit,” I mean, this is some radical stuff. He’s reshaping everything.
“This guy’s crazy. Capture him.”
No wonder they thought that he’d brought Trophimus in. Why would he not?
“Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together. And taking hold of Paul, they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut.”
Check that out. They shut the doors of the house of God. They did it because they thought they were right. They did it because they thought they were holy. They shut the doors. Jesus said, “This place should be a house of prayer for all nations. Everybody should be welcomed here.”
They shut the doors. Why? Because they were holy. How often have we as Christians shut the door to people and told them to stay away in our pursuit of holiness? So, here’s the question: What is holiness? What does it mean to be holy? I mean, we probably could take a poll and get a bunch of different answers. What does it mean? What does it mean to be holy? Well, to do that, we ought to just go back to where God tells us what holiness is to begin with. I mean, that would make the most sense, right, when God just tells you exactly what it is? Rather than just finding a verse that says “holy” and you just decide what you want to make it to say, let’s go back to the very beginning.
In the book of Leviticus, God says, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Then He tells you what holiness is. And you know why we don’t know this chapter? Because Leviticus is the biggest deal killer for the Bible reading plan for the year, right? Can I get an amen? You get to Leviticus and you’re like, “Hello, Matthew. Come on, Matthew. Come on down, buddy. Or Mark. Or John. But, not this thing.”
I mean, seriously. We get through two chapters of pots, pans and some other stuff, and we’re out. We’re done. It’s like, “See ya.”
So, getting to Leviticus 19, you have to have a lobotomy to get that far in there. You know? So, we don’t even know these passages of Scripture because it’s like, “Man, who wants to read that book?”
I mean, just mention the word “Leviticus” and people cringe. It’s like they don’t even know it’s a biblical book. They think it’s like a cuss word, you Leviticus.
“Hey, don’t talk to me like that.”
You know? But, what happens is God tells us what it is to be holy. I don’t know about you, but wouldn’t you expect for Him to start telling you all the things that you shouldn’t do? He doesn’t. He tells you all the things that you should do. Tell you things that you don’t do. And do you know what else is interesting? It’s not even about you. It’s about how you treat others. Whoa. Let’s just take and expert. You can go home and read Leviticus 19. You’ll see. It’s one after the other of all the things that you do towards others and the way you respond to others.
The first thing, there’s nobody in the world that would’ve started off, when He said, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
The next verse, you would’ve never, ever, ever pinned. I wouldn’t have pinned it this way. Ever. Do you know what the next verse is?
Leviticus 19:3: “Every one of you shall revere his mother and father.”
It’s like, “Really, God? That’s what You’re telling us is holy? Revering our mother and father?”
Well, He continues on. It’s all about the way we’re treating others. Listen to what He says here in Leviticus 19:9:
“When you reap the harvest of your land,” – In other words, when you’re out in your wheat field, you reap the harvest of your land, don’t reap to the corners of the field. So, if this is your field, don’t go all the way to the corners. Leave a little bit on the corners.
You say, “Why am I going to leave a little bit on the corners?”
“Leave a little bit on the corners. Do you want to be holy? Leave a little bit on the corners. Don’t even gather the gleanings of your harvest. If stuff falls on the ground, don’t touch it.”
“Why am I not going to touch it, God?”
“Because I want you to be holy.”
Okay. Well, what else goes on here? Well, when you glean your vineyard, don’t gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard. You leave it there. Why? You leave it for the needy and the stranger.
“You mean, like, the foreigner?”
“The guy that might just stumble into my property?”
“Yeah. I want you to be holy. This is what you do to be holy. What you do is you realize: What do you make with wheat? Bread. What do you make with a vineyard? Wine. I want to make sure that they get my bread and my wine; they get my communion if they stumble into your land, because that land’s my land anyway. Do you want to be holy? Leave a little bit.”
It’s all through the chapter. It’s all through it. Treating others and doing things. It’s all about the way we treat others. Here’s another one. He says:
“Don’t take vengeance nor bear grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Hold on. We’re talking about holiness and now we’ve got love? We fight about those words. Like, “This is holiness. This is love.”
Not God. God says, “Look, man. This is what it is to be holy, man. You love your neighbor as yourself.”
What we realize here is that holiness is not what I don’t do. Holiness is the way I attribute dignity and value to others. So, the reason I don’t steal from somebody is not so that I can say I didn’t steal from somebody and so I’m holy. I’m holy because I value them as a human being created in the image of God, so much that I would never do that to them because I value them. That’s a lot different.
So, see, holiness is not what you don’t do. If holiness is what you don’t do, then check marks become performance indicators. God has never asked you and me to put on a performance for Him so that we can be His children. It’s not what you and I do that gets us into the Kingdom of God, it is what Jesus Christ has done for you and me. And what we do is we get our check marks, don’t we? And then what we do is we congregate amongst those who like the same boxes. We form denominations on the boxes. And then we can tell people who are not in, because they don’t have the right boxes checked.
Have you ever noticed that you don’t ever have a box called “gluttony?” Did you know that gluttony is called an abomination in the Old Testament? Did you know that 77 sins are called an abomination in the Old Testament? We only know one. Do you know why there’s 77? Because all of them are. Every single one of them. Every single sin is an abomination to a holy God. We only know one.
See, holiness can never be a performance. It can never be checking off the boxes. I mean, we don’t talk about or check off gluttony. We never talk about gluttony. I mean, I just went on a cruise. You want to talk about gluttony? You want to talk about who should split hell wide open? Do you want to talk about idolatry? Covetousness? Oh, no, no. That’d never be one of the boxes that we check off, because we look at other people and we want what they have. We don’t talk about those things. We talk about the things that we probably aren’t guilty of and then we accuse everybody else of all the things that they’re guilty of that we’re not guilty of. We play this performance game.
That’s what happens when holiness becomes what you don’t do. You can manage it. You can mange your own holiness, but not before God. See, what holiness is actually is is the spring from where why we treat people with dignity and value comes from. We talk a lot about “why” around here. Why do we do the things that we do? Because we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Why do we do First Friday? Why do we do it? Because we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
The “why” determines the “what.” Holiness is the “why.” It’s the spring that pushes you and me to want to engage in the lives of other people and to treat them with dignity and respect. And if you really are holy, you can turn the other cheek and love an enemy. Think about that.
So, let’s look at this for a second. All of these terms that we use, holiness, love, justice, righteous, and we argue about these all of the time. They’re all relational. Remember Joseph? It says, “Joseph was a righteous man.”
Why? Because he was going to put away Mary privately. He wasn’t righteous because he did everything right. He was righteous because of the way he treated Mary. See, holiness is the way we treat others. Love is the way we treat others. Justice is the way we treat others. All of these are relational. Everything is relational in nature, because God, in His very essence, is a triune being who lives in community in and of Himself. He’s relational in His nature. And relationship is what makes holiness, love, justice and righteousness have any meaning whatsoever at all.
So, see, when we come to Jesus, we go, “We’re supposed to follow Jesus. We’re supposed to be like Jesus.”
Jesus says, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”
Let’s look at Jesus. Let’s just look at how He rolled. It says, “It happened that He was reclining at the table in His house.”
This is when He’s asked Levi the Tax Collector to follow Him. You want to talk about radical? He asked somebody to follow Him who’s not even a believer. He’s a tax collector. He’s just so happy that somebody loves him. Man, if you were a tax collector in the first century, nobody loved you. You were like an IRS agent on steroids. Don’t act like when the IRS agent calls you’re like, “Hey, buddy. What’s up?”
You’re like, “Aww, man.”
These tax collectors, they were hated. Jesus says, “Hey, come follow me.”
This guy’s like, “Man, this guy’s asking me to follow Him.”
So what does he do? He throws a feast at Matthew’s house, and Jesus is reclining at the table. He’s hanging out with all the riffraff. And many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples. They were just hanging out. He’s reclining. He’s not there preaching at them. He’s hanging out with them. Why? Because He’s holy. Because He’s love. Because He’s justice. Because He’s righteous. And all of those are relational.
And this is the best part of all. The next verse, it may be one of the best verses in all of the Bible. Listen to what it says: “For there were many of them [tax collectors and sinners] and they were following Him.”
They weren’t believers. They were just following Him. That’s why if you’re here today you can belong here at Grace before you believe. Let me say that again: You can belong here before you believe.
You say, “Oh, I don’t know about that, man; that holy stuff and whatever.”
Let me ask you a question: When did Peter become a believer? Well, we know. Matthew 16 when Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father which is in heaven. You know that I am the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
What does that mean for before Matthew 1-16 and what was going on? He was following Jesus. See, we’ve got all of these ideas. Jesus’ grace and mercy is extended to these people before they’ve ever made a moment of repentance. Before they’ve ever made a moment of wanting to change their ways, Jesus is loving them and hanging out with them. And let me tell you something. Hear me and hear me well: When I talk to people out in the world and I’m at the mall, the gas station, and I ask people and we start talking about Jesus and all of those good things, when I listen to them, they tell me, “The reason I don’t go to church and the reason I don’t believe in God is because I don’t believe He could love someone like me.”
Listen: If you’re there today and you don’t believe God can love you, hear me: He loves you with an everlasting love. He loves you with a love so much that He nailed His Son to a cross to bring you home. And what did the religious leaders do? What did they do? They said, “Oh, why’s He doing this? Wrong people. Can’t be holy doing this.”
Jesus says, “Guys, it’s not those who are healthy that need a physician, but the sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners. If you guys knew where you were at, if you knew your shape, you’d saddle up to the table with all of us here and let me give you some love and grace.”
Receive that today. Receive that today. God does love you.
So what are the take-homes? These are the things that – if you want to write down or take notes or whatever, I’ll be quick here. These are the take-homes. Write these down. Put these down on your sheet of paper.
The first thing is don’t let your pursuit of holiness keep you from the main thing. What’s the main thing? To share our faith. Who do we share it to? To people. Don’t let your pursuit of holiness keep you from the main thing. Ask yourself: Am I a reservoir or am I a conduit? Am I someone who goes, “Oh, I’m special. God saved me. I know that I’m in. Thank You, God,” but towards everybody else you look down your nose a little bit at them and you can’t believe they’d do the things that they do?
Okay. If that’s the case, you’re a reservoir; you’re not a conduit. What about this: Are you a stumbling block or a stepping stone? Your brand of Jesus, is it a stumbling block or a stepping stone? You can go read Luke 15. It says that all the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus, and the religious leaders grumbled. Why did they gather around Jesus? Because He made them feel like they had value. The more this church makes people feel like the have value and dignity from their Heavenly Father, the more we will continue to grow and attract people into this church, because people are desperate for that.
The second thing I would say to you is this: Ask yourself, “How many tax collectors and sinners am I close with? How many people do I know that are just pagans?”
What happens is, as Christians, we come into the faith and, before long, it’s not too many years until all the friends that we have are Christian. We get insulated. And then we forget the main thing and it becomes all about the other things that are important to us, rather than the main thing. The main thing is to reach people for Jesus.
So here’s my PC advise here. Some good ol’ PC advise here. Some of you are going to laugh when I say this, but I want you to really take it home and think about it. Here’s my advice to you. This is what I want everybody to do: Get yourself some hell-dipped, pagan friends. That’s what I want you to do. That’s exactly what I want you to do right here. Right there. Get you some of them. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re going, “Yeah, but what happens if whatever?”
Okay. That’s because number three is true. Remember this: A strong home base – which is a church; a church that’s doing the right thing – will keep you from becoming like the world, but remind you to be engaged with it. One of the greatest reasons to come to church is for that reasons. It’s to make sure that you’re taught and equipped so that you can go out. It’s a bloody battle out there. You’re going to get hit. You’re going to get knocked out. You’re going to get bloodied if you go out there in the field of battle for the King of King’s and the Lord of Lord’s. But that’s why we do what we do here, so we can equip you, suture you up, get you a better helmet and some more shoulder pads so that you can go out there and win some people for Jesus, because I believe with all of my heart that God has called us to this moment.
Listen: This building – I mean, let’s just be for real. Most people pull into Grace Community Church in this back part of a commercial building and the first thing they think if they’re a visitor is, “This is a cult.”
That’s what they think. That it’s a cult. They play with snakes and they cut off rooster heads. That’s what they’re thinking when they pull up. That’s exactly what they think. And we’ve done the best we can to make this as best as we can. But let’s not joke our self here. There’s no reason in the world that we should be growing the way we’re growing. There’s no reason that we should come up here with 60-70 people and in just a few short years have over 1,000 people on the weekends. That’s God. And that means we have a responsibility. And if God’s moving, that means He wants to do something great. What He wants to do is He wants to change Lakewood Ranch. Stop trying to change everything else that you can’t change. Change the thing that you can.
We spend all of our time trying to change Washington. That is a broken machine. My God. Man. Why don’t we do something that we can actually take hold of, like First Fridays, book bag drives, reaching out to people at UTC Mall and passing out water to people running races? And be intentional neighbors that reflect Christ and watch God drag people into His kingdom, because the one thing He loves: If your eyes are on Jesus, Jesus’ eyes are on people.
Man, I want to make it so hard to go to hell in Lakewood Ranch. We can do this, and God can use you. Every single one of you, you can be dangerous for Jesus. And I want you to believe that with all of your heart and I want you to engage. Let’s go do something great. Let’s slide into heaven on eternity day and go, “Man, that was a ride, baby. Woo!”
Let’s pray. I might start preaching if I don’t pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your love and Your mercy. I thank You, Lord, for Your sovereign work that You’re doing here in our midst. Lord, I pray that right now what You would do is You would encourage and embolden all of Your children to let them walk out of here knowing that they can be used by You to do great things. Every single person that’s in this auditorium right now.
Lord, if there’s anybody in here today that is not sure where they’re at with God or not sure where they’re at with Jesus or not even sure why they even came to church today, Lord, I pray that what they would leave here with is knowing that You love them with an everlasting love and You want them to come home so much that You sent Your Son, Jesus, to make that happen.
And Lord, for us that are Christians in this room at attenders of Grace, I pray, God, that You would really strengthen us and encourage us to go reach out in ways that we never have before and to take a risk to reproduce our faith into the next generation.
So Lord, I pray that as we leave today You would watch over us and protect us, lead and guide us, and bring us us back safely to when we meet again for Your glory and for Your honor. And Lord, I pray that You would embolden us to reach out to our neighbors and our friends, and those that are around us, and bring them, Lord, to church so that they too can hear a great message about who Jesus is as He’s lifted up here at Grace every single weekend.
Lord, we love You and thank You for all the things that You’re doing in our lives. We thank You for Your goodness and Your mercy that You’ve shown to us. We love You for it. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “amen.”
Give the Lord a big handclap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great weekend.