Scars: Pastor Tom Jones
No matter how hard you try to win at life, life seems to fight you every step of the way. You hit life, then life hits back. And when life hits back, it usually leaves a mark. What is the purpose of these marks — these wounds that dot the canvas of our lives? Is it just bad luck? Or, perhaps, is God up to something? Maybe it’s time to reconsider these marks — these words that life throws our way. Maybe they’re the stepping stones to something even greater. Maybe it’s time to embrace the power of our scars.
Today, we’re going to be talking a little bit about our scars. But before we do, I want to ask you a quick question. I’ve polled every service up to this. I just want to make sure. Our cool 10:15 crowd, I want to see where you stand in all of this. How many of you have already put down or committed to a New Year’s resolution? Raise your hand. See? This is the same. Every group is like four people out of hundreds. What has happened? Nobody likes New Year’s resolutions anymore. This is hilarious. We all need a support group or something to get past our resolutions.
Well, don’t worry. Don’t worry. I thought you would vote that way. So, I went on Google, which is always a great idea, and typed in “really good/funny/bad resolutions,” and it came up with this year’s Twitter top 10 New Year’s resolutions that Twitter put out. They thought they were good. I thought we could borrow their 10 resolutions.
So, as I call these out, if this is you, you can let me know. If you didn’t make a resolution, maybe you can. It’s not too late. You can make one now. Here we go.
Number 10: “My New Year’s resolution is to spend more time doing things that matter, like watching Netflix.” Who are my Netflix people? I know you binge watchers. You call in. “I don’t feel good today. I’m sick.” And you watch three years of some show.
Number 9: “My New Year’s resolution is to never again take sleeping pills and laxatives on the same night.” Yeah. That’s some pretty good wisdom there. I’d take that one with you. I love the way they lay this out.
Number 8: “My New Year’s resolution is to exercise... my right to eat more tacos.” I thought that was good. Who are my taco-eating people? We’ve got a couple of them. Alright.
Number 7: “My New Year’s resolution is to spend less time wearing pants.” I don’t even know what that means. I’ve really got to be honest with you. Somebody will have to explain that one to me later.
Number 6: “My New Year’s resolution is to take a walk every day, or at least briefly consider it.” That’s awesome, right? As long as I’ve thought about it, that’s all that matters.
Number 5: “My New Year’s resolution is to do less laundry and use more deodorant.” Okay. Well, I guess that’s being efficient in some kind of smelly way. But there you go.
Number 4: “My New Year’s resolution is to be more assertive, if that’s okay with you guys.” I love that one. That’s just awesome. Number 3 is actually my personal New Year’s resolution.
Number 3: “My New Year’s resolution is to help all my friends gain 20 pounds so I can feel better about myself.”
Number 2: “My New Year’s resolution is to leave all of my past behind me, so if I owe you money, I’m sorry, but I’ve moved on.” And, believe it or not, the Number 1 New Year’s resolution that happened to be on Twitter is Pastor Chip’s New Year’s resolution. So, I thought you would like to see this.
Number 1: “This year, I will spend less time feeling competitive and being jealous over other people’s talents — spirituality, greatness and speaking ability. And when I say ‘other people,’ of course I mean Pastor Tom.”
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for clapping what surely will be my last sermon I ever preach here. So, today, we’re going to be chatting for a few moments about scars. Let’s think about this for a second. We absolutely live in a world that celebrates perfection. You know? We use beautiful models and beautiful people to advertise our products and be our heroes on the big screen. I was even thinking about it. Back when I grew up, I grew up in an era in the 70’s and 80’s where at least a lot of the musicians looked like real people. Some of them even looked downright rough, didn’t they? We would listen to musicians that looked like they died a year ago, they just hadn’t laid down yet. You know?
But, today, I look at all these award shows and all these new musical stars and they’re all just beautiful people. You’re like, “Can you sing and you’re beautiful? Do you have everything?”
If you’re someone who, unfortunately, lives in 2018 with struggles of having imperfections in your life, not to worry, we have many multi-billion-dollar industries that will help you cover them up or cut them away, from the cosmetic counter all the way to the plastic surgeon’s operating table. If you have the money, honey, we have your solution because perfection, perfection, perfection is always the goal. It’s a little sad, but that’s where we are today.
Now, our passage for today can be found in the Gospel of John, in John 20. Now, I know we’re going from the opposite side of the spectrum because we just celebrated Jesus’ birth. It’s only been five days ago. But now, as we pick up this part in John 20, Jesus is dead. The disciples and all the followers of Christ have absolutely no idea what to do with themselves. As they recall, Jesus was supposedly going to establish some kind of earthly kingdom. He was going to straighten out the Pharisees, the Sadducees and all the Jewish leaders. He was going to kind of straighten them out or get them out of the way. Everybody thought He was going to completely obliterate the Romans, or at least make them their slaves. But now that none of that happened and now Jesus’ lifeless body just lays in a tomb, the movement is over, the supposed insurrection has been thwarted. They don’t know what to do. There’s only one thing left to do, and that is to run for your lives and hide. It’s right there where we pick up what the disciples are doing in John 20. We’ll be reading John 20:19-29 — excerpts of it — using the ESV.
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad...”
We this word “locked” a few times in the Gospels. They were locked behind doors and they were hidden for fear of the Jews because the disciples are absolutely terrified that the next crucifixion is going to be their own. See, Jesus wasn’t the first messiah that came and went. He wasn’t the first one they would’ve labeled a false messiah. Usually, when they finally tumbled these guys, they made sure they took everyone out who followed the false messiah. So, they knew the pattern. They knew the Jews were after everyone that followed Jesus. They were worried for their lives.
It says in the middle of this, “Jesus came and stood among them.” I prefer the translations that say, “Jesus appeared,” because there’s definitely an emphasis here that’s telling us the door is locked, nobody can get in, and then, all of a sudden, magically, mysteriously and miraculously, Jesus appears in the room. It’s definitely trying to show us here that there’s a miracle that happened that Jesus appeared out of thin air. It’s funny because Jesus doesn’t go right to the truth of the matter. He actually goes right to the proof of the matter. Before even saying anything besides “peace be with you,” He says, “Come on, guys. Come look. Come touch. Come see. Check out my scars. It’s me. I am who you say I am.”
I love the response here. It says, “The disciples were glad.” The scars of Jesus caused the disciples to truly believe. That’s what got them to believe that what was happening was real, the scars of Christ.
John 20:24: “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But Thomas said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’”
Do you know what’s funny? Throughout all of Church history, and even we ourselves, we call Thomas “the doubter.” But the Bible never calls Thomas the doubter. The only thing the Bible ever calls Thomas is “Thomas the Twin.” I don’t know why it needs to give us the information that Thomas is a twin, and we never find out any other information about his twin. Just that he is a twin.
Look what Thomas says. He says, “I’ve got to see. Unless I see the marks, unless I touch, unless I feel, unless I place my hands.” We start to get the idea why everyone calls Thomas “the doubter.” Right? He has to see. He has to touch. If he doesn’t see and if he doesn’t touch, he’s just not going to believe. I also thought from Thomas’ perspective it might be reasonable to ask for a little bit of proof to see the scars. Because, remember, he was a twin. Maybe, perhaps, what he was thinking was that Jesus may, somewhere out there, have a twin brother that, after Jesus 1.0 dies, Jesus 2.0 could show up and say, “I’m the messiah. I am Jesus.”
But the one thing that the second Jesus wouldn’t have, whether he was a twin or not, were all the scars that marked the crucifixion. Perhaps, maybe, that’s why Thomas wanted to see the scars. You know, another thing that I thought about while I was looking at this passage is Thomas is not a stranger to resurrection, so resurrection wouldn’t have been a big deal to Thomas. Now, stay with me here. If you remember just a few pages back, before Jesus’ death, Thomas was there when Jesus told the rest of the disciples that Lazarus had died. As a matter of fact, it was Thomas who told the rest of the disciples to follow Jesus to Lazarus’ tomb. If you recall, it was there that everyone witnessed a real, live resurrection.
So, Jesus even coming back to life wasn’t enough for Thomas. What would cause Thomas to believe was to see the scars.
John 20:26: “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.’”
Side note: I think it’s funny the disciples are still locking doors. You know? They’ve already seen Jesus. They believe now. They’ve crossed the line of faith. They’re believers, but they’re still a little afraid. So, there’s a boldness thing that is going to happen eventually that Christians are going to not care anymore about their lives. They’re going to run out there and testify, but not yet. The disciples are still locking the doors. And I know they’ve seen Jesus alive. This boldness thing is hard for them. It’s just going to take a process. I love, here, how Jesus goes straight to Thomas’ doubt. Don’t you? He looks straight at Thomas and says, “Come here. Put your finger here. Put your hand here. Come and see.” And I love this part, the next part, what Jesus says to Thomas.
Jesus says, “‘Do not disbelieve, but believe.’”
And I love John 20:28: “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
And I love this. The literal Greek translation for the words that Jesus says to Thomas is, “Thomas, stop your unbelieving and start believing.” I love that. Stop your unbelieving and start believing. And it’s cool that we get to witness Thomas, here, cross the line of faith. Isn’t it? I mean, there’s this moment that he cries out. He has his own confession of faith. “My Lord and my God.” It reminds us, you know, over the years, how many times have you been in a church service where they make somebody jump through 400 hoops and take 3 hours to become a Christian? Here, we get to see the simplicity of the matter. All you have to do is be in a position that you cry out, “I’m ready to cry out, ‘My Lord and my God.’ I confess Your lordship over everything in my life.” That’s all Thomas does and Jesus calls him a believer because of that.
Finally, I love in this part that Jesus gives a shout out to us, the church people of the future, by telling Thomas and the rest of the disciples, “Hey, guys. Do you know what? It’s really cool that you guys got to see this and touch this. That was really good that you got to see and believe. But the next group that’s coming after you will be blessed. I call them blessed because they didn’t see all this, and yet they will still believe.”
I love that part. Now, the Bible goes on to say that in various places over the next 40 days, before Jesus ascends into heaven, Jesus reveals Himself to many other people. To the disciples multiple times, to the women and to His other followers. Paul tells us in Corinthians that there’s a group of 500. He doesn’t tell us who the 500 are, but that Jesus appears to 500 people. In each of these encounters, or at least most of them, we see things like it says, “And He showed them His scars,” or, “They touched His scars,” or, “They saw His scars.”
One of the board members here at church, John Bennett, I was telling him about this sermon last week. I told him what I was going to preach on. He said, “Just a couple months ago, I did a sermon about the resurrection. My whole point, I’ve never seen it. I’ve looked in the Bible for years, but I’ve never seen it. My whole point was this: I find it interesting that the only thing Jesus took time to show anyone after the resurrection was His scars.”
I thought that was cool, J.B. I’m going to steal that and use it because it’s a really good point, which brings us to point number one. For Thomas, for the other disciples, the followers and even the 500, it was Jesus’ scars that created change in their heart. It was Jesus’ scars that caused them to believe. A quick side note: Not only does Jesus refer to His scars, but it’s interesting to note that the Apostle Paul talks about his scars too. In 2 Corinthians 11, in order to qualify himself to some people, he feels the need to list all the many different injuries and scars that he’s received along the ministry trail. It’s just a hall of fame list and he definitely wins because this is what he says. First of all, he comes out with five times the Jews did the forty minus one lashing to him. When you start doing the numbers — and I’m not trying to gross anybody out, but can you imagine what Paul’s back looked like after being lashed 195 times on 5 different occasions?
Three times beaten with rods. You know that left a mark. One time stoned. You know there were scars from that. Shipwrecked. He said he was 36 hours at sea in the hot middle-eastern sun. I’m sure he had third-degree burns. He talked about how he was robbed, beaten and endangered. He listed everybody. He goes, “The Jews did it to me. The Gentiles did it. Even people who posed as Christians did it to me.”
He goes on and on. It’s funny, if you pick that up at a later day, you’ll see at the end of his list that he says, “On top of that, I carry this burden inside of me of all the churches and all the people that are in these churches. As a father and as a pastor and as a shepherd, I carry the burden.”
He was trying to say, “Look, I’ve got scars on the inside too. I’ve poured my life into people and they’ve turned away from the faith, or they went a different direction.” He’s saying, “Look, these scars on the outside, those are scars. But I also have scars on the inside.”
He gets a little bit more bold in Galatians to the point when he says this: “From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these trifling things, for I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.”
Today, obviously, the centerpiece of our conversation has to do with scars. As we’ve seen in today’s texts, Jesus had some pretty bad scars. Not just the ones on His hands and His feet, but even the whips on His back and the crown of thorns. Jesus showed a lot of people His scars before He went to heaven. When He comes back today, those scars will still be evident on His body. Which, just for a theological moment, back up and go, “Why did Jesus choose to keep His scars?” When He rose from the dead, He could’ve come back in the perfect body and everything’s healed. That could’ve been something that we celebrated too. But usually when Jesus makes a choice, it’s usually not for Him. It’s for us. For some reason, Jesus chose to keep His scars. And when He comes back one day to bring us home, He will still have the scars. Just like us, all of Jesus’ scars weren’t physical. I believe that Jesus had some emotional, spiritual scars as well. Think about it. If He was truly human like us and He suffers in all the same ways we do, then you know there had to be some traumatic things that happened in His life that left a mark.
Can you imagine what kind of emotional mark it left on Jesus to be so completely betrayed and abandoned by everyone on your team, and then so badly beaten to death right after that? Can you imagine what kind of spiritual scar hung on Jesus as He hung on the cross with all the guilt, sin and shame of a whole world? But as He sat there and hung like a common criminal, He absolutely had done nothing wrong at all? Can you imagine how Jesus felt on the cross in this very emotional, dramatic moment when God the Father can’t stand watching anymore? He turns His head because a holy and righteous God just could not look at His Son bearing all the shame and the sin of the world. As He turns away, Jesus cries out, “Why have You forsaken me?”
Wow. What a moment. You don’t think that might have left a mark? So, just like you and me, Jesus our Savior has scars; both on the inside and the out.
But let’s go back to our first point today. For Thomas and everyone else, it was Jesus’ scars that created change in their hearts and caused them to believe. Scars help create the change. Scars fostered the belief in a risen Jesus. Scars proved to the world that the resurrection was real. I’m here to submit to you today that those scars are still changing people’s lives.
Point number two: It is in the scars of the living Christ that God meets us right where we are, even the parts of ourselves that we try so hard to keep hidden. Guys, this is, perhaps, one of the coolest things about our faith. The ugliness of Christ’s scars give you and I permission to let Jesus deal with the ugliest, deepest, darkest scars that we have. Look, when it comes to following Christ, as you see through the theme of the text today, scars are a pretty big deal. His scars matter, but what I want you to take home today is your scars matter too.
Which brings us to point number three: What helps both believers and unbelievers draw faith, encouragement, breakthrough healing and deliverance from Christ’s scars of the past are our scars today. Let me say that again. What helps both believers and unbelievers draw faith, encouragement, breakthrough healing and all sorts of things from Christ’s scars of the past are our scars today.
I believe with all of my heart that, almost daily, God is trying to create divine appointments and divine opportunities for you and me so you can learn and be encouraged from someone else’s scars and so others can learn and be encouraged from your scars. There’s a direct connection between the scars of Jesus and our scars. That’s why Paul talks about his scars to the people because it’s such a qualifier. Now, most of Paul’s scars, obviously, have to do with suffering persecution, but that is not the only scar God uses. That’s important for us to note here. I mean, we live in America where yet, thank God, we haven’t had to deal with that. But what actually qualifies a scar? This is the part that I want you to get. Scar qualifiers are simply this: Any scar that you’ve allowed God to touch and help heal you in your life. Anything in your life that you, perhaps, maybe tried to do on your own and you finally waved the white flag and said, “God, I need Your help.” And, through God’s help, you got on the other side of that scar and you let God heal you. Anything that that process happened, that’s a qualified scar that God can use in an amazing way.
Here’s a couple of examples. This might be you. You might say something like, “I went through a terrible, messy divorce, but God showed up and taught me how to move past my past.” Or, “I used to have this terrible addiction, but God showed up and helped me get to the other side of my addition where now I’m free.”
“I used to be a very angry person, but God showed up and He loved me first. He showed me how to love others. Throughout a process of time, somehow, some way, that anger subsided”
“I was victimized in a very tragic, traumatic manner, but God showed up and revealed His love and the power of His forgiveness. Not only did I get through that, but I’m on the other side of it. Even though it was a terrible thing to go through, I now live the abundant life that God promised for me. I use that as a testimony to help other people because I’m on the other side of it because God showed up.”
That’s what it sounds like when a scar, an open wound becomes a scar and we let God help us get to the other side of it. Listen, guys, God wants you and I to appropriately share the stories about our scars because it points people to Christ and gives people permission to believe that the Gospel story is real. Let me say it another way. In His day, Jesus’ scars proved the resurrection. In our day, God wants our scars to continue to prove His resurrection as well.
Every story we have about a scar is a story about how we were once down, but now we are up. We were once dead, but now we’re back to life. Every scar that we have. What our scars say to a lost and dying world is, man, just like you, I’ve had seasons in my life where I was hurting, I was broken and I was down for the count. I thought my life was over. I was convinced I couldn’t get on the other side of this thing. I was on my back, convinced that I had failed at everything. But then God stepped in.
That’s the power of our testimony is at some point in the story, we get to, “But then God.” We get to tell people that the same resurrection power that rose Jesus from the dead touched me and brought me back from the dead. Something happened. God showed up and I got up. I was down, but something happened and I got up. I stepped up. I showed up. I sat up. I stood up. There was a process that I was down and now I’m up. We can say, “Certainly, my life isn’t perfect. I’m sure God’s got more to work on me, but you can see story after story in my life where I can show you I was once lost, but now I’m found. I was once blind, but now I see. I was once dead, but now God has brought me back to life.”
Our scars point to a resurrected Christ. But here, guys, is the million-dollar question. Are we willing to share the stories about our scars? That is what everything rises and falls on. Because, in this room, there are a lot of great stories, but they mean nothing if we’re not willing to share them and to talk about them. There’s an amazing Japanese art form known as kintsugi. What kintsugi does is it takes broken pottery — bowls, plates, vases, pitchers and that kind of thing — and talented artists carefully, meticulously mend that pottery and put the broken pieces of pottery back together. I think we’ve got some pictures.
To hold everything together as they put all those pieces back together, they heat up this liquid that’s kind of a resin lacquer, and they mix it with a precious metal — either gold, silver or platinum. So, what you see on the pictures is that the finished products are beautiful. Not only do they show the scars of the pottery, they downright celebrate the scars of the pottery. From useless to priceless the transition goes. The pottery actually becomes stronger because now the broken pieces are bound together with precious metal. The pottery is now deemed more unique. It’s more of a creative work of art. It’s considered much more interesting because there’s a story behind it, usually of how it was broken. The pottery is now worth much more. It could’ve been a $5 bowl, but after kintsugi gets through, they could sell it for $5,000 as a precious work of art. The precious veins of gold, silver and platinum are there to emphasize that being broken and having scars has a philosophically rich merit to it all of its own. Maybe we’ve seen brokenness and scars the wrong way. The uniqueness of each piece which amplifies and draws attention to the scars, it doesn’t draw attention away from them. But, like I said, it celebrates it. It not only results in a beautiful work of art, but as you already can see, it conveys a pretty good, powerful metaphor for us today.
Listen, guys. Here’s the point: God loves to take broken things, mend their scars with His power and then send them back out into the world where their unique scarring will actually draw people unto Himself. That is the story of the Gospel and that’s what it looks like to be a Christian; to go out every day and go, “You know what? What I’ve been through is unique. There’s nobody like me. God’s going to create divine appointments and divine opportunities where I get to share the story of my scars.”
It can mean everything from just encouraging a struggling Christian to helping a prodigal find their way home. God wants to take broken things, put them back together and send it back out to a lost and dying world so they can understand the reality of Jesus Christ.
Here’s our final take-home for the day, as we land the plan on scars. Number one: Scars are not a burden to carry from your past, but a battle axe to carry into your future. So many times, we’ve been ashamed of our scars, we’ve hidden our scars and we don’t want people to know that we had real struggles. But guys, are scars are weapons of war against the enemy. They build our faith as we remember the stories of what God got us through. In bad times, we can look at those scars and say, “You know what? I was down for the count before, and God got me through then. He’s going to get me through again.”
They are a faith gun for you to use in your life. Don’t hide the scars and don’t hide the stories. Celebrate your scars.
Number two: It is hard for God to heal you if you won’t let Him turn your open wounds into scars. And just as much with that, it is hard for God to use you if you won’t share how God turns your wounds into scars.
Now, I want to talk just briefly, for a moment, for some people that I know. Just by the law of numbers, I’m not a prophet, but I just know there are probably some people in here today that are struggling with letting God take an open wound and turn it into a healed scar. You know, there are a lot of reasons for that. Sometimes we don’t have the faith to do it. Sometimes the enemy does a really good number on us and tells us we’re not worthy of being healed and that we have to kind of carry that open scar as a badge of shame for the rest of our life. That only good Christians get to be delivered from their junk, and you’re not a good person. Sometimes we don’t let go of our open wounds and let God turn them into healed scars because they become comfortable like a friend. They become part of our identity, like we wouldn’t know who we are or what to do with ourselves if we got on the other side of the healing of this wound. Sometimes people hold onto wounds like a comfortable pair of blue jeans.
So, there are 1,000 different reasons why we hold onto our wounds. There are 1,000 different reasons why we don’t let God turn it, heal it and change it into a scar. But, guys, listen to me. Don’t you want to go into 2019 knowing that everything in your life that’s an open wound, you’re handing it over to God and letting Him heal you and get you back on the track of living your abundant life? Aren’t you tired of carrying that open wound? Aren’t you tired of letting the enemy do a number on you, telling you because of shame and because of what you’ve done that you’re not worthy of getting on the other side of that open wound?
Guys, I’m here to tell you that’s a lie straight from the pit of hell. God wants to get you on the other side of your wounds, but He can’t do it unless you’re willing to partner with Him to do it. Just as much as that, I’ve never seen God use somebody who’s not willing to open their mouth and share the story of what God’s done in their life. We’ve got to get into the bold and we’ve got to be willing to share our story because God puts us in divine opportunities all the time. If you’re a little bit like me, there are times that I’ve gotten in those opportunities and I’ve gotten in the bold and share my story and God used it. And there were times I got into that thing and, maybe because I was in a hurry, or maybe because some of the people in the crowd that were there, I didn’t know who they were, or maybe I was a little intimidated by somebody or for, again, 1,000 different reasons, I walked away and I went, “I know I just missed a great opportunity to share something that could’ve turned someone’s life around.
We’ve got to get into the bold and be willing to share our stories. That’s how revival happens in the land. It starts with us telling people what God has done in our lives because what that points to is a real resurrection. It’s our personal resurrection that God’s taken us through, and it points people to His resurrection.
Number three: Your healed scars can revert back to open, infected wounds if you’re not careful. Guys, this is something I can tell you, and I wish I had more time to unpack it, but the enemy is really crafty. How something has happened in your past and really left a mark, and you did get on the other side of it, but it’s still kind of tender, and then something in your present happens and the enemy jumps in and starts getting your imagination going, saying, “This situation is just as bad as that,” and it’s not anywhere near that. But sometimes we give the devil credit. Sometimes we don’t need the devil. Sometimes our own imagination starts building something up and making it bigger than it is. Then, all of a sudden, what we’ve done through a process is we’ve taken a healed scar and we’ve brought it back to an open wound. Does that make any sense?
The enemy is crafty and we have to catch ourselves. We have to be vigilant and catch ourselves. When we find ourselves getting emotional or wound up about something, perhaps what’s happening is the enemy is trying to get us to go back to something that God’s already dealt with, you already have a victory over and He’s trying to bring it back to an open wound again because sometimes those are the easiest places that the enemy can poke at and get us off track.
Number four. This is the whole point of today. Jesus wasn’t ashamed of His scars, so let’s stop being ashamed of ours. About a month and a half ago when God started kind of working on me to put together this message, I literally got up in the middle of the night and I got a piece of paper. My alarm went off just like that. No. I’m just kidding. I got a piece of paper and a pen. Those are the words that I wrote: Jesus wasn’t ashamed of His scars, and we need to stop being ashamed of ours.
Number five: God sends, scars and all, back out into the world to be the wounded hands and feet of Christ. You know, I’ve heard that description many times, and even preached it a million times. We are the hands and feet of Christ. We are the hands and feet of Christ. But I’ve never thought of it as this: We are the wounded hands and feet of Christ. I don’t mean wounded like still open-wounded and messed up. I mean wounded as in just battle-scarred, messed up and the hands and feet aren’t pretty anymore. You know? They look like they’ve been to war and back. The world doesn’t need to see a bunch of perfect Christians acting like we’ve got it all together. They need to see our wounds. They need to see the things that God is still working on in our lives, and they need to see the things that God has already healed in us. The stories that are just unbelievable. The stories that show that beautifully and wonderfully we’ve been put back together like a priceless kintsugi vase. The world needs to meet a wounded and broken people who have encountered a wounded and broken God who has made possible for you and me this incredible, amazing love that can never, ever be broken.
Guys, that’s the point. So, two things as we pray and close in prayer. Number one: For those of you who have allowed open wounds to stay open wounds, as we head at the end of 2018 and go to 2019, today is the best day, surrounded by all your friends, brothers and sisters. You might say, “Well, I don’t have the faith to believe that God can heal my open wounds.” Just listen to me, guys. From all of my heart, listen. You don’t need to have the faith. You can borrow ours. Everybody in this room, you can borrow our faith today because we promise you that God wants to get you on the other side of that wound. That’s what we’re here for. So, believe today. Believe the promises that God has for your life. Stop believing the lies that the enemy says all the other Christians can have victory in their lives, but you can’t because you’ve done too much or you’ve gone too far. That’s straight from the pit of hell. Let today be the day that you start to let Jesus set you free from those open wounds.
Now, finally, for the rest of us, let’s let 2019 be a year that we go into the vault and we start sharing our stories. You know, sometimes — and I’m not trying to criticize evangelism tools, but every year people come out with more and more slick evangelism tools to try to talk people into believing about Christianity, or how to debate about everything people like to debate about, like was seven days really seven days in creation, or do we have free choice or election, or did Adam have a belly button? You know? All the other stupid stuff that everybody likes to argue about. I’m just going to tell you from practical experience that none of that stuff — I shouldn’t say none. Most of that stuff doesn’t get people to cross the line of faith. But when you sit there and share your story, how can they argue with you? When you sit there and say, “I once was lost, but now I’m found. You don’t think I had problems? Let me tell you the things I went through and let me tell you how God brought me on the other side.”
What can someone say to that? How can they defend that? How can they sit there and tell you you’re a liar or you’re wrong? The best weapon of war, the best defense, the best opportunity to win lost people is for us to be willing to share our stories about our scars. If we will do that, I promise you — if a remnant of people will step up and take the challenge to go in the bold and be that people, we will see a revival and a renewal in this town that we can’t even imagine could take place. But it starts with us being willing to share the stories about our scars.
Jesus is not ashamed of His scars. Let’s stop being ashamed of ours. Let’s pray.
Father, first and foremost, we want to come together as a body of believers, of brothers and sisters who love each other. We want to put all of our faith together in one pool, in one mind and with one accord. We want to pray for all of our brothers and sisters that are in this room today that have open wounds and, for various reasons, have not gotten victory and not gotten on the other side to allow You to turn it into a healed scar.
God, I pray that today would be a day that You just burn on their heart the reality that You love them, that they’re not being punished, that the promises You have for their life are “yes” and “amen,” and that You do want to take their open wounds, heal them and bring them on the other side so their life can be a testimony and they can get about the Father’s business and go about living the abundant life that you’ve promised to give them. God, for everybody in here who has that thing, that struggle, that wound, I pray in the strong name of Jesus that they would have the courage right now to, in their mind’s eye literally walk up and lay it at Your feet. Just lay it at Your feet.
God, we pray for a miracle. We pray for breakthrough. We pray that today would be a day that there would literally be a shift not only in the supernatural, but in the natural. They will walk out of here knowing that the process of healing has begun in the strong name of Jesus Christ, and in the resurrected power of our Lord.
Father, for the rest of us, You give us these opportunities to share our stories. Father, we need boldness. We just need boldness. I pray that, today, You would fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit. That, God, we will walk out of this place and go, “For 2019, I’m going to walk into the bold. I’m going to be the person God wants me to be. I’m going to share my story so prodigals can come home, so lost people can find Christ and so believers can be encouraged.”
Those stories are our weapons of war. I pray in the strong name of Jesus that You would give all of us the courage to use them.
Now, God, as we are about to leave, we just pray that the presence of God and the power of God and the blessings of God and the favor of God be on each person and each family represented here today. We give you 2019 and we ask You, God, to bless it in a new, rich way. Let 2019 be the year that we share our stories and change our city for You.
In Jesus’ name, and all of God’s people said, “Amen.” God bless you guys. Have a great week.