Full of Grace and Truth
Observation of John 1:14
Word became flesh and dwelt among us
-Word- Jn 1:1 = this is describing God, Jesus
-Jesus entered earth as a person, “tented”
-Jesus “tented” or habited with us.
-Every true Christian believes this!
-churches that deny that Jesus is God are not churches
We observed his glory
-We- John 1:12 those who believed in Jesus, didn’t reject him
-the ones God gave the right to become his “children”
-the ones who were spiritually “born” – new life
-observed his glory-manifestation of God’s presence and power
The glory as the one and only Son from the father
-Jesus is the one and only “God with us” person to exist
-there are no other representatives of God’s power/presence
-We CANNOT say God and Buddha, or God and Caesar
-Christians died before denying their full allegiance to Jesus
-Syncretism is not an option- the Bible declares all other
religions to be false, created by humans rebelling from God
Full of grace and truth
-full of: Jesus/the Word/God is full of both grace and truth
-fully grace AND fully truth
-grace- charis- unconditional mercy, favor
-God’s dealing with us in undeserved ways
-an outflow of God’s goodness and generosity
-compares to Hebrew (c)hesed
-lovingkindness, gracious mercy
-truth- altheia- that which is reality
-Hebrew emet- aithfulness, steadfastness, consistency
“Or” is not an option!
Grace without truth destroys intimacy
-acceptance without absolutes = confusion and denial
-zero truth boundaries leads to a life of chaos
-absolute freedom invites slavery to our flesh and feelings
-1 Peter 4:3
-Relationships built on grace alone have unhealthy boundaries,
raise soft & rebellious children, permits abuse in marriage,
eventually leads to resentment and dissatisfaction when we
refuse to identify what we need or how someone hurts us
Truth without grace destroys authenticity
-Fear of rejection leads us to hide, refuse to confess faults
-leads to a life filled with judgment, constant guilt, anxiety
-God’s Word (the Law) is designed to reveal our sin
(Romans 3:19-20) and remind us we deserve God’s
condemnation (Romans 4:15)
-Relationships built on truth alone forces us to
-we perform/pretend (no one is perfect!)
-or we fully rebel (give up trying and resort to fatalism)
Jesus offers grace AND truth
Grace: Come as you are!
-Matthew 11:28 Come all who are weary…
-Luke 15:20 Jesus welcomes the child who rejected him!
-Jesus receives us before we change: Zacchaeus, Matthew
-Christians love outsiders MORE because of Jesus
-no lifestyle, attitude, rebellious tendency should stop us
-Christian marriages receive like Jesus received them
Truth: Leave Changed!
-John 8:32 the truth sets us free!
-we must face our guilt before we ask forgiveness!
-John 4 Woman at the well- Jesus revealed her sinful lifestyle
(truth) after he accepted her (grace), which led her to abandon
false religion, trust in Jesus, and lead her city to find Jesus
In the book of John - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the fourth book in the New Testament, I always say, if you take your Bible and you cut it, don't cut it in half, you open it in half, you're generally often in the Psalms. And then if you take the other half and you cut it in half or open it in half, you are in the New Testament, usually around Matthew, Mark, or Luke. If you're in Malachi, you can read that as well if you want. But go forward, go to the right a little bit, and you hit Matthew, Mark, Luke, and then John this morning. John 1:14, Full of grace and Truth. That's my message title this morning, and we're going to talk about the idea that grace and truth must work together in our lives.
I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy eating the individual ingredients of a cake. I'm not really into vegetable oil by itself. Even olive oil, still kind of weird if you substitute things like that or lard, some of you - big old scoop of lard. Maybe some people, most people, not. I'd like to eat two cups of flour. Now, have you ever tried to eat flour on its own? I've had some stories of my children going to my mother-in-law's house. They thought that the statue of limitation had run out, and they were explaining to me how they destroyed her kitchen. And they actually dared each other to eat flour. And they did. How'd that go? It’s disgusting. Flour needs to be mixed with something to be tasty. Oil, flour, eggs - we don't eat these ingredients by themselves. We put them together for a tasty dessert.
Now, every illustration on the earth breaks down when you're talking about spiritual things because there's a stark contrast between the two. Living the Christian life is far different than eating cake. It's not a cake walk. I didn't even try that out last service. I don't know. Stick to the notes, Greg, sticks to the notes. You see, grace alone, if we were to just live by grace alone or we just let anything go, we just love people and don't ever seek the truth about what we ought to do and how we ought to live; grace alone leads to abused freedom. And it actually leads us to be continually enslaved to the very things that God wants to change us from. And it actually enslaves us to lifestyles that are disruptive and abusive in relationships, be it a marriage, the most intimate one you can think of on earth, relationships between parents and children, and obviously relationships between friends. But truth alone leads to abusive authority and shame and pretending.
We're going to unpack these as we go, but just think about it, that if you have somebody that has this high expectation of you with no room for forgiveness or grace, and they think that they have the best way of telling you how to live your life, they will abuse that truth and beat you to death with it; emotionally, spiritually, and sadly in horrible, difficult relationships physically. Truth without grace leads to abuse of authority, shame. In other words, I can't ever get out of the guilt that I have because there's no pathway for reconciliation for forgiveness. You see, grace plus truth equals acceptance, intimacy, and reconciliation. I'll share that as we move forward. But grace and truth put together brings in our lives, acceptance, intimacy, and full reconciliation.
John is writing about this man called Jesus who walked the earth, died in rose again. Many years later he's writing an account of the history of Jesus, the story of Jesus, the reality of Jesus. He doesn't start with Jesus in the manger. He starts with Jesus as the preexistent God. He is God. He is fully God. And the word became flesh and made us dwelling among us, we're going to see here in just a moment. But in the beginning of his gospel, he says in chapter one, verse one, in the beginning was the word - in the beginning, like before anything ever began, Jesus always has been the word being God, the word representing Jesus Christ. And the word was with God, and the word was God. Some cults who say they are followers of Jesus, followers of God falsely put in there a little word called "a" He was a God, and they changed the word God to little "G" god. And that is absolutely does complete violence to the original language of the Greek New Testament. And it is actually meant in order to purport a very false belief about Jesus Christ.
And so, John is writing to us to explain to us who Jesus is as the beginning. And so when we see in our verse the word, it means Jesus. And by the way, John says later in his gospel, "I'm writing these things that you might know Jesus, who He is, and that by believing on Him, you might have life in His name." His whole purpose of his gospel was that people would find Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And indeed, if we were to walk away from this service and everybody had a nice little message about history and nice little message about linguistics, and they say, "Well, pastor really studied up this week. He knows what he is talking about. Or he went way longer, which means he didn't study enough to get rid of the stuff he shouldn't have talked about," that if we just had a nice little time, and you learned and made thought the jokes were funny, and that's all you thought about, then I have failed miserably because I desire and I pray, and we do all of what we do up here. We have our baptism time - all that we do together as a body of Christ is meant to bring people towards Christ and for people who are in Christ, to keep living in Christ and walking and growing in their faith in Christ.
So I pray that this morning you might, wherever you might be on that spectrum of, here it is, I'm a follower Jesus, or I'm close to following Jesus, or I'm already following Jesus. Wherever you are on that scale this morning, that you would find yourself taking one more step towards Jesus Christ. And I would pray that anyone who is not following Jesus, that they would put this step into following Jesus this morning because eternity is too long for you to be wrong, and you never know how much time we have left to make that decision.
So let's look at John 1:14. Let me read it, break it down. And then at the end, we're actually going to camp out on the last phrase, "Full of grace and truth." But let's break down this passage so that we can see it in context. In verse 14, it says, "The word became flesh and dwell among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the one and only son from the Father, full of grace and truth." What are we saying here? What is John saying? What did the Holy Spirit inspire John to tell us this morning? First of all, the word we already established that is Jesus Christ. It became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus entered earth as a person and as some translators talk about, He tented with us. He pitched a tent and hung out with us. He habited with us. He became part of, He dwelt, we're in dwelling places, our homes, right? He wants to make his home in us. He made his home with us, born of a virgin, came in into this earth and grew. And it said that they were impressed by how well He continued to grow in His walk, in His maturity, in His stature. Jesus tented with us. And every true Christian believes this. And every true church believes this. There are people, there are certain organizations that call themselves a church, but they deny the fact that Jesus is God. He was just a representation but he's not God. And they'll even have Easter pageants, they'll even do all kinds of grand things that look very Christian, but they deny that Jesus is God, which makes them not a church, even if they say so.
And we have to be careful that we don't slip into a religiosity of the culture that just allows anything to go, anything to go, "Well, I'm a Christian. Well, I'm a Christian." No, a Christian believes that Jesus is the word, become flesh, fully God and fully man. And it says, "We observed His glory." We? Who are we that John is talking about? Well, verse 12, go up there a little bit further, up before that verse that we're looking at today. And it says, "But to all who did receive Him," there were some that rejected Jesus. But the ones who didn't reject Jesus, 'the ones who received Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not of natural dis descent or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God."
Those who believe in Jesus, that's the ones. We beheld His glory. We're the ones that see Jesus, the ones that didn't reject Him, the ones who he gave the right to become his children; the ones who they were spiritually born. And interesting, John could have said all kinds of things here, he's making a point in his entire gospel that later on, he is the one that would include the story of Jesus talking to Nicodemus in the night when he'd say, "What do I need to do about this? What must I do to be saved, in his own ways of saying it. And Jesus said, "You must be born again." And he talks about the idea of being spiritually born, that we not only have a physical birthday into this world, but we have a spiritual birthday. And that's why I say there is... can everybody in this room say I know the day and the time that that happened?
I don't know that everybody in this room can say that. Some can, but the fact is it ought to have happened one way or the other whether we can pinpoint it or not, we need to know that we did put our faith in Jesus Christ. And at that moment, we became born again. And these are the ones who observe his glory, the manifestation of God's presence and power. We be held His glory. What is His glory? His presence and His power. There are people that say, I'm a Christian, but there is no presence of Christ in their life. They don't look like Christ, and there's no power in their lives. They have no interest or desire to change their lives. They want to continue on a lifestyle that is ungodly. They want to continue to live for whatever they want to do. And they don't want to bow themselves to what God says is true or right in their lives; they just want to do their own thing. They want to be a lone ranger.
That person might be completely rebelling against what the Holy Spirit's saying to them. And that person is probably more miserable than an unbeliever. Or that person is an believer who is a cultural Christian, but not a true Christian. They have religion, but they don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Those who observed His glory have been changed. They've observed His presence. He's living within them. There's movement in their lives spiritually. There's something to be said for who that person is. Now, I'm not here to say I know who that person is in this room, that everyone I can just point it out which one is you or living for him or not. I watched all your Facebooks, your Twitters, your ticks, your stuff, and I've just made a judgment call today. No, I mean, as my head chaplain at the police department says, "I've seen the job assignment for being the judge of the world. I don't want it. I'll let God be God."
I'm just here to say a warning that anyone who thinks they're following Jesus, but there's no power, there's no presence, there's no change; I would say repent and be baptized. Tell the world you're a Christian. Start living for Him. Cross that line from religion into a relationship with Jesus and observe His glory, the glory as the one and only son from the Father. What else is this verse telling us? That Jesus is the one and only God with us person to have ever and whoever will exist on this earth. This is not a lineage of there was God the Father, and then He had a baby, and it was Jesus, his son. We're talking about a family relationship that is in a sense of a tightness of the same essence, not genealogical history; that Jesus is of the same essence of God and He came as the son of God and He came as the only begotten son of God, right? That's where the one and only son of God in John, again, John 3:16, John is building his case here for the reader to say, this is the one and only example.
Syncretism is not acceptable for the Christian life. It's not God and Buddha. It's not Jesus and Caesar. The Christian faith has always been intimidating to absolute authority on this earth. Why? Because absolute authority wants you to bow to them - cultural authority. We may not have a potentate king or an autocratic or whatever you want to say. We may not have a dictatorship in our country, but there is a cultural code that says you will bow to our gods and you don't tell us your god's more important than ours. And if you don't do that, there will be consequences. And the further we get into that kind of lifestyle thinking in our country, it will be the same as, I mean we know this, our Christian brothers and sisters that are suffering even in this very moment in Meia Mar and in China and in the Middle Eastern countries and different places of the world where they believe their God is God and their whole authority of their government is based upon that God, which is a false God, an evil representation of a God. And any Christian who would say, I'm not bowing to that is excommunicated and at worst, put to death.
You see, this idea that Jesus is the one and only representative and there is no other on this earth. I mean, you can just blow off the guy that's the vegan downtown that looks like Jesus and says he's the incarnate. Okay, just don't have to worry about that guy. You're not laughing. We go to these big conferences, at church Christian conferences and there's always, Jesus is always on the corner. I'm a vegan. And there's nothing wrong with being a vegan. If you're a vegan, God bless you. But it just seems that - I've never seen that. Jesus says I eat red meat, I just haven't seen that.
Again, stick to the script. But people have a Jesus complex. I'm God. And you know that person is safely helped to a mental institution or they're given warm food and a bed for the night somewhere because their families rejected them at this point. That's just crazy. But often, it's usually not that Jesus we're rejecting, it's just that we're trying to look at these other things and say, "Well, I want Jesus and my horoscopes. I want Jesus and my," and Jesus is the one and only. We can't compromise that.
The glory is the one and only son from the Father, and then we get to our phrase, full of grace and truth. Full of - Jesus, the word God. He's full of both grace and truth, fully grace and fully truth. Now, what is grace? Grace is the Greek word charis. The Hebrew "hesed" is in parallel to that in the Old Testament when it was mentioned, hesed said, meaning loving kindness, gracious mercy, unconditional mercy or favor. Basically, God is dealing with us in an undeserved way. It's an outflow of God's goodness and generosity that He wants to receive you and love you come as you are because He's not asking you to do something in order to earn his favor and love. For God's to love the world that he gave us one and only son. It didn't say for God's love the world and when they finally got their act together, He sent His son. They weren't getting their act together, and that's why he sent His son. You didn't get your act together and that's why Jesus came to you, you didn't have to come to Him. Grace!
But then it says He's also full of truth. "Althea," maybe if you say that right in the Greek, that which is reality, that which is true, that which is the reality of this. When we first started our church, we had a phrase, "Real people, real church, real God" had the t-shirts and everything, had it on our banners. Real people, real church, real God. Now, that doesn't mean while just being real, I'm going to be abusive in the way I act. Just being real. No, no. It's just saying, we take people right where they are, please don't pretend; please be who you are. I told somebody when we started our church about three or four years into it, they were talking about an argument they were having in their church about carpet, or I'll use carpet because that's what churches sometimes argue about. And they were arguing about some paint on the wall or something. I says, "We don't argue about that kind of stuff." I said, "First of all, we don't have a building." And all of their conversation was leading me to think I never wanted one. But anyway I'm glad we have this.
But I said our arguments are about like can someone come to worship today with the other person because they really can't stand each other right now and they had a big fight. I mean, they're baby Christians growing in their faith, had nothing to do with theology or the ecclesiology or the church or anything. It just had to do with real people, with real messes and real stuff going on in their lives. And I'll say I don't want all that stuff, but I'll take that far more than I'll take carpet problems, because that's people being real. It's like the guy on the airplane that'll tell you everything about him. You're like, "Wow!" And that happens to me at Aldi's, it happens to me at Kroger, I mean, you just start listening and people tell you everything. The banker starts telling you stuff. I mean, and it's awesome. People are being real.
What do we do? We go to church. How you doing? Fine. How is your week? Pretty good. Don't talk. Don't talk, don't tell. Don't let anybody know we're having problems in our marriage. Don't let anybody know that we're heartbroken over a loved one that's running away from God. We don't want to talk about the fact that I had a nervous breakdown this week because I'm dealing with anxiety. We don't want to talk about that. We think somehow that there's a barrier between the parking lot and here that we have to get rid of all that stuff and suppress it because that's - no. So we talked about being real, real people, real church.
We're going to go there with you. We want to walk in that situation. I want you to walk in my mess. I know you don't want to think I'm a messy person, but I am. I'm still a mess. I'm still being growing in my faith. I still have people say, "Pastor, you shouldn't have done this, are you offending me?" Because I'm a Christian that's growing in my faith, I'm still growing. Now to say I'm just being real, that's not an excuse, I got to mature in my faith. But so do all of us and we all need to come to a church that's willing to deal with our mess and not just pretend that we're a bunch of nice people.
We are a bunch of nice people, but we're growing to be nicer, right? Okay, we want to be real because we have a real God who has standards, but who really takes us right where we are and wants to move us to where we need to go - full of grace and truth because or is not an option, or He is grace or truth. He is truth or grace is not an option. It's not an option with God because God is full of grace and truth. And it's not an option for your relationships with one another. And it's not an option for how you relate to God. You need to receive God fully by His grace, and you need to receive God's truth at the same time. Because grace without truth destroys intimacy.
You can't really talk about the real stuff that's going on when you're just, "Oh, it's okay. Just not worry about it." That's why we spend a large chunk of my time in premarital counsel talking about being real, about what you feel and what you think. You have two people coming together and you could easily have someone dominating over the other person in such a way that that person never expresses how they feel about something. I'm not saying they want to go into, you know what I kind of like the color blue. Maybe one of our rooms could be blue. This is a real benign, easy thing. But if you are 45 years and you never get blue in your marriage, you'll get blue. You'll get sad because you've never been able to express yourself because it's all grace but there's no truth. You're not telling the truth of how you really feel. I'm fine, but you're not. And you're suppressing that and you don't really get to know the person because you don't really care. You know, just keep going. Zero truth boundaries leads to lives of chaos.
Romans 6 tells us, "What then should we send because we are not under the law, but under grace." Absolutely not. We need to have... we're accepted by faith, and the grace saves us. By grace our faith saves us and it's because of His grace that we come to Him unmerited favor. We don't have to earn our way into His presence. But we don't just say, "Well I can do whatever I want now that I'm a Christian." No, no, no, no. What does it say in Colossians 3:5, it says, "Therefore, now that you become a Christian, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature. Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Don't let the sins of your life replace the God of your life because they will be your idols. They will be your gods instead of God."
1 Peter 4:3 says, "For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the gentiles or the unbelievers do, (choose to do), carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and lawless idolatry." Verse four, "They are surprised that you don't join them in the same flood of wild living and they slander you." What's going on there? When you become a Christian, your friends that aren't Christians are going to start looking at you and go, "Who do you think you are?" Now, you don't even preach a word to them. You don't even say, "You know, you shouldn't be doing that." You just stop doing some of those things. And what do your friends who don't want to do that do? They start making fun of you? They start brow beating you and they start slandering you and they start calling you names - "You Bible thumper, you preach your boy. Who do you think you are?" "I'm just trying to live for Jesus. Leave me alone." "Oh I'm sorry. Forgive me for that." "Get out of here. Quit asking me to forgive you all the time."
I mean, there's going to be a hostility naturally because they don't... here's two things. There's two people you meet. You meet the Christian who's bashing Christianity because they're rebelling against a holy God and they're living in a backslidden life way away from God. And so, they need friends in their camp so they don't continue to... they want to try to suppress their guilt by helping you join them in what they're doing so they can feel better about their badness. And then there's people that absolutely have no iota of care or guilt and they're just inviting you in because that's how you'd live life. They don't know any better. That's just how it is. And they just think you're a weirdo if you're doing that, and you're like, I'm not a weirdo, a weirdo for Jesus, I guess. And they just don't get it.
Because you're saying, "I'm living by grace." Yes, God's accepted me fully, but that means I'm also on a pathway of moving forward into the truth. Relationships built on grace alone will have unhealthy boundaries. Sometimes those boundaries lead to, oftentimes it's the wife or the girlfriend that will keep forgiving the abusive partner to their death. They just keep throwing grace out there as if there is no truth to the fact that I'm being beat up physically and I need rescued from this dangerous situation. It raises soft and rebellious children. Kids that have no boundaries will have no boundaries in life as they grow up to be adults. It eventually leads to resentment and dissatisfaction when we refuse to identify what we really need or how someone has actually hurt us. Grace without truth destroys intimacy, and truth without grace destroys authenticity.
You see how many here's perfect? Wow! Just one person? You and I know that we can't go a day without doing something we shouldn't do and we have to ask forgiveness to God, "God forgive me. I didn't mean to do that." Yeah, you did, you did it. Don't give me, I didn't mean to do that. And sometimes we do things we didn't mean to do, but oftentimes we're pretty good at thinking. Did the devil make you do it? No, I thought of that all by myself. We're pretty creative in doing bad, and we're pretty good at... you know, I always tell people, "I'm just glad my bad is legal because I don't like going to jail and I don't like paying fines, so I just keep my bad under the radar." That ain't right, is it? But it's kind of, you know, oftentimes we want to be a good person doesn't mean that we're perfect.
And when we are not perfect and we live and think that God is only truth and not grace, what happens? We start hiding. We start pretending. We start acting like we're perfect even though we're absolutely not, because there's no pathway for forgiveness if you're just living with a God of judgment and truth. And by the way, some of you might have grown up in a home where it was all about truth and not about grace. And you have a hard time understanding God's love and unconditional favor because you were never given that as a child. You were never graced with a man or a woman who loved you unconditionally and said no matter what you do, no matter how far you go, no matter what happens in your life, I will always love you, I will always take you, I will always accept you and I will always love you; I will never stop loving you.
And if you've never had or experienced that kind of intimate relationship on this earth, it might be hard for you to understand that that's how God accepts you and loves you. And so, if you're just living by a God, that's just the judge, you're trying to run from the judge. You're trying to hide from the cops. You're trying to run away from the reality of who you really are and you will not be authentic in your life. It leads to a life filled with judgment, constant guilt, anxiety because you have never had anything to relieve you of the pressure, of the sins and the problems that you're dealing with because you don't think there's a pathway out of it. I've gone too far, I've really blown it this time, no one can accept me now. These are the phrases that are used by someone who believes that it's all about truth and not about grace as well.
You see God's word, the law - later on it says in the passage here that Moses came with the law, Jesus came with grace and truth. In other words, the law was never meant to save us or make us happy. The law was meant to convict us. It shows us that we're condemned if we don't trust in Jesus, if we don't trust in God, if we don't trust in the one true God who gave us the law. And it was really by his grace that He gave us the truth, because the truth lets me know what's right and wrong. It lets me know who God is and how He relates to me. The truth is wonderful, but when we don't live by the truth and we don't; all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that truth beats us up. It's a hammer.
In our relationships we start performing and pretending to the other person because we don't want to be caught doing something that would possibly cause them to reject us. Sometimes kids, they'll hide their sin like crazy because they know there's no forgiveness in the home, and they'll absolutely do everything they can to be one person here and another person here; two different persons, split personalities. Some kids even go so far as to have different sets of clothes that they put on their way to school, and then put the clothes their parents want them to wear when they come home, pretending the whole time. Or they get to the point where they're so sick of not living up to the expectations of their parents that they say, "I'll show you," and they rebel completely. They say, "I'll be your worst nightmare. I'm going to end up being what you say you can't stand just to get back at you."
And the hardest part about that is, as you look in on a situation like that and as pastor, as a friend, as a brother in Christ, your heart breaks because you know that they're doing to themselves things that you would never want anybody to do to themselves. And they're living in a life that is enslaved to the very thing that God has come to save them from. Think about this, we want God to accept us right where we are, which means we know we have a portion of our life that if God didn't do that, we're unacceptable. In other words, we want God to accept us right where we are so that we don't live in our shame, which means we do have a sense that there is shame in what we're doing.
But then here's the ironic thing. A person will say, "Well I want God, or I want the world to accept me for who I am or what I'm doing because I'm doing it anyway and I don't care what people think." And yet that same person is saying, "But I don't want to change. What's made me unacceptable over here, I don't want to change that. I want to do whatever I want to do God, but I want you to accept me for whatever I'm doing." But the very fact that you said that means that you know the truth is that you're not doing what God intended or designed for you to do or to be, and you're denying His ability to walk and work in your life so that you can become all that he's intended for you to be. And it's painful to watch.
And I know that I've had mentors and small group leaders that it's probably been painful for them to watch me in that situation. Again, we're all in this together. We're all dealing with this. This message is as important for me as anyone in this room, because Jesus offers grace and truth. Will you trust Him today in both realities? He offers grace, come as you are. There's a church opposite of us; we're on Anthony North, they're on Anthony South, way south by the Highway 27 going out of town, and they're called Come as You are Community Church. I love that. That's a neat name. Maybe we would've been that name, but they were existed before we did so we didn't get it. Come as you are. Didn't Jesus say come all you who are weary and heavy laden. Didn't He the one that said I will give you peace that passes all understanding?
Jesus is the one who told the story of the prodigal son. And you can read Luke 15 later. Luke 15 tells the story of the boy that said I want my inheritance now because I want to do what I want to do, and this father agreed. He says, "You're not dead yet, so I want your money now." And so he took all that money and he squandered it, winding women, debauchery, crazy. And he is living in a pigsty and he's barely able to eat and he's homeless. He says, "You know, if I could, I'm just going to go back and get hired by my dad. He's got a good pension plan. You know, minimum wage. He pays more than minimum wage. I'll get a warm meal and a bed. I'm going back to Dad. I'm not going to go back as a son; I've already blown that story. Man, I am the worst son anybody could ever want. But I'm at least going to go back and ask for a job because getting a job as a servant is far better than being homeless and hungry."
And what does he do? He gets there. And from a far off, Jesus says in the story, from a far off as if his dad had been waiting for him to come home the entire time he was gone. From a far off, he saw him and he ran to him and he embraced him. He says, "Look, my son who has lost is found, let's throw a party. Let's tell the world, here he is, my son, my son. Not my servant, my slave, not my hired hand. No, you get status of being in relationship with me, and God says that's how I am with you. Will you come as you are? Don't come with a cleaned up act. All you got to do is turn around from where you are and from a far off you're going to see God staring at you, looking for you, wanting you, receiving you right where you are.
Christian, I want you to know that that's how we need to be with anybody who's far from God. You see somebody in a lifestyle that is abhorrent to God or one that just makes you go, "Oh I don't like that." You should love them even more because of your faith in Jesus Christ. You know, you can love somebody and accept them without approving them. You can love them without applauding them. You can be compassionate without commending them. Just because you love someone unconditionally, does not mean that you accept right what they're doing. God doesn't accept what you're doing when He receives you. He just accepts you because you're a person and you're worthy of being accepted by His standards, not yours or mine.
And so, which person in our community did Jesus not die for anybody? You got a list. Because I'll avoid that house when I'm talking to him. Anybody have a list? Anybody have a list of what a house looks like that I shouldn't be talking to about Jesus? Anybody? How about any lifestyle out there? Is there anybody in our community that Jesus didn't die for? Anybody? If you got that list for me, I will tear it up because there is no list. The list is full of everyone in this community that does not know Jesus and including everyone in this room that does and all those in this community that do, Jesus died. For God to love the world that He gave us one and only son.
We ought to love more than the average person, someone who is far from God in the way they're living. We are representatives of the Father who are looking from a far off waiting for that person to turn around so we can say I love you, I care about you, you're important, you matter. Jesus offers grace, come as you are, but He also offers truth. Leave changed. That story, another story; you can read John 4, another homework assignment this week. The woman at the well - won't go into all the details, but she's there by herself. She's kind of an outcast, and Jesus starts talking to her; all kinds of things that He violated culturally for him to be in her life at this moment. And He basically starts to share with her the truth of love and trusting and and basically, she's dealing with religion and He's talking about a relationship. And at some point He says, "Can you get your husband now?" How dare he get personal with her? She says, "Well, I don't have a husband." That was true because she'd had three and she was only living with this guy. He wasn't her husband. In other words, she had some relationship issues and we think maybe, possibly that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. She hadn't found it in God. She was trying to find it in relationships, and it was failing her miserably.
So Jesus didn't just say, "I'm accepting you right where we are." He pinpointed the very pain in her life. He pinpointed the very place where she was trying to find satisfaction where she hadn't; He was being truthful. Now, he didn't hang out there and beat her up, He just brought it up, and then he went on. And you can read the story for yourself and the nuances and the way it's written out. But I'll tell you what happened. He gave her grace and acceptance. He shared the truth, she gets saved and the whole city comes out and finds Jesus. Her life has changed and the whole city has changed. And they hung out there for a while. I'm telling you, truth, when we accept the truth after we've received His love, it changes us. We become a different person.
And so my question this morning is, will you trust the grace and truth of Jesus Christ? Will you put off those feelings of intimidation about God that maybe somebody has erroneously taught you? Will you understand that the right handling of the word of God means that you are fully accepted and loved by God? Will you come to Him this morning? But the same Bible that talks about being saved by grace, also says we accept the truth of God and that it is by faith in Jesus Christ. And the truth is, we've got to pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ to find and experience a personal relationship with God and to know his love and to know how to live his love out in the relationships that we are in on this earth. So this morning my prayer is that you and I will trust in the Jesus of the Bible, not Jesus of the culture, not the Jesus that you were taught that may not have squared with the Bible, but with John 1:14, that Jesus is full of grace and full of truth.
I don't know where this is, you know, And I remember it being lost in my grandma's neighborhood, but every brick house looked like every other brick house in Dayton, Ohio, West Carrolton. And they all these little ranch style houses. And my mom said, "Just go down the block." She dropped us off, gone. And people one block over didn't know where Schenley Avenue was. I'm like, "What in the world?" 2999 Schenley Avenue. I can still see it to this day. I couldn't find it to save my - I mean, it's awful. Asking directions, we were totally lost. I don't even know how we got to where we ended up, but it took forever, which would've taken three minutes if we'd known how to get there.
But I remember one time when we were really lost; I was a trustee for a seminary out in San Francisco Golden Gate Seminary. And another friend of mine, he was from the East Coast, I'm from Indiana. We were the representatives there. And we had a meeting that evening. When you're on this side of the country, you can fly out there and get there in time. You're dead tired, but you can leave out in the early morning and with all the lag time of the time change, you can be there in time to actually enjoy the afternoon if you're awake. And you can actually then be, even then for a six o'clock meal and then in a meeting. And we were in our business attire after a little bit nicer dress than this actually that day. And I had my street shoes on, my kind of dress shoes with no tread. I'm just giving you a hint here. And we went to go see Mere Woods.
Mere Woods is right up north of the Golden Gate Bridge. And it's just these big cedar, I mean, it's redwood forest, It's just the massive. You can't even take a picture to get the understanding of the grandeur of these. They had one, it had fallen and they cut it and they said, "This is when Columbus came, and this is..." You're like, "That's how old the tree is." It's just huge and it's just so amazing. And we said, "Well, let's walk around. We got time." So Ronnie and I, he's a police officer, retired now from the Capital Police Department in Washington DC and he had his little go bag. He always had a little bag with him. Washington Redskins, I didn't hold it against him that he rooted for the wrong team, but that's okay.
But he would have his little go-bag and I thought his go-bag had all the important stuff in it, which I think it had some things in it, but it didn't have what we needed because by the time we got off the pavement, big mistake. We start walking up into more of a gravel area. And then we start going up and up and up and up and up, and we're talking and we're talking about family and catching up because we don't see each other every six months because we were on this board together. And finally, it dawns on us we're lost. Like where are we? We had the paper map and our GPS wasn't working because in the middle of those woods they didn't have anything set up for us to get any signal and we didn't have any water with us.
I thought the go-bag. I mean, come on dude, you're the officer, you know what's going on. And we didn't have any preparation. Did I tell you we were in our street clothes and at some point we get over this summit and we're too far in to go, go back and we don't have... it's also a time crunch. We got to get to this meeting, right? I told you about that. And so we're like, we got this meeting to get to, but now we got like, we need to survive. We need to like not... And so we're looking at the map and we're trying to figure it out. And pretty soon the Sierra Club - I don't know what they were, we call them the Sierra Club people. And they had ponchos and they had rain gear and they had walking sticks and they had hiking boots and they had a tire that was fitting the trail we were on.
And we're looking at them like, you know, we're sitting there like getting ready to go to a business meeting and they're like, and they frown at us and I'm sure they had names for us when they walked away. Anyway, I won't say them out loud, but they just thought we were the craziest people. And we were. Like, what in the world are we doing? And when we finally find our way out of that, we get down to the ranger at the little information booth and we say, "You know, I think we got off the path that we were supposed to be on. We wanted to do this one." And they said, "Oh no, you were on that one." She says, "Not very many people take that trail." I said, "Yeah, that was crazy." It was a fun thing afterwards. And it's a fun story to talk about, but it's no fun being lost.
It's no fun being lost, especially when our pride gets in the way because we don't want to ask how do we get unlost, if that's the right way to say, it's not, but that's what I'm saying. At some point we got to admit we're lost. At some point we have to say, "I need help." And that's where we find Zacchaeus in this story. And the key verse, I'm going to read it first and then I'm going to read the whole passage, but I'm going to read it first. The whole point of this story is, Luke 29:10 says, "For the son of man has come to seek and save the lost." Jesus, referring to himself, the Son of Man, His favorite term for himself, identifying himself and His humanity; fully God, fully man, but identifying himself and His humanity and His humility to come down to us, to seek and to save the lost.
Now, as you think about the punchline that Luke intended every reader to understand, let's read this story in the context of Jesus being the hero and the subject and the whole point of this story. Yes, Zacchaeus is a part of it. You're important, God's working in your life and you're important to God. But the biggest thing in this world is not your story; it's God's story working in and through to make your story something special. Let's look at the story. "He entered Jericho," Jesus did, "and was passing through. There was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector and he was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because of the crowd since he was a short man. So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus since He, Jesus, was about to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house'. So he quickly came down and welcomed Him joyfully. All who saw it began to complain, 'He's gone to stay with a sinful man.' Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, 'Look, I'll give half my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have rent extorted anything from anyone, I'll pay back four times as much.' 'Today salvation has come to this house,' Jesus told him, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." Jesus came to seek and save the loss. That is the point of this story, and that's the point of our time together this morning.
You see, we know that Jesus is the one who seeks us and we don't see God. He seeks us. He's seeking you, He's seeking me, He's seeking all of us. I stand at the door and I knock, if anyone will open the door, I'll come in, I'll have supper with him. We'll have fellowship together, we'll have a relationship conversation. We will be with one another. Jesus is seeking us. It said He was passing through Jericho. Now in this story, in the life and times of Jesus Christ, Jesus has crossed, He's forded the Jordan River. They don't really describe how and when, but He'd been ministering on the other side of the Jordan. He's now coming across and He comes across the Jordan River to Jericho, which is a town on the outskirts, which was a pretty big town at that time period. I don't know what it's like today, but at that time period, it was a pretty big metropolis little place. And it was on the outskirts of Jerusalem. And it was possible for Him to actually get to Jerusalem from Jericho that day. He didn't have to stop there at Zacchaeus' house.
We don't know if maybe he even spent the night there. We're not sure, We're not told exactly the whole details, but we do know that he said, I got to stay at your house Zacchaeus, but He didn't have to. Logistically, He's also very popular at this moment because this is before he's crucified. So they're all kind looking at Him like the savior, like a military savior. Like He's going to come and he is going to conquer, He's going to bring the Israelite back to their glory, that they're going to get back into the way that they believe that God would want them to be. They would throw off this Roman oppression and there would be this wonderful euphoria. And so this crowd is building - He's a celebrity. And so these people are lining the streets and they're looking at Him and they're coming with Him down. It's this mob of people that are following Him, walking with Him as He goes to Jerusalem, the city. And it's getting close to Passover, so people are already coming that way for the high holy moment of Passover season. And so, the Israelite pilgrims were coming that way.
Jericho was also a, an area where it seems as though the Roman government had set up a tax office there, instead of setting it up in Jerusalem, which would've incited a lot of rebellion and a lot of angst, they put it on the outskirts. And it was very strategic because all of the commerce and all of the stuff had to come through Jericho to get into Jerusalem. And so the Romans who taxed everything and anything there was to tax, whether it be the wheels on your cart, the cart itself, everything in the cart, all the people in the cart and even the clothes on your back. Whatever they could find a way to extort you and take taxes from you they did.
And here is Zacchaeus called the chief tax collector, not just a tax collector like Matthew, who he was at his little booth and Jesus said, "Come follow me." This is the chief tax collector. It looks like he was kind of like in charge of tax collecting in that area. He was a rich man, which is nothing wrong with being rich, but for him to have been a Jew who had been extorted by the Roman government because he's a Jew, he's an occupied nation, and here he is a tax collector, but now he is a chief tax collector. There's some indication possibly by saying that he was a rich man, that he actually had extorted even more than he should have, and he had far more wealth than he deserved to have in any quite a normal occupation that he would've had as Zacchaeus is the Hebrew.
Again, just giving you color to the picture based on exactly what the scriptures are saying here and based on the timeline that all the other scriptures talk about his timeline of where Jesus was going. But it said he was passing through Jericho and he seeks us. What is he saying? We'll look at the story. "He looked up and he spoke to Zacchaeus." Now Zacchaeus had climbed out on this limb, probably might possibly climbed out to the point where he's over the top of the trail where Jesus was coming and he is looking down at Jesus. Or maybe he's to the side and he is looking down at Jesus. We don't know exactly how, but we do know that Jesus looked up, saw Zacchaeus.
Now, of all the people in the crowds, he spoke to Zacchaeus. Of all the places that we see in the scripture where Jesus is with a bunch of people, it seems like he singles out one person, or at least the Holy Spirit inspires the writers to described to us moments in time, snapshots of the life of Jesus where He singled out people by name. How did Jesus know his name? Did people know it? Was he popular? Was this commonly known as the human Jesus or did Jesus supernaturally know it? We're not really told that. All we know is that Jesus saw the man and he called out to him, "Zacchaeus." Jesus seeks us. In fact, it is creation itself that's all around us that declares the glory of God. When you see the sun, when you see the things that we see in nature, it's to point us to the fact that there's a creator behind that, that loves us and cares about us.
When we see the stars that have been flung out into the sky at night and we look at or we see them at night, we see them in the day if we had the eyes to see it. But at nighttime it's when you really see it in the reflection of the sun on those stars, and we see all those stars out there, even beyond our own star being reflected on by other. It, it's amazing all the things, those little stars that are all out there, those suns that are all out there that's just like ours and go, what were they there? They're there far enjoyment, the Bible says. All to point us back to that God is God and that He has a purpose and a plan for our life. He's seeking us in creation, and it's the Holy Spirit that testifies.
Don't think, "Oh man, Greg's talking to me. I do not sit up in my office, look on Facebook and see who needs to be talked to. I just don't. I may look on Facebook, but I don't do my sermons according to, so don't go screaming out of here, "You read my mail." No, I don't think I... I might have read David's mail because if it came through here anyway. No, but seriously, I don't have a plan or an agenda for any one person in this room, but God does. He's seeking you, He's seeking me. He wants, if you don't know him already a relationship with you. And if you have a relationship with Him, He wants to walk with you and help you pursue those purposes and things in life that matter and to pursue a life of meaning that is part of His plan and His purpose for this world.
He seeks us. But not only that, but Jesus saves us. Skipping down to this whole story at the bottom of the story, it says there in verse nine, "'Today, salvation has come to this house because he too is a son of Abraham,' Jesus declares. Zacchaeus became a spiritual descendant of Abraham. He fulfilled the prophecy that God gave Abraham in the Old Testament, "you will have descendants as many as the sands of the seashore, as many as the stars in the sky, you're going to have descendants." And some people thought, "Well, those are just physical descendants." And as time progressed and as we see the New Testament revealing, it's the spiritual descendants of Abraham. We don't have to be blood relatives to Abraham to be related to him, because it's all one story of God's redemptive plan to save the world, to seek and to save the lost.
Now, Luke doesn't explain the details of how Zacchaeus is became a follower of his. We don't see where Jesus got out the Roman road. Now some of you in church, the Roman Road is based on the book of Romans and it wasn't even written yet, okay? He didn't get out the four spiritual laws. Bill Bright that wrote the little pamphlet called the Four Spiritual Laws, he wasn't alive yet, so we didn't have that. I don't know how Jesus did it. I have a favorite way of sharing Jesus called share Jesus without fear, and it goes through the New Testament. Oh yeah, the New Testament hadn't been written yet. We don't know exactly what happened. What we do know is that Zacchaeus gave his allegiance to Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems as though in the scripture's testimony, this was the last publicly identified convert to Jesus Christ before His crucifixion in Jerusalem.
And we know he was saved because of the things that will - and we'll talk about this in just a moment. He stood there and said to the Lord - Zacchaeus at some point, we don't know how he became a Christian. But in verse eight it says here, "He stood there and said to the Lord," it's like everybody was having a party at his house. Jesus is here, the buzz, what's going on here? And we'll talk in a minute about the naysayers of what was going on. But it's just like everybody's having this party and finally Zacchaeus stands up in the middle of the house. Everybody goes, "Zacchaeus going to say something." He says, "My life has changed and I'm going to give half of everything I own to the poor and I'm going to pay back everybody I stole from four times over."
Jesus saved him. There was an evidence of change in his life because again, as I've said this morning, Jesus saves the lost. Jesus himself identified Zacchaeus as a lost person who was found. What is it to be lost? Well, it's what Jesus describes us as before we know him. G Campbell Morgan in his book, "The Great Physician" says, he, Zacchaeus, was lost, was of no value to God, of no value to people, contributing nothing, having purpose and power in the procedures of life, contributing nothing to the wellbeing of his fellow man. And so by the calculations of eternity, he was spiritually lost. He was morally lost. And the tragedy of a lost soul in the last analysis is that God is robbed of His glory.
When we are lost, when we are apart from God, when we have refused or we just don't know and have not yet put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are robbing God of the glory of working through us to make a difference in the world for His name's sake. We're not in on His agenda or His plans. We don't have the Holy Spirit to empower us to do what he's asked us to do. And the kind of life that's fulfilling and meaningful and is a blessing not only to us, but to people around us - we're lost. And Jesus came to save the lost.
Zacchaeus is identified as lost, as a sinner, in three different ways. First of all, he's commonly labeled a sinner because it says he was a chief tax collector. It was synonymous with being a sinner. It is like many times today, and not every person is this way. And I've met many people in public office, but oftentimes when someone is way up in public office, even in a city you might say, "I'm sure they got their hands dirty getting there." We just have a suspicion about people in public office because you don't just get there without a little graft, without a little bit of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, things that people don't want to talk about. The dirty side of politics. Again, I'm not saying that's true for every politician; I'm just telling you, isn't that kind of what we think about? And so when they said he was the chief tax collector, he wasn't just a trader to his nation taking taxes from his fellow people to give to an occupying nation. He was a tax collector of the worst kind. He was in charge of tax collecting. He was labeled publicly as a sinner.
He was also publicly declared by this crowd as a sinner. What'd they say? He's going to stay, Jesus, with a sinful man. What is that Jesus doing going to Zacchaeus' is house? What's he doing going to that kind of a person's house? Why? What's Pastor Greg talking to that person for? Why? And you just named somebody in our church that you think is really spiritually and godly; what is that person having a relation, a conversation with that person over there? Why would they go talk to that person? This us-them mentality? Dare I say discrimination, which is interesting because aren't we all sinners? Here's what part that I caught me in the middle of this passage as I hadn't seen it this before and it's like, they all said he's gone to a sinful man's house. They all said.
Now who's in the crowd? Friends, people that were on the bandwagon to see change in Israel but not real change the way God wanted. But who else was in the crowd? His disciples, the people that had watched Him reach out to sinners, The woman at the well, they'd heard Jesus say he left the 99 to find the one. The woman found one coin told all her neighbors and friends, "I found my lost coin." They knew the story of Jesus. Take this little child, puts it on his lap and says, "This is the kind of person that enters into the kingdom of heaven, child-like faith." They knew this kind of person; they still didn't get it. The moment we start seeing in us, them, those people out there, let's run to the church and hide from the sinner. Let's just fill the church with people running from sinner and then you'll have a church full of sinners running from sinner.
We're all in the same boat. We're saved by grace, but we're all sinners. And the moment churches get an us-them mentality ingrained in their system, they die. The moment we start thinking the us-them mentality, that we're better than those people at our workplace in the neighborhood, at the coffee shop. And the moment we start breaking a conversations with people who desperately need to know Jesus, the lost people who have not yet found Jesus is the moment we step off the path of the mission God intends for his people to be a part of.
He was commonly labeled, He was publicly declared, but He was also a self-feed center. Because at some point it doesn't matter what people think, we need to take stock in who we are in front of an almighty holy God and admit who we are. He himself said, "If I have extorted anybody, I will repay them back." And the way that Greek actually is written, it's not, "Well if I happen to have offended somebody," no, no, no. If I have and I know I have offended people and stolen from them, I will pay back. That's what Zacchaeus was saying. He wasn't saying. "Well," it's sort of like the person that truly offended you with their words. I mean they like really trampled all on top of you with what they said. And then they come to you and say, "Well, if I offended you, please forgive me." That's like a limp handshake. You know, like if you offended me - you know you did. Those words were like cutting and biting and they hurt and you know you did. Don't do this, "Well if I offended anybody, just ask forgive." No, no, no, no. Get specific. And that's what Zacchaeus is doing. He's like, I've offended people, I extorted them. I'm a sinner and I need to repay back. I get right with God and I got to make restitution with people around me that I've sinned against.
Zacchaeus is himself admitted that he had been lost and now he's found. When did you admit you were lost? When was it? I can remember. I was sitting on a second or third row on a hard pew bench in a church service and Eaton, Ohio on a Sunday morning. And the preacher wasn't talking to anybody else, he was talking to me. I can hear people say, "Oh, I was here." You don't have to know the exact day or time or was it the full moon, half moon. You just need to know there was a moment when you got arrested by the Holy Spirit, stopped in your tracks, the lights came on behind you and you pulled over and you didn't say, "What was I doing officer?" You know what you were doing. You were lost and you needed Jesus. When did you admit you were lost? I didn't ask you when you got wet. I'm asking you when you got right in front of a Holy God.
Now I want to point to a couple more things and then we're going to close this morning. I want to show you in this passage proof that Jesus is seeking and saving. And I want to, by using this story, maybe highlight proof in this room that Jesus is still seeking and saving people today, the lost. First of all, the proof that Jesus is seeking people out. We become curious, we become curious, we want to know more. Isn't this Zacchaeus, three piece suit, Zacchaeus climbing a tree? Is that not bizarre? I mean if you went downtown and in the business sector, they're still wearing suits and ties, especially around the courthouse, and you see these lawyers and business people and you see a big crowd coming through a parade of something special coming through. And then you see this guy that he says, "There's a tree" and he in his three piece suit with his slick shoes goes up into the tree in order to see this celebrity that's driving by or walking by. It's as crazy as two guys walking in Mere Woods in their street clothes. It's unusual.
Zacchaeus was curious. He had no idea that Jesus would call out him by name. Zacchaeus may not have even known that Jesus knew his name, but he was looking for Jesus because Jesus was looking for him. Lost people do whatever it takes to find Jesus. They ask questions, they read the Bible, they attend worship and Bible studies. They pray, they admit their inability to say themselves. They say, "I need help to show me what to do." One of my favorite questions is, I don't know what to do next. And you know what? That's God's favorite question from me.
I can remember when I was at my wits end in a situation and I didn't know what to do. I mean, I had tried everything under the sun to fix whatever the problem was that I was facing. And I remember falling flat on my face night after night after night. I go into our spare bedroom, before you have kids, you have something like that. And after that, it's a storage spare. Anyway, but I had this room and I would just flat on the face go, "God, I am bankrupt. I don't know what to do next." Now, I wasn't lost, I was saved, but I was lost in my moment of what to do next in my life spiritually and things that were going on. And I got to thinking about that earlier this week, that I have less times on my face before God because I don't often want to admit I need help as much as I do. And that's the curse of living a long time in the Lord, is that you get too familiar with God that you forget to talk to God more carefully, more desperately. But a lost person asks questions, reads the Bible, they attend worship. They do whatever it takes to find what they need to find. They're curious. That's got at work in their life. We've become committed.
I have no desire for you to make a decision because I've somehow emotionally manipulated you into coming here. Or I've given you some kind of a logical, it just makes sense to be part of a church because that's the new social club in town that's the most important thing for you to belong to. I'm not here to convince you with my wisdom of words. I'm not here to convince you with my great oratory skills of which there are many people who have much better than I do. We're not here to woo you with the way in which we do things. We're here to see, is God working on your heart so that you would want to commit your life to Jesus Christ. We become committed, we start obeying Jesus. "Zacchaeus, come down from there. I'm coming to your house today." "Okay." He climbs down quickly and follows Jesus and takes Him right to his house. He immediately begins to do what Jesus tells him to do.
We know that Jesus is working in our lives. When we start wanting to do what we might not have ever wanted to do before that, we start wanting to follow Jesus and do what He says. How do we tell the world that we're a Christian? In Romans 10:9-10, it says that we must believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead. And we confess with our mouth, Jesus is Lord. We tell the world that we're Christian. What did it say in Acts 2? I talked about it last week. Repent, turn away from the things you used to do that God says an abomination to himself, things that you ought not ever do. The Bible says it's not about legalism, it's saying that I'm not going to be in charge of me anymore. I'm done being the boss. I want Jesus to be the boss, and get baptized.
That's why on October 23rd for someone that is ready to follow Christ, we want to give you the opportunity to publicly declare your faith in baptism. We get committed to Jesus. And the third thing we know, when Jesus is seeking and saving and lost, our lives change. Zacchaeus made an obvious commitment to change. He publicly stood up, he made a public statement. But not only that, he began to do things that were not just the natural thing to do as a Christian. They were pretty supernatural. When you think about it, he said, "I'm going to give away half of everything I own." That's like radical life change. That's like people selling out and saying, "I'm all in for Jesus. I'm going to live on less so that God can have more. I'm going to do more for God, so I'm going to start increasing what I give my time, my talent, my treasures, so that God is honored and glorified in my life." That's radical transformation of someone's life. That's not someone manipulating them into some kind of a plan so that they have some kind of an earthly thing that everybody says, "Oh, look at that person." It's just saying, "God, I want to live my life with you and everything I have is yours, and so I just want to do the right thing by it."
And you know, the Old Testament would've required him to give one and a half times what he stole from people. So give back and then another half of whatever you stole. That was the legal requirement. And somebody would've said, even if he said, "I'm going to give back two or three times more," nobody would've said, "Oh, you should've given even more than that." Nobody would've expected him to give more than one and a half times what he had stolen. He just prompted by this newfound faith in Jesus said, it's time for me to really do the right thing, and I'm going to give back four times what I stole from people as an extorting chief tax collector. His life was changed.
I have a question to ask you this morning. What is Jesus asking you to do? What is Jesus asking me to do? I'm not asking you what's the easiest thing He's asking you to do? It might be easy in your mind, I don't know. But what's He asking you? I'm not asking you to do the toughest thing. I always thought, if I surrender to the ministry, I'm going to be in Africa or I'm going to be in some nation that I have no idea about. I mean, that's just what you do, right? Following Jesus is following Jesus right where you are. And many people will never leave the places where they have grown up and gone to and are working and living. Some will. But most of us are going to be here and be missionaries in our own hometown. We're going to be sharing Jesus and being on mission for Jesus right here in Northeast Indiana. So what's He asking us to do? What is He asking you to do? What is He asking me to do?
For the new believer, for the person is seeking Jesus, what's He asking you to do? To tell the world you're a Christian? And for those of us that are already Christians, what's he asking you to do to keep moving forward and growing in your faith in Jesus Christ? I already said it and I'm going to say it again, "Jesus came to seek and save the lost." We got to recognize and realize we're lost. We need to recognize and realize that God has the answer. I'm going to ask you a question, a couple more and then we're going to be done. Our team can go ahead and come forward. Where is the place that you found Jesus?
Again, where is that place? Where is it that you can mark, you can reference that you found Jesus because you saw that Jesus was seeking you? I told you where mine was, where was yours? At what spot? I'm not trying to put doubt in your life, that's the last thing I want to do. But we all need to have a moment where we recognized I was lost and Jesus found me. I was in my sins and I realized Jesus was there to forgive me and clean me up so that I didn't have to live in the shame of what I used to do.
Another question is, what's the proof? When you found Jesus and you made a commitment to follow Him, was it real? Are you identifiable by people inside and outside the body of Christ that you are following Jesus and that your life is marked by a life of truly obedience, true obedience to Jesus Christ? What proof shows that Jesus has saved and changed your life? Those are the two questions that I would ask in a room full of people that I don't know everybody's heart. Only the Lord knows our hearts this morning.
I've been in church long enough to know that there's some people that do a pretty good job of hiding into the church as a cultural Christian, but they're not a committed Christian. And so, I just say before it's too late, before you face eternity and you didn't really have a relationship with Jesus, I implore you, I ask you, I beg of you; openly put your faith in Him and let Him begin to change your life the way He has always wanted to, but you've not let Him.
And finally this morning, for those of us that would say, "Well no, I've already done that. And there is change. And while it's not as much change as I'd like, I'm not there yet." Welcome to the club. We're hypocrites in recovery. But the last question I would ask us as believers, are we on mission with Jesus to seek and find the lost? How concerned are we for people who don't know Jesus or have we developed an us-them mentality?
If you're coming here to church to run from the world Jesus is seeking to save, you've come to the wrong place because there's that little... we did this last night at the concert. Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the church, here's all the people. But in about 10, 15 minutes, it's going to look like this - the church and the steeple. Where's all the people? They're out there. They're on mission with Jesus, seeking and saving the lost. What part are you in the mission of God? What names do you know don't know Jesus?
You know when I get serious about seeking and saving the lost, it's when I know the person that I know is not a follower of Jesus and I start praying for him and I start weeping about their lostness. And as much as I want Jesus to come back at any moment, and I hear that a lot lately, "Oh Jesus, come quickly, this world is going crazy." When was the world not crazy? But I mean, there's just people that are ready for just Armageddon to take place and just let the bombs reign and let's go home to Jesus because I'm done with this place. The problem with that for me, is that I know a bunch of people that will not enter into eternity with me. And I really don't want that to happen anytime too soon because I want my loved ones to know Jesus. I just pray that you and I will never forget where God found us as we pursue people who need that story in their life as well.
Jesus Finds Zacchaeus
Ever been lost?
Not fun, humbling to admit, wastes time/energy
-illust: lost in Muir woods with Ronnie Sweetman
Jesus came to seek and save the lost
1. Jesus Seeks Us
-passing through Jericho
-looked up and spoke to Zachaeus
-Jesus singles everyone one of us out in the crowd!
-Creation declares the presence and majesty of God
-The Bible reveals who Jesus is and how to find him
-The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus and convicts us of our sin
-see John 15:26-16:11
2. Jesus Saves Us
-“Today salvation has come to this house”
-Zacchaeus became a spiritual descendant of Abraham
-Luke doesn’t explain how long or the details of Zacchaeus’s
-vs “But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord…”
-he openly declared his commitment to Jesus with action
-2 Corinthians 5:15 we no longer live for ourselves, but for
him who died and was raised.”
3. Jesus saves the Lost
-Lost = this is how Jesus describes the people he came to save
-quotes from G. Campbell Morgan
-the person most concerned is Jesus, not the sinner!
-Zachaeus is identified as a sinner in three ways:
-commonly labeled: Chief Tax Collector- Hebrew traitor
-publicly declared: the crowd labeled him a sinner
-declared an us/them discrimination, as if they weren’t sinners!
-we may assume Christ’s disciples joined in on this too!
-churches die when members forget they once were lost
-self-confessed: he “extorted”, knew he owed restitution
-great sinners love Jesus greatly
-spiritually sick people seek a spiritual physician
-needy people come to Jesus with childlike faith
When did you admit you were lost?
Proof that Jesus is seeking and saving:
1. We become curious
-Zacchaeus overcame his stature and pride- climbed a tree
-Lost people do whatever it takes to find Jesus
-ask questions, read the Bible, attend worship and Bible
studies, pray, admit their inability to save themselves
2. We become committed
-We start obeying Jesus Christ!
-Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and welcomed Jesus into his
-Romans 10:9-10 Believe and Confess Openly
3. Our lives change
-Zacchaeus made an obviouscommitment to change
-public- he “stood up” ie, made a public statement
-supernatural- wanted to pay back 4 times what he stole
-What is Jesus asking me to do?
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost!
Where is “the place” you found Jesus?
-is it today, right now? Or when?
What’s the proof?
-What proof shows Jesus has saved and changed your life?
Are we on mission with Jesus to seek and find the lost?
-How concerned are we for people who don’t know Jesus?
-Have we developed an us/them discrimination attitude?
G. Campbell Morgan. The Great Physician: The Method of Jesus with Individuals. Tarrytown, NY: Fleming H. Revel Company, 1982.
“He [Zacchaeus] was lost, of no value, I repeat, to God, of no value to man; contributing nothing having purpose and power in the procedure of life, contributing nothing to the well being of his fellow man; and so by the calculations of eternity, he was spiritually lost, morally lost.
“The tragedy of a lost soul in the last analysis, is that God is robbed.”
Hello all, Steve Mante has graciously agreed to lead the small group this Sunday because Becky and I will be in Florida, have a great weekend and see you guys in a week!
Jerry and Becky
available Wednesday 9/14/22 by 9:00 am
Start With Love
September 11, 2022
Where do we start?
-Where do we begin when living our lives?
-What must we prioritize?
-what do we do first in good or bad times?
-how do we untangle this worldly mess we are in?
Jesus says we must start with love
-vs 31a “There is no command greater than these”
-We often don’t think to start loving others when we are hurting
-Humanity tries to fix our worldly problems apart from
worshipping our creator- and we are failing miserably!
-The scribes were asking Jesus to weigh in on where to start
-they ranked of all the 613 command in the Law, Old Testament
-365 negative & 248 positive, heavy weight & light weight
-the scribe was asking Jesus to “weigh in” on where to start
Love God wholeheartedly
ONE God- Jesus affirms there is only one God
-Christianity says there is no other god except God
-humanity continues to promote polytheism- a refusal to accept
that people have created false gods to worship apart from God
Love the Lord your God
-supreme authority over all
-God first loved us through Creation, Covenant, and Christ!
with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
-wholeheartedly, your total being, not necessarily a statement
on the different parts of a person’s life
-love God more than self, family, possessions, popularity, power
-1 Jn 4:19 We love because he first loved us
-Ray Stedman quote
-Worshipping/loving God is our first purpose in life!
-We start loving God to solve life’s problems, to find fulfillment in
good experiences and to discover our ultimate purpose for living
Love People like we love ourselves
-Jesus unites love for God WITH love for people
-start loving people in every situation!
-God is motivated by His love for us in all he does
-We must also be motivated by love for others when we make
decisions and take action
Love your neighbor
-the scribes would have excluded most people
-humanity is still trying to excuse exclusive love!
-Luke 10:30-37 Jesus denounces prejudice attitudes, racism
-our neighbor is ANYONE near enough to love!
-love = serving others
-self-preservation is the most powerful human instinct
-note: mental illness twists this natural instinct
-Jesus says we must love people like we love ourselves
-Luke 6:31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same
for them (the Golden Rule)
-We start with love when facing human conflict
-Love for others diminishes selfishness and pride
-loving/serving people is another purpose God designed us to fulfill- start loving people in practical ways the way God S.H.A.P.E.d you!
You are not far from the kingdom of God
-the scribe realized God primarily wants a love relationship with us, and for love to permeate our human relationships
-Jesus commended him, but we don’t know if this man ever
fully trusted in Jesus Christ to save him
How far are you from completely trusting Jesus Christ?
-John 3:16 God showed is love for us first!
-Love God back by surrendering your life to Jesus Christ
-loving/worshipping God is our first purpose in life
How often do you start with loving God and people?
-loving/serving people is another life purpose
Man's responsibility is to respond to God's love, which is reaching out to us on every side -- reaching out in nature, reaching out in the supply of all that is being given to us day by day. We are never to forget that the things we enjoy -- the food, the air, the sunshine, the shelter -- all these material things of life that we need -- come from the hand of God. It is God who gives them. It is God's goodness protecting us, sheltering us, and watching over us that keeps us from being ravished and destroyed by the forces that are at work for evil in our lives. God's sheltering hand is protecting us. So when you think about the love of God, and especially the love that redeems us, the proper and only response of the heart is to love God back with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Mark 12 is where we're at this morning. We're pausing in the middle of some series of messages to talk specifically about the purposes of our church. And we're coming up on October when in 2002, 20 years ago, we actually started to organize what we do as a church family. And we launched in Easter of 2003, and we started to rally around two particular verses of scripture, Matthew 22 and Matthew 28. The great commandment of God - love God love people, and the great commission of God to go make disciples, baptize, teach them and everything I have commanded you. And so, we used those and kind of came up with five particular purposes and we've rallied around that ever since, as kind of our mission and purpose as a church family. Not unlike, very much like, and in fact, every New Testament church in one way or the other fulfills these five purposes, they may say it different ways. They may describe them in three different purposes, but we're all in some way, moving in that direction.
We spell that out more clearly in our discovering membership class that I mentioned we'll be doing again in October. But I wanted to talk about this particular passage and actually, the command to love God and love people was recorded. This interaction with the scribes was recorded in three of the four gospels. It was recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And we're going to look at - Mark's account has a couple of interesting pieces to it in the conversation that Jesus was having with the scribe that I want to bring out. But I want to start with the question, where do we start? In other words, our world's a mess always, has been by the way, but it's a mess. I don't know about you, but I'm a little opinionated. How many here are opinionated? Anybody here? We're all opinionated. Some less than others, but we all have opinions.
And I've discovered that when I go online to look for my opinion, it doesn't help me. Well, it does help me, helps me be more right, and have righteous indignation for those who are wrong, right? I mean, it just gets us. We start talking about it with somebody and our blood pressure rises. It just happens. "You're raising your voice." "No, I'm not, I'm just being adamant in my opinion." Where do we begin? Where do we begin even living our lives in good situations, in bad situations, when good things are happening? Why is it that when things are going really well, people don't think about as much of God. And when things are going really bad, we think about God, but we're more looking to God to be our Santa Claus, to be the fix it. God wants today in a relationship with us in the good and the bad.
I mentioned 9-11, church attendance went to an all-time high the Sunday after 9-11. And it dropped down to the average attendance that it was before 9-11 just a month later. It's like, we needed God to get through the crisis, but now we don't need God. What? We start in every moment of our life with where God tells us to start. I mean, how do we untangle this world mess that we are in? What must me prioritize in our lives? What's more important? God, family church - by the way, God in church and family, I mean, family in church are so intricately; like if you pit family against church, don't do that. We definitely have the priority of raising our children and we've made that a priority. But boy, if you make, like children come first and church comes - no, the church is a part of making family first. It's a together thing. Anyway, that's another whole sermon.
Jesus says, we must start with love. I hope before the end of this message, you will have it ingrained. Where do I start today? When you hear something you don't like, where do you start? Love! When you see somebody you don't like - does everybody like everybody around? Not everybody. You know, you're supposed to love everybody, but you'll always like everybody, right? Love, you start with love. I'm having an argument with you. Start with love in that argument. How do you do that? We'll talk about that. Jesus said there's no greater command than these. No command is greater than this. Love God, love people. We start with love. Humanity tries to fix our world problems apart from worshiping our creator. It starts with something else and then if God works into the equation, it's okay.
Some people are trying to create justice systems apart from almighty God. And I'm just going to say; no governmental agency will solve our world's problems apart from being guided and directed by the truth of God and by God himself, there's a lot of good agencies out there. Don't get me wrong. There's a lot of good things to do out there. But if we don't start with worshiping God and loving Him completely first, we will miss the mark of what He wants us to do.
Everything we're trying to do in this world it seems like is failing miserably because we're not starting with love. In fact, there are particular thoughts that have been developed in the United States. In order to write the wrongs of the oppressors who were truly wicked in the way they oppressed in our nation, the solution in many people's eyes is to rise up a new set of oppressors to oppress the people who oppressed. And it's a system not built on love, but on justice and revenge. Be careful that you do not hit your wagon to a philosophy of thought in our world that is all about whoever's in charge is the person who's right.
Be careful that you don't add to the mess of this world, by trying to advocate for people groups, or for movements in our nation and in our world for a matter of fact, that are trying to simply change the power structure, but never change the heart of the power. It starts with love. Now, the Scribes we're asking Jesus, this question. And in fact, we note in this passage that not only does it seem that the scribe that was engaging Jesus was acting positively towards Jesus, unusual. Most of them hated Jesus. We’re trying to trap Him and trying to trick Him, and eventually were part of the mob that destroyed His life, which they couldn't destroy Him, but they destroyed His body. And God used that as the sacrifice for our sins, but this Scribe was positive. And this was actually a moment where Jesus actually commended the Scribe because in like fashion, Jesus was calling them out from their hypocrisy. He was calling them out from their wickedness, but in this particular incidence, He actually commends the Scribe.
But this scribe was asking a question that the scribes themselves were asking for centuries. What's the greater commandments? They had figured out that there were 613 commands of the law in what we call the Old Testament, that 365 of them were negative. Don't do this, don't do that. And 248 of them were positive. Do this, do that. And then they, not to make it even more complicated; they decided that there were a category of dos and don'ts that were heavier or more important. They were weightier. And then they were those commands that were lighter; not so important or big deal. Jesus kind of turned that all in its head when he hit the Sermon on the Mount when He said, "You've heard it said don't murder somebody. I tell you, if you hate somebody you've murdered them in your heart." He kind of collapsed that whole system and said, bad is bad.
You've heard it say don't commit adultery, but I say to you, if you have lust in your heart for someone in a sexual way, that you are an adulterer just as if you did it. Whoa, he collapses this weightier and lighter sins into... so here's the question. If I were to have a glass of water, I've got my coffee here. I'm going to say - would you ever drink after me if I'd said, Here, take it"? Who here would not care? Said I need coffee, I don't care. See, some of you would do that. I had a coach one time, he says, I need coffee. I says, 'Well, I got mine." He says, Oh please." And I poured some in. Thank you, Jesus. Anyway, pour a cup of hot coffee in Jesus name. A.
But let's just say that - raised your hand; how many drops of toilet water would you let me put in here before you would stop drinking out of my cup? Zero. Yeah, but I just cleaned the toilet yesterday. Probably wasn't used. Anybody? Takers? The coffee's tainted. Some of you said one sip from you and you've tainted it with you sipping in it. If it was a clean cup and he gave it to me, I'll take it. But if you took one drink out of it, I'm not drinking out of it. Some of you said that. One sin makes us what? A sinner. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So they're asking Jesus to weigh in on the weight to your lighter sins. But the reality is, He's going to boil it down to the greatest commandments, and we're going to see in a moment how all of the commandments fit into, if we've get this right and we get this right, we're going to get the other things, right?
Let me read for us Mark 12:28, "One of the Scribes approached, when he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, 'Which command is the most important of all?' Jesus answered; 'The most important is, listen O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is, love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.' Than the Scribe said to Him, 'You are right teacher, you have correctly said that he is one and there is no one else except him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself is far more important than all the burn offerings and sacrifices.' When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' And no one dared to question him any longer."
If we're going to start solving our personal life problems, if we're going to start living life to the fullest and live purposefully in a way that's pleasing to God, but is a way that's enjoyable to live. We're going to start with loving God wholeheartedly. Start loving God wholeheartedly. Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy, The Shima, that statement of faith, that was the crux of all the commands of God. Love God completely. And Mark records that he actually quoted the entire portion where it begins with the Lord of Israel. Listen O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. He is one God. He is not multiple gods that get to the same place. You can stack up every God. Other than the God of the Bible, on this side of my podium here, and you can stack God up on this side in terms of there are two categories of gods in the world. There are gods in the world and that is other than Christianity God and the Old Testament, New Testament God I'm talking about here that say to us, we must appease that God, in order to get our salvation. We must do something to earn the favor of that God, which really feeds right into our selfishness and pride.
I can rule my life without anybody ruling it for me. I can earn my way into favor of being right and perfect at the end of my life. I can be in charge of me. You say, "Yeah, but you're submitting to a God." Yeah, but you're submitting to a God that is manmade; that is tapping into your system of thought that you don't have to surrender yourself to a higher being. Every system in the world, Islam included says, you must earn the favor of God, and maybe if you're good enough, you'll get eternal life or whatever it is they're promising. But when you pin down the philosopher and the theologians of any other religion in the world, they will say to you, you have no guarantee that you'll ever get what you're looking for, you hope maybe you will.
On the other side of this podium stands one God and one God alone, and that's the God of the Bible, the one who in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And that one God says, I loved you first, and I gave you opportunity to know me and love me. And all I'm asking for you to do is to respond back to me with love. I'm not asking for your favor. I'm not asking you to earn it. I'm not asking you to work. I am asking you to simply accept my love for you by loving me back. Humanity continues to promote polytheism. They continue to refuse to accept the fact that people were created by the one true God, and that in that alone and our worship of God is perverting the very way in which we're trying to solve our world problems.
There is one God. And he says, you must love the Lord your God. He puts the Lord your God. He puts in the word for authority. That God is a God of ultimate authority. He is the Supreme authority of the world. Now, when you start to create worlds and you start to spin them around this big thing called a sun, and you start to create universes and galaxies, then let's talk about you being God for a minute. But until then, let's bow to the one on who deserves our praise and our love. God first loved us through creation. He gave us this world that we live in. Who gave it to you? What's that joke about says, well, I'm going to start making stuff and start makes it? Yeah, but you need to start, you need to create your own dirt.
God created something out of nothing. We create everything we have out of what He gave us to create it with. He not only gave us creation, showed us His love through creation; He also showed us His love through covenant. And he started a covenant with Adam and Eve. He started that covenant with Noah after he came out of the arc after the flood. And then there's a covenant that he called Abraham out, and so come and I'll take you to a place where I will show you and you'll be a father of many nations. He showed his love and covenant through him. Throughout the Old Testament, there are these covenants. He made a covenant with King David, you will always have someone on the throne. And that fulfillment of that promise He gave to David was actually Jesus, who came from the lineage of David's family, physically.
And now we live in the new covenant, a covenant of grace where Jesus paid the price for the covenant, He fulfilled the righteousness of the law, and indeed, just like he gave us Eden and said live in it and love me. And he gave Noah and Abraham the covenant that said, not because you earned it, but because I simply bestowed upon you my love, I'm giving you an opportunity to grace the world with my presence through you, just love me back. And they did. And then throughout history we see this, and now Jesus shows up and says, for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in him with not perish, but have everlasting life. He's loving you first. Why do I have inscribed in my ring 1 John 4:19, because I know that in my marriage, I know and my wife knows that we love because he first loved us.
Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, wholeheartedly, completely. Now, we can dissect or we made up of four parts in our body, and that's an interesting conversation. And you're welcome to do that this week, as you think about your Bible studies. But as we look at this passage in the most general sense; the emphasis of this is completely love God. We need to love and worship God when we're at work, not just when we're here in the sanctuary. We need to love God and worship him alone in our homes. We need to worship and love God in our neighborhood, when we're mowing the grass, when we're digging ditches, when we're driving trucks, when we're driving down the road, we need to worship and love God completely. We start with love. When we get on social media, love and worship God
Love God completely. Love God more than ourself, our family, our possessions; love God more than our popularity, more than the power that we want to earn or have in this world to influence other people. And I want to just even add to that, that if you are saying that you love your kids, like they're the most important thing to you be careful that you don't put your kids above God. Because whatever is above God, and your love and your focus and your thoughts; that's what you're worshiping. And if you're worshiping your children; not only are you setting yourself up for a lot of yoyos and heartaches, but you're also setting them up to fail miserably because the pressure's too much. No one can handle God status, except God. You can't handle it so don't be trying to be your own little God. People worship you - don't! Don't! Push that aside.
I worship the ground you walk on. That sounds like a wonderful romantic phrase, but guess what? Even if you do that, you need to worship God first, because you'll never be the spouse you know how to be in your home if you don't put God first in your relationship. And by the way, God's not a killjoy. He does not sit there and say, "I have a path for this guy and I have a path for this girl," and they're not even the same. That would be like a cruel joke. Wouldn't it be? As I was talking to Pete and Ashley who came here and declared their vows before the Lord yesterday. They had already been married in the courthouse; they came here to tell the world that they want Christian marriage. They've been baptized, they're moving forward in their faith. And it was just so fun to work with them this past few months and talking with them. And I always use this pyramid of how husband and wife and God as the centerpiece, that when we get close to God, we get closer to one another in our relationship.
When we both get our worship right in our home, we get more right with one another. It's not that simple, it takes time, and I'm not trying to unravel a tangled mess right now this morning, but it starts getting untangled when we start with loving God. Let me finalize my thoughts here by a pastor named Gray Steadman who said, "Man's responsibility is to respond to God's love, which is reaching out to us on every side, reaching out in nature, reaching out in the supply of all that is being given to us day by day. We are never to forget the that the things we enjoy; the food, the air, the sunshine, the shelter," all these material things of life that we need come from the hand of God.
It is God who gives them. It is God's goodness, protecting us, sheltering us, and watching over us that keeps us from being ravished and destroyed by the forces that are at work for evil in our lives. God's sheltering hand is protecting us. So when you think about the love of God, and especially the love that redeems us, the proper and only response of the heart is the love God back with all your heart, soul strength and might. Love God. But then Jesus turns right around, and instead of just stopping there, he goes beyond what was said in Deuteronomy. And he says what actually the Scribes and the Pharisees and all the religious leaders had kind of realized that really this vertical relationship with God, love God, was also completely... I couldn't say it last service either. It was completely tied to our love for other people. Love God, love people. The horizontal, the people we're with on this side of heaven, we ought to love like we love God. We love God. And it flows naturally into - if we're going to love God wholeheartedly, it also flows in that we're going to love our neighbors ourself. Love people like we love ourselves.
He unites love with God, for God, with love for people. We need to start loving God, loving people in every situation. God is motivated by His love for us. If He wasn't motivated by love, you and I would be - what's that Old Testament; we'd be smitten from the earth. I mean, you know how you get, when you're upset with somebody, if you had control of the lightning button, there'd be a lot of scorched earth going around. Wouldn't you? Don't get me... am I the only one that's like, "Man, smite that person. I mean, in Jesus' name." You know, you try to get righteous when you're saying it and you're just getting into trouble as you're thinking it. I mean, you know, we just... we know better, and they don't. What's that Greek word? They're an idiot. I mean, that's just the wrong thing to say. That's just wrong. I mean, but we do this. You're laughing because some of you have said that to the person you're sitting next to. Anyway, that's wrong.
We must, just as God is motivated to not smite us immediately, we must be motivated by love even if we're really upset with the person we're next to. Our motivation, we start with love just as God did with us. "Love your neighbor," he says. Now the Scribes would've excluded most people from who their neighbor was. Luke 10, actually right after this little incident, the guy says, and who is my neighbor? Like, who do I get to not love like I love myself? And then Jesus, again, another Bible study for you to go on your own. Yu can ferret that out to say it was the good Samaritan story. And he took the very person, the half-Jew, the Jewish people that had intermarried with non-Jews, which was forbidden in the Old Testament, and they were basically, there was a racial prejudice and hatred towards that particular group of people.
And he used the Samaritan as the hero of a story to indicate what a real neighbor was. You can go look at that for yourself. But when he basically says, he destroys all the boundaries that we put on this world for how we're supposed to love people and who we're allowed to love and not love. The guy next to you, that's the person you love. The person next to you, that's the person you love. The person in your life, that's the person you love. I can't love a person. In fact, some of us have a better feeling about loving somebody with our money, our resources, maybe even going a mission trip to another part of the world. And we do it much more easily than to just be a missionary in our own hometown and love the people we're around. I'll tell you what; I have fallen in love with the people of Ecuador. Been there five or six times and I go back in November. I love the people there, but you know what? They're easier to love. I don't have to live with them.
Let's just be honest. The people God called you to love or the people that are in your life. Don't go looking to replace the people in your life, replace the attitude. In our church we actually talk about loving in terms of service. And we talk about our shape and how God shaped us, and that we touch on it in our class 101. But really, how we love is really adapted to the way God wired us to love. And that's another whole Bible study in itself. And so, we talk about how one of our purposes is to love people by acts of service, by serving people in His name. Because just saying I love you, but we don't actually solve a problem in those lives or we don't show love in a practical way, that's not really love. Jesus goes to say, love your neighbor as yourself.
Now, I took psychology. That was my major in college. And I know some people, they get psychological on this and say, "Well, if you don't love yourself, you can't love people so you got to love yourself first." I get that. If you have a perverted sense of your love for yourself, if you have an ungodly sense of loving yourself, if you don't love yourself in the way - if you don't see yourself and view yourself the way God sees you and you don't grace yourself with the grace that God gives you, you are going to struggle with this. So that's of course, Jesus wasn't being a psychologist when He said this, the most general sense and the way in which it's written. It basically, He is appealing to the idea that self-preservation and self-love is one of the most ultimate forms and powerful forces in our lives.
Self-Preservation is so powerful that when you're training military personnel, you're training them to go against their self-preservation instincts and run towards the firefight. Firefighters have to train to fight against the natural instinct to run from danger so that they can run into a burning building. Now, some men and women are more wired than others to do that. But generally speaking, the ability and the desire to love yourself is a natural instinct. We are in suicide awareness and prevention month, and I hope and pray that if you're struggling with thoughts of self-harm, that you will reach out to somebody because we want you to know that you are valued and loved, and that God loves you and that we love you. And that there is a pathway towards wellness and wholeness away from what is happening in your mind that is causing you to think that the best form of self-preservation is to jump self-preservation and to hurt yourself in order to relieve yourself of the pain you're going through.
That really, when someone takes their life, they are so fighting against that natural instinct; it's like they're so unwired to their natural instinct of self-preservation that they go into that, not only thoughts of it, but then moving into the action. Self-preservation and self-love is a normal way of living. And if that's not something that's going on in you, you need to reach out for somebody for help. But for the rest of us, where that is, you know, I like what I like, right? You like what you like. Some of you, you sit in the same spot and you love your spot here in the church. And if someone sits in your spot, well, God bless them, but hopefully you'll get there before they do next week because I'm just telling, I mean, I'm just giving you a for instance. We just sort of like what we like. The world be a whole lot better if everybody thought like I did.
Has anybody said that? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the world will be a whole lot better if when I got to the where and where and such and such, they had what I wanted and they did what I asked before I had to tell them twice. They'll get a better tip if I - no, start with love, and love the people like you love yourself. You go into a restaurant and you love that server the way you want to be loved, you're going to have a better relationship and they may not spit in your food. I mean, this is just a suggestion, just a suggestion. Let's get back to the text.
We start with love when facing who in conflict? Love for others, diminishes our selfishness and pride, loving and serving people is what God's calling us to do. Just as we want to be loved and served, we ought to be loving and serving the people in our lives. Love God, love people. Let's start with love. And the Scribe says, "You got it Jesus. I agree with you. In fact, this love God love people, that's more important than the ritual sacrifice in burnt offerings." Let's start with that. And you don't have so many sacrifices in burnt offerings. I mean, religious practice is less important. If we get this right, that flows naturally the right way. Start with love. And Jesus says a very interesting comment to him; "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Huh? See, the Scribe realize that God primarily wants love relationships. He wants a love relationship with us, and He wants that to flow into our relationship with other people. Jesus commended this man, but He didn't say you're in the kingdom. He said, you're not far from the kingdom.
You see, almost is only right in horseshoe and hand grenades. I almost became a Christian. Paul is appealing to a higher authority in politics and the guy who had the right to yay or nay is death. And he said, "Almost thou persuades me" in the King James. You almost convinced me you're right, Paul. But that leader didn't get it. He didn't cross the line. In fact, when you're in a race, the only people who get recorded to have completed the race is if they cross the finish line. And the finish line for finding the grace and the forgiveness and the love of God that saves us forever is putting our faith in Jesus Christ. There's no indication in scripture or history that this person who was talking with Jesus, who Jesus commended and who seemed to be in agreement with Jesus; there's no indication that that man ever put his faith in Jesus Christ to be saved.
He may or may not be in heaven, in other words. We know at this moment he was not in heaven because he was not far from the kingdom of God, but he was not in the kingdom of God. And so my question this morning is, you agree with me, start with love, but have you put your faith in Jesus Christ? Have you crossed that line? Have you told the world you're a Christian through baptism? In October, we're going to have two people get baptized. I welcome you to join that group so that you can tell the world you're a Christian. Not that that makes you a Christian, but that shows the world that you've put your allegiance in the name and the person of Jesus Christ.
How far are you from completely trusting Jesus Christ with your life? Maybe better question is how close are you? How close are you trusting him? A pastor's greatest heartache is to look out and see people, and I know a lot of you put your faith in Him and you said you're a Christian, and only God knows the heart. And by evidence, so many people they give evidence that they are, but I know people that lived a good, righteous, good life, moral life for a long time, and later said that was all me. It wasn't God. And they put their faith in Jesus. Billy Graham, a great evangelist said that there's probably a percentage of people on every Sunday morning of people in the room that say they're Christians, but they really have never crossed the line. They've made an attempt to be a religious person, but they've never built a relationship with Jesus Christ. And so my question this morning is, is that you, is it time for you to cross that line?
Will you put on the connection card I'm committing my life to Christ? Will you come and let me talk with you? Put some people in the back, we'll have some people back there for you to actually talk with and pray through and know for sure that you know Jesus as your Lord and savior. How far are you? You're not close enough if you've not surrendered to Jesus Christ. And then the last question I want to ask those of us who are followers of Jesus, how often do you start with loving God and loving people? How quickly will you start this week with love first?
We Must Care Well!
Psalm 9:9, Luke 4:18, Romans 13:1, James 1:27
May 1, 2022
Abuse is a headline issue
-Movie stars are in court- Johnny Depp, Amanda Heard
-Locally, adults are being convicted of abusing children
-Abuse MUST BE a headline issue for Christians!
Statistics see last page of notes
Abuse is a Gospel Issue!
Jesus suffered horrible abuse when he died on the cross
-beaten, stripped naked to humiliate him, nailed to a cross
-he suffered physically, emotionally, mentally
We Must Care Well!
Psalm 9:9 The Lord is a refuge for the persecuted, a refuge in times of trouble.
-the persecuted = the oppressed, the crushed
Ps 74:21 form of this word used to mean “beaten down”
-The Message: “God is a safe-hose for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times.”
-God cares about abuse victims
-A godly person is a refuge for abuse victims
Luke 4:18-19 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
-Jesus came to
-proclaim release to the captives
-set free the oppressed
-A Christian releases people from the prison of abuse and sets
them free from abusers
Mark 9:37 Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in my name welcomes me.
-Following Jesus = Caring Well for Children!
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world
-look after/protect/serve vulnerable people
-abusers steal human rights, dignity and freedom!
-keep oneself unstained- practice holiness, run from worldliness
How to care well for abuse victims
1. Love them fully
-We must receive them, listen carefully, believe them
-Make sure they know that their well-being is more important
than the reputation of any other person, or church Caringwell.com excellent online video training and helps
2. Secure their safety
-Protect them from the abusive person or situation
Practice Romans 13
-Civil authorities are trained to investigate abuse, not churches!
-Call the Indiana child abuse hotline: 800-800-5556
-If possible, help the abuse victim/family during the investigation
3. Enforce Church Safety Policies
-Our church has a policy to protect minors from abuse while
participating in ministry activities, and protect the integrity of
ministry workers who serve them.
-Policies also help minors who were abused to feel safe
-If you see something, say something! Don’t assume leaders
see or know everything that is going on!
4. Care well for survivors of abuse!
-connect them with trustworthy counseling agencies and groups
-I provide a list of suggested counselors and groups in my
sermon notes posted on our website.
-We want our church to be a safe place to build God-honoring relationships, and God-honoring lives
-again, go to caringwell.com for excellent video training
-be a godly spouse and parent
-marriage and parenting behavior is more caught than taught
We must care well!
-Get help immediately if you are being abused
-Give help immediately if you suspect abuse
-Get help to heal after abuse
-Church Elders, Connection Group leaders, Trustworthy Friend
Note: This sermon used the sermon example from caringwell.com
On average, there are 463,634 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.1
Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2019 (2020). Note: RAINN applies a 5-year rolling average to adjust for changes in the year-to-year NCVS survey data.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center statistics:
A Lifeway study found that 1 in 10 Protestants below the age of 35 have left a church because of silence or insensitivity in responding to abuse.
REPORT CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT
Every Indiana resident is legally required to report child abuse or neglect!
Christian Counseling Services
Cornerstone Vision Counseling
Christus Biblical Counseling
Ministries helping abuse victims
Please Note: These counseling resources are suggestions based on our most current information. St Joe Community Church is not directly affiliated with any of these services. We rely on feedback from members and attenders who use these services to determine whether to continue recommending them.
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Who is your neighbor? Jesus teaches in Luke 10:25 that our neighbor isn’t just the people who live next door, but anybody God brings into your life. As the founder for New Life Ministries in Huntington, Indiana, Pastor Jimi Staton and his staff team are introducing their neighbors to a transformed life through Jesus Christ. For more information about Pastor Jimi’s ministry to the homeless and downtrodden in Huntington, Indiana, visit www.NewLifeMinistries-Indiana.com. For more information about St Joe, visit www.StJoeCommunityChurch.org.
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B: Bible book