Don’t Be A Gomer

When you think about relationships specifically and life in general, the odds are definitely against us. We talked last week about marriage and the statistics are very discouraging at best. For example . . . When asked only three out of ten men in America make marriage a priority . . . Around 50% of all new marriages will end in divorce within about twenty years or so . . . 40% of people when surveyed said they didn’t believe marriage was important and didn’t believe that marriage even works anymore.

There has been such a poor example set by marriage even within the Church that people are skeptical of marriage and many won’t even consider marriage because they have already given up on it. Many people still want that relationship and that connection so people make the wrong choice to co-habitat and live together without being married. And statistics show that living together has a very negative effect on relationships as well. What they are saying is, “I want that connection and I desire that relationship but I don’t want the commitment of marriage.” The reason could be . . . I have never seen a healthy marriage modeled for me . . . I am afraid of the commitment.

But probably the most common reason is . . . I am scarred from my past relationship failures so I don’t want to risk it again. Whether it be a marriage relationship or a dating relationship there has been hurt from the past and we carry the scars of past failures. Usually the problem is we have never really embraced the reality that we are flawed, sinful people. In our hurt we hurt other people. It’s true that . . . Hurt people hurt people! We are hurt or we inflict hurt and we don’t deal with the past in order to move into the future. We keep bringing the hurt, pain, regrets, unresolved issues and non-forgiving spirit into our future relationships.

When it comes to marriage and relationships it is a fact you will most likely mess up. But when you mess up, you don’t give up! The key to success in any marriage or relationship is when you “mess up” you “fess up” and you “get up.” When you are scared and intimidated the real game changer in all of this is . . . The odds are against us but God is for us! When you see that the odds are over here and God is over here, given the choice, I will go with God every time. When our backs are against the wall and it seems like we are losing in our relationships we must remember . . . The odds are against us but God is for us!

If you don’t want to be a statistic and you want to beat the odds in your marriage and your relationships here is what you have to do. You have to deal with your past, to get into your present before you can ever move into your future. That happens through forgiveness. We have to forgive what has happened in the past, to get into the present to have hope of success in the future! We have to practice forgiveness and do what we have said for a long time that we cannot do . . . Forgive and forget!

How many of you have ever heard that or how many of you have ever said that in the past? I will forgive you but I just can’t forget! That’s one of those sayings that sounds good, but it just doesn’t work and simply can’t be true. Here’s why . . . if you are not willing to forget you really are not willing to forgive. I know we retain a lot of stuff although the older I get the more I do forget. But the truth is we do retain a lot of stuff and especially painful memories from our past.

What we have to realize that in order to really forgive we have to forget. Think of it like a scar from a previous injury or surgery. I have several scars on my body. When I look at those I can’t help but remember why and how I got those scars. I remember what happened and how it happened but it doesn’t hurt anymore. While I do remember the pain I have forgotten the effects of the pain. I remember the hurt as I always will but it doesn’t hurt anymore. I have moved on; I have healed my body and my mind of the pain. I have chosen to forgive, or as the song says, “Let it go” and forgot about it. In our relationships, while you will remember what happened and the pain that was there, you have to forget the effects of the pain.

God made us to be in relationship with others. Friendships, boyfriend/girlfriend dating relationships, marriage, etc. We are all made for relationships.  But the sad statistic is when surveyed 25% of people don’t feel connected to someone. They are living life alone which is not how we are made to live this life. It’s like velcro. Velcro is made in two different pieces that are made for each other so they can each fulfill their purpose. Velcro was never made to be alone; velcro was made to be used together. But when velcro is put together sometimes it is ripped apart and as long as it stays apart it is alone it’s not fulfilling it’s purpose. Life was never meant to be lived alone! We grow and find our purpose in relationships.

But in these relationships we have problems. I am convinced that number one reason we are having so many problems in our relationships today is a lack of forgiveness. We are not dealing with our past to get to the present so we are not experiencing success in our future! We keep bringing all the hurt, pain, mistakes and failures with us into all our relationships because we have not either asked for forgiveness or forgiven them much less forgotten about it.

I have two questions for you . . . Are you a Gomer? and Are you a Hosea? The reason I ask those questions is because there is a story in the Bible about the prophet Hosea and his wife Gomer. As we look at this story there are many ways that all of us are a “Gomer.” There are also ways that we can make the choice not to be a “Gomer.” But we all have to choose to be a “Hosea.” If you have your Bible turn with me to the book of Hosea. Close to the end of the Old Testament there is a section of books called the Minor Prophets. They were not minor because of their message but they were minor because of the length of their book.

If you happen not to have your Bible it will be on the screen so you can follow along. 2 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:1-2).

God comes to his prophet Hosea and says, “Hosea, I want you to get married. Now I don’t want you to just marry any girl. I want you to marry a prostitute and I want you to have children with this prostitute.” And he puts in Hosea’s heart a genuine, affectionate, caring love for Gomer. This is not just him saying, “I hate this woman, but I’ll marry her because you’ve commanded me to.” God put it into Hosea’s heart to love her, pursue her, and be totally committed to Gomer even though she was a prostitute.

Despite his love, despite his romance, despite his care, despite him trying to help her flourish, Gomer repeatedly cheated on him. She willingly gave herself to other men, and at one point in the book actually becomes the property of another man. Hosea sells some of his possessions, and buys the woman who is already his wife and the mother of his children back from another man. That’s is humiliating and gut wrenching to say the least.

All of us in our sin nature are a “Gomer.” We have cheated on God. We have done sinful and unrighteous things to God that hurt Him. We have turned our backs on Him. We have run from Him to pursue other loves, desires and relationships. So in many ways we are all a “Gomer.” We cheat, we run, we turn our backs, we pursue other people and other things rather than God. But although in one way we are all a “Gomer” in another way we can all choose not to be a “Gomer.” We can choose to be faithful to God, to stay with God, to be loyal to God, to pursue only God, etc. Or we can choose to cheat, run, turn our backs on God and pursue other things and other people other than God. So make the choice . . . Don’t be a “Gomer.”

But the bigger question I want to ask today in this story is, “Are you a Hosea?” Because I believe the example of Hosea has a lot to teach us when it comes to our relationship to God and others. The first thing you see about Hosea is his willingness to trust and obey God. You saw in that first verse we looked at that God said, “Hosea, I want you to get married. But don’t just marry anybody. I want you to marry a prostitute.” Hosea doesn’t question though obviously this is not normally what somebody would recommend to someone wanting to get married. Hosea doesn’t hesitate but moves straight into action. 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim (Hosea 1:3).

When God speaks and tells you to do something how do you respond? Do you question? Do you doubt? Do you hesitate? Or, do you without any hesitation just obey. Hosea says, “Okay. If that is what you want me to do, I will go and ask Gomer to marry me.” When you look at Hosea you see a person who in any and all situations loved God, served God and was obedient to God.

Later in the story we see another situation between Hosea and Gomer where he shows us in an even much bigger way how obedient, faithful and committed he was to God’s will for his life. Hosea has been faithful to Gomer as her husband. They have had children and somewhere in the story she has gone back to a lifestyle of prostitution. But then it gets even worse than that. At some point she has actually become the property of another man. God speaks to Hosea at this point and asks him to do something that seems so unfair, so unjust and extremely humiliating.

He tells Hosea to go and buy her back! And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1). That must have been a heart wrenching process. You are looking for your wife who was a former prostitute who is now back into prostitution. Where do you go looking for her? How messy is that search? How painful is that pursuit? As you walk those streets in neighborhoods where you know you shouldn’t go.

But in these places is of all the people in the world, Hosea the man of God looking for of all people, his wife. Then what does he do? 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. (Hosea 3:2). She is his wife and she is already his but he buys her back. Imagine the scene with me. Hosea finally finds her somewhere and in some condition being sold to the highest bidder. He walks up and says, “Excuse me, sir. But that’s my wife.” This man replies back, “I don’t care who you think she is. This is her price and if you want her this is what you will have to pay.”

And the most amazing thing happens . . . He pays for what is already his and buys her back! Can you imagine what that exchange was like when Hosea looked into the eyes of his wife. She most likely hung her head in embarrassment saying, “He’s found me. I’ve abandoned him and I’ve abandoned our three kids. But yet he insists on buying me.” These other men sought to buy her to use her. Hosea is buying her to heal her because he lover her! In that moment and all moments forward he is letting her know that he genuinely loves her and he sincerely forgives her for what she has done.

As you look at this, I want you to see something about forgiveness. I want you to see . . . The power and necessity of practicing forgiveness. Think about this with me . . . Did Hosea have to do this? (No) . . . Did Hosea need to do this? (Yes) . . . Did Gomer deserve this? (Absolutely Not) . . . Was this easy? (Absolutely Not) . . . Was it necessary? (Yes). And let me explain why I say it was necessary. I know God told Him to and that makes it something that is necessary. But even beyond that there is power in practicing forgiveness.

One of the reasons I believe we have so many problems in our relationships is the lack of forgiveness. We have never really forgiven people for what they have done to us or forgiven ourselves for what we have done to them. We keep bringing the baggage and bitterness of a non forgiving spirit into all our relationships. Whether it be marriage, dating, work, family or just friendship, all of our relationships are affected by our unwillingness to forgive and forget. We have never practiced relational forgiveness in the past to get into the present so we can experience relational success in the future. We wonder why our relationships are always a mess and we can’t find joy.

It’s because we keep repeating the same negative cycle over and over again because we have never really forgiven others or forgiven ourselves. The worst place this could ever happen is within the Body of Christ where people are “brothers and sisters in Christ” but don’t forgive or ask for forgiveness. People say, “Well, they don’t talk to me.” Ok, understood. But have you talked to them? You want to know how you can know you have truly forgiven somebody for what they have done or asked and been forgiven for what you have done? When you can see them and not “duck and hide” from them.

As hard as it is to admit to ourselves the Bible says Hosea is a picture of God and you and I are a picture of Gomer. Hosea humbles himself and buys back what is already his. Our story of redemption through the blood of Jesus is within this story. It starts in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God and chose their own pleasures over God. At that moment sin nature was birthed and passed down to all us. God sends Jesus to be the permanent fix to our sin problem.

Through His blood He pays for something that is already His and for something He didn’t do! 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8-10).

The Bible says the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof and mankind is the unique possession of the creator God. And yet, two thousand years ago He paid a dear price for what He already possessed. He sent His Son who spilled His blood to purchase back what was already owned. Think about this . . . Did Jesus have to do this? (No) Did Jesus need to do this? (Yes) . . . Did you and I deserve this? (Absolutely Not) . . . Was this easy? (Absolutely Not) . . . Was it necessary? (Yes).

When you forgive others you are being obedient to God and modeling for everyone what Jesus did for you! When you choose to be a “Hosea” people see Jesus in you and you find the joy and peace that has been so successfully alluding you in your relationships. Did you see what Hosea’s forgiveness was supposed to look like? We read it a minute ago and let’s look at it again. And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1).

Are you a Gomer? By your sin nature, yes you are. But in your daily life you can choose to not be a Gomer. What Gomer did was totally her choice and what you do is totally your choice! Are you a Hosea? Have you forgiven yourself for what you have done to others? Have you asked others to forgive you? Have you forgiven others for what they have done to you? Don’t be a Gomer! . . . Choose to be a Hosea!


The Wall

I have always heard that people who run marathons talk about “hitting the wall”. I have a picture of a person on staff when they “hit the wall” in a race. When I asked people who actually train and compete in marathons if “hitting the wall” is a real thing their immediate response is “Oh yes!” They say it usually happens around the 20-mile mark. They say there is hardly no way that you can not “hit the wall.” No matter how hard you train or how good of shape you are in, everybody who runs a marathon will “hit the wall.”

Researchers have looked at data from people who are what I would call “weekend warrior” and “world class” types of marathoners and it has been proven that all of them struggle with the last 10k or a marathon. But how you persevere through “the wall” is determined by how much effort you have put into your training, hydration, nutrition, etc. All of that is important when it comes to competing and finishing well. They say when you do “hit the wall” perseverance and determination is what gets you across the finish line.

The Christian life as we saw last week is often illustrated as a race. When looking back on his life and sharing with his young protege Timothy, Paul said, 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7). He also told the church in Corinth, (1 Corinthians 9:24). One of the biggest ways many of us feel the odds are against us comes when we think about living this life or as Paul refers to it as, “running this race”.

We face pressures, temptations, struggles, battles, etc. We have a daily fight with our sin nature and we begin to identify with what Paul said about himself, 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . . 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:15,18-19).

In the Christian life most of us struggle more with the finish more than we do the start. Our constant struggle is with perseverance, determination and faithfulness. Our biggest question is, “When it feels like I am ‘hitting the wall’ how can I persevere and stay faithful in my Christian life?” You look around and it seems like the odds are really against you staying faithful in your commitment to Christ. With all the external temptations and pressures and the battle with your own sin nature you feel that the odds are definitely against you.

When we see that the odds are not for us what we can know for sure is God is definitely for us. If I look at the odds over here and they are not so good and God is over here, I will choose God over the odds any day, every day, any time and all the time. Because I know that even though the odds are not so good, God has a plan and He is for me. The real game changer that we have to remember in all of this is . . . The odds are definitely against us but God is definitely for us! Make the decision to choose God over the odds so you can defeat the odds.

Psalm 119 is on record as the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses. What you see when you get into Psalm 119 are these internal keys to success that equip you to finish strong and persevere and push through “the wall.” If you have your Bible with you, turn over to Psalm 119. If you don’t it will be on the screen so you can follow along. If you are going to persevere you have to . . . Be determined and discerning in your life.

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. 107 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word! 108  Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules. 109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. 111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:105-111).

There are several things the psalmist knows for sure . . . He knows there will be difficult times ahead. He knows there will be some places where he will have to go that will require some insight and direction. He knows that to make it through he will have to be determined to stick to what works and walk away from what doesn’t work. That is why he says from the beginning, 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105). Somewhere along the way he realized that God’s Word is the only thing that works. God has proven Himself and to make it he will have to trust God and stay close to God as he lives this life and runs this race.

That is why you see such conviction from him about staying faithful to God and His Word. He uses some strong words to show how determined he really is. 106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. (Psalm 1119:106). He has made it his conviction based on his personal experience and made it clear to the people around him that he is staying faithful to God’s rules and laws.

Life is put before us with choices of where are we going to go and what are we going to do. 109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. (Psalm 119:109-110). Anytime you “hold something in your hand” that means you have multiple options about what to say, what to do, where to go, etc. It’s like an option play in football. The quarterback has the ball and once he takes the snap, he has the option of running with it or pitching it to the running back who is supposed to be in position beside him. In that small amount of time what is going through their minds is, “Based on what I see coming at me, what is the best thing to do?”

What the psalmist says is, “I’ve got all these choices, but I DO NOT forget your law.” “There are these very alluring and tempting traps laid out there in front of me, but I DO NOT stray from your precepts.” You must always know what God’s Word says so you can remember what God’s Word says so you can always do what you are supposed to do!

If you are going to persevere you have to know that . . . Change is a heart issue before it can ever become a habit. Another way to put that is that for something to become a behavior it has to first become a belief. 112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. (Psalm 119:112). The belief that drives the behavior has to change otherwise the change won’t stay.

If you incline something that means it wasn’t naturally in that position. If you incline your heart that means your heart was not naturally in that position. If something is inclined that means it was declined before you inclined it. The Latin root of the word incline is “inclinare”, and it means “to lean”. “Incline” means, “to bend the head or body forward; to bow; to lean, tend, or become drawn toward an opinion or course of conduct: to deviate from a line, direction, or course; specifically; to deviate from the vertical or horizontal.

Your heart is naturally declined and turned away from God. To “incline your heart” is a willful, determined act to orient it in another direction. 112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. (Psalm 119:112). When you incline you are putting yourself in a different position than what you were previous in. He is telling God, “I have put my heart in a position to always obey You.”

When you incline you are telling the person you are inclining to, everybody around you and yourself that this is what you want more than anything in the world. “Inclining” towards something is a bold statement about your desires, beliefs and convictions. By your actions you are saying, “I know for sure this is what I need and this is what I have been looking for.” Inclining your heart is such a bold statement of faith and strong commitment it becomes obvious to you and everybody around you that you want change in your life. At the point where you say, “I want to incline”, you have finally realized you want your new life to be a habit and you know it is a heart issue that has to be settled first.

When change has become a habit then and only then are you able to see what naturally comes next. You are finally able to truly . . . Hate the bad and love the good. 113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. (Psalm 119:113). Paul referenced this same thought when he said in Romans, 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Romans 12:9). The only way you can ever truly hate the bad and love the good is to “incline” or “lean in” towards God and let Him know He is all you want and you love only Him and you want to serve and please only Him! If you attempt to hate all the sin in your life and love God without truly inclining towards Him, you will fail every time.

I see people all the time that say, “Well, I was doing really good for the first few months and I just don’t know what happened.” . . . “I made a commitment at camp to live for Jesus but then I got to school and I don’t know what happened to me.” . . . “I made a decision to walk away from the drugs but I just can’t stay away from them.” . . . “I know I need to separate myself from the people that are a negative influence on me but I just keep hanging around them.” . . . Or, people trust Jesus as their Savior and get really involved for two or three months and they disappear.

You want to know why these scenarios and many others like them keep playing out in people’s lives every day? Because what they are doing never became a heart issue. They didn’t really make what they were doing a belief before they tried to change their behavior. If you focus on the outside before you really deal with the inside, you will not see any lasting change! The only way you can really hate something is to love something even more. The more you really love something, the more hate you will have for everything that draws you away that.

So the more love you have for God the more hate you will have for sinful habits, desires and pleasures that pull you away from God. I am convinced the only reason people do not break free from their habits or toxic relationships is because they have just had a “crush” on God or an “infatuation” with God and not a true love for God. The psalmist says he hates the double minded. “Double minded” means you are never fully into anything. You are always bouncing between many things and never really settling on what is the main thing. This is what he says he hates and the only way to hate this is to truly love something opposite of those things.

Don’t be so naive to think that temptations will never come even after you have made a bold declaration of love for God and hatred for what is not of God. Satan will attack and hurl temptations at you. So when they come you have to be ready for the attacks. So the Battle Plan to keep hating the bad and loving God is . . . Hide and hope. 114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114). Hiding is finding a refuge in God; a safe place to retreat to. Hope is not a “I hope this will work out” kind of hope. It is a hope that says, “I know this works and the only hope I have is in your word.”

This hiding place is not somewhere you run to find when you are under attack. You have a plan and you know where you are going. It is a predetermined, pre-planned place that is all a part of your strategy when you feel an attack on your heart and soul. You establish that hiding place, safe place, and refuge before trouble is ever a thought. You know when it happens this is where I am going because I know that is safe. You also know God will protect you as a “shield” at that time and in that place.

It’s like when you used to play “hide-n-seek” as a kid and you found the perfect hiding place where you never were found. When you found that place that gave you a sure win in the game, did you ever let anybody else know where it was? Not unless you were not a smart player because once you did that is where they would come to find you the very next time.

All of this gives you what it takes to persevere in your Christian life. When you feel like you have “hit the wall” and you can’t take another step you will “push through” and win. All of this give you everything you need to look your Enemy (Satan) in the eye and tell him you will not do what he is tempting you to do. It will give you the strength and the boldness to look at all your habits, negative attitudes, addictions and negative influences in the face and tell them you are finished with them and to leave you alone. 115 Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God. (Psalm 119:115). When you read that, don’t you feel the confidence in his pen and the boldness in his voice?

In 1980 a young man from Rwanda was forced by his tribe to either renounce Christ or face certain death. He refused to renounce Christ, and he was killed on the spot. The night before he had written the following commitment which was found in his room:

I’m a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I’m done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power. My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear.

I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!


Get Up

By definition, revival means, “bring back to life and to restore.” Revival has nothing to with the culture and everything to do with the church. Revival is coming back or waking up. Revival is getting back to the Christian life as it was meant to be lived. Code Blue is all about revival and coming back to life within the church. If you have ever watched a medical drama or been in the hospital and heard them say, “Code Blue” it means someone has lost all signs of life and needs to be brought back.

Revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that he shows up Himself. But it has to start with us being broken over our sin, broken over the conditions of the world and the church and falling down in repentance begging God to work in us and through us. True, genuine revival happens within the personal circle that Rodney “Gypsy” Smith talks about us drawing. He says if you and I truly and genuinely want revival and if you are willing to stand before God, if you are willing to draw that circle, and if you are willing to stand in that circle and pray for revival to begin within that circle, it is a 100% guarantee that revival will break out within the church and there will be an awakening within the culture.

So often what we do is confuse the meaning of revival and awakening. America does indeed need an awakening, but the church does indeed need a revival. We often use the words revival and awakening interchangeably, but there is a distinction. An awakening is when a nation comes alive spiritually, initially sees its need for God, and turns to Him. A revival is when God’s people come back to life again. Today we are talking about The Action Of Revival. Our Theme for this entire series is . . . Revival inside the church brings awakening outside in the culture.

God is always poised and ready for revival. But the big question that God continually puts before us is . . . Are you ready for revival? We can’t just say it and expect it. We must pray it and act on it! In other words, “If you really want revival, don’t just tell me, show me. Prove to me by your actions that you want revival.” Our Big Idea for today is . . . Revival begins when I respond to Jesus’ challenge.

If you have your Bibles, turn with me to John 5. If you don’t have your Bible, it will be on the screen so you can follow along. In John 5, Jesus has gone back to Jerusalem. And it says that there was a pool that was a common hangout in Jerusalem. “Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.” (John 5:1-2).

This pool at Bethesda was a two-pool complex that was twenty feet deep in some places and as large as a football field. Since it was a large covered area that gave relief from the Middle Eastern sun, it was a popular gathering place in first-century Israel. “3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.” (John 5:3). When Jesus enters the Bethesda pool area, He notices one particular man. It says there were a great number of disabled people—blind, lame, and paralyzed.” (John 5:3).

Among all the people who came regular to bathe there were people who were sick. They probably had their spot reserved where they would beg for money but there was something else that kept them coming back. In most translations of the Bible they leave out John 5:4. It is included as a footnote at the bottom of the page. Some manuscripts include here, wholly or in part, paralyzed—and they waited for the moving of the waters. 4 From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease. (John 5:4-Footnote).

There is a reason this is left out of most translations because we know it wasn’t true. Every once in a while the waters would seem to stir, but it was really just the intermittent springs that fed the pool. But over time there was a superstition that had grown up around this event. They began to spread the word and actually believe the stirring was caused by angels. When it was “stirred” there was a race to be first in the water because that person was rumored to get healed of their infirmity. The tragedy was it wasn’t true.

When Jesus enters the Bethesda pool area, He notices one particular man. It says there were a “multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.” (John 5:3). Out of all the invalids there Jesus picks out this man. Why this man? Was his situation more desperate than the others? According to life expectancy this man was already past his prime and pretty much on borrowed time. The average life expectancy at birth was about thirty years. If you lived past the age of ten, it rose to about forty seven years.

So out of all the blind, lame and paralyzed here in this pool area, Jesus goes directly to this man. “5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:5-6). When you think about his situation, Jesus’ question can seem unkind or even unnecessary. It can seem like adding insult to injury. Here is a man who has been an invalid for thirty-eight years and Jesus says, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). Jesus was getting down to his heart and to the very core of his desires. What Jesus was really telling him and challenging him with was . . . Don’t settle.

The truth is more often than not people can get very comfortable, very content and very complacent with the way things are even when it is a terrible situation. They know things should change and they think about changing quite a lot. But when it comes down to it they really don’t want to do what it takes to change. By asking him that question, 6 “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:5-6), Jesus was letting him know if he really wanted to get well he would have to throw away his mat. It meant he would have to get a job. It meant he would have to use his healed legs. It meant a new level of responsibility to himself and to society. Another way we might look at Jesus’ question is, “Do you really want to be healed?”

Think about it. This man’s world consisted of eight square feet. He went through the same routine day after day after day. That might seem monotonous to us but it was safe. That mat could have possibly become his security blanket. Over the years I have come across people who like the idea of “being well” but they don’t want to do what it takes to be well. They really don’t want to pay the price! They either think they can’t change or don’t want to do what it takes. If someone really wants to gets well, they need to hear what they don’t want to hear and do what they don’t want to do!

Another way we can become very comfortable, content and complacent is spiritually. Spiritually speaking God looks at us all the time and asks the question this way . . . Do you really want to change? It might be that you have been the way you are for a very long time. You might have accepted Jesus as your Savior many years ago. You might be very mature in physical years but when it comes to your relationship with Jesus you are still just an infant depending on others for all your spiritual needs and haven’t grown like you should. So when you look at your life do you see that you need to change? And, do you really want to change? Do you really want to see revival?

If you really want to change and if you really want to see revival, then Jesus has some direct words for you. Stop making excuses. 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (John 5:7). I can almost see Jesus just looking at this guy and going, “Stop, stop, stop! That’s not what I asked you. I asked you if you want to be healed?” He was simply answering from what he knew. He was answering from out of what he knew and not allowing himself to see what God knew.

We can be at a place where we know things need to change. But we are like this man who was an invalid. We live and exist in what we know and don’t allow ourselves to see what God knows. God can come to us and ask, “Do you want to be revived?” Then we start responding with what we know . . . “Well, Jesus I know I am not where I am supposed to be. I believe in You but I know don’t make the right decisions. I pray sometimes. I read my Bible a little. I go to church sometimes. Jesus, I even help people.”

And He goes, “Stop it! That’s not what I asked you. I asked you if you want to experience real life. I asked you if you want more than what you are currently experiencing. I asked you if you want to experience “abundant life” like only I can provide. I asked if you want to be revived?”

God is always ready for revival to break out. The big question is, “Are you ready?” God looks at you and says, “I’m ready. I am always ready. I’m waiting on you to show me you are ready.” He tells the invalid man to do something that sounded at that moment and was at that moment simply impossible for an invalid to do. He looks at him and says, “Get up!” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:8-9). The very moment Jesus spoke those words there had to have been some thoughts firing off in his brain.

He probably thought, “This is crazy. I can’t get up. I can’t walk so how am I going to get up?” Then there was the issue with the people around who were a part of the same crowd . . . “multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.” (John 5:3). These were probably his friends or at the least they knew him pretty well. After all, they hung out with each other all day every day here at the pools. So there is the issue of potential embarrassment and ridicule from his peers. He was probably thinking, “Get up? If these people see me even try to get up and I fall down they are going to make so much fun of me and I will be so embarrassed.”

But as quickly as all that came into his mind he had to put it out of his mind. He had to want what Jesus was offering, believe in Jesus and the words He spoke to Him. When you look at your life, do things need to change? Are you at a place where you are just “going through the motions?” Are you at a place where you have been running from God and you know things need to change? Are you at a place where you know you need to be revived? Jesus is telling you to, “Get up!” Are you tired of the doing the same old thing and getting the same results? “Get up!”

Do something to show Him that you want what He is offering and you believe in Him and His word. Don’t worry about how much it doesn’t make sense. Don’t worry about where you have been or where you are. Don’t worry about what you have done or are doing. Jesus can and will take care of all that. God always wants to redeem your past and reclaim you for the future! There might be people around you who you think will ridicule you. But a changed life lived in total surrender to Jesus will silence all of that.

One of the biggest hurdles we face in taking the initial step to accept Jesus’ offer of personal revival is the trap of religion. Many times for most all of us revival feels awkward and sounds weird because all of us at some level have been fooled by religion and religious activity to think we are okay just the way we are. But the truth is . . . Revival goes in the face of religion. 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” (John 5:9-10). There will always be people who don’t understand . . . even some people who “think” they know Jesus.

For a person who is caught up in religion and religious activity, revival scares them to death. Religion is structured and appears to be safe. Revival is based all on a relationship with Jesus. Revival is liberating and sets you free! When you are revived you are free to be who Jesus calls you to be and do what Jesus calls you to do. Religion traps you into a rigid set of laws, “do’s and don’t’s”. But Revival frees you up from religion into a vibrant and growing relationship with Jesus!

These Jewish leaders totally missed the fact that this man had been healed. In this town they obviously knew this man. They knew he had been an invalid all his life. They couldn’t see him standing before him for focusing on their laws. They looked at this man and without even acknowledging the miracle before them immediately said, “Why are you carrying your mat? You know it is the Sabbath and you are not allowed to carry your mat on the Sabbath.”

His response was sort of like, “Well, if I was still unable to walk I wouldn’t be carrying it but I am healed and I was told by the very man who healed me to carry it so I am carrying it.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. (John 5:11-13).

When you experience revival you can expect opposition from those who are not Christians and from those who are trapped in religion. But when you have experienced true, genuine revival in Jesus you really won’t care. Because what you are continually experiencing in Jesus will be so awesome and powerful you will not care what others say or what they might think!

If you have never surrendered your life to Jesus and trusted Him as your personal Savior . . . Jesus is asking you today, “Do you want to get well?” If you do, then trust Me. Surrender your life to me and “Get up!”  If you know Jesus as your Savior but you have been living in rebellion and deliberate disobedience to God . . . Jesus is asking you today, “Do you want to get well?” If you do, then trust Me and “Get up!”  If you know Jesus as your Savior but you have just been “going through the motions” in your Christian life and you want more . . . Jesus is asking you today, “Do you want to get well?” If you do, then trust Me and “Get up!”

Remember . . . Revival begins when I respond to Jesus’ challenge. Jesus is putting out a challenge before every one of us. He is challenging us to respond to His offer of revival. To “bring back to life and to restore” what you have allowed to die. His offer of revival is a wake up call to the abundant life He brings to everybody who is committed and sold out to live for Him. Revival is a calling to get back to the Christian life you were meant to live.


The Circle

When you hear the word “Revival” what comes to your mind. Here’s what I think of . . . five-days . . . Spring and/or Fall . . . Suits . . . “Loud” Preaching . . . Big Tents . . . etc. These thoughts are what I would call misconceptions or wrong ideas about revival. While five-days might be the length of a renewal among God’s people, it doesn’t have to be just that time frame . . . While it could occur in the Spring and/or Fall, it doesn’t have to happen during that time . . . While it used to be a popular thing to meet under a tent, it doesn’t have to be in any particular surroundings or environment . . . Preaching doesn’t have to be “Loud” . . . etc.

I say these are misconceptions because this is not what makes Revival really a Revival. Revival has no certain place and no certain time. Revival can happen anywhere and anytime. But there are elements that have to be in place. Revival is about the heart of a Christ-follower. That is where “revival” truly begins. Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker speaks about a man by the name of Gypsy Smith.

Rodney “Gypsy” Smith was powerfully used of God preaching to millions as he crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean forty-five times. He never received a formal education, yet he lectured at Harvard.  He grew up in a gypsy camp outside London, yet he was invited to the Whitehouse by two different presidents.  Everywhere he went, it seemed like revival was on his heels.  Gypsy revealed his secret to a delegation of revival seekers that asked him how they could make a difference with their lives the way he had with his life.

His answer was simple but yet profound. It was as timely and timeless now as it was a hundred years ago. He said if you really want revival and you want to see revival take place this is what you do . . . “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk, draw a circle around yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.” (Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker, p. 215).

By definition, revival means, “bring back to life and to restore.” Revival has nothing to with the culture and everything to do with the church. Revival is coming back or waking up. Revival is getting back to the Christian life as it was meant to be lived. Our new series, Code Blue is all about revival and coming back to life within the church. If you have ever watched a medical drama or been in the hospital and heard them say, “Code Blue” it means someone has lost all signs of life and needs to be brought back.

Within the church to be revived is to wake up from a state of sleep. C. S. Lewis once said, “A moderately bad man knows he is not very good. A thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. . . . You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping.” In other words, if you think you are a great person with no problems, then you are really more asleep than you realize.

So often what we do is confuse the meaning of revival and awakening. America does indeed need an awakening, but the church does indeed needs a revival. We often use the words revival and awakening interchangeably, but there is a distinction. An awakening is when a nation comes alive spiritually, sees its need for God, and turns to Him. A revival is when God’s people come back to life again. Today we are talking about The Beginning Of Revival. Our Big Idea for this series is . . . Revival inside the church brings awakening outside in the culture.

Revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that he shows up Himself. But it has to start with us being broken over our sin, broken over the conditions of the world and the church and falling down in repentance begging God to work in us and through us. True, genuine revival happens within that circle. If you and I are willing to stand before God, draw that circle, stand in that circle and pray for revival to begin within that circle, revival will break out within the church and there will be an awakening within the culture.

To “set the stage” for this new series, Code Blue I want us to look at one of the greatest revivals and awakenings that has ever happened in the Bible. If you have your Bible, turn with me to the small book of Jonah. The book of Jonah is a very small book in the Old Testament in a section of God’s Word known as the minor prophets. It is not put there because what happened during that time or what they had to say was not as important as the others but that their content is shorter. Very important message but less words than the major prophets.

The book of Jonah could be summed up like this . . . God said “Go,” but Jonah said “No,” and God said “Oh?” Jonah reluctantly obeyed and a great revival broke out in Nineveh. It took God longer to prepare His servant and get him to obey His call than it did for the entire godless city of Nineveh to repent. Things haven’t changed much. They are still pretty much the same. It still takes longer to get Christians motivated to share the gospel than for sinners to repent.

God’s call for revival will always come because God wants what is best and right for us. But sometimes when we are confronted with drawing that circle and getting inside that circle we run away from it. Our posture to God’s call will be determined by our position. Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3).

The ancient city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which was the superpower of that day. The population of Nineveh was around 1 million, about the size of San Francisco. It was a very big city for ancient times. The Ninevites lived large, driving the best chariots and enjoying the finest food and the most exotic entertainment. They had a business and commercial system like none in the world.

But the Ninevites were really cruel people and were known for their savagery. When the Ninevites would conquer a nation, they often would torture their prisoners before they executed them. Rather than hide their depravity, they celebrated it and proclaimed it. They even built monuments to their own cruelty. So Jonah really did not like the Ninevites. And knowing God like he knew God, Jonah knew if these people repented God would forgive. So rather than being rid of an archenemy, they would still be around to haunt and torture them.

Jonah’s attitude was like, “This entire nation is my enemy and they are so cruel and wicked they deserved to be destroyed. It serves them right to be punished. They don’t deserve to be forgiven and honestly I don’t want them to be spared God’s punishment.” Because Jonah was not in the right place in his heart. When your heart is not in the right place your feet will run away. When your heart is not right your feet will run! He ran from God’s call to be His messenger to the city of Nineveh. Rather than going to Nineveh, he went in the totally opposite direction to Tarshish as it says, 3 So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3).

Before you are quick to jump on Jonah you need to ask yourself, “Have I ever tried to run from God and His will for my life?” We did establish that the Ninevites were the enemies of Jonah and all the Jews. They were the Nazis and al Qaeda of their day. Asking Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach would be like taking a Jew living in Germany during Hitler’s tyranny to go to Berlin and preach to the Nazis. Or, going to an Israeli today and asking him to go preach to the nation of Iran because God is going to judge them if he doesn’t. So, “Have you ever tried to run from God and His will for your life?”

What Jonah figured out on the ship is you can’t outrun God. No matter how much you don’t want to get in that circle, God will not give up. What he realized was that When your position is not right God will continue to pursue you. When you are running from God it will be obvious to you that God is pursuing you. 11 For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” (Jonah 1:11-12). There had been storms on the sea. It probably was not uncommon to have storms but with this one they all knew something was different. When confronted by it, Jonah even admitted he knew why it was happening.

So here Jonah’s situation goes from bad to worse and probably to the worst of the worst. God will sometimes use a situation to put you in the right place. 17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17). What happened here is for the first time ever, rather than man eating fish the fish ate the man. He has gone from running, to the ship, to the sea and now to the belly of a fish.

You notice that in the story of Jonah this is the first time where he actually prays and cries out to God. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, (Jonah 2:1). He has hit a low and God is using the belly of the fish to get his attention. Some people might say, “If I was in the belly of a fish, I think I would be crying out to God and I think that would get my attention.” My question is, “Why does it have to be the belly of a fish?” There are some things that happen in life that God can and will use to put us in right relationship with Him and to bring Him glory and we can sometimes just miss it.

It could be as simple as an encounter with somebody . . . It could be a common life occurrence or situation . . . Or, it could be a tragedy that wakes us up to the reality of who God is and what He can and wants to be in your life. What we have seen in recent days is the eternal impression my niece, Mackenzie has left on all of us, this community and beyond. We have seen many people realize they didn’t know Jesus as their Savior and become a Christ-follower . . . We have seen many people say they were not where they need to be spiritually but they have been very challenged and convicted to change all that.

What about you? Has there been a “fish belly moment” for you lately? Have you had an encounter with somebody that looking back was God’s way of reaching out to you. Have you had a common life occurrence or situation happen to you that caused you to question where you are? More specifically, has the tragic death of Mackenzie and her legacy of a life lived “worthy of the gospel” gotten your attention?

Whatever it is we know something for sure . . . God keeps pursuing you because He loves you. God never lets up and never relents in His pursuit of you because He cares about you, He loves you and He wants you to pursue His plan for your life. Whenever and wherever you cry out to God He hears you. God always responds when you reach out to Him. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. (Jonah 2:1-2).

It doesn’t matter where you have been or where you are. When you cry out to God He hears you. It doesn’t matter what you have done or are doing. When you cry out to God He hears you. God always wants to redeem your past and reclaim you for the future! If you have been running from God, stop running and cry out to Him. If you have been a life that is not honoring to God . . . STOP IT! Let today be the day that you begin fresh and new. Draw your circle! Jump into that circle and cry out to God!

Everybody bow your heads with me for a moment. If you know you need Jesus in your life to be your Savior cry out to Him. Say this with me, “Jesus, I know I am a sinner in need of a Savior and I am sorry for my sin. Right now I surrender all that I am and all that I will ever be to You. Come into my life and be my Lord and my Savior. I am beginning today as a brand new creation in Jesus. I am a believer in Jesus Christ and from now on Jesus, I am living for you.”

If you are someone who would say that you have been a Christian but you have been running from God and living a life that is not “worthy of the gospel” cry out to Him right now. Say this with me, “Jesus, I am so tired of running. I don’t want to run from You anymore. I want to run into Your arms. Jesus, I am tired of living a life that is not honoring to You. I now want to live my life to honor You and glorify You.

When you came in you received a bracelet that says, “Revive Me Lord.” Throughout this series I want all of us to wear this and pray this prayer everyday . . . “Revive Me Lord.” “Draw your circle” and pray, “Revive Me Lord. Begin a revival and let it begin with me!”


Memories

The words in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 are not just suggestions from God or recommendations from God to us. They are commands from God because God knows what works and what doesn’t work. God gives us these commands as He does His entire Word for two specific reasons . . . to bring glory to Him and to give us joy in life.

As we work through each segment of this series we have been focusing on the overriding truth that this entire passage is all about Gospel Saturation. So often when we talk about Jesus and His place in our lives, we will say that He is first in a long list of other people, situations, and things. But Jesus is not meant to be first among many other people and things but He is to be within everything about us. Jesus must saturate everything about us. Gospel Saturation means Jesus saturates everything in your life. Gospel Saturation means . . . You Learn the Gospel . . . You Love the Gospel . . . You Live the Gospel.

Our first “Foundation Stone” from where all the rest of this flows from was Example. Our Big Idea was, My Example Is All I Can Expect From Others. You can’t teach when you sit, walk, lie down and rise until you are loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. You can’t put these commands on your hands, between your eyes, and write these commands on your doorposts and gates until you are loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Who we are and everything we say flows from and is a reflection of our example. You might think you are hiding things but you will never be able to hide your character and your example.

Our next “Foundation Stone” was Time. In many conversations about time we will often say, “Well, I don’t really have a lot of time with my kids but what I try to focus on is quality time.” Quality time just doesn’t happen. Many times depending on the mood of the day there might not be much if any quality within that time. When it comes to time spent with our kids it is never . . . Quality verses Quantity.

Our Big Idea  was . . . You Can’t Count The Moments Until You Make the Moments Count. What we must realize is we can’t have quality time unless we are willing to spend a significant quantity of time. And to do that we don’t need to create more time. Admittedly most of us have schedules that are incredibly busy. All we have to do is maximize the moments that we already have and use the things we already enjoy doing to make the moments count.

Our next “Foundation Stone” was Moments. We talked about different ways we can capture moments in life that come along and use them as teaching moments and “God moments.” Our Big Idea today was . . . Live The Minutes To Capture the Moments. What we mean by moments is capturing and leveraging opportunities in the course of everyday life. Again, it is within what already happens in everyday life and not adding anything.

Every event and every moment in life can be a Gospel teaching moment if we will just take the time to capture that moment and make it a God moment. Everything good or bad that happens in life . . . Every situation we are faced with . . . Every television show . . . Everything that happens in the culture . . . etc. If we will just take the time to process all of this through the lens of the Gospel, they can all become moments where we teach and have a Gospel-centered conversation.

In this entire passage God is describing the “rhythm of life”. Everyday we talk, sit, walk (drive), lie down and rise. And what God is telling us is throughout the day there will be situations, circumstances and cultural events that we can use to teach the gospel. Jesus practiced this with His disciples on a regular basis. Jesus took whatever was happening or how they were acting or reacting to teach about the Gospel and the Kingdom.

To be effective in sharing the Gospel and redeeming some “God moments” in life does not require creating another event. All it takes is maximizing the moments as they happen and the things we are already doing. This happens when we are being observant about what is happening around us, being prepared by knowing the character and attributes of God and simply being real and sharing “life on life” with people around us.

Our last “Foundation Stone” is Memories. (Put the block in the foundation). This is a really big part of the process because that should be our goal. Memories are extremely important because of the very definition of word . . . memories are memorable! We remember memories because they make an impression on us. You might forget a lot of things but you will always remember a memory because it is memorable.

The Shema says,  4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

The Message translation combines Deuteronomy 6:6-7 together in one thought. It says, 6-9 Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Growing up I was probably like most of you here. I carried and read from the KJV. I was given a KJV Bible at High School graduation that I still have. When I was in college I came across something that blew me away. I found out that in 1984 something came out that I could understand a lot easier and focus on so much more than the KJV. The NIV was on the bookshelves at Christian Bookstores. In 1986 I began reading the NIV and loved it. It was the Bible translation I read until 2012 and still read it a lot today. I memorized most of the Scripture verses I know in the NIV.

The reason I say that is I love how the NIV translates this verse in The Shema. It says, 7 Impress them on your children. (Deuteronomy 6:7). When I read the word “impress” I think of the term “make an impression.” It’s like when I took Industrial Arts Class and we made these leather bracelets. We would wet the leather to make it softer, take these big metal letter stamps and then hammer the image into the leather to customize our bracelets. Those letters made an impression in the leather. If you say, “They/That really impressed me” what you mean is something stood out about that person or that event. Something that impresses you or makes an impression on you means it is different or special and worth remembering.

If you are like me you don’t remember everything from your past. You probably only remember a few things from your past. What you remember are the things that stood out and made an impression on you. I remember particular plays from sports (breaking my finger playing football and injuring my ankle really bad playing basketball) . . . Baptism . . . Call to Ministry . . . Ordination . . . Wedding . . . Births . . . Baptizing Debbie . . . My kids coming to know Jesus . . . Baptizing my kids . . . etc.

If something from your past didn’t really stick out as something different or special, you probably didn’t remember it years later. But if something or someone was really different and impressed you, that is what you stored away in your memory bank as worth remembering. By how we live and what we say we must make a lasting impression for the Gospel on those who are far from God and especially those in the next generation. By doing that we will be making a memory that will last a lifetime and even extend into eternity. How do we make an impression that lasts a lifetime and extends into eternity?

It happens when we truly take to heart all that is within this passage and make a daily decision to live it out. Here is our summary for this series and the Big Idea for today . . . If I live an example and take the time to capture the moments I will make memories! If you are going to make an impression that is an eternal impression . . . you have to live an example . . . you have to take time . . . you have to capture the moments . . . and then you will make memories.

You are constantly aware of living a Godly example in all you think, say and do. You are willing to daily sacrifice and do as Paul challenges Timothy to do, 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; (1 Timothy 4:7). You don’t waste the minutes God gives you but you choose to make every minute count. You want every moment to count for the Gospel so you are always looking to redeem the moments in your life and make them “God moments.” 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17).

If your goal is to make impressions on others that will be eternal, here is what you have to do:
Make a daily decision to live an exemplary life that honors God.
Don’t waste your moments but make the moments count.
Intentionally seek to capture moments and make them “God moments”.
Then you will make impressions that are lasting and eternal impressions.

It all happens when we do “life-on-life” with people where we live, work and play. (Motion of rubbing hands together). I call this The 4-I’s of Life-on-Life . . . Investigate . . . Initiate . . . Invest . . . Invite.


Example

Before we moved back to North Carolina, I was with our church one weekend helping out a church plant in Pittsburgh. That Sunday morning I was sitting in the back and for the first time in my life I had a question resonate with me and hit me like it never had before. These people had probably been out advertising and inviting people to come to their new church. But when I thought about that I put myself on the other side of the door and thought as the person being invited would think. As I thought from their perspective, I thought their question would probably be, “Why should I want to give up my day off to come to your church?” I think the answer to that question is because you invite them to something you are excited about and believe in, because they hear truth from your lips which is something they really want to hear, and because they see truth in how you live which is something they really want to see.

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He preached a famous sermon called The Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is more than just a good teaching to follow, ethics for a future Kingdom or a picture of how the gospel relates to the Law. It is a teaching that shows us how to live a practical “Kingdom ethic” now, through the work of Jesus Christ and the power of the Spirit. The focus of this entire message from Jesus is about the Kingdom of God.

He preached this message to His disciples while they were in the midst of the crowds. It is a unique message because it is intended for the disciples of Jesus. But Jesus expects that those who are listening in who are not yet His disciples will be challenged, invited in and provoked by the things that He is saying. This sermon has a dual purpose as it was intended for disciples but given to a much broader audience.

There is a paradox that Jesus puts forth in the Sermon on the Mount. On one hand He shows that a disciple is no different than anyone else. But on the other hand He shows that a disciple is totally different from everyone else. So how can He say both of those things in one teaching moment. First we will look at the truth that a disciple of Jesus is no different than anyone else. We know this because of the nature of the Gospel.

God’s grace is what saves you and what gets hold of you. God saves undeserving sinners by grace. It is not anything unique or desirable in you that causes God to set His love on you and save you. You don’t “get your act together” or “clean up your act” for God to save you. The truth is God saves undeserving sinners. In that sense a disciple of Jesus is no different than anyone else. Simply a person that God has graciously saved and called into a relationship with Himself. When we share the Gospel we do it from a common ground; “like beggars sharing with other beggars where to find bread.”

Next He says that a disciple is completely different than everyone else. Why? Because God is totally different from everything and everyone else. God is holy and everything else is fallen. You don’t become a Christian by believing the right things about God. You become a Christian because you are mystically united to God for salvation through the power of the Gospel. Since God is different from everything and everyone else, simply by His indwelling, a Christian is completely different from everyone else. When the life of Christ is within you as a Christ follower, you are by that simple fact totally different from everyone else who is not a Christ follower. There is a difference and a “set apartness” that followers of Jesus have from the world.

We need to hear and understand this because in this passage Jesus draws a really strong distinction between His disciples and the world. He says His disciples are like this and the world is like that. A proper understanding of all of this is essential so you don’t hear Jesus saying, “These people are better than those people.” But you do hear Him saying, “I am different than the world so therefore my people are different and distinct from the world.” Do you ever look at the world and in disgust or frustration say, “Something has got to change.” God has a plan for change and guess what that plan for change is . . . YOU! Our Big Idea for today is . . . I am God’s plan for change. God’s plan for change is me . . . God’s plan for change happens through me.

If you have your Bible, turn with me to Matthew 5. If you don’t have your Bible, it will be on the screen so you can follow along. “13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16).

In this section Jesus begins with two very emphatic statements of fact. He doesn’t say, “You ought to be salt” or “You should be light”. He says, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) . . . “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). One of the first things we need to see in these statements is identity before behavior. Rather than beginning with how He wants us to live in the world, Jesus begins by saying “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world”.

When Jesus says this is about His disciples He is also making a statement about the world. When Jesus says His disciples are “the salt of the earth” He is simultaneously saying the world is corrupt and decaying. The primary use of salt in New Testament times was preservation. They would put salt on meat to keep it from spoiling. When Jesus tells us we are salt, He is also telling us the world needs to be salted! When He says His disciples are “the light of the world” He is simultaneously saying the world is dark and in need of light. So you see in both of these statements Jesus is making a declaration about those people who are His followers and also a declaration about the world.

After Jesus makes these two statements He then makes two common sense observations. “Salt that is not salty” and “a light that is hidden” are both useless. It doesn’t take a genius to figure these two observations out. The reason you have a light is because light is needed in the room and the reason you need salt is because of decay and lack of flavor. “13 “. . . but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13) . . . “14 “. . . A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket . . .” (Matthew 5:14). Remember Jesus is speaking to His disciples and He is making a point. So, what is the point He is making?

His point is The Church Exists For The World. The purpose of salt is to salt something . . . The purpose of light is to light up something . . . The purpose of the Church is to be a light in the world! When we look around at the world system and see the destruction, the decay and the disastrous situation we are in, it has to grieve us. And that grief must drive us to the realization that there is a solution to the destruction and decay and it is those of us who are Christ followers. We are “salt” sent by God into the world to bring back to life what is decaying and what is being destroyed.

God has put His people (a lamp) on a stand and the purpose is to give light to the world. Jesus never called us to keep the light of the Gospel to ourselves. His calling is for us to exist in the world to give light by reflecting His character, by proclaiming His Gospel, and by being a representation of Him.

When you get what Jesus is saying you understand more about the church. The church is not necessarily just a place where you come to be spiritually fed, a place to worship, a place to fellowship, etc. The church is the people of God existing as Christ in the world. The entire purpose of the church is to display and declare who God is to the world. The church exists for the world and not for itself. The church exists for the glory of God in the world!

Our purpose statement says, “We exist to glorify God by Reaching Up, Reaching In and Reaching Out!” Every part of our existence is all about glorifying God. Our worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and evangelism is all about glorifying God. In all of that and in everything we do we must be salt and light which means that as we glorify God we are to be attracting people to Jesus by being His representation to the world.

That is why you read about the first century church that they were, “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47). They were being salt in a world just like ours today that was decaying and headed for destruction. They were being light in a world that was very dark just like ours today. And as they did that, God honored it and people became followers of Jesus.

That is what we desire to be as a church. When people hear of and think about Summit Community Church, we want them to know that this is a place . . . where they know and believe the Gospel . . . where they see life change through the power of the Gospel . . . where they worship Jesus . . . where they love Jesus . . . where they believe the Bible . . . and they know it is good to have us in the community. The question that always resonates in my spirit when I think about our church is this . . . If we ceased to exist as a church, would we be missed in this community? I pray that we are such a strong presence of Jesus in this community that without our existence there would be a huge void in this community.

Everything that we do is a representation of Jesus to the world and a reflection of Jesus in the world. The Church Is A Representation And Reflection Of Jesus In The World. Everything that we do is done so we can glorify God. Our ultimate goal of Reaching Up, Reaching In, and Reaching Out is to honor God with our lives and glorify Him in all that we think, say and do.

As the church we must be a beam of light shining bright in our community. I remember several years ago I was driving at night and saw this bright beam of light moving and lighting up the sky off in a distance. My curiosity got the best of me so I drove towards the light. When I finally got to the source of the light I realized this was a search light on top of a new store that was having a grand opening. That bright light drew me to the store where they were celebrating their grand opening.

As a church, we must be that kind of light. We want to be a bright beam of light for people to see. When they see us we stir up curiosity. And in their curiosity, they come to see what that light is really all about. When they get here they need to see we are people who love Jesus, we are people who worship Jesus, we are people who believe the Bible, and we are people who know and live out the Gospel.

So, Jesus gives us these two distinct facts, two common sense observations and then He gives one direct command. “16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16). This imperative flows out of identity. Because you are light you must let your light shine. You have no light in and of yourself. The only light you have is the light of Jesus. The light that shines from us is the very light of Jesus shining through us.

The source of our light is Jesus. We have no light of our own. We represent and reflect the light of Jesus to the world! How do we let this light shine? He says, “that they may see your good works . . .” (Matthew 5:16). If the only witness people have about Jesus was your life, what conclusions are they making about Jesus? Are they seeing good works that shows them exactly who Jesus is and what He can do and wants to do in all people?

Your motive matters. How you do what you do and why you do what you do really matters. The Sermon on the Mount cuts through our external actions and down into our hearts to ask why do we do what we do. Do you do what you do to be seen by others or to glorify God? In Matthew 6 Jesus goes on to say we can do things to get the attention ourselves and bring glory to us and not to God. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them . . .” (Matthew 6:1). This is a potential dangers in doing good works . . . either to do them just out of guilt or for us to receive all the credit, praise and glory.

So how do you do all you do in a way that God gets the glory? How do you, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). The illustration of the sun and moon is a perfect example of how it works. The sun is the source of light. The moon has no light of its own and is only a receiver and reflector of the light from the sun. Jesus is like the sun. He is the source of our light. He is the only light that truly exists. We have no light in and of ourselves. The only light we are able to give off is the light of Jesus. As we receive the light of Jesus we reflect the light of Jesus.

How do people actually see God in and through our good works? Do you have to explain it all the time and connect the dots for them explaining that it was the Holy Spirit working through you? Not really because it all goes back to the beginning of this passage. God is glorified in and through our good works because God is different and therefore we are different. The kind of good works produced by the Holy Spirit are different than any other good works. You can tell when someone is doing things out of guilt or self righteousness. You can sense meekness and poverty of spirit. And when people sense that they will connect the dots and give glory to God.


Compassion

Just like the armbands that are still fairly popular today, it is a valid question to ask ourselves WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) when faced with life issues. But another very valid question is to ask WDJD (What Did Jesus Do). We have a collection of four letters (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) called the gospels that give us a complete picture of what Jesus taught and what Jesus actually did when faced with the same situations, circumstances and life issues that we face.

Last week we looked at one of the first components that we must properly understand when defining what it means to be a true, heartfelt, committed follower of Jesus. It is the concept of being a servant. The Big Idea for last week was . . . If you really want to GO BIG, you really have to think small! If you are going to go big in God’s Kingdom you have to let go of pride, not focus on position, and give up any and all desire for prominence. We must “bend down” so we can “look up” and see Jesus.

The second component of being a true, heartfelt, committed follower of Jesus is compassion. Compassion is defined as, “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” It is critical to understand that Jesus has no body but yours, no hands to serve with but yours, and no feet to go with but yours. We are the very embodiment of Jesus to the world around us and when we are made aware of a need we are called and obligated to meet that need. We must say what Jesus would say, go where Jesus would go, and do what Jesus would do.

Once we are made aware of a need, we can’t ignore the need or our responsibility to meet the need. Tim Keller says, “To the degree you understand the Gospel of grace, you will live a radically generous life! If you truly have a spiritual inheritance, you are going to be promiscuously generous with your earthly inheritance.” God has a plan for how to meet the needs in the world . . . it’s spelled Y.O.U.!

If you have your Bible, turn with me to Luke 5. If you don’t have your Bible, it will be on the screen so you can follow along. As we work our way though our Luke 5 our Big Idea for today is . . . Changed people pursue change for other people! You cannot be changed and not pursue the same change for other people. “12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” (Luke 5:12-16).

Anytime we have a conversation in the church about compassion we have to be very careful that we don’t get so focused on meeting the needs that we miss the opportunity to share the Gospel. As Tim Keller has said, “ministries of mercy involve meeting felt needs through deeds.” (Ordinary-Tony Merida, p. 27). If we are not careful we can ere on either side and miss the total picture. Let me explain something before we go any further . . . I am going to use the word “Gospel” several times today. When I do what I am referring to is everything about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is a reference to the life-changing, transforming power of Jesus’ blood shed for all of us on the cross and His victory over the grave that give us forgiveness from all sin and makes us a new creation in Christ.

There are two wrong approaches we can have to extending compassion. On one hand we can seek to promote social action but not preach justification by faith alone. It is social ministry with no Gospel. People get their needs met but have no idea what is truly the reason their needs are being met. There is a sincere desire to see the needs met, but it is sincerely wrong when the Gospel is either overlooked or avoided. On the other hand we can seek to proclaim the Gospel and at the same time pull away from social action because we are afraid of compromising the truth.

Some people have tried to justify showing compassion without sharing the Gospel by quoting St. Francs of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” This is problematic and even debatable that St. Francis even said this. The problem with this approach is the Gospel must include words because the Gospel is an announcement. Think about it . . . there will never be a news broadcaster that will come on the newscast and say, “I’m going to bring you the news, and if necessary, I’ll use words.” They have to speak words to give the news.

We must share the Gospel with words while we are showing compassion. People need to hear the Gospel and see the Gospel in action. We must do both . . . we must show compassion while sharing the Gospel. Because if we don’t it only causes confusion and we are just addressing the temporary suffering. We should want to alleviate more than just temporary suffering. The suffering in this life without Jesus extends to eternal suffering so focus on both the temporary and the eternal.

When we think about compassion and having sympathy for the sufferings and misfortunes of others we must still use discretion and discernment. In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to Observe Their Posture. “And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him,” (Luke 5:12). We must simultaneously look at two things . . . Immediate Situation and Long-Term Solution. Ask yourself, “Why are they in the situation they are in and what is the appropriate response?” A word of caution . . . Do not use discretion and discernment as a “cover-up” for a poor attitude and a total lack of compassion.

What I mean by observe their posture is as you look at their situation, there might be a teachable moment. And what might work for this person’s situation might not work for another person’s situation. When you observe their posture there are a couple of questions to ask yourself . . . Why are they in this position? . . . Are there bad habits or addictions that need to be addressed? . . . Are they in a position of humility or a posture of arrogance? . . . etc. Don’t look at them and say, “I really can’t help you (meaning I really don’t want to help you) but here is a gospel tract I want to leave with you.

It’s the difference in a person looking for a “hand out” or a “hand up”. The posture between the two are totally different (Illustrate the difference between “hand out” and “hand up”). Because of his skin disease the leper was an exile. He was excluded from society because his skin did not look right. But somehow, this leper who was an outcast entered society just long enough to encounter and talk to Jesus. He prostrated himself as somebody traditionally would before kings or slave owners or God. He recognizes the higher position of authority Jesus had over him and made no demands. He just begged for mercy.

The way he addressed Jesus matched his prostrate position. “Lord” (Luke 5:12) is a term of respect that recognizes the higher status of the person you are talking to. It was also the Jewish way of referring to God without using the sacred divine name. Then he extends a plea of faith and leaves the initiative and choice to God. “If you want to, Lord Jesus,” the leper pleaded, “you can heal me and let me back into society with my friends and family. I know you can. Will you, please, Lord?” He was totally coming to Jesus with a “hands up” posture and not a “hands out” posture. When he said, “if you will, you can make me clean.” (Luke 5:12) that was not statement of the lack of faith but totally the opposite. That was a plea to Jesus’ compassion and ability saying, “I know you can so will you please help me?”
In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to Get Personally Involved. “13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:13). Here is what I have learned over the years . . . It is easy to get excited about a cause, but never actually doing anything for a real person. Why is that? Because just to get excited about a cause doesn’t take a lot of personal effort or involvement. I can sit in my recliner and talk about a cause . . . I can stay in the comfort of my own home and write a check . . . or I can “pray” for the cause. Jesus was not just concerned about the issue of leprosy; He was concerned personally for this man who had leprosy. Unless you give of yourself and get personally involved . . . it’s just all talk!

I have to believe that when you and I take that approach to just talk and give money, God looks at us when we pray and says, “What? I really can’t respond to that because your actions are not matching what you are praying to me about.” It’s like Matthew West’s song called Do Something. He said he looked at all the trouble, poverty, slavery in the world and he thought, “God, why don’t You do something?” Later in his disgust he says, “So, I shook my fist at Heaven and said ‘God, why don’t You do something?” And God said, “I did, I created you.” If you embrace compassion while keeping your focused on the cross, the only possible response is to get personally involved.

In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to Don’t Be Afraid To Push For Accountability. “14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Luke 5:14). Sometimes in our efforts to help all we do is hinder. Sometimes when we try to equip all we do is enable. It is never wrong when you show compassion to push for accountability and responsibility. As soon as this man is healed, Jesus immediately tells him to go make things right and get back to being a functioning and contributing part of society.

In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to always Take Time To Refocus And Pray. “15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” (Luke 5:15-16). All of us need to take time on a regular basis to pray and as we pray for God to refocus our hearts and minds on what is really important.

I’ve got to be honest with you about something. If I am not intentional about praying and refocusing my mind and my heart, I am so quick to judge and have a cynical attitude about everybody and every situation. If I am not “prayed up” I will confront any and every situation that God puts in my path with anger, resentment, and a cynical attitude.

You must realize that there are so many needs for compassion around you and you simply can’t meet all of them. That is the reason for the Church (the Body of Christ). That is why it is so important for everybody to do their part. But the question for all of us is . . . “Who has God made you aware of that needs compassion?” And when you have been made aware of the need, you are commanded and obligated to meet that need.

In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to Be Motivated By The Gospel Of Grace And Not Guilt. If you have been radically changed by the Gospel and by the grace of God extended to you, you will be motivated to do something about injustice and need around you. If you have been changed by the Gospel and grace you will seek change for others. You will do whatever it takes so people will see, hear and understand the Gospel for themselves.

Guilt will only take you so far. Guilt is a great initiator but also a poor sustainer. Pictures and stories will only do so much and last so long. The only thing that will truly sustain us extending compassion to others is the Gospel of grace. The Gospel melts our hearts. The Gospel is the only thing that will genuinely initiate and sustain you in a life of compassion. Tony Merida says, “Grace-saturated people should be mercy-showing and justice-seeking people.”

If you have ever truly encountered people in need of compassion and real poverty, you will never be the same. As I have always said about ministry . . . When you have been there and invested your life in it, pictures and words cannot tell the whole story. During our trip to Guatemala on Thursday, August 11th, I was able to go see for the first time where Darlin lives. We have been sponsoring her for three years and I saw her home for the very first time.

That night I wrote something in my journal that keeps coming back to me. (Show the picture of Darlin’s house). “We took Darlin, Allison and Angel home to visit with them. I will have to admit that what I saw was totally shocking to me. They have dirt floors and the walls and roof are tin with holes all around. They have two rooms for all seven of them. The wall facing the entryway and the wall between them and their Grandma are tarps because the tin is completely gone. This is the one thing I will have to say I never get used to. I pray on this day like I always do, “God, please break my heart for what breaks yours.”

When you have been changed by the Gospel, everything changes! Your life is changed . . . Your desires are changed . . . Your perspective is changed . . . Your attitude is changed . . . Your goals are changed . . . Your selfishness is replaced by selflessness . . . etc. When you have been radically changed you realize God has made you to bring about change! Your entire life is about God using you where you live, work and play to see change in others so that God is glorified. Changed people pursue change for other people!