The Message Matters
May 27, 2018
Good morning, Southern Hills. What a pleasure and honor it is while also being scared to death as I am to be standing here before you this morning. As you know, Shannon and his family were able to get out of town this past week. They went to Mickey Mouse land this past week. I saw a great photo of Roger being a fish out of water. That was crazy looking. I know you all saw that, if you're following them, so I hope they're having a great time. Or had a great time, since I believe they all came back last night. What scares me worse than standing in front of you and trying to speak is standing before Shannon. He may show up at some point while I’m trying to speak, but look, it's for God's glory, not mine. So if you would, as you pray through this time we get to spend together, pray that God gets the glory and that He is heard and He is seen and certainly not this poor, pitiful, wretched person.
What I'm going to talk about today, even if it's for nobody here this morning, I'm going to tell you it's for me. I needed this study of what is the Gospel and how the Gospel matters. Through this process of searching and praying and reading, it has absolutely opened up my mind to a renewed concept, a renewed vision, and a renewed life.
Before we get started though, I want to show you something that I encountered yesterday morning. So it's Memorial Day weekend. Our family goes over to Lake Wedowee to spend a little time there. I'm walking down at the dock where we’re staying. I know that my son has taken pictures of this slithering thing that's amongst the rocks. So we've known that it's out there. I hope I don't offend anyone. If there are any nature snake lovers here today, let me just go ahead and apologize for this picture, I'm about to show you. So I had a 410 shotgun with me this weekend and it's early in the morning. Actually it's mid morning and I’ve made my way down to the dock and there it is. Have you ever thought about the fact that things live beneath our feet and we don't even know that they're there? Now my wife and I, and our daughter, Sydney, especially, know! There's something about snakes that just make us think of evil. When we think of snakes, we just think of Satan. So let me go ahead and apologize if this is going to offend you, but if we'll throw the picture up there. This is the snake with the leftovers of a 410 shotgun shell.
It was there and I had to go get the gun. It stayed there and was sunbathing early in the morning with the sun coming up. I took it out. I'm going to apologize for that. The next picture is its head. I don't know if this is one or not, but can anybody look at this and tell me if this is a water moccasin or a cotton mouth, or do you know? (Response from audience.) It IS a cotton mouth? Are we supposed to keep these? Are we supposed to protect these? I'm sorry. I did not protect him or her or whatever it is. I'm sure there's more out there. The ice breaker of this story is to just think, all around us, beneath us, amongst the rocks that we can't even see, the world is pulling at us and I'm pulling this together.
I have prayed yesterday, but I'm going to pull this together. So hopefully we'll get past this and hopefully this won't give you the heebies jeebies. My wife jumped so much and screamed so much when he came down after I shot it. It broke into half. The head was still moving half of its body. The head was still going into the water trying to survive. Then the second shot took him out. So I didn't let him suffer too long. We took care of him, took him out.
All right, so let's talk about the last several weeks. We're in week four of It Matters. We’ve had three weeks and now this is the last one. And the first three weeks, Shannon went over several things. The first one in week one was The Ministry Matters.
We talked about ministry. The second week we talked about motive. What is our motive for doing what we do? The third week was the messenger. We're all messengers and we're going to talk a little bit more about that. Then today we're going to finish up with The Message. So the message of what we do, what we say, what we broadcast, it really does matter. We're going to pull up 2 Corinthians 5. We've gone through this whole chapter now for four weeks. It's a lot to study, but it's not a long chapter. I want to pick up on verse eleven and read through this and let's put it into context. Let’s see if we can take something away. I'm going to show you something that I think God showed me this week as I prepared
Starting in verse eleven. “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord. We work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere. And I hope you know this too. Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we're giving you a reason to be proud of us. So you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we're crazy, it's to bring God glory. If we are in our right minds, it's for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us since we believe that Christ died for all. We also believe that we have all died together to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ who died and was raised for them.” Verse sixteen. “So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view, how differently we know Him. Now this means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone. A new life has begun, and all of this is a gift from God who brought us back to Himself through Christ and God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him, for God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people's sins against them, and He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ ambassadors. God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead come back to God, for God let Christ who never sinned to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
Let's pray. Father, thanks for Your Word. Thanks for this time that we get together this way and try to learn and lean into your Word. Father, hide me behind the cross. Let it not be foolishness that comes from my lips. God speak forth truth. Allow me to share what you've shown me this past week, and if it's to be resonated and from you God, I pray that it would sit there and help us to learn and help us to carry it out this week. Help us to see You clearly God. in Jesus' name. Amen.
If our message matters, what is the message that we're talking about? This week I keep going through this thought about the message. What do we think about when we think of the message? We keep hearing Shannon talk week after week that it is the Gospel. That's the message. What is the Gospel? When we think of the Gospel what immediately comes to mind, hopefully, is the good news.
What is the good news? As I've gone through this week and have talked with family and friends, I’ve gotten into conversation about this. So tell me what does the Gospel mean to you? When you think of good news, what do you think about? Typically, most people say, well, the good news is that God sent his Son. His name is Jesus. He came and lived here on earth. He suffered and died on the cross. He took on the sin of the world so that I could restore my relationship with God and for those who believe in Him, trust in Him, and then surrender to Him, we have everlasting life.
That's wonderful. Good News. But where has this week taken me in thinking and praying and preparing, I came across this writing from a guy named Keith Giles, not the one from Carroll County. This guy named Keith Giles wrote this book called The Power of Weakness. He had an interesting twist about this Gospel, this good news, that really for some reason, I knew this all along, but I needed to hear this again. Here's where he went. He said, and I'm going to read some of this because, I want to quote him right. He said, “When Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom, it was for today, it was intended for the here and now. Live life for everyday life, not only for some mystical after life, beyond the grave. Do we only define “Gospel” as a spiritual transaction whereby we who are sinners receive a virtual ticket to heaven when we die, because of the death of Jesus upon the cross in our place? That was not what Jesus or his disciples had in mind. When they went around proclaiming the good news, their message was simple. The Kingdom of God is near you and they demonstrated it by casting out demons, healing sick people, caring for people who others cast out. We need a gospel for everyday life. Most of us will not die tomorrow. Chances are we're going to be alive tomorrow and we need a way to live in a manner that brings God honor and glory. This way of living puts God on the throne” (and I inserted this, “not Bill,” on the throne,) “but God on the throne.”
So this is a little bit hard because I don't want you to think that the death, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not important. It's hugely important. It changes everything. But this is where I was as I read through this and looked at this. When we look in John and see when Jesus appears at the river, where John is baptizing, and John said, “There he is. Look, that's the one I've been talking about. He's come to remove the sin of the world. He's got to take it on Himself.”
So think about it terms of what the gospel message is that Jesus and his disciples talked about. How did they share during those three years before he was arrested? During those three years that they walked around sharing good news, Jesus knew the information, but he wasn't sharing the information yet, “Hey y'all, look! Here's what's going to happen. I'm going to be arrested. I'm going to be condemned. I’m going to be crucified. Three days later, I'm going to be resurrected and everything's going to be fine.” The disciples didn't know all of the ending yet. What they knew was that He was living life different. He was doing things different and while He was alive, He was serving others around Him, in the world, and then around us in the world. Today, everything is centered, on selfishness. It's on me. How can I get what I want, when I want it and how I want it? Add life to our natural desires. That's us. Guess what? It wasn't very much different back then.
Even though you had great scholars, great teachers, great religious leaders trying to follow the law, they still mess things up just like we miss things. But what strikes me that I'm seeing in this is that the Gospel, the good news that Jesus was teaching, was not for death. It was for life. What Jesus was teaching the people He was around was how to be different than the world. To be upside down, inside out from how everybody treated everybody during those three years of ministry, that He walked around and taught His disciples. He didn't teach about death. He talked about life. He showed them a different way. The world says, “Get your own take for yourself. Get ahead. I don't care what you're doing, I'm going to worry about me.”
Jesus showed them something radically different. If you look, there's two verses, John proclaimed at first, than Jesus second, both in Matthew 3 and 4. The first time they talk about what is the Gospel. Then Jesus appears and He's walking on earth before three years later, he's arrested. John says, at first, “Repent of your sins and turn to God.” This is Matthew 3:2, “Repent of your sins. Turn to God. For the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” So what was the news he was sharing. The Kingdom of God is near. It wasn't time yet. There’s death, there's persecution, there's resurrection, and then there's eternity in heaven. His message at that time was the Kingdom of God is near. What does that mean? What does that look like? Will he model it? Then later, Jesus says, right after this, in Matthew 4:17, Jesus says, “Repent of your sins, turn to God, for the Kingdom of God is…” What? You’ve got to speak up now. Not yet woke up? The Kingdom of God is near. We’re not there yet. We're going to get there and that's hugely important, but at this time when Jesus was walking around, He was teaching a new way to live, not die. This is a new way to live! It's opposite of the world. It's totally reversed.
I think this is a good time to bring this in. If any of you watch the show, Stranger Things, well, this is the early crowd. I don't have many young folks. Yes, I do. Oh, we’ve got a raised hand back there. Good. We've got several folks. It's an awkward, weird show. It was a television series. I guess it was a television series. I didn't watch it on TV and I'm not endorsing the show. It probably has some fine stuff in it, but I'm going to confess, I have watched Strange Things. It is a story that takes place in the mid eighties, I believe. It's kind of a throwback, so we didn't watch it when it came on TV, but we binge watched it on Netflix. How many love Netflix? Come on. It's good stuff. So we been binge watching it on Netflix. Stranger things is a story about how we think the world exists. Right side up. There’s another world that's upside down trying to mess with us. It calls us to go this way and flip things upside down. It’s a wild story. Again, I'm not gonna encourage you to go watch it, but those of you who have watched it, you know what I'm talking about. This makes sense to you. There's an opposite. There's an inverse. There's contrast bits going on. Just like in that series, stranger things are in our lives.
What is real is that when God created man, everything was perfect in the garden and then sin entered the world and everything changed. Now we are apart from God. Now we're separated from God. Now we can't get that back until Jesus arrives on the scene and God loves us that much. So if I want to share anything with you today and remind us all, and I need this, if we are left to our natural way, we’re going to do things this way and it's usually messed up and it's selfish. It's self centered. It's just for my glory, but this is the good news, not death. Here's how we can live. Jesus flips it over and He shows everybody when He's living for those three years. He's walking around and showing people. He's healing people. He brings sight to the blind. He is serving. He is carrying those that are outcast. He goes and hugs. Can you just imagine what life was like around Jesus? How attractive and magnetic he was? I mean, come on y'all. How many, other than Eddie Duffy, because he's taken a new job lately, how many of us would drop our career and just walk away from it because somebody walks up and says, “Come on, follow me. Come on. You want some of this? Come on, follow me.” How many of us would do that?
That's a pretty strong personality. There's something different about His life and how He lives, and guess what? That the resurrection power, the life power, the power from the Holy Spirit that He gives us to help us flip over. The world's got us this way. The world's got us this way and it's hard to flip over and be the kind of person God wants us to be, but we can do it through His strength. When we surrender to Him, He fills us with His Holy Spirit and gives us the ability to completely flip the world upside down and how we treat people. So what I want to tell you is what I've seen in this as I've studied it. For some reason I know this, and you have heard this over and over, but way too often the church, we, as believers, focus on the death. It’s important because eternity is so much longer than our time and space here on earth. But we're not there yet. We’ve got a lot of work to do and we cannot do it and have our own flesh. But as we surrender over our hearts and put God on the throne and allow Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit, He can change how we do it. It's going to look unnatural to the world. It's not going to look right.
Let's go back and look at John 3:16. If you think in terms of God has a gospel, He gave us Jesus Christ and He has a gospel for living. Yes, death is important. Yes, eternity is important. But for three years He didn't talk about the death. For three years He talked about how to have life, how to experience life, and do life and treat people different ways. So the first part of John 3:16, He talks about this eternal life and this contrast, He says that this is how God loved the world. He gave His one and only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. So that's coming up. Later, God sent His Son into the world not to judge it, but to save it through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him, but anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God's one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact. Here's the fact. God's light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light. You see the contrast. There it is right there. People loved the world more than holiness. People loved selfishness more than the light, the way of living being filled with the Holy Spirit. Their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear that their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. This is a revelation to me, guys. Be aware. We've all been hearing this all along.
It's a revelation to me because I'm focused on my life now. I'm focused on what I can do while I'm here. Why does the Gospel, the good news matter? Because people can see something different if we allow the spirit of God to change us from the inside out. That's why the message matters. It is a contrast. We are fighting a contrast. I'll have to crucify myself so the message of Christ can be seen in my life. The old must pass away. I'm a new creation. I'm not reformed in a new life with Christ. It's a new life. It's a brand new creation. It's not reformed. It's not rehabilitated. We're not re-educated. We are re-created. We are absolutely a new creation.
This makes me think of a couple of things. Again, I'm focusing on what did Jesus talk about while He was living for those three years? What did he talk about? He gave a sermon on the mount, right? That was one of the things. He taught me how to live. Blessed are those who… So if we're rephrasing that for the underside, on the dark side, here's what it might look like. The world's practical version of the beatitudes might go something like this. Blessed are the popular for they'll be promoted. Blessed are the investors for they'll inherit a secure retirement. Blessed are those who are strong and entertaining, they're physically beautiful, and they will receive all that they hope for and desire. Does that sound familiar? Guilty, but if we look at what Jesus taught, we flip that upside down and make it reversed.
In Matthew 5, God desires for us to realize our need for Him, for us to cry out to God and pursue him. Have you ever noticed that in the Bible that God only reveals Himself to people who are pursuing Him? He's not going to magically just come in our lives. We have to say, there's something missing inside my heart and I don't know what it is, but I need to pursue what that is. That's the Holy Spirit nudging on our heart. We have to pursue Him. Humble and thirst for justice. Now stop and think about our everyday lives and what we do. Do we really humble for justice? Do we? Do we look for ways to make things right or do we want to nudge things on and spur a little controversy? We have got to be full of mercy, forgiveness, have hearts that are pure, work for peace, be persecuted for doing right; be ridiculed and mocked for following God's way. It's okay. It's so weird. This world looks at the way God operates and says,”That's weird.” Yell, “It's okay for us to be weird!” It's okay, so I want to flip over and give you another contrast. This one is found in Galatians 5. It's a little bit lengthy. I want to read through it, but again, think as I read through this and follow up on the screen. Think as I read about the contrast. What's going on in Galatians 5:16 and on to the next few verses. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves.” Hello. “This sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the spirit wants. The spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions, but when you are directed by the spirit, you're not under obligation to the law of Moses 19."
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature the results are very clear. Here we go. What is the nature of the world like? If I follow the ways of the world, what will my life look like? Here you go, “sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division in the drunkenness, wild parties and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I've had before, anyone living that sort of life, they will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God is the Gospel, His kingdom living. It's not just death, it's life while we're here, and the Holy Spirit.
Here's the contrast. Let's flip that world over. The Holy Spirit produced this kind of fruit in our lives, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. There is no law against these things. Those who belong to Christ Jesus, they've nailed the passions and desires of that upside down world, sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the spirit, let us follow the spirit's leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited or provoke one another or be jealous of one another.”
Now, I don't know about you, but I need some of that fruit of the spirit, especially when it comes to self control. I don't have a lot of self control. A lot of days, I have to continue to remind myself and renew my mind every single day. Let's flip back to the end of a 2 Corinthians 5. This chapter we've been studying and have been talking about, the God of the gospel that matters, well, it matters! The good news matters. It matters for ministry. It matters as a motive. It matters for me as a messenger and portraying it matters. So it talks about something here, starting at verse 20 that we’re ambassadors, 2 Corinthians 5:20. We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God, for God made Christ to be the offering of our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ." Let's talk about ambassadors for just a minute. We've got a few minutes left. What does an ambassador think about an ambassador in our country? So we have US ambassadors, right? Pete Hooks. Dre is a guy I had an opportunity, to meet and visit when he was a congressman from the state of Michigan.
He is now serving as our US ambassador to the Netherlands. What does an ambassador do? If we're an ambassador of the US and we go over to the Netherlands, what is it? Our job number one is the Netherlands, our home. Nope. Our home is where we're from and what we're representing. So, in Pete's case, he's going over to the Netherlands and he's all about trying to make diplomacy with this foreign country. And so he's over there and he's trying to live out the values that the US has and trying to work things out with this other country. But guess what? He's not, he's, he's not part of this other country. He's part of the US. And so it's difficult as he lives over there in the Netherlands while he's in the Netherlands, he has to abide by certain rules and laws of the Netherlands.
Right? That may be different than the US, but in his heart he's trying to do what he can to promote how the US is. That's what an ambassador does. If we flip this around and say we are ambassadors for Christ, then stop and think what that looks like. Before we were followers of Christ, we lived in a world that we were a part of and we didn't just get rejuvenated and re-educated. When we came to class, He made us a brand new creation and that creation is our home, not here on earth. Our home is in heaven, and that's why it is so odd and awkward for us to operate and live and and how we approach people in what we do here on earth.
But while we're here, we can be an ambassador. This is not our home and everything that goes on here is not what we're ultimately want. What we want is that eternal life and that looks like when we are in heaven. So that’s the good news of the Gospel. What I want you to take from me today, and I hope this is not wrong, if it is, tell Shannon and he'll work with me later. What I want you to hear very loud and clear is the gospel is more than death. There's more to the gospel than a ticket on the train to heaven. That is so important. The relationship that this restores is the point, but the gospel message that Jesus and his disciples got to share for those three years was how to live differently. As we move from this place, closer to Carrollton, we got to push the envelope.
We got to live in a different way than people who are not believers live. We got to talk a different way today and tomorrow from how normal people in the world live. They're upside down. We got to get things flipped around. We don't condemn. We don't judge. Jesus didn't condemn, he didn't judge. He just loved, but His method of love was different and opposite from self serving. It was serving. It was loving, caring for that outcast person wherever they were. If this is resonating with you, because it’s number one and I hope you agree, if you're unclear about this and you're thinking, I hadn't really heard that before, because everybody's always preached to me about dying. Nobody's ever really preached to me about living well. I'm sorry. We've not done a real good job about talking about living well for Christ.
We have to first accept Christ as God's Son and believe in Him and own Him to start this journey refreshed, and recreate our lives. That's how He does it. That's how God's plan works. He wants us to change, accept Him, surrender over to His authority, and He'll get that to us. Everything else we searched for in this life just doesn't line up like trying to put the square block into the round hole. It just doesn't work, but He gives us life. If you've never asked for this, God wants to give it to us. He wants to give it to you. Today might be your day to turn that over and change. Flip that world upside down and go a different way. Give it a try. Try. What do you get to lose suffering? The way this world suffers in agony and selfishness and pity, let’s flip this thing around.
You asked for it. God will not turn you down. Ask for what you need today. We'll have the band play. I'll be over here. Keith will be over there. If there’s something you want and you're seeing something that you have not previously seen it that way then let's turn this thing around. Let's get involved. Let's work out our salvation and let's flip the world upside down and see it from a different way.
God, we thank You for your love, your mercy and grace. Thank You for your Word. Help us, God, to turn our world upside down and not think so much about how the world trains us to be, but how You want us to be. That's the good new. How to live and die and we go to heaven for eternity is wonderful and great, but while we're alive here on this place called Earth, change us. God, make us different than the world. That's the Gospel. That's the message. Make us different. Help us to serve others so that they see the love, the true love that You give. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.