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Many of us have a core wound that discounts our identity as a child of God and creates room for temptation to lead to sin. In this authentic sermon from Gary Wilkerson, he shares how to seek healing for your wound and move into your God-ordained purpose with joy.
Pastor Gary Wilkerson: Let me pray and ask God to bless the teaching of the word here this morning. Father, we ask you to come by your supernatural power, say things through me that would bless your people. You love these people, you have a heart for them. You want to see them thrive and grow and develop and be free and be filled with joy and life and victory. You care about the brokenness, you care about the struggles, you care about the marriages that are difficult, the children that are facing crisis maybe in learning styles, you care about the financial stress and difficulties, you care about the depression, the anxiety, the fear, all these things in our heart, God that you just want to set us free from so that we could walk in the greatest victory we've ever known before.
I asked you allow this world to accomplish that. In Jesus name, amen. In Luke chapter three, if you would turn there is during the baptism of Jesus Luke 3:21. It says one day when the crowds were being baptized Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying the heavens open and the Holy Spirit in bodily form descended on him like a dove and the voice from heaven said, "You are My dearly beloved Son, and you bring me great joy." Or another translation says, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." When did the Father say this about the Son? Was it after the cross?
The resurrection? Was it after the raising of the dead? Was it after the Great sermons that he had preached? Was it after the miracles that he performed? Was it after the rebuking of the dead religious systems of his day that the things that the Father God would look at His son and say, like, he's doing a great job, I am so happy, all this stuff that he's accomplishing all that he is able to do for me that really brings pleasure to my heart. It's not. Jesus heard these words spoken over him before he had done any of these things. It wasn't what he had done. It was who he was. He was a son. The father saw him as a son and said, that's what pleases me that we belong to one another that we are in company with each other that we have fellowship. It's not based on what we've done, what we've accomplished, our accolades, letters that are after our names through our diplomas.
It is He's well pleased. He's well pleased with you. I don't know if you know that church or not, but some of you are sitting in here and you're thinking one day God will be pleased with me. When I, then I, when I do this, then he'll be pleased with me when I finished that, then he'll be pleased with me. When I get to this level of sanctification then he'll be pleased with me. When I stop that particular sin, then he'll be pleased with me. When I start giving more because right now I'm having a hard time giving then he'll be pleased with me. When I pray a little bit more then he'll be pleased with me. It's always when I do something, then he'll be pleased with me.
The truth is, can I say this emphatically? He's already pleased with you. He already loves you. He can't love you any more than he already loves you right now. It's not based on what you do. It's based on whose you are your his. You belong to him if you've met Jesus, if not, let's take care of that before the day is over. He is pleased with you, he loves you. The father said to the son, I love you. Chapter Four, let's go ahead, very little time after this. Matter of fact, just immediately then Jesus 4:1, then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit turned from the Jordan River, and he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he's tempted by the devil for 40 days, Jesus ate nothing at the time and he became very hungry.
Then the devil said to him, if you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become a loaf of bread. Do you see? The temptation here is not take the hungry stomach that you have and turned these stones into bread, the temptation is not throw yourself off the pinnacle of the temple. The temptation is not just all these kingdoms if you'll bow before me will be yours. There's a temptation that comes before every other temptation. There's something that leads to heart that might be open to temptation. When you are tempted to sin, when you're tempted to turn from the things you know are obedience to the Lord, there's always a pre-temptation to the temptation, and that is this one.
What the devil said to Jesus, “If you are the son of God.” Now what did the Father just say to him? This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. The temptation always starts not with something but with an identity question. If you really are beloved, if you really are accepted, if you really are chosen, if you really are like some of these songs we sang here this morning, if you really are my anointed one, if you really are… and that's what the devil comes to us.
If he can get us to question that in the first place, then that opens up the door for all these other temptations: the temptations to sexual immorality, the temptations to addictions, the temptations to pride, to anger, to fear, to depression, to suicidal thoughts. All those are secondary temptations that are born out of believing the first lie of that you're not a son, that you're not a daughter, that you're not chosen, that you're not loved, that you're not looked upon with favor just as you are, not as you think you should be for Him to love you. He says to his servants, well done, good and faithful servant but He doesn't say that to people who have completely perfectly done it all so well.
Isn't that amazing? You see, I think he's not going to say, well done to me until I've done it all well. Matter of fact, even almost like perfectionism that I have to do it perfectly for him before He could say that to me, but it's not true. He's saying that to you right now. Well done, well done. You've got up this morning. You came to church this morning. Well done. You're, you're listening to the word of God well done. You're, singing songs of praise well done. He's already saying that to you. Not waiting for you to say, well, I can't say well done, until you improve this, fix that, change that, repent of that, turn from that and get better at this.
Do more of that. More and more and more and more. He's not waiting for that. He's saying to you, you are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter, well done. I am pleased with you.
When you have that mentality, then when the temptations come, the lustful temptations, pornography, the alcohol the cheating on the income tax or these, the temptation to, fill out your timecard at work a little differently than he should to all those temptations lose their power. You see, so many of us are wondering why is there so much power in sin? The power is in sin as the secondary power of the actual committing this in itself. The first power of temptation is to get you to doubt that you're loved by God, accepted part of the beloved, that he speaks over you well done. Jesus had this amazing connection with his father. He knew who he was. He knew he was loved. When Satan came and he tempted him in three different, the first one, is turn stone into bread.
It was a temptation for security. It's born out of fear. I don't have enough. I better work towards making something happen. I better turn this into that because I fear because I don't believe I'm a son or daughter. If you are the son of God, that's the first temptation. Now if I'm not sure that, then I'm not going to be sure of my security and I'm going to have to start trying to earn it through works, and I have to turn stone into bread. I'm going to have to make things happen. It's based out of a scarcity mentality. The scarcity mentality says I don't have enough.
I may not have enough. I'm afraid my children might not have enough. I'm afraid my job might not last. I'm afraid my bills may not be paid at the end of the month and there's this temptation to try to get security in your own strength. Jesus was faced with this and he was able to overcome it. Why? Not because he had everything he needed in the sense of I've got all the money I want, I've got a house, I've got a horse. He didn't have any of that, but he's still able to stay secure. Why? because you heard that voice that says I'm a son and I'm already loved just as I am. I am loved. He was able to overcome that first temptation. The second temptation, he took him on a high mountain, verse five and he said, all the kingdom is will be yours if you'll give--
"I'll give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them," Devil said, "because they are mine and I can give them to anyone I please and I will give it to you if you will worship me. The second one is the idea of significance. The first, is security and then the second one is significance, You can be somebody, you can lead something, you can have a name. You can have a reputation, you can have glory, you can have authority, you can have power, people can applaud you. You can have significance and Jesus didn't have to look to the world to sin to the temptation to be significant because he already knew he was significant.
Why did he know he's significant? Because he heard these words. He didn't have to hear this word of the devil. If you really are a son, he heard the word of his father. I am a son, therefore I have significance, so he doesn't have to bow to that. The third one is to be spectacular. Throw yourself off the top of the temple. Throw yourself down and you're going to fall hit the ground and you're not going to die and people are going to come. Wow, you are amazing. You are special, you are not like everybody else and there's a temptation within each of us. If we don't feel and know that we are accepted and loved, we're going to start looking for love in being special.
I'm above somebody else. I do more than anybody else and then that puts within us a desire to be recognized for everything we do. Well, I was in the worship team this morning and I sang and nobody patted me on the back. They patted so-and-so on the back. I preached the sermon this morning when nobody told me that was the greatest sermon they've ever heard in their life, and therefore I don't feel special, unique, above. One of the great joys in life will be when you realize you’re normal.
When you just accept this and go like, “I'm just happy to be normal. I don't have to be special. I don't have to be unique. I don't have to be above anybody else. I don't have to be better than anybody else. I don't have to compare myself to anybody else. I don't have to preach better than anybody else. I don't have to lead better than anybody else. I don't have to sing better than anybody else. I don't have to give more than anybody else. I just have to do what Jesus told me to do.”
Pastor Gary: Just to be myself and that's freeing. That is…
There's so much freedom in dropping all of these things of security and significance and being spectacular. There's such freedom in saying, “I lay all those things down,” and I can wake up in the morning and just say, “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” and I'm alive and I'm free and I'm victorious and I'm loved and I'm accepted and I don't have to strive for things. I don't have to try to make life work in my own efforts for security, significance and being spectacular. I can already know that I'm loved. Once you say all those other temptations are really temptations to try to get love. The love by making a secure environment for those around you. The love of being spectacular or significant, all those things are really desires to be loved.
Now I want to go back a little bit and just move away from Luke three and four and just talk to you from my heart as a pastor. Maybe can we take the last few minutes we have together and just maybe you see yourself coming into the pastor's office and you just want to talk for a little bit. You just want to share some things that are on your heart because one thing I've noticed in churches all around the world is that our people are hurting. People are looking to be loved, the people are feeling insignificant, people are feeling insecure, people are feeling like they're not special. There's this hunger in our heart. God, I believe in you and I trust you and I love you and I worship you, but in my heart, there's something wrong. Or in my life, there's something that's missing.
Or in my family, there's this struggle or in my body, there's this thing or my mind is oppressed by these things. We come to church sometimes we don't really face the honesty of these things. We don't face the fact that we're being tempted in these ways that we're speaking of this morning. We put on a good mask and we come to church and we're all, how are you this morning? Praise God. I'm just wonderful, lovely kids you are going great, but inside you're thinking, my life is miserable. I hate my husband. My kids bother me to know end. I just, on my finances are a wreck. I am depressed, I am discouraged and some of us feel that way. A few of us here in this room feel that way, but you don't want to tell anybody. You don't want to talk about that.
If you were coming into my office, we had the privilege of sitting down for an hour or two together, you might begin to talk about these things. The trauma, the difficulties, the pain, the sorrow, the suffering. Everybody in this room has suffered greatly. Not one person in the room has not suffered. Even the children in children's church have suffered. They've been hurt in some kind of way. You have been hurt. Things have happened to you in elementary school and junior high and high school and your married life or your children going in certain directions or your lack of having children, whatever it might lack of having a marriage that you wanted to have these things hurt, they cause difficulty, and yet we're longing to be loved like, the father said to the son so that we have that sense of security and significance and worth and value and that you were born that way.
Did you know that? The scientists tell us that in our mother's wombs, we feel what she feels. Did you know that? They actually have now been able to put sensors on the child in the womb before the child is born and begin to ask the mother put the sensors on the mother and find out if the mother's anxious. Do you know what they find out they trace? There's an anxiety that happens in the baby in the womb or if there's mothers feeling stressed, the baby feels stressed. If there's fear, the baby feels fear. You see the blood pressure, things begin to change even in a little pre-born child. If the mother is joyful, there's different chemicals released in the child.
What is happening in the womb, the sense of connection to the mother is already happening to the baby, go all that way to the end of life. Have you ever noticed? This happened to me. My uncle died yesterday. He passed away in his late 80s. His wife, my aunt, had died just several months before he died. They're both healthy, both good, and then she ended up getting cancer and passing away. Then, a few months later, he passes away as well, just gives up. No cancer, nothing or certain things happen in his life. Basically, he just gave up.
Have you ever noticed that happens when people had been married for a really long time? When one spouse dies, the other, sometimes follows suit very quickly after that. That doesn't always happen, but sometimes or quite often, that happens. There's a sense. What I'm trying to say to you is from the cradle to the grave, there's this sense of connection, the desire to be attached, this desire to be near, the desire to hear the words that we're talking about. "You're my beloved son. I love you. I'm pleased with you." It's this desire for connection, for love, for belonging.
What happens in our life is we face certain types of traumas. I think there's two types of trauma. One is something that should not have happened to you that did happen to you. Some form of abuse, words spoken over you, situations that have happened in your life that has caused trauma, traumatic events that have taken place in your life. Then, there's a trauma that some in this room have faced and are still dealing with some of the residue of that trauma that took place maybe even at a young point in your life.
There's a second form of trauma that most of us don't recognize that is affecting our life in a very powerful way, but it goes oftentimes very unrealized because it's a softer form of trauma. Nonetheless, it's a trauma. This is something that should have happened to you that did not happen to you. Are you following me? The first form of trauma we all know about is if a kid gets struck or abused sexually or abandoned. You have the sense of that something that should have never happened to that child. Everybody knows that's trauma. The thing about that type of trauma is highly recognized and often dealt with at a rather early age because it's very difficult to escape from the pain of something so traumatic in your life.
The second form is not something that should not have happened to you that did. It's something that should have happened to you, but it didn't. You should have been loved, you should have had a sense of belonging. You should have been paid attention to, you should have been valued in your upbringing. You should have had joyful moments in connecting to your father, to your mother, but those things, for many people, didn't happen. For most people in that second category, this type of trauma is not highly recognized because you see like, "I had a good home. My father was a Christian. My mother was a Sunday school teacher. We went to church every Sunday. They never beat me. They never yelled at me. I never had any significant event where I looked back and say, "When I was 12 or 10 or eight, this happened to me."
You don't see this as trauma. Doctors and psychiatrists and Christian counselors now see this as a form of trauma that is oftentimes more difficult because we don't really think we need to deal with it because we say, "It wasn't that bad. My father never said I loved you or so my mother was gone a lot or so my dad traveled, or he was emotionally distant from me." These things in our life that should have happened to us. There's this withholding of affection or withholding of that-- That causes trauma.
From your birth, even pre-birth to your death, you were created for connection. You were created to be loved. God said about Adam, "It's not good that he's alone." You were meant to be with other people. You were meant to be in community, you were meant to be loved deeply the way the Father loves you. You were meant to have people around you that love you as well. When that doesn't take place, it births a trauma. This withholding of affection, this withholding of belonging, or it might be a love or acceptance that is based on performance.
Do you remember? The Father said to Jesus before He had done anything, "You're my son. I'm well pleased with you." For others of us, it's been, "When you do this, then I'm pleased with you. When you're a star football player, then I'll be pleased with you. When you make it through college with a 4.0, then I'll be pleased with you. When you become a doctor, I'll be pleased with you. When you marry the right person, then I'll be pleased with you. When you go to church enough, I'll be pleased with you." Whatever it is, we get the sense of, "I'll only be loved, I'll only belong, I'll only be accepted if I performed a certain way."
Attachment and belonging is based on performance not on the acceptance of you just for who you are. That causes a core wound in our heart. You see, as children, we don't know how to discern. We don't know how to distinguish these type of traumas. A child will almost never blame a parent saying like, "My father is abandoning me. My mother is abusive towards me." Children will almost exclusively, and I've seen this through 40 years of pastoral counseling. Children will hardly at all blame their parents. They blame themselves. "There's something wrong with me. My father doesn't give me affection because I must be unworthy of love in some way. My mother has neglected and abandoned me because I must be not living up to her expectations."
Therefore, we begin to hide ourselves. We begin to say, "I'm not good." We get what's called a core wound. We begin to say to ourselves, "If only I were more like this, if only I were spectacular, if only I were more significant, if only I had more security financially, then I would be loved, then I would I'd be accepted." We begin to say, "I'm not enough. I have this thing." We begin to say to ourselves, "I'm defective. There's something wrong with me because I'm unworthy of love or belonging because I am--"
Then, you fill in the blank, "Because I am stupid, because I am fat, because I am slow, because I am lazy, because I am unworthy, because I am unlovable, because I am not enough, because I'm not smart enough, because I'm not strong enough, because I'm not wise enough, because I'm not rich enough, because I'm not handsome enough, because I'm not athletic enough, because I'm not skinny enough, because I'm not beautiful enough."
We begin to get this sense of, "I'm--" Basically, at the end of the day, most of us in this room, one way or another, are saying, "I'm not enough. That's why I'm rejected. That's why I'm hurt, that's why I'm alone, that's why I'm fearful, that's why I'm anxious, that's why I'm under stress." There's this wound in us that's come from the trauma of our histories. Even if the trauma doesn't seem that bad, there's this wound in our heart. I have not met a person yet who doesn't have a core wound in them, someway or another. Many, it's been healed, many are delivered, many are set free, and they're walking in victory, but at some point or another, there comes a time, and I'm being honest with you--
This is not the most exciting like, "Hoo-hoo, hallelujah, praise the Lord," sermon. This is some tough stuff we're talking about here. It's important because I don't want you to leave this church here today without having, number one, a knowledge that there's something in our hearts that the Holy Spirit wants to heal. Number two, having faith and confidence and belief that he wants to bring that to the surface so that he can heal it,-
Pastor Gary: -and that he will heal it, and that there is freedom for you. There is victory for you. There is life for you. There is overcoming for you. Many of us don't ever get to the victory, to the life because we're suppressing. We're pushing it down, we're putting in denial saying, "No, I'm not hurt." It's not enough if at the core wound of your heart says, "I'm not enough. I'm not good enough. I'm not worthy enough. I'm not lovable enough." If that's the core wound of your heart, how many of you know that just by confessing something-- How many of you know that's not going to be enough? Your core wound says, "I'm not enough."
You go like, "Well, let me confess. I am enough. I am good enough. I am lovely enough. I am kind--" You look in the mirror and say like, "I am beautiful. I'm handsome. I'm good." You're not going to believe yourself. It's not strong enough to talk yourself out of it. There has to be a deliverance, a setting free that is stronger from the sense of defect, the sense of the core wound. Now, before we get into the healing, and we'll talk about them in the last few minutes we have. What happens when you have a core wound is this refusal to surrender to it. You'll try to make a life that will improve upon it. I don't know if that makes sense to you or not. A core wound, maybe it says, "You're not enough."
For me, my father was a very successful pastor and leader. When I got into the ministry, the first sermon I ever preached, I came down off the side of it and an elderly woman was standing and she goes, "You sure don't preach like your father."
I liked it. I said, "Well, thank you. I didn't want to. I wanted to be myself."
Gary: But inside, I was hurting a little bit. Like, "Okay, I'm not good enough." That trend started even at a younger age, but it went through even in my early 20s and 30s. There was this core wound in me. My core wound, I can say it easily as possible. I know it clearly is, "I'm never enough no matter what I do. When I preach the sermon, it's not a good enough sermon. When I lead a church, it's not being led well enough. When the church grows to over 1,000, that's not enough. It should be 2,000. Just never enough."
For others of you, it's financial. "I make this much money, it's never enough." For others of you, it's something inside of you, that's it. What we do is we build what I call a false construct. Out of the sense of, "I'm not enough, I’m going to build a life that is enough." Jesus, he didn’t have to say "Okay, I’ll throw myself down. I’ll turn the stones into bread." He didn’t have to construct a false life because he knew where life was found.
If you don’t know where life is found from this core wound that you have, from the trauma that you’ve had a core wound is formed, and out of that we begin to build a life. Are you following me? Trauma, wound, and then you begin to build a life.
How am I going to build a life that will prove to me and prove to others that I am valuable, that I am worthy, that I am lovable, that I do belong, that I am accepted? I’ll build a life.
For me, I use religion. I’m going to build this whole scaffolding. You could picture a building being built and the scaffolding all around it. I’m building this tower and it’s better sermons and more leadership and more mission trips and more podcast and more World Challenge development and more mission outreaches and more programs and more strategies. That’s not enough. I better read more books so I could preach better sermons. That sermon wasn’t good enough. I’m going to go to a conference about how to preach sermons better and then just building this thing.
One day many years ago, I had this vision. I was up on top of the scaffolding that I was building. It began to sway. Have you ever been up on a tall building and the top of it begins to-- or in a tree, if you're in a top of a tree and begins to sway a little bit. The scaffolding surrounding it begin to very-- this life I had constructed seems to be very insecure.
I’m praying. Who helps me when I’m insecure? The Holy Spirit, Jesus. Jesus, please help me. This building is shaking. I’ve spent my whole life trying to build this life of significance, and security, and being spectacular, being overcoming the sense of not being enough.
Finally, this looks it’s enough but it’s shaky. It’s not secured. It’s not on a good foundation. I’m asking Jesus to come help me in this vision. He’s standing at the bottom and he grabs hold the scaffolding. I’d go, "That’s good. He’s going to secure this thing up. He’s going to hold this building. This life that I’m building, he’s going to hold it up."
All of a sudden he starts pulling it back and forth. I’m, "Jesus, what are you doing? You're making it worse." He rocks it back and forth until it begins to crumble and it begins to fall. I say," what are you doing Jesus? You're supposed to be helping me build a life. You're supposed to be helping me become successful. You're supposed to help me overcome the sense of never being enough. Instead, you're tearing it down. You're letting my life fall apart."
Jesus says, "That’s a good thing." Let that false life that you're building on the sand. Let it fall apart. Let it crumble. Let that life you're building on personal value and success and notoriety and fame and fortune and pats on the back and financial rewards. Let that life just crumble because it’s built on sand. The good news is that Jesus loves us so much that he will allow our life to fall apart. When it’s built out of trying to compensate for core wound in our heart.
You see, he doesn’t want for you to spend your whole life trying to compensate saying, "I’m going to prove that I’m enough. I’m going to prove that I do belong. I’m going to prove that I’m loved." Instead, he’s going to tear that sense of life trying to be built on, trying to prove it. Saying, let’s just get rid of that. Tear this temple down, in three days I’ll build up another one. I’ll move it to a place called a rock, a solid foundation.
Upon that rock, he will build his people. He build his church. Upon this rock, a solid foundation when the winds and the waves of temptation, when Satan comes and says, "You're not enough." These wounds in your life were going to destroy you and these things cause you fear and anxiety and stress and depression and angst of soul and dread of life. When you wake in the morning and not feeling good about being alive, and Jesus comes and said, "No, you can’t build your life up. You got to switch it over to here to where there is a core change." That’s what I want to close to. Then there becomes a core change in who you are, a true inner wisdom of who you really are in Christ.
It’s not just an external confession. External measures, validation are never enough. If you have that core wound inside you birth out of a trauma and you're looking for some kind of validation. I am good enough. People tell me I’m good preacher. That makes me feel good. It’s not enough, right? I made this much money. That was that building I was building. You get there and he goes, "It’s not enough." External validation never will heal the internal wound. The validation of being significant or having enough or feeling you're enough or belonging a certain way externally through money, through fame, through riches, through popularity, through religious pursuits, never enough.
That’s why the Holy Spirit allows that to be destroyed so that your life could be placed on a solid rock where’s there's-- that you're not looking for external validation. You're not looking for accolades. You're not looking for applause. You're not looking to be better than others. You're not looking to be spectacular. You're just saying, "I’m happy to be alive. I’m happy to be a son. I’m thrilled to be a daughter." you tear down that false construct and see what happens then is life can flow through you. Now, the first few days, weeks, and months, when you allow this thing to be torn down, you're doing something that we talked about in Teen Challenge, the drug rehab program. You are actually detoxing.
If you live your whole life for success, for fame, for money, for religious notoriety, for accolades in church life, if you’ve lived your whole life that way and the Holy Spirit tears that down, the first thing you're going to experience is detox. Oh, no. I don’t have anything. What do you I do? Where do I go? What type of work do I do? What type of thing do I do to get applause or to get approval or to get acceptance? What do I do?
It said, "You're detoxing and it hurts." You have to pass through that. You have to allow that pain. You have to allow that sense of-- I’ve spent my whole life over here in this construct. Now the Holy Spirit strung me to a new place and allowed that new place to have it. Otherwise, these wounds are healed insufficiently. The trauma is healed but only superficially until we lay that thing down until that core wound can be healed. You see, then we’re free. We’re free in a new way. No longer live our life based on something we’re trying to prove, something trying to earn, something we’re trying to gain.
We’re not trying to prove to ourselves and to the world, I’m finally enough. You know why? Because you already are. You're not trying to prove you belong, because you already do. You're not trying to be loved because you already are. The one is building a whole life of I'm not loved but I’m going to get loved by the way I behave or the way I live my faith.
I’m not worthy enough. I’ll be worthy by making a lot of money or becoming this type of-- getting recognize this kind of way. The other way, you're building your life on a foundation that rock says, it’s the stability is I’m already loved. I’m already accepted. I’m already approved. What happens then?
All these things that the Bible talks about that are blessings, fruits that are given to us out of a tree that grows up on the right foundation is joy and peace and patience, and kindness, and goodness is joy, long-suffering. It’s a life of contentment. It’s a life of delight. It’s a life of freedom. It’s a life of breathing. You know what I mean? Just breathe. You wake in the morning, "Man, this is good. I’m happy to be alive. I’m not striving. I’m not pressing. I’m not gritting my teeth trying to bootstrap it in Christian faith, to be more, to do more, to accomplish more.
I’m just saying, "Thank you, Jesus." Now, some of you are afraid of that. I was afraid of that. I was so afraid of that. I can’t go from this to that because that is weak and mamby-pamby and milk toast and that’s water-down gospel. That’s just, "Ooh, I have peace and all that."
To me, it’s really feminine. Excuse me women. It’s very feminine like, "Oh, peace and joy and love." I don’t want peace and joy, and love. I want power and victory and overcoming and kingdom, establishment. I don’t want joy, and kindness and tenderness. Now I see, out of that joy and kindness and contentment, gratitude, generosity. Out of that comes all the power stuff. Out of that comes all the kingdom stuff.
That’s where authority comes from. That’s where power comes from the simple things of life that we wake up in the morning we’re just, "I feel good to be alive. I’m not trying to be a good Christian. I already am. Not because I’m good, because what Jesus good things in myself and I’m free and I’m alive and I have victory and I-- I don’t know what time it is. I can’t see the clock. It’s time to stop.
I close with this and said that three times now already. You are loved by God. I started with and I close with that. You are already loved by God. I want to ask you to do one more thing besides being loved by God. Many of you in this room you have known for a very long time that you are loved by. I’d say 99% of this room would say, I believe I am loved by God. I would say only 50% to 60% would say I love myself.
God accepts me. Yes, but I don’t really accept myself. God approves of me. He likes my life, but I don’t like my life. I’d say more of us are struggling with the second issue of the way we look at ourselves. This is a very controversial topic in the church. I’ve preached this last point before. I’ve gotten emails from people saying, "Oh, you’ve compromised. Your father would--"
I had one email, it said, "Your father would turn over in his grave." I wanted to write back, "He's not in his grave."
I spoke on this point of not only receiving the fact that God loves you but receiving the fact that God wants you to love yourself, to accept yourself. To believe in yourself, to feel good about yourself. To not be always hating yourself, always feeling like a failure, always feeling like having no worth or value or belonging. That he wants you to have a sense of belonging, of worth, and of value. You were created in the image of God. That alone gives you value. Just the fact you were formed in your mother's womb, that alone gives you amazing value.
Jesus said this, "Love your neighbor as yourself," and as He was saying that, He didn't use the words phileo like a brotherly love or eros, like romantic love. He didn't use it as a community love, He used the word agape, right? If you know that word, it was the, agape, it's the unmerited favor of God. The love of God that's not based on performance. He's saying the way that you agape others, you're supposed to love others with the love of God. The way you agape others, agape yourself. In other words, don't love yourself just in a communal way, or in a brotherly way, or in a kind way, or in a gracious way, love yourself in a godly way.
Love, agape others as you agape yourself. It's important that we come to-- You will never feel peace, you will never feel joy, you'll never feel contentment, and you will never overcome anxiety, fear, stress, angst, depression, suicidal thoughts, even, you will never overcome any of those unless you first come to this place of saying, "I am accepted by God. I don't have to build my life over here, I can come to this point." Then, over in this point, not only am I loved by God, but I like myself a little bit." Now, it's not pride or arrogance, it's not self-centeredness, as a matter of fact, it's as far from self-centeredness as you get.
What empowers other-centeredness is when there's contentment, where you're not having to live to try to prove yourself, to try to make something of yourself, you're saying, "This is who God made me to be. I'm changing, and I'm growing, and I'm getting sanctified, and I'm going to keep that process going, but right now, today, I thank God for who he made me to be. I accept the skin that I'm in and I'm willing to walk in this with joy," Worship team, you guys should come back. Thank you, all, come back. Would you stand with me, please? I just want to pray for you and ask God to bring healing.
He wants to heal, He loves to heal. I believe He heals physical bodies and we can pray for that today, but today, I think, particularly, He wants to heal broken hearts. He wants to heal people's lives who are hurting in a struggle, who are, as we said today, building their life out of the sense of a wound or a core wound of a trauma that took place. Maybe, just as I've been talking today, you're starting to realize, it's like "Yes, pastor Gary, you kind of described me today a little bit. There's some things, some events have taken my life that maybe I've never really even dealt with, or I've dealt with a little bit but I've never really seen a transformation in my heart.
I realize, today, I've been building my life trying to prove that I'm something, that I'm somebody, that I'm loved. That I'm significant, that I'm secure. That I have something spectacular, I can prove that, and I've been living that way, but today, I want to live this way instead. Where I don't have to try to talk myself into being accepted, and belonging, and loved. I don't have to talk myself into it because I know it." I can honestly say to you today, I'm not trying to prove I'm enough. This may sound like boastful, but you'll just have to get over it if you don't like it, I am enough. I'm enough just the way I am. I'm enough.
I don't have to-- The devil still comes after me. I will drive to the airport later this afternoon. I'll be driving so I shouldn't have said that and I went too long and they didn't like me. That'll happen, I promise you. I pray for me if you want, I don't care. Because the residue of the satanic temptation is still there like, "Are you enough, Gary?" Now, I have something because I'm not trying to live that life and now I have something to say, it's like, "No, you're not going to get me with that one again because I know who I am in Christ. I know I'm loved by God. I know I'm a son." I don't have to prove it by good sermon.
I don't have to prove it by great leadership. I don't have to prove it, I just have to be His son and enjoy being a son. That makes Christianity fun, it makes it breathable rather than stressful. It makes it like "I like being alive. I like being a Jesus follower. I like my Christian fellowship."
See, the opposite of the trauma that we're talking about is joy. The trauma will cause you to build your life on the wrong foundation, joy will cause you to live a life that is peacefully moving in the direction that He has for you. That's where that power comes from. Why don’t you bow your heads and close your eyes, and I want to pray for some of you today. If you need that shift from the sand to the rock, from traumatic life that is striving and stressful and angstful, and maybe even depressed or discouraged, fearful.
You want to shift over to-- You've tried all the positive confessions and you've tried the scripture verses you've put on your refrigerator and saying like, "I am the righteousness of God in Christ," but deep in your heart, you're saying, "No, it's just not real." You want to move over today to say, "No, I'm not going to try to be good, try to be loved, try to be accepted, I'm going to accept it today that I already am." That is the major shift, that moves you over to the rock. If you need that prayer over here, would just raise your hand right now wherever you are and say, "Pastor Gary, would you pray for me?"
Healing, freedom. Yes, many hands. Jesus, I pray for my friends right now. I believe we want to do a really, really deep work in their heart right now. I believe you want to do miracles in this place today. I believe you want to set captives free in this place today. We get real honest right now and say, Lord, there are many hurt and broken hearts in this room here today. They have been traumatized by events that should've never happened to them, or things that should have happened to them have gone missing. They just weren't loved and accepted, and have a sense of belonging, and they're still wrestling with that today.
They've tried to build this life to get that, I pray that right now, Lord, you would rock the building, rock the structures that they've built, and just allow them to peacefully say, "Ah, I can tear that down. I can let that go. I can let go of that striving. I can let go of that angst of trying to create my own life to get what I need, and instead, I can find you, Jesus. I can find life, and peace, and joy. Move us now, Jesus." I wish I could take all these who raised their hands and spend the next two, three hours walking through the fields with them and just praying and talking. Lord, we don't have that opportunity, we just ask for something even greater than that, it's that you would walk with them today.
You would speak with them today. You would do miracles in their life today. You would draw them to some this, Lord. This is not a one-time event. There are certain things that are one time events. You can get saved in an instant, you can get healed in an instant, but this is a journey. Moving from a falsely constructed life of pain and sorrow, suffering and striving to peace and joy, it's a journey. It's a process. Lord, I pray that they would be patient with themselves. I pray they would not stuff these emotions down, but they would allow you to explore the things that are in their heart. That they'd become honest with their Christian fellowship.
That some of the men in this room would confess to their brothers, some of the struggles that they're going through, some of the things that they use to try to overcome the pain of their life. Some of the sisters in this room would begin to find a friend or two and really get open and say, "I never told anybody this, but this is how I feel or this is how I was hurt." I pray that this church will become an honest place. Not become, I believe it already is, but even more so, God, that it becomes an honest place. The masks would be torn down and there would be a safe place to speak to somebody.
I pray that you would watch over us as a gentle shepherd. That we would just make sure we speak to the right people and not the wrong people where doors of gossip might be open, or condemnation, or shame, or guilt, but, Lord, there'd be some good people that you would allow us to address the needs of our broken heart to. That this process of healing that's starting today would be a journey. I'm asking that word in faith right now that today starts a new journey of healing for some people who have been living for a long time with a broken heart, and full of anxiety, and fear, and stress, building this false life. Move it over now to Jesus.
Take a moment just to pray as we sing this song together, and then pastor Nick will come back. All right, thank you, guys. Appreciate it.
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There are enemies to your faith; obstacles and forces clamoring to steal your trust in God and his provision. When hope seems far off, the answer invisible, or the beginning small, trust in a God who provides abundantly more than you need. In this sermon, Claude Houde reminds us of the faithfulness of God in even the most dire situations.
... that led to speak on the topic of enemies of our faith. We must discern, identify, confront, and learn to overcome and protect against the enemies of our faith. Now, faith is a substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. By faith, the elders obtained a good testimony. There's no other way to obtain until the end a good testimony for Christ, but by the renewing and the defending of our faith and there are enemies to our faith. For without faith, it is impossible to please him. Think of it. Think about. Think about how the enemy wants to steal, corrupt and abort your faith. Because without faith, it is impossible to please him. There can be services, it can be a faithfulness to church and singing and structures, even prayer, even praise, even preaching. But without faith it is impossible to please him.
Let me do a little survey here this morning at Times Square Church. The word of God as a call to ... This verse has been in my heart in the last weeks and even years. The responsibility of faith for us that have been walking with the Lord for a season, their responsibility to be models of faith. Let me make a little survey. How many of you have known Jesus? You're a believer. How many of you have been born again for more than 10 years? Let me see your hand. Look at that. How many of you more than 20 years? Look at that. How many of you more than 30 years? Wow. 40 years? No more ladies. No more ladies raising their hands.
10, 20, 30, 40 years. To all of us that have been walking with the Lord and singing, worshiping him and seeing him so faithful, the author to the Hebrews gives this incredible word to all the young believers. There were thousands of young believers and he actually tells them to look to us, to look to us as models. He says in Hebrews Chapter 13, "Remember those who are leaders or elders or are teachers who have spoken to the word of God to you, whose faith follow, whose faith follow considering the outcome of their conduct. For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." It's astonishing to me and it's very humbling the sense of responsibility that the idea here, the commandment here is for all young believers to look to us who have shared the word of God with them, to look to us. And to follow our conduct of faith and to actually see how we live our faith through the struggles and the pain. And then live our faith through the battles at the mourning and the defeats and the incomprehensions.
And as you go through, you see, he says to the young believers, "Look to those who have brought the word of God to you and follow their conduct." Amazing things. If you've been a believer for many years, as many of you have, the young believers, your family, unbelievers, backsliders are called to look to you. And for our faith, for my faith, and for your faith, to be the living proof that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I want you to say this to the person next to you. You can look at me. Say that to the person next to you. Because that's what the author of the Hebrew says. He says, "Look to them."
So I need more than salvation faith. I need more than saving faith. Saving faith ... I need more than saving faith for heaven. I need now faith for this earth. I need more than singing faith or scriptural faith even, or I need sustaining faith, surrendering faith. And I need supernatural faith every day so that my life becomes the incarnation, my life becomes the living proof that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That he heals today and holds us today. And can you say yes, please.
Now the epistle, and Jude, actually even more than being aware of the battle for our faith, actually Jude called us to contend for our faith, to fight against the enemies of our faith. He actually, and we look at Jude and Jude is the brother of Jesus. Mary and Joseph had other children naturally after the supernatural birth of Christ. And we have their names in scripture, James and Joseph and Jude. And Jude only believed in Jesus as Messiah after he saw him resurrected, after the resurrection. We can imagine him in the book of Acts. We can imagine him at Pentecost. We can imagine him and he becomes an apostle and he becomes a voice for God. And he writes a letter to believers. He intends it to be ... I'll read it a second. He intends it to be a letter of comfort, a letter where we all talk about our common salvation, a letter very in line with a modern message where everything's okay, it's all good. We're all the same, all under grace, and let's rejoice in our, let's have a kumbaya, a general kumbaya around our salvation.
And he says it, "Beloved," verse three to four, "I was very diligent to write to you. This is what I wanted to you concerning our common salvation. But I found it necessary,” in the Greek I found it urgent." He is gripped by the Holy Spirit to write to you, to exhort you, to awaken you, to contend, to fight, to battle earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints. Why? For certain men have crept in unnoticed who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men who turned the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I had intended just to bring us all together and just talk about our common faith, but I was seized. I was shaken by the Holy Spirit, and I became urgently, urgently aware that I needed to tell the body of Christ. And I thank God for still today, 2000 years later, for men and women of God and men of God that stand in this pulpit and still understand that there are enemies of the faith. And we need to contend for the faith and we need to stand for the faith because you see ... Why?
Because it wasn't a "Oh, you're right because of the enemy outside." Oh, in this case he's not speaking of enemies outside. He's speaking of enemies from the inside. He's speaking of men that come in and they've transformed the grace of God into lewdness. Literally they wear the grace of God, they wear it as a label, but they don't walk in the light. They have a confession, but there's no change. There's no transformation. They sing the song. They sing songs of grace and they sin while they're in grace. There's a sense in Jude that we are to be awakened to contend for the faith. Now when you add the word faith in scripture, pistis, 228 times. In the original Greek, its simplest form is most profound. A sense is that faith as being persuaded, being convicted, being certain, being assured, who is wholly persuaded and convicted that without this persuasion, this conviction of this sense of being so persuaded of God and his word and his call in my life and under grace of my need to allow his Holy Spirit to do his work of transformation in me. Without this faith, it is impossible to please him.
Now, did you know that that the scripture specifically speaks of the last days and says that in the last days, the faith, that sense of conviction, that sense of this is the word of God, that sense of I will face God one day, I will be before him. That sense of conviction and persuasion, that in the last days in the body, many will wax… the faith, the pistis of many will wax cold. They will have a form of godliness, but they will deny the very power thereof. So when the son of man comes, will he find faith? Will he find men and women that will be battling, that will be defending, that will be discerning, that will be crying out with the disciples, "Oh Lord, increase my faith"? Now when you look at scripture, there's only two times that Jesus marveled. He marveled only two times. Now the word thaumazó, marvel, is used 43 times, but only twice by Jesus. And in both in relationship to faith. In Matthew eight, verse 10 to 13, when the Centurion comes and my servant is dying, Jesus says, "I will go to him. You don't need to go. I'm not worthy of you coming, but just say a word and he will be healed." And Jesus heard it and he thaumazó. He marveled and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, such a great conviction and persuasion and confidence, not even in Israel." Then Jesus said to the Centurion, "Go your way. As you have believed so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed in the same hour. Jesus marveled at this man's faith. The word thaumazó means he was stunned. He was filled. Jesus was astonished to find marvelous, to be filled with awe, with admiration and wonder.
But the word in scripture in the New Testament also is sometime used in the contrary, to be stunned, to be horrified, to be angered, to be saddened. And in both cases it has the implication in the Greek of out of breath. It took my breath away to see this man's faith. So Jesus marveled at the unlimited faith of this man, but he also marveled at what I call the unbelief of familiarity. Only twice did he marvel. He marveled at this man's faith. But then in Mark chapter six, verse four to six, when he comes to his own country, when he come among the people that knew him the most in his early years, Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country and among his own relatives in his own house."
Now he could do no mighty work there except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled. He thaumazó. He marveled because of their unbelief. He was astonished. He was angered. He was saddened. He was stunned and horrified at their unbelief. The terrible danger of familiarity.
I pray. I have been praying, even for this message, praying in the last weeks in preparation for this morning. I prayed that God would give us a fresh sense. I pray by the grace of God that not one of us that belong to this church, would ever become familiar, would ever take for granted the presence of God that is here and the word of God that is preached and the prayer alive that is here and the fruit of this church and the miracles in this church. Look around you. This entire house is a house of miracles. Can you stop with me one second this morning and say, "Oh God, we're not familiar. We're just worshiping and so grateful. You are God and you are awesome in this place." Would you say yes, please?
And when we look at ... As we learn together in these two messages to discern, identify, and confront, overcome the enemies of our faith, we will look today ... We could look at many men and women of faith in scripture, but we will look today at Elijah. So I want you to turn with me to First Kings 18. First Kings, chapter 18. Everybody, First Kings 18. If you don't have your Bible, you can share it with the person next to you or it will be on the screen. The verses will be on the screen as well.
Now when we look at Elijah, we look at a man of faith. We look at a man that had to battle against enemies of his faith, but we've got a man of faith. And his faith as detailed in many chapters, but we look at chapter 18 that his faith was faith with a conviction to call kingdom choices. Now, if you are walking true faith, your faith calls you to choices every day. And a true faith, true preaching of faith calls people clearly to convictions and to choices. In verse 17 of chapter 18 of First Kings, then it happened when Ahab saw Elijah, he’s the king. And Ahab the King said to him, "Is that you, oh, troubler of Israel?" But he answered, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed Baal."
We, the church of the last days will have to stand in persuasion and will have our call to build the kingdom of God and to call and to stand with these convictions. A little bit later on in verse 21, Elijah said, "How long?" Speaking the word of God to the world, but speaking it to the people. And Elijah came to all the people and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if it's Baal follow him." But the people answered him not a word.
We in these last days will be the people of God that will be anointed to build a kingdom of God by a faith in a society and in a world and an ethos that is increasingly and violently discriminatory. In a world that calls evil good and good evil. In a world that looks at the church with mockery. Will look at the church even as a nuisance to be silenced. We will be, and we are, on the great many pulpits in the world, and great temptation to just fold in. We are called to stand in faith and the faith of God would always call us to choices. Choose ye today who you're going to serve.
It's also faith with Christ like compassion. He is calling, he's standing that persuasion, that conviction for God and his commandments, but there's not a fiber in Elijah that gives up on this world. There's not a fiber that keeps this world at arm's length or looks at the church as turned onto ourself and a bunker mentality. When they begin to call on Baal, they are completely demonically controlled. And in verse 28 and 29, "So they cried out and they cut themselves as was their customs with knives, until the blood gushed out of them." In verse 30, Elijah said to all the people "Come near me." So all the people came near to him and he repaired the altar. So beautiful. Repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken. And then he took 12 stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to, through the word of the Lord, I'd come. And he said, "Thou shall be your name."
It's an incredible picture of Christ and us, his body on earth. They are disgusting. They are violently against God. They are demonically inspired. They are repugnant to everything and Elijah. But he opens his arms and he says, "Come near me. Come near me. Let me rebuild the altar of God in your life."
When I was just a youth pastor years ago, I got a call at 3:00 in the morning and it was a police in Montreal. And they called and they said, " Are you Pastor Claude Houde?" I said, "Yes, I am." And they said they had a situation in a city where there was a girl who was terribly mentally disturbed and she had locked herself in an abandoned building but surrounded with tenement buildings in the projects. And she had soaked herself in gasoline and she had a fire with her and she had a knife. And she was cutting herself and threatening to burn herself and just to become a torch.
And they took it so seriously that they blocked the entire neighborhood. They brought fire trucks all around and they said, "We're calling you because we've been three hours talking to her and nobody can reason with her and it's getting more and more dangerous. And she's just cutting herself and threatening to burn the building down." And then she reached in her jeans and all soaked in the blood. She got out a business card, and it's from your church and it's you. She's been to your church. And then I remembered from years back, that troubled girl coming, would try to help. My wife and I taking her to a teen challenge type center and she ran away. I never heard from her again.
So I got in my car. Chantel is praying. And I drive to the city and I get to all the police all around and have blocked the streets. They say, "This is the man. It's okay. Allow him in. Allow him through." And when I got there, she's behind a wall under ... And they were so afraid for my security. They said, "Well, we can't allow you to go and talk to her. Try to talk to her through a wall." I'm trying to, and we're getting nowhere. So I said to them, "You have to let me see her and talk to her." So they discussed among themselves and they put this vest on me and this harness and they kind of put me in. And they said, "If she moves, we pull you out," and all that. I came in and it was a picture of just insanity. All the blood and she's cutting herself. And within about 10 minutes she gave me the knife and I remember just taking the knife and holding and just extending my hand and grabbing her hand and pulling her out. They took her and then ... But wait.
They took her away. So I drive back at 6:00 in the morning and I take a shower. I go to the office. And around 7:30, 8:00, I get a call. It's her calling. So I said hi. I said, "I see you're okay, Natalie. Where are you?" She said, "Well, they just put me right back on the street." That day when I was walking into church, that morning, praying, it just hit me so hard. With all the resources that society can have, they are so limited in what they ... And we the church, and it just hit me so much, just like Elijah with his arms open, we have to contend for our faith. This church is Jesus's arms extended to men and women that only God can pull out. Only God can deliver. Only God can ... You should applaud more than that. This is our calling. This is who we are. This is who we are. So Elijah is this man of conviction, this man of Christ like compassion. He has faith with a calling to choices and Christ like compassion. He has faith with a cry for things to change. In verse 37, his cry is our cry. He says, "Hear me, oh Lord. Hear me so that the people may know that you are Lord." This cry must never ... This is a Tuesday night prayer meeting.
This is a Tuesday night prayer meeting. This is the heart of Times Square Church for all, for three, four decades. There's a cry coming out right in the heart of Times Square. There's a cry going out to God, "Oh God, come by a fire, by your presence. Oh Lord Jesus, fill us with that faith that we open our arms in love but also for your fire to come and consume in us what needs to be consumed and come and show your glory. So people will know in 2019 that you are God." That's just faith.
And we will discern, identify, and we will confront and learn to defeat and to protect against four enemies of his faith. We'll start this morning and we continue in two weeks. But when we look at the first stage or the first enemy of our faith in first Kings chapter 18, we see that our first enemy, and we all face it, and the first stage of the battle in our faith to contend our faith is what I call simply the invisible, the invisible. And in first Kings chapter 19 in verse 41, "And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound." The Hebrew said, "I hear the sound of the abundance of rain." It had been a long season of many years of drought.
So Ahab went up to eat and drink, and the Elijah went up to the top of Carmel. Then he bowed down on the ground, put his face between his knees, and he said to his servant, "Go up now. Go look towards the sea."
So the servant went and looked and said, "There is nothing."
And seven times he said, "Go again." Elijah is facing the first enemy of faith. And the first enemy in our battle to contend for our faith is simply the invisible. We have a contrast here in the realm of the battle of faith, many people go back to eating and drinking once a promise from God has been announced. Eat and drink in biblical, in the biblical language is often used as a biblical expression that symbolizes spiritual carelessness, blindness, a certain spiritual blindness or neglect with a focus on self fulfillment that eat and drink and be merry and die. Eat and drink, for we die tomorrow.
Elijah comes out and he says, "I hear the sound of the abundance of rain." And while the King goes and eats and drinks, Elijah goes before his God. It's a good question for me and you in the battle of our faith. When there is, Hey, do I protect? Do I receive the promise of God but then protected battle for it, fight for it, contend for it with my face before God? Or do I sit on a promise, eat and drink and be merry because a promise has been spoken? True faith understands that the promise of God comes, but I am to contend for the faith. I am to pray through. I am to continue. I am to hold on to what God has promised.
It is pretty amazing. Elijah said, "I heard the sound of the abundance of rain." In the battle of faith, in the realm of faith, in the battle against the enemy of our faith, we often hear what we cannot see yet. I heard a promise from God. I heard something for my son. I heard something from my life. I heard something for my marriage. I heard a promise from God. I heard. We can feel Elijah. He says, "I know it's been a drought." And it's a long drought. If you know the context, it's been a long drought. Elijah has been in a drought. In this case, it was a physical drought.
We go in our battle of faith through different seasons of dry seasons and drought. We go through droughts. It could be a spiritual drought, the relational drought, spiritually, relationally, emotionally, spiritual, emotional, relational, a drought in love. Just a dryness in my heart, in responding to people in love or impatience with someone we're loving and trying to, or a drought in my confidence for the future. A drought in a marriage relationship, a drought in a relationship with one of our kids, or adult kids that are grown and in relation. Sometimes, sometimes the drought in my relationship with my church, a drought in my relationship with God. Because I had heard something, and in the battle of faith, oftentimes we hear so deeply and it's so real to us. We hear so deeply what we do not see yet.
Question, what do you do? Where do you go when the promise comes and you're in a season of drought? Ahab ate and drank. Ahab went just went, and, and, and just went and, and, and let the promise drift. He just went and just spun. What do you do? Elijah went with his face before God. Yes, the promise has come, but I'm here in your presence, God, and I'm speaking to someone here today. The promise has been spoken, but you say, "I don't see anything yet. I'm in a season of drought." Now, sometimes the droughts that we go through are only known to God. Sometimes people around us don't see the droughts we're going through. Sometimes, I would say this way, sometimes my outward situation, my songs, and in some realms of my life, my apparent successes are doing better than my soul.
Sometimes I'm going through a drought, and in a season of droughts, I've heard this. This is a promise of God for me, but I see nothing. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel and then he came back and he says, "I heard the sound of the abundance of rain. There's a promise from God." So he tells his servant, "Go, go to the mount, the top of the mount. Go and look. Go look towards the sea. You'll see. You'll see it. It's coming. God has spoken. I know this is true. I know this is true."
Let me illustrate it this way. Zach, come on. Come on. Elijah says to his young servant, " I want you to run up to the top of Mount Carmel. Go and see and come back and tell me what you see. Go for it. Go. Go young, man. Go, go young, man. Go. Go to the top of Mount Carmel. I hear the sound." He's on 51st street. Come back, come back, come back. I hear the sound of the abundance of rain. I hear the sound. I know God has promised, and it's been a long time, but it's the promise of God. Hey, Hey, what do you see?"
"You see nothing? Go again. Go again." Elijah said, "Go again." Elijah said, "Go again. I heard the sound of the abundance of rain. Go again. Go, come back. Come back. The promises of God are true." My friend Habakkuk said, "The promise, the promise is walking toward its fulfillment. If it's long in waiting, wait for it. Fight for it. Pray for it. For it is for an appointed time." In the realm of faith, we often hear what we do not see. You went, and what did you see? Nothing. Go again.
Now, the Bible says that he did it seven times. Do you feel the compassion of this church for this young man? Give him a hand. I don't have time to go. I should have let him go seven times, because sometimes it just feels that long. I heard the sound. I know I did. I heard the sound. I know it's God. "Go again." Seven times around the walls of Jericho. Seven times let the King be dipped to be healed of his leprosy. And God is saying to someone today, "You heard the sound of the abundance of rain, but you are facing in battle of faith. You are facing the invisible. Go again. Pray again. Stand again. Love again. Forgive again. Hallelujah.
Oh, people of God, this morning. Do you hear it? Do you hear the voice of God saying to a mother, to a father, to a young man, say, "Go again. Pray again. Stand again. Love again. Release again. Give again. Trust again. Surrender again. Worship again. Pray again." Give him praise again. I love the testimony of Elgin Staples. I read it and then it's verified on so many sources, even in some of the army websites. In the bestseller Finding Your Way, I read this amazing testimony, this Christian young man, August eight and nine, 1942 on the ship USS Astoria, it was the first ship that engaged the Japanese during the battle of Savo Island. And Elgin Staples, a young Christian, his mother, his home and his parents, but his mother is praying for him. He was fearful. He left. He wanted to do his duty for his country, but it was a very, he had known many people around him that came back having lost, giving their lives for freedom and his mother just before he left laid hands on him and prayed for him.
And Staple is a single man, third class. And on that day, on August eight his ship is under attack and sunk and he is floating under raging ocean, holding on to dear life and praying, but just saved by his life vest. He has a vest that he's holding on to a tube and he's holding onto it. He's finally brought onto another ship. And would you believe it? The second ship is sunk again. And then as he's floating on the crazy ocean and then the terror and he's holding on to that life vest, he's just holding on and hours and hours and hours. And he looks, and it just hits him, because it says that that vest, there's just a little sign on it, and it says that the vest was built by the Firestone Company of Akron, Ohio. And there's a number there and he's thinking, "This is crazy. I'm from Akron, Ohio. I know the Firestone Company."
And as he's there praying, and then when they read this story back together, his mother had just got the news and the communications were different back then. So she just got the news, he's lost at sea. And she's praying, and she's praying. And then they finally save him, finally bring him back. And there's pictures in the newspapers of him when he gets home with his ... and they gave him his life vest that saved his life. And he's sitting home with his mom and he tells a story, tells his testimony, he says, "Mom, I had floating on the sea and I'm holding onto my life vest and would you believe it? It was built right here at the Firestone Company in Akron and there's this number and I'm just ..." And the mother begins to weep and she says, "With the war, I had to take a job and I'm now working at the Firestone Company. I make these vests, and every employee has an employee number for quality control, and this is my number." Thousands and thousands of vests.
I want to say to someone, I want to say to someone who needs to hear it, when you don't see anything, there's always going to be people around you to say, "I see nothing." There's going to be people around you that say that, "You're believing in vain. I see nothing. It's too late. It's too much. It's too deep. I see nothing. This is too big. This is impossible. I see nothing." You'll have the devil himself shout in your mind, "I see nothing. There is nothing. There is nothing." Go again. Go again. Pray again. Stand again. Come on.
I want you to encourage somebody next to you and say to them, "Go again." Say that to somebody next to you. Enemies of our faith, our first enemy, the first phase, the first stage battle through our life, every season. It's not a first phase, first years of your Christian life. You will go through this in every season of your life. Complete anything that is built for God. Anything that is of eternal value will, at one point, look like nothing. Anything that is of God, at one point, will look like it's nothing. I see nothing. Go again, because a first battle, a first enemy, first stage of battle is the invisible. And the second enemy, the second stage of battle is the insignificant or the insufficient. He said, "Go." He said to him, "Go up again."
So verse 44 of chapter 18, "It came to pass, the seventh time," seventh time, he went and he said, "There's a cloud, but so small, as small as the hand of a man rising out of the sea."
And so Elijah said, "Go up and say to Ahab, prepare your chariot and you go down before the rains that stop you and it happen that in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and winds and there was heavy rain and they have rode away and went to Jezreel." But the hand of the Lord, the Lord came upon Elijah, and as he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Israel. It's not nothing, but it's not enough. First battle, it's nothing. Second battle, okay. It's not nothing, but it's insignificant. So small. It's like the hand of a man in vast skies. It's nothing. Well, it's not nothing, but it's not enough.
One of the deadliest traps in our contending for our faith is the trap of the, it's not enough. Not enough change. There's not enough change in my husband. I don't have change in my ... don't look at anybody. Look at me right now on this thing, on this little section. Not enough change. There's not enough change. There's not enough effort, not enough fruit. There's not enough. Not enough, God. It's not enough. Not enough progress in this relationship. There's enough in my home, not enough. My kids was doing a little bit, but it's not enough.
It's not enough in the promise to fulfilling of the promise of God. It's not enough in my career. It's not enough in my calling before God. Sometimes it turns towards us. Not enough recognition. Not enough. Nobody's seeing it. Not enough. Not enough. There's not enough doors opening. It's enough. It's not enough comparing to what I heard. It's not enough comparing to how much I put into this. It's not enough compared to how much I prayed. It's not enough comparing to what I was hoping for. It's not enough. It's that dangerous season in our faith where the progress does not match the promise. It's not enough. And not enough is a deadly, deadly poison. Please hear me. The enemy cannot stop God's rain, but he can stop you from running towards it in faith. I've seen in 35 and more years of pastoring people that gave up on the not enough, not enough change. I'm giving up on this marriage, giving up on my kids, giving up on my calling, giving up on my church, giving up on following God. Not enough. Not enough. The not enough.
I want you to know that true fed, verse 44, see Elijah's reaction, "What do you see?"
"I see nothing."
"Go again. What do you see?"
"I see nothing."
"Go again." Seven times. He comes back.
"What do you see?"
He goes, "Let's go. Gird up. Let's run. The rain's going to be so awesome. Come on, let's run towards it. Let's run towards the rain." True faith. Contend for the faith, enemies of our faith, the not enough. True faith celebrates the small beginnings. True faith celebrates a small beginning riddled with imperfections. Now you can look at somebody next to you who's riddled with imperfections. True faith celebrates the rain drops before, way before the abundance of rain. True faith celebrates the smallest bud that will grow into great fruit. Faith does not despise the day of small beginnings. Faith does not fall into traps of the not enough. Faith does not fall in the trap of this is insignificant. This is just loaves and fishes in a kid's hands. This is just stones in a teenager sling against a giant. No. True faith says, "My God, what I have I bring to you and I celebrate what you have begun. He that has begun a good work in me will perform it."
Mm-hmm (affirmative). There's traps. True faith is aware, is discerning of the traps of the insignificant. When you are beginning to combat, when you are falling into a trap that this is not enough, this is not enough. There's many traps. There's the traps. There's the traps of the enemy, the traps of comparison and human ambition. It's not enough compared to yesterday. It's not enough compared to what someone else, or somewhere else I'm comparing with. When I'm comparing it with what I had in my heart, what I had envisioned with my ambition, with my timetable, it's not enough. It's not enough. It's not enough.
This is a society now with the social media where people spending hours every day comparing themselves with others, looking at everybody else's Facebook and Instagram and with all the filters and all the, everybody looks better than they really do, and everybody looks at ... and everybody ... and look at the restaurant they're eating, or look at their kids, they look perfect. Look at that car. Look at those vacations. Look at that job and look at ... Oh, let's have a moment of confession. How many of you I've ever posted something under social media that really did not fully reflect the full experience? Anybody? Let's make a call for all liars to come and ...
You know what I mean. You're showing pictures of your vacation and you're telling the kids, "Come on. This is for the picture. Look happy." And you finally get everybody's head and there's seven filters after and then touch up a computer, touch-up and tans and all kinds of stuff added. And you're putting on the picture of us in the car on our way to the beach. And really, you fought all afternoon. It was hell in the car. You know what I mean. Say it or somebody next to you, "Other people do it, too." Say that to somebody.
Comparison on social media, but also comparison in the spiritual. Or even another trap comparison human ambition or the trap of conformity that will not allow God to bless in a different way. This is how I prayed it. This is how I saw it happen. This is how God blessed me in the past. This is how it must be. Not enough. I want to say to somebody next to you, your temple of yesterday will not be the only way God will build your temple today and tomorrow. Now, in the book of Haggai, you had this moment where the people of God, after I've been gone to captivity, come back. God in his mercy brings them back and they begin to try to rebuild the temple, and they get discouraged. It's not enough.
It's just not enough, because they had in mind the glory of the former temple, the temple of Solomon, one of the wonders of the world. And they come back and for 17 years, they leave the work interrupted. In Haggai chapter one, he says, "No, the spirit of God comes upon the leaders, and upon Zerubbabel, and upon the governors, and upon Zechariah the high priest, and then upon the people, and they all come together. But again, in chapter two, they're giving up again. It's not enough. It's not enough. And God goes to the very root of it. You can read it. It's not on the screen, but you can read it. In Haggai chapter two, God says, "How many of you saw this temple in its former glory?" There's very few of them. Haggai was seventy years old. He was the one that saw the most of them, and not even seen it, but they were comparing it with what other people had said, and it looked so-so.
And God actually says, "Is this temple not in your eyes as nothing? How do you look at it now? Is it not in your eye as nothing? Now be strong. Go again. Be strong, and it will be according to my covenant. And my spirit is with you, and the glory of this temple will be greater than the former." I want to say to somebody next to you, don't put God in a box. This is the way it has to be done. This is the way God blessed me in the past. This was a temple. Nothing can compare to it. His mercies are new every morning. Don't you limit him. In history, they start, "When God said this glory of this temple will be greater than the former," that's just not possible. They're standing on stones and rubbles, and historians actually will say that that second temple in his physicality never approach the wealth of the human beauty of the former one.
What is God saying that? What is God saying? God all through the Old Testament is announcing Jesus Christ. He is saying there's a new temple coming. And he went, God, "Jesus will offer his life. Sacrifices would go day and night. I would go through day now, but it will be one sacrifice, and the temple will not be a building made by mans of stone. It will be billions of temples of the Holy Spirit. I will come. The glory will come and dwell in human beings, for millenniums to come all the way to Times Square Church in 2019, therefore the second temple is much greater. The second temple is the church of Jesus Christ, and what started as not enough!
Oh, come on! Shout with me. And what started as not enough became the glory of God beyond anything they could imagine. And when Elijah, "What do you see? Nothing. Go again. What do you see?" "It's not enough. It's insignificant. It's like the hand of a man." "Run towards it." Now, as Elijah ran, the Bible says that the hand of the Lord came in him, came upon him with might and power. He outran the horses. The hand of God came upon him in supernatural strength. Would you remember this, please? Never forget the cloud like the hand of a man. So small, not enough, prepares the conquests of the hand of God upon your life if you trust him. I would close with this, and I'm going to ask the musicians to come. True faith never curses what appears to be not enough. True faith blesses and offers to God what seems not enough. I close with this moment. You all, many of you know well, the gospel of Mark chapter six, as the musicians come.
The multitude is starving. Jesus has taught them many things, and when the time came to feed them disciples to send them away, the disciples are bemoaning their lack. Lamenting they're not enough. But Jesus, when he had taken the five loaves and the fishes, looked up to heaven and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them, and the two fish divided among them all. They all ate and were filled, and when they took up 12 baskets full of fragments and the fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were about 5,000 men. Jesus did not curse the not enough. He blessed the not enough, and he offered it to God. And as he offered to God his not enough, his eyes trusting in the one that is more than enough, God multiplied. God multiplied. The rain came. The hand of God came. I've seen this in every season of my life, and I'm bringing this as a simple reminder to elders, mothers, fathers, men, and women that have walked with God for a long time.
You still need to contend for your faith. You still need to be aware, and you still need to come to God and to say, "Lord, with all the invisibles in my life where I've been tempted just to say I see nothing, there is nothing, I heard but I am. I don't see." The spirit of God says to you, "Go again. Trust me again. Bring it up to me." And for all of us who are in the traps, but we're sinking in the mire. We're sinking. We're in a sinking sand of the not enough, and it was bringing thoughts in your mind and in your heart of giving up on very, very serious commitments between you and God, and maybe between you and people you love. And ideas and thoughts that were from hell itself, it's so small. It's not enough.
And not so directly, but in your flesh, there was a sense of almost cursing the not enough. This is not enough. The spirit of God comes to you today and says, "Oh, bring me your not enough. Blessed the not enough. Offer it to me." And when you are going through a drought, or when you are going through a storms, wrap your arms around the basket of his provision. He offered. God blessed and multiplies, and it was 12 basket, one for each of the disciples. And they entered the next storm where their arms around the basket of his faithfulness, the basket of his faithfulness and his provision, because the spirit of the not enough blinds us, robs us. It will rob you of your joy. It will rob you of your faith. It will rob you of your praise. It will rob you of your giving, of your generosity. I've not been blessed enough. It will rob your faith. It will rob you of your commitments. It will rob you of your impact to model Jesus Christ as the same yesterday, today, and forever. I am 57 years old, and every year of my life and this year again, I've had to come and say, God, there's some things that I heard in my spirit. Some of them years ago, some of them more recently. I heard it from you, but I don't see anything, but I'm standing on your promise. I'm standing on your faithfulness. Forgive me! Forgive me for saying it's not enough. Not enough. Forgive me. It's not enough compared to what I had dreamed. What I wanted for your destiny. Oh, God, it's not enough!
It's not enough compared to how much I loved, how much I gave, how much I forgave! God, it's not enough! Forgive me. I want to bring it to you today and say oh my God, I bless your provision in my life. I see the hand. I see the cloud. Oh God. And I know that the cloud that in my human eyes seems so small, like the hand of the man, is actually preparing the hand of God's work and sovereign provision in my life. In Jesus name, and all of God's people shouted an amen! Can we stand? Can we stand and really give him an ovation? Can we stand and give Jesus a standing ovation today? Come on. People of God, would you shout out to God? Can we sing How Great is Our God? Can we sing How Great is Our God, but full blast with all the musicians. And this is the call today. Don't go right away unless you really have to. Bow your head for a moment. This is a life changing moment for many. If you're able to be here, if you're able to be here on August 11 in two weeks, come back. We will see how we go from enemy number one, the invisible, and the insufficient or insignificant, and how the enemy works. We'll see it through Elijah's life, but we will see it in our own lives. How he works through isolation and intimidation, and how we can break intimidation from the devil himself over our lives in the next message.
But today you're here, and God brought you here. You might be coming to this church for a long time or you're just visiting, but you're not just here by coincidence. God called you here this morning to speak this word to you. And God, I come to you today by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I pray for that conviction of the Holy Spirit. You convict, oh God. This word, I believe, is from you. I shared it in my very, very imperfect way, but your word, oh God, your anointing breaks every yoke. So today I pray now for an open heaven, and I pray for your people to respond to your word. And as they respond, oh God, you will come and go deep in their spirit, and you will move, and you will change, and you will free them. And you will speak fresh words to their hearts, and remind promises that the enemy that almost silenced. And the voice of God will come clear again and say, "Hear the sound of the abundance of rain for you. Go again. Offer me your not enough."
If you're here today and this is a call, Jesus marveled, he marveled in wonder and in joy at their faith. But he also marveled in sadness and brokenness over the unbelief of conformity. So if you're here today, this is the call as clear as I can make it. If you're here today and you say, "Pastor Claude, this message was for me. I have been facing an invisible. I had heard the voice, the sound of the abundance of rain, but time after time after time, I saw nothing. There was nothing. It was an impossible. There was an invisible. And even people around me, and even the enemy himself have been saying there is nothing. But today I want to bring my invisible to God. I want to bring it to him right now. I want to bring that person, that situation, that hurt, that pain. I want to bring it and offer it to God, and ask him to give me strength to go again, to believe again, to stand again, to pray again, to trust again, to forgive again, to love again."
If you're here and you have an invisible to bring to God, I want you to come out of your seat right now, as if you're carrying it. Even to come and say, "Lord, I'm bringing my invisible to you. I know that I have said there is nothing, and others have said there is nothing, and the enemy said there is nothing, but I'm believing in you. I'm trusting in you, and I will go again." You come, and as you come, you begin to lift your voice to God. Come from all over. Come from the balcony. And if you hear him really clearly, you say, "I've never heard the message quite that personal with me, but I have been saying it's not enough. I have been in that valley, that drought of the not enough. It's not enough. There was something. There was a situation where there was a battle. There was an issue in my life. A person, an issue, a situation where I was filled with this spirit of not enough, and the enemy had me comparing. And the enemy had me comparing with the former temple, and the years back and elsewhere, someone else."
"And today I want to come even in repentance. I want to come in faith, and I'm bringing my not enough to God. I'm bringing them to him. I see the cloud like the hand of a man. I'm coming and bringing my loaves and fishes. And I know that that cloud that seems so small, that progress that seems so small, like the hand of a man, is preparing the hand of God, the hand of his sovereignty, the hand of his purposes, the hand of his promises being fulfilled in my life." If you were afflicted coming into this building with the spirit of the not enough, it's insignificant. It's not it's not enough. I want you to come and bring it to God today. Come on.
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We often find sins in our lives that we justify as okay, the "little, white lies" that are condoned by secular culture and excused or ignored by many Christians. What if these "small" sins have a much more serious impact than we could ever imagine? This week, Pastor Carter Conlon talks about rooting out the little weeds in our spiritual lives.
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Following the relationship between Jesus and his mother Mary, Carter Conlon challenges us to let go of the old ways of thinking and doing, and embrace His Kingdom ways. To get to a place where it's not your voice trying to dictate God, but it's God's voice leading you. There's a powerful truth in this sermon: God doesn't conform to your life plan. Surrender your voice and will to Him, and watch what He will do with your life.
Now I want to talk tonight and we're going to begin in John chapter 2. If you have your Bible with you or if you have a device with the scriptures on it, and it's the final stage in a sense that the Bible reveals about the journey of Mary and I've entitled this sharing tonight, "The end of yourself is the beginning of God."
Father, I thank you God with all my heart. Lord, for the beauty of truth. Truth is beautiful. Truth is sustaining. Truth is guiding. Truth is enabling. Truth gives light. Truth gives comfort. Truth helps us navigate the roadways of life that can be so perplexing that we can be left sometimes in despair. I thank you, God, for just giving us a desire to look at your word and to see truth as it played out in the life of one girl who said, "Be it unto me according to your word."
God. Thank you, Lord. Thank you that you've shown us patterns in scripture of what it looks like to have your life being lived out inside of ours, of how you carry us, Lord, through our trials, our misunderstandings, our troubles, our sorrows, even moments of joy. Father, I just pray God for an enlightenment tonight and that through these three messages that have been spoken this week, Lord, that you, God, would sow something very, very deep in the hearts of your people.
That we'd not be led astray Lord by other voices, not be led down a path that's going to lead to weakness, but that we would stay in the boundaries of your word. Father, I thank you God with all my heart in Jesus name. I really suggest that you get these three messages on Mary and just every once in a while listen to them. Just let it soak in you because it's coming from the Holy Spirit, but it's also coming from a life that I've lived a long time with God now. This is not just a theory to me, I have walked this. I've experienced this. I've seen where we're going to go tonight and what the Lord has given me to speak to you.
Chapter 2 of John, the next time we see Mary after she lost Jesus when he was 12 years old, it says, "It was on the third day, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding. When they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to him, they have no wine. Jesus said to her "woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, whatever he says to you, do it."
This is an amazing moment. Jesus Christ, the son of God, is literally forced into public ministry by his mother. Now, if you don't believe as a mother, you got power in your prayers and you don't fully understand who you are in God. This is truly an amazing moment. Now, I love the humor of this because they've gone to a wedding, they've invited by their hosts and in that culture at that time, if you ran out of wine, it was a shameful thing and Mary is not willing that her hosts should be brought to shame. Now, she knows at this point what Jesus can do.
This interaction proves that. She's a Jewish mother. She looks to Him and says, "They've run out of wine," and looks back and He knows what she's talking about. She knows what He can do at this point. She knows that He can do the miraculous. I'm convinced of it by this interaction. I can just picture when He's 18 years old, for example, she says, "now I'm going out to the store and I want you to clean up the house. I want you to do the dishes. I want you to clean the table, do up your room, do the laundry before I get back."
Of course, He never disobeyed, right? He says, "Yes, mother, it'll be all done." She gets to the gate she says "Oh my, I forgot my keys." Goes back to the house and everything is done. I don't know, after Joseph, it's assumed that he died somewhere along the line between when Jesus was 12 and 30 that Joseph died and so He became the provider for the house. I can just imagine how many times at the table, maybe if they were a little short of food, that they bowed their heads, they thanked the father, and then suddenly there's this beautiful meal.
You see, the issue is, it's obvious from this interaction that she knew what He could do. She looks and says, "They have no wine." He looks back and says, "Mom, you know it's not my time yet." Now, He fully understands that she's asking Him to do a miracle. He fully understands that. She turns back to the servants now, this is an amazing interaction. She says, "Whatever he tells you," in a Jewish accent, "whatever he tells you to do, do it." That's not a very good Jewish accent but in the Jewish--I don't do accents well, "Whatever he tells you to do, do it."
She's saying, "Okay, if you want to run down to the store, by all means, go ahead but these hosts are not going to be embarrassed when you have the power to do something about it so I don't care how you do it, but you're going to do it." Now He's put in a real catch 22 situation right now because if He does nothing, He breaks one of His own commandments. Think it through. She checkmated the son of God at this point because this commandment is, honor your father and your mother.
If He does nothing, He dishonors His mother and if you really want to-- for the theologians who want to debate this point, you wonder if He had done nothing could He have died for our sins? Think it through. I mean, it's an incredible-- There's so much more in scripture than just the casual reading of it. Then, of course, you know, this is his first miracle caused to happen by His mother. Now, what do you and I learned from this?
Now, she got away with it because she's His mother. I don't suggest you and I try this, like a lot of churches do, a lot of believers do. They think that when we become familiar with the son of God, that we have the right to actually command Him to do things. I want to encourage you don't become so familiar with God that you start telling Him how things need to be done. That's an error and it ought not to-- Remember that when Mary prayed at the beginning of our discussion in the Gospel of Luke, "When the Holy Spirit came on her, she said holy is his name and his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation."
My encouragement to you is don't try to get Jesus to do things through you when the time is not right yet. Don't try to get to where you need to go too fast. Don't try to tell Jesus how you need to get there. A lot of people make that mistake. You remember when Jacob came to his father looking for the blessing of God that he brought the venison and his father said to him, "How did you get it so fast?" He says, "Well, the Lord brought it to me." In other words-- and there's a lot of young people who try to get--you to want to be prophets.
You get saved at five o'clock, you want to be a prophet by eight o'clock in the evening. You want to stand and say, "thus sayeth the Lord." The Lord looks at you and said, "how'd you get here so fast, son" "Oh, the Lord gave me this great gift of the spirit." Don't try to get too quick to where you need to go. There's a little bit of a school involved between point A and point Z. There's some teaching. There's some understanding and don't think that because we've become familiar with the presence of God, that we have the right to dictate to Him how to do things.
Sometimes we'll cry out for something in our life and He'll look at you as he did His mother and say, "It's not time yet. You're not ready for that ministry. It's not time for this to happen in your life." Be careful you don't fall into the trap, the theological trap of thinking you have the right to dictate to the son of God. You don't and neither do I. It's God's choice. He knows how to get us where we need to go. He knows how to take us there. He knows how to get us there. He knows what needs to happen in each of our lives before we arrive at the place where we honestly will be used for His glory.
The next time we see Mary is in Mark chapter 3. Now incredible things are happening in Mark chapter 3. Jesus himself now is gone into the temple on the Sabbath and He's healed a man with a withered hand. He's now directly challenging the religious system of the day and it's a dangerous thing to challenge that system because the people were so zealous like the Apostle Paul or Saul was in the beginning that they would be willing to the death to get rid of people so they could preserve it.
There's a violence that comes along sometimes with religion that's not got the heart of God at the center core of it. They were looking to accuse him at this time. Then verse 6 after he healed this man on the Sabbath, it says, "The Pharisees went out immediately and plotted with the Herodians against him how they might destroy him." He's carrying on the ministry, he’s healing people and the Bible says in verse 11 in Mark 3, "that unclean spirits when they see them are falling down and crying out, "You are the son of God."
He's healing people. He's confronting the religious system. Demons are calling out that He's the son of God. He appoints 12, in verse 14 he's calling people to himself. He's appointing them as leaders, He's giving them the power to cast out devils. In verse 21 of Mark 3, it says, "But when his own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold on them for they said he's out of his mind."
I don't believe for a second they’re thinking He's crazy. They're saying, "He's going to get himself killed." If you ever had a situation when you see somebody up on a roof or doing something, you say, "You're out of your mind, man, with what you're doing." It doesn't mean he's crazy. It means what he's doing he's up against a system, he doesn't understand. He's going to get himself killed doing this. Now, it's possible that some of His family did think too that He had actually lost His mind.
As He was teaching His brothers it says and his mother, this is Mary, came standing outside the building that He was in where there was such oppressive people you couldn't even get in, calling to Him. A multitude was sitting around. They said, "Look, your mother and your brothers are outside seeking you." He answered them saying, "Who is my mother and my brothers?" He looked around at the circle of those who sat about Him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and my mother."
Now, Mary's outside with her children basically, the family members. They're calling from outside because they can't get in. They're worried. I think His brothers at this point do think He's lost his mind because the scripture bears witness they didn't believe in Him till probably after the cross, but I don't know about Mary, I honestly don't know. I'm only conjecturing on it but in my heart, as a mother, I'm feeling that she's trying to protect what she loves.
It's hard, if not impossible, it's hard to let go of the things that we love the most and fear will be lost if we continue in the will of God. There's something about her that knows that this child has been born as Simeon once said, "For the rise and the fall.” There's something that knows that a sword is about to pierce your heart. She loves this boy with all her heart. Think about this, moms and dads. You have children that you love with all your heart, you'd die for them, you'd do anything in your power to protect them.
You warn them when they're going in the direction that you feel is going to be harm. What would make her any different? The problem is she's trying to protect something that God has not designed to be protected. I remember years ago, my daughter went to India. She was working with a ministry that we have in India to the children of prostitutes in the red light district in Pune, India. I remember she came home the first time and she said, "I was in this home where children are used for prostitution, little girls.
She was sitting there, trying to minister to them, and talking to a few dozen of these girls when suddenly a bunch of either American or European men came into the home to do what they do. The girls surrounded her and protected her because in that particular home, there are no laws and everybody is vulnerable in that situation. She came home and told me this. As a father, you picture your daughter, at that time she's about 18, 19 years old.
You picture your daughter in a situation where she can be sexually abused, where men come who are sexually-crazed from all over the Western world so that they can molest children. It just doesn't get any worse. This is what goes on in India. My daughter's in the midst of this, she comes home and she was so sick. When she came home, it was three days before she could speak. She was traumatized. It was almost like post-traumatic stress disorder. Then about a year or so later, she said, "Dad, I feel like God's calling me to go back."
Now, I had to make a choice. I went to prayer because I could have said, "No, you're not going back. You're not going to be in the situation like that." She said, "I feel God calling me to go back." When I prayed, the Lord said, "Would you rather have her there or in a bar? Which do you choose, which would be your preference?" I remember yielding to God. I remember how hard it was to yield to God, how hard it was to take her to the airport, how hard it was to see her get on that plane and go back to that place to minister to those girls.
To this day, I thank God that even with my desire to protect what I love, I realized the will of God comes first and our will must come second. That's why Jesus was not trying to trash His mother but He looked around and He said, "No, it's those who do the will of God that are my mother, my brother, and my sister." What He was identifying is it outside are people that are trying to get me to do things another way, but I was born to be sacrificed for the sins of this world and I'm on the course of my Father, even the best of intentions are not acceptable in the sight of God.
It's hard but it's not impossible to let go of the things that we love the most. We fear that they will be lost if they continue in the will of God. It's my opinion for what it's worth that that's what was in her heart because she loved this boy, this boy who never sinned, this boy who was the perfect child, this boy who was the son of God, this boy who was a gift from God, this boy that people prophesied about, this boy that angels appeared in heaven to rejoice over. Was putting himself in a position that she feared he was going to be killed. It was just so hard to let him go.
There will be times in your life where it's hard to let things go. Sometimes it's dreams you had, plans, it's what you thought your life was going to be. It's how you lived for a certain objective and suddenly God is leading you to another place. It's just very, very difficult to let it go but may I encourage you, it's difficult but it's not impossible. You will never regret letting things go that God is asking you for. The next time we see Mary is now at the cross of Christ.
In John 19:25-27, the scripture says, "There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." When Jesus, therefore, saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing by, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son," then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother," from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home. This might be perhaps the first time that Mary fully understands that the kingdom of God goes forward with power when we live for the benefit of others and not to preserve ourselves.
I have to feel that she saw something there. You say, "Well, why do you feel that?" Because her son spoke a word that drew her out of the cultural context of the day. When Joseph died, Jesus Christ being the firstborn son would have been now the protector of His mother and the provider and of the home. Now that protection and provision should have gone to his brother, James, who was the next in line but at this point, James was not a believer.
Now, Jesus Christ is speaking something to His mother. He's leading her to something that is so out of her cultural context. He's leading her into a new family, he's leading her into a new way of thinking, into a new place. For the first time, we see something different. You see in John 3, we see her trying to lead her son. Do you remember that? In John 3, she's trying to tell him how to do things, how things should be done, she's pushing him into that first public miracle.
But now in John 20, she's following the leading of His voice into a new way of life. He's now leading her. A transition happened on that mountain. It's much deeper than she's just standing there and Jesus says, "By the way, here's your son." He is now taking her out of a whole other way of living, a whole other way of thinking, and he's bringing her into the family of God. The beauty of it all is she's now following His voice. I think up to this point in her life, she had been a major voice perhaps in His life, in His upbringing, in His early years, in His teen years.
Now He's on the cross, He's 33 years old, He's dying, and is it possible? I'm just throwing it out to you as a thought. Is it possible? This is the first time all these voices start coming back now, the words of Simeon, the words of the angels, the words of the shepherd, everything's coming back. Suddenly, it comes into view. This is not defeat, this is victory. This is not the end, this is the beginning. This is not the devil winning, this is the actual plan of God. It's now coming into focus.
Now she's seeing that this baby she carried within her womb, this child she once lost in the temple, this one that she pushed into ministry in His early years at a wedding is now dying for the sins of the world. She suddenly realizes it's His voice I must listen to. It's not my voice he needs now, I need his voice to speak to me. He says, "Woman, behold your son. Son, this is now your mother." The scripture says, "From that moment, John took her and she went into his house. She became part of the family of God."
I love the perspective of it when you and I get to a place where there's a new order in our lives, where it's not our voice trying to dictate to God, it's God's voice leading us now. He's leading us out of an old way of thinking. "If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation, the old things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new." We leave an old way of thinking, an old way of living.
The old people we used to hang around with, and if necessary, our old acquaintances, and even our family. We become part of the family of God. This is not just a fanciful idea, this is the plan of God for His Church on the earth. I don't know what it's like at home, but I know here you've got brothers and sisters. You got mothers and fathers here, you got people who love you, will support you, will stand with you for the rest of your life. Woman behold your son, son behold your mother. This is a new family order on the Earth. This is now the family of God.
The next place we find Mary, and this is a beautiful place. The scripture says, "After Jesus rose from the dead," in the book of Acts chapter one, "they returned to Jerusalem to the Mount called Olivet which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. When they had entered, they went up into the upper room, where they were staying. Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, the son of James. They all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers."
Thank God, I didn't see this, somebody else brought this to my attention today they came to visit me. Mary did not give up on her other children, you understand? She brought them to the upper room. James became the head of the church in Jerusalem. James was once outside the window saying My brother is insane. We got to get ahold of him. James did not believe. James who did not inherit even his own mother, as a charge in his life is being brought into the upper room by his mother. She did not give up and you don't have to give up on your children.
Neither one of you, none of you have to give up on your child. I don't care how old they are, I don't care about down they are, I don't care how agnostic they are, I don't care how scornful they are, don't give up on your sons and don't give up on your daughters. She brought her children into the upper room. Now, there's nothing that even says that they were believers at this time. They might have been, the most likely were, but there's nothing that really identifies that.
Bible just tells me that she brought the brothers of Christ, her other children into that upper room by God's Almighty grace, and she began this journey. The Scripture tells us in chapter 2, where we started she began her journey saying, "Let it be to me according to your word." The yielding gave birth to the Son of God within her. That's the way it is for you and. "Let it be to me oh God, according to your word. Let your life be born inside of mine. Let your plan become my plan. Let your mind become mine. Let your strength become my strength."
This is where she began, but she at the end of the scriptural witness of Mary, she continued again with the same words, "Let it be to me according to your word." Going into that upper room had to be similar to that, let it be to me according to your word. Going to John's house had to be, let it be to me according to your word. The beauty of her life, the beauty of this whole life is she began her journey with the Son of God being born within her and she finishes the scriptural witness of her journey filled again with the Spirit of God.
Praise be to God. The same Christ in her, the same power of God in her. I can envision Mary coming out of the upper room with 120. Perhaps James and Joseph and Simon, and brothers and sisters of Christ, filled with the Spirit of God. Speaking in other languages in ways that people could understand. Speaking about the mighty works of God. Jesus Son of God, may it be. May it be in this last day, in this last hour of time in which we're now living. In this potentially last generation, God Himself only knows but it's certainly the signs seem to be on the horizon.
May it be that one more time, you and I come out of the upper room, filled with the Spirit of God. Filled with the Spirit of God, filled with the Spirit of God saying not my will but thine. God, let your word be alive in me. God let your spirit govern me. Let the mysteries of heaven be spoken by my lips. Let the power of God raise me out of weakness and bring me into this power of an endless life that's given to me through Jesus Christ.
My God, what a finish. If this was the finish, I don't know where she went from there. The history doesn't record it. She may have died in the arena with everybody else, who knows of that generation. I do know she's one of 120 that came out of that upper room filled with the Spirit of God, and she started with the Son of God. Oh Jesus, Son of God. Oh Jesus, Son of God. Oh Jesus, Son of God. That has to be the cry, be it done to me according to your word. Oh God, if you tell me to go into an upper room and tarry and pray until you come then that's what I'm going to do.
Why do we want to make it any different than the way it began? Why do we want to get so fancy with so many schemes and gimmicks and programs and strategies? When the strategies of the church was, "Listen to my voice, go into the upper room and pray until you be empowered with the Holy Spirit. When you come out, you'll be a wonder to your generation." Religion will bend its knee, and folks even Rome bend its knee to those 120 that came out of that upper room by God's Almighty grace. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Thank you, Lord.
This is the journey of one person, one girl. She took the journey, what a beautiful journey it is and what a lesson we can learn from it, and what a pattern we can see in it. God help me to leave off the old ways of thinking. Help me Lord, to embrace your kingdom. Help me God to go into that upper room. To be so filled with your spirit that I can make a difference in my generation. Years ago, I was reading the scriptures and I saw some of these things.
I was isolated, I was in a farm out in the middle of nowhere. One night in my kitchen, at home, a farmhouse kitchen. I was sitting in the chair and I was just putting some wood on the fire, and suddenly I felt the Holy Spirit just urging me to pray. I was struggling folks, I was struggling with a bad temper, and I was struggling with despair. I was wondering if I was ever going to change, and will I ever learn to be a father and a husband? Will my life ever amount to anything in the kingdom of God.
I'm just sitting in this chair in my kitchen and I started to pray and I said, "Oh Jesus, Son of God." I said, "If you will set me free, I will serve you all the days of my life. God if you will help me to break out of the confines of this, the limitations of this body and my experience and my upbringing, in my self-view. God, all of these things that are just have me in a prison. If you will--"
See at this point I just had the Son of God, do you understand? I had the Holy Spirit. I have received Christ as Savior, but I saw in the Bible there was just so much more and I just went into that upper room in my kitchen. I didn't even know or fully understand these things, but I went in that upper room and I just started to pray, "Oh God, would you set me free, and if you would, I will serve you all the days of my life." My wife was standing off on my left hand just hearing me pray.
I was just sitting in a chair, and then suddenly I looked to the right corner of the room, and a light as bright as that light right there was coming towards me. I wasn't imagining it, I saw it and it was a brightness like nothing of this world could produce. When I saw it, I thought, "Wow, I think I better stop this because I'm--" I just had a feeling like maybe I shouldn't be doing this. You know the fear of the Lord sometimes it's not always the beginning of wisdom.
It's like-- and so I closed my eyes, and the light was just as bright when my eyes were closed as when they were open. It's my eyelids couldn't shut it out. I was a fitness fanatic back then. I was bench pressing hundreds of pounds and I had my hands in the air and I suddenly got scared. I tried to pull my hands down, and I couldn't pull my hands down. They were frozen. The light just kept coming towards me, towards me, towards me and then suddenly hit me right in the face. Went through my whole body, and I let out a scream.
Like I'm not a screamer, but I let out a scream. My wife says to this day, "I've never heard you scream like that." I let out a scream, I was knocked off my chair and knocked on to the floor. I was in a sweat, and I was shaking. Then suddenly, I heard a voice saying, "Stand up, I want to speak to you." I stood up on my feet. You get my wife, maybe next year I'll get her to share the story because she witnessed it. She said, "You started quoting scripture you didn't know." She said, "It was a psalm you'd never read." She says, "I'm sure of it, you started quoting it verbatim. Line, after line, after line as it just started to flow out of me."
See God, if we're willing to seek Him, He is willing to meet us. If we're saying, "I will serve you." He will respond with the power to serve Him. As God lives I've never been the same since that day. Never been the same. I started speaking to people, they would cry. I led 21 people to Christ in the next couple of weeks. It was just a short little season. Everyone I would talk to would start crying, and they'd give their lives to Christ. Not by power, not by might, but by the spirit of Almighty God. I understand what the upper room looks like, I understand there's a surrender.
We don't go seeking the Holy Spirit just so we can have an experience. We seek the Holy Spirit so we can have the power to live according to the will of God. It's always about being given for other people always, always. It's not just about having an experience so we have a notch on our wall. That, "Oh yes, check that box, I did that. I got that." It's the power of God that leads us into the will of God.
This is my brother, this is my sister, this is my mother. It's these who hear the will of God and they do it. He was not being rude to His family He was defining what the kingdom of God is going to look like. The end of ourselves is the beginning of God. If you feel strong in yourself you might be farther away from the beginning of God than you realize. If you feel weak, you might be closer than the person beside you. That's the irony and the beauty of the kingdom of God.
He takes us in our weakness, not in our strength. Not when we have a plan or telling him what to do, but when we've come to a place where we're actually listening to his voice now and saying, "God, I want you. Jesus, I want your will, I want your power. I want something of you in my life more than anything that this world has got to offer. I yearn for it, I long for it and if you will touch me, my God, I will live for you the rest of my life."
That's what the people in the upper room had to be praying because they knew the society around them was hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. God met them, including Mary. Praise be to God. I challenge you, I challenge you with all my heart. I hear that challenge from Pastor Mike McBride as well, and Pastor Nick. I challenge you. I challenge you. Don't be satisfied with less than what God has for you. Don't be satisfied with a secondary plan, don't dictate to the Son of God.
Don't try to get him to conform to your life plan. It doesn't work that way. Yield your life plan. Let it go, even the things you love, let them go and let God take over and you watch what God will do. It is a miracle, a miraculous life. It's a supernatural life. It's a life like you never believed that you could ever have. It's born in God. That's my altar call tonight. It's really just that simple. I'm going to ask the worship team if you would come at this time.
We're just going to say, "God, if you can do that for him, if you can do that for people in the Bible. If you did that for Mary, if you've done that for others throughout history, I'm not willing to sit on the sidelines and be an observer and watch you use other people when my life is available to you. I'm asking you--" It takes your humility. "I'm asking God, that you would give me the anointing the power of your Holy Spirit. That you would make me into the kind of a man or woman that I can't be in my own strength. That you would take me to places that I can't go. No matter what kind of a roadmap I've crafted for myself, I can't get there.
Would you give me the power to listen to your voice and obey it, and when you call me out of the familiar and into the unfamiliar help me to say yes. Help me to go through every door you set before me. Help me, God." This has been the cry of my heart my whole Christian life now. "Don't let me say no to you. Wherever you lead me, let me follow you. Don't let me ever think it's too big or too out of my league. Just let me obey you, God. Wherever you call me, give me your word and I know that you'll do the work that you've destined to do. All you really ever looked is for human vessels that you can work through, so let it be my story. Let it be my story."
Let that be your cry tonight. I can't put that cry in you, it's got to come from your heart. If you want religion, that's all you get. That's all you get. You'll spend the rest of your life just doctrinally debating and fighting in churches. That's it. Dry on Sunday, just going home criticizing the pastor. Dry on Monday, backslidden Tuesday. You can spend your whole life doing that. Then you try to create a sense of righteousness by criticizing everybody around you. It's such a mediocre way to live as a Christian. When the power of God is available for you. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
Takes you out of this little box that religion can put you in and gives you a heart big enough to love even the worst of the lost. Gives you a heart to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Gives you a vision much bigger than anything that we could ever produce. Let it be. Let it be that SummerFire became that upper room in Ireland. Let it be, let it be. That's the cry of my heart.
Let this be the place tonight where we say, "God, you've done it for all these other people with all their struggles and all their frailties and all their failings, so Lord, you can do it for me. Here I am Lord, let it be unto me according to your word. Let my life be led according to your will. Thank you, God, you give me the power. You're not asking me to go anywhere that you won't give me the power to go there. You give me the giftings that I need to get the work done that you've desired to do through my life." Let that be your cry.
We're going to worship and what I'm asking of you tonight is simply a cry, just a cry from your heart. "God, I want your Holy Spirit. I want your presence. I want your power. I want your will. I want the way that you want to take my life. I want the power to lay down God, those things that are precious to me. I want the power to say yes when everything inside wants to say no. I want the power to yield and not try to dictate to you or anyone else. Lord, I want my life to count. I desperately want my life to count."
If that's the cry of your heart, we're going to stand and I'm going to ask you to step out of your seat and just come. Just come here and we're going to worship together, we're going to pray together. Be prepared for God to meet you. Just be prepared tonight. Wherever you are just come and come expecting the Spirit of God to touch you. Hallelujah. God tonight Lord, I thank you, Lord. I thank you're going to fill people with the Holy Spirit tonight.
I thank you Almighty God, this is your plan it always has been for your church Lord. You take us in our weakness, in our struggles or trials, when we don't understand God. When we feel like we've failed, when we feel like we've lost you, Lord. You take us in spite of it all God to an upper room and you fill us with your spirit. You give us the power to go out and confound and confront those things in our society that stand in opposition to this incredible truth. God, I ask tonight, Lord, for my brothers, my sisters, that nobody leave this altar disappointed.
That you'd fill everyone every person God with the Holy Spirit. That people would have the power to speak in other tongues tonight. The power to speak to people of other cultures. The power Lord, to speak of the wonderous things of the Kingdom of God. The power to stand Lord, in their homes, their families, their communities, Lord, even before their enemies talking about the wonderful works of God.
God, I pray that you make everyone at this altar a soul winner, everyone Lord, no exceptions, not one exception here tonight. Every man, every woman a soul winner. Every preacher with new power in their ministry God. Every pulpit up flame of fire God confronting every soul that stands before it, oh God. In Jesus name, Lord, in Jesus name. We are your church Lord, there's no other plan for this generation. There's no plan B or C, this is Plan A. This is Plan A for this nation, God. Here we are, Lord, as your people. Here we are God, the servants that you've called God, and so be done to us according to your word, Lord.
We will not fight against your word, we will not fight against where you lead us, Lord. God give us your Holy Spirit tonight. Give us your Holy Spirit. Now you start crying up for the Holy Spirit. You ask God to fill your life. You ask him for what only He can do. Don't be satisfied with anything less than him. Let him be your strength. Call out to Him now. Call out from the depths of your heart.
Pray like I prayed, "Lord if you will set me free, I will serve you all the days of my life. I will serve you Lord, I will go where you call me. I will speak what you give me Lord, but it will have to be your power. It will have to be your spirit because I can't do it in my own strength." Call out to the Holy Spirit, and don't be ashamed. Don't be ashamed to declare your need for God, because He's not ashamed of you. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus.
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Sometimes faith follows favor—God shows up and points to the will He has for you. And from that place of calling and surrender, you ask for the faith to step into something bigger than yourself. Carter Conlon shares in this powerful teaching that submission to God leads to a fruitful life that will change the world beyond your reach.
Luke Chapter one. I’ll make no apologies for what I'm about to say. I believe for somebody here tonight, hopefully, several it will be a life-changing moment for you.
This will be the moment that determines your future. There's something that God has for you that you've not considered yet. It's something deeper, it's something farther, it's something supernatural. It's actually something you can't even possibly achieve in your own strength. He does it so that his name will be glorified. He does it because his church was intended from the beginning to be a supernatural organization, not a natural one. It's not a kingdom that can be strategized by the minds of man.
It cannot be put forward by human effort. There's parts of that are involved in that. I understand, but ultimately it has to be God himself being God through us that makes us into people that can affect our generation. Father, I thank you with all my heart for this evening. I thank you, Lord God, that you have shown me things over the years and are giving me in my later years the opportunity to share them with others. I pray tonight with all my heart, God, that you would take my body as a yielded vessel to you and that you would pour your thoughts through me. My thoughts are worthless, yours can create a universe.
God, I thank you Lord for the privilege of hiding behind the cross tonight and disappearing. I thank you for the privilege of letting you lead me one more time. I thank you that you are a supernatural, God. You're willing and calling to do things that we've not considered yet in many cases. Lord, I thank you. I thank you for everything you have done, for what you will do, for lives that will be transformed. There would be somebody here tonight that can mark this night as the beginning of a future they never believed was possible.
Lord, I thank you in Jesus name. Luke chapter one beginning at verse 26 now, "In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary and having come in, the angel said to her rejoice highly favored one. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women." When she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and considered what manner of greeting is this?
Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God and behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of the highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom, there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know a man." The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore, also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the son of God. Now, indeed Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For, with God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold, the maid, servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word." The angel departed from her. Now when we pray, we have a concept of prayer. You and I and the concept that we have of prayer it's not an erroneous one. The concept is that we go into the word of God.
The Bible says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." In the word of God, we see the promises of God and which quite often are a lot farther down the road than are in our personal experience. We pray for exempts that God, I'm not a loving person but I want to be. By faith, we believe that God's going to answer. Our faith expects the favor of God. That's the way prayer generally works. We pray, we believe, and we expect God's favor to come to us, but there are moments in history, there are moments in every Christian life when favor comes first and asks us for faith.
I want you to catch this because it's important to everything I'm going to talk about tonight. It's a moment when favor asks for faith when God himself has determined to do something in you and through you that you and I have not even considered. It's not even in our thinking. I want to think about Mary for a moment. She's a young girl, she's probably in her teens. She's betrothed to a man. She's going to get married, she's got a prayer life. I have no doubt she has a prayer life.
Most likely, the Bible doesn't tell us, but most likely she's praying about the things that she's facing. She has a life plan just like you do. She's going to be marrying this young man called Joseph, she's probably praying that she could be a good wife and possibly that she could be a good mother, most likely praying that the wedding would go well, that the guests could all arrive from where they had to come, that the resources, the finances would be there for the expenses that had to be met. She's praying, she's talking to God. I have no doubt because she found favor with God.
There's an innocence in her, there's a purity in her. There's a desire for spiritual things in her then suddenly one day, a messenger, an unexpected messenger comes to her. Just like tonight, I might be your unexpected messenger tonight. Somebody that's come to you to talk to you about something that God has planned for your life, that you've not considered. It's not been in your prayers. It's not been in your thinking, most of your prayer has been asking God for a favor in certain areas, favor in your finances, favor in your relationship, favor in your marriage, favor in your ministry, all kinds of things and it's totally acceptable with God. Now she's confronted by a messenger who's talking to her about she's been highly favored of the Lord, blessed among women, and she has found favor with God.
In other words, God says, "I've come to do something in you and through you that you have not yet considered for your life." That is in my opinion, the supernatural part of the church of Jesus Christ. We're a supernatural people. We are empowered by the spirit of God to walk in the will of God, to allow God to do through us. We don't do things for God. We do some things I suppose like that, but essentially speaking the real miracle of our salvation is allowing God to do through us what he chooses to do.
He has a plan for your life. Young people here, especially your plan is so small in the sight of God in comparison to what God has for you. You're probably thinking about college, maybe you're thinking about career, you're thinking about relationships, you're thinking about all kinds of things and realistically you have somewhat of a life plan and your prayer life is if you have one, is more or less asking God to bless your life plan. It's not wrong. There's nothing wrong with Mary getting married.
There's nothing wrong with having a family and being betrothed through a husband and planning a wedding and thinking about what town they're going to live in and all of these things, but suddenly out of nowhere a messenger comes and says, "Hail, you are highly favored, rejoice," He says to her, "You are highly favored of God." Then these incredible words, “you're going to conceive something in your womb and you're going to bring forth a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the son of the highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom, there shall be no end.” Now picture you digging that place like I can wait well, can we slow this down just a little bit? It's a lot of stuff you're saying here. God's essentially saying God himself is going to birth something in you. He's going to birth something through you. That thing He's going to do in your life is going to bring a glory to the name of God like nothing else that you've ever considered in your lifetime. Mary must have been like you and I are tonight. If we were going to do something great, and we were God, we wouldn't choose ourselves, would we? Do you not think that God would-- if he's going to send His son through a human vessel, is he not at least going to choose somebody with experience? It doesn't say in the Bible, that Mary ran a daycare.
He's going to choose somebody that knows how to raise a kid, at least? How about somebody who's married? For her to receive this word from God, you understand in that generation, you could be stoned to death for what God was speaking to her. She had to completely put her life into the hands of God. "And He will reign over the house of Jacob and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be? I'm a virgin. I've not even known to man in an intimate or physical way."
That's like you and I saying, "God, I don't have any certificates on my wall. Have you considered my lineage? My family, the horse traders, and thieves that are part of my lineage? Are you sure you've got the right address?" You remember Gideon, when the messenger came to Gideon and says, "Greetings man of great resources." He says, "You sure you got the right house? I'm of the least tribe. Of all the people of God, my father's the least house of the least tribe of the people of God. I'm the least in my father's house, which is the least of the least tribe.
In case you haven't noticed, his got a grove to an idol in the backyard. Are you sure that you've got the right place?" God says, "No, I'm sending you. That's what makes you a mighty man of resources. That's what makes you what you're going to be. That's why I don't come to the strong, I don't come to the proud, I don't come to the noble, I don't come to the self-consumed, I don't come to those who walk in their own strength.
I always choose the nothings, the nobodies, the outcasts, those things that society has no value for, to show so that no flesh can glory in my presence. I come to those whose hearts are open, who know that whatever is going to happen here is going to have to be God." I remember years ago, I was a brand new believer in Christ, and my wife and I were out for dinner one night.
I had never preached a sermon, I was afraid of people, I was afraid of crowds, I had no speaking ability, no confidence, no nothing. She went off after we had eaten. She left me standing in the hall. She went off to the washroom. I'm standing there looking out the window and just in a moment of time, just a plane went overhead. I'm looking at it and the Lord spoke to me and says, "I'm going to send you all over the world. I'm going to do something in your life and I'm going to send you all over the world to tell people who I am and what I've done for you."
It was my choice at that moment to say no to God, never going to happen. I was in a church and it was the first time I'd ever heard these words, "With God, or with God, nothing shall be impossible." Matter of fact, I heard it the other way around, "With God, all things are possible," and I believed it. I looked out the window and I remember saying it, "Lord, if it's going to happen, it's going to be all you and none of me. I'm afraid of flying, number one. I can't speak in case you haven't noticed, number two. I'm afraid of crowds, in case, that's escaped your attention, number three. This ain't going to happen, but if it's you, Lord, if it's you who was bidding me to come, I will go." The rest is history.
It turned out to be the voice of God. It turned out to be the leading and the calling of the Lord to take me out of a place of living in the realm of what I could see, and what I could think, and what I could feel, and the prayers that I was praying that were probably mostly focused on those things. Listen, God's speaking so far into the future, I'm just trying to be normal. I'm just trying to get rid of a real bad temper. I'm trying to learn how to be a husband and not be selfish. I'm trying to learn how to be a father. I'm trying to learn.
I'm just so far down, and God's speaking about something 30,000 feet in the air suddenly to me. Thank God, he's not like we are. Thank God, his plans are bigger than our plans. His ways are higher than our ways, his mercy is deeper than you and I could ever imagine. The choice of who he uses is his choice. It's not our choice. It's not by our might, it's not by our power, it's by the Spirit of God. That what God has determined to do in our lives becomes a living reality.
The angel answered and said to her after she said, "How can this be I do not know a man." He said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you, therefore, also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." You see, you and I have something similar to this. We have the Spirit of the living Christ inside of our bodies. When we came to Christ, we were born again. The spirit...
As much as the physical Christ was placed inside the life of Mary, we have the third person of the Trinity, God inside our physical bodies. Birthing something, doing something that only God can do, leading us to where only God can take us, making us into what only God can make us into, and giving us what only God can give us. That's what makes this an incredible kingdom.
Don't ever let it just become an argument in your life. Don't ever let it just become accumulated scripture that never brings you to this simple understanding that God has a plan for you, for you. Not for the person beside you. There is a plan for them, but he has something very unique assigned to you. When we get to heaven, there's going to be so many people at the throne of God, they're going to still make heaven, but they're going to slap their foreheads when they see, for the first time what their life could have been, where they could have gone, what a surrender to God could have been.
I love the story of D. L. Moody, great, great evangelist of all. The young boy working in a shoe shop and he's such a clown that he doesn't get along with people. He glued the seat of his boss's pants to his chair one day and his boss ran after him down the road with the chair hanging off his behind. This is D. L. Moody. Who would choose him? He can hardly read, he can't write, he's virtually illiterate, if you've ever read any of his letters, he's 15 years old, he's a troublemaker everywhere he goes, a jokester.
Suddenly, this Sunday school teacher comes to visit him in his workplace and sits down beside him on a bench. A man who became his messenger and he shared Christ with him and then left him with a thought. He said, "Dwight, the world has yet to see what God could do through a fully surrendered vessel to the Holy Spirit." That's what he said and he got up and walked away. That was the messenger. That was the Gabriel that came to Mary. That was the messenger that came to Dwight Moody, a 15-year old that nobody would choose to do anything in this world.
D. L. Moody sat on that bench and he said these words, "By the Spirit of God within me, I shall be that man." Thank you, Lord. Thank you, God for the D. L. Moody, to get up that bench, started to walk with God, and led countless thousands to Christ on different continents throughout the world. Mesmerized even the academics at Princeton that came to mock him. There's such a touch of God on this man's life.
I remember there was a story of he came into Princeton, and the students only came out just to mock him, because he was known as this preacher-- He said Jerusalem as a one-syllable word. He couldn't pronounce things properly. They came to laugh at him. In the middle of the room, there was a spiral staircase where you went upstairs to do business with God when you came under conviction. That's the way they did things back then.
As he began to preach one by one the academics, one by one the people who had it all together, one by one the smartest types in the church world at that time, got out of their seats and began to go up publicly in front of everybody. That just a stream started going up that spiral staircase to say, "Whatever that man has, oh my God, I want that in my life. I want that in my life, whatever he has."
He had that one thing. He had that presence of God in Him. The Holy Spirit overshadowed his weakness. The Holy Spirit overshadowed his physical limitations, and something was born in him that can only be born of God. That's what happened on the day of Pentecost when 120 people came out of the upper room. They went in weak, they went in failures, they went in with a poor self-image, may I put it that way. They went in with all their boastings had failed, all their promises were in the dust, all their declarations of love and loyalty had amounted to nothing. They went into that upper room in absolute failure until the Holy Spirit came.
Until God birthed in them with only God can do. They went in like lambs and they walked out like lions. They walked out into a marketplace that was hostile to the things of God, a crowd that still had the blood-lust of crucifying their savior in its teeth. They stood out without fear and they began to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. God's Spirit and presence within them brought 3,000 people to their knees, that day and into the kingdom of heaven. Of his kingdom, there will be no end.
I remember as a young police officer walking down the street one day, and I'd never preached a sermon ever anywhere. I had no ability. As a matter of fact, I took a course in college. I tried to take a course. I wanted to be a dorm fellow, do you know what that is in college? A dorm fellow is just a greeter, that's all you are. You just you greet people. How hard can that be? If they have a problem, you tell them where to go to solve the problem, or where's the cafeteria and this is here and that's over there. I applied to that because I get a cut on my tuition and room and board for. I went to the training course and they told me at the end I wasn't leadership material. How much of a leader do you have to be to greet people? Thank God that Jesus didn't see it that way. Thank God. Thank God that He didn't look down and say, "Well, sorry, son, you're not leadership material. You got no certificate on your wall." No, it's not that way. I began to pray this secret prayer and I believe it came as a whisper to me first and I began to whisper it back to God. I said, "Lord, I want to lead 100,000 people to you before I die."
This is the prayer I've begun to pray just walking the beat, never preached a sermon. I have no diplomas. I have no theological training. I have nothing to give to God. I don't even have a bag lunch, the little boy at least had some loaves and fishes. I got nothing at all to give to God but I've got this prayer in my heart. He's whispering it to me and I'm whispering it back to Him. Amazing. Just amazing. Then I began to be specific as I would walk the beat and I said not just 100,000 that will raise their hands in a meeting somewhere or meetings that I go to, but I want 100,000 will live for you. 100,000 will serve you, 100,000 that will appear at your throne one day. The prayer was impossible.
Fast forward years later, I'm in a civil war in Africa in the Middle of a place called Jos, Nigeria. 500,000 people came out the first night. They were fighting, was the first allowable public meeting after six weeks or so. They had been quarantined in a sense by the government because when they were together the last time 6,000 people were killed. It was a really volatile situation. By the anointing in the Spirit of God, that first night over 100,000 people raised their hands to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, both nominal Christian and Muslim came to God was truly, truly amazing. The Lord brought peace into that area.
I remember I went back to my hotel room I was astounded. I went back to my hotel room, I got on my knees beside my bed just to say thank you to the Lord and suddenly I was transported back to when I walked the beat and God said to me, "I've answered your prayer in one night. In one night." In one night of prayer that was impossible years ago that I was with you and you whispered back to me was something I wanted to do through your life. In one night, He said now these words to me, "Now Carter, don't limit me. Don't limit what I can do. Don't limit. Don't put boundaries on me. Don't put boundaries on what I can do through you. I can do anything I decide to do. For with God, all things are possible."
My challenge to you tonight is don't put boundaries around your life. Don't let this world dictate to you what you are. Don't let people that have told you you're a loser dictate to you what you are, you're not. In Christ, you've already won. You're already more than a conqueror. You're already in Christ at the right hand of God. You've already won the victory in him. Don't let this world define you any longer. Let God define your life.
Let him speak to you about your future, about what you're going to be and don't say no, because it has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with your ability. He doesn't need your diplomas, doesn't need your ideas, doesn't need your gender. He simply needs your obedience.
In Mary's case, may I say He just needed her body and one more thing, He says now indeed, Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age. This is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God, nothing shall be impossible. Gabriel, as a messenger of God, to encourage Mary is asking her in one sense to consider those that have gone before you. Consider those. Consider tonight the testimony that you're hearing from this pulpit. Consider it. Consider what God has done for other people because He's no respecter of persons, and what He's done for somebody else He will do for you. It may not be in a pulpit, it may be different. It doesn't really matter. It will be glorious if it's God, and what will be born in you and through you will be called the Son of God.
How will that be? Because you'll be able to say to people it's all Jesus and Jesus alone. That's what I'm telling you tonight. It's all Christ. Christ in me has been the hope of glory, the freedom of my life, the thoughts of my mind, the abilities to do what I'm called to do, it's all been Christ, that which will be born in you will be called the Son of God. That's the testimony of the church. It's not me, it's Christ in me. It's not my ability, it's His ability through me. It's not my will, it's His will being performed. It's not my leading, it's His leading. They're not my miracles, they're His miracles that are being done.
Now, here's Mary's part. Then Mary said, "Behold, the maidservant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word" The messenger, the angel departed from her. You see, that's what was required of her. As the Bible says, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you yield your bodies as a living sacrifice for God," which is your reasonable service, not unreasonable, it's not exemplary, it's just reasonable, that He gave His life for me, I give my life now back to him. He starts to speak to me about what He wants to do and it can be a messenger like me tonight, it can be you just reading your Bible and God suddenly something jumps off the page. You can be waiting at the bus stop and suddenly He begins to speak to your heart about something that He has for your life.
Here was Mary's part. She said, "Behold, the maidservant of the Lord, and let it be to me according to your word." That's your part tonight, behold, the servant of God. Lord, if you did that for that man, you can do something through me. If you've done things like that for people in the past, you can do something through me. You're not limited by my abilities or lack thereof, because it's not about me. What's going to be planted inside of me is going to be divinely put there by God. It's going to be birthed by God. That power member, the power of the Spirit will overshadow you and come upon you and that which is born will be called the Son of God. That's the incredible truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You see, it all comes down to this at some point in your walk with God. Now, you can choose to draw back into academics, you can draw back into works, you can draw back into things, then you'll still go to heaven folks, but you'll so miss what God had for you if you don't reach out and say, "Be it done to me according to your word." Shortly after this, she got up and she went to visit Elizabeth, Zechariah, and Elizabeth and she wanted to see this thing that was told her that about her cousin is in the sixth month of pregnancy. It's good to read biographies about the people that God has used. It's good to ask other people to share their testimony. Tell me what God has done in your life because it will build your faith.
When she walked in, it says Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby in her womb leapt and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Now that is a greeting, right? Hallelujah to the love of God. I'd love to greet somebody like that and whatever is in them just leaps and they start speaking in tongues and they're just filled with the Spirit just because I've just walked in the room, I love that, that something is going on. The only one that had nothing to say was Elizabeth's husband, Zachariah, who was a priest and should have known better but didn't believe. So he was struck dumb until John was born. You know the story, so he has nothing to say, isn't this exciting?
You see Mary and Elizabeth, sitting at the table. She was there for about three months, I think. Sitting at the table and Zachariah says isn't this incredible this angel appeared to Mary and told her she's going to bear the Son of God and the same angel came to me and told me we were going to have a child. Of course, Zachariah, he's like his sign was like he appeared to me but I didn't believe him. You know you can get so stuck in religion that faith is gone out the window. God has to come to these people and they're not in proximity to the altar. They're not the high priests. They're not going in and offering their sacrifice. They're not spending the whole day studying the Torah, all that can lead to unbelief if it doesn't lead to a place where you say, "God be it done to me according to your word."
He had all the knowledge and they had almost nothing but they had a willing heart and they were open for God to do what only God can do. Blessed is he, Elizabeth said, who believe for there shall be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord. Now the Spirit of God comes on Mary. This is what's going to happen to you, when you leave the place of unbelief and you go in and just say, "God, I'm asking you, Jesus to do whatever you choose to do in my life. Take me where you want me to go. Make me what you want me to be. Give me what I need to possess. I'm just here" and I open my heart and say, "Lord, let it be done to me according to your word and your will."
Suddenly, when Mary comes in and she visits Elizabeth, the Spirit of God now comes on her and I believe that she begins to prophesy. I think you'll see it as I read this and Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord." Oh, God, I feel like jumping out of my skin sometimes when I stand in a pulpit like this and grabbing some of you and shake and say, "Are you getting this man? Do you understand what this kingdom is all about?" You know you're eating a hotdog and there's T-bone steak over there. Do you understand? "And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant." In other words, to do something that this world has never seen he didn't go to somebody who was high profile, somebody that this world would choose to do this. He came to me, a nothing and a nobody. No one, nobody would ever notice me. Nobody would ever think that anything spiritually great is going to happen to my life. He's regarded the lowliest state of his maidservant and from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
It's important to me, it's important that my grandson sitting here is going to be able to point to my picture one day when I'm gone, and show his kids that was my grandpa, and he was a man of God. God blessed him, and God used his life. It's important. It should be important to you. What do you want to be when you die? Just a picture on the wall? "Who was that?", "I don't know, I think it was Uncle Frank." Or do you want to be remembered as a man or woman of God. Do you want to press in and leave something for your heritage after you.
A story, something that the young people that follow you are going to want to emulate. They're going to want to follow and then say, "If God could do that, for my grandma, my grandpa, then God can do that for me. All generation shall call me blessed." Mary said, "For he was mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name." We sing that, "Oh God, you are so other than what we are. You live so far above our thinking.
Your mercy is so much greater than we can even understand it. Your power, your willingness to use our lives for your glory. We can't even fathom, we can't even begin to think about these things. No wonder the angels around your throne, the created beings spend their whole day just shouting, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are filled with his glory."
Now we know Heaven is filled with his glory, but the earth is filled with his glory when there is a yielded body called The Church of Jesus Christ. This is where the glory of God is revealed in the earth. It's you and I letting Christ be Christ in us. Letting Christ govern us. Letting Christ guide us. Letting Christ set us free. Letting Christ put the words in our minds and in our mouths. Letting his hands reach out through our hands. Letting his voice speak through our voice. Letting his eyes see through our eyes. Letting his feet walk through our feet, and he is glorified.
I'm not satisfied that he's glorified alone in heaven, is the end the created beings are saying heaven and earth are filled with his glory. There should be something that gets into your heart, gets into my heart and say, "While I live God is going to be glorified in me. God's going to be glorified through me. Yes, they may throw me in a pit, but they're going to have to deal with the reality of Christ in my life. For he who is mighty, has done great things for me, and holy is his name."
His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. Those who hold him in awe, those who hold them as God. Those who understand his character, those who know why he went to a cross. Those who understand why He sent His Holy Spirit. From generation to generation, they will open their hearts and receive His mercy. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud and the imagination of their hearts, and he has put down the mighty from the thrones and exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he sent away empty. He has helped us serve and Israel in remembrance of His mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever. This had to be the Spirit of God come upon Mary, because she wouldn't fully have understood these things unless God’s Spirit was speaking it through her. That there was a promise made to Abraham, that he would have descendants through whom the whole world would be blessed. She was now carrying in her womb the seed of that promise.
Oh, God and she said, He's taken the lowly to do this. He's taken not those that are mighty, not those that are filled with themselves or with their own efforts. Not those that are rich in their own understanding. He's taken the empty, and He's taken the lowly, he's taken the hungry, and he's taken us to do something that only he can do to fulfill the promise that he spoke to us through our father Abraham. God, if I there's a video reel in heaven, I'd love to see this moment, where Elizabeth is prophesying. The Spirit of God comes on Mary and she begins to speak.
This is exactly what's going to happen to you. When you open your heart, you're going to be here a year from now, you're going to be standing up as we worship, and you're going to say, "Oh, God, you've done mighty things for me. Your mercy was on me, because I chose to believe that with you all things are possible. From generation to generation, Lord, you've come on my heart and into my life, and you're going to break that curse that's been on my house and on my lineage. God from this day forward, there's going to be people in my lineage that live for you. You've done it with your own strength, not with mine. You've done it with your thoughts, not with mine."
You've put down all those that stand in their own strength, and you've lifted me up in my emptiness. You've used my life to be a fulfillment of the promise, the greatest promise that was ever made to this world. That there would be a seed in this world, and through that seed, the whole world would be blessed. The cry of my heart is God, whatever I have left, I give it to you, and I'm asking you to bless somebody with it. Bless the people with it. Bring the lost home with it. Set the captives free with it. Give sight to the spiritually blind with it. God, touch those who don't believe that Mercy is still available to them. Use me Lord, in whatever way you choose to use me.
I tell you, it might be a big crowd, it might be a small neighborhood but I tell you, it's equally glorious in the sight of God. When you and I are banded to him, and he has birthed something inside of us. You see it becomes almost natural into evangelize we're not bringing people to a program anymore. Oh thank God. We're just saying, I want to tell you what Jesus did for me. I won't tell you what he'll do for you. Praise be to God.
I went into a maximum security prison one day, which they say I shouldn't as an ex cop, but I did. They locked me in a room with 60 lifers, and there's just one guard. He's not armed. A lot of these guys has lived to kill a cop, you know that. An ex-cop well, maybe you don't know that. Some of you might know that but, and I'm locked in with lifers in solvent prison. I get up and I just told him, I says, "I'm not here because I'm a do gooder. I'm not here because I have nothing else to do. I'm here because God has set me free. I'm here because He can set you free. You may never… you'll never get out of prison, most of you, but you can be free even while you're in the confinement." I said, "Because your prison is not a prison made by man. It's a prison that comes because of sin."
I spoke and give an altar call in a room full of guys that, I remember there was a guy with me, he was really nervous. Because he said, "Wow, these guys got nothing to lose, they can beat you to death right here and they don't get any more time for it. They're already in jail for life." When I gave the altar call it was lined up across in front of men in jail for life coming to Christ. I hugged every one of them, they cried like babies. Here's an ex-cop hugging on these guys that are in for life.
You can't do that apart from God. You can't do it apart from the Spirit of God. You can't go into these environments unless Christ is with you. With God, what? All things are possible. That's got to go deep into your heart tonight. Otherwise, you will become another scriptural argument on the earth, and you're not destined to be that. You're destined to be a testimony of who God is. Not just a voice about what God is, but a testimony of who God is, and there's a huge difference between the two. Knowledge is good, thank God for knowledge, but it has to-- I don't want to be ever learning and never brought to where that knowledge is supposed to take me.
The condition of the church in the last days according to the Apostle Paul, is they're always learning but never being brought to where that learning supposed to take them. Thank God for the Greek and the Hebrew, but I want a life that has Christ in it. I'm 65, now I should be retiring, but I find that as old preacher once told me he said, "Every time I wanted retire, I get refired by the Spirit of God. What am I going to do? Just go sit in a rocking chair and say enough people are saved? Not while I have breath, while I have strength. My son Jason told me, he said, "Dad you can't retire now, you finally know something."
This is all those years a yelling at us in church and you knew hardly anything, he says, "Now you know something." For heaven's sake, he says, "You can't retire now. You finally found who God is and about his mercy. The legalism is not part of your life anymore and you found something." It's my own son, a cop saying, "Dad, please don't even talk like that." Hallelujah. I'm your messenger tonight, I'm your messenger. I've appeared to you tonight. Come all the way, Gabriel came from heaven, I came from New York. I'm sure there's a comparison there. I call you highly favored of God. I tell you don't be afraid for you've found favor with God. The moment you came to Christ, you understand, It's not by works, you found favor when you came to Christ. That's your favor. He is your favor. He's recovering. He's your everything. When you came to Christ, you found favor with God. You didn't find favor because you're praying more than six minutes a day or six hours a day.
You didn't find favor because you're reading your Bible more than the person next door. You found favor because of Christ. Then the Word of God comes to you and says, "You're going to conceive something in your life, that's going to bring God the glory."
You're not going to do it by your strength, or by your plans, but the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you. The power of the highest will overshadow you, and that which is born of you will be called the Son of God. You will call it that. The son of God's name is Jesus.
When people say, "Well, how did this happen in your life?" You will say, "Jesus, it's the Son of God that did this in my life. It's the presence of God in me. I was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit of God, and the presence of Christ in my life has produced this which you now see and hear."
That will be your testimony. That will be the moment that you bring glory to God. Your part now, and my part is, behold, the maidservant of the Lord, here I am. Let it be to me, according to your word. Then says at that moment, the angel departed. The work was done.
Everything I've said tonight, everything I've tried to convey to you is done, and I can leave the moment you say, "Let it be done to me God, according to your word. According to what you have for my life, not what I have, not what I think, not what I'm asking for, but your favor has come and is asking me for faith to believe." That's the supernatural.
I want to challenge you with all my heart, with all of my heart tonight. I'm not bringing to you tonight a fiction. I've lived this. I've walked this, I thank God of all the people in the world, the Lord chose me to do what I'm doing, when he could have had so many more that are more qualified.
That's just not the way he chose to do it. Maybe some were more qualified and He said, "No". I don't know. Maybe it just got down to me and I'm the first guy that said, yes. I don't really know. I'll know what I get to heaven. I just know I said, yes, and it's been a miracle. It's been amazing. I have no words to tell you what this journey is, but it's a lot of it's in the book back there. You can read it, I guess, but it's been an absolutely amazing journey.
He healed my heart. Changed my character. Taught me how to be a father, better late than never, I guess. How to be a grandfather now. Taught me how to be a husband to my wife. Taught me how to have confidence in Him. Gave me courage to go through doors that in the natural, I would have been so afraid to go through. To stand in places I never thought I could stand, to see victories that are obviously not my own.
It's been an amazing journey, an amazing journey. It all starts with the words, according to your word, Lord. Whatever you have for my life, I'm going with it. You don't need to know it tonight. Could Mary have-- She couldn't. She just had the beginning. That's all. The Holy Spirit's going to overshadow you, a child is going to be born through you.
She doesn't know about the cross. She doesn't know about the 33 years. She doesn't understand about the walk. She doesn't know about the resurrection. She doesn't know anything, that's about to happen. She doesn't know about there's a thing called the church. There was no such a thing, back then. It's all been born in her because she says yes, and you have no idea what God will do for other people in other places until you say, "Lord, according to your word, not my will, but Thine be done". I've had times in my life where I've tried to back away and just said, "I've done my part, I'm getting tired. I'm a little older. I want to smell some of the roses. I want to spend time with my grandkids". [laughs]
But I had it the other way around. I thought I was going to spend time where they are, God's says, "No, I'm going to bring them to where you are, and you're going to spend time". I love the way He does the answers, but not the way we think He's going to answer it. He just turns it all around.
I'm telling Liam at home, "I want you to travel with me when you get a little bit older. I'm still going to travel and do a lot of conferences and speak to a lot of pastors and a lot of places, and I want you to start traveling with me and experience that."
The Lord blesses us and answers our prayers in incredible ways. I won't belabor the point. But tonight, the altar call for you is, "Yes, Lord." It doesn't matter but your failures, your struggles, your trials or where you are, even right now. It's really starts with, "Whatever you want from my life, Lord, that's what I'm going to do. That's what I'm going to go."
I promise you, there will be some of you here, by this time next year or less, that are going to be singing the song of Mary. You're going to be shouting from the rooftops, "Oh my God, what you begun to do in my life, I never dreamed you could do this. Lord, you could have taken the strong, you could've have taken the wise, you could've taken the noble, you could've taken the Royal, but instead you chose me.
You chose me to be the evangelist of my home. You chose me to be the change agent in my neighborhood and my community. You chose me--" Don't limit Him. Even though you're blocked, don't limit to what God can do. You have no idea where He'll take you. I'll tell you one thing, He will take you where He's destined your life to go.
Father, I just thank you tonight. Thank you with all my heart, Lord for the men and women, the young and the old that you've gathered in this room tonight. There's no limit to what you can do by age or by gender. There's no limit by education, by experience by inability or lack of anything in our lives, God. You are God, and Lord, the proof of it is that you take us in our weakness and you become our strength. You take our nothingness and make it something that can feed multitudes.
You've shown us in the scripture over and over again and throughout history. Now, we arrive at another point, another time with another generation. I pray God that the lessons that have been presented here throughout the week and tonight would not be in vain. That we would not stay in the seat of unbelief, that we would rise up to say, "Lord, here am I. Whatever you have for my life, I open my heart to it, and I will be the person that you want me to be."
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We often fight our weaknesses and attempt to cover our failures. Yet, Paul boasted in his weakness and reminded us that in our deficiency, God gives us his strength. Gary Wilkerson shares three Scriptural truths that were redefined for him, allowing him to live with greater sincerity and honesty. When you embrace your weaknesses, you'll begin to rely on a source greater than yourself.
Gary Wilkerson: The title of my message tonight is by far, the most unusual title I have ever put upon a message or a sermon. I'm calling it Bicycles, Dancing Monkeys and Wax Statues. If you want to ever find this one online, it will probably be one of the easier ones for you to find, as we talk about bicycles, dancing monkeys, and wax statues.
I think this message is going to encourage you. Last night, there was that sense sometimes the Lord, He tears down before He builds up. He gives and He takes away. Sometimes, there's a taking away of things in our heart that don't belong, and then there's the building up.
Tonight, I pray that we would get build up in our faith. Let me pray for you that you'd be encouraged by the Lord tonight. How many of you just feel like you need to be encouraged? It's like a hard year, a hard week, a hard month, a hard life. I just want to be built up in my faith. If I leave this place, not only tonight, but later this week, just knowing that I'm loved, and knowing that there's a power in me.
Knowing that there's a grace that abounds, that I can do all things through Christ, and that He loves me. We thank you, Father. Now, in the name of Jesus, just bless this word, speak through us in Jesus name, amen. In 2 Corinthians Chapter 12, 2 Corinthians Chapter 12, sort of the latter part of verse eight, Paul says, "Three times I begged the Lord for Him to get rid of it, but His answer was My grace is all you need. Power comes to full strength in weakness."
"I shall, therefore, prefer to find my joy and pride in the very things that are weakness, and the power of Christ will come and rest upon me. Hence, when I am content for Christ's sake with weakness, contempt, persecution, hardship, and frustration. For when I am weak, then I am strong." I want to talk tonight about some ways that we might feel like we're weak, but in actuality, that is the way that God gives us strength.
Cause us to be strong in our life. Everybody in this room wants to have strength and overcome obstacles and defeat enemies and conquer giants in our life and in our land. The methodology that Jesus speaks to Paul about saying that I'm leaving this thorn in your flesh. This beating of Satan, this problem, this crisis in your life. I'm leaving it in your life for a purpose that when you understand the weakness that you have in your own strength, you'll begin to rely on a source greater than yourself.
Once you begin to rely on that source greater than yourself, then you're going to find a strength from heaven, from God, but also abiding and living in you. That gives you a grace to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. That's a glorious thing. I want to talk about these three things first. The bicycle, then the dancing monkey, and then the wax statue. The bicycle is when-- I have to come down here for this.
I actually was going to try to get a bicycle up here in the front row. Can you see me okay in the back? Are the lights still shining on me? Not that I really need the spotlight, but I just want to make sure you're able to see me and my wonderful expressions as I'm preaching here tonight. Can you follow me here on the screen too? What if I go like this? Back up? Okay, I'm getting distracted. If I had a bicycle here tonight, I would tell you the story of when I first learned to ride the bicycle.
How many of you remember being taught to ride a bicycle? Did anybody learn on your own without anybody teaching you? One, two, three, four. Okay, let's give a corporate sigh, like, "Aw. I'm so sorry you had to learn to ride your bicycle on your own." We'll give you a hug after the service here today. It's not a fun thing. Most of us, and then how many of you had your mom teach you how to ride your bicycle? Raise your hand if your mom taught you? One, two. Okay, that leaves 99% of you in here today-- Who taught you?
Gary: Dad taught you to ride your bicycle. Dad may not have done anything else in your whole life, but he taught you to ride a bicycle. Let's all say, "Thank you, dad." Thank you, dad. Can you be a volunteer for me today? Do you mind coming up here or does that make you shy? You feel shy? Can you come up here? All right. What's your name? Say again? Brooklyn. Cool. What a great name. Brooklyn, like from New York.
Yes, that's cool. I used to live in Brooklyn. Brooklyn's going to come up here. I didn't have a bicycle to illustrate this, but Brooklyn, you're going to pretend you're going to ride a bicycle, okay? He's looking at-- You see yourself? You look good. Look at that handsome young man. What's with this, man? Where's this come from? Ireland? That's cool. I like that. All right, so you're got to pretend I'm your dad. If I'm going to teach you how to ride a bicycle, where do I usually stand? In front of you? No, behind you.
What do dad do? They grab the back of the bicycle, right? Remember that? Then we and then we pushed it ahead. What did we say? I remember this is one of my early childhood memories. What did I say to my dad? Anybody think of what I might have said?
Congregation: Don't let go.
Gary: Don't let go or let go?
Congregation: Don't let go.
Gary: Okay, I thought you said let go. I thought Irish are much bolder more than Americans. You guys are-- "You let go, Dad. I can do this myself." That's really cool, the strong Irish people, but most people will say, "Don't let go, Dad." What does Dad say? "I won't let go." That's what I said. That's what my dad said. That's what I said when I was teaching my three boys and my daughter. They said, "Don't let go." I said, "I won't let go. Just keep pedaling. I won't let go." Then what does Dad do? He lets go. Usually, what happens to the child?
Congregation: He keeps going.
Gary: He keeps going a little bit, but 9 out of 10 of them?
Gary: Wobble. How many of them--
Gary: Fall. When you rode a bicycle, do you ever fall? Yes. Good job. Let's give him a hand. He did a great job. Thank you. You can go back to your seat. Over here. There we go. When my dad taught me how to ride a bicycle, I asked him, I was afraid. I was very fearful as a child. I was afraid of the concrete. The concrete, that's where you scrape the elbows and the knees. I made a compromise with my dad.
He really wanted to teach me. I said, "Okay, I'll learn. You can push me as long as you, number one, you hold on. Number two, I want to learn on the grass, not on the pavement, on the concrete." How many of you know what happens when you're riding a bicycle on the grass when you're first learning? It bogs you down, it slows you down. You can't pedal. He was trying to teach me on the grass.
He's having to push me more, and then I couldn't get any momentum up, so as soon as he let go after promising he wouldn't let go, I would fall over, but it was okay because it was on the grass. It was in a safe area, but you can't learn when you're safe. You can't learn when you're trying to stay in control. You can't learn without taking a risk of falling. You can't learn, you can't move ahead, you can't progress without in a sense, realizing your weakness and having to move into a strength that can come your way.
Nick, can I use you as an example as well? Come on up here, Nick.
Nick: I'm going to ride a bike?
Gary: You're going to ride the bike. Okay. All right. Now, does this look a little bit weird?
Gary: It feels a little bit weird. Okay, you can sit down. Why does that look weird? Because he's too big to be learning how to ride a bicycle, right? It's appropriate at a certain age to get a certain kind of help along the way. At a certain age, you become a grown man. When you're a grown man, you're certainly still dependent on the Lord, and there's certainly still a weakness in you that His strength has to come through you, but there's a certain time as well where I believe the Holy Spirit says to you, and He says this actually to Paul.
He says it's in Timothy, "Act like a man. Grow up. Don't let your fear control you." I know sometimes in the church we in our-- and it's right to say, please don't hear this as a correction or any desire in my heart to want you to change, your language, your heart. Sometimes we use the language like it's all of Jesus and none of me. Will then just die and go to heaven. He needs some of you here.
Some of who you are needs to be here, and you in your body you're not Jesus. It's not all Jesus, it's all Jesus and then He brings you into Himself and says, "I want it to be all of me, all of Jesus, but I want it to be all of You as well. The two of us together, your weakness will become strong." You learn to go and so. He says, "I'll never leave you or forsake you." At sometimes He seems to let us go and it feels nerve-racking and it feels like we're really weak, but it's in that weakness, He makes us strong.
Because He's sending us into new horizons and new adventures and new hope and new dreams and new realities of accomplishing things we could not have accomplished unless we took the risk, and we're willing to fall. So many Christians are more conscious of sin than they are of the grace and power of the Holy Spirit and so they're living in sin fearfulness, rather than in grace accomplishment. They're living in a sense of, "I will not try anything because if I try something, it might be the flesh."
Maybe a young man is asked to preach a sermon at the church. He goes, "Just there's such flesh in me." "Why is there flesh in you?" "Because I want to preach, that's the flesh because I have a desire." No, it's not as God put that in you. Do it with joy and passion and power and life and then ride. Ride like the wind. Go for it. Just pour it out. Let it go. For me, there's been some falls. Anybody else taking some stumbles?
You skinned your knees, your elbows and what do you do? The Bible says if you fall seven times you get back up. The righteous gets back up. It doesn't say the righteous don't fall. It says they get back up and there's a sense of Holy Ghost gumption. Do you guys use that word here? A gumption, an inner sense of, "I'm going to stand. Having done all I'm going to stand. I'm going to keep standing." You keep riding that bicycle and you keep standing. When you fall, you don't say, "I'm too weak to go on."
You say, "In my weakness, He's strong." He gives you strength to continue the journey and take you to heights places you'd never go before. I learned to ride a bicycle when I was a baby, a little kid. The last few years I've been riding bicycles, about 70, 80 kilometers some days, I love to ride. I have a street bike and just go and go and go. I'm just like, "I'm full of sweat and I'm exhausted."
I get home and it feels so good to be able to do something that almost seems like I didn't know how to do before. That's what God wants to introduce you to. Whether it's a business or an idea or a vision or a dream that you might have. He's not interested in just you being religious. He's not interested in just like the only good service you might have is to be an usher in the church. That's a really good thing. He likes you being a plumber and a doctor and a lawyer and a farmer and a chef at a kitchen.
He loves you doing all those things. He sees those as spiritual. He's saying, "I'm going to teach you how to do these things and cause you to live and even if you might fall." Some of us are so afraid of falling, we don't actually take any risks. We don't go anywhere because we think we're not going to be able to do anything.
For me, I had to re-- This is going to sound strange when I first say it but hold with me.
Would you prefer I get back up here or you're okay in the back? I'm okay here. Okay. For me, I've had to redefine what I believe about certain scriptures. It doesn't mean that the scriptures aren't infallible or the true but I think I got to the point after falling a couple of times that maybe I'm interpreting scripture the wrong way and maybe I need to redefine that. This is one scripture when I think about falling, and it says that no- have you heard this one, "No weapon formed against you shall prosper."
Gary: Bible truth. No weapon formed against you shall prosper. I believe it. I quoted. Sometimes it's probably on your refrigerator, no weapon-- or bumper sticker on your car, no weapon formed against me shall prosper. How many of you believe that? No weapon formed-- How many of you have maybe not experienced that exactly? Can you be honest? Thank you for your honesty. I'm going to be honest with you.
The Bible says, "No weapon formed against you shall prosper." It feels to me like hundreds of weapons are prospering against me. Tons of weapons seem to be prospering against me. Four kids and several of them became addicted to drugs. That seemed like an enemy prospering to some degree or another. I had a experience I think I told you about this little bit last year where the doctor found a little lump in my throat.
She said, "It's just probably nothing. Let's do a quick little biopsy and it'll be fine." She called me on a Thursday night after the biopsy test came back in and she said, "You have cancer. You have thyroid cancer." I went, "Oh my gosh," it's like my mom died of cancer. My nephew died of cancer. My niece died of cancer. Two of my sisters had cancer. The word cancer is-- It's like, the doctor says, "Hi, you're dying." She hung up the phone, and I said, "I don't really know what thyroid cancer is.
I know enough about cancer. I know certain kinds are bad and certain kinds are little more treatable." I went to Google. I know you did it. You've done it. You've done Google. I typed in thyroid cancer and it pretty much just screamed at me, "You're dying. You have about a week to live." You can type almost anything into Web MD and it will say, "You're dying." I have a runny nose and my eyes, "You're dying."
It said you're dying. It was two types of thyroid cancer. One, you have about six months to live. It's a really severe kind. The other kind is-- If we're going to get cancer, it's the best kind to get. It's highly treatable and very low impact on the future of your life. This was a Thursday night and she said you have cancer but I didn't ask what kinds. I didn't know there's different kinds. Online I found there's two kinds so I called her back that night she didn't answer.
I called her back Friday she didn't answer. Saturday, the office was closed. Sunday, I don't have an appointment till Tuesday. She doesn't come back till Tuesday. For five days, I'm like, "I'm dying. Kids come around to your dad because he's dying." I was a wreck. I talked about-- If there's any strength and weakness, there was a lot of strength in me at that time because I was just like, I was telling my wife where the will is in and what our insurance policy is and calling long lost friends like, "I'm sorry. I hurt your feelings in 1983."
I just really thought and then she went in and said, "No, you got the good kind." I was like, "Good." That made me happy. I've been through experiences like that where it seemed like, "The cancer seems like a weapon to me. The enemy. A drug addiction seems like an enemy." I started asking the Lord it’s like, "Okay, you're teaching me to become stronger. You're teaching me to ride and yet I'm falling. I'm getting hit. I'm getting--"
It's not like I'm just falling over for lack of balance. It's like cars are coming off the street and running into me That's what these weapons seem to be doing to my life. It seemed to be crashing into my life, causing pain and anxiety and worry and stress and fear. We're Christians so we say, "No weapon formed against us shall prosper." You just want to say baloney. Just want to yell at them. You just want to choke somebody and say, "It seems like all these weapons are prospering. It seems difficult."
I had to be honest about the Scripture. I totally believe it is, but it gave me a whole and I ask the Holy Spirit about this, "What you can have to describe this to me? What does that mean that no weapon against me shall prosper?" It gave me a whole new picture, almost like-- I'm sure you didn't see in any movies that don't have anything rated other than G, but there's a movie called Gladiator.
If you've ever seen that, they had the shields out and they move forward when they were fighting against the enemy. That was the whole new picture that the Lord gave me about that scripture verse, "No weapon formed against me shall prosper." It's like I'm moving forward, and the enemy is fighting hard, and they're throwing spears. Some of the spears like, "That spirit just hit my shoulder."
Then we're in the middle of battle and all sudden, just like a knife just cut across my leg and I'm limping and rock is got thrown in and hit me in the head but no weapon that's formed against me is going to prosper because even though I'm bloodied, and I'm beaten, and I'm tired, and I'm weary, I have the shield. I have a sword and a forging ahead and the Lord is with me. He's right behind me saying, "Keep moving ahead. I'm not going to let you go."
Maybe sometimes it feels like he lets us go because we're in the middle of battle. We don't see Him but He says, "He'll never leave us or forsake us," even though he may not be steering us because if He was holding on steering everything we did, He would not be training as the Bible says training our hands for war. We have a warfare we're in and in the middle of that battle, sometimes you get beat. Sometimes you get hit.
Sometimes you feel like you're on your last leg near destruction. Sometimes you want to give up. Sometimes you begin to question God, "Does this thing really work? Is this Christian thing really real?" It felt good when I came to the altar, whatever I did, when I first got saved, it felt really good. Sometimes even now, when I'm singing songs, like Hallelujah, I want to raise my hand I feel good. But inside my heart, I'm really hurting because I'm really wondering if this is true, and this is real.
If it is, why is my life sometimes in such turmoil? It feels like these weapons but they're not prospering. The Bible is true. The Bible is the Word of God and God has told us it's not going to prosper. Come what may, trials, tribulations, pain and sorrows, suffering, hardship, heartache, cancer, addictions, divorce, the doctor giving you a bad report, the money not being there, none of those things are going to prosper against you.
Because you're going to say, “Through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God. This battle is what's caused me to learn how to trust.” It would be nice if we didn't have to go through the battle. We were built into the men and women of God by being in that so the bicycle is something that helps us go.
Then there's the dancing monkey. Last week or two weeks ago, three weeks ago, I was in the Ukraine and I was preaching there and we stopped overnight in Kiev and went for a walk with a missionary friend. We were walking through the downtown market area of Kiev.
This guy kept following me with a monkey on his shoulder. Have you ever seen these kinds of monkeys that wear the vest, the red vest and have the little black hat on and then they have shoes on and they have these little things that clap together like with their knees? Sometimes they have an accordion or something like that. They put the monkey down and the monkey goes kind of like this and you're supposed to give them money.
Well, I was watching this monkey and the monkey was like, he was dancing on the street. That's kind of cool, right? He looked really sad. Really. I know this sounds like a really weird thing to talk about. The monkey was dancing. He was doing exactly what he was told to do to earn his keep to get his food to get life sustenance. The owner would give him something and it was kind of a bargain, then, "You'll go out on the streets and you'll dance and you'll make money for me. You'll perform really well."
I could tell just look at-- I didn't want to give him any money because it's like that monkey looks miserable. He's like it's just like, I wanted to cry like, "Oh, poor monkey. I'm sorry, I will take you home except you're really ugly and all." This monkey was like a mess but he was dancing and stuff. I began to think about my own life and maybe our life in this room here today is how we have this bargain relationship with God.
I've had to redefine my whole way of working with the Lord so that I'm not bargaining with him. You'll keep me from cancer. You'll keep my kids from living in sin. You'll give me the new apartment, or house, or flat that I want. You'll help me with the car, you'll help me with the career, you'll help me meet that guy. You’ll help me meet that girl. You'll do these things I want.
If when in turn, what I'll do for you is I'll pray, and I'll tithe, and I'll give, and I'll serve in the church. Even if the girl is good looking enough, I'll even become a missionary if you required of me. Whatever it takes for her. There's this bargain situation, I will dance for you as long as the bargain's kept on your end, you got to keep feeding me. That's not the kind of relationship Jesus wants with us.
I've had to redefine the word, abundant life. Abundant life because when my kids were on drugs, one of my son is homeless for a while, I don't feel like I have abundant life. Do you ever feel like it's like, that's another thing okay? No weapon formed against us shall prosper. Then He says, "I come to give you life and life more abundantly." A lot of us, if we're really honest with one another, we might say, “I could hear it preached, I could read about it in the Bible, we could sing about it at church, but in my heart, I don't feel it.
I don't feel like this is abundant life. I feel like this is a struggling life. I feel like this is pain-filled life. I feel like this is hardship life. I feel like there's nothing abundant really very little abundant about that except one day I'll get to heaven then experience abundance there.” The giving of abundant life is not speaking in that place of-- when He's speaking of Heaven, He speaks of eternal life. But this place, He's speaking of life and abundant life meaning that He's going to give you life here and now and it's abundant.
My bargain with God, "Okay, I'll serve you, I’ll love you, I'll tithe, I’ll pray, I'll give, and in return, you keep me safe. No sickness, no low income, no struggle financially, no relationship problems with my wife and spouse, my kids are just perfect four perfect A students are getting the best grades and getting them into the best schools and having the best careers." That's my bargain with you, God. You know that bargain doesn't-- God doesn't bargain with us. Have you noticed that? He doesn't bargain with us.
I've had to redefine what abundant life means because if we think abundant life is what is preached in a lot of least United States churches, like abundant life is you're rich, and you're famous, and you're healthy, and you're good looking, and your kids are perfect and everything is-- and you live in the best house on the block. That's a testimony for Jesus. They're going to want to come to Christ because they see how prosperous, and healthy, and problem-free your life is.
We make this bargain with God and we call that abundant life. I kind of lived that way for too long thinking abundant life is a pain-free life or a happy peppy, bursting with love kind of life all the time. The Holy Spirit just as He helped me redefine the scripture verse about no weapon formed against me prospering, He's helped me redefine what abundant life is. Because the western idea in the church of abundant life, according to our western idea, then Jesus didn't live an abundant life.
He would not-- Our description of abundant life, we would look at His life and say, “Hey, Ian, I'm not signing up for that. I'm not dancing for that. I'm not going to work for you to get that from you.” What did Jesus have? He had friends who totally abandoned Him, miracles that He did that crowds-- Like He rescued mommy's little girl from death and then she abandoned Him. He had-- "Foxes have holes but I have no place to-- I don't have a home."
Some so misinterpret the Scripture and then talk about Jesus being materialistically rich on earth because He had this coat that was so valuable that they tore into four pieces. Look, I could give you a Hugo Boss coat tonight, a $1,000 jacket and if you're still homeless and not having an income, would you be rich then? No, you'd have one item that's wealthy. These people say like, “Well, Jesus had this wealthy coat, so he must have been wealthy and that’s abundant life." No.
Jesus and then He was taken to the cross and He was beaten, and He was abused, and He was hit, and He was struck with a sword in the side, it seemed like weapons forming against Him would prosper. It seemed like if this is what you call abundant life, I'm not dancing for that. I'm not signing up for that. The definition of abundant life for me changed almost the same way that the no weapon formed against me shall prosper.
Is abundant life for me now is the doctor says you have cancer, I say, "I have life." My sons are having some trouble at one point in the future, but I say, "I have life in Jesus." Maybe there's a marriage problem in your life and you go, what you say, "That’s not what I want it to be but I have life." Abundant life is through it all. No matter what kind of hardship you're going in, no matter what you're suffering, no matter how difficult your life might be, there's an abundance in your heart. It's life.
The “zoe” you talked about this morning. It's the spirit of life in you. It's not just the physical things around you. It's the spiritual life that God has given you. The good news is when you understand that, then the dance becomes natural. To me, the most amazing dance I see are like somebody with cerebral palsy. Their body is wrecked, they can't really move but they can raise their hand and they just go, “Thank you, Jesus.”
I'm going, “You're thanking Jesus?” I have a problem because the paycheck didn't work out as good as I thought it. You’re raising one hand because the other one wouldn't move and you're saying, “Thank you, Jesus,” that's abundant life. Now and I'm not saying, please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that it's everybody who's poor and broken and hurt that they're the only ones who can have abundant life. You can have abundant life. Paul said, "I know how to abase and I know how to abound."
For him, abundant life was it's not in the abasing or in the abounding it's in the life in Jesus. It's knowing Him. I wrote a book a while back called Ultimate Favor and to me, I appreciate God's favor. I really do. Bettina who travels with me, she has this miraculous gift of God's favor. Anytime we go to the airport, she gets, like, upgraded the first class and the hotel said, “We're going to put you in the suite.”
I'm like, “I get at the closet, and I get your flight’s canceled.” It’s like she must be living-- she must be dancing, right. She's dancing getting the favor, I realized that there is that kind of favor and I like it. I asked for it, and I pray for it. I pray for a good marriage and healthy kids that they do well in school and they get a great college and they have wonderful children themselves that make me a great grandfather who's thrilled with life. I pray for those things, but I realized ultimate favor and that's what I wrote about in the book.
Ultimate favor is not in those things. Abundant life is not in those things. Ultimate favor and abundant life is what Moses talked about when God said to him, “Hey, you can go into the Promised Land, there's milk, and there's honey, and there’s ease, and there's comfort and there you have your land and your kids can grow up there and you're going to have fun, but I am not going to go with you." Moses says, "No, I want ultimate favor. That's a favor to let me go into that land, but ultimate favor is I won't go anywhere unless you go with me."
That's abundant life. That's favor of God is when He's with you. Whether you're abounding or abasing, whether you're up or whether you're down. Then you may be asking the question of, I understand a little bit about trusting the Lord to put you on a new journey. That journey might cause you to fall at times and there's difficulty as you define His grace and His abundance through His presence, that you make it on a journey and that you don't have to dance for this you want to because of His joy.
Then you might be asking yourself self the question. "Okay, that makes sense, but what does this thing about wax statues?" In the early Roman time period, there were sculptors like Michelangelo type people that sculpted marble for the Roman authorities, those in government or the very wealthy. If you saw their homes they might have a statue of a soldier or a lion out front of it. They sculpted these things out of marble.
When the sculptors were doing this, they became so famous and quite wealthy as they made this marble for the elite of the society. As they dug the marble out of the ground, they began to run out of what they call statuary marble. It's the good kind of marble that has no flaws in it and it's not porous. It's like just smooth and solid. They started finding this other type of marble. I think they call it travertine.
I don't know if you'd call it that here, but there's an American, they still call it, you can buy the travertine marble. The problem with travertine marble is that it's porous. It's not been pressed in the ground quite as long, like a diamond where it presses it together in that statuary marble just puts things together so there's no flaw in it and it's hard and it's easy, but it's also once you sculpt it, it's there.
With the travertine marble, it had holes in it. When they began to carve, let's just say there were, they were carving a statue of one of the gods of Rome or something like that, muscular, like me. Thank you for laughing. That makes me feel really good. They're carving this thing, but they were carving it with the travertine, so it would have pocks in it and holes in it. The face might look good, but there's like, well man, the guy looked like he had bad acne when he was a kid or something.
It was all messed up. What they did is they would take the good, statuary marble and sand it down, and they would take the dust of that good marble and mix it with a wax. Then they would put that wax on top of the statue and just begin to sand that in there so that it began to look like statuary marble. They took the poor marble and made it look like the good marble. Then they would bring that to the owners that they sold it to and it would pass muster.
No one could tell that it was any different even if it got close, once that wax hardened. From all indications externally, it looked like it was going to- everybody could accept it. It looked good, but it didn't really change it did it, it was still travertine. It still had the holes in it. As we're on this journey riding our bikes and we fall and it feels like weapons are forming against us and it feels like we don't have abundant life.
I close with this, our temptation in the church is to say, "I don't have any holes in me." Is to say, "I'm not travertine. I'm not an earthen vessel. I'm a statue. I am flawless." That's how we present our self and yet we've fallen off the bicycle and yet we're dancing for our food and yet we're been beaten by the enemy at times and we've been buffeted, as Paul said. He was shipwrecked and he was beaten but he was forging on.
The good thing about Paul, he writes in this passage, we started this message with, was that he said, "I could glory in all the revelation I've had." He says, "I've been to the third heaven." I have no idea what the third heaven is. I studied it. Maybe some of the scholars here might do that. The first heaven, second heaven, obviously if there's a third heaven, there's a first and a second heaven.
Then he goes, all Tom Cruise on us because he says like Tom Cruise says in one of his movies, "I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you." In the Greek, it actually said no, but Paul says, "I was into the third heaven and I saw things--" He actually says, "unlawful for me to speak." Jesus said, "Look at this, but it's against the law for you to go back and tell anybody this." That is a hard secret to keep that he could.
Now everybody's writing a book about it. They go to heaven, they write a book about, what's in heaven and weird stuff. I don't want to get off subject. Paul, when he comes back and he says, "I could glory in that. I could build a whole conference on that. "I was in the third heaven. How many heavens you've been in? You haven't even been in the first haven't yet. I'm already after the third heaven. Next year Lord's inviting me to the fourth heaven."
He could have boasted in these things. Instead, he says, "I'm going to boast in my weakness. I'm going to boast that there are some holes in me. I'm going to boast that I fell a couple times. I'm going to boast that I'm not as strong as you might think I am. I'm going to boast it, that I failed a couple of times. I'm going to boast that if without the Holy spirit, man, I'm really messed up. That's what I'm going to boast on them. I'm going to come to church with holes in me."
Sometimes I'm going to ask people, "Would you pray for me? Because this hole, man, it's ugly, it's a mess and that scar and that beating I took and that fall off the bicycle. The in the sense of always kind of trying to dance for my meal to make God happy so I get stuff, I realize I do that junk and it disturbs me and be honest."
I really believe addictions would be cut in half in the churches if we started getting honest with each other. I believe men who look at pornography if we got honest with each other and found a group of men that you really trust and begin to share your heart with, I believe pornography in the church will be cut in half. I believe divorce, I believe suicidal thoughts, I believe depression, I believe anxiety, I believe stress.
I believe all of these things that are holes in us that are beating us, that seem to ruin us at times. I believe all of these things if we don't try to cover them with wax, the Latin word for that process that they did, you know what they called it? Really strange. We use the word today in English, they called it sincere. Is from two Latin words, sin meaning without and cere, meaning wax, without wax. If they sold something without the wax in it, they would be afraid they would make a profit.
Sometimes if we feel like we try to sell ourselves to our fellowship without the wax, unless we're acting sincere.
You know what acting sincere is? It's being sincere, it's without wax, it's without putting a mask on. It's without covering yourself up. It's about hiding yourself. It's not about being afraid of what others might think of you. It's about coming to church and not feeling like you might not being okay with not being spiritual that day.
Maybe not raising your hands, maybe not shouting to the Lord, maybe not clapping. We just go, "This is not a clapping day. This is a painful day." Through it all, you're forging ahead. Through it all, you have the shield out there in the sword out there. Maybe it feels like He let go, but He's right with you and there's a victory. There's a victory for you.
Do you understand that? Do you get that, that it's okay to be honest? It's okay because that's what's Paul's talking about here tonight when he's saying that, "That's what I glory in, my weakness." Not that he's proud of it, like, "Look how much of a failure I am." He's saying this, "You're all real without wax." I am real without wax and together we can become the body of Christ that helps each other grow, that helps ride to ride the bicycle, so to speak, or helps each other know how to dance for our food.
To not be like in the dancing monkey, to be real, to not put on the monkey uniform, to not try to make it on our own, but just trusting God for our life, trusting Him to do great things. As I've redefined these things in my life--and our worship team, if you guys would come back and we're going to sing a song and I'm going to invite you forward for prayer in just a moment. If you just need to get real with God and get answers and get help and get hope and allow Him to say, "Come in your weakness and we'll pray that strength will come into your life."
For those of you that feel like you've not had the abundant life, feel like you've not had that, that the weapons seem to be coming against you and defeating you. If that's you in just a moment, I'm going to ask you to come forward and we're going to pray. We're going to believe God will do something. As I have been through these experiences, I'm like Paul a little bit, just teeny, teeny little bit that I could actually say my weaknesses are actually the areas He's making me strong in.
That He's actually been bringing grace and power in areas. You might feel like you're too weak to merit God's favor, His presence, His abundant life, but you're not. Your weakness is what He calls forth to make you strong.
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There's often a snake in the garden—a difficulty in your life to battle. And in those times, you can wrestle with temptation. Usually, these struggles are tied to a core wound or trauma you haven't found healing from. Gary Wilkerson dives beneath the surface to help you uncover your core wound and how you can find healing through Jesus, community and self-love.
Let me pray for us. I want to speak to you about healing of the heart tonight, healing of our hearts. Jesus, we thank you that we have heard from Pastor Nick that you want to do breakthroughs. You want to break through the difficulties, and the pain, and the crisis, and the problems, and bringing us to a new place. I ask for a favor tonight. Allow this word to speak to our heart in a way that just ministers. Just fill this room right now with a sense of possibility.
The things we think maybe would never be resolved, the problems that we have that we think we may never overcome, the crisis that we find our self in that seems like it's just gone on too long no matter how much we've prayed, believed, heard words of promise, and yet our heart is still breaking. Our wounds are still hurting and the relief doesn't seem to be in sight. We're asking tonight for a word from heaven. We're asking tonight for the healing.
As you said in The Old Testament, you called it a balm, a healing oil, a balm of Gilead, an oil to sab, to put on a heart that would heal that heart. We thank you for the healing. Father, this may not be a shouting word or a hip hip hooray and hallelujah word, but it's going to be a deep word. It's going to touch our hearts, and it's going to heal many people in this room. We now give you thanks in advance for that.
I don't want to preach this just kind of wondering what outcome it will be. I preach this with a confidence in the Lord that you have called this word because you're accompanying it with your power to do exactly what you want to do. We give thanks for that, in Jesus' name. Amen.
In Genesis 3:1, it says, "Now there was a serpent more crafty than any other wild animals the Lord God had made, and he said to the woman, did God really say, 'You must not eat from the tree in the garden?' The woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat at the tree of the garden, but God did say you must not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not touch it or you will die.'"
Verse 4, "You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows when you eat it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God knowing good and evil." In Genesis 1, 2 and 3, we see the formation of the garden. In the garden, he puts the man, and then soon after he puts his wife there, but it's the same place where the snake is. The snake, the serpent is in the garden as well.
One of my worship pastors back home was telling me a story of his little boy who's probably five years old at the time. He was up on top of the stairs. As he turned the corner to walk down the stairs, there was a towel that somebody had left, a bath towel. Somebody had left it at the top of the stairs, and he tripped over the stairs and he fell down the stairs, rolling over and over.
His father saw this and he was at the bottom of the stairs and he caught him just before he hit his head on the bottom of the floor. He grabbed him and picked him up and he said to his son, "Aren't you glad the Lord had me here to catch you?" The boy said to his dad, "Wouldn't have been better if the Lord would had just moved the towel?"
If you think about that for a moment, there's a lot in that about our own life. We're happy the Lord catches us. We're happy He lifts us up out of our trials and tribulations, but wouldn't it be better if we just didn't have to go through them? What's the deal with that? We see in Genesis chapter 1, there was a snake in the garden. Why did God put the snake in the garden?
It answers that, and I don't want to get into too much theology here in this, but the answer that we see much later on. When they were brought into the Promised Land and Joshua brought them in, and the Lord says to him, "I'm going to keep five enemies in the land." I was thinking why was that? He says to teach them how to war. Why was there a snake in the garden? To teach them how to war.
Why were there five enemies left in the land? To teach them in the war. I suggest to you tonight that it wasn't just Genesis chapter 3 that there was a snake in the garden. Can I say to you tonight, there's-- Here's my life experience, there's always a snake in the garden. Just about the time you start to enjoy the garden, the snake approaches, and starts lying to you, and starts trying to deceive you, and starts trying to empty your faith and hope and confidence in the Lord no matter what you're going through.
40 years of dealing with hurting people, 40 years and even beyond that when I was a little boy being around Teen Challenge, that my father started, and seeing broken lives, and seeing people come from all kinds of difficult backgrounds of abuse. Then not only being abused upon, but now beginning to abuse their own bodies, and some even abusing others, and violent streaks and all these things.
For 40 years of hurting people and broken hearts, and collapsing marriages, and addictions that seem too difficult, and then in my 40 years of pastoral counseling, I'm at a new place in life and I just want to be honest with you tonight, can I do that? I don't really want to preach to you, I've preached probably 4,000 sermons in my life, I'm not only tired of hearing sermons, I'm tired of preaching sermons.
When they get sermonic and they have the rhymes and things that, and I'm just going like, “I just want to hear it, I want life,” I'm tired of just hearing sermons, I'm tired of going to church services, and singing songs. Here's why I'm tired of it because I just know firsthand that so many people are singing the songs, and hearing the sermons and they're leaving, and they're going back home and their marriages are falling apart, and their teenage son is on drugs.
They've just been diagnosed with cancer, the job is on the chopping block, you may lose it at any moment, there’s some that leave church singing a happy song, they have a clinical depression in their heart, and in their mind they don't know how to get out of it. All the Christians are telling them like, "I rebuke that in the name of Jesus," and they're saying like, "You rebuking it is making me more depressed rather than helping."
I don't know this sounds gloom and doom here tonight, but there's an answer to this, the snake is always in the garden, the enemies are always in the land, there's always going to be a need and it's going to take more than songs and sermons. It's going to take more than a singular prayer of deliverance, putting my hand on your head and saying, "In the name of Jesus come out." Is going to take you and I being honest and saying, "There's a snake in the garden, there's a problem in the land, there's an enemy to be fought, there's a battle to be won, there's a victory on the other side for us," but we're going through something tough.
It's time to take off the mask, and it's time to quit playing church, and it's time to get honest with one another, it's time that the church become more honest than AA, rather than AA being more honest than the church. It's time to have small group meetings that aren't just talking about who was Zerubbabel's cousin's ring that he had on his fourth finger, and start talking about my heart is breaking, my marriage is falling apart, my finances are crumbling. I cry myself to sleep, I'm worried about my kids, I'm anxious and it's time to get honest about these things, it's time to deal with these things.
How do we go about this? That's what my talk is about tonight. How do we go about this? Number one I would say it's through relationship, it's through relationship. You don't know that from the time you're in your mother's womb, the Bible says that God created you, He formed and fashioned you in your mother's womb, did you know that? Scientists are just catching up to the word of God, now, and they have proven now that while you are being formed in your mother's womb, the very thing that your mother feels, you will feel.
They are being able to put these sensors on those mother's womb, and if the mother is anxious and worried, the blood pressure of the child rises. If the mother is depressed, they sense the movements of the child echoed the depression, and the movements, the lack of energy, vitality, and the baby in the womb. The baby in the womb is very connected to the mother.
My wife was so wonderful she prayed over our children certain things, and the Lord gave her a song for each of the four children. What amazing joy now to see my son 30-something years old, singing his song that my wife wrote for him to his babies. They're speaking to their children even in the womb because there's a God-given, even before you can hear, and see, and understand, there's a God-given connection between an infant and the mother.
There's a link there because God has built us to be attached to people, the need for attachment, some people might call it belonging, or connection, community, the Bible calls it love, we were built for love. So we had in our mother's womb this need to be loved and connected. The scientists have gone on to say if the mother hates the child, and is considering abortion, and maybe just hates the fact that she's pregnant, that that child will have problems at a young age oftentimes. Unless there's a resolve to that because they feel this un-attachment, a lack of attachment, a pulling apart, even in our childhood we see that.
Now, skip ahead to longer in time, have you ever noticed an older couple, let's say they're in their 80s or 90s or nearing 100, and they're healthy, and they're vibrant, and they're loving the Lord, and one of the spouses dies. Does anybody know what happens pretty rapidly? The other one seems to follow rather quickly. When my father died my mother was in good health, but nine months later, she passed away as well.
She fought cancer for 60 years victoriously and then succumbed to it in eight months because of just-- It's the need for attachment. From the cradle to the grave we were built to love one another, we were built to have community, we were built to be attached to one another. Something happens and then again, I'm just talking to you like your 40 years of pastoral counseling, like if you were sitting next to me on my couch, and I was just talking to you about heart issues.
One of the things you see about this in childhood is this need for attachment, something strange happens because I don't know how you were as a father, you don't see fathers here, but my attachment to my children had-- I'm trying to think of the right word here, had certain type of strings attached to it. I'm going to be real proud of you, and real happy, and hug you, and put you in my lap when you're performing well.
When your room is clean, man you're a great kid, when you score the touchdown or you kick the goal in the football game you're, "Well, I'm so proud of you," just the sense of attachment connected to achievement. When you lose that attachment, when there's the lack of the type of achievement that the father or the mother want, then the child begins to get confused.
There's actually a video, it's called Still Face, it’s amazing video done by a Harvard professor, and he took hundreds of children, little children two years old, and had their mothers sit right in front of them face to face. At first, the mother is smiling and touching the baby's face, and the baby is just smiling, and joyful, and laughing, and stretching their arms out.
Then the doctor says to the mother, "Now, just cover your face like this, and don't move, don't have any emotion, no smile, no anger, nothing just a totally still face." You see within seconds that baby at first gets this confused look, and then a few seconds later it reaches out to this mother with alarm, and then starts making almost violent sounds like, "U-u-uh," and crying, and then before long the baby's screaming.
The mother is not yelling at her, the mother is not abusing her, the mother's just still, but the baby gets confused because it's not that sense of attachment, of love, of connection. Then all of a sudden, the mother then just because of the smile on her face, and you'd see literally the baby's shoulders just goes down, "Aaah, Mama's back." So many of us have grown up in homes where the sense of belonging, or love, or affection, or attachment is related to our behavior and our performance.
When the performance is good there's, "Aaah, come to papa, come to mama," but when the performance is bad, there's a rejection, there's an accusation. This is not a sermon on tips to parenting, but let me just tell you one that has changed in my mind. When my kids used to misbehave, I would give them a timeout, anybody ever do that, do you do that here in Ireland, anybody? Wave at me if you give-- Have many of you been on a timeout?
Pastor Nick spent years in timeout-- No, I'm joking. [chuckles] I would give my kids this thing called timeout, and if you don't know what it is, say you're around the dinner table, and they're getting loud and like, "Oh-oh," you know something, "Be quiet, I'm trying to talk to mom." Then, "Oh-oh," they talk louder, and they're talking over one another, and I say, "Be quiet," and they don't listen, "Okay, that's a timeout, go to your room," and they go to their room.
I realized something there and I'm not saying it's not-- There's times that has to be done and there's a good thing about that, but what I realized is what was happening is when my children, listen to this carefully, when my children were being themselves I was punishing them for it. How many of you know children are loud, and children like to move, and children like to sing songs, and they to throw spaghetti. I mean, it's just that's what kids do.
Whenever they did something that they weren't supposed to do, I would separate myself from them. I no longer with my grandkids, now, I've got a new practice, I don't give them timeouts, I give them time ins. So I say,
"Let's go over here because there's something wrong. What is it about some of the rules we have as a household that are hard for you to understand because I want my grandkids to understand that the sense of belonging and attachment is not related to them behaving up to my standards all the time.
I'm not saying there's no need for discipline. I believe in spanking. I believe in timeouts, but doing it in a way to where they're not getting their sense of I belong when I'm doing good, I don't belong when I'm doing bad. The problem with that is when we learn that at a young age, we project that onto God. God loves me when I'm doing good, but He pushes me away when I'm not doing good.
That's why we call it coming back to the Lord. Well, He never left you. You don't come back to somebody who's never put you away in timeout. He's always been with you. He says "He'll never leave you or forsake you." He's there with you and He's helping you through that snake in the garden. He's helping you through that giant and the enemies in the land. He is not just-- Why? Because He belongs to you and you belong to Him.
There's that sense of attachment to the Lord. There's a connection with Him that will never be put off on His part, maybe on ours but not on His part. If we grow up in an environment where attachment is linked to certain behaviors, what we begin to realize is to be authentically myself is dangerous. If you are-- so my father was a rather serious kind of man, and some of you may have picked that up, listen to a few of the sermons he's quite serious.
My brother and I we love comedy, we love fun. I remember one time I was telling him a story, I said, "Did you see that comedy thing on last night on television?" The guy said this and that. We both laughed and my father got- he raised his voice, said, " That's not funny. The Lord is not pleased with that." Then I went, "Oh, all right. I don't know why he went like it was pretty funny. I thought it was like-- I think I don't know. So okay, being funny is not safe. You lose attachment if you're funny.
What you got do is get serious and get-- but I am not built that way. I'm not built like sort of the bony finger prophet. I'm built like I have a sense of humor and I love to laugh and I love to play games and I love sports, but I didn't feel like I was supposed to because if you're a good Christian and want attachment to the Lord and want attachment to your family, then what you've got to do is got to be serious.
Everything you have to say has to be a quote from the Bible and you have to wake up in the morning and say, "I was praying for six hours last night before I went to sleep, father and I just want you to know the Holy spirit gave me a revelation of the new covenant." I was like, no I was dreaming about girls and so it's hard to be yourself if authenticity is connected to attachment and when your authentic self, you don't get that seat. Then what happens is you grow up with a wound in your soul.
If I could sit down by one with each of you, I could probably in an hour’s time talk to you and we could probably discover together what is that core wound in your heart, what is that thing that-- what is that trauma? What is that event of a sense of no longer being attached, no longer being connected, no longer feel like you fit in. Does some of you in this room ever-- You're in a crowd, you're in a crowd here right now, but you don't feel like you really belong?
You go into a room and there's four or five people and you just feel like you're the outcast. That's a sense of detachment, of not belonging. That comes from trauma. That comes from some trauma. As a pastor, I see this all the time. Even recently, I was with a pastor, he's no longer pastor now, but he's still in ministry. He ministers to pastors who are addicted to sexual immorality and pornography and he tells his own story of being sexually abused as a child multiple times by multiple people.
He kind of stuffed that in and gave his life to Christ and he sort of stuffed it and didn't deal with it. Later in life, some issues with pornography came up and then later in life, even after pornography-- He said it was the strangest thing in the world as a Christian pastor he started visiting prostitutes and he told me. He said, "I can't believe it." He said, "I remember on Easter Sunday morning on my way to church to preach my Easter Sunday sermon stopping and picking up a prostitute and being with her before I went to church that morning."
Obviously he quit the ministry and he got help, but he talked about the trauma in his life and how that trauma caused a wound in him that he was confused as to who he was as a man. He was by no means excusing his sin and I'm not excusing his sin either. We have to deal with that but there's sometimes these wounds in our heart are the birthplace of some of the sin that we might still be responsible for but might find ourselves caught in because of those wounds of trauma.
There are some people in this room here, like that pastor who had to deal with certain issues in our youth. A close friend of mine, we were talking just a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I with our friends, she was telling us when she was a little girl, her mother would lock her in the closet if she misbehaved and she'd be there for some times, 15, 16, 17, 18 hours, no food, no water, no bathroom.
Her mother would then take her out of the closet and tell her, "You're worthless. You're no good. You're nothing." That's a trauma. That's a traumatic event that builds a core wound. People begin to say, "I'm not enough, I'm no good, I'm worthless, I'm hopeless, I'm not loved, I'm not accepted. I'm not worthy of love. I'm not worthy of belonging. I'm not worthy of attachment."
You see, most children, they don't blame their parents for the trauma that takes place in their life. What they do is they blame themselves. They say, "It must be me. It must be my fault that I did this because I don't want my parents to be bad. I want them to be good. For them to treat me this way, they must be good parents and I must be bad." You start saying to yourself, "I'm defective."
I think to some degree, everybody in this room, even the most healthy and whole people in this room could honestly say I'm defective because I am-- and you could fill in the blank. I'm not enough. I'm not good enough. I'm not strong enough. I'm not smart enough. I'm not. I'm not prayerful enough. I'm not holy enough. I'm not righteous enough. I'm not-- Whatever enough, we fill in the blank of that thing saying there's this defect, there's this wound in my heart.
Are you following me so far? This is a tough one to speak. It almost feels like taking the air out of the room. That's the first type of trauma is, the first type of trauma are things that should not have happened to you that have happened to you.
A child should never be hit, struck, abused, physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually but there are many people that have faced that type of trauma in their childhood or being locked in a closet or were like Nicky Cruz, my friend Nikki, who grew up where his father was a warlock and his mother was a witch and she would punch his face when he was five, six, seven years old, punch his face till his eyes were closed and blood almost sealed his lips.
It got so bad that when he was nine years old, he climbed up to a tree and put a rope around the tree and put the rope around his neck. If his older brother did not come and rescue him, Nikki Cruz would have taken his own life because of the things that should not have happened to him, did happen to him. There was a snake in the garden trying to destroy his life.
There's another kind of trauma that maybe more Christians have in reality, but it's often undealt with as well. These are not things that should have not happened that did happen, but these are things that should happen but didn't happen. Are you following me? The first one is things that should not happen that did happen to you. The abuse, the trauma. The other type of trauma is the things that should have happened to you that didn't happen to you.
Doctors and counselors tell us that this kind of trauma is often more difficult to deal with because the more physical, the more the things that clearly I should have not been struck. I should have not been abandoned. I should have not had that happen to me. I should not have that said to me. That's easy to start. Not easy, but you know it's there and you begin to deal with it maybe at an early age.
Whereas this second type of this withholding of things that should have happened that didn't happen, it's kind of hard for us to deal with because we feel like, "Well, I had good parents. They were nice. They were kind, they were happy," but there were certain things that should have happened and oftentimes those things didn't happen to you that should have happened to you because they didn't happen to your parents that should've happened to them.
They should have been connected. They should have had affection. They should have had belonging. They should have had attachment. They should have been loved. They should have parents notice them and care for them and hug them and touch them and be affectionate towards them. They never had that, so they can't pass that on to you. Therefore, you know they're good parents and they're kind to you and they provided for you but there's this sense of something should have happened.
There's a belonging that didn't happen and that causes this thing to feel like-- That just doubles down on this core wound of I'm not enough and so you start giving a language to the not enough-ness. You start giving it language. I'm not enough because I am lazy. I'm not enough because I'm fat. I'm not enough because I'm short. I'm not enough because I'm not a good athlete. I'm not enough because my parents were like this and I'm like that.
I'm not enough because I'm a preacher's kid and they're so holy and I'm not. You have all these things that you began to see. Now I'm going to close in just a few minutes, but here's what happens. When you get to that place in your life where you have this core wound inside and let's just say it's like I'm not enough, maybe that's your core wound. Well, what you're going to do with that to try to compensate for that, to try to correct that, what you do is try to build your own life. I call it a false construct.
You begin to construct a life that says, this is what I believe about myself, but I have to prove that wrong. If I believe I am stupid, then I'm going to try to read every book and sound intelligent and I'm going to spend my whole life trying to compensate for this sense, or if I feel like I'm a failure, I might be driven to make a lot of money to feel myself successful, or if I feel like I'm not accepted by God, I might try to work really hard at religion and fast and give money away, and make sure everybody knows it because I want to compensate for not feeling this way. I want that core wound to not be a reality in my life.
The way it cannot be a reality is to try to prove it wrong. For me, I grew up never feeling like I was enough. No matter what I did, it just didn't feel good enough. It's not something that comes from an abusive family. I have a good family but there's just that sense of something lacking. Inside of my heart, I just feel like I'm never enough. Do you know how I'll be enough? When I preach good enough.
You know when I'll be enough? Is when I lead enough people to the Lord, or when I go to enough conferences, or when I start the admissions department. When I do these things then I-- One of the worst ways you can live your life is what I call the when I, then I. When I make enough money, then I'll be happy. When I meet the right woman, then I'll be happy. When I get divorced from the wrong woman, then I'll be happy.
When I become a pastor, then I'll be happy. When I get to retire from being a pastor, then I'll really be happy. This always this when I. There's something more. It's called-- If the desire is to construct a life, I'm going to build a life on, when I get this, then I'll be happy, then I'll be joyful, then I'll be spiritual, then I'll be alive, then I'll be enough, then I'll be sufficient, then I'll be smart, then I'll be- whatever it is that we're looking to become but it's a false construct. We're building this life.
I'm building a life on ministerial success. It's like, I want my church to grow then I'll feel successful. I want my book to sell a lot of books, then I'll be successful. I want to look on YouTube and find out how many people have watched my sermon then I'll feel successful. How many of you know-- If you don't know now, you're certainly going to learn it. Those are things called external validation.
It's things from outside. You go like, "When I get enough money," that external validation, "then I'll be happy." You realize when you get that external validation it never makes you happy. There's nothing externally that can make you happy. It's the joy of the Lord that is our strength. It's something inside of us. It's not something that comes from outside of us.
It doesn't come from more money. It doesn't come from fame. It doesn't come from success. It doesn't come from popularity. It doesn't come from followers. It doesn't come from ministerial success or business success. It doesn't come from having lots of children. It doesn't come from anything outside of you. It comes from what the Holy Spirit puts inside of you.
He puts his love and his sense of attachment towards you, and a sense of belonging and connection. He's telling you that you may not have that from your father. You may not have had that from your mother. You may be seeking it from the world, but you'll never get it out there. You get it in here. It's when Christ lives in us. One day I had this vision, I guess you call it a picture. Just in my mind, I thought of constructing this life. The core of it is is a sandy foundation, not a rock.
The core of it is this foundation that says, "I'm not enough." I'm building a life that I am going to prove I am enough. I'm going to be the most spiritual, the most holy, the greatest preacher, the greatest minister and leader. I'm building this big construct of a life that thinks that I begin to believe the lie of Satan, that then you'll be enough when you get there. I'm up on top of this building and there's scaffolding.
Do you call it scaffolding here? The things on the side of the building that helps supporting the scaffoldings built all around it. I'm on top of this and it's beginning to sway a little bit. I'm thinking, "This thing's not on a good foundation. My whole life is not built on a good foundation and I call out to Jesus, "Jesus come help me. This building's rocking." Jesus grabs, hold of the scaffold in the bottom. I'm going, "[sighs] I'm glad you're here Jesus. Help hold this life up of mine."
All of a sudden he starts rocking it back and forth. "Oh, oh, Jesus, wait a minute. What are you doing? It was better when you weren't here. It's worse now. You're not helping. You're rocking the boat. You're shaking the scaffolding. This building might crash." The Lord says, "Good. Let that destroy this temple and in three days, I'll rebuild it."
Let that old life be destroyed. Let that old construct of constantly earning and striving and pressing and driving and feeling like you're not enough, and you're not sufficient, and you're not loved, you're not accepted and you don't belong. When you believe that kind of lie, it's almost impossible to not build your life, constructing a life that is on the sand.
When there's a shift, here's one of the things you have to do is, let there be a shift to realize, "Wait a minute, this is a hard shift." You might be 40 years old and for the last 20 years, tonight maybe you're realizing, "I have this core wound, and I have been trying to compensate that for my whole life. I've built this business. I've built this marriage and I've built this family on a false construct on sandy ground."
It's hard to admit that when you're 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 years old, because you don't want to admit it. You don't want to go like, "These last 20 years of my life I've been living in a way that's not healthy, not whole, W-H-O-L-E. There has come this sense of letting it crumble, of realizing that, that which is built on the sand is not worth keeping up. It's good to let it go.
When you let it go, you're going to have to do something. Jay and I were around Teen Challenge a lot. They were detox. When you're on drugs for a while, the first few days, you're going through detox and then your body's hurting and you're sweating, and your stomach is sick. When I help people get through moving this false construct over, they go through a detox because they're so used to getting the external validation, more money, more success more fame, more popularity, more acceptance, more approval of man, more applause.
They're so used to getting that. When they realize that's the wrong way to live their life of false construct and they let that be torn down. They just feel like, "What do I have left?" Can I suggest to you tonight? That's a perfect place to be. That's a great starting place. Allow yourself, you have to go through detox. Let your body detox from fame and success and notoriety and popularity and acceptance of man, because once you detox from that, then you can put your life on the rock, and something solid can be built.
For me, there's this glorious shift because I used to spend all my time and energy planning and plotting and driving. Not a godly ambition. My own ambition to become great and successful. All my decisions were-- What decisions are going to be born out of that kind of heart? They're never going to be spiritual. They're never going to be holy. They're always going to be corrupted by the flesh.
My decisions were very carnal so many times. Even in building ministries, it would be like I'm building my own kingdom. The Holy Spirit does us a favor. He lets that be destroyed. For me, there was this great transformation. I see the shift in my heart constantly where there was once a building that said success and fame and notoriety and popularity and accomplishment, then I'll be enough.
That was broken down when I went through detox, and now on this other side, there's something really different. "It's so fun. It's so just like, "[sighs] I can breathe finally. I have a life. There's my wife. I actually enjoy her. There is my kids. I just want to cuddle them and my grandkids. I don't have to go spend six hours in prayer. I can be holy wrestling on the floor with my grandkids." Because once that building of power and authority and success and fame and notoriety. Once that was torn down, the Holy Spirit started building his construct.
Do you know what that's built on? Whole different language. Love, and peace and joy, and patience and kindness and goodness and contentment and delightfulness and freedom and just these good things that feel good in the heart. If some of us tonight would see that false construct torn down and allow the Holy Spirit to build something, you're going to finally and fully enjoy being a Christian.
Right now you're supposed to enjoy it, right? If you don't, you're going to go to hell and it's fear-based. Like I‘ll get a timeout, an internal timeout and to be no attachment and so this is a fear-based thing and you can't build on that foundation. The transfer over to this is a love base. It's like I'm accepted. I'm loved. I will close with this. In this transformation, I realized just how much God loved me. What a great delight it is?
He loved me. This was so hard for me to say. A matter of fact, this was so hard for me to say. I'm still struggling saying it to you even tonight, even though I believe it with all my heart that Jesus accepts me just as I am. I always have such caveats on it. Not if there is sin in me. Not if I'm not performing well. Not if I haven't been in my devotional life the last three days. There's a lot of caveats to that.
With Jesus, there's no caveats. There's no restrictions on that. He loves you just the way you are. He will never love you any less, he will never love you anymore. He loves you just the way you are. Many of us know that intellectually, but we don't feel it in our heart.
We don't feel it because just the way we feel about ourselves, we project that onto God. "I'm never enough and I'll never be enough for you. I'm not good enough. I won't be good enough for you. I'm not smart enough for you. I'm not good enough preacher. I'm not a good enough preacher for you." We project that into our spiritual life, and when we do, we just live in pain. We live in sorrow. We live in brokenness and we just never get healed.
We never get healed, we get encouraged, we get revivaled. It's not even a word. We get built up in faith. We get admonished, we get encouraged. We have up times, but we're never healed in the heart because as long as we're living out of that lie, that core lie, then you're going to always build a false life. Let that be destroyed and come over to this side and finally realize how much God loves you.
Secondly, and closing, realize that God wants you to love yourself as well. That's hard for me to say, because I said that a few weeks ago, and I've got all kinds of emails from people saying like, "You're listening to the devil now. I thought you used to be a good preacher. I thought you were David Wilkerson’s son, how could you say such things?" I'm going to say it again, God wants you to love yourself.
I'm getting these emails, and I'm thinking, "What's the alternative?" No, God wants you to hate yourself. God wants you to feel like a perpetual worm who's nothing but ready to be cast into hell at any single moment, but He doesn't really love you. He saw Jesus do something. The Father saw Jesus do something nice for you. Therefore, He has to kind of cover you and He's covering you. God says, "Well, I don't want to look at that one but since you're covering him, Jesus, I'll let him into heaven because- but don't don't let me see him because I don't like him."
No, Jesus likes you and He wants you to like yourself. He wants you to be comfortable in your own skin. He wants you to breathe and He wants you to wake up in the morning and feel like, "This feels pretty good to be me. Feels pretty good to be alive." Jesus said this three times in the New Testament, "Love your neighbor as yourself." The word there- there are several Greek words and one is brotherly love. One is more of a passionate love, affectionate love.
This one is the supernatural powerful love of God. The unmerited favor of God that's called agape. Have you heard that word? The Greek word of agape. Here's what Jesus is saying. He doesn't say flatter yourself like brotherly. You would think he would say brotherly love others as you brotherly love yourself, but He doesn't use that word. He uses the word agape. Agape others. The way you agape others, I want you to agape yourself.
That's what Jesus said. Agape yourself. The word there means unconditional love. So many of us have conditions, "I'll love myself when I, then I'll love myself." When I do this, then I'll be loved by God. Then I'll be accepted, then I'll accept myself. Two things tonight. One is be healed by realizing that God loves you so much. Number two, be healed by realizing that God wants you to love, accept and have compassion and kindness for yourself.
Don't be hard on yourself. Don't beat yourself. So many Christians just beat themselves up. It's just like if they're not black and blue from their own beating, they're just not happy. They love to come to church to have somebody yell at them how bad they are because that makes them feel like maybe they're in good company at least. That's not the way God wants you to be. He wants you to have compassion on yourself.
To wake up in the morning and say, "I'm happy to be alive. I'm grateful to be alive." I'm grateful even when the snake is in the garden. Even when there's hard times around me. Even when maybe I don't feel these things, but I can know it and I can receive that. Stand with me if you would, please. I want to pray for many of you in the room here tonight. I pray that we could be honest enough to deal with some of the things in our life that you're hearing the Holy Spirit maybe speak to you tonight.
Not quite sure where to go with this. Part of me wants to give an altar call because I'm kind of used to that. Have people come to front pray for me, but part of it wants to make it a little more private, just kind of like you doing business with God without you having to maybe step out of your seats. Let's go that direction, just allow it. Miracles can take place right there and I love the altar call. I love the time together. There's something about the Holy Spirit moving that way.
Without any music, without doing the altar call, can we ask the Holy Spirit to do a supernatural work of healing in this building tonight? Can we ask him to mend broken hearts? Father, I pray right now in the name of Jesus for those who have had things happen to them that should have never happened to them. Out of that, they've built this life that is like, "I'm going to compensate for that."
I pray over them right now. I pray that you would heal that hurt. That they would not just repress it and push it down and say, "I'm not going to pay attention to that." They would allow you to bring it to the surface and that's painful. It's dealing with some things we don't need to deal with.
I pray that it would go beyond just me praying for them tonight, but I pray that they would find like my pastor friend, who was dealing with pornography and addictions. 15 years ago, he started a meeting with a group of friends and they brought healing to his life and he's been free from that for 15 years now and helping minister around the world.
Father, help us be like that, that we'd find a group of people, a good Christian friend that we could call that we could be honest with it. That we go beyond just a prayer meeting here tonight and go into a whole new lifestyle. Whole lifestyle of openness and connectedness and community because we were built that way from our womb to our death. We were built to share life with others.
Help us not to try to fight our battles alone, to try to heal our wounds alone. That's where those lies begin to penetrate. That's where those lies over your life, my friends. That come in and when you're alone, the enemy can say to you, "You're not enough and you're not good and not worthy and not acceptable." When you're with the body of Christ, you begin to learn the truth. I want to encourage you and I pray over you now that you would find community, true community.
If you don't have it, I pray that you'd be the forerunner to make it a reality. You'd be the first and invite others into it. I pray secondly for those who there were things that should have happened to you that didn't happen, neglect. You are meant to be loved and honored and given attention to and affection and you didn't receive that and you never heard anybody say, "I love you."
You grew up in a performance-based home. I just pray over you right now in the name of Jesus, that the Holy Spirit would reveal to you what that's done for you. How that has made a sense of false construct and that we would just tonight be willing to let you rock that thing to let tip topples over. That we would say no more, no more in our life, God. Thank you, God. You take away the flesh and you bring in the spirit. You take away ungodly ambition and you put in there peace and joy and contentment, freedom and life.
Just overwhelming sense of the presence of the Lord. We thank you for that. We're asking now, in the name of Jesus for miracles in this place tonight. I just feel words are so inadequate to deal with the business you're trying to deal with tonight, Holy Spirit. How you want to mend broken hearts? How you want to put salve on the hurting places? Holy Spirit, we just take a moment just to allow you to begin to speak to our hearts.
Maybe even help us identify some things that we have not really thought of before. Again, we don't expect to have it all accomplished in one night but we can believe something might be birthed here. Then maybe I'll throw this whole week as Pastor Nick has already said, "This is going to be a week of breakthrough." Maybe tonight, it was just launching this by saying-- Helping us identify, "Hey, yes, there are some snakes in our garden. There are some things we need to breakthrough."
Maybe tonight we just start with that just accepting the fact that there are some things that we need to do business with God as I've heard it put before. We just pray in the name of Jesus again, that any area of this life that we would not leave here tonight, discouraged or despondent. We would leave here very hopeful that we have a really good Father, Holy Spirit. Many of us we sing the song about our Father. We say He's a good, good Father.
Deep down, some of us are not really believing it. Even on top of that, He might be singing over us and you're good, good children and we certainly wouldn't believe that. We thank you that, that's what you call us your children and you love us and you cover us and you wash us and you cleanse us and you make us new. I'm asking that powerful miracle to take place.
I'm going to ask the worship team to come now if they would and we'll sing a song and then pastor Nick come back, but I just pray in the name of Jesus, that there would be a transition tonight. That the shift will begin to take place. Even if it takes a little detox, how many of you will be willing to detox if it gives you a better life? Anybody at all? Couple of you here, yes.
I'm willing to go through a little bit of pain, to get to the outcome, to get to the victory, to get to the clean mind and get to the clear heart, and get to the vision that He has for my life. Father, we just thank you that you're going to do this work. You're going to do a work of grace.
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Spiritual warfare can hit us when we least expect it, or worse yet, we might not even realize we're in the middle of a spiritual battle. Pastor Claud Houde talks about how believers can identify attacks and do battle against the forces of evil in their minds, hearts and lives.