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Hosting Shane Willard (2008)

Shane Willard

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Hosting Shane Willard (2008) (Shane Willard)

Who is Your Slave Driver (Shane Willard)
Jesus didn't die just to forgive us; Jesus died so we could be slave driver-free: here, now, today. Something is ruling my life other than God; and God steps down, without me deserving it, and He takes the slave driver away.
My only responsibility in that is: faith, and repentance; to change my mind, so that I don't keep going back to the slave driver, over and over and over; that I don't keep opening up my life to the same slave driver.

The Days of Caesar (Shane Willard)
Luke 2:1 - “In the days of Caesar Augustus there went out a decree that: all the world should be taxed.”
What was going on in the world, when God chose to reveal Himself in Jesus?

Bowl or Birthright (Shane Willard)
The most hated man in the whole Bible, by far the most foolish man who ever lived. This guy was basically an honest, hard-working man, who traded everything he could be, for one meal - just beans.

Becoming Less Important (Shane Willard)
Even in Hell, the rich man still thought he was better than the beggar: send Lazarus here to serve me in Hell; send him back to Earth to serve my family.
God is not looking to make ‘rich men’, but a nation of ‘wealthy stewards’, who use their money as God would have them use it - for the glory of God and the kingdom of God.
God would want every one of us to be so wealthy, that other nations would call us ‘blessed’ - but it's not wealth for our sake, so we could build bigger barns to store it, but wealth to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves.

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Who is Your Slave Driver (Shane Willard)  

Sun 20 Apr 2008 AM « Back to Top

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Jesus didn't die just to forgive us; Jesus died so we could be slave driver-free: here, now, today. Something is ruling my life other than God; and God steps down, without me deserving it, and He takes the slave driver away.

My only responsibility in that is: faith, and repentance; to change my mind, so that I don't keep going back to the slave driver, over and over and over; that I don't keep opening up my life to the same slave driver.

Introduction

I started thinking about the cross a while back one of the questions I asked myself is this:

Where have I embraced the cross that saves me, but I've neglected the cross I've been commanded to pick up every day?

We love the cross that saves us, and forgives us, and heals us, and lets us into heaven. We love that cross, because Jesus bore that cross for us, and we don't have to do anything, so the pressure's off in that sense. We love that cross, and we should love that cross - we get to go to heaven; and not go to hell. We get to be forgiven instead of guilty - that's a preferable thing. Heaven/hell - choose heaven.

But the bigger deal is this: where have we embraced the cross that saves us; but there's a second cross, that we've been commanded to pick up, and we neglect that one?

Let me ask it this way: Where have we wanted mercy for ourselves, but justice for everybody else? We stuff something up really bad, and we're like: oh God, have mercy, oh God have mercy, oh God have mercy; but someone else messes up, and we're like: God will get them for that!

What part of us enjoys the fact that, when major men of God fall into sin, that it's all over the internet, and we read it? If we had done the same thing (some of us have done the same thing, we just didn't get caught) - we want mercy; but why do we want justice for other people?

The Bible says: judgement without mercy will be given to all those who aren't merciful, for mercy triumphs over justice. So where have we embraced the cross, that saves me and heals me and forgives me? Where have we put a fish on our car? Where have we done that; yet over here we degrade the intelligence of someone who disappoints us?

Does the girl at KFC know we're saved, even if she messes up our order? When someone cuts you off in traffic, do you point your finger at the sky? Then when you go around them the second time, they see the fish on your car. Does your husband know you're saved even if he leaves a wet towel on the floor? Does your wife know you're saved, even if she disappoints you?

Where have we embraced the cross that saves us, but neglected the cross that says: don't gossip and slander people; or the cross that says: to take care of the poor is a high honour?

Main Message

In Exodus 3:7-8, the Lord is speaking to a group of people who've been enslaved for 430 years. That's a long time - twice as long as America has been a nation. This group of people were oppressed, marginalised, slaves - make bricks, make bricks without straw. These people were oppressed horribly, and this is what it says:

“The Lord said I have indeed seen the misery of My people in Egypt, and I have heard them crying out because of their slave-drivers.”

Note the words slave-drivers. To a Hebrew person, salvation was not just about going to heaven one day. As a matter of fact, for the first 1,500 years of church history from Acts 2, if you asked anybody: ‘why did Jesus die on the cross’, no one would have said: Jesus died on the cross to forgive us of our sins.

Although that was true, and that's part of it, and we say: yes, amen; we're all about individual forgiveness, aren't we? The bigger issue is this: people said - Jesus died on the cross to defeat the devil, the enemy of our soul, and his entire way of life; that the cross was not primarily about heaven and hell, although that's what we've made it about.

That is true, we do get to go to heaven; we get to be forgiven, absolutely. But a bigger issue in that Jesus didn't just die to forgive us of sins. Jesus died so that sin could not be our master anymore.

Jesus didn't die just to forgive us; Jesus died so we could be slave driver-free: here, now, today.

If you take a Strong's Concordance, and you just do a word study on the word ‘salvation’ or ‘saved’, or ‘rescued’ or ‘delivered’, some 90% of all uses of those words have nothing to do with heaven and hell - it has everything to do with being ‘slave driver delivered’.

Something's ruling my life other than God; and God steps down, without me deserving it, and He takes the slave driver away. My only responsibility in that is: faith, and repentance; to change my mind, so that I don't keep going back to the slave driver, over and over and over and over and over again; that I don't keep opening up my life to the same slave driver.

Every time I open up my life to the same slave driver, Jesus shows up, and He delivers me from it, because His mercy is new every day; but when I choose to truly repent, that salvation is actually here.

Sometimes we can be guilty, in a western culture, of teaching a salvation that's ‘some day’. Some day: the lion and the lamb; some day: no sickness, crying, or shame; some day: no more tears.

It has this aspect to it, and yes - how many of you know that ‘some-day’ is true, that is a true thing? But if we're not careful, we're guilty of teaching a salvation that says: hey, get saved, get saved, get saved - and then one day you'll get to die, and it'll all get better?

The salvation that Jesus is talking about is all about being slave-driver free.

It says: I'm concerned about their slave drivers, and I'm also concerned about their suffering, so I have come down to rescue them. The word ‘rescue’ there is the same word that we get ‘salvation’ from, or ‘saved’.

“I have come down to {save them, rescue them, deliver them} from the hand of the Egyptians; and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

So in this passage, Egypt represented suffering. This is not just a story about a group of people who've been in slavery for 430 years. It is about them; but it's also a story about me and you, and about our tendency to suffer under slave drivers.

It's a story about suffering, about crying out to God, and about God hearing you in that situation.

When we're in the land of suffering and crying out, we think God doesn't hear us there - that we've done something bad, so God doesn't hear us. Actually, when we're in Egypt, and in suffering and in crying out - that's the exact place that God does hear us. It's a land of slave drivers. It's a place where something is driving our life other than God.

Maybe that driver is anger. How many of us suffer with a slave driver at times of anger? Anger is not an emotion you can afford. When you get angry you lose 25% of your IQ, because all of your blood leaves your brain, and goes to the major muscle groups to prepare for a fight. You also exert a certain enzyme in your brain that helps take away 25% - which for the average person in the room would make you retarded! So if you're married, and you get into an argument, and both of you get angry - you've got two mentally-retarded people trying to solve a problem!

Maybe your slave driver is rejection? Maybe your slave driver is impulse-spending to cope? Has anybody besides me ever bought something you can't afford, with money you don't have, to impress people you don't like? And like a month later the newness wears off, and you're like: I'm still making payments on this, what am I doing!

How about the slave driver of just one more piece of cake? How about the slave driver of debt?

One of the messages of the gospel is that: hope can flow in situations like that.

Genesis 2:10, this is in the Garden of Eden, and it's kind of making a description of this.

“A river watering the garden flowed from Eden, and from there it separated into four headwaters. The name of the first river was Pishon, and it wound through the entire land of Havilah, where there was gold. The gold of that land was ‘perfect’, and the gold of that land was perfect.”

So ‘out of Eden’, the Talmud says that when Adam and Eve fell, when they were kicked out of the garden, they spent 40 days with their feet in the river Pishon. Now the word Pishon means ‘hope’, so it says: there was a river called Hope, and it wound through the entire land of Havilah. Havilah just meant ‘suffering’. To a Hebrew person, any time you're in the land of suffering, there's a river called Hope somewhere - you've just got to go find it.

The last thing you need to do is give up. To fail, in a Hebrew mindset, is just to quit trying - because if you're in the land of suffering, there's a river called Hope somewhere in it - you've just got to go find it.

When you're in the land of suffering, how do you know when you've come across the river of Hope - because there are lots of rivers in the land of suffering? Some of them are going to take you to places you don't want to go. How do you know when you're in the river called Hope?

It says that you can identify the river of Hope, when there's perfect gold in the riverbed. There's going to be perfect gold in the riverbed. Perfect gold - I think it's called [zebarrelim] gold, it's actually not a gold colour at all - it's a clear substance, and very soft, very soft. If you hold it up to perfect light, only the shortest wavelength of light can get through it, so it looks blue. I've been taught my whole life that the colour of heaven is blue - perfect gold and perfect light looks blue.

It's also very soft, so you can shave it down into powder. You can shave it down into little sprinkles, and if you take one little tweezer, and pick up one little piece of perfect gold, you can drop it into 100,000 parts of water, and it'll turn all of the water blood/ruby red. When perfect gold and water bond, it turns the water blood red (colliodal gold).

If there's a river called Hope, and it's flowing through the land of suffering, and you want to be able to identify the river called Hope, and the river called Hope has perfect gold in the riverbed, what colour is the river? Red!

The Hebrew language originally was pictures. The word gold is three letters; the first letter is the picture of ‘an eye’; the second letter is the picture of a ‘harvester, harvesting supply’; and the third picture is the picture of ‘a house’, or ‘house of God’. So when a Hebrew person read the word ‘gold’ they saw: “Behold, the one who brings us substance for survival, brings it to us in the house of God.”

So a Hebrew person would read: Hope flows through suffering, because behold, the one who brings us substance for survival, brings it to us in the house of God, through a river of blood. To a Hebrew person, when water turns red, hope is flowing through suffering - that is the river Pishon.

Now fast-forward way later: same group of people - they've just gotten larger, and they're in slavery and in suffering in Egypt. They're in the land of suffering; and they cried out to God, because of their suffering, and God decides to do something about it.

The first plague: all the water turned to blood. To the Egyptians that was a curse - a slap in the face of their gods; but to the Hebrew people there would have been a buzz through the whole camp... Did you hear? Water's turning to blood. Hope's fixing to flow through suffering! Pishon, hope is here!

Salvation is not some day; salvation is here now, today. Hope is flowing through suffering.

Moses leads them to the banks of the Red Sea - hope flows through suffering. The waters part, they go through, the waters come down, destroying the biggest army in the world in one swoop - which changed the course of world history; because you can't take the biggest army out, and not replace them. If CNN and the internet would have been around back then, the whole world would have swooped down on Egypt.

So they get through that and then they end up at Mount Sinai, and Moses goes up, which is like a three and a half hour trek up that mountain. Then God sends him back down to get Aaron; then He sends him back up - like this is like an all day thing going on. Moses comes back down with the Ten Commandments and what have the people done? They have made a gold cow! Moses gets so angry that he takes his staff, and he beats the gold cow into powder.

They had to throw it into the water from the rock, and drink it for the redemption of their sins. If you take perfect gold and throw it into the water from the rock- red; hope flows through suffering. Pishon is flowing through Havilah; the water is turning red.

Fast forward way later and there was this rabbi - pretty important to us. He was a rabbi with authority, which meant He could make up His own yoke. This new rabbi with authority would have drawn crowds of say 5,000 to 10,000 people, in a place where there were no automobiles. People would have come from all over the nation to hear this new yoke, which they heard might be easy, and might be light - it would be easier to live. He shows up at this wedding, and He performs His first miracle: turning water into wine - hope flows through suffering. Water is turning red.

His first miracle is for a whole group of people, and He's communicating to a Hebrew audience, with Hebrew ideas. He makes water turn red - hope flows through suffering.

Fast forward way later, and Jesus had the worst day ever. They beat Him. They mocked Him. All His friends had deserted Him - everything that would mess us up psychologically for a long time!

They beat Him, mocked Him, spit on Him, put crowns of thorns on His head, strapped a tree to His back, make Him walk up the thing; and since they can't have people hanging around on Sabbath on crosses, they break everybody's legs - except His, because He was already dead. The Roman centurion says ‘make sure that He's dead’, and they stick a spear in His side, and blood and water flowed. In other words, in the greatest suffering man has ever known, hope still was flowing.

It's almost like Jesus, at His death, gave anybody with any glimpse of hope, hope. He said: look, even in My death, blood and water is going to come together. Hope flows through suffering.

One of the greatest messages of the cross is this: no matter where you are, no matter what you're going through, there's hope for your situation - there's blood in the water. Hope flows through suffering, because: behold, the one who brings us substance for survival, brings it to us in the house of God. Through a river of blood, hope can flow through suffering.

I was sitting with my mentor, and another pastor that I went to Bible College with. He's very solid, he's pastored for years, and we were sitting around talking, and he said: I've got a question: what must I do to be saved? If all you had was Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts, the historical narratives of the Bible; what could you tell me?

In other words, if we looked up every time Jesus, or Peter, or Paul, or somebody important like that said: ‘salvation has come to you’; ‘you've been forgiven’; ‘you've been made righteous’ - what would salvation look like? What do you have to do to get saved? What must I do to be saved?

So I started looking at this, in the sense of ‘hope flows through suffering’; and there were all these really cool stories in the New Testament, and none of them were the same, yet all of their salvation experiences were legitimate...

Zaccheus was a tax collector in Jericho, one of the richest cities around, a resort town. He would have been hated by everybody; and Jesus was walking along, with thousands of people behind. Jesus stops the whole crowd, and gets him out of the tree, and He says: I'm coming to your house to eat with you today. Zaccheus is so moved by the compassion of Jesus Christ that he says: look, here and now - I'll give half of what I have to the poor. Jesus says: that's it, salvation has come to your house today. Whoa!

So what must I do to be saved? Do I need to give half of what I have to the poor? Most of us would say: man, I hope not!

Paul was an expert in the law - a master Pharisee, and he's on a donkey, on the road to Emmaus. This light appears, and knocks him off his donkey; and he asks Jesus a question: what must I do to be saved? In essence, Jesus says: you already are, I've prepared a man...

Zaccheus gave half of what he had to the poor; Paul asked a question.

There was this one lady (John 8) who was caught in the act of adultery, like in the act! Torah said you were supposed to stone her. The Mishnah, which was the Jewish compilation of civil and religious law, said that you could rough her up: you could strip her from the waist up to shame her, bring her out in public, and then stone her - so if they followed their culture, they would have beaten her up a bit.

Stripped her from the waist up (probably wasn't necessary, because they caught her in the act), and then they bring her out to Jesus. They needed Jesus - someone with authority to pass judgement; and they said to Jesus: the Torah says to stone her - what do you say?

He says: The Torah says stone her. I have to fulfil the Torah, so I say stone her; but I also say that you can't throw stones unless you haven't sinned - which is brilliant. So everybody's sitting there, and they get tired of holding their stones. They drop their stones; and it says: He doesn't say another word until they all leave. After they all leave, He asks a question.

He says woman, where are your accusers?

She says they're not here, they've all left. He says that's right, then neither do I condemn you. The Torah did say to stone adulterers; but the Torah also said: you have to have two witnesses, to condemn somebody. Jesus couldn't make her sin go away, so He made the witnesses go away - which automatically declared a mistrial. [

Therefore, there’s now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Christ's yoke rules heaven. Hope flows through suffering.

So what's the answer? Is it to give half of what you have to the poor? Paul just asked the question; this lady just answered a question (my accusers aren't here, and salvation came to us.)

One guy was a Roman centurion, which meant that he had to publicly proclaim that ‘Caesar was the son of God’. After he ordered all the beatings etc, and he saw Jesus took it without one word, he looks up at the crucifixion and he says: surely He was the son of God.

So what's the answer? Give half of what you have to the poor? Ask the right question? Give the right question? Make the right confession?

The thief on the cross (the guy next Him), in the middle of this horrible day, the thief on the cross looks over, and he... prays the sinner's prayer? No - He looks over, and he says: please remember me (likely the only thing he had breath to say). Please remember me - and on the basis of a 3-word request, Jesus says: that's it - today you will be with me in Paradise.

Another centurion that came to Jesus on the road - his daughter was sick. Jesus said: sure, I'll go pray for your daughter; and the centurion said: no, no, no, I don't want to waste your time. Just speak the word; if You speak the word, I know she'll be healed. Jesus said: I've never seen such faith in all of Israel.

There's another time... and this happened, and it's in Red Letters, and I can't make any theology work with this, I don't know the answer - I just know it's there, and we need to wrestle with it. This guy was paralysed, and his friends picked him up on the four corners of his mat. They lower him down through the roof, and Jesus looked at him and said: your sins are forgiven. It says: Jesus saw the faith of his friends, and proclaimed his sins forgiven!

So what's the answer? Is it ‘have the right friends’ now?

Jesus ‘saw the faith of his friends’, and proclaimed his sins forgiven. You say: Shane, what does that mean? I already told you - I don't know! Like, we would have no problem it said: Jesus saw his faith - and proclaimed his sins forgiven; but for Jesus to see the faith of someone else - and count it to this guy as righteousness, whoa! I can't make any theology work with that. I can just tell you it happened, and we can wrestle with it.

If I was here today, and I was a mother, and I had been believing for my unbelieving children - I would keep on doing it. Yeah! Jesus ‘saw the faith of his friends’ and proclaimed his sins forgiven.

So what's the answer? Ask the right question? Answer the right question? Give half of what we have to the poor? Make the right confession, or the right request? Is it to have the right friends?

There's this one guy in the temple, and he's so broken about something he's done - you don't know what he's done. There's this Pharisee by him, and the Pharisee says: oh, I thank You my God that I'm righteous, and I'm not like this sinner. And it says: the sinner in the temple beat his chest, and said: oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner - and Jesus said: surely that guy left righteous.

So is it to make a confession, some sort of request for mercy?

There's one they call the ‘Philippian Jailer’ - and his job was torturing people. It says there was this one time, where he came in to Paul and Silas' cell, and he bandaged their wounds. In the bandaging of their wounds, Paul said: today salvation has come to your house.

He was just kind.

In Luke 11:39-41, a Pharisee comes to eat with Jesus; and the Pharisee says: Jesus doesn't wash His hands before He eats. Why don't You wash Your hands before You eat? Jesus says to him: you fool, you make the outside of your cup and platter clean, but the inside is full of greed, and all manner of wickedness. To Jesus, greed leads to all manner of wickedness - it was all about greed.

He says: you keep the outside of your cup and platter clean, but the inside is full of greed which leads to all manner of wickedness. Don't you know that the one who made the outside of the cup, made the inside of the cup also? Then there's this implied question from the Pharisee (not written, but it's implied) - what should I do to fix this?

Jesus says: begin to give alms of all such things as you have to the poor, and your whole life will be made clean for you.

So is it: be generous with the poor?

There's this guy named Cornelius, in Acts 10, who was chosen by God to start the whole gentile church. Cornelius was a centurion, which meant he had to publicly proclaim that Caesar is god. When Peter shows up at his house, Cornelius bows down and worships Peter. Peter has to say: no, no! Get up! I'm just a man. You don't worship a man. That's like Christianity 101: don't worship men. Is that a guy you'd want to pastor your church? But Jesus chose him to start the whole gentile church. Cornelius asks: why me? Peter says: because your alms to the poor have gone up as a remembrance to God - and He has counted you righteous.

So once again, is it generosity to the poor?

In Acts 2, Peter was preaching to the crowd, and he said: “repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ - and anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.

So what's the answer? You can't make a case that each individual case is not a legitimate salvation. You've got {Jesus, Peter, Paul} proclaiming people {righteous, saved, forgiven}. These are all legitimate salvation experiences - so what do we have to do?

Give half of what we have to the poor; ask the right question; answer the right question; beg for mercy; make the right confession; make a request; have the right friends; bandage people's wounds? The answer is yes.

Three things were true of all of these salvation experiences: 1) they were legitimate salvation experiences; 2) every one of them had an encounter with God and responded; 3) every one of them made an active move away from their slave-driver, and salvation came to them.

I'm not even necessarily talking about heaven and hell salvation; I'm talking about being slave-driver free.

Zaccheus' slave driver was greed; so He became generous, and money lost its hold on him - now he's slave driver free and salvation came to his house.

I believe in prayer and deliverance; but if your slave driver is greed, I could pray for you until Jesus comes back, and you'll still be greedy. The cure for greed is not prayer; the cure for greed is writing a cheque. When you write a cheque, and you release it, money loses its hold on you - and salvation can come to your house; because you're slave driver free now.

Paul's slave driver was: knowing everything. He knew everything, knew all the answers, and he finally admits: what must I do to be saved? In other words, I don't know what I'm doing; and Jesus said: okay, now you are. Hmm.

The lady caught in the act of adultery, her slave driver was: guilt and condemnation; and Jesus makes all the witnesses go away, so there's no guilt and condemnation - and the slave driver leaves.

The Philippian Jailer - his slave driver was cruelty. He had to be cruel; so he becomes kind, and cruelty loses its hold on his life, and salvation comes to his house.

The thief on the cross moved away from his slave driver by responding to God, and salvation comes to his house.

No matter where you are, hope can flow through suffering, because there's blood in the water. There is a way out of your slave driver; no matter how deep imbedded in that slave driver you are - hope can still flow.

You're serving a God who's not just interested in you going to heaven one day; He's interested in bringing heaven to your hell today. He's not just interested in you spending eternity with Him; He's interested in spending your life with you.

There's a river called Pishon, and it's flowing through the whole land of Havilah for your life; that whatever in your life is causing you suffering, whatever slave driver is causing you pain, hope can flow through suffering. Salvation is here.

I love that song: I know my God saves the day, and I know His word never fails, and I know my God makes a way for me, because salvation is here. I bless you today to know that hope; there is still blood in the water, and you and I can live slave-driver free.

Closing Prayer

I wonder if we could just do some business with God right now, and just be honest, because it's just between you and God.

1) What is your slave driver? Is it rejection, anger, bitterness, rage, malice, slander, filthy language? Is it a tendency to go back to the same thing? What's your slave driver?

2) Have you cried out to God because of it; or have you hidden it?

Just admit to God, and own whatever your slave driver is. Lord, I struggle with this, and it rules my life sometimes. Please help me. Just go and tell Him again. You'll feel better - get it off your chest, you just feel better. Say: Lord, I struggle with rejection and worry; sometimes worry just rules my life, it rules my thoughts at night. Oh, you'll just feel better.

3) Are you saved in the sense of your going to heaven, but you still go back to your slave driver?

If heaven and hell isn't the issue, is Jesus still worth following? Of course He's still worth following, because He has the best way of life. If you could go to heaven without Jesus - you can't, but if you could - He'd still have the best way of life. Where does salvation need to come to your house today?



The Days of Caesar (Shane Willard)  

Sun 20 Apr 2008 PM « Back to Top

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Luke 2:1 - “In the days of Caesar Augustus there went out a decree that: all the world should be taxed.”

What was going on in the world, when God chose to reveal Himself in Jesus?

Introduction

Sometimes we need theological teaching, and sometimes we just need a reminder of what God's word says about how to make a sandwich, you know what I'm saying?

I realise that in my walk with God, we needed to start challenging folks to not be a group of people on their way to heaven one day - although that's true.

Instead be a group of people who reveal God to everybody that comes in their contact, who actually minister the kingdom of God everywhere they go.

That tonight after church, if you were to go to KFC, that everybody who works at KFC would know that they've been touched by the power of God - not because you went in there and went weird; but because you went in there and were kind and compassionate, gracious, and slow to anger, and abounding in love.

I'm just challenging us as a collective people; what would happen if your city thought: they meet people's needs; like, they reveal God!

Individually, the sign that we wear around our neck, determines how people treat us; and the sign you wear around your neck corporately, will determine how people respond to you.

How many of you know people, and they have a sign around their neck that says: don't mess with me? You don't mess with them! Then those same people, a lot of times, get mad because no one talks to them!

I was hanging out with some rich people, at this really expensive art gallery, and I was like a fish out of water man! I looked the part, and I dressed the part, and I was with the social group that was the part... but how many of you know, once you're in it, it's kind of like: this is so obvious I don't belong?

The artist/salesperson was going around person to person, and they were trying to sell us art for our living rooms, and they'd walk around - it was very high pressure. I was listening to what they were saying, and they were using words and stuff I didn't understand. There was this real high pressure situation; so I'm looking at one of the pictures, and it said ‘3600’ so I assumed that was $3,600 (and not $36.00). So I'm going: oh man, what am I going to do here? I'm going to have to tell this lady no - and then she's going to be mad at me. I thought: can I pretend?

I thought: how can I get this lady off my back? She had never heard me talk before; so she came over said: hi, do you like this picture? I said (in a Southern accent): Hi there - Is this picture $36.00 or $3,600? I had this wild look in my eye - and she went: um, $3,600 - for a picture! You gotta be evermore kiddin' me!

She said: well sir, this would be a nice accent to your living room I'm sure. I said: listen here lady, I'm from Goose Creek, South Carolina; and I said: I don't know much about acrylics or oils or water colours - I know crayons!

I said: I'm gonna tell ya somethin' - I need somethin' for my living room. You got a big deer head stuffed full o' somethin' I can hang up? Or maybe a Budweiser sign or somethin' I can just hang right there in my livin' room? She said: no sir. I said: well that's alright then, I'll just look around.... She never messed with me the rest of the night - because of the ‘sign I was wearing around my head’ which said 'uneducated redneck'!

So my question to us tonight, the thing I want to challenge us with, is this: are we people who are content with going to heaven one day; or are we people who are committed to bringing heaven to earth to everybody around us?

One way we could do that, is with the sign around our neck - and I want to talk about one aspect of that tonight, by looking at the Christmas story in, Luke 2:1.

Main Message

Luke 2:1 - “In the days of Caesar Augustus there went out a decree that: all the world should be taxed.”

I started going back and looking at what it meant to live ‘in the days of Caesar Augustus’. What was going on in the world, when God chose to reveal Himself in Jesus? What was going on in the world around Him?

Well, the world was being ruled by the Romans; and the Romans had done something spectacular. They had established an empire that stretched from Spain to India. With no electricity, no internet, no phone, no massive way of communication, they established an empire that stretched all the way across Europe, and straight into India. It was one of the biggest leadership marvels ever.

But the problem with their empire was in the way they ruled it. There's a couple of ways that you can try to rule the world, but the way they chose to rule the world was through terror and oppression.

For example, there was a Roman general called Germanicus, who conquered the entire east side of the Roman Empire. The way he did that was by enslaving anyone of a different race - so if the colour of your skin was any different than the Romans then they would enslave you. Some say he took as many as 30 million slaves. He went in with swords, and if you agreed to be their slave – fine; but if you didn't, they would just kill you.

There was another general named Pompey and in his tenure as a Roman general, he took 12 million slaves. There was another general named Titus, who conquered Jerusalem, and took 500 people a day as slaves. One of the things Titus for amusement (because his men would get bored) is, they would put crosses up, and they would nail people to crosses in weird positions for amusement.

A Roman general named Cassius enslaved 30,000 people, in a town called Magdala. Then he changed the law in Magdala, and said that Magdala was going to be the headquarters of the Roman soldiers. Every person (particularly women) were now ‘Roman property'; and the Roman soldiers could do anything they wanted with those women, without any fear of recompense or consequences.

Can anybody think of a disciple Jesus had, from Magdala? Mary Magdalene! She'd been raped and used so many times by the Roman soldiers, that when she finally shows up to Jesus, she's completely full of devils - until Jesus sets her free.

In the days of Caesar Augustus, there was a Roman general named Varus; and in 14AD, Varus went into a city called Sapphirus; and Sapphirus determined that we were not going to bow to the wants of the Roman Empire. So he took his platoon in there, and what they would say: get your coins out everybody!

So everybody would get their coins out, and on the coins it would say: Caesar is lord. They'd say can you say that; and you're a good Jew? There's no God but Jehovah - so if you can’t say ‘Caesar is lord’, then they would just enslave you. Cassius had people outside putting crosses in the ground, so if you could not say ‘Caesar is lord’, they would take you outside and crucify you, in front of your whole neighbourhood.

This was the Roman general Varus, but in 14AD he went into a town called Sapphirus, and Sapphirus decided: we're not going to do that. There were 2,000 people living there, and Varus went in and crucified 2,000 people in one day, because they wouldn't say ‘Caesar is lord’.

Can you think of anybody who was 14 years old, in 14AD? Jesus - and He grew up in a town called Nazareth, which is only 800 metres from Sapphirus! So when Jesus was 14 years old, likely He would have heard the screams of 2,000 people, and the panic in His own town, of 2,000 people being crucified in a day, in the days of Caesar Augustus.

In 18AD Varus burned down a town called Emmaus; so when Paul was on the road to Emmaus... Just a few years before, Varus had burned that city to the ground, because they refused to bow to the Roman Empire.

So the Roman Empire was ruled by these generals, who were ruled by the Caesars. The Caesars were ruling the Roman Empire, and the first Caesar was a guy named Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar said he was god.

By the way, you'll see a running pattern here: all the Caesars said they were god. You cannot rule the world with just political power. You can't rule the world with a gun. Everybody's tried it - it's never worked, ever.

In order to rule the world, you have to have: a political power; and a religious power - you need to have both to rule the world; so these guys tried to combine both - and obviously we know that the one combination of all those is Jesus Christ, because He is both: prophet, priest and king.

He will rule the world one day fine, because He will combine: the political power, a kingly anointing; with that of a priestly anointing - and that is what it takes to rule the world.

Julius Caesar was on to this, Julius tried to do this, so he said he was god. The problem with all the Caesars saying they were god is: eventually they all died, which made them lose their credibility - and the Roman Empire fell.

Julius Caesar said he was god; and he also invented salad!

Julius Caesar died in 17BC, and so there's this funeral for him; and when Julius Caesar died, his son Octavius changed his name to Augustus Caesar, and became Caesar.

Augustus Caesar, which is ‘the days of Caesar Augustus’ - this is when Jesus was born. Augustus Caesar was the first guy to really unite the whole world under one leadership.

Augustus Caesar said that: since Julius was god, then he was the son of god.

So in 17BC, there was a guy who started making claims that god became flesh - and he was in fact the son of god. There were no Christians back then, but Christians everywhere would have been reacting to this. The church notoriously overreacts to everything - we just do!

Like there was this movie out about a year ago, and I don't even remember what it's called, but people were saying to me: You've got to tell people - don't go see the movie, Shane. Shane, we need to hear your voice from the stage - you've got to tell people: don't go and see this movie!

I'm going: what's wrong with the movie? This movie, it's trying to make a case that there is no God; and I'm going: aah, like God has never heard that before - and as if He can't handle it! Plus, you don't know anything about me. If I tell people: don't go do something - the first thing they do is: go do what I told them not to do!

So we overreact; and in this situation, this worked out good. God let the Roman Empire finance the propaganda throughout the known world, that it was possible for God to have flesh on. He said: we'll let the Romans do all the advertising, and then we'll show up with the real deal - because their guy is going to die... but we'll let them give the idea.

After Augustus Caesar, then you had a Caesar named Tiberius, and he was the guy that ruled during Jesus' ministry. In Josephus, it talks about Tiberius being the Caesar who was in charge of Pilot, who ordered Jesus' crucifixion.

Then you had Caligula - who was known for his debauchery and terror, extortion, and exposure of women. That was Caligula's claim to fame.

Nero was a particularly great one - he tortured Christians. One of his claims to fame was: he never wanted the light in his garden to go out, so he would use Christians to light his garden.

He would kidnap Christians, and have them in a line around his house. He would take a wooden stake, and stick it into their rectum, and he would plant them alive in his garden. Then he would douse them with fuel, and set them on fire, so that the light in his garden would never go out. When one burned up, the next one was then taken, so that the light would continually go.

The Bible was not written in a political vacuum. This is the stuff that was going on, when Peter wrote things like: respect and honour those who have the rule over you - for they are put there by God, for God's purposes.

Vespasian was another Roman emperor - who said he was god, and then he died by falling down and hitting his head. Titus, he's the guy that conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Then of course you had Domitian.

Domitian was emperor between 75AD to 95AD, somewhere around there, and Domitian said he was god - just like everybody else. But he took it one step further, and said: since I'm god, I should be worshipped. People should not be allowed to live, until they worship me.

So he set up ecclesiae or churches. He set them up all around with monikers to himself, and he demanded that people come and give him an offering, before they could go buy and sell. So before you could go buy your weekly groceries, you had to go make an offering to Domitian as god.

The problem was, in an empire that big, how would you know who made the offering and who wouldn't? So they set up these ecclesiae, and then when people came in and made their offering to Domitian, in order to determine who gave the offering and who didn't, the people in charge of these worship centres would give you... a mark in your forehead or in your forehand.

The Jews didn't like this too much, because there's no god but Jehovah; so the Jews called Domitian “the Beast who comes from land and sea”. In 85-90AD, in order to buy and sell - you had to worship, and then take the mark of the Beast. This is about the time when John was in exile on the island of Patmos and started writing about the end times. He's using a present day reality to express a future implication, in the days of Caesar Augustus.

Caesar Augustus - in 17BC, his dad dies, and he ruled the whole world. He was the first person ever to unite the entire world. Since Julius was god, that meant Augustus was the son of god - who ruled the world, and should be worshipped. This is what he said about himself.

He had groups of people engrave his accomplishments on big stone tablets and monuments, and he hung them in the churches all around the empire, so that when people went to church to worship whatever god (there were a lot of different gods around), ultimately the one they saw was Caesar. He put his accolades in worship centres, and he hung them on stone tablets.

The sages called him: the one who was to come, in order to bring salvation, peace on earth and goodwill to all men. They said that he would establish a kingdom of peace, who would free men from all fear. This was all written about Caesar Augustus in 17BC.

In 17BC, a strange star appeared in the sky; so there at his father's funeral basically, and this strange star appeared in the sky. In those days, they employed people to do nothing but look at stars, so when this huge strange star appears in the sky, there was no question that people would notice it. He is at this big party, he has all of these witnesses, and they say: look, there's a strange big star appearing in the sky - and then it shot off.

Caesar Augustus said: that's proof that Julius Caesar was god, and he's ascending to the right hand of the gods. I am the son of god, and therefore now I am god, and should be worshipped. Caesar Augustus substantiated his claims to his god-ness by a strange star in the sky, which appeared in 17BC. His logic went like this: since I am the son of god, therefore I should be worshipped; so he established a 12-day celebration of his birth, which he called ‘Advent’.

At the end of the year, there was a 12-day period of time, where you had to go to celebrate the birth of the son of god, at a season called Advent.

At Advent, Caesar Augustus offered a few things to his followers: first was forgiveness of sins; second was a fresh start, a clean slate for the next year; and third was the opportunity to bring homage and gifts and worship him. Oh, and also everybody put on green and red sweaters with snowmen on them!

Caesar Augustus sets this thing up. Are you following me here, that the historians of that day, that are writing about the belief system of that day, are saying that: Augustus Caesar was the one who would bring salvation, peace on earth, good will to all men, a kingdom of peace who would free men from all fear. He would offer forgiveness and a fresh start to all of his followers who worshipped him. This was the days of Caesar Augustus.

Why wouldn’t God choose these days to reveal Himself in Jesus? For 17 years, He let the Roman Empire shoulder the financing of such horrible and huge marketing propaganda - that there's such a thing as ‘God’, existing in a man - and it went through the entire world!

If you lived in 17BC, and you wanted to get a message out from Spain to India - there's no printing press! There's no internet, mass email, TV, or any kind of mass media. There are town-criers, but that would be a far cry to get it from Spain - by the time that message got from Spain to India you'd have it all messed up.

If you wanted to get a message out to the entire empire, the way they did it was: they printed it on coins. They printed it on their money - because money would find its way through the whole empire very, very quickly.

As people living in 17BC, any time you wanted to know what the government was trying say, you would read your money - and there were messages on the money all the time from the government. It was kind of like a local news bulletin. They'd print it on the money, send it out, and then you'd read your money, and that was the message the government was trying to get you to see.

So they wanted to print a message on the Advent coins; and that message said: Caesar is lord, and there is no other name on earth by which men might be saved. Then they send these coins out everywhere.

Also historians say that the people believed that Augustus Caesar would be the bringer of peace on earth, goodwill to all men, a kingdom of peace, and he would also be a ‘multiplier of bread for his followers’. Do you see how, if Jesus is living and teaching in the days of Caesar Augustus - do you see how, a lot of what He did in His life, was not just teaching for a living - it was actually a political revolution.

The people believed that: Caesar Augustus is god, and this was substantiated by a large star in the sky, and that he would be a multiplier of bread for all people; then all of a sudden you have a rabbi who was born - and kings from other nations saw a large star in the sky to substantiate His birth. Then one of His first miracles is, He's standing in a place, and He has five loaves and two fish - and He multiplies the bread for His people.

This is not just meeting people's needs and letting them eat. This is a political revolution, that's saying: they've told you that the Caesars are god; but I'm here to tell you they're not the real deal - I am. My birth was established by a large star in the sky too, see? It was God one-upping everything they were trying to do.

Now what was the problem with this? They said that he would establish a kingdom of peace, but did Caesar Augustus establish a kingdom of peace? No, He ruled with fear. He didn't rule with peace, he had a giant army, with men with 70-pound packs, who could go into a town called Magdala, and rape every woman there without any fear of consequences. That's how he ruled the world. He ruled the world by teaching Roman soldiers to degrade people.

In those days, everybody had two hands: the right hand was the clean one! This was the one everybody wanted to sit at - the right hand of... something. It was the clean hand. The left hand was the dirty hand, primarily because they didn't have toilet paper – the same in India (and other places) today.

In those days, if I wanted to challenge you to a physical altercation - if we were socially equal, I would slap you with my right hand, because it's my clean hand, we're socially equal. We're socially and economically on the same page.

But if I saw you as a slave, or somebody underneath me, I would hold you with my right, and I would slap you with my left - essentially hitting you in the face with my poo-poo hand!

So it wasn't just: I'm slapping you; it was a degrading, you are below me. Remember when they came to Jesus, and they said: teach us how to live; and He said: if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other cheek?

In other words, there's two ways to respond, if someone slaps you on your right cheek. You can attack them back - which that's going to get you killed; or you can just cop it - which that's going to take your dignity away.

Historians called Jesus the ‘Rabbi with the Third Way’. The third way to handle it is to ‘turn the other cheek’. A Roman soldier attacking a Jewish person would use their left hand, because they saw them as slaves.

If I'm going to slap this man on his right cheek, I use my left; so Jesus says: if someone slaps you on your right cheek, the answer is not to fight back, but to turn the other cheek. Make them slap you with their right hand.

A Roman soldier would have died before he would have slapped a Jew with his right hand, because it would have meant they would be declaring publicly: we are socially equal.

Jesus is saying: make it to where, if you hit me again, you're going to slap me as equals; and they won't hit you, in the days of Caesar Augustus.

It was also totally lawful in those days, that big Roman soldiers could come in here, and they had these big 70-pound packs. They could say: we've got 10 miles to walk today, so you're going to carry my pack. They never carried their own packs - they would make the Jews to do it. They'd say: you're going to carry my pack the next mile, then you the next, and you the next, and you the next - so I need 10 people. We've got a whole platoon of us here, so everybody's going to carry our packs a mile.

It was lawful for a Roman soldier to ask a Jew to carry his pack a mile, but more than a mile was cruelty - because when you're raping and pillaging the whole world, you have to worry about being cruel.

So Jesus says: if someone asks you to carry their pack one mile, go two. Get a reputation for going above and beyond.

Roman law, according to Josephus, says that if a Roman soldier was caught making a slave carry his pack more than a mile, he would be court marshalled, and docked a week's pay. So Jesus says: you want to get one-up on the Roman soldiers, next time they ask you to carry their pack a mile, gladly do it - and at the mile mark, take off running. You'll have a Roman soldier chasing you down, trying to get you to stop! Jesus was brilliant! He was brilliant, in the days of Caesar Augustus.

Caesar Augustus was said to have established a ‘kingdom of peace’, but instead he established a ‘kingdom of fear’. Caesar Augustus got followers through forced confession. He'd have big guys come in and put crosses in your front yard. The Ku Klux Klan did not make that up - Roman soldiers made that up: a cross in the front yard - ultimate intimidation, forced confession.

He financed his kingdom with oppressive taxes, extreme taxation on folks. Some historians agree that in Galilee, which is where Jesus grew up - in Galilee, between temple tax, wages tax, goods and services tax, that they were all paying about 80% of their wages to taxes.

People were losing land, which had been given to them since the Book of Judges. The people couldn't maintain the land, so a very few rich people would come in, and they'd buy the land off these people. Then they would either: make them slaves on their own land; or the people would leave, and go to another town, and pick up a trade.

How many of Jesus' stories are started by saying the kingdom of God is like a group of people, and they're working this land that they don't own, but they really care about it? Everybody had been standing there going: that's us - He's talking about us. We're the kingdom of God.

How can we be the kingdom of God? We're slaves. What's going on here? People were losing everything, so they had to go make a living somewhere else. Now with that as the backdrop let's look at Luke 2, and it happened in the days of Caesar Augustus...

Everything we just described, that the entire world should be taxed, as if they weren't doing that enough. This taxing was first made when Quirinius was governor of Syria; and all went to be registered, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee (to be taxed), out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David - which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David.

So what does that tell you about Joseph (Jesus' Father on earth)? It meant that he had lost his land, and now he was forced to work as a carpenter in Nazareth – this vastly affected him.

He took Mary, his betrothed wife, being with child. While they were there, the days for her deliverance was fulfilled, and she brought forth her Son, the firstborn and wrapped Him and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“In the same country, there were shepherds living in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came on them and the glory of the Lord shone around about them and they were grievously afraid.”

In Hebrew culture, an angel did not invoke comfort. We like to think about ‘guardian angels’ and stuff - it makes us feel good; but to a Hebrew culture, they did not want to see angels - it meant that death was imminent.

The first angel in the whole Bible was an angel set to guard the tree of life in the garden - and if you came by, you would be killed. There were angels over the mercy seat, and even if the high priest went behind that, he would be killed. There were angels sewn into the veil that separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies - angels were sewn into there! The statement was: get back, get back! Death is imminent!

They put 30 foot-wide angels over the top of the Holy of Holies, on the outside - communicating clearly to people: back off. The only place I can find in the whole Bible that describes what an angel looks like is in Ezekiel 10, and Ezekiel has this vision. It says: 'wheels-within-wheels.

The word is: ophanim-within-ophanim; ophals - like ophthalmology. It was the word for angels e.g. cherubim, seraphim and ophanim.

He said: I'm seeing these cherubim, and they've got ophanim all around them; and in his description of what an angel looked like, it said it had ‘four faces’. So you've got this creature with four faces, with eyes all over their body, eyes all over their wings, eyes all over their backs. Four faces - so you can't sneak up on them; and wherever an angel moved, the faces and the eyes went with them; and when the angel lifted his wings, there were eyes, within eyes, within eyes, within eyes. If you saw that on TV - you would turn it off before your children saw it! But this was an angel!

Remember in Isaiah, an angel appears to him; and it says that he fell down and pretended like he was dead? Like, no need - I'm dead already!

Any time an angel appears to a man, it always invokes immediate fear - and they always start the same way. If they're going to kill him, they're just going to kill him; if they're not going to kill him, what do they always say?

“Fear not, for I bring you good news”.

In other words: fear not - I'm not here to kill you (it was the exception to the rule). When an angel appeared to you, you thought you were dead.

So there's this group of shepherds, and this angel appears, and the glory of the Lord shone around about; and it says: they were grievously afraid - and watch what the angel says...

Now remember, in the days of Caesar Augustus - this is what the angel says: “And the angel said to them: do not fear, for behold, I give you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour - and His name is Christ, and He is Lord.”

In other words, Caesar isn't Lord - Jesus is. To the shepherds, living in the days of Caesar Augustus - Caesar Augustus was Lord; but now you have angels appearing in heaven, and they're saying: Caesar isn't Lord, Jesus is.

The shepherds would have got excited, because Caesar had promised ‘peace on earth’, and ‘goodwill to all men’ - but he didn't deliver. He delivered fear and oppression, and 80% taxes - and ultimate fear of losing land that had been in your father's possession since the Book of Judges.

He was not a good king; and now, from the sky, it's being announced that there is another king. This is a sign to you: you will find a Baby wrapped lying in a manger. Suddenly there was an angel, and a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying:

”Glory to God in the highest; and on earth, peace and goodwill to all men!”

God is saying: if you want to substantiate yourself with celestial signs, I'll give you celestial signs - I'll give it to you! I'll put a large star in the sky; I'll get kings to come from other nations; we'll put up a multitude of heavenly hosts; witnesses everywhere!

How fast do you think the word would have spread: listen, there's a new king in town!

This threatened Herod, who was the token king of the Caesar. Herod ordered that all the baby boys should be killed.

That tells you who the real God is. If I say: I'm God; and you say: you're God; then whoever the real God is - He's the one that's not scared! He's the one that's not threatened!

Even later in His life, they were saying of Jesus: You say You're the king of the Jews? You say this? He goes: yeah, it is what you say. He goes: ah, whatever. Essentially, at Jesus' trial, this was Jesus' answer to everything: whatever. At the end of the day, I'm going to win, you're going to lose - do whatever you want to do. Like, whoever the real God is, isn't afraid;

“And it happened, as the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another: indeed, let us go to Bethlehem, and see this thing which has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. And hurrying they came and sought out both Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in the manger. In seeing, they publicly told about the words spoken to them concerning this child, and all those who heard marvelled about the things spoken to them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things in her heart”.

Sometimes the best thing to do, when God shares something with you, is to keep it in your heart. Sometimes people can't handle it.

“...and the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.” - because they were living in the days of Caesar Augustus.

Caesar Augustus versus Jesus Christ:

Caesar Augustus ruled with violence; Jesus Christ ruled with peace.

Caesar Augustus ruled by ruling and oppression; Jesus Christ ruled by serving.

Caesar Augustus said my way of life says: you gain authority by oppression; Jesus said, My way of life is: you gain authority through generosity.

If someone asks you to go one mile, go two; you'll be in charge. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other cheek; you'll be in charge. That authority is never through oppression, but through generosity and serving.

Caesar Augustus was all about government care: who's going to take care of the poor? The government will - it's the start of socialism. Jesus Christ said: no, we need to have community care, where we all meet the needs of other people together.

The biggest difference between Augustus Caesar and Jesus is: one is dead; and one lives.

I don't have to tell you, history tells us, that the Jews and the Romans came together, and they killed Jesus. They thought that by killing Him, they could ruin His way of life.

I can imagine the conversation between Jesus and Satan in hell. He'd be like: man, you thought that you could end My way of life by killing Me, but let Me tell you what I'm going to do:

I'm not going to get even at anybody who wronged Me - I'm going to forgive them all. I'm going to actually cook breakfast on the beach for the very people who abandon Me, in four days time. Four days later, Jesus is cooking breakfast on the beach, for the very people who disowned Him at His time of need - and He didn't even bring the sin up.

He just said: do you love Me today? They said: yes. He said: let's go!

What does this mean for us? It means that Jesus is Lord - and He gets the last word; Caesar doesn't get the last word, Jesus does.

Who is the Caesar in your life? What's ruling your life, other than God? What's causing you to feel driven by something else? What represents the entity in your life that takes you down the road you don't want to go to - the road of sadness, and shame, and guilt?

The message of Luke 2 is this: there's a new Lord in town - and He's the real one. He's going to live - the other's going to die. Jesus gets the last word, not Caesar.

Anger doesn't get the last word - God does. Lies in your head don't get the last word - God does. Unforgiveness doesn't get the last word - God does. Feeling disheartened doesn't get the last word - God does. When you're doing all you can do, and it still doesn't work - God still gets the last word. Greed doesn't get the last word - God does. Failure can't have the last word - God does. Rejection can't have the last word - God does.

Is Jesus the Lord of your life; or is the oppressor? Where have we settled for the oppressor, instead of the lordship of Jesus Christ? The oppressor rationalises sin, and keeps us in bondage. The oppressor tells us you can't do what's right. The oppressor tells us that your feelings rule you; just don't do anything you don't feel like doing - your feelings rule you. The oppressor tells you that you're in bondage to your emotions now. The oppressor tells you that you're the most important person in your universe.

That's what the oppressor says - but that doesn't get the last word. There's a real Lord, and He's come to town - His name is Jesus Christ; and we are called to reveal Him to the world, and not the Caesar; we're called to be a group of people who reveal the lordship of Jesus Christ, not the lordship of our slave-driver.

So let me just end this with a couple of application questions:

1) What's oppressing you?

2) Is Jesus Lord, or is the oppressor lord?

In my last prayer this morning, I talked about building a throne, and there can only be one king. The Bible says that as we worship, we build a throne, that God is enthroned upon it.

Do you realise that in a kingdom. there's only room for one king; so wherever Caesar is lord in your life, when you build a throne for Jesus Christ in it, there's only room for one king - and the oppressor leaves.

Who's oppressing you? Is Jesus Lord, or is the oppressor?

3) Who are you oppressing? Who are you guilty of being Caesar in their life (maybe by our apathy)?

The last question I want to ask, and this is the most important question is:

4) What does your coin say? What does the coin of your life say?

If I was to ask the 10 closest people in your life, if you could sum up the motto of that person's life in one sentence, what would it be?

Does your coin say: my oppressor is lord? Does your coin say: my anger is lord?

Let me ask it this way: if a Buddhist monk from China, or Cambodia, an educated Buddhist monk, who had memorised all the teachings of a rabbi named Jesus (just because he wants to be educated) - if he looked at a video of your life, would he know that you're a follower of Rabbi Jesus? Or would he think you're a follower of: anger, rage, resentment, malice, slander, filthy language?

If we looked at a video of your life, what does your coin say? Does your coin say: anger is lord? Does your coin say: rejection is lord? Depression is lord? Emotions are lord?

What does your coin say, because the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is: those things don't get to be lord - Jesus gets the last word.

Whatever the coin of your life says, is what is getting passed around your community - and that is what is affecting everybody else.

We can be a group of people that our coins say: Jesus is Lord - and not just lip service; our lives say: Jesus is Lord - and in that, we become kingdom people; because Jesus gets the last word, and not Caesar.

I bless you tonight to know that in Luke 2, when Jesus decided to be born in one of the worst times in human history - Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave. But bigger than that for us today, Jesus conquered Caesar.

Do you realise that 100 years from this point, Christians are ruling the place? By Constantine – Constantine is going: yeah, Christianity is the only way.

Christianity, the way of Jesus Christ, conquered not just death, hell and the grave - but it conquered every oppressor in our life.

I bless you today to know that you can go home tonight, knowing that whatever your coin said before, it doesn't have to say it now. You can be delivered from all those things, because Jesus is Lord, and He wants that to be on our coins. Let's pray together.

Closing Prayer

Now Lord, You're the best. You're the best, like truly the best.

We just stop and we repent for having something else on our coins. We repent Lord, for living life in a way that: we get to go to heaven one day; and phooey on everything else. No, You called us to a better life.

Forgive us God, for not being the people who carry the coins that say: Jesus is Lord. May the coin of our life communicate to the world around us that Jesus is Lord - not by necessarily tracts and witnessing and all that stuff - but by our lives, the way we respond, the way we talk, the way we act, our compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love light. May that be the case God.

Lord, I pray for whatever's oppressing us, that it would be released now. If there's someone who's being oppressed of the devil in his entire way, I pray that just right now, as I'm talking, that You would release them from that hold, that that stronghold would be released from their life, and a deep inner knowing, of knowing that Jesus is Lord of this situation - that deep inner knowing, would just settle over us now.



Bowl or Birthright (Shane Willard)  

Sun 27 Apr 2008 AM « Back to Top

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The most hated man in the whole Bible, by far the most foolish man who ever lived. This guy was basically an honest, hard-working man, who traded everything he could be, for one meal - just beans.

Introduction

I want to talk to you this morning about the most hated man in the whole Bible - Genesis 25:27-34.

I want to talk to you about decisions that we make, and what a lot of things come down to. The Bible is full of awesome things; people fulfilling great potential, and doing great things for God - like the stories of David and Goliath.

Normally when we retell (or illustrate) the story of David, we make him a small, little boy. David was like a trained assassin - he killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands! This was a guy that you just wouldn't want to run into. He just happened to be the youngest, the runt of the litter, so to speak, in terms of age and hierarchy. However, he goes up against Goliath; so no matter how bad David was - he was the underdog.

Instead of following the crowd (of the whole armies of Israel), he steps up and says: I am going to make a difference; and He steps out to do it. Something happens inside of us, when we read stories like that, and we go: yes!

Like Noah standing against the whole culture – he would have been ridiculed, and made fun of. I loved Evan Almighty, because it retold the story of what would have happened if a person in power started building a boat proclaiming there's a flood.

Yet you read it, and you see it all work out, and you're like: yes! This is incredible! The Bible's full of stories like that; about people who kind of make their way and get free.

Mary Magdalene, and Peter, and guys like James and John - the sons of Thunder - you didn't get that nickname going to Sunday school; and Jesus takes people like that and He moulds them into something bigger.

But then there are also sad things; and that starts in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve have oneness with God; and they trade perfect oneness for likeness - a chance to be like God - which is a really bad trade.

They traded: oneness with God; for a chance to have their life defined by how well they navigate good and evil.

No matter which side of the tree of knowledge and good and evil you pick from, it's the wrong side, because ultimately it messes you up. If you make 100 decisions in a day, and 98 of them are good, and 2 of them are evil, you go to bed thinking about the evil. It just messes us up - no matter what side of that tree.

So you have pictures of people all through the Bible, that God had these great plans for; and then, for whatever reason, they sold it out for something way, way cheaper.

Main Message

I want to read you one of these stories from Genesis 25. This guy is the most hated man in the whole Bible. All through history, the rabbis have called him: by far the most foolish man who ever lived.

You would think that this guy would have been a child-sacrificer, or an adulterer, murderer, fornicator, or some kind of big sin. If they'd had heroin back then – then heroin! But this guy was basically an honest, hardworking man, who traded everything he could be, for one meal.

“The boys grew up, and Esau became a skilful hunter, a man of the open country”.

You guys think I'm a redneck? Ya'll are rednecks! I mean what I was seeing those guys do back there last night - that's redneck. They were eating with no forks! I made my plate, and I said: where are the forks? They said: this is a men's meeting - we don't need forks. I was like: oh, right, yeah! Rednecks!

So in this culture we like that. We like this guy already: Esau, a skilful hunter - a man of the open country; while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents - which is basically staying at home.

Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

You've got this basically honest, hardworking guy - a skilful hunter, a man of the open country. He has one brother, and the other brother is basically a mama's boy, a homebody - and you get a clue as to why. Jacob loved the older brother more; and Rebekah loved the younger brother more.

So you have this family dynamic, where the dad loves one son more. How many of you know that it's messed up already? The dad loves one son more; so the mother compensates, by loving the other one more.

Jacob's name meant: deceiver, or liar. The Hebrew idea of Satan was ‘arch-deceiver’, so the Hebrew idea of Satan is actually: arch-Jacob; or King Jacob.

So Jacob's name meant liar, deceiver. Imagine that; go to bed liar, get up liar, do your chores liar, come to dinner liar, like all his whole life.

So this boy grew up with a dad who he knew loved his brother more; and with a mum who loved him more; and his whole life he was called liar. Over the course of time, it messed him up, as you can imagine.

It says: once when Jacob was cooking some stew... and that’s homebody, mama's-boy stuff. I mean look - there are men today who can't cook stew!

Jacob was cooking some stew; and Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob: quick, let me have some of that red stew, because I'm famished. That is why today he is called Edom - that's a slam. That's a joke that they're making at him.

Jacob replied: first sell me your birthright. Look, I'm about to die, Esau said. What good is my birthright to me? That's the key phrase in the whole passage: what good is my birthright to me?

But Jacob said: swear to me first; so he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave him some bread, and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, then he got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.

There’s all of this imagery, and this isn't just a story about two brothers in the ancient Near East; it’s a story about me and you. Where do you find yourself in this story? Who are you in this story?

He's just hungry, and he says: quick, give me some of that red stew. Now in Hebrew he just says: “Edom, Edom”. They didn't have any adverbs, so if they wanted to say something with exclamation, they would just say it twice (or three times). So if they wanted to say ‘peace’, they would say ‘shalom’; but if they wanted to say ‘really serious peace’ they'd say ‘shalom shalom’. If they wanted to say: ‘a peace that surpasses all understanding’ they'd say ‘shalom shalom shalom’.

So when he goes in he says: 'edom, 'edom; which just means: the red, the red.

King James version says: give me some of that red, give me some of the red. They add stew in the NIB, because it doesn't make sense otherwise. Let me just say it this way: give me some of that red stuff, that red stuff. I really, really, really, want the red stuff - 'edom, 'edom.

The Hebrew word for red is 'edom; and the Hebrew word for blood is dam. Blood was a mysterious substance to the Hebrew people, because if you ran out of it, you died - but you couldn't see it. It was a life source (the life is in the blood).

So he comes in and he goes 'edom, 'edom, give me some of that red stuff, that red stuff. Give me some of that life source, that life source; and you see the imagery played out in his dialogue. He says: I'll die if I don't get the red stuff, I'll die.

Jacob sees that his eye has hooked to the red stuff, and it started multiplying, to the point where he convinced himself he would die if he didn't have it. Has that ever happened to us, where we thought wanted something so bad that we would die without it? It is the 'edom, 'edom.

In that moment, there was a decision created, and that decision was this: there was a bowl, and there was a birthright.

Jacob says: sell me your birthright first. Then Esau makes the stupidest statement in the whole Bible, saying: “what good is my birthright to me, if I'll die without what's in the bowl”? What good is my birthright to me?

It says that he despised his birthright, meaning to profane it. It's the word profane, where we get the word profanity. It means to take something that was sacred, and treat it as common.

He treated his birthright as profanity, taking something as sacred as: God's call on his life; and he traded it for a bowl.

They make fun of him, and throw in a slam. Moses said: so that's why, from this day forward, they called him “Edom, Edom”, which means “the red man”.

The Edomites came from the red region - they were descendants from the “red man”.

From this day forward, everybody reminded him of this one decision he made, to trade everything he could be for a bowl of 'edom, 'edom.

Birthright, first of all, was: the carrying of the family name for survival. Birthright was everything. They were nomadic people - all related. Everybody picked up tents and just went; and their aunts and uncles lived next to them. Your carrying of your family name was huge for the survival of the surname - symbolic of everything your family stood for; it reflected on the whole family.

Birthright entitled you to twice the inheritance - a double portion - compensation for all the responsibility you had as a first born.

He said: what good is my birthright to me?

A birthright was a summary statement of everything a person could be, a destiny, a family tree, everything they could be; and he traded everything he could be, for one momentary urge - the 'edom, 'edom.

Have you ever traded God's best for your life, for one momentary urge? Has your eye ever hooked to something, and even though it wasn't of God, it wasn't a part of God's plan for your life, you convinced yourself: 'edom, 'edom - I'll die without what's in that bowl?

Satan always says: yep, trade me your birthright first; then I'll give it to you. He never lets you taste what's in the bowl first. Trade everything you could be; then I'll give you, what you think you'll die without.

How many can attest, that once you trade everything you could be, for one urge - once you have the urge, it wasn't worth it? It just wasn't worth it. Some of us have made decisions so poor in this that every day we're reminded: I traded what I could be, for one bowl. I traded everything I could be for one bowl. The Bible is full of stuff like this.

Exodus 3:10-11 , God is talking to Moses saying: now go. I'm sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. But Moses said to God: who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? So God says: Moses, I have this huge plan for you, this huge birthright, this huge destiny. I want you to be responsible for getting 3-5 million people out of slavery into freedom. That's huge - and I've called you to do it; and Moses says: why me?

Exodus 4:10-12 the conversation goes on for the whole chapter. Moses said to the Lord: O Lord, I have never been eloquent - neither in the past, or since You have spoken to Your servants; I am slow of speech and tongue. And the Lord said to him: who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight, or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go. I will help you speak, and I will teach you what to say.

God is saying: Moses, I've got this plan for you, this huge birthright; but Moses trades it in for a bowl that says: I'm not qualified. God is saying: I have this huge plan for you; and he said: yeah, but I got a 'C' in public speaking. Moses is essentially saying: I don't have the skill.

In Judges 6:14-16, the Lord turned to him and said - go in the strength you have, and save Israel out of Midianites hands. Am I not sending you? Gideon asked: But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least of my family. The Lord answered: I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites.

The same group of people gets out of slavery; then ends up in slavery again; and God shows up to a man named Gideon. He says: Gideon, I want you to go get all these people free; and Gideon's like: yeah, have you seen my family? They're white-trash (or olive trash)! Like, have you seen where I come from?

I'm the least of the tribes, the least of the clan, the least of the family - this isn't me! Once again, an excuse - so one excuse was: I don't have the skill; the other excuse was: I don't have the heritage.

Jeremiah 1:4-8 - the word of the Lord came to me, saying: before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as the prophet to the nations. I said: Oh sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a child; but the Lord said to me: do not say ‘I'm only a child’. You must go to everyone I send you to, and say whatever I command you to. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you, and will rescue you, declares the Lord.

Once again, I have this huge plan for you Jeremiah – huge; but Jeremiah says: yeah, but I don't have the maturity. We're always making excuses. The 'edom, 'edom. How many of us at times have traded everything we could be, for one momentary urge?

Matthew 23, Jesus is mourning over Jerusalem, because Israel was called to be a light to the nations.

Exodus 3 - God chose to rescue these people out of slavery, and put them into freedom; so God's big idea started with taking a group of oppressed, marginalised people, and moving them out of slavery and into freedom.

Isaiah 49:6 says it is a light thing, that I would just forgive you. The heavier thing is you being a light to the nation.

So in Matthew 23:37-39, here's a group of people who have had this huge destiny on their life, to be a light to the nations; but if you know the history of Israel - they didn't do it. They didn't measure up.

Jesus is mourning, and He says: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who have killed the prophets, and stoned those sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look! Your houses is now left desolate; you will not see Me again until you say: Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Israel, I've got this huge plan for you – huge; but you were not willing. You've chosen the bowl, instead of the birthright. You had this huge birthright, but you chose the bowl. You chose the urge to kill the prophets, because they were challenging your thinking. You chose the urge to live for yourself, instead of living for your birthright. You chose the bowl instead of the birthright.

Colossians 3:5-10, Paul says this: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived; but now you must rid yourself of all such things: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off the old self with its practices, and put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge of the Creator day by day.

Paul is saying: you used to live with a bowl. You used to live from urge, to urge, to urge, to urge, to urge. You used to live that way - but now I want you to live for the birthright. Will you live for the bowl; or will you live for the birthright?

The huge part of this is that: forgiveness is not the issue. Does God forgive sexual immorality, impurity, greed, lust, malice, slander, anger? Does God forgive all those things? Yes.

Jesus said: every sin a man commits will be forgiven him - except for unforgiveness, and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Of course He forgives him. It's not a matter of forgiveness; it's a matter of: your birthright or your bowl.

It's a matter of: are you living for your best life. Will the story of your life read: my life was defined by my destiny; or, my life was defined by my bowl?

Hebrews 12:16-17 mentions Esau again:

“See to it that no one is sexually immoral, or is Godless - like Esau”.

Esau was really just an honest, hardworking guy, who made one bad decision to eat stew - and he sold it for his birthright. That's all he ever did.

Hebrews 11 is that list that we call the Hall of Faith - heroes of the faith. Abraham gave his wife to Pharaoh's harem; Isaac did something similar. Samson was sleeping with prostitutes on his wedding night, because he got depressed, because his best man stole his wife. Jephtha sacrificed his own daughter on an altar he created, because of a rash vow.

David committed adultery, got the woman pregnant; and then to cover it up, decided to kill her husband. In trying to kill her husband, he ended up killing 17 men in one day, trying to kill one to cover up a sin he did. He made it into the heroes.

Moses, a premeditated murderer: I looked this way and that, and seeing no one: I killed the man, and hid him in the sand - hero of the faith.

Somehow they all worked it out, to where they were heroes of the faith; but then you've got a guy who was an honest, hardworking guy, who just came in one day, and was so hungry he thought he would die without the 'edom, 'edom.

He traded his birthright for one bowl and now everybody picks on him: See to it that no one is Godless like Esau – who, for a single meal, sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.

Afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind - even though he sought it with tears!

The word ‘Godless’ there, we also translate ‘profane’, or ‘despised’, in the Old Testament. He's saying: why did they hate him so bad?

These other guys, they made awful mistakes; but in their hearts, they were men after God. You could be a man after God, and make a horrible mistake, but what they say about Esau is this: in his heart, he lived as though there was no higher purpose for his life than a bowl.

What good is my birthright to me? Are you kidding me?

In other words, there's no higher purpose in my life than my urges. Nothing else matters, except for my urges.

1) Do we live as though there's no higher purpose, profaning our destiny?

If you were to do an honest self-assessment of your life today, do you live for the birthright; or do you live as if there's no higher purpose than what you want and feel like doing today?

This is some pop psychology man, I'm telling you, I'm a trained psychologist, and I have heard psychologists tell clients: you don't have to do anything you don't feel like doing.

Hello! How's that going to work? Put that into a marriage: Wife, you don't have to do anything you don't feel like doing. Husband, you don't have to do anything you don't feel like doing. Of course, they only tell the wife that one; Men just have to suck it up!

Do we live like there's no higher calling for our life - a higher calling to be called into the image of Jesus Christ, to live what His destiny is for us?

2) This pattern simply leads us from living from urge to urge.

Is your life defined from living from bowl to bowl; or is it defined by something larger? Do you find yourself giving in to the bowl, all the time? Do you find your eye's getting hooked to things, all the time? 'edom, 'edom - and then when that wears off you get another 'edom, 'edom. Then when that wears off you've got another 'edom, 'edom, red stuff, red stuff, red stuff, red stuff, red stuff, red stuff?

Some examples: sexuality, walking too close to the line of urge to urge. The hunger drive and the sex drive are the two biggest drives God gave us; but it can also be a bowl.

How about: the urge to talk about other people badly, to slander other people, to talk about all the negative things people are going through? We profane them, when God made them in righteousness and true holiness; and they're going through something, but we profane them. It's an urge that we have.

How about taking no regard for what we put in our body? One more piece of cake, it's an urge - it's the 'edom, 'edom. Yeah, I'll start my diet tomorrow, 'edom, 'edom. Red stuff, red stuff - I'll die without that piece of cake!

And how many of us have ever been in that situation where you resisted the piece of cake - and you actually felt so much better that you did? Once we eat the piece of cake, we always say: I shouldn't have done that. When I take something into my body, which can rob me of my birthright, we simply live from urge to urge.

Esau failed to live with a sense that there was something greater to his life. Esau was convinced, and what we get convinced about is: we'll die without it! It's the 'edom, the red, the life source - I'll die.

What good is my birthright to me? I have to have what's in that bowl! He was so convinced he would die without... beans! After he sold his birthright, Jacob gave him some lentil stew - Lentils are beans

A teenage girl came to my office, 16 or 17, and she thought that if she crossed the line sexually with him, it would make their relationship more meaningful; because she was convinced she was in love with him; and he was in love with her; and she thought by crossing the line sexually, that it would make their relationship better - and plus the normal urges, the 'edom, 'edom - and so she crosses the line with him sexually. Then after it's over, she looks over at him and thinks... beans! It was just beans!

Anyone who's ever lived for the next hit in an addiction - you live for it, the 'edom, 'edom - I've got to have it, I'll die without it. Then you have it, and after it's over, it's just beans.

The husband who thinks he might die without the next drink, so he takes it, and he ruins his family - and it's just beans. The mum who thinks that they have to yell, and talk down to their child to get things off their chest - they yell, and they desecrate their child, and they take all their dignity away - but at the end of that, it's just beans.

The person who has to just have the new car; I have to have the V8. Chicks dig the V8. I have to have it, so you go to the car lot. If you're a car salesman, listen - I grew up around the car business, I’m not making fun of you. I'm just telling you, at the car lot, car salesmen are trained professionals at 'edom, 'edom.

You NEED this car! Chicks dig the car! You deserve reliable transportation, 'edom, 'edom, 'edom. You trade every bit of financial peace you have, to buy something that's going to lose 50% of its value in three years - and you're going to pay 9% interest on it. Whoa!

Anybody ever had car fever besides me? The car salesman's can smell car-fever. They have a car-fever thermometer! They just don't tell you that it’s rectal! It's 'edom, 'edom, 'edom!

They put the payments off for 45 days, so it has time to wear off; then the first payment comes due, and you look in your garage, and you're like: I'm paying how much for this; and it's going down how fast in value? That was beans!

The impulse buyer, who just has to put it on a credit card... We buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't like!

I have a friend who's still paying for a beer he bought in 2001! He went through this season, he'd got partying a lot, and he's stupid, so he'd go out and say: everything's on me! He's still paying for that on his credit card – beans!

That person who just has to tell you all the news about 'x' person; so if you're going to be spiritual, you could pray about it. After they get it off their chest, after you've listened to it, you feel dirty, and it's just beans.

The church member who just can't resist the urge to be critical about their pastor - beans. The person who just has to be negative and critical about their husband - beans. The person who has to withdraw, and be mean to their wife - beans.

Amnon convinced himself he loved Tamar so much, that he said he became sick, and he thought he would die without her. She wouldn't have anything to do with him – but since he was so convinced that he'd die without having her, he raped her. After he raped her, he hated her more than he loved her - beans. Trading everything you can be, for a bowl of beans.

Luke 9:23, this is Jesus talking, and this sentence makes perfect sense without one word – “then He said to them, if anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. That sentence makes more sense without ‘daily’, but Jesus adds the word daily.

Today there's a paragraph written about your life, and you're the author; and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day. What Jesus wants us to avoid is this: getting to 75 years old, looking back on our life, and realising my life could have been so much more; but I allowed my life to be defined by a series of urges.

We can live our life from urge to urge, and it'll be defined by this thing - which is just beans; or we can take up our cross daily, and remind ourselves every day that there's a destiny that God wants us to fulfil, such a higher purpose in my life - that my life doesn't have to be defined by the bowl. It can be defined by the birthright.

You serve a God who believes in you more than you believe in Him.

You have a God who has a birthright for you; and if you've given your life to the bowl up to this moment, He's willing to forgive you, give you a clean slate and go forth. There's a birthright for you. You can live as though there's a higher purpose.

To live as though there's no higher purpose than your urges, is profaning God's destiny for you. Say NO to the bowl, and enter into the birthright.I promise you this: If you eat what's in the bowl, at the end of the day, it's just beans.

Closing Prayer

Is there anybody here today that hasn’t made a decision to follow Jesus Christ?

My life has been defined from urge to urge. I'm at a point in my life where I realise how meaningless that is, and I want my life to matter. I need to start that journey, by crossing the line, and accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord; and accepting Him I want to be in His plan. That is the best way to live.

It's not the words of this prayer that save you, it's the response you've already made in your heart. You've made a decision in your heart to respond to God and that is so fantastic, but we're going to all pray this prayer with you.

“My Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for coming. Thank You for dying for me. I confess that I'm a sinner. I have no hope of saving myself, but You Lord, I ask You to forgive me, cleanse me, heal my heart, forgive me for my bowls, and enter me into my birthright, in Jesus' name. Amen.”

This has no power on you anymore! You don't have to live from urge to urge. Jesus died so sin doesn't have to be your master, that there's a bigger calling, a bigger birthright.



Becoming Less Important (Shane Willard)  

Sun 27 Apr 2008 PM « Back to Top

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Even in Hell, the rich man still thought he was better than the beggar: send Lazarus here to serve me in Hell; send him back to Earth to serve my family.

God is not looking to make ‘rich men’, but a nation of ‘wealthy stewards’, who use their money as God would have them use it - for the glory of God and the kingdom of God.

God would want every one of us to be so wealthy, that other nations would call us ‘blessed’ - but it's not wealth for our sake, so we could build bigger barns to store it, but wealth to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves.

Philippians 2:3 – “Let nothing be done through strife or vanity; but in humility of heart, let everyone consider others better than themselves.

Let everyone consider others better, consider others better. Now if we're honest, we have a problem with that. We have a real problem with that.

We have no problem saying: someone's better at something that me - he's a better singer than me; but to say somebody's ‘better than me’ - now we've got a problem.

But Paul's yoke, when he was summarising the way we're supposed to live, he says: consider others better - and I think, in one sentence, he summarises a successful life.

If we really considered others better, can you imagine what that would do to stress? 90% of the time we get stressed out, it’s about... other people. If we consider them better, it takes away our stress.

What would it do to anxiety and anger? What would happen to our anger problem if we simply could consider others better? What would happen to your job? What would happen with your relationship with that guy at work, you know, the one that you just really believe God should just go ahead and take him to heaven? That guy! What would happen if we could consider him better?

What would happen to road rage, when someone cuts you off on the busy streets of Hastings? This illustration works better in LA, but what would happen if someone cut you off in traffic? Do you point your finger at the sky - because he didn't get the memo, that where you were going is actually more important than where he's going? And then you drive by, and you have a little fish on you.

Does the girl at KFC know you're saved even if she messes up your order? Do we consider others better? Are we committed to bringing heaven to earth, or are we simply a group of people who are committed to going to heaven one day? Are we committed to bringing heaven to earth today? What would happen to our life, if we consider others better?

Could you imagine a marriage, where that was the case? Where both people were committed to considering the other one better?

Wives, what would happen if you committed inside yourself, to consider your husband better - to meet his needs first, whether he deserved it or not? It would be happier, and a lot less stress. It's pretty simple; we have like two needs (three if you count food). Both of our needs are free, and relatively enjoyable to you.

Husbands, what if you considered your wife better, and you made a commitment to meet her needs first? She has like 100 of them... So what if you husbands made a commitment to meet her 100, and she makes a commitment to meet your 2? I can tell you this: if you meet those two needs consistently, and predictably - that man will serve you, and die for you. Shout me down if I'm lying - am I telling the truth, men? Everybody say Amen!

Men, what if we could make a commitment to meet our wives needs - if we could get in there, and figure out what they are? That stuff will make you go crazy! But what if we did? What if, in our heart, we considered the other person better?

It's a summary statement of a successful life; of peace in our heart; of what it would be to overcome anger, of having peace in our home. It's a summary statement of a happy marriage; happy parenting; being happy in our job.

I want to talk about two aspects of that, and it's from the most disturbing passage of scripture that Jesus ever taught, in Luke 16. This is the only time that Jesus used the word ‘Hades’ in regards to somebody going there.

There are two mentions of hell; the first hell was called Gehenna - and that was hell on earth. There was a Gehenna hell, and it was an actual place in Jerusalem. Jesus used the word hell 18 times; 15 of the 18 times was Gehenna.

Gehenna was the place in 2 Chronicles 28, where they sacrificed children in fire. King Josiah in 2 Kings 23 desecrated it, and he said: we're not going to sacrifice children in fire any more. The problem was, the land was now worthless, and so there was this place of land called Gehenna in Jerusalem that was worthless - so they made it the town garbage dump.

They kept the fire going, and they threw dead bodies that couldn't afford a tomb. There were wolves and stuff, that would scavenge for food and they'd bite each other; so it became known as: the place where the fire doesn't die, and there's weeping and gnashing of teeth. It was an actual place on earth.

15/18 times He used the word ‘Hell’, it was Gehenna - hell on earth. 3/18 times, it was hell in the afterlife, Hades. This is the one you really want to avoid.

Hades is the one in Revelation. Death and Hades get picked up thrown into the lake of fire. This is the eternal one - and He only used this word three times, and only one time in regards to a person going there.

The 2 other times: one was when He said: woe to Capernaum, how can you state the condemnation of Hades?

The other was when He took His disciples to a place called Caesarea Philippi, the place of worship of the goat-god Pan. The goat-god Pan received worship through intimate acts with goats. There was a temple to the goat-god Pan on top of this rock, and the weight of the temple cracked the rock. There was a hole at the bottom, and they called it the Gates of Hades. People in Caesarea Philippi believed that if you didn't worship Pan properly, that the gates of Hades would open up, and you'd be swallowed into hell.

24 hours a day, seven days a week, there were people around the road, around the temple of the goat-god Pan, having intimate acts with goats, in order to keep Pan from swallowing them up into the gates of hell.

Jesus took His disciples there, and He stood over the Gates of Hell, and He said: upon this rock we can build a church, and not even the gates of Hades will prevail against it.

He only used the word Hades one other time, once - so it's really worth investigating.

Luke 16:19 – “There was a certain rich man, who was customarily clothed in purple and fine linen, and making merry in luxury every day.”

So there's this guy, and he's dressing every day like only special people get to dress once or twice (7 times a year) – “...and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full or sores and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. But even the dogs licked his wounds, and it happened that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side; and the rich one also died, but was buried.

“And in Hades, he lifted up his eyes, and being in torments; and he saw Abraham afar off, with Lazarus at his side. And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me - send Lazarus - that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I'm tormented in the flame.”

“But Abraham said: son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil - but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. And besides all this, there's a great chasm fixed between you and us, so that they desiring from here to you cannot, nor can you pass from there to us”.

“And he said: I beg you therefore father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment. Abraham said to him: they have Moses and the prophets - let them hear them.”

“And he said: no Father Abraham, but if one should go back from the dead, then they would repent; and he said: if they do not hear Moses and the prophets they will not be persuaded - even if one raises from the dead.

What an odd story. Jesus is totally breaking His modus operandi, totally breaking the way He normally does things. He's using the word Hades instead of Gehenna - that was breaking the mould. He's actually using the word Hades in terms of somebody going there.

His disciples, anybody standing there, who knew His teachings, would be going: that's a first! He starts the parable by saying: there's a certain rich man... so you it's not going to end good?

It's very easy for us to say: oh well - it's a rich man; I'm not rich. No, no, no - we're all rich.

If you drove here tonight, you're in the richest 8% of the whole world. If you have two cars you're in the richest 1.5% of the whole world. If you have two cars and a house, you're in the richest 0.5% of the whole world. We are the rich man - the rich man is us. This isn't a parable about a certain rich man and Lazarus and Abraham; this is a parable about me and about you; and about our basic attitude toward other people.

So the beggar gets laid at the rich man's gate, because people figured that the rich man could help him. The beggar was so helpless, he could not keep dogs from licking his wounds; but the rich man made a decision on earth, and that decision was this: I am better than him.

I do not have to engage that problem - I'm better than him. He kept Lazarus outside of his framework, outside of a gate - so the rich man on earth isolated, and elevated. He considered himself better. He thought he was better than Lazarus, and that he didn't have to engage a beggar who could not keep dogs from licking his sores.

The Bible says that in the afterlife, what you make happen for others, God makes happen for you. The rich man, who made hell on earth happen for the beggar - he ends up in torment in the afterlife.

On earth, the rich man chose isolation and elevation; so in the afterlife, God gave him exactly what he chose on earth: isolation and elevation. He became the centre of his whole universe - and that is called Hades, or Hell. To a Hebrew person, Hell is a place with no boundaries. It's a place where you can treat me any way you want.

In this story, Hell is a place of isolation and torment; but heaven is a place of feasting and fellowship. To be at “Abraham's side” is a Hebrew euphemism for “feasting”, because they leaned on each other's side to eat.

On earth Lazarus, cannot keep dogs from licking his wounds; but in the afterlife, he's feasting, and having a party in heaven with Abraham.

On earth, the Rich Man had his feasting, partying, and fine linen. He had his two cars, a boat, and a house. He had those things - but in hell he was isolated and tormented. That is the basis of the story.

Then there's this interesting dialogue between Abraham and the rich man. The rich man looks up, he notices Abraham and Lazarus, and he makes this series of requests.

Abraham says: there is a great chasm, which exists between me and you, so that people from here can't go to there - as if that was a problem (enough heaven, let's go fry); and people from you, can't come to us.

1) What kind of great chasm exists, that you can talk across?

2) What kind of great chasm exists, that you can recognise the face of somebody on the other side?

How big is this chasm? It can't be that big! It's not big enough, that the rich man can't say: hey, I think that's Abraham - I've seen pictures; and hey, there's the beggar - I remember the beggar, He was laid at my gate.

My first question is: what was the chasm? The focal point of the whole story is this chasm: we can't get to you; and you can't get to us. What is this chasm, that you can have a normal conversation across, and recognise the face of someone on the other side?

The clue is to be found in the rich man's requests. His first request was what? Have Lazarus dip his finger in water, and come stick it on my tongue - which is an odd request, isn't it? Have you ever had a conversation with somebody on fire? How about: HELP! PUT ME OUT!

To make a request for somebody to put one drop of water on his tongue - it makes no sense. Why? He's on fire!

1) It wouldn't solve his problem - he'd still be on fire

2) It wouldn't help at all! One drop of water on your tongue is not going to help!

What is this about; and how does this give us a clue as to what the great chasm is?

On Earth, the rich man's problem was: he thought he was better than the beggar. He thought: I don't have to engage that, I'm better than him. He is in hell now. This is only time Jesus used the word Hades, in terms of somebody going there.

He is in Hell - and he still thinks he's better than the beggar! He's in hell - he's on fire. This man is on fire - and he's still saying: Abraham, that beggar beside you, can you send him to hell to serve me. That's his place.

I don't care that the decisions I'm making, are going to cause that man to come to hell. It doesn't matter - send him to hell to serve me. This man is on fire, and he still thinks he's better than the beggar. He still doesn't get it!

Finally, for the first time in the beggar's life, somebody stands up for him. Abraham says: no, it doesn't work that way. We're not doing that.

So what was the rich man's second request? Send him back to earth - to serve my family. Now how's that going to work out for Lazarus?

Lazarus lived in Hell-on-Earth, for far too long - couldn't keep dogs from licking his wounds; and now the rich man is on fire, and he's suggesting that Lazarus be sent back to earth - to serve him. Once again, I don't care how the decisions, that I'm making, affect him.

This man is on fire, and he still doesn't get it; so Abraham stands up for him again - and finally he argues with Abraham. He says: no Father Abraham, that's not how it works. Let me tell you how it works...

How are you going to argue with Father Abraham? The man has his own song - kids all over the world today are singing it!

Plus, in this story, who appears to be in charge? Abraham appears to be in charge - and he's arguing with the guy in charge!

On earth, this guy thought he was better than everybody. He didn't have to engage the cry of the hopeless, because he was better than that - and in hell, his heart still hasn't changed.

His heart is still full of Pride, and Greed - those two things. Pride - where he puts himself first; and Greed - where he isn't generous. He still wants Lazarus to come to hell to serve him.

On the surface, this story on earth, it appears that the poor man needs the rich man's help. They lay him at his gate - and it appears that the poor man needs the rich man's help; but in reality, the rich man needs the poor man's help. The poor man needed the rich man to feed his stomach; but the rich man needed the poor man to humble his heart - and the rich man responds very poorly, which cost him an eternity.

This is a story all about our tendency to be selfish and greedy. This is a story all about, what the Hebrew people called, the Yetzer Hara - our evil inclination, our inclination to put ourself first.

In Jesus' whole ministry, the only person that Jesus talked about going to Hades was this guy - and Jesus' ministry was full of sinners!

I'm talking about: people caught in the act of adultery; thieves on a cross - and the people who murdered Him by nailing Him to a cross; a woman who was divorced five times, and shacked up with the sixth one; all kinds of evil, nasty stuff was going on, but this is the only guy that Jesus thought was worthy of Hades.

The only person in Jesus' whole ministry, who did something so unspeakably heinous, that God killed him - was the guy who built bigger barns. He had more than enough food, and instead of sharing it with the hungry, he built bigger barns for himself.

Jesus said: that's it – God is going to kill you tonight. Like this is serious, serious stuff.

Greed was people who say: there are no big sins and small sins - that's true in terms of consequences and ramifications; and that's true in terms of heaven and being saved. It only takes a small bit of uncleanness to send you away from the presence of God.

In terms of ‘the sin that leads to every other sin’, it was greed. Jesus said: the love of money is the root of all evil. The #1 sin to Jesus was greed; and this is a story about putting yourself first, and being greedy, and the ramifications of that in eternity.

This is all a story, and a challenge from Jesus, for us to examine our heart and say: Who are we in this story?

Whenever Jesus starts a story with “there was a certain rich man”, it never ends well, which is kind of disconcerting. Jesus once said: it is impossible for a rich man to go to heaven - which is disconcerting isn't it, because we're rich?

It's kind of hard to deal with, so I asked the Lord about it. I spent some time with the Lord on this, and the Lord asked me: who is the richest man in that story?

There are 3 characters in the story: the rich man, Lazarus and Abraham. Abraham is the richest by far - and Abraham makes it! The Lord spoke to me and, He said: Shane, I am always against rich men; but I am always for wealthy stewards.

God is not looking to make ‘rich men’, but a nation of ‘wealthy stewards’, who use their money as God would have them use it - for the glory of God and the kingdom of God.

God would want every one of us to be so wealthy, that other nations would call us ‘blessed’ - but it's not wealth for our sake. It's not wealth so we could build bigger barns. It's wealth so we can take care of the people who can't take care of themselves.

You might think that the poor people need you. No - you and I need them! Yes, we do!

I'm going to read through a bunch of scriptures, and I want us to ask ourselves: where are we with this tonight?

Leviticus 19:9-10 – “When you reap the harvest of your land do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien, for I am the Lord your God.”

So when God was designing the Hebrew people's way of doing finances, every field was a square. He says: when you reap your field, don't reap the corners, reap a circle. If your whole life is a square - only live on a circle; give the corners away.

A circle in a square is 79% (pi/4), and if you look at the Jewish way of doing money, they have certain offerings that they give. If you add it all up, its 21% (part of which is to yourself) so built into them this attitude. God set it into their culture, into their mind, into their hearts that when you think about your life - you put other people first; not because they need you, but because you actually need them.

Deuteronomy 24:17-18 – “Do not deprive the alien, or the fatherless, of justice; or take the cloak of a widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you from there, and that is why I command you to do this”.

Once again, generosity - and it's not generosity because the poor people need it. God could rain down gold from heaven for the poor if He wanted to. It's not generosity because the poor people need it; it's generosity because we need it.

There's something that happens inside of us, when we take care of somebody who can do nothing for us in return, that reminds us in our heart, that God did something for me when I didn't deserve it. That is priceless.

Isaiah 10:1-2, God says: “woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, and to scribes who write lies; those who turn aside the needy from judgement, and steal the right from the poor of my people, so that widows may be their prey, and they rob orphans - woe to them.”

Generosity or greed?

In Luke 3:7-15 there's this guy called John the Baptist - and he has no people skills. He eats locusts, he eats bugs. This man eats bugs - and doesn't shave, and dips locusts in honey. If CNN and the internet would have been around back then, he'd have been like: the ‘Weirdo with the Beardo’ Guy.

Luke 3:-7-15, there was this group of people who came out to be baptised by him - and this is how he responds:

“And John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him: you brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves: we have Abraham as our father; for I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”

That's not really how you grow a church is it? These people are coming out to be ministered to by him, and he says: you basket of snakes! Who has warned you to flee the coming wrath? You fatherless people! He's calling them ‘fatherless’. There's a bad word for that, which starts with a 'b'! Not really the best thing to call somebody, but it gets worse...

“The axe has already fallen at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into fire!” This guy is a Pentecostal pastor on speed!

Now that whole rant - you fatherless people, you basket of snakes, you brood of vipers, the axe has already fallen at the root of the tree, and every one of you are going to be thrown into fire and burned - what do you think the sin was?

You'd think the sin was idolatry, adultery, child sacrifice, burning people - something heinous, something horrible. What do you think the sin was? This is what he says...

“What should we do then, the crowd ask? You're really wound up - what do you want us to do? John answered:

“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none; and the one with food should do the same.

It's Generosity! That whole rant was about having more than we need, and not taking care of people who don't have enough.

Luke 19:5-10 has a cool story about a man named Zacchaeus, and he's a tax collector. He's a bit of a shyster, but he has this encounter with Jesus. He's so moved by the compassion of Jesus, that he says: “here and now, I'll give half of what I have to the poor”. Jesus said: that's it - salvation has come to your house now. It's generosity.

James 1:26-27 - “If anyone considers himself religious, and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, then he deceives himself, and his religion is worthless. Religion that God, our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” - Generosity.

Luke 11:34 – “The light of the body is the eye” - which is a Hebrew reference for generosity.

In First Century Hebrew culture, if you said that someone had an ‘eye full of light’, it meant yetzer tov, it meant they were generous. If you said somebody had an eye of evil it was called yetzer hara, which meant they were selfish or greedy. So the phrase ‘don't give me the evil-eye’, its root is found in: don't be greedy with me, don't be stingy with me.

Therefore, when your eye is ‘full of light’, then the whole body is full of light; but when your eye is ‘dark’, your whole body is dark. In other words, if you're generous then it gives light to the whole body; but if you're greedy, then it corrupts the whole body.

“Therefore take heed that the light in you is not darkness.”

“Therefore if your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the shining of the lamp enlightens you. As He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him, and He went in and reclined.”

So Jesus is doing this whole thing about light-eyes and dark-eyes, and the Pharisee says: can I talk about that with You?

When the Pharisee saw it, he was amazed that He did not first wash His hands before dinner. And the Lord said to him: “now you Pharisees, you make the outside of the cup and platter clean, but the inside is full of greed and wickedness” - greed and wickedness.

“You fool! Did not He who made the outside of the cup, also make the inside? Then Jesus gives him the solution in the next verse.

“But begin to give alms of all such things as you have to the poor, and behold - all things will be made clean for you” - Generosity.

So Jesus is telling this guy: become generous and your life will be clean.

There’s something about a regenerated heart, that when it manifests itself in putting other people first, everything else just seems to fall in place.

In Acts 10:25-31, this is a story of the start of the Gentile church. You're actually here tonight because of this. God chooses this guy named Cornelius to lead the Gentile church; and Cornelius was a Roman centurion, which meant that he had publicly proclaimed that Caesar is god.

This odd thing happens - when Peter shows up at his house, Cornelius bows down to Peter. The man has publicly proclaimed that Caesar is god, but he didn't know it wasn't right to worship a man. Would you want him to be your pastor? Yet God chooses him to start the whole Gentile church - watch what He says...

Acts 10:25-31 – As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet in reverence; but Peter made him get up. He said: stand up, for I am only a man. Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people; and he said to them: you are all well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile, or to visit him; but God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean, so when I was sent for, I came without raising objection. May I ask why you sent for me?

Cornelius asked: four days ago, I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me, and said: “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer - and your generosity to the poor has gone up to Him as a remembrance” - Generosity.

Here's a man who'd proclaimed Caesar as god, and didn't know it wasn't right to worship Peter, and God said: remember him, because of his generosity to the poor.

It was all about greed or generosity to Jesus, and you follow this all the way through from the Old Testament, from Leviticus 19 all the way to Revelation - it's about generosity or greed.

Application questions:

It is not my place to tell you where you are; it's my place to ask, and then you work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.

1) What have we isolated ourselves from? Where is there hell on earth, that we've chosen not to deal with, even though we could?

2) Who is in our life right now, that we could bring heaven-to-hell for? It could start in your home - maybe your husband needs a little heaven brought to him; or your wife needs a little heaven brought to her. Maybe your children, co-workers, neighbours - and then we could spread out. Who in your life right now could we put first?

3) Who in our life right now do we really think we're better than them? Is there anybody in our life right now - and we think we're better than they are, and we actually think they should serve us?

4) Where in our lives do we have clean outsides, but greedy insides? Only you can examine your heart with that.

5) Who are we oppressing, by our apathy? If I just asked the question: who are we oppressing; people might say: nobody. But who are we oppressing by our apathy?

When was the last time you saw something, and you knew you had the money in the bank to do something about it, but you turned your back, so that you could say to your soul: soul, have peace of mind? You turned your back on it, and therefore, you become the oppressor by apathy?

6) Can we be honest about who is oppressing us? What is our slave driver? What's bringing hell to earth for me?

I have one more application question, but I want to let Jesus ask it - because you can't get mad at Him, because He died for you.

Matthew 26:1-2 – “And Jesus knew the time for His betrayal was at hand”.

Jesus knew that it was His last go, so Matthew 25 is His last public sermon, and after that you’ve got a Passover; a betrayal; a false trial; a real trial; then a beating, a crucifixion, and a resurrection.

So Matthew 25 is His last words, His last go; and if you read Matthew 23, 24, 25, it's like a Gatling gun. It's like, Jesus is under so much pressure, He knows the weight of the world is fixing to be put on Him - and He's trying to get all these words out.

He's like ooh, um - there's like this fig tree; and if you're going to be a fig tree - be one that bears fruit, because a fruitless fig tree gets cut down... And oh - and I'm going to come back on a day, that no man knows the day or the hour of... And oh - at the end of the times there's going to be all these wars, and rumours of wars, and all this stuff...

And oh, there's this guy, and he had talents, and he made more talents for the kingdom of God. He became a wealthy steward and that's great. There's this other guy who had talents and he hoarded it to himself, and he buried it in the sand - and that guy was cast out in outer darkness.

He's trying to get all of this stuff off of His chest - and then He ends with this. These are His last words to everybody, and here's what He's doing. He's saying: at the end of the age, I'm going to judge the whole world - and this is how I'm going to do it. He's letting everybody in on how He's going to judge the world - pretty important, so watch what He says:

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He shall sit on the throne of His glory”.

This is obviously talking about at the end – “...and all the nations shall be gathered before Him, and He shall separate them one from the other, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. And indeed He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left.”

“And the King shall say to those on His right...” - which by the way, when you're standing in front of Jesus one day, that's where you want to be! When you stand in front of Jesus one day, move to your left - kind of inch your way that way!

“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”.

So He says: you guys on the right - come on in. It's been prepared for you since the foundation of the world. This is why: for when I was hungry, you gave Me food. When I was thirsty, you gave Me drink. When I was a stranger, you took Me in. When I was naked, you clothed Me. When I was sick, you visited Me. When I was in prison, you came to Me.

Now watch the heart of the righteous...

“Then the righteous shall say to Him Lord: when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and took You in, or naked and clothed You? When did we see You sick or in prison and came to You?”

In other words, they're going: we didn't know You were there! We didn't know that by putting other people first, You were there. We didn't know that You were the hungry guy, or the sick guy, or the naked guy, or the guy in prison - we didn't know that! We were just doing it because it was the right thing to do - to put other people first.

Jesus says to them: “And the King will answer, and say to them: truly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me.

Then He shall say to those on His left: “Depart from Me you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

There's the lake of fire - not Gehenna (Hades). Death and Hades get picked up and thrown into the lake of fire.

Depart from Me you cursed, into everlasting fire - prepared for the devil and his angels. In other words, it was never My will for you to go there - tt was prepared for the devil and his angels, and this is why they get sent there:

For when I was hungry, you gave Me no food. When I was thirsty, you gave Me no drink. When I was a stranger, you did not take Me in. When I was naked, you did not clothe Me. When I was sick, or in prison, you did not visit Me.

And then they will answer Him saying: Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty, or a stranger or naked, or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You? Then He shall answer them saying truly I say to you inasmuch as you did not do it for the least of these you did not do it to Me.

Now here's the end of this sermon: “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life” - and He ends it, and He goes off and has Passover.

So let me ask you a question tonight. Search your own heart. Don't think about anybody else, just search your own heart. This is the most powerful question I could ask you:

7) If you had to face Jesus today, based on this passage - would you be on the right, or would you be on the left?

Closing Prayer

Now Lord, You're the best; and we're so challenged and moved. The Lord spoke to me last night about this particular sermon and He told me that healing would come in repentance.

If you've been paying attention tonight, no one could possibly think that we have all this together. If anybody is thinking: yeah, I've arrived at this - actually that's evidence that you haven't - that healing would come in repentance.

So for those of us who are walking with God, we would say: Jesus Christ is our saviour. I want to give you a moment with God, that you I and need, to repent. It's to repent for all the places in our life where we don't put other people first. It's to repent for the times in our life where we're the rich man who could meet the need of somebody else, but yet we choose not to. It's not that we don't have it; it's just we just choose not to.

It's a time for repentance, for all of us who, instead of living on a circle in a square, we live on our whole square - and wonder why God isn't blessing us. It's a repenting for a greedy heart, for a heart that doesn't put other people first.

While you're doing that, I'd like to talk to those of you who might say: I don't know that I'm right with God. I don't know that I've ever made a decision to even make Jesus the Lord of my life. I don't know that I've ever made that decision to make Him in charge of what I'm doing - and I need to make that decision. I need to cross the line, and make Jesus Christ the Lord of my life.

It goes like this: My Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for coming. Thank You for dying for me. I confess that I'm a sinner. I have no hope of saving myself, but You Lord, I ask You to forgive me, cleanse me, heal my heart, be the Lord of my life in Jesus' name. Amen, welcome to the kingdom of God!

Now Lord, we just step into that place that is You - the compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love God; and we feel Your grace Lord. We feel Your grace to present a message like this to us, to let us know what is really important to You.

Now Lord, we repent. Yes, we repent Lord. Forgive me for my evil heart. Forgive me for that tendency inside of myself to put myself first. Forgive me for the evil inside of me God, the greed, the selfishness that tends to want things my own way.

Lord, help me see the opportunities that You've put in front of me to bring heaven to earth for people. May I be a person who puts other people first. May I be a minister of the kingdom of heaven.

I repent for my wicked ways Lord. I repent for that side of me that always wants to serve myself, and Lord I commit to being You to a world that needs You, to be a generous, kind, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love person who meets the needs of others first.

May I not be the rich man, but yet be a wealthy steward.

In Jesus' name I call on that word you gave me, that healing would come to repentance and Lord, across this room tonight as true repentance has taken place, wherever there was true repentance, I pray that healing would come, peace would come, wholeness would come, healing would come to bodies. Healing would come to minds. Peace would come into homes.

Lord, for every place that repentance comes, I pray that right now for every husband that made the decision to put their wife first, for every wife that made the decision to put their husband first, for every couple who made the decision to take care of the poor and lonely and widows and aliens, for every person where true repentance comes - I pray that in those homes, peace would come.

I speak and proclaim over those homes ‘peace’, that when these married couples go home tonight and put each other first, that it would be reinforced with peace and sanity and peace where there was chaos before. I pray that the serenity and prosperity would come over this whole place, not to make rich men but to be wealthy stewards, to put other people first.

“Blessed to be a blessing” - in Jesus' name.

Lord, we are Your people, kingdom people - and we truly repent for the greed in our heart. Seal this decision in us. Seal it in us Lord. May we be generous for the rest of our lives, and when we stammer back, may we pick up the cross again, and go forward to bring heaven to earth for other people. Lord, You're the best. You're the best in Jesus' name. Amen.



http://mikeconnellministries.com

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