Holidays are a wonderful time of the year, but also a time when many will end up taking a holiday from their faith. In this message, we talk through how to avoid the biggest pitfalls that young adults face over the holidays.
David Marvin: Welcome, friends in the room, friends in Fort Worth and Houston and El Paso and Austin and Corsicana, Tulsa, wherever, and this guy back here in the front row. Really quick announcement before we jump into what we're going to do tonight. We wanted to make sure everybody was joining us. This is the last corporate gathering we're going to have in 2018. Say it ain't so.
Because of that, we wanted to make sure we gave one more opportunity for you guys to find out about this thing we're doing called Awaken, which is a conference over Memorial Day weekend where thousands of young adults are going to come together and gather. We hope it is a launching pad for what God is going to start in our nation, a revival of sorts.
We believe this generation is the group God is going to use to do something transformative to this society we live in, and we believe that when we lock arms underneath the name of Christ we can be a part of it, and candidly, we want to see what God is doing here in spite of us take place all over the country and all over our world for his name and for people to not come to The Porch but people to come to Jesus and come to meet him.
Because of that, I wanted to have my friend Garrett, who's going to join us, let you guys know about an opportunity. In light of the fact that we believe it's going to sell out, we want everyone God wants to be there to be there, and we know the people inside of this room are connected to and are some of the people we want to partner with and gather with, and he wants to let you guys know, we want you guys to know about an opportunity before this year is out. So, Garrett, take it from there.
Garrett Raburn: If you want an idea of what the moment of Awaken is going to be like, you can imagine three days, Memorial Day weekend 2019, downtown Dallas, really close to some of you here in the room. It might be a plane flight or a long road trip for some of you who are listening from elsewhere.
You can imagine Porch on steroids, three days, some of the best communicators and leaders you know and love…JP, Todd, David, the Shanes, in the best lineup we have ever put together that we are not going to announce just yet. I'm sorry about that. We're holding you in suspense, but it is going to be what we believe is going to be the most definitive moment in Porch history.
I don't know if you know the narrative of The Porch, but it began over a decade ago with dozens of people, and now you look around or listen in and you pay attention and you can kind of notice what God has done here, which, by the way, is nothing but an extension of the church Jesus created 2,000 years ago. We get to play one small part.
Awaken Conference is us opening our arms wide to get more people together. We used to do a three-day holiday weekend retreat, and we shut that one down because there wasn't enough room, not only for the people elsewhere but even for right here in Dallas. So that's what's going to happen. You just have to know one thing. For us, it's not just about the moment; it's about the movement.
It's not just about coming together as a big church for a big meeting. This is about a big cause that a big God is inviting us into his purpose for our lives. The greatest cause, the greatest claim anyone would ever have on our lives is the purpose and the fame of Jesus Christ. Here's what you can do. Between now and the end of the year, here's what we're going to do. We've had people ask a little bit about gear. If you want some free gear, here's all you have to do.
When you sign up anytime between now and the end of the year, as soon as you complete your ticket purchase you're going to get a unique link. It's going to be a pop-up and a follow-up email. This is not that pop-up you X out of. This is the one you want to click on. You get your link, you share that with friends, and if just one friend signs up through your link, then we are going to mail you this swag box in the mail. A tee shirt, the one David is rocking right here and some of these other guys are going to be wearing… We're going to mail that to you. That's how you get it.
David: Not this exact one.
Garrett: Not that exact one. You're wearing it well, though. I'm sure some people would want that. Not I. Don't make me tell these people you modeled. Oh, too late.
David: We have to land this plane.
Garrett: Here's the deal. Between now and the end of the year, you'll get the link. That's how you do it. A couple of things. If you've already signed up, don't worry. We emailed you so you can get in on this, so there's an email waiting for you. Merry Christmas from Awaken Conference. We'll see you guys in May.
David: I love it. Tonight we're going to have a fun chance to talk about how to survive the holidays (we're coming fresh off of Thanksgiving break; we're headed in toward Christmas) and how to avoid some of the pitfalls of the Christmas break and make sure your faith doesn't take a holiday over the holidays. So that's what we're going to dive into for the next 35 minutes or so. Look who it is. You guys give it up for Jonathan Pokluda!
Jonathan Pokluda: How are we doing, Porch? Hey, I'm just going to follow that up and say you don't want to miss that. I've sat on this stage dozens of times and talked to people and said, "Hey, you don't want to miss this. You don't want to miss this. You don't want to miss this." Then they come crying to me and say, "Hey, I'm sorry I didn't listen to you." Awaken.live. It's going to be the thing people are talking about for generations to come.
Hey, I'm pumped to start these little messages this evening. There are going to be three of them. Sometimes we have all of these expectations around Christmas, and things don't quite go as planned. This happened to me last year. I'm a dad. I have three kids. I was wrestling with what to get them for Christmas, and I said I was going to go big. I saw the Hallmark commercials and Lexus commercials. Not the Lexus but the puppy in the commercials. I thought, "I'm going to get them a puppy."
Now this was a big deal, because my wife and I have argued about this topic of pets for 14 years, because we just disagree. We view them differently. I view them as pets, and she views them as people. We don't see eye to eye on that, but I said, "I'm going to do it. My little girl wants a puppy. I'm just going to make it happen." I had this huge plan of the grand reveal being here at Watermark at the Christmas party.
We went and picked out this fluffy little Labradoodle thing and got the box. It had the big bow on it and everything. We kept the puppy in here for just the right moment at the Christmas party with kids out there. It was going to be the grand unveil. I had friends with video cameras and taking pictures, because it was going to go mega-viral on Instagram. I'm going to show you the video. Here's the video.
I didn't stop it right there. Here's what happened. The person who was filming stopped filming, because when they opened the box and saw what was inside they completely panicked, as did everyone else. Somehow, from moving that puppy from there to the fireplace in that box, it managed to get the bow completely wrapped around its neck so tight that when they opened the box it was strangling the puppy nearly to death.
So we started Christmas with an almost dead puppy. There were a lot of tears that followed that moment, a lot of trauma. I have two children in counseling because of it. This did not go as planned. In the same way that bow nearly choked out that puppy, your expectations around the holidays may choke out Christmas. So I want to talk about that for just a moment: three things that will bind you up over the holidays. You can think about what these are.
Some of you expect or hope to be snuggled up with someone near a fire, but you've found yourself in a season of loneliness. Some of you are hoping for a particular gift, but all of your friends and family aren't getting the hints you're not so subtly dropping. Some of you are thinking about running into your ex in Walmart and reminding them how successful you are or that you're a pastor or that you've written a book. No, never mind.
You know that when you go home this holiday your mom and dad are going to be boozing it up, and you're thinking about that already, how you're going to navigate that, or you know you're going to run into your old friends and they're going to get throwed on New Year's, and you are already thinking about that. Those are where your expectations are going. So let's talk about three expectations that will have you bound this holiday.
1._ Busyness_. We expect to be busy. 'Tis the season to panic and stress and travel, and the parties, the Christmas parties, the New Year's parties. The family is in town, and you're trying to balance it all. Or the stress of thinking about being alone, not missing out, wanting to be everywhere at once, and staying by yourself is a traumatic thought.
What if you adjusted your expectations? That you are going to find some quiet space this holiday, this Christmas, that you actually are going to plan on it so when it happens you don't have to panic, but you've planned for it, because you believe this could honor God. Busy, I've heard, is an acronym: Being Under Satan's Yoke.
Yoke is a strange word. A yoke is something you put around an animal so you have an ability to control it. It's something you bind an animal with. Let me read to you what Jesus says in Matthew, chapter 11, verses 28 and 30. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. […] For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
2._ Your old friends._ You're going to go back to some of the same places and the same spaces you've been to, and you're going to bump into some of the same people. What I know is true of everyone listening here in Dallas and wherever you are through the stream is that everyone here has a past. When you go home for the holidays, a lot of times that past is waiting on you.
You drive by those familiar places, and you know, "I got in a fight right there. Oh, I remember we got high right there, and that one time we stole those bottles of wine from that store and then went over there and got drunk. I actually got arrested over there. We made out behind that…" When you're driving through those familiar places, those memories are going to be flooding back at you. You know where the porn stash is. You know where the sin is waiting for you, and those old friends want to pick right back up where you left off.
You know those old friends. They're telling the same stories over and over. "Remember when we…" It's followed by a lot of laughter. You're laughing. Do you know what you're doing? You're laughing. It's so hilarious. "Oh yeah, I remember. I can't believe…" All the while, you're laughing at the very things Christ died for, reliving those stories that have caused scars you still have today.
I will just tell you that if you cannot influence those friends for Christ, then they will influence you for Satan. I know that feels heavy-handed. I'm going to say it again. If you don't influence them for Christ, they're going to influence you for Satan. So you need to think about what it looks like to be intentional with those friends or to not have any contact with them at all, which may be exactly what you need to do. What you can expect is to tell them how you've changed, that it's no longer you who lives but Christ who lives in you.
There's a story about Saint Augustine. He had this radical conversion. He lived in the world, and Jesus grabbed ahold of his heart. One day he was walking, and he bumped into an old mistress of his. When he saw her he began to walk quickly the other direction, but she tried to stop him. "Augustine! Augustine! It is I! Augustine, it is I!" He stopped and turned back to her, and he said, "Yes, Madam, but it is no longer I," and he kept going.
For some of you, that's the message you need to give your friends. "I've changed. I'm not the same old person. I don't delight in those stories anymore. I remember them, but that's no longer how I have fun. That's no longer what I do. I'm a new creation."
3._ Wine. _Wine is what it's called in the Scriptures. Alcohol. We expect to party this holiday. We expect to party at New Year's, but Ephesians 5:18 says, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery." Amen. We all know that. It leads to debauchery when you get drunk on wine. It only leads to one… The Scripture doesn't give you a lot of options. There's wine. You get drunk. It leads to debauchery. That's what it does.
"Instead, be filled with the Spirit…" You also have instruction in Proverbs 20, 23, and 31. Over and over the Scriptures warn us about this. For so many Christians, Christmas and New Year's means party. It's almost like the Purge or Fat Tuesday. It's like that season where we know we're not supposed to, but we're just going to do it anyway. We're just going to give our flesh permission to indulge. It's crazy, because it's the time when Jesus came to the earth, and the way we celebrate the birth of our Savior is by getting wasted.
Some of you are walking into extreme temptation, and you know it. I just want this to be really clear so you don't have to wrestle. From this moment forward, for the rest of your life until you are with Jesus, you getting drunk will be a sin. You don't have to wonder. You getting drunk is a sin. Let's just call it what it is. It's a sin. It grieves the heart of God. I'm not a pastor who's like, "You can't drink any alcohol," that that's wrong.
You having a glass of wine may not be a sin for you. You having two glasses of wine may be a sin for you. You having a beer may not be a sin for you if that's not your struggle. You're not tempted to have two or three or four, but you having two or three or four… Let's call it what it is. Let's just look at that and say, "Oh yeah, that's a sin. I just willfully chose to go the opposite way of what the Scripture said. That's what I did." Let's call it what it is.
It's always going to bring bondage. No good story in your life starts, "Remember when we got so drunk…?" Whatever comes next… "Remember when we got so drunk and we experienced that deep intimacy with Jesus?" No, it's never going to be that. "Remember when we got wasted and we grew so much spiritually?" No, no, no. "Remember when we were so wasted we gave all our money to the orphans?" No, that's not the way that works out. Maybe to the bartender, but not the orphans.
So this Christmas expect to stay sober. I know some of you have literally been enslaved by this. Dozens of you have been through rehab, all while the Enemy just delights in the way we celebrate Christmas. So, things that will entangle you over this holiday, things that will have you tied up: busyness, old friends, and wine. It spells bow, like the very one that strangled my puppy.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says, "…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Let us throw off everything that entangles us and the sin that hinders us, and let us fix our eyes on the one who came to the earth to save us.
What's interesting about the word bow is it's a homograph. It is a word that can be pronounced two different ways with two very different meanings. It's also how you spell bow. (Like, "Take a bow.") Bow is what you want to do this holiday, this Christmas. Bow is what you want to do with your life. If you want to avoid the sin that so easily entangles you, maintain a posturing of the very ones who first walked up upon the baby in a manger. Their knees broke, their back bent, their face to the ground, and they worshiped him. You live a life of worship.
"Do not conform [any longer] to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." He says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…"
You bow before the Savior. I know for some of you, you hear that and you feel like it's too late. You're like, "What do I do if it's too late?" My friend Daniel Crawford is going to come up and share with you exactly what you need to do if it's too late. Please welcome Daniel to the stage.
Daniel Crawford: I remember it clearly. I was driving home. It was a holiday break. I was cruising down I-45, going to Houston, and I heard that sound. If you know that sound…Flub! Flub! Flub! I realized, "Darn it! Something has gone wrong with my automobile. I must check. I must pull over." I looked, and sure enough, I had blown a tire. I had a flat tire. In the grand scheme of malfunctions, not the biggest deal in the world. I can overcome this…so long as I know how to properly change a tire. I don't know how to properly change a tire.
I was by myself. Frankly, I was kind of out of luck, and I was kind of figuring out, "What do I do next?" I was feeling rather deflated, literally and metaphorically. I start with that for exactly what JP just said, which is I'm just rolling off of Thanksgiving, which kind of kick-starts the holiday season, and I'm not feeling like I'm firing on all cylinders. Like, if that's any indicator of what I'm going to be looking at in December, I'm not encouraged; I'm discouraged. So this second mini message is going to be about "What do I do when I've blown it?"
I admitted to you freely that I don't necessarily have a man card, at least in that situation. I'm not handy, but I do have something that in that situation is of equal value. That's what I like to call a AAA card. Praise God. I can call AAA when I don't know how to change my own tire, even though I'm a grown man, and they will come and help me. So I want to give you guys three A's. That's right. Your very own AAA plan to call upon when you've blown it and you're feeling flat. I'm actually going to unpack very practically the exact passage JP just closed with, which is in Hebrews 12. Starting at the top in verse 1…
1._ Accountability_. Very simply, confess to community. When you've blown it, keep short accounts and confess to your community. That verse started by saying, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…" That's what it's talking about. It assumes that there is a great cloud of witnesses, that there are people surrounding you to love you, to support you, to point you back to the truth that's found in God's Word so that, ultimately, they can point you back to Jesus.
I would also encourage you guys to get to a point where you're confessing even at a thought level. Even in the moments of temptation where maybe you haven't blown it, I would get on the phone. I would loop in your crew, your guys, your girls. "Hey, this is what I'm struggling with. I'm feeling very tempted right now. Will you pray for me?" James 5:16 says, "…confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed."
If you're like me, what I'm feeling in those moments when I've blown it… I want healing. That starts with confession. It starts with prayer. It starts with community. It starts with accountability. That verse continued. "…surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." JP hit that hard. What are the things we need to avoid, that we need to remove access to?
2._ Access_. Repent and remove access to whatever those things are that are hindering you, that are causing you to blow it and to feel deflated. He talked about alcohol. I would include drugs in there. Yes, I would consider weed a drug. The question comes along, "Can I not go anywhere where there's alcohol?" I would just say, "Maybe." You would probably know better than me. I wouldn't rule it out.
I would also say that, personally, if I'm on a diet, like I'm trying to keep my boyish figure here, and I'm going Keto on you… I don't even fully know what that is yet, but I've heard it's a thing. If I hypothetically wanted to go Keto (which I don't), I'm probably not going to go hang out at Cane's and watch people eat fried chicken all day, because it's delicious. I've been there so many times, and as soon as I see the sauce I start… I don't want to talk about it even right now.
I would rather just avoid the temptation. I would just dodge. I would endure the night with a little bit of FOMO instead of the morning with a whole lot of "Uh-oh," if you know what I'm talking about. There is that strong correlation. When I'm under the influence, I'm going to do things I'm going to regret. I'm going to make mistakes.
JP also talked about old friends. I might just add "old flames." You know what I'm talking about. Being mindful not just of the party atmosphere but also of the guest list. I think he said that really well. What is that balance between loving my friends and also being wise? I would encourage you to set the tone with that and stay in the driver's seat. I would literally drive wherever you're going so that you have that ability to control.
I would also say I think breakfast and lunch is your friend way more than dinner and drinks. I think he hit on something that's huge. If the main bond you share with these old friends is stories from the past, and it's a past you're not particularly proud of and you've been redeemed out of… You can take a walk down memory lane as you connect with people, but I would not stop and I would not celebrate sin and I wouldn't relive that over and over again. I don't think that's helpful.
Just a couple of facts. I am responsible for every bad decision I make. Period. I seem to make a lot more bad decisions around certain people or certain groups of people. Do with that what you will. I would just be thoughtful before you commit to things, and I would be willing to say "No." There are dozens of other things you could remove access to. The one other one I'll hit quickly is social media.
Maybe you need to remove access entirely or at least maybe you need to significantly reduce the amount of screen time. You know how it is. If I don't have a ton else to do, I can very easily get to scrolling for countless periods of time. Do I find myself comparing or envying or judging other people's social media accounts? Am I kind of, sort of monitoring whether a certain someone may or may not be here, may or may not be going there tonight? I don't know.
Do you use social media to project things, especially over the holidays, that maybe, if you're totally honest with yourself, mask some insecurities and communicate something that you know at best is an exaggeration and at worst is blatantly untrue? Are you playing the game, the comparison trap? Are you getting caught in it?
Ultimately, do my accounts help or hinder my thought life? I would ask yourself that question. I would ask your community that question. Bottom line, as you throw off the sin that entangles you, just ask yourself, "What are the things I need to remove access to?"
3._ Abide_. To pursue and to protect your personal connection with Jesus Christ. "…surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off…the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Jesus said it like this: "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.""Apart from me you're going to blow it." That's what he's saying.
So, what does abiding look like? You can get to a point where there is just a life of abiding with Christ on an ongoing basis. I would have a plan in place. I think structure can be helpful. A little strategy I've picked up that I would pass along and commend to you is I would think through three things. I would have a time, I would have a place, and I would have a plan. A time, a place, and a plan.
A time…anytime really, but what time of the day are you going to have the most control over and the most say over? Most of the time that's going to be in the mornings. Before I even leave my room, do I want to set aside and devote some time to connecting with Jesus before I charge into all of the day's festivities, or whatever? I would be as specific as you can be, and I would also be realistic. It's the breaks. Maybe it's 9:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. I don't know. Be flexible, but have a plan and have a time.
A place. Where is the place where I can minimize distractions and, therefore, maximize devotion? That may not be in your bedroom if Uncle Eddy is riding top bunk right above you. You may need to go get some personal space. I would love your family well and communicate on that, but it's like, "Hey, I'm going to be at Starbucks for an hour, and then I'm going to be back, and I'm excited to spend the day with you guys digging in and catching up."
Then finally, a plan. I would figure out now or at least start to think about what you want to read through. What do you want to meditate on? What in God's Word do you want to work through over the break? Again, be as specific as you can be, and also be realistic. For most of us, I think reading a chapter a day is very realistic. I wouldn't just do Bible roulette and pick a verse and start reading.
I would say, "Okay, there are 31 days in December. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs. What if I just read the proverb that corresponded with whatever day that is and meditated on that? There are 24 chapters in Luke. There are 24 days leading up to Christmas. What if I walked through a gospel leading up to celebrating Christmas? In January we're not going to be back in here until the 22nd. What if I do January in John, 21 chapters, days 1-21, and then we hit it hard in here on the 22nd?" There's no wrong approach, but I would have a time, a place, and a plan.
The last thing I would say on this is this particularly can be hard when we're in the situation we're talking about, which is, "I just blew it. I am not proud of the decisions I made last night. Frankly, I feel guilt. I feel shame. I don't feel like I can approach the Creator of the heavens and the earth based on what I've just done." I would just say be free of that. Scripture is very clear that there is a difference between conviction and condemnation.
Conviction is of the Spirit. If you are a believer and you have the Spirit of God, he's going to convict you. That's a good thing. It's not fun, but it's a reminder. "Man, I can't just go back and indulge my flesh in the same ways I used to. I'm going to use that conviction to follow the Lord and to repent," as we've been saying. But condemnation… Romans 8:1 lays it out. It says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ…"
If you are in Christ, if you are a believer and a follower of Christ, there is no condemnation. So you can pick your head up and pursue the one who has pursued you. Grace to you. Abide with Christ. Don't let your time off from work become time off from God's Word. When you've blown it, pick yourself back up. Fix your eyes on Jesus, and keep running the race he has marked out for you.
In summary, our AAA plan: utilize accountability, remove access to the things that are harming you, and abide with Christ every day. On the side of that road, I had to humbly admit that I was in an entirely helpless situation. I couldn't do anything to fix and to remedy the situation I found myself in. When I blew it, I needed to call on somebody else. I needed somebody to come to me and meet me in the midst of my mess.
Guys, that is the Christmas story. That is exactly what we celebrate this time of year: the fact that we all have blown it. We all are helpless to fix and remedy our own situation, so God sent his very own Son to the earth. He put on flesh and he dwelt among us, and his name is Jesus Christ. We get to celebrate his coming here in the next month. May we call upon him whenever we have blown it, in this season and in every season. To close out the night, y'all help me give a warm welcome to my buddy David Marvin.
David: Anyone dating in this room? Show of hands. Good. There are three of you. Hopefully you know. Let's do another meet and greet to give you guys a chance to meet each other. Good grief, people. Guys, ask some of these girls out. Hey, when I was dating 10 years ago, I was dating my wife, and one of the decisions the three of you, if you are dating, are going to have to go through over the holiday season is the evaluation of "Hey, is this person someone I would like to introduce to my family? Am I ready to expose them to the dysfunction I have known so well and for so long?"
It's almost one of those moments, at least for me… Ten years ago was when my wife came and met my family. If your family is anything like mine, where it's kind of like, "Ooh, buckle up," it's like, "Can this relationship endure what they're about to experience here? Let's make sure we form strong enough bonds to where we can be in it together." If you're dating, you're going to experience that to whatever degree you may have dysfunction in your family. Let's be honest. Everyone has dysfunction inside of their family.
One of the biggest pitfalls a lot of us can fall into over the holiday breaks is how to not grow discouraged, frustrated by the dysfunction you're going to be around in your family. Not just that, but how to be everything God wants you to be during the meals you're going to share, during the time you'll have over Christmas break or maybe just had over Thanksgiving with family members and all the dysfunction they represent.
I don't know where your story is. I don't know if when you go home there's your stepbrother who never moved out of the house, who is still playing video games up there, or your stepmom who's taking smoke breaks outside every 30 minutes or your grandma who's like, "Do you want to get married someday? Do you know any girls?" or your passive-aggressive parents who are like, "So, are you thinking about getting a real job soon?" or just anything and everything in between.
Or maybe you have… I feel like there's always one of these in every family. There's the super politically passionate sibling who's either like, "Build the wall!" or like, "Tear all the walls down!" There's just all the craziness that comes with family. Or (this is actually true) you have an aunt (this is just me getting stuff off my chest) who makes art out of recyclables, and she makes her own Christmas gifts to give to people. You're like, "I know what I'm getting this year for Christmas."
I don't know what your family dysfunction is all across the board. Or just sibling rivalry and conflict you have, where you get back there and they bring up that one time you cut off their hair, or part of it, in sixth grade, and you snap back into "I'm the 16-year-old middle child, and you always do this" kind of thing, and just the dysfunction that can be a part of our family. What usually happens is that same dysfunction and even more serous levels of dysfunction causes us to keep our distance or want to keep our distance from family.
Yet when you look at the story of the Bible and the call on us as Christians, the command God gives us is that that is not to be the case. So I want to look at the story of the initial words of the book of Matthew, where Matthew lays out Jesus' introduction to his Jewish audience. He begins to talk about Jesus' dysfunctional family. Inside of that, we're going to learn a couple of truths about how you and I can learn about the way Jesus not just had a dysfunctional family but responded and moved toward that dysfunction that was represented inside of his family.
In Matthew, chapter 1, Matthew writes this book, Matthew, to a Jewish audience, and he begins to write out why Jesus is the Messiah. He begins to write the lineage, which was very important at that time…to the Jewish people but also in general at that time. Here's what people would normally do when they wrote a lineage. They would include the best of the best, the Who's Who. "Here he was related to Caesar," and all of the different famous people who were part of their family. If you study history, they would omit some of the "Eh, that guy never existed," and they would skip different people.
Almost every single time, without exception, just because it was a different day and age, they didn't include women. It was almost strictly men, because the family line and family name passed through. But Matthew does something very, very different when you read his lineage. He says, "This is the lineage of Jesus. This is the family Jesus came from." He not only includes people that you would think, "Why would you include this person inside of here?" he goes out of his way to include some of the worst members of Jesus' lineage.
He goes out of his way to include women inside of the story, which was unheard of in that day, and not just any women. Out of these four women, three of them weren't even Jewish, and two of them had stories that you're like, "Hey, if you're going to mention anybody, you don't mention her." Matthew goes out of his way to show the dysfunction in Jesus' family. Let me read from these verses in Matthew, chapter 1, and we'll see what I'm talking about.
"This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…" Everyone who's reading this, if you're Matthew's audience at that time, you just read about the story of Judah and Tamar. You probably haven't read the story of Judah and Tamar recently, but it's a story that, honestly, would be an explicit message if we devoted a sermon to it on a Tuesday night at The Porch.
Judah ended up accidentally sleeping with his daughter-in-law Tamar, and they have two twin little baby boys Perez and Zerah. If you're like, "Oh man, that could have been an innocent mistake," here's why he accidentally slept with her: because she was posing as a prostitute. So it's not exactly the most exonerating defense. "Oh, she was acting like a prostitute. That makes sense."
That's the person who God says is going to be one of the great-great-great-great-great-grandparents of Jesus. Why would you go out of your way, even if this person is in the ancestry, to include them? He didn't have to. He includes this woman with a story, because as we're about to see, that's the point of the story Matthew is about to write. He continues and goes on from there.
"…Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab…" If you were raised in church, you know who Rahab was, because Rahab had a nickname that came at the end of her name: Rahab the prostitute.
He doesn't just include another woman in the story; he includes a woman who had an occupation that isn't the most glorious occupation you could have. Matthew goes out of his way… Why would you include this? You could see a case where, hey, you're writing a lineage and Mother Teresa is in there. Of course. Go out of your way to include that. Or Susan B. Anthony. "Just want to make sure you know that's part of the family."
The prostitute? "Hey, this is Great-Great-Grandma. She, uh…she sells sex for money." Think about that with you and your grandma. Would you be quick to introduce that to your boyfriend or girlfriend? "Oh yeah, this is my grandma. She was a prostitute for a while." That's exactly what he's doing. What are you doing, Matthew?
It doesn't get any better from there. Listen to this. Verse 6: "…and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife…" Uriah's wife was Bathsheba. He doesn't even mention Bathsheba. He says it in a different way, almost to make sure you know the story of David and Bathsheba. You may not remember it.
The story of David and Bathsheba was David was married to several other different women. One day he's out on his palace. He sees this beautiful woman taking a bath on the roof of her house. Not a great idea, ladies, but the story goes on from there. He says, "Get that woman. Bring her to me." They say, "That's Uriah, the wife of one of your best friends." He takes her, he sleeps with her, and she gets pregnant, and in order to cover it up he has Uriah killed.
This was one of the men and women, that when Matthew is writing the story and the lineage of Jesus he goes out of his way to say, "Uriah's wife." When you look inside of the ancestry of the Messiah who's here, you see a very different story than maybe the one you would have imagined. You see that Jesus came from broken people. The story that Jesus did not just come for sinners; he came from sinners.
Matthew goes out of his way… Think about even that language. "David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife…" Oh yeah, his mom was the wife of another man until David killed him. That's the little boy that God says, "Hey, I'm going to continue the line through you, Solomon." He's making a very clear point. He starts there because these people are the point of the story Matthew is going to write about for the next 28 chapters.
Jesus came from sinners and for sinners like you, like me, like Rahab, and like every dysfunctional person in Jesus' family and in your family. If you come from a dysfunctional home (which we all do), take heart, because so did Jesus, but also know that you're going to have a chance to love on those dysfunctional people, because the story of Christmas, the story of Jesus, is that dysfunction doesn't have to mean distance because of Christmas.
Just like Jesus looked at the dysfunction of our world, of you and of me, and didn't say, "I'm going to keep my distance because of that" but moved toward those people, so you and I will have a chance to demonstrate that same type of moving toward dysfunctional people and loving them that Jesus did, to demonstrate what we celebrate at Christmas.
One of the greatest opportunities you're going to have is going to be to love your family. Jesus loves your family. He loves your family way more than you ever will, and he has put you there to be a part of expressing and showing that love. Let me just say this really quickly, and then I'm going to close. I want to give you three things that I think you could do as it relates to family.
1._ See yourself as having a change in perspective about your time there_. Here it is: you are on a mission trip. You are going on a mission trip. If you're going to spend any time with your family over the holidays, you are officially on a mission trip, so you have a chance to show the love of Jesus, maybe share your faith.
You are going on a mission trip, just like any mission trip, if you've ever been on one, only you don't have to travel to Haiti and you're going to stay indoors, most likely, and speak English to people, and it's a mission trip to people who are trying to give you presents. It's the greatest mission trip ever, but be assured it is a mission trip, and you need to change your perspective about the time you're going to have there if you are a Christian.
2._ Love your family members exactly where they are_. Don't seek to change them. Don't seek to come in… This is a big deal. People will leave environments like this and go home, and they will weaponize their faith. They will beat people over the head and tell them how they're sinning and living wrong and how they need to stop and God is angry about that.
Love your family members exactly where they are. If you're going to err, you can err on the side of grace. Seek not to change your family, which you couldn't do anyway, but love them where they are. Take an interest in them. Ask them questions. Maybe they have a different sexual orientation than the Bible instructs. Love them. Stand outside with them when they're taking their smoke break.
Be an example. Love the family, and move toward the dysfunction. Embrace the dysfunction. That's what Jesus did. He wasn't like, "Hey, get your act together, and then I'll come." Embrace the dysfunction. In doing so, you demonstrate what all of us at Christmas are celebrating: the God who moves toward those who are dysfunctional, like me and like you.
3._ Seek a chance to share the gospel._ One of the easiest ways you can do this is to share how God is at work inside of your life. Share how God has been at work and the way he's growing you. That's not offensive. Seek to move the conversation in that direction. Maybe they are Christians already; they're just not experiencing everything God wants. Invite them to Awaken and say, "Hey, I'd love for you to come with me. We can be a part of it together," and they can catch a glimpse maybe of what some of you have seen together.
In conclusion, change your perspective. Love your family as they are. Seek to share the gospel. Christmas is a celebration of the first mission trip, where the God of the universe decided, "I will lay aside all of my comfort, the eternal heavenly realm. I will set those things aside, and I will move toward the dysfunctional human race." The first mission trip was initiated. He came down and was born in a manger to die on a tree for dysfunctional people like you and like me. He has invited us now to be a part of living on mission and going on mission to our families, those who know him and those who don't who we will spend time with. Let me pray.
Father, I pray for the opportunities we're going to have to share our faith. Would you, Lord, stretch out your hand and save family members, like the ones in my family who don't know you, and would you open their eyes to the truth? Use the conversations I'm going to get to have to be a part of that. I pray for friends in the room who have family members, siblings, fathers, mothers, stepparents who don't know you. Would you stretch out your hand and save them, God?
Would you help us to have our first reaction be love? Would we love people just where they are, care for them, get to know them, earn the right to speak in greater ways into their lives? Thank you for the men and women you've placed in different families all over this country and other countries who are sitting right in front of me and listening wherever they are gathered right now. You've grabbed many of our hearts. Would you use us to be a part of loving our families? Would we not waste our break and take a holiday from our faith over the holidays? We worship you now in song, amen.
Jonathan: Where David ended reminds me of a story Philip Yancey tells. Philip Yancey is a writer. He was a journalist. He talks about having a fish aquarium and all of the work that goes into making this biosphere, this place of life for these fish, perfect. He would clean the tank and filter the water and put this aerator in there, and then he'd put these pebbles down and these little statues and places for the fish to live.
He would do everything within his power, invest so much of his money and his time and his resources in making this place the perfect place for the fish to live. Then he recalls his disappointment upon his first time walking up to the tank and the fish swimming off and hiding behind the statues and the little things he put in there. They were afraid of him. All he wanted was a pet. He wanted a relationship. He realized to connect with the fish he would have to become one.
This is what happens at Christmas. Creator God makes this place, and he fine-tunes it perfectly so you can live and thrive and have life. He made you to be in a relationship with him, and you've spent your life running away. He says, "To rightfully have a relationship with them so they know they can trust me, I'd have to become a fish. I'd have to become a human. I'd have to enter into their world and become like one of them."
This is what happens at Christmas. It's the greatest mission trip that ever happened: God leaving his place of perfection, putting on humanity, and coming to the earth. Do you know what else he does? Sometimes, because he loves you, he removes those things you're hiding behind. He takes them out. He pulls them away. He's doing some of that for you tonight.
If we can help you, if we can come alongside you, if you want to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, the one who came here 2,018 years ago, we'd love to talk to you. There will be a bunch of people up here in some Porch shirts. They'd love to pray with you, hear your story, and talk more. You can just come right up here.
We also have open Community Group tonight. So if you know that you don't have relationships with other Christians, guys, you walk down this hallway and, girls, you walk down this hallway, and right outside those hallways there are rooms full of other people who are looking to hear more about this idea of community. I'd encourage you to do that next. Just go right in there, and they would love to chat with you.
Lastly, I'll just end how we started. Please, every one of you, I'm talking to you. If you're like, "I wonder if he's talking to me," I'm talking to you. Would you check out awaken.live? We're not trying to sell tickets; we're trying to change the world for the cause of Jesus, and we think he's letting us. How about that? We think he's allowing us to, and we want you to be a part of it. Just go to awaken.live. You can see more information there. It's going to be the thing that I don't want you to miss out on.
I love you guys. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Have a merry Christmas.