What The Church Can’t Lose

When Jesus started the church, he had something specific in mind. But if we aren’t careful, we can drift toward something else entirely. In this message, we take on a few things that the church has to keep...at least if it still wants to be the church.

Message Transcript

How are we doing, Porch? It's so fun to be with you guys tonight. My name is Garrett if we've never met before. I've been on staff at The Porch for the last five years, came in through the Watermark Residency Program, did some great years out in Fort Worth. So, shout-out to my Fort Worth family and, of course, every other group that's invisible to the group here in Dallas, but we know all around the country and even around the world people are tuning in tonight to be a part of this.

Now I'm serving with the Awaken conference. Anybody have an Awaken conference ticket out there? This is going to be, we pray, the farthest-reaching event we've ever done in the entire history of The Porch. It's going to be something special. Hey, we're taking a break from our series Before There Were Kings, and we're going to talk about one very, very specific topic. Let me share a little mistake I made recently, very small, that will introduce this idea.

Mistake number one: I went to the grocery store. Anybody else get really stressed by the grocery store? Just me? It gets to me, man. I'm just going to be real with you. I get stressed. I feel like it takes too much time. I have other things I want to get back to doing. Too many people. Too many options. It just gets to me. It's a little quirk. Once when I was single my record was four months without even going to the grocery store. I was pretty proud of that. I ate out with friends, fasted. I just don't love it.

But my wife now works full time. We have to split the domestic responsibilities, so I have to pull some weight around here and go to the grocery store. So I'm there, and yogurt is on the list. I already have my stuff in the cart and everything, and I go back to the yogurt. You know the options thing. It is a yogurt avalanche back there. It is a bonanza. I don't have another word. It was so much. I looked at the shelf. I just lost the will to live. I'm like, "Just give me a yogurt."

So I grabbed one that said "nonfat plain." See? I don't know why you didn't tell me. You guys should come shop with me. I grabbed that, and I was thinking, "You know what? I recognize the name on the outside. I'm going to put some fruit and granola around this. It's going to be all right." Let me tell you this: it was not all right. It wasn't even in the neighborhood of all right. You know what it was? It was not even yogurt anymore.

I learned a very important lesson. If you lose the flavor and you lose the fat, you've lost the yogurt. You now have sour cream. That's what you have. It's so nasty. I realized we changed so much of what's essential about this that now it seems like we've even changed the whole thing, which is a pretty transferrable idea. Think about this. Isn't this true? If you lose enough parts, you eventually lose the whole. Eventually, if you lose enough of the essential parts of one thing…anything…you eventually will lose the whole, the entire thing.

This can happen with a job. Some of you had a job and you loved it, and then what happened was you got a new boss, and then the new boss had new ideas, and then all of the people you loved started to go work somewhere else. You look up and realize one little change at a time, and you go, "Hey, I think I lost the job I loved, not because I got fired or went somewhere else but because they changed it one little step at a time, and now I can't even recognize my own job anymore. It has completely changed. It's completely gone."

This can happen in a relationship. You can be dating someone, and then all of a sudden you start losing the quality time of the relationship, which is an important part, and then it goes another step and you lose the kindness and the good tone, the mutual respect of the relationship, and then you might go another step, and all of a sudden you look up and you even lost the faithfulness of the relationship. You look up and go, "Who are we kidding? It doesn't even feel like we have a relationship at all."

Eventually, if you take out enough of the essential parts of anything you change the entire thing. You can't just endlessly reduce something and still have something. Some of you may have experienced this at a very young age where your family, your mom and dad who were married at the time, sat you down and explained to you why Mom and Dad were no longer going to live in the same place but you were still going to be a family.

Even at 6 or 8 or 10 years old, you wouldn't have known to put it into these words, but the truth is you knew. "If you live there and you live… Are we really a family?" It feels like it has changed so much that if, at some point, you lose enough of the parts we really have changed the whole thing. What I want to declare and talk about a little bit tonight is the fact that this can even happen to the church. Church can be changed one little part at a time, one biblical part removed at a time, until all of a sudden the drift is so far you don't even have anything resembling a biblical church anymore.

What I'd love to do tonight is to share three things you can't lose and still be the church. If you lose them, you're no longer the church; you're something else or really close to it. Three essential ingredients. If you lose these parts, you really are flirting with corrupting the whole thing. Now, I picked a risky topic tonight, and here's why. Most of you are not walking around, driving around, living around thinking, "You know what I need to hear about tonight? I need to hear about some church essentials. Somebody give them to me."

That's not what we typically think about. We typically are reacting to our needs in life. We typically think, "I have to get a job. I have to get a better job. You know what? I have to convince someone to spend the rest of their life with me. What am I doing?" We typically don't walk around consumed with "You know what? I need to know what a biblical church would be." Those are just not the terms we think in.

We know that statistically, at least, about half of you are already committed to a local church. You're part of a church. You know what a biblical church is, either here or somewhere else. It's my hope tonight that the things we discuss would encourage you to keep chasing what you're already chasing. I also know that for the other half of you I have no idea. I am shooting into the dark tonight. I have no idea what your relationship with church is.

Some of you might say, "None. I'm just busy. I kind of drop in every once in a while, podcast. It's a casual relationship." Some of you would say it's more complicated. "It's complicated. That's my relationship with church. It's complicated." Maybe you have church pain from your background at some point. It was hard for you to even come in here tonight. Maybe the last time you were in a room like this and heard someone sing and heard someone talk… Maybe someone I remind you of, for whatever reason, put on a microphone and said something hurtful.

Maybe when you look at church you think, "You know what? I don't really have a problem with what's going on there. I just don't know if I can believe it. Intellectual credibility, man. I don't really know if I can believe everything." Some of you are like, "Man, somebody invited me to The Porch. I thought he was inviting me to his house. Where am I right now?" Some of you are totally caught off guard.

Whatever your relationship with church is tonight, the reason I want to put these in front of you is because of the way God changed my life through the church. See, my relationship with church was when I grew up I went to church some. I was there Christmas and Easter. We were in a very small town in Texas, a very conservative culture. My mom had a little tattoo on her ankle. She would put a Band-Aid over that tattoo on the ankle, because, you know, small-town church. It gets a little tight in there.

She had been divorced several times. She'd had three kids with three dads and I was the middle kid. We were just a little bit on the outskirts of the village. We went to church some, and I came to the conclusion by the time I was about 14 or 15 that church was the main source of boredom in the world. I mean, that's where I was. That's where I lived. There were more interesting things to do. I just ran as far as I could down a path of promiscuity, partying, pornography addiction, and addiction to self. Narcissism is the only way I can say it.

I completely pursued anything I wanted to do. I was a hedonist. That just means I sought pleasure. Whatever was fun, that's what I did. All of a sudden, I looked up at 18 or 19 years old and realized, "This is not fun anymore. My life is broken. I'm sick and tired of the hangovers. I'm tired of drama-filled relationships." Have you ever been in a drama-filled relationship? Oh my goodness. "I'm tired of pregnancy scares. I'm tired of guilt. I'm tired of shame."

I had been at the world's carnival away from church, and then all of a sudden the ride started to make me sick, and I was tired. I found out there wasn't life there anymore. What happened to me was God showed me that the one I had heard about my whole life, the one who had gotten on a cross for me, the one who had come out of a tomb for me (that's Jesus) paid for everything, knowing in advance that I was going to do that, that I was going to run that far.

When he enlightened my eyes to see that, he didn't just give me a heaven to be saved to; he gave me a people to belong to. So, if you're on that end where you'd say, "I don't really want a formal relationship with church; that's not my favorite thing," I hope something that is shared tonight would be as attractive to you as the church became to me when my life started finally to change. So, three things tonight that you can't lose if you're still going to be the church.

I picked these three. There's the greatest weakness of this message. Some of you are going through the Bible looking for this list of three. You won't find it. It's not like Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, "Three things you must be in order to still be the church." It doesn't work that way, but I picked these three for a specific reason. It's because I think these are the three that are most popularly abandoned in our day today.

The three things that I think are most popularly abandoned that will make us cease to be the church. Here they are. I'm going to give them to you in order, and then we'll go. First, authentic connection with other Christians. Second, a willingness to be countercultural. Third, urgency in the mission of Jesus. We'll take those slower as we go.

1._ Authentic connection with other Christians_. What does that mean? It means they know you and you know them. Not just you are near them and they are near you. That is so different. Did you know that you can be in close proximity…? Of course. Some of you are in a city and you're lonely. How could you be lonely in a city? The math doesn't work. There are more people in the city. You should be more connected than ever.

Somehow it's possible to be lonely in a city, because you can be close to a person but not close to a person. They don't know you. They don't know what your fears are. They don't know what your doubts are. They don't know what your insecurities are. They don't know what your tendencies are. They don't know where you're prone to leave the God you love or hope to love. They don't know your weaknesses. They don't know your strengths.

There's a surface-level social game that's going on as we all kind of remain on the surface of life. What happens in a real church, in a place where the Scripture is being pursued is that you have an authentic connection with other Christians. This happened to me. I remember the first time this happened. I had been living the life I just described. All of a sudden, a dude invites me to a small group. I was like, "I don't know what this group that is small is, but I will show up. Whatever."

So I showed up, and this dude opens up with the line, "Hey…" Okay. Let me set the stage a little more clearly. This is eight college dudes. Nobody else. Eight college dudes. This dude breaks off with, "Hey, guys, I just want to confess masturbation to you guys. Yeah, that was a part of my week. All right. Let me be more real. It actually happened twice." That's what he started in on. I had no idea what he was doing. I was like, "You're not even going to warm up to it, man. We're not going to get to know each other." It was weird.

They started to go around the circle. I realized, "What they're trying to do is they're trying to follow Jesus together. That's all they're trying to do. What they're trying to do is they're trying to be honest with each other. They're trying to authentically confess to one another. They're trying to be known by one another. That's the goal here."

You know how sometimes you can tell some people don't want to be known? That's why the average length of conversation is very short, because at some point a few seconds in you have to make a decision about whether you're going to be in or out on the conversation. All of a sudden, I realized, "For the first time in my life, I am around people committed to depth in church." This amazed me. I had never seen that before.

I thought church was full of hypocrites and full of people pretending to be perfect. Those dudes for sure were not pretending to be perfect. I can tell you that. They made that abundantly clear right at the start. They were just being honest. I had been around nothing but college baseball locker rooms, and I only had friends who were exactly like me. It was a mundane world of surface-level conversation, and the drunk "I love you, man" had nothing on the depth I saw amongst these people. I wanted it.

It's normal biblically. If you're going to be the church, you're going to have to get below the surface. You're going to have to be honest. You're going to have to let yourself be known for where you're strong and also where you're weak. Here it is from the Scripture. Hebrews 3:13. This is a fascinating verse, by the way. I love this verse. "But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

Let's look at this. There's a problem and a solution. The problem is "none of you would be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." That's the problem: deceitfulness of sin. What is the deceitfulness of sin? It's that you would do wrong and not care. It's that you would do wrong from yourself, not because some circumstance forces you but out of you… There's a brokenness in you, a "prone to wander" in you, and you would actually do wrong from yourself, maybe for yourself, and you would think to yourself, "That doesn't really affect myself."

That's the deceitfulness of sin, that you just do whatever you want and be completely ignorant of the fact that you are hardening your own heart against God and maybe ruining your life. That's what the problem is. That's a very individual problem. You know what I mean? But look at the solution he gave right at the start. "But exhort one another…" He just gave a group solution to our individual problem.

There is no person you've ever met who doesn't have that individual problem, the tendency to sin, the tendency to the wrong. It doesn't mean they're as bad as they could be; it just means they're not as good as they should be. Does that make sense? The truth is we need one another. Christianity is a team sport. It always has been.

People get really creative in the ways they talk themselves out of this. I just want to tell you that. People get so creative when they don't want to be known or they don't want to be a part of a church. I was sharing the gospel with a guy a couple of months ago. His name was Jeff. He was a really nice guy. He seemed super open, so I went to the conversation.

I said, "Hey, Jeff. Let me take a turn in the conversation, man. Do you have a faith?" He said, "Yeah, man. I'm a Christian." He was ready. I said, "That's great, man. Let me ask you this, Jeff. If that dude over there came up to you and said, 'Jeff, I heard you're a Christian. I want to go to heaven, man. What do I have to do?' what would you say?"

He said, "I would tell them by grace through faith alone in the cross of Jesus Christ alone." He was ready. I was like, "Dude, this brother needs to preach." But I didn't tell him that. Instead, I said, "Okay, Jeff. One more question. Go one more with me. What church are you a part of?" He got really passionate. He was like, "Oh, you know what? I don't even need a church. Man, I don't have to go to church to be a Christian."

He gave me like eight objections. It was almost like he was more ready for me to ask that, and his big landing point… This was fun. He said, "You know, Jesus said, 'Where two or three are gathered, there I am among them.'" I said, "That's great, Jeff. Who are your two or three?" He said, "I've got my roommate, but he's an atheist." I said, "That's bad math, Jeff. That's not going to work." We get so creative when we want to talk ourselves out of this.

Let's just do a little call and response quickly. Here are some objections I've heard. These are direct from people. This is a real thing. I'm not making fun of anybody up here…much. These are the responses you get. I've heard people say, "I don't need to go to church to be a Christian." Right. Kind of like "I don't need to go home to be married." The answer is that's probably not going to work long. You know what I'm saying? It's just not going to go very far for very long.

Here's one: "People at church are as messed up as me." Great. You'll fit right in. It's going to be amazing. You can meet all your friends. I love this: "I don't need an organization; I can change the world on my own." Awesome. How's that going for you? Where did you change the world? What did you do? You can't do it alone. That's the truth.

Some dudes get super spiritual with it. I love this. Have you ever heard somebody use the term "big C" church? It means the global church, all believers in all places all over the earth, every nation. Some dudes will go theological with this and say, "You know what? I'm a 'big C' church guy. I love the whole church, global, so I don't really want to commit to any specific one."

Okay. Ladies, if you were with a man… I feel like I don't even need to finish this right now. I will. And he says, "You know, I'm kind of a 'big W' women guy, global women, all women, so I don't really feel the need to commit myself with all of my gifts to any 'little W' woman specifically." Leave. That is the most unhealthy… You'd be like, "You have some psychological issues is what you have." That's the fact of the matter. It just doesn't make sense.

Let me be honest with you. It just doesn't make sense to be like, "I'm so into the global movement of Jesus that I can't commit to the local movement of Jesus." You can't add. That doesn't work. All right? You have to be able to do this. Christianity is a team sport. It always has been, and the team is the local church. Why do we talk ourselves out of being on the team that we claim to be on? It doesn't even make sense. If you're a believer in Christ, to be the church you must be a part of a church, an imperfect place. You'll fit right in. Show up. Be a part of it and get engaged.

2._ A willingness to be countercultural. Changing gears completely. A willingness to be countercultural. This is essential if we want to be the church, or if you change your mind about wanting one, this is something you should look for: a willingness to be countercultural. Now what do I mean by this? _Counter means against. That's all it means. So you have to be willing to go against popular culture sometimes.

It kind of works like this. Summer is coming up. Do we have any lazy river people in here? Looking forward to it? Man, you guys are hard workers. I'm looking forward to the lazy river myself. The lazy river is a place where you go without any effort. It's a place where you and everybody else… There is no freedom of thought. It is "We are going." There's not a lot of force involved. It's just hands off.

Popular culture is like that. You don't have to do any effort. You can just go. Path of least resistance. You may remember at some point when you were a kid you get out of the lazy river and you decide you're going to run uphill just to see how hard it is. You realize it's really hard and it kind of upsets the people. It is frustrating to those as you walk upstream, and it takes a lot of effort, and you realize how much force is actually in your face.

At some point, being a Christian will feel like that. At some point, you will feel a sense of disagreement with the culture around you, not because you want to be disagreeable, not because you want to be a know-it-all, not because you want to be argumentative. By the way, let me put that boundary in place. I didn't say an eagerness to be countercultural. That's not Christian. You don't want to be argumentative. You don't want to be combative. That's not the point. You don't want to just turn around in the lazy river and splash for no reason. That just doesn't make any sense. It's going to upset the people.

What you have to do is be willing to humbly and gently walk with Jesus even when the rest of the world is in conflict with your choice or with your belief. That's just a normal part of Christianity. In fact, at one point in the Scripture the Bible calls you an exile. Did you know that? If you happen to be a believer in Christ… Exile means you have been exiled. You are not a part of the rest of the people. You are different. That's a normal part of being a Christian.

Jesus did countercultural things all the time. I just want to be more clear about what I mean by countercultural. I know for some people, going against the grain means something like, "You mean you have a wedding and don't have a hashtag?" No. I mean in some more meaningful way. Like, "You run a marathon and don't tell anybody? That would be crazy." That would be crazy. Somebody should definitely do that. I have never heard of that at all.

I mean in meaningful ways that you would be willing to go against culture. Jesus did this all the time. Think about some things Jesus said. Let me summarize. He told rich people it would be hard for them. Everybody knows it's easy for rich people. Right? He told rich people it would be hard for them to go to heaven. He showed women they were important at a time when not many believed that. He told men they couldn't divorce their wives for no reason at a time when not many believed that.

He told leaders to act like slaves of their people. Nobody did that. He told people to pay their taxes even though the government was corrupt. He invited white-collar criminals to become his followers. This is my favorite one: he told religious leaders they were the Devil's kids. Literally. "You are of your father the Devil." It's right there in John, chapter 8. If you're watching this, at some point you lean over to your friend and just say, "I don't think he cares what we think. I think he is totally free from what we think."

In fact, that actually happened. In Mark, chapter 12, it says, "And they came and said to him, 'Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.'" I just wonder if anyone could say that about you. Truly. Could anyone accurately say to you, if you claim to be a part…

If you don't, this question wouldn't even make sense, but if you claim to be a follower of Jesus, could people say that your way of life is fully independent from the approval of people? Could people say that you're an independent thinker? Could people say that you're firm enough to go wherever Jesus goes? Could they say that accurately of your life?

You will feel the resistance at times. Some of you feel it when you decide to stop sleeping with the person you're dating out of honor for Jesus, and they look at you like you are from another world. Or you come into a relationship with Christ, and all of a sudden you're the person in the office who wants to honor the boss no one likes, and everyone is mystified because you honor the boss who is not honorable, and they look at you like you're from a complete other world.

Or when you stop partying and you go, "Look. If I have to find new friends, I'll find new friends, but I can't go back to that same place." All of a sudden, people look at you like you're from another world. They're doing that because now you are. You're going to notice that sometimes if you choose to follow Jesus. It's normal to have to be willing at times to go against the grain of culture.

3._ Urgency in the mission of Jesus. If you want to be the church or if you want to find one at any point, you're going to need to find people or be a person who is urgent in your personal mission. If you want to see the mission God gave every single one of us, it's in Matthew 28:19-20. It goes like this. These are the words of Jesus. Very famous words. "Go therefore…" You're like, "Go where?" It says to "all nations." Well, that includes _this one. So go to work and make disciples. Go to your friend and make disciples. Go to your family and make disciples.

Some of you like to get a little creative, and you're like, "Can I go to the bar and make disciples?" No. That's not going to help you. Go to the people you can go to and lead them in such a way that they fall in love with the way of Christ because they read your life. You're like, "Make disciples. What does that mean?" Here's what it means. It means to be so in love with Jesus you can't help but love your friend so much you try to connect them to him.

That's all making disciples is. It's to love Jesus so much you can't help but want to take your people, your friends, your relationships, the people God has put in front of you and actually lead them toward the one who is total fulfillment and total satisfaction and total joy. That's what it means to make disciples. You can call it evangelism. Share the gospel. You can call it outreach. Serve the poor. You can call it anything you want if it is loving people so much you must bring them to the one who is love.

The first time this starts to happen to you it is a little nerve-racking. This is the first time in my life, a specific moment when I actually wanted to try to make a disciple. I wouldn't have called it that. I just would have said I wanted to help my friend. Here's what happened. We were in college, and we were both working retail. I did not go to college in order to work at Men's Warehouse, but I ended up there because that's where I could get a job, so there I was.

My friend and I were working, and I had left the party scene about six months prior. I was fresh out of the world, just trying to follow Jesus for the very first time. This dude was completely still entrenched in everything. His joy was very fragile, just like mine had been. I knew right where he was. He would come to work. He was moody. He was tired. He was frustrated. It was the highest of highs and lowest of lows, usually the lows.

He was wearing himself out. He always seemed to be on the verge of wrecking his life. I knew what that was because I had been there, and my heart just broke for him. One day he was in a low, low valley and we were closing up shop. We were standing up front at the registers, and I could see he was tired. He was hung over. I could tell he had a headache, was dehydrated, disoriented, the whole deal.

I saw him, and it was so fresh in my memory what that had felt like. My heart starts racing. I'm like, "I think God is telling me to talk to this dude." I was not a pastor. I had no reps. I had nothing. I just had "I love this dude. I don't know what to say." It's one college dude talking to another. That's all I had. So my heart is kind of racing, and I'm like, "If I don't talk to this dude, God is going to keep me up all night. I have to say something."

I didn't have any words. What happened was I just said, "Hey, man." I'm not making this up. "Hey, man. I'm afraid that if you keep doing this, history is going to kind of keep repeating itself, and I just think there's a better way." He knew I was a Christian. It wasn't exactly I shared the gospel and he got baptized on the spot, but it was my first time. Okay? It was the best I could do. He knew exactly what I was referring to.

So I said it and kind of stopped, looked at the ground. After you do that for the first time you're like, "Is my friendship with this dude over? Is he about to hit me in the face? What is about to happen?" You're so nervous. It's not normal. You're like, "What did I just do? Oh my gosh. Am I the crazy guy with a sign on the street who's saying…?" It's like an out-of-body experience. It's so weird.

So I waited. I just said that, and he goes, "Thanks, man. I appreciate that." That was it. I went to my car and was like, "Okay." It was so bizarre. Some of you don't know what that feels like because you've never reached out to a friend to actually try to be a friend. Some of you share the gospel everywhere you go, and you remember that first time where you were like, "Oh my gosh. They're going to think I'm crazy. They're never going to talk to me again."

The truth is they might feel your love coming across, because that's what it really is. I just want to tell you if you haven't felt that before, it's so freeing to love someone so much you no longer care what they think of you. If you think you're a friend but you care more about someone's opinion than their soul, you are no friend is the truth. Urgency in the mission of Jesus is part of it. That's part of the deal.

If you love him, if you know him and you know he loved you first, then it is unavoidable that if you want to be the church you need a sense of urgency for the people around you. You can't force them. Let me just say that. You can't force anybody. You don't need to force anybody. Don't preach. Don't go home to your roommate and be like, "I've been waiting." Don't go unload on your roommate. That's not the point. It is something to propose; it's not something to impose. You offer Jesus to people, but if you don't offer, you're not extending what Jesus died to extend to that person.

It is normal for us to have a sense of urgency in personal mission. In fact, this is what's fun. Some of you are here tonight because of that. Somebody took a risk, didn't they? Somebody at work decided to have a non-work conversation with you and put themselves out there and say, "Hey, there's this thing I want you to come to. It's church. No idea where you're at with that, but please come." And here you are. You didn't hit him in the face or anything. You were like, "All right, man. Let's do this."

Somebody got you here with a risk. Some family member sent you a little email or gave you a text and, no doubt hoping they don't push you away even farther, decided to take one little risk, one farther little step to say, "Hey, you should try this place." And here you are. That's normal Christianity. Instead of hoarding all our relational credibility, that we would actually use it to connect people to the God who loves them. That's normal. That's how it works.

Three things we have to keep if we're going to really be the church: urgency in our personal mission, a willingness to be countercultural, and authentic connection with other Christians. Let me finish here. There's one more piece of the puzzle I think is so critical. Anywhere you find this you have probably found a church, and anywhere you don't find this you haven't found a church. That's something called the gospel.

The gospel is not just a type of music. That's what I always thought it was. Like, "What's gospel? Is that like a choir?" The gospel is good news. That's what it means. That's the word in Greek. It literally means good news. It's that simple. So for the rest of your life you know what gospel means. It means good news. You go, "Well, what's the good news? I could use good news. Bad news everywhere."

It's the good news that even though you've sinned you're loved. It's that even though you've done wrong God is good and he's right. It's that even though you've created shame for yourself through a series of choices you made God made a series of choices to come and get you back. The gospel means that even though we all were like sheep and went astray… That's what sheep do. They kind of wander out of the way.

We are like that, the Bible says, but God, the Good Shepherd, comes to retrieve us; that he would leave behind those who were already found and go to a great distance to come to get us, and he paid a great price so we could know him and be forgiven and embrace real peace, peace that no amount of promotion or money or high or sexual fantasizing or conquering or whatever we put ourselves up to could ever offer.

Jesus actually climbed up on a cross, and when he was there he wasn't just experiencing physical pain; he was experiencing the emotional and spiritual torment that we deserve as people who turned our backs on God, but God wouldn't turn his back on us. He came to get us, and he paid for 100 percent…think about this…of the debt. I don't know if you've ever been in debt…medical, student, credit card, automobile. I have no idea if you've ever been in debt and what that feels like, but, oh, to be free.

You may not have known that your sin and your life creates a debt you could never pay to God because of his perfection and because of where you are, but he closed the gap. He came all the way here. He lived a perfect life. He never messed up. I don't know if you knew that. You'll never get to the page of the Bible like, "Where's the one where Jesus messed up?" It's just not in there. He lived a perfect life, and then he climbed on a cross and died a sufficient death, sufficient to bring us all to God.

Who could do that, could take a room this size, rooms this size, a world this size, of this much complexity and this much confusion and bring us all to God? For what price? Free to us. Expensive to him, but free to us by faith. That's the core of the church. That's how God built this for 2,000 years: by telling people, "You're loved just as you are."

All the morality of the Christian faith and all the behavior of the Christian faith is just a reaction to God's love who loved you first, who came 100 percent of the way to get you. Not so that you could shape up but so you could know what love really is and find life and life indeed. Let me pray for you.

Father, thank you for our evening tonight, and, God, I pray that if that sense of your love and your complete sufficient payment hasn't dawned on everyone who can hear my voice tonight, God, I pray that they would feel it, they would know, not just so they can feel a feeling but they can know a Savior, they could know what love really is. Not the conditional thing we thought it was where if we do well we're rewarded and if we don't do well we're punished, but just to know that we've all not done well but you've withheld punishment, instead gave it to our substitute, Jesus, and now the way is clear for us to get to you.

It might be countercultural. It might be counterintuitive. It certainly is not anything we would have ever come up with, but it's what you came up with, and it's your way of getting to us when we never wanted to get to you. Thank you, Jesus, that there is enough grace for everyone we know and even enough for us. In Jesus' name, amen.

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