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Andy Stanley - The Role of Rules


Andy Stanley - The Role of Rules
TOPICS: Heaven: Who Goes There?

Well, like most families, probably like your family, we had rules in our home for our kids. We had two overarching rules. I've talked about this before so I won't belabor the point, but our two overarching rules were honor mom and don't tell a lie, honor mom and don't tell a lie. I learn pretty quick honor mom and don't tell a lie covers a multitude of other things that you don't have to talk about. If everybody will just honor mom and don't tell a lie. Now, we did not have rules for the neighbors kids. It would've been a good idea, but we did not have rules for the neighbors kids because, well, they weren't our kids. Also, like most families, and I wrote this one down because this is a little bit convoluted. This might be a new thought for some of you. We did not have children so that there would be someone to keep the rules.

Let me go over that again. This is pretty deep thought. This may be the deepest part of the whole message. We did not have children, in other words, we didn't have like some rules and it was like, Sandra, we got all these great rules. These are like great rules. We need to have some children so there will be someone to keep the rules. So we did not have children so that there would be someone to keep, I didn't see anybody writing this down. I thought that was a pretty profound thought. Anyway, back to that in a moment. Today we are wrapping up our series Heaven, Who Goes There? And if this is your first time or your first time in a long time, I want to catch you up and do a quick review.

Most folks, especially most Americans, believe there's an afterlife, believe there's some sort of heaven if you want to use that label. And most folks, especially most Americans, maybe because we're Americans, believe that they're gonna end up there and they assume, and maybe you're one of the they and that's fine, it's the probably the majority you, you assume that you're gonna get there. People assume they're gonna get there because of their, they're convinced of two things. They're convinced, number one, that good people go to heaven. And number two, that you're a good person. They are convinced, hey, I'm a good person, good people go to heaven. I'm a good person. I'll end up in heaven. And as we've said throughout the series, this really makes a lot of sense and there's reasons people hold to these assumptions.

Number one, it's fair, I mean, if you live a good life and there's an afterlife, then you should be rewarded for your good life because you're a good person, it's fair. And this whole idea is consistent with the notion of a good God. If there's a good God and a good place after this life, then good God would wanna populate that good place with good people and you're a good person. In fact, that's the other reason people lean into this is because at the end of the day, you make the cut. Now, you're not sure what the cut is, but you're sure you make it because you're a good person and you're a good person, especially compared to and right? I mean, you know, you're not as good as some people, but you're better than other people. And so consequently, if there's a cutoff, surely, surely you make the cut.

Again, you haven't given this a lot of thought and who knows? And it's kind of ethereal and it's kind of intangible, but anyway, there's just the assumption, hey, if there's a good place, I'm a good person. I believe there's a good place, I believe there's an afterlife and I'm gonna end there. But as we said both in both episodes before today, if you scratch beneath the surface or if you start asking too many questions, this whole system falls completely apart . To begin with, good is a moving target. And I won't go into detail, we talked a lot about this in week one. Good is a moving target, historically, what was good a thousand years ago we think is evil today.

So who's right? Good is a moving target, culturally, even in our world today that are cultures you would go into and you're like, you can't treat children that way, that's horrible. You can't treat women that way, that's horrible. You can't treat the people who are different, that's horrible, but they think it's fine; that they think that's how it's supposed to be. In some cases, they think they're doing the will of God and you're like, Well I don't worship the same God you do. But who's to say, who's right? Good, the point being good is a moving target. And westerners and people in the United States, in particular, wanna say, "No, no, no, good isn't a moving target. The Bible tells us what is good". But as we've talked about, the Bible is not helpful in this respect. The Old Testament doesn't even mention heaven and there's certainly no list of things that if you do these things you'll go to heaven, that's not there. In the New Testament, the followers of Jesus made it clear that nobody's good and nobody's good enough to to earn their way to heaven.

So if you're looking for an answer to this question, how good is good enough to earn a spot in heaven, if you're looking for an answer to this question, which most people think there must be a good answer, the Bible will not help you. In fact, the Bible will hurt you. But we said there's an even bigger challenge to this assumption that good people go to heaven and you make the cut. And that's this, if good people go to heaven, then God isn't good because a good God would've made it clear exactly what we need to do. So we know where we are in the process. Is it 50%, 70%? What exactly is good? What's most important? Does he take our background into account? These take our age into account. I mean, do motives count? Do thoughts count? I mean, all these things, it's a complete mystery.

So if good people go to heaven, and that's really how we get there, God isn't a very good God because God hasn't made the system clear. In fact, God would need to show up, every generation or so to update the rules because of technology and because of the way that the world has changed and it's not like God is like moving the goalpost, it's worse than that, it's like God is hiding the goalpost. Then to make matters even worse, and this is what we talked about last time, if good people go to heaven, then Jesus was clearly, clearly mistaken. In fact, Jesus was misleading because Jesus did not teach that good people go to heaven. On the contrary, Jesus implied throughout his ministry, just read the gospels that bad people have the potential to end up in heaven and the goodest of the good weren't good enough.

In fact, as we saw last time, Jesus raised the bar for good so high that it made all of us look bad. For example, and we talked a lot about this last time, have you ever mistreated another person? The answer is yes, and according to Jesus, that's a sin. In fact that that's kind of that the epicenter of all the sins as Jesus talked about, what his sin or what dis displeases God. And you can apologize to that person, but you can't roll back the clock. You can't make up to them what you took because again, you can't go back in time. There's permanent damage that has been done because of the way you treated another person, the way you treated a person that God the Father loves. And according to Jesus, you can't be right with God the Father, if you're mistreating someone God loves, just like you can't be right with me if you mistreat one of my children.

Now, again, if you're not a Christian and not a Jesus follower, you're gonna love some parts of this message that please don't tune out. It might be your favorite sermon you've ever heard. It might be the only sermon you've ever heard that you really liked. Because one of the things that irritates you, and it should., is you, it irritates you when us Christians say that we're right about God and we are right with God. We're right about God. If you wanna know about God, just ask us. We got the corner on the market, we know all about God. And we're right with God 'cause God loves us more than he might love you because you know we're his followers and so we're right about God, right with God. It irritates you to death when you hear us position ourselves that way and then watch us mistreat other people and that should irritate you because that irritated Jesus. He had no patience, read the gospels. He had no patience with internalized believe-only, do nothing, religion, none.

In fact, it was the thing he was most critical of. It's why he was most critical of the quote, the best people, the good people, because they were good for nothing, because they didn't do anything for anybody else. And Jesus is like, hey, doesn't matter that you believe, It doesn't matter about your theology. You mistreat other people. You are white-washed tombs. You look good on the outside, but you are rotten on the inside. To which you know, the population in that time was like, "Yay, go, go Jesus, exactly. We've seen their hypocrisy for years". So he had no patience with internalized, do nothing believe-only religion.

So anyway, according to Jesus, no one is good enough to go to heaven. Good people don't go because no one's that good. The way he again defined good. According to Jesus, and this is where we left off last time, according to Jesus, forgiven people go to heaven and Jesus claimed, this is audacious; Jesus claimed to have authority to forgive other people on behalf of God, which was ridiculous until he rose from the dead. And then it was like, hey, game on because as we say around here, anyone who can predict their own death and resurrection and pull it off, we just go with whatever that person says, okay? And Jesus first century follower saw him crucified; they knew where he was buried. There was an empty tomb. They had breakfast with him on the beach and they're like, "You know what? You are who you claim to be. You are God and a bod. You are the resurrection and the life. And you do in fact have the authority to forgive people's sin on God's behalf".

Clearly, he had that authority. So here's what I wanna do for the next few minutes, I wanna kind of turn the page and I wanna talk about within the context of the Jewish tradition and the Christian religion, I want to talk about a question that kind of takes us to the center of where all the confusion comes from around how good you have to be to go to heaven. Because the question is kind of this, if rule keeping won't get you into heaven, then why all the rules? Why all the rules? And how did this get so confused? And where did the idea even come from that if you're good enough, you get into heaven. Who made this up? If you clean up, you get to show up. Who did that? And this is important, look up here, the answer to this question, the answer to that question is one of the primary reasons you should consider following Jesus or reconsider following Jesus.

So here's what we're gonna do. The best place to start to answer this question is where sometimes the confusion emanates from, the 10 Commandments. Now, this is a list that some people swear by, but don't live by. This is a list that some people swear by. They couldn't recite if their eternity depended on it. What about the 10 Commandments? Well listen, well name 'em. Okay, well what about 'em? Do you even know where they are? They're in the Bible. Do you know where? I think it's the first part of the Bible, So it's kind of a smoke screen, The 10 Commandments, anyway. So we're gonna talk a little bit about this. The 10 Commandments, this may put you ahead of most people you know is actually found in the second section, or we call 'em books, the second book of the Hebrew scripture, which is second section of the Christian scripture, and it's named Exodus.

And the reason it's named Exodus is perhaps you know, is because the book of Exodus Chronicles ancient Israel's exodus from Egyptian slavery. Quick background on that, God called a man named Abraham, said, "Abraham, I'm gonna bless the whole world through you". This is amazing and he also said to Abraham, "Abraham, I'm gonna make your name great, which means Abraham, I'm gonna make you famous". And do you know what's interesting? All of you had heard of Abraham before I just talked about him. So put a check in that box. He's famous, for everybody knows who Abraham is, way to go, God, he kept that promise. He said, "I'm gonna make your name great and bless the whole Earth".

So Abraham then eventually has a family, his one of his great grandsons, Joseph takes the whole family to Egypt. They multiply like crazy, makes Pharaoh nervous, the Egyptians nervous. So they decide, you know what? If we don't do something, they're gonna out populate us and they're gonna take over our nation. So they enslave all the descendants of Abraham and they become a slave state within the state of Egypt and they remain that way for over 400 years. And then God moves and he calls a man named Moses and Moses goes to Pharaoh and he says, to Pharaoh, "Let my people go," that's right all you Bible scholars, let my people go and eventually Pharaoh did. But it was a pretty epic transition. We'll talk about that at another date. Anyway, so he says, let him go and so Moses takes the nation and they exited, thus the name Exodus.

Now, this is where you gotta follow the storyline. They've been a slave state for 400 years. They have no civil law, they have no constitution. They never functioned independently and there's about a million of them. Some people say perhaps close to 2 million people exited Egypt to follow Moses, to wherever Moses was choosing to lead them. So then God, through Moses, provides for the nation a constitution, some laws, civil law, including punishment and rules of how to conduct their lives. Because again, they've been under the boot of Egypt and they've just been told what to do. And again, what do you do with your freedom? You remember what you did with your freedom? Remember guys, the first time your mom or your dad said, Okay, here's the license. We want you to take the car and drive, and you got to drive all by yourself for the first time. Do you remember how responsible you were? Exactly, so all of a sudden they've got all this freedom, like, what do you mean we're free? They don't even know how to act.

So God and his mercy gives them this law. And the thing is this, and I don't have a lot of time to talk about this, but I wanna dip into it a little bit because the Old Testament law, it gets a lot of grief from people and culture and it's because they don't understand the context and you need to do that. The law that God gave the ancient Israelites, the law that God gave the ancient Israelites that you find in the first part of your Bible was so far ahead of its time that there's really no explanation for it, except perhaps it was, in fact, given by God. There are divine element to this law because there was nothing that paralleled. In fact, in some cases as we'll see, there were things in the law that God gave the nation of Israel that don't show up in other civilizations for almost 2000 years, I'll give you an example, or 1500 years, I'll give you an example of one in just a minute. So far ahead of its time.

And for example, there are so many rights and protections built into the law for people in that world and in those generations who had no rights and who had no protections, For example, slavery, we think of slavery, we kind of put it in one box, just slavery. But there's all kinds of slavery. The slavery that's mentioned or condoned or given permission for within the context of the mosaic law is nothing like the slavery that was happening any other part of the world or that even goes on in the world today. The whole idea, in fact, it was more like indentured servitude, that in that culture in in Israel, you could sell yourself into slavery and buy yourself back out if you needed to. And there were opportunities for slaves to no longer be slaves.

The whole idea of unrestricted, or I should say unrestricted domination of one human being over another, that was not permitted under the law of Moses, under the law that God gave the nation of Israel. What they had experienced as slaves in Egypt was not permitted in their land. What was happening in every other nation around them and what would happen for generations, for decades, for centuries, and the nations around them was not permitted. The whole idea that slaves or servants would have rights. I'm telling you, unprecedented, it's baked into their law. In fact, it was so ahead of its time that some of Israel's ancient law has informed modern law. But here's the thing, the law that God gave Moses to give the people, it doesn't show up until chapter 20.

So the question is what's going on for the first 19 chapters? And here's what was going on; for the first 19 chapters of the story, God is demonstrating his love and his concern for a group of people that he considered his own, His people that he delivered, not because they kept his law, they didn't have a law, not because they were obeying the rules. They didn't even know what the rules were. He delivered them pre-law and do you know why God delivered them from Egypt? Because he wanted to. And here's kind of the bottom line for our discussion today, when it comes to the God of the Old Testament, the God of the New Testament, the God that we worship as Christians, Relationship always precedes the rules. God did not give Israel the law as a means of establishing a relationship with him. God gave Israel the law because they were already in relationship with him. It wasn't a condition, it was a confirmation that they were in the family.

Again, going back to what I said earlier, we never established a bedtime for our neighbor's kids, just our kids. I never disciplined my neighbor's kids. At times, I wondered if their parents disciplined the neighbor's kids. And to be fair, I'm sure there were times they wondered if we disciplined our own kids. But the point is, we disciplined our kids because they were our children. So anyway, so three plus months after they leave Egypt, Moses leads them to the foot of Mount Sinai and God provides this extraordinarily, I mean, if you read it, you're just like, how much more of this is there, this extraordinarily detailed constitution or law in order to guide the people.

And listen, in fact, I just want you to listen to how this whole thing begins. It doesn't begin with thou shalt or thou shalt not. Here's the preamble to this ancient constitution. this is fascinating, here's how it starts. "I am the Lord your God". In other words, we've already got something going on. I'm the Lord, your God. There's already some sort of relationship established. And by the way, if you wanna know exactly who I am, a little flashback 30 days ago, who brought you out of Egypt and out of the land of slavery, "Just a few months ago," God said, "A few months ago, you belong to Pharaoh, now, you belong to me".

A few months ago. You belong to Pharaoh, no freedom, no land, no future, no hope. Now you belong to me and you belong to me without me requiring anything from you, except a single expression of trust. All I asked was that you put the blood of a lamb on the doorpost of your home as a symbol of the fact that you trusted in Yahweh. I asked for one single expression of trust and you are in. And now that you know I have your best interest in mind, I want you to follow me and I want you to obey me. And then he gets to the first real command. Okay, here it is. "You," mow that you know who I am, "you shall have no other gods before me". And they're thinking, you are not even kidding We're not gonna have any other gods before you. Did you see? I mean, we saw what you did to Egypt's gods. We saw what you did to all the gods of Egypt.

I mean, God's message to Pharaoh is essentially this, these are my words, not God's. But basically the message to Pharaoh is, hey, you got something that belongs to me and I'm not leaving here without it. And God hovered and hovered. And here's the amazing thing. In ancient times again, all of this was again, we read this scripture through a modern lens and we miss the, the juicy part, the amazing parts. In those days, in ancient times, even up until, thousands of years later, the thought was this, wherever there's a piece of land, there's a god for that piece of land. In fact, if you go into a home, there are idols to the ancestors in that home that there were gods everywhere and they kind of owned the geography. So whatever land you were in, you just adopted their god. You could bring your idols, but they were kind of visitors.

The fact that Yahweh left wherever he was and showed up in Egypt, he went into their stadium, they had the home feel advantage, and he wreaked havoc with god after god, after god after god, after god, humiliating the entire pantheon of Egyptian gods. The next command is amazing. It flows from the first one. He says, and by the way, I'm the lord's your God, you're gonna worship me and me alone. And little detail, again, what he says next, we read it like, oh yeah, whatever, unprecedented. It would be 1500 years before the next civilization caught up with this next statement. "I'm the lord's your God. You shall not make", this is amazing. "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or the Earth beneath or in the waters below". No image, you can't. There is nothing that represents me accurately, therefore, you will have no idol.

I'm telling you, a system of worship without an idol was unheard of. It didn't make any sense. In fact, if you know the story, it wasn't long before they broke this rule because they just couldn't imagine worship without an object of their worship. And Yahweh was saying, "I'm the object of your worship and there is nothing that can explain me and there's nothing that can contain me; and I don't want you to think for a moment, that if you take an idol that represents me and set it over here, that you can go do something over there and me not know about it, I'm not that kind of God because I am the Lord, your God. I am mobile. I showed up in Egypt. I can be wherever I need to be, no image".

Again, it would be almost 2000 years before non-Jewish people caught up with this whole idea. Then later, in the commandments, this is one you all know about, he says, again unprecedented, he said, "Oh, yeah, by the way, I want you to take a day off". "What? We'll starve". "No, you won't. I'll take care of you". Oh yeah, what do you mean a day off? Yeah, there's gonna be a day when no one works. Get this, again, not even your slaves. Okay, maybe we misunderstood. I mean, slaves don't get a day off. I mean, nobody gets a day off. There was no such thing as a weekend. God's going, nope. I wanna prove to you that I'm gonna sustain you. I want you to take 24 hours and there will be no labor and you're not allowed to allow your slaves or your servants to servants to labor. I'm telling you, this was unprecedented for the citizens.

This was entirely, there's no way to even begin to understand the magnitude and the significance of giving all of the slaves and the servants a day off. Why? Because God was beginning to teach them something. It would take them a long time to learn. It was like breadcrumbs that every human being is valuable to me. That everyone, everyone has dignity to me. And so we're gonna take care of the loneliest and the great, we're gonna take care of the children. Everyone matters to God. So in this ancient, ancient, ancient law, God reveals something and sort of an ethic, a value system that was unknown and unheard of and was such a stretch even for the people of Israel. Then the next six are basically, hey, here's how to treat people and honor other people. So to summarize the whole thing, it was kind of this: honor me because I rescued you; honor others, they're made in my image and treat slaves with justice because you were once a slave yourself.

Do not forget where you came from, it's amazing. But this is the top 10. This is like a table of contents. There were like 600 plus other commands and why so many? Because this was their civil law. This had to touch on every single aspect of their life. And why did God give them such a detailed law? Because God cared about his people. The point simply being this, when it comes to God, relationship precedes the rules. The Israelites did not behave their way in and read the rest of their story. They were not able to misbehave their way out. I mean, when you read, start reading the Old Testament and you get to the prophets and it just sounds like a bunch of angry guys, just they're ranting and raving and they're mad and this is gonna happen and that's gonna happen. It's like, gosh, how much is... you know what? This was God's way of warning the people He loved that if you give up my law, you give up your freedom.

And then in one account it's amazing, God actually puts the nation in timeout; that's where that came from. He put 'em in timeout, not for a half an hour, for 70 years and brings 'em back is this amazing, amazing history. But through all their rebellion and they would revert back to idol worship all the stuff, God never abandoned his people because he had an agreement with his people and they were his people before he gave them the first thou shall or thou shall not. And then this is where the music changes, 1500 years later, about 1500 years later, Jesus gathers, this is so amazing, gathers with the 12 apostles in a room in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. And Passover was the annual celebration of God delivering the nation from Egypt. They remembered, they remembered, and it was so difficult in the first century during these days.

It was so difficult to celebrate Passover when you were basically a vassel state of the Roman empire. They had no freedom. All the freedoms, all the joy, all the things that they celebrated under Moses, most of that was gone. And yet they're still celebrating God's faithfulness to the nation. So they gather, and the boys with Jesus that night, they've been celebrating Passover the same way since they were children, since as long as they could remember, repeating the same lines, answering the same questions, answering the same questions the same way as a father would lead them through, basically a script to celebrate and to remember. And that night they're expecting the same thing and Jesus says something, He does something so blasphemous, they should have all gotten up and walked out of the room. They should have walked out or they should have stoned him.

The only, I don't, there's not an equivalent, but my best shot, and I've shared this with you before, what he does next would be like me showing up the first weekend of December and saying, hey, in December we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but from now on we're gonna celebrate my birth. Yeah, you would leave or I would leave. Something would happen. I mean you just don't do that. What Jesus is about to say to them doesn't even compare to how audacious and how strange and how crazy that would sound. He says, "Gentlemen, from now on, when you celebrate Passover, from now on you keep celebrating, but from now on, when you celebrate it, I don't want you to do this in remembrance of what happened 15 or so hundred years ago, from now on, I want you to do this in remembrance of me".

In other words, what God did for our people all those centuries ago, He is about to do for the entire world. He is about to invite the entire world to form an a single expression or embrace a single expression of trust that will then introduce them into a relationship with God, our Father. He goes on to say this, this cup that they had taken so many times, they knew what it represented. He said, "No, we're gonna do this different". "This cup is now the new covenant," a new relationship, a new order, a new kind of approach. This is something brand new, it's a new covenant and it's gonna be in my blood, which made no sense to them that night. But the next day he would shed his blood for them and for you and for the entire world to establish this covenant.

That first covenant with Israel was done with a lamb, with lamb's blood on the side of a door and Jesus says, "I am the final one". And they're thinking back, They remember that day for some of them, not all of them. When John the Baptist looked at Jesus and said, you remember this? "Behold the lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world". And suddenly it all comes together for them; that the nation of Israel was the backstory to the main story. But it was the essential story to get them to this point in history. And God was about to do something new, a brand new covenant, not simply with a nation, but for and with the world. He was saying as just as God delivered our people from slavery in Egypt, he's about to deliver the world from slavery and from the ultimate consequence of sin and the term and the condition would be the same as it was 1500 years ago. A single expression of trust.

Isn't that amazing? Paul, who again was on both sides of the aisle, he was a pharisee, considered himself like the greatest Pharisee ever. Then he becomes a Jesus follower and he considers himself the chief of all sinner. It's like, which one are you? He's like Chief of all sinners. I thought I had it going on. I thought I knew, but I didn't know when I met Jesus, my whole worldview changed. And Paul, because he'd been on both sides, he was an educated Pharisee, he understood this parallel track. He understood the parallel between what God had done for the nation 1500 years ago and what God had done through Jesus for the entire world. And he writes, He says, Look, just as God demonstrated his love for the nation, his love for Israel, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this," that while we were, this is so powerful, that "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us".

I gotta explain this word real quick. This is so important. When we read this verse, especially if you grew up in church, you've heard this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. It's like, okay, I know what he's meaning, but okay, I wasn't still sin when he cried, died for us. 'cause when he died for us, I wasn't even alive. But anyway, I'm sure you know this means something important. Here's why this is so important to how Paul wrote it. You see, Paul was alive when Jesus was crucified. Paul's friends, the people that Paul knew were alive when Jesus crucified, but he was nowhere close to it. And he realizes this is kind of his own testimony. I realize now, while I was 100% wrong about God. I was so wrong that when I heard the message of Jesus, I began to persecute that Jesus followers. I was wrong. I was an error. I was an enemy. And while I was alive on this earth and God knew everything I was about to do, his son died for my sin anyway; while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me, for us, before we did anything, before we knew there was anything that needed to be done, he did something for us.

Two verses later, he writes this, He says, "For if, while we were God's enemies," talking about himself and talking about some of us and all of us to some extent, "While we were still God's enemies," before we did anything, before we knew there was anything to do, he went ahead and he reconciled us to him. And how did he do it? He tells us through, through, through what? Through rule Keeping, through doing our best, through making more promises. He says, "no". He would say, "Look, I was the Pharisee of Pharisees. I tried that route. There's no peace. You never know where you stand. You just become judgmental. You mistreat other people thinking you're right with God. No, we're done with all that, through". And this is the jumping off point for some of you because this is the fork in the road. How do you find peace with God? He says, "I'll tell you how. I tried the other way. Through the death of his son".

The reason that the gospel, the reason that the arrival of Jesus, the reason the message of Jesus is good news is because we don't good our way in. We don't behave our way in; any more than my children behave their way into our family. Best news of all, we can't bad our way out, any more than my children can misbehave their way out of our family. They are my children. I am their father, regardless. Look up here, and for some of you, you need to hear that. Because you think, but you don't know what I've done. Paul would say, Hey, let's compare notes. But you don't know that what I... But Andy, I made promise. I grew up in church and then I and I... Listen, listen, Paul would say, I get all that. But understand while we were still sinners, while we were enemies of God, he did something for us and he did not require something from us to make things even. He's offering a gift, take it. That's why Jesus didn't say you must behave again.

John was there for this when Jesus was talking to Nicodemus. And Nicodemus was a smart, educated guy and he was a leader in the temple system and he is trying to figure this out. And Jesus didn't say, come on Nicodemus, you gotta behave again. He said, "No, Nicodemus, you must be born again". Because the law was simply confirmation of God's love for a people. But you're born into a family and God is inviting you to be born again into his family. So if you're wondering where you're staying with God and you keep looking at how well you're doing, according to Jesus, who rose from the dead, you're looking in the wrong place. Why all the rules? Well, for Israel, God was not attempting to make bad people, Good. God was keeping free people, free.

And the same is true for you and the same is true for me. With God, as with all good parents, the relationship always precedes the rules, and and the rules are simply God's way of saying, because I love you, here's how I want you to live. Because I love you, here's why I want you to forgive, because I love you. Here's why I want you to serve one another because I love you. Here's why I want you to treat your enemy, because I love you, this is why I want you to take the log out of your own eye before you, this is how I want you to live, because I love you and I know what brings the most happiness and fulfillment and peace to follow the queue, to follow the life, to follow what my son modeled on Earth. We are reconciled to God, are made to be able to fit with God by grace. We choose to follow. We choose to obey out of gratitude. And Jesus summarized it, so he made it so simple. He said, "Here's all I want you to do. Here's what it looks like to follow in, obey me. Here's your one rule. I just want you to treat other people the way that I have treated you".

Do not forget that once upon a time, you too were a slave. To close, I want to kind of turn another page and I wanted to say something for two minutes to those of you who are not Christians or not Jesus followers, or maybe you used to be and you got away or maybe you're part of a different religion or a different faith system, and I really wanna apologize. If one of us Christians has attempted, has attempted to impose one of our Christian rules on you, I'm sorry, anyone who said, but the Bible says, or Jesus said, or God, they just try to impose one of their our Christian rules on you. I just want you to know, I am so sorry. How you choose to live your life is really none of our business. In fact, you're, if you aren't really a Bible person, I'm gonna show you a verse that you've never seen before, that you're gonna love. This is for sure one verse that you're gonna agree with in the Bible and I hate to admit this in front of a lot of Christians, but a lot of us have never seen or read this verse either.

The Apostle Paul who again wrote half the New Testament, about half the New Testament, this is some of the most ancient Christian literature. In fact, this is the earliest of his books. This is before the gospels and these writing to Christians and he's telling them how to behave in a culture where they are the minority and everybody else, they just don't buy it. They just reject it, maybe like you do. And here's what he said to them, and if we had been doing this all along, chances are you would not have been offended by one of us. So this is completely on us, but this is what he said. You're gonna love this. He said, "Make it your ambition". That is you need to focus. This is a big deal, front and center every single day. "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. and you should mind your own business". You're like, that's not the Bible. And he goes on and says, You mind your own business and work with your own hands and take care of your own family and just do your thing. Why, "So that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders".

Where did we get the idea? Stay with me, where did we get the idea that somehow we are to impose our rules, our family rules on people who don't even want to be in our family. We got it all wrong. We got it backwards. The rules are for family. So Christians, let's mind our own business. And for those of you who've been offended by us, because we didn't, I'm sorry we got it wrong. But one last thing, while the rules don't apply to you, God's love definitely applies to you. In fact, he loves you as if you are already in the family and related to him. So his invitation to relationship is a standing invitation, an invitation accepted not through promises to do better. An invitation that's simply accepted by acknowledging what he has already done for you.

For again, this is John who've spent all this time with Jesus. "For God," your father, "did not send his son into the world to condemn the world". God did not send his son into the world to condemn you. and if you have felt condemned by us, it's because we got it wrong. "God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him". Who goes to heaven? Forgiven people go to heaven. And how do we find forgiveness? Through Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord? Let's pray together.

Heavenly Father, it's so simple. We just walk by it. It's so threatening in some ways, we resist it. So wherever it lands with us, give us the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. Father, on my behalf, our behalf, forgive us for forgetting what our responsibility is and trying to impose on other people what they just never bought into to begin with.


Well, how did we miss that? If either for the person listening and today there there was something kind of clicked for them. It's like, Oh, I get it now. I see it for the first time, would you give them the courage to take a next step? Maybe tell somebody. But wherever this lands with us, we are grateful. We are grateful because we'll never be good enough.

Heavenly Father, you know my heart. I don't even keep my own rules, much less something that you would lay on me as the God of the universe. So thank you for grace. Thank you for forgiveness. Thank you for Jesus and it's in His name we pray, amen.

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