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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - A New Way of Life

Andy Stanley - A New Way of Life

Andy Stanley - A New Way of Life
TOPICS: The Way in a Manger, Christmas

So one of Jesus' most controversial statements is also one of his most quoted statements. In fact, if you're not a Christian or not from our religious tradition or maybe different religious tradition, you've heard this before, even though you maybe not have even, I guess you knew that Jesus said it, but even if you don't agree with it, it's, it's so, it's so well known. Most people have heard this before, and we, we touched on this last time, he said, I am the way, the truth and the life. And you know, on, on this, that's a lot. But by itself it's a little bit vague, right? I mean, I'm the way to what, you know, I'm the way to where and how can a person, I says I, how can a person be the truth and how can a person be the life? And if he had stopped there, it would be a little bit odd, but it certainly wouldn't be controversial. But he didn't stop there. He went on to claim as you know, who he was on or who he was the way to.

Now, unfortunately, and this may disturb you a little bit, if you grew up in church like me, and, and that's okay. It's okay to be disturbed. Unfortunately, what follows after this, and many of us can quote this, what follows after this is usually interpreted as very exclusive. In fact, maybe one of the reasons you're not a Christian is what Jesus says next. It's like, it's just too exclusive, it's too small. It's, it's, it's, you know, it's, it's too limiting. And, and that's understandable. And unfortunately what the way this passage has been interpreted, oftentimes it makes it sound that way, an attempt to exclude people. But if you read the gospels or if you follow Jesus through the book of Matthew, mark, Luke, or John, you cannot walk away from the gospels with the impression that Jesus was trying to be exclusive or limiting.

In fact, it was the very opposite. This was not, that was not Jesus' intent. He was not drawing a smaller circle. I mean, that's what the first century religious leaders did. They drew a small circle, our four and no more, actually it was our 12, 12 tribes of Israel and no more. And not even all the 12 tribes of Israel, only the law abiding. And in some cases only the law abiding men. The women were kind of on the edge. There was some doubt as to whether or not, you know, women would even be a part of God's future kingdom. It was, it was very strange. And Jesus wasn't coming to draw a smaller circle. He was, he came to expand the circle. I mean the other, the verse that we've all heard for God so loved the world. Yeah, like the, the whole thing, right? So he wasn't being exclusive. What he says next is actually inclusive, which is great news for everybody.

That God, God's covenant with Israel, that we talk about from time to time, it was exclusive on purpose for a purpose. And it was perfect for the reason it was given. But Jesus knew covenant was the way for the rest of us, for the world. And so he continues, I am the way, the truth and the life. And no one comes to the Father except through me. Or, or put another, another way. He could say this in a positive way. And this was his point. Read the gospels. Everybody has access to the Father through me. Hi. His point. And what these guys heard, because this is important, they were gathered for their Passover meal. So they're celebrating this extraordinary event that happened in the history of, of the Jewish people.

So when he said this, this is a, for us, it's like, yeah, duh, we're Christians, we get it. This was a major paradigm shift. This was so disruptive. Essentially Jesus was saying the, the old way is no longer the way, the old way was you had to be born a son or perhaps a daughter of Abraham to be part of God's righteous tribe and God's righteous acceptable group. And Jesus is saying, no, that was the old way. And it's over. I'm introducing something brand new. And in this new way, you're not born into it. You can't birth your way, you can't obey your way, you can't sacrifice your way in, you can't serve your way in, you can't even pray your way to the Father. But there is a way to the Father, he said they're looking at him. This was so difficult for them. He said, I am the way everyone can come to the Father. Everyone can come to the Father by means of me. I am the way in.

In fact, if you have any doubts about this, if you're thinking, oh, Andy, I think you're kind of messing with this pop popular text, just remember this. And if you grow up in church like me, you know this. And if you didn't grow up in church, gosh, I I I wish you knew this at the end of Jesus ministry, after he rose from the dead and he gathers with his guys and the men and women in the group, you remember, this is such a famous scene, what he said to them, he said, I want you, this was his message was so inclusive. He said, I want you to take what I've taught you and what you have seen to the entire world. And our English text says to all nations, which some of them were thinking you, well, you mean all neighborhoods like from Judea to Galilee, and maybe we'll skirt around the Samaritans 'cause we know they're kind of off, you know, know.

And Jesus is like, no, this isn't a Jewish message. This is a message for the entire world. I'm drawing a circle larger than you ever thought imaginable. Because I have come to reveal the will of the Father for every single person in every single nation, for every single generation That, that this was a message for sinners like me and sinners like your husband or your wife, just kidding for sinners like all of us, right? For your middle schoolers or your high school students. This was a message for all people. So when the shepherds were out in the fields watching over their flock by night in low, the angel of the Lord shown roundabout them and they were sore, afraid.

You know the story, the Christmas story, the angels were correct when they said, we have good news of great joy for all people. Today in the city of David, a savior has been born to you, the doors have been thrown wide open and everybody is invited. So at Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of that way, the way the truth and the life. We celebrate the way in a manger. If you weren't with us last time, we're in part two of this series entitled The Way in a Manger, where we're talking about this extraordinary thing that Jesus said and this extraordinary thing that Jesus demonstrated throughout his ministry. Now, understandably, when Jesus made this, this statement, I'm the way the truth in life. No one comes to father through me, the guy's in the room because this is the very night he's arrested.

So there's a lot going on. There's a lot of emotion. Judas slips out, they don't know where he's going. I mean a lot's about to happen. They didn't understand this the way he meant it. I mean they, in fact, if you read the passage, they ask so many questions, they're so confused. And it did not become clear to them honestly until after the resurrection. In fact, the night that he said this, they're thinking by the end of that night, they're thinking, yeah, you're the way. All right? You're the way to a, a short-lived life. You're the way to an early execution. You're a way to get arrested. I mean, everything about your way is bad because that's why they ran off when he was arrested. But after the resurrection, this becomes clear to them. In fact, it was so clear, some of you know this, the, the early Christian movement was called The Way This was so central, they named their movement after this idea that Jesus is the way.

So they just called their movement. We just called it, they didn't call it the church. They called it the way Jesus was. In fact, they discovered who he claimed to be the way to the Father. But more than that, as we talked about last time, Jesus' actions and his reactions to everyone he met reflected not just the way to the Father, but the ways of the Father. And this is why he says, I'm the truth and I'm the life. I'm the truth of how the world works and what's best for you. And I am the life you must live. And I'm a reflection of the life that has been given to you. And I'm a reflection of the life you have been called to live if you're gonna be my follower.

So his invitation, this is so powerful, we talk about it all the time. His invitation didn't begin or end with believe something or believe in me. His invitation began then, and it begins with each of us with this invitation, I want you to follow me, I want you to follow me. He was more than simply a way to life. He was the way of life. And he taught and he modeled and illustrated this different way of life, a different way of living, the way of living. And we, again, I don't dunno how to overemphasize this, this way of living, that Jesus demonstrated, it is the way, and this is why he was so adamant about it. And we're gonna get to one specific application in a minute. He was so adamant about it because he came from the Father who created you and created all of us. And God the Father knows best how we are to live, which means he knows how to make life work.

This is why we say all the time around here, following Jesus, not just believing, following Jesus will make your life better and will make you better at life. It'll make you a better father and husband and wife and mother. It'll make you a better employer and employee because Jesus came to show us the way to live, the way we were created to live. And we all have lived long enough to know this. When you live against that grain, when you live against the way you are designed to live, there is unnecessary friction. There's unnecessary heartbreak, there are unnecessary bad decisions, and there are loads of regrets. And your Heavenly Father sent his son into the world, not simply to be the way to the Father, but to show us and demonstrates the, demonstrate the ways of the Father, the way that leads to a full life, a fulfilling life. On one occasion, Jesus called it an abundant life.

But this is challenging for us because this, this way, this way of Jesus, it requires something of us. But it's like a good parent requiring something of their children. Sometimes we require things of our children, they resist. But we know, son, if you'll just trust me, if you'll just do this, if you'll just practice this, if you'll, if you'll just do what I, I'm saying in a few years, you're gonna look back and you're gonna be so glad I that, that you did. And so the Father sent the son with that same sense of urgency. Because simply believing, believe, simply believing doesn't require a way of life if we're just gonna be believers. All that requires is a box of beliefs. And a box of beliefs hasn't ever changed anything.

In fact, you know, in fact, if you're not a Christian, you get this because you're not a Christian and you know some Christians and they're like the worst people you've ever met and they lead with their beliefs. They are so quick to tell you what they believe. Here's what we believe. Here's what Christians believe. Here's what the people in our church believe. And you say to yourself, or maybe you say to them, and we deserve it. It's like, yeah, that's what you say you believe. I don't see it. I mean, I don't know you. You may say, I've never read the whole Bible, but I know enough about Jesus to know you ain't him. Okay? There's not very much I see in you that reminds me of anything I've read about Jesus.

That's what happens when our faith is just a box of beliefs and we lead with our beliefs rather than leading with the way that Jesus has called us to live and modeled us to live the way of life that he came to demonstrate for us. Jesus did not leave us with the option of living with a box in the list of beliefs later. In fact, and this is really convicting, okay? So I'm, I'm with you. I'm sitting with you in the audience on this one. All right? Later in that same conversation where Jesus, I'm the way, the truth of life, nobody gets to the Father except through me. In that same conversation, he smiles and he says to these guys who've been with him for three or three and a half years, he says, now, guys, if you love me, to which when we read this, we think, what do you mean if we love you? Of course we love you. I mean, you died on the cross for our sins. You paved the way to God.

We can live with a clear conscience. We can live with hope that we're gonna see loved ones again. I mean, what? What do you mean? If we love you, we have peace with God. There's no if about it. I mean, Jesus, it's, it's Christmas. This is why we celebrate your birth, because we love you for, for, for which I would imagine, I don't know that Jesus is very grateful that we celebrate his birthday, but you'll notice he didn't finish it this way. If you love me, you'll celebrate my birthday, right? Do you know what he said? This isn't as famous a verse, but it's in the same conversation. If you love me, this is the good Father speaking through the Son. You keep my commandments. In other words, if you trust me, if you really believe I'm who I say I am, then you'll keep my commands because you'll know as later another author says, because my commands are not burdensome. Because my way, as Jesus would say, I'm the good shepherd and I'm leading you in a good way.

And yes, there's some bumps and yes, it's gonna be difficult. And yes, there are challenges. But trust me, if you love me, you'll keep my commands. Believers, you know, Christians, you just wanna be believers are like, whoa, whoa, whoa. I thought we were done with commands. I thought this was just about, you know, loving Jesus. Can't, can't, we can't, we just celebrate your birthday and be done with it, can't we? Can we make it that simple? Again, Jesus doesn't leave us that option. In fact, I, I, again, I'm putting words in the mouth of Jesus. So you know, don't take this too seriously. But I think Jesus would respond to that. Hey, if, if you gotta choose one or the other, I would prefer you embrace the way I live over celebrating the day I was born. Celebrating the day I was born Doesn't mean you love me, it just means you're grateful for what I've done for you. But if you love me, I want you to follow me.

The way in a manger came to show us the way we were created to live. That's why he came as one of us to live as among us, to model the way for us, the ways of the Father, because the way of the Father, this is so important, the way the Father actually created us to live now central. And here we go, then we're gonna get super focused here for a minute central to the idea of the way the Father invited us to live central to that. And at the epicenter of that is this single solitary command that Jesus gave his disciples and gave us. That is sort of the umbrella for all the other commands. In fact, everything else in the New Testament as it refers to what Jesus taught are really just applications of this one idea. They're kind of the details.

But here's the one central idea and the central idea, we talk about it all the time, is that if we're gonna follow Jesus, we are called to do for others precisely what he did for us. That we're called to live our lives in such a way that reflect that we do for others what God through Christ has done for us. And what did he do for us? He reconciled us to God the Father. And then as we're gonna see in the next 10 minutes, he looks at us who have said, we love you. And he says, if you love me, you'll keep my commands.

Okay, what are your commands? Well, let me give you the big one because this is kind of the overarching one. I want you to respond and treat people the way that God, that I have treated you through my son. And you've seen how he's treated you. And specifically I want you to begin by reconciling with each other because I have reconciled with you. He's commanded us to reconcile with each other because God, through Christ has allowed us and given us the opportunity to reconcile with him. And our tendency, I get this, this is how I was raised. Our tendency is to go, wow, thank you for allowing me to have a relationship with you. We're good to go. And Jesus is like, no, we're not done now.

Now I want you to turn around and do for your brother and your sister and your enemy what I have done for you. And Jesus says, if you love me, you will. And if you love me, you'll trust me. And trust me, he would say, this is what how you were designed and created to live. You were created to live a life of reconciling relationships. You were not created to live with anger. You were not created to live with bitterness. You were not created to live with resentment. You were not created to live with unresolved conflict with people. And though you can't control how they respond to you, you were created to open the door to relationship to them. Just like my father opened the door of relationship to you. That reconciliation was the purpose of the way and the manger to begin with, to reconcile God to his rebel race.

And those of us who have experienced that reconciliation, that fix, that peace with God that we long for and desire, we have been called to extend that same reconciliation to the people around us we're to do for others what God through Christ did for us as God. And this is hard, okay? As God took the initiative for God so loved the world, he's like, I'm sending my son in. As God took the initiative to reconcile with us. We as Jesus followers are to take the initiative to reconcile with our brothers and our sisters and our friends in the broken relationships. And even the people that have no desire to reconcile with us just as as God. And this is so important, just as God worked to remove obstacles to reconciling with us, we have been called to remove whatever obstacle we can to reconciling with the people whose relationships are broken loose ends.

You hope you don't run into 'em at Kroger, right? You hope you don't have to see him for Christmas. You hope there's enough people there where you can kind of move around the outskirts of the living room into the kitchen. You can dodge each other for two hours until finally somebody goes home. It's just too awkward. And this is the very thing Jesus says, is that the epicenter of what it looks like to follow me just as God removed obstacles? We are as well the reconcile. Here's the kinda the bottom line. If you have to leave early, the reconciled should be reconciler. This is the way of Jesus. And if we love him, and this will become our way as well.

Now, to just show you what a big deal this is, perhaps as in my opinion as I read the gospels, perhaps in fact I, I think this is the Jesus most, I would say, inconvenient application of anything he taught has to do with reconciling with other people. I mean, the thing that I think when Jesus said, what I'm about to read, when Jesus said this, I think everybody in the audience was like, oh, we're not doing that. I mean, this is so, this is so extreme. We talked about it not too long ago, so it's not gonna surprise many of you. This was so extreme. But because it's so cultural, we read it, we read right through it. But I'm at the end of the message today. I'm gonna try to bring this back around and kind of wrap a little more modern culture or, or a, a modern application.

But here's what he said. He said, if you go to Jerusalem and if they didn't live in Jerusalem, and you decide to go to the altar to make a sacrifice, if you are offering your gift at the altar, and again, if you lived in Jerusalem, this took maybe a quarter of a day, depending on how long the line was. If you lived outside Jerusalem, this could take days to travel to Jerusalem, spend the night on your way, especially if you lived in Galilee and you got an offering, you either purchased it there in Jerusalem or at the temple, or you bring it with you and you're going to make a peace offering with God. You're going to sacrifice for some sin. You committed again, you're there to clear your conscience so you and God are on good terms. He says, if you get there and you are in line and you're, and you know there's three people ahead of you, and you're doing that thing where it's like three, two, oh, she is so slow, like the grocery line, like, oh my goodness, I got in the wrong line.

Can I come up there and get, you know, 'cause there were multiple lines to make sacrifices, you know, at the, at that altar of the temple, he says, if you're offering your gift, gift and you remember that your brother or sister, and this could be literal or figurative, you know, a son or daughter of Abraham, you remember that your brother or sister has something against you. They're angry with you either because of something you did or maybe something they did. And the relationship is strained. It's broken. You hope you don't see each other in the marketplace. Leave your gift there in front of the altar.

But I, whoa, whoa, whoa. This is why they were like, we're not doing that. It took me days to get here. I've been in line for hours. He says, I know I want you to take your little cage of pigeons that you were gonna sacrifice. I want you to set 'em in the shade. I want you to tie your lamb up. I want you to look to the people behind you and say, Hey, can you take care of this? I have something to do. He says, first, before you clear your conscience with God or before you make this sacrifice to be right with God, first of first importance, first in sequence before, before you do business with God. This is what just, I mean, this was completely backwards from everything they've been taught backwards, from everything I was taught. He says, first you go be reconciled. There's our word to the brother or sister, the employer, the ex that you've left things kind of hanging loose with.

And you know, there's more to be done. You know, there's another conversation to be had. You know, there's restitution to be made. You know, there's apology. That's an apology that's hanging out there. You first go be reconciled with them, then you come offer for your gift. And I'm telling you when he said this, the audience is like, that's crazy. Wait, wait, wait. You want me to prioritize my relationship with my brother-in-law over making peace with God? To which when you read the teaching of Jesus, Jesus would say, well, see, you can't have peace with God until you make peace with your brother-in-law. Because you are to be a reconciler. Because you have been reconciled the way of Jesus, the way of Jesus. It's the way of reconciliation with God. Yes, but with the people around us as well. And when possible, your enemy, your enemy that, I mean the same sermon that he told this story, he is like, yeah, and love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.

You know what prayer for you know what, why we pray for those who persecute us, praying for those who persecutes us. You know what it does? It brings the temperature down in our heart so we can begin to see little baby steps we could take toward reconciliation. The reconcile. This is the message of Jesus. This is the way of Jesus. This is what we're called to. For those of you who aren't Christians, you might be one, if we've gotten this right, the reconciled should be the reconciler. So what I'm gonna do real quick for the next about eight minutes, we're gonna do a lightning round because I want you to understand this isn't peripheral. This isn't like an add-on this isn't like, yeah, Jesus mentioned that a couple times. This is so central. And not only is it central to the teaching of Jesus, the apostles afterwards took this same message forward and you're, you're gonna understand why in just a minute.

So I wanna begin with something that most all of us are familiar with. And even again, if you grew up in church and left a long time ago, you're familiar with this, the Lord's prayer, something that many of you quote maybe every day, multiple times a day. This is one of the first things I taught my children to help them memorize. 'cause if Jesus, I mean, if Jesus says, this is how you should pray, I think this is how you should pray, right? So I think it's an important prayer and right in the, you know, embedded, baked into this prayers. Listen to this phrase that maybe you've said a thousand times and never thought about it. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. Forgive us of our sins as we are in the habit of forgiving the people who sinned against us. It's, it's, it's assumed. And forgive us of our trespasses is the word you may have learned. Forgive us of our trespasses as oh yeah, it's a lifestyle for me.

As I continually forgive those who've trespassed against me. It's assumed that the reconciled, those who can go to God for forgiveness are reconci silencers. One day Peter comes to Jesus, Jesus had just done a little teaching on forgiveness. And Peter's like, okay, he's like the rest of us. He's like, okay, but there's gotta be a limit. So one day Peter comes to Jesus, you've familiar with this? If you grew up in church and he asked Jesus, Lord, okay, I heard what you said, but how many times? I mean, come on. How many times do I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me up to seven when I was a kid? You know, I would do two to three, but I've been following you. So let's say seven. I mean seven's a lot for, you know, especially if they keep doing the same thing over and over. And Jesus says no.

Some of you remember the response. No. He says, I tell you, not seven times, 77 times. They're like, what? And then before they can ask, is that like literal or figurative? I mean, who's even gonna count that high? Jesus launches into a parable where he makes the point that there is no limit to how much we should forgive because there is no limit to how much God has forgiven us and we're to do for others what God through Christ has done for us, the reconciled or to be the reconciler. Then there's this other scene, this other narrative from the life of Jesus that many of us are familiar with. Some of us grew up singing the song. Jesus comes to Jericho. There's a tax, a chief tax collector who lives there. His name is Zacchaeus. And Zacchaeus was a little man. Little man, thank you. That's better than we little man. Well, they taught us this awful song. Oh, we little man or we little man was he? I mean, we have come a long way since those days, okay? Things we shouldn't say and don't say and don't put in our songs, okay?

Anyway, so Zach HEAs was a, a tax farmer. He's very wealthy and he does this. He's Jewish because his name lets us know. He's one of them. He's a traitor to his people. He's an outcast from the synagogue, outcasts from the, from the temple. And Jesus is coming to town. Everybody wants to see Jesus everywhere he goes, there's a crowd. I don't mean a crowd like they're light up on the street. I mean like this kind of crowd everywhere, you know, there's, there's no way to escape, there's no SUVs, there's no tricked out at motorcade. There's just donkeys. And yeah, they're walk about as fast as people. So anyway, everybody's crowded around. Jesus, Zach, he just knows he's coming to Jericho, gets ahead of the crowd, climbs up in a tree, tree. What kind of tree? Sycamore tree. The front. You guys got this?

Okay, I bet you could sing this. The song Anyway, climbs up in a sycamore tree for the Lord. He wanted to see. And as the savior passed away, he looked up in the tree and said, Zach, he is you come down. I'm going to your house today. Going to your house today. Anyway, it's a song. I don't sing much during my sermons. Told April she couldn't do that anymore. Anyway, some of you were here for that. So, so Jesus is passing away. Zach's in the tree, he stops, looks up. Remember this? He says, Zach is, you knows his name. Come down. I'm going to your house today. What? Everybody in the crowd's like his house, going to your house today. Now this is interesting. Think about it. If somebody famous, if you met 'em somewhere and they're like, hell, I'd like to come to your house today. You have two emotions, great. And what's going on at my house today and what does my house look like today?

And Zacchaeus has got an extra one. He's like, what's he gonna do when he sees the size of my house and my estate? And Jesus goes home with Zacchaeus and they spend the day together. And when he's finished, this is so powerful. When he's finished spending literal physical time with Jesus, he comes out and makes an announcement to the people here and now here. And now I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I've cheated anybody, they're like, if that's how you got all this stuff, I mean the whole thing's a pyramid scheme. You know, you take a little, you pass on a little. I mean, what do you mean if, if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I'm gonna pay 'em back. Let's see, pay him back. How much should I pay back? The law says two times, four times as much. See, be careful how close you get to Jesus. You start doing stuff like this, you become a better person.

You remember how Jesus responded? Here's how Jesus responded. You, you'll remember this, Jesus answered and said unto Zach, no my friend, that's not necessary. God forgave you for cheating all those people. You're good to go. That's how I was raised. As long as me and God are clear, it really doesn't matter how well I treat other people. God forgave me. It doesn't matter if I confess to them or make restitution. No, when, when Zacks said, when Zeu said, Jesus smiled because what was Zacks doing? Zacks was saying, you know what? I can't control how the people I've mistreated respond to me. I don't blame them if they hate me the rest of their life, but I'm gonna do what I can do and I'm gonna do my best to make restitution and take baby steps perhaps toward reconciliation. I'm going to treat well the people I have mistreated and leave the response to them. And Jesus said to him, look how powerful this is.

And Jesus said to him today, salvation has come to this house because of what Z has believed. Uhuh, because of what Zeu did, he obeyed the command of his savior. He became a reconciler. If you accept the invitation to follow Jesus, you're gonna own up to things. You're gonna fix things, you're gonna come clean, you're gonna apologize. You're gonna pay back and you're gonna make restitution. And you're not gonna fall for this crazy Christianity that's not real. That says, as long as me and God are okay, it doesn't matter how I treat other people. Jesus does not leave that option open to us. The reconciler initiate. The reconciled are the reconciler. That is the way of Jesus.

Now moving on past Jesus, the next generation understood this. Paul, Paul comes onto the scene of history, steps under the pages of history as a pharisee and a good Pharisee, a law abiding Pharisee. He said, I was like the best pharisee anybody ever heard of. Very humble guy like I, you know, when it comes to keeping the law, nobody keeps it better than me. The Apostle Paul steps under the pages of history as a Pharisee and his mindset, his worldview is this, do unto me, I'm gonna do unto you. Do unto others as they do unto you. He grew up in the eye for an eye way of thinking. And then, and pardon the play on words, he met the way on the way to arrest members of the way and then became a follower and leader of the way. Couldn't resist that. The Apostle Paul is literally on his way to arrest. It's in the Book of Acts. He uses this terminology to arrest members of the way. Jesus appears to him, the resurrected Christ.

And the apostle Paul does an about face and embraces Jesus as the way and becomes a leader in the church. And we're still reading his letters to the first century church. And here's what he wrote to the church in Ephesus. He says, be kind and compassionate to one another. Forgiving each other. To which somebody who you know, they just read these letters to the the crowd. He didn't know all these people. I mean he's, he's been there some time ago, but now he's written him a letter and somebody in the crowd's going, whoa, whoa, whoa. What do you mean forgive each other? Paul, you don't even know my story. You've never met my dad. You never met my ex. You never met my father-in-law. What do you mean forgive you before you can just tell me to give me this blanket command to forgive. You need to hear my sad story. To which Paul would say, no, I don't. Because I'm not asking you to forgive based on the worthiness of the person I'm asking you that you need to forgive.

Here's why I say forgive. And here's why. I can write you a letter without hearing your story. And with confidence. Say you need to forgive. I want you to forgive just as Christ. Just as in Christ, God forgave you. Just as this is why we forgive, not because anybody deserves it. Because we didn't deserve it either. Just as in Christ, God forgave you. There it is again. You do unto others as God through Christ has done for you. This is the way of Jesus. Then he writes in another letter to the Christians living in Colossus, he says this, he says, bear with each other and forgive one another. If any of you has a grievance against someone, initiate forgive as the Lord forgave you. Why do we forgive? Because we're forgiven. Why do we reconcile? Because we've been reconciled.

And then this next one, this is to the church in Corinth. He writes this, this is so powerful. In fact, if you think you've done so many bad things, you are beyond the grace of God. This is amazing. This is written by somebody who had people Christians arrested and put to death and tortured. Okay, not a good guy. Listen to what he writes because he experienced this. He says, God, here's our word, was reconciling the Galileans and the Ju God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ. This is an all skate, this is good news of great joy for all people. He said God took it upon himself, through Christ to do all the work, to reconcile the world to himself. Look at this phrase, not counting people's sins against them. This is why it's called good news. Because regardless of what you've done, you Heavenly Father has already moved every obstacle. All you need to do is accept that gift. He's not counting your sins against you. But in addition to, he says, now that's my way.

Now I want you to stop counting other people's sins against them because you are the message bearer. Look at this next phrase. Because you have been committed, you have been given the message of reconciliation. In other words, if you as a Christian, if I'm taking advantage of the fact that God has reconciled me and he's given me the message of reconciliation, who are we to think that we're supposed to quote, share our faith or want other people to become Christians? When we lead with a box of beliefs rather than a life that says, I'm an initiator of reconciliation, even with the people who've hurt me the most and have no desire to reconcile back, the drawbridge is down. The welcome mat is out. Whether they reciprocate or not, because that's what my Heavenly Father did for me. The reconciled or to be the reconcile urge.

Now stepping back from first century culture, let me ask this question. Is this a, is this really that big a deal? Yes. Here's how big a deal it is. What is the number one complaint right now about our nation? We're so, yeah, some of you said it. We're so divided. And what is the antidote for division? It's not agreement. You don't have to agree with someone to reconcile a relationship with someone. The the antidote, the solution isn't agreement, it's it's reconciliation. Just a thought. If the Christians in our country, 'cause there's so many of us, there's so many people who claim to be Christians. If the Christians in our country adopted this posture, and this isn't extra credit, this is central to what it means to follow Jesus, right? If the Christians in our nation adopted this posture, we could fix that. If we decided, if we decided collectively we're not gonna listen to and we're not gonna celebrate the dividers, things would change.

Now, in my original notes I had, if we decided not to celebrate or listen to or vote for the dividers, things would change. But I knew if I said vote for, we would be divided. So I decided to take that out. So I'm just go back. If we would just listen, if we would refuse to listen to and celebrate the dividers, things will change. Lemme ask it a different way. What is the world? I mean, think about what's going on in the world right now. What does the world need more than anything? It needs reconciliation. The very thing God did for who? The whole world. I mean, think about it this way. The great leaders, the people we celebrate generationally, generation after generation, from every nation, from all over the world. Men and women were, were, were they dividers or were they the great reconciler?

See, this isn't complicated, but it's really difficult. It's not complicated. And it, it's really hard. And some of you're listening today and and you're, I know what you're thinking and I get it. I'll be thinking the same thing. You're like, Andy, you need to hear my story first. I understand that. And I would never stand up here and make these blanket statements if Jesus hadn't. But it's just, it's not complicated, it's just, it's just hard because I'm a divider by nature. And most of you are dividers by nature because you're sinners. And sin always divides the very first sin divided human race from the human race from God, the very first sin divided, the first man from the first woman. Sin always divides selfishness, divides selfishness. Selfishness says, I want my, what's come's coming to me. And I want a little bit of what's coming to you too. 'Cause I think it's actually coming to me.

And if I don't get what's coming to me, then I can't have anything to do with you. And we're divided. Fear divides. Pride divides. But if the Spirit of God lives in you, if the Spirit of God lives in me, sin is not the boss of me. My savior is so initiate, be the first to apologize whether they deserve it or not. You didn't deserve it. But be quick to forgive. Don't sit on it. Don't have those imaginary conversations where you come out looking good and they look awful. In my imaginary conversations, there's always a crowd and I have one great one liner and drop the mic and walk off and everybody's like, Ooh, Andy's amazing. You know the guy's a loser. You know that's just me. I know you never do that. You never have imaginary conversations.

And what do those imaginary conversations do? They do nothing but rob you of energy and your savior who love you, says, I don't want you to live this way. You are not created to live that way. You will rot from the inside out. How many examples do you need to see of that to make that call you've been putting off? You got two weeks basically, right? Write that note. You've been putting off. Refuse. Come on, refuse to return evil for evil. Do what Jesus did and return good for evil.

Again, I'm gonna put words in Jesus' mouth for just a second. Maybe if he were here preaching this sermon, he would end it like this. He might say, so if you're on your way to the Christmas Eve celebration at church and suddenly you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, and it may be your fault and it may be their fault and it's probably everybody's fault. Perhaps he would say to us first, first, before you come, celebrate what I've done for you and before singing to me about how much you love me. How about you prove it by keeping my commandment go, be first, go and be reconciled to them.

Then go celebrate my birthday. So inconvenient, no guaranteed outcome. In some cases it's risky 'cause you're kind of putting yourself out there. Maybe you've tried before, but the cross was inconvenient. And when Jesus died for your sin, there was no guarantee you would respond. But he left heaven and he came to dwell on earth as one of us. Anyway, the way of Jesus is the way of reconciliation. The reconciled we're called and we're commanded to be the reconciler. And if we love him, We will. If we love him, we'll try. If we love him, we'll begin removing even the smallest obstacles between us and that other person, because our Heavenly Father removed all the obstacles between himself and us. And that's why we celebrate the birth of our savior and our king. And we will pick it up right there next time as we conclude our series The Way in a Manger.
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