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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - The Wonder of It All

Andy Stanley - The Wonder of It All

Andy Stanley - The Wonder of It All
TOPICS: Ekklesia, Church

Years ago I had the opportunity to go to China with a group. I took my son, Andrew, he was in the ninth grade at the time, so this is many years ago. And while we were there, we had the opportunity to tour a factory, not in a large city, but in a city you probably never heard of. And this factory was actually owned by an American. And so as we began the tour, it was just me and Andrew, my son, and then another dad and his son who was a friend of Andrew's, there was just four of us. And that the factory owner said, "Hey, before we start, I wanna introduce you to" and he introduced us to a young Chinese national young lady, probably in her mid twenties. And he said, "She is working, we're trying to move her up to be a part of our management team. And I just wanted her to shadow us on this tour". And I'm like, "Well, absolutely. It's your factory, you can do whatever you want, right"?

So about an hour and a half, we toured this factory. They manufacture stuff that we buy in retail outlets here in the United States. It was so interesting. Then afterwards we went up to his office and he said, "Hey, do you have any questions about what you've seen"? So we asked a few questions and then for the first time this young lady spoke and she said, "I have a question". And of course we thought it would have something to do with what we had just done our tour. And she looks directly at me and she says, "Are you a pastor"?

Now I had not been introduced as a pastor. We've not talked about being a pastor. We hadn't talked about anything religious. And I'm in China. And I looked at her and I said, "Yes I am". And she smiled and she said, "I recognize your voice". And I'm like, "What"? And she said, "years ago someone gave me a CD". Okay, CD was like a round, it was about this big a round and it had a hole in the middle you know? Some of you remember this, you not a record, but you know. Anyway, this is how many years ago she, "somebody gave me a CD", and then she stopped and she said, "How good is good enough"? And it was the sermon I preached years ago that someone had given her. She said, "I listened to it over and over and I became Christian. I became a Christian".

I know. And I'm like floored. And then she said, "Can I ask another question"? And her boss who was shocked, he had no idea about any of this, he said, "Sure". And this was the question that got to me, and this was the question I had no good answer for. She said, "Pastor Stanley, why doesn't everyone in America go to church"? That was her second question, "Pastor Stanley, why doesn't everyone in America go to church"? She had heard that there are churches everywhere in America and that most of them are empty. And then she told us a little bit about her story, that once she became a Christian, she wanted to find a church, but she wanted to find an unregistered church, which is basically an illegal church in China. We used to call 'em the underground church, but they just call 'em the unregistered churches.

And the closest one to where she lived was two hours, almost two hours away by bus. She didn't have a car. And she would get up early and take two buses to get there and then two buses to get home. And it was a little bit expensive. But she went and she couldn't understand why everybody wouldn't go if they had the opportunity to go. And she's asking me the question, why doesn't everybody in America go to church? And how do you answer that question to a young Chinese Christian? How do you explain why we're so take it or leave it, why we are so, "Hey, I'll go if it's convenient".

And the thing is for her, and you'll understand this now that you know just a little bit of her story. For her church was not an institution and it certainly wasn't a location. For her church was literally what we've been talking about. It was Ekklesia, it was the gathering or the assembly of Jesus followers. That's what church was for her, it was a movement, or to put our words around it, the church, she understood it as God's catalyst for change, personally, culturally, and globally. And it had changed her personally. And she could imagine the change, the message of Jesus could make in her culture and in her nation. What she could not imagine, what she could not begin to imagine, is why people who were free to go wouldn't go. And I had no good answer, but I sure thought about it a lot for the rest of that trip. And honestly, I've thought about it ever since. And I think the answer, my answer is, because we've lost our wonder.

Today we're in part five of a series. If you haven't been keeping up with the series, if you attend one of our local churches, all these messages are on our websites. Or you can go to my YouTube channel. And if you're a Christian, again, you don't need to hear me talk, but you maybe, maybe, maybe, need a reminder of what it means to be a part of the Ekklesia of Jesus. So I hope you'll catch up. This is the, the title of the series is "Ekklesia" and Ekklesia is simply the Greek word that was used in the first century to describe the Jesus movement, his outward facing, his multicultural, his multiplying movement, that eventually swept the world and swept the globe and toppled an empire. His movement that's informed by his teaching, his movement that's inspired by his life and inspired by his death and inspired ultimately by his resurrection.

So in this series, if you've been tracking along with us, we're simply looking back to the first century Christians to ensure that we stay on track. Because of the Book of Acts that was written by Luke, who thoroughly investigated everything and interviewed everybody. Because of the book of Acts, we have an opportunity as Christians to sit at the feet of the men and women who actually sat at the feet of Jesus, to discover what did they do? What did the Jesus movement look like in the first century? What can we learn? What do we need to unlearn? What do we need to do that they did because they got it right? In fact, they got it so right that we're here today. And the truth is, as we've said every time we've talked about this, while expressions of the Christian faith have certainly changed, they've changed because of time.

There are certainly cultural expressions of the Christian faith. There are some things that have not changed and we can't allow them to be lost to the, you know, the dustbin of history. Jesus mandate for his assembly has not changed. He said, "I want you to go into every part of the world and I want you to create or make disciples. I want you to create more Jesus followers". This is to be a multiplying, multi-ethnic movement. That's for the whole world. He said, "I'm not just the Jewish Messiah. I am God's final king". And I've come to establish a beachhead, the Kingdom of God on planet earth. And when my people get together, wherever they are, it should be better. And people should be better off, because they're living out the kingdom ethic that says back the line, others first, love as I have loved you. That we're to live our lives in such a way, paraphrase Jesus. We're to live our lives in such a way that people see our good works and become curious about our Father in heaven.

So we've been following the storyline, and today I'm gonna cover a lot really quickly and I hope you'll go back and just read the book of Acts. It's fascinating. So here's what happened, if you haven't been with us. A few weeks, not months and years, a few weeks after Jesus rose from the dead, the City of Jerusalem is packed full of people from all over the Roman Empire, sons and daughters of Abraham or Hebrews, or we would say Jewish people, who'd come to celebrate Pentecost, a festival in Jerusalem. While they're there, Peter and John, the other apostles and the women who follow Jesus go into the streets and they begin to proclaim publicly that God has done something in the world for the world. That he sent his final king Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. And he validated the claims of Jesus by raising him from the dead after he was crucified.

And get this, they're in the City of Jerusalem. They're like right outside the walls. He was crucified, we witnessed his death, we witnessed his resurrection. Many of us have had breakfast with him on the beach in Galilee. Something unique has happened. Jesus has come back to life to validate his claims. He is God's final messiah and he's calling the whole world to follow him. And the text tells us, Luke tells us that, after they preached that day that "Those who accepted the message were baptized and about 3000 were added to their numbers".

So day one, this is opening day Ekklesia, opening day of what we would call the church, 3000 people. As time went by, the apostles in Jerusalem continued to preach. The crowds continued to grow and opposition continued to grow as well from the temple leaders. Because this Nazarene sect at this early juncture in the life of the church, there was no, there wasn't the word church. They didn't even know what to call this thing. They considered it a cult. It was like some sort of Jewish knockoff cult where they took part of Judaism and then hijacked it for some other purpose. So they saw it as anti-Torah. According to the teachers and the people who followed Jesus, this wannabe Messiah actually claimed to be greater than Moses. He claimed to be greater than the temple. He actually predicted the destruction of the temple. And he didn't seem to be all that upset by it. Which upset the Judean leaders.

Ekklesia was disturbing the peace. And when the peace was disturbed that disturbed Rome and Rome solved everything with a sword. So it was a big chaotic mess. And it had to end. And it had to end quickly. So as we talked about last time, they had Peter and John arrested, the two leaders, brought 'em in, threatened them, said, "Tell your people, stop speaking in this name". And they wouldn't do it. So the next round of interrogation, they round up all of the apostles, all 12 of the apostles, and they bring them in. And in Acts chapter five, you can read the story. It's a lot of give and take and back and forth. But at the end of this little episode, they bring all of the apostles in. And here's what Luke says happened next, they "called the apostles in and had them flogged", all 12.

I won't go into graphic detail about flogging, other than to say it's 39 lashes with a cat of nine tails, with pieces of bone and metal woven in. Two thirds to the back, one third to the chest. This took a long time. These men watched their friends beaten almost to death. You either bled to death, some people bled to death, other people, because of infection died from flogging. All of them survived. And after flogging them, I mean they are a mess. They are a mess. They ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. And they let them go. These are our people. Luke says, "The apostles", that had just been flogged, "left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering, disgrace for the name".

What are they referring to? Listen for the rest of their lives, when these Galilean fishermen stripped down to their waist in order to do their work, their scars front and back were on display, that people would consider them criminals. Whoever was beaten like that clearly did something wrong. And they bore these scars as a badge of honor, because they had been flogged for the sake of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. These are our people. And what do they do? Day after day in the temple courts. I mean, they're at the epicenter of, you know, first century Judaism. They wouldn't even leave the city, temple courts from house to house. They never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah, God's final king. How could they do this? How could they withstand this? Because they had seen a man who came back to life from the dead.

And as I say all the time, if somebody predicts their own death and resurrection and pulls it off, you just follow that person. And that's exactly what they were doing. And this is where their courage came from. It wasn't the teaching of Jesus, it was the resurrection of Jesus. But the good news is bad news for those who benefit from the old news. So the temple leaders stirred up opposition against the movement, the Jesus movement. Eventually they took one of the ring leaders who wasn't an apostle, but who had become a powerful spokesperson, an apologist for this new movement, a man named Steven. They dragged him outside the walls of Jerusalem and illegally they stoned him to death. And Rome turned a blind eye. And now it was open season on the Jesus followers. Luke tells us that on that very day, "a great persecution broke out against the ekklesia in Jerusalem. And all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria".

And what did they do as they were scattered, they preached that the Kingdom of God has come to earth. And then scene change into the chaos. And onto the pages of his history steps, Saul of Tarsus, Saul from Tarsus, Tarsus was in Greece, excuse me, in Turkey. And he had traveled from Turkey as a young man to Jerusalem to train under the best of the best of the Pharisees. And he had become a Pharisee, a powerful well-known Pharisee, educated, very well connected. We know him as the Apostle Paul. But he steps onto the pages of his history as Saul, the wrecking ball. These, this is the description of Saul of Tarsus. When he found out what was going on in the vicinity of Jerusalem. "Saul began to destroy the ekklesia. Going from house to house he dragged off both men and women and would put them in prison".

And this goes on for three years. He becomes the point person for destroying or undermining the success of the ekklesia of the Jesus movement. Wherever he found these people, he would drag them out, bring them to Jerusalem, or bring them to the temple and have them flogged or punished or threaten or forced to blaspheme. To say that Jesus is not, is in fact not our messiah. Again, this goes on for three years and then not content to simply quash Ekklesia in Jerusalem where he lived, he decided to branch out. And he goes to the high priest and he asked basically to get deputized, I want you to give me papers of permission to go anywhere in the empire. And anywhere I find this Nazarene sect, anywhere I find this infection, this contagion that's contaminating our people. Give me the power to arrest and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial. Later in the book of Acts, he tells a bit of his own story.

Here's how he describes what he did. He says, "On the authority of the chief priest," I Paul, "put many of the Lord's people in prison. And when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them". Then he says this, "I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities". This had to end. He had blood on his hands in the name of God. And that's when something very interesting happened that we don't know much about. In fact, for the next three minutes, I'm making all of this up.

So, okay, apparently God the Father, and God the Son are in heaven and they're seeing all this. And God the Father turns to God the Son, and says, "Son, I don't know if you're paying attention, but your movement, it is not moving. Okay? First of all, your apostles that you chose, you told 'em to go to all the nations. They must have thought you said neighborhoods. 'cause they're still in Jerusalem. So they're not going, they're not moving. And that's a problem, okay? Not only that, I think maybe you chose the wrong people. You need an activist, you need a doer, you need somebody who's educated. You need somebody who's connected. And you certainly need somebody who's willing to leave home." and they're watching this whole thing just kind of go backwards. And finally, God, the Father says, "Hey, what about that guy"? And God the son says, "Are you kidding"? And God, the Father says, "I don't kid".

Anyway, I don't know if he said that anyway. He says, "Are you kidding? That okay, that guy is Saul of Tarsus. Saul of Tarsus is single-handedly dismantling everything I tried to do". And God the Father said, "Yeah, but look at him go. That's the kind of person you should have recruited to begin with. So go recruit him". And he did. Saul Tarsus has a a bunch of people with him. And he is traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus, which is in basically by Lebanon. This is a seven day journey on foot. I mean this, he was so committed. Anytime he got where there's a little nucleus, a little hive of these Jesus followers, he's gonna go get 'em. So he is on his way to Damascus.

You may know the story or heard the story. If you grew up in church and suddenly outta nowhere there's this flashing bright light and it blinds him and he falls through the ground and he says, this is his story. He says, he heard a voice and the ver voice said to him by name, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me"? And of course he asked the question, any of us would ask "me Who"? "Who's me"? This is so powerful. And the voice said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. He replied". Now look, look up here. This is so powerful. If you're part of the ekklesia of Jesus, this is how closely your savior identifies with you. This is how closely our savior identifies with us. As you do unto my ekklesia. Jesus would say, "you're doing unto me. You're trying to destroy ekklesia it, I take that personally".

Jesus says to the apostle, to who would soon become the Apostle Paul. He says, now that you know who's talking to you, "Get up and go into the city of Damascus and you'll be told what you must do". And when he gets there, he's still blind and there's somebody waiting for him, because God has spoken to somebody in the city to say it's such an interesting story, you should read this. He speaks to the person in the city and says, "Hey, Saul of Tarsus is coming and I want you to take him into your home". And the guy's like, "Wait, we've heard of him. I don't think so. We know he's coming. We've already hid sent the women and the children away. We know he is coming. Everybody knows he's coming and you want me to bring him into your my home"?

And Saul of Tarsus gets there and he's blind and he begins to meet with the disciples. To make a long story short, Saul Tarsus changes course. In fact, once God restored his sight, this is amazing. Saul spent several days with the disciples, not the apostles, they're all hiding out in Jerusalem. The disciples are the followers of Jesus. That's just the New Testament word for a Jesus follower. He spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. And that once, this is why he, you know, Jesus recruited him "At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God". This the blasphemy of all blasphemies. And he's an educated Pharisee. And just seemingly a few minutes ago, he's going to arrest more of these people and have them blaspheme and have them put to death, because they say this very same thing. And now he's saying, "No, I'm convinced".

Jesus is our final king. He is the son of man. He is the Son of God. Now lemme just pause a second. If you have a hard time believing that Jesus is the Son of God, I get it. The guy who wrote half the New Testament is with you or was with you. And you may never be convinced, but you can't deny the fact that this man was convinced that Jesus is the Son of God and he was the least likely person on planet earth to ever be convinced of that. The text goes on and says, "All the people who heard Saul," because now he's teaching and Damascus, everybody who heard him was astonished. And they said, "what? Wait, wait, wait, wait. Are you kidding? Isn't this the guy who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name," they don't even know what to call this movement yet, there's not a name, the word Christian hasn't been coined. There's no Christianity yet. There's no no church. And yet the text says, "Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is God's final king".

While he is there, there's an assassination attempt on his life. Now we gotta get rid of this guy because there's an anti-Jesus movement in Damascus already. They smuggle him outta the city and they send him to Jerusalem. He goes back to Jerusalem, there's an assassination attempt on his life again. They eventually have to smuggle him out of Jerusalem, 'cause now he's enemy number one because he was the, you know, he was the number one shut it down person. And now he's become one of them. And he's too powerful. He's too well connected. He's too well known. He's gotta go. While he is in Jerusalem, he meets James the brother of Jesus. While he is in Jerusalem. He meets Peter and John and Matthew and he meets the women. And at first everybody's suspicious, like, no, I think he's a spy. He's trying to get on the inside. Because everywhere he went, there's blood on his hands. For the rest of his life, he would run into people whose relatives had either been arrested, tortured, or perhaps put to death because of his work, because of his activity.

And eventually the apostles in Jerusalem realized, no, he's actually been converted, but they have to sneak him outta town. Which is fine with him because he lets them know that God has called him to do something very specific. He took Jesus' words to heart. He decided he was gonna take on the rest of the world. That when Jesus said, go into every nation, he decided that's what I'm gonna do. So a few years after his conversion, the apostle Paul begins what are commonly known as his missionary journeys. And he goes to the largest, most influential cities in the empire. Because he was smart, he was connected and he was committed. In fact, in the back of your Bibles, most of you have any kind of study Bible. There are maps and there are the journeys of Paul. These are the cities that he went to as part of this, his mission, to take the message of Jesus everywhere.

He traveled about 12,000 miles by ship or by walking. And everywhere he went he planted a little itty bitty ekklesia in someone's home. And then he would go to the next place and go to the next place. In most cases, he's kicked out of where he was. He stoned oftentimes and left for dead. I mean the story is amazing. Throughout the Mediterranean rim, right? And up here in the Aegean sea planting these little ekklesias. And Luke, who traveled with him some of the time, actually chronicled and documented three of these journeys. At the end of the third journey, he goes back to Jerusalem. This is an amazing story, but I don't have time to tell it. It goes to Jerusalem. And he brings with him a bunch of money that he's collected from some of these other Christians and he brings them to Jerusalem, because many of the Christians in Jerusalem can't work anymore. They can't get jobs. They've been ostracized from the temple and from the community.

So he brings them this big, this gift, that Gentiles have given for him to give to these judeans in Jerusalem while he's there, things go south, he's arrested. The Roman officer that arrests him is about to beat him. He says, "You can't beat me. I'm a Roman citizen". And then they feel terrible. And he says, "I appeal to Caesar". And the Roman officer says, "Then off to Caesar, you will go," I'm skipping over some details. That's a fascinating story. They send him all the way to Rome to be tried. Problem is somebody's gotta show up in Rome and accuse him. And he's way ahead of his accusers. So he gets to Rome, nobody's really sure what he's been arrested for. They put him under house arrest, which gives him some freedom. And for two and a half years he just stays in Rome. But he doesn't keep his mouth shut.

In fact, he preaches and teaches and people come to visit him. And before long members of the household of Caesar are becoming Jesus followers. And while he's there, he writes a few letters that are part of your New Testament. He writes a letter to Christians in Ephesus, 'cause he's planted a church in Ephesus. We call it the book of Ephesians. And he writes to people living in the city of Philippi, we call it the book of Philippians and Colossians, he's busy after two and a half years, his accusers never show up. So they just let him go and he travels back to Jerusalem and then he gains, he gathers some more money and some more people and he goes off on a fourth missionary journey. At the end of that one, he's arrested again, and he is sent back to Rome. But this time it's Neros Rome. And he is a big fish and he is not put under house arrest. He is actually put in chains, in prison and he knows the end is near. He will never leave Rome alive.

While he is there, he keeps writing or dictating. And one of the letters that he dictates is to a friend of his, a young man named Timothy. It shows up in our English New Testaments as Second Timothy. And I just wanna read two short excerpts from Second Timothy now you got the picture right? He's in chain. He's in Rome. The end is near. He's accomplished more than any of Jesus apostles. He's taken the gospel everywhere he can. He has risked his life. He is scarred from being stoned, left for dead. Shipwrecked, snake bit. I mean he goes on and on and on. Luke gives us all this detail. You should read the New Testament, right?

So he's in Rome and here's what he sends to Timothy. Just a couple of short passages. This is so powerful to me. In fact, yesterday when I'm studying this, it's so emotional to me and I'm not even sure why. But anyway, here's what he says. Timothy, "Remember Jesus", Messiah King, God's final king, remember, "raised from the dead". Listen, the anchor for the New Testament church in the first century was the event of the resurrection. What anchored them, what gave them confidence, what gave them faith, what drove them, which what the thing that allowed them to get through suffering and shame was the resurrection. That's why I say it's more important for than ever in this generation and for the generation coming along behind us, we must anchor the faith of this generation to the event that launched the movement, that eventually brought us our Bible.

The event, the resurrection that launched the movement, the ekklesia of Jesus, the resurrection is what launched the movement, and the movement the church is eventually what assembled our first Bible that I read every single day and love so much. But that's the order of things. That's how it happened historically. That's how it happens logically. That's just not how it happens for us personally. Because before we know anything about the resurrection, somebody gave us a Bible and said, "Start with this". Which is wonderful, I'm so glad somebody gave me a Bible as a child. But as an adult, we must understand as we look back in order to stay on track, that our faith is anchored to the event of the resurrection, because it galvanized the Jesus followers and help them understand this is for real and he's who he claimed to be.

So here's what he says, "Remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead, descended from David". That's why he claimed to be a king. Okay? This is the part that gets to me. "This is my gospel. This is my good news for which I'm suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal". You ready for this? Chained like a criminal. The end is near. He's dictating this. He looks out the cell window, takes a deep breath, chained like a criminal. "But God's word is not chained". Timothy Rome won't win. God has done something in the world for the world and his plans won't be thwarted. Little did he know. Not only would Rome not win, one day, Rome would capitulate and embrace Jesus as a God. He could not have imagined such a thing, but the Word of God, Jesus who is the Word of God, would not and could not be changed. It is why we're here.

"Pastor Stanley, why doesn't everybody go to church"? I don't know. We just didn't know the story. We lost the storyline, we lost the plot line. We just got too busy. Then he says this same letter, "For I", talking to Timothy, "For I'm already being poured out like a drink offering". To use the pagan's symbolism of this, you would be given a glass of wine and you would just pour off the first inch onto the ground or usually into the dirt or into the sand as an offering to the gods. He says, "I'm like that first inch of wine. I'm being poured out. I'm gonna dissipate and disappear into the sand". But that's okay. "I'm being poured out like a drink offering and the time for my departure is near". And I love this next part. This is what we should wanna say at the end. He says, "Timothy, don't worry about me. I have fought the good fight".

I fought the right fight and I fought at the right way. I did not return evil for evil. And I prayed for my persecutor and I loved my enemies and I did what Jesus my king asked me to do. So I'm fine. "I fought the good fight. I finished my race". I finished the race. "I have kept the faith". 'Cause He would say, because my faith is, my faith is anchored to my resurrected savior. A few years later, 66, yeah, about 68, excuse me, 68 AD. They take Paul out of his hole or his prison cell, whatever he was in. Take him outside the walls of Rome, decapitate him, because he was a Roman citizen. That's how you die. That same year, later, that same year, Nero the emperor, the most powerful person in the world that was known at the time, takes his own life, commits suicide. And Nero the emperor becomes a footnote in the story of our faith.

Nero, the emperor becomes a footnote in the story of Christianity, known primarily not for the laws he enacted, not for any good he did, but because he persecuted Christians. But the word could not be chained. I had a seminary professor that would always say, because of this story, because of this epic, you know, piece of history, this is why people named their sons Paul, and their dogs Nero. Anyway, now, two more things about Paul real quick. Paul, the Apostle Paul made major, major contributions to our faith and your faith. There are things you believe just because he wrote them, you maybe you can't quote him, you can't find him. But he's so shaped the thinking of Christianity and the two things he did, number one that were huge.

Number one, is Paul actually applied Jesus new covenant command. Jesus said, "I have a new command. You're to love each other the way that I've loved you". The golden rule is so golden. This is the platinum rule. It's not doing to others as I you would have people do unto you. It's better than that you were to do unto others as God through Christ has done unto you. So Paul takes that, what he calls, he calls it the law of Christ. He takes the law of Christ and in all of his letters he says, "Hey Gentiles, this is what it looks like at home".

This is what it looks like in at work. This is what it looks like with people. This is what it looks like with your friends and your enemies. This is what it looks like to live out the value systems of the Kingdom of God. That essentially Paul described what Christ like, sounds like, acts like, and most importantly reacts like. He provides us with this list of one another, that you're to forgive one another and love one another and encourage one another, accept one another, mutually submit to one another. You're to carry one another's burdens. You're to honor one another. Then in first Corinthians 13 that so many of us are familiar with, maybe you had it read at your wedding.

In first Corinthians 13, he says to the Corinthian Christians, "This is what love acts like. Love is patient. You walk at the other person's pace. Love is kind. You loan them your strength. You don't remind them of their, of their weakness". And he and he outlines or teases out, "this is what the love of Jesus looks like in a relationship" and on and on and on. He goes, that's what he did for us. When you read his teachings and you find these commands, he's not coming up with new laws. He's applying Jesus new covenant command. This is what it looks like to love each other the way that God through Christ loved us. That's one of his big contributions. The second one is this, because of his background as a Pharisee and because of his education, Paul had extraordinary insight into the significance and the implications of Christ's death on our behalf and on behalf of the world.

Here's the thing, and I've said this to you before, he lived in both covenants, he lived under the old covenant that God established with ancient Israel, and he was really good at it. In fact, he said, "I'm the best pharisee I've ever met. I keep the law better than anybody that I know". He lived in that covenant. When he became a Christian, he embraced Jesus' new covenant. So he lived on both sides of the aisle. He lived in both covenants. So his insight into the significance of Jesus' covenant that he established during his last Passover is remarkable. Listen, just a couple of statements, so powerful, and again with his story as the backdrop, these words just take on new life. Look, I love this. He's, he's writing, he says, "But God, our Father put on a demonstration". He didn't just say it, "God demonstrates his own love for us". He didn't just say, "I love you". He said, "watch this".

I'm gonna put on a demonstration. "God demonstrated his love for us in this while we were", the verb tense throws us off. But it's so important. "While we were still sinners," because when he's writing this, when he's writing this or dictating this, there are many people who are and were alive when Jesus was actually crucified, including himself. He says, "while we were still sinners," while we were still sinning, when we had no clue what was going on back in Jerusalem, our king, our Messiah, God's final king, "died for us". Let me personalize it for him. He's like, I didn't even know this was going on. I'm out here doing my Pharisee thing, travel around teaching, trying to be a big shot and keeping the law and being so arrogant and proud of myself. And while I'm out, you know, doing this back in Jerusalem at the same time, my king was lifted up on a Roman cross and died in unjust death and he died for me while I am simultaneously sending against him. And then worse, I went on the war path to shut down the significance of what he did for me in my lifetime.

And I had no clue. While I was still sinning, he says, "Christ died for me". This was so personal, this was so present tense, because it happened while he was still alive. Let's listen to this part. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ". In Christ means in the new covenant. That's what that means in Christ. He says there's no condemnation. This is amazing that he believed this, because he knew he should be condemned. Not only did he sin, not only did he do everything that God through Christ would ultimately tell him not to do. He did it to the people that God cared about the most, the followers of Jesus. And here's the significance of that. Look up here. You've done things in your life and you may never stop condemning yourself for what you did in the past. You may never get to the point where you feel like you can do enough good to make up for the bad you've done. Every time you think about that weekend, that thing, that relationship, that whatever that is, you just, you feel so condemned.

And here's what Paul would tell you. He would say, "I get it everywhere I go. I'm face to face with people whose lives I damaged, either directly or indirectly, I get it". And then he would say to you, "but I have some great news, your Heavenly Father does not hold that against you". You may hold it against you, but the most liberating day of your life may be the day that you accept God's estimation of you. No condemnation, because God through Christ took the condemnation on himself to give you a clean slate and a relationship with him. Join the new covenant, for what the law this will be so brilliant, then I'm done. "For what the law was powerless to do". And Paul's like, look, lemme tell you about the law. Nobody kept the law better than me, but the law couldn't make up for my past. And then when I realized what I'd done to the ekklesia of Jesus, all that good law, keeping it just, it was like nothing. It was like filth. He uses some extreme language to describe it. "What the law was powerless to do God did for me by sending his own son".

Is that not amazing to you and to me? Paul dedicated his life to taking this good news everywhere he could. The message of Jesus all around the world to people like us, to people like the young woman who shadowed us on the tour. In the end, he lost his life, but he never lost his wonder that God would forgive a sinner like him. "Pastor Stanley, why doesn't everyone in America go to church"? Because we've lost our wonder, the wonder of God's grace toward us. The wonder of ekklesia, the wonder of this catalyst for change that God has put on planet earth, the catalyst for change for people personally, for our culture, for the world. We've lost our wonder. But imagine, just imagine then I'm done. Imagine if we got it back. Imagine if we got it back.

Imagine if the thrill of gathering with other believers who are overwhelmed by God's grace in their life and we have the freedom to collectively once or twice or however many times we want to collectively come together and just sing about it and talk about it. What if we got it back? Imagine what that could do to a community. Imagine what that could do to an extended family. Imagine what that could do in the world if we regained our sense of awe, our gratitude for what God has done in and for the world and our gratitude for what God has done in and for each one of us. It would be wonderful. And it literally changed the world once, if us Christians ever get our wonder back, ever get our full dose of appreciation back, perhaps it could change the world again. And we will pick it up right there next time as we conclude. Ekklesia, looking back to make sure we stay on track.
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