Chris Hodges - Becoming One
Well, thanks again for joining us today for them, "I know you're all ready and I know you're ready to preach, but if you could just please let me, due to the circumstance we find ourselves in as a church and as a nation, it's just not a good time for me to not be right here with you". And so, in fact, the verse that the Lord gave me, I'm going to share with you, it's a short message. It's got I think some meat in it. I would love for you to get your Bibles out and look it up. I would love for you to take some notes. I think God's going to speak to you not the things that I'm saying, but he's going to even speak beyond what I'm saying.
And I normally don't even use notes, I memorize my messages. But I so desperately want to say everything that God told me to say, I've got my notes up here, so even that'll look a little differently. But this is the verse I woke up with literally the first day that I was away. And the Bible just simply says, "Make every effort". Those are the two words that arrested my soul, "Make every effort". Been making some efforts, but I wasn't making every effort. "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace". It goes on to say seven different ones.
I want you to notice the ones here. One body, one Spirit, you were called to one hope when you were called. One Lord, come on somebody, one faith, one baptism, and God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all. So, we all know that there's not a lot of ones right now. There's a lot across not just in America, but around the world, there's a lot of distinctive groups that have been formed. what was supposed to be what we call Young Communicators Sunday. We're not having that today, I'll tell you why in just a moment. Or in people's minds, different groups that... like there's not a lot of one going on. And the Bible tells us the church, tells me as a pastor, "No, no, no, you need to make an effort to kind of bring back the ones".
We got to get back to one. There has to be some more ones going on. And so, I sat down and I started writing out some of the ones. Like then with all the division that's happening, what are the ones? In fact, one of the ironies of this entire experience that is happening not only in our nation, but here at our own church, is that for the last three months, I was leading with some others an effort to bring unity to the body of Christ through prayer in this thing called Unite 714. And while there was unity and leading unity around the world, I had allowed disunity to happen even in my own backyard, and in my own church, and own city and nation and world. And the Lord just said, "No, no, no, you did it there, but you need to do it here".
Can I hear a good amen, everybody? Like we got to get the ones back. And I knew that's what I was assigned to do, so I called my pastor, he says, "You ain't even supposed to have your phone". Like I know it, I know it, but I feel like I'm supposed to go home. And I feel like even, you know, even though my tank is on a little empty, that God will give me strength to lead. And I'm telling you, I feel energized over the last few days of what the Lord's done inside of me, and I'm excited about it. And what I'm going to say let me just say to you is not all that needs to be said. It's one of the fears honestly I have right now, it's not But I am joined by a lot of our staff and some of our Dream Teamers here at the Grants Mill location.
This is the Sunday that we chose to bring some of our teams back, nervous, I can't find the right word. But I don't want you to hear what I'm saying and think that's all I'm saying that needs to be said. I think not only a whole lot needs to be said, a whole lot needs to be done. It does. But can I just give you one slice of what I think needs to be said today? Just so please if you wouldn't judge it on the totality of it. If you would just let me just share what I'm thinking today and what I'm doing today. I'm going to tell a lot of stories, and this message isn't going to be real long, but I think it could be impactful. That I think it's so important right now, we all know what divides us, but what can bring us together?
Jesus said this. Jesus was even talking to his own disciples, and they were out there going town to town, village to village, doing ministry. And he was out there bringing unity to the broken and the hurting. And he had division in his own team. The Bible says, "He knew their thoughts and said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself cannot stand.'" And that's why even when, in the last prayer that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ prayed... of course, his final prayer was, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing," on the cross. But on the night before he would go to the cross, you all know he spent that time in the garden of Gethsemane praying.
And thank the Lord we have the recorded prayer in John chapter 17. But notice what he's praying. He's not even really praying for all the ills of society. He said, "I got to get everybody back to one, and especially my and get them trained and ready to have in-person services in a kind of a Coronavirus reality. And so, a lot of that training is taking place today, church has to get back to one". Are you all hearing me? And he says, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I in you. May they also be in us".
And if they see the church come together and if they see us come together, the world is going to go, "Wait, wait, wait a minute. You guys showed us how this happens". Are you all seeing this? "That they may believe that you have sent me". And he goes on to say, "I have given them the glory that you gave me". What is the glory of God? What's the anointing on our house? What's the anointing on your marriage? What's the anointing on your family, your mama, your dad, whoever, your neighbors? It's when there's unity. And he says the glory of God settles whenever they are one, "That they may be one as..." You know, the Godhead, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, they're one. "I in them and you in me".
This is the Spirit of God, is that there's unity. And so, I sat down and I just asked, when I'm preparing messages, I ask questions. So, I've taught this to some of the people who want to learn how to communicate. And I don't claim to be the best communicator, but I ask a lot of questions. What would it take... as Jesus went on to say, what would it take? Here's my question, what would it take for there to be complete unity at Church of the Highlands? What would it take for there to be complete unity in my home? What would it take to be complete unity among the races? but of course we're still at church online today. And of course, the plan today, like we do every year, is to invite some of our young students and young staff.
What would it take for there to be complete unity between us in our city? What would it take? And again, can I say it one more time? A lot of things need to be both said and done. This is not exhaustive, this is just where I am today. Three ones, write them down, one enemy. One enemy. There's really, at the end of the day, there's not a lot. There's a lot of different groups have formed, but there's one enemy, the devil. There's only one thief who steals, kills, and destroys. And there is the tendency to get mad, hurt, upset by. I mean, that could happen to people, like people upset, can't believe you did that. Other people like, "Well, I can't believe you said that". "Well, I can't believe you thought that". "Well, I can't believe you went there". "Well, I can't believe you didn't go there".
But our struggle is not against your neighbor, it's not. It's against the rulers, against the authorities. It's against the powers. There's an unseen realm, my friends, that is in operation laughing their heads off. "Look at them fight". And they're the instigators of it all, I'm telling you. And we'll never reconcile with each other until we can bind the one who starts this all in the first place. And because we have this value of investing in and developing young leaders. Let's let them preach, you know? Let them have a Sunday where we hear from them. Our weapons are not the weapons of this world, the Bible says, but our weapons pull down spiritual strongholds. And I really believe it to be true. I had a revelation, got up yesterday morning before prayer at 4:42 a.m. exactly. And went down and I was having some thoughts.
So, a lot of you guys know if you've been around, you know the Unite 714 story, that on New Year's Eve of 2018, so 17 months ago on New Year's Eve, a dear friend of mine who no one hardly knows, an older guy who truly operates in the office of prophet, of a prophet, had the Lord speak to him on New Year's Eve 2018. He saw what happened with the Coronavirus. He saw the financial institutions ravaged. He saw, all recorded 17 months ago, he saw it. Seventeen months ago said, "17 months, 17 months, 17 months". He preached it that night, like I'm telling you what I'm seeing. He saw disease coming out of different parts of the world. He saw it wrecking America so that when things started to happen even in January of this year, when the first hints of this disease started hitting America, he's like, "Oh my goodness, this is it," but it wasn't 17 months yet.
In fact, in January, it had only been 12 months, 13 months, that's where. And we're going to do that. Perhaps it's going to be next Sunday, that's our plan. We're just going to move it one Sunday. In fact, we thought it might even be best because next Sunday And so, in the 15th month, 14th month, he called... I've told the story how he's called pastors together, just a few. Ended up being about 25 on a call, like, "I think this is about this virus". And God was warning us so that we could pray, and a united prayer effort began. And it turned into hundreds of millions of people. In fact, on Pentecost day, Friday the 29th, I was actually speaking via video to they estimate somewhere between, it's a big range, by the way, 110 million and 2 billion.
They don't know, but it's at least this and it could be as much as that. And which is mindboggling. Coming together in prayer, we thought because of this Coronavirus. In fact, the prophecy 17 months ago was that by... if the church will pray, now, listen close to his. If the church will pray that by Passover, Easter for Christians, there would be a shift in the disease, and there was. Are we through it? No, but there was definitely a shift right there on that date. And that by Pentecost, something would happen that we would all say only God. And I and even this prophet and others all believe, well, that's the day the whole disease ends.
And that's the day that we're going to have the breakthrough of breakthroughs, and all the churches are going to be up. Well, guess what? That's not what happened. On the week of Pentecost is when this tragedy with George Floyd happened. And we all thought it was a shift of breakthrough and is Father's Day, what a beautiful thought that is to have some of our kids, so to speak, here on the stage speaking to us. And our plan today too is next Sunday to begin these freedom and we're back in our businesses. But really what happened was for 40 days, earth, all of earth was quarantined. The word "quar," the quar part of quarantine is for the word "forty". Forty days.
In fact, it was used to... in before there was advanced medicine we have today, that's how they fixed disease, quar, 40 days get away from people. Forty days and the disease can be mitigated. But what happens in 40 days? All throughout Scripture, 40 is the number of testing, breaking, discipline, softening. 'Cause even the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt, came out with all the riches of Egypt with their chests stuck out, "We're not slaves anymore". And God says, "You're not ready to go into the Promised Land yet". And for 40 years, they wandered with breaking and testing and mistakes and victories. And they had to be changed during the quarantine.
Softened for an event that could be history making. And I truly believe, I had a pastor, an African-American pastor friend of mine named Bishop Ken Ulmer. We were on the phone yesterday for an hour and a half, and he pastors a great church out in California. And he said, "Pastor Chris, please tell me this is going to be different this time". And I said, "Pastor Ken, Bishop Ulmer, I really believe it is because God brought us through a stripping of ourselves". We were in our homes. We were going through a breaking, we lost things only to soften our hearts so that that event that took place in Minneapolis could be history making, never the same again.
And I truly believe the whole prayer effort... I could be wrong. I'm neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, so I could be wrong, but I now believe that God, that the prayer effort was never about a disease. I think the prayer effort was so that the disease, I don't think God created it, by the way. But that God would use it to have us in a place of desperation so that when something happened, there was a prophecy on our church. Staff, you'll remember this, that God was going to bring Highlands to new places of harvest. Before there was highlands, there had to be lowlands. Y'all remember that? And this was before, this was two months ago when we heard this. And you can't really get all that God has until something is stripped from you, till you're humbled, tested, and disciplined.
I don't want to... it's hard to explain kind of your own journey. And again, the fear is always being misunderstood, but I'm just telling you God has... I am not the same Chris Hodges I was two weeks ago. Do I have a long way to go? Yes sir. But I can look you in the eye and say I've been tested, stripped, disciplined, broken. I cry two times a year, and usually just with a movie, you know what I'm saying? Tammy can tell you, she's sitting right here on the front row, buckets for days, buckets. And I know it's really been one of the most painful things I've ever been through in my life, and I know God is disciplining me, breaking me. A broken and contrite heart is the pathway to the presence and the anointing of God. And I think God's doing it to America.
I think he's done it to people that don't even know God, that we're shaken. And I really believe God is doing something. I'm so encouraged today. I truly believe the devil is going to be defeated, and we're going to see not only a healing from a disease, but I don't think our land is ever going to be the same again. I truly believe we're going to see lasting change. Can I get a good amen, everybody? One enemy. Our battle is in the heavenly realms, it's not here on this earth. Here's the second one, and that is we don't have to look alike, we don't have to act alike, but we do have to have one heart. Tammy and I are as different as night and day. If I'm hot, she's cold. If she's cold, I'm hot. If she wants to spend, I want to save. If she wants to spend, I want to save. Like it's... we are.
On the DiSC profile, which I know is now out and they've got the Enneagram, which I have not a clue, I've not even... I don't have a clue what I am. Somebody got, you got a wing now, what's a wing? I don't know about no wing, but anyway. But on the DiSC, you know, I was the DI and she was the SC. We spelled DiSC, we were so different. But can I tell you we have one heart. We love the same things, we value the same things. And people are talking about even this current racial divide. Listen to me, unity is not uniformity. We don't have to be alike, we just have to love alike. The believers were one in... come on, say the yellow out loud with me, they were one in heart. And in their minds. And I want you to take notes on this 'cause I've grown. In fact, I think you get, I think you become one in heart by doing three things.
I want you to get these three words down, and I plan, I intend to model this in front of you, but then also say don't watch me, I need you to go do this too. Three L words that can put you in one heart. The first is learn, learn. I promised in my letter, and I've already made good on it so far and plan to do even more, I've had a lot of conversations. Forums I called them in my letter, times where I just sit with people. They can testify, let them testify to it. I literally sat there and said, "Tell me what I don't know. I want to hear". And these aren't like few minutes. I'm talking three, four hours, just sitting, sitting at the table. Just talk to me. I want to... with my staff, with Dream Teamers, with coaches, with pastors, with our pastors, with other pastors, with my neighbors. I mean, like I'm reaching out to any group that'll just talk to me.
And I want to grow, I want to learn. I want to talk, I want to hear. And I want to look at you and say I need you to do the same. That the promise that I made to people, I think all of us need to say, "Tell me your story. Tell me what it's like". The Bible says that, "My dear brothers and sisters, everyone should be," say the yellow out loud, "they should be quick to..." There's a lot of fast speaking right now. And honestly, guys, they want you to speak fast. You get fussed at if you don't speak fast enough. I'm just going to tell you I'm not going to speak fast. 'Cause if I tell you what I know right now, I'm going to have to change it in about a week 'cause I'm learning. And to learn, you got to slow down. We live in a society that wants instant feedback.
I'm going to tell you how I feel right now. I'm telling you, you're going to have to delete it. Just slow down a little bit, I beg everybody, slow down. Be quick to listen, slow to speak. In the coming weeks, when I say me, but when we're not finished learning, we're never going to finish learning, but when we get to a point where we feel like we have something to say, you're going to hear it. We're already planning to put our positions and our changes and our initiatives on our website. We do it for COVID-19, why can't we do it for racial reconciliation? It's going to be there, it's going to be there. But I'm begging you to let it slow down a little bit and let us learn. And I'm asking you, don't be so fast right now. This is not the time to go through this fast and act like, "Well, we're through that". No, we're not. We need to learn. Can I get an amen, somebody?
But when you learn, learning is right here. That's not enough, I've learned. 'Cause you also have to feel, lament. You got to get to the place where it's not just, "Oh, well, I didn't know that". It's, "Oh my God, that's how I made you feel? That's how you read that"? And I'm not going to get into the details today of my very intimate and beautiful conversations that I've had. But I was several nights ago had our four campus pastors, who happen to be... I'm pausing because they were even arguing among themselves whether we should say African-American or black. It was so funny. It's obviously not as funny to you as it was to us that night, but they were, like I was just sitting there in the middle like, and they go, "Well, I'm not from Africa". "Well, I like it". "Well, I don't like it". You know, so it was kind of funny.
So, right now I was thinking, "Which one do I say"? But they don't pastor black congregations 'cause we don't have any black congregations. They were the four African-American black couples that pastor our church with me. And we were sitting, having this conversation. And we had this moment, this intimate moment where I was just kind of, I was expressing my own, like I just did right there, I don't know how to, I want to say it right, I really want to say things... I want to do it right. And it was Courtney Winston, I'll just go ahead and tell you who it is, it was Courtney Winston, who's a spitfire, man, that girl. And she just sat up on the edge of her chair, she goes, "Pastor Chris, we don't need you to say anything". I said, "Well, that's what I thought". She goes, "We just needed you to feel it. We just needed you to be there".
And the first thing that came to my mind was funerals. 'Cause when you have, like I've been doing this 37 years. There's a lot of people who have been killed in a car wreck, died of cancer. Like and the worst are sudden deaths, when you didn't even know they were sick, they're just gone, like a child killed in a car wreck. And when you go there to the service, you never try to give them an explanation 'cause there's not one. You're just there. And I thought, like I grew 'cause I realize my role isn't to craft the right statement. It was to call my team, invite them to my house. Are y'all feeling... we needed to, we didn't need to answer, we needed to feel first.
There's a place, by the way, where you do step out and start creating statements. I'm not saying those don't... and you will see those. But man, you got to learn, you got to lament, you've got to bear one another's burdens. I got to feel it, I got to know, and I'm going to tell you something, church. You can't speed that up either. I have had at least six different intimate conversations, and have dozens more planned. And I told everybody I'm just going to take my time, I'm not going to rush anybody through the process. As systematic as I am, I'm slowing down. And I'm getting to know my own team. I had this moment with one of our worship leaders this week. And he just sobbed his face off and said, as I was telling him what I was doing to bring healing.
And I told, I said, "Yeah, we did a Zoom call with some of the ARC pastors. And we talked and I loved on them". And he just sobbed. And I thought he was sobbing like, "Way to go, pastor". He goes, "But you didn't call me". And he had a death, so to speak, and I didn't go to the funeral. And I right there repented to him for just not going to the funeral. He didn't need anything else from me but for me to be there. Are you all hearing my heart today? We learn, we lament, and then, only then can we love. Now there's trust, there's forgiveness, there's repentance, there's healing, there's protection. 'Cause that's what love is. Y'all know what love is? It's I'm affirmed, you got my back, I got your back.
Like now we're to a level in the relationship which America, I'm crying out to you, learn, lament, and let's get each other's backs again. Let's protect one another again. We all need to strive toward the greatest of every quality in the Bible, faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is? Unconditional, agape. And that love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Can I get a good amen, somebody? One enemy, one heart by doing three things. And the last one is what we do, need to continue to do, and do even more. And it's what really brought us together as the church we are today, and that is one purpose. Like we got to not let this moment pass us by and act like it didn't happen. And at the same time, got to get back to know God, find freedom, discover purpose. Make a difference to all people in Alabama and around the world. Can I hear a good amen, team?
Yeah, that' what... 'cause that's who we are. That God created us not just to heal, that needs to happen, but to join him in the work that he's doing that he's really gotten us ready to... honestly, I think we're going to be better at it than before. We're going to be better at reaching people. I was on the phone two days ago with Pastor Rick Warren. What a man of God, what a beautiful friend. And he was just bubbling through the Zoom screen, talking about that they, Saddleback has seen 4,500 salvations in the last three months, wait, wait, wait, at food delivery food banks alone. And then he says, "And we baptized 1,000 people". I'm like, "We ain't nobody baptizing nobody since Corona 'cause I didn't know you could do it during Corona".
So I said, "How are you doing that"? He goes, "Oh, Pastor Chris, we line them up in boxes that are six feet apart in a line, you know, with that red tape line like they do". He says, "And they come up to..." And I was just waiting like, "How have you figured out this"? He says, "And I'm standing outside the tank, and they come in the tank, and they..." And then he says, "And then I just, I don't touch them". He says, "You know, Chris, there's not a verse anywhere that says the pastor or the person baptizing has to touch them". Like you're right. You know, like, he goes, "So, I just say, 'We baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit in the precious name of Jesus.'" He says, "And they dunk themselves, they just go down. And then we take a picture".
Like how great. And a fire lit up in me again that I haven't felt in three months, honestly. Like we got to get to our purpose. And now I have a new fire too. I'm saying this to be accountable to you. I've got a fire to see real, in fact, I have the first hope in my 56, almost 57 years that we can actually move the ball down the field in this racial reconciliation thing. Y'all believe that? I really do, I really, really do. I have a fire in my belly that the valleys, every person who feels marginalized or low will be exalted. And then all the high places of arrogance and all hatred brought low, the crooked places made straight, and the rough places smooth. And it goes on to say in the Scripture, "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh," the lost people are going to see the church lead the way in this.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken, and everybody said amen. Preached longer than I thought, my apologies. I'm just passionate today. And one enemy, one heart by learning, lamenting, by loving. And then get back to our one purpose that has brought us together in the first place while you're in the room. So, in 1961, the Berlin Wall was built, divided Germany into two nations, East Germany, West Germany. And then the Berlin Wall, even the capital city of Berlin was divided. There was a west side and an east side.
I'm familiar with it because Tammy and her family were missionaries in Germany. I proposed to Tammy in Germany in 1986. The wall didn't come down till 1989. We used to go on dates in Germany when I was courting her, convincing her, "This is what you want. I know this is what you want, right"? And we used to go to these border walls. We used to wave at the guards in the towers, the East German guards. It was actually quite fascinating, but I had firsthand experience and account of it, of being there. Well, communism fell. Let me say it this way, communism became illegal, and that separation became illegal, but the wall was still up. Like it was a year after the thing became... from the time the thing was illegal to the wall came down.
And one day, a group of people, young people got a little discouraged about, "Well, if this is not who we are anymore, then why is that still there"? And they got them little pickaxes. And the wall was ginormous. I mean, it was forever long. And it looked almost insurmountable to tear the whole thing down, but they didn't worry about that. They just took out their own section of it. They did their part until all of us brought it down. In fact, when it did come down in 1989, the missionary friend that Tammy and I supported, his name is on the back of this little plaque, this is an actual piece of it that I used to have on display at my home in Baton Rouge. And when we moved to Birmingham, it ended up in a box. And it has not been on display since 2001.
And yesterday, I dug into the attic and found the box, and pulled it out. 'Cause I have things on my desk, like I have a Tigger figurine that reminds me to have a good attitude. And I have that baseball card of the person I led to Jesus, some of y'all know the story, Billy from Boston to remind me to lead people to Jesus. This is my newest addition to my desk that I'm going to look at every day. That while I might not be able to tear the whole thing down, I plan on doing my section of it. Like this is. Please be seated. And I am asking you to do your section of it in the most godly way possible. I think you do it by having one enemy. This is spiritual. I mean, it's practical too, practical things need to be done, but it's spiritual at the root.
I'm asking you to have a heart, one heart that learns, laments so you can love like Jesus loves. And that we come together back with one purpose, to change the world together. We're not going to get there without us being changed. I'm asking you to go watch yesterday's prayer service 'cause I think it all starts with us. Like we can't ask the world to do anything that we're not willing to do ourselves. Change me. In fact, I want you to close your eyes right there where you are, team here. And if you're watching somewhere, and perhaps you're watching and you're saying, "So much has to happen in my heart, I'm realizing".
You're right. So much has to happen in me. Here's the good news, God responds to the humble, to the contrite, to the broken. Listen to me, he's never expected your perfection. He's just wanted your honesty. A broken and contrite heart God does not despise. Perhaps you're there and you feel convicted by your own sin, maybe by your own biases, maybe by your own feelings, your own mistakes. Can I tell you in a moment of honesty before God, he forgives, makes new, changes your heart. If you're not a Christian or if you're far from God, or you are a Christian and you've backslidden, or you're a solid Christian and you're just mad and discouraged and beat up, and your heart's gotten all hard, can you pray this prayer with me right there where you are? Say:
Jesus, thank you for paying for all my mistakes. (say that) Thank you for paying for my biases, my anger, my brokenness, my mistakes, my sin. (Now, say these two words from the depths of your soul) Save me. Save me. I give you my life, I surrender my life to you. Save me, forgive me. (Now, say these words) Change me.