Chris Hodges - This Gospel Will Be Preached
Oh, it's so good to see all of you here today. Who's glad to be in church? Who's glad to be in church? I know, it's just so good. And a big hello to all of you guys that are here at Grants Mill, at all of our campuses. To those who have set up church in your home today, God bless you today. To the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections, we're so glad. We miss you so much, but we're so glad that we're able to bring our service into more than 20 of the facilities statewide. And let's give a special shoutout today. Today is the one year anniversary of the only campus that's outside of the state of Alabama. Say a big hello to the Columbus campus, everybody, one year old. Good to see you guys today.
And what a joy. It really is great time, and we're having some amazing seasons right now as a church. We're also in a season of 21 days of prayer and fasting. We've had actually record participation this year, especially online. Can't thank you enough. I think it's so important right now that we as a church and we have 534 other churches joining us right now for this season of prayer and fasting. We're gathering together at most of our locations at 6 a.m. for prayer, and we invite you to come be a part of that. I'll be here tomorrow morning right here at Grants Mill. And if you can't join us in person, we always stream these services live, and then they're on demand for 24 hours. But join us in this season of prayer and fasting.
I think it's an important time to set aside a few things that are just kind of in the way of our relationship with God, and humble ourselves before God, and believe God for revival in our land. I believe we need revival, and I believe God answers prayer, amen everybody? So, just really want to invite you to be a part of our second week. Week 1 was spectacular. And before I get into the message, I also just wanted to thank you for your incredible generosity. I always like you to know where you are being represented in places that maybe you never thought you were being represented. But a lot of you guys know there was a massive explosion in the city of Beirut, Lebanon. And immediately, we contacted our ministry partners there and sent funds to Beirut on your behalf that is right now housing people, feeding people, clothing people, and giving them Jesus, and that's happening today. Come on, give God praise for that, it's awesome.
And of course, you already know if you follow us on social media, you're seeing where your impact is happening all around our state literally every day. Our new motto in this pandemic season is every day is serve day. And literally every day, there are money and manpower going out to places that you've paid for and prayed for, and so I want to thank you for that. We don't really have an official moment in the service right now where we receive an offering or pass any buckets or anything like that, but we do want to encourage you just to do whatever the Lord shows you to do. And of course, there's several digital ways I'll have them put on a screen just for a second here to remind you that if God impresses on your heart to give, or to tithe, or to give your resources in any way, that's how you do it. And God bless you as you do, it's making a difference. Last week, I started a little two-week series in a month where we're having five standalone messages.
So, this is not a series month. Sometimes, we just have different messages that we can't put together in a series, and so we call them standalones. And so, for the five Sundays of August, we're just bringing you some very important and we think very timely messages to our church. And then in September, we are going to start a brand new series, and we've got a lot of things planned. In fact, we have Sundays planned throughout the end of the year. Of course, we're taking it a little bit step by step to see too as things in our world change and evolve. We want to be flexible with that. But last week, I started a message that I needed two Sundays to do it in. And it's because I've been reading a lot in the text, in the Bible about the end times.
I was stirred by one single thought, there was the verse in the Old Testament where it says, "The sons of Issachar," so it's a group of the children of Israel who understood the times and knew what to do. And I really felt like even five or six months ago, or as this pandemic was evolving, that more than ever it's important for leaders to understand the seasons that we live in and know how to take the right actions. So, I've been reading a lot both in the Bible, Old Testament and New, and really even from historical records of how things happen, how the church operates, and what God does in the middle of seasons like this. I personally believe, not to freak you out or to scare you, but I do believe we are at the beginning of the end. I truly believe for a lot of reasons, I could give you 20 or 30 reasons how the signs of the end times are not only are being fulfilled, but have already been fulfilled. I really believe we're on the doorstep of that, and I think there's some unique things that happen in the middle of that.
And if you're a Christian, that doesn't scare you, that excites you. And but Jesus talked quite a bit about it, and he said, "At the end of times, you're going to see an increase of wickedness". So, there's a lot of bad that happens near the end of time. He says, "In fact, because of the increase of wickedness, among believers, the love or their passion or their passion for God, that's going to grow cold". And as a pastor, that concerns me. Almost every day for the past six months, I've asked Tammy, "I wonder how they're doing. I wonder if they're okay. I wonder are they reading their Bibles, are they praying, are they encouraged, are they discouraged"? 'Cause everything bad is up right now.
I mean, studies are telling us that addiction is rising at double digits every month. Alcoholism rising, I mean, pornography rising, domestic abuse rising. I mean, everything bad is up right now. And to be honest with you, I get concerned, but this is being fulfilled right now. "But the one who stands firm to the end shall be saved". There's a way to encourage the church. And last week, I did my best to bring you an encouraging message, give you reasons why you should be very optimistic right now and be encouraged even in the middle of all the despair. But that's one thing, no matter what text you read about the end times or what historical record you see, you'll see this dynamic happening, but you also see this dynamic happening. Not only is there a lot of bad going on, but usually the gospel does its best work and God does his best work in the middle of a crisis.
So, the gospel is spread in a great way in the middle of persecution. And the Bible says, "And this gospel will be preached". I love that, "in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come". So, you're not only going to see an increase of the bad, but you're going to see an increase of the move of God. And by the way, that's one of the 20 or 30 reasons why I think we are in the beginning of the end, because we are living literally, numerically, in the greatest revival generation that has ever existed since Jesus. So, for the past 2,020 years, more people have come to faith in Jesus, have become Christians in the last 40 years than the previous 1,980 years combined.
So, you're in the generation where there's been a... I mean, that should've excited you just a little bit more. I mean, more people have gotten saved in just 40 years than almost 2,000 years before that. I mean, what is that telling us? For whatever reason, God is pouring out his Spirit in this time, and could it be because we are at the end of time? So, you see, the danger of Christians falling away, and we spoke about that last week why... come on, be encouraged. Don't let your love grow cold, be encouraged. But also, what I want to talk about today is there's the opportunity of non-Christians getting saved.
Now, there's a challenge with this one because over the past 20 years as a church, we've been very good at creating services that lost people love to attend. So, we've been very good at even training you, hey, bring your friends. And we tell you which Sundays are the best Sundays for you to have a lost person, someone far from God sitting next to you in church. And unfortunately, we've lost that option. We're trying to figure out how we can come, and how we can space out, and how we can operate. And before the pandemic, 47% of people who are far from God said they would never come to church under any circumstances. So, we're only reaching about 53% of them anyway, but now we know that that number has actually increased with the pandemic.
Now, that has made me think, "Well, then if we can't reach them in the room, we have to figure out how to reach them out of the room". We just really do. Now, that has not been easy for most people 'cause most people, when they think about an evangelist, it's somebody who shares the good news, it'll make you break out. You get nervous about it. You think, "Oh my goodness". And it's because you have this stereotypical evangelist in your mind that is not really what an evangelist is. But when you ask somebody, "Who is an evangelist"? You think about, come on, a white suit and white shoes, sawdust floor, and yelling at everybody, right? Or maybe it's that obnoxious person in front of the stadium who gets a little boom box and he's just preaching to everybody, telling them they're going to hell. Or in Alabama, it's two syllables, "You're going to hell, you're going to hell. You're going to... better turn or burn".
You know, they're telling you those kinds of things. I grew up, of course I went to LSU, go Tigers. We could be back to back national champions if there's not a season. Come on, somebody, I know. Just thought I'd encourage you with those words. And so anyway, but when I was a student at LSU, there was a part of our campus that was deemed Free Speech Alley. So, it was in front of what we called the student union, it's where our bookstore and, you know, kind of the center of campus. And there were these concrete benches that were out in front of the LSU student union building that every Tuesday at 4 o'clock became Free Speech Alley. That if you had something to say or an argument to make, people would gather and hear what you had to say. It was kind of a dangerous place, right?
So, there were people there. And every Tuesday at 4, there were hundreds of people. Well, knowing that dynamic, there was this evangelist who kind of came through Baton Rouge about once a year. And he always made his way to LSU and to that very spot that's called Free Speech Alley, but he would set up all day every day for about a week and just yell at everybody who'd pass by. Now, before I go any further, I do not want to disparage the fact that he probably reached some people. And I don't want to ever kind of, you know, say something bad about somebody who was doing their best to share God. But I always looked and I thought, "Bro, you ain't really helping me".
I was a brand new Christian and it was turning away some of my friends. In fact, his name was Holy Hubert. Come on, somebody. He was this old guy, grey hair, black suit, black tie, white starched shirt. I mean, the middle of just the hottest weather in the world, he'd stand up on that bench, and he'd just tell everybody, "You're going to hell". And he had this Bible, this giant coffee table black Bible, just took two hands to hold. Just, "Rah, you're going to hell. You better turn to Jesus. If you don't, you're going to just..." You know, and so, well, after a while, he started actually bringing an assistant with him, another evangelist, a female. Tall, skinny girl, she's about 6'2, I mean skinny as a rail. If she stuck her tongue out, she'd look like a zipper. I mean really tall, right? That's funny, isn't it?
Anyway, but she had this long, flowing one-piece dress that she'd button up to her chin. And she had a big old white Bible, just big old white coffee. Her name was Sister Cindy. And when he'd get done yelling at everybody, "Sister Cindy, come on up here". And she'd get up there, and she had a little bit of a different tagline. When she would preach, she'd always say, "And if you don't get your life right, you're going to burn in the lake of," and she paused, "fire"! She'd say it like that. Well, after a while, people caught on. Like there was hundreds of students and they were all waiting for that moment. And, "You're going to burn in the lake of," and then 400 people, "Fire"! And they'd laugh. And I was thinking, "Man, this ain't helping the cause. This is making our job a lot harder".
And for some of us, we've had so many negative experiences about evangelism, you shy away from it. You think, "I can't do that, I'm uncomfortable. I don't know if I can... I don't know if I... what if they bring up, you know, something theologically that I don't understand"? Well, I'm getting ready to help, hopefully make you very comfortable. And so comfortable 'cause I think it's absolutely necessary right now. So, that's where I'm going, I'm just going to tell you straight up I hope to commission every one of you who loves Jesus, if you're a Christian, you cannot get away from the fact that this is a part of the Christian life that you need to share your faith. But I want to make it easy for you. Now, what I did is I studied the word "evangelism". Or better yet, the word that the Bible usually translates from English to either gospel or good news.
So, when you see gospel or good news, it's everywhere. This gospel, Jesus said, will be preached, this gospel. What is gospel? Well, it's actually a made up English word for a Greek word, "euangelion" is the Greek word, euangelion. The eu part, the E-U part that starts this Greek word is where we get the words like eulogy. 'Cause the eu part, the E-U part means I've got some good news to say. So, we're at a funeral or a memorial service, and we want to tell all the good things about this person, it's a eulogy. That's the eu part. But the angelion is where we get the word "angel," angelion. And it means it's not only something good we're going to say... let me say it this way, it's not just the good message, but it's a good messenger.
So, like it's such a tough word to translate, they don't even know if it's the message or the person. And the answer is it's both. That what the gospel is is a great message. Like we have a great message. We have the best news on earth, and you ready for this? We have the only thing that's working right now. Isn't that kind of fun to have the corner on the market of... it's like we have truth, everybody. We have what works in the middle of all the chaos of this world. But the message that works doesn't matter if it doesn't have the person who shares it. So, what I thought I would do is just kind of give you some thoughts on how you can be a good messenger, and then I'd close by giving you what that good message actually is, and show you how easy it is. Here's a text I want us to see in Isaiah, it's a prophecy.
So, Isaiah saw you. He saw a church that was spreading the gospel, spreading the good news, and he says it this way in the most poetic and beautiful way. "How beautiful," this is God talking. Like this is the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen in the world. Streams, mountains, rivers, no, no, no, you. You going out of buildings, not just making church all about you, but those who are the feet that are bringing good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who tell everybody around, "Hey everybody, our God reigns. Our God's not nervous, he's still in charge, he's in control". Like you got to... this is the message.
But again, we can't give the message if we don't accept the challenge of being a messenger. And Jesus almost talks about it, I don't know that he was frustrated, but it kind of... I can see it that way. When he said, "We don't have a harvest problem". Like there are people right now who would receive your prayers if you prayed for them. There are people who would eat a meal if you'd feed them. There'd be people who would get saved if you'd ask them. Like there... the harvest is plentiful. There's plenty to do and people to receive it. We're seeing people get saved right now in the city of Beirut, Lebanon because they're in a desperate situation, and we came there with some love and some help and some great news. And they weren't resistant, they were ready. The harvest is plentiful. We don't have a harvest problem.
He said, "That's not the issue, the workers are few". He says, "We have a worker issue". And he says, "If you're going to pray, pray for this". You don't have to pray for the world to, oh, make them want God. No, they want God. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into that harvest field. And I want to try to do that today. I want to try to give you a reason why you should be that person. Now again, the challenge is most people think it's difficult. And I want to make it incredibly easy.
And so, years ago, I picked up on an outline that Pastor Rick Warren wrote. And I had been teaching it for years, hoping to change it so I could claim it as my own. But I just have never figured out a better way to say it, so I'm going to give all the credit to Pastor Rick Warren for what I'm getting ready to share with you, I just can't figure out a better way to say it. And then he says is basically it comes down to four things. If I were to explain how to do this, it's this simple. We share this in our membership class very quickly. Maybe take just a little bit more time today. And the first is you do have to accept the personal responsibility. In other words, it's very important for you to know that you're God's plan. And he doesn't have a plan B, you're it.
So, if the world is ever going to get the good news, if it doesn't come through you and me, then it's just not going to happen. God's not going to go, "Well, they wouldn't do it," so he's going to pop into human form, sit on top of the Regions building downtown, and go, "Here I am". No, he's not going to do that. You're it. You're his plan. In fact, the Bible says it this way, "For, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" Sounds kind of simple, doesn't it? "But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe if they've never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them"? That's you and me. And then he goes on to say, "And how will anyone go and tell them without a great message"?
The world class message you're hearing right now from your pastor, come on somebody, right? Without somebody sending you and reminding you that this is what our faith is really all about. And then it quotes the verse that I just read to you in Isaiah, "That is why the Scriptures say, 'How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring the good news.'" People are ready, like they're really ready. And what that means is I'm going to go through life not being some type of obnoxious evangelist standing on the side of... on a park bench yelling at everybody. I'm just asking you to look for opportunities to a world that is hurting very badly right now. I've had at least five conversations this week of people that are in desperate situations. And there was zero pushback about God. Like one of them is facing one of the hardest things I think a person can face, and that is they lost one of their children.
So one of their children passed away this week, and they're just, of course, devastated. And while we were talking, I was just ministering to them and just trying to love them and encourage them, they just opened the door of, "You know, pastor, I've been around Highlands for a long time, but I really never took it very seriously. I was kind of in and out, and it's..." And then I saw this, I mean, they just opened, they just presented an open door. And I said, I said, "Yeah, and I probably can't think of any way better to honor the memory of your son than to take his life right now and let it stir your life to go make a difference while you're still here". And he just said, "I'm ready. Let's go. What do I have to do"?
I'm just saying to you people that there are people in desperate situations right now that you do not need to be cautious about. They're miserable where they are, and we have the words of life if we'll just accept the responsibility to be that person. Can I hear a good amen? Come on, through the masks, just give me something, all right? Okay. The second is simply Pastor Rick says that once you accept that it really is up to us, just go ahead and just bite that bullet. Just understand it's up to us. But now we develop a relationship, and it's the part a lot of people miss. Because people think that the next step is, "Well, then just tell them what you know". People don't care what you know, they want to know that you care.
Now we get into this relationship and what I call connect before you correct. And I think too many people, come on y'all, are y'all as tired of issues as... everybody's got, they want to fight over issues. Do not fight over issues. Just connect with people. You don't have to point out where their sin is, tell them how wrong they are. A lot of people teach evangelism this way, just like, "Just tell them. Show them in the Bible where they're wrong". No, no, no, if you follow Jesus's model, he always connected before he corrected. He always gave them grace before he ever presented the truth to them, every single time.
I'm reminded the story of Zacchaeus. Y'all remember the story of Zacchaeus. The Bible says he was a, as the Baptists call, a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. Come on, where y'all at, Baptists, right? He climbed up in that sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see, right, remember that? All right. Well, he was a tax collector, a short tax collector. Stole money from people. Heard Jesus was coming by, this is Luke 19. So short he couldn't see because of the crowd, climbed up into the tree to find Jesus. When Jesus passes by, now this is a sinner. He didn't even have to know that through his divine knowledge.
Everybody knew he was a thief. And you would think his first words were, "If you stop stealing from people, you could be a godly man". And he doesn't. You know what Jesus said to the man? "Hey, Zacchaeus, you want to go to PF Changs with me"? He invited him to lunch. He invited him to lunch. And unfortunately, we don't get the lunch conversation. But all we know is ten verses later, Zacchaeus came out a changed man, giving back three times everything that he had stolen from anybody. I would love to know the conversation of that lunch. But what Jesus did is he connected with him first. That's what Paul said, he says, "Whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with them so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him".
John Maxwell says it this way, "You don't have to be like them to reach them, but you do have to like them". Just like them. You don't have to be like them, just like them. Here's number three. So, we accept the responsibility, we develop the personal relationship, then third is we share our personal story. Now, this is where most people miss evangelism because we think it's pointing out what they could do differently or what they need to change. But really what the gospel is is us telling the change that happened in my life, not what happened in yours. Can I just tell you the difference that's happened inside of me? Here's how 1 Peter says it. "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord".
So, go ahead and settle the fact that he's your Lord. "And always be prepared to give an answer to everyone," watch this, "who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have". So, just tell them why you chose it. He says, "And when you do it, don't yell at them. Do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscious, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander". So, in other words, just be so nice, it almost drives them... they don't even know how to receive it. The other day, I was on the golf course. And this young college player was there, and he goes, "You're Pastor Chris". I said, "Yeah". I said, "Yeah". He goes, he goes, "Well, I don't think I'm ever going to church".
That was his next line, like, "Well, amen, praise God for that," you know? And I said, and I laughed. Instead of like, "Well, I'm a pastor, and you need..." You know, I laughed, I said, "Why, what happened? Man, what in the world happened"? He goes, "Ah, I don't like church because..." I said, "Why"? "Just 'cause I've been. And they aren't very nice people. And you know, if I ever went after God, I'll just have to find another place than there to go 'cause it's just I didn't enjoy that one bit". So, I decided to play along, I said, "Yeah, I get it. Me too, man, that's why I just started my own church".
And he looked a little funny at me like, "What are you talking about"? I said, "Well, you know, Christianity has like two brands out there. It's a branding problem. And there's this whole group that just will be glad to tell you everything you're doing wrong, and judge you up one side and down the other for the way you dress, the way they act. In fact, they want you to get it together before you can come, but you have to come in order to get it together. They have it all completely backwards". And he's like, "Yeah, I get that". I said, "Well, you know, if you ever did decide to check out a church, I promise you your experience would be different". He goes, "I think I'll try".
He just needed to hear my own personal story of my own journey. I didn't like church at all. In fact, my pastor had a finger about eight miles long, and it always pointed right at me, right, you know what I'm saying? I came to the altar every Sunday. I repented every Sunday 'cause I just knew I was going to get knocked upside the head by God. That is not what God looks like, everybody. We got to change the mindset by sharing our story. And here's the last one, and that is just at some point, give people a chance. Like say, "Well, you know what? Why don't you come and why don't you check it out"? And we're always thinking of ways to help you do that, but especially in this new reality 'cause we used to just say, "Hey, invite your friends to come to church". And that's not really something we have at our disposal right now.
So, I want to throw out to you an idea that you don't have to accept, this is only going to be for a few, but you need to find something. So, we've gotten our hands on some small group curriculum from my friend, Dr. John Maxwell, the leadership author expert. And what he does in the secular corporate world is he just adds value to people. No Bible, no gospel, no Jesus, just help them in leadership, attitude, relationships, things like that. He calls it the essentials of success. Well, he's put this value in a video curriculum. And then he does what he does in his secular environments. If the corporation that invites him will let him, he says, "Hey, you're dismissed, seminar over. But if you'd like to come back in 15 minutes, I'm going to take 15 more minutes and share my faith".
Ninety percent of the people come back for this bonus session. And he says, "In many cases, up to 50% of those people give their lives to Jesus". And all he does is share what he calls the four pictures of God. That why most people don't want to receive God is because they have the wrong picture of God. So, he paints all the, "This is the wrong picture, this is the wrong picture, this is the wrong picture. This is the real one". And all these people give their life to Jesus. Well, we've got this now in video curriculum. So, like you can just go into any setting at your business or with your friends and just say, "Hey, here are six sessions, it'll add value to you. Hey, it's over, small group's over. But if you'd like to come back for the seventh week, John Maxwell will share his faith with you, and he'll give you the four pictures of God". And I think we'll have the same results.
So, we're getting ready to start a small group season, and I just wanted to encourage you in that, give you a practical way, an easy way. Like if you can push play or set up a tablet, you could do this. And you can email [email protected], or you can text GROUPS to 74000, that's our number. Have y'all noticed that? It's 74000, like prayer, 74000. Connect, baptism, 74000. You want pizza, 74000. No, I'm just kidding, like that's our number, okay. But I want to encourage you in that. But again, the message here is the key component. But you also need to know what the message is, and I want to close with this, this is just so good. I want to go back to our verse. 'Cause I saw four things. In fact, I've never seen this until this week, until I studied it. He says, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news".
Well, what is that good news? I'm going to tell you in a second. "Who proclaim peace". What is that? I'm going to tell you in a second. "Who bring good tidings". And what's the difference between good news and good tidings? There is a difference. I like dug into the Hebrew and found out what the difference between the two are, and I'm going to show you that in a second. "And who proclaims salvation, who declare, 'Our God reigns.'" He says, "I'm going to bring you good news". You know what the good news is, you ready for it? Here's the good news, it's very simple. And this phrase is not cliche, it still works. And that is that God loves you, and he sent his Son Jesus to pay for your sins. That God so loves the world, he loves you so much that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Did you know that people need to know that God loves them? I mean, I was talking to an atheist a few weeks ago, and we're actually friends, and we do not debate, and we were not in a debate. And he respects the fact that I'm a pastor and I respect, you know, I'm like, "Okay, bro, I get it you're an atheist, and that's fine". And we were just talking, and I felt this slight open door. And so I just, I said this phrase, I said, "I know you don't believe in God, but don't you miss him"? And his face changed, and he said, "Yeah". And he said, "Chris, what is that"? That's the fact that he can't get away from the fact that because he's made in the image of God that he has an unredeemed spirit of God on the inside of him.
I'm telling you, you can say you don't believe in God, it doesn't matter, it's still looking for God. Where's it at, because there's a God size hole in every person's heart that just needs the love of God to fill it. Come on somebody, amen, are you hearing that? And so, don't buy into all the stuff. Don't you know that God loves you and you're ready... what else? People have conviction, and they have guilt. They can't get away from it. We are the only species on the earth that feels guilt and shame whenever we do, like you'll never see a lion over in the woods with gazelle blood all over his mouth, going, "Boy, I really feel bad about that". That's not going to happen. But humans, you can't get away from it. Your sin will make you feel that.
And when you say, "Hey, you can have all of that paid for, forgiven," look, that line still works. It's the good news. And not only the good news, but we get to proclaim peace that God can give you. I need you to tell people, "You know God can give you a peace regardless of the circumstance? Do you know that regardless of our circumstances changing on the outside, you can still have peace on the inside"? That's just something you ought to tell people. It's what I told this family, "I hate what you're going through. I'd do anything to be able to change it. But I'm telling you, if you'll look for it, God's peace would be with you in a way I cannot even explain to you. It's there". And you can look at people and say, "God offers you peace".
We proclaim peace, "That in this world you will have trouble, but know that I have come that you might have peace inside of me," Jesus says. I've come to offer you that. I've come to proclaim good tidings. What's the difference between good news and good tidings? Tidings are different. Tidings say that what you're going through is going to work out, that God will give you the strength to make it through. I mean, just go around earth and say, "Hey, I know it's tough, but do you know God will give you the strength to make it through"? Some of y'all need to hear that today. Do you know that God gives you the strength to make it through? That you're going to be all right.
Paul said it this way, he said, "The good news we preach, if it's hidden behind a veil, it's hidden only from the people who are perishing". And then he says this, he says, "But we are hard pressed on every side, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but we are never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed". And you can say that to people. Come on, good news, proclaim peace, good tidings, and proclaim salvation. You know what salvation means. It's that there's a rescue line right there in front of you if you're willing to take it. That God is ready to save you right now. The ball is in your hands. I like to think of it as God's got this life raft, you're over there drowning, and he's like, I mean, his wrist is already cocked, like ready to throw it to you.
And all he needs is a nod from you or me and I just tell people, this is how I say it. I say, "I know you're not ready right now, but if you ever are, I'd like to be the person you call. I'd love to have the honor of leading you to God. Like I realize, I mean, it's up to you. You decide when, but if you ever decide now is the time, I'd love to be the one you call". Romans chapter 9 says it this way, come on out, team. "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you'll be saved". It's that simple. "For it's with your heart you believe and are justified. It's with your mouth you believe and are saved".
So, there's a story I tell, and I just apologize for repeating this story. I want to bring out a new thought on it, but it's just, it's the story that captures the spirit of this better than anything. 'Cause God is very concerned as a Father for his lost and missing kids, he just is. And if you've ever lost one of your kids, you really feel it, and I have. So, when we were on vacation many years ago, my youngest of five, who is on the autism spectrum, went missing in a very crowded vacation spot. And it wasn't particularly safe, we weren't in a safe place. And when Joseph went missing, it to date was the most panicked I've ever felt. And what I mean by panicked, like you have seconds to get it figured out, that's what it felt like. Like with every second, you're losing time.
I thought he had been abducted. I thought somebody had snatched him right from under us. He was about 12 at the time. And because it was crowded and we were with a couple other families, it just happened so fast and he's just gone. And he doesn't do that, and he can't communicate, he couldn't communicate. He wouldn't have been able to get himself out of that situation. And to say I freaked out was an understatement, it was just horrible. What was interesting about that day is that soon as I said, "Hey everybody, Joseph's gone," everybody else got panicked with just that one sentence. Like they didn't need a 35 minute message.
In a second, everybody captured the emotion of that moment. And I didn't even say, "Help me". They were just gone, 20 people in 20 directions. And none of them said, "Um, I don't know what am I supposed to say when I find him"? Like nobody, "Well, I never, I'm not good for looking for lost..." None of them said that, they just went because they captured the emotion of the moment that declared, "Hey y'all, we're in a season right now where it's important that you walk out of those doors and live out your faith and go find Joseph". Like you've got to grab that. And I'm trying with everything inside of me to say this is a critical hour.
Thank God 35 minutes later, we found him. It changed me forever. I sobbed my head off when When I put my arms back around him. And I said, "Joe, Joe, where were you"? He says, "Dad, I was looking for you the whole time". And it just eternally messed me up. And my hope is that you leave this place today eternally messed up, saying these are strange times we live in, but times where people are more open to the gospel. And I'm just telling you, this gospel needs to be preached before the end can come. This is an opportunity for us to reach as many people as we can. Do you believe that, church, you believe that? It's really important. Stand up on your feet. If you're willing to accept this commission, we're on mission with God, want you to just put your hands out in front of you, just open them before the Lord.
And God, we feel the moment, and we know how important it is. And God, I just pray that you'd make every person here at the sound of my voice in these rooms, or online, or wherever we are, that you would send your church from this place to preach that good news. God, we want to be carriers of this great news. And so, help us to be sensitive every moment. Give us grace as we do our best to show your love to the people who so desperately need it, in Jesus's name.
Now, put your hands down, keep your eyes closed. Maybe you're here today and you really can't be on the delivery side of this because you still need to be on the receiving side of this. Like you need to know that God loves you and there's a God sized hole in your heart. And honestly, you can try to fill it with everything you can think of and it'll still be there. He loves you, and you do not have to live with your shame and your guilt. It's paid for. And you do it by calling on the name of the Lord, making Jesus the Lord of your life. I'm going to hand it to the campuses, but before I do, if that's you at home or here at Grants Mill and you'd like to receive prayer, you just want to pray that prayer, whisper these words. Say:
Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross, for paying for my sins. I receive it and I call on your name. I believe you are God, you're God. You are the Son of God. I believe you died and rose again. And today, I put my faith in you. (Make it personal, say) I give you my life in Jesus's name, amen.
Campuses, take your services. And by the way, if you just prayed that prayer, you just made the best decision of your life. Grants Mill, you want to say a big congratulations? And before I dismiss you, just know that if you prayed that prayer, we would love to help you with your next steps. And you can text the word "saved," S-A-V-E-D to that number, 74000. And no one's going to call you, no one's going to come by your house, it's very safe.
But we want to just make sure you have a resource that's going to help you with your next steps, the book that's called "What's Next"? And it'll help you, make it very clear, it's a very easy read. It'll help you in those steps. And I want to encourage you in those. It's very, very important. And I'm going to pray a benediction over you, and I want to bless your giving. Thank you for being so generous, and I'm going to pray over what we give, even though we give it at home and through different ways like that, I just want to pray a blessing over your generosity. And then I'll see you here in the morning at 6 a.m. for prayer, it's going to be awesome.
Father, as we go from this place rejoicing, God, we're so grateful for the way you've saved us and changed us. And God, to be able to invest in others, what a joy. We ask you to take what we give and use it for your glory, God, in the mighty name of Jesus. Now, as we go from this place, God, we go with the peace of God, the strength of God, the confidence of God, knowing that you are our God and our God reigns. So, bless your people, give them an amazing week. In Jesus's mighty name we pray, amen.