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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - We Need Each Other

Chris Hodges - We Need Each Other

Chris Hodges - We Need Each Other

Who's glad to be in church today? Anybody, anybody? Me too, I know. I don't think I'll ever take it for granted again, you know, just the privilege of meeting together. And so, big hello to all of you, thank you for joining. And for those of you who are still worshipping at home, we're so glad you're along for the ride as well. Don't forget to download the children's curriculum and the children's just resources that we have for you so you can have children's church in your home as well. I want to say hello to the campuses. I want to say hello to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. We wish we could be with you in person. Hopefully, it won't be too long and we'll be able to be back with you guys.

And we're so glad you're along for the ride today as well. Come on, Grants Mill, put your hands together and say hello to your church family. God bless you guys, all right. So, I think most of you know that we decided to take the month of August, the five Sundays of the month of August, and give you what we call standalone messages, meaning they're not in a series, just different messages that we really felt like we all needed right now in this time. And my installments of these, just very passionate, things that I think are very, very important for the season that we're living in. Today's no different.

But I want to let you know that next Sunday, we're going to have yet another standalone day, where we just give you what we call vision Sunday. And I've got some announcements to make that I'm going to hold off till next week that you won't want to miss. But it's going to be a vision Sunday like no other. Just trust me, it's going to be one of the best that we've ever brought to you. And then in two Sundays, we're going to start a brand new nine-week book study through the book of James. And you know, the very first verse of the book of James says, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations". The book was actually written to a church that wasn't able to gather, they were very scattered. And it's one of the most practical books of the Bible, you're absolutely going to love it.

In fact, throughout this series, we're also writing small group curriculum that goes along with those nine messages, so it's going to be spectacular. I'll tell you more about that in just a second, but I also want to remind you we're going to have our very first in-person first Wednesday this week, thank the Lord for that. Yeah, since March. And so, you can still worship at home if that works for you. And we encourage you just to follow whatever is best for you and your family, but we are going to have First Wednesday together. And if you're new to our church, First Wednesday is very different than Sundays in that worship is a little longer. We always receive communion together, the Lord's supper, so you can prepare for that if you're at home. Get some juice and some bread or a cracker, and celebrate communion with us, and it's going to be a very, very special time together you won't want to miss, all right?

And then also just wanted to talk to you for a few moments today about something that's more than a message for me, honestly. What I'm bringing to you today comes out from literally the place where I am the most concerned about you. What I want to share with you today, I think it's critical. And so, I don't even want you to hear it as a message. I want you to hear it as a warning, I want you to hear it as something that comes from a place of love and care for you. You know, since March, whenever the Coronavirus really kind of raised its ugly head not only in our nation, but around the world, you know, a lot of people have gone through a lot of things because of it.

In fact, one of the very first phrases that came out in this Coronavirus pandemic was social distancing. And I remember the very first time I heard it, I thought, "Well, that's not the right phrase". I know what they intend for all of us to do, that we need to, you know, be separate physically, but honestly, in the middle of a crisis, you actually need relationships more than ever before. We need each other, we need relationships. And I wish they would have called it physical distancing instead of social distancing because I think it's relationships that keep you safe, keep you connected, keep you well, keep you focused, keep you encouraged. Like they're so important.

And sure enough, everything that is bad is up, everything. So, drug overdoses are on a double digit increase every month. Suicides are up. In fact, we have already had as many suicides this year as all of last year. Depression is up, everything bad is up, alcohol consumption. The list goes on and on and on, and it's because people are in despair. And so, we really need each other in this moment. And I'm so grateful that this coming Sunday, we are launching a new semester of small groups. And we always kind of talk about it the week before because our directory of group right now, it's about 3,000. And it will grow, we think, to about 5,000 different choices by next Sunday for you to get connected. And they're just so much more than another place to study your Bible, or to go through a curriculum. And all that is pretty cool, by the way.

In fact, one of the newest curriculums we have this semester, I actually two weeks ago met with Dave Ramsey with Ramsey Solutions. And a lot of you guys know he has his Financial Peace University curriculum that many of you have used, but it's been, you know, it's pretty expensive per group to go through this curriculum. And met with Dave, and he says, "Chris, I'm going to license your entire church to use this curriculum for free. It's a gift from us". I thank God for that. So, if you've ever wanted to kind of get on a budget or get out of debt, you may want to form a group around just that topic because we're going to have this material available to you, among others as well.

But let me make something very, very clear. It's a whole lot more than that. So, it's not about the social activity, it's really not about the curriculum. That's kind of the hook, honestly. Tammy and I led parenting curriculum for more than seven years together. That was our small group expression, and we got couples together in church. And they thought they were getting together to kind of... so we could learn how to parent our children better, only to discover that it was the relationships that ended up being the best part of the group. And you need to hear that. Like, the greatest hope that I have is that the hook hooks you. Like I want to learn that, or I want to experience that, or I want to eat that, or I want to play ultimate frisbee. I don't know what it is, I want to do that in the hopes that you meet someone else in this church that provides this safety net, this place of strength.

Now, this is the biblical model. So, the very first church in the book of Acts, the first century church had what the Bible describes as temple worship, house to house ministry. So, they gathered once a week to celebrate God and to hear the most incredible preaching of your life. Come on, somebody, right? You know, that's what happens to all of you every week, right? But seriously, that's not what it's all about. As good as we hope to be and bring you messages, your life can't change in the big environment. The big environment kind of makes you want to change, it kind of gives you inspiration for another week. It allows all of us to collectively worship our amazing God. Can I hear a good amen to that, right? But actually, we need more than that. You need more than these messages. We need each other.

And so, I've entitled this message today, "We Need Each Other". And I hope to make the case for you that this is a major focus of the Bible, and we really need each other. And so, in fact, what I'd like for you to do is let your guard down if you have a guard against these kind of messages. And lean in with a new level of understanding that God may speak to you in a great way. And since we're not passing out anything right now, all the information you need to find is happening digitally. And so, if you want to either lead a group, get in a group, or just want to know what groups are all about, you can text the word "groups" to 74000, that's how it happens. But we need each other. In fact, the Bible is filled with messages of loneliness, what to do when you're lonely. And when I mean lonely, I don't mean alone. I mean, you can have people around you and still have the feeling of loneliness. And it certainly is on the rise, people having this sense of despair.

In fact, the most recent study says that 40% of all Americans say they are close to no one. No one, that's four out of every ten have I'm close to no one. And again, as a pastor, as someone who cares for you so much, prays for you every day, I might think about you more than your mama does. I mean, I really, really love you. I don't want that to be the case for you. In fact, a lot of people think that the Bible is all about sin and helping us with our sin. But sin wasn't even the first problem in the Bible.

In fact, the first problem in the Bible wasn't sin, it was solitude. So, the devil doesn't even show up till Genesis chapter 3. But in Genesis chapter 2, God made this incredible place called planet earth with all these beautiful trees and animals, and just a great... and then God looked down and goes, "Uh oh, got a problem here. I made Adam, but it's not good for that man to be by himself". And so, the very first thing that the Bible addresses is not your sin, it's your solitude. In fact, in Ecclesiastes, it says Solomon, who by the way had everything, he had lots of relationships. In fact, he was known to have a lot of wives. He had hundreds and hundreds of them.

I actually heard a theology student ask his professor once, said, "Why did Solomon have so many wives"? And the professor answered, he said, "It was in the hopes that when he came home from work, one of them would be in a good mood". No, I'm just kidding, I just, anyway. I didn't say that in the other services, and I probably shouldn't have said it in this one. So anyway, all right. But Solomon had a lot. He had all the wisdom in the world, all the money in the world, and all these relationships. And speaking of himself says, "There was a man," he's speaking of himself now, "who was all alone". Didn't have any friends, didn't have anybody I could call brother or sister. And look what happened, I'm miserable. There is no end to my toil.

In fact, even though I was very wealthy, "His eyes were not content with the wealth". So, I have a lot, but I'm not satisfied with that because that cannot satisfy you. We're made for relationships. So, I want to teach you today five principles out of the life of Jesus that just so happen to be the last conversation that Jesus ever had. So, if you know the story, Jesus would pay for sins on the cross on a day that we Christians call Good Friday. On the Thursday night before, he and the disciples are going to celebrate the annual festival called Passover. It's the Passover meal, and you'd gather together to remember the children of Israel getting out of Egypt. You may know that story.

So, once a year, they had this Passover celebration. Jesus and his disciples are celebrating it, and John's Gospel gives a lot of detail that the other three gospels don't. Now, if you don't know about this, your Bible, the first four books of the New Testament are four stories, but just one story, four different accounts. Matthew writes about Jesus, Mark, Luke, and then John. In fact, they call Matthew, Mark, and Luke the synoptic gospels in theology, meaning they're pretty much the same, synoptic, but John's is different. In fact, of what you're getting ready to hear, Matthew, Mark, and Luke only give a couple paragraphs to it. John gives five chapters to the last conversation Jesus would have at the Passover table.

So, they're going to get together that evening, and thank goodness John gives us, through the Holy Spirit, gives us the conversation, the entire conversation before the meal, during the meal, after the meal, all the way into the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus would be arrested. Jesus starts it off as the disciples were gathering. It would have been customary for there to be someone at the front door, someone who had assigned, whoever was the host, to have someone wash the feet of the people coming in. It was just a custom. It was actually more customary than utilitary. It was really just a nice way to say, "Welcome to the party". No one was there to do that function, so Jesus the Bible says took out his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, got a basin of water, and got on the floor and starts washing his disciples' feet. And it made them feel uncomfortable.

So, this relationship that had taken place for three years, so they knew each other very, very well, three years he was with these disciples. And Peter jumps in and says, "I don't think so. Like I've enjoyed what you've given me up to this point, love all the teachings. You're my God. But I don't want you getting into that place in my life. I don't want you to see the cracks. I don't want you to see the dirt. I surely don't want you to smell the smells that are down there". And in some ways, this is a picture of what a lot of us are like in our relationship with God. I love church, I want to go to heaven, I am a Christian, I believe in you, but there are parts that, God, I don't really feel like you need to see.

I don't really want to talk about the cracks, or the smells, or the dirt that's down there on the part of my life that carries the rest of my life, my feet. And Jesus responds and says, "I really need to. In fact, unless I go to that dirtiest, darkest, nobody's seen, smelliest place, we can't be partners. You're missing a part of me that you need in your life". And I wonder how many of us have a part of God, but not all of God. I wonder how many of us have really experienced the, you know, the salvation part, but he wants to do the cleaning up in the dirty part as well. And how many of us are kind of open to that? And I'm not a preacher, but I think I just preached there just for a few minutes, just got close, I really did. And so, what Jesus does, he now starts teaching the disciples.

And again, John's Gospel is the only one that gives us these details. In fact, in chapter 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 are all the conversation at the table, all the way in the garden of Gethsemane. And each chapter has a theme about relationships. And it makes the case why we need each other. And I just want to let the Bible teach you these five principles. I just did the work of outlining it, it's always been there. And in chapter 13, he gives us this idea, and that is I need people who will care for me. And when I mean care, care I mean is a ministry term on the day where you're sick, you're hurting, you're sad. Something bad happened to you and you weren't going to be able to take care of it on your own. I need somebody who will care for me.

Watch what he says in chapter 13, "And when he finished washing their feet, he put on his outer clothes back on, that coat, and he returned to his place". And he says, "Hey guys, do you understand what I just did for you?'" To which the shallow disciples would've said, "Yeah, you washed our feet. I mean, that's all there is to it". And he goes, "No, no, no, no. You keep calling me, 'Teacher' and 'Lord.'" In other words, "You told me that I'm always teaching you bigger principles, and rightly so, for that's what I am. But now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, I need you to go and do the same. You need to wash one another's feet. In fact, I have set an example for you that you should care for others the way I just cared for you".

What I mean by that is that if we're going to be a New Testament church and a church who actually can survive a pandemic and all the uncertainties that are happening in our world today, I'm going to tell you we need to be caregivers and care receivers. We have got to get to the place where we're okay with letting someone care for us on our darkest day. Can I get a good amen, somebody? I'm serious about this. In fact, I'm desperate for us because we're a big church. And it'd be easy to kind of come in and go and that's it, right? But we need more than that. In fact, we need to care for each other.

In fact, the Bible says in Ecclesiastes, "It's better to have a partner than to go at it all alone. Share the works, share the wealth because there's going to be a day when you fall down". To which you're thinking, "Wow, that's so negative and..." But it's so true. There's going to be a day where you can't handle the load, you can't handle it yourself, and all you need is someone else there to help. That's why Romans says, "Rejoice when people are rejoicing," so have a party when people are happy. But you've got to have somebody who will mourn with you when you mourn.

1 Corinthians says this there's going to be a day when you suffer. And if one part suffers, the rest of us jump in and say, "What can I do to help"? And this is how our church is built. In fact, if you're new to our church, you would need to know that small groups is the primary way that we offer what we call pastoral care. So, like if you're not in a group, we'll still help you, we'll be there when something bad happens. But you're getting the second best solution, not the first. The best one is that we've designed the small group system where there's communication between our small group leaders, and you and them back to us, they were caring for you. I'll never forget our first year of the church, I was really trying to teach this.

And by the way, we've been pretty successful at communicating this. We have had for the last five years more people attend groups than attend Sundays, so it's been very, very successful. But at the beginning, it wasn't. I had to convince a lot of people like, "This is where we care for you". 'Cause they kept wanting, you know, like me to do it. And I knew the church would grow, it did long time ago, past the point where I could do everything for everyone. And so, I was just trying to convince them like, "Really, you need a group". And I'll never forget in the very first year I think it was of our church, we had a schoolteacher who had a massive heart attack in his classroom at one of the high schools.

And a couple hours later, I got word that he had passed away. And so, I decided to jump in my car, just turn, you know, cancelled my appointments that day and just go over to Ramona's house, the widow's house, and check on her. And I kind of went unannounced. And I'll never forget pulling up in front of her house and there were just scores of cars. And my first thought was, "Well, that has to be all her family. The family's already here yet". But when I got to the door, the family had not even known that he had passed yet. Every one of the cars were members of their small group, who somehow found out, and they were just Johnny on the spot, there they are.

In fact, I'll never forget, I knocked on the door and the door opened, and the first thing I saw was the couch, was Ramona sitting on it and dabbing her eyes, and the small group leader sitting right there next to her. And I thought, "Wow, this works pretty good". And right as I was getting ready to step in, this real tall lady named Debbie, real tall and skinny, I mean, just real tall. And I knew she's tall 'cause, you know, I'm really short, and so that everybody can kind of fit in that category. But anyway, she kind of bumped me in the back with this giant tray of luncheon meat, you know where they make the little circle tubes of it and it's all around? It was that 'cause I remember thinking, "That really looks good". And so, she bumped me and said, "Oh, excuse me, Pastor Chris". And she was bringing in food. And I was thinking, "Wow, my goodness, this really works".

And when I walked in, the small group leader looked at me just like. Like and he said, "What are you doing here"? Well, like, I'm the pastor of the church, that's what I'm doing here. You know, what do you mean I'm doing here? He goes, "Pastor, you trained us. You told, we got this". And I said, "Well, I know you do". And I said, "Well, at least can I pray for her, please, you know"? And so I walk, but I walked over there and had a conversation. I remember leaving, honestly leaving that house so fulfilled, knowing that if we're really going to take care of all of us, all of us have to be involved in taking care of all of us. That that's not... are y'all hearing me, everybody? Like that's your responsibility for everybody in this room, and that's everybody's responsibility in this room to you. That we need each other.

And that's why when we start next week, and all of you get in groups 'cause I just know every one of you are going to do that, that you can be sure you keep your small group leader informed of what's going on in your family's life in every way so that we can care for one another. Chapter 14. So, that was chapter 13, now Jesus keeps the conversation going. John's giving us this beautiful dialogue. And then the second discussion in chapter 14, Jesus teaches us this principle, and that is that I need somebody not just to care for me on my days where I'm getting bad news, but man, just some days I got the blues. I'm just not doing so well. I just need encouragement to tell, I need an attaboy. I just need a, "Come on, man, it's better than you think. You're going to be all right".

And we see in chapter 14, Jesus saw his disciples and they all had their tails tucked, they're all discouraged. And Jesus said, "Hey guys, don't let your hearts be troubled, you're discouraged. Trust in God, trust also in me". And if you'll read the rest of it, he starts talking about heaven. "And bro, you're doing better than you think. And like I've got, my Father's got a house for you in heaven, you're going to be all right". And I'm telling you something, we probably need this one almost every day right now in this reality we're living in. Somebody who just calls and says, "Hey, I know it's rough, but there are probably 6 billion people on the planet who would trade places with you right now," and we just need to be reminded of that. You know, I'm better off than most. I'm going to be all right. And somebody who will just high five us and encourage us.

The word "encourage" literally means to lift the spirits of. This is all throughout the Bible. Hebrew says that we need to encourage one another as long as it's called today, so that we're not hardened by sin's deceitfulness, so that life doesn't get the best of us. Just this morning, I was going through my Sunday morning routine, which is getting, I get up real early, I go straight to shower, get dressed, and I go down my study at my house. And then I spend about an hour or so there just praying, and looking over the notes again, and just getting ready for you, you know? And then I get in the car, come over here, and I'll do it all over again. I'll pray some more and look over my notes.

And about 7:30, we have this pre-service meeting with the music team and the production teams, and we just kind of talk through the service one more time, make sure we have, and we all know what we're doing. And but about 7 minutes before that 7:30 meeting right around 7:23, I'm telling you, as loud as I'm speaking to you, the Holy Spirit brings a pastor to my mind. And I've just been doing this long enough to know that that's not random, that when that person comes, when anybody comes to mind that I'm supposed to act on it. And so, I just had a few minutes. So, I picked up the phone, just called, and said, "Hey, what you doing"? He goes, "Man, I'm doing the same thing you're doing. I'm getting ready for Sunday". And he kind of said it in that kind of a way, like, "I'm doing the same thing you're doing, what are you doing"?

You know, it just wasn't, it wasn't normal. And I said, "You okay"? He goes, "No, I'm not okay". Said, "I had the worst week of my life this week". I said, "Really"? Said, "Yeah". And he starts, I said, "Well, tell me about it". And he started telling me. And you know, I listened, and I lamented with him, and tried to empathize with him. And then I just said, "But you do know we get to pastor people today. And like people are getting in their cars right now and getting dressed to come hear us speak. And we have the incredible privilege of leading them into the presence of God and delivering to them the Word of life". He starts laughing and he goes, "You're doing it. It's working, it's working. All right, I got you". And I said, "Bro, you do know like there are like a lot of people who would trade places with you. There's just a lot of people who wish they had your job". He goes, "All right, I got it, I got it". I said, "Go get them, tiger. Let's go". You know?

And I hung up the phone and he was ready to go bear hunting with a switch, you know what I'm talking about? Just encouraged, ready to go. And I'm telling you, we need that with each other. We ought to do that daily. When you get together next week, 'cause I know you're all going to get in groups, I just know you're going to do it. I need you to exchange phone numbers and regularly check on one another. Just like, "Hey, what you doing? You all right"? "I've had the worst week of my life". "Well, not no more 'cause you're talking to me". Are y'all hearing me, everybody? I'm serious. This is Jesus, this is how he trained his disciples.

Chapter 15, the conversation continues. And Jesus teaches us this principle, that I need people who will not only just care for me and encourage me, but also to link arms with me and do something together that actually matters, because I know that it's teamwork that makes the dream work. That like one is too small of a number to achieve significance and to do anything that's successful. And that's why in chapter 15, Jesus said, "Remain in me, and I'm going to remain in you. No branch can bear fruit, be productive by itself. It must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I'm the vine, rest of the church are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. But if you decide to live your life by yourself, you can do goose egg, nothing".

And it reminds us, guys, that we need each other. Like we need each other to make a difference in this world. But I don't know, you don't even know this yet. I waited to this moment in the service to tell you that the moment that Hurricane Laura left Louisiana, our disaster response team was en route from Alabama to Louisiana, small groups, leaders, volunteers. And your tithes and offerings were headed that way. Right now, as we're having this service, you're building homes, restoring families, cutting down trees, like that's happening. And praise God for the 20, 30, 40, 50 people that are there, but the truth is all of us are there. Like I'm not there, but I'm there. And we understand that we're better together. Like we need each other even for projects like that. That two are better than one, why? Because they have a good return on their work. Like together, we can do something that none of us could've done on our own.

I've never even noticed this before that in Ephesians chapter 2, I read this verse all the time and I never saw this detail like ever. This was a first time revelation for reading this verse, that it doesn't say, "For I am God's workmanship," it says, "For we are. We were created to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do". Like, that's one of the things I love about being a part of this church, honestly. I mean, some people don't like big. There's one part of big that's pretty cool, and that is when all of us do a little together, we do a lot. And we can touch people's lives. And that's why I encourage you when you get into small group next week, and I know you will, I know you're going to do it, that you're not just going to get out of debt and get a better marriage, or learn parenting, or study the book of the Bible.

I want you to do a serve project together. I want you to think, "What can we do for others? What project could we adopt or create where we could go make a difference in others"? Chapter 16, this one's a good one. 'Cause in chapter 16, Jesus teaches, this is still the conversation at the communion table. This is still Thursday night. And Jesus teaches us that I need people not just who care, not just who will encourage, not just who will work with me and do something together that we couldn't do alone, but I need somebody to protect me where I'm vulnerable. Now, the truth is you can only see so much. I can only see, like I see you, but I don't see what's behind me. There could be people walking out on the stage, I can't see them.

And Jesus says, "You got to make sure somebody's got your back, that somebody is seeing what you cannot see". And he says this in chapter 16, this is so cool. He says, "I've told you all this so that you will not go astray". Now, the English word "astray" in the Greek, the original language is the word "scandalizo". It's where we get the word "scandal". He says, "Guys, I'm watching over you so that your life doesn't turn into a scandal. And I can only do that if we do it together". Ecclesiastes spells it out, "A person standing alone, you're toast. You will be attacked and defeated, but two can stand," how? Now, when you're back to back, if we're back to back, then this person behind me is seeing what I can't see while I'm looking at this. And if you get a third one, it's even better. They'll see something you two can't see.

I'm telling you, one of the values of small groups is that we watch over our soul. Let me say it this way, Jesus created... Americans think they did, no, no, no. This is the first neighborhood watch program, everybody. Like when you're out of town, I got your house, nobody's going to touch it. I'm watching over your stuff, your things. This is what I'm doing. And I love this as a pastor, that we have somebody that we're close enough to that we can say, "Hey, I see this. I'm concerned about this. And how are you doing here"? And they ask what I call the hard questions.

I don't know if you know this, the founder, the father of the Methodist church, John Wesley, in fact the method of the Methodist Church, the method was small groups. He thought, "Man, there's no better way to pastor people than put them in groups". But he took a step forward. John Wesley, John Wesley says, "And when you get together, you got to get close enough where you can ask hard questions". And these have been developed over time, and a lot of different pastors have made these better, but there were questions like this. Have you been in a compromising situation this week? Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity? Have you viewed any sexually explicit material? Have you spent quality time in Bible study and prayer? Have you given priority time to your family? Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?

And here's the best one, the last one, have you just lied to me? I mean, you know? Yes, all of those, I've lied, right? And it's true, like we need somebody who's saying, "Bro, you..." 'Cause I know I would. I know that's hard for me, so it's kind of weird for me that that's not hard for you because it probably is, is it? Come on, tell the truth, tell the truth. Okay, it is. You know, like now you get... and I'm not saying you tell everybody. In fact, let me give you some advice. Don't tell everybody, but you better tell somebody. In fact, if you're the only one who knows your secrets, you're in trouble.

My name is Chris and I'm trying to be your pastor. If you're the only one who knows your secrets, you're in trouble. And you don't have to tell everybody, but you need to tell somebody. And let them get the back to back position and watch what you cannot see. And I'm telling you, next week when you start groups, 'cause all of you are, I know you are, you like that subtle measures I'm just putting out there? Like yeah. No, I'm telling you exactly what I want you to do. I'm telling you, I'm doing this for your good, not mine. I want you to get together and I want you to get close enough where you can ask one another the hard questions. "How are you doing"? "All right". "No really". "I'm all right". "No, tell me the truth". "I'm telling you, I'm okay". "Well, what is it"? "I don't want to talk about it". "Honey, lock the door, he's not leaving until he tells us".

I mean, we need people like that. Chapter 17, now Jesus takes his disciples, three of them, to the garden of Gethsemane, where he would pray before he was arrested. And he teaches us, of course, that we need people who will pray for me. He asked his disciples to watch with him and they fell asleep, they weren't good friends. And Jesus had so much pressure on him. You know, he was fully God, but he was fully man too. And the Bible says that the pressure that was on him felt like great drops of blood falling from his brow. And thank goodness John gives us the prayer that he prayed.

Like John 17 is the prayer Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. And it's very interesting 'cause the Bible says that Jesus looked toward heaven and he prayed, watch what he prayed, "I pray for them," speaking of his disciples, and not praying for the world. That seems odd. He goes, "No, I know if I really just lean in and make sure the disciples will take care of the world". And that's how I feel. I mean, I care about the world, I care about the projects that we do together. But the truth is I care more about you. And I need you to have prayer and prayer covering. 'Cause I know if you're healthy, church, I know what we're going to do together. We're going to make a difference, we're going to change the world. But woe to us if we're out there changing the world and we're not okay.

And that's why I will make you this promise. You get in a group, I've already trained your small group leader to pray for you by name every day, every day. Every day, we're going to see the reality of Ephesian 6, that prayer is essential. You know what? That's a big word in the Coronavirus pandemic is what's essential. Let me tell you what's essential, prayer is essential. Pray hard, pray long, and pray for each other, your brothers and sisters in Christ. I've done that, by the way. 2020 hasn't been a fun year, right? For none of us. Let me tell you what I've done. I just trained 110 brand new intercessors for me personally. I had three, I have 110 now. I brought in one of the top intercessory training pastors in the country to come in and train some brand new intercessors 'cause I need it, and you need it, and we need it.

And that's why, when you join a group next week 'cause I know every single one of you are, I want you to share your prayer requests every week and cover one another in prayer. We need each other, we need it. I was thinking this morning, this was a late add to my notes, in fact it was the last add to my notes early, early this morning. And I was actually thinking like I'm a pretty confident dude. By the world's standards, I've seen some success. And I'm actually very secure, got a great family, life is good. But I was thinking that of all the things that I can do, there were still some vulnerable parts in my life that just feels so if you just barely touch them, they'll fall over. And I was thinking about the paradox of that for a lot of you.

There are some of you guys can make money blindfolded and you're still lonely in your soul. There's some moms out there like you can solve everybody's problems in the world, like you're constantly doing for everybody else. But there's not enough doing for you, and you're carrying the weight of that. Some of you dads, like you don't even think the family knows what you really do. And it gets to you in the depths of your soul. So, you're so strong in one place, but feel so weak in another. And I thought about Moses. Man, he could split a Red Sea through the power of God. His rod made water come out of a rock. But when Israel's fighting their first battle, the Bible says as long as his hands were up, they were winning. And as soon as they started to fall, they'd start losing. And he was running out of strength.

And in Exodus 17, the Bible says that two guys came alongside this great, mighty leader, who probably thought, "He doesn't need our help". Oh, yes, he did. And it says they moved this giant boulder just ungh, and they grabbed Moses's shoulders and said, "Hey man, sit down". The Bible says that his hands began to fall, and Aaron got up under one side and just, "Look, rest, we got it". And then Hur got on the other side and, "I got this one". And the guy who could split the Red Sea still needed two friends to hold his arms up in a battle. And so do you, and so do I. We need each other. Can you say a good amen, everybody? Do you believe it, you believe it? Let's pray together:

So God, help us not to be so private. Let us be more vulnerable, honest, transparent, real. 'Cause we're not made to live our lives alone, we're made to be cared for and encouraged. We need a partner. God, we need protecting. We have vulnerable places. And God, all of us need prayer. So God, just give us wisdom as we're shopping through groups and finding our right relationships. And God, use this semester like never before 'cause I think we need it more than ever before.

With your heads bowed and your eyes closed, you're here today and you're convinced you need relationships. I'll tell you the one you need the most, and that is the one with God. You don't need a religion, you don't even need a church membership, you need God. You need a relationship with God. And you get that by dealing with your sin. The reason why you and God can't be close is 'cause we have sin, that's why. And Jesus came and he says, "I'll put you and God together by taking your sin".

Ephesians says, "I'll make the two one by removing the barrier". And the barrier is our sin. Say, "Chris, what would I have to do to allow Jesus to take my sins"? It's very simple. Ask him to forgive you, give him your life, and he'll remove every bit of the barrier that was between you and God. The truth is some of you feel a million miles away from God, and Jesus came to make you close. If that's what you'd like today, I want to lead you in a prayer right there where you're seated in your home. I want you to close your eyes, I want you to whisper these words if I just was talking about you, and say:

God, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to pay for my sins, I need that. I'm so far from you and I don't want to be far, I want to be close. (Now tell him this, say:) Jesus, forgive me. Be my Lord and be my God. I believe you are the Son of God. I believe you came and lived your life, died, you were buried, and you rose again. And today, I put my faith in you, and I come into a relationship with you. In your name I pray, amen and amen.

Campuses, take your services. Online and Grants Mill, would you put your hands together and congratulate every person who just prayed that prayer for the first time? Come on, really congratulate them, it's awesome. I think there a lot. I felt it I my heart that was some of you. And before you go, would you allow me just to say this to you? That if you just prayed that prayer, I'm begging you, I'm pleading with you to text the word "saved," S-A-V-E-D to 74000. No one's going to call you, come by your house, you're not going to end up on a list. I just want to make sure you get this resource that tells you what's next because you have some steps to take that'll make your life brand new, and I promise you this will help you, and so we'd love to put this resource in your hands.

And so, and congratulations on the best decision ever. Normally, we would close our service by receiving our tithes and offerings, and we're just allowing you to do that on your own now. We're not passing anything. Our ushers have some buckets if you came in person to give, and you could do that on your way out. But I just want to pray over this offering, and then I want us to sing a benediction song. And if you can, join me on Wednesday night either in person or online. We got a very special time of worship and communion together. All right, you got it? Let's all stand together. Be sure to check out that online directory. Go find you a group, find you a group. Get in a group, everybody. Hey, get in a group.

Oh Lord, we love you so much. Thank you for this amazing church, God. I want to thank you for how generous they are, God, for what they invest in people that are hurting and those that have never heard. God, use this offering for your glory. And God, bless this week like never before. We love you, we worship you in Jesus's name.

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