Chris Hodges - Pursuing All That God Has
Oh, so good to see all of you here today in church. Who's glad to be here, anybody? Come on, give Jesus a great praise. Now, I've him a better praise. Come on, everybody, that's awesome, yeah, I know. That's the way to start a service. Well, hello and welcome to church, all of you who are here live in person, and those of you who are watching online somewhere. We're so glad you're along for the ride, all of our campuses. Want to say a big hello to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. It is our honor to be a part of a church family together with you and to bring these messages and really all that we are as a church to you.
And for those of you guys who having church at home, be sure to download the children's content so after you have big church here together, you can have children's church as well if you have kids in the home. Thanks for being with us today. We are in week number two of a series that we've called "My Church". And I'll tell you more about that in just a second, but let me give our season that we're in right now a quick little mention. And I know that you already know about this, but we start every year as a church with 21 days of prayer and fasting. And for a lot of people, you may not know much about it, or maybe you haven't been able to start with us from the beginning. We're inviting you to jump on in.
Tomorrow morning, we'll be right here at 6 a.m. You can join us in person or online. And then we archive the prayer service for 24 hours until the next one occurs. And so, just love for you to join us in prayer and fasting, and I know God's going to do some great things. I think there's no better way to start a year, and I know there's no better response to everything that's taking place in our world than a people who would seek God. Can I hear a good amen, everybody? Yeah, absolutely, all right.
So, we are in week number two of this series, and it's built off of this verse. In fact, the series title comes from this verse, where Jesus said, "I will build," say it out loud, "I will build", come on, say it a little louder, "I will build my church". I love how personal he takes it. He doesn't say the church, he said, "My church". And then he says this bold statement at the end, "And when I build my church, the gates of Hades," that's hell, "the gates of hell will not prevail against it," can't overcome a church that's well built. And of course, we know, man, there's a lot of things that are shaking and moving and changing. And man, we're in the middle of a pandemic. We have unsettling in our nation. Everybody's wondering what to look to, where to go.
I'm going to tell you God's solution I believe is the church, that in the church that's well built, the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. Listen to me, folks, God's not nervous and you shouldn't be either. He is setting us up to be this place of safety, amen? I know, I know, I believe it. Been meditating on this verse all week out of Isaiah 28. And there's a verse in the middle of it, it's kind of a famous verse, it gets quoted in the New Testament. But in verse 16 of Isaiah 28, the whole context is how unsettled everybody is because all the institutions, the governments and the nations, were crumbling. And God says, "I lay in Zion. See, I lay in Zion". Zion's always a type of the church. "I lay in Zion a sure foundation, a solid rock. And those who rely on it will never be panicked, never have stress, never have worry or fear because they've gone to the place that God has".
I'm telling you, church, don't be discouraged. God is setting us up, and I think it's so incredibly important. That's why we're talking about, as we approach our 20th year as a church, we're celebrating our anniversary, can't wait for that in four weeks. We're going to have a fun, fun, fun service, where we look back and have some retro songs and a lot of retro videos from the past, and we're going to have a great time thanking God for what he's done both on our first Wednesday and our Sunday service. But we thought leading up to it, why don't we focus on really some of the theological distinctions, let me say it this way, the reasons why we started.
And so, last week, probably the number one thing that we wanted to accomplish in our church, we started 20 years ago, is that we wanted to be a passionate church, a church that was in love with Jesus. It wasn't one of those things where, man, you just check the church box and kind of looking at your watch, can't wait for it to be over. Man, it's something that we would long to be at, something that was as exciting as any other thing that you were participating in. And last week, we talked about what kind of passion, that passion looks like, "That the zeal of God's house consumes me," Jesus said.
Today, I want to talk about another distinction, and this one's a fun one because it even goes to why we named our church what we named it. Because the distinction I want to talk about today is we're a church that pursues all that God has for us. Let me say it this way, all that we have is not all that God has. Let me say that again, all that we have is not all that God has. He's a God of more, he has more in store for us. and so many people kind of just, I can just call it they just get enough. They get enough to get their fire insurance, come on somebody, right? They get enough, "I just don't want to go to hell. That's just all I want".
Well, God has more. And the more is very, very important. So, from the very beginning, we had this hunch to come here to Birmingham, Alabama. And we thought that there were a lot of people like us that thought, you know, that what I have, there's got to be more to it than this. And we really just started talking about this journey and all that God has for us. And then when we were in the naming process, we decided to call our church Church of the Highlands. Some people thought, "Are y'all Scottish"? No, it's not about Scotland, it's about we're going to higher heights. We believe that God has more and that we would be a church that's on this constant spiritual journey because all that I have is not all that God has.
Come on, y'all help me preach just a little bit right there, I'm serious. And what I want to do today is I want to encourage you to go after all that God has. And there's a lot of resistance here, and there's a lot of misunderstanding here, and there's a lot of things like, "Okay, wait a minute, I'm not sure I want to go there". And they're all misguided, they're all founded on the wrong things, and I hope to do my best today to let you know that we are a church who pursues all that God has. Let me show you a verse out of 1 Corinthians. I love this verse 'cause in the previous verses, it talks about how there were generations who just couldn't find it all. They missed, they really missed all that God has.
And then Paul comes along and quotes the Old Testament, he says, "Listen to me, God has some things that no eye has seen". So, in other words, your eye hasn't seen it yet, but it's there. "No ear has heard," so you haven't even heard about it, but it's there. "No mind has conceived what God has prepared". So, isn't that kind of a sad commentary that God has some things prepared for you that you haven't ever had. Wouldn't that be a tragedy to show up before the Lord and then, you know, there's all these things that he wanted, but we never even attempted to go after them. And he says, "But that God has prepared for those who love him".
And a lot of... I heard preachers preach that this is about heaven, but it doesn't refer to heaven. In fact, in the next line, it says, "But God has revealed," so it's present tense. "He has revealed it to us by his Spirit". And he introduces this term that, again, most Christians, a lot of Christians know very little about, and that is the Holy Spirit. The word in the Greek there is the word "pneuma". It's where we get the English word "pneumonia" because pneumonia, of course, is a lung or a breathing disorder because the real word there in the Greek is breath, energy, life, wind. Like it's... and wind is unique because wind is there, you can feel it, but like whoa, whoa, it came, oh there, I don't know where it is. Oh, I just felt it.
Well, listen to me, that's the word there that the Bible uses. And watch this next line. I don't know about you, but this is like a carrot dangling in front of me that I want to go after, that the Spirit searches all things and even the deep things of God. So, it says there's more that you can go after. People always say, "Pastor, we want you to get it deeper". Well, I'm giving it to you deeper today. And I'm inviting you into a place, and my goal today is to make this something that doesn't scare you, push you off, but something that you actually want.
But listen to me, look in my eyes and hear this. And that is more than ever, this is not a luxury, this is a necessity. We're living in probably some of the most chaotic times I know of my lifetime, both with the pandemic and all this unrest and unsettling. And who knows where it's going, I don't know. But I know this, I don't want to be a person that's just operating on everything Chris knows how to do. I'd like to have the power of God operating in my life and in our church, come on, in our family. Does anybody else want the power of God working in you? I do.
And so, Paul says, "I'm desperate for it. My messaging, my preaching are not going to be what I studied all week in my Bible study". He says, "These aren't just wise and persuasive words". And by the way, Paul could go there. He would've graduated from the seminary of the day, he was a Pharisee of Pharisees, he was very intellectual. He says, "I just don't want my intellect, I want a demonstration of the Spirit's power so that our faith doesn't rest on human wisdom, but on God's power". A couple chapters later, it says it this way, that, "The kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power".
And I want to invite you into that. I want to give you the power of God today. I want to let you know that God has more. That what we have is not all that God has. So, here's how I'm going to do it, I'm going to give you a quick little theological teaching. You guys like it when I go deep into theology. Well, here you go, if you like this, then I'm going to make it very, very personal. I'm going to tell you why many people just never go there, and then I'm going to give you a personal invitation. Let me give you three things that I'm telling you God wants for you. And if I was to use the biblical or theological term, the term that the Bible used invites you in are called baptisms.
So, most of you don't know this, but baptism doesn't necessarily refer to the moment wherever you're sprinkled or dunked in water. In fact, it really has nothing to do with water, the word itself. The word "baptizo" in the Greek literally means to immerse yourself in. So, wherever you are now, whatever level you are in now, that's probably not enough. You might want to ahead and dive on in. The way we would say it in a 2021 culture is go all in. Like, so you don't just put your toe in it, jump on in. And the Bible refers to, again theology here, three different baptisms that I'm going to invite you into.
The first baptism, and some of you have never heard salvation put this way, but the Bible calls salvation baptism into the body of Christ. I'll show it to you, and that is where it says in 1 Corinthians 12 that we were baptized, watch this, by one Spirit into a body, or into one body. In other words, when you give your life to Jesus, you don't just join Jesus, you also join his family. And by the way, you need Jesus. Jesus is the best part of salvation by far, but you need more than just Jesus too. He offers to you also his family. That's why we gather on a Sunday. If this were not true, then there's really no need for us to even gather. We just get information to individual Christians, but we're not just individual Christians. We're the family of God. We're the flock of God, we're the body of Christ, all these group terminologies that the Bible uses.
Now, for some of you, you've never been baptized or immersed into salvation. So, you're saved, you're going to heaven, you've made Jesus your Lord and you've confessed his name, but you just need to know that God has more, and that's why you're here. I'm actually speaking to the wrong people. Even if you're watching online, you decided to jump in because you realize that there's more. "You are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptized into Christ". That's a different baptism, just into salvation, "Have clothed yourselves with Christ".
So, this is salvation, it's the first baptism. The second experience... and by the way, be very clear they're separate. They're separate on purpose. They're separate so that you don't try to put them together, and I'll show you why in just a moment. The second baptism the Bible calls water baptism, water baptism. And it's where you now go public or have a public declaration of your faith. And they are not together. In other words, you don't have to be water baptized to be a Christian. Now, you should, I want to make that case here in just a second. I think you should be water baptized, but it's separate.
You say, "Chris, why do they need to be separate"? Because if you put them together, it actually violates one of the Scriptures that says you are saved by grace through faith, not of any kind of work. So, if you ever include anything that you had to do to earn or to get your salvation, it removes what Jesus did fully on the cross. Listen to me, you can't pray more, read your Bible more, give more, serve more, or be baptized to get saved. Jesus paid it all. It's all him, he did it all. You understand that, you got to see that. And so, it says but that those who did accept the message, first baptism, were baptized, second baptism. In other words, they now decided that I'm going to let others know. And you need to know this is part of the more for you. That it's not enough just to be a private Christian.
"Well, I have Jesus in my heart," some people say, "and it's just in my heart". No, no, no, now it's time to publicly acknowledge God. But the baptism itself does not save you. And some denominations actually teach that, that until you're baptized, you're really just not saved. And that's not true. You are saved by grace. No works, there's nothing you can do, you just receive what Jesus did. Can I hear a good amen right there? It's very important. In fact, there are even some that says not only do you have to be baptized to be saved, but what the person says while they're baptizing you is important too. And if they botch it, actually it doesn't take, you know. And like are you serious? I mean, I'm in the tank and they're baptizing me, and now I'm underwater, and I can't even hear what they're saying.
And I come back up and they said something while I was down there, right? Just came right back up, and now I'm before Jesus, "Oh Jesus, so glad to be here. I can't wait to come into your heaven". "No, I'm so sorry. That guy who baptized you, he just said it wrong. He just..." That is not how it happens, y'all. I mean, there are literal fights in the body of Christ, it's ridiculous. There are fights over what has to be said when you're baptized. There's a whole... No, no, no, what you say is "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You baptize Father, Son, and Holy Spirit". And there's a whole other group that says, "No, no, no, don't do it that way, that's wrong. You got to do it in Jesus's name".
And I mean, are you kidding me? Like how you say, that is such a work, and that is not how salvation works. By the way, when people ask me, "What do we say at Highlands"? We decided we're going to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in Jesus's name. We got them both covered, just letting you all know, okay. That's not the point of it. The point is now, listen to me, it's an important step that some of you have omitted. That it's important that once you have accepted the message, you become a disciple, and you're a Christian, that you say, "You know what? I'm not going to keep this private. I'm going to go public with my faith".
It's why you have a wedding when you get married. It's why you wear a wedding ring when you get married. This ring does not make me married to Tammy. This is my public declaration of a commitment I made to someone that I love for the rest of my life. And so, can you imagine, "Darling, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. But let's do a wedding and let others know. And I'm not going to wear a wedding ring either 'cause I just really don't want everybody to know".
How many of y'all know there'd be hair, teeth, and eyeballs, right? That would not go over very well, right? Because really it's important that once you make a lifelong commitment to the one who saved your soul that you acknowledge it. Jesus said it this way, "If you acknowledge me before men," so not just in your heart privately, "I will also acknowledge you before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven".
And you really don't want that, so let me encourage you guys that have never been baptized, water baptized, second baptism since you've received the baptism into Jesus and into his body, I want to encourage you to do that. And now during this kind of pandemic season, we normally do these on the first Sunday of every month, but now you can actually go online or on our app, and you can schedule it with your campus pastor to publicly declare your faith through water baptism. But there's another baptism that the Bible talks about this, and get ready for this, it talks about this one by multiples of more than the first two. And that is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. And it's a separate experience, has nothing to do with salvation.
In fact, salvation is about your eternal existence. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is about your natural earth existence so that you can live a Spirit-empowered life. Again, Chris, why are they separate? Why do they have to be two separate experiences? Because God never wanted to complicate salvation and never wanted to put a work connected to an experience that he wanted you to have, but he has more. Everybody, God has more. But there are some denominations who say, "No, no, no, if you don't", Pentecostal denominations say, "If you don't speak in tongues, you can't go to heaven". And that's not true. Jesus paid it all, end of story. It's all about the work of the cross for salvation.
But there is more, God has more than what we are currently experiencing. And I'll show you now all three baptisms in one story and in one theological point, and then I'm going to get real personal with you to help you get this, all right? So, there's a story in the Bible, so this is the book of Acts. If you're new to church, you're new to the Bible, the book of Acts is the history of the first church, the early church. So, Jesus just got resurrected, and now the church is being born. And it says, "Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed Christ there".
So, now they're out there just preaching, telling about Jesus, okay? "And when they believed Philip," so that's the first baptism, that's salvation, "as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were second baptism". They just said, "Okay, well, let's do this too," "Both men and women. And when the apostles in Jerusalem," so denominational headquarters in Jerusalem heard, "Hey, a bunch of people got saved over in Samaria". "Accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to go check it out. And when they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit," watch this, "because the Holy Spirit," third baptism, "had not yet come upon them".
And then it gives even more clarity, "They had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit". It's a separate experience. It's one that God takes you to a deeper place, not necessary for salvation, totally necessary for you to live a Spirit-empowered life. Now, before we got to Birmingham, most people were like, "I don't know, man". There was a lot of actually I call it prejudice or bias against this teaching. And the reason is they've seen so many abuses and things that they saw that just was too weird or too... how many of y'all know we can be Spirit-filled without being spooky?
We don't have to be that way. And honestly, it'd be terrible for anything that is our experience to dictate what our experience could be that God teaches in his Word. And I'll show you the theology of that right here in 1 John chapter 5. I love these two verses 'cause this first one talks about the Trinity. Watch how it talks about it, "For there are three that bear witness in," notice where, "in heaven". So, there are three that are alive and at work right now in heaven, three. "The Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit". Now, the Word is Jesus. And the Bible calls Jesus the Word.
John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us," talking about Jesus. That's how John introduces Jesus's ministry, earthly ministry. So, this is Jesus. So, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We sang that today when we sing about the Trinity. "And these three are one". Watch the next verse, it's so interesting to me. "And there are also three that bear witness," not in heaven.
There's three that are at work here on earth, "The Spirit, the water, and the blood". And the blood is salvation, that's the cross, that's Jesus. The water is your public declaration, but the Spirit is that pneuma, that wind, that breath, that energy, that power, that all the spiritual gifts, all that God has for you. And these three agree as one as well, but the question is, do they agree with you? Do they agree with you? And there's so many like, "Okay, I want the blood, I need my sins forgiven. And I may or may not express it publicly through water baptism". But God is asking you all three of these need to agree as well.
I grew up in a very denominational church. And by the way, before you hear anything else, I loved my church. I had great experiences in my church, but my church did not have this theology. And I'll never forget it, 12 years old, I watched my church actually have a church split. My church I grew up in had a church split over this issue. I was in the business meeting as a 12 year old because my parents were very, very involved in the church. And so, I'm sitting there on a Wednesday night, some of you guys grew up in this. Some of you all don't even know what a business meeting is, and you are blessed and highly favored of God, amen?
And so, we were there and they had this short Wednesday night service, and now they're going to get after it. And brother, there was two aisles, and they were fighting over the Holy Ghost. And I'll never forget this one guy got up there, and he got the microphone, he says, "We just need to stay away from all them Holy Ghost people, all them Holy Ghost". And I thought, "My God, I don't want a ghost neither. I'm with you, my brother. Who likes ghosts"? You know, and he had my full attention. And this whole other group were talking about this experience that they had outside of salvation. And I watched the church split right in front of me.
Well, I didn't know where to land. I didn't know, I was only 12 years old. I went home and got some Cheez-Its, amen everybody? That's what I did. But as my life progressed, I'm telling you, my life became more and more out of order. I literally, I cannot express it any other way other than to say I have never felt more powerless, more lifeless. Church to me was the most boring, it just was nothing about it that attracted me. And a friend invited me to a church that did believe all of this, and believed that God had more. And it was so balanced and so refreshing, but I had already been trained. So, when they said, "God has more for you," I said, "Uh uh, I know what that means. I know what that means. I'm going to have to dress different, my hair's going to be different, I'm going to act different. Y'all going to make me run around the church, I'm going to bark like a dog. I am not doing all that".
But I was desperate, so I actually prayed this prayer. I'm embarrassed to tell you the prayer I prayed. I said, "Holy Spirit, I want you. I'm going to let most of you in, but you're going to have to behave yourself". Y'all know what happened? Goose egg, nothing happened 'cause God does not play ball like that. And some of you guys, your life and your spiritual life is lifeless 'cause you have prayed conditional prayers that God cannot answer till you say, "If you have it for me, I'll take it. I don't care what it is, God. If it comes from you, it must be good".
Come on, say amen right there, I'm serious. And finally, I gave, I literally went all-in with the Lord. And y'all, here I am 40 something years later, you know, Spirit-filled but not spooky. I just love God, full of God, and I still go after all that God has because what I have is not all that God has. That's why I'm praying and fasting right now, "God, I want more anointing. I need more of your Spirit. I want more power". And I'm fairly good at what I do, but it's not good enough. I need God's power working through this church. Man, I would love signs and wonders. I pray for miracles. I'm asking God to heal people. I believe in the power and the presence of God. And if that's what you're looking for and you want to go on that journey with me, you have found the right place because that's who we are as a church. We pursue all that God has for us.
So, let's ask this question. So, then why don't we? Let me make it personal right now, why don't we? I came up with three reasons why we don't. Some are just uninformed. It's not a matter of you rejecting it, you just didn't even know about it. And by the way, if you are that person, you're in good company. This happened, now we're at the end of the book of Acts, and there are still people who don't know about it. If you read the book of Acts, they get filled, filled again, filled again, filled again. And then you get to chapter 19, and Apollos and Paul are heading to Ephesus, and they found some Christians, some disciples.
Notice with me they're Christians. And he asked them, watch the question, and I'm asking this of you today. "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became a believer"? And they said, "We hadn't even heard that there was one". Now, they're still going to heaven, they just hadn't pursued all of God. And of course, Paul then, they just lead them through this. And this is what we do as a church. Our primary focus, y'all, is getting people into heaven. Say amen right there, that's right. But I mean, it doesn't end there, it begins there. To take us on a journey of all that God has for us. I never forget I'm reminiscing on the old stories, and literally 20 years ago this month, so we're a month from launching the church, and we had just got in town.
We arrived in town on December 26, 2000. And so, we're just a few weeks later, I open up a new bank account here in Birmingham 'cause I needed a local bank. And when I went into the little, y'all have been there before in the lobby with the little desks and the little lady, and they help you fill all that out, right? Well, when they sat me down, she was on the phone, so I'm just sitting there just kind of waiting, she's finishing her phone call. I notice while she's on the phone she has a desk pad in front of her, and it's got Christian doodles on it. So, while she's on the phone, she must, you know, she was a doodler, she was a drawer. And it had the cross, there was a cross there, and there was Jesus saves. And there was a fish, under the fish was there, everybody. Like it was all there, okay.
So, I knew she was a Christian, and I did something that really is should probably repent of, like but I just enjoy doing it so much, and that is acting like I'm not a Christian and acting like a prospect. I just love doing that to people when they don't know I'm a pastor, right? So, she hangs up the phone, and she says, "Okay, how can I help you"? I said, "Hey, let me ask you first, what is all this on your desk pad? What is all that"? And her eyes lit up, like she saw me, "Oh my God, I got a prospect, I got a hot one". Okay, she saw me that way. And she goes, "Oh, you're new in town, you're looking for a church? I go to a great church. Now, we call it the worship team, it's a worship team". And she was explaining to me like I had never seen a worship team before, right, you know?
So anyway, and she goes, "We have drums on the stage. But it's okay, it's fine, really it's fine. And my preacher, oh man, he gets so excited when he preaches". She's just so excited about her church, she goes, "You really should come". She goes, "Now listen, we're not charismatic or anything". And I said, "What does that mean? I don't even know, what does that mean"? She goes, "You know, people who handle snakes and stuff". Well, that's not what it means, first of all. The word "charismatic," the word "charisma" means gifted. It means that you're receiving God's spiritual gift, which I fully believe. Here's this person saying, "I don't want that because of what something I think it is," that the Bible describes completely differently.
And I wonder how many people said, "I don't think so because that's snakes and stuff". No, no, no, no, no, this is way better than you think it is, and there ain't no snakes and stuff. Can I get a better amen? But some people just flat out uninformed. Some people, they are informed, and this is dangerous, I'm just going to say it straight up, some are informed, they just are the type of person that I just need enough. They have become spiritually apathetic. The word "apathetic" comes from two Latin words "a pathos," without passion. So, I have the version of it that give some my fire insurance. I'm going to heaven, but I just, I'm not an all-in kind of a person. It's without passion.
Look in my eyes. There was only one moment in my study time this week that while I was studying, this happens from time to time. When I study, the Spirit of God will deal with me while I'm there in my office by myself. And God will say, "Say this". Now, I don't hear his audible voice, I hear it on the inside, just like, I'm telling you it's undeniable, though, when it happens. And God told me to warn some people who are spiritually apathetic because when times are normal and everything's fine and everything's good on the outside, honestly, you can get by with very little passion.
In the middle of a season like we're living in right now, heaven help you if you're a lukewarm, mediocre, just enough, just want to, maybe a few Sundays a year, Easter, Christmas, got your toe in the things of God. You're gonna need more than that. And some people said, "I just don't go there because I just don't go there". Well, there's a word in chemistry, it's a scientific term called entropy, entropy. Entropy is how energy is measured and dispersed. And entropy's thesis says that if you leave anything alone, it doesn't stay there, it gets worse. It declines, it gets less than. And some of you, that's what your life looks like.
And then 2020 and now 2021 comes along, heaven help you. And I'm here to say and plead with you with all of my heart, this is not the time to be apathetic. This is the time to go all-in with the things of God not for fun, but for function. The Holy Spirit is not here for fun, he's here for function, to help you survive days like this. Come on, give God praise if you really believe this is true. It's true, I'm telling you. I had a little preach in me today and there it was, you just had it. And that's why we studied this last week, I won't rehearse it again, but don't lack zeal in your spiritual fervor serving the Lord.
And the last one, last reason why we don't... first is just I just didn't know. Some are like, "I know, but I'm fine where I am". No, but some actually have fear. This was my story because I was convinced if I go all-in with God, he's going to put me on some assignment that's a mud hut in some nation of the world, right? He's going to ruin my life. Some of y'all actually have thought that. You're actually scared of God. You're scared of what it looks like to do the things that God asks you to do. You're thinking, "This won't make my life better, it'll make it worse". No, the devil has lied to you. Every good and perfect gift, if it's good, it's God. If it's bad, it's of the devil.
God cannot produce anything bad for you. All his good and perfect gifts are from above. And that's why I give you this personal invitation. I have done this for 20 years, I'm going to do it again. I'm going to look at you, and some of you have taken me up on this offer, and some of you are hearing this for the first time. And that is give us a year of your life. You can put this message to the test. You can test it. Like when I say give us a year, I mean like go and give me one all-in year. Get to as many, if you're physically able to be at a Sunday, be there. If you can get in a group, get in a group. If you can fast and pray, fast and pray, let's go, let's do it.
And I've had pastors tell me, "Well, you can't take people, they won't fast". I beg to differ. "Well, they're not going to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning, come to pray". There are more people at 6 o'clock in the morning that are currently in this room right now. Oh yes, they will. All they needed was to be invited to that place. "Well, I don't know if they'll worship that way". Well, the Bible says it, and lo and behold, look what the Lord has done. You hearing me, everybody? I am saying, hey, what you have is not all that he has. So, give us a year. You're married? Go to the marriage conference. "Well, we're busy that weekend". Cancel it. Because your life will change dramatically for the good if this becomes the best year of your life spiritually. It can be the best year of your life if it's the best year spiritually. And I'm afraid honestly that in the kind of season we're living in right now, it's critical.
So, a closing story and then I'll pray for you. It's a prophecy, it's a cool story. But I want to tell it in story form because the prophet Ezekiel saw a man in his vision. The man got a tape measure and he measured out 1,000 cubits. And he said, "You're here, but God wants you there". And I'm doing that today. Are you going to heaven? Yeah, you gave Jesus, you proclaimed Jesus, yeah. There's more, though. So, I got the tape measure out today and saying, here. And he invited them into water that was ankle-deep. I would even submit to you this is a picture of salvation. So, you're in, you're not fully wet, but you're in. And is that all you want? Is that enough?
So, and some of you, that's your first step, and that's fine, it's a good first step. That's an important, it's the best first step. But then he got it out again, and he measured off another 1,000, and he invited this person to knee-deep water. And I'm doing that today. You need to get baptized. You haven't been water baptized, "Well, I don't like my hair wet". What? Like he can bleed and die and ask that one thing of you, and you've got a condition, what? And watch how it'll change your life. If it's good, it's God. Then he measured off another. And he invited you up to the waist. Water comes to your waist, like okay, I'm in a group, I'm maybe even leading a group, like I got on the growth track.
I'm just giving you like today examples of, you know what? You can never go to a small group or get on the growth track and go to heaven. But there's more. God has more for you. And then he measured off another 1,000, and now I'm up in the middle of the river, watch this, with my feet off the ground. And I'm going wherever that river goes. And it was a river that I could not cross. In other words, I lost control. And for some of you, that's been your condition. I'll do it, but I'm not giving up everything, and you'll never get the best of God as long as you're the one in control. Because the water, this water, had risen and was deep enough to swim in, a river that no one could cross.
And look how it ends, and it was there, there that there were large numbers of fish. One translation says it was teeming with fish. In other words, everything there works. Wouldn't you be able to say that there's so much favor, blessing, power, like the Holy Spirit operating in your life, where it's teeming with life? And where the river flows, everything, no matter what's going on, everything lives. I came here 20 years ago to bring this message, to give me a chance to take you on a journey to higher heights. Because all you have is not all that God has. And how about we be a church that pursues all that God has, amen?
Let's pray, let's pray. Close your eyes. And by the way, I'm going to teach a whole lot more on the Holy Spirit this year. Another way that you can find out about the Holy Spirit is getting in one of our freedom groups. That's where we really pour it out, spell it out, and actually lead you through the experience of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit. But today, some of you need to step into that first baptism. I want to close in prayer and just pray for every person who says, "You know what, Chris? I haven't even put my toe in the water yet. I've just been on the bank watching all of y'all enjoy the swim". And Holy Spirit is pulling you right now to get on in.
Say, "Chris, what would it take for me to get on in"? Confessing Jesus as your Lord, giving him your life, turning your life over to him. And that's it, there's no works. You're saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And I'm going to lead you in a prayer right now where you can make that decision, and then I'm going to turn it over to the campus pastors. So, campus pastors, come to the stage. Pastor Blake, I'll let you close your service here. With heads bowed and eyes closed, if you need Jesus, you say, "Chris, I don't even know if I'm going to go to heaven when I die. I don't know where I stand with God, and I'm ready to get in. I'm ready to get into the family. I want to be baptized into Jesus and into his family," pray this prayer. Say:
Jesus, I need you. And I thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sins. I receive what you did by surrendering my life completely to you. (Make it personal, whisper these words, say:) Be my Lord. Be my Lord. And I ask you to live inside of me, change me, make me brand-new. I believe you're the Son of God and that you rose again. And today, I put my faith in you. In your name I pray, amen and amen.