Chris Hodges - Called to Live a Different Way
Oh, it's so good to see all of you today in church. I want to say a big hello to all of our campuses that are watching. We are one church 23 locations all across our region. I always consider it the greatest honor to bring all that we are as a church into 20 of Alabama's Department of Corrections facilities. And hopefully, we've been told it won't be very long before we'll be able to be back in those facilities in person. And to those that are watching online... wait, wait, wait, wait, to those that are watching online, we're so glad you're here. Okay, everybody! Oh, you couldn't wait. That's awesome.
I'm very excited to begin a very short two-week miniseries, and I'll tell you about that more in just a second. But I like to always take a moment at the beginning of summer and kind of give you my take on a view of the things that we have prepared for you. You've seen these on Highlands News. But very quickly, let me go through these. Of course, we started summer small groups. It's a very short six-week semester. And a lot of people think that because they didn't begin with it, they can't get in it. But I really need you to, even if you only go to one of the small group meetings, or even two of the small group meetings, it's very, very important; because in the summer, our small groups participate in this day. It's called Serve Day.
We've done this for many, many years. We deploy our entire church on one single day to go do acts of kindness, to paint schools, or to go to nursing homes, or mow lawns, and fix roof, whatever it is, we do a lot of different serve projects throughout our communities. Last year, we had more than 30,000 of you converge on one single day. In fact, we love this space so much, we've invested your money, which you give, into an app, called the Serve App. If you do not have that, download the Serve App. Just look into the app store to Serve App. And what it does, it works like, kind of like an Uber deal, like, it'll show you the nearest Serve projects to wherever you are. And it'll even tell you how many people are needed still at that project.
And whenever you sign up for it, it reduces it down by one. It tells you the things that need to bring, how long the project lasts. In fact, we're so excited about this. We have more than 1,000 churches that we gave that app away. We white-labeled it so all those churches could put their logos on it to make it look like they created it. We want to just bless them, and we have more than 1,000 churches that are going to be doing this all across our nation and our world on that day. So, I really want you to be a part of that. It's a very, very special day. It's a part of who we are. It kind of marks our summer for us.
And, of course, in just a week or so, we have our version of Vacation Bible School that we call Summer Blast, three days, where we invest in our kids, and it's free, but we need to know if your child is coming. K through 6th grade, entering this fall. And the reason why, we want to make sure we have enough popsicles and t-shirts, all right? So, just make sure. We don't want to buy too many, and we don't want to have too few. So, it's very important for you to register, parents, your kids for that. And then finally, at the end of summer, we have our Motion Student Conference at the BJCC. It is one of the largest, if not the largest youth conferences in the nation.
And right before they get back to school, we get to put a whole lot of Jesus inside of them, and it's one of the most powerful things that we do together as a church. So, all that to say is I really want you to be involved in these. And again, parents and students, be sure you register for that conference. All that information is online. All right, when we ran our 21 days of prayer at the beginning of this year, probably like most people, was really concerned about all the things that happened in 2020. Many things that happened throughout that year.
Our nation, in January, of course, was in a uproar, and people were very concerned. And what was so shocking is not that we were going through something like that, but it was our response to it. And I saw even in the church people becoming critical and condemning, and there's just a lot of ugliness going on. And I heard the Spirit of God say, during those 21 days of prayer, that all throughout the messages this year, I needed to bring messages around values, because I don't think our problem are laws. I don't mind people passing laws. I don't think we have a law issue. I think we have a heart issue. I think we have an issue that only God can change. I think we have an issue that God can make a difference in. Can I hear a good amen everybody?
I really do. And the Bible is full of values. It teaches us how to live in a way that is contrary and different from the world. Some say that we live in the most critical and condemning and canceling culture ever in the history of the world. We are so quick, even to people that we're very, very close to. They can have one Facebook post that we get mad about, and then the venom and the toxic comments come right behind that. People get mad if you do, mad if you don't. "You posted this". "Well, you should not have posted that".
I wanted to do this. And we just, it's become, it's gotten bad. And I decided in January that I was gonna find time to talk about a value that I think is one of the most missing values in culture, but one of the most important values in the Bible. And the Bible is full of this topic. I have four weeks of worth of notes that I've gotta fit into two weeks, and I'm very excited about next week's installment. I could preach it today. I'm ready to go. But I want to say this to you, and I want you to look me in the eye and hear this. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and you love him, we are called to live a different way. We cannot be like the culture around us. We cannot condemn, criticize, and cancel. Come on, somebody, are you listening to me?
We're called to live a different way. And the value that I want to talk about, just for a few moments, and I just have a few moments, since I took so much time to honor our Highlands College Scholarship recipient. But I want to start with this verse in Romans chapter 12, and I want you to read it aloud. Notice I didn't say a soft. Read it aloud, every voice at every campus. Here we go together. "Honor one another above yourselves". It even tells you how. We're to honor every person, not the people you like, not the people that are Christians, not the people that are in the same party. "Honor," one translation says, "everyone, and then do it to the way that you do to yourself".
This is the standard and the ethic of the Bible. Jesus taught this in Mark chapter 6. Now, note with me, he had just finished doing some pretty amazing miracles. He's a miracle, powerful, he's a miracle-working God. And the Bible says Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth. Nazareth was his childhood hometown. It wasn't where he was born. Of course, he was born in Bethlehem. But he grew up there in Nazareth. And the Bible says, "The next Sabbath, he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, 'This is a pretty amazing guy here. Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform to such miracles?'"
But watch what happens, I mean, they went from literally like you to they scoffed. Then they scoffed. I think that just completely shows what the world is like right now. Oh, that's awesome. Like, like, like, like. Agh! Why did you say that? They pick at the littlest of things. Then they scoff and say, "No, no, no, I guess he's just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters are right here". And they lowered who Jesus really is. In fact, it went on to say they were deeply offended. I mean, I tell you, I think people are actually looking for offense this day, these days. And if you go out looking to be offended, trust me, you gonna find what you're looking for.
And then because they were offended, and I warn you, every time you get offended, you have an inability to receive what is good from that person. They were not able to believe from them, so Jesus responds to this. And notice how he responded. So, you have all this toxic commenting culture. And Jesus told them, "A prophet is honored..." One translation says "He has no honor, he's without honor everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family".
In other words, there are places where he gets honor and places where he don't. Now, in the Bible, I don't have a lot of time to teach this today, let me make it very simple. There's two words in the Greek. The Greek language is the original language of the New Testament. So, every time a guy like me wants to get the deeper teachings of anything, I go study what we teach in theology and in seminaries like Highlands College, we teach original language, 'cause you're always gonna get better truth, as you teach and understand original language. There's a word in the Greek for "without honor," one word, and then there's a word in the Greek for "honor". I'm gonna show it to you.
So, the word for "without honor" in the Greek, it's the word "atimos," atimos, and it means, "to dishonor," watch this, "to treat them as common or ordinary, to make them less than they really are". To honor, on the other hand, is the word, and it looks like the word "time," but it tee-ma, tee-ma, and it means "to value, respect, highly esteem; to treat as precious, weighty or valuable". In other words, you see them, you're gonna train your eyes to see them in another way.
Let me say it another way. Honor means to value, to see something's worth, and ten to add weight to it. So, the world is stripping everyone of their dignity and their worth. And I say the people of God should be adding dignity and worth to those same people. To dishonor simply means when you take something lightly, you don't appreciate it the way you should. We're a church of honor. We're gonna be a people of honor 'cause God has called us to live that kind of way. Let me say it one more way. Honor elevates, dishonor decimates, and I think this describes the culture we live in, but this is the people who God's called us to be. Can I hear a good amen, everybody?
And I'm gonna tell you, it's gotten to the place where our culture is not even used to it anymore. About three years ago, I was at a public place, going into a building, walked up to the door to go into this building, and a young lady, I don't know how old, she looked about 30, let me say. She was only two steps behind me. And, of course, I mean, I know I live in the South, and some would say, "You're just teaching southern, this is your southern hospitality stuff, this is just southern". No, it's not, it's the Bible. It's teaching you Bible. So, I walked up, and I opened the door, and I smiled at her, and I said, you know, "After you, just go ahead and step on in". And she goes, "What, you don't think I could handle that door myself"?
Well, I had a choice there. I could do what I was feeling in my heart. Come on, somebody, right, you know? But I just smiled and I said, "No, I'm pretty sure you can handle it, actually, girlfriend. I think you've got this, you know". And I said, "But if I don't open this door for you, I'm gonna get..." I said it just like this. "I'm gonna get to heaven, and my Dad's gonna find me and kick my tail. I am not going in until you go in, so you'd better go in, or we gonna be stuck here all day". And she laughed, and walked in, walked through, and I came in with her. And she goes, "Well, I guess chivalry isn't dead after all". And I said, "Actually, this is not chivalry, this is called being, I'm a Christian, and I'm called to put others first. I'm called to prefer you above me, and I was just trying to honor you".
And she goes, "Well, I think I actually like that". Well, I said, "Well, good, I'm happy to point it out in other places, if you need help. I'd be happy to do that". "Come on Sunday, and I'll help you out, girl". You know, but we're called. We're called to put others first. And we have a culture where we love to rip people, and tear people, and pull them down. I'm telling you, God has called us to live a different way.
Now, let me just say this. On your way out, today, and y'all are in the parking lot, don't like, "Ah, you first". "No, you first". "No, you first". Y'all get on out of here. We've got another service, all right? So, just don't do that there. You're excused at that point, all right? I want to teach you two biblical truths, and then I'm gonna give you a challenge that I think it could change our entire week for the good, and then I'm gonna try to model it in front of you.
So, in the next few minutes, let me do these few things. Let me give you two principles out of God's Word, and that honoring someone... you say, "Well, Chris, they don't do honorable things". But honoring begins with how God views them, God's claim on them. What we fail to do is we're only seeing people, sometimes, as they are. We're not seeing them in the view of the person who loves them and creates them. That's God, that we have a right view of others. God has this unique ability, by the way, to see people in both their depravity and their dignity at the same time. So, that should encourage you very much.
So, God can look at you, and know what you did this week, he was watching, and still see you in your dignity, even he can see your depravity and your dignity at the same time. God is calling the church to do the same, that when we go into the world, we don't say, "Well, Chris, you don't know what they did". Yes, it doesn't matter what they did. We're going to see them in their depravity and in their dignity at the same time. Let me show it to you in Scripture, in Romans chapter 8. It says that, "Those God predestined..."
Now, by the way, some people teach predestination as a wrong theology, that God has written a play, and he's left some people out, and that is not true. Predestination means he had a pre-destiny for you. So, before you ever went there, he already saw it. He saw something. I did that with my kids. Before my kids graduated from school, I saw them graduating from school. Before they ever had a healthy family, I saw them having healthy families. Before they ever became successful, I was saying, "Man, God's got a plan for your life. I'm gonna do everything I can to get you to success".
God has predestined everybody. God has a predestination for every single person, and that's when he sees you, even though you're not living out your calling, he sees you as called, he sees you as justified, and he sees you as glorified, that he has something on your life, whether you do it or not, and he can see both at the same time, and that's why I encourage you, I learned this early on in parenting, that every time that I talked to my kids about everything they were doing wrong, 'cause I loved doing that. Like, "You did this wrong. Let me tell you why you did this wrong. Let me tell you how bad wrong this was".
And about halfway through my parenting, I realize they weren't really responding to something, actually, they already knew about their depravity, that in the middle of their depravity, I'd say, "I know this is what you did, but that is not who you are. Let me tell you who you are". And I watch my kids step into their true personhood. By the way, can I pause right now? To every person that God sees what you did, but he does not judge you based on what you've done, he sees you as who you can become. I say this to the men and the women in the Alabama Department of Corrections, where they know what you did, but God sees who you can become. He says that to every single one of you in this room, too. And we, the people of God, need to live that kind of a way. That's what he's called us to do.
Let me show it to you another place. 1 Peter says, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake", it dishonors God when you do this, "to every authority, whether you agree with them or not". Now, submit doesn't mean you have to necessarily obey. You don't have to agree. It just means that we honor them. By the way, Peter would've written this when Rome had an emperor that he was under, named Nero, who killed people for fun. He loved seeing blood spilled so much, he considered it sport. And Peter comes along and said, "Even him, every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, to the supreme authority, or to governors, who were sent by him to punish those who do wrong, and to condemn those who do right. For it is", say it out loud, "For it is God's will".
I'm trying to teach you God's will, that by doing good, even to those meanest of people, that you silence the ignorant talk on Twitter. Come on, somebody. I know it's in the Bible there somewhere. It says, it's in the Greek I promise you. It's there. So, what do we do? "We live as free men and women. We don't use our freedom as a coverup for evil. We live as servants of God". So, what do we do? We show proper respect to (say it out loud) to everyone. I'm just gonna respect you. I'm gonna love the brotherhood of believers. I'm gonna fear God, and I'm gonna honor, I'm gonna even add value. He's not right. I don't like what he's doing. But I'm gonna see as weighty even Emperor Nero. Now, why does God call us to this? Because that is the hope of reaching people. What else breaks the poison, the condemnation, the critical things that happen to people's hearts, unless they experience the love of God, in that kind of way.
I remember, and I've told this story so many times, that when I had students in student ministry, I'm a very exacting kind of a person. So, right is right, wrong is wrong. Justice is a big deal to me. I mean, I just, it's a big deal to me. And so, if you're wrong in some area, I'd just love to point it out. But in the hope that you kind of get it right, but I love pointing those things out. And I had this one girl in our youth group that I really didn't like much, 'cause she always was talking on the back row and disrupting my incredible messages that I had prepared every week. And so, but she came every week about an hour before the service, while I was setting up chairs and getting things ready for the youth service, when I was a youth pastor, back in the day, because her mom served on the volunteer team, and so she was just there early.
And so while I was setting up chairs, every week, about an hour before the service, she would show up on the back row. She'd walk in, back row, cross her leg, cross her arms, looking up there, never looked my way. And she was just kind of waiting for the whole thing to be over. And so I decided, this week, I'm gonna go confront her. This is the week she's gonna get, and we're gonna have a come to Jesus, you know, we're gonna have that. And I had this speech prepared, of why everything she was doing was incredibly wrong, and that if she didn't like this place, don't come. I don't need you here, if you're not gonna, this is for people who want to be here. You know, that's kind of how it went.
And so I had it rehearsed very well, and I'm walking over there. And while every step I took, God's rewriting that script. The closer I got to her, and these words came out of my mouth. I did not have them planned. I don't know where they came from. And I said, "Bobbie, you know what I like about you"? And I'm thinking, "That's not the script, that's not what you say". I said, "You know what I like about you"? And she just looked up at me funny, and she said, "What"? I said, "You're the first one here, and you're here every single week, and I want to thank you for your faithfulness". And I turned around, and walked away, and I'm thinking, "That is not it. That is not how that goes".
That night, she gave her life to Jesus. She moved from the back row to the front row. It changed her life. And could it be, could it be that that's what God is calling us to do? Let me give you this thought, and that is that when we ascribe honor to someone, they often become more honorable. Don't wait from them to deserve it. Give it anyway. And here's the last one, and that is that honoring is not just for the person on the receiving end of the honor. In fact, I think you get more honor by giving it than receiving it. In fact, like, for me, I don't ask for it, because if I need it, I've got some other issues we could talk about another Sunday. But every time I give it, I think it blesses the person I'm trying to honor, but I'm telling you it does something inside of me.
And this is the rest of the teaching in Mark 6. "Jesus," and we pick up the same story, "said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own home.'" But watch what he says next. "And therefore he could not do any miracles there, except lay hands on a few sick people and heal them". So, Jesus, the great power of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, was weakened of his power because of the attitude of the people who were listening. It doesn't say he would not, it says he could not. And I wonder how many prayers, he's going, "Oh, I would love to answer that, but I could not, because you dishonored someone, your language, your attitude toward people".
Could it be that we are weakening him of his power because of our own attitudes toward others. Conversely, the Bible comes along and says let me tell you what you can do. You can honor. It says, "Honor your father". Today is Father's Day. We honor our fathers. "But I don't have a good one". Doesn't matter. We're not doing it for him. We're doing it for you. It'll do your heart well, and it's the first commandment that has a promise, that it'll bless him a whole lot. He'll love that. No, no, no. "That it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth". I've seen this in action.
Again, I don't really, I tell you truthfully, I don't need applause. I don't need, I don't live for that, honestly. I live, I tell you sincerely, I love for an audience of one. I'm trying to fulfill what God's put on my life. But I've been in places, in fact, my favorite place to speak on earth is at the Los Angeles Dream Center under the direction of our amazing friend, Pastor Matthew Barnett. When you go there to speak on their Thursday night service, which I've done many times, he makes you come at 4:00, and you start going through the different facilities they have of all the people there. They have trafficking, ladies that have been trafficking, they have hundreds of men who are trying to get off drugs, they have alcoholics, and they're all in these programs, and he wants you to go meet them first before you preach. It starts at 4:00. It takes three hours.
And when you walk into these rooms of addicts, alcoholics, they're lined up in a straight line in a tunnel that you walk through. And the second the door cracks, it's completely silent. And when the door cracks, "Ah, Pastor Chris! Pastor Chris! Oh"! And you walk through this tunnel. They high five, "Pastor Chris, Pastor Chris, Pastor Chris, Pastor Chris, Pastor Chris, we love you, we love you, we love you". Like, "Thanks". It's like awesome. And then you get on the stage, and you start, and they're all, heads down, taking notes. They amen everything. Ah, it's so good, so good, so good. They just... and people get saved, and it's the most powerful place in the world to speak.
And at the end of the service, the first time I went there, I preached, and Pastor Matthew and Pastor Tommy Barnett came up and they ran up on the stage the second I finished. These are the leaders. Pastor Tommy is 80 years old. He's a legend. He doesn't need to tell me anything. They run up there, they go, he said, "The single greatest message ever preached in the history of the Dream Center". I'm like, "That's what I'm talking about. That's, man..." Well, I found out they say that to everybody every week. 'Cause I had a friend of mine went to speak there the next week. He goes, "Man, you know what they told me? I preached..." I said, "Brother, they told that to me last week". But they mean it. And what are they doing? They're posturing their hearts to be able to receive.
Let me say it this way. The more I value it, the more I'll get value from it. And I'm asking you, "What are you valuing"? 'Cause we're people of honor. So, here's your assignment. You ready for your assignment? And I mean this sincerely. I want you to go crazy this week with what I'm getting ready to tell you. And you come back next week, and you'll say, "I think I just had the best week of my life". And it's the same verse I started with, but in a different translation. Here it goes. Try to outdo one another. Like, don't just do this. Try to beat, like, when you go to lunch today, get the check. And if somebody else tries to get it, go to the front of the restaurant and just say, "Don't let anybody touch that thing". And if they beat you there, like, they already did that, buy the restaurant.
No, don't do that. But I just like... bless that server. He's probably working two or three jobs. Honor her, honor him. How about we text five or six or ten people today and just, "I just want to tell you I love you". That'll take you all of ten seconds of your time. I woke up this morning, texted six people, just said, "I honor you today, I love you, you have no idea what you've meant to my life". Been receiving them all day today 'cause I try to be a spiritual dad to a bunch of spiritual sons. This is what I'm talking about. And today, I honor the dads. I'll say it again. I want to say it to all of our campuses, to every man watching. We honor you. We honor you, in a world that loves to have the punchline on a man.
I'm just telling you. Y'all know it's true. You tell a joke against a woman, you're in trouble. You're almost expected to pull a man down. And today, sir, we know how hard you work, we know what you do. And today, sir, we honor you, we love you, and we value you. Come on, give them a good hand. Come on, give them a better hand than that. Now, I may go a couple of minutes over, but I'm the pastor. But don't you move a muscle, 'cause I'm gonna show you how to do it. I'm gonna honor some people right now, and I want to begin with this man.
So, this picture was taken in 2009. And my dad had gotten cancer, and he was going through chemo, and he'd never been out of the country in his life, and I was, he went to be with the Lord in 2010. And you see his face is swollen up, because the cancer was in his head, in his face, and they had just tried to remove it all, and they put fat from his side into his face to make it look normal. And I brought him to Hong Kong, China. I was training 2,000 new Christian leaders, and this is actually a bay in Hong Kong. That's my favorite picture of my dad. And there's my dad. Y'all don't know this. He moved here just to volunteer at the church 20 years ago, worked for years without a single penny. We eventually brought him on staff, and dad set everything that you see in order. It has my dad's thumbprint on it.
The reason why the grass is green 12 months a year, I was like, "Dad, it can be brown in the winter". He said, "No, it can't. No, it can't". He said, "We're people of excellence". And I honor him today. This is Tammy's dad, who unfortunately died the next year, actually, buried two of my fathers within a nine-month period. We did their funerals. Billy was my best friend in the world, talked every day on the phone for 27 years. I never saw him have a bad day, not once, not one, not one, never. When he was dying of cancer. He said, "Chris, isn't this incredible that I get to show people how to die right"?
You can go watch the last message he preached right here sitting in a chair, with his eyes half shut from the cancer. It had already closed one of his eyes. And his title of the message was, "Struggle Well". And he did it with a smile on his face. He taught me attitude. I honor my father-in-law today. This is the man who was the pastor of my home church when I got saved. We affectionately call him Brother Roy. You've met my pastor, Larry Stockstill. This is his dad. He died at the ripe old age of 96. And we didn't know how close he was to death, but he was already bedridden. And it was just a few years ago, and I heard God say, in the middle of 21 days of prayer, "Go see him".
Now, I have a strict rule. I don't travel during 21 days of prayer, period. I've gotten the best invitations to go do the best stuff every January, and I don't even think about it for a second. I'm honoring God with the first of my year. Hey, it doesn't matter. There's no amount of money they can offer me. I'm not doing it. And I heard God say, "Go visit him". Which shocked me. So, I asked Tammy, "Do you think this is okay for me to go spend a day in Baton Rouge and go see that man"? She goes, "I think you're supposed to". And I called my pastor, "Is it okay if I come for a day"?
And I actually went, before I went to spend time with him, I went to the football field behind this old church, where I got saved, and it was that football field that God called me to ministry. And I spent three hours in prayer just thanking God for letting me do what I get to do. But I went to his bedside. I didn't know it, but he would die a few days later. And I sat there for more than an hour and a half, and let him just tell me stories. And it's Brother Roy that taught me humility. He said, "A man on his face can never fall from that position". He told me again, right there, "Make it all about Jesus. Just make it all about Jesus".
He's the most humble man I ever met in my life, and it was that day, as I held his hand, I asked him to bless me. And I honor him. I honor my pastor, who texted me this morning, texted me three days ago, texted me a week before that. Your pastor has a pastor, who checks on me, and cares for me, and loves me. And the person who's now become like a father to me, John Maxwell, and I honor John today. This was actually in March of 2020. We were in Israel when the pandemic hit. This is actually in front of the Western Wall in Israel.
But this man is like a father to me. We talk on the phone three days a week. He's mentored me. He's poured into me. And I honor him today. Church, I'm asking you to do the same, to go out, never speak bad of someone. Let's go pour out love and affection. Today I honor God. God changed my life. God loved me so much... you know how much he loved me? He let his Son die. I can't even fathom that kind of love. Like, why would you do that? But he had to allow his Son to die so that I could live? There is no greater love. That's the best.
And you know who else I honor? I honor those of you who are far from God. Because just like God, we see you in your depravity and your dignity at the same time. And I look at you and say, "It doesn't matter what you've done or what you think. We embrace you". We always wanted to have a church where people who are far from God can come sit here and say, "I don't think these people are judging me. I think they really care for me and want good things for me". And I would say, "We see you in that depravity, and we see you in your dignity, and we invite you into the journey". I honor you today.
With heads bowed and eyes closed, let me quickly close this service. But if you're here today and you want God to change your life, and you want to receive what he did, Jesus did for you on the cross, I'm asking you to release the control of your life over to God. If that's who you are, that's what repentance means. He's in charge. He's in charge. And if that's you today, would you pray this prayer? Just say:
Jesus, thank you for dying. You weren't supposed to die. It was for me. That cross was for me, and you paid for my sin. And today I repent, and I'm giving you my life, and I want to thank you, (say this to him) for seeing me in my depravity and in my dignity. And today I receive what you have for me, and I, (say it out loud) I will follow you. I'm gonna follow you with all my heart. In your name I pray, amen.