Chris Hodges - Open Your Eyes
All right, so good to see everybody here today. Who's glad to be in church? Anybody? Yeah, me too. It's really good to see you. It is. And a big hello to all of our campuses. We are one church that meets in 23 different rooms across our region. Love every single one of you, pray for you every day, and thank God for you, and know you're having great experience at your own campus today. And to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections, I want you guys to know that I think about you and pray for you every single day, and thank God for you today, and still have people watching online. We're glad wherever you are at home or in a beach chair. We're glad you're along for the ride today, and thanks for joining us. Put your hands together. Come on, say hello to your church family. Come on, really show your love to them.
So, we're in week number three of a series based off of John Maxwell's book, "Change Your World," and I highly recommend you to pick up a copy of this book. And mostly, whenever I teach about topics like this (we do this every July) I'm really trying to motivate you, and excite you, and show you how fulfilled you'll be, and how much fun it is, and how fulfilling it is on the inside, impact another person's life. But I also want to tell you this is just something that God has asked us to do, that he's given us a mandate. And I don't know if you've ever heard these words before, but we have what we call the Great Commission, that when Jesus finished his assignment on earth, which was to pay for your sins, he asks you, that once you receive him, to go on mission. He calls it the co-mission. We join with Jesus to impact our world. And I had this fear that life can get, even as bad as it has been, it's better than most. Can I hear a better amen, everybody?
It really is true that we live a great life, honestly, and we can get a little enamored with planet Earth and kind of think it's all about the next thing here, when really we have this very short time on Earth. It's a very small window of time called life. It's 70 years, plus or minus, where we live our lives, try to make the biggest difference we can for eternity, so that we can spend the rest of our lives with God in heaven. And we don't want to be there alone. We want as many people to come with us as possible, and that's an assignment God's given us. And so, if you see, what I want to start off with today is for you to able to see the Great Commission.
I want to show it to you in five places really quickly. This is just by introduction. Five places, the five Great Commissions of Jesus. So, if you know anything about the Bible, the New Testament begins with four different people's account of the same story. So, Jesus's life through the lens of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, same story four times. And so, in Matthew, it says it this way, where Jesus said, "Therefore," say that next word. "Therefore..." It's a clear assignment. It wasn't if you feel like it. It wasn't a request. "Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and I want you to teach them everything I've commanded. And if you'll do that, I'll be with you. Surely I'll be with you even to the end of the age".
In Mark's Gospel, Mark said it this way. He said, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation". Luke said it this way, "With all my authority take this message of repentance to all the nations". Said, "I just want you to spread this word as much as you can". I'm just trying to show you this is an assignment that we're on. We're not doing this for fun. We're not doing this to get bigger. We're doing this because he asked us to do this, "beginning in Jerusalem", meaning beginning where you live, "and then take it everywhere else. This forgiveness of sins is for all who turn to me".
In John's account, he says it this way, "As the Father sent me," Jesus said, "just like I had an assignment on earth, so do you. I am sending you". And even in the book of Acts, the first book of the history of the New Testament church, the first words that we get of Jesus, "you will receive power, when the Holy Spirit comes on you, so you can be witnesses in three areas, in Jerusalem, the place you live, Judea, and Samaria, your greater area," for us that's America, "and to the ends of the earth". This is our assignment. And so, when people ask me, you know, "Why are you adding another campus, and why do you have a college, and why are you having a Serve Day"? It's because we're on assignment. Can I get a better amen, everybody?
This is not something we do just 'cause we thought, "Let's just see how big we can make this thing". No, no, no. We're trying to plunder hell and populate heaven. Amen, everybody? It's an assignment that God's given us. And I'll just remind you we have this short window of time called life to do it in our generation. And I just want us to be a Great Commission church, again, because I think the fear is, is to think that church is for our weekly gathering, and it's for our weekly going. I mean, we gather to go. We don't just gather, and the church, by and large, in my opinion, has become a gathering group. It's just a place, "Build it for me, build me a seat, let me have a chair, give me another sermon".
You know, like, that's fine. But really, I'm here to just kind of... this is a halftime. Like, we're in a game that actually matters, and there is a real scoreboard called heaven and hell, and this is the halftime locker room, and I'm saying, "Come on, everybody. Let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go"! All right, so I'm just letting you know. And if that's not what you're looking for, there are places where you can just gather. And anyway, so we'll leave it at that, all right? So, this series... and we only do this about once a year in the middle of the year, July, to kind of fire up the troops, just get us all, get us all focused again. Of course, in the middle of that we have Serve Day, and next week we have 4,000 pastors coming here to learn, to watch how we do church.
A day after that, we'll have 9,000 students downtown worshiping God, getting, like, we're on assignment, everybody, okay? And then school's coming back, and we're going to get, I really think there's gonna be a lot of people returning back to church this fall, for those that have been sitting out during the pandemic. And so, we're just going to get ready, we're going to get ready. So, in week number one, we had John Maxwell give us an opening message on how to be salt and light. How do we make things taste better in our world, and how do we make things brighter in our world? He taught us how to value people. I thought it was a bedrock message that you ought to go watch if you missed. It was on July 4th. And then last week, I talked about how we need to know the whos. We need to know the world that's around us.
What is our world? We don't have to change the world. We just need to change our world. And we talked about how to recognize our influence. Today I want to give you one simple thought. And I want to apologize in advance for how simple this is, and I'm gonna keep saying it as simply as I can. This is not a complicated thought. It's just not a lot of people actually do it, okay? So, there's two... people say, "Give me some deep teaching". Well, how about you deal with what you already heard, all right? Let's start right there, okay. So, is that okay if I say this to y'all today? Okay, all right. So, just, all right, put a seatbelt on and get your feet off the ground. It'll be all right, okay. And here's the thought that I just want you to hear, starting off, and that is we never reach what we do not see. We just never reach what we're not seeing.
So, for a lot of us, we'd just rather not see. So, if we're driving and we see a homeless person, it's just easier to turn our head. It's just easier not to go to a third world country or a developing nation. It's just easier not to. But I'm gonna tell you, once you see it, it'll mess with you. I'll never forget the first time that I went to a developing nation, and I saw an entire family of five living in a refrigerator box. And I just remember thinking, "Well, okay then. I'm now responsible for that 'cause I know it exists. I saw it". Like, our eyes connected. I'll never forget the little dad. He was just about this tall, and the little mom was just an inch or so shorter, and there was three little kids, probably in the only clothes they owned.
And we made eye contact as I was passing by with a group of teenagers, as a youth pastor in this 12-passenger van. Like, our eyes made contact, and I'll never forget the moment that that happened. So, like, okay well then this is on me now because I saw it. But before I saw it, didn't even know they existed, wasn't thinking about them much. All I can tell you is ever since I saw it, I think about them a lot. You probably have experienced this on a smaller scale. If you've ever been in traffic before, and you're one of those that's just you're trying to get out, but nobody will let you in, and they don't let you in because they refuse to look at you. Come on, everybody, right?
So, you can see them. They're like, you're over here, and you're there. Hm, yeah, hm, hm. The other day I was on 280. I'd gone to the gas station, and it was just packed, it was packed, and nobody would let me, I was trying to get out of the gas station and get back on 280, but nobody would let me in, nobody. And I'm like, I'm nosing out, and they're like, they're squeezing up tighter. You know, they're just not letting me in. And then it was this mom, and I guess it's the mom and the daughter, but it was probably like a 15-, 16-year-old daughter sitting in the passenger chair. Well, the mom wouldn't look at me, but the daughter did. And I went, you know, just, I just, "Please". And she starts laughing, and I saw her turn and say, "Mom, we need to let this guy out". And the mom went, "Pfft".
But before that look, I was just a car. After the look, I was a person. And I just think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that there are people today who live a lot worse off than us, even if you have it so bad here, you're still going to heaven, everybody. Your sins have been forgiven, so we had this mandate to reach people. So, I want to tell you a Bible story. I want to set it up, and then I'll read you a few verses. So, the disciples once went and ran an errand, all 12 of them, and left Jesus alone. I think it was a divine setup, so we could have this story. Jesus was thirsty. He wanders over to a well. At this particular well, there was a Samaritan woman drawing water.
Now, Jews and Samaritans do not relate. There were racial barriers and tensions between the two groups. Not only were there racial barriers, but there were also gender barriers. Men did not speak to women in public for two reasons. First, they thought it was inappropriate. And honestly, in that culture, men thought they were so much better than women, they wouldn't even give them the time of day. Jesus walks up to this woman at the well, smashes right through both the racial barrier and the gender barrier. Can I get a better amen right there?
I'm just saying he smashes right through it. And he says, "Hey, um, draw me some water". And she goes, "Wow, you're talking to a Samaritan"? And so, he has this conversation with her. In fact, he even says, "Hey, where's your husband"? And she says, "I don't have a husband". He goes, "You're right, you've actually already had five, and you're shackin' up with somebody right now". He doesn't say shack up, but I added that. All right, everybody? Okay, like, that's happening right now. And she goes, "Sir, I perceivest thou to be a prophet". I mean, like, "You just read my mail. How'd you do that"? And she knows she's in the presence of greatness. And he says, "You have no idea how great I am. Like, if you were to ask of me, I could give you water, where you'd never thirst again". And she's now freaked out by this, right? She's having this moment.
And just then, the disciples get back from the errand, and they were surprised to find him talking to a woman, for the reasons that I already told you. But no one asked. So, they walk up, and they're surprised, but no one asked about it. In fact, no one asked, "Jesus, can I get you anything? We've been gone for a while. We're back. Is there anything I could do for you"? No one asks that, and no one asked him why he was talking to a woman, which is interesting, because they're the students. He's the rabbi. It's the first thing you should ask. "Hey, we're back. Can I get you anything"? And then if you're surprised by something your teacher is doing, that you think is weird, "Hey, what's up with talking to the woman"?
Like, but no one did that, and the question is why did John include that in his gospel? Or better yet, why did the Holy Spirit make sure we could see these two phrases here? Like, when you're telling a story, you don't add things that didn't happen. But they did. They mentioned two things that never happened. No one asked about, "Can I get you anything"? No one asked, no one asked. It could only be for one reason: that after it happened, they wish they would have, but they didn't. And the question now begs, why didn't they? Why didn't they ask? Maybe it's because they couldn't see it, or better yet they didn't even care. But it picks up the rest of the story. "So, leaving the water jar," while these non-things were not happening, "the woman leaves, and she goes back to her town".
Now, the town's not another city. It's a village right around the corner 'cause she's getting ready to come right back, in a matter of minutes. So, she goes back to her town and says, "I think I found God. I found a man who told me everything I ever did. I think I found the Christ that we've all been waiting for". And so, the whole town decides to go back to the well and see if he is Christ. they come, they make their way toward Jesus. So, I want you to picture that. There's an entire town coming toward Jesus and the disciples, while these non-things are not happening. Are y'all with me, everybody? You see this? So, you would think if they came, like, the first thing would be, "Wow, look at this. Wow, I wonder what this group of people wants". But that's not what happened. His disciples said, "Hey, let's go to PF Chang's". Are y'all seeing this, everybody?
They said, "Hey, it's lunch time. Let's go eat something". And Jesus said, "Are you kidding me? I have food". And you know what he's talking about the town. "I have food to eat that you don't know nothing about". But they didn't get the metaphor. So, they bring up food. So, Jesus brings up this metaphor that "These people are like food to me". And his disciples said, "Did you already eat while we were gone"? Are y'all seeing this, everybody? Like, they're missing, the point is if they miss it, could we? I'm just throwing out a question. So, Jesus tries the second time around. "No, no, guys. My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. I've got work to do. I would love to go eat. I'm hungry, too, but we have work to do, and you guys keep saying, 'No, no, let's do it later, four months more than the harvest.'"
Like, that was a colloquialism they used in their day to say, "I don't want to do it now". It was a procrastination colloquial, I can't even say those words. But you know what I'm saying, everybody? And then Jesus both diagnoses the problem and gives the solution in one phrase that I want you to see, and it's the title of my message today. "Oh, I get it now. You don't see what I see. I get it now. You're thinking about your bellies, and I'm seeing the town. I tell you..." Say the next three words out loud, everybody. "I tell you, open..." And that's what I'm gonna try to help us do today. It's like you cannot read what you cannot see. If I'm driving the car, and I don't look at you, I do not have to let you in. If I do not know the cardboard box exists there, then we just spend all the money of the church on us.
But if we see it, and we do something about it, and we've gotta see it. Are y'all out there, everybody? Is this okay? Did I bring it a little strong today, everybody? Y'all all right with this? Okay, just, so, Jesus says, "You don't see things, you don't see things, but there's actually things to see. There are fields that are ripe for harvest right now". And so, he basically diagnosed them with a condition that the Bible actually calls, there's teachings on it, I wish I had time to really dive into this, called nearsightedness, spiritual nearsightedness. I'm actually, if you ever wondered why I wear glasses, it's because I'm nearsighted. And if you don't know what that means, like I didn't, when I first went, I went to the eye doctor for the first time.
I'm 58, went for the first time at 47 years old, had perfect eyesight before that. I could see the freckle on a gnat. I mean, I had good eyesight, okay. But all of a sudden, I'm at a football game with my boys playing, and I'm squinting to try to read the names on the back of their jerseys. I can't see it. And my sister was sitting next to me. She's laughing at me 'cause I can't see. And she hands me her glasses, and she said, "Hey, put these on". And I put them on, and my whole world came in high definition again. I said, "Oh, my goodness". I had no idea. I could not see. So, I go to the eye doctor for the first time in my life, 47 years old. I'd never been to the eye doctor. Your first time, I'm just gonna warn you, is very odd. It's very, they do things.
In my case, the doctor didn't even tell me what he was going to do before he did it. He just did it, like blowing air in my eye. I go, "What was that"? That was a glaucoma check. Like, warn a brother first. Let me know you gonna blow. You know what I'm saying? I mean, okay. And then they get real close. I wasn't prepared for the real close thing. A or B? B or A? B, A, B, all right, baby. I'm like, "Slow down, they both look good to me. I don't know," you know. So, you're doing, going through this whole thing. They didn't put stuff in my eyes. That made my eyes go, I couldn't see anything, okay? Like, brother, we goin' in the wrong direction. You ain't fixin' stuff, right? So, I did not know. He comes back in. True story, I'm not makin' this up. He says, "You're nearsighted". I'm like, "No". I got up, all the nears really good. I got far issues.
All my issues are far. He goes, "No, no, no, that's what we call it". Like, what do you mean? He goes, "Well, when you can see near, we call it nearsighted". It's the only medical profession that names your condition for what you're good at. That'd be like going to the doctor with a broken arm, and he says, "Well, your legs work". I mean, that's not how you say it. But anyway, I told him, I was like, "That's dumb. Name the problem. It's out there". You know, so anyway he goes, "Oh, no, no, you're nearsighted". Anyway, we got it all figured out. I'm driving out (true story) driving out, and I hear the Holy Spirit say, "You know, that's the condition of the church, too". 'Cause what nearsighted is, and this is the truth.
I can see every hair on my arm. I can see the dust on this screen. I can't see you. I'm nearsighted. And when I can't see you, I'm not responsible for you. So, everything is right here. My house, my wife, my kids, my life. Me, my, mine, right here, this circle that it's clear to me is what I see. For the disciples, it was their bellies. And Jesus was going, "No, no, no, there's a town that's coming up". By the way, you can tell if you're nearsighted; that if God answered all your prayers, would it change the world or just change me? And for a lot of us, all of our prayers are in the nearsighted category, and that's fine. He cares about you. But if we're gonna change the world, we've gotta open our eyes and look at the fields. They're ripe for harvest. Come on, say amen right there. So, we've gotta see it.
So, let me illustrate it another way. So, there are about 7.6 billion people on earth, 2.4 billion of them claim to be Christians. Let's face it. Every one of the 2.4 are going to heaven. That's gonna leave us 5.2 billion that, if Jesus comes back today, are lost and will not go to heaven. And nobody freaked out, nobody dropped to their knees, nobody cried. Why? Can't see it. That's just a number, just a big, old number, 5.2 billion. People, so let me help you see something. So, on April 27, 2011, you guys in Alabama should know that day. If not, I'll remind you in a second. That was the day that tornadoes ripped through Tuscaloosa and then Birmingham. Two hundred and thirty-nine people died that day.
Now, if you want to know how many 239 people are, in fact, Delvin, Blake, come up here a second, real quick, real quick, real quick. I'm gonna show you this illustration, because I want you to see it. It's what 239 people looks like. So, you stand right here, Delvin. If you could just stand right there. Okay, would you stand in front of him? Put your heels to toe, chest to back, and then I'll stand here. In fact, let's go sideways, so everybody can see. Would you go this way?
All right, there you go. Sorry. Now, turn around, Delvin, there you go, all right. So, for heel to toe, chest to back, if we're that tight and aligned, 239 people is about 80 yards. So, let's just say about the length of a football field are the people that died when that tornado hit our nation, or our state. And on 9/11, 2,996 people died. So, if we went heel to toe, chest to back, how many is 2,996 people? It's about 6/10 of a mile. So, I want you to look. You're driving 6/10 of a mile almost, and you just look at the faces.
Let me give you another date. February, I'm sorry... December 26th, the day after Christmas, 2004, 250,000 people died when the tsunami hit. Okay, remember that day? You know how long that line is? That line is 47 miles. If you're heel to, it starts here to Tuscaloosa. So, you can imagine driving that interstate and looking at Blake's face, and then Delvin's face, and then the next face for 47 miles. Changes things if you see, okay, so thank you, guys. How long is the line of 5.4 billion? So, would you think it would go past the state, cross Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas? Yeah, it would. It would actually go all the way to California. And when it got to California, there'd be still people to put in the line.
So, you'd have to build a bridge across the Pacific Ocean. And if it went to the Pacific Rim, like where Japan is, there'd still be people to put in the line, and it would go around the entire Asian part of the world, across the Middle Eastern part to the top of Africa. But when it got to the Atlantic Ocean, there'd still be people to put in the line, and so you'd have to build another bridge across the Atlantic Ocean. And I'm talking about the widest part at the equator. So, you'd have to build another bridge, and it would come all the way over to Georgia, and then come across Georgia, and the line would meet the line. So, where Delvin began, there'd be a person at the widest part, but it wouldn't happen one time. It would happen 2 times, 5 times, 10 times, 20 times, 40 times, 60 times, 80 times, 100 times, 124 times. That's how many 5.4 billion people are, and it changes it, if it's not a number, if we can see it.
And I just want us to see it 'cause if we can't see it, we won't do it; but if we see it, it changes everything. It makes Serve Day make sense. It makes Highlands College make sense. It makes why we give, a large portion of what you give outside of these walls. So, let me close with three thoughts for you today and how we need to open our eyes. Are y'all okay out there, everybody? Okay. so, we need to open our eyes three ways to where they are, so you've gotta see the wheres. And I'm not even talking about India, or Pakistan, or Tanzania, or Colombia. I'm talking about the people right around us. If you're not going through life asking yourself in your mind, "Lord, is this someone you wanted me to influence"? you'll miss it. But if you're one of those conscientious Christians, who's not just, you know, shouting at everybody, "Get saved, turn or burn".
That's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying, being conscious to the fact that God, look at me, look at me, God will give you divine appointments, if you'll be open to looking for them. The steps of a good person are ordered of the Lord. He's actually ordering your steps. I'm convinced he's given us divine intercessions that we just might be missing, that a man plans your... you're planning your own calendar, but I'm gonna tell you God is determining your steps. And we call these divine appointments. John Maxwell taught me this. He lives his life. And I think he writes about it a little bit in this book, how he's always conscious of the people that are right around him.
In fact, he says, "I'm listening for," what he calls, "their spiritual spot". And it's that part where they just give you a little opening, when they talk somebody where they're hurting, their family, their emotions, their sicknesses. And by the way, if you're looking for someone's spiritual spot, it's normally in the area of their family. It's the place where they're the most sensitive. And when we get there, we just listen, and we ask a lot of questions. I did this as a youth pastor. I was so desperate to reach students when I was a youth pastor in Colorado, that I had students over every single day, without fail, making chocolate chip cookies and shooting hoops.
And only just to listen, just to set them up so that they would say, "Let me tell you about my mom," "Let me tell you about my dad," "Let me tell you what I heard," just looking for that spiritual spot to connect with people and to know that God is trying to help you connect with people, if we'll just connect to them. And we don't have to correct them. We just need to listen to them. And I'm even asking you to agree and probably most of the times you won't, but you don't have to agree to be someone who understands why they're going through that. So, in order to change our world, we need to connect before we correct, and that's what we do here. People say, "Well, y'all don't preach it hard enough". Because we're just trying to listen to them first. Trust me, we'll get to the hard. We'll talk about it, but we gonna connect before we correct. Say amen right there, everybody.
Here's the second one, and that is we have to open our eyes to who they are. So, it's easy right now to be irritated with people 'cause everybody's mad, and everybody has a side, everybody, and everybody's mad. Everybody, everybody I meet doesn't like some group. The left hates the right, the right hates the left. The Christian doesn't like the Muslim, and the Muslim doesn't like the Christian. The Republican doesn't like the Democrats, the Democrat doesn't like the Republican. This neighbor doesn't like this neighbor. I don't like you because your daughter got accepted as cheerleader, and mine didn't. Like, everybody has an enemy. Are y'all listening to me, everybody?
And you've gotta be careful that we do not see people as enemies. I'll never forget the first time I heard the pastor who pastors the largest church in the world. His name is Paul Yonggi Cho. C-H-O, Cho, pastors a church in Seoul, South Korea, has almost a million people actively attending the church. It's a big church. He's famous, he's famous for his teachings on prayer. He was the one that first taught how to take the seven praises of the Lord's prayer and turn it into a prayer outline, not just a prayer to pray. So, you could pray an hour through the Lord's prayer. It's beautiful. And I'll never forget the first time I heard him speaking on it, and he got to the phrase, "Father, forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us".
And I'll never forget he stood there, he goes, he goes, "Every day, I forgive so many people, because I hate so many people". Like, you know what I'm saying? And I was like, "Dude, I'm with you. I hate them, too, I hate them". You know, 'cause I could relate. But when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, realizing, watch this, that there was a reason why they were so mean, 'cause they were harassed and helpless. They were sheep without a shepherd. And he chose to see people a different way. And the story of the Good Samaritan... you know the story of the Good Samaritan, this person who helped this person who had been robbed. But there were three groups of people involved. They just all saw the guy in a different way. The thieves saw that person as a victim they could exploit.
The priest saw that person as a problem they were gonna avoid, but it was the Good Samaritan that saw that as a person that should be loved. And I'm asking us even to see the mean people through the lens of Jesus. And even the mean people, we don't say, "Doggone, you're so mean," that there's a reason why, that everybody is the way they are for a reason. To change our world, we don't have to be like them, but we do have to like them. You're never gonna reach someone you do not like. I'm not asking you to be like them. I'm just asking you to like them. Here's a third one. Are y'all okay out there, everybody? I get passionate about this. And the third is we've gotta open our eyes to what they need.
So, where they are, who they are, and what they need. This is where there's a lot of confusion in the church, and I'm very happy to say where we stand on this 'cause there's two sides in the church world right now. It's what's called a true side, and there's a gray side. You'll hear it in sermons. And the truth world says, "Tell them. You're wrong, we're right, going to hell". That's the true side. And guess what? Technically, they're right. They're just not reaching anybody. And God didn't call us to be right. He called us to be effective. But there's a world out there that'd be just happy to point it out to you. No, you've got it wrong. You're all wrong. And actually, I technically agree with them. They're just not nothing, they just don't help anybody.
But then there's this whole other side that's this grace world. Grace, grace, grace, grace, grace, grace, grace, don't matter. Just Jesus loves you, Jesus loves, grace, just grace. Like, okay. And there's a lot of truth in that. It's true. Jesus paid it all. It's everything, part of it's free. Jesus paid it all. But if you live in either one of the extremes, you'll miss the right way to treat people. So, the way I say it is truth without grace is mean. Grace without truth is meaningless. Put them together and you have good medicine. You the medicine that people need. Jesus came into the world. He "became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of," say it out loud, "full of grace and..." And grace always comes first.
So, when Jesus happened upon a short dude called Zacchaeus. For you Baptists, he was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. "He climbed up in that sycamore tree. For the Lord he wanted to see". Okay, anyway, I went to Sunday school. But when Jesus came, he knew he had totally stolen from everybody he ever met. He was a horrible, horrible thief. And Jesus's first word to Zacchaeus was, "You want to have lunch"? You can go read it in Luke 19. It's there. He didn't say, "You thief, get out of the tree, you thief, you short little thief". All that would have been true. He was short, and he was a thief. And how many know Zacchaeus would've never gotten saved? But Jesus said, "Hey, you want to go to lunch"?
Now, unfortunately, the Bible does not record the lunch. All we get is the next verse, Zacchaeus is coming out of lunch giving four times everything he took from people. Wouldn't you have loved to heard that lunch? I mean, wow. When Jesus was presented with the woman caught in adultery, she had just committed adultery. And when they brought him to Jesus, they thought they'd stumped him 'cause the law said she has to be killed. And Jesus's words were, "Let he who has no sin cast the first stone". Well, that thinned out the crowd. In fact, nobody was there anymore. And Jesus's first words to the woman was, "Where are your accusers"? "They're not here anymore". "Neither do I accuse you". That's grace. He didn't leave it there, though. And then he said, "Truth. Now go leave your life of sin". It was both.
What do people need? They need grace and truth. Let me say it this way. To change our world, we need to show people the same kind of love God showed us: unconditional. You will never reach what we cannot see. And I just want to pastor a church that people will allow me one month a year to pause from your marriage and your problems, and that I care deeply about, and just remind us that we're a church on mission, and we've gotta see things right so that we can reach the people that God's caused us to reach. And if you're with me, would you please give Jesus a handclap of praise, saying, "I'm with you, I'm all the way, I'm in"?
So, let me close with a twist. Because a lot of us don't see right, because we don't even see God right. My friend and mentor, John Maxwell, he's really a hero to me. Most of his work is in the secular world, but he's the greatest evangelist I've ever met, that I've met. There are greater ones. It's just, he's just the greatest I've ever met. And when he does an all-day teaching at Boeing or West Point or wherever, I mean, he speaks in these great places, he always dismisses everybody and says, "And if you'd like to hear a 15 minutes about my faith, you can come back in 15 minutes". And he dismisses the crowd, and 90% come back, and 50% of them get saved. I've never seen anything like it. It's these secular environments, scores of people giving their life to Jesus.
Say, "Chris, my goodness, what is he saying in 15 minutes"? Let me give you the two-minute version. He says, "If you saw God the right way, you'd want my God". I'm convinced that the people who are people of faith are just not just because they can't see God the right way. And so, he gives the four pictures of God, of which only one of them is right. The first picture is people see God as a locked gate. He's on one side, you're on the outside, and your view is he can't be reached. He's too far away. It's just I don't know what the code is. I don't have the key. I just, and people see religion that way. It's a club. I'm excluded from it. I can't get in there. It's locked. Some see God through the lens of the garbage can. "God doesn't want me 'cause I've just done too many bad things. Trust me. If God... trust me, God doesn't want me".
But God loves you so much, that while you were still a sinner, he was dying for you. He saw you on your worst day and still allowed his hands to be nailed on your behalf. Some see God, John says, as an endless ladder, that "I can get there, but it's a lot of work, and it's just works, and I can get there. But even when I think I'm close, I'm still far away". And they see religion that way, and that is not what the Bible says. You're saved by grace, not of works, lest any of us boasts on our works. But the true picture of God is it's a free gift, that for too many people is left unopened. He doesn't make you open it. He just says, "Here, take it, open it, receive it". And if you do, it'll change your life, and he'll put you on the team with the rest of us, get on mission to impact other people's lives. In fact, he'll do a great work on the inside of you, once you receive what he's done for you.
With heads bowed and eyes closed at every location, if you're here today, and you say, "Chris, I don't really see God the way I should, and today I would love to open the free gift of eternal life". You would need to know that Jesus paid for the gift, but he won't open it for you. In fact, one place, the Bible says he stands at the door, and he just knocks. And he says, "If any person would open that door, and let me in, I'll have relationship with them, and them with me". I'm not asking you to join this church today. I'm just asking you to receive what Jesus did by surrendering your life completely over to him. If you're here today and you're far from God, and you'd like to know God, and you want to receive the free gift of eternal life, and maybe you're a Christian, and you've fallen away from God, and you're just ready to come back, it would be my honor to lead you in a prayer where you can open that gift.
With every head bowed and every eye closed at every location... if you're watching online, there's a place for you to respond. Say, "Chris, pray that prayer, and I'm letting God know that I'm being included today". I want you to boldly lift your hand very high right now and say, "Count me in". Yes, yes. Anybody else? Just lift it up high. Anybody? Yes, sir. Anybody else? Yes, sir. Anybody else? "I'm receiving this gift today. I'm receiving it. I'm coming back to God. I'm recommitting my life to God". Anybody else? Just lift it up high. God bless you. God bless you. Thank you. God bless you. For those that lifted your hand, and anybody else who wants to join me, would you just whisper these words?
Thank you. Thank you for giving me a free gift. Thank you for paying for my sins. Thank you for loving me. And today I open this gift. Today I receive what you did for me, and I ask you to be the Lord of my life. Take control of my life. I'm gonna live my life for you. So, forgive me, change me, come live inside of me, and you can count on me to be on mission with you, to impact the world around me. I love you, and I thank you. In your name I pray, amen.