Chris Hodges - Blessed Are the Merciful
Well, happy Sunday, everybody. Who loves Jesus today, anybody? Come on, would you do me a favor and just give him the best handclap of praise? It's awesome. That's awesome. And a big hello to all of our locations. We are one church that meets in 23 rooms all across Alabama and right into Columbus, Georgia. God bless you guys, and to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. I want you to know I love you, believe in you, consider it the highest honor to bring this message and all that we are as a church into 21 of those facilities across the great state of Alabama and then to the people that are watching online. In fact, let me give a shout out to the online watchers today. I met a guy this week. He actually said, "Hey, PC," and I didn't recognize him. He goes, "Hey". I said, "What's your name"? He goes, "My name is Mike". And he says, "I don't come on Sundays 'cause I work Sundays". He says, "I just thank God that I'm able to watch online. I never miss, and it's changed my life".
Come on, to Mike and everybody watching online, would you give them a good hand? Yeah, God bless you guys. And by the way, if you're watching online, and you could physically be here, so you're just doing it out of convenience or habit, I would let you know, come on, agree with me, right, everybody? There's nothing like being in the room. Come on, we invite you. We're inviting you back. Come on back. So, it's good to see you guys, though, and we're in week number five of a nine-part series on the Beatitudes. And we gave you these little journals, give you a place to take notes today. We're on page 33, if you're taking notes today. And it gives you also an opportunity to continue your own devotions throughout the week on this topic. The Beatitudes are the preamble to the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest sermon ever preached in the history of the world, the sermon that Jesus gave on this hillside.
If you want to read the whole thing, it wouldn't take you more than 15 minutes, but the whole sermon is great. It's Matthew chapter 5, 6, and 7 in your Bible. And at the very beginning, though, Jesus gives us these nine beautiful and very challenging principles that all begin with the word "blessed," and the word "blessed," I think is probably the best English translation. It's a hard word to translate, because it doesn't mean like blessed like you have a lot of stuff, so you're a blessed person. It literally is makarios, and it means happy but not like happy in a natural way. You know, it's not like somebody told you a joke, or the sun's shining, or your team won in football. That was the wrong timing for that. Anyway, so, yeah, nobody's happy about that right now, except for one campus. So, God bless you guys.
So anyway, but anyway, but it's not that kind of joy, and I think a lot of times we look for joy in circumstantial types of things, but Jesus said there's a joy or a blessedness of, in other words, you have a soul condition that is so satisfied, fulfilled. It's kind of how you feel when you lay your head down on the pillow at night. Jesus says there is some joys or some happinesses, there's some blessedness in the most unlikely places. And he says, like, it's found in the poor in spirit. It's found even on your worst day when God comforts you. Blessed are those who mourn and are comforted. Blessed are those who are meek. And you would never think that's where you would find that kind of internal joy or happiness. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
And today another challenging one, one that's honestly very uncommon in culture, couldn't hardly wait to bring this installment of the Beatitudes 'cause Jesus said, "Blessed are..." Something nobody does hardly anymore. "Blessed are the merciful". And it goes on to say, "For they will be shown mercy". And I want you to file that last line. We're going to come back to it but "Blessed are the merciful". Mercy is defined in Webster's dictionary as compassionate or kindly, I love this word, forbearance. The word "forbearance" means you just decide to put up with it. Even though it could really bother you, you're gonna give it a pass, even if it doesn't deserve a pass, and you're going to show, shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power. The way I like to translate or define the word "mercy" is not giving someone something that they really deserve to get 'cause they were wrong, and I'm just not gonna do it.
Grace is the opposite of that. Grace is getting something you didn't deserve. We are saved by grace. We didn't deserve salvation, but he gave it to us anyway, but he also, God showed mercy on us. He didn't give us something we actually deserved. And I think this is an important principle. It's one that I have prayed for that I've asked God that today we leave this place completely changed by the power of God's Word. 'Cause if we are ever living in an unmerciful world, it's now. Brother, they'll condemn you, harass you, cancel you, I mean just offend you, and just kind of almost take a little pride in it in the process. We live in, I think, one of the meanest societies ever. You're one and done, baby. Like, almost waiting for you to mess up. Well, like I could say this: we've become great judges of other people's sin and great lawyers of our own.
We're happy to show you where you're wrong and to tell you why you're wrong, and honestly make sure you never have another chance in life. But if it was us, like, no, no, no, I've got a reason. You need to understand what happened. And Jesus is saying, when you learn the art of mercy giving, merciful, he says there's joy in your heart. I haven't told y'all a Boudreaux joke in a long time. Who wants to hear a Boudreaux joke, anybody? So, if you're new to our church, I'm from South Louisiana, and people ask me, "Who's Boudreaux is like Smith".
I mean, he's, every other last name is Boudreaux, so he's just your stereotypical Cajun, and they're silly. They're kind of dumb jokes, but I think they're funny, but they're, it's kind of dumb jokes. But Boudreaux comes into this little corner store where all the men used to hang out and swap stories. And he has this big old, well, as the Cajuns say, "big ole lump on him chest," just big old, big old, right here. And the Thibodeaux said, "Man, why you got that lump on you chest"? He said, "Man, I got dynamite under my shirt". He says, "Why you got dynamite under your shirt"? He said, "You know, Pierre gonna come in here every day, and every day he slaps me on my chest. He break every cigar what I have in my pocket, and I'm gonna blow his hand off".
Come on, y'all, that's funny. Ya all right? It's funny, but it also has a moral to the story. I think we live that way. I think we're out there like, "I'm gonna show you". And it's not hurting them as bad as it's actually hurting us. And Jesus comes along and says, "Blessed". If you'll learn this art, it's not for everybody else, so you're letting them off the hook. Check it out. You're gonna let yourself off the hook, the happy people, come on, the blessed people, the ones who aren't even holding that stuff in their hearts, and I really believe God's gonna help us today, if you let the power of his amazing Word change our lives. And all of God's people said a good... All right, so here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna give you two ways to do it. So, you're thinking already, like, "Okay, I understand it, but I don't know if I can do it".
I'm gonna help you with that. So, two ways you can do it, and then I'm gonna give you four places that are some of the places that we're not showing it enough. Now, we're supposed to show mercy to everyone, but I'm gonna give you four, and the last one actually is going to surprise you a little bit. So, let me give you the two ways to be a merciful person. Write these down if you're taking notes. And the first is you do it by reminding ourself of how merciful God was to me. So, when I mean remind yourself, I'm saying remind yourself, you ready for this, every day. Now, I think one of the healthiest ways to pray is to pray the Lord's Prayer every day, and not the prayer itself, you heard me teach this, but using the Lord's prayer as a prayer outline.
So, using the elements of the prayer to help you know what to pray next. So, "Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be your name". So, you start with worship. You know, "Your kingdom come, your will be done". Start with his agenda. "Give us this day our daily bread". Start with our needs. But then it gets into this phrase that Jesus says, it'd be good for you right up there with naming all the stuff you need, it'd be good for you to say this to God every day. "God, forgive me my debts, as I forgive the people who have debts against me, or ones that owe me something". And Jesus uses the word here, the word "debt" is only used two times in the entire New Testament, and it's not really the natural word "debt". It's not like a debt like you could pay, so it's not like your credit card debt, or your car payment, or your house payment. The word is "bankruptcy," so it's a debt you can't pay.
If you spent the rest of your life working ten jobs, you can't pay it. It's an unpayable debt because it's so big. And Jesus said, "You need to ask God and remind yourself that God paid for you a debt you couldn't pay". Like, you had an amount that in all your good works and efforts, it wasn't going to get paid, and Jesus comes along and just clears your debt. And when you realize it, I think it gives you capacity to forgive others. Let me say it this way. If we think we can earn God's forgiveness, we'll make others earn our forgiveness. And I was asking myself in my study time, "Why are people so willing to receive it and so, like, actually not willing to give it"? And I think it's simply that we just forget, look at me, church, that God has been very, very good to us. He did something he didn't have to do. He paid our debt.
I think we ought to take just three seconds right now and give God a praise and thank him for paying, come on, paying our complete sin debt. Is anybody grateful your sins are paid for? I mean think about it. Come on, Ephesians says God's great mercy, "God's mercy is so abundant and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead..." In other words, headed to hell. "...out disobedience he brought us up with life with Christ. For it is by God's grace that you have been saved". So, this first one is just remind yourself. Man, I was headed to spiritual bankruptcy and gonna have to spend the rest of eternity in hell paying for my debt, and Jesus set me free. And I truly believe that when you really realize it, it gives you capacity.
Here's how I say it. The forgiven forgive. If you don't think you've been forgiven, you gonna judge people. And Jesus is saying, no, no, no, you'll be more blessed if you're the merciful. Here's the second one, and this one's pretty serious. So, I'll just tell you ahead of time, I'm not a real serious type preacher, but this one's serious. I want you to just take it all in. Let the Scriptures speak to you themselves, and that is to remember, like, you're gonna face God one day. Okay, so you're gonna face him. And part of my job, as a pastor, isn't just to preach to you every Sunday, give you a little spiritual kumbaya and then go to the hospitals between Sundays. Part of my job is actually prepare you for a final exam that's coming your way.
Now, I don't know if you ever went to school and that you were in a test; and then when you got the test, you looked at it, like, "I don't remember her talking about any of this stuff," right? Like, "Was I in any of, was this ever mentioned in any of our classes"? And then other times you were prepared. You looked at it and you think, "Yep, I remember us talking about that. I studied that". Well, I'm gonna make sure I'm not guilty of you getting before God and like, "Well, PC never told me that". It ain't on me after this, everybody, all right? I'm getting ready to share this with you. Now watch this. I've already talked to you about the Lord's prayer. "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done. Give us this day, forgive us, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, forever, and ever, amen".
There's the prayer. Next verse, next verse Jesus gives commentary to one of the seven areas of the prayer, which says to me, like, he gave us the prayer, and he says, "You know what? I want to talk about this one more time". So, he puts it out there as a matter of importance, and I want you to see what he said, Matthew chapter 6. "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you". And in case you didn't get it, he flips it. "But if you don't forgive others their sins..." Now this is weighty to me. "...your Father will not forgive you your sins". And this was always a big deal to Jesus. In fact, Jesus told stories about people who were the very opposite of the Beatitude that we're sharing today. He called them the unmerciful. And honestly, you never really see the wrath of God much. I mean, God is loving, kind, compassionate, his mercies endure forever, the Bible says, but there's one area that will, it angers God, and it's whenever we receive something we're not willing to give to someone else.
Now, you notetakers write this down, Matthew chapter 18. Go read the story later. I don't have time to read the whole thing to you. But Peter comes up and says, "Okay, I hear you talking about all this letting people off the hook that have offended me, and that's tough to do; but what if they do it again, and what if they do it again, and then what if they do it, again, Jesus? Should I forgive them"? And he said, "Up to seven times"? He thought he was really out there, putting out a big old number. And Jesus said, "No, seventy times seven," 490 times a day was Jesus's response. I did the math for you, by the way. If you never went to sleep, if you were awake 24 hours a day, that's forgiving someone every three minutes. Say amen or "Oh, me". Right, everybody?
Okay, right. And then he tells this story, it's a make-believe story. He tells a story about someone, a king, who forgave someone of a debt of five, the modern-day equivalency that Jesus mentioned in the Scripture, the modern-day equivalency would be five billion, with a b, five billion dollars. How many of you would agree with me that that's a lot of money. If it's not, I'd love to meet with you after the service and talk to you about some of the buildings we're trying to build around here, all right? That's a lot of money. Five billion, and just went to the guy, cancels the debt. The same guy that got the debt canceled went and found somebody who owed him, modern-day equivalency, $10,000. Now, that's a lot of money, still, but it's payable. That's a payable bill, eventually, right? I mean, most of us say, "Well, I can figure out a way eventually to pay that".
And when the king found out that he did that, it made him so angry that he went and found him and had him thrown into prison where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. I do not know why the letter "g" is in that word, but there it is, right? And then he says this: "Shouldn't you have mercy on others just like I did for you"? James ramps it up to a whole new level when it says, "So you must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you," watch this, "when he judges you," the day I'm trying to prepare you for right now 'cause that's gonna happen. "I need Chris Hodges". Hey, here I am. Great White Throne judgment. Okay, this moment is happening for you, and the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment. "Oh, yeah, God, I was forgiven so much; and to the best of my ability, I tried to show that to others".
Now, this is completely against the culture we're living in right now. We live in the most divisive culture ever, and really society is trying to pit us against each other right now. With all its might, it's trying to destroy us against each other right now. And I am going to look you in the eye, like I have all the other services, and say we might not always get it right; but if I miss it, I'm gonna miss it on the side of showing mercy, not judging people. In fact, I'm asking us, let's stand before God having loved too much than having judged too harshly. And everybody in agreement says a good amen. That's right. I mean, I don't know if we always get it right, but if I'm gonna miss it, he's not gonna say, "You know what? You just were too nice to people. I just couldn't put up with it. You just, you just let them off the hook too..."
I don't, just don't think that's what we're gonna hear out of the Lord's mouth. And I'm asking all of us to embrace something that the world is demanding that we not be 'cause you need to know we are called to this. We are called. If I had another message title other than the one, we're just using the Beatitude itself, today's message is "Blessed Are the Merciful". I would have this title: "We Are Called to the Ministry of Mercy". We're to be agents of mercy in a world that just loves to cancel, condemn, harass, just everything that it does, I'm saying, listen, come on, everybody, let's stand, let's be those that forgive. Amen, everybody?
So, what does the Lord require of you? What does he want? He wants you to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with your God. In fact, I got to really dissecting this thought of a ministry of mercy. We're ministers of mercy, and here's how the Apostle Paul put it to the Corinthian church. "So, from now on..." And I'm hoping after today's message, "from now on we don't regard people from a worldly point of view". The world is trying to pit us against, Democrat/Republican, north/south, men/women, this group/that group, vacs/unvacs. They're constantly trying to set, you're in this pile, you're in this pile, you're in this pile, you're in this pile, you're, they're constantly trying to separate us and create dissension, and the Bible says, "Don't look at people from a worldly point of view".
Don't let CNN and Fox News and your neighbor tell you how to think about people. We need to look at through the lens of what Jesus sees inside of people. Don't let it happen. Come on, somebody. I know I'm preaching a little harder 'cause I think this matters. 'Cause we once regarded Christ that way. We just thought, "Well, whatever," with Christ, but then we got saved, and we became a new creation, and the old left our lives. We got mercy shown to us, and then he doesn't leave it there. He said our salvation is "from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and then gave us the ministry of" it. So, he does it for you and then says, "All right, I don't even just want you to do it. I want you to take it on, like, I'm a minister of, I'm a minister of reconciliation". I love the word "reconciliation" 'cause I'm a numbers guy. I love math, and I've had a job since I was 13 and a checkbook since I was 13, and I have never, true story, I have never not reconciled a bank statement on a single month since I was 13 years old. Like, some of you young people are looking at me like, "What's a reconciliation of statement"? That's your problem. Another message.
All right, anyway. That's where you go through the process of making sure stuff cleared the bank; and then the way you do it, it used to be on the back side of the reconciliation statement. Now we do it usually through computers. I actually use Quicken, and I enter all my stuff, and I love the reconciliation day, the day I get my online statement now, and I get to go through the process. 'Cause when you finish, if you did it right, it's all zeroes. It's a zero balance. In other words, it all cleared the right way, and I just like that. I like the moment, in fact, Quicken even throws little balloons. Poof, celebration, like it's just fun. I mean, it's a wonderful moment when it all reconciles. The word "reconcile" means bring the balance to zero. Jesus brought your balance, you had a balance, and he just brought it to zero. And he's gotten the world and just bring people's balance to zero. "Well, that's kind of confusing to me".
Okay, well, he'll explain it then. "...that God was reconciling the world to himself..." Here's what it means: not counting people's sins against them. "But they sinned". Yeah, but you're not to be the one to count it against them. We're supposed to be one leading them to the process of the same thing that happened in us, where their balance can be zero, as well. He committed to us the message of recon, I just want us to be those people. "Are you saying you're not gonna talk about sin, and you're not gonna tell people they're wrong"? That's not it at all. We hold the truth, believe the truth, but we point them not to, "And look what you did". No, no, no, we point them, "And you can be free from every bit of that. Jesus can set you free and bring your balance to zero". And we just have to be those people.
I love this quote from C.S. Lewis. You've probably seen it before. He says, "To be a Christian..." I love how it starts. If you want, "To be a Christian, it means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in me". All right. How, who, who should we be merciful to? I think we are called to show mercy to people who make mistakes, and I'm actually disappointed in the world. Even the religious world is worse. The world is not bad. It's the religious world that they'd rather point an accusing finger than look in the mirror themselves. And you've got to understand we're to take on the nature of Jesus. Can I get a good amen out there, everybody? We're supposed to take on the Spirit of Jesus. What did Jesus look like?
Now, remember, one of his disciples was a tax collector, who were known as money thieves. So, Jesus brings him on the team. And guess who gets the revelation of this? Matthew. And Matthew remembers a quote or a prophecy in the book of Isaiah, and this is what Matthew the tax collector said about Jesus. He said, "For he fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him: 'Look at my Servant,'" God says about Jesus, "' whom I have chosen. I love him, and the way he lives his life pleases me.'" Now, wouldn't you love for God to say that about you? I would. Then look at the next line. He didn't fight. He's not back in people's faces. This is not what the church is supposed to look like. We are not supposed to be a group known for what we are against. We're supposed to be a people saying, "Yes, you messed up there, but you can be free. You can be free from your sin, and your balance can be zero".
We're not supposed to be fighting, or shouting, or raising our voice in public. He said, "Jesus does not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle". This is my father-in-law, Billy Hornsby's favorite verse. He loved the verse. "A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out". He quoted it to me all the time. "Hey, Chris, a bruised reed..." And when Jesus sees, do y'all know what a reed is? A reed is usually a plant that grows out of water; and because it's growing out of water, it's mainly water. So, like, you can break it with two fingers. It's not like a branch of a tree. It's very, very tender. It's water filled; and as long as it has water, it stands. And it doesn't take much, you can brush up against a reed, and it bruises it; and when it bruises, it bends.
And most people see that, and they're like, "Well, let's just make it look pretty," and they cut away the bruised thing. Or they see a candle that's barely burning. "You know what? It's not gonna work". And Jesus is the very opposite of that. And people will criticize us, and they'll criticize you, that we help the hurting and the ones who do it over and over and over again, and we must be known for mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Say it with me. Mercy triumphs over judgment. And in a judging world, I'm asking us to believe this fifth Beatitude: "Blessed are the merciful". I got confronted about five months ago, six months ago, coming out of a hair appointment. A girl came up to me, and she saw me, and I was just getting in my car, and she goes, "Hey, Pastor Chris, Pastor Chris". I said, "Hey, hey". And she said, she goes, "You don't know me, you don't know me, but I used to go to Church of the Highlands".
You always love that, right? You know what's coming next, right? She goes, "Oh, but don't worry about it. I love you. I think you're the most amazing pastor. I love your teaching. I still watch you online. I think you're great". She goes, "I just can't go 'cause you give people too many second chances". I said, "That's what it is"? She goes, "Yeah". And I said, "Oh, you have no idea how many more times we'll probably do that over and over, over and over, and over and over". Come on, everybody. And over and over. She says, "Why not"? A bruised reed, man, we're gonna help it up. A smoldering wick, we're gonna fan it back into flame. Can I hear a good amen, everybody, right? This is what Jesus did. We were called secondly to show mercy to those who let us down personally.
Now, let's make it personal. One of my favorite teachings ever is Jesus on the cross, bleeding, spit coming off his face, jabbed at, mocked, crown of thorns, and the first line he says on the cross, first words, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing". And I'm talking about a man who was at the moment denied, betrayed, accused, rejected, abused, and humiliated. And he models for us an attitude, ready for this? It'll change people's lives. That's why we love him. That's why we follow him. 'Cause in the middle of everything that was done wrong to him, 'Cause he was perfect. Then he was completely being denied, betrayed, accused, rejected, abused, and humiliated. And the Bible comes along and has the audacity to ask us to do the same thing.
In fact, Colossians, we just read it. It's so cool how when you study stuff, how it's gonna show up in the Bible that week. Just this week in the One Year Bible, in Colossians, it says, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved..." And I love the language here. You're gonna have to clothe yourself. In other words, it's not gonna get on you naturally. You have to go get in the closet and put it on every day. You know what compassion and mercy is? A choice. It is not a feeling 'cause a feeling is, "I don't think so". You ain't spitting on me. You spit on me, I'll take you out, right? And the Bible says no, no, no, go to the closet. And you're gonna have to put it on, if it's not on you already. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. And unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. And bear, remember the forbearance? "Bear with each other and forgive one another even if you have an authentic, valid grievance".
I want you to put in your mind right now someone you have a grievance against. I have somebody in my mind right now. And ready for this? I'm right, just like you are. And the Bible says, you want to go to bed tonight with your soul at peace? You want to be, let me remind you, the Beatitudes aren't for the receiver. They're for the giver. The Beatitudes are for your blessedness, your happy, oh, the joy. Oh, the happiness of those who forgive, as the Lord forgave us. You can get mad, or you can show mercy. I was looking up some writings by Max Lucado. He wrote a book a long time ago, several years ago on forgiveness and on the Beatitudes, and he called it "How to Get the Applause of Heaven". I thought it was a beautiful thing, you know. And he has this quote in the book, "Unfaithfulness is wrong". So, what they did to you is wrong. "But revenge is worse. The worst part of it is that without forgiveness," you're just left as a bitter, just a bitter person.
I remember the story about a grandpa and grandma having their 50th anniversary, and the whole family is there. And one of the grandkids said, "Grandma, Grandma," goes, "how do you stay married for 50 years"? Just goes, "Oh, I decided the day we got married that I would make a list of Grandpa's ten greatest faults and just forgive him for those". And they said, "Well, what were the ten"? She goes, "You know what? I never got around to making the list". Just every time he did something, I thought, "Well, lucky for him. That's one of them". And I bet she was a happy, enjoyable to be around grandma. We're called to show mercy to people who are far from God. This was important to me. I won't spend a long time on it. But if you've been a part of Highlands for any amount of time, you know that we never decided to build a church just for church people.
I am begging you to be a place where people who are very messed up feel very welcome to be in the row with you. I want us to look just like Jesus, where the religious thought they were out of their minds. They said, "He's not even close to God if he's gonna hang out with that group". And they mocked him for having harlots at his feet. Did Jesus accept the lifestyle of the harlot? For heaven's sakes, no. He just knew you have to connect before you can correct. And that's why when he went to little Zacchaeus, who was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. Come on, somebody. Where the Baptists at? The Baptists, okay. He climbed up in that sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. All right, remember that? He was a thief, a noted thief. The first words out of Jesus's mouth, "Want to go to lunch"? Hmph.
When Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came at his house and ate with his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, that's the religious leaders, they said, "Why in the world you, why are you doing this"? And on hearing this, Jesus said, "It's not the healthy that need a doctor. It's the sick". And then he says this, that I want you to hear, as if he was saying it to you and to me: "Go and learn what this means". I'm trying to help us learn it today. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I have no intention of punishing people. I'd rather set them free. For I have not come to call the righteous, but to sinners". We're getting ready to step into a season, as a church, that's going to be very evangelistic, and I want you to join me. 'Cause after we get through these nine weeks, we're gonna do three weeks of "At the Movies," our most evangelistic series.
The religious mock us for this series. That doesn't bother me a bit 'cause tens of thousands of people have gotten saved every year at this when we explain the gospel in a relatable way to people who don't understand spiritual things. And we've been in a pandemic season where we're not even sure if we want to come, so we certainly haven't invited anybody else. And I'm saying let's get the lost here. I'm asking God that through "At the Movies," and Christmas, and all things, that I'm asking for thousands and thousands of people to come to faith in Jesus. Amen everybody? So, just get ready, more to come, more to come. But I told you I had one more that'll surprise you. Here it is. Let me set it up.
So, about three years ago, we did a survey, thousands of people in our church. I was trying to find out who's the toughest person to be in a relationship with, and who's the hardest to forgive? Is it mom, dad, husband, wife, boss, next door neighbor? Who is it? Three to one, shocked me. I was not expecting this answer. Three to one, the hardest person to forgive: themselves. I was not looking, I was not expecting that answer. And I heard God this week. In fact, this wasn't on my original list. I've been studying for this message for weeks. It was two days ago. I feel like I heard the Spirit of God for somebody in this room that needs to show mercy to yourself. You've not been able to forgive yourself.
And here's what you feel like right now, like David. "I am drowning in a flood of my own sin". Ain't nobody else did it to me; I'm doing it to myself, and it's killing me, and it's a "burden that has become too heavy to bear. Because I have been foolish, and I'm utterly worn out, crushed, and my heart is troubled". I've disappointed God. No, you haven't, because disappointment is the gap between expectation and reality, and God already knows everything. So, he knew it was gonna happen, and he still loves you, he still calls you, he still believes in you, and he still wants you, and you need to show some mercy to yourself, and that's why he picked the most unlikely people.
Paul writes two-thirds of the New Testament, and he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man, but he was shown mercy 'cause he acted in ignorance and unbelief and the grace of our Lord Jesus was poured out on him abundantly, along with the faith that are in Christ Jesus. And then he says this, and I'm going to close with this. "Here is a trustworthy saying, and it deserves full acceptance". I'm asking something. I need to fully accept this. Christ Jesus came in the world not to make you sorry. He came to set you free. He didn't want you in pain. He wants you in freedom. He doesn't want you in sin or guilt. He wants you in freedom. And today, God is going to set people free, who you've not even been able to show mercy to yourself. And you'll leave this place as a minister of mercy. And God's people said a good... Bow for prayer with me, if you would.
Father, I pray for the person who's drowning in their foolishness. They're utterly worn out. It's exhausting. They're embarrassed, they're ashamed, and they genuinely think they've disappointed you. And God, we know you can't be disappointed 'cause you see the beginning from the end. And I'm praying today, God, that people experience your mercy abundantly. I'm asking, God, for their souls to fully accept your grace today, so that we can be free and now go out there and be the ministers of mercy you always intended us to be. Lord, I commission the people of Church of the Highlands to be ministers of mercy, ministers of your grace. God, let us leave this place and everybody we come in contact with, we're just ready to bring the balance to zero, so that the world might be saved, so that revival might come to America.
With heads bowed and eyes closed, I'm going to invite our campus pastors to come join me quickly on stage. I'll let them close their services. If you're here today and you're far from God, you're not a Christian or you are a Christian, but your relationship with God is just, it's not right, you know it's not right, and you want to be free today, you want to receive it, you can with one prayer where you surrender the control of your life over to Jesus. Here's the words you should use, something like this, say:
Jesus, today I'm going to receive your mercy and your grace that was displayed when you died in my place on the cross. You gave me your life. Today I give you mine, everything. I believe you are the true and the living God, that you died and rose again; and with every part of my being, I'm going to follow you and your way. Thank you for blessing me. Thank you for setting me free. In your name I pray, amen and amen.