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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - Blessed Are the Persecuted

Chris Hodges - Blessed Are the Persecuted

Chris Hodges - Blessed Are the Persecuted
TOPICS: The Beatitudes, Persecution

Well, it's so great to see all of you here today in church. Welcome to week number nine and the conclusion of the Beatitude series. Hasn't this been a great series, everybody? And you enjoyed it, I know, kind of disappointed that it's over. And I'll tell you more about that in just a moment, but let me look into that camera and say hello to all of our campuses, our locations all across the great state of Alabama and right into Columbus, Georgia. God bless you guys, every single one of you. So grateful to God for what he's doing in your community and at your campus. And a big hello to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections.

It's an honor to bring all that we are as a church into 21 of those facilities all across our great state. And, of course, there's a bunch of people that are watching online somewhere around the world. Come on, Grants Mill, like you've never done it before. Say a big hello. Come on, come on, woo. Thank you, that's great. So, before we get into the message, you've already saw this on the little promo about "At the Movies". Didn't the creative team do a great job? I mean, they're creative. It was very, very good. And but I want to give my few thoughts on the series, as well. This is probably our most evangelistic series that we do all year long. So, this is the best opportunity to bring someone far from God or someone that's not in church, bring them to church and invite them to come sit right next to you. And we're going to have an amazing time together. I'm believing God for thousands of people to get saved in these three weeks. Amen, everybody?

So, pray, pray with me about that. I do want to announce though that it's not gonna be online. Because of copyright laws, we're not able to put these clips online. So, we'll have a different series, kind of a "Best Of" for the online audience. So, if you want to see these, you've gotta come in person. And I'm very excited about all three weeks. If you're new to this series, I think it's the same thing Jesus did. He took modern-day stories or parables, the Bible calls them, to illustrate biblical truth, and just people see things better in stories. And so, I'm gonna preach the Bible between the clips, and it's gonna be a great, great time together.

Today we are in week number nine of the series that is based off of the preamble or the first introductory statements of the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest sermon ever preached by Jesus himself. It covers over three chapters, Matthew 5, 6, and 7. But it begins with these nine, I call them countercultural and transformational statements that have the power to change our life. And I'll go so far to say, too, that you can't even really do the rest of the Sermon on the Mount until God's begun his work inside of us through these nine principles. All of them start with the word "blessed," meaning you're happy if, and this is talking about an internal blessing, a fulfillment that you can't find anywhere else.

And it really means a joy, and it's not a circumstantial joy, but a true life change inside of you that allows you to live really like no other and really the life Jesus always intended. And then they all have a promise, which I love that because it shows the potential that still is in serving God, that you're not quite there yet. I'm not quite there yet, but he has more for us, and so all of them have a "Blessed" and all of them have a "for". And a lot of scholars believe that there are eight Beatitudes. I think there are nine 'cause the last two both start with "Blessed are the persecuted, " And so, most biblical scholars combine them together, but I think they're actually completely opposite one another. They're both a form of persecution that requires a different response.

So, last week, Charlotte Gambill brought a brilliant message around, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". And she talked about how culture's shifting, and we've gotta learn how to stand firm, and hold our ground, and believe God, you know, for our values and our truths. And there's a way for us to do that. Of course, she talked about the life of Daniel in that. But this one says it this way: "Blessed are you also when people insult you and when they persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad". In other words, "I need you to have a different type of an attitude toward that scenario".

And very few people have the rejoice and be glad whenever they get that post on Instagram or whenever somebody criticizes something you've done it's like, "What"? Nobody's really doing that. Jesus comes along and says, "I need you to rejoice and be glad". And then he throws in this phrase, we'll catch it more at the end of the message. "...because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you". And I think this is actually the actual opposite response than what we heard last week. So, I wrote a book in 2017 called "The Daniel Dilemma". And the thesis of the book was that Daniel had the ability to stand firm for who he was as a Jewish believer, as a Jewish person, a man who believed after God, but he also had influence at the same time. And most people make a choice. They either stand firm and everybody hates them, or they try to compromise over here and everybody loves them but they're not standing firm. And I think you can stand firm and love well at the same time. Amen, everybody?

Okay, so last week was all about standing firm. And you need to watch that message, and we embrace that truth, that as a church we can't bow to culture. We've gotta stand for what we believe. Can I hear a good amen, everybody? Okay, but we still have to love well, too. And so, Jesus comes along and says, "Okay, now I've got another persecuted version for you, and that is this, is that some people are gonna insult you, and I need you to rejoice, and I need you to be glad. I need you to respond in a different way". And this one caused us to, now listen to me, probably some of the deepest teaching you'll ever hear in your entire life, not deep in that it's confusing. That's what most people think deep is. "Go deep, Pastor Chris".

In other words, confuse me for the whole message. No, no, no. Deep is something that we still, we have in the Bible that's very clear that we have yet to do and yet to become. And I'm just saying I'm calling us to a deeper place, a mature place in Jesus today. But you're gonna have some push-back. You're gonna think, "Can't go there, can't do that," and God is calling us to it. In fact, here's the way the Apostle Paul said it. Said, "That for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardship, " And there's our word, "persecutions, in difficulties", 'Cause look what happens. When I go through that, when I'm weak, and I go through that, I become more mature. I become more strong.

Now, what I've noticed, note with you, I would love to teach it, but I can't. The Sermon on the Mount actually continues, obviously, after this preamble, after the Beatitudes, right? Do you know what the next line in the Sermon is? So, get these nine inside of you, and then the next line says, "Now you can be the salt of the earth. You can go and make things taste better". But you can't make things taste better until you embrace these qualities first. Go be the light of the world. In the same way, let your light shine before men. Now, this is the hope of the Beatitudes is that the church looks so much like Jesus that they see our good deeds, and they want to praise our Father in heaven. People get saved, and that's the influential side.

So, yes, we stand firm. We're not gonna bow. We're not gonna fall to other gods. I believe all that, and we teach that, but there's also God's calling us to a different response to hatred, persecution, false accusation. And Lord knows it's happened to all of us, and it has ramped up in the past 18 months. Everybody mad about everything. Y'all notice that, everybody? Amen. You go down the highway, somebody like, "Wah"! And then you wanna go right back and peel the banana. You know what I'm saying? Don't do it. Holster that thing, you Christian, holster that thing, all right? Okay. Jesus said, "Many are going to be offended". In fact, the word in the Greek literally means the majority of us are going to have opportunity for offense. We'll betray one another and hate one another. Luke says it this way. He said to his disciples, in fact, it's impossible for you to go through life without the opportunity to be offended.

Well, let's say, "Chris, what's so wrong with that"? Well, Proverbs says an offended person becomes unyielding. So, now I'm like, forget you. So, every time you build a wall around your heart, you build it around the buildings for God to touch your heart, as well. And now we've got a generation of offended, everybody's offended. And very few people can be touched by others and by God. You become a barred gate like a citadel, and that's not a good thing. So, what do we do about it? Well, I'm gonna give you four principles. If you're taking notes today, we'd love for you to write these down. The truly godly people in our church take notes. Can I get an amen everybody?

People going to heaven take notes. That's what's, it's in the Bible somewhere. I'll find that for you later. But I want to give you four principles, and I'm just gonna tell you they're challenging. In fact, they get increasingly challenging, and they're completely countercultural. Nothing inside of you will want to do any of them, and all of them will change your life and change your world. Let me say it again 'cause you didn't catch that. You're not gonna want to do any of these, but they will change your life. You will truly believe makarios, blessed, happy if you do them, and it'll change our world. You'll be light, salt. People will praise your God in heaven. Are you ready, yes or no? You said yes. Okay, I wasn't gonna do them, but you said yes.

All right, here we go. And that is we choose to overlook the offense. Proverbs chapter 10 says it this way: "Love just chooses to overlook the wrongs that others do". "Are you kidding me, Chris"? Well, that's the Bible. In fact, in Proverbs 12 it says it this way: "When a fool is annoyed, they quickly let everybody know, 'You just made me mad.'" They stink up the room. "But wise people look at an insult, and they make a different choice. They choose to ignore the insult". Proverbs 19 says it this way: "A man's wisdom gives him patience". So, they just did something to you, and you just decided, "You know what? I'm not gonna respond like everybody wants me to respond. I'm gonna back up, be more thoughtful". "And it is to his glory to overlook..." In other words, it's good for you. You think, well, you're letting them off. No, no, no, I'm trying to help you, not them. "It is to your glory to overlook an offense".

About four or five weeks ago, I had the opportunity to play golf with one of the senior vice presidents of a major corporation, that if I told you the name of it, you would recognize. I can't do it, but I just, and they are a company that has a lot of believers that lead it, and they're not a Christian company, but they have Christian values. And they were constantly being ridiculed about their Christian values by the world, who wants them to believe in things that are against what we believe, as believers. And so, they're constantly being attacked. So, I had the most fascinating time. In fact, one part we were on the 10th hole, and we got in such great discussion that I decided to pull over the cart, let the other groups play through, and I just had, I've gotta learn.

I was taking notes on my scorecard. Like, I found a pencil and I'm learning from this guy. And I said, "What do you guys do? Like, what's your policy when the media comes against you"? And he told me a story. He says, "We decided to adopt the policy of a principle that is found in an old movie". I said, "Which one"? 1983, a movie called "War Games". I don't know if anybody remembers the movie "War Games". Matthew Broderick was this kid who at his house uses his computer to hack into the military defense systems of NORAD and had the ability, was getting ready to launch nuclear war from his bedroom. Okay? So, this computer, this computer named JASON, they named the computer JASON, takes over the process, and now they can't stop him.

So, everybody is freaking out because we're getting ready to launch nuclear missiles just because this kid was playing in his bedroom. So, they're trying to get the computer to stop this process 'cause it's fake, it's not real. But he's getting ready to make our missiles head across the ocean and start bombing nations. And so, what they decided to do was create simulations of what the outcomes would be if it happened. So, they typed it into the computer. Now, this computer that's taken over these missiles starts running all these simulations. So, Russia launches, we respond, the whole world demolished. We launch, they respond, the whole world demolished. This country, and they started doing like 20, 30, 40 different simulations, and it speeds up, destruction, destruction, total destruction.

All of a sudden, blank screen. And the computer says, "Professor Falkin, strange game". The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess? And that's the moral. I was writing this down on the card. The only winning move, I said the only winning move, why? Because if you engage, you're starting something where there's complete destruction, and Jesus calls us to a higher level to like, you know what? They really didn't even mean that. Well, maybe they did, yeah, but I'm gonna think that. It's called empathy. Write that word in your notes, for you notetakers. Empathy. Empathy takes even somebody who's mean, nasty, and ugly, and thinks, "I wonder what they're really going through. I wonder what it's like to be them". And they probably didn't even mean that, because hurting people hurt people. And now instead of being mad at them, actually feel sorry for them.

I empathize for them. Empathy has the ability to look past the behavior and imagine the pain in their life, that the person who just cut you off in highway and you're ready to give them one of those greetings, and honk the horn at them, no, no, you begin to imagine, "You know what? I bet they just got a phone call and one of their kids is critically injured, and they're desperately trying to get home". No, it's probably not true, but it's gonna help you a lot, everybody, right? It's gonna help us. It helps us. God's calling us to a different response. Look at me. In this world that is getting so vile, so nasty, so mean, so reactive, I'm begging you to have a different attitude toward persecution. Here's the next one, and that also when you're persecuted, we keep our heart free from bitterness and unforgiveness.

Now, let me say something about bitterness and unforgiveness. I preach about it a lot, so I won't go long with this point. But it's a dream stopper. I don't know of anything that can destroy your life and those around you than holding bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart. Say, "Pastor Chris, then what do you do about it"? I think Jesus taught us a principle that most people do not realize. Jesus gave us a prayer called "The Lord's Prayer," that I pray nearly every day of my life. I use the outline of the seven elements of the Lord's prayer to pray, to spend my time with God. And one of the elements of "The Lord's Prayer" is this: "And forgive us our sins". We like that one. "For we have..." Notice, past tense. "For we have forgiven those who sinned against us".

And by the way, that's the correct translation of the verse. It literally says, "Lord, forgive me because I am in the process of doing the same". I'm not gonna wait around, I'm not gonna make them earn it, I'm not even gonna decide whether they were right or wrong. No, no, no, I'm gonna walk in forgiveness. The way I say it, you ought to write this in your notes. Decide ahead of time every day you're going to forgive people before they even hurt you. So, I literally do this, I learned this years ago by my pastor. I've been praying this prayer for a long time. I've been in ministry 38 years. I've known the Lord for 43 years. And a long time ago, I learned to take the Lord's prayer; and when you get to that forgiveness part, decide ahead of time, before anybody hurts you, that you're already gonna forgive them. So, Lord, today, as I drive down the highway, and as I get emails or texts, or good news or bad, in advance, because you've been so gracious and so generous to me, and you forgave me, while I was yet a sinner you were paying for my sins, I'm gonna do the same.

I forgive them ahead of time. And now, as it comes, and Lord knows it's gonna come. Colossians says it this way. You're to make an allowance, do you know what an allowance is? It's money I give to you so that you can spend later. And the Bible says you're to make an allowance for each other's faults. Just go ahead and like, you know, I'm making, I made room for that. I knew that was going to happen, so I made room for it, and I forgive the person who offends me. Why? Because I'm remembering that's how Jesus treated me. And one of the happiest things, one of the best choices you can make for your happiness, look in my eyes and see this, is you're not gonna be able to offend me. I'm letting you off. Y'all, before I was saved, the year before I was saved, I met the first authentic Christian. I had never known an authentic Christian in my life. I was raised in church. And don't hear that wrong. I'm not saying the people in our church weren't authentic. I just didn't know them, and I didn't see it much, okay?

So, there you go, all right. And especially no teenagers. But I was a sophomore at Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Go Tigers. Speaking of persecution, by the way, there you go. That's all you're getting. That's it. It's the only crimson I own, and that's all you're getting. Buy anyway, all right. But I met a guy who was in my choir class. He was actually in a grade older then me. He was a junior when I was a sophomore, and his name was Kevin Schultz. They called him KK. He was the most popular guy at school, an outspoken Christian, loved Jesus, I mean happy. It's kind of funny 'cause he's kind of short, a little bit shorter than me, and I'm short. He's short, but he's real stocky, real built, much like me, real built. You didn't have to laugh. But he's real heavy, I mean strong, strong dude, big old white boy afro, just big old tall hair, just funny. But he walked funny. He walked like this...

And so, after we got kind of close, I decided to find out, like, "Kevin, KK, what's up the way you walk"? And he pulls his pant leg up, and he has fake legs. He has prosthetic limbs. I said, "What happened, man"? Like, from the knee cap down, he just knocked on them. In fact, he pulled it off and scratched his head, put it back on. I mean, he's just kind of a crazy guy. And I said, "What's up? What's up with that"? And he goes, "Well, when I was eight years old, my dad was beating my brother and me so badly with brass knuckles that we decided to run away from home. And my 12-year-old brother and I, at eight years old, went out to a train track". And you're ahead of me. And this thing was going really slow, just at a walking pace, and there was an open box car coming, and they thought, "When it gets even to us, we're gonna hold hands, jump on together". Well, the 12-year-old brother was a little taller and a little stronger.

And so, when the box car came, they went, "One, two, three," and they jumped. Well, the 12-year-old brother made it, and Kevin, being short, didn't make the jump, and his brother didn't let go of his hand, and it swung his legs underneath the train and rolled over his legs right at the kneecap. He rolled down into the ditch. His brother jumps off went and found paramedics. Of course, that led to the police finding out they were running away because they were being beaten. So, they were both put into foster homes. And he said, "Chris, I was put into the most incredible home with a guy I call my dad now, that has loved me, and he showed me Jesus, and my life has been changed". And I'm thinking, "But you have fake legs. You've been beaten". And I saw a guy who had every reason to be bitter, full of the life and joy of God on the inside. He said, "And Christ, guess what"? I said, "What"? "I'll never be defeated again". Get it? De-feeted. Can't happen to me.

How does a person do that? Forgiveness. Trust me, the dad who was beating them was wrong, but this is a person who decided, "I'm not letting them determine my joy and my blessedness. No, no, no, I'm gonna walk in forgiveness for everybody who even punched me and beat me. To forgive, to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner is us. It's us". All right, here's the third one. I'm trying to help you. When you're persecuted, falsely accused, slandered, it's gonna happen. It happens to me, happens to all of us. What are we gonna do? Man, they had a reason. They don't know. They're hurting people, too. And I'm gonna walk in forgiveness. In fact, before anything's ever written, or said, or spoken, or done, I'm gonna forgive them in advance. And then Jesus calls us yet to a higher level. In fact, what I'm getting ready to teach you, all of it is in the Sermon on the Mount.

So, get ready, and that is to pray for, to bless, and to do good. I call it the spiritual trifecta. It's to pray for, like, when you hurt me, you know what my response is? Pray for you. Somebody says, "Well, I do. I pray the flies of a thousand camels finds their armpits. That's what I pray". No, no. Hemorrhoids, in Jesus' name. No, no, no, no. Hemorrhoids in your armpits. No, that's not even medically possible, but no, no, no. I don't know. No, to pray for them, to bless them, which means to speak well of. And then even find a need that they have and do something good for them.

Now, Jesus was speaking to a Roman audience and a Jewish audience because the Romans were in charge. The Romans actually had a god of revenge. They worshiped revenge. And the Jewish people had a principle out of the Old Testament called an eye for eye, tooth for tooth. You do this to me, then I can do that to you. You hurts me, I can hurt you. I owe that to you. And Jesus comes along in the Sermon on the Mount, and he says, "You guys heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth,' but I tell you do not resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek..." It's where we get the phrase today that people use even outside of faith cultures, "Turn the other cheek". "Turn then the other cheek also".

I actually had that happen to me when I was a sophomore at LSU. Go Tigers, there you go. Anyway, but I worked at the LSU law school as my student job. And my boss's best friend was a guy from the LSU police department who came every day for lunch to hang out, and he was a Muslim. In fact, his name was Muhammad. And I used to always just kind of read my Bible until they gave me something to do for work, you know. So, I was so on fire for the Lord. I was just there reading my Bible, and Muhammad walks in and, you know, greets everybody. And I knew him. You know, we talked. He saw me reading my Bible. He goes, "I can show you something in there you don't believe". And I'm thinking, "No, if it's in there, I believe it". So, he says, "No, I can prove to you". I said, "Well, show me. I'd like to see what you're talking about".

And so, I'm just sitting at the desk, and I'm just looking at my Bible thinking he's gonna flip the page and show me a verse that I didn't know was there, and it's gonna be a gotcha verse, but I was willing to go for it. And I was waiting. And when he walked over to me, I'm looking at my Bible. He hauls off and slaps the fire out of my face. I mean, kapow! And I went, "Muhammad, why did you do that"? He said, "If you believe the Bible, turn the other cheek". I said, "Are you serious"? I mean, my face is throbbing. I said, "Are you serious"? And he had his finger pointing in my face, it was shaking. "Turn the other cheek". And I said, "All right, go ahead, hit me. If that's what you need, there you go, go ahead". He goes, "No, you don't believe it". I says, "No, hit me". He goes, "No, you don't believe it".

Now I think he's bluffing. I said, "Hit me"! Pow, he hit me again. Anyway, so I'll never forget this. He took his police cap off, and he said, "You're the first real Christian I've ever met". I thought, "You going around slapping Christians? What are you doing? What is up with that? That's your test"? A year later, I led him to Jesus. He renounced Islam and became, come on, everybody, he became a believer. It took a year, another year of conversation. And Jesus is saying, "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, go ahead and give them your coat, as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two". Hey, what is he saying? He's saying that it's important for us, as believers, to respond in a different kind of way that actually attracts them to the God we serve.

Come on, somebody. And then he ramps it up, and he says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,' but I'm telling you: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'" Chapter 6 of Luke says it this way, same Sermon on the Mount, different gospel. "But I tell you, who hear me: 'Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless them.'" That ramps it up. Not just pray for them, but bless. Bless means to speak well of. Stop, look at me, everybody. Stop cursing people. Can I just be strong with all of us? We are not the ones who react right back on a post or in somebody's life, and even if we're right, no, no, no, we bless. We let them curse, but we bless. We bless, we speak well of. I don't care if it's not your party or your people. I don't know what it is. We don't curse, we bless. We're gonna speak well of. It's not gonna come out of our mouth. I don't care what they say about us. We bless you. It's all right, we bless you. We're just grateful to the Lord for you, just love you.

1 Peter says it this way. "Do not repay a wrong and do not insult, repay an insult with another insult. But repay with a..." Say it out loud. "...repay with a..." I'm gonna speak well of you. That's how I repay. Because we were called to live this way. Watch what happens. God's watching, and you are the one who inherit the blessing. And then he ramps it up another level. You think praying and blessing is enough? No. "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what's right in the eyes of everyone. And if it's possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone". Watch this. "And do not take revenge, but leave room for God's wrath". In other words, God will settle the score. You don't have to do it. "For it is written, 'It is mine to revenge; and I will repay,' God says. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, go feed him.'" Bring them some groceries. "And if they're thirsty, give them something to drink. And in doing this, you heap burning coals on their head".

One person thought, man, you gonna light 'em up. Man, I'm gonna light you up. Burn, baby, burn. That's not what that means. Burning coals, watch this, was the greatest commodity a person could possess 'cause they didn't have stoves. They had to keep fire burning; and if it went out through the night, you're in trouble. It takes almost all day to get it back going again. And a lot of times, really, if you had to cook, and then you had to preserve the coals, cover it up in some kind of a way so that when you woke up the next morning you could light a new fire with the burning coals that were left over, wash the clothes, do all the things you did with fire. And oftentimes, someone would mismanage their coals. They would go out, happened all the time, and a neighbor would heap burning coals.

So, when you're offended and persecuted, and falsely accused, our minds go to, "What is their greatest need"? And I'm just going to bless them because I'm not, I am not going to be overcome by evil. We're gonna overcome evil with... Can you say a good amen, everybody? My son, David, about six weeks ago sent me this. I didn't even know this poem existed. I'm gonna only read a portion of it.

It was written by Rudyard Kipling, "The Jungle Book" author. He wrote this for his son, who was coming into manhood. And he says, "If you can keep, son, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you but make allowance for their doubting too, if you can wait and not be tired by waiting or be lied about and you don't deal in those lies, or be hated and don't give way to hating, and don't look too good or talk too wise, if you can dream, and not make dreams your master; if you can think and not make thoughts your aim; if you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat both imposters just the same; if you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue or walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch; if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, if all men count with you, but none too much..." Last one. "If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of a distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, and, which is more, you'll be a Man my son"!

This is my message to all of us. I'm asking us to mature from spiritual infancy to what mature Christians look like, and let's go change the world. So, we overlook, we forgive in advance, we give them the trifecta of pray, speak well of, do something good for them. And last one needs a series all by itself. This last one is the single, in my opinion, the single greatest key to happiness on Earth. And if that didn't lure you in, I don't know what I can say. It's the single greatest key to happiness on planet Earth, and that is you don't put it all in Earth. You have your sights set on heaven, and you remember the eternal reward.

When Jesus finished this Beatitude, here's what he said. Do you remember? "Blessed are those who falsely accuse you, persecute you, and insult you, for great is your reward in heaven". What was he trying to say? He's saying the successful people, they're not putting all the eggs, and Earth has to work out for me. They're satisfied to have a delayed gratification and to stand before God and hear his well-done over anything that Earth can say. And this was Paul's secret. Lean in just for a couple more minutes. I'm almost done. Paul has the moral authority to speak on this like no other in the Bible, other than Jesus. He was brutalized. He wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 11, if you want to go see it. It's a list. The 39 lashes, the stripes that Jesus got, that nearly killed Jesus, Paul did this five times. He was shipwrecked, snakebit, he was beaten with rods, he was imprisoned, he was stoned. And I'm not talking about this.

I'm talking about with rocks, everybody, okay. Somebody said, "Well, at least he got a little relief". No, no, no. He had a rough life, and he says things like this: "I am hard pressed on every side". Not messing with me. "I am perplexed, not despaired. I am persecuted, don't feel alone. I am struck down. I'm not just struck..." Boy, I'd like to know that secret. How can you have all of those bad things and all those nots at the same time? Here's how, watch, don't miss this. "For our life and momentary troubles are achieving for us an external glory that outweighs them all". Look at me. Is your Earth more important to you than your heaven? 'Cause if your Earth outweighs heaven, Earth will kick your tail. But if you have heaven in your sights, I mean, I want it to work out, but it doesn't have to, it doesn't have to 'cause I have my eyes fixed, Paul said, not on what is seen but what is unseen. This is all temporary anyway. I'm waiting for the "Well done".

So, I have a very intentional closing to this series, planned it weeks ago because my first thought when I was preparing for the persecuted message was how spoiled can you be? You American Christian in an air-conditioned room with the freedom to go to one of 70 different services, come on, Chris. You stood in front of your closet with choices and still said, "I don't have anything to wear". Like, when there are real persecuted people that I think need to be honored, that before us and even currently there are people today losing their lives to stand up in their faith. And I think it would be appropriate to end this message honoring the real persecuted, and that's the missionary and the martyr.

Can we put our hands together and honor? Yeah. Come on, really, let heaven hear you. Yeah, that's right. Thank you, thank you. So, I read some martyr, I have some martyr books in my library, and I just was trying to get in the spirit of it because I've been through tough things but nothing compared to. And I read the story of a guy named Jim Elliot, who was born in the 1920s. Lost his life in Ecuador trying to spread the gospel to a tribe of people in Ecuador. He and four of his buddies, five people in all were speared to death for their faith. A movie was written called "The End of the Spear," if you want to go watch the story of this hero of our faith. And Jim Elliot's wife, after he passed away, wrote his autobiography, obviously, for him. It included some of his quotes.

And I'll close with a Jim Elliot quote. He said this, he said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose". In other words, he said, "I will give my life to gain this eternal reward. I will give who I am". And I thought, that's the appropriate response. An eternal person doesn't even protect earth. We give earth. And I'm getting ready to lead us into legacy season, and we're going to do more serve projects, feed more people, have more Christmas presents, touch more single parents, we're gonna help more people who have not the ability to pay their bills. We're gonna do more than ever before in the spirit of this, right? And every time we turn loose a piece of Earth, we gain some heaven, everybody. We just get our eyes on heaven.

And I'm inviting you to join me in this legacy season to live out this fourth principle, that we don't live to protect my reputation, or the church, or anything we own. Let's give it all away. Let's lose, let's give what we cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose, and that's heaven, in Jesus's name. And everybody said, Bow your heads for prayer. So, let's make some choices right there where you're seated.

Lord, today we're gonna make a choice that we're gonna Beatitude type Christians. And we're going to allow you to transform our lives, God, so we can be that light and that salt that you called us to be. And I pray, God, Lord, this is not a skillset to be learned. This is a life that should be transformed by your presence. And God, I'm asking you to do that work, that maturing, deep work inside every one of us, in Jesus's name.

Heads bowed, your eyes are closed. In every location, campus pastors come join me on stage. Pastor Blake, come join me here on stage here at Grants Mill. And I'm gonna hand the service right over to them to close. But if you're far from God, you don't know God today, and you want to be transformed like KK was, I mean, even though you live in maybe hell, to have the peace that only God can bring, do you know you're only one heartfelt prayer away from that becoming a reality?

Like, this is not a religion to choose. This is a life that can be transformed by the power of God. His peace, his love, and eternity. And only our sin controlling our own life keeps us from it. And so, salvation is not about joining Highlands. It's the moment you let go, and you say, "Jesus, take my life. I'm giving my life to you". And if you'd like to do that, pray this prayer with me right there. Close your eyes, whisper it. Forget every person around you. Just say:

Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross and paying for my sin. Today, I receive this free gift, and I make you the Lord of my life. Come live inside of me and begin the work of change and transformation. I believe you're the Son of God. I believe you died, and you rose again, and today I put my faith in you. In your name I pray, amen and amen.

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