Chris Hodges - This is My Story
Come on, give Jesus all the praise, everybody. Come on, give God a great praise, everybody, awesome. What a great day. And thank you for your participation in that, if you attended one of the outreach events. All of you gave toward it, so you're a part of it, if you don't even know it. So, thank you for your generosity. I had such an amazing time myself, just going to different events. In fact there was a church that's probably not 5 miles from where you are right now that we completely renovated their main auditorium, rebuilt their stage, put new carpet, and just it was so much fun to be a part of showing the love of Jesus in practical ways. In fact, I got the number late last night that we served over 113,000 different people across the state of Alabama and into Georgia. I think just yesterday 69,900 meals were served just yesterday. And you ready for this?
Come on, give the best handclap ever, 220 people gave their life to Jesus yesterday. Come on, give God a great praise. That's awesome. I know. That's exactly why we do that. And so I think you have this card. If not, you can grab one on your way out. For a lot of you guys, you think, "Okay, I've gotta wait another year to be a part of that"? No, you actually don't. For some of you, we believe that, you know, you found what you love to do. You can do this in a variety of different ways. We have First Saturday Serve every single month. You can be a part of one of our outreach teams. So, at every campus, we have outreach directors, outreach coordinators. And so you can join the outreach team serving in your local area around your campus. We have outreach small groups that you can either attend or lead. We'll be starting a bunch more of those here in the fall.
So, this card will help you get connected to all of that, and it doesn't sign you up for it. It just gives you the information. So, if you're just even remotely interested in being a part of one of those groups, grab one of these cards on your way out. Make sure one of our team members have it, and then we'll answer your questions, contact you, and make sure you know what it's all about, and we would love for you to be a part of that on an ongoing basis in our everyday life. I think more than anything else, can we just be people who serve every opportunity we get? Because we believe this, and this was my thesis last week. I just want to read it again just because I love this sentence so much, and that is we want our life to be so attractive that people who know us but don't know God will want to know God because they know us. We want to have attractional evangelism.
And so last week I talked to us about this. Why are we talking about it? In fact, last time I did little miniseries on sharing our faith was 5 years ago, but it really ought to be something we do several times a year, because this is what's on the heart of the One that we serve. So, I said this last week. I'll just say it again. If Jesus had the chance to give people that already know him a message, I am 100% sure this is what he would say, and that is once you have been found, he wants you to join the search committee. He wants you to be in tune with him, and that is that he's looking for lost people. He's distracted by that which is lost. You've been around here any amount of time, or if you've been to our membership class, you've heard me tell the story of losing one of my five kids. It was my youngest, Joseph, who's on the autism spectrum. Joseph was... we were on vacation with several families, and Joseph's gone.
And in that moment, while we were looking for Joseph, I couldn't think of anything else but finding him. So, lunch wasn't important. What we were doing next wasn't important. In fact, even my other four kids weren't important. I would've never stopped and said, "Well, you know what? I have four others. You know, that's okay, 80% ain't bad". You know, I never thought that. In fact, I didn't really think about them much at all. All I could do was find Joseph. You are always distracted by that which is lost, always. And you need to know that the one that you serve is distracted by that which is lost.
So, I hope this doesn't hurt your feelings, but this is an absolute fact, and that is he looked down from heaven and saw this beautiful group of people worshiping him, and then his eyes went right back to the world that's lost. He just kind of took a peek, and like, "Oh, that's nice". 'Cause he's distracted by that which is lost. In fact, go read Luke chapter 15. Now, we're not studying it today, but Jesus tells three stories in one chapter, and the moral of all three stories: lost sheep, lost coin, lost son. And that is that he will leave the found things to go find the lost thing. If that is what our God is all about, it has to be what we're all about, too. You just gotta hear that. And I know you know that. We are a church built on this principle, but it's my job to remind us and to train us, and I've gotta train you today in a unique way, very, very simple message, but very, very important message.
So, this is kind of the part 2 of this short little miniseries. Last week, I talked about being salt and light. Today I've entitled this message, "This Is My Story". This is my story. It comes from this passage of Scripture out of 1 Peter chapter 2. And it says, "But you are the ones chosen by God," and that's important for you to hear, if you ever thought, well, that's the preacher's job, or that's the church's job. No, "You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the calling of priestly work". So, one verse actually says there are no longer some people priests. If you're a Christian, we are a kingdom of priests. It's all of our jobs to do ministry, "chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out on his behalf". 2 Corinthians says that we are his ambassadors. We are as though he was making his appeal to planet Earth through us. What are we speaking out about? To tell others, I love this, of the night-and-day difference he made in us.
Now this dispels one of the myths about evangelism, that basically evangelists just go around telling people how bad they are, 'cause you probably think about the person who is at one of the sporting events with a megaphone thing and just yelling at people, "You're going to hell"! Well, that's not an evangelist. That's not an evangelist, everybody. No, no, no. An evangelist tells what happened inside of them, not what's wrong with everybody else. So, tell the night-and-day difference he made for me, "from nothing to something," I love this, "from rejected to accepted". In fact, another verse that I deeply love is actually the last words out of Jesus's mouth on planet Earth. The last thing he ever said is that "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you". That's your salvation experience and your baptism in the Holy Spirit experience, and the result is, he wasn't doing that so you could have fun, just love power. No, no, no. "So you can be my..." Say this word out loud. "You will be my witnesses".
Now, I love that word, because everybody knows that's ever seen a courtroom scene, what a witness is. There's always these different players in the courtroom scene. You've got the judge. He didn't call you to be the judge. You've got the jury. Didn't call you to be the jury. There's a prosecutor. You are certainly not supposed to be the prosecutor. We're not even called to be the defense. We're called to get on that witness stand and just tell our side of the story, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God, to be a witness. The witness just says, "I don't know, this is just what happened to me". Reminds me of that story where Jesus healed the blind guy, and the Pharisees took him into just this, you know, brought him into this place where they could question him, because they really were mad that he got healed. And they said, "Is he really the Son of God? We need to know". And I love the blind guy's response. "I don't know. All I know is once I was blind, and now I see".
Listen to me, look at me. You don't have to know all the answers either. All you have to know is "I don't know. I really don't know the answer to that question. All I know is once I was blind, and now I see. God changed my life, a night-and-day difference he's made in my life. I'm a witness". So, I want to share with you three things, really, to get to the last one, 'cause the last one's critical, and I really haven't shared this with you in a very, very long time, but honestly because how culture's changing, you really need to know this third one. But let me just help you. This is just a playbook. I'm going to share with you in the next few minutes, basically, the playbook of how we do this in three different ways. And the first is share the hope you have. Share the hope you have. And what I mean by that is, can you just tell them, "Look, I go through the same things you go through, but I'm just going through it differently, because I have hope".
One of my favorite lines to say to people is, "I just wish you had my peace. Yeah, I'm going through that, too. I saw that news, I saw that news story, too, but I just wish you had my peace. I wish you had what I have". This is what 1 Peter says. I read this to you at the end of last week's message. Let me just read it to you again. "But in your hearts..." So, here's your job, church. "...in your hearts revere Christ as Lord". In other words, have it settled in your own life, he's my Savior. I love him. He's changed my life. And worship, love and worship God and "Always be prepared to give an answer..." Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. "There's the problem, PC. I don't know the answers". But it doesn't say the answer to the question they asked. It says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have".
Why do you have so much hope? 'Cause I, all the time, people still ask me, and I've been doing this for nearly 40 years now, ministry, and I got degrees, and I've studied the Bible, and people still stump me, too, by the way. I'll say to them, you know, I don't know. I'll try to find out for you. But I'll tell you this, I'm not the same person. God's changed my life. And really, you can focus on three things. This is so simple, so basic, but I would just want you to have this. Very simple, you start with how much I needed Christ. So, let me tell you where I was before Jesus. In my case, I was a 15-year-old in trouble with the law. I won't get into the story, but we destroyed some property, and we got caught. All right?
We were picking on this one guy. Well, I'll tell you, we egged his house, okay? And so did lots, lots, it was not good, and there's a bunch of us, and we made a mess and caused several thousand dollars' worth of damage. And a neighbor across the street, writing down all the license plate number. God bless them. And I spent the night with my best friend, who I was hanging out with at the time. And my dad called the next morning. Help me, Lord Jesus. He said, "Son, come home". And I knew he knew. He didn't tell me he knew. But how many of y'all know dad? He knew, and I just was so nervous, and I just was in a bad place, and God actually used, like he does in a lot of cases, tragedy to get our attention. But I was in a bad place, and I got depressed, and I was in trouble, and I was confused by my friends, because they're the ones who got me in trouble, and my life was about as low as a 15-year-old's life could be.
So, you start with, "Let me tell you where I was before". And then I think it's important to say, "Let me tell you what it looked like when I committed my life". 'Cause I think people have the wrong idea of what that moment looks like, 'cause I think they think you have to join the church, that you have to pay something, that you have to get your act together. A lot of people think they have to be better before they can belong, but you have to belong so you can get better, everybody. It's actually opposite, so they have all these barriers that you have to dispel. So, how did you commit your life to Christ? Of course, y'all know my story. I led myself to the Lord in my bedroom by myself, and it is when I realized that being a Christian had nothing to do with church, or religion, or baptism, or attendance, or giving, or serving. It was relational. I honestly had no idea that Christianity was relational.
And when I read the verse, it's kind of funny 'cause I was confused trying to find God, and I'd already gone through the motions at my church where they said, "Pray this prayer," and I repeated after them. I did everything they told me, and then I found this verse that says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' is going to enter the kingdom of heaven". Well, that was a problem, 'cause that was my plan. Come on, somebody, you know? And that's what they told me to say. Now, Jesus is saying, "No, you can call me Lord and not make it into the club". And then it goes on to say, "Because I never knew you. I was looking for relationship, not some recited prayer. I was looking for something much more real than that". And it was a moment for me. It changed my life, which is why today I emphasize the fact that Christianity is relational. It's not religious.
And then finally, the difference that Christ has made in my life. And you guys have heard me tell this story before of this guy that I was on the plane with, who had just buried his best friend. He's literally bawling, crying, sitting next to me on this airplane, and just I mean literally where the whole plane can hear it, just, "Oh"! And I told him I was a pastor, and I had my arm around him, and I'm just like, his name was Billy, and I said, "Billy, man, it's gonna be all right". And I'm trying to think of something to say. I was kind of going through the files just trying to find something. I said, "Brother, it's gonna be all right". And I thought of a verse. And I said, "Well, Billy, the Bible says..." He goes, "No, no, no, don't go there". I said, "Why not"? He goes, "I'm Jewish". I said, "Jesus was Jesus". He goes, "All right, go ahead". That happened just like that. I just want you to know that. I am not even embellishing that a little bit, all right? Literally. And then I said, "Well, the Bible says, the Bible says that Christians grieve, but it just doesn't look like that".
I'm talking about the difference Christ has made in my life. I cry, too, but not like that, because I get to see him again. See, the reason why you're really, really crying is you never get to see him again, but I get to see him again. And so I read the verse that's in 1 Thessalonians. "We grieve, but not like the rest of men who have no hope". So, I quoted that verse to him, and he says, "Well, how do you get the hope"? You know, he put that ball on the tee. If you can't hit that, you can't play. You know what I'm saying? I mean, it's right there. And so I explained to him the hope, the difference. So, we bury, I've buried people, too. I just don't have to cry like that. And when you start to share the difference Christ has made in my life, look, I'm not perfect. I'm just forgiven.
Come on, somebody. I don't have my act together, not much better than most of you, but listen to me. I don't have guilt, or shame, or fear, or worry. I get heaven instead, you know, and just the difference Jesus has made in my life. And I want you guys, you don't have to have all the answers. Just share the hope that you have in Christ. And everybody said a good amen. That's the first one. Now here's the second one, and we've been running this play for a long time. It's not quite as effective as it used to be, I'll go ahead and admit to you, but it's still as effective with about half of the population here in the South, a lot less in the North and other parts of America, but that is also that we can share our church. We always decided to be a church designed where you can bring your friends to church, and actually feel comfortable about it. You're not going to be worried about we're gonna do something weird, or ask them for money, or do something that embarrasses you, but we also say that you can find somebody that's far from God, and we tell you that two out of the 52, you need to have somebody sitting next to you in church. And I just want to say that again.
We've been, the past two years, we've all been trying to really quarantine ourselves, and we've been distancing ourselves, socially distancing ourselves from people. And I'm calling us back to, hey, let's pick, not every Sunday, let's pick the appropriate time and invite somebody to church. And by the way, I am speaking right now as you're listening to this message in the 9:45 here in Birmingham. We're in Alabama. It's 10:45 service in the Columbus campus. This is our most popular service, by far, and I'm just gonna ask, if you've been coming for a long time, and you can attend a different service, we're gonna need you to over the next few months, when school gets back. Just mark my words. It's gonna be very, very full, and we're going to do message series, and we're gonna do some series that makes it where lost people are gonna want to come. We're going to encourage you to do the same. We're going to be praying for people.
But listen to me. I need some of you in the 9:45 to make some room, okay? Not everybody. If this is the only one you can come to, pick the service that works for you. But if the 8 o'clock, or the 11:30, or the 4:30 works for you, we're gonna need some space in the next, 'cause this is important. This is important. And then somebody comes along and says, "Well, that's just the problem. The church is too big". The church is never too big as long as heaven and hell are realities. We have no choice. Come on, somebody. We're not doing this to get bigger. No, Jesus said, "Go out into the country and urge anyone you can find to come in, so that my house will be full".
So, how do we do it? This is the play we've been running forever. We start prayer. And I want to encourage you, if you haven't done this in a while, I'm calling you to it again, to have people that are far from God, that you're currently praying for. I recommend somewhere between 3 and 12. And we're gonna give you a little card here in the next few weeks, so you can actually write them down on a little business-size card, keep it in your pocket, just for you to see, in fact, next month, I'm even going to teach you how to pray for people that are far from God, according to the Bible. We're gonna have beginning in 3 weeks, 21 days of prayer, where we'll pray every single day, and the major focus of our prayer time isn't gonna be us. We're gonna pray for us, but we're gonna pray for the world. We're gonna pray for the ones that God loves. We're gonna pray for those that are far from God, those who do not know the Lord. We're gonna pray for them.
So, I just want to call you to it. Go ahead and begin to make plans to attend the 21 days of prayer. Second is, is that we add value to them. So, people do not care what you know until they know that you care. This is one of the misses with Christianity. It's like we're saying just come get this. Come to us. Come take what we have. No, no, no. We first, that's what yesterday was all about. We serve people first. We find out what their needs are, and we add value to them. Now, we are introducing a new tool in the fall semester of small groups that some of you are gonna want to do. And it's a set of videos, leadership videos, nothing Christian about them. They're just great leadership videos taught by John Maxwell, my mentor. Now, he is the greatest evangelist I've ever met in my life. It's called, "Beyond Success".
And these are short, like 10-minute videos that teach attitude, relationships, leadership, equipping, communication, and it just trains people, and these are being used currently in hundreds of thousands of small groups, and it's the same thing that John does when he goes to businesses and great corporations. He trains in leadership. And almost every one of the places where he trains in leadership, every company, I mean great companies. If I name the names, you would recognize the names of these companies. He'll ask the CEO, "Would you mind if I had a bonus voluntary session where I share my faith? Because that's where I got all my leadership principles from".
So, he's actually put this in video form now, that you can just play for people. And he does the same thing after the last leadership session. So, we've been adding value to people, helping them become successful. John will say on the video, "It's over, we finished the lessons; but if you'd like to come back next week for a bonus week, I'm going to share my faith". And he shares his faith on video. Statistically, 90%, both in the companies where he goes and does this, and on these videos, 90% come back and more than 50% of the 90% that come back will receive Jesus in these environments. And so he shares the pictures of God, where most people will, the reason why they don't choose God is because they have the wrong picture of God. And so we're gonna make that tool available to you. And some of you need to use that as your small group this fall. It's going to be spectacular.
Beyond success, small groups. Stay tuned. I'll give you more. But there's all kind of opportunities where we add value to them. Like I said, in the First Saturday Serves, all the different places we add value to people first. And then finally, you know this, and then you invite them. You look for an opportunity to invite them to church. And I'm not asking you to do this every Sunday. And I will tell you when the best series are. But just listen to me. Your favorite Sunday ever in the history of the church is gonna be the Sunday where your friend is sitting next to you. And when I say every head bowed, every eye closed, you're not gonna do it. You're gonna bow your head and keep one eye open and see what they do. You're just gonna, And when their hand goes up, and they receive Jesus, you're gonna say that was the best service you ever attended in your life. And it's true.
So, we're gonna share the hope we have. We're gonna share our church. But this is the one you have to have, and it's becoming increasingly important, because now, even in the South, the newest studies say that more than 60% of the population are never gonna dawn the doors. So, we still have 40% that you can invite. They'll say yes. And just like half of those are gonna receive Jesus. It'll happen every time. But we have a growing number of people, it's 80% in other parts of America, never in their life, ever, under no circumstances, you can't put together a program that will cause them to come to church. And so it's just the church today is just gonna have to learn how to share it themselves. So, I used to could tell you, hey, just get your friends here. I used to say, "You do what I can't do, and I'll do what you can't do; and what I can't do is know your friends; and what you can't do is explain this in a way where your friends want it".
Well, that's not an option anymore. You're gonna have to learn how to explain it. And it's my job, if I truly care about people, is I'm gonna have to teach you. And the problem is we've made it more difficult, and I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna share with you in 4 minutes that's how easy sharing Christ actually is. It comes in three ways, three things you need to understand. The first thing you need to understand, and they need to understand, is there's a problem, and the problem is sin, and the problem is everybody has that problem, "For all have sinned, and all fall short of the glory of God". What that literally means is, because of our sin, God can't even let us in his presence, even if he wanted to, 'cause sin in his presence cannot mingle, it can't happen. And what most people don't know, 'cause obviously you think, then, how do we get rid of it?
This is where people don't know this answer, and I'm gonna give it to you: that the wage, or the penalty, or the payment of sin, there's only one, and that's death. So forgiveness doesn't take care of it, baptism doesn't take care of it, memorizing your Bible doesn't take care of it, perfect church attendance, serving at Serve Day. None of that takes care of sin. There's only one payment of sin is this: so, if there's a sin, there has to be a death. And that's what people don't understand. The wage of sin is death, but here's the good news: the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. So, the way I say it is hell's not a place people, God sends people that he's mad at. Hell's the place where people are paying for their sins. But Jesus stepped in to the courtroom of your life, where you were convicted of your crimes. And he said, "They deserve to go to jail, but I'll do it. I'll die in their place".
And that is the solution. And that's why only he is qualified. The Bible says in Romans chapter 5, "God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were sinners..." So, we committed the crimes. We owe. And a simpler way to understand it, it's that moment where you were at a restaurant. You just spent hundreds of dollars in food, and the waiter says, "Hey, somebody paid for your meal". Well, you're the one who ate it, but they paid for it. It's a free gift, and Jesus stepped in and died for us, and no one else did, and no one else has, 'cause no one else has lived a sinless life which qualifies him to be that sin payment. Jesus said, "So, I am the way, the truth, the life, and you can't get to God any other way. No man comes to the Father except through me".
Acts says it this way: "Salvation is found in no one else, because there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved". So, we have a problem, sin. We have a solution, Jesus. So, then the last part of it is, then do something. Make your decision. So, you can pay for it yourself, or you can respond. And some people, this is important, because some people don't know how to respond. So, now it all kind of makes sense, and it may be making sense to you for the first time. So, the obvious thing, Christians, "Then what do I have to do? Do I have to sign something? Do I have to attend something"? No, no, no. The Bible says, "To all who believed..." That's the heart: belief. "...and accept him..." that means invited him into your life", he gave the right to be children of God".
Romans says it this way, and you see it on our screens every Sunday at the end of the service. "If you confess with your mouth," just say it, it's like a vow ceremony at a wedding. You have to say it. "I take you. I take you to be my wife". "I take you to be my Lord". So, if you confess with your mouth, but it has to happen inside the heart too, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you're saved. "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified. It's with your mouth that you confess and you're saved".
So, that's the response. And he's doing that with somebody right now. There's never been a service in the history of our church for 21 years, every Sunday, every service, where somebody says, "Oh, well then I want that". Because here's what he does. Last verse, he's doing it right now, and it may be in you. He has every power to bust your life door down, and he doesn't do it, he just, just knocks. "Behold, I stand at the door, and I knock; and if anybody would just hear my voice, open that door, I will come in". He goes on to say, and have relationship with him.
So, I want you to bow your heads right here for prayer, because perhaps that's you. And I'm gonna invite our campus pastors to come on stage right now. Come on, we're gonna share our hope. We're gonna share our church. And let's share Christ. And if you're here today, and you're not a Christian, or maybe you once were, and you walked away from God, or maybe like me, you've been in church your whole life, and you just really never understood the relational side of it all, and you're ready to give Jesus your life. Say, "PC, how do I know"?
Is he knocking? Is he knocking? And if he is, I'm begging you, I plead with you, open the door. Let him in. Make him the Lord of your life. Now, we're not gonna have you stand up, come down to the front. We're gonna let you make that decision first right there where you're seated. Baptism is where you go public. But I think it begins privately, you and God. But I think you need to let him know. And at all of our locations, campus pastors, you can join me right here. That's you, and you're ready to give Jesus your life, without hesitation, lift your hand as high as you can right now and say, "Count me in, count me in". Lift it high, lift it high. Come on, Pastor Blake.