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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - A Matter of the Heart

Chris Hodges - A Matter of the Heart

Chris Hodges - A Matter of the Heart

C'mon, give God praise for that. C'mon, give God a great praise for that, everybody. All right. Well, happy anniversary, Highlands, and also welcome to week number one of a five-part series that we're calling "ER," and the ER does not stand for what you think it stands for. Let me get to that in just a second. But let me look straight into the camera and say hello to all of our campuses, our locations all across Alabama and into Columbus, Georgia, and today we're adding our second location in Georgia, everybody, that we're excited for you to celebrate.

So let's give our handclap today to the newest campus... w-w-wait. The newest campus at Church of the Highlands in Newnan, Georgia. C'mon, everybody. Yeah, that's awesome. So if you wanna know the story of this location, they've actually been with us for almost 9 years now, watching our... Summit Church watching our services. I've been preaching there for 9 years and their board got together and just said, "Look, would you just please adopt us, let us be a part of the Highlands family"? And we're so delighted to now call them Church of the Highlands, Newnan, Georgia, and we're so glad you're along for the ride. Of course, to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections, we're always delighted that you're with us as well, and for those watching online somewhere. Today we are beginning a brand new series called "Extraordinary Relationships," and the reason why we're calling it "Extraordinary" is because we're trying to bring everybody up to the place where God has for us in our lives and so this is kind of the season where we're talking about relationships a lot.

And before I dive into the Word, let me remind you that in the middle of this series that we also have our annual Marriage Conference, so if you're engaged or married we're inviting you to register for this conference and attend it. It's a Friday night spectacular experience and then afterwards we have this date night experience that you're not wanting to miss, and then it's about a half day on Saturday. And for some of you, because you're so new to our church, we would wanna let you know that there is a fee for this but if you don't have it, just let us know. We always build in scholarships and would love for those people to come anyway. We never want money to be the reason why you didn't attend something here at Church of the Highlands. So be sure to still register anyway. We'll be glad to help you out in that way. So we're calling this "Extraordinary Relationships".

We realize that relationships are very, very tough and, even in the last few years, for a lot of us, the pressures and the stress and the crisis of our world around us has taken its toll on relationships and many are in need of ER. You're in need of critical care. But the ER doesn't just stand for emergency room which is where a lot of us are right now. We believe it literally does stand for Extraordinary Relationships and, when I first brought this idea to our creative team, so that's the process we go through, I bring these sermon series ideas to a team and they help work it out and bring all the creative aspects to it. They all, actually almost to a person, said, "We need to name it something else other than 'Extraordinary.'" And I said, "Why"? And they said, "That's just too high of a bar. People aren't gonna be able to go there. They're not at that place anymore to call anything in their life extraordinary. They want to more like get it just a little above everybody else kind of survival".

And I thought, "No". I actually argued with my own team. I said, "No, that's the whole problem, is that we've actually lowered the bar in the expectation of what God can do in our lives". And the word "extraordinary" doesn't mean you're better than everybody else. It just means you're extra ordinary. Your option is just to be ordinary. And ordinary's not working. Can I hear a better "Amen," everybody? And I'm asking you to come to a place and it begins by faith in setting your own expectation of your faith to what God can do in your life. So, I want you to do that and here's our theme verse out of Romans chapter 12. It says: "Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that, actually, now you're fitting into that culture". You're looking like culture. You're ordinary like everyone else, "without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God".

And you let me take you on that journey, I promise you this will work. "You'll be changed," and what's how, "from the inside out". So that's not how you want it. You want it outside in. You are like, "Make her nice. Make him like show up". Like, you know, we want different things externally but they all happen first internally. "Readily recognize," the Bible says, "what he wants from you," God wants from you, "and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you," this is your option, "that will drag you down to its level of immaturity, God wants to bring out the best of you," so this is in your temperament, in your attitude, in your marriage, your communication, your conflict resolution, you're your intimacy. "God wants to bring the best out of you, developing well-formed maturity in all of us".

And this is God's plan. I just want you to her it and know that it's actually possible if you'll take the journey that God has for you. And I wanna begin a place since we kind of had this medical theme, this ER theme. I wanna begin with a medical kind of a thought that's actually more spiritual than it is physical. And that is just like in the natural, the thing that your whole life is centered around is your heart. So the condition of your heart's gonna determine the condition of your life and it's one of the few organs in your body that you absolutely cannot live without. So you can live without some other parts of your body, even some of your organs you can live without them, but you can't live without the heart. The heart stops, you're dead.

And so we have cardiovascular disease in the natural, still, by the way, is the number one killer in the world is cardiovascular disease. We also have a spiritual cardiovascular disease going on. In other words, a lot of what we don't like is coming out of the condition of our hearts, and I wanna talk about it a little bit in a message that I've entitled, "A Matter of the Heart". Now just to give you a little bit of a theological background and we're gonna dive kind of more deep into the Scriptures today so if you like it deep, you like a lot of, like, a more deeper teaching, you're gonna, I think you're gonna love today. Proverbs 4 says: "Above all else, you've got to guard your heart, for out of it flow the wellspring," or one translation says, "Out of your heart is flowing all the issues of your life".

So you don't realize that but it actually is. And that's why Jesus, when he came along and he taught, he was trying to get Christianity or religion or faith in God away from all things external. By the way, if you ever wanted a easy understanding of Old Testament versus New Testament, here is just one explanation, and that's the Old Testament was very external. So the laws were external, the obedience was external, and they never focused, really, on what was going on the inside of you. The New Testament comes along and says, "No, no, no, it's the inside that's determining the outside". So when Jesus said things like, he would say things like this: "You have heard it said, 'Do not commit adultery.'" So that's an external behavior that we wanna, you know, follow. He says, "But I tell you, if you have lust in your heart, you're already in the process of adultery".

Like, it's stemming from... your adultery's not happening because you're undisciplined. Your adultery's happening because you have lust going on inside of the heart. You take care of the heart, it'll take care of all of that. And he kept talking about things like this, even when he was asked about divorce and marriage and remarriage, Jesus addressed these, but notice again, the Pharisees came to Jesus. They were trying to trick him. They didn't have a pure motive. "They were trying to trap him with the question: 'Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?'" And then Jesus said, he'd refer to the Old Testament, "Haven't you read what the Scriptures say? They record that from the beginning 'God made them male and female.'"

And by the way, let me just note right there, I know the world's completely confused about whether there can be a male or a female or many more. God's not unclear. I just wanted to kind of point that out right there, okay. All right, "And he said, 'This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.' And since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together". And then they came back with a follow-up question. "Okay, that's fine, but then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away"? So if this is not what you wanted, why is it still permitted in the law? And watch what Jesus says, it's very interesting, and that is: "Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to the fact that it all really began with a hard heart, but it was not what God had originally intended".

So if any time we have something in our life that God didn't originally intend, you have two choices. You can just try to be either miserable and make yourself just try to do better or you can address the condition of your heart. And that's what God wants us to do. In fact, I wanna... here's where the deeper part comes. The heart issue is so huge that in the Old Testament, whenever they had the priest put on certain garments, one of the things that the priest would put on was called this breastpiece of decision, and I want you to see what it says. And by the way, you're thinking, "Well, man, that was a priest". No, no, no, in the New Testament we are a kingdom of priests, so this is for you and me today. Can I hear a better "Amen," everybody? Y'all out there?

Okay, now watch this. "Whenever a priest comes to God, enters into the Holy Place, he's already bearing names over the heart". You say, "Now, time out right there". I need to explain this to you. So every time you come to God, every one of you, when you come to God, you're bearing something that's been written on your life, all of us. Let me say it this way. We are all the sum total of everything that's happened to us up to this point. And all of that is in the heart. So that's why we can all see the same thing right now and all see it differently, because it's going through our eyes and our life is going through a filter of our experiences. I call it our pain, past, problems, and people, and we all have that, and so the Bible calls them names and they're written over your heart and watch this. "And the names over your heart are the breastpiece of decision". In other words, it says it this way: "You will always bear the means of making decisions by that which is written on your heart". So your decisions are coming from what's right there.

Now, we all have a set of good stuff and we all have a set of bad stuff. The question is what are you putting your life filter through? And if you're putting it through an unhealed, unforgiving, unrepentant, unredeemed heart, well then, you're saying, "Well, why do I keep acting like this? Why am I so mad? Why is this bothering me so much"? It's because you're putting it through a filter of things that have been written over your heart. And that's one of the most important steps in your spiritual journey is to let that heart get healed. So you can go to heaven without it getting healed, you're just gonna be miserable along the way. In fact, there's absolutely no way to improve your relationships, your marriage, your kids, your life, your addictions, your habits, your choices, without first addressing what's going on with the heart. Are you all following me, everybody?

And we all have it. We all have it, every single one of us. Let me tell you a story about my wife's dad, Billy Hornsby. Now he's in heaven now. Unfortunately, he died very young, 61 years old. He had a little melanoma tumor on the bottom of his foot, never exposed to the sun, and he had four doctors tell him it was nothing, don't worry about it until he was already, it was all throughout his body and once they discovered it, he lived another year and a half. Sixty-one years old he went to be with the Lord. He was my best friend in the whole wide world. We talked on the phone every day of our lives, every day without fail, every day for 27 years from the time I knew him and, in fact, I knew him before I knew my wife. Yeah, he was a missionary in Germany, was a pastor at Louisiana at first and when I was youth pastor we always did a bunch of missions trips.

Well, most of my trips were over to where he was in West Germany and we were very, very close and he was back home from one of those trips and he called me. He said, "Hey, I wanna take you out to Phil's Oyster Bar on Government Street in Baton Rouge". I'm like, "I am in. Sounds so great". And we got us a big old shrimp and oyster po' boy. Can I hear a good "Amen," everybody? It was just delicious and as I was chomping down on this wonderful seafood po' boy, he looked across the table and he said, "Have you considered my daughter, Tammy"? And I said, "I can't say that I have". And he said, "Well, I'd like you to take her out". And I always tell people, "Billy proposed to me right there at Phil's Oyster Boy". And so I took Tammy out and we developed a relationship and, of course, we got married and we miss Billy very, very much.

But when Billy tells the story that when he was in 8th grade, he was called on by the math teacher to do a problem on the board. You know how teachers will do that sometimes. They'll, like, put a problem on the chalkboard and, like, pick somebody out. They have to walk up and kind of do it in front of everybody. Well, it was his turn. And so this teacher put the problem on the chalkboard. He said, "Hey, Hornsby," and this was a kind of a tough math teacher. He also was the coach in the school, so he had two different jobs. He's kind of a tough male. "Hey, hey, Hornsby, come do this problem". Well, Billy was a genius. And when I say genius, like a real genius. Very, very smart. And as he walked out of his little desk and as he's walking up to the chalkboard, he goes ahead and he solves the math problem in his mind. So when he got up there to this board, he just drew a line, put the answer, turned around, and went back to his seat.

And the teacher said, "Hey, Hornsby, that's wrong". He goes, "No, it's not. It's right". He goes, "Well, I know the answer's right, but you didn't show your work". Didn't you hate that, everybody? I always hated that part. "You didn't show your work so it's wrong". He goes, "Well, it doesn't matter, I got the answer right," and he shouldn't have been that sassy to the teacher, but it made him so mad, and the teacher pointed his finger at Billy and says, "Hornsby, you'll never amount to anything". And that day, for whatever reason, that phrase got written over Billy's heart. So he kept going back physically to school but never went back mentally or emotionally, and started failing everything. And remember, he's a genius and he can't get along with anybody and he's going down.

So he was so desperate, knowing that he would never graduate, never have, that he actually snuck out of the house as a 15-year-old, imagine this, parents. Snuck out almost every night and played country music in bars and that's how he made his money as a 15-year-old, bumming rides on the street and just playing country music. He could play 300 songs, country music songs, without any notes. I mean he was a... again, he had a brilliant mind. He was a great musician as well. And so by age 17, he actually ended up getting his girlfriend since 13 pregnant. Her name was Charlene, my mother-in-law, and they got pregnant at 17 years old, unmarried, and by the way, that pregnancy was your first lady. It was Miss Tammy. And now we tell that, and Tammy says, "Tell them. Tell them this story to show the redemption of God in a person's life," c'mon, somebody, right?

And when they realized that they were pregnant, they went ahead and got married at 17 years old. In fact, he jokingly said later in his life, he goes, "Man, we knew each other for 4 years and got, we waited till 17 to get married so I just tell the kids they need to wait, you know"? So anyway, "We did, you know, so". No, you didn't, but anyway... but they still weren't Christians and he had no way of making money at all because, again, he's uneducated, didn't have a degree. Now he has a little family and he's, you know, now 18 years old so he did what most everybody does in Baton Rouge, and that is about a third of the population work at one of the chemical refineries along the Mississippi. So he went and got a job at Exxon and he had the lowest-paying job at Exxon. It wasn't enough.

And so he says, "Man, I've got to figure out how to get promoted into the system," so he asked if he could take a test and to receive a promotion and, remember, on his heart is "You'll never amount to anything". So when he filled it out, he knew he'd gotten the whole thing wrong, turned it in, and the examiner called him back that afternoon and said, "Mr. Hornsby, I need you to come in, and let's talk about this test". And Billy said, because he had written over his heart, "You'll never amount to anything," "Why make me come back just to tell me I've failed? Just tell me I've failed". And they said, "Sir, would you please just come in and let us talk to you about this"? And so he drove back to Exxon, went into the examiner's office, and the examiner said, "Mr. Hornsby, we've never had somebody score this high on this test". And he had no idea about the 8th grade story, only God could do this, and he said, "Hey, if you'll put your mind to it, you'll really amount to something some day". And the curse was reversed.

In that moment, watch this, don't miss this. That other name got erased, "You'll never amount to anything," to "You'll really amount to something". He would go on to plant churches all over Europe and he was one of the six founders of ARC that now has planted 1100 churches all across America. He was a genius in every way and one of the most beautiful people I know. But that's the power of a name written over your heart. Now, listen to me, you are operating, every one of you, myself included, we're operating out of something, good or bad, that has happened over us and it's written there, whether you know it or not. And for some of you, the name is an actual name of a person that you remember, it marked you, good or bad. It marked you. And then others of you, it's experiences that, good or bad, has marked you, and your life is going through this filter and what God wants you to do before we get into communication and conflict and our sexual intimacy and all the things that are related to making all things relationships work, you'd better start with what's going on here or nothing will work.

So I'll show you in another place in the Old Testament. One of my favorite stories that you probably have never heard about. In fact, the guy we're gonna talk about, you probably never heard his name. Now, his son is very famous. His son is Abraham. But the Bible says: "This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of three boys: Abram, Nahor, and Haran," or some say Haran. "And Haran," or Haran, "became the father of Lot. And while his father Terah was still alive, Haran," the baby in the family, is now dead, so we don't know how Haran died. All we do know is it was premature because Daddy's still alive, all right? So it can only be one of two things: either by disease or by accident, Haran's gone and it even notice, and it mentions where this happens. It happened in "Ur of the Chaldeans". Now, Ur is gonna represent the place that God does not want you to be but it's where you're stuck in.

That's why they call it "Urrgh," okay, so that's why it's called that, all right? So, just letting you know, that's all Hebrew, I'm sure, somewhere, anyway, all right. But all of a sudden, I want you to notice this event that takes place, and I am gonna infer something that may not be true, but I think it is. So you can spit this out if you don't like it. But Terah all of a sudden wakes up one day and decides, "I gotta get out of Ur, and I'm gonna go to this place, this new place," and it ends up telling us where that place is and it's gonna be Canaan which ends up being the Promised Land. Now, the only thing that's missing in this story that I am inferring that you don't have to agree with is that I believe God called him to it. I think God woke him up and said, "Take your son Abram, and the grandson Lot son of Haran, and your daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of Abram," and I need you to "together set out from Ur of the Chaldeans," and I need you to go, what was end up gonna be the Promised Land.

And I'm gonna make this statement and it might not be true but I think it is. That the original call wasn't on Abraham's life, it was on his daddy, and that all along it was, God was supposed to be the God of Terah, Abraham, and Isaac, not Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It's just my thought; you don't have to believe it. All I know is, is that happened and he was supposed to be the guy to go to Canaan, but then you get one of the most depressing verses in the Bible, because "when they came to Haran". What do you mean, "they came to Haran"? I thought he's dead? No, this is the name of a city that is between Ur and Promised Land. He had to pass through the name of a city called Haran that just so happened to be the same name as the dead baby boy and when he got there, he couldn't get over his pain, and he settled there. But that's not where he was supposed to go.

Remember, he's going to Canaan, but he doesn't go to Canaan. Terah lived 205 years and dies in Haran. And I've been doing this 40 years and I've watched people try to... I've tried to lead them out of their Ur to their Promised Land and they get to their pain and they never move beyond it. And they settle there. Is why? It's because you get stuck on a problem, a pain. For him, it was the death of a baby boy that probably was so traumatic for him, and rightfully so, but it made him stuck in a place where he never got to God's best and so he ended up the rest of his life ordinary when God had called him to something extraordinary. I don't know about you but I'm preaching just a little bit here in the 11:30 service. And by the way, the next verse is chapter 12, verse 1 where God told Abraham, "Hey, would you leave? Will you be the one? I need you to go to, if your daddy wouldn't do it, I need you to go".
And God... and you can go read it. It's the calling of Abraham. Why? 'Cause of a name, in his case it was Haran, and there's something in all of us. You think, "No, my Daddy was mean, my granddaddy was mean, my great-granddaddy was mean, we're just, I'm just mean, you know? It's not just, it's in the genetics". No, it's not, it's in the heart. It's in the heart. So I'll show you one more place. And I love studying this because it shows now how desperately God wants to write names, good names over your heart, but also how the devil wants to write bad names over your heart, and it's all throughout the Scriptures. I can show you many places. In fact, if you'll just recall, for those of you been in church pretty much every time God does something in a person's life, he changes their name. It happens all the time.

But I've actually written a book on the life of Daniel. It's one of my favorite Bible characters in the Bible. And if you don't know this story, this is a period of time where God just took his hands off of Israel and said, "Y'all rejected me enough". And because God moved his hand off their life, the Babylonians, which is modern-day Iraq, went in and ripped apart, besieged their city, Jerusalem, and took all the inhabitants of Jerusalem over to Iraq as slaves. It's called the Babylonian captivity, or the Babylonian exile. But watch what happens when they get there. The king ordered this devil of a guy named Ashpenaz, who was the chief of his court officials, "Hey, go pick out some of those Hebrews, some of those Israelites, from the royal family, nobility, and we're not gonna treat them like common slaves. We're gonna bring them into my court. They're gonna serve me. Find me some young men, which is by the way when most of our names get written, which is why you see the attack of the devil on our college campuses and among our college students".

And I'm telling you, there's an all-out assault right now against young people to indoctrinate them into something that is so far away from God and if we don't wake up, we're gonna miss the fact that they have names written over their heart that they will have to carry for the rest of their lives. Are you all following me, everybody? This is really happening. So find me some that "don't have any physical defect, that are handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, qualified to serve, and teach them," indoctrinate them into Babylonian culture, Babylonian language, Babylonian literature. Let's change them. Let's change them. And so he chose four: Daniel, and you don't even recognize these next three names: Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah. You don't recognize those because those are their Hebrew names. In fact, most of us know their new Babylonian names, and that's Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or if you're a VeggieTale person, Rack, Shack, and Benny, all right, everybody, you got it?

Okay. But what you don't know is what those names mean and I've done the work for you, 'cause Daniel's original Hebrew name meant "I'm gonna live by the judgment, statutes, the plan of God. God's right, not me. God is my judge". And it changed. His new Babylonian name was Belteshazzar which was a feminine name and it was, "Lady, protect the King". This is happening in society right now where they're saying, "No, no, no, that's not who you are. You're this, and they're...", it's a confused identity. And we have a generation that is confused in who they are and, by the way, the world's answer to that is gender-affirming care, they call it, which I think is ridiculous. In fact, we don't need to mutilate people's bodies. We need to tell them who God's made them to be, everybody. To Hananiah's name means "Yahweh is the... like, God is awesome. He's gracious, he's good".

To Shadrach, which means: you need to be afraid of God. He's mean. He's not for you, he's against you. You mess up one time, he'll make you a grease spot. And it's a distorted spirituality. And there are people all over... by the way, this is changing right before our eyes. There's more hunger for God right now in America than there has been in the last 20 or 30 years, and it's all been documented. There is something happening. But for 20 or 30 years, people have seen God as something, you don't wanna serve God. Your life will be reduced down to so much boredom. He's no fun, he's not, that's not, nothing good's there. That's a lie from the devil to distort your spirituality. Mishael's name, his original Hebrew name, means, "Who is what God is"? Like, there's an awe of who God is and to Meshach which means, "I'm despised, contemptible and humiliated," which means, really, it's a wounded emotion. By the way, this is what my name was translated to. When I was in junior high, I was told all grown up by my parents, "You're awesome, man, what God has made you, who is what God is"?

And then I got bullied and I'm telling you, my emotions were a wreck inside of my life and I started living out that name over my heart and doing things I didn't even wanna do just to try to get somebody around me to like me. And then finally, the name Azariah means "Yahweh has helped me". In fact, Yahweh means it's the God who prophesies to your future, is literally what it means, to the "Servant of Nebo". Now this one's the hardest to understand until you look up the word "Nebo," and the word "Nebo" means to prophesy. In other words, no, no, no, don't follow God's prophecy for your life. Follow the devil's script. He has a new script for you and it's a redirected purpose.

So let me say it this way: a lot of people now have a name written over their heart and it's the plan you've chosen for your life or the plan you ended up living for your life that you know wasn't the plan that you were supposed to live for your life. And for some of you, say, "Well, P.C., it's too late. I'm already living it. I'm already married to 'em. I've already had this, I've had that, I've done this, I've done that," as if to say, "And there's no way out of this destination that I have chosen or I ended up in," to which you would need to know that God has this supernatural ability to turn everything around for the good to those who love him or are called according to his purpose. That while, yes, it is a long way from Birmingham to Atlanta when you go through Little Rock, Arkansas, but you can still get there from there. And while your life may have taken a turn in a direction that God never intended, the lie that is written on some of your hearts is, "Yeah, but I'm already way over here". And God says, "No, we can still... the last chapter that I've written for your life still fits".

Now, I'd love at this point to say, "And so just lift your hands and I'll pray for you, and you'll immediately be healed right now and your heart will never be the same, and we're gonna, you know, by the Spirit of God your... that name's gonna be written off your heart and we're gonna write some new..." That just, I'd love to say that and from time to time God does do that, but it's very rare. It's a process, and I'm inviting you into it. I'm inviting you into a process, a journey, that I would love to be the tour guide for. I'm not the answer but I know who is. And I'd love to take you on this journey to letting God do a work in your heart, to the point where you'll say, "I used to be, this used to make me so mad and it just doesn't anymore. I just could never stop clicking and now it's just like I don't even want that anymore. I used to be the worst communicator and nobody in my family really respected me and now I have the admiration of my whole family".

What happened? A heart change. A name change. And your identity and your spirituality and your wounds and your future, the wrong things can be erased and new ones can be written on. You say, "P.C., how"? Well, if you go back to those four names, they all really give you the prescription as well. Now, we need to do what Daniel really means and that is I'm gonna let the One who designed me define me. So I'm just gonna say God's right and I'm not, and I'm not gonna be a person that's gonna live by my emotions and my feelings. I'm gonna live, I'm gonna be a person who lives according to the Word of God. Why? Because God created me. Why would I step away from the manufacturer's instructions when he's the one who made who I am?

And that's why the Psalmist David says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb," which is, by the way, why we are pro life here at Church of the Highlands, because God had his hand on your life when you were still in your mother's womb. You're not an embryo, you're a person, everybody. You're a person. "And I'm fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, and I know it. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body," and while I was still in my mother's womb, you put days and a purpose and a plan. "They were all written in your book before one of them ever came to be".

That God is not something to be afraid of, number two. If you wanna take this heart journey, you need to see God for who he really is, that he loves you. I know for some of you, can't believe this 'cause you really never had somebody love you like God does. But he knows what you did last night. He knows what you thought last night, "and his thoughts are still precious when he thinks about you". "Are you sure"? Oh yeah. Does he approve? No, he doesn't approve, but he loves you. He's not irritated, he's not frustrated, because he still sees who you can be. He doesn't judge you for what you've done. He sees you for who you can become and that'll never change.

The third step in the journey if you're willing to take it, first time I've live according to what God says, he's my judge. I'm gonna see God the right way. And thirdly, I have to allow God to do it. So let me say it this way: God sees how your heart can be healed and how the names can be erased and rewritten, but it'll never happen, never, until you say, "Okay, I'm taking the mask off. Search me, know me. Know my heart, Lord. Look, look, look, look, look, see it? Yeah, and I need you, God, to know my thoughts, know my offensive ways". You have to give God permission and for most of us that happens in the Small Group context where you find out everybody else in there is going through the same thing.

And then you can invite God into your future, and say, "Okay, from this day forward, I'm gonna lead my life for you". All of these are found in Psalm 139. I literally just outlined one portion of Scripture. I didn't make these up. This is in God's Word. And here's the last verse of Psalm 139: "Now lead me in a path of everlasting life". And that's not talking about heaven. That's talking about right now. Would you look at me for a second? Joy, fulfillment, life, has a path. It's a pathway. And God's inviting you into it. And you'll love who you'll become if you'll allow God to touch your heart, amen?

So God, I hope, I did my best to help us all see that there's stuff there. There's stuff in my heart that I've allowed things to be written. But, God, today we're taking a step and a journey and a belief and a faith that says, "God, you're gonna heal us". And I'm asking, Lord God, that you make our hearts enlightened, focused, clear, healed so, God, give people courage as we all take our spiritual steps towards you. Let this be the year, God, where we do live extraordinary lives.

Heads bowed, eyes closed, I never close a service, ever, haven't done it for 22 years, without giving people a chance to make a decision for Jesus. So you say, "How do I become a Christian"? You have to decide, and when you decide, you tell him. That's why the Bible says: "If you'll confess with your mouth, 'Jesus from this day forward is gonna be my Lord,' and then you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, he'll save you". Saving you means he forgives all of your sins, past, present, future. He makes a home for you in heaven, and he puts his spirit inside of you to live a completely different life. If that's what you want, or if that's what you want again because you walked away from God, campus pastors come join me, then pray this prayer right there where you're seated. Say:

Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins. Today I repent. I repent. I turn my life around and I am now gonna follow you. Be the Lord of my life. I'm gonna live my life for you, your way, 'cause I trust you and I love you, so forgive me, change me. Holy Spirit, come live inside of me, and make me the person you've always wanted me to be. You're the Son of God who rose from the dead and today I put my faith in you, in your name I pray, amen.

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