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Chris Hodges - The Lamb

Chris Hodges - The Lamb
TOPICS: Sacrifices

Awesome, awesome. Well, we are in week number 4 of a series that we're calling "Jesus Is". We're simply answering the question, "Who is he"? and we've been using the different names or definitions that the Bible uses to describe Jesus and I'm excited about today's description of who he is and we'll get to that in just a minute. But I do wanna say that today we're also celebrating Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered into the City of Jerusalem. Of course, on the Sunday, it was a big party and they had palm branches and it would be like a big parade and everybody was excited to see him. And then, throughout the week, a different turn of events, of course, what happened. And this Friday would be Good Friday. It's good for us, bad for him. That was the day he would go to the cross. Then we'll begin our Easter celebration.

So we'll have a special Good Friday celebration but I will tell you it's the same music and message that we will have at Easter this year, but we'd love for you to join us if you can at one of our locations. You can go to your particular campus and find out the different service times, but Easter for us begins on Friday. We'll also... are adding services on Saturday and then, of course, we'll have services all day Sunday as well. Again, go to your campus page on the website to find out the service times at your location. Most every campus is adding services. We normally have about 75 services on a weekend. I think we have over 100 because we, historically, have more than 20,000 people visit our church for the first time at Easter. To God be the glory for that.

And then we also have a lot of people that come to faith in Jesus. In fact, last year, over 6000 people gave their life to Jesus, c'mon, last year, at Easter. Thank God for that. I do want you guys to prepare yourself for this great celebration. Find your service time. You might wanna think about if you're in a service that is historically full already, without an Easter, you might wanna find a different service time where there's a little bit more room and make room for those that are new in our house. We want you to come be a part of this. Also, we'd encourage you maybe to invite someone. I wanna say to you, I don't know if you realize this or not, but there is really statistical revival taking place in America. Studies are showing that people's hunger for God in America is the strongest it's been in 50 years. Can we thank God for that? I know, pretty cool.

So recent study of Americans said 44% of all Americans say they need God in their life right now, and they're desperate for God and, of course, Easter also gives you another opportunity that you're probably not aware of. There are 52 Sundays a year. It is the best chance to get a Yes is on Easter. So 84% of all Americans will say Yes to an Easter invitation when they might say No to the other 51 Sundays. So it's a great opportunity and I know that kind of makes you nervous a little bit, about having someone far from God or someone who's not in church to sit with you, but I promise you it'll make Easter very, very memorable for you and so you might wanna consider if you're ever gonna invite someone, this might be a great time. We've got great music and a message prepared for you that I believe is gonna be fit for a risen king, for a celebration, but also a great opportunity for people that are far from God.

Today I'm gonna talk to you about Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Lamb. And that's a strange term if you don't have any Christian or Jewish context. Why in the world would they call Jesus a Lamb, the Lamb of God? In fact, we sang about it. It was in our songs today, and you might not know the history. I'm gonna do the very best I can to explain the history of this but this is a phrase that is used over 100 times: 104 times in Scripture it describes Jesus as the Lamb. By the way, over 25% of those 104 occurrences are in the book of Revelation. So this is how heaven describes Jesus is as the Lamb of God. I'll show you one instance. This is actually at the beginning of Jesus's ministry in John chapter 1, Jesus is actually beginning his ministry by being water baptized. By the way, today that's available for you. Jesus set the example for water baptism by being baptized himself, and that's available to you today. But it says: "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and world!'" You say, "Chris, where does that phrase come from"?

Well, I actually have to take you back about 1800 years before Christ, okay? So now we're in the book of Genesis and Abraham had a grandson named Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons, and one of his sons, he showed a lot of favoritism to. He liked him better than his other sons and he made him this very special coat of many colors. You might know that story from Sunday school or seeing the movies, but Joseph was shown all this favoritism, made the brothers pretty mad, and so they sold his brother into slavery. I wouldn't recommend you doing that to your siblings, but anyway, he sold his brother into slavery. Several different events take place and, basically, Joseph ends up in Egypt, in prison, garners favor with the Pharaoh. Long story short, ends up as second in command of Egypt when a famine hit the land and forced now his family to come to Egypt.

Now, they don't know Joseph's in Egypt. But they go to Egypt to buy grain and their brother that they sold into slavery is in charge of the whole process. They reconcile and end up moving the whole family from Israel to Egypt because of the famine. You have to fast forward now, 400 years, and that small family has now multiplied into, scholars estimate, close to 4 million Hebrews or Israelites are in Egypt now and everything they did succeeded. So their crops succeeded, their animals succeeded, their children were healthy, they had lots of children. And so this, basically, intimidated the Egyptians because they were afraid that these Hebrews living in Egypt were gonna become more powerful than the Egyptians themselves, so they turned them all into slaves. So now they are in slavery, and 400 years later, there are 4 million slaves, by which, by the way, they were making bricks with mud and creating some of the wonders of the world like the pyramids and other artifacts like that because the Jewish people, again, had so much blessing on their life.

And so, God was gonna raise up a deliverer and he had this little baby named Moses. Y'all know the story. And his mother hid him in a basket, covered it with pitch and tar so it would float, sent it down the Nile River and, lo and behold, Pharaoh's sister finds the basket, takes Moses as her own child, raises him as an Egyptian. He thinks he is Egyptian and then one day realizes he's Hebrew which gives him great empathy for his people who are in slavery, and he's determined now to go against Pharaoh and to get his fellow countrymen and women out of Egypt. And this creates contention. He ends up killing a guy, lots of bad things happen. Pharaoh punishes him by sending him to the back side of the desert at 40 years old, and he ends up in a little city named Midian, gets married, settles down, thinks everything's gonna be just fine.

And then at 80 years old, 40 years later, he's just back there minding his own business, a bush starts to burn but it doesn't consume and a voice comes out of it. The bush talks, everybody, all right, y'all listening to me? Some people do drugs. I recommend you read the Bible, everybody. It's so much better, so much more interesting, okay? Don't do that. The Bible has lots of good drama in it and there's this talking bush going on and Moses walks up to it and has a conversation with the talking bush. Of course, you know it's God saying, "I've raised you up to be a deliverer," and Moses says, "No, you're not". And he actually had a speech impediment. He goes, "I can give you a lot of reasons why I'm the wrong guy. I've murdered people, I've done bad things, and I have all this physical disability. You picked the wrong guy".

And can I pause right here and remind you God historically chooses people who has a bad past and a lot of inability and that's the one he picks to use. Anybody just does, he's a great God and so, basically, he convinces Moses at 80 years old to go back to Egypt and to get the people out of Egypt. And of course, he has to convince Pharaoh, and Pharaoh's not turning loose of his workforce. He's gonna keep all these Hebrews in slavery. So God comes up with ten plagues, basically to show Pharaoh and the Egyptians, "Hey, you're messing with the real God. Like, you don't wanna do this. You're messing with the real God". And none of them get Pharaoh or the Egyptians' attention until the last one. And the last plague was that the firstborn of every household, both Hebrew and Egyptian, at midnight were just gonna die immediately. And, of course, God did not want the Hebrew babies to die or the firstborn to die, he says, so here's the plan. I want you to get, and here it is, a lamb. And I want you to sacrifice it. And I want you to take the blood of that lamb and I want you to paint one side of the door, across the top of the door, and down the other side of the door, and if I see the blood, this death angel's gonna pass over you.

Now, if you've ever seen the old Cecil B. DeMille depiction of "The Ten Commandments," it was actually on last night if you happened to be watching him. Tammy and I ended up watching "The Ten Commandments" last night. Tammy doesn't like it, by the way. She thinks it's way outdated, it needs to be updated, it's old acting, it's bad acting, and she just turned her head. She wasn't gonna look at it. 'Course, I'm a lot better Christian than her so I was watching it. And you're laughing because you know that's the opposite is really true. And I just wanted to watch it. She goes, "Turn to something else". I got, "No, my favorite part's coming up". And that's when that little smoke kind of go... y'all remember it? Goes through the streets, and you hear, "aaaaaa" you know, and all... and she's just... It's corny but it was really cool the way they do it.

And anyway, I was watching this last night and they had the blood painted on the door and if the death angel saw the blood, it passed over and that's where the word "Passover" comes from and it's also where the Lamb comes from, but they would not only paint the blood of the Lamb over the door face, but they were also to consume the lamb, so they were actually to have a meal that night and actually eat the lamb. And here's what the Bible says. This is now in the story so if you wanna read the whole story, it's in chapter 12 of the book of Exodus, so the whole story that I just described to you is in Exodus chapter 12, "And when your children asks, 'What does this ceremony of painting a door with blood and then eating this lamb, what does that mean?' tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over,'" that's where the word comes from, pass over, "'the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'"

Now, after this one night, of course, they would leave Egypt and be free and get the Ten Commandments, et cetera, but God would actually institute this as an annual party or a celebration. The Bible calls them festivals. So a lot of you think the law is just a bunch of laws, like there, in the Bible, of course, there were the Big Ten, the Ten Commandments. But there were actually 400 commandments, but not all of them were like "Stop doing this," and "Don't do this," and "You need to do this". One of the laws was, "Hey, have a party. Have a party. Six times a year you need to have this party," and one of them is called Passover and I want you to go through this whole celebration again.

Now, fast forward 1400 years. And now Jesus is on the earth and now it's this Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Resurrection Day that we're gonna celebrate next Sunday, and he's riding into Jerusalem on this donkey and a lot of other people were there as well. So the city was filled with all these people getting ready for this party called Passover. And it would begin with the inspection of a lamb on the Sunday and about on Thursday, they would have the celebration and this is where we pick up the story. "And Jesus said," this is on the Thursday before he would go to the cross. He says, "I have eagerly desired to have this Passover with you," so we're gonna do it anyway. We're all Jewish, right? So we're gonna have the party. Hey, let's have it together. Let's have the celebration together, "before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again," and, actually, the translation is, "It will not be eaten again," "until it finds fulfillment".

In other words, from this day on it won't be the expectation of a lamb or a Messiah coming to save you, I am the final Lamb that has come to save you, "and it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God. And then he took bread," the bread that they had been eating for 1400 years, at this annual party, "and said, 'This bread is, this is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'" In other words, it's always been about me. Or it's always pointed to me, this party that you've been having for 1400 years. "And in the same way, after the supper he took the cup," this is the Passover meal, "saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.'" In other words, this has always been all about me. In fact, the apostle Paul later in church history, in 1 Corinthians, would say this: "Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us".

So what is the Lamb all about? It's about Jesus and it's always the picture of the fact that the blood is spilled and over the doorposts of our house which is our life, and that death angel because of our sin, passes over us and we're free and we get to go to heaven. Can I hear a good "Amen," everybody? All right, I'll catch my breath 'cause I just explained 2000 years of biblical history in 10 minutes, all right? But here's the most interesting part, and this is fascinating to me. If you go back to the first text again, the first time it's mentioned back in Exodus chapter 12, they didn't know how to do this party the first time. So there's a lot of instruction attached to how you do it. And I wanna show you the instructions that were true on that night before the death angel came through and show you how they still have application for us today, 'cause there are three things unique about the Lamb and they're true of the Lamb of God, Jesus himself. And that is that the Lamb had to be perfect. Perfect.

I'm gonna show it to you. This is Exodus chapter 12: "The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats". You say, "Chris, why is that"? Because the blood represented the ability for you to be free from everything you did. The blood was there basically in your place. And if the blood that you were applying was imperfect, the imperfect cannot take care of "already imperfect"; it takes perfect to take care of imperfect. It takes clean to clean the unclean. Like, if you're ever wiping your countertops, you don't find a dirty rag to do it; you find a clean one, 'cause a dirty rag would be unqualified. You need to know that the God you serve was perfect in every way. He was without sin, the Bible says. He's the perfect Lamb of God, which qualifies him to be the one who can clean the unclean and that's you and me. Are you all listening to me, everybody?

I love this. 1 Peter talks about it when he says it this way: "You were redeemed," talking about all of you. "Were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb," there it is, "without blemish or defect". So it's the first thing that it had to be, the lamb had to be perfect. Here's the second thing, and that is that the Lamb also had to be, and this is the Bible word, I know it's graphic. But the Lamb had to be slaughtered. So it's not just killed; the Lamb is slaughtered. It says it this way in verse 6 of Exodus 12, same text. This is that night of the tenth plague before they actually left Egypt: "Take care of these little lambs until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight".

Meaning, literally, the first part of the day. In fact, it would go on that they would have instructions to actually kill it exactly at 9 a.m. every day, spend 6 hours preparing that lamb, put the lamb in the oven at 3 o'clock and then eat it that evening. I wanna point out to you that Jesus went to the cross at 9 a.m. He was on the cross for 6 hours. At 3 o'clock they put him in the grave and we've been celebrating and enjoying this meal for thousands of years since then, what Jesus did for us on the cross. Every detail is there. But this Lamb had to be slaughtered. And next Sunday is gonna be a great celebration and we're gonna have a party, we're gonna... I have a kind of a personal pet peeve of whenever too much of a focus on the cross and all that on Easter, and it should be focused on, don't get me wrong, but Easter is a celebration of our God not... he didn't just give us life. He rose from the dead, all right? We're gonna celebrate something that no other religion or God can even claim, that our God is not dead. He's alive, amen, everybody?

So I love Easter to be a party, but I would also be very remiss not to take a moment and honor the amazing sacrifice of Jesus being slaughtered on the cross. And I wanna take a moment just to do that in the best way I know how. You know, the prophet Isaiah actually saw the cross hundreds of years in a prophecy, saw it with his mind's eye hundreds of years before it happened, and then wrote it in the Old Testament in a prophecy in Isaiah 53, and he says this. He says: "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed".

Now, what Isaiah couldn't have known is that is exactly what would happen to Jesus: I call it the four wounds of the cross. I'm gonna give them to you in chronological order and it begins with the one that's actually last on his list. That by his wounds were are healed. So Jesus would be arrested on that Thursday night after they had their Passover meal. He would go to the Garden of Gethsemane and to pray 'cause he knew what was coming. And in the middle of the night, they would arrest him and from midnight to daybreak, they would actually try him. He went through three different trials in the middle of the night and I wanna say to you, all three of those were illegal. It was Jewish law you cannot conduct a trial in the middle of the night. And all three of the trials of Jesus, everything about the trial of Jesus was illegitimate. By daybreak, they had sentenced him to death, and the first thing that they, the Romans, did whenever you crucified someone was they would take him to the whipping post.

I wanna pause right here, remind you that God could have sent Jesus to pay for sins at any point in human history. Like, he didn't have to pick the point in human history where capital punishment actually was the worst. There was never a season before or after this little slice of history, that God chose to send Jesus to be crucified. Could it be that God looked across the timeline, picked the worst time in human history for there to be capital punishment, and said, "I'm gonna send my Son at the worst time to demonstrate my immense love for you". He sends him in our lifetime: lethal injection. It's still death, he still pays for sins, but there was something greater about, "I'm gonna pick this time in history, where they would begin the Crucifixion with the whipping or the scourging", which, I don't know if you know this, you see it in the movies, you see this little, you know, this kind of thing going on.

That's not what it was. They would actually, these Roman soldiers, would have what's called the cat-of-nine-tails. Had a wooden handle about this long, like a shovel handle, about this long, of which nine leather strands would come out of this whip, and then they would tie about every inch or two all the way down the strand bone, rock, wire, and glass. Tie it into the strand. Dip the nine strands into a bucket of water so that the leather absorbed the water and made the strands extremely heavy. You'd have to take two hands to whip it across somebody's body and the goal was for it to embed into the back. You didn't go like that. You went "slap" and then they would pull down and pull the skin off. And he would receive 39. In fact, it was Roman law that you couldn't do more than 39. Even they thought, "This is too brutal. We've created something way too brutal". And they created their own law, the lashes, 40 save 1, they called it, where you could only have 39. Jesus received all 39, and they were technicians at it.

Thirteen of the stripes, I've studied this. Thirteen of the stripes across one of the shoulder muscles, the trapezius muscle, and it was intentional to sever the muscle that holds your shoulder up to your head, and I'll tell you why in just a second. Thirteen more across the other shoulder muscle, and then thirteen down the middle of the spine to expose the spine. And Jesus went through this and never whimpered, never a single word came out of his mouth. And then they took him to what was called the praetorium which is basically like the locker room of the guard. And it was there that they, in the privacy which was all illegal, they privately beat him up. They punched him in the face, they spat upon him, at one time, they even blindfolded him and kicked him really hard and punched him in the face and they said, "If you're a prophet, then tell us which one of us just did that to you".

And Jesus knew, and he never says a word. In fact, they would weave together this crown of thorns and you know this part. Four inch long thorns, that they would shove into the head and, of course, all the pictures you see blood coming out of their head but actually the opposite would happen. The blood would actually go the opposite direction into the middle of the brain and give you the migraine of all migraines. And he would take this immense pressure on his head as these thorns were driving into his skull and this is actually this phrase right here, "The punishment that brought us peace". Isaiah saw a punishment on his brain and on his mind where your brain and your mind could actually have some peace. In other words, he took all the pressure, all the anxiety, all the worry, all the stress, all the depression, everything you've ever felt in your mind, he took it on his mind so you could have peace and it's right here in this phrase.

And then he would be led to Golgotha's Hill, the place of the skull. These were public executions, and I don't wanna talk about it much but they would have actually executed them in the nude so that they were humiliated in every way. And the Bible says that at this point, Jesus was already beyond description, that his own mama couldn't even tell who he was. That's how beat up he was by this point. Only then to actually drive spikes into your hand, into the cross. And scholars differ, I don't even know which one I think is true. Some say it was actually in the hand and they tied rope around their wrist to keep 'em on the cross because that would have, your body weight would have ripped you, it would have ripped out. Your hands couldn't have held it.

Others believe that it was actually in the wrist between the two bones and if you've ever touched there, it's a very sensitive part of your body because in those days the hand was considered everything from your elbow to this part so if you measured things, you'd measure them in hands. They would shake hands like this. But either way, Jesus had this driven into his wrist or into his hand and he's hanging there and then, before they nailed your feet, they would actually create a bend in your knees and then nail your feet to the cross and they did that intentionally because you didn't die from blood loss, you died from suffocation. 'Cause this would create, the gap would create where your whole body weight is on shoulders that have no muscles to hold it up, and your shoulders would come out of socket and you actually died from suffocation 'cause your lungs would collapse 'cause you're in this position.

And so the only way to catch a breath is to use your feet, of which nails were in it, and push up on that back that has been exposed by 13 stripes down the spine, and there were splinters going up the back, grab a breath, and only drop back down. And he endured that for 6 hours. Anybody who says our God is some wimp or some passive, they don't know what our God actually endured. Our God, our Jesus is amazing, right? He's the man of all men. And then even the Roman soldiers couldn't hardly take it anymore. They would look at that and they'd go, "We have to end this. This is so bad". And so, normally, they would actually, they would end it by actually breaking the legs. They would put a bar between the cross and the legs and they would use it as a crowbar and snap the legs so you couldn't push up anymore and get a breath. But the Bible says that at the 9th hour, which is 3 o'clock in the afternoon, Jesus breathed his last breath.

And they weren't sure he was dead, and they actually did not break his legs and that needed to not happen because prophecy had already said 400 years ago that not a single bone of his body would be broken. But to make sure he's dead, they get a spear and they run it up underneath the rib cage, so they would have been looking up at him and just kind of come up underneath the rib cage, right here, and puncture the heart, just to make sure. And the Bible records that out of his chest cavity poured both a mixture of blood and water, which is the medical sign of a ruptured heart. What killed Jesus? His heart exploded. His heart was broken. And it's all here in this prophecy. He was whipped, so that we could be healed. He had the punishment of the thorns so we could have peace. He was pierced in his hands and his feet so that all of our sins, all of our transgressions, could be forgiven.

And finally, he was crushed for our iniquities. An iniquity in the condition of your heart. Your iniquity is how you... it's not what you do, it's how you think and feel. And some of us have broken hearts. We've had wounded hearts. We have polluted hearts. And Jesus took a spear in his heart so your heart could be fully restored in Jesus's name. And it's the four wounds of the cross. And I think it would be so appropriate at this very moment for at every location for us to put our hands together and thank Jesus for enduring the cross on our behalf. C'mon, let's give Jesus praise. Thank you, Jesus. We thank you, Lord. The Lamb had to be perfect. The Lamb had to be slaughtered. But this one's so interesting to me. Back to our original text, so this is the night that the death angel came to the city, and that is the Lamb had to be shared. It's in the text. Let me show it to you. "If any household," this is back in Exodus 12, giving the instructions of a Passover meal, a Passover dinner. "If any household is too small for a whole lamb".

Now, most families would have been too small, 'cause if you eat a whole lamb, that's a lot of food. And they had a rule that you could not leave uneaten lamb. You couldn't have leftovers. And there's a reason why, and you're gonna see it in just a second. 'Cause "if any household is too small for a whole lamb," share the food. Share the lamb with your neighbors. Now some of you are already seeing this. Why was that there? God was trying to put into history and culture, something that would have meaning for us today, and that is we keep sharing the Lamb as long as there are people who haven't had the Lamb. And the question is, have we, Highlands, have we already consumed all that Jesus is? Or is there more? People say about us from time to time, "Well, that church is too big," and I would argue, "No, it's too small," because there's still Lamb to be shared with those who have never had the Lamb.

And as long as there are people who have never had the Lamb, we will create more table settings, we'll create more services, c'mon, everybody. That's why we share the Lamb because there's more than just for us. And people have this, "Well, that's big enough". Well, I hate it for the person who never got any. I mean, almost to say, "Well, you're always trying to be big". No, we're not. We just have more Lamb to share than we needed. We wanna share the Lamb with others. That's why I pray for every church to grow. I want every person who's never had the Lamb, to have some Lamb. And we've got to keep that mentality 'cause if you don't, you end up just having meals for yourself. Boy, were that good. Yeah, it was great. But there's more. There's enough for everybody who's never had Jesus and that's why we keep sharing the Lamb. In fact, God has this mentality. Jesus himself said, "When you have a feast," go read the whole text in Luke 14. "When you have a feast, invite everybody. Find the sick, the lame, the wicked, the sinner. Find everybody you can, urge anyone you can find 'cause I like it when everybody's had some lamb. I want my house full".

So, too big? No, I argue we're way too small. As long as there are people who still need some lamb, amen, everybody? That's right. So what do we do? Let me offer three things as we close today, and we're gonna receive Communion here in just a minute as a church family, so stay to the very end so we can celebrate... the Christian version of Passover is the Lord's Supper, Communion. But I wanna encourage you. I'm gonna ask you to do three things this week. First is, would you please take some time this week and just pray over our Easter services? And pray over every new person who's gonna come that the lights come on and that they just see it. I've asked God for thousands of people to come to faith in Jesus this weekend and we're believing God for a lot of people to come and I can't wait to share some Lamb with everybody that comes. But it's gonna take prayer.

The Bible says that the devil has blinded people's minds where they can't see truth. And when we pray, that blinder gets removed and they go, "Ahh, I see it". And I want us to pray. In fact, I'm just gonna tell you, historically, I've been doing this 40 years. It's my 40th year, 22 years here at Highlands. And we see the most spiritual warfare during this season than any other season. It's crazy, honestly. If I could tell you the stories, the hair on the back of your neck would stand up. You'd actually be shocked, if I had the time to tell you stories of the crazy stuff that happens, not only to me and my family, but to our team. I mean, the people who share their testimony on videos, we have to warn them, "Now, look, if you share your testimony, you can expect all of hell to break loose, but at the name of Jesus we have authority over every demonic principality," and we warn 'em.

I'm just telling you. I'm just telling you. And that's why this Wednesday, our normal first Wednesday service, it starts at 6:30, it's gonna be a night of prayer and worship. I'm gonna lead it, but it's gonna be a powerful time. I'm asking everybody to come and we're gonna pray. We're gonna pray for souls. We're gonna pray for people who've never had the Lamb. I want you to join me. It's gonna be powerful. Come early. We have some food available at the campuses. Come. I want you to come, be a part of this. Second thing, I wanna encourage you to do. I've already said this. I do wanna ask you to invite someone. Like, don't pass up, really, your best chance of all 52 Sundays to have somebody far from God sitting with you in church, and here's how you do it. You don't just say, "Hey, we have some services, find one". You say to them, "Here are the service times. Which one would you like to go to? I'll sit with you". And then have them sitting with you in church, and when I say, "Every head bowed, every eye closed," I am giving you permission to peek.

You can head bowed, and one eye closed. I want you to look over there and when their hand goes up and they give their life to Jesus, you're gonna say it was your favorite Easter ever, I promise you. I promise you. And then finally, I wanna ask you to participate in the service next week, meaning I want you to... I deputize all of you to be ushers and greeters, like, help people, smile at people, be nice to people, everybody, all right? And then when you get into service, I want you to worship God with all your heart. You know my testimony. I came to faith in Jesus not because of the music or the message. I came to faith in Jesus because of the people. When I saw people in love with God, I knew I was missing something, and I looked around, I thought, "These people are nuts and I think I want what they have".

And you don't have... you have no idea that this is not just on me and the worship team. This is on all of us for them to come to a place and go, "Wow, I've never met people like this". And then I'm gonna do my annual Easter survey and if you've been around, you know what that is. If you don't, you'll find out next Sunday. But every year, I ask people to do this little survey and you say, "Chris, I've already done it. I did it, I've been here forever". Do it again because when you do it, it gives people on your row confidence to do it as well. And just participate, and just participate. It lets everybody feel at home, and we, by the grace of God, we're gonna see a lot of people come to faith in Jesus. Can I hear a good "amen," everybody?

Have you got it? All right, thank you. I want you to bow for prayer. You know, the Bible says before you receive Communion, that we ought to examine ourselves to make sure our hearts are ready for it. And I'm gonna ask you to do that right now. If you're a Christian and you have unrepented sin, just whisper to God right now, say, "God, I'm so sorry. Forgive me". And the Bible says that if you confess your sins, he's faithful, he's just, and he will forgive you of all your sins right now. That can happen right now. And if you're not a Christian, or if you're backslidden, you know you're not right with God, then let me lead you in a prayer right there where you are. If you wanna get your life right with God, I'm not asking you to join this church, I'm asking you to join Jesus. I'm asking you to put your faith and your trust in him to be the one who pays for your sins instead of you. And if you'd like to receive that, the Bible's very clear, you have to make him the Lord of your life. The prayer goes like this, whisper it right there where you are. Say:

Jesus, I need you. I'm far from you, and I need you to forgive me and save me, and today I'm making you the Lord of my life. I'm surrendering the control of my life to you, so save me, forgive me. (Now make a declaration that) I believe you're the Son of God and you rose from the dead. And today I put my faith in you. In your name I pray, amen, and amen.

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