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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - Full of Grace and Truth

Chris Hodges - Full of Grace and Truth

Chris Hodges - Full of Grace and Truth
TOPICS: The Book of Daniel

All right, who's glad to be in church today, anybody? Come on, give Jesus a great handclap of praise, everybody. I know. Me, too, I'm so glad, so, so glad to be back. Tammy and I took a few weeks off to celebrate my 60th birthday. You now have an old pastor, everybody. And, yeah, and, and it was also celebrating 40 years of ministry, so we had some gatherings with some friends and family, and we just had the best time ever. I took the last 2 weeks to kind of prep back for some of the series that are coming up. I did 2 weeks of study, and I'm so excited. I have so much material; in fact, I have way too much material, today, just because I've been studying for 2 weeks. So, anyway, get your seatbelts on. I'm ready to go.

I want to say a big hello to all of our campuses. We are one church in 24 locations all across the great state of Alabama and in Georgia. And, of course, what an honor. Isn't it an honor, everybody, to bring who we are as a church, all of our services, baptism, Small Groups, Growth Track, Dream Team, to more than 21 of Alabama's Department of Correction facilities, yeah. And we really love you guys. And, of course, there's always people that are watching online somewhere, too, and we're glad you're along for the ride, as well. I'm starting a brand-new series today. Before we get started, I was going to tell you that while I was gone over these past few weeks, giving went up and attendance went up. I don't know if that tells me, but anyway, all right, and 1,321 people got saved while I was gone, everybody. Give God praise. I said 1,321. And it spoke to my heart, honestly, because it shows, you know, this is not about me. This is about, you come here because you love Jesus. Can I hear a good amen, everybody?

And it's just so encouraging to me. It never has been, never will be about us. It's all about him, and I'm grateful to God for that. Before I get into this brand-new series, that I believe it's going to take 7 weeks for us to cover the material, you're gonna love it. We're getting back into a verse by verse book study this month, and I think you're really gonna enjoy it. I wanted to tell you about a few things coming up that you already know about. Let me give you my little take on it, and then some things you don't know about. All right? And that, of course, is this Saturday we do have our annual Serve Day. If you're new to our church, this is an all call. This is when we say, hey, even if this isn't your thing, we would love for everybody to be involved in a serve project, one of your own making, or we would love for you to register just so we can celebrate with you, or you can join one of thousands that are already planned.

And we developed, you paid for it, we developed an app that we've given away to thousands and thousands of churches, didn't charge 'em a thing, just gave it away, an app that if you've ever, like, used an Uber app before, and you say, "I want to go somewhere," and it shows you the cars nearby, well, it does the same thing. When you say, "Hey, I want to go serve," it finds your location, and it'll give you the serve projects closest to you, and then it gives the details of what's involved, what to bring, like if you need gloves, or kids, it's appropriate for your kids, which, by the way, Serve Day is a great way to train your kids that others are first, you know.

And anyway, but it gives you all the projects and you can be a part of. And then when you join it, it reduces the number down to the people that's needed, so that we don't send too many people to some project. It's really brilliant that our technology team did, so we'd love for you to use that project. And you've already heard there are Serve shirts out in the foyer. Just pick one up. They're already paid for. You paid for those, too. And so just grab you a Serve shirt to get out to one of the projects this Saturday. And this shows the love of Jesus in practical ways, everybody. It's something I'm so very, very passionate about. In fact, we have more than 2500 churches joining us this year. In fact, there's a church in every time zone of the world where there's land. So, we don't have any churches on the sea; but we have every place where there's land around the globe there's a church doing a Serve project. One more time, let's give God all the praise, everybody. So, very exciting.

All right, here's the second one, and that is, of course, you've already hear about the Motion Student Conference. This is really tens of thousands of students gathering at our downtown arena, and this is not for play. We don't have any just concert people. We have worship leaders and people who are leading people into the presence of Almighty God, and it's strategically placed right before they go back to school, so our students go back to school with confidence, on fire for God, sure of God's Word, feel called to do what God's called them to do. And so, love for you to make sure your students are a part of this. And I just wanted to add just one more thing, and that is if money is ever the reason why you don't do something at Highlands, there's very few times there is a fee attached to something here; but if there ever is, and that's the reason why you're not, never let that be the reason.

All you have to say is, "Man, we don't have it right now," and we raise money for scholarships at every one of these events, so that everybody can be a part of it, whether they can afford it or not. So, never let that be the reason. All right, here are two more things that you don't know about. And if you've been around our church, you know this is coming, but as soon as we get around to August, I've already been preparing messages and the prayer times for our annual, or really it's biannual, January and August, we have 21 Days of Prayer, August 6th through the 26th, and this is where we come together every day, Monday through Friday at 6 a.m., and seek God, and pray for revival in our nation. And then this is brand-new, we've never done this before, but right in the middle of the 21 Days of Prayer, we're having 4 nights that we're calling Revival Nights.

Okay, so we're having on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and August 13th through the 16th. And we have people like Pastor Jentezen Franklin coming, and CeCe Winans is coming, and we have Pastor Dharius Daniels coming to preach, and we're going to have extended worship and prayer and seek God, and just kind of take our time and ask God to move in our lives, so we can make a difference in our world. Can I hear a good amen, everybody, all right? So, make plans to be a part of all of that.

Now, today, I want to begin, I think it's going to be a 7-week series on a book of the Bible, to answer a question that you guys have asked me to address. In fact, I told you at Easter time that I would bring you a series of messages regarding the shifting culture. Now, everybody knows, I don't have to even give any statistics or any details on the fact that our culture is sliding away from God at a rapid pace, and even to the fact that they're asking us to kind of join along in some things that compromise our beliefs and our faith, and it's very difficult. I mean, corporations are dealing with it. We're seeing that in the news. And then on the top of that, we have, you know, crime increasing, just a lot of things that are not going well, right now, and the question is what do you do? What do you do when culture shifts?

Because let me say something very clearly to you. Culture will shift, but God never does. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever, and we stand firmly in God's Word. But I think it's a challenge, because you wonder, "Well, then, what do I do? Do know, because I still love my friends, and I love, you know, when my kid comes home and says, 'Hey, I have a friend who is,'" and you can fill in the blank. "I have a friend who is," whatever. You know, how do I answer that question? I promised you that I would try to equip you in this. Now, about 11 years ago or 10 years ago, in 2013, I did a verse by verse study of the book of Daniel that actually turned in, 4 years later, turned into a book that I wrote, and we did a series in 2017 on it, as well. But, actually, I've gone back through some of that material, and I've rewritten the messages, every single one of them I've written.

In fact, many of them are brand-new, but we're literally going to go verse by verse. So, for those of you who've always said, "Man, I would just love for us just to go verse by verse, read the text and just learn from it," I'm going to do that in this series, as we study the book of Daniel. Say, "Chris, why Daniel"? Well, let me set up the historical context, and I'll explain to you why. The nation of Israel had continually rejected God. And by the way, you can love God and still reject God. In fact, a lot of people who sin or walk away from God's standard and ways, they would tell you, "I love God". What they've lost is the fear of the Lord. So, they stopped respecting God and fearing God. They kind of go their own way. And this is not something novel or new. This has happened in cycle, after cycle, after cycle.

And so the nation of Israel, who had been extremely blessed by God, and given the law, and they'd even forgotten it, they'd gone generations without even reading one word of the Word of God, and God says, "Look, if you continually reject me, I'm going to allow you to go your own way". A lot of the things that we interpret as God punishing us isn't God punishing us. It's us punishing us. We've walked out from underneath the covering of Almighty God, and now we find ourselves in all this trouble, and then we say, "God, why are you allowing this to happen"? He said, "Look, I didn't go anywhere. You're the one that moved. I'm still here, and I'm ready for you to come back, too". Can I hear a good amen, everybody, right? Well, the nation of Israel did this, and God warned them, "If you do this, I'm going to allow you to be taken captive by a foreign land".

And in this case, that land is called Babylon. I'm gonna even teach where the origin of the word "Babylon" came from, why it's called Babylon, and how the spirit of Babylon still exists in our world today, and it ultimately will be judged. You can read about Babylon being judged in the book of Revelation at the end of time. Gonna teach you all about that, so you can understand. Because what's happening in our culture right now is not new. It is not novel, which the good news is we have a playbook of what to do to correct it; and I think that playbook is the book of Daniel, because Daniel was part of the generation that was taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and that's modern-day Iraq. It was the Persian empire, and they came and besieged, King Nebuchadnezzar. We'll read about it in just a second. King Nebuchadnezzar came and besieged Jerusalem and brought people into slavery, 70 years of it.

Now, Daniel, most scholars believe, was about 16 years old, which I love, by the way, because I believe we can empower our student generation to stand up in the middle of this. They don't have to be subjected to our culture. They can actually lead in our culture, and Daniel did that. He probably served in at least, maybe four, but at least three different Persian or Babylonian empires, now watch this, and never bowed, not one second, never compromised his faith, not one second, but had influence into that generation at the same time. And if there's a single thought that I want to give you for this entire book, and that is that's the goal. Never bow, no compromise. But not just over here, "Well, I'm gonna stay over here with me, y'all do what you want to".

No, no, never compromise, but have influence at the same time. And I'm gonna show you how we can do that, because God wants us to make a difference in our generation. All right, we want to stand firm in the middle of all the craziness that's happening, but we also want to have influence into that generation at the same time. All right, so here we go. This is probably 6th century BC, 600 years before Christ, so it's "the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it". Now, by the way, if you want to follow along with me right now, you can go to the Highlands app. You can see at the top a white banner that says, "Inservice Guide". You can actually click on it, and you'll see my notes. And every Scripture and every point I'm going to make, it's going to be on your phone with fill in the blanks. There's even a place for you to take your own notes and for you to store your notes 'til Jesus comes back on your app, everybody. All right?

Okay, so we've provided all this for you, because some of you asked, "Oh, I want the handout, again". It's right there in your hands right now. Okay, all right, keep it on silent, but have it in your hands, okay. "And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God". So, it actually took the church stuff, took the ark of the covenant, took all the articles in the temple, which is a complete mockery of the things of God. "And these he carried off to the temple of his," little g, "god in Babylonia and put it in the treasure house of his," little g, "god. The king ordered Ashpenaz". Don't forget that name. We're going to study it, actually, next week. He was the "chief court official, to bring to the king's service some of the Israelites". Because they're not just gonna make work into the farms and the fields.

If you're smart or had money, we're gonna bring these, if you're of the royal family, we're gonna bring you to serve as a slave in Nebuchadnezzar's court himself, "young men without any physical defect, handsome", reminds you of your pastor, doesn't it? "Any physical defect", you didn't have to laugh, okay, "showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, qualified to serve in the king's palace". Don't miss this. And they're going to teach these Israelites a new language. We're gonna put a new culture into them, new words they have to use, and words they can't use, "the language and the literature of the Babylonians". I'll teach that to you next week. "The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table".

Now, that means I'm gonna make them eat food that is opposite of their faith. He made them eat food that wasn't kosher. And so, actually, it was the beginning of putting enough culture inside of them to make them slide away from their faith in God. "And they were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to serve in the king's service. And among those who were chosen were four people: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah". You know the last three probably best as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but those were actually Babylonian names that I will teach you next Sunday, how every one of those... in fact, one of the names that went from the Hebrew name to the Babylonian name changed the person's gender.

So, I'll show that to you next week. So, this is not something new. These are old tricks of the devil, that he's trying to get people away from God, but Daniel did something I want you to do, and I want you to stand firm in your faith. Can I hear a good amen, everybody, right? But I also want you to love people well. I want us to have influence at the same time, and he did that. Now, let me pause here for a quick little teaching moment. You guys enjoy the teaching side of this thing a little bit, all right? It's a little different, I know, okay, but I think you'll like this, okay? Listen to me. Some people actually have trouble reading their Bibles, because the Bible is not chronological. So, it's not like a book where it starts with the beginning of the story and ends with the end of the story. The book is organized in groups of books.

Now, you can read single books and get chronology, but not the Bible itself. When the Bible was put together, in my opinion, by the Holy Spirit, when the Bible was put together, these 66 books, they grouped them by type of book. So, the first five books are the books of the law. The next few books of the Old Testament are history books. That's actually where you see the story of Israel. The next few books are poetry books, and then the next section of books are prophecy books. In fact, they're in two parts, major prophets, minor prophets, and not major because they're more important, just because they were incredibly long, okay. They called them major and minor prophets, because they were really, really short, okay? And so they put them in these sections of book. The book of Daniel is in the prophecy section of your Old Testament, even though it happened in the history portion.

In fact, Daniel, the book of Daniel has 12 chapters, and the first six are history. So, they're stories. They're Daniel in the lion's den, the fiery furnace. You know these great stories. We're going to study every single one of them. So, they're great stories. But at chapters 7 through 12, it's all these dreams and prophecies that Daniel had, which, by the way, I'm going to teach you what all those mean, as well, because Daniel saw the future. And by the way, it happened exactly, and then there's a portion of Daniel's prophecy that hasn't happened, yet. So, in other words, he's even showing us what's gonna happen, and I'm gonna show you every bit of that, okay? But what's interesting is, is that the book, even though it's half history and half prophecy, it's in the prophecy section. Now, the question is why? Why did the Holy Spirit put it there? And I'm gonna tell you why.

The history is prophecy, meaning, it didn't just happen. It was supposed to be enduring. It was supposed to teach us forever that what happened to him is going to happen to the next generation, and to the next generation, and to the next generation, and you can use it as a playbook of how to live godly in an ungodly culture. Are you all with me, everybody? That's why I think we ought to take it with great gravity and understanding, as we read this book. Now, next week, I'm going to dive more into chapter 1, and I'm gonna give you the marks of a shifting culture, and what happened in that chapter 1, you're gonna be amazed when you see it, are the same things that are happening today. Okay? But I wanted to jump ahead to chapter 6, even though this is part 1 of the series; and the reason why is that chapter 6, I believe, holds the key to the whole book, and I'm bringing you chapter 6 because Serve Day is coming up, and it feeds into Serve Day so incredibly well. Because I believe the whole key to the book is, is that we're not just supposed to stand. We're supposed to have influence, too, and Daniel did that.

Now, this is the third administration now he has served. He's probably in his 60s or 70s now, came in as a teenager. And in chapter 6, it says, "It pleased Darius". That's the new king here, the third one, "to appoint 120 satraps". That's kind of like mayors, to give you kind of an understanding, "to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them". That would be like presidents or governors, okay, and "one of whom was Daniel". What's interesting is all of these were Persian and Babylonians, but the king picked Daniel, who was a Hebrew. Doesn't believe anything they believe, wasn't serving their gods, but he chose Daniel to be a part of it. "The satraps were made accountable to the governors," or these three top dogs, these vice presidents, if you will, "so that the king might not suffer loss".

So the kingdom could be ordered and organized. But Daniel was different from the other two, who were Babylonian, because he distinguished himself. He decided, "I'm gonna try to be different". Let me pause right here and say you can't make a difference if you ain't different. Okay? So, for some of us, we're wondering, "Why isn't the church doing more"? Because we look just like the world. The statistics don't change. The same that are true for the world are true for us, and that's why we need to allow God not just to give us a place to worship on a Sunday. We've gotta allow God to transform us into his likeness. The goal of Christianity isn't to go to church and check your spiritual box. The goal of Christianity is to become like Jesus. Let him transform us. And Daniel did that. He was like, "Wow, dude, you're different, you're different". He became different, because he had exceptional qualities.

Let me say to you, those aren't inherent. Those are by the fruit of the Holy Spirit, because I was full of lust, greed, shame, anger, bitterness, rage, malice, and God put inside of me love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If you'll allow God to transform you, listen to me, church, it not only makes your life so much better, but you'll make a difference in your culture, as well. And we're never gonna make a mark in a culture until we allow God to put his exceptional qualities on the inside of us. Do you believe that, everybody? It's really true. It's really true. But he was so distinguishing, the king said, "Dude, if you're gonna be like that, forget the other two. I'll give you the whole thing". Now watch this. "At this, the administrators and the satraps," these other two guys, "tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs".

They couldn't find nothing. The dude was like, "Bro, you just, the way you treat people, the way your character is, your integrity, your patience, every part of your life". They couldn't find anything wrong with the guy. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally, the guys, watch what they said. They said to each other, "We ain't never gonna find nothing wrong with this guy". And that's the goal. Now, I know what you think: "Well, I'm not there". That's okay. I'm not fully there, either, but I'm allowing God to change me into his likeness, not just so my life can get better, but also so I can make a difference in my culture. Because Daniel rose to prominence.

And again, he did two things. He stood firm, and he loved well. He had both ability to never bow, but not do it in a way where it was turning people off from hearing the truth, because most of these kings that he served, these Babylonian kings, who had Babylonian gods, put their faith in the true and living God at the end of their reign, because of Daniel's influence. And I want that to be our story. They say, "Well, that was Daniel". No, no, no, that was Jesus, too. So, Jesus, what Jesus was so incredibly able to do was to be able to never change the standard. In fact, when Jesus came along, the law in the Old Testament, man, that brother, he raised it. I mean, he said, "You have heard it said, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery.' I tell you, if you even look at somebody and lust after them, you already did it in your heart".

He wasn't lowering the standard. He raised the standard. And I'm gonna show us next week how to raise the standard. The church should never lower the standard. We'll become apostate. We'll look like the world. No, no, no. We've gotta stand on the truth of God's Word. Amen, everybody? We really do. But I refuse to do it in a way where everybody just wants to walk away and say, "Forget the church, they're out of touch, I don't even like those people". No, no, no. If you do it like God did, the way Daniel did, what Jesus did, you're able to do both. Let me show it to you. I just want to, it's a lot of text, but I just wanted to read a lot of the Bible to you today. Okay, everybody? Are y'all getting anything out of this so far? Y'all with me?

All right, all right, all right, just checking. All right, so this is the beginning of the book, of the Gospel of John. It says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". Now, he's talking about Jesus, and I just want to show you that Jesus and the Word of God are so similar that John just calls him the Word. And that means the Word, the Word of God. Your Bible is pretty important, everybody. Okay. "He was with God in the beginning and through him all things were made; and without him nothing was made that has been made. And in him was life". So, when he came along, he didn't condemn people. Go read John 3:17, after the famous John 3:16, that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but through him the world might have life and be saved, and that life didn't bring darkness, and shame, and condemnation. And he didn't have a bullhorn yelling at everybody, they're going to hell. Of if you're from Alabama, ha-el, two syllables, hell. No? No, he brought light, and the light didn't condemn the darkness.

"The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it". In other words, it'll work. "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him". He was different. "And he came to that which was his own, but his own didn't receive him," speaking of the Jewish people of the day. "Yet, to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God". Now watch how he did it. The Word, Jesus, became a person. We celebrate it in December. And he made his dwelling among us, 33 years' worth. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father. And this is how he did it. He did both at the same time. Here it is, just like Daniel, full of both grace and truth. And notice with me that grace is first.

And you say, "Chris, why are you teaching this"? I believe Christianity, in many places, has either picked one of the two. They've lived in what I call the extreme responses. So, you have one side that just loves the truth, truth, truth, truth, truth, truth. You're going to hell. Well, you're right. You're a sinner. Yeah. You know, and they say it, they'll demand it, they won't, I have people from time to time saying, "Man, Pastor, you need to tell it harder. Give it to them hard. Just tell it to them hard. Point at them, yell at them". Yes, you're right, but I want the way that's not right. I want the way that works. So, I believe it all. I'm with you. But if you're right and not effective, it just doesn't work that way. But then you have the grace side that says just grace, grace, grace, grace, grace. It's okay. You're okay, I'm okay, the world's okay. You can do that. God loves you. It doesn't matter. No, no, it matters. It does.

And they think, in order to reach them, you've gotta become like them. And they even call it love. In fact, there's a whole generation setting the Bible aside in the name of love, thinking in many cases that they love people more than Jesus does. Because what kind of a God would tell somebody that's wrong? When really, the greatest love that he shows us is when he calls us out of our sin. Come on, everybody, right? He does. Are y'all with me? So, it's a delicate balance. That's why you feel what you feel. That's why it's difficult when your kid comes home and says, "Mommy, I've got a friend who..." You don't even know what to say sometimes. You don't even know what to do.

So, let me help you the best way I know how, and I want to focus more on the grace side today, because Serve Day is coming up, and next Sunday I'm going to focus more on the truth side, because it's important, too. But let me define them for you. Truth is simply, a best definition, if you have your app, you can just put the word truth in the blank there. Truth is God's standard. It's God's way. God has a way. By the way, that's what a god is. A god gets to pick what's right and wrong. And if you pick what's right and wrong, well, guess what? You're the god. Okay? But he gets to pick. Hey, this is the standard, and the standard we believe here at Church of the Highlands, and that is that standard is found in the Word of God. John 17:17, "Sanctify them," or improve them, or cleanse them, or call them out.

"Sanctify them by the truth". Where do we find that truth, Jesus? Your Word. "Your word is truth". And God's standard does not change. Okay. But then there's this other side, grace, and grace is God's favor. The interesting thing about God's favor is it's not something you can work toward, because there's a verse in the Bible, I don't have it on the screen, that says all of us, he set the standard so high that there's not a single person that can reach it. And some of you are thinking, well, that's cruel. Why would God set a standard that no one of us could reach? And that is so we would turn to his Son, who went to the cross to pay for every place where you could not match up, and he gave you this free gift called eternal life. God saved you, Ephesians says, "by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this".

You can't earn it. You can't go to church enough, give enough, serve enough, pray enough. You can't do it to get there. "It's a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things that we have done," because you can't be good enough, "so none of us can boast about it". There's both of them. Let me help you with truth and grace in four quick little statements. If you're typing, you're gonna have to, you've gotta get your thumbs faster than I can do it. Here we go: That without truth, we become corrupt, but without grace we are condemned. Let that soak in just for a second. If you don't have, if we don't have the truth, we'll just start looking like the world; but if we don't have grace, we never can live up to the standard, anyway. Let me give it to you another way. Without ruth, we'll become worldly; but without grace, we become judgmental.

And by the way, let's not be those people. Let's not be the... I think we ought to have our beliefs firm and even clear to people without judging people; because if you judge people, you have no time to love them. So, I'm not saying change. I'm just saying the way we behave toward them has to be a bit different. Let me say it a different way. Truth without grace is mean; but grace without truth is meaningless. One more. I'm just trying to get these concepts in your head. Both of them, both of them are important, and that is grace invites us to be free, so the truth can set us free. So, do we need to correct? Yeah, sure. Do we need to be clear? Oh, yeah. Does that change? Nope, it doesn't change. But we have to invite them in a way through, and God loves you just the way you are, but loves you too much to let you stay that way.

So, come on in. Come into the same place where God has taken our lives, and healed us, and changed us, in Jesus's name. Now, the best story I think in the whole Bible that illustrates the beauty of this truth is the story that even people that don't go to church know: the woman caught in adultery. In fact, one of the phrases in the story has become a common colloquialism that people use that "Let he who has no sin, cast the first stone". Well, this is the story, and this is how the story goes. I think it's so beautiful. It says, "Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, and early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. And a crowd gathered, and he sat down to teach them". And he was speaking, the teachers, the religious folks, who thought he wasn't being hard enough, wasn't doing it right, "the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery".

And they put this woman caught in the act of adultery in front of Jesus. And they said, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. And the law of Moses says, it's in the Bible, the one you're holding in your hands right now, Jesus, the one you're teaching out of says you've gotta stone her". "And they were trying trap Jesus into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger". By they way, one of the best responses, when people put you on the spot like that, is just to relax for a little bit. You don't always have to respond all the time. Can I get a better amen right there? Okay. Just like stoop down and doodle in the dirt a little bit. All right, get your mind together, okay. Jesus did it, okay. "And they kept demanding an answer". That's what the world does. "So he stood up, and he says, 'All right, but let the one who has no sin throw the first stone!'"

Got 'em. 'Cause he knew that they haven't lived up to the standard, even the one that they were teaching. And the Bible says that "he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. And when the accusers heard this, they slipped away". And this is an interesting detail in the story. "They slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest". Now, we don't know why they left one at a time, while Jesus was doodling in the dirt. I have a theory. I think he was writing in the dirt the names of their mistresses. Sally. Rebecca. I don't know. It's just, it's probably not true, but it's fun. Okay. But all of a sudden, now there's no one there. And everybody says, and the grace crowd says, "See? He just loved her just like". Okay, but it was until Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman that Jesus stood up again and said, "Where are your accusers"? And she basically says, "I don't have any". "Didn't even one of them condemn you"? And she says, "No, none of them did". And Jesus said, "Grace, neither do I".

And you can't stop there, though, because then he says, "Okay, now that you've received all this favor, go leave your life of sin. Let's work on this thing that got you here in the first place". And this is the message. This is the beauty of the gospel. This is the truth of the gospel. And I'm gonna talk to us about "Go and sin no more". I'm gonna make sure everybody knows what I believe and our church believes as the standard, and we defend it. Honestly, if you even knew how hard I'm working on the values of the institutions that we are all a part of, how we never change, and long after I'm gone, in fact, the biggest question we get asked at Highlands College, when donors come to us, and we have a lot of people interested in that great school, they say, "But what are you gonna do to ensure that this looks like this 100 years from now"? Because they've given to institutions that are now caving on all their values.

In fact, there are institutions founded on denomination and faith in God, that they've been taking every semblance of Christianity out of them. And you know the founders would be rolling over in their graves. I mean, Yale was a seminary and once had one of the greatest revivals in America. Now there's, oh, it's far from that. And so, our board is working right now on taking the values of Highlands College, what we believe about marriage, defined at the Bible, what God says about gender, as defined by the Bible, what God says about sexuality, as defined by the Bible, and we're locking all the finances of the school into those values, that if the values go away, the money goes away. We're working with some attorney, yeah.

So, I'm fighting for it. I'm fighting for the truth in ways you don't even know. But it's grace and truth. It's grace first. Grace invites us to be free, so the truth can set us free. And I'll just end with three little short phrases of how we do it. It's so simple. I'm so sorry. This just, but, you know, truly, the Bible is actually simple. It's living it out that's difficult. People say sometimes, "PC, be deeper". And what they mean is be more confusing. And really, I can do it. I have three semesters of the Greek language alone. I can go there. I could deepen this church down to about 47 people. I really could, okay. You want deep? Walk out the door and do it. That's deep. I'm just saying. Don't encourage me. Okay, here we go. Love people. Love people. These are people with stories, with moms and dads.

Tammy and I drove by a lady who was hitchhiking on the road, and she looked like life had taken its toll on her. And I went and looked over at Tammy, and I said, "That was somebody's little girl". Like, she's a person. She's not a vagabond, she's not a tramp, she's not a homeless, no, she's a person. And we've gotta get love in our hearts back to even the people we don't like, like, you need to love some Democrats again, and some Republicans again. Am I preaching to the right crowd here? Jesus said, "A new command I give you..." Like, this is new? I guess so, because nobody's doing it. And by this, that's how they're gonna know you're the real church, if you don't participate in all the garbage and junk and gossip and the slander of dishonoring human beings. "They'll know you're my disciples if you love one another".

You say, "Chris, why is that so important"? Because you cannot antagonize and influence at the same time. I've never led an enemy to Christ in my life. In fact, Galatians says, "The only thing that counts," that's huge, "is you having faith, and that faith is expressed by..." And the word there is agape, unconditional love for someone. Secondly, we do it by serving people. Serve people, that's what Saturday is all about. Saturday is very important, not just for Highlands, but for the kingdom of God, for the capital C, Church, to let them know this is who we really are. And the Apostle Paul, the great Apostle Paul said, "Though I am free, and I don't belong to anybody out there in the world, I make myself their servant, so I can tell them about Jesus". In fact, for those of you who are deployed this Saturday, please do this: Look for an opportunity to tell them why you're doing this. In fact, they're gonna ask, "Why are you doing this"? "And it's because God loves you, and so do we. We just love you".

I love what St. Francis of Assisi said. He said, "Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words". Here's the third thing, and that is share Christ. So, we're not just love, love, love, love, love, serve, serve, serve, serve, serve. No, no, no, we're like, okay, hey, and I'm telling you, don't stay where you are. If you have sin in your life, let Jesus change you. Let him change you. And I'm not even saying that so you go to heaven. Like, you will. I'm saying that because your life will be so much better if you live by God's way. His way works, and Daniel understood that. Back to our text, and I'll close. "When Arioch, the commander of the king's guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him", you'll only see this in the whole book of Daniel, "with wisdom and tact".

In fact, to a lot of the kings, he would call them, he wasn't even their king. He didn't, but he said, "O king". He'd honor, he still honored them. "And the king said to Daniel, 'I'm not even a believer in your God, but your God is the real God.'" In fact, all of the leaders that he served under eventually gave their life to God. And the New Testament teaches us that. Last verse, "But in your hearts". Hey, be a Christian, and revere Christ, and make him the Lord of your life. "And be prepared to give an answer". And I'm gonna help you with some of those answers in future messages, "for the reason, for the hope that you have. But when you do it, do it with", say the word out loud, "do it with", and? And that's what I'm asking us to do. You can disagree, but do it with gentleness.

Do it respect, keeping a clear conscience, so those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ, they actually go home thinking, "Why was I so mean to them? They were such good people". This is God's way. This is Daniel's way. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of a wee little man. Come on, Baptists. Y'all know where I'm going. Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. This is Luke 19. Known sinner, a known thief. Jesus walks by. The short dude climbs up in a tree, because he couldn't see over the crowd. Jesus's first words out of his mouth weren't, "You sinner. You old short sinner".

No, he said, "Hey, what you doing for lunch? Let's have lunch together". And the Bible says that the religious crowd muttered, because he had gone to lunch with a known sinner. And by the way, the religious crowd, they gonna mutter. Let them mutter. Let them mutter. Keep going to lunch with the sinners. Keep reaching out. Keep doing all we can. Now, this is the part where I wish that we had more text. We don't, unfortunately, because we don't know what happened at that lunch, but the next verse says Zacchaeus came out, gave half of all he owned to the poor, and he said, "I'll pay back four times anything I stole from somebody".

Wouldn't you love to have seen that lunch? When I get to heaven, like, "Jesus, praise God, hallelujah. Can I see the tape of that lunch? Like, I want to see it. What did you say"? Good lunch, that was a good lunch. And Jesus said, "I didn't come for the healthy. I came for the sick. I came to seek and to save those who are lost". How did he do it? Same way Daniel did, same way I'm asking you to do it. Jesus connected, grace, before he corrected, truth, and we're gonna do the same.

Hey, church, go after them this Saturday. Kill them with kindness. Love them like Jesus would. And let's make a difference, in Jesus' name. Amen, everybody? Part 1, part 1, all right. I'm way over time. I knew I had too much. Bow your heads, please. If you're here today, and you find yourself away from God, you sense conviction in your heart, I'm gonna lead you in a prayer, and this is where you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins. Listen to me. He'll do it in a second. You will literally be sin free, sins forgiven, cleansed, and it literally, as you pray this prayer. You say, "Really"? Yes, it'll be the easiest thing you've ever done. But I warn you, it'll cost you everything. You'll need to give Jesus, make him the Lord of your life. Pray this prayer. Say:

Jesus, I am a sinner, and I've walked away from your ways. And today I repent, and I ask you to be the Lord of my life, which means I'm gonna follow your way. You're my God, you're my Lord. I believe you are the Son of God, and I believe you died and rose again, and today I'm putting my faith in you. Now begin the work of transforming me into your likeness. In your name I pray, amen.

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