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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - The Marks of a Shifting Culture

Chris Hodges - The Marks of a Shifting Culture

Chris Hodges - The Marks of a Shifting Culture
TOPICS: The Book of Daniel

Come on, give Jesus all the praise, everybody. I said give Jesus all the praise, everybody. That's awesome. Thank you so much, and thank you for being the most incredible church that I know. I love you. I'm so proud of you guys. We literally had tens of thousands of you who were serving yesterday. We ended up serving over 255,000 individual people. These are people, everybody. A quarter of a million people got touched by the love of God yesterday. You, by your generosity, invested more than $450,000 yesterday to serve these needs, and we served 107,917 meals yesterday. And you ready for this? Five hundred and fifty-six people got saved yesterday at Serve Day. Come on, give him the highest praise for that. It was just the best, just absolutely love it. It's one of my favorite days of the year, and go ahead and put it on your calendar now. We will have it the same time next year.

And for some of you guys, thinking, "Man, well, I can't wait another year to do that," if you'd like to be a part of our outreach team, we actually have outreach small groups. We have a widows and single moms list that they go to every Saturday. And then every campus hosts a First Saturday Serve, so kind of a mini Serve Day every Saturday. And so if you'd like to be a part of that, in your worship guide today we put a little card that just says "Serve," and this is just an interest form, so this signs you up for nothing. It just says, "Hey, would somebody call me, explain a little bit more about what it means to be a part of that"? If you'll fill it out, drop it in the offering container, at the end of the service, you could join us on our Serve Team, and we would be honored for you to be a part of that. I do want to say a big thank you to Pastor Dino Rizzo, to our small group leaders, to every campus pastor. They worked so very, very hard on this, making more than a thousand projects available.

Can you imagine all the tools and supplies and partnerships with the different charities and ministries around the state that we partnered with? And I'm just so grateful to God for my amazing team. And on that note, let me look straight into the camera and say hello to all of our campuses and to our campus pastors. I'm so proud of you. Every campus was so well represented yesterday. And, of course, right now we are bringing this message and then all that we are as a church. So not just Sundays, but all throughout the week, our teams are in more than 21 of Alabama's Department of Corrections facilities. And, of course, there's people watching online, maybe live or on demand later. Grants Mill, help me say the biggest hello. Would you do that? Come on, everybody. Yeah, that's awesome.

All right, today we are in week number two of a seven-part, verse by verse book study. We do this from time to time. We just take a book of the Bible and literally just read it verse by verse and try to unpack the truths in it. We've chosen the book of Daniel because of something that you requested from me, and that is to help you deal with what we all know is a culture that is... I'm almost shocked at how fast our culture is shifting away from God and into ungodliness in many, many areas. We're seeing it at every level. And because of that, we're seeing the result of what it looks like when people walk away from God. So, everything that's bad is on the rise, rising mental health issues, depression, everything, you know, drug addiction, drug use, and so, crime. We see it. That's what happens when you walk outside of God's will and God's way. God's not punishing you. You're punishing yourself.

I mean, when you get out from underneath the covering and the blessing of following God's way and God's Word, come on, somebody, right? That's what happens. If you leave the Father, it'll lead you to a pig pen every single time. But the good news is God is always on the front porch waiting for you to come back, everybody. He's a generous and gracious an... Yeah, you want to thank him right there? I sense you do. He's a very merciful God. In fact, in the book of Micah, it says he delights to let you off the hook. He delights to show mercy. He'll give you another chance, but you've gotta return to him. The question you've asked of me, though, is how do we navigate it? What do we say to our kids who are coming home and, like, "Mommy, my friend is," and fill in the blank, how do I deal with this? What is the appropriate response of Christians?

And so I talked about last week there are actually been two different responses that I consider to be extremes and dealt with that last week, and the message called, "Full of Grace and Truth," and today I want to continue. Now, last week we started with chapter 6, and the only reason I went that far into the book already was because I believe the main idea of the book of Daniel is found in chapter 6. And so, and it set up Serve Day perfectly. Now we come back to chapter 1. Next week, chapter 2. And if you want to follow along, your app, which is tailor-made for you, every single person's app experience is different, based on where your spiritual journey is. It's a customized app experience. But if you'll go open the app, at the top it says Inservice Guide. Everything that's getting ready to be on my screen will be on your app. And where I have points, you can actually fill in the blanks, and there's places for you to take extra notes, and then you can keep those as long as you'd like and have those in your archives to go back and look at another time.

So, here we are, Daniel chapter 1, verse 1. "In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon", Babylon is where today modern-day Iraq is, just to the east of where Israel is, "Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered or allowed Jehoiakim king of Judah to be delivered into his hand". And, again, because he just constantly ignored Jesus, I mean, they constantly ignored the Lord. There was warning, after warning, after warning, after warning, after warning. In fact, most of the prophets, the prophetic books of the Old Testament say, "Hey, like, if you don't, if you don't come back to God, I'm gonna allow you to be taken as slaves into Babylon". And sure enough, he took it, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. "These he carried off to the temple of his," little g, the wrong, the false god in Babylonia, "put it in the treasure house of his god".

We'll talk more about that in week 4, I believe. "And then the king ordered Ashpenaz..." We're gonna study this guy today. Oh, "Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to bring into the king's service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility". In other words, we're gonna let most of the Israelites go out there and serve in labor, labor camps, basically, and serve in forced labor. But if they were educated or had money, and they were smart, "Hey, let's bring them inside the palace. Let them serve Nebuchadnezzar himself... young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace". He was going to teach them, very important for you to notice right off the bat, "I've got to indoctrinate them into new language, new books, new thoughts, new language, new literature of the Babylonians".

That culture war is taking place right now in our schools. Our parents are fighting. People are trying to figure out, what do they need to know? What do we not need to teach? That's happening right, same thing's happening. "And the king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table". In other words, he was going to force them to eat and drink things that went against their Hebrew dietary laws, the kosher laws. "And they were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service". And among those who were chosen were the characters of the book of Daniel. We're going to read about them all throughout this study. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. And you probably don't recognize the last three names, because we know them mostly by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, which is where we're actually going to begin today, and that is the next verse.

So, that was verses 1 through 6. Look at verse 7. So, this is the first thing, and I'm going to give you today three marks of a shifting culture. So, this is not a new thing. Everybody's like, "Oh, my goodness, what's going on"? The same thing that's happened in all the cycles of human history. The devil doesn't have a new playbook. He's doing the exact same thing, and he's doing it again. And the first is found in the very next verse, and that is, "The chief official," this Ashpenaz, "gave them new identities". I'm gonna identify as, and we hear that language say, "He gave new names: to Daniel, he gave the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego".

And if you're taking notes today, jot this down in your app or on your hard notes, and that is, is that culture will always try to confuse our identity. The names represent who you are. And it was customary, when the enemy wanted to take over your life, it was customary for them to change your name. And in this case, it would be a complete mockery of who God made them. In fact, it was to obliterate the very nature of God on the inside of them. I'm gonna show it to you, and it's kind of eerie, because this story that happened thousands of years ago is happening today. So, to Daniel, his real name, his Hebrew name means "God is my judge. I'm gonna live according to the will and the Word of God". Watch this. And it would be changed to Belteshazzar, which literally is a female name. He changed his gender. So, gender confusion, all that's happening today, gender reassignment, that happened in the book of Daniel.

"Lady, protect the king". A confused, redefined identity. To Hananiah, "Yahweh is good, he's gracious, when I think about God, it's all good thoughts," to Shadrach, which means, "I don't like God, I'm afraid of God". And that's a redefined spirituality. And that's happening today, deconstruction, confusion in the church. The enemy is trying everything he can to sow confusion among Christians. "Oh, the Bible is not true. This is not true. You can't trust this". This is an old playbook, everybody. To Mishael, which means, "Who is what God is"? I love the almost kind of innocence of that phrase. It's almost playful. "Oh, there's nobody like our God". It's kind of playful. Watch this. To Meshach, which means, "I am despised, contemptible, humiliated," to an innocent set of emotions, to a depressed, anxious, fearful, humiliated emotion. Always gets involved inside of people's emotions. And some of you have felt that. Some of you have been fearful, feel contemptible, humiliated. You can't sleep at night.

This is the enemy's plan to bring fear and intimidation into your life. He always does this. To Azariah, which means, "Yahweh helps me". In other words, Yahweh is on my side. He's involved in the days of my life, literally, what that word means, to Abednego, which means, "Servant of Nebo". Now, that one doesn't make sense to you. You have to do extra study on this one, because you have to study the name of Nebo, which really, the name Nebo means, you can go look it up, it means one who speaks or prophesies. In other words, we're no longer gonna allow God to help you and direct your future. We're gonna let the devil's plan for your life take over your life. It's a redefined future. And if you're taking notes today, jot this down. When culture shifts, you've got to know who you are. I'm gonna tell you who you are. You're created by Almighty God. You were fashioned by God. God designed you, your gender, your life. Every part of you, God designed you and has a plan for your life, everybody. He does.

Which is why I love my job, because you always have to come back to the one who created you to understand yourself. I'll show it to you in Scripture. God spoke to Jeremiah and said, "Before I formed you in the womb, I already know you". Which, by the way, this is why we're pro-life. A person isn't a person once they're outside the womb. A person is a person when they're in the womb, everybody. And God was design, yeah, thank God if you believe that's true. It's true. And God was already involved in this person's life while they were being developed in the womb. "I knew you when you were in the womb. And before you were born, I set you apart". For what? A plan. "I have a plan for your life". Listen to me. I don't care what the devil's told you. God designed you, God created you, and God has a plan for your life. And only when you connect with him will you ever be able to discover who you really are.

That's what I love about our church, because one of the hallmarks of our church is what we call the Growth Track, and that's not just a set of classes. You know, you hear it on the news, and it kind of flies over your head. These classes are specifically designed to do three things. Week number one, which was last week, step one of the Growth Track, allows you to decide if this should be your home church, because there are more than 30 verses in the New Testament alone that you can't fulfill unless you're connected to a family of faith. Like, God didn't design you to be an attender. He intended you to be a member. You have to get connected. And it doesn't have to be here. That's fine. There are great churches all across this city and state. I could recommend some to you. But find one. That was last week. But the next class we do is what we call a discovery day.

In fact, that's today. If you'll come to the Growth Track today at 6 o'clock at every one of your campuses, we have this second step, which is a discovery process, because we believe you can't even begin your faith journey without knowing who you are. And so we do a spiritual gifts profile, and a personality profile, and try to get you back to God's design, because God's design reveals your destiny, everyone. And once you know where you're headed, all the trivial stuff all around you that is destroying your life right now become mere distractions, because you have your eyes fixed on what God's called you to do, and that's why I'd love for you to come and be a part of the discovery step in the Growth Track. You've gotta know who you are.

Let's continue on in the text. Verse 5, I'll read it to you again. "The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table". In other words, he was gonna make them break their Hebrew laws. But the Bible says in verse 8, "But Daniel resolved not to do that". He had a resolute heart that said, "I can't do that. That breaks my values. It breaks my doctrine. It breaks my core. I can't eat the food and drink the wine," he said to the chief official. And he asked him, "Hey, Ashpenaz, is there any way I don't have to do that"? And he fought for what he believed in, as his values, that come from the Word of God. Culture will always, number two, try to get you to compromise your standards. And that's happening today, which, by the way, I personally believe this is gonna happen on the rise. And if you don't, they'll cancel you.

So, they're gonna say, "No, no, you can't think that. You can't believe that. You can't". And I don't know what it's gonna, where it's going. I really don't. I don't consider myself a prophet, someone who can see what happens in the future, but you'd better have a made-up mind now. Because I'll tell you, once you get in the middle of it, that situation, it's a whole lot easier to know ahead of time instead of at the time, which is why I try to bring the Word of God to you every Sunday, teach you the Bible. If you ever see a presentation of mine, it has tons of Scriptures presented to you, because I'm trying to get the Word of God inside of every one of you guys; because, otherwise, we'll follow our flesh. The devil will always appeal to your flesh and tell you, "If it feels good, it's good". It's right if it feels good. That's hedonism. I'm following my feelings. God wants me happy. No, he wants you holy. And if you get holy, he'll make you the real happy, like the happy that really lasts forever.

"Well, I want to determine my own truth". Well then you're the god. If you're gonna rewrite the Bible to fit how you want to live, you can't change the Bible to fit your lifestyle. We change our lifestyles to fit the Bible. God calls us to repentance, everybody, that God's way is right. Are y'all with me? Come on, clap if you believe that, everybody, true. And that's when culture shifts, you've gotta know what you believe in. We make the case that that belief system comes from the Word of God, and it takes kind of like this resolute, it's a made up mind of what my core is, what my principles and my values are, and I'm not gonna let anything take me from that. If you've ever been at our Highlands College campus, you've seen this. If you haven't, I personally invite you to come tour that beautiful facility, but literally at every turn, where your eye falls, you're gonna see messaging to our students, so that we can send them out into that harvest field equipped.

And one of the messagings of our two cafes is the word, we call them the Resolute Cafes. And we're reminding them, hey, if you're gonna be successful in this culture, this world, you have to have a made up mind. I like the way the book of Joshua says, that Joshua says, "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness". Throw away the ideas of the world, the little "g" gods, and he talks about the ones of his ancestors that, and "if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you," that's fine, but "choose for yourself whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you're living". You can follow the world if you want to. "But as for me and my household, I'm serving the Lord". And I love the resolute, come on, somebody, the resolute side of that. You've gotta know, you've gotta know. Let's continue on, verse 9. We're literally just going straight down the first chapter of the book of Daniel.

Now God had caused Ashpenaz to like all of that. Ashpenaz liked Daniel, and he showed favor and sympathy to Daniel. But Ashpenaz was also nervous at the same time. He said, "I am afraid of my lord Nebuchadnezzar, the king, who has assigned, he told me that you guys have to eat and drink that stuff, and I'm afraid that if he sees you looking worse than all the others who are eating and drinking it, that he's gonna cut my head off". And Daniel then said to Ashpenaz, he said this, he said, "Test us, test us and see". In other words, "you go your way, let us go our way, and watch which one's better". I love the courage of this statement. "Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink and then compare our appearance with that of the young men who are eating the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see".

And so Ashpenaz says, "Deal. You've got 10 days to make that work," and he tested him for 10 days. Now, you're gonna see in the book of Daniel, I'm gonna show you many times poor Daniel didn't know what he was asking for, because he wouldn't just be tested with this food and wine. The rest of the book, he would face test after test, after test, after test. I mean from lion's dens to fiery furnaces. Like, not just food test. I'm talking like, "I'm gonna put you in a... I'm burning you to death" test. And I hate to bring you this point, but I would not prepare you well as a pastor if I didn't tell you that culture will always test our faith. You've got a testing coming.

Now, I've had tests of my faith. I was once sharing my faith as a student at LSU. And I was reading my Bible, and I had this police officer, a part of the LSU police department, who would visit the office I was working out of at the law school at LSU, and he would visit because my boss was his best friend. And I was reading my Bible. He said, "I can prove to you, you don't believe that Bible". Like, "Oh, yeah, I believe it". "No, you don't believe at all". "Yeah, I believe it". "No, you don't believe it". "Yeah, I believe it".

And I thought he was gonna show me a gotcha verse, like he knew a verse, like, "Aha"! And so, I had my Bible open. He walks over, and I thought he was gonna like flip to a page. And he hauled off and slapped the fire out of my face. Now, I'm not talking like... I'm talking about arm was back here when he did it. Like, my head turned. Like, my face is throbbing. And I said, "Muhammad". His name was Muhammad. "Muhammad, why did you do that"? He said, "If you believe your Bible, turn the other cheek". I'm like, "Are you serious? You go around slapping Christians"? Like this is kind of like, I was like, "Really? Are you serious? That's what you're gonna try to prove"? He said, "Yeah, you don't believe it". And I said, "Man, hit me then, if that's... hit me". And he slapped much lighter the second time. I'll never forget. Took his cap off and said, "Well, you're a real Christian". I'm like, "Brother, don't do this to people. All right"? It's like, okay, long story short. I ended up 4 months later leading him to the Lord. Okay?

Now, I want to stop, wait, wait, wait, I want to stop. My tests, your tests, they're real, but they ain't nothing like the ones before us. Every time I find myself bellyaching about somebody else coming against me or somebody else, you know, I tend to tuck my tail, and poor, poor pitiful me. I'm reminding myself all the time, the tests of our forefathers were floggings and imprisonments. In fact, yesterday, we were out at Serve Day, and I went to a bunch of places, and it was just an amazing experience. I just, I was sobbing literally from the first stop. And we had gone down to Alabaster to see this family of this 26-year-old Hispanic girl who had a brain aneurysm, and it completely crippled her head to toe, and her Serve Day request was that PC come see her. And I thought, "Well, absolutely, I will".

And so we went down there; and when we got there, her mom's standing at the end of the driveway, tears coming down her face, her husband, and they just, they were out there ready to welcome me. And I just felt so humbled by the whole thing, honestly. And I walked up and just hugged, and we enjoyed one another. We went inside, and there she is sitting in that wheelchair. You saw her on the Serve Day video. And we prayed over her. Tammy laid hands on her. We just had the best time. Her little daughter had a birthday, and we were able to celebrate that and bring her some gifts, and then her mama spoke up. We were in a circle praying. Mama just spoke up. Now, Mama, Mama loves their babies. You know what I'm talking about? Mama spoke up and said, "We can't transport her around, because that wheelchair is all we could afford, and her tailbone". She's crying. "Her tailbone hurts all the time". She goes, "We need a better one".

And I just, I didn't even, I wasn't even thinking, y'all. I'm so sorry. I wasn't even thinking. I just heard, this came out of my mouth. I didn't call our financial office. I didn't check with our trustees. I just said, "Pick one out, and we'll pay for it". And you're gonna pay for it. All right, so that's... and we walked out. I was with Pastor Dino and Delynn and Tammy, and we walked out. And I said, "Just when you think you had a bad week". Don't ever forget, everybody, there are people being tested, there are people right now who are hiding in churches all across the world; because if they're found out, they die because they went to church. Can we thank God for our freedoms right here in America, everybody? Thank the Lord. But even here in America, listen to me, you're going to be tested. I'm gonna do everything I can to prepare you, but I'll tell you what you have to do. Let me give you one nugget. And that is, when culture shifts, we have to learn how to stand. Because what happens is whenever people come against you, it makes you want to fall. It makes you want to give up. And I'm gonna help you stand, stand.

So, here's what I did when I had this thought. I thought, "I'm gonna go every place in the New Testament, where the Bible talks about standing, and I'm gonna let those be the points". So, I didn't make these up. These come straight from Scripture. How do we stand? Let me give you a verse first. 1 Corinthians chapter 16, "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous". I'm praying the spirit of courage comes on you today in church. Be strong. And by the way, when that happens, don't be a jerk about it. Listen to me. When you stand for something, you don't have to, the whole world doesn't have to hate you because of it. And I personally believe sometimes it can be done in a way where nobody likes you. Well then you lose. You may have won, but you still lose, because you lost influence into that. And I'm not against standing for things that actually matter or maybe even protest at times. I think they're appropriate on occasion; but, honestly, but we still have to do everything in love. This is the command of Scripture, for us to do it this way.

And so let me show you what the Bible says of how a Christian is supposed to stand. Are you ready for it? And the first is we stand in prayer. Now, it's interesting that the Bible says when you take your stand against culture's schemes, we don't, the first reaction is that I'm gonna send an email. I'm gonna call somebody. I'm going down there. I'm not against it at times. Listen to me. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I'm just saying did you pray about it first? Because the truth be known, there's a spirit behind that thing that you're trying to fight. And you go fight the thing without fighting the spirit, and you're still not gonna be successful. I'll show it to you. "Put on the full armor of God so that you can be a person who stands against the devil's schemes. For your struggle is not against flesh and blood", it's not against people, "but it's against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of the dark world, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to", say it out loud, "you are able to stand".

That's how your... why? Because I pray, and I'm gonna take courage for culture comes in prayer. I mean, you just go in your prayer place. God, I pray. I bind the spirit of the enemy that's trying to discourage me, put fear and intimidation in my heart. I stand my ground. And then after you've done everything to stand, keep on standing, everybody, which is why our response as a church is first... I'm not saying it's the only thing. I'm just saying it's first, and that is we pray, and that's why next month I am calling our whole church to 21 days of prayer, and we're gonna seek God every day, and we're gonna pray for our country. I'm praying for revival in America, everybody. I'm praying in the darkness the light shines, come on, a lot of people get saved. I'm believing for it. Anybody else believing for that with me? Yeah.

And that's why we're even gonna have revival nights, four nights in a row, the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, four revival nights in a row during the 21 days of prayer. CeCe Winans is gonna come lead worship. Pastor Jentezen Franklin's gonna come preach. We've go others coming. It's gonna be a powerful time together. Make plans to be there. Here's a second place, and this is just me researching Scripture, finding the word "stand," and that is the Bible talks about if you want to be a person who doesn't fall in culture, you need to stand in the work or the assignment, the work of the Lord, the assignment God's given you. The place of courage comes from your personal assignment in the kingdom of God. Look in my eyes, everybody. All of you have a part in this grand design of God's. And when you find your place, I'm telling you, that's where real life and energy comes back. And every time you get discouraged or fearful, is what I am having to learn how to do.

When I have days where I want to quit, and I have them, I have them, like, y'all, I ain't gonna put up with all that. I'm gone. Somebody else can do this. And I remind myself, yeah, that's okay, but you didn't get to call you. God did. And until your assignment is over, get back to work, Chris, and stop your fussing. And it comes from this verse right here, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters", there's our word, "stand firm". Let nothing keep you from standing, "nothing move you". How? Always give yourself fully to the assignment God gave you, the work of the Lord, because you know that your work, your labor is not in vain. We stand, we stand. The last place I found, and that is, is that when you stand, we stand for God. Let me explain that. I think sometimes we treat God one way: "God, here's what I need you to do for me today. I need you to do this for me. I need you to do this for me".

And we know God is for us. But have you ever had the thought that we ought to be for him, too? Like, have you ever thought that he needs us to stand and defend his honor and his name? And how much he would love it if he had some of his kids out there going, "Hey, don't talk about my Daddy that way. That's my Daddy". Don't you like it when you're defended? That's why he loves you, says, "No". And God says, "I wish you were for me. I wish you'd stand for me". I was playing golf not too long ago, and one of my friends brought a friend, who didn't know I was a pastor. And I love not telling people, for a number of holes. It's bad. I know. I shouldn't do it, because then they act differently when they know. And so when I finally tell them, you can see them, we're going through the tapes. "Oh, my God, what did I say? What did I do"? Like, it's so fun. It's bad, but I do that.

Well, this one guy was, everything was GD, everything, every missed putt, every bad shot. GD, GD, GD, GD. Just like it was just every sentence. And I just got to a place where like, okay. And I wasn't ugly. It's not in my nature, honestly, to be confrontational. And I said, "Well, listen to me. If you're gonna keep saying that, at least get it right, because God doesn't damn. The devil does. So use his name, please". Now, you can say that all day. But he didn't say nothing all day. He was done with all... it was over. But I just felt, it was something rose up inside of me to defend the honor of my God, everybody. My God doesn't damn anything. He's a blesser. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. You are misrepresenting my heavenly Father, and I just don't think you... I think, like, if you're gonna say it, you use the right name. Jesus said it this way. "If you'll acknowledge me before others, I'll acknowledge you".

It goes on to say, "But if you disown me," don't want to let people know you're a Christian, afraid to pray in a restaurant, like, I'm not ashamed to be a Christian. I mean, I'm not an obnoxious one, but I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the power of God for salvation. I'm grateful to be a believer. Can I hear a good amen? The Message, The Message, which isn't a translation, it's a paraphrase, actually uses the word "Stand up for me against worldly opinions, and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven". Reminded me, I got up early this morning. I was re-looking over my notes, and I just kind of put the final touches on it, you know, 5:00 in the morning probably it was. And the Lord brought this story to mind. It wasn't in my original notes. And I was reminded, at Billy Graham crusades, they had this song that they sang a lot, that "I have decided to follow Jesus".

Y'all have heard that before, the hymn. And I don't know if you know the story behind it, but it was written, it was inspired by a true story of a guy named Assam from northeast India, who converted to Christianity, and he was brought before his village, and the chief was there in the village, and they were getting ready to execute him, and they said, "You have one last chance to deny Jesus, or we're going to kill you". And he says, "I have decided to follow Jesus". He was resolute. And so at that moment, they killed his wife right in front of him. They said, "What about now"? And he said, "Though none go with me, still I will follow". And they said, "This is your last chance. We're going to kill you". And he goes, "The cross before me, the world behind me".

And they killed him. And the chief was so inspired by his courage and his faith, the chief got saved, and so did the people in the village. The courage that's needed to take a stand for God, listen to me. You can stand for the honor of God. I don't know where this is going. I don't think it's going to be to that level. I don't know. But I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm gonna take my stand, come on, everybody, stay focused on my assignment, everybody, keep praying and binding the spirit that's behind it all, in Jesus's name. Now let me give you a little fun ending. Jesus, right now, if you want to know what he's doing, he's sitting. He's not standing. He's seated, it's all across the New Testament, every, every time, now, this is after he went back into heaven, after the resurrection, every verse talks about Jesus is seated. Jesus is seated. In fact, Hebrews says he's seated at the right hand of God, delivering your prayers to the Father. He makes intercession.

So, when you pray, Jesus says, "Oh, God, the Christians prayed. I want to tell you about it". He's delivering your prayers, okay. But there's one place where the Bible says he's standing. I want to show it to you. Because in Acts chapter 7, when the first Christian martyr, Stephen, stood boldly for his faith, you can read his whole testimony in Acts chapter 7. But they just decided, "Even though you think Jesus is God, we're still gonna kill you". And they tie him to a pole, and they stoned him to death. And right before he died, here's what the Bible says at the end of Acts chapter 7. "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven, and he saw the glory of God". God allowed him, on an earth experience, see what was going on in heaven. And he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He said, "Look".

This is his last words on earth. "Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing". In other words, Jesus was sitting there making intercession, but then one of his servants took a stand, and Jesus went... And I want you to hear something. I say this to encourage you today, that when you stand, Jesus will stand with you. When you stand, he doesn't leave you alone. "Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you". When I take a stand, Jesus gets up, and he stands with us. And all of God's people said... Come on, give God praise. Let's bow for prayer. You can be still and quiet just for a minute, please. I just want a couple of minutes to pray for you.

And, Father, I'm praying for every person here. I'm asking for courage. I'm asking for strength. I'm asking for your grace. God, it's tough sometimes. We don't know what to do, Lord. But, God, today, we know you're with us, and we stand, and we stand for you in prayer, for our assignment. And, God, I thank you, you're standing with us, today. Let us leave here with confidence and hope and the truth of your Word.

I believe there are those here today who might need to make a decision. Maybe your prayer today needs to be, "You know what? I've decided I'm following Jesus". I'm talking to those who are far from God, never have been a Christian. Maybe you are a Christian, but you know you're not serving God with all your heart. You haven't made a commitment, or you need to make a recommitment to him. But that needs to be your prayer today: "I am following Jesus. I have decided, and I'm making that decision today".

I want to pray with you before we close the service. We're not gonna have you stand. We're not gonna call you to the front. But I'm gonna invite our campus pastors to the stage right now. And just keep your heads bowed and your eyes closed. And if that's you, if God's dealing with you, that you're saying, "You know what? Today is my day, I need to make a decision to follow Jesus," would you be so bold and say, "That's me," and lift your head as high as you can right now, say, "Count me in that prayer". All over this room, yeah. Anybody else? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anybody else? Just keep it high, lifted high. I've decided, I've decided I'm following Jesus. Pastor Blake come lead them in a prayer, please, sir.
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