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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - Jesus Understands

Chris Hodges - Jesus Understands

Chris Hodges - Jesus Understands
TOPICS: Legacy Sunday

All right, who's glad to be at church today, anybody? Yeah, come on, awesome. And I like to look into the camera and say hello to all of our campuses. We are one church, meets in campuses all across Alabama and Georgia. Of course, we have the incredible honor of bringing all that we are as a church into more than 22 of Alabama's Department of Corrections facilities, and work release programs, and jails all across the state. It's one of the honors of our life. And, of course, there are people at home or somewhere traveling today watching online or on demand. We're so glad that you're here as well. Grants Mill, do me a favor. Put your hands together and say the biggest hello you can, come on, to your church family, everybody. God bless you guys.

And I thought I'd start off with something a little bit of fun. You probably have already heard. We weren't really talk, but it kind of went big. My son Michael, everybody, opened a jar. Come on, everybody. All right? Okay. If you don't know what that means, he was actually on Wheel of Fortune this past week. It's always been in his dream. There he is right there. And he was on Wheel of Fortune this week. Recorded the show back in October, and then it aired this past Thursday and got into the bonus round and solved the puzzle, everybody, and the cash prize was over $52,000. Can I get a better amen, somebody?

Come on, everybody. And my first words of my mouth were just in time for Legacy Sunday, everybody. He can't say he doesn't have it. Isn't that right, everybody? And so anyway, I thought it was a lot of fun. That was actually a post, that picture you saw was actually on the Wheel of Fortune social media. So they were celebrating it as well, and it was a lot of fun. This week we had a blast as a family, celebrating that. And, of course, it's been an amazing week with our Impact Conference this week, and we had so many people from around the world. We had over 13,000 people join us online for this incredible conference that supports Highlands College. And then, of course, Giving Hope and all the things that God is doing. It's a wonderful season.

Now we step into two seasons that are coming up about 8 days from now. We'll start our services, our Christmas services, our candlelight Christmas services, and we want to invite every one of you to attend. It will be a remarkable experience at every location. We worked very, very hard at that. You will be surprised at what shows up at your location this year, but it's a beautiful time to not only come and celebrate Christmas, but also it's probably one of the best opportunities for somebody that's far from God to sit with you in church, and I do want to encourage you to consider that our Christmas services, more people have found our church through our Christmas services than anything else we've done by far.

So it's a wonderful opportunity at a time where I think people's hearts are very, very open to God. And then I also want to just briefly mention that we're only about four Sundays away from our 21 days of prayer and fasting, and I know that seems like a long way away. But in order to really fast effectively, especially the fasting side of that, I believe it takes a little bit of preparation. And so you might want to go educate yourself on fasting. I put resources both on the app and on our website just different teachings we've done, different ways you can fast, and I just want you to go into that season very, very strong and ready to go, because I truly believe 2024 is going to be the best way to start a brand new year seeking God with all of our heart. And everybody said a good amen.

All right. I want to bring you a very short, very simple, and I apologize for the simplicity of this, but sometimes the most profound things that God wants to say to us is found in the simple, and this couldn't be more simple. But I truly believe that God wants to minister to you in the next few minutes and give you a picture of who your God is that maybe you've never seen before. It's my favorite part of the Christmas story. So they all have beautiful parts from the Magi to, you know, Bethlehem, to shepherds on the hillside. Of course, both Matthew and Luke record the Christmas stories. And in Matthew chapter one it says, "This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married with Joseph. But before the marriage took place".

And I want to remind you that Jesus was both conceived and born before the marriage. They would eventually get married, but it was before the marriage took place while she was still a virgin. She became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, if you want to read the account where it actually happened, that's found in Luke chapter one. You can go read that. "But Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break up the engagement quietly. And as he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him".

So there was one that appeared to Mary, you can read in the book of Luke, but now an angel has to appear to Joseph, basically, to talk him into sticking with her. And it appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David," the angel, said, "Do not to afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child that's inside of her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son". And then the angel told Joseph what his name was to be. "You're to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins". That's actually what the word Jesus, the word Jesus literally means, it means Savior or to save people from their sins.

"And all of this occurred to fulfill the Lord's message through his prophet: that 'Look! A virgin will conceive a child. And she will give birth to a son.'" But I want you to notice this phrase. It's very, very interesting to me that even though his name will be Jesus, that's not what they're going to call him. They'll call him something different. I would like to submit to you that this is a nickname. So his name is Jesus; but when they see him, they're going to call him Immanuel, because Immanuel means he's God with us. And that was very, very unique to them. Of course, you know, if you ever nicknamed someone, nicknames have a way of basically identifying the person based on maybe a quality that their name doesn't suggest. Okay?

And so I love, I'm a big fan of nicknaming people I have a friend of mine. His nickname is fatback, because, y'all, he has a fat back, all right? So just, and we just, I mean, everybody, fat, hey fat, and we said it so long, we don't even, it doesn't matter if he'd lose weight. He's fatback. I mean, that's just, that's what it is. Nicknames are very interesting, because they can be a bit more descriptive, because they wouldn't know too much later that he would actually go to a cross and save them from their sins. When they realize that he's God on the planet, that's different now; because up to that point, for thousands of years, God is, they believed in God, but God was in heaven. God was on a throne. God was this faceless being; and even though they probably loved him, they loved God, they had nothing to relate to.

And so when Christmas came along and God says, "I'm going to send my Son to planet Earth". And notice not just to save people from their sins; because if that was the only mission of Jesus, why would he wait 33 years to do it? I mean, why? Just come down? Come here. And why didn't he go to the cross as a teenager? Why didn't he, if that was the sole mission? But that wasn't his sole mission. He had another mission, and that was to live life. In fact, in theology they call this the theology of identification, and the theology of identification means that it was important for Jesus not just to fulfill his mission to seek and save lost people, and then pay for their sins on the cross, but he wanted to experience enough Earth and enough life to know what you would go through.

And that's why he didn't even start his ministry, public ministry until he was 30 years old. From birth to 30, what was he doing? I'm gonna tell you what he was doing. He was living life, and he's experiencing things so that now he would qualify to be your best friend, because he had been through it himself. Now Hebrews chapter 4 clearly says this theology of identification, it says, "We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with you". So when you come to him thinking he's going to go, "Oh, my God, you're here again with that same problem," he doesn't. He actually empathizes with the places that you consider yourself weak. Why? Because he had been tempted. He'd already experienced it. He was tempted in every way. One translation says on all points.

So every place where you felt like, "Man, I almost blew it," or "I did blow it," you need to know that the one you serve felt that, experienced that. He made a better decision than all of us did. He was tempted just as we were. Yet, the Bible goes on to say, but he was yet without sin. But let us then approach that throne. So, since that's the God who he is, he's not the one to be afraid of. He's not the Wizard of Oz god. Right? You remember the Wizard, if you grew up with that movie, they're trembling up there, you know. "And what do you want"? "I just want to go back home to Kansas". "Go do something for me. Go get me the broom".

Like this demanding, performance-based, that's not who he is. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence that we might receive mercy and grace in our time of need. Are y'all listening to me, everybody? This is who he is. And if you don't have the right picture of God, you won't have a right relationship with God. The way you view him is the way you'll know him, and that's why I'm just trying to help you in this Christmas story. Because this Christmas story is very, very intentional to let you know who he actually is. Let me read you this same verse out of a paraphrase called "The Message," and it goes like this: "We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through the weakness and testing", And I love this line. "He experienced it all, all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help".

He understands. He's able to empathize, empathize. It's always easier to empathize with someone if you've been through the same thing. The person who's going through cancer is ministered best by someone who has actually maybe fought, and maybe won that battle. "Man, I know what you're feeling. I remember what those treatments are like". You need to understand that's who your God is. And I know that's so simple, but I wanted to bring you this simple reality, maybe in a time where you're going through testing, and trial, and tribulation, and maybe even failure. Maybe you've crossed lines that you know you shouldn't. You're wondering how God feels. You're wondering what to do. You're wondering how to think through this.

Here's the message for Christmas this year: that "The One sitting on the throne became a human being and experienced everything you and I experience, and he understands". Everybody say these last two words, everybody: "And he understands". So he understands everything because he experienced everything, and I just want to point out three areas that he understands, in the hopes of just being a pastor to you today and ministering to you. I think this is probably one of the biggest for me, personally, and that is he understands relationships. Like, he understands relationships. If you're going through a difficult relationship today, maybe in your marriage, or with your kids, or maybe with your boss, or maybe with a coworker, or maybe a neighbor, you need to know that Jesus understands.

Now remember, Jesus ended up with a family. In fact, I'll show it to you in Mark chapter 6. It actually says who they were. "Isn't this the carpenter"? Talking about Jesus. That was his profession, by the way. If you don't know what Jesus did from birth to 30, before he started public ministry, is he was a woodworker. He's a carpenter. "But isn't this Mary's son," watch this, "and the brother". And I like to say the half-brother, because Jesus's real dad is God the Holy Spirit, right? But Mary and Joseph got married and they had kids, other kids. There are already at least up to six, because it says James, Joseph, Judas, Simon, and then sisters, plural. So there's at least two. So, he had a big old family of at least seven kids in the household. And, you know, there was, there was heartache.

You say, "No, no, no, they knew he was God". No, they didn't. And chapter 3 of Mark, when his family heard about, this is when he's ministering now, when they heard about Jesus ministering to people, they went to get him out of there, rebuking, and they told everybody, "Don't listen to him, guys. He's out of his mind". So that's how his family treated him. They didn't know. And I think, my imagination thinks Jesus still did some things while they were growing up. You know, he had to walk across the pool one time. Right, everybody? You know he did it. And I can hear the guys. "Mom, Jesus is doing it again. He's walking on the water". Like, I'm sure that... I don't know. I just, my mind even pictures that Mary's saying, "Jesus, I need you to run to the store and pick up some sugar. I'm baking today". And he goes, "Mom, I'm busy right now". "Honey, I told you to go do it". "Okay, Mom, check the cupboard again".

You know. You know he just, wow, it's in there, you know. So anyway, I just, I don't know, I don't know. But his family did not appreciate that. His family wasn't, "Oh, my goodness, you're God". No, no, no. They thought he was out of his mind. They thought he was crazy. How many of you have at least one crazy person in your family? Raise your hand, okay? If you don't know who it is, it's probably you. Okay, just letting you know, all right. Check this out. He knows what it's like to be single. You ready for this? He knows what it's like to be married. You say, "He never married". Isn't he called the groom, and we're the bride of Christ?

So he loves us like the bride of Christ, which means he also knows what it's like for his wife to cheat on him. Because all of us have done that. Like, he understands the dynamic of relationships. I heard this story this past week. It's so funny to me. This mom and dad, who live in Miami, called their son, who lives in New York City. And they said, "Son, I've got some bad news to tell you. Mom and I, after 45 years of marriage, we're splitting up. We just, we're done, we're done". And the son goes, "No way, Dad. That's impossible. You can't do that. No, you stop. Don't do a thing. I'm calling, I'm calling sis". And sister lived out in California, and called sister. "You're not gonna believe this. I just got a call from Mom and Dad, and they're splitting up. They're getting a divorce after all these years". She goes, "Oh, no, they're not".

And she hangs up the phone and calls the parents, said, "Dad, Mom, y'all cannot be doing this. Stay right there. I'm gonna get my brother, and we're coming to Miami. Don't y'all do anything until we get there". And the dad hung up the phone and said, "It worked. They're coming and paying their own way". Come on, everybody, right? So try that, you parents. You might want to try that. The point I want to make to all of us, though, is that your God understands you. Like, Jesus understands.

And so I have a simple question for you today. So when are you going to talk to him about that? What I'm suggesting is that you find some time this Christmas to make your Christmas the most intimate "God with us" kind of Christmas. Take a little walk through the neighborhood and just whisper some words and say, "God, I'm really concerned about my son. And I'm really concerned about my daughter. And, God, I need you to move on my husband. I need you to, like, God, heal my mom," and just like whatever it is that you're facing. I'm just letting you know that if you did that, he would go, "I remember that, I remember that".

Second thing that I would want to just say, and I know this is very broad, but I want to say it in a broad way, that he understands just life. And again, I want to remind you that he was prepared for ministry at 12. If you don't know the story, Jesus brought, the parents, Joseph and Mary, brought Jesus to the temple when he was 12 years old, part of his bar mitzvah, part of the dedication. Basically, his baby dedication would have happened at 12 years old, and they couldn't find him. They're on the way back home, and they notice Jesus is not with them. They go back to Jerusalem, and Jesus is sitting in the temple courts teaching the religious leaders, like the top dogs. He, like, he was teaching them the Bible, which means, watch this, he was prepared for ministry at 12 years old.

So, again, I ask you, so then why didn't he start ministry at 12? Because in the Jewish culture, you're considered an adult at that age after you've gone through your bar mitzvah. Why didn't he start ministry? I fully believe that he intentionally lived 18 years on planet Earth to go through it all. Hebrews chapter 2 says it this way: "For this reason he had to be made like you, fully human," even though he's God, "Fully human in every way," watch this, "In order that he might become merciful", like, he can't truly be merciful unless he knows what to let you off of the hook for. "He's truly merciful and a faithful high priest in service to our God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people".

Again, same verses in the paraphrase. "That's why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of people's sins, he would have already experienced it all himself, all the pain, all the testing, and would be able to help where it was needed". In fact, I don't know if you know the dynamic or not, but the Bible clearly says that Jesus, right now, if you want to know what he's doing, he's seated at the right hand of the Father on the throne. So, here's God. Here's Jesus. And when you pray, I don't know if you know this or not, and I'm not trying to get technical with you, and you don't have to get it right, but I'm just telling you, when you pray, you're not really praying to God. You're praying, you're praying in Jesus. You're praying to God, in Jesus' name, because it goes through Jesus to him. The Bible says he makes intercession for you.

So he's like an attorney before the judge. So you plead the case. Jesus delivers that message to God the Father. So it would look something like this. You're saying, "Oh, my goodness, my finances or my health. I'm going through". And he goes, "Ah, I remember that. Hey, Dad, this is hard. I remember". So he's delivering it to you in his empathetic way. I think, I tell you this because I think everybody thinks of Jesus in this white robe as a preacher, but he only did that for three years, everybody. He spent 18 years with calloused hands, selling furniture, had people who probably cheated on him, people who didn't pay their bills in a tough economy. Like, he experienced it all.

And my question for you, today, so when are you going to talk to him about your life? Like when? When would you? When do you think it would be good to just come in and say, "Let me tell you what I'm going through". And I'm just trying to tell you that if you did, he understands. Here's the last one. I hope this is ministering to you. I want you to love him. I want you to know him. I want you to relate to him. I want you to see how much he loves you and took 18 years of his life, really 33, but he took his entire life to experience everything you would experience, and that, finally, he understands, of course, pain, pain. And not just physical pain, not just the cross, but he would experience emotional pain. He would experience the pain of grief.

Isaiah 53, the prophet Isaiah saw Jesus hundreds of years before he came to the planet, and so vividly describes something that actually happened: That "He was despised and rejected by mankind". Can we time out right there for everybody who feels like you've been rejected by somebody, hurt or betrayed by somebody? "A man of suffering". And look at this phrase. Don't miss it. "And familiar with pain". You have a God, they call him a man of suffering. And he had all types of pain. This is, of course, describing emotional pain and for everybody in here who's experiencing some kind of heartache, maybe of a dynamic of somebody at work or school and you feel the rejection, the betrayal, the abandonment. You just have a God who understands. He was ridiculed. I have to imagine that, because his mom wasn't married when she was pregnant, that they called him what that child would be. You know what I'm talking about.

"You're that kind of child. You didn't even have a daddy". And you can imagine the kind of the playground dynamics that he probably endured. But then you add on the physical pain of the cross. Isaiah goes on to describe it. Pierced, that's the nails. Crushed, that's the spear in his side, in his heart. The punishment that brought us peace, that's the crown of thorns. So he felt pressure in his head, so you could have peace in yours. And then by his stripes or wounds, we're healed. So, like, he took on cancer, diabetes, heart disease. And every stripe was for everything you would ever face in sickness.

So when you go to him with your sicknesses, he goes, "Yeah, I was there. I took the stripe for that, so that you could be healed". He was oppressed, afflicted, and didn't even open his mouth. I love this. This picture, to me, this is why I'm so proud of him and I love him so much. "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, a sheep before shearers, and didn't even have to open his mouth". He could have brought down every angel in heaven against them. I love the way Hebrews says it. Say, "Why would he do that"? He, for the joy set before him, he endured. Do you know what the joy, his joy was, that made him endure? Get ready for it. You. I think in any moment he'd think, "Okay, this is enough. Oh, wait, wait, wait. But Chris needs this". And he endured.

And so when you go through anything that's difficult, he understands. And I'll close with this. He understood what grief was, too, because one of the statements that he makes on the cross, there are seven statements, if you put together all four gospels. Actually, I've actually done teachings on this. I need to do it again. It's been a long time. The seven statements that Jesus made while he hung on the cross, and one of the statements he makes on the cross is, "Woman, behold your son". And from the cross, imagine with me, there he is with all the need and all the pain, and he's concerned about Mamma, and he looks down at Mom, and says, "Hey, Mom, John the disciple is going to take care of you from now on, because I'm not going to be here. John's going to take care of you". And then he said this to John: "Son, behold your mother".

Now, that would have been completely inappropriate, if Joseph was still around. But every scholar agrees that means Joseph had already died by the time Jesus went to the cross, which means he went to his daddy's funeral, which means he understands. I'm just trying to let you know that he knows. And so when are you going to talk to him about your pain? My whole goal in this is very, very simple. I know this is probably the simplest message you've ever heard, but he experienced it, he felt it. He understands it. And he would love to have a conversation with you about it. And so what do we do? I would like to make the case that he moved first. The God at Christmas time sends down this this baby, in poverty, in a stable. Lived his life, every bit of it, so he could qualify to be your best friend. And since he moved, I encourage you to move.

I close with this last verse. The Bible says, "Come near to God". Like, come near, like, make a move. And I had this on my mind. I'm just gonna close with this thought, and we're gonna pray. I saw in my spirit while I was praying for you in this service, I saw somebody who's, like, in your heart. You've wanted to, like, go toward God, and it's like your feet are stuck in concrete. And you've wanted, like, I want to. You hear these messages, and you want to, but you're still there. You're, like, stuck. And I was praying. I said, "God, would you give us a special day, where people feel the confidence for the first time ever or in a long time to move towards you, to come near you"?

I want you to bow your heads in prayer right there where you are. And if you're here today at all of our campuses, I'm gonna lead all of the campuses through this whole prayer time. If you're here today and you say, "Chris, I don't even know if I'm a Christian, but I'm ready to move. I'm just ready to take a step. I'm ready to take a step toward God. I'm ready to move. I'm ready to know him. I had no idea this is a God that would love me this much, and I want to know him. I want to be in a relationship with him. In the best way I know how, I just want to take my step today toward him and I want to cross that line of faith and make him the Lord of my life".

No one looking around. If that's you, I'm not going to have you stand up or come to the front. But if that's you, lift your hand right now and put it right back down. Say, "That's me, count me in". Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep. I see hands literally all over Grants Mill. I'm sure it's happening at other locations, as well. Just lift it up high toward heaven. Let him see, let God see it. Good, good, good, good. Anybody else? Awesome. Maybe you're a Christian, but you know it's not where it's supposed to be, and you're ready to move back. "I'm just ready, I'm ready to move back toward God. I'm a Christian, but it's not right. And I'm ready to come close to him, if that's you, no one's looking around".

Be bold today. Lift your hands. Say, "That's me, that's me". Lift it up, come on, lift it up high all over this, good, good, good, good. That's God moving in people's lives. I love that literally hundreds of hands, you can slip those hands down. Pray this prayer with me, just whisper it. And anybody in this room and at every one of our locations can join me, and then I'll hand it over to the campus pastors. Just say this:

Thank you. Thank you for being the most amazing God ever. Thank you for loving me, knowing me, experiencing what I experience. And thank you for understanding. I especially thank you for going to the cross to pay for what I did. And today I repent. I turn my life, my heart towards you, and I make you the Lord of my life. Save me. Jesus, save me. I give you my life today. In your name, I pray, amen.

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