Craig Groeschel - Am I Too Bad for God?
We are in a message series called "Doubting God". And today I wanna talk about one of the big reasons why some people doubt God, or maybe I should say they doubt Christianity. When you think about it, one of the reasons that people doubt isn't because of the way that Jesus lived. They don't doubt Christianity because of the way that Jesus loved. The reason that so many people might doubt Christianity is because of what Jesus claimed. And let me try to explain. You probably noticed that in our culture today, you can talk about God, and you can talk about spirituality, and there's not gonna be a lot of controversy. An athlete at the end of winning some kind of match or game can lift up the trophy and say, I thank God. And everybody goes.
A celebrity can say, "I've been praying to God and nobody freaks out". You can talk about God, or you can talk about spirituality, and there's not a lot of controversy, but when you bring up the name of Jesus, things often get tense quickly. And it's interesting when you think about it, because almost everyone actually likes Jesus. You don't have to be a Christian to like the guy that loved sinners. I mean, He was amazing and gracious to people and He spent time with the poor. And He humbled oppressive leaders who took advantage of widows. And He went to parties and He restocked the wine barrels at parties. He multiplied a boy's lunch and had an all you can eat picnic on the side of a mountain. People like how Jesus lived. They like how He loved. They just don't like the exclusive claims. And when you think about it, and when you objectively look at Jesus, let's just say you're not even a Christian, but you just look at Jesus.
You have to admit, He was ridiculously humble. The guy would wash the feet of His own disciples. That was a job reserved for those who were seen as the lowest in society. He was ridiculously humble, but He wasn't modest at all. He wasn't modest. For example, you may know the story whenever Lazarus, His friend died and Mary and Martha were like freaking out, Jesus, didn't say, oh, well that's life. He said, no, I am the resurrection and the life. That's a bold claim. Whenever the Pharisees got mad because He did miracles on the Sabbath, and said, "you can't heal on the Sabbath". He said, no, no, you don't understand, I am the Lord of the Sabbath. That's a bold claim. He was audacious enough to say, if you love your mom or your dad more than you love me, you're not worthy of me.
One of the reasons that so many people doubt Christianity isn't because of the way Jesus lived and not because of the way that He loved, it's because of what He claimed. He actually claimed that He and the Father are one. That He is the only way to God. In fact, if you look in John 14, there is a very, very powerful declaration that Jesus made when he was comforting his disciples. And He said, I'm gonna go away and I'm gonna prepare a place for you. And Thomas was like, oh, oh, oh, I got a question. Where are you going? And Jesus said, this, watch this claim, John 14:6 Jesus answered He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me".
I am the way to God, I am the life that you're looking for. And I am the truth. And no one gets to my Father in heaven, unless you come through me. People don't criticize the way He loves people, they don't criticize the way He lived, they criticize the audacity to make the exclusive claim. Jesus, can't be the only way to God. That's too exclusive, that's not fair. And when I look at that, I kinda wanna just tell you, you may hate me and leave the church, I kinda understand. Like the only way, it doesn't seem very fair. Like who's to say? Okay, so that's your opinion, and you're invalidating someone else's opinion. So you're really that smart. Your theology is the right one and everybody else is wrong. That's how right you are?
And then it leads me to the next logical thought. Well, it really probably doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're sincere, because there's so many different people, which leads me to the thought that, well, certainly all paths must lead to God, and to some extent, all religions are the same. That actually sounds pretty good. Doesn't it? You're afraid to nod your head? It really does. I mean, that sounds reasonable. That feels loving. It's inclusive. The problem is it's just not true. It's not true that all religions are the same. And what I wanna do as a Christian unapologetically, a follower of Jesus, I wanna shock some of you and tell you right now beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is some truth and beauty in most world religions.
You can look at all sorts of different world religions, and you can find things that add value and things that are beautiful, and things that are helpful, and things that are true. And though you can find things that are beautiful and true, we have to acknowledge that they are not all the same. And so what I wanna do for just a moment, and I have to apologize because I'm not gonna do it really well or thoroughly, but I wanna look at some of not all, but some of the major world religions. And I'm gonna give you a very brief overview. And I apologize because I do it with respect. I'm gonna summarize in like seven seconds, major world religions. So I'm just acknowledging, it's gonna be very, very incomplete including Christianity, but I wanna do it just to show you, there may be truth and beauty in some, but there's not all the same.
And so let's look at a few different ones and just kinda acknowledge from a high perspective, let's start with Buddhism. A Buddhist would believe that there is no God, and there's no type of final existence after this life. There's just countless rebirths and endless, ongoing cycles. So a Buddhist would believe something different from a Hindu because Hinduism does have a God. But it's an impersonal God. And you approach that impersonal God through deities and statues and idols. Let's take both of those together. Buddhism and Hinduism. They both have no forgiveness of sins, and no supernatural help, only karma, which actually seems like a pretty real thing. Like you do bad and you get bad back, or you do good and you get good back. And so that's what those would believe. A Muslim though, they're gonna worship Allah, who is a personal God.
There's no secondary gods, there's a total ban on idols so keep your statues out of here. Your standing with God, it depends on your religious devotion, and it depends on your faithfulness, and it depends on your good works. Take kind of the New Age movement. And this is different from the rest. There is no personal God, but someone in the New Age movement might be seeking a higher consciousness, becoming one with the universe or the cosmos, and then contrast all of those with Christianity. Christianity believes in a personal God who loves His people unconditionally, who became one of them in the person of Jesus and sacrificed His life for the forgiveness of sins. So we have to acknowledge. Although it feels kinda good to say all paths lead to God, all religions are basically the same, there may be truth and beauty in most, but they are not all the same.
What I wanna do today is I just want to plead with you, beg you, invite you just to consider Jesus. Just Jesus. Let me be really, really clear. I'm not talking about considering our church because our church doesn't get everything right. I'm not asking you to consider Christians because, oh dear God, many Christians don't get it right. Some are ridiculously loving and full of grace and generous, and some of them, I don't wanna claim sometimes. Is it rude to say that out loud? They could be very, very hateful, narrow minded, critical and judgmental. And so don't consider Christians, don't consider even our church, and don't even consider me. Because unfortunately, as much as I want to always be God honoring, I am capable of sin. And to the best of my ability, I try not to, but somehow I still seem to let people down. Don't look at any of those things.
What I want you to do is just consider Jesus. And what we're gonna do is consider three aspects of the life of Jesus. You wanna do that? If you're ready, say I'm ready. Are you ready? The first thing I want you to do is simply consider the ministry of Jesus. Just the ministry. The way He loves people, the outcomes of what would happen whenever Jesus was around. Consider the ministry of Jesus and we'll contrast it with a group of religious leaders known as the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the religious leaders that would snub those people with loose morals. Those people who have a past, those people who were too poor, or too different, or had something wrong with their bodies. They wouldn't necessarily say let them come to synagogue. The religious leaders would often snub them and those that other people despised, and ignored, and rejected, Jesus loved, and He accepted them. Consider the ministry, the way that Jesus treated people.
In fact, you can read about it in Mark's gospel. Mark 2:16 says, "when the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with sinners, and tax collectors gasped. They asked the disciples, why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners"? On hearing this, imagine the love in His heart when Jesus said to them, hey, let me tell you why I came. It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but it's the sick. Imagine, feel the compassion if you're sitting there. If you're one of the ones that are broken, lost, hurting, and dead in your sins when He says, I have not come to call the righteous, but I've come to call the sinners. I'm telling you, just consider the ministry of Jesus.
Think about the miracles. What did He do? When you see a blind guy, He could open blind eyes. He could heal deaf ears. He cast out demons. He walked on water. Jesus raised the dead. And here's, what's interesting. Even if you're not a Jesus follower, I want you to understand, His critics did not question the validity of His miracles. They just wanted Him to stop. Consider the ministry. The person sitting near you might be the result of the ministry of Jesus. Because I promise you, I am. I am. If you don't know my story, I was lost, dead, broken, almost incapable of telling the truth in my early teen years. I would pretend like I was one person to one group and another person to another, and lied all the time. And I'm embarrassed to say, but I cheated, and I stole. I stole so much, I got arrested for shoplifting.
I was hooked on chemicals at a very early age and couldn't stop drinking and hurt people after people and hated myself, and didn't know how to change, and couldn't change, and couldn't stop my abusive lifestyle and my addictions. And I started reading about Jesus. And one day I cried out to Him and I knelt down to pray. And when I knelt down, I was one person. And when I stood up, I'm telling you, let me promise you. I was different, different. Consider the ministry of Jesus. The broken people that He loved, and the lives that He changed. Consider His ministry. I'd also invite you, urge you, beg you to consider the resurrection of Jesus. Consider the resurrection. What do we know about the Christian God, the God of the Christian Bible? We know that He loves people so much, but He hates sin. And the Christian Bible teaches us that God became one of us in the person of Jesus.
And Jesus the Son of God became sin for us on a cross hanging naked and ashamed while the creation mocked Jesus. He looked up to heaven and prayed for them as they were cursing Him. "Father, forgive them for they don't even know what they're doing". And He said, "it's finished". I did what you sent me to do, into Your hands I commit my spirit. The moment He did, the earth shook. And the Roman Centurion who doubted the divinity of Jesus, looked on and said, surely, that man is the Son of God. And three days later, there's a bunch of people who believe that the stone was rolled away, and the tomb was empty. And Peter is the one who said this. Peter said, "you killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead". And Peter said, we are witnesses to this. We saw it. We were there. We experienced, we touched Him. We ate with Him. He was dead and now He's not dead anymore.
And some people would say, but oh no, the disciples must have stolen the body. Well, to believe that, you'd have to believe that these unarmed guards overpowered some Roman guards and you still have the testimony of the guards. What's so interesting is when you look at this, you have to ask yourself, would you really expect any rational thinking person to believe that 11 small town, uneducated, average men devised the most elaborate, deceptive scheme in the history of the world, pulled it off, kept it secret, and it continues to spread 2000 years later? And they did all this with no personal motive? All they had was extreme personal loss. Meaning, of the remaining 11 all died the death of a martyr, except for the lucky one, John.
John lived after they dipped him in boiling oil. And somehow he survived that. And he was lucky enough to be cast off to an island, exiled to the island of Patmos. And every single other one of the men who saw the resurrected Christ were willing to die for their faith, extreme personal loss and cheating the whole world into be better place. Consider His ministry, and His love, and His grace, and who He came for. And consider the resurrection of Jesus. That people saw Him, hundreds of people saw Him and were willing to give their lives for Him. And then finally, I'd ask you to consider the message of Jesus.
Just think about, look objectively at what it is that He taught. Consider the message of Jesus. In fact, I wanna spend a little bit more time here and I'm gonna quote from 1 John first, and then we're gonna hit directly into the message of Jesus. But John said this, he said, hey, don't believe every spirit. He said, I want you to test the spirits because there's many false prophets. There's gonna be those trying to lead you astray in the world. And he said this, he said, 1 John 4:2. He said, "this is how you can recognize the Spirit of God. Every spirit that acknowledges" what do you have to acknowledge? "That Jesus Christ has come in the flesh". If you acknowledge that, that spirit is from God.
Now I wanna dive into this first and I wanna share with you some thoughts that I learned from Tim Keller. So I give him credit for his ideas. Basically he pointed out that scripture says, that Jesus has come. In this instance, it didn't say He was born. Obviously He was born, but over and over again in the Bible says that Jesus came into the world. What that means is if He came into the world, He was somewhere else before He was in this world. When you look at it, every other religious founder was a normal human being. But Jesus was God in the flesh who came to this world. And that fact distinguishes Christianity from any other world, religion. In fact, He came in the flesh into this world. Every other world religion will try to separate you from this world.
Many Eastern religions will say, will you overcome the world through stages of consciousness. In the west, there are many that would teach you through good moral behavior, and through good works and through charity, and through doing the right thing, and through prayer, you escape this world and then you go to heaven. But Christianity tells us, God so loves the world that He came to us to do for us, what we couldn't do for ourselves. So the salvation of God through Christ, isn't just to escape this world, but God will actually redeem this world. He will redeem death, disease, poverty, and injustice. And that's why one day the God of the Bible will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And there'll be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain for the old order of things have passed away. God doesn't just deliver us from the world He created, He redeems the world as He redeems His people to reign with Him for all eternity.
So when you look around, what do you believe? Let me just kinda get in your business. I can't convince you, I'm not even gonna try. I'm just gonna present the facts the best way I can and let you decide. In the day, one day you die, game over. And something happens, you go somewhere. To the ground, you become a butterfly, you go to heaven, you go to hell. One day, no matter how many Instagram followers you got, how many shoes you wear, where you went on vacation. One day, you go there, wherever. And so my advice to you, just as someone who cares about people in general, is let's do our homework. At some point, you're gonna ask like, what's the meaning of life? And many people would conclude, but we gotta find the truth. Let's get the truth. Let's get the truth.
It's interesting is sometimes when people know the truth, they become arrogant, right? I got the truth. You're stupid. I'm right. I got the truth. That can be a weakness of Christians, can I just say that? Any world religion, we got the truth, means we're better. But Christianity tends to humble, not create pride when you really follow Jesus. So choose your truth. What's your truth. What's your truth. What's your truth? Whatever truth you choose, there's gonna be some rules. And I wanna tell you right now, the rules can't hug you, rules can't forgive you, the rules can't encourage you, and the rules can't love you.
So if it's not truth, what's the meaning of life? Well, let's try love. Let's find acceptance with people. Let's be popular. Let's find the perfect person who meets every need, and is our soulmate, and fulfills our dreams, and makes every love song on the radio make sense, and makes the little hair stand up with a much tingly wingly. The one that I wanna walk on, see my hero is home and I love you so much. And we've happily married forever, we've never had a fight. Let's find that person. The problem is when you find that one, they're imperfect just like you. And they let you down. And I don't know what they might do, but they might lie to you, or they might be self-centered, and they might not live up to your expectations.
So you conclude well, just as truth can't love you, those we love, aren't always true, they're flawed. So what do we do? We do what so many people today have done. We abandon truth. I'll do my own thing. Whatever feels good to me, I'm gonna do it. We abandon truth and we get cynical about love. And all that leaves us is time to post hateful comments on social media. Can you smile and acknowledge that? You all have been quiet today. Just do our own thing, but can't trust people. So let's just go through life bitter. Maybe it's quiet, 'cause we're getting close to where a lot of people live. And Jesus said this, He said in this an audacious claim. And He's either true or He's crazy, but He is not a hobby. He's not an add-on, He's not a feel good toy. He's not your therapist, He's either who He says He is, or He is pure blown crazy. But He's nothing in between.
And that's why we don't take it lightly. Not just church membership and good works. It's a sincere, honest examination that you will not be here one day on this earth. You better ask Him questions today. I'm asking to consider Jesus. And what He claimed was is that He is the way to God, and the only way to God, the only way to God. And He said, He's the life. He's the life that you've been looking for. And He claimed that He's the truth. If He's the truth, then, truth isn't just an idea. But now we can say truth is a person in Jesus. And because this truth is a person, then Jesus is a truth that can actually love you. And because He's without sin, then He has a love that will never ever let you down. And that's why I would declare to you with every bit of faith that I have, that Jesus is the name above every name. His name is above every name. At His name, one day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess.
And so if you wonder what's the meaning of life, am I too bad for God? I would invite you to consider Jesus. Consider Jesus, consider Jesus. And scripture says this about His message, that we are made right with God. How are we made right with God? By placing our faith not in our good works, not in our church, not in our religious belief system, not in our own effort, but by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes. Watch this, watch this. No matter who we are, no matter what you've done, no matter how dark your life is, no matter how often you've fallen short, no matter the secrets that you don't want anybody to know about you, how are you made right with God? The Bible teaches, is by Jesus and Jesus alone. We would say it this way. What is it? It is Christ plus nothing. Plus nothing. Plus nothing plus nothing. Plus nothing.
Take any religious system and religion teachers. That's about me. My works, my goodness. You take Christianity, it's all about Jesus. It's about Jesus. His goodness. You take a religious system and it teaches if you really love God or whatever it is, then you all obey and then you'll be good and you try harder. But Christianity says, because God first loved me, I get to choose to obey, I want to worship Him. I want to live for Him because He initiated while I was still sinning. He came from heaven to earth to give His life for me. It's about Him. Religion is all is spelled do D O. Do more. Do this, do that. Don't do that. Do this. Christianity is spelled D O N E. It was done. It was paid for on the cross. You can't add anything to it. The work is perfect. It has been done. Jesus is declared, it is finished. And He claims to be the way, and He claims to be the truth. And He claims to be the life. And either He's right or He's crazy.
I would just ask you to consider. And if you're like me, and you look at the evidence I see, I have the faith to believe that He is who He says He is. But He's so exclusive. Christians are just so exclusive. Ah, you're just so narrow. Ah, Christianity is so exclusive,. Hey, listen, it's the least exclusive of everything you're gonna see ever because God through Jesus allows the weakest, the most broken, and the worst sinners to come. And so I don't know about you, but that's the grace, that's the love, that's the truth, and I believe that's the way. And so I choose to surrender all of my life and follow Him. Not a hobby, not a add-on, not a, oh, I feel good when I go to church and they play my favorite song, oh, I got my little small group. No, dying to myself, following Him because I believe His name is above every name. His name is Jesus. And I ask you to consider Jesus.
Father, I pray today that you would do what only you can do. 'cause I know there are a lot of smart people, and a lot of smart, hurting people, and a bunch of people that are gonna die one day.
So I just ask God at some point in all of our lives, we would have the courage to ask Him real question and do some real homework.
And God, I thank you that even as we study, that we'll still come across some questions we may not be able to answer and ultimately, we're gonna have to have faith. And so I thank you, God, that there's something that comes from heaven that is different than anything that we can create that You draw us by Your Holy Spirit. I thank you, God that you're drawing some people today.
As you're praying, nobody looking around. For those of you that are committed followers of Jesus and you want to be even more committed to Him. Unusual question, but I want you just consider it because it's easy to become comfortable, it's easy to take Him for granted, it's easy to be lukewarm and you say, okay, I, yeah, this is alignment. Again, this isn't about me, it's not about my house, my comfort that if I really believe this Jesus stuff I wanna be even more devoted to Him. I want to show Him if you feel that conviction today, would you just lift up your hand just for a moment? You can type it in the comment section, "help me be closer to Jesus, help me be more devoted to Jesus".
And I pray that your Holy Spirit would just do a stirring in us. Draw us to you just to fall in love with You all over again. We need You not just for salvation in the beginning, but we need You. Hey, we need your strength. We need your power, we need your comfort. We need your grace. We need you. God stir up our church to be fully devoted to you. Not to a church, not to a denomination, but to Jesus, to Jesus. To live like He lived, to love like He loved. Help us be devoted to Jesus.
As you keep praying today, let me tell you what's happening right now to some of you. And it's not because I'm a prophet, it's because I know how God works. That right now, some of you you're just being strangely drawn to Him. And for some of you, there were like weird things happening that we were like going, is that God trying to reach me? You've been on the edge, you've been kicking the tires. Let me tell you that you're not, here, you're not watching by accident. You're watching, you're here because God came to you first. He sent Jesus into this world. He didn't shout from heaven. He didn't establish a bunch of rules you had to keep, He showed Himself. God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, Jesus. Look at Jesus, He came for the broken. He came for the sick, He came for the hurting. He came for people like me. And I promise you, He came for people like you.
And some of you, you recognize, you need His forgiveness. You need His grace. You need His presence. You need His comfort. He's not here just to help you get to heaven one day, He's gonna redeem your life. He's gonna make you new. He's gonna one day redeem the whole world. That's how good He is. Wherever you're watching from those who say, I really do, I know I've done wrong, you can't work your way to Him. You can't be religious enough for Him. You're only saved by grace. By putting your faith in Jesus. Jesus plus nothing. Wherever you're watching from those of you who say, I want that. Today, here's what we're doing, we're just stepping away from ourself. We are sinful, we're stepping way from our sins and we're putting our faith in Jesus and we're becoming His disciples. We follow Him, we live like Him. We let His word direct us. We let His Spirit empower us wherever you're watching from today.
Those who say: "I want it today by faith. I surrender by faith. By faith, God has been drawing you by faith. I surrender my life to Jesus. Jesus save me today. I give my life to you". That's your prayer. Lift your hands high now all over the place. Lift them up please. Oh my gosh. Thank God for people today coming to faith in Christ. Thank God, somebody let's give Him praise today. Online, wherever you're watching from. Just however you wanna say it, type in the chat. I am committing to be a disciple of Jesus. Just however you wanna say it in your words, and we're gonna pray together and then we're gonna give God some thanks today. Would you just pray, everyone, no one prays alone. Pray:
Heavenly Father, would you forgive me? I know I've sinned. Change me, fill me with Your Spirit so I can know You personally, so I can experience Your grace so I can show your love. Thank you that you're a personal God. Thank you that you came from me, thank you that you loved me when I didn't deserve it. I give my whole life to you. Use me to share your love. Thank you for Jesus. He is my savior, He is my Lord. I give my life to Him. In Jesus' name I pray.