Greg Laurie - Home For Christmas
We are in the book of Ephesians today. Ephesians chapter 3 and the title of my message is: home for Christmas. Ephesians 3, home for Christmas. So quick question: how many of you will be home this Christmas? Raise up your hand. A lot of you. How many of you are going to be traveling for Christmas? Travel? Yeah. Okay. Quite a few of you as well.
I heard about a couple who had been married for 50 years that were celebrating Christmas and they wanted their adult children who lived out of state to come home and be a part of the Christmas celebration, but both of these kids their son and daughter had their own families their own lives and they told mom and dad they would be not be coming home for Christmas, so the father called the son and said, "Son, I have really bad news for you. Your mother and I are divorcing after 50 years of marriage. Tell your sister".
So the son told his sister, and the sister called back the dad and said, "Dad, don't do anything. We're going to be on a plane tomorrow to talk to you and mom, so don't do a thing". So, the father hung up the phone and walked into his wife who was getting ready and he said, "Honey, good news. The kids are coming home for Christmas, and they're paying their own way". So that's one way to get the kids home for Christmas.
You know, there's a lot of songs with the word "Home" in them. I Googled it the other day. There's of course, "Home for Christmas", "There's no place like home for the holidays", and then other songs that just have the word "Home" in them. "Sweet home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. "Take me home, country roads" - John Denver. "Please come home for Christmas" - The Eagles, and the heartwarming song "Take your whiskey home" by Van Halen. Yeah. It's not one of my favorites. Maybe that's why Loretta Lynn sang "Don't come home a-drinkin' with lovin' on your mind". Maybe the guy came home a-drinkin' with lovin' on his mind and that's why the Beatles recorded a song "She's leaving home", because this isn't going to work at all.
I don't know what comes to your mind when you hear the word "Home", but for many years of my life, for the first 17 years effectively, I didn't really have a place I would call home. We lived in houses. We lived in apartments. We lived with other people because I came from a broken home. How many of you came from a broken home? So, you know what I'm talking about. I've told you before, my mother was married and divorced seven times, and she was always going from husband to husband.
So, I moved from California to New Jersey. Then I moved from New Jersey to Hawaii, and then from Hawaii back to California again. My mom was always out every night, so I never knew what it was like to have a family meal. I just went out and got my own food and there used to be a restaurant that I would go to called the snack shop and later it became coco's. Remember coco's? There's not many coco's around anymore. I remember back in 1985 when Billy Graham came and did his crusade here there were coco's everywhere, and I remember him saying this and it just stayed with me. I don't know why. He said, "And everywhere I look here in California, there's a coco's". And it was just the way he said "Coco's" cracked me up. Coco's!
But anyway, so I went to the snack shop later to become Coco's, and I always ordered the same thing: Hamburger, Vanilla Malt, French Fries. So, I would tell my friends, "That's what I eat every night for dinner". They would say, "Man, you are living the good life. We wish we were living your life. We have to go home and sit at the table with mom and dad and eat horrible vegetables and you're eating a Hamburger, French Fries and a Vanilla Malt". But you know what? I wanted their life, so I would sometimes go over to friend's houses and have dinner with them. I didn't even like the food they ate, but I wanted to be in a family setting. It was so alien to me.
One Christmas memory that stays with me, it was Christmas morning. We had one of those artificial trees. It was white, and it was that little light that slowly turns you know? Blue lens, red lens on the tree with some funky little song playing. My mother was passed out from a night of drinking. The house smelled of stale smoke and alcohol. And as I sat there looking at that tree and looking at my mom, I thought it's got to get better than this.
And it did get better than that when I met Cathe Martin, later to become Cathe Laurie and we got married and that was the first time I knew what a home was. We didn't have a fancy home. We had a funky little house we lived in. We had threadbare furniture. Some of which came from the Salvation Army. We had two sons. When I was with Cathe and with my boys we were home - that was home for us.
You know, I've been in a lot of homes over the years. I've been in the homes of very, very wealthy people. You would call them palatial estates. Magnificent. I've been in some very humble homes as well. I'm a chaplain with the police department and I was called to a luxury home of a woman who had committed suicide. As I walked into her home, there were her children who were devastated, needless to say. It was a perfectly decorated home. Ocean view. Everything a person could want in life.
The husband was out that afternoon sailing his yacht, and the wife was so despondent, she sat behind the wheel of her car and turned the engine on and committed suicide in her garage. She left notes for every member of her family. "I thought what a sad situation that was. It was house, but it was not a home".
Then I thought of something that happened years ago when I was in Ethiopia doing a pastor's conference and the pastor invited us to his house. He had dirt floors. He didn't really have windows. It was open to the elements and they literally had a fire burning inside of the home which was filled with smoke. He was making us a meal and then he asked me if I would like some milk. I said "yes", but I didn't know that meant he was going to literally milk his cow right there which he did and he put it in a glass.
I'm going to be honest with you. I was not excited about drinking that milk because it was kind of room temperature and I remembered Mark 16. It says, "You can drink of any deadly poison. It will not harm you". I just said, "Lord, don't let me die", because I'm going to take one for the team because I'm not going to offend this gentleman who is offering me such a precious gift. I drank the milk and I was fine, but that was a home. So I've been in houses that are palatial that are not a home, and I've been in structures that you would barely even call a house that have the warmth of a home.
You know, when Jesus walked this earth you could technically say he was homeless. Jesus said, "Birds have nests, and foxes have holes, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head". But in heaven he had the greatest of all homes. In John 14 Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my father's house are many mansions. If it were not so I would've told you. I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am you may be also". A better translation would be, "In my Father's house are many rooms".
My father's house suggests something big like an estate, spaciousness: but rooms suggests coziness, a private space. Bringing me to my first point in this message: Jesus left his home in heaven so you could have a home in heaven. You know, we've Romanticized the Christmas story. We see what we call The Holy Family - Mary and Joseph with a newborn Jesus. They each have a halo. Jesus has a little baby-sized halo. The animals are looking on in reverence and it's bathed in blue light.
It's a beautiful scene. But that's not the way it was. God sent his son from the glory of heaven to be born in the most unsanitary conditions imaginable. God went from the glory of the throne to what is a feeding troth in a cave. We call it a manger. It was a barn where animals were. Straw was on the ground. The smell of urine would've been in the air. It was cold. It was damp. It was an unwelcoming place and that to me does not diminish the Christmas story. In fact, it enhances the Christmas story to think of all that God left to come to us. What an amazing sacrifice it was, but he left his heavenly home so we could have a heavenly home.
Point number two: Jesus left his home in heaven to make a home in our heart. Listen to this, he was born so we could be born again. He was born so we could be born again, or as C. S. Lewis put it "The Son of God became a man that men might become sons of God". Here's the thing. When a person becomes a Christian Jesus Christ literally takes residence in their heart. Some would say, "No, that's not biblical and it's really not correct to say to someone that they should ask Christ into their life or that they should receive Christ into their life". Well, actually I would beg to differ because the Bible actually does teach that Christ comes and lives in the human heart.
I heard the story of a mother who was telling her little girl that Jesus lived in her heart, so the little girl put her ear to her mom's chest and she said, "I'm listening to Jesus in your heart". And the mother said, "Really? What are you hearing"? She says, "Mom, I think right now he's making coffee". Maybe the mother had indigestion. I don't know. But the fact is when a person believes in Jesus he really does come and live inside of you. It's accurate biblically to say that.
Colossians 1:27 says, "This is the secret: Christ lives in you". And then over in John 1:12, "For as many as received him, he gave them the right to become children of God". You receive Christ, so it is accurate to say one must receive Christ. It is accurate to say Christ lives in one's life. In fact, Jesus said in John 14:23, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and My Father will love him and we (speaking of the Father and the Son) will come and make our home with him". So when you become a Christian, Christ literally comes and makes his home with you.
Of course, the often quoted verse is where Jesus says in revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in". So when a person becomes a Christian, Christ literally takes residence in their life. But now let me ask you a question. Let me ask two questions. How many of you have asked Christ to come into your life? Raise up your hand. Okay that's pretty much everyone. Now let me ask you another question. I don't want you to raise your hand. Do you think Jesus is at home in your heart?
Let me explain what I mean by that. Look in Colossians 3:17 reading down to verse 18. This, by the way, is the prayer of the apostle Paul for the believers living in Ephesus. Look at verse 17. He's saying, "My prayer is that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and the length and the depth and height and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge that you might be filled with all the fullness of God".
Now here's a question. Why would Paul pray that Christ would dwell in the hearts of people who had already put their faith in Christ? Because after all, as we pointed out, does he not already dwell in the heart of every man and woman who have received him? The answer is yes, but we need to understand what the word dwell means. It's a compound word, which basically means to live in a house, but when you add a prefix meaning down it comes to mean that Christ may settle down and be at home in your life.
Have you ever walked into someone's home and you found yourself ill at ease? There was something about it that you didn't like. Maybe it was what was playing on the television. Maybe it was what was being listened to on the sound system. Maybe it was what they were cooking, liver and onions. I don't know. But it was not welcoming. You walked in and went okay. You're looking forward to leaving that house. You weren't comfortable there. But then again, have you ever been in a home that was so welcoming? It was just warm and there was something great cooking on the stove and everyone was welcoming to you. "Please, take off your coat. Sit down. Spend a little time with us". It was a welcoming home.
I wonder what your heart is like as Jesus there. Is he settled down and at home in your heart or would there be something in your life or something in my life that would cause him to be ill at ease? Let's just say that Jesus literally was standing at your door when you got home from church knocking and you invited him in. Let's say for the sake of an illustration Christ himself walked into your front room. There you are standing next to Jesus Christ, and then he walks into your family room. Are there things you would want to put away so he would not see them? Would you still feel comfortable watching that show on Netflix you were just watching if Jesus suddenly walked into the room? Or Jesus sat down next to you as you're out there surfing the net looking at your favorite sites. Would there be anything you'd be embarrassed if he were to see it?
That's what this idea is here in this verse. Is that Christ would settle down and be at home in your life. We have an expression we'll use. "Mi casa es su casa", which is Spanish for my house is your house. When you become a Christian that literally becomes true. Jesus does not merely want to be a guest in your home. He wants to now be the owner of your home. When you invite him in he now is the one who owns the house and you are living in his house. Sometimes we're reluctant because we're afraid God is going to mess everything up and ruin our lives. No. He's going to make it better.
There's a television show on the food channel called "Restaurant Impossible". Have you ever seen that show? The host is Robert Irvine. He's a restaurateur. He knows how to fix restaurants that are failing, so people write in and say come help our restaurant, so he'll show up and he'll try their food and it's sometimes disgusting and they're not meeting health standards and they have horrible customer service and there's all kinds of things going on. So he'll basically say, "Look, I' m going to change this place", and he'll sometimes demolish the restaurant and do a lot of construction and change and then he invites the people back for the big reveal and they're always so excited because that mess they couldn't fix is transformed because he comes in and he knows what he's doing.
That's what happens when Christ settles down in your life. He might do a little demolishing. He might remove a few things, but what he replaces them with will be so much better. You won't miss it. Just wait for the big reveal and let the Lord have his way in your life that Christ may settle down and be at home in your heart.
So number one: Jesus left his home in heaven so you can have a home in heaven. Number two: Jesus left his home in heaven to make a home in your heart. And now my third and last point: when Jesus is at home in your heart you will be at home in the church. When Jesus is at home in your heart you will be at home in the church.
You know, it's interesting. In the Bible, the words "Home" and "Church" and/or "Temple" or "Synagogue" or "Gathering" are interchangeable words. Remember David said, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" in Psalm 23, or literally "I have a home in the house of the Lord forever". We read these words often about it being like a home. Jesus, when he was in the temple speaking with the elders there, said to Mary and Joseph who had lost sight of him, "Did you not know that I would be in my father's house"? This is the house of the Lord.
Church is home for the follower of Jesus Christ and you're surrounded by the family of God. There are things that we do when we gather together with family and one of those things is usually eat together, right. You have meals, and we do that at church. We have meals together - spiritual meals. We feast on the Word of God. Job 23:12 says, "I've treasured his words more than my daily food". The early church feasted on the Word of God. Acts 2:37 says, "They continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine the breaking of bread and a prayer".
So we feast on God's word together, and healthy families spend time together. There's a word that is used in the New Testament that describes that special bond Christians have. It's the Greek word "Koinonia". It's not an easy word to translate. Sometimes translated fellowship, partnership, communion, and it even implies serving together. But that's what happens, we gather together as believers, so church isn't just sitting in a pew or sitting in a seat and listening to a message and then getting out as quickly as possible. Hopefully to beat the traffic. Church is more than that. Church is gathering to hear God's word, yes. But afterwards, it's talking with one another. Not mere socializing, but having that koinonia. Having that fellowship.
And listen to this, God really likes it when we do that together. He loves it when we speak of his name because we read over in Malachi 3:16, "Those that fear the Lord spoke to each other and the Lord listened and heard them". See when we speak of the Lord, he bends down and listens - that's what the phrase means. It means to prick the ear or to pay careful attention to something, so if you've ever been in a room and people are just talking the den of noise and someone uses your names. "Greg Laurie", why do I hear that? I wasn't listening for it, but I hear it because it's my name and the Lord hears us speaking and he hears his name spoken of and he tunes in and he bends down and he listens and he loves that when we talk about him together.
Another thing that we do together as followers of Jesus Christ is we worship together. I bring this up because some people would say, "You know what? I don't need to go to church. I listen to podcasts of great preachers. I can hear the best preachers in America. A lot better than you too, Greg, any time I want. I can download the latest worship song". That's awesome. Take advantage of those opportunities. I'm glad that's all out there, but having said that, nothing takes the place of hearing God's word with other believers. Nothing takes the place of worshipping with other believers because God says, "When two or more are gathered together in my name, I'm there in the midst of them". The scripture tells us that the Lord inhabits the praises of his people. Something supernatural happens when we gather together in his name and we worship together and we feast on the Word of God together and yes when we pray together.
A healthy family prays together. You know, you've heard the expression "The family that prays together stays together". "That's probably not even true". Actually, it is true. In fact, there's data that supports it. I read about a study that was done of husbands and wives that actually pray together every day and it found that their divorce was at about 1 percent and the national divorce rate is more about around 50 percent. So that's pretty remarkable. Why should we pray together? Because Jesus said in Matthew 18:19, "I tell you this if two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my father in heaven will do it for you".
What a promise! He's telling us there is power in corporate prayer, so you come to church with a need, a problem, a health issue, a job issue, a crisis in your family, some other thing, and what a wonderful thing it is to say to your Christian friends "Would you pray with me about this right now"? Someone says, "Let's pray together", and you all just take that before the Lord.
God hears our prayers when we pray together. Remember when Simon Peter was arrested, James had already been executed so Peter is in jail. What did the church do? The Bible says in acts 12, "And the church prayed for him". A lot of prayer was offered to God for Peter by the church. So they said, "Let's pray about this. Let's keep praying about this. Let's pray together about this and let's go to God's throne and bring this need to him and God heard their prayer and he answered their prayer".
I hope that you understand how important it is to make the church your home. Something we're going to be launching in this coming year, we're calling them "Harvest Home Groups". We're going to encourage all of you to get involved in one of these Harvest Home Groups. I'm going to tell you why. Because something special happens when you're with a smaller group of people. Before our services start here, we have a little group that gets together. There's some of the volunteers that serve here at the church and they help you in all the areas where you need their help and they were sharing about why this was such a blessing to them. So many of them said, "This made a big church a small church for me because some things are learned in rows and other things are learned in circles. When I can interact with other people and share with them what the Lord is showing me and hear from them what the Lord has shown them that wonderful koinonia fellowship takes place".
We want you to understand that harvest can be your home. A place where you can come and be built up and you can be strengthened. But some people don't want to be in that home. They don't want to be with other believers. They'll say things like, "You know, they're so judgmental at church". Can I be honest with you? Sometimes we all could use a little judging in our life. Not condemning. Jesus said, "Judge not lest you be judged" or literally, "Condemn not, lest you be condemned". We're not in the condemnation business. We're in the restoration business. We're in the encouragement business. But at the same time, sometimes to help you, I may have to identify a problem in your life to help you correct it.
So yes, there might be an element of some confrontation or judgement, if you will, but it's always with a view of restoring you and getting you right with God. That's why we're told over in the book of Hebrews that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but encourage one another daily and so much more as the day of the Lord is approaching. But some people will say, "I love Jesus. I just don't love Christians". But listen, if you love the Lord you will love his people. As I've already said, if Jesus is at home in your heart, you will be at home with God's people. There's a bond that Christians have that is unlike any other. It's even closer than the blood bond that we have to actual physical relatives sometimes, isn't it.
I recently went in and sent in my DNA sample to find out who my ancestors were. I've heard about this for years, and because I didn't know my biological father, I was curious. I was hoping there might be something different than what I thought it would be. Maybe some Italian blood. Maybe some Jewish blood. Something different than just white. And it came back, "You are 99 and 9/10 percent English and Irish". Oh, brother. So I'm basically white trash. Just say that. I could've looked in the mirror and figured that out.
I used to hear my grandmother say, "We have American Indian in our family", I think it was Cherokee and I'm thinking, "Yes! I want some American Indian". Nothing. Just white. That's all. But you know, and then there was this option. It said, "You want to find out who your relatives are living near you"? I'm kind of thinking, "I don't really want to. No". I have lots of relatives. They're called my brothers and sisters, and they're in the church and that's my greatest family. You want to get on God's bad side, insult his bride. He loves his bride. He loves the church. He loves the family of God and he wants us all to be a part of his family.