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James Merritt - Endgame

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    James Merritt - Endgame
TOPICS: Ephessians Bible Study

Hey, I want to welcome those who are watching online. Those are watching by television. Those who are at Mill Creek at our campus there and at our campus here. As of July, the 21st, 2019 just happened according to the Guinness World Book of Records, the most anticipated movie of all time had the biggest domestic opening weekend in history. First weekend it came out, made $350 million. Fastest movie in history to gross $1 billion. It took only five days for that movie to make a billion. As a matter of fact, it grows $2.79 billion in five days making it the highest grossing movie of all time. What was it that was so exciting? What was it that people, why would people want to see this movie so badly? And by the way, I was one of them.

Well, it was the title that made it so anticipated. If you are an Avengers fan and I am an Avengers fan, the title kept you in suspense because the title of the movie was "Avengers Endgame". Many of you saw that movie, raise your hands up, okay. If you haven't, go see it. "Avengers Endgame" and what got me so intrigued, the reason why I wanted to see it was not the first word. It was the last word, endgame because if you know what that word means, it is the ultimate agenda, it's the desired consequence on the planned series of events.

So if you're like me and you're a big Avengers fan, you knew, okay, there's gonna be some things happening in this movie that I don't expect are going to happen. There probably will be some characters that will come to an end that I did not expect to come to an end. And the narrative is gonna have an end result in mind and I just could not wait to see what it was. Lived up to my expectations. But I remember walking out of the movie, thinking to myself, what a great title because since the beginning of time, God has had an endgame for every single person who has ever lived. As a matter of fact, for those of you who find this book hard to understand and maybe you haven't read a whole lot of it, you really could summarize the entire story of 66 books in the Bible by that single word, endgame. Because the reason why the Bible was written was to tell all of us what God's endgame is for us and what God wants for us at the very end.

We're in a series, if you're a guest of ours, today in the book of Ephesians we've entitled, Unbelievable because I don't believe there's any other book in the Bible that tells us what an unbelievable God that we worship, that tells us about the unbelievable things that God has done for us. And the unbelievable plans that God has for us who love Him. There's so many things God wants to do in us and through us. And we're in a passage today in Ephesians. And by the way, if you're in the habit and hope you are bringing your little discipleship book, we're on page 24. So this passage is right there in your book when Ephesians two.

Let me just kind of set up what's going on in this letter that Paul wrote to a church 2000 years ago. There is a group of people called Ephesians, obviously lived in Ephesus were a brand new believers. And for those of you know anything about church, who grew up in church, there are actually two verses in the book of Ephesians that most everybody knows. Some of you have memorized and you've heard it more than once, it may be next to John, 3:16, two of the most famous verses in the Bible. And they go like this, for it is by grace you've been saved through faith. This is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not by works so that no one can boast. This is one of those passages when I was a boy, when I got saved as a nine-year-old boy, this was one of the passages that my Sunday school teacher encouraged me to memorize.

And here's, what's so interesting about this verse. Many of us know that verse. We've heard that verse, we say, yeah that's kind of what we teach and preach every Sunday and in a way it is but the problem is many of us, most of us don't know what comes before it and we don't know what comes after it. And yet you can't really appreciate the truth of the gospel. You can't really understand the story of the Bible. You really can't understand who you are, who you can be and who God wants you to become until you see the full story before the endgame and the passage we're going to look at today in Ephesians 2, is one of those passages that it has it all. It talks about our past, everybody's past. It talks about our present. What should be and hopefully is your present. And it talks about what could be and what should be our future. Because when you read your story in the Bible. And we're all in the Bible, it's really about past guilt, present grace and future glory.

So in the spirit of "Avengers Endgame", I want you to pretend today that we're going to show you a movie and you're in the movie. Now you're not the star of the movie. There are three stars in the movie, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy spirit. They're the stars but we are the supporting cast. And even though the movie is really all about them, it really is for us. And I'm gonna do you a big favor. Those of you who say, I'll tell you, I know how to read the Bible. I know I should study the Bible, it's so big. It's so long, it's so deep. It's so hard to understand. I wanna show you today that in one passage of the Bible, just one, just 10 verses, you're gonna see the whole story of the Bible. You are gonna have a 30,000 foot view because you can basically break down the story of the Bible into three parts.

And once you see those three parts, you're gonna finally understand when you walk out of these doors today, okay so that's what history is all about. And that's what the world is all about. That's what culture is all about. That's what life is all about. This is what I am all about. And if you'll get these three things down in your heart and your mind and understand them and believe them and live them, not only will everything going in the world begin to make really good sense to you. No matter no road, no, no, no, what am I trying to say? No matter what your worldview may be, you'll understand why I believe the only worldview that makes sense is the Christian world view. So the three things that Paul says and the first one, you're not gonna like, it's gonna shock your system. If you're into political correctness, you're not going to like it but I want you to just to stay with me. Part one of the story is this, people are hopelessly lost. People are hopelessly lost.

Now again, just to kind of give you some backdrop. If you met Paul today, I don't know what kind of guy Paul was but I tell you one thing. He was pretty plainspoken, he went in political correctness. He really didn't always have the best bedside manner. And he proves it right here because he gets right to the point, he doesn't mince words. He doesn't pull punches. He said, I want to describe for you every single person that's ever been born. What we were all like, the moment we came out of our mother's womb. And he's talking about people who are without Jesus. So if you do not know Christ today or you know someone that does not know Christ today, this is all about those people. And his first statement is dogmatically and devastatingly just direct. Now listen to what he says. He says, as for you, that's us. You were dead in your transgressions and sins.

So here's what he says. The second you came out of your mother's womb and you drew your first breath, you were born spiritually dead. We were all born DOA, we were dead on arrival. We were alive physically but we were dead spiritually. In other words, when we were born, it's not that we were on God's wavelength and somehow we lost the station. Paul said, no, the problem was your antenna was completely down and you don't even have a signal. When it comes to God, you really don't know much of anything. And he says it so starkly. He says, look, we're not spiritually deficient. We're not spiritually debilitated. We're not spiritually disabled. We're not spiritually deprived. He said, we are spiritually dead.

Now you say, okay, I don't understand that. Well, we somehow know this intuitively even though the Bible also teaches it. And that is we're more than just a body, we're a spirit. We have a soul and we may be visibly alive on the outside but we are virtually dead on the inside. And you see that when you understand that, then you go all the way back to the first story in the Bible, the book of Genesis. And you say, okay it makes sense. I understand why we are that way. So if you don't know the story, let me refresh your memory. God puts Adam and Eve in a garden called Eden. It was an absolutely perfect environment. God has kind of given them garden of Eden 101, kind of an orientation session. He points to all this beautiful garden. He said, hey, this is yours, enjoy it. Have at it, I want you to live here forever.

However, he says, there's one caveat. There's a little fine print in the contract and here it is, you are free to eat from any tree in the garden but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when and that literally says in the moment, when you eat from it, you will certainly die. So they were forewarned to be forewarned to be forearmed. So they're warned. Don't do it, you'll die, it'll kill you. Then you read the story and it's interesting. Eve eats the fruit. She didn't drop dead. Adam eats the fruit. He didn't drop dead. God doesn't lie. God said not later, not sometime in the future. He said, at the exact moment you eat of that fruit, you will die. Well, they did die. Not on the outside, they died on the inside. They didn't die physically. They died spiritually.

Here's what happened. In their spirit, the light went out and they were in spiritual darkness. In their spirit, the life left and they're in spiritual deadness. And ever since that time, every person who's ever been born except Jesus who came into this world are a part of the walking dead. Have you ever, ever seen "The Walking Dead"? One of those popular TV shows in recent years, that's what people are without Christ. They're spiritual zombies. They're alive on the outside. They are dead on the inside. And until Jesus comes in and gives life, they're in the dark. They're in death until Jesus gives light they're in the dark. That's why a part from the power of God, people can look at the Bible. They can read the Bible but they can't see it's true. People can listen to the gospel. They can't hear it's true.

Somebody said people without God are hopelessly lost. They're like a blind man in a dark room, looking for a black cat that's not there. They're lost, I'll give you a great example. We're gonna talk about having your one in just a moment. Beautiful couple, I've been their pastor over 30 years. They brought a young man up to me, visit our churches at our nine o'clock, 9:15 service. He's from India. His initials are AC. I want you to pray for AC. Just pray, God knows who he is. This man has no spiritual background whatsoever, none, zero. He came and heard what I'm telling you on air, stayed for the whole message. I was talking to him, sharing with him, gave him some material. He heard me preach this message. I hope you're gonna say I can't make what I'm gonna say today any plainer that I'm gonna make it today. I may as well have been talking to a wall. Confused? Didn't get it? Didn't phase him, didn't move the ball one yard. Why, spiritually dead. Without the power of God, he can't see the truth. He can't hear the truth. He cannot know the truth, hopelessly lost.

Now, once we understand that, once we understand that and say, okay, I get that. Once we do, then we'll see how everything else that Paul says just naturally flows 'cause he goes on to say this. He says, you are dead in your trespasses and sin. Now watch this, in which you used to live. How did you live when you followed the ways of this world and of the rule of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. Now Paul says, look you're not gonna like this. You're gonna say, somebody's gonna think, are you kidding, you really believe this stuff? Yeah, he does and I do. He said, everybody in this world follows God and His ways or they follow Satan and his ways. Everybody serves one god or the other.

And here's the difference. God is the God of the living. Satan is the god of the dead. If you're spiritual officially alive, you're gonna worship the God of the living. If you're spiritually dead, you're gonna serve the god of the dead. God leads us to obey Him. Satan leads us to disobey Him. So we're all born, Paul says with this spirit of disobedience and I said this to you, I think last week, at least if you're a parent of a child, you get it. You know, you understand it. I mean, there's never been a parent to my knowledge, if you'd let me know if you know of one, there's never been a parent in history that sat down with their child and say, let me teach you how to disobey me. Matter of fact, I got to think about this the other day. I've never had this happen. I don't think ever, I've never talked to a pastor that has.

As you can imagine, I've counseled a lot of parents, right? That come in, they're broken. They're weeping, they're tearing their hair out. They've got an incorrigible child. They've got a rebellious kid. They got a kid they can't control. The kid that just gives them just literal hell at home and they'll come in and see me. I have never in all of my years of counseling, never, I've never had parents come in and sit down and say, pastor, I've got a problem with my child, can you help me? Yeah, what's the problem. Well, all he wants to do is obey us. I've never had anybody come say that to me. Can you help me get my kid to disobey me. I've never had that happen. It's always just the opposite, why? 'Cause you don't have to teach a child to lie or steal or to get angry or to be mad or to fight or to cheat. You don't have to do that. They learn on their own, why? Paul says they're born with a spirit of disobedience. The news continues.

All of us, every one of us we've lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh. I eat, doing whatever we wanna do. If it feels good, we do it. Following his desires and falls like the rest we were by nature deserving of wrath. Now Paul specifically wants these Ephesians know, I'm talking to all of you. Why did he say that? Because in that audience, there were not just Gentiles, there were Jews and there were these Jews that went, wait a minute, you can't be talking about me? I'm a child of Abraham. I grew up learning that we had to obey God. I had to keep the commandments. I went to the synagogue. I went to the temple. I gave my task. You can't be talking to me. Paul says, no, I'm talking to all of you. I don't care whether you're a Jew or Gentile. I don't care if you're a capitalist or a socialist. I don't care if you're conservative or liberal.

I'm not just talking to murderers and terrorists and rapists or child abusers. I'm talking to you if you're straight, I'm talking to you if you're gay, if you're a Democrat or you're Republican, you're born in royalty are born in poverty doesn't matter. I'm talking about the best of us. I'm talking about the worst of us. We're all like that little boy who got into a fight with his sister and had really hurt his sister and they got into this big fight and he kicked her in the shins. And then he pulled her hair. When the mother came in the room, found out what happened, he was the bigger brother and she pulled him aside. She said, Sam, I wanna ask you a question. Why did you let the devil make you kick her in the shins and pull her hair? That honest little boy said, Mom, let's get something straight. The devil made me kick her in the shins, pulling her hair was my idea.

Now that is exactly the way we are, sin is our idea. Nobody has to teach us to do that. And that's why this is so important. Listen to me, we will never understand who Jesus was. We will never understand what Jesus did and we'll never understand why Jesus had to be who he was and why he had to do what he did until we first understand who we are and what we have done. And Paul was talking to people who believe in Jesus and those who do not believe in Jesus. And here's what he was saying. So I'm gonna boil down what Paul said now in this sentence and then you'll go, okay, I get it. One of two things is true about every one of you listening to me right now, absolutely true. Either you were spiritually dead or you are spiritually dead. True of every one of you in this room. Everyone listening to me right now. Either you were spiritually dead or you are spiritually dead. And these verses either talking about your past or they're talking about your present.

Now here's what's really helpful. When you finally get this in your mind and you understand what Paul said, now something begins to make a lot of sense because there's one thing nobody will deny whether you believe in God or not. Whether you got a Christian worldview or not, there's one thing none of us will deny. Evil is in this world and there's a lot of it. We see it every day. Babies are killed, children are abused. People are murdered, wars are fought, bombers commit suicide and homicide in fact somebody put it best when they said it this way, listen to this. They said, I will never understand those who can read the headlines every day and then assert that people are basically good. I will never understand those who believe their spiritual problems can be solved with social programs.

That peace can be achieved by treaties. That prejudices can be eliminated by discussion, that rebellious youth can be corrected with heavy doses of esteem and understanding, that scars can be healed through therapy. That wrongs can be righted by litigation. And that diseases can be eliminated by research. Evil is woven into the very fabric of humanity and it is obvious. He is exactly right. It is why the world is in the mess that it's in because people are hopelessly lost but that's not the endgame. It does get better, a lot better. 'Cause Paul says, look, the bad news is, people are hopelessly lost. The good news is, God is graciously love. God, can I get an amen to that? God is graciously love.

Now think about this, in all my ministry, I've come to realize there are two conditions of the human spirit that are just killers. I mean, they're just crushing. They're just devastating. When people come to me and they're in one or both of these conditions, I cannot tell you how hard it is to deal with them. One is when you feel absolutely helpless, it's like the parent and you have a child. And the doctor says, we've got to operate on your child. We got to operate right now. If we don't operate your child's going to die. But I must tell you if we operate, your child may still die. Your child may not make it through the operation but we don't have a choice. And at that moment you feel absolutely helpless. You wanna take the place of that child but you can't, all you can do is wait and pray. That's all you can do.

We've all been there, helpless but there's a condition that's even worse than that. And some of you may be in this room and you say, this is where I am right now. It's not that you feel helpless. You feel hopeless. You convinced yourself there's just no light at the end of my tunnel. I've got a problem that nobody can solve. I've got a question that nobody can answer. I feel absolutely hopeless. And what Paul has described is the human race apart from God. 'Cause I've got some news for you. You better get it right. If you don't know God, you are helpless. If you don't know Jesus, you are hopeless. There is no help for you. There is no hope for you. We are hopelessly and helplessly lost.

Now I don't wanna beat that drum too much because I wanna get to the good news. Paul then adds two simple words but they are awesome words. And they take us from the Valley of Despair, to the Mountain Top of the Light. They are two words that absolutely guarantee if you feel helpless today, there's help for you. If you feel hopeless today, I'm telling you, there is hope for you. You say what in the world? What two words are they? Watch this, two words, but God. But God. I mean, take that first word. But, have you ever thought about the difference that little three letter word can make in your life? The telephone rings two o'clock in the morning. It's your son or your daughter, Dad, Mom, I have been in a terrible wreck and your heart leaps in your throat but then you hear them say but everybody's okay. Changes everything.

You get a call five o'clock in the afternoon. It's your doctor. You have cancer. Your breath is taken away until he says but it's completely curable. And we've caught it in time, changes everything. I got a picture. There's a funeral Friday. I used to be, back in when my younger days, I was a student pastor, youth minister and one of the girls in my student ministry had taken a picture of me and Teresa when we first met, the first day we met at Trip McCullough College. Smoking hot, still smoking hot, boy she was smoking hot and what's sweet is she's looking at me like I'm smoking hot. That's what I love about the picture. I kind of had the Burt Reynolds thing going. That's a whole nother story. But anyway, so they sent me this picture, okay. So she says to me, as she accepts my proposal for marriage, you know, I could marry any guy I want to but I choose you. Changed everything, change everything right? Changed everything.

All right or how about this one? A wife is talking to her best friend. She says, you know what? She's says what, she said, my husband's lost his mind. And the neighbor starts to console her till the wife says but it wasn't a big loss. I mean that word but it just kind of changes everything, right? It eases the pain but then you take that word, but, watch this and you put it with the word God. Now those two words, don't just make a big difference. They make all the difference. They make an eternal difference. I don't know if you guys are fired up about what I'm doing, I'm just fired up about this. Listen, Paul doesn't say, you are dead in your trespasses and sin but you, he didn't say, but you, you know why? Because you can't do anything. You are dead. I can't do anything for you, you're dead.

We can't do anything for each other, we are dead. But God that God that spoke a world into existence, that God who raised His son from the dead, that God who has said with His own lips, there's nothing too difficult for me. But God said, you know what? I can do the impossible. I can bring life to your dead soul. I can bring light to your dark soul. I can bring hearing to the spiritually deaf. I can give light to the spiritually dead. I can give sight to the spiritually blind. Well, what did God do? How did God pull that off? Well, in verse five, Paul gives us three words that I mean, they'll just make you want to shout. Listen to what he says. Here's what God did. He made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions, that word made us alive, is only used twice in the New Testament. It's a compound word that literally means to make life.

And here's what Paul is saying, we were dead before God came to us but God has a specialty. God has a hobby. He loves to take what's dead and bring it to life. He did it from the very beginning of time. He took dust, the Bible says dust, dirt and breathe into it and man became a living soul. And that's what God loves to do. He makes a man alive, physically in Genesis. And then for the rest of history, he makes us alive spiritually. But big question. Why did God do that? Why did God make us alive? Nobody made Him do it, nobody coerced Him to do it. Nobody paid Him to do it. There was no law that said He had to do it. Why does God do that for us? Well, this is where this all gets richer and better and sweeter.

Okay, so we're gonna put these two verses together but God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ by grace, you have been saved. Now I highlighted three words there because they make such an eternal difference in our lives, love, mercy and grace. So here's the story, you ready? People are hopelessly lost but God is graciously love. And remember, God loved us when we were dead. God loved us when we were disobedient, God loved us when we were depraved. There's some people say, love is blind. Well, God's love isn't blind. God looked at us with all of our faults and all of our failures and all of our flaws. And he said, you know what? I still love you and I will still send Jesus to die for you. And even if you reject me, I am going to love you. God loved us when we were unloving. God loved us when we were unlovable.

I've told you this so many times, listen to me. God does not love us because we're valuable. We're valuable because God loves us. God loves us but it gets better. God is also rich in mercy. You know what mercy is, mercy is when you don't give what somebody deserves. And I'm so glad today that the well of God's mercy never runs dry. And the reach of God's mercy never falls short. And the light of God's mercy never goes out. And then the bow on the top of God's gift of love and mercy is the river of grace. He said it is by grace that you have been saved. In other words Paul said, it all starts with grace. It all ends with grace. So because of God's mercy, guess what? I don't get what I deserve. Because of God's grace, guess what? I get what I don't deserve. And because of God's love, I get grace and I get mercy.

Now that raises the question, why grace? And as I studied the Bible, I can only give you this one answer. There's no reason for grace except grace. There's just no reason for grace except grace. And the only reason there's even one Christian on this planet is because of the love of God who gives us grace. He is the God of gracious love but that's still ain't the endgame. That's not the end result, that's not the end of the story. It gets better than that. Yeah, people are hopelessly lost. God is graciously love. But, how does this endgame become possible? Who pulls it off? Well this, I saved the best for last. Jesus is universally Lord. He is universally Lord.

Now Paul uses a phrase four times in this passage. You'll hear it, listen to it. For He made us alive with Christ and God raised us up with Christ. He expressed in his kindness to us in Christ for we are God's handiwork created in Christ Jesus. We are his handiwork created in Christ Jesus. You know what Paul say, it all begins with Jesus. It all ends with Jesus. It's all because of Jesus. And you know what? That's the way it has to be. Let me tell you why. Only the Lord can give spiritual life. The pastor can't do it. The priest can't do it. The Pope can't do it. Only the Lord can give spiritual life. And Jesus Christ is Lord. And because He is universally Lord, that means He's Lord over everything. And He's Lord over everyone. That means He is Lord over life and death. And if He's Lord over life and death, well then guess what? He's the only one that could give life to death.

Why, because He's the only one who rose from the dead. When I was talking to that man out there, after the nine o'clock service, the man I told you about a while ago, I gave him a book. I gave some material and I said, AC, it's is initials. I said, AC I want you to think about one thing until we see each other again. I said just one thing. I gave him my email address. I said, after you read these materials, I wanna come talk to you. And I want you to think about one thing. That's the one, no matter what else you believe about Jesus, it all comes down to one thing. Either He was raised from the dead or he wasn't. It's not hard to figure out either He was or He wasn't. I said, now look, if He wasn't, if He's just like everybody else, He's just like the Buddha. He's just like Confucius. He's just like Muhammad. He's still dead. He's still in the grave.

I don't care what you believe. Doesn't matter to me. I said, but if He came back from the grave that changes everything. And I said, the fact that he came back from the grave, tells me that's why we can live. So here's what Paul says, God made us alive with Christ. Even when we were dead in transgressions. Let me tell you what this means because Jesus lives physically, I can live spiritually in Him. Because Jesus lives physically, I can live personally for Him. Because Jesus lives physically, I can live eternally with Him but it's only with Jesus and it's only in Jesus. So I'm gonna give you a pop quiz, now the 9:15-crowd didn't do real well with this, now you got to be better 'cause this is gonna sound like a trick question, it's not.

Now I want you to say this real loud, okay. All right, are you ready? 'Cause I've prepped you now, you got to get this, you got to get this. The only thing a dead person needs is what? Life, say it out loud, life. Life, they need life. A dead person needs life. They don't need money, they can't spend it. They don't need food, they can't eat it. They don't need water, they can't drink it. They don't need air, they can't breathe it. They don't need light, they can't see it. They don't need music, they can't hear it. A dead person needs one thing, life. I need life. And Paul says, though, we were dead in trespasses and sin, we can be alive for one reason. You know why I can be alive because He's alive. I can be alive because He's alive. So He lives and because He lives, so can I and so can you.

That's where a lot of churches don't get it. A lot of youths don't get it. Christianity is not about making sick people feel better. It's not about making sad people more happy. It's not even about helping bad people get good. Christianity is about giving dead people life 'cause that's exactly what they need and see that is the endgame however, this is where we still miss it. The endgame for us in God's mind is not just giving us eternal life. God, didn't just bring Jesus so we can all go to heaven and sing kumbaya and drink Kool-Aid and watch Georgia play football. That is not why God sent Jesus. Oh yeah, you say but we're gonna live in peace one day. Yes we are but that's not the endgame. The endgame means what are we gonna do right here and right now with what Jesus has done for us?

So Paul says this, for we are God's handiwork created in Christ Jesus to go to heaven, not just that. To live happily ever after, not just that. To have eternal life, not just that. To do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. In other words, why did God save us? God saves us to serve Him. I told you the other day, our salvation is not primarily for our good. It is for His glory and true salvation doesn't just lead to heaven. And it's more than just happiness, it leads to holiness. Now, to be sure and make sure you hear this. The endgame is absolutely done. It is absolutely guaranteed. Yes, one day we are going to be happy in heaven but in the meantime, God says, oh, but today be holy. Today, model that whole that is here on this planet.

How do you do that? Do good for other people, give your life to doing good works. Do your life to serving the needs of others, doing your life to doing good works. So when you came in today, everyone of you should have got this card. I want everybody to pull this card out right here. Everybody got this card, you should have one. If you don't, we'd give one on the way out. This little card said, who's your one? Now some of you never heard this card, I'm gonna talk to you. So if you've heard this card never done anything with it, I'm gonna talk to you, okay. If you believe everything I've just said and you would even say, I don't really believe it I've experienced it.

I was dead in my trespasses and sin but God made me alive through Christ and I have eternal life and I've been forgiven my sins and I'm right with God. You of all people should have that card filled out right now if you don't have it. You should have it filled out right now. Who is your one? Now, if you've already filled this card out, I want you to just to sign it and fill it out again with that name. You say, yeah, I've got my one. I've been praying for that one, alright, write that name down. But if this is new to you, I'm gonna ask you do something right this moment. You're a believer, you say you're a believer. God did not give you eternal life so you could stick it in your back pocket and keep it to yourself. Jesus said, nobody lights a candle and puts it under a bushel. No, you have to share it.

So I'm gonna ask many of you right now, I don't even know why, out of stubbornness, out of fear, I don't know what it is. I'm gonna ask you to write down the name of one person that you know, that is spiritually dead and they need life. They don't need church, they don't need religion. They need life. I'm gonna ask you to write down that name right now, do it right now. I'm gonna ask write down that name and just say, I'm asking God to give me the opportunity to share my faith in Jesus, with him by December of this year. Now on this card, you'll see a website. You can go get more information, more training materials for sharing the gospel. We've got a display out in the lobby today where you can pick up a printed copy of the training. You can invite, use these invite cards. We've got all kinds of tools for you to do that.

So let me just kind of wrap this up. Mount Whitney is a place I'd like to see someday because it is in California. I don't wanna go 'cause it's California but it is the highest spot in the continental United States, 14,495 feet. Now, if you hike to the top of Mount Whitney, you'll be surrounded by crystal clear air, cool breezes, beautiful lakes, great scenery. But if you're on the top of Mount Whitney and you look 80 miles to the Southeast, you'll be looking at Death Valley. You'll be looking at, from the highest point in the continental USA, you'll be looking at the lowest point in the continental USA and the hottest place in the country where it can get up to 134 degrees in the shade.

Now I tell you that story for this reason. What I've just shared with you today and what Paul just wrote for us in this book is the spiritual biography of every one of us because of Jesus. Today, some of you could go from the Valley of Spiritual Death, to the Mountain Top of Eternal Life. But for those of us who would say, oh pastor, I've already done that. I'm climbing that mountain right now. I'm on the road. God is expecting you to try to take other people with you. Jesus said, when you come to the Valley of the Shadow of Death, you won't be by yourself, I'll be with you. But in the meantime, while you're in the Mountains of Life, you bring other people with you. You do those good works, take other people. So I love true stories.

Now I'll close you with this. There were some fishermen. This true story happened about a 100 years ago. They were in a dining room in a Scottish Inn by the sea and they were talking, telling fish stories. And so they're all talking about the biggest fish the got that they lost. And there was one man told about this big fish that got away and he was spreading his arms out to show just how big the fish was that got away. And as he spread his arms out, a maid was walking by with a pitcher of tea and he kind of hit that teapot and it flew into this beautiful white wall and it broke into pieces and it just stained the whole wall with this brown tea. Well, the innkeeper came running out and see what happened. He looked at that wall and he said, oh my goodness. He said, this whole wall will have to be repainted. Well a stranger was sitting over at a table and he stood up and he said, sir, maybe you don't have to repaint that wall. He said, what do you mean? He said, well, would you mind if I did a little work on it? And the innkeeper said, well, I got nothing to lose, sure.

So the man reached under the table, pulled out a suitcase, opened it up and he pulled out pencils and brushes and jars of oil and pigment and paint. And he walked over to that wall where all that tea stain was and he began to paint lines or sketch these lines around the stains. He began to apply a different shade over here and a different color over there. And all of these splashes of tea you know were there and to their amazement, this image began to emerge out of this brown tea. And when he was finished on that walls, this beautiful deer with a big rack of antlers. The man signed the wall at the bottom, paid for his meal and he left. His name was sir Edwin Landseer, very famous painter of wildlife. And in his hands, what was a terrible tragic mistake had become a beautiful, tremendous masterpiece.

And I read that story and I thought about my own spiritual biography. I came into this world. I was covered from head to toe with a stain of sin. I was spiritually dead but because of Jesus, God can take even the worst of us and God can make a masterpiece out of us. That one day we'll go into the trophy of his grace, the trophy case of his grace. And it will be the endgame of all endgames. So this is not just my cry to you. This is my plea to you. I'm not naive. I've been doing this a long time. There are people in this room right now and you've maybe wondered sometime why don't I change like these other people? Why don't I have what these other people have? I'll tell you why, you're spiritually dead. My words won't bring you to life. They won't, but God's truth can bring you to life. And the truth is what God did for me and what God's done for so many, God can do for you. He can, He will make you alive through Christ if you will just trust Him.
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