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James Merritt - Get Off the Guilt Trip

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    James Merritt - Get Off the Guilt Trip

Let me help you out on something this morning. I'm gonna mention a book, and most of you won't know where it is, but it's one of the easiest books in the Bible to find. It's the Book of Zechariah. If you go to Matthew and turn left two books, you'll hit Zechariah. So I want you to be turning to Zechariah, and as you're turning, let me tell you, ask you a question. What is the worst trip you've ever taken in your life? I mean, what is the trip that you thought was gonna be a great trip, it just turned out to be a disaster? Mine, I've got one that beats every single one.

My three boys were small, and we were looking forward to going on a vacation, and we were going down to Panama City Beach. And there was a member of our church, the church I used to pastor, he had a condo on the beach and he gave it to us for a week for free. And you can't turn that down. So we were really looking forward to going there. So the Sunday before we left, we went to visit another church to hear another pastor. And the pastor's wife came up and hugged Teresa. Now what we didn't know was this woman had a very contagious virus, but we didn't know that. So by the time we get down to the beach, Teresa is sick, I mean, she is incredibly sick. So all week she never leaves the condo.

Well, by the process of elimination, guess who's left to watch three small rambunctious boys? You're looking at him. It was, put it mildly, a disaster. I'll put it this way. I'm not saying it was a hard week, but I told Teresa on the way back, "I know why animals eat their young". Every day was the same day. Some of the boys wanted to get up early, some of the boys wanted to sleep late. Some of the boys wanted to go to this place for breakfast. Some of the boys wanted to go to that place for breakfast. I'd take them to the pool, then I'd spend half the time refereeing a fight. Then I had to take them to the restroom. I had to make sure they got fed. And then when I wanted to go to the beach, you could count on it, at least one of the three would say, "I don't wanna go to the beach".

Well, the only other choice was to go back to the room and see Mom suffer. So it was that way all week long. And I mean, poor, miserable Mom, sick to her stomach, couldn't get out. When we got back home and I walked into my door of my house, I was singing the Hallelujah chorus the best I've ever sung it in my life. To this day, just preparing this sermon, I still remember what a terrible trip that that was. But there's one trip that I've taken, that you've taken, that we've all taken, and it is the worst trip that I've ever taken. It's the worst trip anybody can take. In fact, nobody ever really plans to take this trip. Nobody gets up one day and says, "I think I'll take this trip".

And then once you realize you're on the trip, you want to end that trip as soon as you possibly can. But a lot of people don't know how. It's called the guilt trip. Never ceases to amaze me, how many people are on this trip that you wouldn't suspect. And here's what I don't understand either. For some reason, some people either stay on the same guilt trip and never get off of it, or they just kind of go from guilt trip to guilt trip. Some of you who're listening right now, you're on a guilt trip. You feel guilty because you got a divorce and your marriage didn't make it. You feel guilty because you badly mistreated someone and you've never asked for forgiveness. You're on a guilt trip. You feel guilty because you weren't the father, the mother, the husband, the wife, the son, the daughter, that you should've been.

This is Father's Day. Also happens to be my mother's birthday. You feel guilty because there are some things you wanted to say to your dad, there are some things you wanted and should have said to your mom, but they died and you never got to say it. And you live with that every day of your life. And what's even more amazing is there's some times we feel guilty and we don't even know why. Now, see, the problem with the guilt trip is, here's the problem. If you get on the guilt trip expressway, if you don't find the exit ramp, the guilt trip becomes a guilt trap. And it's like a vicious cycle. You wake up feeling guilty, you go to bed feeling guilty, and it just, there's this cloud that hangs over your life every single day.

Now, before I get into this, let me just say one thing very clearly. Guilt is not always a bad thing. We're going to learn today that there's such a thing as good guilt, and there's such a thing as bad guilt. Because many times guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body. You know, if you've got a pain in your body, your body's telling you something's not right. Something's not, you're not heating on all eight cylinders. You need to get this problem looked at. And just as pain lets me know, okay, there's something wrong with me physically, many times guilt lets me know, okay, there's something wrong with me spiritually. Now it is one thing to live in guilt, but it's another thing to die with guilt.

And let me tell you why you don't want to die with any guilt in your life. Because one day, as we're gonna learn this morning, we're all going to stand in a courtroom. All of us. It's the supreme court of the universe. We're all going to be arraigned before the supreme judge in that courtroom. And when you stand before that supreme judge in that supreme court, of which there is no appeal, you will only hear one of two verdicts. Can you tell me what you think they'll be? What will it be? Guilty, or? That's the verdict. There won't be an in between. You'll either hear guilty or not guilty. So we're in a book in the Old Testament called Zechariah. Chapter three. And we see a picture of a defendant in God's courtroom.

Now this courtroom has everything you would imagine. My son's gonna love this message, he's an attorney. This courtroom has everything you could imagine. You've got a judge, you've got a defendant, you've got a prosecuting attorney. You say, well, what about the defense attorney? Well, this is the catch. You can qualify for the defense attorney, but here's the strange thing, you ready? If you qualify for the defense attorney, he turns out to be the judge. It's a fascinating story. It's a fascinating picture we're going to look at. So here's the question. When we all stand before the supreme judge in the supreme court, will he also serve as my defense attorney? That's the question. You're gonna stand before the judge, but will he also be your defense attorney?

So will the verdict be guilty or the verdict be not guilty? Well, it all depends on two things. Who you are and where you stand with that judge before you ever even get to that courtroom. And standing before the judge, we learn who our prosecuting attorney is going to be. And this is a case study to see how you can make sure when that day comes and I stand before the supreme judge, or when I get called into God's courtroom, even in this life, how can I make sure I hear the words not guilty? How can I make sure that my case is dismissed? Well, there's the three things that you have to realize, and there are three things you have to do if you wanna get off the guilt trip.

Now the first one is gonna shock you. First thing you gotta do is this. We all must admit our guilt before God. That's step one. We must all admit our guilt before God. Now we're going to follow Zechariah's camera into God's courtroom, and let's just see how this defendant's gonna fare before this judge. So we're in Zechariah 3:1. "Then he showed me Joshua the high priest". He's the defendant. This is not just a run-of-the-mill, this is the high priest. This is the religious leader of the nation. He's "Standing before the angel of the Lord," now watch this, this is so interesting. "And Satan is standing at his right side to accuse him".

Remember, this is a courtroom, the supreme court of the universe. God is the judge. Joshua, the high priest, is the defendant, and Satan is the prosecuting attorney. And Satan is bringing his case against Joshua, the religious leader of the nation, the high priest, I mean probably the most admired, respected man in all of Israel. And you notice something. Satan is standing at his right side. He's standing right beside Joshua. Well, why does he add that detail? Listen, remember this. The only time Satan will ever be on your side is when you're against God. Did you hear me? The only time Satan will ever be on your side is when you are against God.

So here's what he's doing. He's presenting his case. He is giving the evidence, because every time you sin, this is what Satan does. This is why people don't realize how Satan works. This is what Satan does. See, Satan doesn't just tempt you to sin, but once he gets you to sin, he'll point it out. When Satan gets you to break God's law, he's also then the policeman that will haul you in and take you to jail. Satan loves to push you in the mud and then blame you for getting dirty. That's his game. That's exactly what he does. By the way, did you know what Satan's full-time job is right now? Did you know his full-time job is still being a prosecuting attorney?

If you go over to the Book of Revelation 12, here's what John tells us. "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, 'For the accuser of our brothers and sisters who accuses them before our God day and night.'" See, every time we sin, every time we break God's law, every time we disobey God, Satan's in the finger-pointing business. He looks at you, he looks at me, he looks at us. He loves to abuse you and accuse you, and here's what he'll do. He is so slick. He will whisper in your right ear, "You can get away with it". And then when you do it, he'll whisper in your left ear, "You can't get away with it". That's the way he operates. He'll tempt you and then he will trap you. And you notice that Satan has an airtight case against Joshua. He's got the goods on him. He's not bringing a false charge. He has him dead to right. How do you know? Verse three. "Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel".

Now what do filthy clothes represent? Sin. The prophet Isaiah said, your righteousness is just like what? Filthy clothes. Joshua's wearing filthy clothes. He's dirty. So Satan's presenting this case, and you know what he's got? He's got everything. He's got pictures. He's got voicemails. He's got emails. He's got DNA. He's got every witness you can imagine. He has an airtight case. And here's Joshua, this mighty high priest, seminary-trained, PhD, reads his Bible, walks with God, standing there with this hangdog look saying nothing. Why isn't he saying something? He's got nothing to say 'cause he's guilty. He's been caught red-handed. He knows he's guilty. He can't argue it. He can't take the witness stand in his own defense, 'cause he has no defense. The only thing he can do is plead the fifth.

So Satan says to the Lord, Satan points to Joshua and he says, "He's guilty". He was guilty. Satan points to you and me on a daily basis. "She's guilty". You are guilty. "She's dirty, he's dirty". You are dirty. Now I wanna remind you of something, this will be worth coming to church for, okay? When the devil talks to you about God, he will always tell a lie. God doesn't care. God doesn't hear your prayers. God shouldn't have let that little boy die. God shouldn't have let that happen to you. He doesn't really love you. He doesn't really care. When the devil talks to you about God, he will always tell a lie. But you watch this. When he talks to God about you, he doesn't have to lie. He tells the truth. "He did it". You did do it. "He's guilty". You are guilty. "You're dirty". You are dirty.

See, the thing about sin is there are always two people that know you did it, God and the devil. God knows it and then the devil points it out. And that's why if you have a guilty healthy conscience, you got guilt. Because there's a third person that knows you've done something wrong, right, and that's you. I read the other day, it's a true story. There's, the internet's really cool, so it's amazing what you can Google and find. So there's some humorous true stories that actually happened in a courtroom. I'm not making this up. True story, I was reading this the other day. This is, this is so cool.

So there was a man that was on trial for robbery, and he decided he would represent himself. He didn't hire a defense. He said, "I think I can beat this case". And so he is his own defense attorney. So the victim's on the stand and he's cross-examining the victim, and he asked her this question, I'm not making this up. Here's the question he asked her. He said, "Ma'am, I only have one question". He said, "Did you get a good look at my face when I stole your pocketbook"? Now Joshua was facing exactly the same situation. He was dirty. He was sinful. He was guilty. And everybody knew it. The judge knew it. The prosecuting attorney knew it. He knew it. Because here's what, here's the good news. You ready for this? Great news today. This will get an amen from a Baptist. Satan is the master of the guilt trip.

But Jesus is the master of the grace trip. Satan is the master of the guilt trip. But Jesus is the master of the grace trip. And say, I'm gonna teach you something today about guilt that'll really help you. One of the things I've learned as a Christian is how to handle Satanic accusation. 'Cause Satan accuses me every day, just like he accuses you every day. But one of the things I've had to learn is this. There is a difference between satanic accusation and Holy Spirit conviction. And you need to learn the difference. So you've got a conscience, if you've got a conscience, you're going to experience guilt. But here's the difference. Guilt can either be a tool of Satan to paralyze you, or it can be a tool of the Holy Spirit to purify you.

So let's just think about this for a minute. When you're talking about guilt, what is guilt? What is guilt? Now here's what we think, and we're wrong. See, we think that guilt is this feeling that we have when we do something that we either think is wrong or we know is wrong. That's why we call them guilty feelings. Now I'm gonna tell you something I'll bet you never thought about. There is a difference between guilt and guilty feelings. You can be guilty but not feel guilty. You can feel guilty but not be guilty. You can be guilty but not feel guilty. You can feel guilty and not be guilty.

Now I'll give you a great illustration of that. How many of you have ever heard of the term survivor's guilt? How many of you have ever heard that term? Some of you know that term. Well you need to learn this. Survivor's guilt is this mental condition that happens when people think they've done something wrong because they survive something that somebody else doesn't survive. Soldiers have big problems with survivor's guilt. They get in a firefight, they get in a battle, and they're in a battalion, and everybody in their battalion dies but them, and somehow they convince themselves, I must have done something wrong. They got killed. Why didn't I get killed? They died in combat. Why didn't I die in combat? It's called survivor's guilt. They're not guilty of anything but they feel guilty.

So you can be guilty, not feel it. You can feel it and not be guilty. And see here's the problem. Today we equate guilt with a feeling. We equate guilt with a subjective experience, right? So in other words, what do we say? If it feels what? Good, what? Do it. So if it feels bad, don't. So it's all about feelings. Well the problem with that is, the New Testament concept of guilt has nothing to do with feelings. You may say today, boy, pastor, you know, I do feel guilty. I don't mean this to be ugly or unkind. I don't care how you feel. I wanna know, are you guilty? I don't care how you feel, whether you, you know what, I don't feel guilty today. I don't care about that either. My question is, are you guilty? Because in the New Testament in the Bible, guilt is a, it's not an emotional concept, it is a judicial concept.

And here's what determines guilt in the eyes of God. Have you broken one of my laws? Have you violated one of my commandments? Have you disobeyed my will? Have you done something you know I did not approve of? Or did you not do something you know you should have done? You say, okay, so help me here. What's the difference between false guilt and true guilt? That's gonna help some of you today. Satan will convict you of sin that you either have not committed, or that you've already been forgiven for. The Holy Spirit will only convict you of one thing. Unconfessed sin. That's all.

So Satan will use guilt to accuse you and then confuse you. The spirit will use guilt to convict you and then to cleanse you. Satan will condemn you and then he will rebuke you. But the spirit will convict you and then he will restore you. And see, Satan knows what he's doing. This guy is slick. He will tempt you to disobey God. Then he'll trip you and actually cause you to fall into that disobedience. Then he will trap you and cover you with the mud that you fell into. Then he'll trounce on you while you're in the mud puddle. And then he will taunt you and accuse you, and point out your guilt. So what do you do? Well, the first step is this. If you are truly guilty, just own your junk. Admit, I am guilty. Step one. Step two. Once we all admit we are guilty before God, then we realize we all need the grace of God. We all need the grace of God.

Now here's the bad news, right? Joshua is guilty. The judge knows it. The prosecuting attorney knows it. Joshua knows it. The courtroom knows it. Everybody knows it. He doesn't say anything, doesn't say a word. But now watch what happens, this is the best part of this, I love this part. The judge steps in, right, the judge. Watch this. "The Lord said to Satan, 'The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you. Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?'" Now here's the good news, you ready? This was not Joshua's case to win, because he couldn't win it. The case had to go to the judge. And this is where the whole case just turns on its head, because here's something I want you to learn about your heavenly Father today. God will never defend his children's sins, but he will defend his children. He will never defend his children's sins, but he will defend his children.

So who do you have in the courtroom? We've got the judge, that's God. We've got the defendant, that's Joshua. We've got the prosecuting attorney, that's Satan. Well what does Joshua need? He needs a defense attorney. All right, are you ready for this? You ready for this? The judge is also the defense attorney. So I got a question. You think that case was fixed? You think Satan had a chance? Well say, wait a minute. So who is this defense attorney? We don't have to wonder, because John tells us in 1 John 2. "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin," he probably should have said, but when you do sin, "We have an advocate with the Father". Say those two words. "Jesus Christ, the righteous one".

Guess what the word advocate means? Anybody wanna guess? It means defense attorney. Jesus is our defense attorney. He is our defense attorney. That's the legal term. It means counsel for the defense. In other words, this is an Old Testament picture of the New Testament. Jesus, here's the great news. Jesus is not only a defense attorney, are you ready for this? He'll represent anybody who wants him to. He doesn't charge a fee. He doesn't charge by the hour. And here's the best news. He has never lost a case. Never. Well, think carefully. It was the Lord who rebuked the devil. He said, "The Lord rebuke you Satan". Joshua never said a word. I'm gonna tell you something about the devil you need to learn today. Because a lot of people get in trouble when they try this.

Did you know we're never told in the Bible to fight the devil? You won't find anywhere in the Word of God where God says, "Fight the devil". What does God say? He says, "Resist the devil". Don't fight him, resist him. You say, well, "How do you resist him"? Real easy, you let Jesus do the fighting. Hey, it's your battle. So I've got some good news and I've got some bad news. The bad news is you cannot fight Satan in your own power. If you heard that, raise your hand right now. You can, I don't care how much you love God, how much you love Jesus, how much you read your Bible, how much you pray. If you go against Satan in your own power, you will lose every single time. That's the bad news. You cannot fight Satan in your own power. Here's the good news. You don't have to. So every time Satan brings a case to you, you just say, "Satan, you need to take that up with my defense attorney". 'Cause you notice something. When Satan rebuked Joshua, Joshua never said a word. But when the Lord rebuked Satan, he never said a word. The Lord knows how to shut him up.

Now look at what the judge does for the defendant. This just gets better and better and better, watch this. "Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel". Now, I hate to get crude here, but to be honest, the word filthy there is not a very nice word. In the Hebrew language, it literally means to be covered with human excrement. In other words, Joshua wasn't just dirty, he was smelly. He wasn't just sinful, he stunk. Because sin is repulsive to God. Sin is noxious to God. Well what's gonna happen? Well notice what happens. "The angel said to those who were standing before him, 'Take off his filthy clothes.'"

Take off his filthy clothes. Wait a minute. The judge is just about to take the whole case away from Satan. You say, wait a minute. Why did he do that? Was some new evidence presented? No. Had the law been changed? No. Was the judge a crook? No. Had he accepted a bribe? No. Then why in the world was Joshua stripped of those dirty clothes? Because of the wonderful grace of God. Joshua didn't deserve to be stripped of those dirty clothes because he was dirty. He did not deserve to have the smell and the stench removed from him, because he was stinky and he was smelly. But the grace of God stepped in, and it was because of God's grace that Joshua was clear. 'Cause remember what he said about Joshua back in verse two? You may have missed this. He said, "He is a burning stick snatched from the fire".

In other words, here's what he was saying. Joshua, your house is on fire, my man, and you can't put it out. You're on the grill, my man, and you can't get off the grill. I gotta do something. So did Joshua deserve it? No, he was guilty. Did Joshua earn it? No, he was filthy. Could Joshua buy it? No, it wasn't for sale. Then how in the world did the dirty clothes come off? The grace of God. The grace of God. We are what we are by the grace of God. But wait a minute. The judge isn't finished. He doesn't just dismiss the case. It would've been good enough. Look what else the judge does. Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin". Well thanks a lot. No, no, I'm not done, Joshua. "And I will put fine garments on you".

See, these filthy clothes not only needed to be removed, they needed to be replaced. Because listen, it's one thing to be dirty, but it's another thing to be naked. And dirty garments are better than no garments, so what does the judge do? You know what the judge does? He said, "Joshua, I'll be right back". Guess what he does? He goes back to his chambers, pulls out his own wonderful robes, and he comes back and he puts these robes on Joshua. 'Cause that word fine garment literally means festive robes.

You remember the story of the prodigal son? And the son comes home, and that son's been in that pig pen and he stinks, and he's filthy and he's dirty, and he is noxious, and he is obnoxious. And you can't stand the sight and you can't stand the smell. And what does that father do? He puts on what? What did he put on him? The robe. He goes to his closet and says, "Son, I'm putting on my robe on you".

You know what God does for you when he takes your case? Do you know what God does for you when you allow him to come into your life and save you? You know what he does? He takes all those dirty, filthy rags you've been wearing and he puts on the robes of his own righteousness. Isiah the prophet put it this way. "I delight greatly in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of," whose righteousness? His righteousness. I've been saved since I was nine years old. Mike Dean. I got enough sin in my life to fill up three battleships.

But when God looks at me, you know what he sees, Mike? Robes of righteousness. I didn't buy them, couldn't afford them. I didn't work for them, 'cause you can't work for them. Didn't deserve them. Buys grace. He says, let me put on my clothes for you. Festive clothes. He replaces them. Said "Well, that's great". He still isn't finished. Watch this. "Then I said, 'Put a clean turban on his head,' so they put a clean turban on his head, and clothed him while the angel of the Lord stood by".

Now what was the turban? That was the head piece of the high priest. And the priest wore words on the front of that turban. You know what those words said? Holy to the Lord. In other words, the judge says to Joshua, Joshua, when you go back out of this courtroom, I want you to keep this hat on, 'cause I want everybody to know you're totally good with me. I want everybody to know you're totally right with me. I want everybody to know there's not a stench of stink on you.

There's not a pound of dirt on you. You are totally clean. It is an unbelievable picture. And the point of the story is just so simple. If God is for you, it doesn't matter who's against you, even if it's the devil himself. So when God brings the gavel down and says not guilty, it doesn't matter who says that you are, you are not guilty. So what do you have to do to get off the guilt trip? Well first of all, we all have to admit our guilt before God. We are guilty. And then we all need to realize, you know, we need to really receive the grace of God. It's all there for the taking. But now watch what happens, 'cause we are still not finished. Because once you experience the grace, once you realize the grace of God, then we can all experience the goodness of God. 'Cause his story still doesn't end here. Because remember, Joshua was not put on probation. He's put back to work serving the Lord.

And I wanna tell you something, I'm so grateful for a God, listen, I'm grateful for a God that doesn't just forgive me. He doesn't hold a grudge. I'm so grateful for a God that says, okay, I'll forgive you, but I'm gonna hold this one thing back just in case you get outta line one more time. Watch this now, then we'll be done. The Lord had restored two things that sin will cost you every single time. Every single time. He restored two things. Watch this. "The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua. 'This is what the Lord Almighty says. If you walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts.'"

What had Joshua lost when he sinned? He had lost all authority with God. Oh, he may have had the title. He may have had the position. But he didn't have the power. He had no authority with God at all. And Joshua was told that because God had saved him, God had cleansed him, God had purified him, he said, "Okay Joshua, now you can go back and govern my house. Now you can go back and be in charge of my course, because that's what a priest is supposed to do". Now let me tell you how that relates to all of us. This is so important. If I were to ask you a question, "Do you want God to use you"?

You'd say, well of course I do. I mean, do you really want God to use you? You'd say, well yeah, sure, Pastor, I really want God to use me. God cannot use you unless you are serving him in his power and his authority. If you're bringing your power, he says, "No thanks". If you bring your authority, says "Can't use you". You've gotta serve God exercising his defined authority. And if there is sin in your life, you lose that authority. See, I'm speaking, now I'm gonna preach to me for about one minute, just listen. I have never walked into a pulpit, in 45 years as a pastor, ever, that to my knowledge there was any unconfessed sin in my life. I'm driving to church this morning, and I may not, and it's a great prayer time for me, and I'm driving to church this morning and I said:

Lord, if there's anything in my life, if there's anything between me and you, if there's any unconfessed sin, if there's something I've kept back, if there's anything I did I shouldn't have done, something I didn't do, I should have done, I wanna know it right now. I wanna be cleansed and I wanna be forgiven. Because Lord, I would rather die than to preach in my flesh. I wanna preach in your power. I wanna preach in your authority. I want my people to know I'm not a perfect vessel, but I'm a clean one. I'm not a perfect man, but I'm blameless, and I have a true walk with you. I do not wanna preach in the authority of my flesh. I wanna preach in the authority of the Holy Spirit.

Let me tell you why that's so important for all of us. I am convinced the biggest problem of the average Christian, and the reason why most Christians have so little real power in their life is this. You've got unconfessed sin in your life. You've got unrepentant of sin in your life. You've got unacknowledged sin in your life. And you keep living in the power of the flesh, and not the power of the spirit. But see, here's what God does. When God takes your place, he cleans you up. He puts his robes of righteous on you and he gives you back the authority where you can then have a party with God. So the first thing he says to Joshua is, "Hey, you've got my authority, now you can go serve". But he's got one other thing that he'd lost. That's access to God.

Look at this. "And I will give you a place among these standing here". Once more, Joshua had been given access to the very throne room of heaven, because when Joshua was wearing those dirty clothes, and Joshua was guilty, and Joshua did have sin in his life, guess what happened? The heavens had turned to brass. God's door had been shut and locked. I read just the other day, in my quiet time, "If I regard sin in my heart, God will not hear me". You can come into God's presence any time you wanna come into God's presence, but you've got to come clean, and you've got to be clean. You can't take that for granted. Now he's got access to God. He's got authority with God, and now he's got access to God. He's got all that he needs. Guess what? All of a sudden the heavens became highways, and God's overcame a pathway into his presence.

So we're gonna wrap all this up, make it real practical. One of two things is true, may be true of you today. Number one. You may be a guilty sinner. You've never been cleansed, and that's why you've never been cleansed. And that's why you do feel dirty, because you are dirty. You've never had your filthy clothes removed. You are guilty before God. And what God is saying to you today is this. You're gonna stand before me one day as your judge, but if you'll let my son take your case, he will be your defense attorney, and I will declare you not guilty. But the choice is up to you. And that may be your situation right now. That can change the day. The defense already, Jesus is really saying right now, "Hey, I'm ready to take your case".

You may say, "Man, you don't know how bad my case. I got a rap sheet that long". Doesn't matter. I'll take your case. And I will win your case. And I will take it for free, and you will never be the same. On the other hand, maybe you're not a guilty sinner, maybe you're a backsliding saint. Oh, you've been saved, you know, you've trusted Jesus, and, you know, you've got eternal life. But you're living in the authority of the flesh, and you're on a fellowship with God, and the defense attorney is right next door. He'll take your case, he'll take you before the judge. If you'll just admit your sin and ask for forgiveness, the case will be dismissed.

So let me tell you how easy this works. So I'm in the Southern Baptist Convention, I'm out in California, and we went up to the Reagan Library last Saturday. By the way, it's worth a trip if you ever wanna go. Whether you like Reagan or not, doesn't matter, it's a great. It's got Air Force One, you get to go through Air Force One, and it's got the Oval Office, and you get to actually sit in the chair, and you get to go on Marine One and even got a hologram. It's just the coolest thing. We went up there, spent all day. Well, Teresa was standing outside, and one of the bell hops overheard Teresa say, "We're going to the Reagan Library". So he walked up to her and he said, "Ma'am, would you, how many are going with you"? She said, "Four people". She said, "Would you like to carry a bottle of water"? He said, "Sure".

Well, I'm in the lobby. I was talking to some guys and I'm in the lobby. So she, I guess she pointed me out to him. So this guy walks up to me and hands me a bottle of water. I said, "What is this for"? And he said, "Well, you're going to the Reagan Library". "What, are you a prophet, how do you know I'm going to the Reagan Library"? He said, "Well, your wife said you're going". I said, "Oh, really"? He said, "Yeah". He said, "I'm just giving you a bottle of water". I won't tell you his whole name, but his first name was Isiah. I said, "Isiah," I said, "You know, that's a Bible name". He said, "Yeah, it is". I said, "Well, do you mind if I ask you a question"? He said, "I don't mind". I said, "Well, do you know the God of the Bible"? He gave a funny response. He said, "Well, I used to be very religious, but then I went to college".

Thought that's kinda strange. I said, "Well, what happened when you went to college"? He said, "Well, you know, you get to partying and doing this and doing that and all that, and I just kind of got away from all that stuff". I said, "Can I share with you the best news I've ever heard in my life"? He said, "The best"? I said, "Best news". So I always carry, you know, I carry my wallet with me and I always carry these best news cards. I got one right here. I call it bullets in my gun. Don't do it publicly, just telling you. So I gave him my card and I said, "I want you to do me a favor". I said, "I want you to read this card out". He was busy, and I said "We can't talk right now". I said, "Are you gonna be around this week"? He said, "I'll be around". "What shift do you work"?

He told me, I said, "I wanna see you before I leave". He said, "Okay". That was Saturday. So Wednesday night, convention's over, we go out to eat, and I come back, and who's standing out front, but Isaiah. So, well, I was eating with Mike Daniels and Bruce and our wives, and I said, you guys go on in. So I walked over to Isaiah and I said, "Hey Isaiah, did you get a chance to read my card"? He said, "Yeah, I did". And I said, "What are you thinking"? "Man, I've been thinking about it". I said, "Do you have that card"? He said, "No". I said, "I've got another one, let me give you another". So I gave it to him. And I said, "Isaiah, do you understand everything I shared with you in this card"? "Yeah, I think I do". I said, "Let's just go over it".

Bad news, you're a sinner separated from God. I didn't go in and just say you're a filthy, you know, stinky, dirty sinner. I didn't think that helped the case. But I said, you know, you're a sinner separated from God. The worst news is there's nothing you can do to take care of your problem. The good news is, Jesus did for you what you couldn't do for yourself. He dies for your sin, he comes back from the grave, and to prove that he paid for your sins, God raised him from the dead. The best news is, eternal life is a gift, forgiveness is a gift. You can have it for free. He said, "I understand". I said, "Well, now we get to where the rubber hits the road, Isaiah. Would you like to pray to receive Jesus"? He goes, "You mean here"? I said, "Right here". "You mean now"? I said, "Right now". "You mean with you"?

I said, "I don't see anybody else". He said, and before he could say anything, I said, "Let me ask you one last question. Do you know for sure if you were to die today you'd go to heaven"? "No". "Would you like to"? "Yes". Before I could say another word, he said, "I'd like to pray and ask Jesus to come into my heart". And right there on that sidewalk, with people walking by, walk in doors, he prays to receive Jesus. I could show you, I took a picture with him. You should have seen, I wish you could see the picture on my cell phone. The countenance on his face. The change in Isaiah. So I got through, he doesn't even own a Bible. I'm sending a Bible and I've got his email. I've got Greg Laurie, my buddy out there, gonna follow up with him.

So I did a test thing. I just sent an email to him. I got his email, I shot him an email, I said, the next day, I said, "Hey Isaiah. Thank you so much for letting me just share with you the best news I've ever heard". Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Didn't think I'd hear anything. I go to get on the plane Thursday, my phone goes off. It's an email from Isaiah. "Thank you for taking the time to help me accept Jesus. My life will never be the same". So what did I do? What happened? Here's all I did. Buddy, you're going down. Literally and physically in spirit, you're going down. You have no shot before the supreme judge of the universe. But I know this defense attorney. We're just like that. He'll take your case for free, and he will win it. And he did. And he will do it for you.

Would you pray with me right now? Heads bowed and eyes closed. If you're here today or you're listening right now by TV or on the internet or whatever, and you do not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, why don't you right now let him take your case? Do you understand you cannot win your case, you can't do it, you're done, you're cooked, you're toast? But Jesus did for us what we can't do for ourselves. And if you'll let him, he will take your case and he will save you and he will forgive you of your sins. And if your response to that would be, yes sir, I wanna do what Isaiah did. I wanna do it here. I wanna do it now. I wanna do it, whether you're sitting in a chair or sitting in a recliner at your home right now, yes, I want to do that, then why don't you just tell Jesus what Isaiah told him.

Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner and I need a savior. I can't save myself, but I believe you died for my sins. I believe God raised you from the dead. I believe you're alive right now. Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Take off my filthy dirty clothes. I'm guilty, I know I'm guilty. But oh God, take my clothes off. Put on me right now the robes of your righteousness. Forgive me of all of my sins. I repent. Turn away from my old way of life. And I surrender my life to you and thank you for giving me eternal life, and thank you for forgiving me of my sins.

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