Joel Osteen - Gladly Welcomed
I want to talk to you today about Gladly Welcomed. We have two small dogs at home, and they're Shih Tzu's, they're very friendly and playful. And every time they hear the garage door go up, someone returns home, they run to the back door and wait. When we open the door, they jump up on us, so excited. Their tail is wagging back and forth. It's like they hadn't seen us in two months, we've been gone 30 minutes. I know they're just dogs, but it still warms your heart to know that they're so glad to see you. Paul said in Ephesians 3:12, "Because of our faith in Christ, we can come fearlessly into God's presence, assured of his glad welcome". Not many of us have the audacity to think that God would be that happy to see us. I mean, "He's the Creator of the universe, he has bigger things to deal with, he's not concerned about me"... No, you are God's biggest deal! You are his most valuable possession! He made you in his own image! There's nothing more important to God than you.
It says in Isaiah, "He has your picture tattooed on the palm of his hand". He knows the number of hair on your head. He knows your thoughts before you think them. If you all have the right image of God, knowing that he gladly welcomes you, his face lights up when he sees you, he loves spending time with you, hearing your concerns, knowing what you're dreaming about, then you won't shrink back in fear, intimidated, unworthy. You'll go fearlessly to him. All through the day, you'll talk to him, he'll become your best friend. But so many people have the wrong image of God. They see him as being harsh, like he's got a ball bat, waiting for them to make a mistake, to knock them down further. "Don't come to me, man, you've done wrong. You haven't measured up. You knew better". But God is not basing his "Glad welcome" on your performance, it's not based on how perfect you've lived, it's based on the fact that you're his child. Because of your faith in Christ. Not because of your good works, not because you perform perfectly, it's because of who you belong to.
Ephesians 1:4 says, "Long before God made the world, he chose you to be in him, without fault". You may have made mistakes, you've got off course, done things you're not proud of. We let the accuser keep up all that baggage, remind us of how unworthy we are, how we don't deserve God's goodness, "Look at what you've done. You should be ashamed of yourself, you knew better". You know how God sees you? Without fault! How could this be? He's already paid the price for your sins, your mistakes, your failures. He sees you without fault, but that won't do you any good, if you don't see yourself without fault. If you're down on yourself, living guilty, condemned, even though God will gladly welcome you, even though he's longing to be good to you, you won't see that goodness because you don't come fearlessly into his presence.
This all started in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the forbidden tree. Up to then they were happy, confident, secure, they knew God loved them, they went boldly into his presence, walked and talked with God, they received his glad welcome. But when they disobeyed, the condemnation came, the accusing voice. That brought fear, intimidation. The first thing they did was run and hide. They had to get out of God's presence. They knew they wouldn't be gladly welcomed anymore. God came and said, "Adam where are you"? Wasn't so much about his location, it was about his frame of mind. In the Old Testament they had to make sacrifices to cover their sins, but we're under a better covenant. The price has already been paid. It says in revelation, "God has washed away our sins", past tense. He's already forgiven you. You may have made mistakes, you're not where you wanted to be, you don't feel worthy, like you deserve God's goodness. Now, like Adam you're hiding. God is saying, "Where are you? I long to be with you. I have mercy for your mistakes. I have forgiveness for your wrongs". What you've done did not stop his glad welcome.
The scripture says, "Come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy". Notice, to get the mercy you have to go boldly. You won't go boldly, if you think God is mad at you, you made too many mistakes, man, you lost your temper, you ran with the wrong crowd, you ruined your marriage... Mercy is available, new beginnings are available, but it's not going to happen if you stay down on yourself, feeling unworthy. "I don't deserve to be blessed, Joel". Get rid of that defeated mentality, God sees you without fault. He's not holding your mistakes against you. When you come to him, he won't say "It's about time. I'm disappointed. What's wrong with you"? He will gladly welcome you. Maybe like Adam, you're hiding, thinking you can't go to God. Every voice says, "Look at your failures, look at your weaknesses, you don't deserve it". If you only knew that God is standing before you right now with open arms. He's not going to just welcome you, he's going to gladly welcome you. Why don't you come out of hiding, come out of unworthiness, come out of condemnation, and receive the glad welcome? "God, I know I'm not worthy, but father, I want to thank you that you have made me worthy. Lord, I have plenty of faults, but I want to thank you that you see me with no faults".
How do you see God? As someone that will gladly welcome you, that's looking forward to seeing you, that won't judge you? Or do you see him as someone that's hard, condemning, holding your mistakes against you? Your perception of God will have a great impact on whether or not you become all you were created to be. And sometimes religion distorts the image of God. It can show God as being harsh, and mean, where you can't measure up. It uses guilt, making you feel unworthy, to try to get you to live right. But condemnation doesn't make you do better. The scripture says, "It is the goodness of God, that leads to repentance". When you understand that God loves you unconditionally, not if you perform perfectly, but even when you make mistakes he has mercy, that he sees you without fault, that he gladly welcomes you, that there's nothing more valuable, nothing more important to him than you, then you'll put your shoulders back, you'll hold your head up high, and step up to who you were created to be.
Luke chapter 15, a young man asked his father for his inheritance earlier. His father agreed, gave him the money. The son left home, went out lived a wild life, partied all the time, wasted his inheritance, making poor choices. The money finally ran out. The young man had nothing to eat, nowhere to go. He found a job on a farm, taking care of hogs. He was so desperate, he had to eat the hog food to survive. He was very down on himself, ashamed, embarrassed. He had no one to blame except himself. As he was sitting in the hog pen, dirty, smelly, not knowing what he was going to do next, he began to think about his father. He said, "Even the servants at my father's house they're better than I do. They have a nice place to stay. They have three meals a day. They get paid well". He thought about how good his father was, how he was even kind to the staff. He remembered how he was loving, generous, merciful, compassionate.
As he contemplated who his father was, something rose up on the inside: a boldness, a confidence. He said, "You know what? I'm going to arise and go to my father". He didn't say, "I'm gonna go back home". He didn't say, "I'm gonna go back to my family's house". He said, "I'm going to my father". He knew, everyone may not accept him, there would be judgment from people, maybe friends would look down on him, maybe a sibling would say hurtful things, but he knew: his father was the king. As he made that journey back home, I can hear thoughts telling him, "This is not a good idea. Your father is not going to receive you. Look at what you've done. Look at how dirty you are. You better turn around". The whole time he kept dismissing it, saying, "No, I remember who my father is".
If he had the image of his father being harsh, mean, judgmental, he would have never come home. How you see your Heavenly Father will determine whether you run away from him, or whether you run to him. Maybe you're staying away because you have the wrong image of God. You're letting those lies play, saying "God won't receive you, you've blown it too many times, you should live guilty and condemned". If you only knew who your Heavenly Father really is, like this young man, you would arise and go to your father.
When he got close to him, this big moment finally came, his heart was beating fast, he's trying to believe for the best, but fear, unworthiness playing louder than ever. I can imagine he wants to turn around, "Just forget it, this wasn't a good idea", right then he looks way off in the distance, and see someone running toward him. He thinks, "Who could this be? Is there a problem? An emergency? Is someone in trouble"? They get closer, and he realizes: it's his father. He naturally thinks, "He's coming out here to condemn me, to try to keep me off the property", but when the father gets to his son, he grabs him and hugs him with all of his might, won't let go.
Remember, the son is dirty, he has hog feed, manure, mud all over him. He hasn't showered in days, he smells badly. But it doesn't stop his father. He doesn't pay any attention. Our God will get dirty to rescue you, he's a God that comes to messy places. The dirt on your life, the mess you've made will never keep God from coming to you. Nothing you've done is too much for the mercy of God. This father told his assistant (Luke 15:22), "Go get the best robe and put it on my son. Go get new shoes and put it on his feet, and go get the family ring and put it on his finger". This means all of his authority as a son was restored. He went on to say, "Go kill the fatted calf, we're going to have a party".
God knows how to gladly welcome you. Would have been nice if the father would have just forgiven him, let him come back home, not make a big deal about it? But notice how God doesn't just take you back, he restores you, he gives you back what you've lost. And it can be hard for us to fathom that God will be good to us, even though we've done wrong, he'll have a party when I return, not because I did something great, not because I accomplished a goal, but I blew it, I made these poor choices. This is the goodness of our God.
Maybe like this young man, you wouldn't think God would have anything to do with you. Gotten off course, you made mistakes. When the truth: is God has a robe of honor waiting for you. It's not in the hog pen, it's with your father. He has a ring of authority. He wants to not just receive you back, but to restore what's been taken, restore your honor, restore your reputation, restore your joy. You're condemning yourself when he has a fatted calf out in the field with your name on it. Don't believe those lies that "You'll never really be happy, never be fulfilled. If you'd only made better choices". It's time to arise and go to your father.
When you do this, the scripture says "You can be assured of his glad welcome". Not maybe, not if he's in a good mood, not if you've never had this problem before. No, you can be sure, he'll be there with open arms. He's waiting to celebrate your arrival. We feel the guilt, the condemnation, but God sees our failures already covered. Now, we have to receive the forgiveness, receive the mercy, and see ourselves without fault. This goes against our natural reasoning, because everything in us says, "Man you're just a poor old sinner, you're just unworthy". The truth is: you used to be an old sinner, but when you gave your life to Christ, you became a son, a daughter of the Most High God. He has made you worthy. You are the righteousness of God. It's not your own righteousness, it's his righteousness.
Don't live with the weak-worm-of-the-dust mentality, "I don't deserve God's goodness. Like that prodigal, I brought this trouble on myself". The scripture says (Romans 5"20), "Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound". You didn't supersede your allotment of grace. You didn't make a mistake so big that God ran out of mercy. Instead of living condemned, why don't you go boldly to the throne, to receive that mercy? God is waiting to gladly welcome you. Here's the key: he won't force you to come, he didn't make the prodigal come back home, was the young man's choice. When you take one step toward God, he comes running towards you. Only place in the Bible where it pictures God running was to this young man that had gotten off course. God could have come running to heal the lepers, run into teaching the temple, running to the religious leaders, instead he came running to someone that had made mistakes.
My little dogs I told you about, when I get home this afternoon, I have no doubt they're going to be happy to see me. I am fully convinced, they will be there with their tails, wagging, jumping up on me. What would happen if we believe that God will always gladly welcome us? How much better would we live? How much more free, more secure, at peace, if we were confident that God is for us, that he sees us without faults, that even when we make mistakes he's waiting with arms held open wide, ready to restore us, get us back on track? The enemy has worked overtime to try to convince people that God is out to get us, he's mad at you, he's counting your mistakes, he's about to knock you down further - that is not our God. Don't let the wrong image of God keep you from coming to him.
The scripture says Daniel 11:32, "The people who know their God will be strong and do exploits". I believe one meaning of this is when you know the character of our God, when you know he's for you, when you know he gladly welcomes you, when you know he sees you without fault, when you know he comes running when you make mistakes, then you're going to be strong, and you're going to do great things. "Well, Joel, when we make mistakes, I think we should do better". Well, yes, I agree, but you're not a finished product. God is still working on you. While he's changing you, while you're growing, you have to learn to accept yourself. Not beat yourself up when you don't perform perfectly. What you struggle with, the mistakes you made are not a surprise to God. He's the one that made you. You're on the potter's wheel. He's continuing to mold you. Stay positive toward yourself, give yourself grace. You can't change in your own strength. You keep honoring God, and in his timing he'll help you to change.
Think about Zacchaeus, he was a tax collector. They were known for being dishonest, cheating people, not having any integrity. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector. He was despised. The people in the scripture described him as scum. It's pretty bad when the scripture calls you scum. Jesus came passing through the town, Zacchaeus was up in that tree, trying to get a glimpse of him. Out of all the people there, Jesus stopped, looked up, and said "Zacchaeus, come down, I want to go to your house and have dinner". This didn't make sense to the religious leaders, they complained "Why is he going to dinner with a notorious sinner"? Religion says, "You're too bad. You've made too many mistakes. Stay away". But God says, "I will gladly welcome you. I'm coming to your house for dinner".
Jesus could have gone to the mayor's house, could have gone to the high priest house, could have gone to the governor's house. This shows us how God doesn't judge the way people judge. If God gladly welcomes Zacchaeus, why do you think he's not going to gladly welcome you? "Well, Joel, I've made some mistakes. I still struggle with my temper. I gave into that temptation". That didn't cancel out his mercy. Run to God, not away from him. Don't do like Adam, and start hiding. You can be open and honest with God. He's not going to judge you. It's very powerful when you admit your dependence on him. "God, I'm struggling in this area, I can't overcome on my own, I need your help". That's when you'll feel a strength, a power to do what you can't do on your own.
Zacchaeus went to dinner with Jesus, but he didn't leave the same way. He said, "I'm going to give half my income to the poor. Those I have overcharged, I'm going to give four times the amount back". Jesus said, "This day salvation has come to your home". Sometimes we think: if we berate people, tell them all they're doing wrong, make them feel guilty, then they'll change. But most people already know what they're doing wrong. When they hear about a God who gladly welcomes, a God that doesn't hold their faults against them, a God that shows mercy when they deserve judgment, then they'll change. Make sure you have the right image of God: he's for you, he has a great plan for your life. He's not focused on all your failures. He has mercy for every mistake. He's waiting to gladly welcome you. All you have to do is: take that step toward him. No more hiding, no more living condemned, no more feeling unworthy. Go to God with boldness, and receive this mercy.
It says "Come boldly to the throne", that means you won't receive it if you go around thinking, "I don't deserve it, I'm unworthy, I'm like Zacchaeus, I made a lot of mistakes, done things I'm not proud of". God is calling your name today, saying "Come down out of that tree. Come out of hiding. I want to come to your house. I want to gladly welcome you". Will you receive the mercy? Will you shake off the guilt, the condemnation, the past, put your shoulders back, and see yourself the way God sees you, without fault, worthy, righteous?
Many times we get our image of God from our natural father. If your father was loving, and kind, it'll help you to have the right perception of God. But I know people, their father was harsh, condescending, wasn't around, they couldn't count on him. Don't let that negative image distort who our Heavenly Father is. God is merciful, he's loving, he's forgiving. Victoria has a great father. He's always been good to us. When Jonathan was born, he used to come to our house and spend the night. He would take care of the baby, so we could sleep. Victoria's very close to her dad. When she was in her teens, she had just gotten her driver's permit, she asked her father if she could borrow the car, and go to a friend's house in the neighborhood. He was a little hesitant at first, but he finally agreed, and said "Yes, you can go, as long as you go straight there, and come straight back home". She said, "Yes, sir, I'll do exactly that".
Well, Victoria is not quite as holy as I am... She did go straight to her friend's house, but then she picked her up and said, "Let's get on the freeway, and go see some other friends". The problem is: she didn't put the car in drive, she put it in low one. That gear is used for climbing hills. She was going down the freeway, barely moving with the engine sounding like a jet airplane. The car started smoking, 10 minutes later the engine blew up, the car wouldn't move, pulled over to the side of the freeway.
The last thing most people would do would be go call your father. He's the one that just told you to not get on the freeway. Not Victoria. Like this prodigal she said, "I will arise and go to my father". She called, "Dad, I made a mistake, took the car out on the freeway, something happened, and it's not running anymore". If her father was hard, mean, always berating her, she wouldn't have run to him, she would have run from him. The reason she was bold enough to go to her father was she knew his nature, she had seen his character through the years: loving, kind, merciful.
When you have the right image of God, even when you make mistakes, you'll go to him. Like Victoria, you're assured of his glad welcome. Her father came, had the car towed. Do you know, he never said a word to her about it. Sometimes God will clean up a mess we made, and never say a word. He doesn't condemn us, he doesn't find fault, "I told you so". It's the mercy of God. That's what happened with the prodigal son. When the son returned home, the father who represents God, never brought up his past. He never said, "I'll take you back, but you should be ashamed. I hope you learned your lesson". The father never said a word about it.
Sometimes we don't go to God because we already feel condemned, we already know what we've done wrong, think "Oh, man here comes more judgment, he's going to let me have it". No, God is waiting to gladly welcome you. Not to judge you, not to make you feel worse, but to restore you. He has a robe of honor. He has a ring of authority. When you really know who your Heavenly Father is, you'll go to him with confidence, knowing that he accepts you, that he has mercy for your mistakes, that he's not in the judging business, he's in the restoring business.
When our son Jonathan was a little boy, maybe five years old, one afternoon I couldn't find him in the house. I went looking for him everywhere. I thought maybe he's upstairs in his room by himself, it wasn't there. Went to Alexandra's room, nothing. Wasn't in the playroom, started to get a little concerned. I had my weights out in the garage, and he would come out when I was working out. I went out in the garage still couldn't find him. Looked in my office, in the bathroom, he was nowhere.
I finally went back to check my bedroom. When I got there I noticed the door was closed. I opened it, and there was Jonathan sitting in my favorite chair, this big green recliner. The chair was laid back, his feet were up in the air, he was eating a popsicle, watching tv. He looked at me with a big smile, and said "Daddy, this is the life". As a father, that made me feel good. I loved the fact that he felt so loved, so valuable, so important that he could come and get in my favorite chair. He knew I would gladly welcome him.
If you want to make your Heavenly Father proud, get up in the green chair, come boldly to the throne, believe that you're loved, that you're valuable, that you're worthy. Don't let a wrong image of God keep you from the blessings, the joy, the favor that belongs to you. God sees you without fault. He's already forgiven your sins. You can come fearlessly into his presence, assured of his glad welcome. If you'll do this, I believe and declare: strongholds of guilt, condemnation, unworthiness, are being broken right now. Because you know your God, you're going to be strong, and do great things. Favor is coming, healing, restoration, promotion, new levels of your destiny, in Jesus name. And if you receive it, can you say amen today? Amen!