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John Gray - The Stranger Who Saved Me




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You know I've been here now almost two years and my family and I have been so blessed by this church, this local community. And one of the things that happens when you serve in front of people often, many people only see the public persona. I endeavor this afternoon now to share a little bit about my heart and about kind of where I came from in the context of the word that the Lord has given me. I was greatly moved by what Dr. Paul shared about the people that he ministered to and administered hope through letters in Zambia.

And the last story of the little girl struck me that here was a little girl who fell into a fire. Really in that moment, her hope had been greatly diminished, her chances at a regular life had been greatly altered, the possibilities had been limited because of circumstance. But because of the commitment and the love of someone she had never met, her life was put back on track. How awesome it is that a little girl's life was altered by the touch of a stranger.

Isn't it amazing some of you have probably heard stories or read online of inexplicable stories of people in terrible situations and a stranger comes out of nowhere to save the day or pull somebody out of a burning building or out of a car just in time. What a beautiful thing to think that somebody that you don't know would go out of their way to help you. And I'm thinking about those people in Africa who didn't have the hope until hope showed up in the form of committed strangers.

And this morning I wanna talk to you about a personal story. I wanna talk to you about the stranger who saved me. The stranger who saved me. I was raised to learn at a very early age that someone died for me so that I could live. For those who don't know, I was born with a particular blood deficiency. And I don't talk about it a lot because we don't talk about our broken places a lot. But I was born with a particular blood deficiency, nothing that I chose, it was just ingrained in the DNA. It was passed down on my father's side and there's just no escaping it. And I'm grateful for Texas, there's a lot of medical facilities here, there are a lot of doctors here, there were a lot of doctors back home in Cincinnati but none of them were able to treat the root cause of my DNA deficiency.

Strange, because the more I talk about what I've been walking through, I find that there are other people who are walking through the same thing. This blood deficiency that I was born with began to manifest at a very young age. My mother said it was probably not even one, two years old when she noticed that there was something ingrained in my DNA 'cause she'd say, "Don't touch that", and I touch it, she'd say, "Hot", and I'd still reach for it. She said, "Sit down", I'd stand right up. There were times when the blood deficiency would manifest itself in the strangest of ways and they would tell me to go left and I'd go right. I would end up doing things that I wasn't supposed to do and it was a manifestation of something that had happened many many generations prior to my birth.

In fact, as far back as my ancestry could be seen, there was this deficiency. It started, apparently my great great great great grandparents many times were gardeners and in that garden they were out there one day and somebody came to talk to them, but they weren't the owners of the garden, and the owner of the garden told them, "Listen, you can have all this, but of this one tree you can't eat for the day you eat of that tree, you will surely die". And then some strange creature came in, whispered to my great great grandmother many times remove, said, "Girl, you need to try that fruit. That fruit is off the hook, that fruit is of the chain. You eat that fruit, you gon' be turned up. You need this fruit in you life". She was like, "For real? Let me try it, it does look good".

But it wasn't just the fruit. The looking at the fruit wasn't the sin, not even the grabbing of the fruit, but the digesting of the fruit meant not only did you disobey, but you disobeyed listening to an inferior voice. Listening to the voice of one who didn't create them and now they were cut off from the very one who designed them for fellowship. And inside of that one act, my blood deficiency came to be. For the deficiency is better known as sin. It's a blood defect. No matter what you do, no matter how good you try to be, it always shows up.

Paul said, "Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? I do what I don't wanna do and what I'm supposed to do that I don't do". And there's this battle between flesh and spirit, good and bad, right and wrong and it manifests at a young age and if you don't believe me, how many of us know you don't have to teach a child to be bad? You ever seen kids who had food and saw another child? Very rarely do you hear the child say, "Ours". "Mine"! By nature, we are self-absorbed, by nature we are ambitious, by nature we are anarchical. We want what we want when we want it. We don't run towards brokenness, we don't run towards vulnerability, we wanna be self-reliant, self-contained. I did this, I made this, I don't need help.

It is the very root of pride. It's ingrained in our DNA, but I came into some knowledge right about seven years old that my blood deficiency could be healed by the touch of a stranger. They used to sing about it. Couldn't really catch his name because I was young but they'd say "Oh, the blood of Jesus. Oh, the blood of Jesus. Oh, the blood of Jesus, it will never lose its power", and I grew up listening to these songs, me and my little seven, eight year old friends and we're like, "Who is Jesus"? Your nose is running, "Who is Jesus"? You know it's salty, you're trying taste it. "Who is Jesus"?

You know Jesus, he on the funeral fan between Martin Luther King and JFK. Oh him. I saw this man on the funeral fan, nice hair, white robe, brown shoes, he always had a lamb in his hand and he was knocking at somebody's door. And I didn't know who he was or why he was carrying a lamb. Maybe he sold lamb chops door-to-door, I don't know. But apparently, this stranger did something unbelievable for me. And at seven years old, they said, even though people used to make fun of me 'cause I had buck teeth from sucking my thumb. I mean, my teeth were so far out of my mouth I didn't talk, I whistled, excuse me. I wasn't what you call attractive.

So I didn't always have tons of friends. What they said, "he'll be a friend that sticks closer than a brother". Many would sing songs about the stranger. "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer and o, what peace we often forfeit and o, what needles pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer", and that's exactly what I did. One Sunday morning, I walked down to the front of the church, to the table with the nice juice and the cool crackers and I gave my life to a stranger. But it turns out even though he was a stranger to me I was no stranger to him.

Scripture says in John 15:16, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you". Strange, beautiful scripture that many of us who have come into the knowledge of the stranger, we come in talking about I found the Lord. Sorry to burst your bubble but he wasn't lost. Excuse me, I'm looking for John, anybody seen John? No no no, I was looking for Him, but he's always been thinking about me even when I wasn't thinking about him.

Maybe some of you know what I'm talking about because the love of God has been pursuing you but that flesh nature keeps pushing him away. "No, not now, let me live my life, I'll come see you when older after I've sown my oats, after I've partied like a rockstar, after I've drunk as much as I can, done everything I can, I'll come see you later on", but you don't know that tomorrow is promised. So if you're breathing today, you need to come talk to the stranger.

It's funny because in order to receive this relationship, you have to understand that something is broken. And it's hard for self contained individuals to ever believe that there's something wrong. Many people say, "Salvation? That's a nice concept but I don't know that I need salvation. I mean, I'm a good person, I do good things. I volunteer my time, I give money to the church, I do right by my family, I take care of my wife, I take care of my husband, I watch the kids, I'm a good person, I volunteer," that's great. Not one of those things can save you. Your activity cannot bring you salvation. Salvation is not works based, it's blood based. Nothing you can do can take away the internal stain of sin, but there is a transfusion available. "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. And what can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. And o precious is that flow that makes me white as snow, no other fount I know, nothing but the Blood of Jesus".

That's for anybody who's searching. The blood of this king, this shepherd, Mary's baby, the rightful heir to the throne of David, the prophesied one. Matthew 17 says he's the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the one that the writers of the Old Testament declared was Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father, the one that Moses said at the end of his life there's one coming greater than me. I want you to know he may be a stranger to you but you're no stranger to him for he's been pursuing you as long as time has been.

In fact, before you got here, you were on his mind from in Jeremiah 1:5, it says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and appointed you a prophet to the nation. I sanctified you, I ordained you, I set you apart for my purpose," which means no matter what you've done, no matter what you're doing, no matter what you'll do, God already made up his mind about you so people cannot judge you, no one can condemn you, no one can disqualify you because God called you before you ever got here. You belong to him. There's a stranger in our midst.

I feel the Holy Ghost in here. There is a stranger among us, the great unifier of the people of God, this great building filled with all the nations. A woman over here waved when Dr. Paul talked about Zambia. I'm sure there are people here from the Congo and Senegal and Egypt and Ethiopia and Sweden and Ireland and all the other nations of the world and Mexico and Brazil and Central America and Panama and all the other places that I can't name right now because I don't remember all the countries but you know what I'm talking about and this is the power of the stranger who still knocks on the door of your heart that no matter where you come from, no matter your background, no matter your custom, your culture, your upbringing, your language, your brokenness, your sin, your decision, there was a stranger who's willing to trade his blood for yours.

I was raised to believe that a man I had never met gave his life so I could live. Strange. I didn't even know how broken I was. You can't see it. Time out for surface church. Time for us to look at the true condition of our heart. But many people are afraid to look at their true condition because who wants to acknowledge brokenness. But in that acknowledgment, healing can begin. In that acknowledgment, new life can begin. In that acknowledgment, freedom can begin. There's a stranger moving through this church right now in the form of his Spirit that's touching you in your heart, speaking to you in your spirit.

If tears are welling up in your eyes, that is the touch of God saying, I'm talking to you today. I know it took a long time to get all the way up to the top of this church, but I want you to know God sees you just like he sees me and there's no difference in value between me and the person furthest from me. I don't care where you're watching right now. The same God that's here is right there in your home through the computer right now.

God has a plan for your life and he sent his Son, a stranger, to the earth, one that they couldn't figure out, who is he? Is he a prophet, is he a priest, is he a rabbi, is he a shepherd, is he a teacher, is he from Bethlehem, Judea, Nazareth? I'm not sure, Capernaum, where? Did he die, did he not die, was it just a comma, was it three days, how long? Was it a Thursday, was it a Friday? It doesn't matter but when they beat him on his back and his blood hit the ground, redemption became active. And my name was written in his heart. I want you to know a stranger saved my life.

What do you do when a stranger saves your life? What do you do when somebody gives you something you couldn't pay for? You saved my life, maybe I can save up enough money to pay you back, maybe I could work real hard to pay you back. No, 'cause your money can't save you and your works can't save you. Well, how do I thank him? Acknowledge him. You telling me in order to get this exchange all I gotta do... Yes, confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and you shall be saved.

Jesus and your confession + nothing = salvation. Not your works, not your money, not your last name, not your family line, not your 401[k], not your insurance policy, not who you know, not where you sit, not what you drive, not where you live, none of it matters. You need the blood, the blood, the blood, the blood, the blood will never lose its power, the blood will never lose its power. Mayday, the earth is in trouble and there's only one that can save it and he's not in a movie theater with a cape on.
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