Leon Fontaine - The Influential Christian
LAF is really your position with God. That He loves you the way you are, messed up or perfect whichever you think you are and He just accepts you. I mean, His acceptance is so entire, and He forgives you. And so when people begin to hear that they go, "This church is weird". Okay, like I thought church was a place. A lot of guys, these are the kind of people I like. They'll tell me, "I don't go to church because I ain't gonna be no beep, beep, hypocrite". And I love those people because it shows me that they want truth. And I go, "Okay, if you had to go to church once you figured out how to be perfect. I'm with you. I'm not going either. I'm the pastor". But if it's not for perfect people and it's for whosoever, then we gonna take a new look at church.
LAF, L-A-F, isn't just our church culture. It's actually the way Jesus is. It's why thousands and tens of thousands of people were attracted to Jesus. So they should be attracted to church, unless church isn't running that way. So L-A-F, love, accept, forgive is the way Jesus was. Everywhere He went, He would just reach out. I mean, Zacchaeus had to be the biggest jerk that is in the New Testament. This guy rip-off everybody, rip-off orphans. He rip-off widows. He took more money that he should have ever taken from them. Everybody despised him, and Jesus goes, "Hey, Zacchaeus". Can you imagine the guy with the whole church despised and He just goes, "Let's go out for lunch". He was going, "I'd love to go for lunch with Jesus". What you go with that jerk for? He just had a way of reaching out and before the day was done. We have no example of Jesus telling him off. He just looks at him and just begins to declare, "I'm giving four times back what I stole. I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna do that". You go, "What happened to him"? He actually felt unconditional love.
Now, the hugest issue is what do you do with that unconditional love which we'll get to. Now, toxic love is love that is conditional. And almost, well, everybody in this room has experienced toxic love. Maybe your parents didn't know any better. And so they felt like if you were bad as a kid, they would literally, you know, look at you and they would make you feel rejected or that they'd make you feel, you know, whatever. And you go, "Oh, that's why, the only way to get dad's love I gotta be good on the football field. I gotta get high marks. And if I don't," But that kind of living is really toxic because you live the rest of your life trying to earn love. And if you earn it, that's not love.
So unconditional love is the love of Father God and it's the love that we as humans can have from Him to show to our spouse. If you're married to a spouse, of course, you got a spouse, you're married. Then when you're together you can't show love that is if you look after me, I will look after you. It sounds right. Like, why am I looking after you so good and you're not looking after me? No, unconditional love says, "I love you even if you're the jerk. I'm not gonna change because I wanna be this. I just don't want to do this". You mean like, "Well, I'm gonna just be a blessing to her or to him the whole". No. This is who I am and not just what I do and I'm not gonna change who I am. This love that Jesus reaches out to us with the church and Christians need to show cannot be toxic. It cannot be conditional because it destroys people. Literally comes in and destroys them. Their behavior becomes the only way they get ahead. And then you fail somewhere because your behavior will never be perfect enough to get God to do anything.
So you have to recognize that between me and God is LAF. Love, acceptance, and forgiveness. And then we learn to practice it with each other, with our families, with our marriages. But here's the next thing now, once you begin to know that you're loved by God it changes you and it actually empowers you to change. One of the deepest needs of human beings is this sense of significance, the sense of value, the sense of I'm special. You might say, "Well, come on! We all know we're not". No, actually you're wrong. We all should know we are. God never created you as a loser. He doesn't create people who are failures. He doesn't create black sheep of the family. He doesn't create people who live under black clouds. All of those are just your BS. Belief System. And when you begin to buy into that belief system, you think you are. But God's never designed anyone to live like that.
Psalm 139:11 and on, says you're so specially made He designed your inward parts. He placed gifts and abilities inside of you and then created a beautiful future for you. It says there that every day of your life has been planned out as gorgeous and wonderful. Now, is everyone that way? No, because we live in a fallen world. But you gotta understand how much God loves you. Only then are you able to see the power of God like you want in your life to change. So let's talk for a minute about this thing called significance. Growing up in a Pentecostal home one of the things our denomination made me really do was feel like I needed to love God more. We have worship and praise times. I remember singing over with, "Change my heart, oh, God". I would sing it with tears coming down on my face. I want to love God more. I want to love God more. Anytime things weren't working out for me I just felt like I wasn't loving Him enough and it was just my fault. I should be loving Him more. And it sounds right, and it sounds so cool. But it's so destructive because all it did was distance me from a God that I could never love enough to have Him.
And then I remember reading this verse. Now, this verse is crucial. It's in 1 John 4:10, it says, "This is love". What? This is love. What? "Not that we loved God, but that he loved us". Okay, just stop right there. Okay, I've been taught my whole life of my denomination that I gotta love God more. Every song is about loving God more. Every song is about dying for God more. Every song is about dying to self and loving Him more. Now you're telling me that's not what it's about? That's what I'm telling you. What's it about? It's about how much He loves you. You have no ability to love God until God loves you. Until you sense His love, until you know His love. Once you begin to recognize.
Now, let's change the word love with some other terms that are accurate. How valued you are. How He looks at you and He sees you as significant. Now, my background in the denomination, I grow up was, "You're just like you're righteous like filthy rags. And God, why would God even look at you? You ought to be so happy, He just does anything for you". And it sounded right. But yet, He made the whole planet for the human race. Every animal that's on here, He made it for you. Every plant that's on here, He made it for you. From the beaches in Hawaii to the beautiful mountains of the Rockies, to the ability to have family and kids and home. It's all about you. He wanted family, so he made you in His likeness and image. And in Hebrew the like word likeness and image literally means an exact duplicate and kind. It's a familial type of word family. He wanted, He's in love with you. He's incredibly in love with you. You are so valuable to Him.
So desired by Him. He actually like talking to you and His brain who can ever comprehend it. He likes to talk to me? When we recognize that we are significant, we are special, He's in love with me. All of a sudden, you begin to have a sense of approval and of love. You know, we always -, You know, if I have to ask you, "What's the biggest addiction on the planet"? Well, the World Health Organization says alcohol and the stats are staggeringly brutal. Then, I mean, you can go from there to drugs. Today, with our brutal world, you can go to porn, pick an addiction. And by the way, everyone who thinks it's okay, there's list and list of how it's destroying our families, our marriages, our homes. But that's actually none of those are the number one addiction. The number one addition in the world is trying to satisfy your internal quest to feel good about yourself. Oh, it's not me. All of us. All of us. Because we have been placed within us this desire to be significant, to be special.
Even the people say, "Leon, the Bible says you can't be". No, you're wrong. The Bible actually says if you wanna be great and then it gives you a way to get great, become the servant of all. God's not opposed to me being great as long as I do two things. I can think as high of myself as I want to, as long as I do two things. Number one: Give God the credit for His grace and the gifting He's given me. And number two: Is deem everybody here greater than me. You do those two things. You're cool. Because who enjoys someone, "Oh, you know, yeah not me. I'm just scum on the rot. Yeah, just filthy there". Like, I get tired of that after a while. But the Bible teaches us very clearly, that you know when you give your life to Jesus Christ you hear L-A-F. Especially in our church and there's probably lots others. And love, you've been love the way you are, accepted the way you are, forgiven when you mess up and we know you will because we do.
So that's a given. But why would you wanna stay there. Like between you and God things are cool but you know that if you keep messing up, you can use excuses after a while. Let's say that you and me are gonna do business together and say, "Hey, you wanna go into partners. We can do some great business". And you said to me, "Oh, Leon, I would love to be in business with you because you're gonna love me the way I am. You're gonna forgive me every time I steal money from you and you're gonna accept me". I'm going, "Oh, you and God cool. Don't wanna do business with you". That would be the wise thing to say. But, Leon, you should accept him by doing business with him. No, no, no, no. You got it wrong. Behavior is a good thing when it comes from a heart that has God's love. So everybody here that's given their life to Christ including me. We have the power to change.
And that's the next world that opens up to us that is so beautiful. None of us can make lasting change on our own strength. We can only make behavioral change. Behavioral change and I like you. Like, if you feel like punching me when you talk to me. I'm glad that you curtail your behavior. Ah, better not. Okay? But what I would love even more was for God to touch your heart and make you love me. Then when we talk it's not you just clinching you fist and trying to resist the urge to punch me in the face. It's like, dude I love you. I don't think like you. I don't even believe everything you believed. But man, I respect and value. That's an internal change. So the human race is busy trying to change their behavior, which we want before you change the belief systems of your heart. And the presence of God makes you a new creation. So it's backwards.
Now, we still like a culture where you got to control your behavior, okay? If you're out hurting people, we want you in jail. I don't want you around my kids, my grandkids. I don't want you around the church. We'll escort you out. We will carry you out. If you can't control your behavior to a certain point because we've gotta protect one another. And if we're gonna be in business. You single people, can you imagine if you started dating somebody and then he said, "Oh, you're a Christian. Oh, I'm so glad you're a Christian because then you have to accept me the way I am. You have to love me the way I am and you gotta forgive me when I screw around on you and do drugs and come home high and spend all of our money and abuse our kids. And so I'm so glad I get to marry a Christian". No. Not. Ain't going to happen. I don't want to do that. So I love you. I accept you. I forgive you. It doesn't mean I'm gonna do business with you. It doesn't mean you're gonna babysit my four little girls.
So as we look at this as a Christian, thank God for the love, the acceptance, the forgiveness. But now, if you don't learn to move from here to a place of God's power coming in and empowering you to change, you will always be unhappy in your relationships. Even if you are happy with God, no one will stay married to you, no one will do business with you, no one will be partners with you, no one will want you in their home, because you're gonna steal, you're gonna lie. And so all of the things the Bible teaches us about living a good life they're all very real. They just don't qualify you for salvation and they don't qualify you for a relationship with God. Only the substitution and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and accepting Jesus as your Saviour does that. But for the rest of us who wanna get to know you and befriend you, we want you to be able to change.
All of us in this room have addictive personalities. In other words, if you do something too much, you gonna become an addict to that thing. And you can pick anything under the sun to do that. But if you're addicted to, you know, alcohol or whatever. But when you get addicted to trying to satisfy this internal quest to feel good about yourself, you will never be able to help others. You will walk into this -, Say this is one big old party and we're at Billy Joe's house and Billy Joe because Billy Joe here cool. And so we're at your house for a party and there's hundreds of us. And if I walk into this party and I'm so not loved or feel significant about myself or know that I'm special or know that God made me, and God doesn't make junk.
I walk into this party and the first thing I'm doing is, does everybody like me? Do I look okay? Do I dress right? Do I dress up or do I dress too far down? Do this people, do you like me? Do you like me? I'm so worried about me fitting in with you because I don't feel significant. I don't feel love. I don't feel special. So this human condition causes all of us to screw up every relationship we got. It's all about us. It's like God has said, "Man, enough of me talking about me. What are you think about me"? That's how we're all wired. We're looking for significance. We're looking to be loved, appreciated, respected. We're looking to be special. And as we do, everywhere we go it's like that. How can God ever guide us? How can Holy Spirit ever use us in the gifts of the Spirit or guide us to reach out and help people? We're so internally focused trying to feel accepted and loved even as Christians.
So it's a crucial, crucial thing that you know how loved you are and how special you are. If you get your significance from what you do, then you will have earned it and you won't respect anybody that says they love you. Which is why Hollywood is so spaced out. They pretty much know you love me because I'm a hero, because I'm a star and I've got money. They don't know any more who to trust because their significance comes from earning it. Your significance comes from your looks. You know, it feels good when you're young. But as you get older gravity happens to us all, okay? And the relationships that you have that were based on your looks are gonna go. And now, you're gonna be left because the only significance you have is your looks, gravity happens. Or it's your job where you're well-known and respected and you're not.
And there's always gonna be young ones coming up they're gonna bypass you. So whatever you do to get this feeling of significance, will never last except when you turn to a loving God and He says, "Leon, I love you". Yeah, but God I guess you do know what I was thinking about. I guess you do know I've been a jerk. I guess you do know how. Yeah, I love you so much. Let me help you. Let me help you become what you wanna become. This sense of significance is absolutely crucial. Now, when you give your life to Jesus Christ, let me explain to you what's happening right now within your spirit man. First of all, your spirit man is perfect with the presence of God, your mind still needs to be renewed and your body needs to be made a living sacrifice. But here it says in Romans chapter 8, it says in verse 16, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God. And if children, then heirs, heirs of God joint-heirs with Christ".
Now, I got five kids and you could not convince any of them. I promise you. You can try if you want. You couldn't convince them they're not my kids and you won't be able to convince them that their dad doesn't love them. It's too late. There's something about when we meet each other that is incredibly special like so many of the rest of you here. When you give your life to Christ, it's not just a forgiveness of sins. It's not just a new life where you are a new creation. Did you know the Spirit of God within you Christ, Abba Father or Dad. Dad. There is this sense, this beacon laser beam that your spirit knows you are loved incredibly loved. You're special. Now, if you don't feel it, if you don't feel, it's not because it's not real. It's because you haven't renewed your mind to it.
See, what you believed is what you feel, not what is true. Until you change the way you think, and you renew your mind. And this is the most important first place to renew your mind. That you are so special. You are so loved. God cares about you. You can't mess up His love. You can mess up a ton of stuff in your life. But you cannot mess up how much God loves you. He'll never change ever. And when you finally establish that point, you will rise up feeling significant, feeling love. If I need you to like me as a pastor, then I am gonna be hauntingly doing my message, searching through every face and if I find one that's going, I just, I'm mortified. But if I get enough applause.
If enough people tell me, "You're the man. You're the man". Oh, I feel good. Well, I'm giving you my significance. I'm handing it to you. That means if you applaud, I feel good. If you all look normie after, I feel bad. What a lousy way to live my life. But if I walk in to this service, like any of us can and just go, "I'm significant. I'm loved by God. I'm so highly favored". Well, how much do you love Him? Hey, I love him but I'm not gonna worry about that. I'm gonna continue to focus on how much He loves me. Because the Bible's clear, it's not about how much you love Him now that the cross is done. It's about how much He loves you and to bask in that love and to receive that love. And it's when you begin to ramp up with power. And now, you can do anything.
What do you mean? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. You just can't do it on your own. You can't beat drugs. You can't beat alcohol. You can't beat pornography. You can't beat it on your own. But when you know how loved you are because God is love and how special you are. It is so easy to repent. What does repent mean? I used to think as a pastor years ago, that means you get as many people in the front as you can. Bawling, squealing, and snooting all over the altar. And if you can have a huge emotional response to God, then I know you had a real change. But I found those kinds of people often left the same way they came. Because the word repent means to change your mind. It's what it means to change your mind.
And so I found the most incredible people in our church. Where the people who'd sit back and they're listening like this and they listened, they listened. A week had go by, two weeks had go by, three weeks had go by, a month had go by. Their marriages began to change. They're listening like this. What are they doing? They're hearing the Word of God. It's changing the way they think. It's changing the way they believe and repentance is easy. The changing of the mind when Holy Spirit who gives us the spirit of wisdom and of revelation and the knowledge of Him, the eyes of our understanding being opened, we wanna change. Couples who hated each other would be holding hands in a month or two. And I go, "Hey, what happened to you"? I don't know what happen to us. I don't know. I just started liking her. And I love you, too. You big goof.
That was an actual conversation between a couple I was talking to. The hearing of God's Word begins to bring truth and to renew mind. And when your mind gets in agreement through the Word with what's in your spirit already, that is when you begin to sense and know His love, how significant you are, how special you are. And at that point change is powerful. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. There's no addiction. There's no loneliness. There's no rejection. There's nothing that can touch someone who begins to feel and sense and know the love of God.