Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Levi Lusko » Levi Lusko - Pass the Peace

Levi Lusko - Pass the Peace

Levi Lusko - Pass the Peace
TOPICS: The Table Series, Christmas

- Hey, we want to thank you so much for watching this message and honestly, the privilege of letting us teach God's word to you week in and week out. And we want to give you an invitation now to express your gratitude to God for what He's doing in the world in your life, in our ministry, through a year-end expansion offering. And we have people, literally, from all over the place, who say, this is a chance for me to say thank you, God, for Fresh Life, and we want it to get louder, and bigger, and reach more people.

- That's right. There's always room at the table. And so we want to invite you to be a part of what God is doing, and the people that He's bringing in, and the lives that are being changed. So we're asking that you would join us, with faith, in giving.

- And we say join us, because this, for us, is something that's our favorite thing every year, to stretch ourselves, to challenge ourselves, to believe God for more. That blessing on our home on all the things we put our hands to, but also, most importantly, our hearts. And so this is a chance for you, whether it's $50, if that's stretched, then great. If it's $100, if you're able to say, hey look, I'm going to give $50,000 or $300,000 and make a gesture that I want God to use this ministry to touch more people, we'll be so grateful to be linked up with you in that way. But thank you so much for considering and asking that question, "God, what would you have me to do"? And you can get all the information on the outreach initiatives, and the dreams for building expansion, and all the rest at freshlife.chuch/thetable. There's also, of course, the option to give in stocks, and in crypto, and any questions you might have, you can talk to our accounting team there at that website.

So the first time I ever got slapped in the face in my life I was sitting at a table. My grandpa, one of my many grandpas, I have at least five grandpas, some, I got grandfathers for every day of the week just about. But one grandpa... Wow. This is literally like my only memory with him. We were sitting at a table, and we had said the prayer. And I reached out and grabbed something. I don't remember what it was maybe it was peas or something. It was obviously not peas. No child just grabs for peas. But I didn't ask for it to be passed, and it was in front of him. And I didn't know this grandpa was strict like that. And so like a cobra, Grandpa Consequences slapped me across the face. Just reached out, I just froze. I like, looked to my parents. Like, are they going to, like, they just know how they dealt with us when we didn't, please pass the peas, you know? He just slapped me across the face, put me in my place.

There's manners, young man, he was saying, right? And I was like, bro, I didn't live through the Great Depression, right? Mad respect for World War II, but like, I'm a millennial. Like, you can't just do that, right? And it was just such instant correction. It just shook me, and I'm still not over it to this day, which is why I'm talking to you about it, obviously. Free therapy. I've got the microphone. What do you want? The table is what we're talking about in the series. We're talking about the power of the table. We're talking about how God wants to use the table. We're talking about how grace is like a table. And this is the seventh week. We began with the message where a man lived in a place called Lo-debar, and Lo-debar represents nothing. Literally, Lo-debar means nothing to eat. There's nothing. A man lived in Lo-debar. He couldn't move. He was paralyzed. He couldn't help himself, and he had no way to better his situation. And so he expected nothing of life. And yet a kind king, named King David, not because of anything Mephiboseth had done, but because of Mephiboseth's father.

So because of someone else's performance, because of someone else's role in David's life, he said, for my friend Jonathan's sake, I want to show kindness to Mephiboseth. And he invited Mephiboseth to come and to sit at his table. And he said, for the rest of your life, you will sit at my table. So it didn't matter that he couldn't walk. Didn't matter that he was infirm, because when he was at the table, he looked just like everybody else. Wow. And for the rest of his life, he got to be a King's kid. He got to be a son of the King, a child of the King, not because he had done anything, but because of Jonathan's sake. You don't have to read much into the scripture to see, wait a minute. I understand what's happening here. God so loved the world, He so loved Lo-debar. He so loved the people in Lo-debar, that He sent His son Jesus to die for us on the cross and rise from the dead, for us, so that if any of us would believe in Him and accept the invitation, we, too, our story can be, used to live in Lo-debar.

If you live in Lo-debar today you don't need to. You can vacate immediately. For another's sake, God has shown kindness to you. And that's where we began in this series, exploring the power and the reality of how grace is best understood in the context of a table that we don't deserve to sit at. But because of someone else, just like for Jonathan's sake, Mephiboseth got to sit at the table, for Jesus's sake, you and I get to sit at the table, which is so powerful, because it's much better than earning your way to the table, because then the whole meal you're on your best behavior. If I earned my place at God's table, I could lose it. At the same moment, I think some people have this fearful image of a God, who's looking to slap you in the face if you grab the peas without asking. Wow. And that's not our God.

Our place at the table was secured, because of what someone else did, so we can't earn through good behavior, nor can we lose through bad behavior what we never deserved in the first place. Who's thankful for grace? Who's thankful that we got brought from Lo-debar to sit at the table? And that's really where we started, but we've been exploring the depths of how once seated at the table it behooves us to live generous lives. Generosity is the right response to a God who's been so generous to us. And now we come to what I teased at the beginning, and really, was on my heart before we preach any of the other messages to get to this one, how God wants to use your table. And so today, this table represents the table in your house your kitchen table, your dining room nook, wherever you eat your meals. Is it the counter with the stools at it, right? Like, a lot of us have tables we don't ever sit at.

Whatever your table you love to eat meals at with your people, I want to talk to you about how God wants to use that to push back darkness in the world by shining the light of the gospel the sparkles like light bouncing off a diamond when you see it, when you see it for what it is, not for what it's misrepresented to be. When you really see it, there's nothing so breathtaking as grace. And I want to talk to you how God will not only use it to unite and bless your family, but He'll use it, your table, to advance the kingdom of God in the world. I hope that you never see your table as ordinary again. I hope not only do you smile, because of the memories and all those sorts of, oh, remember when... oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, oh, but also that every time you see it there's almost a sense of this is a weapon.

This is a weapon for God to use to build His kingdom in this world. Do you receive it before you've heard anymore that you want this in your life? That's what I want to show you. So Luke chapter 7 is where we're going to be. In Luke, Luke I have spent the least time in Luke of any of the Gospels. By the way, for those of you who in every location and online as well, I want to also tease out that we're just throwing out a little 2023 vision here and there. One of the things that God's put on my wife's heart for us, as a house, in the next year that I just celebrate, and I'm behind it 1,000%, is for all of us to read through the Bible next year, the whole thing.

Now a lot of you have started Bible in your plans. I won't ask you how many of those have withered into failure in Leviticus, OK? I get it. So what we've done is try to serve you as best as we can by putting together a journal and a guide that's going to give us each our footsteps through the Bible in a chronological manner. Chronological reading plans are different, because they present the material, not just Genesis to Revelation as they occur in the Bible in the canological order, but chronological takes the events and pairs them together with other events that happen at the same time. For example, you'll be reading about David extending grace to Mephiboseth alongside any Psalms he wrote during that period. So it pairs together stuff, and you're reading them in the order that they took place in. It's a really great way.

I've read through the Bible in a year in this way and loved it, so we picked that. We put together beautiful journals that you'll be able to purchase next weekend that will, starting January 1st, give you a reading for each of the days. And there's a little stuff peppered throughout, spaces to write stuff. It's bound professionally. It's a beautiful book, and this will guide you. But if you don't want to buy that, you can always just download the actual, give me the actual PDF of the reading. That's all I need. I'll take it from here. Hey, we got you. But I think it would be so sick if we, as a church family, read the whole Bible next year, don't you think? Don't you think? I mean, what could God do if you had all of the Bible in your soul? Jesus said, man is not meant to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And you can't live out a revelation you haven't read. And for those of you who are like, dude, three chapters a day, how long is that going to take?

Less time than you spend on social media. Less time than you spend on TikTok in one bathroom break, right? Which is not good for you, by the way. You should get in, and get out. You should not just be lingering. So the Bible in a year is going to be awesome. But I've spent the least time studying Luke. I've taught verse by verse exhaustively through Mark multiple times, and John multiple times. I spent a lot of time in Matthew. And Luke's the most interesting to me right now, because it just feels so new to me. And I love it. I'm on a big Luke kick, and we'll see where that leads us. But title of my message is pass the peace. Pass the peace. Come on. Luke 7. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say he has a demon. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, look, a glutton and a wine bibber. Translation, alcoholic. A friend of... This is an insult. This is Jesus's enemies insulting him.

Jesus said, you say about me I'm a friend of tax collectors and sinners, but, verse, 35 wisdom is justified by all her children. Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city, who was the sinner, When she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil. She stood at His feet behind Him weeping. And she began to wash His feet with her tears. And she wiped them with the hair of her head, and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, this man, if he were really a prophet, he would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching him for she is a sinner. And Jesus answered, and said to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. So he said, teacher, say it.

There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed him 500 denarii, which is an entire year, and then another half a year of salary for the average person in that day. That's a ton of money. So this guy was super in debt. The other person just owed 50 denarii, so that's about a month and a half of pay. So it's not great, but nowhere near as bad as the other person. When they had nothing with which to repay their debts, he freely forgave them both. So tell me, therefore, which of them would love him more? Simon answered, and said, well, I suppose the one who he forgave more. And He said to him, you have rightly judged. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears. She has wiped him with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss my feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with fragrant oil. Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much, but to whom little is forgiven the same loves little. Then turning to the woman, He said to her, your sins are forgiven. She got brought up from Lo-debar to the table, but those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, who is this? Who even forgive sins? He said to the woman, your faith has saved you. Go in peace. He passed this woman the peace.

Now I love this story, because it combines so many of the ingredients that we're talking about in this series. It combines the power of grace on display. It combines what Jesus looks like, and what His interactions were like when He sat at the table. And it also shows what springs up any time grace is at play and any time generosity is going on, and that is criticism, as there's a lot of different opinions about how this woman should be treated, and whether Jesus should be willing to talk to her or not, or whether if he knew who she was whether He would really be seen with her. And of course, Jesus knows everything. He's a mind reader, and that's how he spoke to Simon's criticism that Simon only thought non-verbally, but Jesus was able to call him out on it.

But I also love this story, because it exposes what is undeniable when you read the Gospels, but specifically put on display when you read Luke's gospel. And that is, what Jesus' mission is all about. That's the first heading I want you to take down. How are we going to engage in passing the peace, letting our tables be used in the cause of evangelism and spreading the goodness of God's kingdom? We need to understand what Jesus' mission was. If you lose the why, you always lose the way. For example, if you travel up to Eastern seaboard in the United States, you will see yacht clubs. There are yacht clubs that the coast. And many of these, if you look into the history, if you actually go in and look at some of the historical charters and how they got started, most of them were started as rescue societies. So you are a seaman. Maybe you retired from the military. Maybe you just like boats, so you bought some super sick boat and all of your other boat friends would talk.

And oh, did you hear? There was a shipwreck off at sea? Oh, that's a tragedy. Someone should do something about it. Hey, what if you and I did? What if we started a brotherhood, a sisterhood of people who own boats, and we could just spend our days patrolling the waters looking for the hungry, and the castaway, and the naked, and we could save them, right? And yeah, we could build a clubhouse for in between duties. We could hang out and have coffee. And we'd have a place to bring the people we find out in the water and warm them up. That'd be amazing. Well, flash forward now. This all that is a remnant of a previous cause, Wow.

Now it's just people eating caviar and having affairs, right? Wow. Just wearing white before Labor Day. No one's going out and rescuing anything. They lost their why. And so now it's just people who owned boats being excited about being in the top tier of the 1%. And that I think can creep into the church, where we lose our mission, we lose our cause, and pretty soon we, who were meant to be rescued for a purpose, called back from Lo-debar, so that we would always have a heart of who else is in Lo-debar and not just get so comfortable with how good it is at the table...

Ooh, do you love this grace? This grace is delicious, and then changing churches the moment we don't like something, and we get rattled, or we get called out of our comfort zone. I'll go find somewhere else where I can get my needs met, as opposed to, hey, this church is amazing, and I'm grateful for it, but it's not really about who's here. It's about who's out, who we can go get, who we can go reach, how there's still more people. I need to pass the peace, not hoard the peace, not argue about the taste of the peace on that day's menu, but to always be seeking to pass that peace. So how do we not drift? How do we not turn into yacht club Christians, just all comparing the size of our boats full of life preservers we haven't thrown to anybody in decades. Whoa, man.

Well, what we do is we make sure we remember Jesus' mission. And everything Jesus did on this day and throughout the gospels make sense when you knew his why. So what is the why, according to Jesus? Well, it's Luke 19:10. And in the Gospel of Luke, one thing that will help you understand something about the book is that it is written primarily to a Greek audience. And his goal or his attempt is to show that Jesus is a perfect man. He's really got a highlight on his humanity. John focuses on Jesus' divinity, and that's why he includes so many of Jesus' miracles. Luke does not tell as many miracles. But when he does, he gives us way too much scientific information because Luke was a medical doctor by trade. So he can't just say he healed a woman who had a problem. He has to say she had an issue of blood that caused blood to discharge from her body non-stop continually for 12 years. It's like, ew, Luke, come on. We get it, right? He's a doctor. He can't help himself.

So his goal is to show what Jesus did with his humanity. And that's really important. And so one of his favorite phrases is the son of man, which Jesus used to describe himself. But only two times in all of Luke's gospel is the phrase "the son of man came" used, OK? "The son of man came". And one of them is his mission statement. It's Luke 19:10. It says, "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost". Bro, why are you hanging out with prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners? 'Cause they're lost and that's why I'm here. The religious people didn't understand that because they just thought the sick people had cooties. You're going to get your icky sin on me. Can't get your gross, unbelieving sin on me. Jesus says why I'm here. What kind of a doctor, literally one quote from the gospel of Luke is, what kind of a doctor would I be if I kicked you out of my practice if I found out you had a disease?

That's the freaking point. Come on! Healthy people don't need a physician, sick people do. So of course, I'm going to be the friend of tax collectors and the friend of sinners. It's Jesus' mission. His mission now needs to be paired with his method is our second heading. What was his method, or what's the way he's going to accomplish his mission? Well, the way Luke presents the story is a massive component of Jesus' method in fulfilling that mission was meals, meals. Luke's gospel, more than any of the others, shows Jesus at the table. Why, we're focusing on what he did in his humanity. Yes, there were amazing miracles. And the most important thing he did that all four gospels agree on was the cross. He came to die. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

So it wasn't the meals. It wasn't the sermons. It wasn't the miracles or any of those things that saves a soul. It was the cross. Let's not lose sight of that, ever. The cross and the empty tomb. He died and he rose. Otherwise, there's no hope for any of us. But in letting that message get to the people that needed it, he utilized the table. And so Luke's gospel finds him sitting at the table so often that one New Testament theologian named Robert Karris in his book entitled Eating your Way Through Luke's Gospel, what a title, says, "In Luke's Gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal".

So how did he Usher in the kingdom of God to those who needed to know about grace, to those who needed to know about kindness? Here's the answer. One meal at a time. And he has taught us to go and to do likewise. He gave the peace to us. And he has told us as I've given it to you, so I want you to do the same. We have the right, we have the authority in Jesus's name to see our tables as places where peace will be distributed to those who desperately need it. And I love that Luke's gospel doesn't just show him hanging with tax collectors like Zacchaeus, who was not just a normal tax collector, but the Bible says was a notorious tax collector, a hated sinner. The Jewish people couldn't stand them. They viewed them as those who had betrayed their nation, right?

So I wouldn't be caught dead with a tax collector. Pharisees like to walk around with their jackets tied tight. They'd literally tie their jackets up. They didn't want their jackets to bump into a sick, sinful person. And so Jesus was just not about that life, because he knew that the Pharisees didn't see that they were more dead on the inside than anybody. They needed him just as much as anybody. They just were blind to it because they thought they knew so much truth, but they didn't, they rejected Jesus as well. But I love that Jesus didn't just eat with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners. He ate with Pharisees, too. In fact, our text tells us Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus over for dinner. And so what did he do? He went in and sat down at table because he knew that was going to be his method in communicating the kingdom.

Why after all was Jesus' first miracle he ever performed done at a wedding? Because he was showing there's something about being at a table with people. There's something about a party. There's something about when people are eating food. We remember all of us have needs. We remember that all of us are more alike than we are different in many different ways. And it's the right context for us to be geared up to understand and to hear that Jesus is the bread of life that can alone satisfy the hunger of the human soul. So what was Jesus' method? His method was eating and drinking. And he did it so much and he did it so often that his enemies criticized him. What, does all this guy ever do is eat? All this guy is ever doing this at a restaurant, all this guy ever is at a table? And they criticized him. And they developed nicknames for Jesus.

Some of you just don't have this picture of Jesus in your mind when you do a Google search in your head because you see a dude with a blue sash, or red, and a lamb on the shoulders. But according to Jesus' enemies, this is a dude going down on some buffalo wings at Chili's, OK? This is a guy who knew how to eat. They called him a glutton? How much do you have to eat to be literally called a glutton? And how much do you have to constantly be at a table with wine being served where people are like, dude, you have a problem. You might be a lush. Like, we might need to be staging an intervention. You are a wine bibber.

Tim Chester in his book, Meals with Jesus, says, "A glutton, of course, is someone who eats too much, and a drunkard is someone who drinks too much. Jesus was seriously into eating and drinking so much so that his enemies accused him of doing it to excess. Jesus has spent his time eating and drinking, a lot of his time". And then this is like, some of you are going to be like, this is hard to swallow. "He was a party animal". "His mission strategy was a long meal stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine". The son of man came eating and drinking. Why? Because he was dead set on a mission to seek and to save that which is lost. And he knew what you and I need to know, our tables are powerful weapons in God's hand for accomplishing just that if we are willing to invite those at Lo Debar to sit at the table with us. And that's a big if.

Food is medicine. Medicine, that's the next setting. But it's not just what we eat, it's also who we eat with. You are what you eat. But in a biblical sense, you are also who you eat with, who you eat with. That's why they objected to Jesus eating with sinners, because in the Middle Eastern sense of understanding, to eat with someone was to become one with them. That's why it shook Peter so much that after he betrayed Jesus, lied about knowing him, that Jesus said, bro, let's have breakfast. You say, wait a minute, I knew you can forgive me, but you're willing to eat with me? You'll still be one with me in that way? And Jesus has that heart. Jesus has that heart for us to extend that grace to people, that will eat with people.

One of the books I read in preparation for the series was a book called The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield. She was a self-described feminist, lesbian, anti-Christ thought leader in Syracuse in the '90s, educated professor. She absolutely hated Christianity and everything it stands for, and was working on a book that she would send out into the world to help people understand how dumb being a Christian is and expose it for what it is. And just before publication, she had a twinge of a feeling she described as hypocrisy because she realized she did not know one Christian personally, not a single one. She had never met a pastor. But she had all this that she had researched and was writing about how dumb it is.

She goes, I need to at least meet one stupid Christian so I can say that, yeah, I actually, because if someone might asked me like, you wrote a whole book dismantling Christianity, but do you know any Christians? Well, so she wanted to be able to say, check. So she thought, how do I meet a Christian? And she remembered when she had written one of her angry lesbian feminist rants in an op-ed piece in a newspaper in Syracuse that she had received one letter back from a minister who had lovingly said to her I read your article. And if you ever are willing, my wife and I would love to have you over for dinner. And it had stuck out that that was the response to this thing. It wasn't the venomous, "you're going to hell. Burn, devil woman, burn" that she was expecting. So she kept it but didn't respond.

And then remembered just for publishing this book, like, oh, that's right, OK, all right, I'll go to their house. I'll see what idiots they are and what bigoted, hate-filled people they are. Then I'll be able to clean hands, send this book into the world. She said, I pull up to their house and sat shaking in the driveway.

Now flash forward many years later, spoiler alert, this book that I read is written by a woman married to a man who's a pastor and she gives her life to the gospel being advanced in the world, a gospel that she at one point in her life hated more than anything else. But she said what made the difference was their willingness to sit at a table with her. And she, of course, came in, guns blazing. "You don't agree. You think homosexuality is a sin. Your Bible is full of this, and you probably don't approve of anything in my life" And they laughed. They said what has that got to do with anything? Are you hungry? And she understood in that moment, I can be accepted as a human made in the image of God by people who admitted they don't approve of things in my life. But what's approval got to do with accepting someone as a human? Right. Amen.

And in the culture and in the world we're living in, we're being told if you don't approve of everything that everyone believes in, everyone does, and everyone says, then you cannot accept them. But Jesus shows us that there is a way to accept a human in having a different conversation about approval of anything in their life. And there can still be love in that moment given. And so this is Jesus' method, sitting with people, listening to people, talking with people, being that physician who knows that medicine is time with him. And he can't get cooties from them, but he can bring his healing into their life. That was his medicine. And then messiness, it must be embraced for us to shoulder up to this task. Messiness must be embraced.

One of the barriers to this is we're thinking in our heads, if I'm going to invite people over, all of us have it, it's the litany of things we've got to do before we entertain. So when I say messiness, I'm not just talking about sinful humanity and probing the depths of all the theological questions that are going to come up if we're willing to sit at a table with people who don't agree, who don't believe the same way we believe. The reality is there is a messiness to that. I'm talking just practically because I'm that kind of person who in my head goes, but we can't do it if we don't clean the house up. But let me help you. Let me help you. We're not talking about entertaining. We're talking about hospitality. Two different things. The problem is the hotel industry and Martha Stewart has hijacked a biblical concept called hospitality and sold it to us as something called entertaining.

Entertaining is where you've got to clean everything up and everything's curated and fake, pretty much, so that you can entertain people, usually for a purpose, a pragmatic purpose. But Jesus said that's not at all how I want you to roll. In the Roman culture that the gospel first rolled out in, there was something called the patriarch system. And there was also something called the patronage system. So you would only ever do things if you could get ahead from it, which is why I say, hey, when you're making your guest list events at your house, don't just pick people who can do something for you. It can't just be quid pro quo and then everything's on its best behavior. What we're talking about is hospitality. And in the hospitality, in the New Testament, it's a word that means philoxenia, philoxenia.

Now, you know something you know Philadelphia means the city of- Brotherly love. 'Cause philo in the Greek means brotherly love or family love. It's one of several Greek words that we have for love. So family love plus xenio. Does anybody know what xenophobia means? Fear of strangers. So xenio means strangers. So philoxenia is hospitality. Philoxenia, stranger, family love, family love, stranger. Family love given to a stranger is what hospitality is, which is different than entertaining someone that you're just really like got to have everything perfect for this night to go awesome, right? Which is more about you at times than it is about them. Hospitality is different because it's not like we want the house to be dirty on purpose. We're going to give the bathroom at once-over, light a candle, right? Do our best.

But we want them to see what real life is. We want them to see what real marriage is. We want people coming into our lives from Lo Debar who are lost who don't know Jesus to see, which is why, by the way, Hebrews 13, one of the most powerful passages I'll refer to in a second about hospitality, shoulders something about don't forget hospitality. Love a stranger and let them see family love with an admonition about sex is for the marriage bed. And you're like, wow, that was a wild right turn. Keep sex in the marriage bed and hospitality to strangers. Well, that's a really important thing to keep those two columns sorted out.

But listen to me. This is really cool, because listen. People coming in a culture so confused on gender identity, what real masculinity is, what femininity is, who have no hope for marriage or even a desire to experience one, for them to come to sit at your table and to watch you and your husband interact and watch you and your kids interact and to see real philo, to see real love, that's the welcome mat into the walk of faith. So we're not entertaining. So take the pressure off. Messiness is a part of this whole process. And it'll do them some good to see that basket of laundry is still there and not everything shoved into every thing. And just to embrace that messiness. So we're just bringing that down a little bit on the barrier because I know you, because I think the same way myself.

All right, so then we have to understand there's a mystery component to this all, a mystery component. There's more than the sum of its parts. It's like it's bread. There's wine. There's Perrier. There's chairs. There's donuts. Who doesn't look like a good donut, you know what I'm saying? Like that's, you probably don't agree with the way I live. But do you like donuts? I do like donuts. My killer move right now is I learned how to make sopapillas, authentic New Mexican-style sopapillas. That's my move. God's going to use it in 2023. I'm believing it, the sopapillas. All right, so there's a mystery though, because you can't explain all that God will do through these meals that we have intentionally, by grace, inviting people in our lives who don't know Jesus in. We can't account for it if you just look at what's there.

Hebrews 13:2 tells us how this works. "Don't forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels". Well, that's wild. Can we agree? Yeah. And what does this mean? No freaking clue. No freaking clue. Because it can mean you invite someone over and it turns out it was a test, and God was just trying to test you beauty and the beast style, you know what I'm saying? Like, where you're going to show kindness to this crippled person? And God's like, gotcha. It could mean that and maybe that has happened. Literally, in the book of Genesis, Abraham was kind of three people rolling through town. And it turned out that two of them are angels and one of them was God, right? So it was really good that he welcomed them in, you know what I'm saying? But I think it's more than just taking it so literally as that.

I think it also just means you open yourself up to the supernatural when you choose to take a step of faith into hospitality. And when you start to let your humanity and your bad days and all of that and your repentance to Jesus and working through a fight, because normally we just shove all that stuff down. But when it's just kind of just a little bit more out there, and I think some of the best of this will be when you have a mixture of people who are Jesus people. And in the mix and in that dinner party are people who don't know Christ. And they get to watch that. They're going to be like, what is the deal with you guys? My favorite thing is the things people will say who don't know Christ, who don't know how to put language around the Holy Spirit. I've had people say stuff like, there is like such a good energy with you guys. Or to my wife, what's the deal with you?

I can't put my finger on it. There's something really beautiful. It's like they're talking about the Holy Spirit, but there's no language for it. You're allowing them in. And so we're taking that step, embracing that mystery. And really, it's just a sharp departure from where our culture is heading when it comes to even just any neighboring at all. A book was released called The Art of Neighboring, where they took the eight people around you. So take the three houses in front of you. Take the three houses behind you and the house to the left and the house to the right of you, which I realized, for some of you, you're like, Levi, you just described an area of 158 square miles. OK, I get it. But some of you in Portland, you're talking about six apartments around you, right? And they said, how many of those eight can you say just their names, the first and last names?

And in America, it's less than 10% right now. Less than 10% can't even say the names of the eight families around them. And they say, OK, of those eight people around you, how many can you tell basic biographical detail? Where they're from, what they do for work? It drops down to less than 3%. And then if you say of those eight people live around you, how many of them can you tell something that you would have to have had dinner with them to know? A pain they've endured, a dream they have, something that they're carrying, or something they're actively engaged. In it's less than 1%. So if you start to live this way and do this, you will automatically stand out just from the rest of the world. Why? We've gone from being a front porch people to a back porch people. Backyard people have big walls.

And that's where the pool is, and that's where the grill is. And these big walls protect the goods of your family from the prying eyes of anybody else. We used to be front porch people. You sit there on the front porch rocking and people are walking by. You can say hello. My wife and I made just a shift, just one tiny shift. We sit more regularly in the front than we do in the back. And it's unbelievable how much more you just get to talk to people who are walking by and get to be in people's lives. And you open yourself up to things that are mysterious, meaning God's hand was on that. God was doing something there. And for me, I want my life to be full of the supernatural. Anybody else with me on that? I don't want to just account for everything based on what a human can see and understand. I want to open myself up to potential God opportunities.

All right, and not only will this be mystery, but it will be meaningful, meaningful. You'll have deeply meaningful things that will take place, deeply meaningful things that you will get to experience. What am I trying to say? Hospitality will cost you, make no mistake about that, right? It'll cost you money. It'll cost you time. We already said in the series that less than half of... or almost half of all meals are eaten solo. So most meals are eaten by yourself. So it can just cause you have to rearrange things if you're going to prioritize eating food with other people so that God can work in this way. So there will be a cost to it, financially and time and schedule and all that. But hospitality always costs. And that's why we're going to heaven when we die and not staying in Lo Debar, because of a cost, the cost of Jesus' life.

So yeah, I don't want to lie about a cost. There's a cost. I think it's a very small price to pay for other people to join us in heaven. Does anybody want to say amen to that? Yes. And it is a part of the rich legacy of how Jesus' people have changed the world. In the Roman Empire, at the time of Christ leaving, a very small percentage of the Roman Empire was Christian. But flash forward just a few hundred years, and you have half of the empire following Jesus, a full 50%, to the point that eventually we know historically Constantine would declare it the official religion of the entire Roman Empire. How did Christ's followers conquer an empire with faith?

Two things, kindness and adversity and a spirit of hospitality. When plagues decimated the Roman Empire to the point of 35,000 dying a day of the plagues, of 35,000 a week, 5,000 per day, people fled the city. And if their family member had the plague, they got out of there and let them die. Christians notoriously stayed and would collect the sick and the wounded and care for them at their own expense. And so many people got nursed back to health by a Christian end up believing in Jesus. I didn't even like how you believe before this, but I like how you've lived. Tell me about the hope that would cause you to treat me like this. Jesus said love your enemies. Do good to those who can do no good for you.

That was one thing. The second thing was hospitality. The Romans built these amazing roads throughout the whole empire, but there were very, very few hotels. I mean, the Christmas story shows it's hard to get an inn Christmas time, right? They were dangerous too. And so there wasn't a lot of places to stay. But one of the teachings that always accompanied the Christian message was, be open to hospitality. Be open to entertaining strangers, open up strangers. In fact, Chrysostom, one of the church fathers, he said, if you can, if you can afford it, build out a room in your house. Build out a room and call it the Christ room. And if the strangers needed a place to say, this was way before Airbnb, you could stay here on your way through the empire.

And what ended up happening was these people traveling from Ephesus to Smyrna or from Laodecia to Tyra, to Colossi, to Corinth, people were letting them know, hey, if you need a place to crash, we've created this space that exists. And oh, while you're here, we'd love to have you to the house for dinner. And it was hospitality and kindness to those who are in difficult circumstances that caused Eusebius, one of the church fathers, to say this. And I love this quotation. He said, the "deeds of these Christians were on everyone's lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians. Such actions convinced them that they alone were pious and truly reverent to God," out of all the different gods being told about in the Roman system of worship, which you know there was so many different gods that they worshipped.

The last pagan emperor was an emperor named Julius. Julius the Pagan was literally his nickname. And there's actually documentation of a letter he wrote to all the pagan priests in the Roman Empire. And he said, hey, these Christians are killing us with all this kindness stuff. So maybe you guys should start teaching people to be nice to people. Literally, you read this whole letter. It's the funniest thing. He's like, these followers of that Jesus seem to be very nice to people. Perhaps, this could work for us as well, right? It's like just... So by the fourth century, Christianity gets declared to be the empire. And the hospice, the hospital, and the hotel are all inventions that flourish and arise because of followers of Jesus in the world.

So here we sit today where maybe the answer isn't just we need to welcome people to sleep in our houses. that Airbnbs do exist and there are hotels and motels and all the rest of that. But what a simple step of faith to put our table out there for the people that we're uniquely connected to, to invite them in for a meal and to watch God continue to use what for 2,000 years has worked, breaking bread and drinking wine and telling the story of how good God has been to us. But with application, I wanted to make it very easy to bundle this up. I wrote down just five things you can do to live out of this in the coming months. This is, again, vision for 2023. So all of you introverts like me, you have time to work through all of this. And all of you chomping at the bit, sevens, that are high WOO on the StrengthFinders, just settle down, OK? Five things you can do:

Number one, invite someone into your house, a neighbor, a coworker, an unbeliever. Prioritize someone who doesn't know Christ. And make sure if you're new to the faith, you have some other Christians over there with you. And it's really an important thing. I think, especially when you're new to the faith, you can easily get dragged and pulled back into an old lifestyle. And you don't want to end up putting yourself into a compromising situation. Jesus was accused of being a drunkard. He wasn't drunk. He wasn't compromising himself. And so we should invite people into our house. I have a crappy apartment with a card table for... cool. Watch God works through it. Yes. Yes. I don't got to budget for filet mignon, bro. God can work through ramen noodles. Five loaves and two fishes fed 5,000. You watch what he'll do. It's not about what it is. It's about the love. Better to live in a house where you're eating nothing but salad, but there's love there, then to get a slaughtered fatted calf and you're surrounded by hatred. People can get to fine things, eventually. They can go get themselves some lobster. But they watch what God's doing through you. You can't put money on that.

Number two, invite people into your spiritual house. Fresh Life Church, we use this language of this is a house. We want to make it a home. Invite people in, starting with Fresh Life Christmas. Invite someone in to take that sip of faith, to experience what happens when we gather as a church.

Number three, join a team and help us put the welcome mat out each week. Join a team if you haven't. Help us make this louder. Help us send this message into prisons all across the country. Help us reach people that are stranded in sin and help them find life and liberty in Christ. Don't own a yacht and just use it for pleasure cruises. Let's go reach out for some drowning people. Amen? Yes. Amen.

Number four, pour your time and your money to continue to help those who at risk through our outreach partners. Not only do we give big grants in the winter time to do projects, we also give operational grants that we know are going to go to toilet paper and payroll and all those unsexy things that no one's like championing, like, yay! But we need with time and with money to continue to fund the dreams of our outreach partners and our own ministry as well.

And then number five, meet, greet, and eat with other Christians regularly. When you come, don't show up third song, grab your seat, and then the moment's over, split out. Linger, talk. Meet people. Make friends. Get in the chat. Start talking to people. Start up an online Zoom group and encourage each other. We have people in groups from all over different parts of the country. It's amazing what God can do when you're willing to meet, greet, and eat with other Christians as well. Then you have a context: First Life groups, gatherings to bring other people into that. And there's a power. There's a strength in that.

Jesus hung out with anybody. Who were his homies? Peter, James, John, then the other 12, the 70, and then the 500. So we do have to have key relationships. And how are you going to have the key relationships if you just treat church like a podcast you come to in-person? Or you just turn it on and then if you stop getting your needs met, you find another one that can do it better for you there? And you never engage and make it better. What could happen if we live this out and this coming year? I don't know, but I want to find out. Amen?

Father, thank you. Thank you for this time in your word. Thank you for Jesus, the friend of sinners. Thank you for what happens at a meal. We pray in advance for what you're going to do through our Christmas gatherings. We thank you for the power of this moment.

And if you're here and you would say, "man, God's touched me through this, I've drifted a bit. I want to get back on it Jesus' mission, seek it and save it through eating and drinking". Could I just ask you just raise a hand up? These challenges, you're saying, I want to do that. I want to put that out there for God to work in that way.

Father, bless these. Thank you for that spirit of hospitality.

You can put your hands down. We thank you in advance for what you're going to do through that obedience, God. And that continued, so many are already doing this. I want to now invite anybody who's not made the decision to enter into a relationship with God to do so. I want to just tell you that if you haven't ever, God is willing to forgive you, to give you the hope of heaven, to give you the promise of eternal life if you would be willing to trust in him. And this could be that for you. This could be that brand new beginning, the go and sin no more. He wants to pass peace to you. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to pray a prayer, just a simple short prayer. And if you're ready to trust Jesus for salvation or rededicate your life to him, I want you to pray with me. Church family, pray with us. No one praying alone.

Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner. I'm lost and empty and I need you. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for me. Please come into my heart. Make it your home. Help me to live for you, in Jesus' name I pray.

Are you Human?:*