Levi Lusko - What The Church Is Meant to Be
If you are wounded, if you are hurting, if you've messed your life up, if you have consequences today, guess what? You're welcome in this church. We're glad that you're here. If you feel far from God, if you feel unworthy, when I invite people to church and they say, it's been a long time, or if I went there the roof would fall in on me, let me tell you something. Hasn't fallen in on me yet. And I'm a sinner. I'm a sinner. I'm wounded. I'm jacked up. I've made mistakes. You know what? God is good. He is a forgiver. He's a healer. He's a redeemer. He's a mender. He's a good father. His heart on display, as Jesus put it, is a safe place to work out your questions and your issues and your hurts and your... I don't know.
And I've had bad experiences with people who call themselves Christians. This is a place where you are welcome to have a seat at the table. We're beginning a new series of messages today. And if you haven't yet been with us for church every week, we open up the Bible, and we listen to what God has to say. And today and for the next several weeks, we're going to be in Luke chapter 15. We're going to make ourselves at home here in this quite familiar passage of scripture. When you enter into someone's house or you enter into someone's apartment, you go into someone's condo for the first time, there's a sense of, I don't really know the lay of the land here, especially if you're going to be sleeping in a strange home, which is now super normal because of Airbnb.
It's, in our lifetime, gone from being a relatively different thought to being just another week or travel to just walk into the home of a stranger and just make yourself at home. Right? It's weird. It's weird now. You go to the airport now. We're just like, how are you going to get to where you're going? I'm just going to jump into the car of a perfect stranger. I saw there were 17 reviews. Seems like a perfect thing to do on a Tuesday, right? But you've got to figure it all out. Even in a hotel room, there's some sense of how does it all work in here. I love to play the game called where did they hide the blow dryer. Is it in the drawer? Is it hanging behind the door? Is it in the closet? It's always like, let's see what new and exciting place they figured out to hide the blow dryer.
First, you got to figure out the Wi-Fi password. And if it is an Airbnb, you got to figure out where to park, which is why there's always that "welcome to this home" document you've got to go find and hunt for. And you don't want to get your car towed. You've got to figure out where to park, where not to park. If you're there for a little bit of time, what day do you bring the garbage out? What do you have to do when you're leaving, and the whole deal. And this hit home for us this week because my dad had a surgery to remove a tumor from his pancreas, which successfully went down. Thank you for your prayers, for praising God. I was there when the surgeon came in. And she used the word "straightforward," like, 10 times. Surgery was very straightforward. Got the tumor. Very straightforward.
I was thinking to myself, this is one time when you want something to be boring. You don't want any drama. You don't want any intrigue. You don't want any, I've never seen one of those before. You want it to be exactly by the book. And so she was... hey, we're confident we got the cancer out, and we're praying and believing that God's going to have his hand on him as he continues to heal. But we were offered, our family was, an Airbnb that someone has, or a home someone has, I should say, inside the city of Phoenix. And they said, hey, you guys could stay there. My dad and his wife, they could stay there while he's kind of convalescing and healing. And it was so kind of them to do that, so unexpected. And my sister, I was texting with her because she got there before I did. And she flew in. And she was living there when the surgery took place.
And I was coming in a couple of days later. And I was texting her late at night in a thread that all my siblings are a part of. Anybody in one of those with your adult siblings now? And it was late at night. And she had texted in, checking in. No one was awake but me and her. So they're all in this thread, but they woke up the next morning. It's like 85 back and forth between us. I said, hey how's the house? She goes, it's gorgeous. It's unbelievable. Right at the edge of the desert, of course, there's wilderness out there. And she goes, I did have an interesting swim tonight, dot, dot, dot. I'm like, do tell more about your interesting swim. She said, well, let me just send you a photo because I was swimming in the pool and then went to get in the hot tub and came face to face with this.
Little ledge between the pool and the hot tub. Can you see that? You can't see it. Let's zoom in. This is what she came face to face with. Dear God in heaven, right? Yeah. Exactly. I'm like, oh, my gosh. Back and forth. You could have been bit, period, in, period, the, period, face, period. Because here's how it happened. She said it was sunset, evening. It had been a long day, and she's swimming. And then she went and grabbed two hands that ledge and pulled herself up. A little rattle all up in the air.
And I went, did you not know it was there? She goes, yeah, I saw it kind of out of the corner of my eye but I thought somehow Dad had taken off his hat and just set his hat there. I thought it was a hat sitting on the ledge. And so we're going back and forth. And I've got a super fear of snakes, so I'm just vicariously already thinking I'm not going to stay here. I'm going to find somewhere else to stay. This is too much for me. I can't handle this. You don't know what I've been through. It's too much. And I'm asking her all about it and all this.
And I'm like, hey, did you tell Larissa, our stepmom? Did you tell her about it? And she goes, no. She already went to bed. It's been a big day. The surgery, all the things. I can't bother her. I'm like, yeah, but what if she gets up earlier than you and goes out there. It could still be there, right? I said, you have to, out of good conscience, wake her up and tell her. She goes, OK, I'll send her a text. And so she does. And she says, hey, just so you know, I was in the pool and had a nice, pleasant glass of wine but then went swimming and almost died. And there's a rattlesnake out here. It's terrible. And it's on the ledge between the pool and the hot tub. And she writes back, bubbles. And then here's what comes back. Ha, ha. It looks so real, doesn't it? It's a statue. It's a statue of a rattlesnake on the waterfall ledge between a pool and a hot tub.
What sick people own this house? I seriously was still conflicted about staying there. But against my better judgment, I did. And even knowing it was a statue, I was still so horrified approaching it. The funniest part is there's this little manual in the home. Welcome to our desert house. Here's when the trash goes out. Here's what to do when you check out and all this. And then it basically says, basically, God wanted us to buy this house to be a blessing to people who have a need of a home or a place to be for a while. So their whole thing is finding people who are just needing a little time away or medical stuff a lot. And so that was how this whole thing happened. And I just thought to myself, nothing says blessing like terrifying somebody when they're in their bathing suit.
Welcome to a brand new series of messages called Make Yourself at Home. And what we're going to be doing in this series, in the weeks of this series, four weeks long, really one message split up over four weeks, is we're going to be talking about how we can unlock the power, the life-changing power, of God's hospitality when we fully embrace his decision to open up his house to us. God's home has been opened up to every single one of us. And if we embrace that hospitality with all of our hearts, we will see our lives changed. And we will see the world changed in the process.
Do you believe it in Jesus' name? That's what we're talking about in the weeks of this series. We're going to be discovering God's heart and his vision for his house and the impact that living and being planted in God's house can have on our homes. We're going to be talking about what church is meant to be, who is welcome, who is wanted, who is invited to be a part of it, why that matters. We're going to be talking about how it works. And we're going to begin by a discussion about how church is meant to feel like a party where we celebrate the God who raises the dead back to life. That's what this should feel like. This is us, Fresh Life, a party where we celebrate each week and each day, even in the midst of the difficulties and the drama and the shadows of life.
I'm not pretending like life can't be hard sometime. But we're ultimately... let's not bury the lede here. Let's keep the main thing in perspective here. We have a God who has called us out of our caskets, out of our graves, as we were dead in sin. We've been brought to life in Christ, been given everything when we deserve nothing. And so what is church? It's the party that is meant to continue. That is only right. That is only logical. Luke 15 will be base camp here for this time. And what I love about this, and kind of happened during the Northern Light series, was I felt like God really wanted us just to take one verse and let it anchor and guide our hearts and look at it from different perspectives.
And just like if you were given a really good cup of coffee and were told, hey, this has notes of this and you might taste that, and obviously, if you just chug the thing back full of cream and sugar, you ain't going to taste nothing, by the way, FYI. You got to drink it the way God intends you to drink it, black. And this text, I think, as we really just live here in this, it'll be base camp, of course, because we'll venture out for provisions from other places. But as we live here and anchor our hearts here for the four weeks of this series, I really do think and believe that we'll see a lot of different things. And we'll start to notice as we let it sit in our mouth some and as we base our hearts here that God's going to just show us different emphasis perhaps that we have missed on previous reads.
It says, "Then He said", Jesus speaking, "a certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land. And he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country. And he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, 'how many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father and will say to him, "Father I have sinned against heaven and before you. And I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants".' And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry, for this, my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry. Now his oldest son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'your brother has come home. And because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore, his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, 'lo, these many years I have been serving you. I never transgressed your commandment at any time. And yet, you never gave me a young goat. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.' And he said to him, 'son, you are always with me. And all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again and was lost and is found.'"
God, we thank you for your word. It's precious to us. It's lovely. And we recognize that we are not dealing with just any words, any literature, any writing. These were breathed out of your mouth. And Jesus, as we think about the power and the preciousness of these red-letter words, we pray and ask that they would shape and guide not only our church but also our hearts, our homes, how we spend our time, our money, our thoughts. We have such a brief little pilgrimage here on this planet, from cradle to grave, from life's first cry to life's last breath. It is hurrying along year by year and month by month and decade by decade. And soon we will be looking back from eternity on these lives. And it will have been written. But today, while the ink is still fresh, while we still have the opportunity to course correct and to change and to pivot and to live below in light of above, we ask that your spirit's power would guide us, Lord, to sync up to your heartbeat for your house, as we make ourselves at home here. And we pray this, believing for the impossible that today the dead could rise to life in Christ. And we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Title of my message today is "A Church Like That". I'm sure there's one or two of you who have, maybe, at some point, heard along the way some chuckle or eyebrow raised when they found out you went to Fresh Life. Oh, you go to that church. Well, today we're running with it. We want to be a church like that. There is, I have discovered, no shortage of controversy when you're in the middle of effective ministry. And scripture tells us and prepares us and cautions us to think it's going to be that way, that it's naivety to think it's going to be any other way but that when it tells us that where there's no oxen and only where there's no oxen is the trough ever clean. You want a clean trough, you've got to get rid of all your cows. Only then will the trough be clean and the barn be clean and life be pretty.
The problem is, Scripture says much increase comes through the strength of an ox. And it doesn't really make much sense to have a trough with no ox. This is my trough. What drinks out of it? Nothing, but look how clean it is. Yeah. I could get one at Murdoch's too. But it would be easy and wonderful and problem-free to pass through a church with no people. Do you realize how easy it would be? Only the strength of a ministry comes through the same agent that brings the mess. It would be wonderful to parent if you didn't have kids. Imagine how great it would be, right? I'm the best dad ever. It's like, yeah, but you don't have kids yet. You know what I'm saying? And so it is in church. And the moment you introduce humans into the equation, the very same thing that brings the strength brings the mess.
The thing that brings the effective ministry also now opens you up to the controversy and the difficulty and the problems. Breakthrough and backlash go hand in hand. Holy Spirit opportunity now opens you up to opposition. And you see this all through the Bible. You see this in Nehemiah's attempt to build a wall. And all of a sudden, there's criticism. All of a sudden, there's opposition. All of a sudden, there's difficulty. All of the mess would go away if he just got rid of the ox, but he had a dream. He had a vision. He had a desire. You see it when John the Baptist starts preaching, and people get saved. And people are coming out to the river. All of a sudden, there's, oh, but did you see the way he dresses? But did you see the way he eats? Hey, people are getting saved here. Yeah, but he eats honey a lot. Ooh, the controversies. But literally, that was the big thing. Well, he's not preaching in the synagogue, and he's out here, and what a weirdo, and oh, that church and that work of God.
The same thing happened when Paul began preaching to the Gentiles. And all of a sudden, Jewish people are mad because he's bringing the gospel to the Gentile world. And rumors are getting started about, well, he said this, and this is how it went. All of a sudden it became that ministry. I mean, even the day of Pentecost, you have thousands of people instantly converted. Thousands of people instantly trust in Christ. And people are filled with the Holy Spirit. And what happens? They're drunk. Why? Because they're confident and happy, two things that being drunk will only imitate. Just for a moment, till the hangover comes, you get to feel confident, and you get to feel happy.
The problem is when you're drunk, you're also stupid. But when you're filled with the Holy Spirit, you're in your right mind. You're fully yourself. You have the mind of Christ. There's a sense in which you're fearless and bold but also joyful, no matter what comes your way. This is why scripture says, be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is so much better than being drunk with wine. But the rumors were starting, oh, they're just drunk. That's what this is happening. This is just this cult thing that's happening here. And the same thing happened, believe it or not, when Jesus, after thousands of years of messianic prophecies and waiting, the whole advent journey, when is Christmas coming, snipping paper chain after paper chain, how many days... so he finally comes. They've literally been waiting for the guy since the Garden of Eden. And he shows up to his own. And his own received him not. He's preaching. He's fulfilling all the messianic prophecies.
I mean, if they had bothered to check in Bethlehem when there was a creepy star that randomly showed up in the night sky. But he was outside of the religious establishment, which, at that point, was far from God's heartbeat, had grown elitist and insulated, and all about themselves. So they missed the Messiah that they, themselves, claim to be waiting for. Meanwhile, he's healing. Blind eyes are getting opened. Deaf ears hearing. Lame legs moving. The gospel is being preached to the poor. People are coming out to Jesus like crazy. And they're describing him as a winebibber, as a drunkard because he's willing to sit down and eat with people, willing to hang out with people. And they're like, oh, that ministry. That's not us. We want to be clear. That's not the real church. And literally look at it.
Luke 15, "All the tax collectors and sinners drew near him" That's really awesome. Everyone should be high-fiving each other. Dude, people who need Jesus are coming to Jesus. Yay. But that's not the reaction. "The Pharisees and the scribes", notice, "complained". The spirit of complaint, the spirit of division. It's so easy to criticize. "Saying, well, this man receives sinners and he eats with them". And in response, Jesus told a story. He could have just given them facts. But instead of facts, he gave them truth that you can feel, which is what a good story is. The story is a fact wrapped up in an emotion. And so by telling this story, he was sort of able to bypass the reasoning and get straight to the heart, to cut them to the quick, as the scripture says.
And what he was trying to communicate through the series of stories, actually, it's not just one story. It's a series of stories that crescendos into what we just read. He was trying to help them to see that he had come to build a church like that. You keep saying that. What do you mean? I mean six things. A church like what? A church that welcomes the wounded. A church that welcomes the wounded. This is what he had come for. They saw it as an obstacle that you get all these tax collectors, which they viewed as traitors. And then you have these sinners, which are obviously people of low moral caliber in their eyes. We know notoriously, you'd have people who were sex workers and prostitutes and people who had been married and divorced multiple times, anybody who just felt like, how can I show my face in church with what I've done? With what has happened to me? With the mistakes that I've made?
You have these people drawn to Jesus. And Jesus welcomed that. He viewed that as victory, as mission accomplished, as a victory for what he had come to do, which begs the question, what was his mission? Luke 19 verse 10, He said it. Let's let Him speak for Himself. "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost". Their big objection was always like, why are you allowing these sinful people to touch you? Don't you know that they're defiling you? Don't you know that they could get their spiritual cooties on you? And Jesus always would set them straight by saying, I'm a doctor. I am the great physician. What kind of a doctor would I be if I turned sick people away at the door? How crazy would that be if you went to your general practitioner, and there was a sign, like, no sick people allowed? Are you healthy? No. Go. He's like, that's why I'm here. That's why they need, Jesus said, that's why they need me. That's why I've come.
So let me be clear. If you are wounded, if you feel like you've sinned so bad God could never forgive you, if there are mistakes and skeletons in your closet, if you feel broken, if you feel damaged, if you feel unwanted, supposedly by a religious institution or God Himself, let me tell you, you're welcome here. We welcome you here in this home. You don't have some scarlet A on your chest that makes you damaged goods. And you're not defined by the biggest mistake you've ever made in your life. Your past might be your history. But your future is your destiny. And God has a glorious destiny for you too. You have a seat at this table. Jesus welcomed the wounded. He was never, in His life, worried about guilt by association. And we must be as well if we're going to lead and be a part of the church community Jesus wants.
Secondly, we want to be that church that has room for more. It is so easy to get comfortable in the church and want everything to stay exactly as it was the day that we got saved. I was talking at a pastor's conference a while back. And I used the illustration of fishing. Because Jesus said, I'm going to send you out to be fishers of men, right? So it's not weird to use a nautical imagery of going out to catch fish.
Here's what happens. When you've been caught, as the fish, and brought into the boat, it's easy to want all the bait to taste exactly like the bait that attracted you, that Jesus used to get you. And so some new bait has to be used because it's a changing time. It's a changing generation. It's a changing world. So we have to always fight to keep the bait fresh. For who? Not those in the boat, for those who are still in the water. So it shouldn't exactly be what it was the day you got saved. We should be singing those songs, and it should feel exactly like it was, and that makes me feel all, ooh, right here. And this is exactly what church should look like. Hey, it's 2023. Let's catch some new fish. Let's use some new bait. Let's go do things people aren't doing to reach people who haven't been reached yet.
We have to always be willing to change up our tactics and always remember, once we've been brought into the boat, we're invited to be a part of what? More people being reached. This is Jesus's mission for us. It's called the small commission. He gave it right before He left. Not how he said it. It's the great commission. Go into the whole world, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the Earth. If you feel like there's a bombasity and a grandiosity at times to this ministry of we got to reach the world, we're just following orders here. What's our charge? What's our call, Fresh Life? Reach the whole world or die trying. Call out this generation to God or die trying. We got to have that spirit that says, give me the youth of this nation or I perish.
With the youth...why would we be such a youth-driven movement? Because most decisions for Christ happen before the age of 18. There must be a sense in which we are always fighting for, what the devil wants to pluck out, what the devil wants to take captive. And that is young people. It's not just a church for the lost. It's a church for the found. But the found have to get on mission with the shepherd and become motivated by the lost. We have to be a church that has room for more.
It has never stopped surprising me, though, how many people want to get off the bus as the mission continues on, even though they are on it. Church was 100 people 16 years ago. 100 people in our whole church in one place. We had the podcast going out, and we were doing church online live, believe it or not. But we were not seeing every single state and all around the world represented and thousands and hundreds of thousands of people being reached around the world. We just were getting going. But we had dreams for more. We wanted to give God more space. It was the worst time in the world ever to be doing a new building project, 2008. Remember that?
Not great. We ran out of money. And people stopped giving. But we're building out this building. And we, by the skin of our teeth, get into the thing. And the church doubles overnight. And people are coming to Christ left and right. And I got a call from a guy in our church. Back then, I could talk to everybody in the church. 100 people. That's stretching it, but you could. And he said, well, I just want to let you know we're out. You're out? You were a part of this. It's like, you'd be cashing in. You're on the ground floor. This is all fruit to your... you prayed. You gave. You sacrificed. You led. You served. Yeah. But we're out. Church has just lost so much. I was like, what do you mean? He goes, now there's hundreds of people.
Everyone doesn't know everybody anymore. And I want to be a part of a cozy, small, we just all know each other. I'm like, you're describing a country club, not a hospital. I ain't up in here about the comfort of how's everybody loving your little blessing? I'm up in here about people are going to hell. The problem is, it is easy to want to live like you're already in heaven while you're still here on Earth. I got my blessing. And what? Now the world can just go to hell? We still have. More people to reach until that day. We will all get that amazing, I get my blessing, it's going to last forever, it's going to be real good, clouds and pearly gates and such. Streets are gold. It's going to be great. Until then, we got a job to do. We got a world to reach.
So yeah, there's going to be sacrifices along the way. But we got to make room for more. Everyone say more. More. Jesus said in Matthew 22, "Go into the highways. And as many as you find, invite to the wedding". This is our basis for our internet ministry. Go into the inner highways. And someone said, when we first started doing church in other cities and putting stuff out there, it was a weird thing to be doing. I mean, now it's normal. Everyone does it now.
2007, we could not, maybe they existed. We could not find one church in the state of Montana with a podcast. Most websites were like, just a guy with a jackhammer said, site coming soon. Not mocking Montana. It's beautiful that it's behind the rest of the world in most ways. But the running water has been great the last couple of years, hasn't it? It's been nice. So we're putting a podcast. And we're talking about church online. And literally, it wasn't like everyone was like, yeah, that's normal. Most people had never experienced ministry like that.
And so what people kept saying to me is how we can we? Can we do this? Can we be a church in multiple locations? Can we use video? Can God use a service where there's not even someone preaching physically on stage and the preaching is taking place on a screen? Can we do that? And I just said, time is short, and people need Jesus. So my question isn't can we, it's how can we not? How can we not? God speaks through donkeys. How can we not do anything and everything? And as we look back 17 years of God reaching people through any and all means as the gospel goes out and faith comes by hearing, we say, well, look, it seems God is in it. And let's continue to see what God might do to reach more people.
Number three, let's be that church that's ready to party, ready to rage the moment God does something. Let's not be slow to celebrate. In fact, let's be so quick to celebrate that we're even celebrating in faith before it's happened. Can we thank God in advance for what he hasn't even done yet? Because in God's perspective, He sees the end from the beginning. He already knows what he's going to do. So can we in faith worship God for what hasn't happened yet? Can we run from rain that still is the size of a man's hand? I'm just wondering, do we need to watch God do it before we celebrate? Or can we be a church that's just ready to celebrate, believing in faith?
God is moving. It is working. He is going to accomplish what He wants to through His Word. Can we be early adopters and not laggards sitting back with our arms crossed, finally convinced, going, well, I guess it did work, pastor? Can we be like, I'm ready to see what God's going to do, worshiping Him in advance, because he's that good? Because I see a quickness to the Father's heart. The moment the son's back on that porch, he says, hurry up, and get you that robe. Get the fatted calf and slaughter that thing. Get a robe. Get a ring. Get some sandals for his feet. We didn't notice it in the New King James because the word is actually tucked into the Greek of the other word. But if you look at the New Living Translation of verse 22, you see the speed. "His father said to his servants, quick. Bring the finest robe".
Quickly do it. Not when you get around to it. There should be almost like this eagerness, this fast twitch. He had already, that day, checked for the robe. You see what I'm saying? He had been feeding that calf every day for months and for years, however long that son had been, he had looked at... this is a ring I'm going to give him when he comes home. Not if, but when. Come on, let's believe in the goodness of God. Let's have an expectation. Let's not have to be convinced that God's up to something. Let's believe He opens up streams in the desert. He causes the rose to bloom in the dry, barren ground.
Let's have that sense of belief and that sense of expectation. Let's be ready to party and not just that we're willing to celebrate and party at some big milestone. Oh, the son's back. But that every subsequent milestone, we're ready to celebrate too. What do you mean? Well, the way I read scripture, every salvation is a new beginning or a new birth. John 3, someone comes to Jesus in faith. We see it happen just about every single week in this ministry, as God blesses and breathes on the preaching of his word. And not just in these environments. Fresh Life Kids, Fresh Life Students, goodness, gracious. We see it at MVMNT Conference every year. Those are big milestones, someone passing from death to life. Salvation is a brand new beginning. Born again, Jesus said. And we celebrate that, of course, every week. And there's nothing we're more excited about than a soul being saved, plucked from the fire of hell, to use language from the book of Jude.
Heavy, Levi. Heavy. Heavy. But that new life now is hopefully going to be shepherded and encouraged and, as appropriate, encouraged to become enlisted in the army that was out there fighting to see them reached. And we should be just as quick to celebrate every stage of development as we did that all-important one of coming to life in Christ. What do you mean? I mean, when someone's born, they now have these milestones. Do they suck on their fingers? And can they eat a Cheerio? And the first time they go to the bathroom in the bathroom by themselves? And eventually, they graduate college. Do you see what I'm saying? We must not sit there with our toddlers waiting for them to get a diploma before we're willing to clap for them.
And the Bible says that God does not put out smoldering fires. We talk about being on fire for God. I hope as you are a part of this church and living in God's house, you you'd grow more on fire for God. But if today your zeal for God is just a little smolder, you might think God's, like, stupid little thing. Anything could put that out. Nah. The Bible says He will not put out a little smolder. In fact, He gets down on His knees, and He blows on the coals. And I want this to be a church where we are ready to celebrate any movement towards God, any movement towards the lordship of Jesus being given access in someone's life, someone's baptism, someone learning a verse, someone taking notes, walking with Jesus, someone saying, hey, I always gave into that temptation, but I found strength in it today.
Come on. We're celebrating you in your journey of walking with Jesus. Your first couple steps might be shaky. It's hard to share your faith for the first time, join a team for the first time, give for the first time, get in community for the first time. But we're celebrating every little benchmark as you walk with Jesus from grace to grace, from glory to glory, further up and further in, towards the shining of the perfect day. Getting saved is not the end, is my point. It's just the beginning. And now you got to unpack everything that God put into you at salvation. And we want to be a church ready to celebrate, not looking to find fault.
The word "complained" is the word that defines the Pharisees. They complained about, oh, they were finding problems. They could find a guy who got healed of his blindness and now has vision, but they don't like what day the miracle took place on. I want to be a church where we are celebrating the work of God in people. Let's find things right happening that God's doing and celebrate that and praise what we want to see repeated. I could be frustrated there's not more people in this gathering, or I could go, look at you, here to worship God. I praise that. I celebrate that. You see what I'm saying? We got to find those bright spots and encourage them. Church ready to party.
And then fourthly, a church (I love this one) that doesn't make sense. Y'all realize this doesn't make sense, right? Like, what we're doing. Because as I think about when I was 14, 15, 16 and beginning to sense that God was calling me to ministry, I specifically felt a call and a pull to large metropolitan areas around our country. I felt like that was God's comment, to reach the nations, to reach the world. I felt like reading the great commission, all the things. And that was the confusion when I felt like, no, we're supposed to go to Montana. God wants us to go to Montana. But I couldn't reconcile I feel this call to reach the nation and I feel this specific pull to be in this one locale.
And that's why the wise voices in my life, respected, trusted voices in my life, said you must be getting interference on your call. He's not calling you there. Because you're called to reach thousands upon thousands of people around the country. And there are not thousands upon thousands... well, there's cows, but the people are spread out, as they would say, in the rural part of this nation. And I couldn't help but feel, despite all that might be as it is, this is what God wants me to do. And He'll have to work out exactly what He does through it. I'm just going to say yes. I'm just going to follow his call, even though, to me, in the moment, it didn't make sense.
Welcome to the life of following God. Because when He wants to knock down a giant, He looks past all of the shiny, bright armor of his tall, buff brothers and looks for the smallest unarmed teenager. When God wants to knock down the walls of an impenetrable city, He gets a bunch of people to walk around it and yell really loud. And when He wants to bring a Savior into this world born of men, He looks for a virgin. The journey of God seldom makes sense. But He engineers it that way so He can get all the glory.
So you go ahead and just say yes anyway. It doesn't have to make sense for it to work. He'll go ahead and feed the thousands with your little lunchbox. It was never about you anyway. And I'm just so grateful, as we, each week, minister and reach by the tens of thousands, people all around the country, from little, old Kalispell, Montana, because God gets all the glory because we can't control it, predict it, the doors he's opened, the platforms he's extended to us, the way that we've had the chance, and even now, to reach into just about every prison system in this country with the preaching of the Word of God.
Just say yes when God calls, and let Him work it out. I think it's great that we get to... what do they say... box outside of your weight class. Because if we just say yes and keep swinging for the fences, regardless of what He's called us to do, He gets the glory in the end. And let's be a part of a church where the God, the King, the Lord is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. Some of you have unique dreams and calls in your life. You feel them. You almost feel stupid even saying them out loud because they don't make sense. They don't need to. God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called. So raise your hand. Let Him do what He wants to do through you. And then let Him get glory at the end of the day.
But no matter what He does, number five, let's be a church that remains small in our own eyes. There's plenty of cautionary tales of people who did get used in a big way and then got up on their big, old horse and got a little too big for their little, old britches and let it go to their head. And that must never be us. We must remember that it was not to us and not for us and not by us. It was for Him and His name and His glory and His renown. Let's not ever be so stupid as to think that God is lucky to have us on His team, that He picked us because we were so brave and preached so good and led so well and organized so efficiently. And yeah, God really used that. Yeah, your sardines and your little lunch roll did so good, that wasn't Jesus's hands at all, feeding the 5,000. Saul was the first king in the nation of Israel's history. And he was, the Bible says, tragically torn down from his pedestal because he began to think it was about him instead of remembering it was about Him.
And so 1 Samuel 15:17 says, Samuel told him, "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not the head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you King over Israel"? But now, you had become big. Literally, Saul was building monuments to himself and blowing trumpets to his own glory and his own ego and calling people to do things God hadn't even called them to do. And so of course, God took the kingdom from Saul and gave it to someone who was more worthy than him, a man after God's own heart, David, who was humble, who was simple, and who, on his best days, never became a king, always stayed the shepherd that he started out as. And that must be our story as well, for God to continue to use us as He wants to.
Number six, let's be that church (finally, here, we're closing this down) that remembers where we came from. Let's be that church. People can say what they want to say, but let's be that church that, as God continues to work in our lives, and we grow and we grow from being a little toddler in the house to being a son or daughter of the house to having the gifts start to work and God being able to bless us and hand us more, let's just always remember where we came from. The Prodigal Son story that touches us every time we read it is not someone else's story. It is our story. It must always remain ingrained in our hearts that this is our story. You can have it good for so long that you forget the cost involved of it, right?
You remember, some of you in your 20s, you remember when you finally got away from your parents' house, you're like, this is going to be so good. And then you're like, it's just so expensive is what it is. And you think back. Every time I opened the pantry, there was food. And I just thought it just grew on the shelf or something like that. Opened the little thing, and there's K-cups for the Keurig machine. There's K-cups are like $2.22 a pop, sucker. And you're lying there. I remember lying there in my studio apartment. I paid $479 a month. I had a twin mattress on the floor with no sheets because I couldn't afford them. But I had a sleeping bag. And my glorious plan was just sleeping in my sleeping bag on my mattress on the floor. And it was cold because I realized, I finally had the epiphany the heat that comes out of these vents, magically, costs money.
So I'm like, well, problem solved. I will never turn that on. So it all dawned on me how amazing living on my own was going to be when I'm lying on my twin mattress on the floor in my sleeping bag and just watching puffs of my breath just fill my apartment. And I just thought, I want to go home to my father's house. It was just like, oh, my gosh. I had it so good. I never really realized it. And I think when we live in the Father's house, we can just get used to being saved. And when we were living in the move of God's Holy Spirit like we are, and we're watching God not only work in our churches but also work around the world and we're seeing people touch, it can just, just another story. Just another life change. Just another, oh, yeah.
That's great. Tons of people got saved. A lot of people got baptized. This is happening. Amazing. And we can get numb to how incredible it really is. So we need that water splashed on our face regularly, that when you're reading that story that's you. You were dead. You were without hope in this world. You ran from your Father looking for other things to fill the hole inside your soul that only He can do for you. Every act of idolatry is a statement that God isn't our greatest need. God isn't our greatest supplier. God isn't our source. You thought sex would give you more pleasure. You thought money would give you more pleasure. You thought prestige in the eyes of people, people pleasing, or performance or competition, whatever you thought.
We all have run from the Father and looked to other things. And He should not have let that boy come back home. The Middle Eastern laws of shame and honor were clear on that. And if he did, it should have been definitely a penance situation. You can stay out back with the horses. But that father ran. What is our story? Our story is we ran from God, and He ran to us. Let's be a church that is happy to not be going to hell. Let's be Christians who still think grace is amazing and who know we didn't earn it. We didn't merit it. We couldn't if we were given 1,000 lifetimes. But thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, that when He was hanging on that cross, He shouldered our shame. Our sin was laid upon Him.
And let's remember where we came from, that we didn't deserve salvation. And nobody does. Because the easiest thing in the world, once you're saved, is to look down your nose at people who sin different from you. And I think that we sort of give ourselves sort of a pass on our sin, as though it's somehow in a different category and less despicable in our eyes to something that tempts other people that doesn't tempt us. But Paul talking to the Corinthians, who was, I mean, they were a mess. But we don't have time to go into that. They were a church full of people who were just in their culture doing exactly what their culture did. And then one day, they heard the gospel, which was not get your sex sorted out, get your identity sorted out, get your money sorted out, get enough of that, you got to quit cussing.
Duh. Get your social media all cleaned up. You got to vote different. And then maybe, maybe, maybe God can save you. No. It was Christ has died, and Christ was risen. You've been searching for Him, though you didn't know His name, but He can fill the hole in your soul. Come on. Trust Jesus today and have the hope of Resurrection, the promise of a bright future, a life without shame, a life without, all these people are like, oh, I'm crying, and I don't know why. I want that. And now the book of Corinthians is this whole like, OK, you trusted Jesus. Now what? What does life look like in the house? What does the lordship of Jesus look like on this area and this area and this area? And like I said, just these benchmarks... OK, now I'm going to grow in Christ.
But Jesus, he's a fisherman. He cleans his fish after He catches them. The problem, sometimes, is the church wants uncaught fish to be fully clean. But it's after you're clean, in the fullest way, that he's able to then clean your feet like he did with Peter and deal with these issues, these hangups, these problems. OK, this is the problem. This is an act in an area of discipleship that's going to hold you back from God's blessing. So the Corinthians, it would seem, maybe, had gotten a little bit used to salvation to a point that was needed to be corrected. So Paul told them 1 Corinthians 6, "Do you not know", this is a reminder, "that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God". OK. So now we're about to get a list of things that will keep you from heaven.
So he was letting the Corinthians know this. "Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators nor idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God". Pause right there. Your attention, please. Houston, we got a problem, because there are some things on that list that don't tempt you, but they tempt me. And there are some things on that list that don't tempt me, but they tempt you. But the biggest glaring problem I see is that he says, ever committed an act of idolatry, meaning did you ever put anything above God? Yeah. You can't go to heaven. Sorry. Enjoy life at the pig trough. Oh, you're the smug older brother with your arms crossed? Oh, you're the one mainlining heroin? Yeah. Guess what? Same in God's eyes. Pride, porn, they're both keeping you from heaven.
Well, I'm certainly not as bad as... doesn't matter. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And one sin is enough to keep you out of heaven forever. So while he lets that sit there, and the Corinthians squirm awkwardly in their chairs too, he then lets the other foot drop. "And such were some of you". That's not who you are anymore. Even if you're still tempted by those things. Even if you feel the pull of their power on your life. If you are in Christ, that's not who you are. Because look at verse 11 again. "You were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the spirit of God".
Thanks be to God that no matter what our sin of choice was, if we are in Christ, we are new creations. God can't even see those things anymore. So how dare we judge someone struggling with any sin, even if it's different than what we're drawn to? Let's remember where we came from. Well, you know, oh, yeah, they came from where you came from. And they are loved by the God who loves you. Next week, we're going to talk about God's solution to loneliness, so I do hope you'll come back as we continue in this series. But let's just real quickly put into our lunch box some application points. This week, can we, as we make ourselves at home in God's house, fight to stay thankful. Write it down. Pray prayers of gratitude. Speak words of gratitude. Thank you, God, for saving me. Be grateful. Be thankful.
Fight for that posture always in your heart. Number two, stay humble. Work to be humble. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Who am I, God, that you would love me? Who am I? Let's stay humble. Let's stay active participants in the house. Let's not treat it like a hotel, just to come and go as we please. Let's just be active sons and daughters in the house. Let's be engaged in throwing the party for the new lost that are now coming in. And let's be tender. Have broken hearts for what breaks God's heart. And that is lost people far from Him, severed sons and daughters not connected to the hope in Christ. If we can do these four things, I believe we will be a church like that, a church like that. Come on, somebody. I want to be a church like that. Heaven help us.
I want to close, like Jesus did, with a story. It's in my most recent book, Last Supper on the Moon, but I've never preached it before. And it's a beautiful story. It's a true story. Tim Keller told it in a sermon a long time ago. I heard it. It just stopped me where I was. It's a story about a man who flew into Honolulu, Hawaii for a pastor's conference. Because of the time change, at 3:00 AM, ping, his eyes went open. And he's looking for food. 3:00 AM. Ever gone to Hawaii, you know the feeling. And he's walking the streets of Honolulu. Ends up in a sort of sketchy neighborhood, but he sees a restaurant that's open at 3:00 AM, which is what you would expect of a restaurant open at 3:00 AM. Sketchy. Walks inside. Greasy. Sits down at the counter. Almost leaves.
But the man comes up, who's clearly the owner and the server and the busboy. And he has a dirty rag over his shoulder and a greasy apron on and says to him, what will it be for you? He sees a case of donuts under a glass and thinks that's probably the least filthy thing he could get, least likely to give him a disease. So he says, I'll take a donut and a cup of coffee. Man gives him a cup of coffee. Pulls the glass off the donuts. Grabs it with his bare hands. Sets it down on the place mat that also serves as a menu in front of the man. Thank you. Just then, as he takes his first sip of coffee with a vow to not touch the donut, the door opens, and three women come in, dressed scandalously. They sit down at a table and begin talking. And it's very clear immediately these are sex workers. Scripture calls them harlots or prostitutes.
And they're talking about their johns from that night, their clients, those who had paid to have their way with them for a moment. And his heart's just broken, devastated hearing all of this. As the conversation goes on, one of them says, can you believe it? It's my birthday today. One of them jokingly says to her, what do you want? What do you think you're going to get for your birthday? And she exclaims, and this breaks his heart, I've never had a birthday present in my entire life. What are you talking about? Well, they eventually leave. The man calls the owner over and says, hey, those three girls that were just in here, one of them that was sitting on the far left, he goes, oh, that's Agnes. Agnes, and her girls, they are in here every night about this time, about 3:20, 3:25 AM. They show up every night.
He says, well, it's Agnes's birthday today. Would you mind if tomorrow night I was here when she came in and put up some streamers and we had a birthday party for her? She said she's never had a birthday party, never had a gift. The guy calls out to the back, hey, honey, this guy in here wants to do something for Agnes. She comes running in and gets up in this guy's face. What do you want to do for Agnes? He says, I heard it was her birthday. I just wanted, we could throw a birthday party for her. She immediately begins getting teary eyed. And she says, listen to me. She's in a hard line of work and has had a rough life, but Agnes is one of the good ones. You want to do something to bless her? You can do anything you want in this restaurant. Just great. I'll get streamers. I'll get balloons. I'll get the things for everybody.
You guys can call people who know Agnes. We'll fill this place up. And he says, I'll even get a cake. The owner puts his fat finger in the guy's chest and says, no. I'll get the cake. That's fine. Just don't touch it with your hands. So the next night, they're there, 2:45. They decorate it all up. They got the cake. It says "Happy Birthday, Agnes" on it, the whole thing. And they're waiting. And they've got the lights off. And 3:00, 3:25, 3:26, at 3:27, the door opens. Agnes and her two friends come in like clockwork. Happy birthday, Agnes. She starts bawling. They're there to celebrate her. They bring her over. They're about to cut the cake as they sing to her. And she just says, no, please, don't cut into that cake. I've never seen my name on a cake in my entire life. Can I please show it to my mom? She only lives two blocks away. Please. Of course. It's your party.
So she runs out the door with a cake. She's gone. Cake, Agnes, not in there anymore. There's an awkward silence because they were at a birthday party without the birthday girl. So this man says, would anybody object if we said a prayer for Agnes? No one did. So he ran with it. Pray for God's blessing on her, that she would see herself the way he sees her. Finishes the prayer. Soon Agnes comes back with her mom. They cut into the cake. Everyone started mingling and eating and kind of laughing and crying. And the owner of the establishment corners the pastor, gets him in the corner of the restaurant and says, you didn't tell me you were Christian. Mad about it, you know.
He says yeah, it didn't come up between the donut and he says, just what kind of a church are you part of, anyway? Thinking quickly on his feet, he could only manage, I guess, the kind of a church where we would throw a party for a prostitute at 3:00 in the morning. Yes. True story. Guy says, there's no such thing as a church like that. But then he added, but if there was, I'd want to go to it. And you know what, friends? So would I. And that's the kind of church that Jesus intended to build. So let's be a church like that.
Father, we thank you for celebrating us and welcoming us back home. And Lord, I pray that in the midst of the messiness and the difficulty, and yes, there's truth, and yes, there's love, and all of it, God, is unclear exactly how are we going to do it. But we know we're going to be led by your spirit. And we know it won't always be understood, and it will be controversial. But Jesus, you loved us. You ran to us. So I pray our heart would beat like yours. And it would be a lot easier to have a clean trough. But we want the increase. We want the salvation. We want the souls added. We want the new believers, God. I've been in labor and delivery rooms. It's messy. You're going to see that happen, Jesus. We're committed to it because you are. If anybody would say I feel led by the Holy Spirit, just to double down on my commitment to the lost being found, I maybe have slowed in my leading people to church, leading people to Jesus, sharing my testimony, put myself out there.
If that's you I'm describing, could you just raise up a hand, just saying, "I want to witness to the great gospel. I want to witness to the King. I want to help plan this party".
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Please, Lord, would you put specific people on our minds and in our hearts that you would say to us, I want you to show love to them, I want you to invite them, I want you to talk to them. You've pulled back. It's so natural. Pull back in that. Make church about us and our experience. But Lord, it's about the lost being found. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for your great commission.
You can put your hands down. And I want to now invite anybody who's never trusted Jesus to receive salvation. You looked to other things to satisfy you, but they can't give you power over death. They can't give you power over the grave. If that's you I'm describing, I'm going to pray with you. I want to give you a short prayer to say just to open up your heart to Jesus, to receive new life. I'm going to ask the church family to pray with us. Come on, say this out loud to the Lord. Mean in your heart, and He'll hear you:
Dear Lord, I can't forgive or fix myself, but I believe you can because of the cross and the Resurrection. I believe today. I give you my heart today. Thank you for new life. I give you mine. In Jesus's name.