Levi Lusko - What Satan Fears Most
You see, the gospel is not about bad people becoming good. It's about dead people coming to life. And only through the blood of Jesus and his resurrection can we come to life. And if you're lost today, if you're hurting today, there's life in Jesus' name for you. There is an answer to the ache within, to that loneliness you feel, even in the middle of a crowded room, that nagging sense of meaning and purpose that you lie in bed aware of, acutely aware of, but that shouldn't make sense if life's just an accident.
If you have your Bible, Luke 15 is where we're going to be today and then next week as well. Let me begin with a touching story. A couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, I think they were close to 50 years married, as I remember the story being told, the details. And they were at a very nice restaurant. In fact, they booked and got a table at what became, and at one point was, the number one rated, reviewed, Michelin-starred, endorsed, criticized restaurant in the entire world, if you can believe it, a restaurant that was called and is called Eleven Madison Park, in New York City. It, at the time, was owned by the same restaurant group that owns Shake Shack. And actually, at one time, Eleven Madison owned Shake Shack as well. And since then, Shake Shack became its own 9 billion pound gorilla. It was just a seasonal hot dog cart experiment for the summertime. And it did so well, it actually surpassed all the restaurants in the restaurant group.
And of course, it is what it is. But Eleven Madison Park was this fine dining experience. And this couple was excited to honor the occasion of being married so long by getting a table at this restaurant. And so they were all excited. And they get seated. And the captain comes over to figure out whether they want still water or sparkling water or because they're in New York City, how many of you know just the tap water will do? Because that's some tasty water, right, and some, a little insider secret. Some people think it's why the bagels are so good in New York City is because the tap water just tastes fantastic. And so they go through all that.
Then the maitre d' comes by and brings up the wine pairings and all the things that are going to be happening through the course of this meal, that is going to probably cost one arm and one leg at the end of it. And at that point, when wine was brought up, one of the two, the man stood up and goes, oh, my gosh, the champagne, the champagne, The maitre d' is like, OK, what's happening here? We're having a senior moment, or something, the champagne. He goes, sir, sir, what happens when you put champagne in the freezer for too long? And the maitre d' says, it'll explode. And he goes, I bought this really nice bottle of champagne for us to celebrate later when we get home. And I forgot to put it in the refrigerator before I went to work.
And so before we left for the restaurant, I stuck it in the freezer. And I meant to take it out and put it into the refrigerator when we left, but I forgot. And a dinner at this restaurant can take three or four hours. It is not something to rush. It is something to savor, something to enjoy. And he says, what's going to happen by the time we get home? And the sommelier gets consulted. He said, I'm almost positive it's going to have burst by then, sir.
And so the man reluctantly looking for the coat check ticket in his pocket says, I'll go, honey. You enjoy the first couple of courses. I'll be back and begins to kind of... and at that point, the maitre d's heart just, his heart, just breaking for them, says, sir, give me your keys. Tell me your address. You sit down. You enjoy your meal. I'll get on the subway. I'll go across town. I'll go to your apartment. I will get this bottle out of the freezer. I'll put it into the fridge for you. When you get home, it's going to be taken care of. And both the man and the woman are just, of course, like, their hearts are just like, unbelievable, this treatment. This is crazy. And so they do. They give the keys to the man.
And I was telling this story to my daughters this week, just practicing it before I told this tale. And my daughters are so sick. You know how sick they are? They go, I bet when they got home, he had stolen all their stuff. I'm like... what's the matter with you? What's the matter? Why would I tell a story like that in church? That would be a good ending. But that's not how the story ends. They have their great meal, and they have their creme brulee. And they go through all the deal. And they leave, and they get home. And would you believe it? Nothing had been stolen. The champagne, though, is sitting safely chilled in the refrigerator, where next to it is a tin of caviar, a box of dark chocolates, and a note from Eleven Madison Park, saying, Happy Anniversary.
This story is, in addition to just being heartwarming, is powerful for us to consider for a moment. Because it is not only something that just happened out of the goodness of this maitre d's heart, but this was him literally following orders. You see, Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack and at that point, the owner of Eleven Madison Park, explained in his book Setting The Table that it fits perfectly within the culture of the Union Square Hospitality group, that he leads, and that he instructs, using this story as an example of how to illustrate a principle that the employees are regularly encouraged to practice. And that is going the extra mile. You see, he postulates that there's a massive difference between service and hospitality.
By the way, you can't spell "hospital" without using the same basic letters for hospitality. And so there's something inside all of us that craves and needs both the giving and the receiving of hospitality. It fixes things inside of us. And they have this principle in their secular employee culture and handbook, that is going the extra mile, that everyone's supposed to not just do service, people getting a meal in exchange for money, that has no hair in it or bugs in it, right is service, right? That's what you paid for. That's what you expected, but ways that they can go above and beyond or go the extra mile. And you're like, wait a minute. Go the extra mile, is that the gas station? Yeah, it's the gas station. But it's not just the gas station.
It's also straight Bible. That phrase "go the extra mile," it comes from the mouth of Jesus, as so many wonderful things in our world, that we don't even realize, are coming from scripture and coming from the Bible are. Matthew 5:41, Jesus said, "if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles". And you're like, Levi, what weird scenario under which would I ever find myself in where someone would make me go one mile? You have to understand, in that day, the nation of Israel was under the control of the Roman Empire. And as a conquered territory or province, there would be Roman soldiers routinely coming and going. And there was a Roman governor, we know, the one when Jesus died. His name was Pontius Pilate, and he ruled. And he allowed there to be quote, unquote "king" under him, King Herod and other rulers.
But make no mistake. Caesar was in charge. But Caesar liked to allow the idea of autonomy to exist within the conquered territories. It seemed to go better for him if he allowed them to think that they were still going through the motions of being in charge. But at any point as you were going about your day, you could confront the Roman authority. And if you did, you had to do exactly what they said. One of the strange laws that existed was that if a Roman soldier, who had all of his gear and all of his bulky packs, was walking around from place to place, from assignment to assignment, from one jurisdiction to another, and grew tired of carrying all their gear, all they had to do was walk up to anybody within the Roman Empire and with the end of their spear, touch your shoulder.
If they touched your shoulder, it meant one thing. You needed to turn around, gather all of their gear, and be willing to walk with them a distance of precisely one mile. And if you did that, at the end of it, you could literally put the gear down, and they could make you walk with their burden no more. They had to go find someone else to carry their stuff. But Jesus in this statement was saying, do not do merely the service requested of you. Go above and beyond. Go the extra mile. When they ask you to do one, because it was common in that day to be counting your steps. And when you got exactly to one mile, you would throw that down and be done with it. But Jesus says, no, I want you to go the extra mile. I want you to do more than asked of you. I'm not looking just for service. I'm looking for a spirit of hospitality. I'm looking for the caviar. I'm looking for the chilled champagne, but also the... you see what I'm saying?
And so the story is, in their culture, as a way of just saying, look for opportunities to do what is not requested of you. And it goes into their culture as a legend. And in staff meetings, they'll say, let's all look today for opportunities to create legends. You can be sure that anybody that week that asked that couple, how was your anniversary dinner? I heard you got reservations at that restaurant. They're going to be telling that story and doing the viral marketing for the company. Because they have people who are literally believing in the mission, believing in the vision of the dream of hospitality, and looking for ways to go that extra mile, doing more than is requested of them and not just going through the motions.
This, by the way, illustrates perfectly a statement often misattributed to Maya Angelou. But it's actually Carl Buechner, who said, people may forget what you said, but they will never forget, look at it, how you made them feel, great inspiration for us as we follow Jesus and as we seek to understand his heart for his house. Welcome to week three of "Make Yourself At Home," as we're seeking to get our minds, get our hearts, get our feet, on top of the who, the what, the when, the where, and the why of church. And this is exactly what Jesus' heart is for us as we live and as we do life' and as we serve him in this world. Matthew 5:16, Jesus said, "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven".
Well, this week, the title of my message is "What Satan Fears Most". And we can get to know God's plan for us by understanding what the devil hates, what the devil fears. And there are things that he does hate. And scripture says we're not to be ignorant concerning Satan's devices. And so by understanding what the enemy hates about what we can do in the church, we can understand God's plan for us all.
It says in Luke 15, "then all the tax collectors and sinners drew near to him to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, this man receives sinners and eats with them. So he spoke this parable to them, saying, what man of you having 100 sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say to you that likewise, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having 10 silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost. Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of God and the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Then he said, a certain man had two sons".
And what follows is what commonly gets referred to as the parable of the prodigal son. But I read the setup, the opening bands before the headliner, you could say, the first couple of choruses before the main event, so that you would notice two things; number one, that you would notice that there's only one parable. Jesus said to them, "this parable". And it began with a shepherd. It moved from there into a woman, and it culminated into what we mistakenly referred to as the parable of the prodigal son. But it is, in fact, only the third portion of the one parable that has multiple different movements, much like the artsy movies, that as they begin, open up multiple plot lines. And you're not quite sure until the end, if the director is doing his job, what they all had in common with each other. But that's Jesus' goal here. He's a master communicator, and he understands what you need to know, that stories are facts that get wrapped up in emotions.
So as opposed to just telling them a true statement, he makes them feel something along the way of this journey. But it's not three parables. So it's not the parable of the prodigal son. It's one parable that has these three movements. The second thing we need to realize is that he's exposing how the church is supposed to work, how Jesus thinks and how he looks at situations, through it all coming in reaction, or correction, we could say, to some criticism Jesus was getting about the kind of church he wants to build. Which is a table where there are seats for people from every walk of life, from every background conceivable, and people who are messed up and sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors all being told, it doesn't matter where you've been. It doesn't matter where you've done. There's room. Come on in and touch me. Come on in and be healed by me. Come on in and receive living water. Come on in and receive life. I love you. I care about you. I don't just see what's damaged about you.
Now, of course, this exposes the tension that we need to address. Because we're living in a world where we are increasingly being told, that if I don't approve of everything you do, I must not love you. Therefore, I do not accept you. But Jesus never condoned sin. Find me one time in scripture where he ever said to someone doing something that was pulling them away from God's command and God's blessing, and he encouraged. He would say, neither do I condemn you, but go and sin no more. He called people to their best. Because every time we choose to sin, we choose to suffer.
So Jesus never condoned sin, but he always accepted the sinner and welcomed them to relationship and welcomed them to be at his table and welcomed them to do life with him, even if they didn't agree with what he agreed with and saw, what he saw. But that truth that's been distorted, that we can love someone while not accepting what they're doing, because it's pulling them back from God's best, is, in our day, being blurred to where if I don't accept what you do, therefore I must not accept you. But I can love you, but still speak the truth about what God says about what is best and what is good and what is for your long-term enjoyment. And we need to understand this desperately. Otherwise, we'll end up just being silent, or we'll end up pulling back in the love that God wants us to give.
And so it is, again, a tension to be managed. And the devil doesn't care which side of the horse we fall off of. He just doesn't want us to stay in the saddle and ride. And so we have to remain in that messy middle, where there is sin, and it's not God's best. And this is true about what God has revealed about who he is and what salvation looks like and what marriage is, which was his invention, to give to us; and at the same time, where we would say, hey, right here with you. Let's eat. Let's talk. You're welcome here. You think differently? That's OK. You're welcome here. We want to point you to Jesus and believe that he is willing to touch you as well.
And so that's what Jesus is exhibiting. It's called the church. And the religious people were not such big fans of it. They were not keen on being around the messy people that Jesus was willing to touch. And that's because they didn't consider themselves as a part of the club of sinners. They didn't see themselves as sinners. Why would you eat with sinners? He's like, because otherwise, I'd have to only eat all my meals by myself. Right? Even the asking of the question insinuated that they should be welcomed in. But they were the worst sinners of all. But they just put this religious wall up of, this is what we've done that God must be so happy with.
And so in response to their criticism of his being there with the sinners, building the church, where broken people are welcome and embraced and called to God's best plan for their life, he gave this parable to them. And then follow the math. Follow the math. I know I lost some of you. I'm not a big fan of math myself. But this is easy math. This is easy math, OK? His point was, and if we missed it, if we just jump into The Parable of the Prodigal Son, one shepherd has 100 sheep. Some of you, your eyes are already glazing over. And he loses one. And he leaves the 99, safely protected, and goes out and risks everything to get that one back.
What is that percentage-wise? 1%. That sheep represents 1% of 100. OK, next story, we have a woman who has 10 coins. She loses one coin. What does that represent? That's now not 1 out of 100, or 1%, that's 1 out of 10, or 10%. But the woman who lost only 10% of what she had did not say, well, I've still got 90% of my stuff. I'm good. No. She put everything in her life on pause to ransack the house. The things we will do to get lost stuff, have you ever lost your phone in between the seat and the console in your car? You will bloody your knuckles up all day to get that phone back or that chapstick back. You're going to recover the lost possession. Anybody with me? Am I preaching good up in here? That woman bloodied her hand to get that coin back. And if that shepherd, hey, Jesus was saying, you would do the same. And every one was like, you're right, we would do the same if we lost 1% of our livestock, if we lost 10% of our financial net worth.
He said, now let's make you feel real bad. Because the father had two sons and lost one of them. What percentage is that? 50% of something that's got a lot more value than things or possessions or things you could own. And he says, and that's how I see these people at this table. I care about them. And I (news flash, Jesus said) came (here is Jesus' mission statement) to seek and to save that which is lost. It's what Jesus said is the whole purpose of his coming to the world. He didn't come just to give us epic statements that could end up in fortune cookies one day. He didn't come to just be Mr. Rogers with a beard on and tell us we should recycle, and stuff. Jesus came to be slaughtered on the cross and rise from the dead, so that we, if we're lost, can be found.
You see, the gospel is not about bad people becoming good. It's about dead people coming to life. And only through the blood of Jesus and his resurrection can we come to life. And if you're lost today, if you're hurting today, there's life in Jesus' name for you. There is an answer to the ache within, to that loneliness you feel, even in the middle of a crowded room, that nagging sense of meaning and purpose, that you lie in bed aware of, acutely aware of, but that shouldn't make sense if life's just an accident, that shouldn't make sense if you're just atoms that collided in the night, and the monkey one day put on pants. And now here you are, well done, well played, mud.
And why do we all long for immortality? Why do we all dream of greatness? Why are all of our hearts stirred by the nobility of a maitre d' going above and beyond, out of his way? That makes no evolutionary sense, right? This is survival of the fittest. I mean, you see what I'm saying? There's something in our hearts that yearns for things that on paper, we shouldn't believe to even be true, forgiveness, charity, and compassion. Why do all the stories we love involve someone sacrificing themself, that others may live? Does it matter?
Those are themes that have resonant sympathy inside of our souls. And it's all hints and echoes of the great story, of a Savior who came through his own expense to save that which is lost. And if we're to be a part of his church (follow me) we are to be his hands and feet, giving everything we can to the mission that consumed him. In other words, we are to give our lives to that noble pursuit of hospitality, being the agents of his love, inviting others into the house where we were welcomed in, that we are God's way of saying to the world, make yourself at home in the kingdom.
Come on in. That's what lights up God's heart. And that's what Satan fears most. He would have us focus on anything else, anything else. Bible trivia? Yes. The disciples are standing there. Jesus is like, all right, I'm coming back. Until then, go into all the world. Preach the gospel to every creature. And he's been gone 10 minutes, and what are they up there doing? Just derdy, derdy, der, looking at clouds. Angels had to come back. They're like, hey, hey, hey, didn't he give you a job to do? He's coming back, y'all. Come on, go reach some people. Go touch some people. Go seek and save some people. Do you like how it is to be saved? Pay it forward. You see, that's what the angels came back and said. And I think that's what they would say to us. And the enemy will do anything to keep us back from our hospitality that we're called to, being his ambassadors.
So what does Satan fear most? Four things, jot them down. Number one, the attention on Jesus. Need to know about Satan. We're learning by contrast today. We're learning, what does Satan hate? He hates attention on Jesus. Why does he hate that? It reminds him of his past. Satan's original name was Lucifer. Lucifer was a worship leader. Yeah, that's what his job was before he fell. And when he fell, he forfeited the right and the privilege to cover God's throne in praise. And when he did, he turned back from living a life focused on worshiping the Ancient of Days. So, of course, he would hate us living a life focused on Jesus. But in the church, nothing makes sense if we're not lifting up the head. Have you ever seen a headless horseman?
I know Halloween's coming. That's not natural. Right? But if the body doesn't have a head, if we're not focused on Christ, or as we say in our values, and if you look on our website, you'll see our statement of faith. What do we believe here at the church? What's most important to us? Number one, right at the very front is this. It's not about us. We're here to make Jesus famous. We exist to bring him glory. We exist to do what he wants us to do, which informs mission. Because if Jesus, who's the head of the church, the body, was focused on seeking and saving that which is lost, should we as his body do something different than what the head wants us to do? Wouldn't it be unnatural if my arm was just doing stuff over here? I'd be like, what you doing back there, pal? Oh, I'm just doing my own little thing, you know. No, that's called cancer. It's called a seizure. When our body does not respond properly to the head, but chooses to do its own thing, something's wrong.
Colossians 1:18, "he is the head of the body the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things, he may have the preeminence". Revelation 12:11, why does Satan fear our focus on Jesus? "They overcame him", hello, "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death". There is power in the gospel. There is power in the name of Jesus. There is strength. There is salvation. There is light. There is love. There is healing in the name of Jesus. So we, if we're going to be anything in this church, we're going to be focused on Christ.
Secondly, what Satan fears most, willingness without understanding, willingness without understanding. I see the brother outside the party, which is so sad to me. Because the heartbreaking part of the story at the beginning is that the father has lost 50% of his sons. He's got one son at home and one who's out at a wild party, paying for the prostitutes and buying casamigas for the whole room, making all kind of bad friends. And then you see the story shifts at the end. When that son has come home, and the father receives him and welcomes him, though he shouldn't have, and calls him son again, but sadly, the enjoyment of it's not long-lasting, because he still got a son outside the house. Elder brother is out there with his arms crossed.
Now, many commentaries have pointed out that it should have been the job of the older brother to be out looking for his bro. And there's a pattern that's established and then interrupted, that's meant to, by negative space contrast, what should be the natural thing that's taking place. Guy loses 1%, goes out looking for it. Woman loses 10%, goes out looking for it. Family loses 50%, no one goes out. Well, maybe the father's old, can't go out. He's there to hug. He's there to embrace. We know, by the end of the story, the young son was strong enough to be out working in the fields, which meant he had more than enough physical dexterity to handle the rigors of international travel in that day.
And some have postulated that Jesus was seeking to tug out or tease out all of their outrage that he wouldn't be out doing what would have lit his father up, going to do the job of the shepherd, the job of the woman looking for the coin, to seek out his younger brother. No one goes. And there is within the story some sense of his unwillingness to do it. Because he didn't understand why. It didn't make sense to him. I'm not going in, because what makes sense to me is I do this, therefore you do that. His relationship with God was all transactional. If I do this.
This is how God should respond, and he should be lucky to have me. That makes sense somewhat. But to us who love to stand and to peg our identity on our accomplishments, and our ego craves that validation of, if I do this, then you should have given me a goat, and you should have given me these accolades, which just reveals he was festering bitterness all along anyway. Couldn't even say, my brother. He said, as soon as that son of yours has come home.
So there is some sense of him only being willing to comply if it made sense to him. But what if we eradicate that in the body of Christ, in this house and no matter what God calls us to do, we're willing to do it because we're just grateful to be saved? We're just grateful that he died for us. We're just grateful, right? I think, sometimes, we're like, if I see it, I'll believe it. We shift into Thomas mode. I'm not going to be made to a fool by coming and worshiping you. But you might not even be alive. So if I can stick my finger, that makes sense. That's older brother thinking. It makes sense to be Cain, angry about what he gave, not being accepted, and jealous of Abel. Because Cains never understand Abels. It makes sense to me to see Saul's daughter Michal angrily judging her husband David for dancing as a fool. Because her frame of reference for a king was someone who lorded it over people, someone who was strong and full of natural ability and took all the attention and took all the glory.
So when she saw her husband, who was not a king like Saul, he was a king who was a shepherd. He was a king who was a simple poet. He was a king who was pulled up from "I didn't deserve it. I'm the least of my family". And that king, who's just grateful to have a Savior who included him in the story, who's going to dance before the Lord joyously and foolishly and be even more undignified than this, and it didn't matter what God called him to do. Because if God's speaking, and he says to do something, the answer is yes.
Now tell me the question. But listen to me. If you need control, and you need to understand, and you need to know, if I obey, what are you going to do? And when are you going to do it? And if I clean my life up a little bit, when can I expect Mr. Right to show up on my doorstep? And when can I expect the raise, if I'm willing to be a good, put my time, hold, that's not ever how God works. Just ask Jehoshaphat. Yeah, we're going to go into a battle against this huge overpowering force. Love you to send some worship leaders on ahead. Doesn't make sense. But God's not asking for you to understand him. He's asking for you to obey him. It doesn't make sense to be Gideon and to see your army get smaller before you go into battle against a bigger force. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. It doesn't make sense if you're Esther, and you're going to go into your husband, even though he didn't call for you. And if you didn't call for you, but you come, you die. It doesn't make sense.
Welcome to the kingdom of God. He chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. It's never going to make sense to obey. It's never going to be a good time to give. It's never going to be a convenient time in your schedule to begin to prioritize serving or community service or any of these things. So we need willingness without understanding. Why? Because this is the victory, 1 John 5:4, that has overcome the world, our faith, our faith. And if we fully understand it all, exactly how it's going to work, and what's going to be over here, and then I'm willing to begin to obey you, God, we will never see the powerful things he wants to do.
It's faith that the devil hates the most. He was so sure, that if he could just touch Job's business and touch Job's money and hurt Job's kids, Job would curse God. Because that makes sense. But Job, having no clue why his health was in shambles, his children had died, his entire net worth reduced in a moment to nothing, got on his knees and said, I don't understand what you're doing, but I will worship you even if you slay me. And in all these things, Job refused to do what made sense, even to his wife, who said, curse God and die. He would not sin with his tongue, but honored God and worshiped him on an ash heap.
Come on, we will be unstoppable if we have that posture. God, I'm going to trust in you and do what you called me to do no matter what. I don't need to see it to believe it. I've already seen your resurrection through your spirit in my heart. I've already seen the cross. I've seen enough. Come on, turn to your neighbor and say, I've seen enough. I've seen enough. And the blessing comes not to those who believe after they see, but see even when they haven't believed, Jesus said. And that kind of enthusiasm is contagious. So we're going to fight for willingness without understanding because the devil hates it.
And then thirdly, hilarious generosity, what Satan fears most, hilarious generosity. Why? Because he's a taker. He's a taker. You want to understand him? He's a thief. He takes stuff that's not his. He's a murderer. He takes life that he shouldn't take. And he got kicked out of heaven because he tried to take the throne that was not his. Long before Jay Z, he was trying to take the throne. He was. He literally, Isaiah says, says, I will put my star above his star. I'll put my throne above his throne. He wanted the glory. So he sought to take. He was a thief. And so, of course, he wants to lead us down that same path. So any time we give of our own accord, anytime we have that spirit, he would be afraid of that because he knows we're doing what's going to move us towards God's best for our lives. And he wants to take us in the opposite direction.
So whatever Satan hates, God loves. It's a study in contrasts. 2 Corinthians 9:7, "so let each one", this is about financial giving, "give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly", oh, I've got to give something, "or of necessity", well, I really need to probably. But what does God love? Say it with me. God loves a Cheerful giver. "Cheerful" is a good word. Cheerful people are a blessing to be around. But guess what? That's not even the tip of the spear of that word. Because in English, cheerful is a wonderful word, right? But in Greek, which is what Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 9:7 in, it's even better. Because the Greek word is... Guess what English word we got from...?? Yeah, yeah, you're laughing because it's funny, right? But the Greek word means a cheerfulness that comes through involuntary laughter, not the chuckle that's polite, right?
Oh, that's so funny. Right? But we all have that friend who we just love being around them. Because they get us to belly laugh. They get us to laugh until we cry. That power which is meant to be, what the church is all about, the inside jokes and that joy that comes from laughter, not at someone's expense, but your own expense, that's some of the best laughter, right? And when you really can laugh about those things, I'm just telling you something, it's hilarious. And what he's saying is not someone who gives like, well, I have to, or I should, or, you know, blah, blah, blah, yeah. But where there's this sense of, oh my gosh, I can't believe what God's given to me. I can't believe what he did for me. I can't believe I ran from him, and he ran to me. I brought shame to his name, but he has won me back through his death.
It's hilarious that he would allow me to be a part of that. It's hilarious. I mean, if you help me rescue one of my kids, you saved a child of mine that was drowning, what would my response be? Not some grudging gift card to Applebee's. It would be hilarious that I would get to do anything for you because of what you gave back to me that was valuable to me. When we give, why do we clap as a church? Why have we chosen a posture of unashamedly talking about how important these things are? Because we can't believe we were given our lives back. And we know we could never pay it back. But we will pay it forward. And pay it forward we must. Because fatted calves are expensive. Rings, they don't pay for themselves. Royal robes and seats at banquets and sandals for the feet, these things cost.
Every person entering into the waters of baptism, every one of the tens upon tens of thousands of incarcerated individuals who will hear the preaching this weekend, every single person by the million who will hear a little clip, short form encouragement, from God's word as we as a ministry are committed to being the hands and feet of Jesus, inviting the world to the banqueting table of the King, saying, make yourselves at home. It doesn't matter where you've done. It doesn't matter. Come on, are you hungry? Come on, do you like peach pie? That's fed. Fatted calves, they're not cheap. They're not. Doing what we're doing, the ministry, all of the things, and the campuses and the reach and everything God's doing, it's not cheap. It's expensive.
And I was thinking this week about how... I don't know why I'm yelling. It took me a second to catch up with my tone. And I was thinking about how funny it was, when I first moved to Montana, and people began to say something to me that no one ever said to me living in California. And that was, you want to go in on a cow? Do you want to go with me on a side of beef? Do you want to go in with me on half a cow? It's this thing out here. I like it. I like it. I like it. Let's go in together on a cow. You want to go in with me on a fatted calf? Come on, who wants to go in with me on a fatted, I can't pay for the whole thing myself. I can't do everything. But we can all do something. And God loves it when there's a spirit of generosity with what's in our hands. There's nothing you have entrusted to me that I'm not willing to see be a part of it. And I don't want to just give my leftovers. I want to give my best.
1963, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland opened up. Tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, Tiki Room, anybody ever been in the Tiki Room? Anybody? No, you're like, I'm going to Space Mountain. No, Tiki Room's where it's at, man. Tiki Room was the first ride in Disneyland to have audio-animatronics. It would show up later, Jungle Cruise. It would show up later, Pirates of the Caribbean. It would show up later. Here's the deep cut, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. But it was the first to have any creatures that could move and talk. And what you would hear would match what you would see. It was also the first ride at Disneyland to have air conditioning. It's one of the great things about it to this present day. You're super hot? Go get some Dole Whip. Sit in there, air-conditioned. Listen to some birds sing. It's amazing. Yeah, it's fantastic, right? Why did it have air conditioning? Because of the audio-animatronics.
1963, computers filled up warehouses. And there was an underground chamber full of the giant computers it took to make the little birds sing. And so they had to introduce air conditioning as a necessity to keep the computers for from overheating. And it was also one of the handful of rides in the park that Walt Disney personally worked on. And he was a notorious perfectionist. So he'd cast a vision, and his imagineers would have to make it work. So he's got this idea for a restaurant. It's going to be sponsored by United Airlines. Because Hawaii had just become a state. And United Airlines had daily service to Hawaii. And so they got behind it as a natural extension of this Caribbean lifestyle, this Polynesian lifestyle, rather, and this idea of tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room, right? And so they got behind.
Now it's sponsored by Dole, the pineapples. And to this present day, it has a sponsor. Because originally, he couldn't afford all the rides. And so he had to get sponsors to help pay for them as they would open. So the team is there. And they are bringing the prototype birds. If you go into the Tiki Room, you're going to be underwhelmed. But promise me, DM me and tell me you went because it's awesome, OK? You're going to see these birds just singing a song to you. There's a French bird. There's a German bird. There's a Spanish bird. It's total cancellable now. We're appropriating culture because these birds speak these accents, and stuff. Oh, it's very bad. But the bird... Levi is quiet. You haven't been canceled this month. So you're working on it, though. OK, so the crazy thing is, when he saw them, he said, not good enough.
Now, the birds were amazing. They had blazed a trail technology-wise to make these birds sing, dance, move, ruffle their feathers, the whole deal. And even their eyes would move back and forth as they would sing these songs. He said, not good enough. The imagineers are like, we... we... what... you... ah. He said, the birds need to breathe. I couldn't help but notice, during the whole song, they never breathed in and out. Can you make their chests rise and fall as they breathe, so that they can... and here's the direct quote from one of the imagineers. He said, Walt, 1% out of people maybe will notice this. But if we make them breathe or don't make them breathe, 99% will never know, what difference does it make?
People aren't going to understand, and this is too much perfection. And Walt's response back is legendary. He said, you're right. People might not notice the birds breathing, but you can feel perfection. You can feel perfection. And that's why Disneyland's better than Knott's Berry Farm. And cleaner, too. Just unnecessary burns right here on a Sunday, that most people are not getting in our churches around Montana. But let me say this to you. I throw Montana jokes out. I throw California jokes out. It's what it is. All right, so we might not notice, but God feels perfection. God feels excellence. It might seem to other people, even, we're very generous people. But David said it well. I will not give to God that which costs me nothing.
And I think all of us should have that desire in our hearts. I want to give God my best, not my leftovers. Because God can feel that, too. And I love this. Just let's just throw it up. "Whatever you do, Disney said, do it well. Do it so well, that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again". This is just good advice. Some of you didn't have parents telling you this stuff. "And they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do". What a great thought, amen? I think of that verse that says, everything you do, do it all in the name of Jesus. It should inform not just what we do in the church, but out in the world, at our jobs as well.
Fourthly, what does Satan fear most? All hands on deck. All hands on deck. The enemy loves it when, if you do get saved and squeak by, that you would stay selfish your whole life serving God by not serving God. And tragically, in the church, many people are saved, but not serving. They've been given everything, but aren't giving their all and using their natural, God-given talents to be that hand and feet of Jesus. What a sad thing that is, when Ephesians 4:7 says, but to each one of the worship team and campus pastors and church staff. Nope. "But to each one of us was grace given according to the measure of Christ's gift".
You are gifted. You are called. You are equipped. You have been given tools to build the house to be served, to be used as a brick built up to be a house for God. And the church will always have something missing when you're not using your gift, using your story, using what you've been given, to make it better for more people to be reached. And then when you use those gifts on team, to use them heart and soul and not just going through the motions. So the gift that you have been given is meant to be explored and figured out through prayer and under leadership and watched, grown, where you can be handled more and more responsibility, more and more opportunity. It would be the goal with time. But then, like I said, when you leave the church, you're still the church. Because this isn't the church. You're the church. We're the church.
So we use our gifts here. And then with that same spirit of excellence, that same spirit of integrity, that same spirit of supernatural hospitality, we go into the world. We scatter into our various areas of responsibility. We go to our job. We punch in at the school, at the hospital, at the real estate agent, at our job framing. And we do so, saying, I'm doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I'm going to do so with such a spirit of excellence, that people are going to want to know what's different about me because they see my light, and they want to glorify my Father, who's in heaven. Titus 2:10... team, come on out here. We're close to done. "Not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity".
Pause right there, your attention, please. What's going on here in Titus 2:10? He's talking to some slaves who asked him a question. And they said, hey, we're slaves. We're saved now. What should we do at our job being a slave in the Roman Empire? He said, all right, here's what you do. Don't pilfer. Never steal anything on the job site. Always have good fidelity. Do exactly what's asked of you at work, "that they may adorn the doctrine of God, our Savior in all things".
Do you see what he's doing? He's giving you permission to do everything you do with your hands, you do with your body, you do with your skills, you do with your education, you do in any sphere of influence you touch, to adorn the doctrine of God, to actually enhance the glow of the gospel, is what he's saying. The NIV says, "Make the teaching about God attractive". Another version says, "Add some luster and shine to the truth of who Jesus is". This is what it means to be an ambassador. Paul said in 2 Corinthians, "Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us, we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God".
The goal was, Paul was saying, if people see you, your master or anybody else seeing you, the way you go to work each day in your job, and these were slaves, that they somehow connect the dots eventually to how good God is, just watching the gospel according to you. I heard this interview with the CEO of Coca-Cola. And he was asked something about how he thinks about it. And he said, well, my thought process on being a part of this team at Coca-Cola is I'm a brand ambassador. I'm an ambassador for the brand. A brand is only a promise you've made, but not kept yet. And my job, our job as a team, is to make sure that promise is true. We're trying to keep a promise in a brand. And then he quoted the predecessor, a man named Don Keough, who was at one point the Coca-Cola president, and he said... by the way, he was the one who introduced the new Coke. That didn't go so good, right?
So that was a brand not... But mistakes are made. I love this question, though. He said, "I always want the answer to this question to be YES when I'm driving home each day. Did I polish the Coke brand just a little bit today"? What a challenging, thought-provoking question, that that man would drive home from work asking about sugar water with bubbles in it. But can we, if we are a part of an even bigger brand, the brand of Jesus, part of his house, can we as drive home from work, from school, from anything we do, from everything we do, say, did I adorn the doctrine of God? Or did I just go through the motions? Satan hates it when we're willing without understanding, hilarious in generosity, have an all hands on deck, all of us using our gifts, all of us using our different assignments all around, and the attention focuses on Jesus supremely. This is what Satan fears most.
Now, there's this statement in culture. I'm going to close with this. And it's something people say. If the job they're doing or the place they work or the restaurant they are at is not providing the level of hospitality maybe a customer is hoping for, and it's become a buzzword in our day. We'll just say, like, this ain't the Ritz. What do you think this is, the Ritz? This ain't the Ritz. And that's that mentality of dumbing down and diminishing the quotient of what we're doing because we're not at maybe what we could or would aspire to be at. There's this freedom, though, in Christ for us to have that Ritz-level quality in anything we do, everything we do, doing it unto Jesus, knowing nothing is too small to be used by him.
And what can happen where there's that spirit of ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen? Which is the famous creed of those who work at the Ritz-Carlton. Well, let me close with this story, and we'll see. A couple walked into the bar at the Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey, California. They were wearing aloha Hawaiian shirts, even though it was a blustery, cold California day, gray in the sky, drizzly, not enjoyable. Bar was empty. No one wanted to be there. But they walk in wearing these bright, obnoxious Hawaiian shirts, sit down at the bar. Bartender's a woman named Fran. Fran approaches the couple and begins quickly to, socially smart, figure out, what's the deal with this couple? And why are they wearing these shirts?
And they grimly toast their Mai Tais, which they ordered, by saying, we're on our Hawaiian honeymoon. They were supposed to be at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, on west Maui. They had been planning for it for years. But just before they got married, her husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a very, very, very grim prognosis with very meager chances for survival, even given the best treatment. And so they said, we pivoted so we could get treatment here in Los Angeles. And we booked a room here at this Ritz to make do with what life has handed to us. Fran made herself scarce, but holding back tears, ran to the front desk as quick as she could and informed her general manager of what was happening, at which point, they went into full-blown Ritz-Carlton "do something crazy" mode.
They call it wow moments. They're all trained to look for any wow moment they can find. You can't find it really directly on a PNL. In fact, it might be even be waste on a PNL. But this is where they, all hands on deck to make something special happen. And what that meant was going into the prop closet for corporate events, where people, at some point, had had a corporate-themed luau-type event. And they found anything they could and everything they could that looked Hawaiian, and they rushed it up to this couple's room, where they decorated it in every bit, the obnoxious Hawaiian aloha of their shirts and Mai Tais. They scavenged through the drawer of the front desk check-in and found a Kapalua Ritz-Carlton key card someone had left behind, and they coded it to their room. The general manager put on an aloha shirt. And after their check was presented, he said, it's been paid for in full by the hotel. And he then offered to them this Kapalua key card and said, here's the new key card to your room.
And when they went up to the room, they found an Igloo cooler full of beach sand with a sign in it that had their name and then said their Private Hawaiian Vacation Getaway. And for the next three days, every single person who worked for the hotel greeted them with aloha and did everything they could to make them feel like they were very much in the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room. Why does that make us feel the way it does? Because this is what God has called us to. Let's work at Ritz-Carlton? Maybe, maybe to blaze a trail of something even greater than the Ritz-Carlton, in Jesus' name, but wow moments. Because this is the kingdom of the fatted calf, and there's a seat for you in my Father's house. Is anybody thankful for it?
And so, God, we are grateful. And we ask for that spirit to rest on all of us of excellence and imagination and creativity and integrity, that we would do what you called us all to do. We'd show up at work, show up at that daycare, show up at that hospital, show up in that board room. We're not real estate agents or builders building houses. We're about homes and people and lives and family. That's going to be noticed. We're going to have great opportunity to point people to you when that's our lives.
If you would just say, man, I'm in on that. I'm in on that vision. Could I just ask you to raise a hand up? You say, I'm in on that. And if it means you begin serving, if it means you begin giving, if it means you get into a group, if it means you just take a step of faith to show up and actually try at work and not phone it in, I don't know what God's doing in your heart. But by raising your hand all across our church, you're saying, "I hear the Holy Spirit blowing, and I'm in. I welcome the wind".
Thank you, Lord. You can put your hands down. And I want to invite now anybody who's never yet said yes to Jesus, to take that important step of coming home. Let's not be that young brother out in the world looking for satisfaction and sin. And let's not be that older brother thinking we don't need it. Let's come into the house, humble ourselves and receive what our Father has given to us at the cost of the cross of Jesus. If that's you I'm describing, and you want heaven to come touch your heart, for God to make it his home, I'm going to pray with you. I want you to pray it out loud after me. God will hear you. He'll come into your heart.
I made this decision when I was a freshman in high school. I had gone to church my whole life, but I was empty because it was kind of a religious duty. And then I got pulled into all kinds of sinful things, pornography and drugs and drinking. And I was miserable. But I knew too much about God to be happy in the world, but I had too much of the world to be happy with God. And there on that day, I was invited to come in and sit down and be a son, to receive Jesus. It's changed that day and every day since. And that's what God wants for you, a relationship with Jesus, your sins forgiven, your future is secure. And if that's you I'm describing, and you would say, "I want that", I'm going to pray with you. I'm going to ask our church family to pray with you. Say this out loud to God and mean it in your heart:
Dear Lord, I know that I'm a sinner. I'm lost. I'm alone. And I need you. I can't save myself, but I believe you can. Please come into my heart. Make it your home. Thank you for new life. I give you mine, in Jesus' name.