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2021 online sermons » Levi Lusko » Levi Lusko - Why God Refuses To Meet You Halfway?

Levi Lusko - Why God Refuses To Meet You Halfway?

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Up in Smoke. I don't know if you caught last week. I felt like that was just a powerful word: Good night, failure. Good morning, grace. And if you didn't hear it, it's in the podcast, and it's in the app. You can check that out. But we're studying significant smoke stories in the Bible. And Genesis 15 is a powerful smoke story. Here's what we find. After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward. But Abraham said, Lord God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? Then Abram said, look, you've given me no offspring. Indeed, one born in my house is my heir. They're saying he's referring to Eliezer again. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, this one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.

Then He brought him outside and said, look, now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them. And He said to him, so shall your descendants be. And he believed in the Lord, and he accounted it to Him for righteousness. Then He said to him, I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord God, how shall I know that I shall inherit it? How can I know your promise is going to come to pass? Look what God says. God says, bring me a three-year-old heifer. Oh, I'm glad. I'm glad. I hope that clears it up. That's not all, though. It's also a three-year-old ram, also a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. And once Abraham dutifully brought this entire 4H display to God, verse 10 says then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two down the middle and placed each piece opposite the other. But he did not cut the birds in two. Well good, because that would make it weird. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abraham drove them away. And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram.

And behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then he said to Abram, know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs and will serve them, and they will afflict them 400 years. And also, the nation whom they serve I will judge. Afterward, they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried at a good old age. I just love some of these old Bible words. You'll be buried at a good old age. How old was he when he died? He was good and old. He was a good old age. But in the fourth generation, 400 years after they go to live in this other place, they shall return here to this land that I gave you. They're going to come back here. Why would they come back 400 years and not take it now? Here's what he says. He says for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. And it came to pass, when the sun went down, and it was dark, that behold there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, to your descendants, I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

Have you ever been in a friendship that you felt like was one-sided? Like whenever you went to a movie, it didn't matter what movie you thought was good. You guys always see the movie that they thought was good. Have you ever been in a one-sided friendship where when you're going to get together to do something, you can talk about other things. But eventually, you'll end up on the side of town that's most convenient to where they work/live? Y'all, have you ever been in a one-sided friendship where whenever you text them just to check in, how they're doing, see if they could do something for you, you'll see a read receipt. You'll see the bubble show up for a second or two and then go away, when they left the cursor. And they'll always have something of a oh, I wrote you a whole response. But then went to look up a word in the dictionary because I respect you so much that I wanted to make sure it's all spelled right. And it didn't send. And it was in here. And when they even show you their phone, there's nothing there. You didn't get that text I sent back that said my great aunt, Mabel, died and the dog died and something.

Have you ever been in a one-sided friendship where they have perfect cell reception when they need something from you? When they're move-in or have an early flight, just miraculously all their communication goes through impeccably. But just so happens that anytime you check in, have you ever been in a one-sided friendship where you're not allowed to have any other friends, and they get all jealous and weird like about the people you're hanging out with or anything that's not them? But they have a whole lot of friends, and you see on Instagram they're having all sorts of fun, even though they said they weren't doing anything later. I think we've all felt the lack of reciprocation at times from a friendship. Not that we're trying to be needy, but every person has needs. And sometimes, they're not being met in friendships that are one-sided.

The title of my message is Why God Refuses to Meet You Halfway because I think if we're honest, real talk, no, just me? Y'all just, no, that's good. Sometimes, it seems like God refuses to meet us halfway like it's a one-sided friendship, like, oh, there's everything He wants from us: read your Bible. There's everything He wants from us. You've got to be at church, or you're icky. If you don't give, there's this mentality, I think, sometimes where we're doing what we're supposed to do. But then if we're honest, we, at times, are waiting for God's response. And although we're trying to raise our kids in the way of the Lord, why is my son on drugs? Sometimes, it feels like we're in a one-sided relationship. I know I'm supposed to do not. Cuss and not, what are those other things on that thing? Stuff about His name and I get it. Like, I'm trying to do my part, but where were you when my marriage blew up? And when I prayed for them to be healed, but they weren't? And when I was really focusing and fasting and believing for this thing to move. And not only did it not, but like three other things broke so that was neat.

I think sometimes people walk away from God and walk away from the church because it seems like we're in a bit of a one-sided relationship. And sure, there's a whole lot of stuff in here that preachers like me love to point our fingers and tell you you need to do for God. But sometimes, if we're real, it doesn't seem like He's living up to his end of the table, His end of the bargain. Abraham knows exactly what we're describing here. And as we open up Genesis 15, we stumble into a part of his life where he really felt like God was not reciprocating. You see, Abraham lived in a place called Ur of the Chaldeans. And he was just minding his own business, worshipping the moon, just like a garden variety pagan would. And God had the audacity to speak to Abraham and to call him out and to give strange promises to him and tell him, I'm going to make a kingdom out of your descendants. You're going to have so many kids. And one day, your family's going to be so numerous on the Earth that they're going to be a blessing. Out of your family is going to come a blessing that blesses every single person on the entire Earth.

Of course, we had a luxury in time, chronologically speaking, to look back on those promises and understand that God was speaking in code to Abraham about was Jesus. The nation of Israel being this nation that would defy the odds of every dictator in history who's purported to be the one to take them out. And yet, here they are. Here they are to this present day. We just celebrated the rebirth of the modern state of Israel, May 14, 1948. Once again, a people again true to God's prophetic timetable and promises for the Earth. And here we sit in the capital, in the embassy, it's Jerusalem. It's Israel. Why is it this center of upheaval and center of conflict? And it's because it's a part of God's program, and it goes back to this dude, Abraham, one of the most significant figures in the whole world. In the whole world, no matter which side of the divide: Jew, Christian, Muslim, you sit, you can't but acknowledge and tip your hat to Father Abraham. And it was all on a razor's edge as he in Ur of the Chaldeans, was called to move to this land.

And he's like, all right, where are we going to go? And God said, I'll show you when you get there, and we've said before, how do you pack for a trip like that? Amazingly, 70 years old Abraham and his wife Sarah, they, advanced in years as they were, went out, not knowing where they were going to go and followed God, who called them to do that. So now they're in the tents. They had before a great house probably. I mean, we don't know what it's like, but we know that Ur was the place that invented the hot tub, so it was probably nice. So now they're like homeless. Now they're vagabonds. Now they're strangers, and they're pilgrims. And they're believing for salvation for the whole world somehow. They're believing we're going to have tons of kids. But Abram's a laughingstock because his name Abram means "exalted father," but he had no kids. And he was 70 years old. And Abram, what's your name? Exalted Father. oh, where's your family? Well, it's just me and the lady. Exalted father? But then one day, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. You know what "Abraham" means? It means "father of many nations" because that's less awkward: still no kids. Abram, glad to see you. No, no, not Abraham: Abraham. Oh, still you and the lady? Yep. Awesome.

Five years goes by, five long years. Hey, God, remember me? I'm the one you called out to save the world through. Hey, look, what I've done for you. Here we are: vagabonds, pilgrims, aliens. And the baby is? And we can only imagine the five years was full of faithful acts of obedience on the part of Abraham and Sarah to fulfill God's promises and grow their family. You can only imagine the effort that went into it. We can only imagine the nights where he's like you want to? Oh, I've got a headache. All right, well, people are going to go to hell, but if you have a headache, the ultimate trump card, my friends, that Sarah would use when Abraham didn't feel like it, I'm sure. He's like, honey, I just want to snuggle. And she's like, Abraham we need to be a blessing to people all over the world. One day Fresh Life's going to open. They need something to preach. Let's get it on. Alexa, play my lovemaking mix. That's how it went for five years. You got to feel the Bible, five years of that, no promise, no stork. I think we need to make sure and understand that this is a normative part of following God.

What's the big takeaway? Well, let's divide our times up, make sense? Genesis 15 is where we're going to live. But in a moment, I want to take you to what happened when Abraham was sleeping. But first, let's start here when Abraham thought that God was sleeping. There's going to be two headings. I know there were some crazy things that we read about when Abraham's living, but we have to first start and acknowledge that it seemed like for these five years, that Abraham sure thought God was sleeping. But surely, after this, it's going to get better, you'd think. I'm sure that right after this whole story and promise that Abraham and Sarah were going to get baby Isaac, and then it was on from there. No, actually, Abraham is 75 still has 25 years to go. For it would be at the age of 100 that Sarah would finally conceive and give birth to Abraham's child. She, herself, by then, the tender age of 91. What's the point? The point is, I think, that God's promises are never thwarted. But listen to me very carefully, His strategy often seems like it doesn't make any sense. His promises, they're never thwarted. But His strategies, they seldom make sense. And if you know that about Him, it helps you going into it.

What does that mean? That means that He generally does not pick the path of least resistance. Meaning what we would say that's what you should do is usually the last thing that He wants to do. Why? Well, for one reason, if He chose the thing that we understood, it would make sense to us. And therefore, we could do it, and we could take the credit for it. And also, I think He wants to accomplish His purposes, which are far bigger than we are. And though they involve us lovingly, they're about much more than just us. And there are things that He wants to call out in us along the way. So listen, God's purpose is never thwarted, but His strategies seldom make sense. So Sarah wasn't having a baby, not because God couldn't have made it happen, but because God didn't want it to happen yet. God knew Abraham and Sarah needed this time to develop, needed this time to trust Him. The book of Romans, after the fact, says God chose to wait to bless the fruit of their womb until Abraham's body was as good as dead. His strategies seldom make sense.

When you read that, you're like, He's just waiting, not time yet. The angels are like, God, he's looking pretty ripe. God, his body's as good as dead. OK, let's bless their union now. He's good as dead? God's plan, when He called Abram from Ur, was to wait until his body was as good as dead. But He didn't tell Abraham and Sarah that, and He also doesn't tell you everything. He just tells you where He's going to take you to. And so then we get busy. We get busy thinking it's going to happen right away. OK, I got saved, and now I'll clean up my life a little bit. Went through my video library, went through my schedule. OK, God, where's the blessing? And it doesn't come. And then we're thinking, God, what are you? Asleep at the wheel? This is a one-sided relationship. I've done my part. Where's your part? Here's what you need to know. You need to know that you need to evaluate, listen to me, you need to evaluate your reality in light of God's identity. That's what you have to do when you think God is sleeping. You have to actively evaluate your reality in light of God's identity.

When Abraham was doubting God and doubting God's ability and doubting this whole thing and maybe thinking I should go back to Ur. When that happened, God did not say, it's OK, when you're 100. It's OK. He didn't tell me anything about the plan. What he did was pointed to himself as the person. Abraham's doubting his reality. So look what God says. Look at verse 1 one more time. God says, I'm your shield. I'm your exceeding great reward. Now God was gracious to give the shield and the reward, for all He really needed to say was I am. Because Abraham was saying I'm not sure how this is going to work. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not... God says I am. Don't worry about your reality. Listen, listen, here's my identity. I am. What you're not, I am. And what you can't do, I can. You're afraid, I'm your shield. You don't see how this is going to pan out. I'm your reward. Don't look at what you walked away from. Look that you're walking to, and it's Me. Run into my arms. I've got your back. I'm your reward.

And some of us were thinking, I gave up so much to fall. You gave up so much. You gave up despair. You gave up aloneness. You gave up the material possessions that couldn't satisfy the whole inside of you. You gave up partying that never left you anything but hungover and looking for more of the thing that's going to kill you. God's the only one who offers you anything, and He is your award. Listen, when He's concerned, what's next is always greater than what's now. And so He's calling you to trust His identity and not your reality. This is going to help you so much. In life, you can only trust in one thing at one time. You can only trust in one thing at one time. So here is your choice. At any given moment, you must either trust your perception or His divine orchestration. Remember that. Every time you're freaked out. You're afraid. You're still like, where's God in my marriage? Where's God in my health? Where's God in my finances? Where's God in my career? Where's God? Where's God? Where's God?

Listen, you can either trust your perception or His divine orchestration. I got a glass of water here, and I'm going to pour another. Now one of these two glasses of water, the water came from a lake. And one of these came from a faucet and is safe to drink. Now here's the crazy part. I can't honestly tell if I agitate this one, I know there's going to be little things in it too. Sometimes, I think we look at the glass, and we trust our perceptions. And our perception tells us one's better. Abraham and Sarah's perception, Ur is way better than tent. They would never get to even see the promises even full come to pass. Yeah, they get to have Isaac, but God even told us, give me 400 years. So most of the promises God gave him, which are, by the way, playing out, even right now, they never got to see on this Earth. So just human perceptions, it would have been better to stay in Ur. So we can we agree we can't trust our perception? Even when God called us. Oh, look at the stars. He says that's how many kids you're going to have. How many stars did Abraham see? They say at most, in the country, and there was no light pollution back then like today. So the most you can ever see in one place is about 5,000. Was that all the stars? There were hundreds of billions they couldn't see that God knew in His heart was part of what He was doing in that day.

So we can't trust our perception. So what should we choose to do? We should choose to trust His divine orchestration. We should choose to trust His sovereign rule. We should choose to trust that he is Lord, and that He is God. And that He created this world. And so we should bow down before Him. What does that look like? It looks like this. It looks like believing even when we know for a fact that what we're looking at is bad. Even when we know for a fact that what we're looking at is gross because we sometimes face things that we can absolutely know. I'm not trusting my perception. This is horrible. And I'm going to be honest with you. You're going to face things that are terrible. You're going to face pain. You're going to face grief. You're going to face betrayal that you don't have to have a magnifying glass to know there's bad stuff swimming inside this. That drinking it's going to make you feel sick. If I were to drink this right now, I know that I would get amoebas and parasites and bacteria and probably have diarrhea, at the very least. But that's why we have to learn to process what we're facing through something else. And my suggestion is to evaluate your reality through the lens of God's identity and to quit just taking things at face value, instead you need a filter.

So whatever you're facing if you'll choose, and this is a simple filter. They call it a Life Straw, you should probably have one in every car you're in. And no one should go into the woods without it because just for a few bucks, you think about this thing could literally save your life. Because what it can do is filter out 99.9999% of anything dangerous in water. So this is literally water that came from a lake, and it would hurt me if I drank it straight up. But if I process it through a filter, five sips to charge it. That's funny. I'm holding it still. What's the point? The point is it's not really about what happens to you. It's more about what you filter it through. I'm convinced that it's not about what we face because yeah, there's bad stuff in it, but there was always good water there. There was just good with the bad. So we need something that can filter it. And tell us even in the bad, there's something good. I'm going to bring it out. That's hard. That's terrible. Yes, it's wrong, but there's good that I'm going to accomplish in the midst of the bad. There's beauty that I'm going to bring out in the midst of the agony. There's a platform I'm going to build for you in the midst of your pain. We need a filter.

And if we'll remember who God is, we'll be able to filter the things we're facing, and they won't be able to destroy us. They'll only be able to deepen us because we're filtering our reality through His identity. And if He's my shield, if He's my reward, nothing can be done to me. I'm invincible in the will of God. What does that mean? That means that you have to remember that fear is a choice, just like faith is. And that's why God said to Abraham in verse 1: don't be afraid. Now pause right there. Leave it right up there. We don't generally think of fear as something we have a say in. We think of fear as a noun, not a verb. I'm afraid. Stop it. But to tell someone who's afraid stop being afraid, that seems like a mean thing for God to do, until you remember that fear ends where faith begins. And faith, while we feel like it's a noun is also a verb. So God never calls us to do something that we can't do with his help. So when he tells Abraham do not be afraid, I am your shield. What He's telling him to do is to anchor his life into something more powerful than his perception because what you think is good or what you think is bad is ultimately not long enough and not deep enough and not big enough to understand and overwhelm the purposes of God, who can work all things together for His good and for our good as well, as we are called according to His purposes to be more like Jesus.

If Joseph just looked at the cup he was handed in life, bad, prison, bad, lied about, bad, forgotten. How about you're going to save your entire family's life? You're going to be the most powerful person in one of the most powerful nations on the Earth. He had to remember I got a shield, and I got an exceedingly great reward. So I'm not going to be afraid, even when I feel afraid. And that's the place you got to come to is where you remember that fear is a choice, just like faith is. And when is the occasion to exhibit the obedience of faith and not walk in fear any longer? Here it is: when you feel doubts pop up in your heart. Now, again, so many people walk away from the church and walk away from God because they feel like I've got doubts. And I got doubts, so I got to walk away. I got to leave because I got doubts. I heard this in science. I heard this in church. I read this in the Bible. I hear this over here. I heard this preached my whole life by a pastor who later on, we found out wasn't even walking on any of the crap he was telling us to do. And yeah, my dad sure was religious but also was beating my mom. Yeah, I got doubts.

And here's what we fear. We fear that doubt is the enemy of faith. Therefore, we have to abandon our faith when we feel doubt. But I got news for you, beloved. Doubt isn't the enemy of faith. Certainty is. When you're certain about something, you don't have to have faith anymore when you have certainty. We're not going to have to have faith in heaven. You'll be like God's right over there. There's no faith there. So doubt now isn't it the enemy to your faith. Certainty would be. If we had faith as the evidence of things hoped for, but the belief in things not yet seen. So when we feel doubt, that's just the time we got to choose to believe again. When we feel the doubt creep up in our heart, OK, I'm going to choose to not be afraid. He's my shield. He is my reward. I choose to believe right there in the middle of my doubt. I just think this could set us free to feel doubt but to not give into the doubt and walk in fear but to feel the doubt, feel comfortable with that doubt. But then lean into who God is, and believe He's going to do what He said He's going to do.

Listen to me, you don't need to understand God. You just need to trust Him. Understanding God is not the goal, trusting Him is. And when you feel afraid in His plan. I'll take it further. When you feel afraid of His plan, just remind yourself of His promise, and that He told you don't be afraid. Put it up one more time. When you get to this next time you're reading Genesis 15 verse 1, and you see don't be afraid, underline it. And then you will come across another time in the Bible where He says don't be afraid, and you underline that one. And if you keep going to the end, you'll have 365 underlined verses. There's one time for every day that God says don't be afraid. Fear ends where faith begins and where we choose to live a life of faith. In the midst of our doubt, there is no end what God can do through us. So that leaves you at the place of believing your beliefs and doubting your doubts. Think that's what we need to learn to do. A lot of times, we believe our doubts, and we doubt our beliefs.

So choose to flip the script a little bit. And when you feel that doubt, anchor your life on who God is. And what you don't understand about what's going on, OK, that world's going absolutely crazy. That person is acting very strange. This is all of really bad. Homelessness is awful. You lose your job or whatever it is you're going through, this is terrible. I'm looking at a grave. But in the midst of that, choose to not believe your doubts but to believe your beliefs. And you'll be held up. Believe your beliefs. Doubt your doubts. That's what you do when you feel like God is sleeping. Don't doubt in the storm what he told you on the shore. Some of us panic in the storm, and we make terrible decisions. But if you'll hold onto in chaos what He spoke to your heart in the calm, you'll get to the other side. So that's the first section. But now, we need to shift gears here and talk about what happened when Abraham was sleeping because that's far more significant.

And I think perhaps one of the most life-giving ideas that any of us could ever open up God's word and find waiting for us. What exactly was with all of the carnage, all of the Silence of the Lambs type stuff that was going down? Abraham to God, how am I going to know? I mean, this is great. That's crazy. I believe you, but that's crazy. And God said bring me a heifer. Now I know I made fun of it and had some sport with a little bit, but that would have been confusing to no one in that day. In fact, if you had been to a wedding, if you had been to a business transaction with land or real estate, you would have known exactly what was going on. What God was invoking, what Abraham was eager to walk out was what was known as cutting a covenant. And it's in fact, the tradition that gives us the business vernacular cutting a deal. You ever use that phrase? Let's cut a deal. You're referring back to Genesis 15 and basically, a tradition that took place in that part of the world.

And for some time where they wouldn't say bring me a pen because that's how we would say it. Bring me a pen. Let's sign on the dotted line. Let's make a covenant. Let's make a contract. And when you do that, in our day, there is of course ramifications because, in court, they can bring out that you signed to do this, and you didn't do that. Therefore, there can be no punitive damages and whatever that you're liable for because of what you covenanted, contracted in a binding oath with a notary in a court, whatever to do. In that day, they didn't have any of that. So what they would do is they would cut a covenant by cutting open animals and splitting two sides of them and forming a path. So now you have part of the heifer, part of the goat. You have part of it over here, part of here. And what do you have in the middle? In the middle, you got a blood path. And can you imagine a bride and groom walking the blood path? So romantic. What was being said? What was being communicated? What was being communicated was this: if I failed to uphold my end of the agreement here, may I be like these two animals? May I be torn in two? May I be torn in two if I don't do what I'm promising to do to you?

And it was a way of saying solemnly, I swear this will be so. This is I cross my heart, and I hope to die. And I'll stick a needle in my eye. It was intense. It was saying, no, no. And if you weren't willing to go through or cutting a covenant, the other side knew you weren't serious about this because, in the strictest, harshest terms possible, you were saying in front of the community in the cutting, I'm actually selling you this land. I'm actually promising I will do. I'm actually promising I'll be faithful to you. I'm cutting a deal with you here. And so after the animals were spread out, both parties would walk through the blood path. And so God and Abraham were about to go through a ceremony. God saying, I promise to do all this for you. And all you have to do is walk with Me and believe in Me and basically essentially, be perfect, as I'm perfect. And we will both do this together, Abraham. So just keep doing that, and I'll do that. And God was saying to Abraham, if I don't keep up My end of the bargain, then may My immortality be reduced to mortality. May I die, may I be torn to pieces if I don't keep my end of the bargain. And Abraham, if you don't keep your end of it, if you go back to Ur, whether physically or just in your heart and stop being My son in this way, then may this happen to you as well.

Abraham agreed to the arrangement. Abraham's like I don't know how this is exactly going to work. Is He going to show up? Abraham's waiting. Abraham's waiting. God, in his classic bizarre strategy, now as they had promised to do this, He had spread out all the things. No one shows up. God doesn't show up. How like Him? Christ, like years later, Abraham's scaring vultures away, like, where's God? Some of us right now, like where is God? You don't even hear the promised to kill me if I don't obey him. And then eventually, Abraham gets sleepy. Abraham falls asleep next to all this meat and vultures, who are now probably scooping in for a delicious snack. And Abraham, while he's sleeping, the Bible says a terror and a darkness spread over the land. Just the intensity of what was about to happen. The horror of what was about to happen because he was about to make an oath that he would never be able or capable of living out. And so God wouldn't allow it. God caused Abraham to fall sleep. And while Abraham was sleeping, the Bible says, look at it one more time. A smoking oven and a burning torch showed up and passed through the pieces all by himself.

Two different manifestations of who God is: fire and smoke. All through scripture: fire and smoke. God is a consuming fire. There's a smoke when you see God show up. And so in some have even drilled down further, the fire for God the Father, the oil in the lamp for the Holy Spirit, and the blazing torch, which is always a picture of the messiah figure: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit here walking through the pieces, twice for God and for Abraham. And Abraham wakes up. What's that smell? He looks. And he sees all of the meat is cooked, and it is well done. And he sees the blood has all been consumed. It's now just a burnt out path. And he says to God, when are we going to walk through and cut this Deal And God says to Abraham, already did it. He says, what do you mean? When did you do it? And God says, I took care of it while you were sleeping. And the significance and the weight of that would have hit Abraham like a ton of bricks because what God was saying is may I be put to death if I don't keep My end of the bargain. And may I be put to death when you don't keep your end of the bargain. And that's exactly what happened.

Mark's gospel puts it this way. It says, at the sixth hour, a darkness, horror came upon the land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? Which is translated "my God, my God, why have You forsaken me"? You see, because God, who had made a promise to always keep up His end of the bargain when we didn't keep out ours. He was torn to pieces on the cross, and He died to purchase our salvation. What's the point? The point is you don't get salvation by achieving. You get salvation by receiving and believing God's promises. And this here is the gospel, and this is what will give us power, that smell of smoke and remembering that our standing before God. We thought He was sleeping. But truth is He was working, so He could perform salvation while we were sleeping. And He took care of it at the cross for us once and for all. And this is the message to be carried to the world. And this is the message to be carried to our sons and daughters. And this is the message that will change the world.

If you look at verse 17 again, the two things that walked through the pieces was a smoking oven and a burning torch. I think we understand a torch. Only what it was then is very different than what it is today. A torch would be basically an oil lamp, but this kind had four wicks. And each of those four wicks pointed to the north, the south, the east, and the west. And it gave light off in all directions. The burning oven that you see in verse 17 is not an oven like in your house. What it was a device used to carry a coal from place to place, so you could bring fire with you as a nomadic person. They had these little devices called fire pots. And you would take a coal, you take an ember, and you would surround it with a little bit of camel hair. You'd surround it with a little bit of things that would keep the fire glowing, a dull glowing fire. And that way, you could transport fire for 8 to 12 hours. And as long as you carefully brought that coal and start a new fire, they were able to pass down the same fire from generations. A fire that burnt in your father's oven could burn in your oven, and a grandchild could be given as an inheritance, a sacred flame from a fire that continued.

And I'm telling you, I'm believing, Fresh Life, that as we rise up understanding the gospel, as it is bought for us by the blood of Jesus Christ, who walked through the pieces by Himself. It will take this message to the north and take it to the south and take it to me and take it to the west. And we will get to declare this message of freedom one generation to another. We will declare God's mighty works, and we will be our sons and our daughters and our sons' sons and our sons' daughters saved and set free. Until Jesus Christ comes back, this fire must never go out. And it blesses me so much to think about us saying to God, why didn't you meet me halfway? And God say, I can't. I can't meet you halfway. I've already done My part, and I've already done your part. He's saying I love you so much. I'll bless you if it kills me. And church, it already did. Amen.

Father, we're grateful to sit in the hushed beauty and stillness that comes into our soul when we understand the gospel. Not through something we earn but something we receive. We pray now for people to be set free from religion that has us walking through those pieces and walking in forgiveness.

If you're here as we're praying at every Fresh Life location and you need to turn from religion and turn from sin and turn from trying to fix it all and trying to understand it all and turn to Jesus in faith, we want to give you space and time to make that decision. The question is, have you trusted Christ, who walked through the pieces, to be your all-sufficiency? Do you know you're going to heaven because of what He's done for you, not because of how good you've been? If not, you can right now if you would believe in Him and what He did in dying and rising from the dead. I'm going to pray a prayer. And if you're ready to trust Jesus as your Savior, I want you to pray this prayer out loud after me. God will hear you, and He will heal you. I'm going to ask the church family to pray with us to show we're with you in this decision. Say this, mean it in your heart.

Dear God, I know I'm a sinner. I can't fix myself. Please come into my heart, help me follow You. Thank You for dying for me. Help me to live for You. By Your grace, in Jesus' name.

With heads still bowed, eyes still closed, I'm going to give you space and time to demonstrate that new faith by indicating you've made that decision. I'm going to count to three, and when I get to three, every location, church online, if you made that decision to give your heart to Jesus, shoot your hand up the air. This is the chance to say I just gave my heart to Christ. I'm going to follow Him. I'm going to trust His identity, not my perception of my reality. 1, 2, 3, shoot your hands up, shoot your hands up. All across the church, we're celebrating with you as you make this decision.
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