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Levi Lusko - Corpses, Hair-Cuts and Cabernet


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Baby Monsters Series
1. Candybars, Squirrels and Homicide
2. Corpses, Hair-Cuts and Cabernet
3. Kings, Dragons, and a One-Night Stand
4. Redwoods, Revenge and Thirty Pieces of Silver

So when Jennie was pregnant with our first daughter Olivia our first child to be born, we had to go through, of course, the figuring out what are we going to call her adventure. And so we got this book, all the different baby names, we were looking through it, and we finally found the one that was like the name. Now we ended up eventually naming our daughter Olivia, but this name that came to us right away, we were so excited about it, Jennie and I were thrilled with it. We were like, this is her name, that's the one. And then we made the mistake of telling someone about it. Here's the pro tip, tell people the name that you've picked when you're introducing them to the baby. Because then all they're going to say is that's so nice, even if they don't think that. That's the trick on that, by the way. But we told my sister. We told my sister the name we were thinking about and we were so excited. I expected her to share my enthusiasm and to reciprocate enthusiasm and tell us what a wonderful job we did selecting a name. And we told her the name and she said, well, I wouldn't name her that. I wouldn't name her that if I were you. And taken aback, not expecting this at all, I said to my sister, I said, why?

Now this is the same sister, by the way, who was implicated in the squirrel assassination attempt that we talked about last week. If you weren't with us, do check out the podcast. It was called Candy Bars, Squirrels, and Homicide: that was the title of last week's message. But my sister says to me, you can't name her that because it sounds like a stripper's name, that's what she said. She said, that sounds like the name of a stripper. And so we didn't name her that. Now I'm not going to tell you what the name was in case that's your name, I wouldn't want to, I've actually since then met some people with that name, and you know what? They seem to have all their clothes on. So I don't know what she was thinking about when she said that. It was a perfectly good name, but what she did was she tainted it for us. And since it was still something that was so small and so vulnerable, this idea, it was, we were easily swayed from it. You see, here's the point: we're in a series of messages and this is week 2, and the series is called Baby Monsters. And kind of the theme behind the series is that huge terrible deeds come from teeny tiny seeds.

So big things, all things, they start out small. And what we're going to learn to do is we're going to learn to take out the things that could become big problems in our lives and we're going to squish them when they're small. Because like the name, like the name of my daughter that we were thinking about, it was vulnerable because it was still little. And if we would've just waited and let it get bigger, it would've become more powerful, it would've had momentum behind it, it would've had a person behind it. We never would have introduced, here's your niece and she would never have said that to her face. And so here's what's cool about this connection, is that we're going to open up our Bibles to Judges, Chapter 16. And if you don't have a Bible, no problem at all, we're going to put scriptures up for you on the screen. We never want you to feel uncomfortable or out of place if you don't own a Bible or have a Bible, or even if did, if you would know how to find the book of Judges if someone had a gun to your head. So we're going to put the scriptures up on the screen for you, and we just would say, thanks for being here.

If you're new to this whole thing, If a Bible study, if church, if all this is foreign to you and your eyes are a little bit big, please feel welcome here, and we don't have anything up on you. Some of us, we just have been here longer. So we figured a few things out, we'd love to let you know about those things. So anyhow, Judges 16, we're going to meet someone who discovered two things. He discovered, number one, the power of monsters once they get big. He discovered the hard way: how strong and how hard the monsters can be to take out when you let them get full size in your life. And he could have taken them out when they're small, but didn't. And then the second thing we're going to see in his life is that he also found what can happen when he didn't keep a secret. My wife and I, we should have kept a secret, and for the rest of our kids, we never told nobody. I never told anybody. Then over the years, we waited til they're like four to tell the name. And anyhow, so this person, he saw monsters inside that started small, get huge, and get out of control like a runaway snowball, but he also, his undoing, you could say, came about because he wasn't able to successfully keep a secret. His name's Samson, and his story comes to us during a time called the Days of the Judges.

Now it comes right after the book of Joshua, and if you're new to the conversation about scripture, there was this nation called Israel, and God's plan through them was to bring about Jesus into this world. And Jesus was going to come into the world to solve what's wrong with the human heart, with the human soul, and ultimately he will, the Bible says, solve what's wrong with this entire fallen world. And the nation of Israel went through all of this movement, from one man to an entire family, and then eventually they became a nation. But they were in bondage in Egypt, and of course, God raised up a very famous person in human history, Moses, to lead them out of bondage in Egypt. And then his successor, a man named Joshua, led them into the promised land. And the nation of Israel, they walked with God, they kept it legit all the days of Joshua, and they did so until he died.

But the tragic thing was, they didn't have their eye on the next generation. The Bible says that as the next generation coming along basically abandoned this pursuit of the God who spoke through Moses and spoke through Joshua, and that's why we always have to have to focus on not just us knowing God, but telling these things to our children and our children's, always focusing on the next generation. Because the truth is, like Ronald Reagan said, freedom is always one generation away from extinction. And so this mentality to keep it alive and keep it alive and keep it alive. And so the nation of Israel, they're living in this country now that God had promised to them, and yet they turned away from following God. Now whenever they would do that, they would start to have huge problems. And the problem that showed up again and again and again was, they would have enemy neighbors that would start to basically move in on their territory. And one of the major problems was a country called Philistia, and the Philistines were the people that lived in this area. There's a very famous one that you probably know of who was really tall and he was killed by a little shepherd kid named David with a slingshot. Goliath was the giant and he was a Philistine. So that was this country.

And so they would begin to subjugate Israel and cause problems for them. And during that era, the nation of Israel began to pray, because it was going bad for them and they were in bondage. So they began to pray to God, and so you know what God did, in this story that we're about to read about, God spoke to two people, and they had struggled their entire marriage with infertility. They'd been unable to have a baby, and it was a source of difficulty for them. And God sent an angel to speak to them and say, hey, you're going to have a baby. And I just believed, just for those of you who would say, that's our story, we've never been able to have a baby, it's always been in our heart. I'm going to tell you, God could change that in a moment of time, God could just work in your life in a moment, and we would believe that for you. And God can make a way even when humanly speaking there is no way. And maybe that would look like adoption, maybe that would look like a divine God just miraculously working, and there being conception where there was no hope of it before. And so take heart.

And so this couple, the angel says, you're going to have a, I wish you would read it. Go back, read Judges 13 and 14, 15. We're going to jump into 16, but it was a dramatic story, because the woman's there and she meets the angel first, and he's talking to her about this baby that's going to come and how awesome he's going to be, he's going to be super strong because he's going to be a judge. Now when you think judge, you think black robe, you think gavel, you think case closed, I guess that's a detective. Not guilty, right? When you think judge, that's what you think about. But you should think about like the Avengers, because that's more of what they were. The Avengers were these rogue, like crazy, they weren't a part of the Department of Justice, these guys just operated by their own rules. They were mercenaries, they were bounty hunters, they just did their own thing, Chuck Norris status, right? I mean, these guys were unbelievable and they played by their own rules. All of them were different, all of them more quirky, all of them were flawed, some of them were really screwed up.

And as you read the stories in Judges, it's grisly. But basically, he says, you're going to have a baby and this baby is going to be an Avenger. And she's like, stop, I gotta get my husband, he's not going to believe this if I tell him, so I need you to meet him. The angel's like, all right, I'll wait here for a minute. And so the angel is just like, I've got stuff to do, but all right. And it's a great story. I wish you would read it because it's truly fantastic. And he makes a great escape. Angels, they know how to bail. And the angel in this story, who many people believe is not really just an angel, but actually Jesus, because he's not just identified as an angel, but the Angel of the Lord. So maybe it's Jesus here hanging out talking to Samson's mom and dad. But when it comes time to leave, there's a fire by that time, and then he jumps into the fire and goes to Heaven in the smoke. So they're like, man, he knows how to make an exit. At which point the dad gets really scared and he goes, we're going to die. And she goes, no, no, if we're going to die, he would've killed us, he wouldn't have just come and talked to us and jumped in the fire, right?

See, he would've thrown us into the fire. It's just a very human conversation. And part of the reason we know quite frankly that the Bible's not made up is because you wouldn't write it like that. You would write it better than that if you were making up a story, but why's it written that way? Because it happened, you know what I'm saying? It's unbelievable. So they're going to have a baby, and this baby is going to be like an Avenger and he's going to be strong. Literally there's going to be supernatural strength in your baby's life, but God gave a few particular guidelines. Here's some rules, and this baby, because he's going to be given such enormous strength, there's going to be some particular rules he's going to live by. And so what followed was him telling them how this baby was to be raised and how he was to live his life that would set him apart and make him different. And of course, what we're about to read were the rules for his life, this is not what God's calling us to do necessarily, nor in this age is it how we approach crisis, it was unique for Samson.

Here's the three things. He was never to touch anything that was dead. It would make it ritually unclean, so nothing dead. And no wine, number two. And then he was never to cut the hair of his head. And if you've ever heard the story of Samson, this is the part where you start thinking about, oh, that's right, he had a long hair, this dude had the dreadlocks, literally had braids. And so that was Samson. He was never to have anything that was dead touch his fingers, he was never to drink any kind of alcohol, and then thirdly, he was never to cut his hair. So corpses, no haircuts, no Cabernet. Those were the rules. And so they cleared that up, and OK, that's how we'll raise him. You're God, OK, that's what you want. This is the unique rules that go with the extreme power.

Now the exact particulars don't line up necessarily to the date we're living in, but here's what is true of all of us: where there's great power, there is great responsibility. And to whom much is given, much is required. And so this was to be the balance. Yes, great strength, but here's how you can show me that you're dependent on me. Here's the three simple things that you can do to declare you're dependent on me, and I would say that what we're doing as a church by giving some of the first of this year over to prayer and fasting is our way of saying, God, we're dependent on you. And the world's like, why wouldn't you eat right now? So weird, why are you not eating normal food? It's like, we're just saying, hey look, we're just wanting to declare to God that we're dependent on him. We want to do something that shocks the system a little bit, something a little bit drastic just to say, God, we want to depend on You. And this whole year that's in front of us, we just want to depend on You and not our own resources.

And so that's our heart's desire, for this to be an outward symbol of something that's true and pure and real on the inside. It wasn't not getting his hair cut that caused Samson to be powerful, it was God's strength on him. This was just his way of declaring to God, I trust in you and I'm going to do it through my whole life. Now, where we're going to jump in, he has been successfully fighting the Philistines. You would say to me, how successful has he been? I would say to you he's killed 1,030 Philistines with his bare hands using nothing, but get this, the jaw bone of a donkey, right? Every Avenger has their signature weapon. The captain had his shield, Hawkeye's bow and arrow, now he's got a sword, I don't know what's going on in that new trailer. It's wild, he's in Asia. But here's the truth. He's fighting with his bare hands one day, and he looks over and he sees the skull of a donkey, and he reaches over, he grabs the jawbone, smashes it off, and just starts beating this guy. He likes it so much, he keeps it with him. He's like, Samson smash, you know what I'm saying? That's his weapon. 1,030 armed, trained soldiers with his bare hands. Nothing but the jawbone of a donkey.

So things are going good. At which point, of course, the Philistines mobilize to take out this guy who's able to take out all their soldiers. So what do they do? Well it has not gone well sending soldiers to get him, so what do they do? They recruit a spy by the name of Delilah. And Delilah is offered an enormous sum of money if she would only figure out the secret to his incredible power. If she could get him to divulge, so she shows up somewhere where she thinks he's going to be, and she somehow lures him and tricks him and traps him into being with her, and the goal is for her to get him to tell her how he can be taken out. And so he holds up pretty good for a little while, but where we're going to jump in is when his will finally begins to crumble, Judges 16, Verse 16. "She kept out it day after day, nagging and tormenting him. Finally, he was fed up. He couldn't take another minute of it. He spilled it. He told her. A razor has never touched my head. I've been gods nazirite from conception. If I were shaved, my strength would leave me. I would be as helpless as any other mortal.

When Delilah realized that he had told her his secret, they sent for the Philistines tyrants. She sent for the Philistine tyrants, telling them, come quickly, this time he's told me the truth. They came, bringing the bribe money promised to her. And when she got him to sleep, his head on her lap, she motioned to a man to come and cut off the seven braids of his hair. Immediately he began to grow weak. His strength drained from him. Then she said, the Philistines are on you, Samson! He woke up thinking, I'll go out like always and shake free. He didn't realize that God had abandoned him. The Philistines grabbed him, gouged out his eyes, and took him down to Gaza. They shackled him in irons and put him to the work of grinding in the prison".

And Jesus I pray that through these truly disturbing images and this so heartbreaking story, you would help us to wake up to see what's really going on around us, what's really happening and the temptations that we face daily. And I pray for us to see Samson as a cautionary tale, that even his life would be a blessing to ours, and that if we could almost hear what Samson would say to us with what we're facing today, that we would able to act wisely in response to that. And I pray that if anyone at our church this week doesn't know you, anyone watching this message online or on TV, we pray you draw them to yourself. And we pray for a miracle to take place in their hearts. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.


Now we've just read about the worst day, unquestionably the worst day of Samson's life. I mean, imagine you were strong your whole life, your entire life. Every time you went to flex your arm, just the power of God rippled through your body and you were able to work in an incredible way. And then on this day, you wake up from sleep thinking that once again you would, thinking that once again you'd be able to fight this enemy and have no power from God on you. Like being all of a sudden like a space man with the oxygen turned off, like getting a kink in a scuba diver's supply line of oxygen. Just all of a sudden he's gasping for air, and before he knows it, he's being clubbed upside his head. And he wakes up in a prison. And he thinks at first it's just dark or he thinks perhaps there's bandages on his eyes, but then how horrified he feels coming to and realizing his eyes have been taken from him and he's in chains, he who can never be bound his entire life, he's now in chains in this prison. And it's meant to be a disturbing image. It's meant to be a cautionary tale. It's meant to fill our hearts with unease so that we might look at our lives anew with perspective and clarity and wisdom.

And of course, the question that were intended to ask is, how could he be so foolish? How could he do what he did, willingly giving a Philistine the secret to his strength? And I think that you and I are at a disadvantage if we just think of this in terms of a secret. Like oh, I swear you to secrecy. You keep my secret. No, because when we talk about a secret between us and God, it speaks of intimacy. In fact, the Book of Psalms puts it this way. This is Psalm 25. It says, the secret of the Lord is with those who fear him. And to live in fear of God is not to be scared of God, although it involves that when you understand who he is, right? A lot of people are like, well God's got some explaining to do when I finally meet him. I doubt it. I doubt that's how the interrogation is going to go, because most people who meet God fall down and pretend like they're dead because it's such an awe-inspiring thing to be confronted with such majesty and power and glory. And the first thing God almost always says to people who meet him is do not fear. Why? Because they're scared.

Someone once said, I love it so much, it's CS Lewis, it's putting words in the mouth of Lucy after she got to meet Aslan who in the book The Chronicles of Narnia represents Jesus. She said, after spending time with him, she could never be sure if he was more like spending time with a thunderstorm or the kitten. And there was just almost as gentleness but this fury, and I just love so much that God is terrifying in an all-consuming fire, but at the same time there's a tenderness to him, there's a sweetness to him. And he says to you today, yes, I created the world and I have all the power, and people who die are going to stand before me to be judged. But I also love you, I'm also for you, I'm also like a kitten that I want to bring gentleness into your life and love into your soul. And so here's Samson as he has a secret, and the secret speaks to this intimacy with God. And that was like the mark of him fearing God: keeping the secret, keeping this intimacy something just between him and his Savior, him and the God who flowed through him, and yet he's willingly giving it away.

This is Samson becoming Superman, inviting Lex Luthor over to the Fortress of Solitude, and giving him an Amazon delivery of kryptonite. Here, you might, I'm going to go to sleep in the other room. Here's some kryptonite, promise me you won't use it, and then he just, it's like, whoa, whoa, like as you read this, don't you just want to like wave your arms in front of Samson's since face and be like, hey no, no! She's bad for you! That girl is poison! It's like there's nothing about this that is OK. You just go, how does he not see this? How does he not see this? She's not right him. How does he not see that this is a trick? Samson, how do you not see that this is a setup? Here's the question: how could someone who started out so well end up so badly? That's the question. But it's a question we don't want to ask about Samson, it's a question we want to ask this way: how can we avoid such a thing? How can we make sure this is not our story? Well we have to understand the ingredients to his demise. It started with a small compromise. That's where this began. It ends up with him lying his head on the lap of a prostitute, telling her all of the secrets should be between him and God. But that's not where it started out. It started out with little bitty little gray area.

You're like, I don't see that in this passage. Well you gotta back up. So back that thing up, the Bible, up to Judges 14, Verse 5. Keep your minds out of the gutter. It says in the Bible, "Samson went down", this is a long time before he met Delilah. "Samson went down to Timnah. And when he got to the vineyards of Timnah", wait a minute. The vineyards of Timnah? Now question: what does a guy who doesn't drink do hanging out in a vineyard? Does that seem weird to you? I like the ambiance. I like to see the vines growing around me, I like the smell of grapes, bad idea, pal. Like this is not the place for you to hang out. When you're on a diet, you don't go to Krispy Kreme Donuts. I spent a couple days this week in Las Vegas, Nevada surrounded by every restaurant you've ever seen in your entire life, and I found myself like, I would never have intentionally come to, like I'm going to plan a trip to Las Vegas this week, that'll be a great place to be on a fast. Like no, I say, oh my gosh, the sensory overload and the stimulation.

I was there to preach, but I'm walking around and it's like, oh, Emeril's brand new restaurant, Gordon Ramsay's brand new restaurant, it's like everywhere is just food to eat, drink, excess, enormous! And I was just, it was, Imagine choosing to go be there, and I had someone with me who would have told other people if I would have done things that I wouldn't be proud of doing. And yet imagine how crazy it would be to intentionally go and be around that. I mean Samson, there other places to get Buffalo wings. You go to Chili's, you go to Applebee's, why you gotta pick Hooters, bro? I mean, that is, I know you really like the wings there, but that's not a good decision. Do you see that? This is not a good decision. Samson, what are you surrounding yourself, this is a small compromise. Well technically I'm not drinking, I'm just around it. I'm not even going to drink this cup, I just like to swish the wine around, occasionally smell it. Oh, I'm not going to drink it, though, I promise you that. I am not going to drink it. This is a person who is trying to eat healthy but keeps going to the refrigerator to look at the pie. I just want to make sure it's doing good. Yep, it's doing good.

I got a friend who has his wife put water on the pizza when it's done. Like we've got our slice, he'll put water on it immediately because I'll eat all, you see, it takes that willingness to say, I'm going to remove this from me. Remove yourself from the path of evil. Where is there a small compromise, what is the vineyard for you? Maybe it's a vineyard for you, right? But for all of us, there's something there where we're putting ourselves around. If it's something that we've set in our soul, our secret to God, we're not going to do this, right? Just because you can doesn't mean you should. That is really important. There's a lot of gray area things, there's a lot of liberty things. We've the liberty to do a lot of things that wouldn't be good for us to put ourselves around. So for all of us, there's situations, there's people, there's temptations that we're making it harder than necessary for ourselves because we're choosing to go through the vineyard of Timnah.

Now look what happens when he's walking through this vineyard, a lion attacks him. This is crazy. A lion comes at him roaring. Now pause right there. The Bible says that the devil is like, this is 1 Peter, Chapter 5, Verse 8, "The devil is like a roaring lion who wants to devour us". Now if I'm you and I see a lion attack you and you're doing something stupid, I'm going, you know what, God? I get it, I got it. A lion attacked me. Maybe I shouldn't be in the vineyard. Maybe just maybe this is a crazy place for a guy who doesn't drink wine to be hanging out. The lion comes out. I mean, is God not so good to go, Samson, turnaround, buddy. This is not where you want to be. Here's a small compromise. You're not drinking, you're just hanging out at the, that's not a wise way to live your life. Well what does Samson do with this power? The Bible actually says, "he tore apart the lion like a normal person would tear apart a goat".

I have questions. Who are these people that are tearing apart all of these goats, right? And why is that the analogy? I've heard of a knife through butter, but like, he tore that lion up like you or I would tear apart a goat. I'm like, why would you do that? And yet obviously that was easy. I've never done it, but apparently it's a really easy thing to do. You ever see a goat? I'm going to tear that thing apart. And yet he tore up that lion and went his way, and obviously didn't get, that maybe, just maybe that was not the best of omens. So his small compromises continue. Verse 8 of Chapter 14. "Some days later, when he came back through the same area", so he's back in the vineyard. This guy is not that smart, back in the vineyard. "He made a little detour to look at what was left of the lion". Curiosity got the best of him. Huh, I wonder how that dead lion's doing? "And there was a wonder, a swarm of bees were in the lion's carcass, oh, and honey! He scooped it up in his hands", pause right there.

He's not supposed to touch anything dead, is he? But there's honey in that dead thing. I know I shouldn't. But I bet I could get just a little bit of honey out without getting any of the dead on me. Do you see how much he's playing with fire? I'm going to get the honey, maybe if I get a stick, I can get it loose. So he's inches away from a horrifying decision with massive implications, not just for him, but for the people that he's meant to rescue. But he's toying with it, he's screwing with it, and he's able to do it. He's able, oh good job, Samson. There are other places to get honey! "He got some in his hand", Verse 9, "and kept going, eating as he went. He rejoins his father and mother and gave them some honey, and they ate, but he didn't tell them that he had scooped out the honey from a lion's carcass". Yeah, because his mama would have slapped him upside the head so hard. How many times do I gotta tell you you're special, Samson? How many times do I got to tell you there's a call of God on your life, Samson? How many times do I got to tell you the time an angel of the Lord came and told me about the plan that God has for your life and then jumped up in the fire and rode it like smoke all the way to Heaven? Samson, don't be Messing around with this!

Let me ask you this question: what is there in your life that you're not telling people who are for you about? What is going on in your life that you're not going to tell your parents about or someone who loves Jesus and loves you that you're not being forthright with other people about it? Where were you? Oh, just out. What were you doing? Oh, just things. Well, how's that going? Pretty good. What are you being evasive about? Because that's a telltale sign of a compromise, that there's areas of going, I'm not going to tell you about that. Why? Because he knew what they would tell him and he didn't want to hear it. So small compromise, do you see a trend? Small compromise. Now I'm going back to the vineyard, now he's alone. I'm just going to hang out and almost touch, he's almost touching dead things, almost drinking the alcohol. Samson's goal is to get as close as he can without actually giving in.

So what happens? Well this small compromise leads to him being, it always happens this way, slowly desensitized. Slowly desensitized. Go spin around with your eyes closed long enough, you'll lose your bearings. I don't care how good your internal compass is, eventually all of us, the inner ear gets the equilibrium off. And so Samson is slowly desensitized. How does it happen? It happens slowly over time. One little compromise, another little compromise, another little compromise, and another little compromise. And so time passes. You're going, how long? Well, let's find out. Chapter 15, Verse 20. "So Samson judged Israel for 20 years in the days of the Philistines". Now it's really important that you see in between Chapter 15 and Chapter 16, two decades goes by. We can read the Bible, and in a couple of paragraphs, you're like, oh man, it happened so quickly. God's working slowly in my life, but in Abraham's life it's so quickly. No, no, no, 20 years oftentimes is one turn of a page of the Bible. And so God's always working in real-time with people.

So Samson's touching the the lion almost, and drinking almost. And then two decades of that kind of living is inferred, and now where is he at? Verse 1, Chapter 16. "Samson went to Gaza and saw a prostitute, and so he went in to her". Hold on, wait, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, excuse me? Samson saw a prostitute and went in to her. How? Because of 20 years of small decisions. And now it doesn't even phase him at all. And you're like, well that's great for Samson. I would never do that. Hold on a second. You or I are kidding ourselves if we don't think we could be doing exactly what he does in 20 years. That 20 years from now, we could be so far from where God wants us to be. That 20 years now, we could be appallingly far from where we desire in our heart of hearts to be, and where God, when we were born, because God, let me tell you something. Samson's not the only one who God spoke great things over your birth. Over his birth. Every time God says: let another child be born, there's always something in His heart He dreams of being done.

There's always potential on your life, there's always a call of God in your life, there's always dreams that God has been dreaming, and wrongs that He intends to right, and people He intends to inspire, and things that He intends to be created and to be changed, there's a destiny. You are full of potential. Full of potential. But by the end of your life any potential that hasn't become reality all of a sudden becomes a tragedy. And the way we miss the mark on what our lives could have been is small compromise after small compromise, and then we become slowly desensitized. You ever notice how when you go into a hot tub it feels really hot? But then after you're in it for a while, it starts to not feel so hot? It's because you've become hot. You've become like that which you are in. And so now the hot tub no longer seems hot to you, and if you're at one of those places where you go from hot spring to hot spring, you eventually get into a tub you never could have started with, but your body slowly has been conditioned and accustomed to it.

So you become habituated to that which you do every day. So that's the problem with the deceitfulness of a small compromise. You would say, that little thing, that's not that big of a deal. No it's not. The problem is what it's going to lead to and what that's going to lead to and what that's going to lead to, and then you wake up one day, you saw a prostitute, you went in to her and thought nothing of it. And you or I, all of us could do something which today we would say, I would never do that, and any of us could do that, that very thing, because the seed for every sin is in every heart. All of us have those seeds. And if we allow those tiny seeds to lead to the enormous deeds, it's going to be because we didn't stop it when it was a baby monster, when it was just showing up as a little compromise, and God tugged at us and sent that little lion at us, and you know what I'm talking about. It shows up in your conscience, it shows up with a text that comes at the scarily right or wrong time depending on how you're talking about it.

And all of a sudden, you realize God's saying, no, this is not the way, and you have in that moment the opportunity to take the way of escape that God presents to you every time you're on the path to sin. Every time you're on the path to sin, God is gracious to send you that little way of escape. But Samson became slowly desensitized. Why? Because he was playing this game. The game of how far can I stray from God but still technically be with him, right? That's the game if you're a teenager and you're too cool for your parents you play when you won't go with them to a public place. How far can I be from my parents but still be with them, right? And I used to play that game and now I got kids playing that game and I'm horrified by it, right? It's like, I'm that parent now. No, but that mentality that says, how far can I get from God? Because I'm a pastor, I hear the same questions that every pastor gets throughout the world. Can I still do this and can a Christian do this? And it's this mentality that says, I understand that, wanting to understand the boundaries, that's great, but this desire to get away with as much as we can. It's almost like Samson's playing, viewing his Christian life as Operation. How close can I get to the buzzer but not have the lions nose light up red, you see what I'm saying?

And that shouldn't be our heart. Why? Because Paul says, this is Romans, "Make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts". That should be your heart if you've put on the Lord Jesus Christ. All of us have put on the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore our quest should be to make no provision, no allowance, knowing that sin wants to get in, knowing the enemy wants to mess us up, knowing he wants to keep us back from what we ourselves want to see accomplished in our lives, our hearts should be, I'm not letting you have a foothold because you're always going to try and turn it into a stronghold. I'm not going to let you get into my life because you're going to keep me back. Yeah, it would be fun right here to do this little thing, but I want more, what God wants for me. I want something better. I don't want to feel good for an evening, I don't want a few minutes of illicit pleasure on this laptop. It's only going to open me up to more shame. I don't want a couple of days of pleasure, I want a lifetime of pleasing God and strength and power and glory. I want a righteous legacy. I'm thinking generationally. I'm not just thinking about, how does this feel now? What are my friends doing now? What would be awesome to give in to now?

1 Corinthians 10 says, "So beware if you think it could never happen to you, lest your pride becomes your downfall". I think Samson thought, I'm strong enough to handle some temptation. I think some of us, that's our mentality. I'm strong enough to handle this. I'm strong enough to handle this. And I wonder if it's not our strength that's for some of us going to be our undoing. That we feel, we'll know when it's time. We'll know when it's gone too far, not knowing the disorienting, blinding, habituating power of sin to cause us to be hypnotized to its spell. That's why Jesus said there should be an intensity in our hearts about sin. He put it this way, you should be willing to gouge your eyes out. You should be willing to gouge, you know, Samson never would have had his eyes gouged out if there would have been the kind of intensity in his life to say, I'm willing to gouge my eyes out. Now you're like, Jesus, why would He say that? He wanted you to feel like, oh my gosh, that you would almost do anything.

That's what He's saying, He's not saying cut your eyes out, He's saying, do something crazy to your sin or your sin will do something crazy to you. You better be sure the devil is willing to gouge your eyes out, so you should have that same kind of wholehearted commitment to say, God, I'll follow you anywhere. I'll do anything, and anything that would keep me back from Your will, I will view it as a tumor and cut it out relentlessly. But Samson didn't. He toyed with sin, was desensitized to sin, and that's why the third step in the journey, Samson was taken out. And the Philistines got what they wanted. Their main man taken off the battlefield. Taken out. Eyes poked out. Power drained from him. Chains upon him. Put into prison. Made to grind grain, going round and round and round. Most importantly, not out there on the battlefield doing what God brought him in this world in order to do, cause he gave away the secret that God gives to those who want to please Him.

And it should just cause you to feel sick. It should cause you to feel that sense of, I don't want that to be my story, and that's God's intention, of course, for all of us. My sermon in a sentence is this. When you ignore God's instruction, you reject His protection. When you're ignoring His instruction, you're saying, God, I don't want you to protect me, I can do it on my own. My friend, Pastor James McDonnell, likes to say that whenever God says don't, He actually means don't hurt yourself. And He only tells you to do something in order to keep you back from something that you don't even know is a problem that's coming your way. So Samson ruined his life not all at once, one step at a time. But good news is, that's not where his story ends. Because after he was taken out he was given a fresh start. And that's where his story actually ends. His story ends with vibrancy, his story ends with beauty, his story ends with humility. Because there in that prison, there with his eyes poked out there, a shadow of who he once was, he began to be a broken person.

And he began for the first time to really see God. It took him losing his sight to actually see things as they really were. And the worst day of Samson's life, isn't that what we called it? Turned out to be the best day of his life, because there he was humbled and there he was broken and there he began to pray again, and Judges 16:22, "The hairs of his head began to grow back". Don't you just love that God still was committed to Samson even when Samson wasn't committed to God? Now you say to me, you say, but the text says God abandoned him! God only pulled back in order that Samson would feel what it feels like to be alone, in order that he could flood back in. And sometimes God has to pull back so He can rush in, and He has to give you the space to make a mess in order to come in with His arms and comfort him as Samson's hair began to grow, and humility was within his heart, and his heart was on God, his strength began to flow again. And even though he was blind, he began to see a strategic opportunity, and get this, he took out 1,030 men in his entire two decades of ministry, while on the final day of his life, God gave him one last opportunity. He saw a hole and he went for it.

I'm telling you, he broke through, he pushed some pillars down with God's power, and he killed in one moment 3,000 of the Philistines. He killed three times as many people on the last day of his life as he ever did on all the best days of his life added together. And so what I want to speak over you is that it's not too late. What I want to say to you is that your greatest days could come after your biggest failure, but you've got to humble yourself. You've got to surrender your heart to God. No matter what, I don't care what you've lost, no one's lost more than Samson, he lost everything. And yet he would say, I gained everything, because in that moment I truly gained Christ and found out that He was all I need. God is willing to use you no matter how much you've screwed your life up, that's the story of Samson. You've let the monsters get big? Well your God is even bigger.

My friend, Pastor Greg Groschel put it really well when he said this: "Satan loves to make strong men weak, but God loves to make weak men strong". So the best thing we can do is say, God, here's my weakness, and God can work with that. When you say God, here's my strength, the devil says, I can work with that. But when you say, God, I'm weak, I know I'm susceptible to temptation, I know I could make a mistake, God floods in with his power, floods in with his grace. Samson discovered what you need to know. Even when he had done something so, so stupid, his eyes were gouged out, he was still the apple of God's eye. And at the end of the day, what we're left with in the story of Samson is a picture of Jesus. Because Samson's greatest military victory of his life happened in the hour of his death. As he pushed those pillars down, he died. And as he died, a great victory took place. That's Jesus. As Jesus hung there on the cross, not pushing pillars over, as Jesus hung there on the cross, being a pillar to support us, dying for our sin, He breathed His last, and brought not death to people, brought life to people. He spoke a better word than Samson.

Samson died praying, Lord, would you kill these people who took my eyes? Jesus died praying, will you forgive those people who have taken my life? And that prayer is a prayer for your forgiveness, and that prayer is a prayer for my forgiveness, because all of our sins are what put Jesus on that cross. So would you pray with me? God, we're so grateful for this story that leaves us looking to You, a better Avenger, a better brother, a better judge than Samson. The friend of sinners, a willing Savior. As we're all praying, all of us thinking about where we're out with God on this journey, if some part of this message has convicted you, maybe it's that you see that there's an area of compromise in your life and God's opening your eyes to it and you need to act on it. Maybe it's that you've been dishonest with people who love you. You've been hiding that drinking. You've been doing that secret thing again that's not directly wrong, but it could lead to something wrong. And you would just say, God, I hear you, I hear you speaking to me, I hear you calling my name, that's a lion. I'm not going to mess with it like pretend it's a goat. I'm going to see it as the lion that it is. I'm going to cut the hand off. I'm going to be willing to take drastic action. If you're just saying, God, I hear you, could I just ask every location you raise your hand up with me? You're saying, thank you, Jesus, for opening my eyes to the baby monsters I'm pretending are nice.

Father, help us to live these holy lives, realizing that's the best way to fullness of joy and pleasure evermore. You can put your hands down. I want to now give an invitation to anybody with us this week, and you've never given your heart to Jesus, you've never opened the door of your life to forgiveness and peace. It's not good things that's going to get you to Heaven. It's not being religious that's going to get you to Heaven. The Bible says that whoever believes in Jesus, that God loves you so much, He's willing to save you because of what Christ did on the cross for you. He bought you for Himself. It's incredible to think about. He was willing to purchase you out of slavery, out of punishment, out of hell. And if you would open the door of your heart to Him, He'll come into your life. But you can't be saved because your mom's a Christian, you can't be saved because your wife's a believer, or your brother goes to church, it has to be between you and God. That's why I'm going to in just a moment pray a prayer. And if you want to be included in this prayer, I want you to say it out loud after me and God will hear you. And He'll come into your heart, He'll make you new. He'll become your friend and forgive you of your sins. Say this prayer if you're ready to turn to Jesus in faith.

Dear God, I know I'm a sinner. I can't fix myself. But I believe You can. I believe Jesus died for me and rose from the dead. I turn to you in faith. In Jesus' name I pray.

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