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Levi Lusko - Not A Good Person


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Before we get into our Bible study, would you help me welcome, joining all 12 locations and church online, our 13th Fresh Life Church location in Deer Lodge, Montana, meeting for the first time this week. Come on, let's welcome them in. Everybody at Fresh Life Deer Lodge, we are so glad that you are here. And we just speak and believe and pray grace upon what God's going to do as we now have church inside a prison. And we're so excited, so again come on. It's really a thrill and a privilege and a special opportunity. And our prayers are just going to God, asking him to not only work in the lives of those who are serving out a prison sentence and all of that and the reality of life with your family, your wife, and kids outside or whatever it is that's brought you to this moment, we just want to say, we speak life and strength and peace over your soul.

And so you just have people on the outside who love you and are praying for you. So thanks for being a part of this. Thanks for coming. We hope that you feel welcome here. This is not a church where you have to believe in order to belong. And so it's a safe place to listen to what scripture says about Jesus and to worship, and hopefully receive the love that you're no doubt feeling from our Fresh Life Impact Team, from a few different of our churches who are driving in each week to make this possible, so we're really grateful.

And I want to just throw out there how thankful I am for the entire prison staff that's accommodating this, and also the Department of Corrections in the state of Montana, that you would allow us the privilege of coming in and navigating through the complexity and realities of having church inside of prison. So we're excited about it. We know there's going to be some kinks we're going to need to work out. But we believe in the years to come, as we have a chance week in and week out to put on these worship experiences inside the walls of the prison, that God's going to do great things through it to His glory and to help people. And we all say grace, grace on that, amen? Amen, amen, so good. All right.

So the title of my message this week is Not a Good Person, Not a Good Person. I know you have to act really like, you have it all together. But I think we've all thought that meaning some of God's special children, you know, like we've all just, we've been smiling nice, but we're not a good person, right? Colossians, chapter 1, what I'm really talking about is, have you ever met a Cowboys fan? All right. So just reading the Bible, guys, here's what we find in Colossians 1:15-19. I'm just talking about the arrogance really. Here's what verse 15 says, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation". He's talking about Jesus. "For by Him, all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.

All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And 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. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell". You may be seated. And what we're doing in this series, and this is week two of a series, what we like to do is we like to take a collection of talks, and they're all lumped together on the same topic. And so this collection of talks, we've called Creed. And what it is is an examination of the load-bearing walls of the Christian faith. It's important to identify, especially when you're doing any sort of remodel or construction work, what are the load-bearing walls. And that's where you want to be mindful, you're not removing them. It's, like, can we kind of remove this wall and make the kitchen and the dining room into just sort of a great room. It's like, that'd be great, but the roof would fall down.

So, no, you cannot remove that wall. It is important that it stays. It is essential to the structural integrity of this facility. That wall is a load-bearing wall. What the Creed is is it's basically identifying for us, out of this whole Bible and what we believe. And within the diversity of Christian churches that have existed, and that I believe bring God glory and have been since Jesus walked this earth, you know, the churches that see different things stylistically and different ways of doing things that are different and maybe not how we would do it or not our conviction, but we all agree on these things, right? There's the unity of the historic Christian faith and what we would say the load-bearing walls are, and that's what we're examining in this series between now and Easter. If we call ourselves Jesus' followers, what do we mean by that? And we're sort of nailing that down. And if you didn't catch the talk that began the series last week, please do grab our YouTube account or our podcast or app, which are freely available, where we see 60,000 to 80,000 people will listen to messages each week, just listening into what we get to be a part of here at church online and Fresh Life Church every single week.

And so it's amazing that you can do that, so check it out because I took a good amount of time, really nailing down some of what the creed is, what the creed isn't, what's valuable about them, what they don't do. One of the things we said was that it's a consolidation not an incantation. So it's not like a Harry Potter thing, where if you say, the big bad spider leaves because you said something, you know. And neither is it punitive, where it's like, oh, I sinned last week. I'd better say the Creed 14 times today, instead of 11. And God's like, good, OK, good thing. 14? OK, we're good, because if it had been just 12, no. You know, there's not value in it except so far as where it's truth about scripture that informs our mind and encourages our hearts. We're basically taking a big book of truth, and we're nailing it down to what is essential about it. Or as we said, it's the irreducible minimum when we talk about following Jesus. But if you missed last week, listen to that because I'm not going to go through all of that every single week. As we have new people jumping in, I'll just point you to that. And then we'll just kind of continue as we go.

Now the phrase in the Creed that we're going to be kind of focusing in on and guiding our time today is the line that says, "I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary". Hello, that's awesome. Would you just real quickly, put your hand towards me, if you believe in such things, and say a quick prayer. Ready, repeat after me. "Dear God, help this guy preach stuff that is way the heck over his head. In Jesus' name, amen". Thank you for that. I appreciate that. All right, because that's some, that's some stuff right there, man, right? We've now come in our study of the creed to the part that focuses on Jesus. And the Creed is basically an enlargement of what Jesus said when he told us how to baptize people. It's so helpful being a pastor, when Jesus said, hey, you want to baptize somebody, here's what you do. You baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

And that's the outline for the Creed. Because the first paragraph (what we studied last week) is all about the Father. Who is that guy, right? Who is He, right? And then the end of the Creed is a paragraph all about the Holy Spirit. And that'll be what we'll be focused on as we get to Easter Sunday, where it ends with this whole thing about, I believe in the Resurrection of the body and life everlasting, amen. Drops mic, walks off stage. I mean, amazing, right? Great, great ending, really nailed it. But the middle portion and what is the most bulky of the whole Creed is the paragraph in the middle that's all about Jesus. And we're now in it now. Now of the 24 statements that the Creed has, a full 14 of them are dedicated to Jesus. Why is that? Because at the center of the Creed and at the center of the Christian faith is the person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the center.

And in fact, He said, you want to read the whole Bible looking for religion. You want to read the whole Bible thinking you're going to find everlasting life? He goes, if you miss Me, you miss the entire thing because Christianity and the Bible, according to Jesus, is all about Him. And by the way, He said that to highly religious people, who thought they were so holy and so special and really God's gift to this planet, but they completely missed Him and didn't like Him much. And so what He said was, you're doing it wrong. You're doing it wrong if you can read scripture but miss Jesus because it's all about Him.

And so, as we come into this portion now, we're asking the question, who is Jesus exactly. Who is Jesus? That if we miss Him, we miss the whole thing. Or as one theologian put it and put it well, "Take away from Christianity the name and person of Jesus Christ and what have you left? Nothing! The whole substance and strength of the Christian faith centers in Jesus Christ. Without Him, there's absolutely nothing". One author in scripture actually said, if you miss Christ, then we're wasting our time. No Jesus? Then what are we even doing here? There's better things we could be doing. It'd be a waste of our time and energy. All right. So who is Jesus exactly?

I was in the grocery store this week. And while checking out, the bottles are being slid across and being scanned, and the containers and things are going by. Beep, beep. There's so many funny things about the grocery store experience, you know, like picking a lane, right? You ever been there? Where you're, like, which one should I go to? Oh, you should just pick the shortest one. No way, no way, that's a novice mistake because you could be in a short line but be behind some coupon-clipping, check-writing, chatty Cathy, you know. And, hm, I've made that mistake. And so it's not about just length of line, it's really what you're looking for is you're trying to size people up for efficiency, you know what I'm saying. And if you see a lot of friendliness, no, just pick a different lane, you know what I'm saying.

And so, I'm going through all this. And as the checkout thing's happening, I'm getting ready with my money because I want to be quick on the draw. And a bottle falls over, literally just tips over. She's, like, just grab that, bluh. And it just completely just, uh, and both of us, it was, like, we saw in each other's eyes, like, time stood still. And we're, like, nooooo. And just as she grabbed it, the words just flew out of her mouth, "Jesus, Joseph, and Mary". To which I wanted to respond, and Alexander Hamilton and Adolf Hitler. Like, are we just grabbing historical people and citing them? Like, what's happening here, right? Amelia Earhart, I can do it, too, right? Here's someone with a hammer, the Wright brothers, right? It's, like, what is this? Like, why Jesus?

Out of any name that could be spoken, out of anything that would fly out of our lips, here's the question. Who exactly is Jesus? Well, let's start with His name, Jesus. That's His first name. And by the way, His last name is not Christ, all right. That's important to understand. It's not like it was Mary Christ and Joseph Christ. And they had a baby, well, they named Him, Jesus Christ. No, listen, Christ is His title. Jesus is His name. And it was actually the name God picked for His son when He was born into this world. In Matthew's gospel, chapter 1, verse 21, speaking to Joseph, the angel Gabriel said, "And she," Mary, "will bring forth a Son," because he was getting ready to divorce this chick, man. I mean, they were betrothed. But in that day, you had to have a form of divorce to cancel an engagement. Our version is called engagement. They called it being betrothed. But you had to go through a divorce to break that off.

And he was getting ready to do so, but the angel is, like, no, no, no, it's good. She wasn't cheating on you, bro. This was actually God's doing, and you should be his adopted father. "She'll bring forth a Son, and you need to call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins". Now that's a pun, and it speaks to the destiny of Jesus. Because the name Jesus means "God is salvation". So he said, you need to name Him "God is salvation," for that's what He's going to do. God always intends for us to name something based on what we believe is going to be, right? God brought animals to Adam. He was to name them. And what he called them, so they were. So there's an importance to how we speak. How we speak really does shape reality. It shapes how we think.

One of the things that really showed us God was calling us to start this church originally was we really believed that God wanted to do a fresh work. God wanted to do a new thing. And if you've ever heard our story, the word Fresh Life was essential to us being here and not remaining in Southern California, where we were ministering happily or starting this church somewhere else. It was really an assignment, we believed, that God was going to use what He was going to do here at Fresh Life to bring fresh life. It was named that way because that was what it was intended to be. It wasn't just like some flippant thing. We truly believed that. And names are significant, and names are important. But in Jesus' day, that was a really common name.

That's the funny thing. The equivalent would be in the Old Testament, Joshua, to name Him Joshua. And there would've been 20 Jesuses in his kindergarten. Isn't that funny to think about? You know, all the lunchboxes hanging up, Joshua, Joshua, Joshua. It was a super, super common name. Like, today, Noah or Liam, those are the number one and number two boy names in 2019, by the way, right? Why? Because that's what celebrities are naming their kids. That's usually how it goes. But the interesting thing, and I always hated that, because when I was a kid, no one was named Levi. So whenever you'd go into those gift stores, at the tourist attraction, they had the little license plates on the carousel, never a Levi. I still usually check, and I'm hoping, now that in 2019, Levi is number 16 most popular boy name, how do you like me now, that eventually they're going to show up. But hearing that, please do not mail me one, right? I just say that because I'll get 17 this week in the mail, and I don't like knickknacks. All right. So clean and streamlined is how I want things to be. All right.

So what were we talking about? Jesus' lunchbox. I said, Joshua. "God is salvation". And that is His name, a God-given name that spoke of His assignment. Then, Christ is His title. And this goes all the way back to the Old Testament when the world first got broken. You and I know that the world is broken. That's what we see and feel. We sense it, don't we? There's a hundred things that we interact with, that we're, like, that's not right. This shouldn't be. This is horrible. This is awful. There's goodness in it. There's beauty in it. But a broken clock is still right twice a day. The original beauty of this world that was infused, we still see moments of it. We still see pieces of it. We still see parts of it.

I have a drone that I like to fly around. It's super fun to do, and I crashed it. And when it was broken, there were parts of it that still worked. This world is damaged because of something. There was a collision. There was an impact. And as you read the Bible, the Bible doesn't tell us, oh, this world's so nice. We just need to, we just need to make the best of it. The Bible tells us, this is not a good old place. It was a wonderful, glorious place that's been broken. And God promised that He was going to fix it. And that promise, as it's revealed in scripture, always came through someone who would have the title of Messiah. Messiah, there's a Messiah. You need a hero. There's a Christ figure. It literally means, "shining one" or "anointed one".

Someone's going to show up, and He is going to set things right. He is going to deal with the real issue internally in our souls and then externally. The Bible speaks to a day where everything ends well, where there's a glorious renewing of this world. Heaven, where we know of it now, is not the long term. Come back on Easter Sunday. We'll talk a little bit about that. Heaven is not the end of everything. I want to go be up in the clouds. No, no, listen, it ends back on this earth. The Bible speaks of and what it ends with, before happily ever after, is this world but without cancer. This world without people that we love just having a stroke one day. This world without someone that you care about, that you just said goodbye to, getting in a car accident, and then just the pain of it. This world without someone putting a GoPro on and walking into a mosque and gunning people down while they're praying.

I'm telling you, Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead and to breathe out a power of creation over this world, and God's restored people in perfect bodies living in a perfect place. That's the ending that we're longing for and that God promises. And it was through the Messiah any of that was ever connected, as we read scripture. So Jesus is the promised snake crusher. Because it was through the snake lying and deceiving mankind originally, that everything went wrong. And God said, hey, I'm going to send my Son. And you, serpent, are going to bite His heel. We just sang it. You're going to bite His heel, but He is going to crush your head. And Christ is that snake crusher. He's the one all through the history we've been hoping would come. And He's the one who indeed came.

Jesus, the Christ, is His identity. That's the first point. I'm going to give you four words I hope you'll jot down, if you take notes in your phone or whatever. Identity is the first one. It's the identity of Jesus. And whether or not you like Him or follow Him, you have to appreciate the historical impact His life, His single solitary life, has made on the world. He hasn't just changed the world for Jesus followers. Jesus Christ just straight up changed the world. And He's in the dictionary. I mean, that's a big deal, right? All right. So one noted historian put it this way, "Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about Him".

And I'll just pause there and say, if you're here and you don't believe in Jesus, you're welcome here. We welcome and appreciate your presence that you would feel safe enough to come and hang out with us, as we lift up Jesus. And we willingly, gladly let you know what that life looks like. Not that we're better than you at all. It's just that we found something that's changed our lives. And so we would be selfish and rude to not want to share that to you and offer it to you, just like I would tell you about a killer app I found about. I'd be, like, dude, get this app. It's ridiculous. It's the best thing I've ever heard in my life, right? We don't just evangelize when it comes to God. We evangelize when it comes to a great restaurant. Bro, oh, oh, my, you're going to Houston? Well, have I got the Tex-Mex for you.

You see what I'm saying? I love to recommend things that are awesome. And why would I not, it's not arrogance that would lead me to evangelism. It's the fact that God's done something wicked awesome in my soul, and I want to tell you about it. So where was I? Oh, right, Jaroslav Pelikan. He said, "Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost 20 centuries. It is from His birth that most of the human race dates its calendars". I'll pause there and hashtag that, no big deal. "And it is by His name that millions curse and in His name millions pray". Think of it. You don't ever hear of someone just getting really frustrated and being, like, "Buddha Muhammad," right? I mean, it's just, what is it about the name of Jesus Christ that triggers such an intense reaction in you for better or for worse? That's because of His identity. That He is what God said would be the savior of humanity.

Now let's talk for a second because the Creed goes to next about His ancestry. That's all the rage, isn't it? Ancestry, spit in this tube and find out if you really can blame your bad temper on the Irish that you say is coursing through you, right? All right, St. Patrick, so off it goes. And you find your real family tree is devoid of Ireland, right? It's a little bit of a disillusionment really. You've been telling everybody that you're part Cherokee Indian for all this life, right? And then you're, like, argh, where'd that go, right? I haven't done it personally, but my brother did. It came back 1.7% Nigerian. And that explains my love for hip hop, I just feel like. So the ancestry of Jesus, the Christ. All right. Here we go, Son of God, Son of man. Or as the Creed puts it, God's only Son was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

Now, what this is is tension because here's two things we're told about Him. The Creed is telling us that Jesus is fully God and fully man. Hang with me. I know, it hurts a little bit. We should be offering Excedrin during the meet and greet, you know, today, right? But what this is is a theological doctrine called the incarnation. And what the incarnation refers to is the in-fleshing of God, that when Jesus stepped into our humanity, it was God who made the world now entering the story. It was God, the author, who at the keyboard, said, "Let there be light," and there was. Who at the keyboard of everything said, "Let there be life," and there was. He now typed Himself into the story. And He entered into the theater of our space-time continuum, a world that He upholds by the word of His power, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, right? The gorilla tape nuclear force, right? In Him, all things consist.

And yet He enters into the womb of a teenage unwed mother in a peasant city, who probably most of them illiterate, her neighbors. And here He is, God in this world. It's unfathomable, and yet it's what God says took place when Jesus walked this world, the in-fleshing of God. The incarnation, it was not the subtraction of divinity. It was simply the addition of humanity. So He was still fully God, even though He laid aside voluntarily the use of His divine privileges. So while He walked this world, He was fully God. Yet in His miracles, it was Him relying on the power of the father working through the agency of the Holy Spirit. And in Jesus' life, we see Him honoring the Father in yielded submission, working through the power of the Holy Spirit, Himself still being fully divine yet at the same time being a human just like us.

Now some who would say, you know, this virgin birth, come on. Come on, like, even if that's not true, we can still be inspired by Him. Even if that's, no, it's not true. You see, it's a load-bearing wall. Even Larry King admitted this, who himself, outside of what we would call the realm of Jesus followers, he admitted. You know, in his storied career, he interviewed everybody, presidents, everybody, you know, sat there across the table from Larry King's suspenders, right? And he was asked one time, if you could interview anybody that you never got to interview, and in fact, they opened it up, they said, if you could interview anybody in human history, who would it be? You know what Larry King said? He didn't skip a beat. He said, I would interview Jesus, and I would ask him, were you really virgin born. And he followed it up because the person was, like, whoa. He said, if I could get the answer to that one question, that would explain and make sense of all of history for me.

And someone named Ravi Zacharias, whose writings have shaped and helped my world view, as he has written on Christianity, he grew up in India as a Hindu, but he has since become a Jesus follower, is one of the smartest people alive on this planet. He wrote a book called, "Jesus Among Other Gods," that changed my life when I first read it. He has a new book out called, "Jesus Among Secular Gods". Anyhow, he, through a mutual friend, wanted to dig into this to see if it's really true. And so he was able to write to Larry King and say, did you really mean that, you know. And can I have permission to quote you on that, you know? And Larry King wrote back, I absolutely meant it, and I wasn't being facetious a bit. You see, he understands that how Jesus entered into this world is essential to us being able to believe how He exited this world.

And once we start playing fast and loose with what the Bible declares, all of a sudden, what do we find? This house, this structure, we remove the wrong wall, and everything topples down. Do you have to have a pipe organ in church or can you have a rock band? Look, that's a style issue. That's an open-handed issue. But when we're talking about the virgin birth of Jesus, who needed to be fully God, but also needed to be fully man, otherwise He couldn't take the hand of His Father and take the hand of a sinful humanity, and that's exactly what He did on the cross, and bring us back into connection and bring us back into relationship. So as later developed, and what we're doing in the Creed is we're going back to the original, going back to how it was communicated by those who walked with Jesus, heard Jesus speak, and then were with Him after He rose from the dead, that's what they preached.

As time goes on, people start going, well, the virgin birth wasn't this. And He wasn't fully God. He was actually just a guy that God really loved. Or He was just fully God but didn't have a body, or whatever developed. He didn't leave footprints in the sand. You know, that's when heresies develop later on. You'd walk on the beach. It's, like, what, where's your footprints, right? And, man, if you throw that out, you're throwing out 90% of Christian Facebook posts from 1990 through 1997, right, because it's all based on the "Footprints in the Sand". And we can't not have that. But the point is we don't have a God who saved us from a distance. We have a God who got dirt under his fingernails and breathed our air and went through third grade. And as unbelievable as it is, a God who endured puberty.

Think of Jesus and His voice cracking. And it really is marvelous to think about what Hebrews says, Hebrews 4:15, He was just like we are, tempted in all points, yet without weakness. Therefore He can sympathize with us as our great High Priest and mediator, not just conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, also born. Born just like, all of us have a birth, only difference about Him is he pre-existed His birth. Eh. What were you doing two years before you were born? Not a lot, right? Not so with Him. That's what Hebrews, rather John's gospel tells us, tells us the Word, who was always there, that's the word for Jesus, the Word of God, right, He became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.

And even popular Christmas verses, and I think maybe it's even better for us to be studying Christmas when it's not Christmastime, because at Christmastime, there's so much charm and warmth and eggnog, that it's hard to actually focus for a second. It's one of the worst days for a preacher. Just trust me, it's the worst day because everyone's like, we have things to do. This better be really inspiring and short, pal, right? And so just to take a second and to talk about the incarnation, the in-fleshing of God, and the ramifications of it at a time when we're not distracted by all the parties and all the gifts we need to be wrapping up is really the appropriate time.

But one of those Christmasy verses is Isaiah, chapter 9, verse 6. And notice, the pre-existence of Christ is in it. "For unto us a Child is born". But also at the same time, "unto us a Son is given". He was born, but that act was God giving Him, meaning He was already in heaven, already existing forever, but then given into this story by the Father. And now, again, let me acknowledge the temple rubbing that's going on out there. Charles Spurgeon said, "This is a mystery which we must not attempt to fathom, for it is utterly beyond the grasp of any finite being. As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to try and comprehend the Eternal God, a God whom we could understand would be no God. If we could grasp Him, He would not be infinite. If we could understand Him, then He would not be divine".

So there is an element of mystery to this. So we do not presume to think we can fully understand it. But what do we need to do? We need to believe in it. Because once we stop choosing to put our faith in who He says He is, then we've removed the load-bearing walls that hold everything up in the first place. What am I trying to get you to see? I'm trying to get you to see that without the incarnation, we are not left with a Resurrection to believe in. Or to put it another way, there can be no second birth without the virgin birth. We don't have a God who came down to give us that spiritual birth on the inside that we need, that we crave, that new start, that new heart, that new life, that forgiveness of sins. If he wasn't God in the flesh, as He said He was, then He can't do what He promised to do inside of your heart and inside of mine. And we are all still stuck in our sins, and we should all probably just exit right now and go find something else.

Let's just go get high, or let's just figure something else out to numb the emptiness. Or as many kind of come to an intellectual honesty, if there is no God, there is no afterlife, then there is no point. And we're all just going to die, and the second after we die, it's just blackness forever. So the most honest thing we could do would just be to take our lives now and end the meaningless of it all. But since we do have God's Son who came and since we do have a Savior, and since we do have hope and since we do have peace, now all of a sudden everything makes sense. And work makes sense, and life makes sense, and art makes sense. And your company makes sense, and your dreams, they make sense. And the passion in your heart makes sense. And now everybody you ever meet, they make sense because they're a person that God loves, and God has a plan for them. And God wants to use them, and now we can walk the streets of this world on a mission and with hope.

And you can wake up tomorrow morning and know that whatever you do, God cares about it and sees it and knows about it. And no one's so messed up that God can't reach him. No one's so far gone that God can't change them and heal them and work in their lives. And we have dignity and value because we're not a cosmic accident or the collection of things that banged together and, boom, here we are. There's intelligent design and a passion and a creator, and we have life. Now what about the Virgin Mary? What about this individual that's a part of the story, the mother who was given this difficult assignment of giving birth and carrying Jesus to term and all that? What do we make and think about Mary? Her presence in the Creed should cause us to ask the question, what about Mary?

And now here's what I would say, scripturally speaking, about Mary. She deserves your respect, but she would reject your worship. Mary is 100, are you kidding, Mary, she's 100% worthy of your respect. There should be no denigrating of Mary. We should respect Mary. We should honor Mary. Why? Because she's awesome. Awesome because she accepted a really hard assignment that was admittedly a part of a kooky plan. Now, don't hear that and be, like, oh, that's so irreverent of you. No, it was kooky. Listen, here's what we're going to do. We're going to find someone who's never have sex with anybody. She's going to have a baby. Yeah, but she's going to have a fiancee. That's going to be great for him, too.

In fact, the Bible says later, God intentionally made the whole thing as foolish as He possibly could, so that it wouldn't cause us to think, you know, this is great. It would need for us to have faith in God's crazy, outlandish plan. So we should give her respect for that reason. I also would say, she should be given respect because it was her honoring God with her body and her love life before she ever knew that she was being watched that caused her to be able to take part in this whole thing. And that's inspiring to me. You know, she didn't know the angel was coming. She didn't know. She wasn't hooking up with Bro-seph and, you know, all this, whatever she could have been doing. And so here comes this plan. She thought the fact that her chastity or her saving herself for marriage was a barrier to God using her, that she wasn't doing what would be common in her culture perhaps in that day, just like in our day, there's different ways of approaching sexuality.

And the fact that she honored God in this way, she thought was a barrier. She's, like, I can't have this baby. I've never known a man. God's, like, it is because of that that I picked you. You see what I'm saying? I'm saying to you today, I'm not doing this to shame anybody for how you lived up until this point. But I would say, if from this moment forward, you said, God, I want to honor You with my life. I want to honor You with my love life and my body and all that. I'm telling you, there's going to come moments when you feel like you're missing out. But there's going to come a day when you see, you weren't missing out. You were saving up for God's plan for you that He had in mind for you all along.

And what I always say is, now yells louder, but later lasts longer. And there's going to come a day when you're glad that you chose to say, God, I want to honor You in my life. No matter what's behind me, from this day forward, I want to honor You in that way, you will watch, when the day comes, when you realize, I'm so glad. I'm so glad I chose to follow God's plan for my love life. So Mary is worthy of respect, but she would reject your worship. And I say that because in scripture, anytime anybody was ever tempted to be worshipped, Paul, one time people tried to worship him, right? Anytime, even an angel, people tried to worship angels in the Bible because angels are awesome. Like, if we saw one today, we'd be, like, may, may I worship you just for a quick minute? I won't take long.

Anytime that happened, the response was embarrassment. No, no, no, no, no, no, ah, ah, quit it, quit it. Don't worship me, I'm an angel. Don't worship you me. I'm just a preacher. Don't worship me. I'm just a dude. I'm just a guy. Yeah, God's using me, great, great. Paul said that, great, great, I'm a guy, but just a guy. Worship God. They would always redirect. So anybody who's accepting worship meant for God is not someone who's doing what God wants them to do. And that is not what God would have for any part of His creation, right? So our response, right, should be to point the attention back to God. I'm on a platform so you can see me. I'm on a platform so that the cameras can see me. I'm not on a platform because I'm better than anybody, you see? So the worship goes to God. We want to direct the attention to God.

And I guarantee you, if Mary could talk to you today, she'd say the same thing she said to the servants who ran out of wine at the wedding that she was at. They were, like, hey, Mary, what should we do. And she's, like, here's what you should do. Look at it. It's John, chapter 2, "Whatever Jesus tells you, make sure you do it"! So we don't see Mary as a co-redeemer, we see her as a saved sinner, in fact, from her own lips. Because you will hear different teaching that Mary is a co-redeemer, on equal footing with Christ, and she was sinless, and she's a perpetual virgin, and she was received up into a Resurrection body the moment she died, and things that you're not going to find taught in scripture. And so we would not say we're better than anyone who teaches things differently. But what we are doing is clarifying what has been the teaching from the moment Jesus walked this earth. And that is, Mary is, from her own mouth, the saved sinner.

Look at her words that she said to God. She said, "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior," meaning, she knew she needed to be saved from her sins and just like you and I do. She's just a person and all of us are on equal footing, one mediator between God and man, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He's the only mediator we got. He's the only high priest that we've got. So that's how we see it. You don't need to talk to a priest. You just talk to God because of what Jesus has done. And so Mary's an amazing example for all of us and someone God used greatly. All right. So that's the second point, ancestry. How about the third? Jot this word down, prophecy. We have a reason to believe in Jesus, and that is because He fulfilled prophecies.

The more stipulations are given, the more difficult and complex a wager becomes. If you're saying, I believe Mayweather is going to knock him out, great. What round is it going to be in? Is it going to be a TKO or it's going to be a knockout? What are the, what's going to be my decision? You see what I'm saying? And the more you clarify, no, it's going to be a knockout in the third, right? You're like, OK, that, you're going to make more money if you win. You see what I'm saying? And when it comes to odds and probability, what we have in the Old Testament is God giving stipulation after stipulation, making it more difficult on Himself than He needed to, saying eight ball, corner pocket.

And it's going to be this, this, this, Bethlehem. It's going to be this, this, this, virgin birth. It's going to be this, this, this. He's going to be buried in the grave of a wealthy person. This, this, this, He's going to die surrounded by, this, this, this. 300 processes in the Old Testament, God saying when the Messiah comes, when the Christ gets here, when the shiny one shows up, here's what it's going to look like, so you wouldn't be able to say, yeah, it's just fluke, just an accident. No, He fulfilled prophecy, and this is really important.

One of the big things that helped shaped my faith in God was coming across a little booklet that my pastor when I was growing up used to refer to a lot called Science Speaks by someone named Peter Stoner. And he basically took the chance of anybody fulfilling the processes given in the Old Testament. He said, 300's too crazy. Let's start with eight. Let's say, there were only eight. Let's say, God just in the Old Testament gave us eight different things. What would be the odds of one person in human history fulfilling just eight specific processes? He calculated, and the numbers that he published in the book were verified by mathematicians and all the citations there. You could Google it if you want to look into it yourself. And he basically said, it would be one in 10 to the 17th power, the odds of one person just fulfilling eight prophecies.

Now, one in 10 to the 17th power is a really big number, so it's difficult to get your head around that. So what he said is, imagine the state of Texas, the landmass of the state of Texas, which is the second-biggest state behind Alaska, then comes California, and then comes Montana, right? And he said, take the landmass of Texas and cover it two feet thick in silver dollars. That is 10 to the 17th power. That's how many silver dollars it would take to cover the state of Texas two feet thick. Now, imagine he said, if flying over it in an airplane, you marked one silver dollar and tossed it into the pile somewhere and then blindfolded someone and set them out walking across Texas, and so they're somewhere between Amarillo and El Paso. And they're told, you get to walk as long as you want, you get to spend as much time thinking about it as you're walking around Texas blindfolded.

And basically you have to pick one silver dollar that's the one that we marked when we flew over the plane and tossed it out at random. And out of the entire state of Texas covered two feet thick in silver dollars, the odds of one person in history fulfilling just eight unique Messianic processes that were laid out ahead of time, that would be 1 in 10 to the 17th power, or the odds of that person finding that one unique silver dollar. And Jesus didn't fulfill eight processes, friends. He fulfilled 300. And that's one of the reasons that I believe in Jesus, for me personally. That's one of the reasons because of the fulfilled processes, and that's just one of many reasons I believe and have made the life decision to give Jesus supremacy. That's what I've chosen to do. I've chosen to give Jesus supremacy.

And that means first, and that means, as the Creed says, He's not just God's only Son. He's not just someone conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. But He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Lord, Lord meaning above everything for me. I like fashion, above fashion. I like sport, above sport. Money's great, above money. Career's great, above career. Church is great, above, above all things. First born from the dead, in Him all things consist, that He is God. He is King. I'm telling you, here's Christianity. It's someone who makes the faithful decision to say, Jesus Christ is Lord. And that from the beginning has been the thing that this is all about.

What is Christianity? It's about Jesus choosing with their life and their soul and their death and everything to say, Jesus, I fall at Your feet, and I choose to call You my Lord. And that has always been the powerful, the irreducible minimum because that is what Jesus believed about Jesus. Jesus believed that Jesus was Lord, you see? And that's why He was put to death. In fact, we're told clearly in John's gospel, this was at his murder trial while he was being tried; I guess it wasn't a murder trial, but the guy whose cross he took, it wasn't murder, so it kind of was, anyhow, it says this. It says, "We have a law, and by the law He had to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God". Jesus was tried and executed because He claimed to be the Lord.

So what does that cause us to realize? It causes us to realize we have no space to give ourselves the easy off-ramp of just saying, well, you know, Jesus wasn't God, but He was awesome. I like Jesus. Jesus is fantastic. Because what I'm telling you is, from the very beginning, His followers believed Him to be God. In fact, the reason Christians like fish, not the food, the symbol, have you ever seen a Christian wearing a fish necklace or a fish on their car? And you know, there's a lot I could say about any and all of those things, but it's not in the Bible. But the reason that icon became something of significance and import was simply because, at the end of the day, Christians believed Jesus Christ was Lord.

What do you, I don't see the connection there. Is it because He did the loaves and fish thing? No, no, no, it's really simple. The word for fish in Greek, which is the language that was spoken in the first century AD, was "ichthus". "Ichthus" is fish. But interestingly enough, if you spell out "ichthus" in all capital letters, it's changed. And it is I-X-O-Y-E, which in that day was an acrostic they realized that spells out Jesus, Christ, God, Son, Savior, fish. So it was just a lazy way of speaking to say fish is shorthand for Jesus, Christ, God, Son, and Savior. And so they would actually use this kind of as a secret symbol in the days of open imperial persecution to keep graves from being desecrated by identifying them as Christian graves, not by putting a cross on them, but the fish that no one really understood.

That was a symbol for here lies someone who believes that Jesus Christ is God, Son, and Savior. And actually I've read, you can look into it, maybe it's myth or maybe it's historical, that Christians, if they were hanging out and they were, like, I think that guy might be a believer, but I'm not totally sure, you might just casually, while you're sipping your latte, you would kind of draw a half rainbow in the dirt with your toe, like you were just talking. It was, like, just a casual gesture. That's real casual. You don't really notice. You don't really notice. Pay no attention to my legs. My hips don't lie. And if you're that person who saw it and wouldn't think anything of it. But if they reciprocated, and with their toe they finished the fish, you could be, like, yeah. It was, like, Christian gang signs, you know. It was, like, this way of being, like, I'm a believer. And you could kind of wash it away, and you knew walking away you saw life like they saw life, you both.

Isn't that cool? Isn't that a fun thing to learn, just a random little tidbit? Jesus, Christ, God, Son, and Savior. So this is what Jesus' followers believed. But this is really important. It's also what Jesus believed about Jesus. And that leaves us no room for this whole kind of, like, you know, Jesus is cool because he was so earthy. Like, I just love him. I love His Birkenstocks. And he looked like he's a guy from Coachella. He's, like, unwashed. And, like, you just love that. Like, He's just, like, you know He just ate granola and used essential oils. And He probably drove a Subaru. Oh, Jesus is so great. I just, oh, I love it so much. I love, ooh, I love Jesus. He's just, ooh. The problem with turning Jesus into Mr. Rogers with a beard is that if we see Him as a moral teacher, then we have no way to deal with the horrible things He said. Because moral teachers, listen, good examples, who walk up to funerals and say, you're going to see your brother again because I'm the Resurrection and the life are not good people.

If you'd have walked up to me at my daughter's funeral and said to me, it's OK, Levi, that your daughter died, because I'm going to rise her from the dead, I'd have probably punched you in the face. But I certainly wouldn't have said, that's a good person right there. And Jesus didn't stop there. He said stuff like, if you've seen Me, you've seen the Father. He said, if you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you're good. You're whole on the inside. If you partake of what My essence of life is, you're going to be fine. Good people don't say, I am going to judge the world at the end of time. We put them back in their bathrobe and check them back into their padded room. So it is intellectually dishonest to look at what Jesus said but then just go, oh, that's nice.

He's just another good example. CS Lewis, an avowed atheist, he recognized that, and he identified that as what's been called the Trilemma. He said, no, no, we can't say Jesus is just a good person. Someone who says the kind of things that Jesus said is not a good person. They're either a liar because they know that's not true, but they're saying it anyway. There's been plenty of those. Or they're a lunatic because they believe what they're saying, and they don't know it's not true. Or this is the only other possibility, He's saying what He's saying because He believes it's true, and it is true. But then He's not a liar or a lunatic. He's, in fact, the only option left, he's Lord.

So you have a choice in front of you in life. And the choice, when you actually look at what Jesus has said and the life that He lived and the fulfilled prophecies, please do come back next week because we're going to continue on, if you'll be here, same bat time, same bat place; I'm excited to get into the next part, and the next part is going to get better, but the choice you're left with is either to write him off as a liar, to describe him as a lunatic, or to do what I've done and bow before Him as Lord. That's really the only option that Jesus gives us. Either He's mad, or He's bad, or He's God. Now one quick question, then we're done. Why would He go through all this? The virgin birth, the cross, why would God go through any of this?

The only answer I can figure is because He knows that I'm not a good person. I'm not. I've done things that I'm not proud of. I've done things that are sinful. I've done things that are wrong and hurt other people. And if you're like me, you have, too. Now, I know that's not, it's not really popular. But the Bible says, there's no such thing as a good person. Now that's different than how we define goodness because we define goodness as more bad than good is bad, and more good than bad is good. The Bible says, look at it, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God".

The goodness defined in scripture is you've never done anything wrong because any sin brings deadness into life. Any sin brings a separation from God. And so what Jesus came to do was to heal us at the fundamental core issue by paying for our sins. Because "the wages of sin is death," Romans 6:23 says, therefore He died for us, to pay the bill for our sins, so that the free gift of God, which is in Christ, Jesus Christ, might be the eternal life that we could all have, not just on this earth but forever. And so my question to you is, would you like to give your life to Jesus Christ. And if so, there's going to be a space in this prayer that we're about to pray for you to make that exact decision. Would you pray with me?

Father, we're grateful for your presence here, your love here, your life here. Thank you for what you've done in Your Son that can make us whole.


If as we're praying, you would be honest enough to say, no matter what you've done, no matter where you've been, that you want to make the decision to make Jesus your Lord, to give him control of your life, so that He would forgive your sins and give you hope and give you Heaven, and then you'd get to be a part of Him restoring all things as His ambassador, His son, His daughter. I'm just going to ask that right now, while we're praying, you would raise your hand up, if you would say, I want to give my heart to Jesus.

If that's you I'm describing, just put your hand up in the air, just put it up right now, just as we're praying, heads bowed, eyes closed. Just raise your hand up. God bless you and you and you and you. Hands going up all across the room. Church online, every location, Deer Lodge, raise your hand up, God sees you. God loves you. God cares for you. You can put your hands down. And I'm going to say a quick prayer, and I want you to pray it out loud with me. The church family's going to pray it with us. And I want you to say this to God.

Dear God. I know I'm a sinner. I can't fix myself. Please come into my life and make me new. I give myself to you. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

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