Mark Batterson - Yes And Amen
Welcome to National Community Church, all seven of our campuses. A little shout out to our extended family online. This weekend, we kick off a new series titled Yes and Amen. It's actually taken from a text of scripture, 2 Corinthians 1:20, I wanna invite you to turn there. It's only one verse and so we're gonna look at it in a couple of translations. The New Living Translation says, "for all of God's promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding yes". Now estimates vary from 3,573 to 5,467 promises, but who's counting, right? Honestly, it's really not about the number, because all of those promises are yes in Christ. But the verse does not end there. You've got to flip this coin. It says through Christ, our amen, which means yes, ascends to God for his glory.
Now that parenthetical statement is pretty important. God has said yes in Christ, but that's not enough. We have got to add our amen and that's what we're gonna talk about during this series. A few months ago, Dick Foth mentioned one of his favorite books was by E. Stanley Jones titled the Divine Yes. And he said it was one of his five favorites. I figured, I better read it then. And so I picked it up and it was actually a book about this very verse. And E. Stanley Jones says something that's so simple but it's really good you might wanna write this down. He said Christianity is saying yes to God's yes. And I kinda like that. There's a simplicity to it, and I want you to hang on to that little truth.
Now let me add one more translation to the mix. The New International Version says, for no matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ. And so through him the amen is spoken by us. By who? By us to the glory of God. On July 1, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill in the law called the Pacific Railway Act. Now that bill pledged Federal financing for the first transcontinental railroad. The Central Pacific began laying tracks from Sacramento, California, east, and then the Union Pacific began laying tracks from Omaha, Nebraska, west. And they met in the middle in Promontory Summit in the Utah territory. Now, two trains traveling in opposite directions, the Central Pacific number 60 and the Union Pacific number 119, literally came face to face, grill to grill.
And I wanna show you a picture, because I want you to take a mental picture of this moment. On May 10, 1869, the Last Spike, it was a ceremonial spike made of 17 carat gold. It was driven into the tracks by Leland Stanford. It was the last tie. It was the last link that connected these two railroads from sea to shining sea. That spike was inscribed with these words. May God continue the unity of our country as this railroad unites the two great oceans of the world. When you think of yes and amen, I want you to picture these two trains. Now, I'm gonna call one of 'em so far so God. I'm gonna call the other one the best is yet to come. Sometimes you just gotta wear the message. Over the next four weeks, we're gonna lay some tracks, and I wanna cast vision for our next chapter as a church.
I wanna talk about where we're headed and how we're gonna get there. And listen, we're attempting to do something we have never done. We have turned a crack house into Ebenezer's Coffeehouse, we have turned an abandoned apartment building into the DC Dream Center. We have never turned 127 year old car barn into a prototype campus that we own and operate. And you know what? What got us here isn't gonna get us where we need to go. And so it's a new day. Phase one will be a prototype campus that'll include 1,000 seat event venue. It'll have about 5,000 square feet of lobby space. Some space in place for us to connect in fellowship with each other.
Phase two will be about 20,000 square feet of kids' ministry space and we'll give you a sneak peak next weekend, but let me just say this. That kids' theater in phase two is gonna be larger than the Miracle Feeder. We'll have about a dozen of classrooms, we'll have an indoor playground that our neighbors are going to love. And we're gonna leverage that space as a child development center, Monday to Friday. Now, you can read a little bit more about that in this fantastic mini mag NEXT, and I think it's towards the end, but a 2015 study found that there are 7,610 childcare spots for 22,000 children under the age of three in DC. Now you can do the math, there's a gap. And guess what, we're gonna fill that gap. And we're gonna meet really need in real time, and I just happen to think that the church oughta solve the city's problems for it.
And so what a wonderful opportunity. This is one of the mayor's top initiatives. I may even talk a little bit about affordable housing next week, but I believe that we are not just trying to build a church, we are trying to bless a city to the third generation. And listen, when you do that, you can't keep people outside of your doors. Now phase three be a mixed use marketplace, a coworking space. Why would you do that? Well, Jesus didn't just hang out in the city, God hung out at wells. Wells were natural gathering places in ancient culture. We have a core value that the church belongs in the middle of the marketplace. And so listen, we'll conscientiously create hundreds of jobs, we'll incubate some entrepreneurs, and we'll create a place where church and community can cross paths. And so next week, I'm gonna cast a little bit more of that vision. But let me leave it there for now.
Let me go back to these two trains traveling in opposite directions. Again, one is called so far so God, the other is the best is yet to come. And these two trains meet at a place called the promises of God. Let me unpack this passage just a little bit. This week, I was in Springfield, Missouri, speaking at Evangel University. I had a connecting flight through Chicago, and that flight, those flights took about five hours but they took me back about 25 years. Because I did half of my undergrad at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. It was like this flash flood of emotions and moments and memories, and I'm gonna share just one of 'em. When we're in college, Lora and I attended this little church called West Grand Assembly of God. It had seven pews, and about 12 people on a good Sunday.
And I still remember going door to door with a flyer that said experience the excitement. It was false advertising. But I am eternally grateful to the pastor of that church, Bob Smiley, who let a college kid preach his first sermon from behind the pulpit. Now I wasn't very good. Probably why there were 12 people. But that's where I cut my teeth preaching. Now I knew that that church closed after we graduated, but I had no idea the building was still there. Sure enough, it is. And it's even smaller than I remembered, and so took little picture, and I wanna show it to you. It's a long ways from West Grand Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri to National Community Church. Can I tell you how Lora and I got here? We got here on a train called so far so God. It's the faithfulness of God.
Can I tell you how you got here? On the same train. So far so God. Let me talk about that train. Now it travels from the past into the present. It is, Psalm 23:6, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days in my life. It's Philippians 1:6, he who began a good work will carry it to completion. It is Jeremiah 1:12, God is watching over his word to perform it. And it is 1 Samuel 7:12, hither to the Lord has helped us. Listen, praise God for this train called so far so God. But there's another train, and we're gonna switch tracks. Now this train travels in the opposite direction. And it's called the best is yet to come. And so here's what we've got. We've got the faithfulness of God pursuing us from the past, and we've got the sovereignty of God bearing down on us from the future. And that's where you and I live our lives.
Now this is theology 201, but God is coming at you from two directions, from the past and the future, and that's hard for us to comprehend because we exist in these four dimensions of space time where the arrow of time moves in one direction. But guess what, God does not exist within the four space time dimensions that he created. That's why with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. Stick with me. When Jesus was on the cross, he said, it is finished. Now it's three words in English but it's one word in Greek. It's this root word teleo. It's where we get our English word telescope. There is a branch of theology, a branch of philosophy called teleology, and it's this idea that events are not just explained by past cause but by future purpose.
Now this word teleo means to finish, to complete, to perfect. It's the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle. We do a quick lesson in Greek grammar. The verb here is the perfect passive voice. Now the perfect tense describes a completed action. It's something that has occurred in the past and it produced the result that exist in the present. Now the emphasis of the perfect tense is present affect not past action. Now, the passive voice signifies that the subject is being acted upon and the implied agent is God. And that's why this verb tense is referred to as the divine passive. And you can see this theological thread woven through the text of scripture. 1 Ephesians 1:4, even before, before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ. That makes no sense in four dimensions of space time, right? It's Psalm 139:16, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. This is Ephesians 2:10, we are God's workmanship created in Chris Jesus to do good works, prepared for us in advance.
Now you can even see in the Lord's Prayer. Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Listen, heaven is a dimension of reality that exists outside of these space time dimensions that we know. We talked a lot about going to heaven. I think we have it backwards. Listen, the Lord's Prayer is about heaven invading earth. This is about eternity invading time. This is about God's eternal plans and purposeS, making a difference in our present tense circumstances. Let me make it personal. My earliest memory was an asthma attack. I woke up in the middle of the night, my dad rushed me to the emergency room, a shot of epinephrine in my shoulder open my lungs back up and that routine was repeated more nights than I can count. For the next 40 years, there were not 40 days that I did not have to take a puff of that inhaler.
Didn't go anywhere without it. Played basketball with it in my sock. Slept with it under my pillow. And then something happened on July 2, 2016. God's yes met my amen. Because this week, I will celebrate a thousand days inhaler free. Now listen, I prayed hundreds of times that God would heal me. And I cannot explain to you why God would answer that prayer on this particular day. That is past my pay grade. And I know that there are people who do not experience healing here.
Lora and I have a dear friend who is days from death barring a miracle. And I'll tell you what. We are praying for a miracle. But I also know this. That our ultimate healing is in a place that the Bible calls heaven. Now Revelation 21:4 says this, there will be no more curse, no crying, no sorrow, no sickness, no pain, no death, for the old order of things has passed away. Behold, I am making all things new. This is teleo, this is divine passive, this is God's eternal plans and purposes invading our reality. And every once in a while, we experience something called a miracle. It's one of these moments where heaven invades earth and we get a glimpse of God's glory.
A few weeks ago, preached on Psalm 1:39. But I skipped over one of my favorite verses. Verse five says you go before me and follow behind me. The King James says you hand me in behind and before. Now Lora and I, we love to give our kids a hug at the same time. Now that's basically, Lora and I hugging each other with one of our children in between us. Now we call this a summer sandwich, a Josiah sandwich, a Parker sandwich. We basically trap them so they cannot escape. We love it even if they do not. This is a Psalm sandwich. This is where so far so God meets the best is yet to come. A. W. Tozer said it this way. God is above, but he's not pushed up. God is beneath, but he's not pressed down. He's outside but he's not excluded. He's inside but he's not confined.
God is above all things, presiding beneath all things, sustaining outside all things, embracing and inside all things, filling. We put this in scientific terms. Shortest possible time, 5.4 times 10 to the negative 44th power. Any shorter, quantum mechanic cannot tell the difference between now and then. The shortest possible distance, 6.4 times 10 to the negative 34th power, it's called Planck length. Any shorter and you can't tell the difference between here and there. Can I suggest, God is 5.4 times 10 to the negative 44th power before and after. And that God is 6.4 times 10 to the negative 34th power ahead and behind. This is the transcendence of God. This is the imminence of God. He is bigger than big, he is closer than close.
Let me double back to this yes and amen. I wanna widen the aperture just a little bit. There will not be a quiz at the end of this message. I just wanna say that. In 1996, NTC was meeting in a DC public school. Average attendance about 25 people. August was brutal. Half of our core group or GW students, and they were on summer break, and then our hill staffers were on August recess. And there was this one Sunday where 13 people showed up and listen, I'm pretty sure we counted Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in that attendance, okay?
By the way, West Grand Assembly of God will prepare you well to church plan. I think there were two turning points that changed our trajectory as a church in August of '96. I think one was writing a $50 check to missions. We were not self supporting, but we decided this stand on the promise of God, given, will be given on to your good measure, press down, shake it together, running over reporting your life, for the measure you use it will be measured onto you. We have a core conviction that God that will bless us in proportion to how we give to missions and how we care for the poor in our city. You know what? God has honored that step of faith. I think the second moment was an August morning, I'm reading the book of Joshua and I get to verse three of chapter one, it says I will give you everywhere you set your foot, just as I promised Moses. I felt this prompting to pray a perimeter all the way around Capitol Hill.
Now I knew I was gonna write a book called the Circle Maker, thought it would be a great story. No, no, no no no no. Had no earthly idea. You know what? It was hot and humid. It would've been easier to just do divos in my home office. But I felt like I needed to obey that prompting, and so 4.7 mile prayer walk and not much happened. At first. Now I want you to know, was not prank for property, was prank for people, more than 13 people. I was praying the God's kingdom would come, that God's will will be done on Capitol Hill as it was in heaven. At that point, we had no idea that multi site wasn't even a word.
Let me say this before I go any further. Church is not a building. It's people. You can't go to church because you are the church. We do not have seven campuses, we have thousands of campuses, we are wherever you go. It's why we pronounces Benedictian at the end or we say, when you leave this place, you do not leave the presence of God. You take the presence of God with you wherever you go. You are the church. That said, Promised Land, land wasn't praying for property, but God has blessings for us in categories that we cannot comprehend. If you had told me 23 years ago that we would own half a dozen properties on that prayer circle, I woulda called you crazy. We never thought we would own anything. But here we are, the northwest corner of that prayer circle is a crackhouse that we turn into Ebenezers Coffeehouse. The southeast corner is this navy yard car barn where we are constructing our prototype campus.
Here's the amazing thing. We got that contract 18 years to the day from the day that I prayed that circle. Coincidence? I think not. You can't make this stuff up. We purchased that property in 2014. I think God gave it to us in 1996. So here's the $64,000 question. Why would God give us a city block? I will talk more about this next week, but here's what I know for sure. God's vision for this church is bigger than ours. And God wants us to be a bigger blessing to the communities around our campuses. And we tend to think right here right now God is thinking nations in generations. We think that what God does for us is just for us. It's never just for us. It's always for the third and fourth generation. And so we could maintain the status quo. It would be a lot easier. But it won't get us where God wants us to go.
And so we're gonna do something we've never done before. We're gonna dream big, we're gonna pray hard, we're gonna take long, we're gonna do it together. I'm gonna ask you to do two things this week. One, would you take 30 minutes, and read through this mini mag NEXT? Can I tell you what this is? This is so far so God and the best is yet to come. This is us riding down what God has done, where God is taking us, and I want you to just spend a little of time in this magazine. And then, inside you will find a pledge card. Now I'm gonna come back to that in a couple of weeks, but let me say this. Would you begin praying about the part that God want you to play? This is gonna take all hands on deck.
I want you to know, Lora and I are gonna lead the way. Listen, God is stretching our faith. We wanna make some sacrifices that we feel. You know why? 'Cause we wanna do something that's gonna make it eternal difference. And so, inside you'll find that pledge card, the front of it, the spot to write a name and amount, probably should mention. It's a two year pledge. And that gives us a little bit of runway, right? To maybe dream a little bit bigger about what God wants us to do and then if you flip that over, let me just say a couple of things. One, yes, there is a financial goal. But can I say this? I think the top priority right here is that all of us grow in the grace of giving, wouldn't that be wonderful?
And so, I think the hope and prayer is, for 100% participation, that you would feel like a shareholder in this vision. Listen to me. This is how we add our amen to this vision. Now, you'll notice the goal is five million for phase two. So you might be asking yourself, what about phase one? I'm so glad you asked. Can I share some good news? We have had some leaders, ministry leaders, financial leaders, who wanted to get in on this before we even got into this series. And so 256 gifts and pledges. And phase one, it's fully funded. I think we could probably praise God for that. That means we're gonna do phase one, they're free.
Come on, we can do phase two, they're free. But all of us are gonna have to step up and step into, we're gonna have to add our amen to this vision. That means that your pledge is at this point, would go towards phase two, which is this kids' ministry space, and I don't know, but that seems like me, to me like compound interest to the third and fourth generation. This may be one of the greatest investments we ever make as a church. Can I get an amen right there?
Let me close with this. At its peak, Roman Empire encompassed almost two million square miles, there were 50,000 miles of Roman roads, the census numbered about 90 million citizens. That meant, they were about 20% of the world's population. Now I want you to juxtapose that with this. In Jerusalem, there were 120 Jews who were called Christians. That's smaller than all of our campuses. They were huddled in an upper room that I'm guessing measured a few hundred square feet. Now if you were placing bets, on the Roman Empire versus this thing called Christianity, you are gonna bet the farm on the Roman Empire seven days a week, and you're gonna do it twice on Sunday, am I right? Here we are, 2,000 years later. Roman Empire is long gone. You can't even name six Caesars unless you majored in history. Salad does not count. Neither does Lidl, love their crazy bread, not a Caesar. How do you explain two billion people who claimed to follow Christ? I think it's two things.
Listen. I think it's a tomb that is empty and I think it's the people that are filled with the spirit of God. These 120 people in that upper room, there's no way they saw this coming on the day of Pentecost. Yeah, I wonder if they could kinda hear the train whistle blowing. But heaven invaded earth. Spirit invaded flesh and three hours later, you've got a church of 3,000 people. How do you explain that? The same Jesus who walked out of the tomb said this. "I will build my church". He did not say I will build your church. He did not say you will build my church. He said, "I will build my church". And the gates of hell will not prevail against it. You are not here by accident, you are here by divine appointment. And we are here for such a time as this.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of preaching at the 50th anniversary of a church in Richmond, Virginia, called West End Assembly of God. Now that church is older than I am. It was planted in March of 1969 by Dr. Bob Rhoden, who is one of my mentors. Now listen, everybody needs somebody who believes in them more than they believe in themselves. When Lora and I moved from Chicago to DC, we were fresh off a failed church plan. My confidence was shaken. It was Bob Rhoden who gave us the green light to give it another shot.
So I step into the pulpit at that anniversary celebration, and I have this distinct feeling that I'm at an intersection. We were looking back at 50 years of God's faithfulness and we were looking forward to a future that is as bright as the promises of God. And here I am in the middle of this intersection on that night. I think there were two cross streets. So far so God. And the best is yet to come. Listen, God's faithfulness is pursuing us from the past, God's sovereignty is baring down on us from the future and that's where I think we find ourselves as a church.
Lora and I have had the joy and privilege of pastoring this church for 23 years. And I wanna tell you, it has been so far so God. God has done some amazing miracles. But the way you steward miracles is you believe God for even bigger and better miracles. What got us here? It's not gonna get us where God wants us to go next. But I have no doubt that the best is yet to come. We have God's eyes vision. I'll spell it out next week. It's gonna stretch our faith, gonna require some sacrifices, but God's kingdom is gonna come. God's will is gonna be done. Now to him who's able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine according to his power that's at work within us, to him be glory in the church and throughout all generations for ever and over. Amen.