Rick Warren - Living God's Dream Despite Past Poor Decisions
If you pull out your message notes, now in the first message in this new series on "Time to Dream and Open Doors" in our campaign, last week I gave you a dozen reasons why you have to know God's dream for your life. If you missed that message, you really need to listen to it. A dozen reasons why you're not livin', you're just existing, if you don't know God's dream for your life. But one of the things that I said is that God's dream for your life is always, always bigger than your dream for your life. And the Bible says, "God can do far more than you think, or ask, or imagine, or even dream of". God's dream for your life is bigger than your dream for your life, that's why you need to discover it, that's why you need to develop it. But I want to pause before we go into the actual steps of discovering God's dream for your life and talk to you this week about the biggest barrier that will keep you from God's dream.
The number one barrier to your future is your past, it's your past because we tend to perpetrate the past. Now your past is passed, it's over, it's done with, but a lot of people still try to live in the past. You can't live in the past, it's over, it's done with, but you can live in the present and you can prepare and dream for the future. So this weekend, I want us to look at living God's dream despite poor past decisions because I meet people all the time and go, "Well, I think maybe I had my chance but I've missed God's dream. I'm now on Plan B, or C, or D, or E, and I don't deserve to have God's dream because I so messed up so much of my past, I don't even know if I should dream". Well, you're dead wrong, but I'm glad you came this weekend because we're gonna look at how to live God's dream despite past poor decisions.
Now the one reason we know that God's word is God's word, that the Bible's God's word, is it always tells us truth, even when we don't like to hear it. It tells us the truth. And the first verse there on your outline, James 3:2, says this, "We all stumble in many ways". Everybody agree with that verse? Yeah, we're all in the same boat. Okay, we all, I looked up that word, all, it means all, okay. We all stumble, we mess up, we screw up, we make mistakes, we sin, we have problems, we hurt other people, we hurt ourselves, we all stumble in many, many ways. This is one of the most obvious truths of the universe. I mean, I have never met anybody in all of my years who's claimed to be perfect, that they've never stumbled. No, no, we've all messed up in many ways.
Just a couple other verses on the screen, Ecclesiastes 7:20, "There's not a single person in all the earth who's always good and never sins". That includes me, it includes you, it includes the Pope, it includes everybody. There's not a person on earth who always does what's right, always does what's good and never does what's wrong. The Bible says it like this in Romans 3:23, "Yeah, all of us, all of us," again there's that word, "all of us have sinned. Everyone falls short of God's glorious ideal".
Now another way to say that verse is all of us have sinned and all of us fall short of God's original dream for our lives. Okay, we've all fallen short of God's original dream for our lives. Does that mean that that dream is now on hold? No, it does not, it does not. We all fall short of the glorious ideal. We don't hit perfection, we don't get what God has dreamed for us, but this is why Jesus came to earth. He said this, on the screen, Luke 19:10, "I came," Jesus said, "to save and restore what was lost". What's lost when we make poor choices? We lose our vision, we lose our dignity, we can lose our identity, we can lose our confidence, we can lose our joy, we can lose our piece of mind, we can lose our plans and dreams and hopes. A lot of stuff's lost from our poor decisions, but the whole the reason Jesus came to earth, he said, "I came to recover and to restore that which is lost".
And part of what Jesus came to restore is God's original dream for you. He hadn't moved on to Plan B in your life, he still has Plan A in your life. He still has his original dream for why he made you, regardless of what's happened in your life, what other people have done to you, or what other people have done against you, or what you have done to yourself, or all the poor decisions that other people and you made. How do you live God's dream despite past poor decisions? Well, I want us this weekend to look at the steps because the Bible gives us a very clear pathway on how to get back on track, to how to get back to God's original dream. Even if you haven't been there for 50 years, how do you get back? It's never too late to get back on track with the original plan God had for your life. He hasn't shelved it, it's still in force in your life.
So what are the steps to recovering God's original dream for my life, even though I may not have known about it until now? Well, there are six steps. I want you to write these down, here's number one. The first step in recovering God's dream for my life is to honestly accept responsibility for my poor choices. That's where we start. I own up and say, "I honestly accept responsibility for all the dumb choices I've made in life". Nobody was holding the gun to my head, nobody forced you to make the choices that you made, you chose to make them and I've chose to make them and the Bible says, "We've all stumbled in many ways," we've all made poor choices.
Now what this means, when I don't accuse others and I don't excuse myself, which is what we typically do, we accuse and excuse. Since Adam and Eve, God's people and everybody have this accusing/excusing. We excuse ourselves, "Well, well, well," and we accuse others, we blame others. You've heard me say many times, you spell blame, be lame. Every time you blame, you are being lame. So don't excuse it, accuse it. Now there are many, many examples I could give in scripture on why we make poor choices. Let me just give you one, it is the time when Peter betrayed Jesus Christ the night before he goes to the cross and Jesus even predicted, said, "Peter, you're gonna deny me three times before tomorrow morning". And in Peter's night before Jesus goes to the cross betrayal, where he betrays Jesus three different times, he makes three really poor choices, but he does it for four very common reasons.
So I want you to see these, they're all in Mark 14 if you want to read about it. Mark 14 is Jesus being betrayed by Peter and there are four common causes. The first cause that causes us to make poor choices, write this down, is pride, pride, arrogance, ego, egotism. The Bible says that pride causes us to make dumb decisions. Now we see this is the upper room. Jesus is in the upper room with his closest disciples, the original 12, they're taking the Lord's supper together. Jesus says at that moment, "One of you is gonna betray me". One guy pipes up, saying, "No way, Jose, that isn't gonna happen". Who is it, it's Peter and in Mark 14:29, Peter, in the upper room, says this, "Everybody else may stumble in their faith, but I won't"! He's being set up by the devil right here, big, big target on his back.
Nobody else makes this boast of the 12 guys, but Peter, of all the guys, goes, "Lord, all these losers over here, they may deny you, they may back out, they may wimp out on you, I know what you're about to go through, you're gettin' ready to be arrested and tortured and go to the cross, but no way am I gonna back out. I'd die for you". He's setting himself up with pride. The Bible says, "If any man thinks he's not gonna fall, take heed because he probably will". And the people who brag about their confidence the most are the ones who are gonna most likely stumble. He says, "Everybody may stumble but I won't," it's his pride.
Proverbs 11:2 on the screen says, "Pride leads to disgrace, but humility leads to wisdom". Anytime I start thinkin' I'm a hotshot, I'm dead in the water already. Anytime I start thinkin' I'm invincible, "This can't happen to me," I'm already dead. Given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin, given the right situation. If you don't believe that, you're already in trouble because the Bible says the heart's deceitful. You lie to yourself and I lie to myself more than we lie to anybody else. Pride causes us to make dumb decisions. Have you ever made a dumb decision out of pride? Don't give me your illustration, but I know you can think of one, okay?
Number two, second cause of poor decisions in life, fatigue, fatigue. When you get tired, when you get worn out, when your resources are low, when you're stressed to the limit, when you're hangin' on and you're about to go under, you're at the end of your rope, when you're fatigued, Vince Lombardi, the great coach, said, "Fatigue makes cowards of all of us," and it does. When the more fatigued you are, the more fearful you will tend to become and the more controlling you will tend to be. Now Jesus, before he is arrested, he goes to this place, his favorite place to pray, it's called the Garden of Gethsemane. And while he's there he takes the 12 guys with him and then he takes three of 'em, Peter, James and John, goes, "You guys come along with me, I just need you to be here with me while I pray. I don't need you to pray for me, I just need you to be with me, administer your presence while I'm prayin' through what I'm gonna face tomorrow," being crucified and tortured.
So Jesus is there prayin' his heart out and the three guys, Peter, James and John, all fall asleep. And in Mark 14:37, Jesus wakes them up and goes, "Guys, could you not stay awake with me for just one hour? Just one hour, I'm just askin' ya to stay awake with me for one hour". What's happened, they're fatigued. When you get fatigued, you're going to make poor choices in your life. Never make a major decision when you're tired or depressed. Never make a major decision when you're tired or depressed, okay? Here's a third reason people make bad decisions, fear of disapproval. When you start worrying about what other people think, "What will other people think if I make this decision? What will other people think if I stand up for God, if I represent Christ at my business site, at my job site, at my school? What will other people think"?
That's gonna cause you to make a poor decision, the fear of disapproval. After Jesus is arrested that night, the Bible says this in Mark 14:54 that, "Peter followed Jesus," how, "at a distance". Circle that, "at a distance". He's following Jesus at a distance. Anytime you follow Jesus at a distance, you're gonna make dumb decisions. You gotta get as close to God as you can. You gotta get as close to Jesus as you can. Peter, who's been right by his side for three and a half years, now he's scared to death and he's following Jesus, he's just following him from a distance. Are you doin' that? Are you following Jesus from a distance? You go, "Oh, yeah, I'm saved, I'm in the family of God. I'm a believer, I'm a Christian," but you're following God at a distance. You're gonna make dumb decisions if you follow at a distance.
Why do you follow at a distance? Why was Peter following? 'Cause he's afraid, "If I get too close to Jesus, they might crucify me, too. They might torture me, too, they might arrest me, too," and he's concerned for his own safety. He's following at a distance 'cause he's worried about what other people will think. When you worry about what other people think, you're always gonna make the wrong decision, all right? Here's a fourth reason we make poor decisions, short-term pleasure, short-term pleasure. You know, you're gettin' ready to go to bed at night and you know, really, probably, eating a banana split isn't the best thing for me, but it will be so good while I'm eating it. And so we go for short-term pleasure instead of long-term health and this happens in a thousand different ways. When people overspend on their credit card and they get deeper and deeper and deeper into debt, why? They're doing short-term pleasure. "I gotta have it, I gotta have it now I gotta have it now even if I can't afford it". They're exchanging short-term pleasure for long-term pain.
Now here's what you need to understand in life, put up with pain now, you'll have pleasure later on in life. Enjoy pleasure now, you're gonna have pain later on in life to pay back for all the things you paid for. It's one or the other. If you put up with discipline and put up with some inconvenience now and you save your money, you'll have a lot more pleasure later on in life. But if you spend it all now, short-term pleasure, then you're gonna have the pain there. You're gonna have it one way or the other, you get to choose. Short-term pleasure. Mark 14:54, it says, "So then Peter sat down with the guards and warmed himself at the fire". I imagine they were makin' s'mores. "Anybody got a hot dog stick? Well, let's roast some weenies and have a hot dog and make some s'mores. Isn't this fun"?
Jesus is being arrested and tortured and what's he doing? He's sitting with the enemy around the campfire, why? It's convenient, it's comfortable. Anytime I place comfort before character, I'm gonna make poor decisions. Anytime I put short-term gain over long-term gain, I'm gonna make poor decisions. Now, those are four common causes, there are a lot more, but we all make poor choices out of pride, out of fatigue, out of fear of disapproval and out of short-term pleasure. Now here's an interesting point, these four things that caused Peter to make dumb decisions, Jesus wasn't surprised by any of them. In fact, Jesus told Peter in advance, "This is what's gonna happen".
Jesus knew that Peter was gonna betray him before Peter did, 'cause he's God. He even tells him, and he says, "Peter, before the rooster crows three times tomorrow mornin', you're gonna deny me three times". And here's what he says, look at the next verse, Jesus isn't surprised by our failures in life. Luke 22:31-32, Jesus said: Simon Peter, Satan has asked to test you, but I have prayed for you. Satan has asked to test you, but I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail. So when you have repented and recovered, this is after you've denied me, I want you to strengthen the other disciples.
Now this is a very powerful verse that teaches us a lot about your failures, okay? First, I want you to notice that Jesus knows every failure in your life before it happens. Okay, he's not gonna be surprised. You're gonna have failures this next year and you're gonna make some bad decisions in the future. He already knows them. God knows past, present, future, all at the same time, so it's not like he'll go, "Oh, man, I didn't see that one comin'. Didn't know you were gonna make that one". Before you were born, he knew every dumb decision you'd make and I would make. Jesus knows every failure before it happens.
Then notice next, Jesus prays for you before it happens. The things that you're gonna fail at this next week, this next month, this next year, the next 10 years, Jesus has already prayed for you, that's what he says. He's already prayed for the dumb mistakes you're gonna make, the bad decisions you're gonna choose. He says, "I know what's gonna happen, and not only that, I've already prayed for you. I've already prayed for you".
And then, notice he says, "When you have repented and recovered," he didn't say if, Jesus knows you're gonna recover. Jesus already knows you're going to recover from the sins and the mistakes and the bad decisions that you're gonna make in the future. He already knows. He knows what they are, but he also knows, he's prayed for ya, and so he knows you're going to recover. He says, "When you have recovered and repented," and then he says, "I want you to strengthen the other disciples".
Here's the fourth thing, Jesus wants you to help others with what you learn from your mistakes. Whoa, now we're gettin' somewhere. We're in this series, we're gonna take six weeks to talk about God's dream for your life. Part of God's dream for your life is to take the lessons of your mistakes and help somebody else. The same four things he said to Peter he says to you, "I know every mistake you're gonna make in life, I've already prayed for every mistake you're gonna make in life, I know you're gonna come back to me after that mistake in life and I want you to help other people when you've come back". That's a comfort, that's good news because it means ultimately, "I can't destroy my own life if I've given it to God," because he is gonna work it all out.
So the first step in receiving God's original dream is just to humbly, or honestly, accept responsibility for my poor choices. "Yeah, that was a dumb one and that was a dumb one and that was a dumb one and that was a very hurtful one. And that was an evil choice that I made and I made it out of pride and I made it out of fatigue and I may have made it out of fear of what other people think. I may have made it out of choosing short-term pleasure over long-term character".
Here's the second step, now I move to the second step, after I honestly accept responsibility, number two, I humbly ask for God's mercy and forgiveness. I humbly ask for God's mercy and forgiveness. Now I don't have to explain this a whole lot 'cause it just means humbly ask. If you don't know what to pray, I would highly recommend you learn and read Psalm 51. Write that down, Psalm 51. Psalm 51 is David's prayer of confession after he'd had a guy murdered so he could steal his wife. Pretty significant sin, adultery and murder in the same thing. And in Psalm 51, if you don't know what to pray when you need to confess to God somethin' you've really blown up, here's what to pray.
Psalm 51:1-3, 6, 10, David said: "Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. In your great compassion, please wipe out the stain of all my wrongdoing. Wash away all my guilt, cleanse me from my sins. For I am haunted by my failures and I can't forget the evil things I've done. I can't forget it, I'm haunted by it. I know," he says, "I know you love complete honesty from my heart, so help me see what's deep inside me," what made me do this, what caused me to make this dumb decision. "Help me to see what's deep inside me". "Then, God, create a new pure heart in me and renew my spirit with the right desires," I wanna do the right thing, I wanna do what's right, "and restore the joy of your salvation". Then he says, "I'll help bring others back to you, too".
Now, I want you to notice that in this thing, in this just small passage, the whole chapter's terrific, he mentions eight things he asks God to do, I want you to circle them all. First he says, "Have mercy," circle that, "have mercy". And then he says, "wipe out," circle, "wipe out, wipe out the stain of all my wrongdoing". Then he says, not only, "have mercy," and, "wipe out," he says, "wash away. wash away," circle that, "all my guilt. And cleanse me," circle that, "cleanse me from my sins". And then he says, down a little bit further, he says, "Help me see," circle that, "help me see". These are things you could ask God whenever you've blown it. "Help me see what's deep inside of me". Then he says, "Create a new pure heart in me," circle that, "create a new pure heart in me". And then he says, "And renew my spirit with the right desires, renew my spirit," circle that. "And restore the joy," circle that.
These are eight things you can ask God to do in your prayer when you have committed any kind of mistake, or sin, or evil, or whatever, you can say these eight things to God. And then notice, circle, what David promises to do back. He says, "Then I'll help bring others back to you, too". Isn't this interesting that David promises to do to God the very thing that Jesus told Peter to do when he was restored. He said, "Peter, I know you're gonna blow it, but when you come back, I want you to help other people with what you've learned from your mistakes. I want you to help other people with what you've learned from your sins. I wanna bring good out of bad. I want you to help other people," and this is exactly what David promises to do here. He goes, "God, I have totally blown it and I don't deserve any of this, but I'm asking you to do this, this and this because you're a good and loving God". And he said, "You know if you do that," then he says, "I'm gonna do," what Jesus later told Peter to do. And that is, he says, "I'm gonna help other people with the pain I've been through".
Who could better help somebody through the pain of a broken relationship than somebody who went through the pain of a broken relationship? Who can better help somebody struggling with an addiction than somebody who went through an addiction? Who could better help somebody who went through a fiasco of a marriage then somebody who went through a fiasco of a marriage? And on and on. I'm telling you that God says your past is part of the plan, that I want to even use the bad parts in your life for good. You're gonna go through pain in life, don't waste it. This is the difference between believers and non-believers. Everybody in the world has the same kinda pain, the difference is believers use it to help others. We use it for good. We redeem it and God says, "That's what I want to do".
Now I want you to write, I didn't leave ya much room on this outline, but I want ya to write down three important statements. If you only get this, you got the message, okay? Write these three things down. Number one, there is no Plan B for my life. Write that down. There is no Plan B for my life. You're still on Plan A, "But, but, but, what about"? You're still on Plan A. "But, but, but, what about"? You're still on Plan A. God has not revoked his original dream for your life. There's no Plan B, you're like, "But what about"? Doesn't matter what other people did to you, what've you've done to others, what mistakes, what poor decisions, you're still on Plan A.
Number two, write this down, my mistakes are part of God's plan. My mistakes are a part of God's plan. Now this will set you free if you'll learn it because it'll set you free to dream and stop thinking, "Well I'm not worthy to dream and I don't deserve to have a big dream. I messed up so much," no, no, no, no, no. There is no Plan B for my life, my mistakes are part of God's plan. Look up here on the screen. One of the most famous verses in the Bible, Romans 8:28, "We know," we don't guess, "we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose," or his dream, "for them". We know that God causes everything. What's in everything, the good, the bad, the evil, the poor decisions, the sins. Yeah, that sins are included in everything. God causes everything to work together for the good. It doesn't say it's all good, it's not.
There's a lot of bad in the world. There's a lot of sin in the world. There's a lot of evil in the world. It's not all good, but God causes it all to work together for good. For everybody, no, not for everybody. Everything is not working for good for everybody, but only for those who love God and are called according to his purpose, his dream for them. When you say, "God, I'm giving you all the pieces of life," he puts them back together in the right way. People say, "Well you can't unscramble an egg". God can. The God who create the universe can do anything. God can do anything, you think you're God? He'll make it all fit together and work it together for good. That means I can relax and know, "Okay, even my mistakes are part of the plan". And here's the third thing I want ya to write down. God expects me to use them to help others. I'm talkin' about my mistakes. I'm talkin' about my sins. I'm talking about my embarrassments. I'm talking about my failures.
God expects me to use them, the troubles and the trials that come into my life, whether somebody else brought them into my life or whether I brought them on myself. God doesn't really care about the source of your problems, he just says, "I will use them all". I don't care if you caused the problem yourself from your dumb decision. Or I don't care if the problem's caused by somebody else's dumb decision, I don't really care about the source. God says, "I'll still use it for good in your life and I expect you to use it to help others". On the screen, 2 Corinthians 1:6, "If we have troubles," and of course we do, "it is for your benefit and salvation"! When you have troubles for somebody else's benefit, that is called redemptive suffering. If we have troubles, it's for your benefit and salvation. You're helping somebody else with your pain. "For when God helps us recover, then we can encourage you so you can patiently endure the same things we did".
This, by the way, is the 12th step in 12 Step Celebrate Recovery, is you're not recovered 'til you're helping somebody else. You are not recovered from your pain until you're helpin' somebody else with it. Are you helping anybody with the pain you've gone through in your life? Let me ask you a couple problems. Can you put that verse back up there for just a minute? "If we have troubles, it's for your benefit". And then he says, "Then God helps us recover so you can patiently endure the same things that we did". All right, two questions. I want you to think, what are the biggest troubles you've had in your life? You're not gonna think of 'em all right now, but I would encourage you to go home and think through. Rick said, think through, "What are the biggest troubles in my life that I've had"? Starting from a little child, what have been the biggest troubles in my life?
The second question I want to ask you is, to consider, maybe make a list of what have you had to patiently endure. What have you had to patiently endure? A physical handicap, a mental handicap, a relationship that's broken. What have you had to physically or emotionally endure, patiently endure? The answer to those two questions are a vital part of your life ministry and your life dream. God doesn't want you to waste your hurt. I've told you this so many times, we always help people more through our weaknesses than through our strengths. You have some great strengths, you also have some massive weaknesses. We're all a bundle of both. I've got some really great strengths in my life. I got some really great weaknesses in my life. We're all bundle of both. And if I got up here and I tried to tell ya all the great things that I'm good at, that wouldn't help you at all, it wouldn't help you at all. But if I get up here and I share with ya how I went through this problem and I went through that problem and how I recovered from that stupid mistake and how I made progress even in my weakness in that particular area, then you go, "Oh, well then maybe God could use me"?
That's the point, God wants to use you. Not when you're perfect, God wants to use you now. And God wants you to use you even in areas that you have been embarrassed about. This is the power of the gospel. This is the power of the gospel that they're a part of your vital dream that we help people, not simply through the gifts and the strengths that we have, but we help people through the problems and the pain we have. One of the biggest pains in my life was the death of my youngest son who took his life after struggling with mental illness for 27 years. I can't think of anything more painful for a dad and I didn't ask for that ministry, but almost not a day goes by that somebody calls me, often very well-known, often famous, from around the world, asking for help on either mental illness or suicide. I didn't ask for that ministry, I didn't think that would be a part of my dream, but I'm not gonna waste my pain so I'm gonna help other people. And if I gave you a list of the people who have called me, you'd be shocked. You'd know many of their names, but they figured out, "That guy must be safe because he went through it and he talks about it". What are you not talking about in your life?
Number three, I gratefully accept God's grace and forgive myself, big ending. I gratefully, number three, accept God's grace, God's amazing grace. Okay, and, notice, write this down, and forgive myself. Put that on there, and forgive myself, 'cause a lot of people don't do that last part. Ephesians 1:7 says this, on the screen, "Christ sacrificed his life's blood," on the cross, "to set us free, which means that all our sins," look at the all, "all our sins are now forgiven"! And when were they forgiven? When he died on the cross, that's 2,000 years ago. When were your sins forgiven, 2,000 years ago. "Christ sacrificed his life's blood," on the cross, "to set us free, which means that all of our sins are now forgiven! God did this because of his generous grace to us".
All right, on the cross Jesus Christ died for every sin you'll ever commit, even the ones you haven't committed yet. So what's the daily implication of that? Romans 8:1, we're gonna memorize this verse. Up here on the screen, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus"! Huh? Wait, shouldn't I feel guilty? No. What does that say? "No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". Now let me pause here. The reason I decided to do this message is I talked to a number of different people this week who are struggling with their past keeping them from dreaming in the future. And one guy told me a while back, a couple days ago, said, "You know I know that God has forgiven me, I just can't forgive myself". A lot of people feel that way. "I know that I'm forgiven, I know Jesus Christ paid for all my sins on the cross, I just can't forgive myself".
Now let me say this to you, when you say that, "I can't forgive myself," you're saying that you doubt the power of the cross. You're saying, "I don't really believe God forgave me because if I really believed it, if God forgives me, who am I to argue with God"? When you are doubting God's forgiveness, then you hold onto not forgiving yourself because you say, "I still have to pay for it". No, you don't. Actually, not forgiving yourself is a sin because you're saying, "I don't believe that the cross paid it all. I don't believe that Jesus covered all my sin. I don't believe that I'm totally free, I still gotta pay for it," and that in itself is a sin.
So forgive yourself and stop sinning. Did that make sense? Okay, that when you refuse to forgive what God has forgiven, you're really doubting the power of the cross. You're doubting that Jesus' blood was enough. You're doubting that salvation was not fully paid for and so you have to pay for it yourself. You can stop nailing yourself to the cross because Jesus already was, he was hung up for your hang ups. So you gotta forgive yourself. Now, why does my sin, no matter what I've done, not invalidate, why does my sin not invalidate God's dream for me? Three reasons, I want you to write these down. Three reason, there is no sin you could commit that invalidates God's dream for your life.
Number one, because Jesus already paid for all my sins, because Jesus already paid for all my sins. They were paid for before you even knew God had a dream for your life. 1 John 2:2 says this, "When Jesus served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for God, not only our sin, but the whole world's sin". All right, so remember when Jesus died on the cross, he paid for the sins that you haven't even done yet. So he's already paid for all your sins. There's no way you need to pay for them, that's called double jeopardy, it's saying that that wasn't enough. Do you understand why we take communion to remember the cross? That in the cross, everything I've ever done wrong was wiped out. All those words that David said, wiped out, forgiven, cleansed, purified, eliminated, forgotten.
Number two, second reason my sin doesn't invalidate God's dream for my life is because God's goodness isn't based on my performance. God's goodness to you is based on the fact that God is a good God. It's not based on the fact that you deserve it. It's just because God is a good God, so God is good to you and it isn't based on my performance. Titus 3:5, "He," Jesus, "saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy". So everything that God does good in my life, it's not 'cause I deserve it, it's 'cause he's a merciful God. Has nothing to do with me either earning it, or deserving it, or working for it, it just doesn't work that way. It's called grace, it's called mercy. And the third reason why my sin does not invalidate God's dream for me.
C, number three, God's calling and gifts are given unconditionally. God's calling, and God has a call on everybody's life. God has called you to a certain dream. God has called you to a certain purpose. God has called you to a certain calling and he has given you gifts to fulfill that calling in life and they are given unconditionally. You don't work for them, if you had to work for 'em they wouldn't be called gifts. If you have to work for something it's not a gift, that's a wage. If you came and worked for me for a year and then I paid you money, I said, "Here's my gift". You say, "Buddy, that's not a gift, I earned that". A gift means you didn't earn it, you didn't work for it. God's calling and gifts are given unconditionally and you can't earn 'em. Romans 11:29, "For God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. They cannot be withdrawn".
Everybody, I want you to just look up here and I want to say this to you. God's dream, original dream for your life, is still in full force. You're not on Plan B, no matter how many times you blew it. And what I want to do in the next six weeks is help you live that rest of your life with that dream. Doesn't matter how late in life you're getting started on it. It's never too late to get into God's dream for your life. It's never too late unless you just said, "I'm in," and you die. Then it would be too late. Just a little humor there, a wee bit of humor. All right, I know I'm driving this home, but you honestly accept responsibility. "God I'm not blaming anybody else for all my dumb decisions, for the evil things that I've done, for the mean things I've done, for the hateful things I've done, for the hurtful things I've done. God, I've not been a good person. Many times in my life I've been selfish to the core". That's called sin, okay?
I don't accuse others and I don't excuse myself. Then I humbly ask forgiveness. And like David, "Lord, I need your cleansing, I need your purifying, I need your forgiveness, I need your grace". And then I gratefully accept God's grace and I forgive myself. Extremely important, because if you don't forgive yourself, you haven't really accepted God's forgiveness, all right? Now here, number four, two more things to get you started for where we're gonna go in the weeks ahead.
Number four, next, I generously forgive those who've hurt me. Uh-oh, "I don't really like this part. I like being forgiven, but I don't want to forgive anybody else". Well, this is part of the plan. Generously forgive those who've hurt me. Not only do you need to let your own sin go, you need to let everybody else's sin go, too, against you. Now follow me on this, there are three things that will keep you stuck in the past that will keep you from living God's dream for your life, grief, loss is in the past, guilt, sin in the past, grudges, hurts from the past. Grief, guilt and grudges will keep you stuck in the past. And if you let grief or guilt or grudges, or all three, come into your heart, you will continue to miss God's dream for your life. That's why I had to do this message on the past. You gotta let go of your guilt, that's confession. You gotta let go of your grudges, that means forgive other people, you gotta forgive other people. You gotta let them off the hook just like God lets you off the hook.
Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says this, "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your father will not forgive your sins". What's he saying here? He's saying we can't expect to receive what we're unwilling to give. We cannot expect to receive what we're unwilling to give. You have to let the people who hurt you off the hook, not because they deserve it, they don't. They don't deserve it anymore than God lettin' you off the hook. You don't deserve that, I don't deserve that. You gotta let people off the hook so you can get on with your future.
As long as you hold onto a grudge, as long as you hold onto resentment, as long as you hold onto a hurt, thinking you're hurting them by your bitterness, you're being stuck in the past. Your past is passed. Those people can't hurt you anymore unless you choose to let them from your memory and that's dumb. You don't forgive them 'cause they deserve it, they' don't, forgiveness is never deserved. You forgive them because you go, "I'm not gonna be stuck in the past. I'm gonna get on with my life in the future and whatever days left, I'm gonna make this the best days of my life. I'm goin' after God's dream and I'm gonna walk through those open doors". But you can't walk through those open doors until you let go of that bitterness, until you let go of that hurt, you let go of that pain, you let go of that resentment. You gotta let people off the hook, not for their sake but for your sake so you can get on with the future.
Finally, the fifth step, the fifth thing I do, I accept responsibility, I humbly ask for forgiveness, gratefully accept God's grace, forgive myself, generously forgive those around me who've hurt me, number five, courageously face the future with faith. Now that's what this "Time to Dream and Open Doors" campaign is all about, courageously facing the future with faith. And I wanna close with just a couple verses, but they're very important verses. Courageously face the future with faith. In Job 11, Job gets some of the best advice for recovering a dream, for recovering what has been lost in your life, for recovering God's original plan for you.
Job 11:13-18, here's what he says, "Devote your whole heart to God," okay, got that, check. "Reach out to him in prayer for help," check. "If you get rid of the sins in your heart and your home," you got any sins in your home, like some magazines that shouldn't be there? "Get rid of the sins in your heart and your home, you will face the world again without shame," circle that, without shame, "and you'll be strong and free of fear! Then you'll forget your past troubles," hallelujah, "you'll forget your past troubles," and mistakes and sins and faux pas and all of that, "you'll forget your past troubles, like water under a bridge. Your life will be brighter than noonday, and even in darkness, you're gonna shine like the morning. And now you'll have courage because you will have hope"!
I could spend 20 minutes unpackin' that verse. I want ya to just go home and read it and reread it and reread it and reread it because all those things to do, if you do that then you're courageously gonna face the future with faith. The point I'm making is this, the Bible is full of people who got a second chance. God is the God of second chances and 100th chances. Abraham, called the Father of Faith, traded away his wife. That wasn't much faith in terms of Sarah, 'cause he thought, "Well they'll kill me, so tell them you're my sister". "Thanks, honey". Really confident in God right there. Abraham trades away his wife. Moses murders a guy. Jonah runs from his assignment, "And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah a second time".
Noah gets drunk and embarrasses himself after he does the biggest event of his day. Rahab's a prostitute. David commits adultery and has his lover's husband put to death. Every one of those people I just mentioned are in God's hall of fame in Hebrews 11. God loves to give second chances. If you had to be perfect, none of us stand a chance of that. But we need to courageously face the future with faith, realizing that God just loves to give us chance after chance after chance. Do you know that in America there are 70 million Americans with a prison record? 70 million Americans have a prison record. Every one of them deserves a second chance because God is the God of second chance.
I'll never forget, I've told you this story before, one time I was preaching in a prison in Northern California and there's several thousand prisoners out on the yard and they gave me a live microphone, but nobody was asked to pay attention, so there's guys over here playing basketball and there's different gangs sorted out over this huge, football stadium-sized field. And I just needed to get their attention so I pulled out, out of my wallet, a $50 bill. And I held it up, I said, "Anybody'd like this $50 bill"? 4,000 hands went up. I crumpled it all up. "Anybody still want it"? 4,000 hands go up. I took it and I tore little tears in it, I put it on the ground, I stamped it into the ground into the dirt. I picked it up, I spit on it. "Anybody still want it"? 4,000 hands went up. And I said, "Many of you, this is what your daddy did to you, or society did to you. And you've been spit on and you've been put down and maybe you've even been the victim of racism and you've done stupid things yourself, that's why you're here and you've made some bad choices, too. And you've gotten beaten and you've gotten torn and you've gotten dirty, but you have not lost one cent of your value to God".
Now I've got everybody's attention. I don't know what you've done stupid in your life, but you have not lost one cent of your value to God. When Christ died on the cross, when he died on the cross, he was saying, "This is how much I care about you. this is how much I love you, this is how much we're still on track". The dream is not invalidated by your sin. "I still have Plan A for your life because I say all things work together for the good of God, even the good of those who love God called according to his purpose. Not everything's good, but even your dumb sins, I'll weave 'em into the plan. And the dark threads and the light threads, we'll make a beautiful tapestry out of it all". But if we're gonna go where I want to take you as a church family in the next weeks, we're gonna have to shut the door on the past, today. You're gonna have to give up your grief and give up your guilt and give up your grudges so we can move forward together.
This is what Jesus wants us to do. One other verse, Isaiah 43:18-19, "Forget the former things and do not dwell on the past. See, I'm doing a new thing! Now it is springing up, do you not perceive it? I'll make a pathway through the wilderness and I'll create streams where there's been a wasteland"! Your past is passed. Now it's interesting, the Bible says that we're to learn from the past, we're to celebrate the victories of the past, we're to learn the lessons of the past. We spend an entire month talking about the past of Saddleback Church and what God has done and celebrating that, but we can't live in the past. He said, "You gotta let that go". "All the past is prologue". We're movin' into the future, it's time to dream and I'm opening doors that no man can shut and all your future, all your life is in the future.
You know it's interesting, I started with Peter and his big three failure in life, his big three, you know, betrayals. After Peter's big failure, Jesus went out of his way to affirm him. In fact, on Easter morning, the first people who learned that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead were the women who had gone there to prepare the body. Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome, the others, and the Bible says this, that the angel said to the women, "Jesus is alive! He's risen from death! Now go tell the disciples, and especially Peter". Why did God make sure that Peter was mentioned by name? 'Cause he was the one carrying the most guilt from two nights before. "Go tell my disciples and tell Peter, 'cause I love that guy. Yeah, he blew it. He blew it, he really blew it, but I love that guy. Go tell my disciples and tell Peter". He knows your name. He said, "It's okay, Peter, all is forgiven, come on home".
He singles out Peter, the one who was the biggest failure. And not 50 days later, that's the guy God chooses to preach on the day of Pentecost on the first day of the Church and 3,000 people are saved. He chose the biggest failure for the greatest message. About a week later, after the resurrection, Peter and his friends had gone back fishing again on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus comes walkin' by and says, "Come on in, bring the fish in, we'll cook you some breakfast". And he sits there and they eat breakfast together, which by the way, ghosts don't eat, so he wasn't a ghost, he wasn't an apparition, he wasn't a vision, it's Jesus in the flesh. They're eatin', they're havin' fish and chips. Okay? And Jesus says this: After eating breakfast, John 21, After eating breakfast with them, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, do you love me more than these?" the rest of the disciples. "Yes, Lord," Peter replied, "you know I love you". Jesus said, "Then feed my lambs".
Then Jesus repeated the question, "Simon, do you love me"? "Yes, Lord," Peter said, "you know, you know I love you"! "Then take care of my sheep," Jesus said. Then a third time Jesus asked Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you truly love me"? Now Peter's hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. And he said, "Lord, Lord, you know everything! You know that I love you"! Jesus said, "Then feed my sheep".
Now what's going on here that Jesus asked this question three times? He's giving the one who denied him three times the opportunity to affirm him three times. Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, now Jesus three times asks him and he lets him say it and say it and say it. He was reaffirming the affirmation to overcome the three denials. But he was also doing something else, he wanted to reinforce what he had said before it even happened. He said, "When you recover, you're to use your pain, you're to use your sin, you're to use your mistakes to help other people. That's part of my dream for your life". And he wants to reinforce, "Use your mistakes and pain to help others".
Now here's your homework for this week, week of "Time to Dream". One, I want you sign and place the covenant prayer tent where you can see it. In your program there is a card that looks like this. Everybody pull this out. Everybody pull this out and it folds, you can fold the bottom parts like this, the bottoms, and you pull it and then you put it together and it makes a little tent. I want you to put this where you will see it every day for the next 40 days.
All right, pull it out, I want you to put it together and on one side are five goals, D-O-O-R-S, and on the other side is the "Time to Dream" covenant, all right? It says, "God can do far more than you imagine, or request, or dream. My covenant, 42 days, from February 23rd to April 5th, 2020. Because I want to know God's dream for my life, because I want to grow stronger spiritually, because I want to support my church family and be supported by them, I commit to the five Time to Dream" habits "for the next 42 days". I'm not asking you to do this the rest of your life, I'm asking you to do it for 42 days.
Number one, "I will listen to all the 'Time to Dream' weekend messages, either live or online". If you missed last week, you need to go listen to it. Number two, "I'll read the daily 'Open Doors' devotional". This is the new book and you'll read the weekly, this week you're gonna read February 23 to 29. "I will participate in the 'Time to Dream' small group study". And this week you're gonna look at the second open door, which is the "Door to Authentic Relationships". "I will ask what part my part should be in our 2020 vision offering," which we're gonna do Easter week. And number five, "I will pray for everyone else participating in our church family, knowing that they're praying for me". I've already signed mine, right there. I want you to sign it and I want you to put it where you'll see it everyday. And you can pray for others knowing that everybody else in our family is praying for you.
Let's bow our heads. You are a good and gracious God. Your plans never change. Our sins cannot change your plans and dreams for our lives. Thank you. May we take these steps this week. If you've never opened your life to Jesus Christ, say:
Jesus Christ, come into my life right now. I want to follow you, I want to trust you. I want to know your dream for my life. I acknowledge, I admit that I made a lot of sins and mistakes in my life and I need your forgiveness. And I thank you for your grace and your mercy. Help me to forgive the people who've hurt me and help me to step out in faith in the next 42 days. I pray it in your name, Amen.