Steven Furtick — It's In the Middle
We're focused this week on the word of salvation. When Jesus was dying on the cross, he said to a thief who was crucified with him… You, of course, would know that the crucifixion was not an anomaly. In Jesus' time it was a common form of capital punishment.
Jesus died the death of a common criminal beside two common criminals. One of them mocked him and said, "If you were really who you say you are, you would get down off that cross, and you would get us down too. Save us."
While one mocked him, the other one, who was on his right side, recognized the distinction of his divinity, or at least his innocence, and said, "We deserve this, and you don't. Sir, I'm not quite sure who you are, but when you come into your kingdom, remember me."
Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise." The word of salvation. I had the privilege this weekend to perform my brother's wedding ceremony. I don't do a lot of weddings. I'm good at them. I just am typically preaching on Saturday nights. Our campus pastors do such an excellent job with the wedding officiating.
I was kind of nervous doing his ceremony. I don't want to mess up my man's wedding, because, hey, man, he has this girl here at the altar, and he might not get this chance again. She might change her mind, so we have to get this done. It's my little brother, but he's a lot taller than me. He serves in the United States Air Force. He's cool.
He could beat me up, but I have mind game on him, so he doesn't know that. He asked me to do his wedding, and his fiancée… They asked me to come, and I was privileged to do it. Holly said I did a good job. In fact, she said exactly this. She said, "You did so good officiating that wedding, I kind of wish I could marry somebody else so you could do the wedding."
I wasn't sure how to receive that compliment. I rebuked her. Kind of a twisted compliment. Anyway, I only bring it up because, truth be told, although I really love the opportunity to do the wedding, I kind of have a problem not with weddings…
I'm not anti-marriage. Do not send me emails. Send them all to Jonathan Josephs, your Ballantyne Campus pastor. It's not that I'm against love. I have nothing against it. It's just that, can we all agree, especially those of us who have been married for more than years, that marriage has very little to do with the flower arrangement you choose or how many layers of cake you can roll out that you're not going to eat anyway, because only the top one is real, and all the other stuff is just decoration…
It doesn't matter how many shades of magenta your bridesmaids are standing there dressed in. What happens in marriage happens in the middle. That's my sermon today. It's in the middle that a marriage is made. It's in the middle that a Christian grows. It's in the middle that you find out what you're made of. This sermon is like a Tootsie Roll pop.
What you bought it for is in the middle. I admire the thief, and I'm thankful that he was saved on the cross, but most of us don't get to be in paradise the day we get saved. The fact of the matter is we don't get raptured up to heaven the moment we make Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives. We are left here on this earth so we can bring heaven into our situations.
It's in the middle. The way we typically focus on the moment… I believe God can save you in a moment. I really do. If you're here today and you're thinking you have to memorize some Bible verses or there are some certain habits you have to correct in your life… Are you all tired of hearing me preach? I've been preaching to y'all for years now.
For years, I've been saying this same message. God can save you in a moment. If you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, you shall be saved. I know it, because that thief did not have to enroll in a theological school. He didn't have to go through a catechism class. He didn't have to prove the legitimacy of his faith by giving up certain things.
Come as you are, but don't expect to stay that way. Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise." Part of me thinks that would be kind of nice, if I could just be married and stay married without a process. I'm kind of a process preacher. I really am, because one of my core beliefs is that God is in the process. Don't get me wrong. He can move in a moment.
Something can happen in your soul when the Word of God goes forth that is so strong the chains are broken and you are never the same. Why not today? The apostle Paul said, "Today is the day of salvation."
He said that to the Corinthian church, backslidden. He said, "Now is the time of God's favor." Not when you get your act together. Not when people approve of you. Now is the hour. Today is the day. The privilege of my life is seeing someone in a moment make a decision to follow Christ, in a moment for the weight to be lifted, for the chains to be broken.
In a moment. What about the middle? I know he could save me in a moment, and I know that when I die, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye… "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." I'm going to heaven when I die, and I'm glad about it, and I don't have to fry and burn. I know all that, and I'm really glad about it.
One thing the thief and I did not have in common… We both deserved the cross Jesus died on, but I didn't get to go to paradise the moment I trusted Christ with my life. This message is not about paradise; this message is about process.
This message is not about flower girls; this message is about the fight for faith in the middle. I want to present it to you in a way that hopefully can help you understand why it is that sometimes, even though you got saved, you don't feel saved, and what to do in the middle.
Touch your neighbor and say, "I need to know what to do in the middle." When I die I'm dead. I'm gone. I'm in heaven. I'm there. But here and now I need God… The thing about me is I got saved, but I still need some saving.
Maybe you don't, but I still… Look real good at the person next to you and see if they look like they still need saving. See if they look like there are still some times in their lives that they still need saving.
It's a seven-mile journey, and the miracle is in the middle. Did you notice that? We've been studying from this Emmaus Road, where Jesus just shows up beside these two disciples. Jesus just shows up right in the middle of their conversation.
It's a man named Cleopas and, some scholars suggest, perhaps his wife. He and his companion were not expecting the presence of Christ to show up, but he showed up in the middle of their disappointment. He showed up in the middle of their disillusionment. He showed up in the middle of their "We thought so."
He showed up in the middle of the "What now?" He showed up in the middle. God will meet you in the middle. It's in the middle.