Steven Furtick - The Restriction Has Been Lifted
The Scripture the Lord led me to as we complete this season didn't seem, to me, like a Christmas Scripture at first, but I think it is. It's in Exodus, chapter 40. You're like, "Isn't the Christmas story in the New Testament"? Jesus is all up in your Bible. He's like Where's Waldo? You just have to know how to spot him. In Exodus 40, there is something I want to show you today. Verse 33. Let's go.
"Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels".
The Lord gave me good tidings of great joy to preach to you this Christmas season. My title is an announcement. Get ready to shout. God said to tell you, The Restriction Has Been Lifted. Open your mouth, hold your teeth, and shout unto God. The restriction has been lifted. Put it in the chat right now. The restriction has been lifted. Tell your neighbor, "You can move around the room. You are now free to praise him. The restriction has been lifted". I had fun doing that on the road. We were going out on Elevation Nights all around the country, and I would make a joke when I would get up in these different cities. I'd say, "Hey, now I know some of y'all haven't been to church in two years, ever since 2020, and it's 2022, so I have two years of makeup church to have with you tonight, so I'm going to preach about three hours".
They'd kind of laugh, and you could see people looking at each other, like, "How does he know I haven't been back to church"? I'll put a trigger warning on this real quick, because that phrase, "The restriction has been lifted," takes us all to a certain place. This is not a political message. This is just an illustration I want to use to get you into the Christmas message. So relax. I'm not going to say anything that's going to get us banned or canceled or arrested or anything like that.
Now that we got that out of the way, the illustration is this. A man walked up to me and asked me a question. This was about three months after they lifted the restriction where we could start gathering again for church in person. He saw me in a public place and said "Yo, Pastor! Are the restrictions lifted? Are y'all meeting in church now"? I said, "Yeah. We've been meeting for three months, and I've been preaching the whole time. We've been putting the sermons online". He goes, "Oh, cool. Well, I'm coming this Sunday then". He walks off. He turns around and walks back over to me and looks guilty and goes, "I can't lie to my pastor. I knew y'all were having church again. I follow every account on Instagram that Elevation Church has. I just haven't come back yet. So, I am going to be there Sunday, but I couldn't lie to you about why. It isn't that I haven't come back because I didn't think I could come back. I just didn't come back, and I haven't come back". I'm like, "It's all right, man. Give me a hug. We can hug now. The restrictions are lifted. Give me a hug".
It was a teaching moment for me, not about pandemics and viruses or any of that stuff. It was a moment to me about human nature. It was a moment for me to realize that sometimes the restriction is gone, but the conditioning remains. He said, "Hey, I just got used to not doing it, so I'm not doing it, and I have an excuse as I can't do it". This is not a sermon for all of y'all who are watching online, by the way. I think it's great to watch online. This is not saying don't watch. I wouldn't put the sermon online if I didn't want you to watch it online. But what the man said to me was powerful. He said, "I knew I could come back. I just haven't been coming back, but rather than say I haven't been coming back and deal with why I haven't been coming back, because I got into the habit of not coming back, I wanted to ask you, 'Can I come back?' because if I ask you, 'Can I come back?' it gives the impression that I'm confused, and then I can blame my complacency on my confusion". He said, "The restriction has been lifted, but my routine has been established, and the fact is I need to get back".
Why are y'all in the room looking convicted? Y'all are here. You should be shouting about this part of the sermon. It's not even about whether you're in this room or not. It's really not. It's about whether you're in faith. It's about whether you're in the place God has called you to, and it's about whether or not you're allowing God to lead you in this season of your life. That is exactly what I gave you a picture of from Exodus, chapter 40, where the Lord is leading his people. How many believe the Lord leads his people? That's one of the identifying marks of knowing you belong to God. Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice, and they listen".
So, not only do they hear it, but they go with it. One of the marks of my maturity in God is that not only is he speaking but that I am in step with him, that he is leading me, that he is leading me to be kinder and more generous, that he is leading me to be more disciplined in the areas that matter. In fact, that's the word Holly and I are putting on our offering today. In just a few moments, people from all over our church, our global community, and even online are going to be giving to the work of God through this ministry. Every year, we challenge every person, every family, to pick a word. My kids all have a word. Their words are just as unique as they are as people. I'm telling you, it's hilarious, because they were all making fun of each other's words at the table last night.
I was like, "Y'all need to stop making fun of each other's words, and we need to set an example for the people of God and give as a family. We can't be fighting like this as we're trying to set an example of faith". My word that I told Holly… Sometimes I ask her, and sometimes I just tell her. She trusts me, so she lets me be the leader of our home. I said, "Our word is actually leadership". There are two things I'm becoming more convinced about with every year God leaves me on this planet. One is that he is leading me, and the other one is that I need it. How much stupid stuff have I done? How many relationships have I wasted my time investing in because I didn't let God lead me?
Think how much money you could have saved on first dates if you would have listened to the Lord and let him lead you. It's not like he doesn't want to. It's not like God is cruel, up there trying to hide his will from you. It's not like God is some kind of masochistic master who wants to put you in situations and not show you what to do. I mean, if you need further proof God wants to lead you, look to the extremes he was willing to go to lead his people through the wilderness in Exodus, chapter 40. If you don't think God wants to lead you, watch this example. It's brilliant. God says, "I'm going to give you a place called the tabernacle. You can put it right in the wilderness at the base of Mount Sinai. I'm going to give you my commandments, 10 of them. Even when you break them, I'm going to give you the tablets again so you can have another start, because I am the God of new beginnings and second chances. I will lead you even when you lead yourself astray".
If you are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself. "When you get done with the commandments, build a tabernacle, a place for my glory to dwell". A place where there can be an altar; a place where there can be a basin for the priests to wash their hands in; a place where there can be cherubim where the presence of God can dwell in the Most Holy Place, after you get through the curtains and the lampstand and the table of shewbread, all which are pointing to the ultimate revelation of God in Jesus Christ our Savior, born on Christmas Day. God said, "I'm going to put a provisional tent in the wilderness so you'll have a place to meet with me, and when you mess it up, you'll have a place to make it right so you don't get so far off track that you can't come back, because I am your leader".
So, he did something very cool (I think it's cool) to get them where they needed to go. He gave them this cloud that would settle over the tabernacle, and then it would lift. When it lifted, that meant it was time for them to move, and when it stayed, that meant it was time for them to stay. All they had to do was obey. I kind of wish that this Christmas God would give me a cloud like that cloud. Wouldn't that be cool? Come on. Wouldn't that be amazing? God just telling you, "Nope. Don't take that job. Come over here. Stay right there". That would be awesome. I would love it. The only thing is if he gave them a cloud to lead them, which would be a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night…
Let me explain this for a moment before I tell you why the cloud wouldn't be as cool as you think it would be. It wouldn't be as cool as you think it would be, and I'm going to show you why in just a moment, but first let me say this. The cloud looked like one thing in the daytime and another thing at nighttime. God never changes. Thank God that he never changes. However, our relationship with him does. God is always leading you. God is always leading me, but he will lead me through different things in different seasons. It doesn't mean he has changed. It doesn't mean he's less faithful. It doesn't mean he has forgotten. It doesn't mean he's punishing me, but God leads me in different ways in different seasons.
I had a conversation about this very thing with my kids. I haven't had this conversation with Abbey yet because it's a conversation I had with Elijah when he became a teenager and Graham when he became a teenager. I'll have it with Abbey soon as well. I said, "Hey, I love you, but I want to talk to you a little bit about how our relationship is going to change as you grow and mature and want more freedom". I established something. I don't know if this is good or not. Maybe I can improve it before I give it to Abbey. I can practice on the boys, and then get it right on her. They already pick on me that she gets all of the benefits of my inexperience being worked out on them, and now I am a much better dad for her. But this is what I said. Y'all tell me if you think this is good or not.
I said, "My love for you is set. I'm your dad if you get hooked on drugs or if you get a diploma. I'm your dad if you come home and have to tell me the worst news ever. I'm your dad. I love you. I can't stop loving you. Even if I want to, I can't stop loving you. It's like, sometimes I try to not love you, and it just boomerangs back. So that is set. If there is a level of my love for you, it's like level 11. It's not even 10. It's like level 11 I love you. I love you more than I should love you. Sometimes I don't even see things that are wrong with you because I love you too much to see it. That's why sometimes you get on my last nerve, because I love you so much". That was a conversation. "My love for you is set, but your freedom is not set in this house. Your freedom is contingent on your behavior in three specific areas".
I was making all this up the first time when I gave it to Elijah. I had it better when I got to Graham. I'll get it better when I get to Abbey. I said, "It's three things. It's respect. You will respect me. You will respect your mom. If you're going to pick one of the two of us not to respect, disrespect me, because if you disrespect her, you will find out what it is like to have me against you". I know this parenting style is very antiquated, and everything like that, but it's just where I come from from my understanding of my parental role. If you want my resource, you will give me respect. So we talk about that. Then there will be responsibility. "You have to get your crap done or I'm going to have to treat you like you don't know how to get your crap done, but if you can get your crap done…"
This is in the Bible somewhere too. Faithful over little, faithful over much. "If you can prove to me that you can do a few things well, I can let you do more things". It's like a leash. You've heard these parenting illustrations before. "How much liberty, how much license you get is not going to be dependent on how much I love you, because I love you 11, but I can't let you 11 just because I love you. I love you 11. My love won't leave, but your privileges, your permissions, your liberty, and your license depend on three things. It's respect, it's responsibility, and most of all, it's trust. If I can't trust you… I can love you, but I can't let you just because I love you. I have to be able to trust you, son".
How good is this parenting seminar? They ought to put me on Focus on the Family with this. I have something to say. I'm saving my parenting book until all of my kids are 60 so I can see how it all turns out, but this is one thing I had to do in real time. I'm like, "Our relationship is changing. I'm not changing. I love you. That's set. It's 11. It's not going to go to 9 one day and 7 Tuesday and, oh, then Wednesday you win a big softball game and we're back to 11. It's not performance based. My love is set at 11".
Now I want to tell you something, get really clear before I move on in this message. God's love for you is set at level 11. Very rarely for a righteous man would someone die, but God demonstrates his own love for us through this. While we were still screwed up, while we were still filthy, while we were still sin stained, while we were still creating shame through our perpetual behavior that defied him… While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. So that's set. It's not changing. "What shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus"? You can't take it away; it's set. You can't snatch it; it's set. You can't soil it; it's set. It's protected. It's settled. It's paid for. It's purchased in blood, his love for me. No but. Just that. Then, out of understanding this, we get the opportunity to make the decision.
How much of his love do we want to live in? How much of his freedom do we want to experience? It says in Exodus that God gave the people not only a place where he could meet with them, the tabernacle, but over the tabernacle came a cloud, and the cloud represented his glory and his presence. Let me show you something so cool. I know you will like this because I loved it when I saw it. In Exodus 40:33, it says, "Moses finished the work". Go to verse 34. It said, "The Lord filled". "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle".
So, let's put those two together. Ready? Moses finished; the Lord filled. Stop asking God to fill stuff you won't finish. God doesn't bless good intentions. God doesn't bless your to-do list. He blesses your done stuff that you pushed through. Now, what does that have to do with restriction? It has everything to do with restriction. It has everything to do with the man who walked up to me and said, "I knew I could come back, but I'm not coming back, because I got so used to not coming that my conditioning was set down here and my permission was set up here. So, I've been living at the level of my conditioning (I stopped coming) even though I have permission to come back, and now there's a gap". He said, "I feel bad". I said, "Don't feel bad. Just come back. You can come back. The restrictions are lifted. You can come back. Come on back Sunday. I'll look for you".
I want to tell you, he was here. Boy, I preached to that man that Sunday. I did good too. He sat right center. I guess he got here early. I never said a word about him, but I preached to him, because he was here. Nothing changed about the situation, only his decision. So, the cloud had this little thing where it would come down and fill the tabernacle, and then it would lift. When it lifted, God was saying to his people, "You can move now. You can go now. You can go forward now". He wanted to lead them all the way to the Promised Land, all the way to the land of Canaan, flowing with milk and honey; the land where the grapes are so big you need a partner to help you carry them on a pole; all the way to the land of Canaan where they could have their own land and settle in it and declare the goodness of God as their inheritance. He wanted to lead them all the way to Canaan, so he gave them a cloud.
When the cloud lifted, they got up. When they got up and moved forward, the cloud took them until it settled again, and when it settled, they settled. This was the system God gave them in the wilderness. I'm thinking it would be kind of good if God would give me this for my wilderness. You know, "Let me know what to do. Give me clarity, God. I just need to see". How many of you want God to show you something in your life right now? "This or that? Him or her? Them or them? Here or there? Now or later? Yes or no"? Clarity. I need to see. I can't live in a cloud of confusion, not knowing, "Is this God"? I have to know it's God if I'm going to go. The only problem with that is God can give you clarity, but if you don't commit… In fact, I'm going to go a little further than that. Clarity comes from commitment. "Abraham, go to the land I will show you".
A lot of us are confused because we're not committed. We haven't really decided to serve God with our whole heart, so now we're asking God, "Oh, show me. I want one of those clouds, Lord. I want one of those clouds to lead me into a new career. I want one of those clouds to show me, God. Give me one of those clouds like Moses had. Moses had a cloud, God. Give me a cloud and lead me". What good would it do? The cloud led them around and around and around and around in the wilderness, because when it finally got them to Canaan, they didn't have the courage to go in and conquer it. God gave them clarity. "Okay. This is what I want you to do. This is where I want you to go. Here is who I've called you to be. This is what I want to give to you".
They had clarity, but they didn't have the courage to act on the clarity God gave them. We keep saying, "God, I need more information. God, I need more knowledge". We don't need knowledge. We need commitment. The moment you decide, "I'm going to be free," God will show you where the keys are. The moment you decide…not just dabble, not just test it, not just "Eh," not just sometimes, not just once every three weeks, not just get fired up when you hear a sermon…the moment you commit to it… God will give you clarity, but clarity comes with commitment. The moment you decide, "I'm going to be a better husband," God will show you how to be a better husband. The moment you decide, "I am not going to keep running to these drugs anymore," God will show you who to talk to who can help you make different decisions.
The moment you decide, the moment you commit, and the moment you step is the moment you're strengthened. So, now we have a conversation we need to have. Not how much God loves you. That's set. Guess what. We don't even need to talk about if God is with you. His presence is set. You think you can run God off? "I just don't know. I don't feel God's presence". What does that have to do…? Feeling God's presence is not a factual indication of whether God's presence has left you or not. Do you know why you're not feeling his presence? Because you're not saying any prayers. "Yes, I do. I pray every day". No. You close your eyes, you worry, and you call it prayer.
Nice little Christmas message I brought you today. No, I want to help people. I'm past the point in my life of wanting to be a religious entertainer. The fact is what I saw studying the passage… I was so consumed with this cloud. I was like, "Yes, Lord. Lead me, God. Show me where the water is. Show me where the food is. Show me where the opportunity is. Show me the money. Show me the ministry. Show me, God. Show me, show me". The Lord was like, "What good did it do them to have the cloud? When they finally got where I was taking them, they didn't have the courage to do it". So don't ask for the cloud. Ask for the courage to go forward in knowing that he's with you. "Okay, Lord. I'll do it. Just give me a confirmation. Lord, I'm just waiting for a confirmation that it is your will for me to give in this offering". "Okay, cool. I confirmed it on Calvary when I gave my only begotten Son".
One guy was asking me, "What do you do when you don't clearly know what God wants you to preach"? My answer was really surprising to me and to him, because I do know what that feels like. I know what that feels like. I said, "I get my hair cut". He goes, "Uh…" I said, "No, I just thought about it. What do I do when I don't know what God has called me to preach? I get my hair cut". When I get in the chair to get my hair cut, it symbolizes the decision that Sunday I'm expecting to say something, and that sends the signal to the Holy Spirit. "Oh! He's going to show up, so now you show up". When I make the decision to be here, it's as simple as a haircut. I know that doesn't sound deep. I know I should study Greek. I know I should speak in tongues. I know I should do all that, but sometimes that doesn't work for me, so I say, "It's time for a haircut," because of what the haircut means. The haircut means "I'm going to do this".
The haircut means I'm not staying in my pajamas and eating Oreos and having Communion with Oreos and orange juice Sunday and calling in a guest. I'm going to preach. Then after I get my hair cut, I pick out my clothes, and I put them to the side. You know that little valet you gave me about seven years ago? I still have it in my closet. It's my Sunday clothes. I keep it there. When I go put my clothes over on that little thing in my closet, the Devil says, "Uh-oh. He's doing it. We tried to discourage him all week. It didn't work. You see that fresh fade? Furtick is planning to preach". Come on.
"You see them getting up and signing up for classes? That means they're doing it. You see them signing up for counseling? That means uh-oh, it didn't work. I tried to keep them out, tried to keep them down, tried to tell them, 'Go home; it's over,' but watch them. They're picking out their clothes. They're picking out their next course. They're sending the text. They're showing up. They're downloading the sermon. Uh-oh! They're joining the gym. Uh-oh! They're lacing their shoes. Uh-oh! They're doing it".
Now God can show you what to do because you've decided, "I'm doing it". So, it's not how much of his presence you have; it's how much of his power you want, because power is attracted to presence. You have to show up. "I'm showing up, and I'm doing it, and I won't be the same. Now, God, what are we doing? I'm doing it, so what are we doing"? Even when the cloud came down, watch what happened. Moses couldn't go into the tent when the cloud came at the door. That's kind of weird, God. You're trying to block your servant with your presence? But Moses had restrictions. Don't get me wrong. Moses was one of the greatest leaders who ever lived, but even Moses could only go so far. Even Moses could only do so much.
I told you this was a Christmas Scripture, and I'm going to prove it to you right now. I never realized until I saw Moses in the Scriptures of Exodus, chapter 40, how he was only pointing to the Messiah who would be born millennia after his life ended. I will prove it to you succinctly but thoroughly. Watch this. Both Moses and Jesus were babies. So far we have not narrowed the field much, as that applies to most humans. Let's go a little bit deeper. Both Moses and Jesus were a part of a political threat that extinguished the lives of every Hebrew boy under the age of 2. Do you remember how Pharaoh tried to kill every 2-year-old-and-under boy who was born in the time of Moses? Do you remember how Herod in the New Testament tried to kill the one who was born king of the Jews, but since he couldn't find him, he had to kill everything around him?
The Enemy will attack stuff around you and circumstances, but it's not about what's around you; it's about what's in you, because Jesus, the Messiah, was born. So, they both had to survive an assassination attempt before they were 2 years old. Moses and Jesus both had that in common. Moses was laid in a basket that was woven with straw, and Jesus was laid in a manger that was filled with straw. Moses came up out of Egypt to deliver his people, and Jesus came up out of Egypt to deliver his people. Moses brought the Ten Commandments from the mountain, and Jesus went up on a mountain and taught the 10 Beatitudes. Moses saw the glory of God, but this is where Moses is different than the Messiah. This is where Moses can only take you so far. This is where leadership can only get you so far, unless it comes from the Lord. Moses said, "Show me your glory," and Jesus said, "I am the glory of God".
Do you not know John 1:14? "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth". The word dwelt literally means tabernacle. Don't you see what Jesus was doing that Moses couldn't do? Don't you see what Christmas really is as opposed to what we thought it was? We thought Christmas was a nice comforting thought. We thought Christmas was God coming to say, "It's very nice to meet you. I'm sending a baby, because who doesn't love babies"? Don't you see this coming full form? Don't you see that the nation of Israel was in the womb of the wilderness, becoming the nation God would bless the earth through, just like Jesus was born in the womb of Mary to save his people from their sins?
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us". What does that mean? He tabernacled in the middle of the wilderness. He tabernacled in the middle of my sin, and he was born in the straw to save me from my sin. This is Christmas. It is God saying, "Because I am here…" Immanuel means God with us. That is his intimacy. You don't have to go to a tabernacle or a church building or an altar to meet with God anymore. The restriction has been… You don't have to sacrifice pigeons and doves and goats and bulls to be right with God anymore, but by offering your faith, God has already offered his Son to take away your sin.
That's what the Lamb of God does. The restriction has been lifted. So much so that when God wanted to announce good news of great joy to all people, he did not announce it in a synagogue; he announced it to the shepherds. To let you know that God can do what he wants to. God can use who he chooses to, and that includes you, but you have God in this little tiny box, this little baby Jesus box, this little Ricky Bobby Talladega Nights baby Jesus box. The spirit of religion is the Ricky Bobby spirit, by the way. I'm not endorsing any movies or anything like that, but I think maybe you could do a Bible study around it. Go back to the conversation I had with my kids. God doesn't change, but Jesus didn't stay a baby. That's his incarnation. That's how he came into the world, through a virgin womb, to show you that all things are possible. Once the dude comes through a virgin womb, all bets are off. That was the first announcement that God can do what he wants to in your life.
Do you know the cloud kind of had a mind of its own in Exodus? It would move when it wanted to. The cloud didn't move on a set schedule. Even in the wilderness, God was teaching us that he is consistent, but he is not predictable. He's consistent. He'll be there, but he's going to look like one thing in the daytime and one thing at nighttime. May I add, he's not going to move every Monday at 3:00, because if he moved every Monday at 3:00, you would worship Monday at 3:00. If he always blessed you through the same people… You're like, "They didn't call me back". That's because God wants you to be a blessing to somebody else. If he keeps feeding you through the same people, you won't move. He's consistent. His presence is set at level 11. If you make your bed in hell, he's there.
If you're having a great day and polishing your halo, he's there. But watch this. Oh, this is so powerful. The cloud had a mind of its own. God's thoughts are not your thoughts, and his ways are not your ways. The stable was not the Airbnb that Mary and Joseph would have chosen to rest and recuperate after the birth of their baby boy. He didn't stay a baby. You've met baby Jesus. You like baby Jesus. You carry baby Jesus, but there will come a point in your life where you need Jesus to carry you. So, I want to go to the Christmas Scripture that you've never heard before on Christmas, where we meet not baby Jesus but breakthrough Jesus.
In Luke, chapter 5, the Bible says he had come to Capernaum. Now, the baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Breakthrough Jesus… If you want to meet this Christ, he can be found in Capernaum. That's where he based himself to do his miracles. The Bible says when he got to Capernaum he was teaching and preaching. Why? Because he is the Word. Wouldn't you love to hear the Word preach the Word? I'll bet that would be good. I'll bet that would be awesome to hear the Word preach the Word. It was such an attraction that they gathered, and nobody could get in the door. They closed it, and they tried to send these guys to overflow. I want you to watch what happened in the meantime.
In Luke 5:17, the Bible says, "One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee [all of the surrounding zip codes] and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus…" Well, of course it was. He's Jesus. Power is attracted to presence. Since he is God in human flesh…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…it makes sense the power would be where the presence was. God is here, and anything can happen. God is here, and all things are possible. God is here. Chains might break any minute. God is here. Joy might flood your soul any minute. God is here. Something can happen right now because God is here. So, the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.
Verse 18: "Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus". But they couldn't. "When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd…" Watch what they did. They went up on the roof, and they lifted their friend. So, when they said, "There's no way. You can't do it…" The moment they said, "There isn't a way," it sparked creative faith in the minds of these committed friends, and they looked all around for a little while. They tried to find somebody who was sleeping at the door, maybe an usher who wasn't paying attention, but since they couldn't sneak past a sleepy usher, they devised another way on the roof.
There were many that day who came to the same door needing a miracle from the Son of God, but they turned around and left, not because they couldn't find a way, but because they didn't commit to find a way. You quit too quickly. You give up too easily. You go home too fast. You get too discouraged by one person telling you, "You look stupid". You quit too easily. You give up too fast. These men didn't leave; they lifted. They said, "If we can't get through it, we've got to go over it. We've got to find a way because our friend needs Jesus". So, they go up on the roof. They went up around the restriction. "You can't go in". When they got up, they lowered their friend down, and watch what baby Jesus did.
Let me hold you right here for a moment. You've been praying the baby Jesus, little Jesus you can carry around like a good luck charm, talking about, "O Jesus, I thank you for your presence with me. It's just so good to know you're with me". I love baby Jesus too, but I'm at the stage of my life, and I assume somebody else is too or else God wouldn't have given me this message… I don't need to carry him; I need him to carry me. I don't just need him to show me where to go; I need him to help me do it, because I can't without him.
Now, this man in the passage is physically restricted. There is a physical limitation, but it isn't always. It isn't always a physical limitation. It isn't always a physical restriction. Sometimes it is emotional. Sometimes it is familial. Sometimes it is the pattern of the way you have processed your past experiences that will lock you up tight like a jail cell and say you can't go out. But now this is not baby Jesus you're dealing with, is it? "We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth". So, when they couldn't find a way in, they went up. When they couldn't find a way through the crowd, they went on the roof, and when Jesus… I love this part. "When Jesus saw their faith, he said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven.'"
Now watch these Pharisees, how they think about Jesus. Verse 21: "The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, 'Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?'" They didn't know who they were dealing with yet. Their limitation was the very truth Jesus was proving. He was God alone, so he can do this. They're saying, "Uh, you can't do that. Uh, you can't heal him like that. Uh, you can't forgive him like that," but the restriction on God that you put on God only limits you. It doesn't limit him. Who am I to deny what the Lord can do? Let me tell you something else. Even if people don't like you, they can't limit what God does through you. Trust me, I know. If God wants to use you, he will. He can forgive you, he can cleanse you, and he can save to the uttermost.
"Who do you think you are, Jesus? Who do you think you are? You're the carpenter's son. Who do you think you are? You were born of a virgin. Nobody really even believes her story anyway. Who do you think you are, Jesus"? "Let me show you who I am," he said. "So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority…" This is my Christmas Scripture this year. It's an unusual one. It's an unorthodox one. It's not a common one, but it's powerful. It said, "Immediately [the man] stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God". Why did he do that? Go back to verse 24. Jesus said, "'I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.' So he said to the paralyzed man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat [what was restricting you]…'" "Lift what you were lying on, and walk out of here healed and forgiven and with a second chance and a new identity". "So that you may know God is with us".
I don't know what you were lying on when you came in, but it has been lying to you. God is bigger than this. God is bigger than it. God is bigger than your box. God is bigger than your background. The restriction has been lifted. Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me". I'm preaching the cradle. I'm preaching the cross. I'm preaching the empty tomb. I'm all the way in Easter to tell you that the restriction… "But I can't". But you can if you will. Get up and live into what Christ died for for your life. That's Christmas. I'm talking about breakthrough Jesus, not baby Jesus. Thank God for baby Jesus. Thank God for your baby faith. Thank God for the point that you met God at 17 years ago.
Why are you still in that wilderness? Why aren't you moving? Why aren't you growing? Why are you still replaying that? The Bible says that when Jesus saw their faith he said, "I want to show you what I can do". "So get up. I know you came in restricted, but I want you to get up. What you were lying on when you came in is a lie, an excuse that is moving you away from the very gift I died to give you". So, now when I tell you Moses had a cloud that lifted up, but you have a Christ who came down, do you see why this is good news? Do you see why God had me preach this message to you before the year ends? Because the restriction isn't real anymore.
Sin has no more power over you anymore. I keep seeing that guy in my mind. He said, "I can't lie to you. I told you I didn't think I could come, but the truth is I wouldn't, and the issue is that I won't". If you, my brother, my sister, can receive this Christmas sermon and believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead, this could be the best Christmas of your life, not just to celebrate and spend and consume but to really know that God is able to do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine…exceedingly, abundantly above. The limit you put on God is a lie. I'm going to speak to a few.
"I'm too old". That's a lie. Abraham was 100. Shut up. "I'm too young". Timothy tried that. God said, "Don't let anybody say you're too young". "I screwed up". Rahab was a prostitute. Shut up and do what God gave you to do. "Oh, I'm not bold; I'm timid". Gideon was a wimp. God called him a warrior. The restriction has been lifted. Let me try one more. "I don't have anything in me". Mary was a virgin. Shut up, get up, take your mat, and walk in the favor of almighty God. The restriction is lifted! The grave couldn't hold him! Herod couldn't kill him! And he's here.
In just a moment we're going to give our offering. We're giving today in faith. We're giving today in obedience. We're giving today at every location and all over the world, online and in person. We are not believing that we're doing God a favor by giving to him. We're stretching our faith to build his kingdom, knowing that he has been good and is worthy. Everybody who believes he's worthy, clap your hands and give him praise. I want you to get your envelope, no one leaving. I preached short so we would have time, so get your envelope. Shorter. "You preached an hour, bro". That was short. Look at me. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate the faith you just declared.
Holly and I have prepared now our seventeenth offering. I want you to pray over this. Autumn sent Holly and me a text. She said, "This is our seventeenth year-end offering that we've given in". Isn't that amazing? The seventeenth offering. That's so cool. That blessed me. I thought about it. Who would have thought that we'd be speaking…? Do you remember when you came for the first time at Providence High School? Now look at God. All over the world…Venezuela. Everywhere there's World Cup there's Elevation. God is so good. Who am I to deny what he can do?
Sometimes I get to thinking, "Well, maybe we've gone as far as we can go as a ministry". No. The Devil is a liar. We didn't even have multi-site church when we started. We didn't have eFam. This is the greatest day of our church that we've ever been in. Who am I to deny what the Lord can do? So, two things. Your campus pastors are going to come in just a moment, and they're going to instruct you to give. It's a special time of giving. For all of you who tithe regularly to this ministry, I thank God for you.
You are what enables God to move through this ministry. You're the vessel, you're the vehicle, and I pray a thousandfold blessing and a harvest of peace and righteousness in your home, in your family, and in your business as you give. We also want to pray over your word. You'll have the opportunity to write down your word, and not only will our staff be praying that over you, but you will be believing for it. Who am I to deny what the Lord can do? He's able.