Steven Furtick - Ghosted
Are you excited about the Word of God today? I believe you. I believe you. Let's go to Acts, chapter 1. We are continuing this discussion on Kingdom Clout, kingdom influence, knowing that God has a purpose and a plan and when we get on the same page as him, amazing things happen. I want to share with you today from a very pivotal Scripture in Acts, chapter 1, where we get to see Jesus Christ transfer the power that he demonstrated physically on the earth to his apostles for the mission of the gospel. This is how it all started. People ask, "How did Elevation Church start"? Acts, chapter 1, gives the backstory. Now, we're going way back, way before we went to Golden Corral in Shelby and decided to move to Charlotte, but this is how it really started.
Acts, chapter 1, verse 1. "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen". Can I point out two words to you from that verse? This is not my key verse, but I would like to point out the word began, and I would like to point out the word chosen. In verse 1 it says began; in verse 2 it says chosen. I like the word began, because we would tend to think that when Jesus left the earth his ministry stopped. Not so. Luke, who wrote a gospel account that bears his name, said that when Jesus was on the earth, that was only the beginning, that his greatest ministry started after he left.
A lot of times in our lives we think we are coming to an end, but it is really a beginning. A lot of times we believe the lie that "I'm not in my 30s anymore, so I guess I just can't…" No. It's not an end; it's a beginning. A lot of times, if we go through a traumatic life event, whether our kids leave the house… I don't know if that's traumatic. That could be celebratory in some cases. Kidding. But even if it's something horrible that happens, a lot of times, what we see as an end is the beginning. We'll understand that more fully.
I just wanted to point it out to you, that you might be standing at what you are calling an ending that is really a new beginning, and that would depend on your perspective. The second word is chosen. What strikes me about that word… I really love that word. It's our word for the year. Our church all picked words to focus on in 2020. Holly and I picked the word chosen. It's not just the word itself, which I love, but it is the timing at which this word is used that encourages me. You have to remember this is after all of the disciples, save John, have left Jesus as he died on the cross and kind of let him down in his moment of need. It doesn't just say they were chosen at the beginning of his ministry, but even after he saw them stumble and falter and hesitate, and even after they made the mistake of believing what their eyes saw rather than what their spirits knew… even after that, they were still chosen.
I need you to look right into the pupils of the person next to you and stare at them and say, "You're still chosen". When the Devil talks to you, he talks to you with some force. Come on. Let's out-loud the Devil and say, "You're still chosen". I don't care what you did. I don't care how dirty you are. I don't care what kind of mistake you made, and I don't even care if people know it or if they wrote you off. You are still chosen! Now, there are two ways to live life. You can live life chasing or chosen. We've been saying in this series we don't want to be clout chasers, looking for approval in all of the wrong places from all of the wrong people; that even if they give us approval, they don't have any money to go along with it. Nobody is paying you. Nobody can stamp you.
So rather than chasing what people can't even really give, which is a sense of validity, we want to understand that we are chosen by the one who knows us, the one who created us. Chasing or chosen. You don't chase certain things anymore when you know you're chosen. They were chosen even after they made their greatest mistakes. Thank you, Lord. Verse 3: "After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God". What kingdom did he speak about? He spoke about the kingdom of God. There's a reason I had you stop and say that.
It says in verse 4, "On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days…'" That's vague. "…in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit". Or the old King James Version says the Holy Ghost. How many of y'all grew up in one of those churches with the King James Bible? Pastor Mickey preached with the King James Bible…thee and thou and Holy Ghost. "Then they gathered around him and asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'"
Which kingdom was he preaching about? The kingdom of God. Which kingdom were they thinking about? The kingdom of Israel. They still didn't get it. They saw him hang on the cross with a crown of thorns, and they still thought his kingdom was an earthly one. They were still so focused on the temporal and political deliverance. They were still so focused on their national identity they could not grasp the concept of their citizenship in another kingdom, another realm, another reality. I don't know who was more frustrated in this passage…the disciples, because Jesus wasn't doing it the way they wanted, or Jesus, because even after teaching them… It's not like Jesus wasn't good at teaching. It isn't like he had not shown them what the kingdom looked like, but even after all of this, they still were focused on the wrong thing.
Are you still focused on "God, give me a good parking space today, and that way I'll know that you're with me"? Is that the convincing proof of your faith? Or even getting God to change other people rather than letting him transform you. This is my favorite Bible verse lately. I don't know if it's a midlife crisis, but I like this verse. This is the most anointed verse I've read in a long time. "He said to them: 'It is not for you to know…'" How about that? How about Jesus saying, "This is one of those cases where you just need to stay at your pay grade and stop trying to figure out things your mind can't understand, because it's going to make you crazy. It is not for you to know". "I wonder what they think about me". It is not for you to control the opinions of others.
One wise sage said, "What other people think of me is none of my business". It is not for you to know the next 10 years. Just the next step is enough. "Give us this day our daily bread". There are some things we would do better giving back to God in the realm of knowledge and believing by faith instead of walking by sight. "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit [or the Holy Ghost] comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth". So he gives them the mission, and then look at verse 9. "After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight". "'You will receive power when the Holy Ghost comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight".
The title of this message is Ghosted. Do you know the term ghosted? I'm not going to ask if you've ever been ghosted or been the ghoster. Ghostees, ghosters. When I was on the dating scene back in seventh grade, you at least had the common courtesy to have your friend break up with a girl for you, but now it's called ghosting. You just end the relationship by never responding. Technology has greatly enhanced our lives, hasn't it? You just never get back with them. Of course, I'm using it in two different ways. Jesus tells them about the Holy Ghost that's going to come on them and that he's going to give it to them, and then he leaves. I was thinking, "Did Jesus just ghost his own disciples"? I was thinking that. I was thinking, Jesus gives them the biggest mission that has ever been given to a human, and right after he gives it, just when they're getting their notepad and their Elevation pen out to write down point number one… "Okay. Witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth". They look up for what's next, and he's gone.
Now, the theological content of this passage is vast, and of course, there have been volumes written on the pneumatology, or the study of the Holy Spirit, as it relates to the transfer from the external to the internal. See, if you read the Old Testament, you'll see the phrase a lot that the Holy Spirit came on a person and the Holy Spirit overshadowed or rested so they could fulfill a particular purpose. If a prophet were to prophesy, the Spirit would come on them for that task. Now we're seeing something very different that is born, something greater that is happening, as the Holy Spirit will no longer visit but inhabit. He's going to move in now. He doesn't want a guest room. He wants access to all parts of my heart and my life.
So, the disciples, who have spent three years… Now let's talk about this. Three years with Jesus. Over the course of these three years, they have seen the power of his presence. After seeing him open blind eyes and even unstop deaf ears and touch lepers and minister in such a way, they had finally started to grasp the power of his presence. I don't know about you, but I want the presence of God in every area of my life this year. When I say that, what I mean is I don't just want to experience God's presence in church with you.
No offense, but I need the presence of God when you're not around. I need the presence of God when I'm dealing with stressful people. I need the presence of God when I'm looking at expensive bills. I need the presence of God when my emotions are roaring and foaming like some kind of nasty sea. I need the presence of God when things rise up in me that I thought I had gotten out of my system a long time ago. I need the presence of God so I don't go crazy. I need his presence more than just 90 minutes a week. I need his presence in my car. The way some of y'all drive, I need his presence in my car. I need his presence when I'm dropping my kids off at school. I want him to go with my kids to school. I want him to follow in their class and keep an eye on them for me, because I can't see them. I want the presence of God to stalk my young ones. I want the presence of God.
So, they spent three years understanding the power of his presence. Let me tell you something. Everywhere his presence is welcome, power is available. Everywhere his presence is welcome, power is available. Just know there is a huge difference between acknowledging God's presence and welcoming God's presence. To welcome his presence gives a picture that we will work with him, not fight against him, and accept the things that he allows in our lives, even sometimes the painful ones, and even inviting him into those areas of our lives where we would not expect him to appear. Do you know you can invite the presence of Jesus into your relationships? Did you know that one time in John, chapter 2, Jesus was invited to a wedding and he went? "You don't have time to go to a wedding; you're the Savior of the world. Come on, let's go to a press conference". He said, "I want to go to this wedding because they're going to run out of wine".
The presence of Jesus is powerful when you run out of stuff. They had no more wine, but they had some water. When they filled the six ceremonial stone jars with water (and they held 20 to 30 gallons each), the water turned to wine, because the presence of Jesus is that powerful. The presence of God can transform "not enough" into "more than enough". The presence of Jesus is powerful. So, you can invite him to your wedding. You can invite him into your relationships. You can invite him, and his presence is powerful. You can also invite him into your boat.
Trust me; you want Jesus in your boat. Ask Peter. Peter let Jesus use his boat, ostensibly so Jesus could preach a sermon, but Jesus had an ulterior motive, because he wanted to show Peter something about the power of his presence. When he got into the boat, not only did he preach, but after he got done preaching, he said, "Peter, I appreciate it. Are you ready to catch some fish now? Before I got on your boat, I noticed your empty nets. I noticed you aren't very good at life without me, but if you want to put your nets back down with me on your boat, you might just find that what was empty without me is going to be full now that I'm in your boat".
I want Jesus in my boat this year. I want him in my business. I want him in my decisions. How many of you want Jesus in your phone this year? I want him in my contacts. I want him showing me who to delete, who to mute, who to ignore, who to text back, who to call and encourage, who to FaceTime, who to ghost. One time, Jesus was in a boat sleeping, and the disciples encountered a storm. He was in the bottom of the boat. He wasn't even walking around. He wasn't even praying. He was snoring, but the power of his presence is so real that even his snoring can still a wave. He got up with sleep still in his eyes and said, "Shut up and let me get my rest".
When he spoke to the storm, he demonstrated the power of his presence over any force of nature. So, if you are going through a storm right now, if he is on your boat, you won't go down. He is with you in the storm. The power of his presence. You have five loaves and two fish? It's not enough unless you know a man who can multiply it. When you put your little bit in the hands of the God who created everything, little becomes much. It's the power of his presence. Oh, by the way, be very careful if you invite Jesus to your funeral, because he might mess it up. He might make you roll the stone away. He might say, "Lazarus, come forth". Be careful getting too close to him. He might awaken a dead dream. After all, he is the resurrection. He is the life. He is a new beginning. He is power. He has all authority.
For three years they saw the power of his presence, but now they are about to experience the power of his absence. "I don't think I like this part. I didn't like that turn you just took there. Bring it on back to the power of the presence. That's good. It starts with a P". "Bring it on back to the times when I feel close to God". The text said, on the verge of the greatest not visitation but habitation of the Holy Spirit, which would come not only to the disciples but to all of us who would believe in his name… When they got closer and closer to the real purpose Jesus came for, in verse 9, is the moment he left their sight. The power of his absence. I never heard a sermon about that. I heard about his presence. I heard about the tabernacle and the temple and the shekinah glory and the table of shewbread. I've heard all manner of messages about the power of his presence, but we see that the kingdom was inaugurated with what they perceived to be his absence.
What is God doing in your life right now that is actually an indication that his presence is becoming stronger and more real but your emotional sensation is that he has left you? Now, the power of his absence is really a matter of us understanding that God is not limited by physical dimensions. I know you know that, but he never really leaves. However, he does change forms, and he creates space where we can experience him. It's almost impossible to preach about the power of his absence, because we have come to so closely associate the presence of God with our comfort. It's difficult for us to believe that in the moments we feel him or understand him the least he might be working the most. I'm going to say that again for the people in the back. I'm going to say it differently.
In the absence of answers, faith is born. In the absence of resource, creativity is born. That's when you have to figure out what to do with a stick when you're standing in front of a sea, when you don't have enough. When is the last time we thanked God for something he didn't give us because it showed us who we really are? That's what I mean when I say the power of his absence. I don't mean that it feels good when people walk away from you and when people don't show up, although, if we're honest, there are certain people that when they don't show up, we silently thank God. Do not pretend like there aren't people in your office that when you hear they're sick… You pray for them. "I hope it's not too bad, but, Lord, if it could last the rest of the week, that'd be all right, and then they get well. I just need a little breathing room".
Have you ever had somebody, by the way, leave your life who you thought you couldn't live without, and then you did? I even had staff members… I've been pastoring this church since before I had a beard. People would leave, and I would get confused. I would start to think that because they left, what they brought left. But what they brought came from God, and God will send another truck with the package if somebody decides to leave. We rarely celebrate absence, although it is in the absence of answers and in the absence of resources that faith is really born, that creativity really manifests. Notice how Jesus doesn't really answer their question. He says, "It is not for you to know".
I hear the disciples, almost like a chant, going, "What do we want? The kingdom! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? The kingdom! When do we want it? Now"! "What do we want? A raise. When do we want it? Now"! Or whatever. Put anything in there. "What do we want? My wife to get her act together". It doesn't have the cadence, but, you know. "When do we want it? Now". I've never prayed that. "What do we want"? You can see here a conflicting concept of the kingdom. It's like when my kids wanted a dog and I said, "No". I said, "No" because I knew they did not love dogs. They loved the concept of a dog, but the concept of a dog does not have to be taken out in the middle of the night. A real dog does.
We do not have a dog because my kids love a concept. The disciples liked the concept of the kingdom. We like the concept of being used by God. We like the concept of a relationship with him, but what about the moments when the kingdom becomes inconvenient? Now Jesus is taken from their sight and hidden in a cloud, but he did not leave; he just changed forms. He did not disappear; he just was no longer visible. Instead, he was internal. I'd like to preach to somebody today who is in that waiting period. For the disciples, it was 10 days. Three days between when he was crucified and resurrected. He rose on…
The Festival of Firstfruits is the name of the festival, but what you need to know about it for this study that is significant is that it was 50 days from Pentecost. So, 50 days between when he rose and when he ascended in Acts, chapter 1. For 40 of those days, he showed himself to his disciples. "I'm risen. I'm powerful. I'm present". But the Bible says that after 40 days, he ghosted them, however you want to take that. He didn't leave; he changed forms. He said, "I'm going to empower you with my Spirit. I'm going to give you something greater, but in between, you will have what seems to be nothing". So, it's 50 days from when he rose to when he ascended, and it's 40 days that he showed them. That leaves 10 days for the disciples to wait and wonder.
Ten days. They walked back to Jerusalem to wait for the gift, and as they are praying and present and believing patiently… For 10 days they wait. We're like, "No big deal. Ten days. What's the big deal"? Okay. Let me see what happens when you don't have Wi-Fi for 10 days. Keep it real: 10 minutes. You'd be shaking like a crack addict without… I saw you put your phone down on the table for a meal, and you put it face down, and it's buzzing on the table. You're shaking and convulsing, foaming at the mouth. Your eyes start turning backward in your head.
It's amazing how 10 days sounds like nothing, but what if it's 10 years you've been waiting? Waiting for the Holy Spirit. Waiting for your next step. Waiting to the time when you finally get some victory over it where you can have a little clearance, a little vantage point. There's nothing more painful than in between. Is it true? If it's over, I can bury it; if it's beginning, I can deal with it, but in between… Ten days. That's a long time when you don't know. That's a long time to wait for something invisible. That's a long time to stay in faith. Ghosted. The Lord told me to preach on Ghosted. I said, "Oh, I can't do that. This isn't a therapy session; it's a sermon".
In little ways and big ways, I think we all can relate to something being taken suddenly from you that you had depended on and it was actually like a part of you. It isn't always a person. Sometimes your season of life changes, and you didn't get any warning or a training manual for the next phase. I remember when my oldest son stopped letting me hug him in public. I mean, I'm one of these embarrassing dads. I just really love the gig, no matter how much I joke about it. I remember going to hug him one time. This was about two years ago. He's 14 now. I went to hug him, and he did this Heisman move that I never saw before. He was like, "Dad"! I'm like, "Dad! Who's Dad? I'm Daddy! Why did you drop the consonant and the vowel? What is this? We don't hug anymore? You don't love me"? No, no, no. He didn't stop loving me; the love just changed forms.
Now what he's going to need from me in this season is going to be different. He did not leave them; he changed forms. If people understood this, I wonder if more marriages would make it. We think love goes away when butterflies do, so now we think there's no more love in the relationship. Maybe the love didn't leave; it just changed forms. Maybe we don't need to give up on relationships when feelings go away. Maybe we need to go deeper to a place of maturity that realizes, "I'm not always going to get a goose bump. I'm a grown-up, and I'm going to do what I have to do, and I'm going to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift".
Maybe you weren't ghosted; maybe you were gifted. We can all look back and see some things God put in our lives that were amazing. Sometimes what God allows to be removed from our lives is just as significant as what he allows to be brought to our situation. Transform. Change form. He did not leave. He did not leave you. He is calling you deeper. He did not abandon you. He no longer wants to just be with you; he wants to be in you. That's what he could not get them to understand. They kept thinking it was something they could see. They kept thinking it was something their eyes could verify. I'm glad for what he told them in John 16. In John 16:7, before he left, he said, "I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you". "If I go, I can send you something greater".
I know your hearts are filled with sorrow and mourning and you have reason to mourn and be sorrowful. Nothing hurts like having something leave or change in your life. Even if it's a positive change, it's painful. Even if something negative leaves your life, it still requires a recalibration to try to figure out how life works without it. But he said, "It's for your good". Paul comes along later and says, "All things work together for good". Even when it doesn't feel good, it can be for good. This is the transformative power of faith. It's for good. He said, "It's good that I'm ghosting you. It's good that I leave in physical form, because then I can give you in spiritual form. Then I can direct you from a deeper place". God is working for you right now, but it might not feel good to you, but it doesn't have to feel good to you to be good for you.
Come on. Everybody who has ever exercised knows this. It doesn't have to feel good to me. A doughnut tastes good to me, but a squat is good for me. So, I can't go off of what feels good to me; I have to believe that God is for me. If you know he's for you, shout right in the Devil's face and tell him, "I'm not going anywhere. I'm waiting in Jerusalem for the gift"! It's good for you. It's not good if your dad didn't raise you, but God is going to use that vacancy to create within you a compassion and a resilience you would not have known otherwise. He gifted me. The gift of the Spirit. The gift of the Holy Ghost. The gift. I'm gifted. God has gifted me with my experiences to fulfill my purpose and to build his kingdom.
He said, "In Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth". To us, those are like Star Wars galaxies, but to those who heard, they were actual geographical places. Jerusalem was where they would receive the gift, and Samaria was where it would go through to reach the ends of the earth. And they hated Samaria. The Jewish people hated the Samaritans… so much they would go around Samaria, adding hours to their trip, to avoid having to deal with the Samaritans. It wasn't a one-way kind of hatred either. The Samaritans hated them right back, so it was beefing both ways between the Jews and the Samaritans. So when Jesus said, "Through Samaria", that's the place they didn't want to go, but that was the place the gospel had to go through.
In one part of Jesus' ministry… We talked about the power of his presence. In John 4, it said he had to go through Samaria. He had to go through Samaria, and he met a woman at the well, and she became a preacher. I don't know if you believe in woman preachers, but Jesus did. She became an evangelist. She came for water at the well. She left carrying water, because the power of his presence is you come in need and you leave overflowing to take what he has given you into the world. He had to go through Samaria, through the place they hated. The Lord spoke to me. We all have "some-area" of our lives God is working through, where we are insecure and uncertain. In the absence of answers, faith is born. Through some-area.
I believe God is working through my message today. Whether it's an unhealed resentment from someone who left your life or it is an unstable feeling within you about "Who am I now"? if life has left you with the presence of God hidden in the clouds, I wanted to be your preacher today that it is through that area that the gospel will be released to every corner of your life. You will receive power. "Lord, are you going to do the kingdom thing now? Are you going to visit? Are you going to turn it upside down and shake us free from the bondage of Rome? What do we want? The kingdom! When do we want it"? Jesus is like, "Uh, the timing is not up to you. I know you're so concerned about what you want me to do…" Isn't it amazing that instead of giving them something to do, he gave them something to be? He said, "You will be my witnesses. I'm developing your character. I'm doing it through some area of your life that you never expected".
I know these messages are designed for individual people, not crowds. That changes the way I preach, because in a moment like this, everybody is thinking about something completely different. I'm preaching one message, one text, and there are thousands and thousands and thousands of "some-areas" I'm preaching to. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of absences we are ministering to. I want to stand here flat-footed and believe God with you today at every location and watching around the world that the space God has left in your life where you do not understand, the space that God has left in your life where you think, "Well, I can't do that; I didn't go to Harvard. Well, I can't do that; I didn't have a dad to raise me, and I didn't have both parents. I can't do that, because I haven't been such a good person. I can't do that, because I didn't prepare for it…"
That spot, that area, that place you call lack is the place where God's Spirit wants to live. I just want to believe with you, so stand to your feet. I want to believe God with you in this moment. The power of his presence often becomes most clear in what we perceive to be absence. I don't know how well I've done explaining it today, but I believe the Lord will help me to get this message across to you in the way you need to hear it. I just want you to bow your head and close your eyes, because the Holy Spirit is a better preacher than me. Before we just run off, trying to get to the next thing, or before we click off and watch a cat video on YouTube or something like that, I just want us to wait for the gift.
He says, "Stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift". You haven't been seeing it as a gift, but God is going to give you a gift out of this very difficult season. I declare it in the name of Jesus. The Spirit of God is in you. His physical presence was wonderful, but the Spirit was even better. God is bringing you into something better as we speak. You are going to know him intimately and make him known profoundly after this. For all of those who are chosen by God, and he has given you a task, but you've been feeling lately like you don't have what it takes, you can join with Peter, James, John, Levi, Matthew, Andrew, and all of the other disciples who stood there looking into the sky and wondering, "When will it come"? A mighty rushing wind came on the day of Pentecost and filled all those who were present.
We understand the power of God's presence, but I wonder if we understand the power of our presence, that he is in us. When we fully show up to an encounter like this, we receive in our spirits what we could never understand or conceive with our minds. I want you to turn your palms toward heaven and lift your hands in this moment. I thank you, Lord, for a fresh filling, fresh anointing. I thank you that people are not leaving here today empty because of what people didn't give or what life didn't deliver, but we are being filled right now in your presence. We don't believe the lie that you left us or changed your mind about us. We don't look to circumstances to validate whether or not we win. We have victory in your name, healing in your name, peace in your name, joy in your name.
All of these things are ours because the kingdom is here. We're not waiting for a future time when everything is set right. We worship you right now. In the middle of storms, in the middle of situations, in the middle of uncertainty, we give you praise. We worship you. We honor you. Thank you, Holy Spirit. Minister to your people. We worship you. We honor you. We wait upon you. You are worthy. You are awesome. You are mighty. You are capable. You are present. You are an ever-present help. You are Jehovah-Shammah. You are the Lord who has so many names that you call yourself the Great I Am. God, would you be that in this moment? Be that to them. We thank you that you're a healer, a deliverer, a friend that sticks closer than a brother. God, bless your people. Fill your people. You did not leave us. You will not leave us, nor forsake us. You are doing a great work in our lives.