Steven Furtick - The Father Saw (When You Feel Invisible)
It's so awkward how they let the beat run and you'll just look at me after the highlight video is over. By the way, my son made that beat. Do The Dash on YouTube. Yes, I'm his manager and yes I'm going to take a cut when he gets to that. I love him. I want to look at Matthew, chapter 6, verses 1-4, from the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus preached, and I want to get into a very deep topic. Don't worry about standing up and shouting today. You probably need to sit still for this one. But it's not bad. It's really good, but I just want you to receive it.
Sometimes I worry that everywhere else you go in life you're so focused on what you need to do, and you come into church with that same mindset. In many ways, I want this time to be the one part of your week where you can receive. That doesn't mean you do it passively, because you get more out of it if you put something into it, but this message today comes from this general spirit of the age, zeitgeist, where it seems that our entire emphasis is on being seen. You're going to see that word seen two times in this passage, but it's in direct contrast. I want to do my best, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to illuminate or that God will illuminate exactly what we need to see today, and I trust that he will.
Verse 1: "Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy…" Right there, most of us just heard the word give. This is not a Scripture about money; this is a Scripture about motives. He's using the vehicle of talking about money to get to the idea of "What are your motives"? He says when you give to the needy or when you pray or when you fast… He uses three different examples in Matthew 6. When you are doing something significant, don't do it to be seen. "When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do [on Facebook]…" Did I read it wrong? I just got caught in 2020 for a moment, but this is like AD 30, so I'm off on my dates.
"[Do not do it like the hypocrites] do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you". The title of this message is The Father Saw. I want to pray one more time, if you would join me.
Lord, your Word is powerful, and if I get out of the way, it will do work, so remove me. I know it's my vocal cords right now, but I pray that the voice would come from heaven. Now, if their hearts are blocked by something they are thinking about that is not in this room, I pray that every thought would be taken captive right now so your Word can go forth. Feed your people, God. Use me to do it. In Jesus' name, amen.
This is my last service of the weekend. I preached three, and I forgot to do this every other time, so I decided to do it up front in this service. It's really good that we saved it for last, because my middle son Graham is a wrestler, and he won two state championships. Well, the first one he won… It's kind of like a junior state championship or something like that, so it wasn't necessarily like NCAA or something like that, but it was a big deal to us. I remember on the way home from the first one he won, because we were both kind of surprised that he won it… When we sat down at Pizza Hut to celebrate, which is what every great parent does at any juncture of life… Whether it's Book It! or a state championship, Pizza Hut is the answer.
How many know that you store up for yourself treasures on earth or you can enjoy treasures at Pizza Hut? That's in Matthew, chapter 6, verses 21-23. I said, "Man, it's so good I got to be here for it". I said, "Imagine if I had missed it", because it was on a weekend, and I had scheduled someone else to preach so I could be there and watch it. He said something back to me. It's one of those moments you live for as a parent. I said, "What if I had missed it"? He said, "Well, if you hadn't have been there to watch, I probably wouldn't have won". Like it was written straight out of a script from 7th Heaven, like, stuff your kids never say.
My house usually is more like The Simpsons than 7th Heaven, but this was that one moment. It took me back. The year was 1993 when I won first place. I never won a Grammy, but I won the Summerville Takedown Tournament in the 110 pound weight division. I need to tell you something. Hold on. You might not want to clap yet. There were only two other people in the weight class, and they didn't give out trophies, so my dad… On Christmas Day, there was an awkwardly wrapped present under the tree. My dad was not always the model father. He did his best, but my mom was always there telling him what he needed to do, and she said, "Get that boy a trophy and wrap it and write him a note". I'll never forget what the note said. It said, "Here is the trophy that I watched you win that I think you deserve".
So, what do you do when the world doesn't give out trophies? This message is called The Father Saw. Jesus makes a distinction in Matthew, chapter 6, between what people see and what God sees. How many know there's a difference? Have you noticed that the world hands out trophies sometimes for all the wrong stuff? The world will hand out trophies always for what is seen, but we have a God who celebrates the unseen. He is the King of a kingdom where what is unseen is often more important than what is seen. The unseen is often more important than the seen in the kingdom, but the world celebrates the seen. People will congratulate you for a new car, even though what they don't know is you can't afford the payments.
The world will celebrate you for getting a promotion, and it's good if you get a promotion. I pray you get every promotion God wants you to have this year, but people will never come up to you and congratulate you for peace. "Hey, congratulations for your peace". They can't celebrate it, because they can't see it. You can't celebrate what you don't see. If you lose weight, people will celebrate you, even if you put it back on and lose it again every year. If you really want people to celebrate you, let me give you a foolproof way. Every year, gain 30 pounds and lose it, and at least half of the year people will tell you how much better you look. But if you lose the weight and keep it off… Nobody walks up to anybody and says, "You still look all right", because they can't see that.
So people don't celebrate consistency. Can I teach a little bit before I preach? One of the ways I tell our staff that you can know you're getting good at your job is when people stop giving you compliments. In fact, one of the ways you can tell you're a good parent is when your kids don't thank you for keeping the heat on. They just walk up to the refrigerator like stuff is supposed to be there. Am I right about it? If your child ever tells you, "Hey, thank you for indoor plumbing", that probably means you're not providing very well at this moment in time and it needs to get better. Often, the greatest proof that you're doing good in God's sight is that you are taken for granted in people's sight. I know what I'm preaching about today, because when I first started preaching, people would pinch my cheeks. I was 17 years old, and they would pinch my cheeks.
Now I have this beard and my cheeks aren't so soft to pinch anymore. I figure that if I'm really doing my job preaching, you'll stop thinking about how good the preacher was and start being able to hear what God is saying to you. I need you to know that in Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus says there is a tremendous temptation to do things to be seen by people. Whether that means we live our lives like a reality TV show through the vehicles of Instagram and Facebook, showing people certain scenes of our lives that present an image that we would like them to think is really us, while secretly feeling lonely because the discrepancy between our real life and our projected life is becoming more distant… That distance creates the illusion of feeling like an imposter. Even though you are doing the best you can, you are showing something that is better than what you are.
So people will congratulate what they think you are, but secretly, who you are is dying inside because nobody sees it. I'm preaching this whole series because our need to be seen by others can keep us from being known by God. I don't mean that God doesn't know you. He knows everything about you. He's the only one who does. But we see the contrast in Matthew, chapter 6. Let's look at it again. He says, "Be careful when you do what you do that you don't do it to be seen".
How many things in my life am I doing to be seen? There is no worse feeling than that of invisibility. When you are doing your very best and it goes unrecognized, it makes it harder to want to keep doing it. When you feel unseen, especially by the people whose attention and approval you crave the most, it can create a compulsion in your life to start doing things that are not even really consistent with your character in order to receive from people a confirmation that can be taken away just as easily as it was given. But we are not citizens of this kingdom which celebrates and compliments all of the things that are seen; we are citizens of the kingdom where Jesus says things like this: "When you do something in secret, your Father sees it, and he will reward you according to what he sees".
So, my message is… if you have felt unappreciated, uncelebrated, unnoticed, and insignificant, in this kingdom, what is unseen is often what is most significant. Now, not in the world. In the world, we correlate seen with significant, but I'll tell you what. You could take this pulpit away, and I could still preach my sermon, because I really don't need my notes. They're just like Linus' blanket. It's like a security thing for me. I really have the message in my heart. So you could take this away, and I could still preach, but if the signal that's causing this microphone to make a sound were to drop out, you could no longer hear the message. Why? Because what is invisible is often what is most valuable. Whether we will admit it or not, we are so good at celebrating the wrong stuff. People will always, especially the crowd… "Give us Barabbas"!
The crowd will always celebrate the wrong thing. People will always celebrate what they can see. Another thing people will always do is celebrate a gift rather than celebrating character. We celebrate the wrong stuff. Now, if you do it in secret (and this could refer to anything in your life)… If you do what you do according to your values, not according to external validation, then you understand the meaning of "The Father saw". The sacrifices you made that no one else really pointed out, the stuff nobody gave you a trophy for… What would it be like this year for us to live with God as our audience and not our dysfunctional friends and family members, who are secretly so caught up in their own crap they can't celebrate us because they're waiting for us to celebrate them? I struggle with this, because it's hard for me to live my life for an invisible audience. They used to sing a song in the children's church where I grew up that said, "Be careful little eyes what you see".
Did y'all have this song in children's church? "Be careful little ears what you hear". It's the creepiest children's Bible song ever. "For the Father up above is looking down with love". It's like, "This doesn't feel very loving; this feels invasive". Do you remember the song, "Every Breath You Take"? "Every breath you take, I'll be watching you". The beat was so good to the song I didn't realize it's a stalker. He said, "Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you". For everybody who was not appreciated, for everybody who was not celebrated, for everybody who was unwanted, even abandoned, I want you to know your Father saw who left you. He saw who should have been there. When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. My Father saw! When people mistreated me and I could have gotten even but I put it in his hands, he saw it, and my reward is with the Lord!
So, how good are you at celebrating the unseen? Do you celebrate those moments in your life where God is making you stronger but your biceps aren't getting bigger? People will celebrate your biceps. "Oh man! You got tickets? You're going to need a ticket to the gun show". People have fifty thousand clichés to compliment your body, because people celebrate what they see. Nobody ever came up to me and said, "Hey, man. Your contentment is, like, gains, bro". We all know which is more valuable, but we live in a world where what is visible is celebrated more than what's valuable. If you move toward the clap of the crowd, they will lead you right off the cliff. I'm going to stop right here, but you see the illustration. If I keep following that clap, where am I going to end up? If you keep chasing clout right now, what's it going to be like when the people you live to please are no longer even paying attention?
Your friend might move to Alabama. Now the person who was your whole sole source for affirmation is gone to another nation…I mean, state. The Lord said to tell you that he saw it. Now, we don't need to be afraid. This is not a verse about retribution. "Your Father who sees what is done in secret". Some people hear that like a threat. When I said, "Your Father sees what is done in secret", you were like, "O God! Oh no. That's the worst news I've heard all day". He's not speaking about punishment; he's speaking about reward. He's trying to get us to see that we're seen, whether people do or not. "Okay, I get it, Pastor. He sees me. I get it". Do you really? Or are you still buying stuff? Are you still giving away things?
One thing I have learned is we don't graduate from our need to be approved by people when we graduate high school. We still live for approval; it just gets more expensive. When God gave me this message, he said, "Call it The Father Saw, because they thought nobody saw, but I did". Since you can't see the Father visibly or hear the Father audibly, I want to deliver the message today that he saw. He saw what you didn't get. He saw that integrity you had. He saw when you didn't go off. Now, Wednesday you did, but then Thursday you got it together and you didn't do it again. See, we have to celebrate the times where we do get it right. I'm bad at this. Stand up if you're like me and you have a hard time celebrating your successes.
All right. Let's take a moment, since we're so hard on ourselves and we have a hard time celebrating ourselves, at every location, let's celebrate the fact that we had the self-awareness to stand up and know that we're hard on ourselves. See how weak that was? You're like, "I'm not clapping for that". Sit down. I have to work on y'all for a minute. We are so bad at this. Holly and I went on a hike to Crowders Mountain Friday, and while I was busy beating the imaginary opponent to the top of the hill… I was 30 steps ahead of her, and she was looking at the view. I said, "You need to keep up". She said, "You need to slow down. The view is getting good". I was like, "I know it". But she was talking about the landscape. I realized it was an analogy for what she brings to my life that is so irreplaceable.
Holly is great at celebrating herself. She really is. She does not need lessons in this. She came downstairs the other day celebrating her workouts, that she had made it to a certain point in her workouts. I'm the kind of person… I'll do the workout and then think about the fact that somebody else could have lifted more. I'll just do this all the time. Really. I struggle to celebrate myself. And I used to think that was godly, because after all, the Bible says, "Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord".
Do you notice people who quote that verse are never really that humble, and they don't even know what verse it is? Next time somebody quotes a Bible verse at you to beat you over the head with it, ask them what chapter and verse. There's a 99 percent chance they'll shut up. I'm not talking about pride; I'm talking about process and progress and being able to say in certain moments of your life, "Nobody else saw it, but the Father saw". Otherwise, you're going to be waiting for people to give you trophies that don't even exist. Oh, by the way, if they gave the trophy, they can take it back. They can change their mind about you. So I have to get calibrated. I feel anointed to preach today. I feel anointed to get us set free.
Watch this. We talk about getting set free from sin and shame. We need to get set free from people. Not that we don't care about them, but we can't be controlled by them. I can't even let you control this message, because what if the best thing I say is the thing you're not ready to hear? What if you don't like the taste of the medicine? I have to mash it up in the applesauce and give it to you anyway, because I cannot be controlled by a crowd and deliver God's Word. You cannot be controlled by a cultural ideal of success and really receive the affirmation that comes from God alone. Today is the day for somebody that you get a different audience. Not the audience that is external, because they will always clap for what is visible, but if you know you have a God on the inside of you who is the treasured possession of your life and the strength of your soul, give him praise right now and celebrate his presence in your life. If you don't have anything else, you have him, and he is enough.
Y'all do what you want to do. I'm going to take 20 seconds and celebrate that word. Thank you, Lord, for loving me! Thank you, Lord, for choosing me! Thank you, Lord, for keeping me! Thank you, Lord, for forgiving me! Thank you that you didn't just see my mistakes but you saw my potential. The Father saw. He saw the tears you cried while you were waiting because you wouldn't compromise just to fit in. The Father saw. So, when we celebrate the unseen… Write that down on your page: "Celebrate the unseen", because what is most seen is not always what's most significant. You know the Devil can't defeat you, right? He's a defeated foe. Now, if it were you against him, it would be like Conor McGregor. It would be over in 40 seconds.
Did y'all see that? I need my money back. That was $60 for 40 seconds of fighting. If I do the math on that (and I can't do it off the top of my head), that's a very expensive dose of violence that I purchased last night on the UFC fight. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry; I was praying.) When we say that the Devil is doing this and that in our life… There are only two things he can do. He can't defeat you. The cross of Jesus Christ defeated the Devil once and for all. He is a defeated foe. You don't run from him; he runs from you. You resist him and he flees. But, and this is really important, because this is where it happens… Before I take you over into this next section of the teaching, understand that since he can't defeat you, he will always try to distract you or discourage you. Because he can't defeat you, because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.
Now, he can't defeat you, but he can distract you…distract you with what others are doing. He could distract me, as a pastor, with how other churches reach people. He could distract me, as a man, with how other parents are raising their family. Certainly, I can learn from that, but if I get so distracted by how you're doing it, I might miss the uniqueness of how God made me to do it, and then I become discouraged, distracted and discouraged. He wants to distract you so you crash or discourage you so you quit.
This message finds many of us distracted and discouraged. When we come to this point, it is the revelation that the Father saw that enables us to get our focus back. You cannot preach a message like this about the unseen celebration without at least bringing up the parable of the prodigal son. I don't think the message would be complete without Luke 15. For Jesus, it was difficult to get the people to perceive what he was saying when he preached sermons. He would preach on the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are peacemakers, for they will be called children of God". He would teach about the kingdom. It was a very different kind of kingdom. It was an invisible kingdom. It was an unseen kingdom. But he would use these things called parables. How many of you have heard of parables? Yeah, you've heard of them, but Jesus is the one who created that format of teaching, or adopted it and elevated it to its highest level, to show us what something looks like that we can't see with our eyes. He would take something we can see and use it to illustrate something we can't see in order to help us to understand that what is unseen is often more real than what is seen.
A lot of times, the things you can't measure are the things that actually matter the most. Right? Joy matters more than money. I promise you it does. I'm not rich enough to know this, but I do know some people who have everything and nothing simultaneously. If you can't enjoy it, why have it? So what is unseen is more important than what is seen. You can see the boat, but you can't see the fact that the people riding on it don't even like each other. What is unseen is more important than what is seen. This is the principle of the kingdom, the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of the world. The kingdoms of this world clap for what they can see. "Oh, you've got followers. Oh, you've got status. Oh, you've got a BMW". All of that is fine, but I want to know what's happening not under the hood of your car but in the interior of your soul.
Do you have something that can't be taken away? Jesus' most famous parable was about a son who went to his father and took his share of the inheritance before his father died. Jesus was illustrating two different things in this parable. The first one was about the Father, and the second thing was about us. I want to read it to you. I'll read it not in its entirety but enough where you get a sense, because it's very powerful to see what the father saw. We often preach this passage just to talk about how this young man in the passage is, as you'll see, making some bad decisions, and we'll talk about how no matter what you've done, you can always come home to God. All of that is true. I hope you know that, that in this kingdom you're always welcome. The times where you feel like you deserve God the least are the times when you need his presence the most.
It's so important you pray when you're struggling, not just when you feel like you're on top of it. It's so important that if you struggle with an addiction you pray even while you're drunk, even while you're high. You need to pray even when you're in the middle of it, because he's the God of the mountain and the God of the valley. The primary point of this passage is not about what the son did; it's about what the father saw. Jesus is teaching about this concept of the outcast being welcomed into his kingdom. He continued in verse 11. "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate'. So he divided his property between them". I never noticed the word them, but it means that both brothers got their share.
And you know what else? The older one got more. By Jewish law, he got two-thirds of the estate. Younger brother got a third. Which one is more…two thirds or one third? The older brother got more. I want you to notice that the younger brother left. It says in verse 13, "[He] got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country…" I need those of you who really know God to pray for someone who needs to hear this next part because it's where they are. "[He] hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs".
It got so bad for him when he got disconnected from what his father's resource had made available to him… He had the seen resources of his father, but he no longer had the unseen reality of his relationship to him. "He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything". He's waiting for something to be given to him by people that only his father has. So he's eating what the pigs eat. He's feeding off of what the world feeds off of. He's scrolling and clicking and "liking" and deleting and filtering and cropping and snapping and clicking and "liking" and "loving" and clicking and checking and subscribing and unsubscribing, and everything that is in his feed is only making him more hungry. What people are most likely to celebrate is often what is least likely to satisfy.
While he was in this starved state, the Bible says that (verse 17) he came to his senses. He's waiting for something to be given that he had all along. He came to the point that I'm praying we come to during this series, where we realize that they can't give it. It can never come from outside. It has to come from within. Do you hear me preaching to you today? It has to come from within. It has to come from Spirit. It has to come from Source. It has to come from Father. It cannot come from your friends. Your friends can be a conduit, but they cannot be the sole content of what your soul receives. If they give it, they can take it. When he came to his senses, he realized something. "My father has what I'm hungry for. My father has what I'm starving for".
Look here. We have, church, what the world needs, but if we act like the world acts and chase what the world chases, we cannot celebrate the fullness of what we've been given. He said, "My father's minimum-wage employees are better off than I am. They're throwing food away, and I'm begging for scraps". The Bible says because he was hungry… You know, it's good when you get hungry. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled". But the wrong appetites can never be satisfied. When you are starving for status, you will stuff your soul with what can never satiate the true need. But he got up, and he decided, "I don't have to live like this. I don't have to chase this. I don't have to beg for it. I don't have to wait for it. It's not mine by behavior; it's mine by birth. I have a father, and I know where he lives. He didn't move, and I can go back right now".
Kingdom. The kingdom is at hand. So he said, "I am starving to death. I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father…" He practiced his speech. He's practicing what he's going to say. He's writing a speech he will never even need. You're going to see it. He makes this speech in his mind; he never makes it with his mouth. "Father… No, I'll say it like this. Father… No, I'll say, 'Father…'" Practicing in the pigpen. "Father…" By the way, the Bible never says the boy's heart was repentant; it just says he was hungry. Even if you come to God for the wrong reasons, he has what you need. One brother told me one time, "I don't mean to judge you", which is a clear indication that what they are about to say is going to be the most religiously pharisaical thing that has ever come out of a human being's mouth.
"I don't mean to judge you, but over there at Elevation Church you have a lot of sinners". I was like, "What? Do you want to come"? I wish you would categorize somebody else. Sloppy, messy, petty self, talking about "You have a lot of sinners". He said, "Some of them just come to church because there are pretty girls at Elevation". So you don't think pretty girls need pretty men to get married and have pretty babies and serve a pretty God? I don't care what you come for; I care what you get when you get here. Amen. Thank you, Jesus. I came for the music, but I got the message. Amen. He come on home. You come home in your soul. He came home physically. Some of us need to come home mentally.
We keep wanting to be seen, but we're not really known, because we're only showing the parts of us we think are acceptable. But then you come to this place in life, and you go, "I have to go where I'm known. It was fun getting approval from people while I was the one paying the bills, but now I'm broke, and now I know where I can go". Having that home base is so important for a 15-year-old, a 50-year-old, an 80-year-old. So he comes on over. His speech goes on and on forever. All of these ways we beat ourselves up that God never beats us up. "I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son". Do you see it? He is connecting his belonging to his behavior. He's connecting his sense of self-worth to his decisions.
Why I wanted to preach this message is what happens next. All of that is good, but verses 19 and 20 are why I stood up to preach today for you. "'I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men'. So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw…" The father saw. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him. He saw past his clothes that were dirty. He saw past the stench of the pigs that he had been living with and the decisions he had made. He saw past the offense and the foolishness and the waste, and he saw him. God sees you. He was filled with compassion and ran to him. A rich man doesn't do this in Jewish culture, but he saw him. He saw his son. Even though he looked like a slave at the moment, he saw his son. God sees his daughter. God sees the unique you underneath all of the layers and labels. The father saw.
The word of the Lord to you today is "The Father saw". He saw the mistakes you were going to make before you made them, and he called you anyway. He saw every sin you would commit after he forgave you, and he forgave you anyway. The Father saw. When he looks at your life, he doesn't see the decisions you made; he sees the death of his Son and the righteousness of Christ, and he no longer sees you through the lens of any of your life's lowest moments. The Father saw me through the finished work of his Son Jesus Christ. The Father saw, and the Father said, "I see my son. I see the next phase of your life. I see this turning around. I see how I'm going to use this thing in your life. I see how this dry season you've been through… I've been preparing the ground. I've been tilling the ground. I've been breaking up the ground". The Father saw.
Now do you have the faith to celebrate what you cannot see, to know that God sees something in you that people don't see in you? Your Father sees in you what you might not even see in yourself. The father saw, and he embraced his son, because he saw who he really was. With everyone standing all over the church and no one moving, I want you to see for a moment what the Father saw. There comes a point in your life where people have said so much about you and you've said so much about yourself that you no longer see what the Father saw. I was asking God last year in a moment of self-doubt, "What do you see in me? Why do you use me? I'm not special. I'm not that holy. I'm so far from perfect. What do you see in me"? I didn't hear a voice out loud. I never have, but it was an impression. He said, "I see myself. I put a piece of me in you. In fact, I put all of me in you".
The moment you can see past the patterns of behavior that identify you as a sinner and a slave and begin to see yourself as the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, that "I am a child of God…" See, it is that revelation. That's what changed my life. It was not changing my behavior; it was the revelation that God sees the real me, and he loves the real me, and he chose the real me. The quirky me, the weird me, the goofy me, the dumb me, the "make the same mistake over and over again" me. He sees past all that people see. He sees past every pretense, every pretension. He sees past every surface construct, and he sees me. The Father saw. Maybe nobody else did, but he saw. He sees the desires of your heart. He sees where you're weak. He is compelled to come closer in that place.
Jesus said that God sees every hair on your head. What a picture. To me, that speaks of proximity. You can't count the hairs on my head unless you're close. God doesn't just see me at a distance; he sees me up close, and he sees himself in me. Some of us here have a hard time receiving that word. It sounds like syrup. It sounds like a fairy tale. It sounds like something that belongs to another world, but there is something on the inside of you trying to tell you right now, "What that man is saying is truth from heaven". This is the bread of heaven. This is the word of God. He sees you. I know people don't notice, and I know a lot of times you feel uncelebrated, unappreciated, and ineffective. In fact, some of you have been thinking even this week, "Would it really even matter if I was here? Would the people in my life be better off without me"?
The Father saw. He saw something in you that looked like him, and he brought you into this situation, this space in time. I just want to pray for you for a moment, because you're going to leave here and see all kinds of images of things that make you think your life is down here, but I want you to see something for a moment in your spirit. Close your eyes. Lift your hands. We celebrate your presence, God. You have really, really been there for us. Your arms stayed open. Your fridge stayed full. You kept our bed ready for us for when we came back to this moment, and we're coming home in our souls this year. We're not eating pig food this year. We're not just going to stuff ourselves with whatever is most available, but we're coming to your table today, God, not in a metaphorical sense but really, now, in this moment.
I ask that you would fill us to be full of you, full of truth. I really want to pray for the teenagers, God. I don't want them living with pigs. I don't want them feeding on the pods that come from the plants that they would have never even looked at before, but now they got so desensitized to it. God, I pray that they would move back to the place where the Father sees. We thank you that even if we're at a distance, you see us. I call that one home today who you know by name. Lord, I don't know the name, but you do. There's somebody who's hearing this message, and it's like, "Oh my god! That's just for me. That's what I needed". In this moment, would you seal your Word?
Heads bowed, eyes closed, with everyone praying. I want to invite somebody to come home to the God who made you in this moment. He's already running toward you. The father saw his son in the distance. He so loved the world and he so loved you that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life. It's by grace that we're saved through faith, not of works. It's a gift of God so that no one can boast. In this moment, whether watching online or here in one of our buildings, if you're ready to come home today and place your full faith in the work of Jesus Christ, what he accomplished on the cross when he died for your sin, and believe that he was raised from the dead so you could have new life, I want to pray with you right now.
I wish I could do it one-on-one, but God is right there with you in this moment. He has been calling you, and you know it. I want to pray for you right now, and I want you to pray with me. This is a prayer of faith, and if you will pray this from your heart (we're going to pray it out loud), God will hear you and your sins will be forgiven and you'll be a new creation in his name. The Word of God says so. He is more than enough. With heads bowed and eyes closed, praying out loud as a church family together for the benefit of those who are coming to God or coming back to the Father, let's pray together.
Heavenly Father, I am a sinner in need of a Savior, and today I make Jesus the Lord of my life. I believe he died that I would be forgiven and rose again to give me life. I receive this new life. This is my new beginning. I am a child of God.
If you prayed that, shoot your hand up on the count of three. One, two, three! I'm going to celebrate you all over this church. Come on, shoot it up high. Not timid; shoot it up high. Come on, can we celebrate everybody who just came home?