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2021 online sermons » Steven Furtick » Steven Furtick - Lonely Places

Steven Furtick - Lonely Places

Steven Furtick - Lonely Places
TOPICS: Loneliness, Isolation

It has kind of been weird. I always have the worship team come back out here and sit with me while I preach. One of my preacher friends was like, "Why do you have the worship team up there"? and I was like, "It's lonely up here, man". It's kind of ominous preaching in an empty auditorium, because we built this room for a hundred times the amount of people we're allowed to put in here right now. It's kind of creepy. I'm not saying anything bad about those of y'all who are here, but it just looks like the rapture happened and y'all weren't living right when it did. We all missed it.

So, it's kind of lonely up here while I'm preaching. Even since the first week when we went into quarantine, I was like, "If y'all could just keep some stools back there and, when put your mics down, grab a stool and come sit with me, because it'll just help me to not feel lonely". You wouldn't think the pulpit would be a lonely place, but sometimes it can be, because you're baring your soul for everybody to see. Especially, some people have these facial expressions when you're preaching. They look at you with a very… I don't want to be judgmental in the way I put this, but they look at you like they never did anything wrong in their life and they might have something better to do.

Now, not everybody looks at you that way, but sometimes when you're preaching it's like you're trying to give out a bunch of love, and sometimes you don't get the same amount of love back. So, in an empty room it's different. Or an almost empty room. I don't know what you can see, but all of these seats are empty. It's kind of lonely. It's kind of lonely lately. It has been kind of lonely lately, hasn't it? We used to get to come to church, and this was one place where we could come, whether you were going to our Rock Hill (formerly Rock Hill, now known as Riverwalk Campus) or whether you were going to our Gaston Campus or our Blakeney Campus or Ballantyne here where I preach or Raleigh-Durham or Morrisville or Greenville or Greensboro. We had all of these campuses.

The idea was where you could come out and be with others and know that you're not alone in this thing called faith. You're not alone in this battle called life. But right now, it's kind of harder for us to do that, because even if you were here, I couldn't have you touch your neighbor. I used to have people touching their neighbor all the time during church, and somebody would say, "That's obnoxious. Why do you have us touch our neighbor? I don't like touching my neighbor. I don't even know where my neighbor's hands have been. You tell me to high-five my neighbor. I'm not trying to catch anything". Well, now it's almost illegal to have them touch their neighbor. So it's really different. It has kind of been lonely.

Do y'all remember when we recorded the song "The Blessing"? I went to watch the video the other day of the song "The Blessing," and it was amazing to me how what was such a joyful moment when we recorded that song with our church had a little bit of sepia to it, a little bit of sadness, just a little bit of melancholy to it, because we didn't know that a couple of weeks after we released "The Blessing" the buildings where we used to gather would sit empty. When I watch it back, I feel kind of homesick. I was telling Holly that the other night. I said, "I feel kind of homesick. I kind of miss some things. It's kind of lonely".

I want to preach to you along those lines today from Mark 1:35-45. I asked the Lord what I could give you today that would help you. He knows I don't know what you need right now, but he's gracious, so I believe he gave me something that is beyond my limitations of human understanding that's going to reach right into your spirit and speak to you. I want to encourage you to share this message with somebody. While we cannot convene physically, it has never been easier for you to share the Word of God with somebody. Isn't that awesome? Right now, you could click a "Share" button, wherever you're watching this, or you could text a link.

You could reach out to somebody and say, "There's a message that's going forth right now, and I want you to be a part of it with me". Just because we are physically alone doesn't mean we have to be spiritually. That's why we're here, and that's why we keep coming out every week. No matter how crazy it gets outside, no matter how uncertain it is in the world, we have to keep coming together. It's so important that we do. It's so important that we continue to come around God's Word, which never changes, in a world that has never been more unstable.

So, today's message comes from Mark 1:35-45. The Bible says, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up…" I wonder if that's foreshadowing something that's going to happen later in the gospel of Mark. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up…" I just wonder if Mark put that in because he was giving a little bit of foreshadowing of what would happen later. "Very early, while it was still dark, Jesus got up…" Just pointing that out to you. God knows how this thing ends. He knows how this thing turns out.

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!' Jesus replied, 'Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.' So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, 'If you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 'See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.' Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere".

That's my title today. It says, "Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places". I want to talk to you about lonely places today. Let's pray.

God, you inhabit all things. You inhabit the praises of your people. You inhabit the broken and the contrite heart. Today, Lord, I pray that you would fill every kitchen where this word is going forth, that you would fill every bedroom where this word is going forth, every living room, every condo, every back deck, every car, every hospital room, every prison cell where this word is going forth. Everybody in this room is here to agree with me that you are filling all spaces right now with your glory. We thank you that you are here. We thank you that we are never forsaken, never abandoned. We pray this and believe this because we have your word on it, a guarantee from heaven that never will you leave us or forsake us. We stand on that promise right now. In Jesus' name, amen.

Jesus is hiding from his disciples. Let's make Elevation a Catholic church for a minute and have a confession. Let's turn this into a confession booth in the chat. How many parents have hiding places where you go to get away from your kids? There are a few hands going up in the room. Raise your hand in the chat. I know y'all don't have kids yet, so you're judging this whole situation right now. "Oh, if I had kids, I would be emotionally available so that they could see the heart of my good, good Father whose arms are open wide". We have this little workout room in my house. I'm grateful for it.

Sometimes I go in there for six hours and do 10 bicep curls. It's really like a second office for me. I go in there to hide. I'd be seven times bigger if I was actually lifting weights in there, but I go in there just to hide sometimes. I have a whole desk. Right beside my pre-workout is a Bible and a notebook, especially in these last few weeks. All of you who are judging me with the captions because your kids are only 6 months old right now… "I just love to snuggle them all the time". I speak this as a prophetic declaration into your future. If you watch this message in five years, you will have nests within your home. If you parent long enough, you will do drive-bys on your own house when you come home from work. You will go to work to hide and rest from your children.

It's interesting, because, like I was saying, some of the places we used to go to get away are now places where we can no longer go, and it has forced us to deal with some of the things in our own hearts that we used to be able to run from. I don't feel so bad about hiding from my kids every now and then. And I really am a very, very present dad. I don't want you to get the wrong idea. Every once in a while, like Jesus, I've got to get away from Peter. I thought it was so ironic, because we talk about spending time with Jesus. I see y'all on Instagram with your coffee mug and your journal and your Amplified Bible, study Scripture, three different translations, devotion books, talking about "Just spending some time with Jesus".

I thought it was cool that even Jesus needed to spend time with Jesus. This is really important. If you never spend any time disconnected from the external, you will always be driven by agendas that come from the outside. The life of Jesus models in so many ways the ability to live from within. What he's teaching us here is not just the importance of getting up early. And thank God, because I'm not a morning person. I think it's hilarious that I have to preach these messages in the morning, because a lot of mornings, I don't even feel like a Christian until about 11:00 a.m. It takes me that long to get saved again. It takes me a cup of coffee and a Diet Coke just to feel the Holy Spirit in the morning. But Jesus got up early. Why? To pray. To align himself with his purpose. It has never been more important. Jesus is at the height of his popularity, and he understood that popularity and purpose don't often work together.

I was telling the young people not to confuse fame with fruitfulness, not to confuse being noticed with being known. When I came and preached to the young people on Friday to close YTHX, I was telling them how Jesus refused to be controlled by popular opinion or external agendas. For this reason, the Bible says, he snuck away from Peter, James, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, and went to a solitary place, the Bible calls it. It's the same phrase you would see to mean wilderness or wasteland or desert. Jesus apparently had a secret spot he liked to go to and recharge and spend time with Jesus. Jesus had to go spend some time with Jesus and with his Father. The Bible calls this prayer. Not just a time for him to read through his list of things he'd like God to do for him, but a place for him to get his orders on the inside of what God wanted him to do that day.

If you do not have this place in your life where you go and are willing to be alone for a little while, you will spend your entire life scrolling through screenshots of everybody else's idea of purpose. Jesus understood that it is important to get alone sometimes. I found out that we're living in a time where it has never been more difficult to really be alone. I mean, really alone. I don't mean that there are no other human bodies around. That's pretty easy right now. I mean to really just be alone and to really seek, "God, what do you want me to do"? That's hard to do because I'm bombarded. It's hard to do because if I'm reading my Bible or if I'm watching a sermon, on the same phone where I have my Bible app there are all of these other apps. It has never been harder to be alone.

Have you noticed this? Even when we're alone, we are flooded with voices. Even when we are alone, there is an abundance of noise. Jesus had a spot, and you have to have a spot. I wish they made an airplane mode switch on my mind. You know how they have it on the phone, where you can turn off the connection and just be with what's really on the device? I wish there was one for my mind, but I can't find it in my mind. I find that even when I'm all alone physically, emotionally it's a crowded space right now. One of the issues of our day is going to be that we are going to become numb to the things that really matter because we are so bombarded and constantly connected to the things that are peripheral that vie for our attention that are not really essential. Jesus got alone. He chose to go get alone.

Now, it wasn't easy for him. In fact, the Bible says that Peter came looking for him. Do you know what my kids have started doing now? They've started FaceTiming me in my own house. Yes, they have. FaceTiming me in my own house, looking for me like I'm on their payroll. So, Peter tracks Jesus down. Now listen. You can look this up in a study Bible if you want to. The Greek where it says he went looking for Jesus, when Jesus went to his little spot… Jesus had a little spot where he could get alone, just be alone, hear what the Father said, and get away from all of the distractions and all of the opinions and the 24-hour cycle of depression, anxiety, and craziness they feed to us. They give us our fear in the form of entertainment, and we don't even realize we're hooked on stuff that is designed to keep us in a state of needing the very thing that is killing us. Jesus got away, and here comes Peter.

The Greek says he tracked him down, almost like he was a stalker. Almost like how the Devil will track you down. Almost like how anxiety will track you down. Almost how something that happened two years ago will track you down and try to keep you from enjoying this present moment. Peter is like, "Hey, Rabbi, everybody is looking for you," as if Jesus was going to conform to the expectations of others when he came from God for a purpose that was innate to his very nature. "They're looking for you, man. You've got to get out there. Do some more of these exorcisms, casting out demons. This is playing really well in the polls. People say they'd be more likely to vote for you if you would do more of these exorcisms". Jesus is at the height of his popularity, but he chooses to be alone.

Watch what he does next. This is what you can do when your intention is set from within. Here's what I mean by that: seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Here's what I mean by that: you operate from a place of peace, not a place of pressure. Here's what I mean by that: you let the world be as crazy as it wants to be, but you have something that transcends understanding to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Here's what I mean by that: you set up boundaries, and you say, "This is the scope of what I'm willing to give my attention to". You set your focus and your eyes on what is eternal, not what is temporal.

Jesus said, "I'm glad they're looking for me, but right now, I need to be alone". This is what he said to Peter: "Let's go to some of the other villages and towns, because this is what I came for". When you know what goes on the other side of that, "This is what I came for…" Okay. To church today, what did you come for? What did you log on for? What is your purpose in being here? My purpose today is to preach the Word of God to you. I'm not able to change you. I mean, I'm just a person, so I'm not even able to give you the illumination to the issues that plague humanity. It's too big. But I know what I'm here for. I am here to speak a word from God, and I believe he has given me a tongue to sustain the weary.

The Lord sent me today for an assignment for somebody who has been in a lonely place. I wanted you to notice that Jesus chose to go to a lonely place. Jesus chose, for a season, to separate himself from all the stress. Jesus chose to separate himself from all the drama. Jesus chose to separate himself from all of the demands that were surrounding him, and he had to save the world. Maybe in this season the reason some of us have been so stressed out is because we don't know why God put us here. We have been so busy chasing after things like popularity, status, achievement, recognition… We have been so busy chasing after those things. But Jesus withdrew to a lonely place so he could be reminded of his assignment and aligned with the reason God sent him.

He said, "Let's go to some of the other towns". He said, "I didn't come to impress people. I didn't come just to do spectacular things so people would see how great I am. I didn't come for that. Let me go do what I came to do". Everybody in this room, do what you came to do today. You shouldn't need an instrument. If you came to worship him, then worship him. I don't want a single guitar or a kick drum or an organ.

In fact, right now in your home, do what you came to do. If you logged on to this sermon today just to be entertained, then sit there, but if you came to praise the Lord and you don't care how it looks or how it feels but you know that real worshipers can worship him anywhere, anytime, with anything, then let everything that has breath praise the Lord! I came to praise you, Lord. I came to magnify you. I came into somebody's home today on this stream to remind them that you are with them in the lonely place, that you are with them in the dark place, that you are rising right now in the spirit of everyone who will set their intention in the direction of their destiny and not the distraction of this moment.

Jesus said, "Let's go do what I came to do". So, let's see what he came to do. I know what I came to do. I don't know what you came to do, but I came to glorify God. I don't know what you think your life is about, but God put me here so the world could have a picture of him. I am made in the image of God. I have a purpose from almighty God. He said, "Let's go do what I came to do. Not what others expect me to do, but what I came to do". Then the Bible says in verse 40, "A man with leprosy came to Jesus". He said, "Let's go do what I came to do," and then a man with leprosy came to Jesus. Did the man come to Jesus or did Jesus come to the man? Jesus said, "Let me show you what I came to do," and a man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees… A man in a desperate situation, a man who had a skin condition the dermatologist couldn't fix, a man who had been quarantined outside the camp.

See, a lot of things we go through we think are new. Most of us just found out about social distancing a few months ago. Social distancing is in Mark, chapter 1, and Leviticus 13. The challenges we face are nothing new to God. They're new to us. The thing you're dealing with right now is nothing new to God. What, you think you have some struggle or some sin that's just so innovative? You think you're that creative of a sinner that God has never seen your sin before? We often forget that he came for the things we try to hide. That's why he came. He said, "Let me do what I came to do". "Jesus, everybody is looking for you. You have a book signing at 1:00. Joe Rogan has you on the podcast today. This is big, Jesus. This could be a big moment for your ministry".

And a leper came to Jesus. Before we gloss over the power of that sentence, I want you to understand that Jesus had the legal right to pick up the first stone he saw and throw it at the leper, because according to Levitical law, if a leper gets within 50 paces of someone who has been deemed clean, the clean has the right to throw a stone at the unclean. When it says a leper came to Jesus, I want you to pause and think about the tremendous risk that was represented in this man's decision. He had a way that he could live with leprosy, and we are given no detail to how the condition appeared or when it spread. It's kind of interesting that we don't even know this man's name, just his issue.

We don't know his hopes or his dreams, just his issue. We don't know his children's names or how long it may have been since he got to hold his daughter in his arms, just his issue. We don't get to know all of the people he had helped at one point in his life who would no longer come near him because to do so would be to expose themselves to a disease that was deemed very contagious at this time. We just know him by his issue. Isn't it awful to be defined by your issues? Isn't it terrible when something takes over your life to the point where it seems to overshadow all of the good things about you, and now all you're known by is your issues? Isn't it a horrible thing when you go to try to think about something good but all of the issues of everything that is wrong cloud out all of the things that are right? It's a horrible thing to be known by your issues.

Some people will define you by your issues to hide the fact that they have issues. They have a whole subscription. It's a horrible thing to be known by your issues and to have your issue come into the room before you do. That's what it was like to be a leper. If you were a leper, you were required by law to walk into a space where you were intending to get in the distance or vicinity of anyone who was not a leper… You could live in a leper colony. You could live with other people who had the same skin condition as you, but you were confined to that place. If you wanted to come out of that place, you had to say this at least two times: "Unclean! Unclean"! You don't get to announce yourself by your name. You don't get to announce yourself by the fact that you have a good heart. How lonely would it be if you were only known by your issue and nobody really ever saw the real you?

Now, there's a contrast here. Jesus was becoming known by his gift. The man was known by his issue. I've met a lot of famous people who are known by their gift, but they are never accepted for their personhood, so they are lonely because they are only known for what they do, not who they are. Jesus resisted that. But here comes a man who's willing to say, "I have to press past my issue. I want to be touched. I want to be known. I want to feel again. I don't want to live like this on the outside. I don't want to have to scream, 'Unclean! Unclean!' every time I walk into a room".

What if you had to announce in the chat what you struggle with to keep streaming this sermon? Would you stay? What if y'all had to come in here today, and before they let you in to record this worship, they didn't just take your temperature with that little gun? What if they put a little thermometer to see what your biggest temptation that you gave in to last week was? Would you come in? If they could scan you for that, would you come in? Elijah was asking me the other day, "If every thought you had went on the screen during worship, like the lyrics to the song, would you still have a job"? I said, "Nope. I wouldn't have any friends. I wouldn't have a job. I wouldn't have anything". I said, "How about you? Would you have any friends? Would you put it on the screen"? He said, "Nope". I said, "What would come on the screen if we could see your thoughts"? He said, "I'm not telling you". I said, "I'm not telling you either".

And we just kept moving right along. But when the man came to Jesus… Y'all think this is dangerous because we're supposed to be social distancing. Punishable by death. Here comes this man who all of his life has had to walk around identified by his issue. Or maybe it wasn't all his life. Maybe it was more recent. Nobody really knows. See, when you got a spot on your skin as a leper, you had to come to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and you had to show them the spot that was developing on your skin. When you showed them the spot that was developing on your skin, if it was just on the skin, that was a scab. If it was just a scab, then you could stay integrated into society, but if it had gotten into the skin or if the coloration continued to spread all across your skin, then they would confine you for seven days and check you out again.

So, when this man first saw a spot, maybe it was something he could cover up for a little while. You know how it is. When something first starts in your life, you can cover it up for a little while and transfer something, checking and savings and Peter and Paul and all of that, and not really have to identify it. The thing about it is, eventually, it had spread to the point where the man could no longer cover it and live normally because it began to cover more and more of his skin until the point where it had spread so far on his skin it had pushed him out of the spaces where people tended to live. I thought this might be how shame operates for some of us. For a lot of us, what keeps us isolated isn't something on our skin; it's something in our souls.

When I was reading about the leper coming to Jesus, I started to see myself. See, my spots aren't on my skin. My spots aren't visible to you. It might be better if they were, because usually we address what others can see. We get really good at fixing stuff… Whether it's a hairline, whether it's an external cosmetic sequence of events that are designed to restore your youth, or whether it's a way you dress to impress people, we're usually pretty good at covering up the outside stuff, but what do you do when the spots aren't on your skin, rather they're on your soul? This man broke through shame, this man broke through excuses, this man broke through tradition and came all the way to Jesus and fell down at his feet and said, "If you are willing, you can heal me".

Now, in this text, we know too much. We know that Jesus ends up healing the man and goes on to have a great ministry. But if you put yourself in the original context, this is not only a risky move for the leper, it's a risky move for Jesus. I want to make sure we understand why. This is really going to help somebody. The Levitical law prescribed that not only should the leper stay away, but if a priest touched something that was deemed unclean, then the clean became unclean. Essentially, the leper is saying to Jesus, "If you are willing to be dirty by association with me, it's going to cost you, but if you are willing…"

See, he's not just moving this man out of the way to get to something more important. Remember what he just said. "Let's do what we came to do". This is not an interruption; this is the assignment. Sometimes we get confused, and we start pushing away the very thing God brought to us that we could do the thing we came to do. We're pushing to the side the very thing that is our purpose. Jesus said, "This is what I came for. I am willing. Be clean". I speak that over every shameful heart today. Be clean! I speak that over every sorrowful past today. Be clean! Be healed! Be washed! Be sprinkled with the water of this Word! Be clean. But Jesus didn't just speak it.

See, he could have healed him just with a word. He did it for the official's son. He sent his word and healed him. Jesus didn't even have to be in the same neighborhood to heal him. He could have spoken to the leprosy, but he didn't just want to speak it; he wanted to show it. He did something so dramatic. He did something so costly. He did something so dangerous. Hear me today. I don't know who this is for. You've been in a lonely place. It's a lonely place. Not just a little bored…a lonely place.

You think this message is just for single people? It's not. I think it's the loneliest thing in the world to have people around you, but you can't really touch them and connect with them for who you really are because you just keep trying to give them who you think you're supposed to be. That's a lonely place. You think I'm talking about people who don't have followers on Instagram? I'm not. I think we all have spots. I used to not think that. I used to think certain people didn't. I used to be embarrassed because I thought I was the weird one, but I think we all have spots. I think we all have insecurities.

We don't wear them on the outside so the priest can't see them. We don't wear them on the outside so sometimes even the people who love us can't see what we really wrestle with. We all have spots. Now here you are in a pandemic, and you can't even come to church like you used to. That used to be the one time every week where you could get around other people and sing and let somebody's faith carry you, and now you're even having to have church in your lonely place. God gave me a word for you today in the lonely place. He said, "I will". And then he did. He didn't just speak it. He didn't just say it. He demonstrated it. "Be clean". And he touched the man.

Remember what I told you? If the clean touches the unclean, the clean becomes unclean. But this is not just any priest. We don't come to a high priest who is unable to be touched by the feeling of our infirmity. One of the first things leprosy would attack was your ability to feel. One of the first indications that you had leprosy wasn't on your skin; it was the fact that you lost the ability to feel. It's a bacterial infection that touches the nervous system. So now this man who is unable to feel is being touched by a priest who is feeling for him. Splagchnizomai, the Bible says. Jesus felt for him. He feels for you. He sympathizes with you. He sits with you. He lives with you. He weeps with you. He walks with you. He gets angry with you. He feels what you feel. He said, "I will," and he touched the man.

Now, here's the interesting thing about the text. We expect now that Jesus, the Great High Priest, becomes unclean and is disqualified because he touched something that was defiled. But since this isn't just any priest; since this priest does not originate from men; since this priest did not come from earth; since this priest is without sin, the spotless Lamb of God; since this is not just any priest, when the unclean touches the clean, the clean does not become unclean; the unclean becomes clean. Immediately, that man's leprosy fell off. Immediately, shame is broken off your life. Immediately, what used to hold you doesn't hold you anymore.

Touch them, God. They've been in a lonely place. They don't even like themselves anymore, but touch them, God. They're so sick of this, God, but touch them. They're wondering "How much longer? God, will my kids ever go back to school? Will I ever be able to go out again"? Touch them like you touched that man. Touch them beyond the issues they face and remind them that you came to touch what others would push away. You are not intimidated by our spots. O God, whatever has been keeping them at a distance, I pray that they would have the courage to come close to you today. You've been in a lonely place, because we all have spots. We all have insecure places, inadequate places. We all have spots. When he touched that man… This is so beautiful.

When I was texting my friend about it, I started to cry. I was just texting the idea how when this passage started the leper was in a lonely place. I'm going to imagine thousands of people who are living in a lonely place today, and maybe nobody even knows that but you. In the Bible, the lepers had to stay outside in the camps. Leviticus 13:45 says anyone who has this defiling disease on their skin has to wear torn clothes. We do that by choice now for fashion. All of these little worship leaders with their skinny jeans and the holes. But when you dressed in these clothes, it was to identify you from a distance as somebody who couldn't come close. You identify yourself as someone who can't get close.

Some of you can't get close to others. You can't get close to God. You can't really pray because you're not even praying about the real things. You're pretending to be somebody in God's presence that you're not, and he can't touch that. These lepers were identifiable from a distance because their clothes were torn. The Bible says they had to have unkempt hair. I was like, "Dang. This is like it was written in 2020". Do you see it? All of the barbershops were closed. The Bible says that these lepers… This gives us a picture of what the man had to live like. Unkempt hair, torn clothes, and they had to cover the lower part of their face. The Bible is not relevant, is it? The Bible is very relevant to the moment we're in. You have to cover your face and cry out with your mouth, "Unclean! Unclean"! "As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone".

When this passage started, the leper was in a very lonely place, identified by his issues, and that's where some of you have been. What brought a tear to my eye is how the passage ended. The Bible said that when Jesus healed the man, he told him, "Don't tell anyone what I did for you". That's the opposite of what we teach you in church. We tell you to click "Share," and if you have a testimony, and praise the Lord, and what has he done for you. But Jesus was governed by purpose, and he knew that if people started coming to him just to perform external miracles, it would miss the intention for which he came. When he told the man not to tell anyone, the Bible says he gave him a strong warning. The Hebrew image here is that his nostrils flared. Have y'all ever heard of savage Jesus? How about snorting Jesus?

I know y'all saw sweet Jesus; sweet little baby, six to eight pounds, six ounces Jesus; superstitious Jesus; Little Stitches Jesus. I know you've seen all of those Jesuses, but this is snorting Jesus. He gave the man a warning. He said, "Don't tell anybody what I did". The first thing the man did after he got healed was go tell everyone. I thought, "Well, now, come on, Jesus. You know the future. You knew the man was going to go tell everybody and it was going to cause you to have to go out, and it was going to cause you to have to move on, and he went and did exactly what you told him not to do. You knew he was going to be disobedient. Why did you heal him"? He said, "I wanted to let you know I'll do it anyway".

I need you to know this. You think when God saved you, he didn't know what you were still going to struggle with? I have news for somebody in this chat today. He did it anyway. If you know that God saved you and you still struggle with some things, but you can still come close to him and depend on him, just put this in the chat right now: "He did it anyway". He called my name. He gave me grace. He filled me with his Spirit. He did it anyway. He didn't have to. I couldn't buy it, I couldn't earn it, I don't deserve it, but he did it anyway. He did it anyway! Come on, this is a message for the lepers. How do you get to Jesus? Any way you can, whatever it takes. I'm going forward. I'm not backing up. I'm not dying alone. I'm not going down. I'm coming alive! Anyway.

"I know I'm not supposed to touch you, but I'm going to touch you anyway. I know I'm not supposed to use you, but I'm going to use you anyway. I'm going to do it anyway". I hear God saying about 2020, "I know it has been a living hell, but I'm going to grow your faith anyway. I'm going to raise you up anyway. I'm going to get this gospel out anyway". I know there are only 40 people in the room, but I'm about to preach anyway. He did it anyway. I'm not perfect, but he likes me anyway. I have some obnoxious parts of my personality, but he likes me with rough edges. He's a carpenter. He's going to do it. He's a carpenter. He needs something to work on. He needs an object lesson. He needs something that looks so unclean. He needs somebody so messy. He needs a situation so desperate that he can say, "This is what I came to do".

When the passage started, the leper was in a lonely place. This man runs around running his mouth, telling everybody about Jesus, and now everybody wants to come see him. But Jesus didn't come for that. He came for something deeper. He didn't come just to fix what's on the surface level. Look at verse 45. "He could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places". This is what got me. When the passage started, the leper was in a lonely place, but when the passage was over, Jesus was in a lonely place. It's not just that he touched that man; it's that he traded places with him. You've been in a lonely place. I know you have. God showed it to me in the Spirit. He didn't have to show me your lonely place, because I know mine.

Preachers get lonely. Pastors get lonely. Parents get lonely. Kids get lonely. Married people get lonely. Jesus chose his loneliness. The leper didn't choose his. Some of you are sitting in a loneliness that was not chosen in this season of your life. This is my message today. "He stayed in lonely places, yet the people still came to him from everywhere". God said to tell you he'll meet you in your lonely place. Lift your hands.

He said, "You don't have to hide that from me. I'm willing to touch you. You don't have to stay away from me. You might be having to distance from people right now, but you can just come closer to me". He's near to the brokenhearted. He gave us a gospel lesson that he went outside the camp so we could come in, that he became sin who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God. He said he wants to meet you in your lonely place. You know that place? You know that spot? You know that thing you keep trying to fix and you can't? He said, "I want to meet you in your lonely place".

God of all comfort, Spirit of grace, I thank you for what you showed us in the text today, that Jesus traded places with a leper who was lonely. God, I thank you right now that you invite us into your presence so that we never have to be alone. This building right now has a lot of empty seats in it, and it's good, because now it forces us to put this message into the lonely places. As they lift their hands, God, whether they're one of the few in this room or one of the hundreds of thousands all over the world who are receiving this message today, I ask that you would fill every lonely place and that we would have the courage to come close to you, real self, true self, honest self, and let you into our emotions and let you into our situation. That the clean would touch the unclean, and that just like that man's leprosy fell off his skin, I pray that shame would fall off your sons and daughters right now.

In the name of Jesus, I break the power of shame off the life of everyone who is lonely in the shadows, hair unkempt, dressed in torn clothes, known by their issue. Speak to that identity that is not sullied by shame. With no layers of pretention, we come before you. In your presence, God, is fullness of joy. Help us to be here. Right into that space, right into that home, if they're the only one there or if they're surrounded by people and they're feeling lonely, God, fill the lonely places, as we worship you now.

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