Steven Furtick - Accepting Jesus vs. Accepting Me
Jesus was rejected. What made you think you would never be? He was despised. Why do we always think we're going to be so well liked? Jesus was rejected. I don't think we get that message very much anymore. We get Jesus was resurrected, but before he was resurrected… The only reason he needed to be was that he was rejected by the people he came to save. That's a very painful thing, y'all. There's not a person under the sound of my voice who hasn't experienced the… Maybe you don't call it being rejected. Maybe it just feels like being ignored. The popular term now is unseen. "I need to feel seen".
It's like you change your hair color and all that stuff, and nobody even cares about it much. You bought those shoes on a credit card. You can't afford them. You're paying them off until you're raising your grandchildren. Nobody even cares about that. You're trying to be seen. Really, if I come to the theological truth that's in the text, it's nothing new. Jesus was rejected. I was 16 when I gave my life to Christ. The language we used was I accepted Jesus. I remember that's what the preacher said. "If you would like to accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior…" He was saying, "Make a decision. Put your faith in Christ. Put your trust in him". When I did that, I meant it. I would say I've never looked back. I've looked back plenty, but I've tried to keep moving forward or at least get back up when I fall down.
The time-lapse testimony is "I gave my life to Christ when I was 16, and here I am today preaching the Word of God. Shout-out Nairobi. Shout-out Botswana. Shout-out Bamberg, South Carolina". Accepting Jesus was easy. What's not to accept? I mean, he's going to pay for my sins. Not my bill at Chuy's…my sins, my wrongs. He's going to take away my shame. He's going to stand in the place where I deserve to stand. He's going to die for me. He's going to put his resurrection power in me. He's going to pray for me to the Father when I don't have the words to say. I'll take it. This is a good deal. I'm accepting Jesus. That happened when I was 16. This week, I turned 41 years old. That means it has been 25 years since I accepted Jesus. That's a quarter of a century since I accepted Jesus.
When I accepted Jesus, I bet it took me 25 seconds to walk down the aisle. I prayed this prayer. I accepted Jesus. Twenty-five seconds. But what has taken me 25 years is accepting Steven. That hasn't been as easy. He's not perfect. He's not always forgiving. He doesn't have all wisdom. He doesn't have a lot of things. He's 5'8-1/2". People say things when they meet him like, "You look taller on the screen". That's appropriate. Accepting Jesus took a moment; accepting me is taking a lifetime. The longer I live with Steven, the sicker of him I get. "Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before". There's a hymn that goes like that. Every day with Steven, I discover a new depth of the depravity. There's good stuff too.
I'm not up here self-flagellating, like, "I'm so horrible". A lot of y'all suck worse than I do. I mean, I'm a good man. I love my family, and I do good things sometimes. That's not the point I'm trying to make here. The point I'm trying to make is to accept Jesus and not accept Steven is to miss the gift of salvation where it matters the most. Peter doesn't just say he's holy. He said the same him who was holy is making you holy. He didn't just say Jesus was a stone. Look at verse 5. He said, "You also…" I read this Scripture a million times. I thought, "Yeah, Jesus was rejected. Jesus was crucified. Jesus came and the Jewish people didn't receive him, so the gospel had to go to the Gentiles. Jesus was hung up, and they took Barabbas instead of Jesus on the cross. Yeah, they rejected Jesus". I thought this is a Scripture about how the wisdom of men is always faulty and the wisdom of God is the only wisdom that can be trusted, and that's all right there. I missed the hinge in verse 5: "You also…"
He's the stone I build on. I'm the stone he builds on. Yes, you. Who better to hear this from than Peter? Freakin' Peter! Peter had problems. Peter was cussing while Jesus was going to the cross. But the promise was to Peter. Jesus said, "Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock…" His faith would still be shaken. He would still at times in his life be belligerent, obnoxious. Am I talking about Peter? Am I talking about Steven? Am I talking about you? I don't know who I'm talking about. I'm talking about what God builds on…barren wombs, virgin girls, people who have no business being built on. The reason you don't know that is because you've only heard time-lapse truth. You only see it happen in like 10 minutes, and then when it has been 10 years for you… You don't realize the same one who is sitting here saying…
In 1 Peter 2, it's the same Peter. The same Peter who's saying, "You are chosen," when Jesus first said, "I want to use your boat," said, "Go away from me, Lord. I'm a sinful man". I never caught that before, how far Peter has come to be able to go from saying, "Not me; you can't use me" to now God is using the same one who tried to push Jesus away. The stone the builders rejected is the one who preached on the day of Pentecost, the one with the loud mouth, the one who lied about his affiliation with God, the one who couldn't seem… Peter was always the one who was jumping up at the wrong times and shrinking back at the wrong ones, and God said, "I'm going to build on that". "My kingdom will not be built on prestige and personas and images. My kingdom will not be built on perfect people. No, this kingdom will be built different. See, I'm going to find somebody who's real rock solid, who knows they need grace, and I'll build on that".
I was so thankful Jane was up here when I came to preach. You wrote me a letter 10 years ago that I never forgot. I memorized it like it was Bible verses. The "book of 2 Jane". Jane Williams. We were celebrating some milestone for the ministry, four years or something like that. She said, "I thank God for you". She said, "Respectfully, I want to tell you something". She said, "What God is doing in you and through you is going to look different than any of the heroes you have". And she listed them. She knew who my heroes were because I'm unashamedly… I look up to people in big ways. She named my heroes, and she said, "Respectfully, I just want to encourage you to be open to what the Holy Spirit wants to do through you".
I never forgot that letter. When we started going away and writing songs together, none of my other pastor friends were writing music. I would quote 3 Jane 2:14. "It's going to be different". You're trying to build what's on somebody else's box with your pieces. You're trying to squat Buck's weight. Buck is built different. He's an alien. He's a freak. He is not a man. He is a machine. You get the point. He's built different. He said, "Get rid of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy". Your life is going to be built different. Your season is going to look different. Your timing is going to be different, everything about it, how God uses you. You know the principle "What God selects man rejects; what man rejects God selects"?
That's true of you, your life. It's true of David who wasn't even in line to be looked at as a future king but was still out in the field. Study it. God said, "I have rejected Saul who the people chose, and I chose David who the people didn't even know was there". In the same way, that was true of Jesus, the suffering servant. They wanted a king, not a carpenter. He was both. We should have known this kingdom was going to look different when we crowned a carpenter as our Savior. That means there's going to be cutting, sanding. That means the raw materials don't look like the finished product, but you have to stay entirely confident in the carpenter's process. Your belief is your blueprint. All of the behaviors we're trying to change to rebuild our life… If we don't first deal with the belief that caused the behavior, it will be short-term in nature. The change will not stick. It will be a time-lapse transformation.
Real transformation takes time. It took Peter, if I have my dates correct, roughly 25 years to go from saying, "Jesus, you are the chosen one" to being able to say to the Gentiles he wrote this to, "You are the chosen one…you also". People skip that stuff when they tell you. I'll admit I do it. I have a word I've heard from the Lord I'm excited to preach. When I woke up this morning, my stomach was so torn up… I don't tell you that part. You don't need to know all that. It was even too much information right there, and I didn't even say the full sentence. You can't handle this. You don't need to tell everybody everything, but my point of it is don't judge your transformation by somebody else's time-lapse. It's just like I said a million years ago. You're comparing your behind the scenes to everybody else's highlight reel. He said, "You are being built".
When I walked in and heard Holly telling her friends about when we got to take a COVID test… This was a few weeks ago. I heard her tell the story, and I'm like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. You didn't tell them the part that when the man stuck the Q-tip in your nose…" Can I please tell them? She is looking at me so evil. I might not get a kiss for a month. I don't know if this is worth it. I mean, when that man put that Q-tip up her nose, this woman who is so tough, who has delivered three human beings, precious babies, into the world… This woman who I have seen weather storms and controversies and criticisms of the church we're giving our lives to build… This woman screamed in agony like she was thrust into the flames of an eternal hell, like she had just survived a head-on collision with a UFO.
She screams at the top of her lungs, and the man says…I'm not kidding…"Ma'am, I'm not even in the nose yet". It was touching the ridge of her nose. Yes, it's true. You didn't tell them that part. I have the mic this week. All she told them… There were all of these people around. She said, "I got a COVID test". I said, "That's all you're going to tell them"? That's all we do. "I made it by the grace of God". You barely made it. You still aren't sure you made it. Don't make me take my sweater off to preach. Everything we showed you for the 15-year anniversary was a time-lapse testimony. You don't get to see the deleted scenes, but I know them deep down. That's what gives me confidence for the grace of God, to know that he who began it will be faithful to complete it.
I'm looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. What's so weird about us is that knowing all this, that God is building us as stones (that means we need each other, because it's not a singular stone), we will isolate ourselves and think we have to be good at everything. No, no. This kingdom is going to be built different. The kingdoms of this world are built on self-reliance and independence. The kingdom of God is built on a coming together of imperfect people. This kingdom is built different. It's enhanced by the imperfections. It enables grace. That we're not perfect enables us to fit with one another. It's an absolutely amazing thing that I can accept Jesus and not accept me, yet the Scripture says the process of maturity is offering to God a spiritual sacrifice…that's my life…acceptable through Jesus.
So, the real challenge of my faith will not be accepting Jesus; it will be accepting his process with me. If that's sanding and if that's cutting and if that means I've been looking at the wrong box and that God wants to build something completely different in my life than what I had in mind, then I'm good with it.