Steven Furtick - Challenging What You Believe
This is an excerpt from “Jump To A New Conclusion”
You've been fighting some of the biggest battles of your life alone in this season. After a while, like my dad, you can start going crazy, coming to conclusions that are killing you. I totally do that. I come to a conclusion that is based in a belief. Remember what Elizabeth said to Mary in verse 45. "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her". Isn't it amazing that it begins with belief, that behavior begins with belief? So, why am I so good at creating worst-case scenarios? The conclusions I come to are based in the belief I start with. What I have to get better at doing is identifying where those beliefs came from.
John the Baptist was a mighty man. Eccentric wardrobe, no doubt. I mean, y'all think I don't dress like a preacher. This guy was running around with some crazy belts. It wasn't just a fashion statement for him, though. He was representing something new. He was preparing the way for the new era, the kingdom of God. It's amazing, though, because when Elizabeth first reached Mary… Remember, Mary would have had to travel something like 50 miles to get to her relative. The first thing she did when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah who would save his people from their sins, was to get around someone else who was carrying something significant. To do that, she had to go up the mountains. I was thinking about how she was going to elevation. I was just putting that in there as a thing. When she got there, an amazing thing happened. Something inside of her knew… The thing she was carrying, John the Baptist, which was to prepare the way for the Lord, knew that what she was in the presence of was significant.
Do you know how you just know some things deep down? Some of the things you know are not true. I feel like I just flipped you in a jujitsu match. You were like, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it". Some of the stuff you believe God didn't say to begin with. I'm going to give you about 12 examples, and I might throw in a thirteenth. Some of you believe this, but it's not true. You believe that "Who I am is what I do, and what I do is who I am". The reason I know you believe this is because I believe it every single Sunday I get up to preach. Do you know that I feel, a lot of times, like I'm only as good as my last sermon? It's understandable I would feel that way, because I grew up hearing things like, "God wants to use you". Usually, when you use something, that means it's a product. I began to think God wants to use me like I might use this pulpit or like I might use a fork or like I might use a spoon. I believe deep down that I'm really just something God wants to use, and I lose sight of the fact that before I was someone he wanted to use, I was someone he loved.
Because of this, it's easy for me to jump to the conclusion that if I do not perform, that if I do not measure up to the expectation of performance, I do not have worth as a person. So, what do you do when you lose the job you had identified with? The conclusion you come to is based on the belief you start with. When we say things that sound Christian, but they're really not constructive, like, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace…" It's the word just that bothers me. If you don't believe that you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus and that all of your sins and your records… I know we live in cancel culture, but we forgot to talk about the most important thing that was canceled. The record of wrong that stood against me… That's what Christ canceled. That's what the cross canceled. That's what God canceled. "But I'm just a sinner saved by grace".
See, to you that feels so true because you have so much proof. You have receipts. "I can show you my sin. I'm just a sinner saved by grace". If that's what you start with, if you approach your Father like a beggar, you will only ever be able to receive crumbs. You won't come boldly to the throne room if you believe, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace". It sounds so humble, but deeper down it leads us to look for God's judgment in places where he has promised us his grace. See, we are highly suspicious of the nature of a God who we secretly believe doesn't really like us. He loves you, because Jesus is in your heart, but he really doesn't like you. He's really down with Jesus, but Jesus cosigned for your group insurance plan, and God is going to… No, no, no. He formed me in my mother's womb. Every weird thing about me… I mean, every weird thing about you… I'm not going to preach this like it doesn't apply to you. Every weird thing about you is included in Ephesians 2, and Ephesians 2 says, "You are God's workmanship".
I haven't given you anything to put in the chat yet this sermon, and I know I'm failing you. Just say, "Take it up with the workman. I am God's handiwork. I know I'm weird. I don't mean to be weird, but take it up with the workman". Now, the weirdest thing about your weirdness is that if you start with the belief that there's something wrong with you, you will skip past the best stuff God has put inside of you. Remember, John was so unique, and he was powerful because of his uniqueness. God said, "He's going to prepare the way for the Lord". Even in his mother's womb, he recognized the presence of Jesus. Do you know how I know that? Verse 44. It says the baby leaped for joy. That's why I called it jump. John was jumping around in the presence of Jesus before he was ever born. God saw and knew and loved you before one of your days came to be. You are looking at me like you believe this for somebody else but not for you. You're looking at me like you believe this in theory but it's a different thing in practice.
The conclusions we jump to are not derived from what we believe theoretically. They are derived from what we believe practically and personally. I have to get this personal to the point that I know God's purpose is working in my life and was working in my life. What if you started with that belief? What if you started with the belief that in your prenatal state, God was already forming you according to a purpose? What if you started with that? How different would you look to you in the mirror? How much less would you hate the sound of your own voice? How much less would you doubt the things God included to be a part of your destiny? I don't know who I'm preaching to, but God said, "I started this before you ever got here, and I will be faithful to complete it in your life".
John just knew. He's jumping around in the womb because he knows he is in the presence of one who is greater. John was jumping around, kicking around. I've never been pregnant before, but I've heard about it and watched it and read about it in the books and saw it in the movies and next to me in the bed. Holly would say, "Feel that," and I'd be like, "I can't feel that". She'd say, "Can't you feel it"? and I'd say, "No, I can't feel it". She'd get frustrated that I couldn't feel it. "I'm not carrying it. I'm trying to experience something from the outside that you're experiencing from the inside". So, John is carrying this assignment, and he's carrying this message. "Repent! The kingdom of heaven is near. Repent"!
Let me show you this in the Scripture. It doesn't stop in the womb for John. He goes into the wilderness. From the womb to the wilderness, God's hand was on this boy. God was with you before it got started. He was with you in the womb. He's with you in the wilderness too. But John was preaching in the wilderness. He went there by choice, and he declared, "Repent! The kingdom of heaven is at hand". I have to show you this. In Matthew 3:11… This is part of his message. He said, "I baptize you with water for repentance". Change. Turn. He's preaching about repentance. "But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire". Who's he talking about? It's not a trick question. The answer is Jesus.
Listen to this. This is the part. "His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire". John was expecting for Jesus to come with fire. Now look at this in John's gospel, chapter 1, verse 29. The Bible says, "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said…'" "This is the one my spirit recognized before my frame was ever known. This is the one". "This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" The conclusion you come to is based in the belief you start with. He's going all the way back to what he knew in his mother's womb. He's going back to that recognition that predated his cognitive ability to know, "There's something I knew before my life, before my experience, before my lens of the world began to taint it. This is the one".
There's something in you that has always known God was there. There's something in you that has always known he loved you. There is something in you… How many of you can testify? Even when it was so dark and everything in you doubted, there was something in you kicking, living, beating, to let you know there's a purpose for your life. This is the one. "'I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.' Then John gave this testimony: 'I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, "The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit". I have seen and I testify that this is God's Chosen One.' The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, 'Look, the Lamb of God!'" He recognized Jesus when he came toward him. He came to the conclusion "This is the one," because he had a belief he went back to.