Welcome to ReCreate Ministry. Our mission is making and growing authentic followers of Christ. I don’t normally do this, but this week, I felt compelled to write an extra message. This all came from a conversation I had with my dad yesterday. To give some context to this, Thursday night, I watched the movie The Martian. I had ordered a pizza, and decided to have pizza/movie night. Close to the end of the movie, after Matt Damon’s character has been in space for quite a while, his hair has gotten long, and he looked to me like Jon Bon Jovi. The next day, as I was talking to my dad about the movie, I informed him that I thought Matt Damon and Jon Bon Jovi looked very similar. His response to me was that both of them were liberals, which somehow turned into a conversation about politics, and about how President Trump was being bullied by the press, how people were trying to destroy him, and how he tends to respond on Twitter to those attacks. Now, I know that many of you are Trump supporters, and that’s okay. I’m not here to condemn anyone for their political beliefs, one way or the other. What I told my dad is that a true leader should be above lashing out at anyone who is criticizing him or her, especially on social media. The conversation continued to include shows like The View, and the people that watch it, as well as the Kardashians and the people who watch them, to which I responded that Jesus died for all of them just the same. My dad responded by telling me that he didn’t believe that Jesus died for people like the Kardashians or the hostesses of The View. So I wanted to discuss the idea that some people may or may not be worthy of the grace of God.
Romans 3:23 (NLT) says “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” None of us is perfect. We have all missed the mark. We have all fallen short, but does that really disqualify us from receiving God’s love and grace? Now, I know that a lot of people qualify things that they say by saying “no offense” in front of them, but I don’t want to do that, because I actually want my words to offend some of you, in the hopes that it will make you take a look at what it is you truly believe. As Christians, we should all be offended by the theory that Jesus only died for certain people, and that there are people who are incapable of receiving the grace of God.
Our text for this message comes from Romans 5. Verses 1 – 8 (NIV) say “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” My first point is this:
Do you see the last part of that last verse? It says “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He wasn’t picking and choosing who He was dying for. He died for all of us. Remember, Romans 3:23 says “We all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.” It doesn’t say anything about some sins being worse than others. As a matter of fact, nowhere in scripture does it say anything about one sin being better or worse than another. So many people think that they are better than others because they don’t sin a certain way that others do, but Jesus never considered one sin to be worse than another. C.S. Lewis said “He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.” We need to remember that Jesus died for everyone.
If you have a church background, you probably grew up singing the song Jesus Loves the Little Children. If you grew up singing this, you remember the words
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Now that I’ve gotten that song stuck in your head (don’t worry, it’s stuck in mine, too), let’s stop and take a lot at what it’s really saying. I realize that it’s a children’s song, but it makes a very good point, and that point is that Jesus doesn’t look at any person any differently than He looks at the rest of us. We ALL sin. We ALL miss the mark. Unfortunately, there’s nothing any of us can do about that. We will never be perfect, but that’s why Jesus died on the cross. Almost all of you know John 3:16 (NIV), which says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”, but have you read verse 17, which says “For God didn’t not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” We all like the part that talks about Jesus coming to save us, but we tend to forget that that salvation is available for everyone. That brings me to my next point.
Now, I know that this is a hard pill for some of us to swallow. We all want to think there’s a special place in hell for the people who have hurt us. We say to God “But if you only knew what he/she did.”, or “If you knew how bad they hurt me.” The truth is, God already knows. He knows our pain long before we do. He has already seen what’s going to happen to us in every moment of our lives. This is something that I had to come to grips with myself very early on after becoming a follower of Christ a few years ago. You see, I had an extremely abusive mother, and she continues to be a very narcissistic person. She has hurt me in ways I can’t begin to describe, and has caused me to have scars that I know will never fully heal, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t die for her. It’s been a hard pill to swallow, but she deserves grace and forgiveness as well. 1 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.”
Some of you have had things happen to you that I can’t even imagine. Since starting this ministry, I have heard stories of people who were abused physically, people who were abused sexually, verbally, emotionally, mentally. I’ve heard stories of parents who neglected their kids. I’ve heard stories of people who were addicted to drugs, sex, alcohol, pornography, prescription pills. I’ve heard stories of broken marriages because of infidelity, or because of neglect, both physical and emotional. The one thing that I’ve discovered through all of it is this, and it’s my next point.
Some of the most beautiful testimonies I’ve heard have come from the people who were the most broken. They were the people who a lot of us would write off as being too far gone to experience God’s grace. I know that it seems far fetched, but the most authentic faith often comes from the people we think don’t could ever have it. Matthew 7:1 – 5 (NIV) says “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
I grew up in a church where everyone dressed really nice on Sunday mornings, worship was very stiff, and there was never much emotion shown. Heaven forbid anyone should admit to struggling with anything. It was a church full of people who weren’t willing to be authentic about their lives. I can tell you right now that it was one of the reasons why I left the church, and stayed away for as long as I did. One of the biggest reasons that people give for not wanting to know Christ is that they know someone who is a Christian, and that person has either treated them with judgment or ignored them completely. It’s a sad fact, but Christians who aren’t authentically living out their faith the way Jesus calls us to are the main reason that people are unwilling to come to church. My friend Caleb Kaltenbach says“Having the mindset that you’ve got it together and everyone else is lacking is a fast track to being a grace failure.” We are called to be the hands of feet of Christ, which means that we are called to love people the way He loves us, regardless of where that person is in life.
I recently finished a discipleship program at my church called Rooted, and one of the things it challenged us all to do was to be real. We had to be authentic about who we were, what our strongholds were, where we were struggling, and what our pasts looked like. It’s not an easy thing to be that open with a group of people that you barely know, but a funny thing happened. In the midst of everyone sharing where they had screwed up, there was an awakening that none of us have it all figured out. This actually brings me to my next point.
You see, part of our problem is that we, as Christians, have made it a habit of making our churches into places where we go and pretend that we have it all together, but we don’t tend to like it when someone comes in with a genuine need. I’ve noticed this happens in bigger, more affluent churches as well as the small town, good ole boy churches. It’s really sad, but we treat people who are different from us, who are a little broken, or who don’t worship the same way we do like they don’t belong in our church. Isn’t that the whole point of the church? Isn’t that what Jesus called us to be? We shouldn’t be condemning people because they have tattoos or come in wearing clothes we don’t consider to be appropriate. It’s sad to me when I see a mother pull their children closer when someone who has tattoos or who isn’t dressed as nicely as them walks by. These are the people we should be reaching out to and loving on. These are the people who Jesus spent the majority of His time on earth focusing on.
Colossians 3:12 – 14 (NLT) says “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” If we stop putting up walls to keep people out, and instead invite them to the table to join us, we would find out that those we think are so different from us are not undeserving of grace, but that some of them understand it even better than we do. We might even find out that we have more in common with them than we would have ever imagined. You see, love doesn’t become real when we put up a praying hands emoji on our Facebook, or when we say we’re sending thoughts and prayers to a region that’s been hit by some sort of tragedy. It becomes real when we stop talking and start doing, when we genuinely care about people instead of just saying that we’ll pray for them. This brings me to my last point.
1 Peter 3:8 (NLT) says “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” Have you ever had a long distance relationship? When I was in high school, I dated a woman who lived almost 2 hours away from me. I only got to see her every 2 weeks, and it made it very hard. It’s difficult to really get to know someone when you’re not around them on a regular basis. Most of you have probably heard the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” The sad truth is, while it’s not always the case, it happens quite often that being apart from someone for a long time causes a gap between you to widen. The same happens when we don’t take the time to get to know people who are different from us. The distance actually creates more potential for prejudices. When you get to know people on a personal level instead of an institutional level, you find out that they’re actually not that different from you, and you begin to love them.
Another problem I see a lot is people getting so upset over things that really don’t make that much of a difference. Kyle Idleman says “Woe to you fans. If you would be as zealous about helping the sick as you are about a ‘Christmas tree’ being called a ‘holiday tree’, health insurance wouldn’t be a problem.” The truth is, some of us need to spend more time caring for people in need, and less time worrying about what our president has said, or what some person in Hollywood believes or doesn’t believe. Let’s be honest. What are the chances that I’m ever going to actually meet Jon Bon Jovi? What are the chances that you will meet a Kardashian, or the president of the United States? We spend so much time obsessing over the beliefs of people we know nothing else about, and will never meet, that we miss out on the fact that there are people around us every day who are struggling to keep their marriage intact or numbing themselves with prescription pills. We have real people in our own backyards who need to hear about Jesus, yet we argue constantly over our political beliefs. It’s time to change it. I realize this message is harsh. I won’t say I’m sorry, because it’s time for us to change. There’s too much anger in the world, and it’s getting worse every day. The truth is, politics aren’t going to fix it, and neither are politicians. The only way it’s going to change is if we start loving people, especially the ones we disagree with. I’m not talking about just loving them when it’s convenient for us, either. I mean loving sacrificially, the way God loves us. Let’s thank Him now that He does.
I come to You today thankful for who You are, that You love us regardless of our political affiliations, what celebrities we agree or disagree with, or who we hang out with. Lord, there are so many in our world who are hurting, who are lost, who need You, and I pray that we would not look down on them, but that we would show Your love to them so that they may better understand who You are. Father, I pray against the spirit of pride in us. May You remove it from all of us. Humble us, and send us out, not to judge others, but to show them Your love. Most of all, I thank You for Jesus, and it’s in His Name I pray.