Stronghold number five: He or she will never come to Christ versus God desires all people to be saved. Is there anyone that just comes to your mind right now that you think to yourself, “You know something? I hear what you’re saying but, I mean, you don’t know my dad. He’s been an atheist. All he does is rip me all the time.” Or, “You don’t know my boss.”
Who is that person? Who do you think could never come to Christ? And as a result, you used to pray for them and you, kind of, don’t because why? They never will. That’s a lie.
How many people, if Saul of Tarsus, after murdering a bunch of people would say, “Hey! I think this guy has a real potential. You know what? He’s murdering a lot of Christians right now but I think he’d make a great Christian some day.”
I’m thinking most people are thinking, “A lot of people might follow Jesus but this guy never.” And instead he goes from Saul to Paul and he writes thirteen books in the New Testament.
Don’t give up. Don’t you ever assume that anybody is outside of what God might do. Don’t give up. Look at what the Scripture says, “This is good and pleases God, our Savior. This is His desire who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Stronghold number six is, “I’m just not bold enough,” that’s the lie, versus, “I don’t care enough.” See, a lot of times I’ve thought to myself, “You know what? I’m just not bold enough.” And then I think, “Well, gosh, you’re kind of bold with other stuff.” “Yeah, that’s true. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
Listen to Paul’s motivation. II Corinthians 5:14 and 15 he says, “For Christ’s love compels me.” The word means, “I was hemmed in.” It’s a picture of Indiana Jones. You know? And the walls are coming in and there’s no way out. That’s that word.
Paul is saying how much God has loved me. What He has delivered me from. What He has given me. It compels me. But it’s not just an emotional, love response. It’s objective truth. Because notice what he says, “Because we’re convinced that One died for all,” that’s Jesus, “therefore all died and He died for all that those who lived should live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”
Where it says, “He died for all,” that little word “for” means, “for the sake of and in the place of.” See, the apostle Paul had this conviction. His conviction was, “There’s a real heaven. There’s a real eternity. And there’s a real Christless eternity.” And he says, “I’m compelled by what Christ has done for me and I realize He died for all.”
This unlimited grace of God, this work on the cross, this resurrection, this offer of eternal life, it’s for everyone whoever would respond.
But the conduit and the link between that truth, and that reality, and people’s hearts, and souls, and lives are people like us.
And so he says, “We don’t live any longer for ourselves but for Him who died and gave His life so that we’re His ambassadors. We’re His agents. We’re His conduit of grace.” And see what happens is I think I’m not bold enough. But when I’m really honest what I realize is I just get consumed too much with me, and my world, and I am not convinced. I’m not convinced of what’s on the line. I don’t think about eternity. I don’t think about lost people the way God thinks about them, with compassion.
I get intimidated by some things that they bring, or what they say, instead of looking past that and seeing the need, and the hurt, and the way God looks at them.
People long to be loved. And the Jesus that we serve loves them. We just need to get rid of the lies.
Stronghold number seven is actually something that I’ve never taught before. Usually when you get to this point in the message my experience for me and many others is, “Okay, I’m going to really try harder to love. I’m going to try harder to love. I’m going to be more loving. I’m going to really work at more love. Love, love, love, love, love. I, oh God, help me love.”
And depending on your personality you do that for two days, two weeks, or two months and there’s not many two monthers and then you’ll be right back to where you are right now.
Stronghold number seven is, “I need to try harder to love people,” versus, “I need to experience more of God’s love personally.” See, we don’t need to try harder. We need to experience God’s love at such a fresh and new depth that we could just not not share it.
And as I thought of this I was, thought of the passage here where Jesus says to a woman who is wiping His feet with her hair, and her tears dripping, and a Pharisee thinking that she’s an immoral person, and He couldn’t be a prophet because He would know about this woman.
And you can see the passage there in Luke where Jesus turns to the Pharisee and He goes, “You know, this woman has responded in ways because she has been forgiven much and her sins, they are many. But those who have been forgiven much love much.”
And He wasn’t saying that the Pharisee needed less forgiveness than the woman. What He was really saying is, “She actually gets, and is experiencing, what I have done for her, and you don’t get it.”
When you experience God’s love you can’t not share it.
One of the greatest qualities in my wife is seeing her experience God’s love and my testimony is is that I’m so oriented toward performance that I often struggle with, “I think God loves me when I’m doing good and I don’t think He loves me as much when I’m doing bad.”
And that’s not true. And so I thought it would be more helpful and more powerful for you to hear from someone who, because of her life story, she really grasps how to experience God’s love.
So, honey, would you come share with us?
[Theresa]: Good morning. I am excited to share with you how I experience God’s love. And I encountered real love, for the first time, when I was twenty-five years old and I accepted Christ as my Savior. And I realize now, as I look back, God had been drawing me with His love for quite a while.
But it was when I actually came to a point where I understood and I recognized His love that I accepted Christ as my Savior and it was a real turning point in my life.
In I John 4:10 it says, “This is real love. It is not that we love God but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” So, that’s what real love is. That it’s God sent His Son to die for us to take away our sins because He loved us so much and He wanted us to be close to Him.
Well, this love that I experienced at age twenty-five was different from any love that I had known up until that point.
And by the time I was twenty-five I was a single mom, I had been abandoned by my husband, I had twin baby boys. And I was just in a desperate situation. I was lonely, I was depressed, I didn’t have any money, I felt abandoned. And I didn’t have any hope.
But it was at this time that I experienced God’s love for me in an amazing way. The Lord led me to work with the Director of Admissions at Fairmont State College and this man was a very godly man.
And he seemed to not be shy at all about sharing his faith even on a secular campus, which I am so thankful for now.
But as we worked together and as time would permit he began to share with me about the love of God. And he shared with me things that I had never heard before. He told me that God’s love is a love that lasts forever. That it will never end. That God’s love is a love that will never change. His love is unconditional, it doesn’t matter what I do, it doesn’t matter what I did in the past. That His love never changes for me. And that His love will care for me, that through His love He will provide for my children, and that He has hope for my future and for my kids.
And so I began to listen to what my friend was saying to me and it started to all make sense and I realized that’s what the need in my heart is longing for. It’s that real love that I’ve been longing for all this time.
And on a Sunday evening, in August, when my two little boys just turned one year old I accepted Christ as my Savior. And, at that time, I began to experience the love of God in an amazing way and He changed my life. He changed my future. He changed the direction and future of my children’s lives.
And He took all those broken pieces, all the terrible things that had been a part of my life and He put it all back together and He cleansed me from all of my past, and He made me new, and clean, and a new vessel that He would fill up with Himself, that He would fill up with His love, so that He could love others through me.
Well, I learned to experience it, I could experience God’s love in many ways from the time I became a Christian up until today, every day I experience God’s love in many ways.
And one of the ways that I experience His love is through people. It’s through the body of Christ. It’s Christians loving each other and caring for one another. People, when I was a new believer, reached out to me and provided for me, cared for me, and welcomed me, and loved me in spite of what I had been through. And I experienced the love of Christ.
And I experience God’s love through His Word, as I read His Word every day, as I open up this Book that God has written to us because He wants us to know how much He loves us. And every day, I get a new glimpse into who He is and how great He is, and how full of love He is for me, and how He wants to work in my life.
And so it’s through His Word I experience His love.
I experience His love as I pray, and as I cry out to Him for the needs of my heart, the desires that I have for the people that I love and I watch as God responds in just amazing ways. That He shows up in doing things that I just never believed could happen. I see His love.
And I see Him every day. I see Him in big things and I see Him in little things.
I see Him as I walk through my day and one of the times I especially see Him is early in the morning when I go outside with my dog and on the days that I can see the stars out, and I look up into the sky and God reveals Himself to me.
And I see His greatness, and His power, and that He is so big and He is so full of love, and He cares about me and every little detail in my life. He loves me. And He loves you.
Well, as we experience God’s love in our life what happens is, and the Scriptures teach that through the Holy Spirit, God just pours His love through our lives and it’s like a flood, He says. He floods our lives with His love.
And I’ve had my house flood before so I know that a flood is very hard to stop. It’s a powerful thing. And it just impacts wherever it goes. It changes things. And when God’s love floods through our hearts, see, we can’t stop it. It impacts the people that we’re around.
And it’s just a natural thing that happens. And so as He floods our hearts it just naturally flows out to other people and God shows His love to others through us.
Well, a couple weeks ago, God gave me a really wonderful picture of what it looks like for me to love people, to love, especially, lost people. Those who don’t know Jesus as their Savior.
And this one morning I got up and I just glanced out the window and out of the corner of my eye I saw this big bird walk across the grass in the back. And I didn’t think much of it, but a couple hours later I glanced out and the bird walked back this way.
And then I looked closer and I saw, “That’s a seagull.” And I thought that was kind of strange because I’ve never seen a seagull in my yard. And a couple hours later he’s still out there. And he’s just walking around in the yard. And I thought, “What, why is he hanging out in my backyard?”
So I went out to check on him and his wing was broken. And I felt so sorry for that bird. And I was trying to think, “What can I do? I’ve got to help this bird. He can’t fly, he’s stuck here, he’ll die if I don’t do something.” Because I knew that he couldn’t get out of my yard.
And so I thought a little bit about what to do, and then it came to my mind that I could call the Wild Animal Rescue. So I called the Rescue and I wasn’t sure if they would respond to this but the first, you push a number, it says, “If number one, if it’s an animal emergency.” So I pushed number one and I explained to this lady that I had a seagull in my backyard with a broken wing.
And I said, “Is this an animal emergency?” Because I wasn’t sure. There’s thousands of seagulls. Would they come and save just one little seagull?
And she was so nice. So nice. And so a couple hours later here pulls up the van, Wild Animal Rescue and comes in my backyard and rescues this stranded little bird.
And I felt so good. I felt like, boy, I really, I really did something good today. I did a good deed. And then, God spoke to my heart. And this is what He said, and I wrote it down because I wanted to remember.
He said, “People who don’t know me are like that seagull.” And He said, “They’re broken. And they’re lost. They’re stuck. And if somebody doesn’t help them they’re going to die. And they’re going to be separated from Me forever.”
And then He asked me, “Do you care as much about My people who are lost, as you do that little bird in your backyard? Would you take that much effort to care for lost people?”
And I realized that it’s the love of God that compels us… it’s like I was compelled. I had to help this little bird. It’s that love of God that just compels us to reach out and to share and to love those that are lost because we realize they’re broken. And they’re separated from God and they’ll be separated from Him forever.
And they’re stuck in their condition unless one of us tells them. Unless we love them and reach out to them with the love of God. And so my prayer, for me and for all of us, is that we would be compelled by the love of God to share and reach out and care for those that are lost.