(Excerpt from the Sermon)
Sermon Series: Rediscover the Wonder
I love the passage in Romans eight that says, in the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes. We are totally dependent, not only on salvation, on everything. And until you come to Christ like that, you'll never experience salvation and you'll never have a transformation of the heart. Now when my daughter-in-law, Jess, was pregnant with their first child, Ada, I started to think, “Oh man, it's been a long time, but now I'm suddenly remembering what kind of sacrifice is required by a parent when they have children.” Now they're about to have their third. My granddaughter, little Ada, came into the world in deep need. I mean she needed food and shelter and clothing and toilet training and a bath and hygiene and care and compassion.
On the other hand, she came into the world expecting to be loved and accepted immediately, even before they had anything to really offer. Ada walks into a room and automatically assumes that all the adults want to hear what she has to say. She assumes that everyone, no matter who they are, young and old, intelligent, not so intelligent, that they're all interested in her thoughts and her actions. She's absolutely positive that everyone will find her completely captivating and interesting. Totally sure of acceptance and appreciation. Now, here's what you need to see. If your view of yourself is too high you'll not be dependent, totally dependent like a child, like Ada. You and I are totally dependent. We need more than a good example. We need constant provision all the days of our lives. But, on the other hand, if you have too low a view of what Jesus really thinks about you, of the depth of His love, then you're not spiritually childlike.
If you think He's not interested in every thought and every action and every struggle that you have, then you're not childlike. The penny's not yet dropped. You've not truly seen your value because the cross shows you that you are loved and accepted and appreciated at your absolute worst. You know the Bible college I attended when I was studying for ministry? I look back now, and of course, I look back in my thirties as well, and I realize something. I appreciate the education that I received. Yes, but it was filled with self-righteous, arrogant people who considered themselves to be better than everybody else. They had pride in academia. The professors gave us a sense of pride in the fact of knowledge. And there was almost no spiritual formation on campus.
A personal in-depth relationship with Jesus was seldom talked about. It was about knowing all the answers to the difficult questions. And the reason there was no spiritual formation is the desire to seek and to know God intimately comes when you realize how desperate and dependent you really are. When you think you're pretty good or pretty smart, your dependence and reliance on God for anything diminishes. That's why we've often said religion is the enemy of the cross and of your soul because it gives you a false sense of security. Now let all this come together. Now we have the cross. And in the cross, somebody comes up to you, let's use me as an example. Somebody comes up to me and says, “Pastor Jeff, you know, I gotta tell you I really love you. I really love your sermons and you've changed the life of my family.”
Thank you. Now I appreciate that and that's good for about a day. Why? Because when I get home, I've got the goods on me. I know that I'm really not that smart and I'm really not that good. And any way that I'm used is out of the grace and mercy of God. However, if my wife, who I've been married to for 37 years, comes up to me one day and says, “Honey, I gotta tell you something. We've been married for 37 going on 38 years, and I've never told you this, but I need to tell you. I love you and, you know what, I consider myself blessed to have you as my husband.” Now if she says that, it changes everything. It changes me on the inside. Why? Because here's a woman who has all the goods on me. She knows me at my worst, my very worst.
She doesn't only know the theory of what it is to be selfish. She’s seen me act selfishly. She has seen me emotionally withdraw from her because I'm angry with her. She's seen me at my absolute worst. And she's telling me, “I love you.” Now that will truly pass into me. This is the subjective reality of the cross. Objectively, I understand it paid my debt. Subjectively, suddenly I know that God has all the goods on me. He knows everything I've done, not only last year but last night. He knows all of my thoughts. He says, “I've seen you at your worst.” And at the very same time, He says that He's saying, “Look how much I love you. Look how much I'm for you. I know everything about you and I love you. Do you understand how valuable you are to Me? Look at the cross.”
Until you are childlike, not childish, the power of the cross cannot come into your life. And the question I have is this: Do you understand the connection between ransom, childlike, and wonder, and how inextricably tied together they are? And the reason you don't experience, I don't experience, we don't experience the wonder of Christmas is because we've lost the wonder of God. Somehow along the way, we started thinking we belong because we're good. That we’re righteous enough to be received and accepted by God Himself. We stopped seeing ourselves for who we really are. Sinner, undeserving. But that's what grace is. Do you understand that God has the goods on you all the time, not just 10 years ago, and He still loves you? He still accepts you and receives you. His hand is still on you. He's still going to do awesome things in you and through you.
If that doesn't change you, if that doesn't transform you on the inside, if you don't develop a wonder of the power and mercy of God, then Christmas will never have the meaning it's intended to have. If you understand this, then you're going to know the three things that you want most of all in this life: intimacy, assurance, and a hope and future – or an inheritance. You're going to know intimacy because it's going to finally dawn on you that the all-powerful Creator of the universe who sustains every adamant existence, moment by moment, is interested in everything that you're feeling and thinking at any given moment – at all times. And although He has all the goods on you, He still loves you, and accepts you, because of the cross.
Look, I can tell you right now, you know what this is like if you're a grandparent or a parent. You know what this is like because there's nothing Ada could do that would separate her from my love. Nothing. Even though there are times she asks me for chocolate and she knows I'm not supposed to give her any. And then I do. Then she goes and tells on me to her mother. Even though there are times that she acts selfishly toward me when I want to talk to her, she's not interested because she's doing something else. She's too busy. Even though I know there are times she tries to manipulate me. At the same time, I still treasure her. I still love her. Jesus said, in Luke 11, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,” I like to also say grandchildren, “how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to you?”
Do you think that God's love for you, coincides with how good you've been? Then you're going to lose the wonder of God and the wonder of Christmas, the wonder of the incarnation. He knows that you're not good, that you struggle with so much. And yes, subjectively, that should change you when you know that He still loves you. That's why the relationship between father and son, and father and daughter, is a constant example of the scriptures. To show you what God is like. You'll also know assurance. You begin to see that God is Abba, Father. That He's the Father who loves us more than we could ever imagine, forgives us more than we could ever dream, and is interested in our lives more than we could ever hope. He's our Daddy. That's what Abba means. He's Dad, Daddy. And that kind of assurance should enable us to go to God knowing that at any moment, at any time, He hears us and will meet our needs.
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