I have to tell you that coming in here last week was a little more challenging for me than normal. Late last week my Grandma Hepner had passed away. I have had a really close relationship with both my Pap and my Gram Hepner all of my life, and have found so much personal health and healing in their home. I was blessed with a lot of time with them, and while her death wasn’t unexpected, it was still sad, and tough to process in some ways for me. It was awesome to come here Sunday and enjoy the time with the team and all of you as we talked about living bold and free lives. I felt so much better just being around everyone it was so fun to talk about literally living out this whole life to the full thing that Jesus told us that He came to give us, but I will say my heart was definitely a little heavy on Sunday. We had the services on Monday, and lots of memories about Gram came flooding back to me. I was also in a lot of awkward conversations with people about how her passing was both happy and sad…and how it was nice to see everyone again but to see but tough under the circumstances. There were a lot of emotions from people and a lot of support and love there too. I will miss my Gram but I am also very happy for where she is today. She is in heaven…eternal paradise, because of God’s amazing love for us…death isn’t the end. Monday morning as I sat down in the morning to just get my heart ready for the services, I just kept thinking about a couple of things. The emotions and fear and reactions that so many have people have when it comes to death. People react in a lot of different ways. The other thing I was thinking about was something that Paul said about death, which is something that so many of us fear.
1 Corinthians 15:51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. NIV
I sat at my desk reading this chunk of scripture and thought to myself, because of Jesus and His amazing victory over sin, death has no sting. We have victory over death. My grandmother closed her eyes on this Earth and opened them in the greatest and most joyous and most peaceful place she could ever be. It really made me question my own emotions of sadness for her, and in the Biblical truth I also really wonder why I would be afraid of death in any way. It’s a really different way to live isn’t it? I told you last week about the big list that we center our belief system on do you remember it? It was Jesus, a blood stained cross, and an empty tomb…and with that list in the center of my life…it’s kind of hard to NOT live a bold and free life, when even death no longer has a sting. I’m not saying it isn’t sad, and I will tell you transparently I will absolutely miss my Gram Hepner but the sadness is really about me…when I know that death doesn’t win, it has no sting, and I think of where she is today…in a place better than where we are today!
So Monday I sat there as my father led the service and listened as he talked of heaven, and listened as we worshiped to some beautiful old hymns, and had to smile at the scriptures she wanted read and the message she had him speak at her service…all about the Gospel, I knew she would want that, and as my father spoke of our salvation through Jesus, I knew my Grandmother would absolutely request a message of salvation at her funeral, because she wants all her family to know Jesus in a real way. I thought to myself about how many people fear things like death. Yet, scripture tells us that because of Jesus death has no sting.
1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV
It’s interesting isn’t it? Last week we spoke of living out this life to the full thing that Jesus told us He came to provide for us, and we moved into the idea that a Christian life should be described as bold and free…NOT tired and stuck, and we can have that by simply living out our Christian faith by loving others! How cool is that, we can actually be bold and free! It’s interesting that when we read Paul’s words here I have to wonder how we aren’t bolder, how powerful this life should be. I just kept thinking about how many people walk through life fearful of things. It’s amazing isn’t it? We are fearful of things like people and their opinions of us, or taking risks in our lives, or even like new jobs, or doing something for God like maybe even planting a church. So many people are afraid of things like death and I think this is what we need to talk about today…because we seem to be missing something here. All this fear, all this doubt, worry, stress…something seems a little off because we do believe that Jesus won. Right? He beat death. He defeated sin…so this means we can live different. As Paul said not even death has any teeth anymore…and he followed that up by saying this…
v58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. NIV
Why can we stand firm? Why should we let nothing move us? Why can we give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord? Because we know it is all worth it because we know Jesus won the war for us! Do you see it? This is what we are going to talk about today because if we can wrap our minds around this I don’t think we could be slaves to fear anymore. I think when it comes to being courageous there is something we need to understand…it takes faith, it takes strength…but mostly there is something else, you have to have a clear understanding of the Gospel message.
Now just as a little disclaimer here…I am not saying you can’t have emotions, and I’m not saying you should not have some fears. It is ok to protect yourself and it’s ok to have emotions…I still am being hit with different waves of emotions when it comes to the death of my Gram Hepner, but what I am saying is that if I am centered on the truth of the Gospel and I understand what Jesus did…I have nothing to fear, and frankly I would be celebrating more than mourning my Gram’s passing because of her eternal destiny.
Today we are going to continue this series we are in called Different. I have loved this series, and really what we have been doing is looking at this idea that because of our encounter with Jesus we are actually going to be different spiritually which is what it’s all about! This series has really ramped up over the last few weeks we have been looking at different commitments that we can make to actually be different spiritually which I think has been an awesome thing. This week we get to hit an awesome topic where we are looking at courage and I want to show you something about courage that I think is both very spiritual and very practical, to do this I would like to talk to you about Paul.
Paul was an Apostle who wrote most of the New Testament for us, you can read his letters all through the New Testament but did you know he wrote most of the New Testament from a jail cell? Paul was one of those people that just drove those against him nuts because you just couldn’t do anything to throw him off the mission of Christ. People wanted to shut him up, but you just couldn’t. So he walked through life in a very different way, he was untouchable, because he understood somethings about God’s love that many of us just don’t. He had to be so frustrating to people who didn’t want him to continue talking about Jesus because they just couldn’t do anything to stop him! If you threw him in jail and took him to court he was thankful for the platform you gave him to talk about Jesus and he would lead all the people in jail to Christ. If you beat him it made him feel closer to Jesus…if you killed him he knew he is heading to heaven and gets to be with Christ…so he was beyond unstoppable, he was so filled with courage. It is amazing to read about all the different moments in Paul’s life that would have been discouraging or terrifying but nothing seems to knock him off course.
Acts 14:19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. 21 They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. NIV
Ok so a couple things here, I know we understand a lot more about concussion protocol today than they did back then but did you notice what just happened. He was just stoned to near death by an angry mob of people and when he gets up where does he go? He heads right back into the city they just drug his lifeless body out of! Not sure that is where I would have been heading! Paul won large numbers of people over to Christ in the face of so much hardship, and pain…he was so courageous. Nothing from this world could really do anything about him. Later he talks about his life this way…
2 Corinthians 11:23 I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. 24 I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, 25 beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. 26 In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. 27 I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. 28 And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29 When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 30 If I have to “brag” about myself, I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus. 31 The eternal and blessed God and Father of our Master Jesus knows I’m not lying. 32 Remember the time I was in Damascus and the governor of King Aretas posted guards at the city gates to arrest me? 33 I crawled through a window in the wall, was let down in a basket, and had to run for my life. MSG
So Paul is going off here a little on the Corinthian people, but it’s important for you to see a couple of things here. First it’s hard to miss that Paul is willing to walk though anything to help connect people to Jesus in a real way. But I also want you to understand that this isn’t easy on him. I told you there is a different between being courageous and being numb. Paul isn’t a robot, he feels emotions, and hurt too. But the thing I want you to see is Paul’s courage and where it comes from, it literally comes from his understanding of Jesus and all that he did for him on the Cross. Paul gains strength, and passion and courage from God’s love for Him which is proven by that list I keep talking about so you have it memorized yet? It’s Jesus, a blood stained cross, and an empty tomb.
Ken and I were talking about this subject last week, and I loved the way Ken put it…he said that courage is profoundly spiritual. We all have fears. We all have doubts and worry, but we also all have a loving God in Heaven who wants us centered on Him. With this new life in Christ, we gain this courage we see in Paul. Check out this out…
2 Corinthian 5:21 God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us! TLB
We talk about life change a lot, another way to say that would be spiritual transformation, and while that sounds really complicated I think it just comes back to you and I wrapping our minds around God’s love and understanding the truth of God’s love through Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross. It’s a very different way to live isn’t it? But I have to start to really wrap my mind around this truth. God took all my sin out of me and poured it into Jesus on the Cross, and He took Jesus’ goodness and poured it into me. The implications of this are eternal, do you see it? You need to! That means when we believed in God, God took all of your sin, shame, guilt, fear and poured it into Jesus and, at the same moment, God took the goodness and righteousness out of Jesus and poured that into you. It literally means that you are ‘in Christ.’ This is a game changer.
My Grandfather sat with my Grandmother in the final days of her life and read scripture over her. My Grandmother was terribly afraid to die, but something happened to her as my Pap read the Bible truth over her. She found peace. As I sat on Monday morning in my home waiting to leave for her services my heart just hurt for her, and I opened my Bible and read that scripture I read earlier that death has no sting…and I found peace in that truth. Ken and I talk often of the challenges we face in ministry, and how some days are just better than others, and you know we often find that the truth of scripture gives us a new boldness, it gives us courage…amazing how that works isn’t it? All of my sin, shame, guilt and fear has been washed away. I am living ‘in Christ.’ So if that is true, what am I so worried about. I find this truth and anchor to it in the Bible…we need to stay in that truth…remember it’s the truth that sets us free right?
I hope you are tracking with me today. Last week I talked to you about living a bold and free life and just how much that ties to a life of love. I want you to see today that a life full of the kind of courage Paul has is profoundly spiritual, and also practical.
It’s profoundly spiritual because that courage comes from our Spiritual transformation or what I call life change which we see in Paul’s words…
2 Corinthian 5:21 God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us! TLB
But there is a practical piece to this as well, where I get to the place in my life where I start to understand the full magnitude of Jesus, the blood stained cross, and the empty tomb. When I start to understand just how huge this transformation into a new life in Christ is I can live my life different spiritually. It’s really interesting isn’t it? Courage is more about understanding than it is boldness isn’t it? It’s understanding God’s immense love for us.
For so many of us, we like to see those awesome one liners in scripture and even as I prepare this message and keep thinking about the courage of Paul I think of something he said in Romans 8…
Romans 8:31 …If God is for us, who can be against us? NIV
That is an awesome verse right? I love it. We can see that one on coffee cups and posters, and t-shirts all over the place…it’s a very popular verse and one many people go to when they are afraid. I think that is a good thing! If God is for us, who could really be against us, that is fantastic…but we should also take the time to reflect on “the why.” Why is it that we have nothing to fear? Why is it that I can stand in courage and faith? Why is it that death has no sting? Why is it that I can actually live out this bold and free life that Sam talked about last week? It’s because God took the sinless Jesus and poured his perfection into our mess, and took our mess and put it on his son Jesus. When we understand this, and fully center on this, we live with a different type of courage. Whether we are stressed, or hurting, or happy, or sad, or rich, or poor, or excited or tired…we are untouchable because of Jesus, the blood stained cross and the empty tomb. I would like to finish this talk on courage by taking a step back from that awesome one liner found in Romans and look at the bigger picture, I think this is so important. Because I think for so many of us we want to be bold, we want the kind of courage we read about in the heroes of our faith and I think it is all there for you, because God loves you so much that he gave you Jesus. Paul says this so well, this is such a powerful scripture.
Romans 8:29 For from the very beginning God decided that those who came to him-and all along he knew who would-should become like his Son, so that his Son would be the First, with many brothers. 30 And having chosen us, he called us to come to him; and when we came, he declared us “not guilty,” filled us with Christ’s goodness, gave us right standing with himself, and promised us his glory. 31 What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these? If God is on our side, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son for us but gave him up for us all, won’t he also surely give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has forgiven us and given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven. 35 Who then can ever keep Christ’s love from us? When we have trouble or calamity, when we are hunted down or destroyed, is it because he doesn’t love us anymore? And if we are hungry or penniless or in danger or threatened with death, has God deserted us? 36 No, for the Scriptures tell us that for his sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day-we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; 37 but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. 38 For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, 39 or where we are-high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean-nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. TLB
This is such a powerful moment, and something we must really look at, do you see it? We are to become like Jesus and we can. God gave us right standing with himself through Jesus, which is an amazing thought on its own isn’t it? But he doesn’t stop there. God is on our side. With that said, why would we be afraid? Do you see how profoundly spiritual courage actually is? This is a very different way to live isn’t it? Living with God on my side in the understanding of what Jesus did for me. God loves me so much that He gave his one and only son for me…
32 Since he did not spare even his own Son for us but gave him up for us all, won’t he also surely give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has forgiven us and given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.
I find this so powerful, Jesus literally sitting with God in heaven pleading our case to Him. We no longer stand condemned because of Jesus and all He did for us! We are no longer accused of sin because of this fact. Our spiritual transformation through Jesus along with our understanding of all He did for us allow us to live a different kind of life. A life of courage. Now this is really cool, because Paul says you can have this courage regardless of your circumstances…
35 Who then can ever keep Christ’s love from us? When we have trouble or calamity, when we are hunted down or destroyed, is it because he doesn’t love us anymore? And if we are hungry or penniless or in danger or threatened with death, has God deserted us? 36 No, for the Scriptures tell us that for his sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day-we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; 37 but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us.
Isn’t this the very thing we can do? Get to a place where things are not going well…where our circumstances aren’t what we want them to be, and we start to wonder where God is in all of it? I think this is something we all deal with, when things aren’t going our way…doubt can slip in…fear can slip in, and we can wonder where God is in the tough times can’t we? I think if we are honest we can and do probably see this in our own life, but Paul once again takes us from our circumstance to what? Jesus, a blood stained cross and an empty tomb. You can dismiss this talk in a way because of circumstance right? Like same I love the idea of being courageous but you do not know what I have been walking through or what my family is walking through. I love that Paul goes out of his way to address this. He says regardless of the circumstances this life is yours for the taking. Remember this is Paul who has been beaten more severely and persecuted more harshly, and probably ship wrecked more times than you have been. This is Paul who is sitting in prison writing to us about how our circumstances can’t take away our courage. And how can he in all the tough stuff, in all the insecurities and physical and emotion pain can stay so courageous…it’s his understanding of the Gospel truth…it’s about Jesus, the blood stained cross, and the empty tomb.
37 but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us.
It’s our spiritual transformation tied to our central focus on Jesus that allows us to walk in the kind of courage Paul did. Oh my goodness do I love this Scripture and I hope you are tracking with me today. Spiritual transformation is found in Jesus. Because of Him defeating death and conquering sin for us, we can be courageous. I find the TLB version of these last few verses so profound, and as I said goodbye to one of the biggest supporters I have had in my life in my Gram Hepner this just struck me all the more.
38 For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, 39 or where we are-high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean-nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. TLB
Do you want to live a life of courage? It starts by asking Jesus into your heart. This allows you to live a new life in Christ…then as you spend time with God, you start to understand the Gospel truth, that because of God’s immense love for us, we have nothing to fear. It’s when the Gospel becomes more than just knowledge but part of your life…this is when things change.
A life of courage is yours if you want it, it comes from Jesus, when you have Jesus in your life and you understand the magnitude of who He is and what He did…you can live in a type of courage that is beyond any circumstance thrown your way.
If you have never asked Jesus into your life, or you have and have walked away from Him and want to invite Him back into your life…please do so today. You can leave here today with a new kind of peace that is beyond everything including death itself. You can have courage that comes from life change and a new understanding of God’s love for you.
Courage, bold and free, life to the full…it’s all yours because of Jesus and what He did for you on the Cross. I keep telling you, there is more to this Christian life than it seems…and it’s easier to have than we make it, it’s time to accept Jesus into your life and to start to wrap your mind around this amazing truth…because when you do, life sure can get fun.