The following is a transcript of Pastor James' sermon from 5/29/22.
James Lawson (02:07):
Good morning. Welcome. We're so glad you're here. It's a great day to be together. Great, great celebration of the freedom that we have here. My name's James. If you saw the pre-roll a few minutes ago, that's the coolest I have ever been. So, it's all downhill from there. Braeden's mind, I would just like to get in there just for a moment just to see what it's like. You know what I mean? I don't think I could hang there very long, but anyway. If you didn't see it, you're like, "What's he talking about?" don't worry about it. Don't worry about it. Just don't worry about it. We're glad you're here. We're going to be encouraged today, I believe with all my heart, around the message of Jesus, the good news of the gospel.
Before we get there, if you'll just give me a few minutes to start, we got to share a little pastoral moment together I think this morning. Have you been discouraged at all? You ever been discouraged in your life? You've been discouraged lately? We had a little moment of prayer this morning. We always do on Sunday mornings gather for prayer with our worship team and the people involved in the service, and I just asked that question this morning, and about, I think it was a hundred percent of people said, "Yeah, I've felt some discouragement lately." The world in which we live, it seems like every single day, there's something else. You know what I mean? It's like there's something, there's something, there's something, and most of it's not good, not really. Just this past week, the Southern Baptist Convention, a lot of stuff there. Uvalde, Texas, families that are broken and hurting because of senseless violence that should never have happened, and it's like, what's happening around us, and it is, it really is. It really is discouraging.
And so, the thing for us as followers of Jesus is that we don't get the right to put our heads in the sand and ignore what's happening in the real world. In fact, it's the opposite. Our faith is lived out in the context of the real world. We can't ignore what's happening around us and just disconnect from it, quite the opposite actually. I think because of our faith in Jesus, we're called to move towards pain. We're called to go where people are hurting. We're called to engage in those moments.
One of the things, the sentiments that I've seen on social media and even heard on the news a time or two this past week is that thoughts and prayers are no longer enough, and on one hand, I get the heart behind that because I think we're called to do more than just pray. We're called to live out the truth, and the love, and the compassion, and the justice, and the equality that we believe Jesus advocated for when He was on this planet, but at the same time, there is no such thing as only praying because when we pray, we're asking the king of heaven, the God of the universe to get involved, and that's a big deal.
So, we're not just going to pray. We're going to go out and live out our faith in a way that we act like salt and light. We demonstrate what it looks like to love and follow Jesus, and stand for truth and justice, and do the right thing because it's the right thing and be people of integrity. We're going to do all that stuff, I hope and pray, but we're going to pray too, and we're going to start with prayer because in this moment, there's a lot of things we can't control, but in this moment we can pray.
And so, today, as we begin, I'm just going to ask you right where you're at, if you're a follower of Jesus, to bow with me in just a moment, I'm just going to lead us through a time of prayer, and we're going to pray believing that prayer changes everything, believing that God's given us this moment, and in this moment, what we can do is pray, and then tomorrow and Tuesday and Wednesday, we're going to go out and we're going to live out our faith in the real world in a way that is compelling and hope-giving and life-giving and encouraging, but today, we're going to pray. We're going to ask the God of heaven, the sovereign creator of the universe to be involved and to be near.
So, if you're not a follower of Jesus, I just invite you to be in this moment with us and to maybe consider what it would look like for you if you chose to surrender to Jesus, to have access like that to the Father in heaven, and to know a hope and a peace and a grace, a mercy that is beyond anything this world has to offer because Jesus is the hope of the world. He is the king of the universe. He is the sovereign creator, God in Him, all things hold together. And so, as the world around us seems to crumble, we turn to Jesus because a broken world needs to see a powerful, life- giving church, and that's the opportunity that we get to be part of every single day.
So, let's go to God in prayer, and I'm just going to lead us through a few topics of prayer this morning. First, let's just pray for a moment and ask God to make Himself known to us in this moment. We've had an incredible time of worship. I believe that God is here, but in the room, online, wherever you're watching from today, let's simply ask God to meet us in this moment this morning.
Let's spend some time this morning praying specifically for families in Uvalde, Texas that have experienced unspeakable tragedy this past week. Let's pray that God's peace and His mercy would be near and that He would bring comfort and hope like only He can in these days. Let's spend a moment this morning and pray specifically for the church in the United States that we wouldn't give in to the pursuit of power or political authority or any other pull of this temporary world, but that as the church, our mission would be to see the kingdom come, to see the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven, that our eyes would be fixed on Jesus, that we would be a church full of integrity and righteousness and authentic faith.
Let's spend some time this morning praying for followers of Jesus around the world, that Christians literally across the globe would have the courage and the boldness to live out their faith in a way that presents the gospel through word and action to the people in their context. And then last, let's pray for the people right around you this morning now, that God would speak to them. Whether you know them or not, just pray for the people right around you this morning that God would speak to our hearts today.
Father, we thank you for the moments we share together today, and God, we thank you for the privilege of coming before you in prayer, the opportunity we get to boldly approach your throne of grace and find help and mercy in our time of need, and God, we confess today that we need you. There are a lot of answers we don't have, a lot of knowledge we don't have, and oftentimes, it's discouraging, it's uncomfortable, it's hard some days to follow you and to live with hope. And so, Father, today we turn to you, believing that you're God, believing that you're good, believing that you've got a word for us in this moment together this morning. So, Father, our hearts are open. Our ears are open. Help us to be receptive to you in this time together. In Jesus name, and everybody says amen. Amen.
Thank you for praying this morning. My name's James if I didn't introduce myself earlier, I can't remember, but I'm James. I work in the student ministry here and get the chance to be part of the team, launching our second location, grateful for Pastor Randy and the opportunity to speak with you today a little bit. We're going to be in 2 Timothy in just a moment, and I want to title this talk this morning Remember Again. We're going to talk about memory. We're going to talk about memory, and how we remember, and what we remember, and why we remember, what we remember, why we forget the things we forget, but memories are an interesting thing. Are they not? I think as people, we do have a tendency sometimes to remember things we should forget and to forget things we probably should remember.
Have you ever lost your keys? The wives are looking at their husbands right now, like yes, they have. Have you ever misplaced a wallet or forgotten to pick a kid up at school or anything like that? That was always my biggest fear growing up that my parents were going to forget about me. Now, they never did, but I was just afraid of that. I didn't want to get left at school, but memories, memories are an interesting thing, and I was doing some reading and research on memory this past week and actually came across some interesting stuff as far as how memories are made. So, the way our brains are wired, we're designed to intently observe an event, an experience, and then do something that kind of translates what we are watching or seeing or hearing to the neural pathways that actually form memories.
And so, in the old days, if you're in class and your teacher was teaching, what were you doing? You were taking notes, right? You're watching them write on the board, or the really old days, the projector with the slides, sliding the little clear pieces of paper onto the screen. I don't even remember what you called those things, but transparencies. Yeah, those things. You're watching that, and you're writing stuff down, and there's not a calculator in sight. You're working math out by hand, and you're studying for tests and stuff so that's because you want to take what you're given, this knowledge, and you want to figure out a way to actually have it here because if you want to have an intelligent conversation about something you've learned about history or about math, you actually had to know it. You actually had to have the knowledge.
But what's happened over the last a few decades is something has come along that has changed the game, and it's called Google because now, now you don't have to know anything to have a conversation about anything, right? You can talk about anything and not know a thing about it because all you have to do is be like, "I don't know but Google does," And you can google whatever you want to know, and all of a sudden Wikipedia is in your pocket telling you whatever it is you need to know. And so, what this has done, this has literally changed the way we create memories because there's now this process that happens, it's called cognitive offloading. And so, in days gone by, we had this process called cognitive onboarding. So, as we take in information, our goal is to onboard it to our mind so that it's available to recall at a later date.
But now, with cognitive offloading, even as we're hearing new information, we're like, "I don't actually need to know this because I can Google it later. I don't actually have to watch this because I can take a video of it on my phone, then I can watch it later. I don't have to really internalize and retain any of this now because I can go back to it later." And so, we effectively, subconsciously oftentimes, cognitively offload information.
Now, what this means is that our brains, the pathways that are supposed to function and help us to remember, it's like working out, we don't work those pathways out any longer, and so it's like, "Oh, I'll remember that," but our brain's like, "I don't know what that is. I don't remember how to do that." And so, then it's like where are my keys? I don't know because I can't remember anything. Google doesn't know where my keys are, right?
And so, I don't know where my keys are because my brain's not wired to remember anymore because I'm cognitively offloading information, and so here's what this does. The neuroscientist that was talking about this that kind of coined that phrase said two things are happening. One, it's literally changing the way we remember things because rather than remembering actual experiences or actual moments, we remember based on the information that we're given about those moments at a later time. So, translation, rather than like if you go to a concert, if you go to a concert today, what do you see? What's everybody doing at the concert? They've all got their phones out, right? Nobody's actually watching the concert. They're watching the concert through the lens of their phone. And so, rather than remembering what's actually happening on stage, later what you remember is you remember the video that you took in the moment.
So, you're not actually remembering the moment. You're remembering the video that you took. This is changing how we remember, and they say it can actually cause us to not accurately remember events. Have you ever been convinced you were right about something that happened in your past and everybody else that was there is like, "That is not how that went." Gentlemen, we might do that more often than our wives, or at least, they actually remember to tell us that we don't remember it correctly, right? It's like we don't remember the actual event. We remember what we shot on a screen or the screenshot we took, right, because we've cognitively offloaded the event.
The second thing that's happening is that our capacity for remembering is actually diminishing. Just like if you are a runner and you don't run for a while and then you try to go run a marathon, what's going to happen? You're not going to be able to run at the same capacity you ran last time because it's like your lungs won't be ready, your legs won't be ready, the stamina won't be there because you haven't worked out those muscles.
Pastor Burt had a birthday yesterday, and he rode his birth years in miles on the Sawmill, is it Sawmill Branch Trail? That's phenomenal. Yeah, if I did that, somebody would've had to carry me up here today and sit me on this stage because my legs would not work anymore, which might tell you something about how many miles Pastor Burt rode which might tell you something how old Pastor Burt is, but happy birthday. We're proud of you. That's amazing that you're even upright and walking. So, congratulations, but not because you're old, because you ran... Anyway. Sorry, I should stop. I should stop. We should move on.
If you don't work it out, what happens? It goes away, right? And so, in the same way, memory wise, because we're not using our minds to remember, we actually are diminishing in our capacity to remember which is fascinating because one of the things that God says over and over and over to His people in the scriptures is remember, remember. In the Old Testament, you see this phrase over and over again, remember your God who led you out of Egypt. Remember your God. Remember your God. Our future faithfulness to God is tied so closely to our remembrance of His faithfulness in the past.
And so, for us as followers of Jesus, I think we've got a story worth remembering again and again and again, and on Memorial Day weekend, I think it's worth noting as well that in our nation, we were founded on ideals that are distinctly Christian. Freedom, and justice, and truth, and the pursuit of life and liberty, equality, those are ideas that come straight from who Jesus is, and I think it's important for us to remember that, and to remember the people who have valued those ideals so highly that they were willing to lay down their lives in the pursuit of those ideals so that we could gather today and pursue them as well, and we're not perfect. We've got a ways to go, but it's worth the fight. It's worth the pursuit. We're called to remember.
So, as followers of Jesus, we're called to remember as well, but what we remember as Jesus followers is something even bigger than what we remember as a nation today. America is great. I'm so grateful to live here, but the kingdom of God is even better. The king is even better. The hope of the world is not in the nation or a political system. The hope of the world's in king Jesus. And so, for the church today, I think God's calling us, and inviting us, asking us to remember because as Jesus followers, we've got a story worth remembering again and again.
So, we're going to go to 2 Timothy. The Apostle Paul's writing a letter to his protege, his mentee, Timothy. Timothy is the young pastor of a church in a city called Ephesus. Ephesus is a place that is growing and expanding. It's a cultural hub. There's all kind of stuff happening there. It's a hard place to follow Jesus, all sorts of pagan worship around, and Paul knows that Timothy is a little bit discouraged. He knows he's a little bit discouraged. Maybe he's kind of where some of us are today. Life is weighing on him. There's so much pressure to lead, so much pressure to do things the right way. And so, Timothy's feeling a little bit beaten down, and Paul knowing that writes this letter, and he's encouraging Timothy to remember so that Timothy has the strength to keep pressing on. Paul says, "You got to remember."
And so, for us today, I think as we read Paul's words to his protege, Timothy, we're going to be challenged to if we want to press on and follow Christ, we've got to remember some things as well. It's also worth saying that Paul, at the time of this writing, he's in a Roman prison cell and he knows, he knows that his life is coming to an end soon. He's not expecting to leave this cell. In fact, at the end of this letter, he says, "Timothy, my life is already poured out as an offering to God." He knows his time is short. So, this is like his last conversation with Timothy. He knows it. He's packing it full of encouragement so that Timothy can keep moving on.
So, let's read this, 2 Timothy 1, we're going to read 3-10, and then we're going to talk about it for a few moments today. Paul says this, "I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you," he's writing to Timothy, "constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you that I may be filled with joy. I'm reminded of your sincere faith, the faith that dwelt first and your grandmother, Lois, and your mother Eunice, and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me as prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested or shown through the appearing of our savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
So, Paul knows Timothy's discouraged. Life is weighing on him. Things are pressing on him. He's feeling the pressure of life and leadership in the pursuit of Christ, and Paul says, "Timothy, I've got some things I want to remind you." So, I'm going to give you four things today, and if these resonate with you, write them down, think on them. I hope it encourages you this morning, but the first is this, we've got to remember the power of relationships. If we're going to pursue Christ in the day and age in which we live, we've got to remember the power of relationships. People matter. People matter. More than anything else in this life, people matter.
Jesus didn't come to fix a nation. Jesus didn't come to solve a political problem. Jesus didn't come to do anything other than follow the will of God and redeem a people for Himself. For God so loved the world that He gave His Son, and John uses world in that context to mean the people that God loves. Jesus came for people which means that for me and for you, every single person that we encounter on this planet is somebody that God loves, that Jesus gave His life for Him, that's created by God and for God in the image of God. People matter.
And guys, if we ever lose sight of that, here's what happens. We see it happening all around us today. Life becomes about us versus them. If we forget that people matter, life becomes us versus them, and them is anybody who doesn't share the same worldview as us, anybody who doesn't agree with our political opinions, anybody who doesn't believe what we believe, anybody who doesn't look like we look, us versus them, and that's what we see happening all around us today. People are divided. People are arguing. People who believe differently can't even have a conversation because there's so much us versus them happening in the world.
And guys, I just wanted to call us today as a church, we've got to be better than that. We cannot give in to that way of seeing the world because everybody that you see is somebody that God loves, that Jesus gave His life for, that's created by God and for God in the image of God. And honestly, it's a whole lot easier to sit here and go, "Well, here's why they're wrong and I'm right. Here's why they should listen to me, and if they would come to my side and they would be part of my team, then I could be friends with them. Then it would be better because everybody would believe what I believe and look like I look and then..." It's so much easier to give into that. It makes us so much more comfortable, does it not?
We would much rather just have people come join us than go to them, but the call of the gospel is to see the value in people, whether they agree with what I believe or not, to see their value, to see their dignity, to realize that this is a person made in the image of God who Jesus loves, and whether they agree with my politics or not, whether they agree with my worldview or not, I am called, because of the love that Jesus has for me, I'm called to love them. And that's going to be hard, and that's going to put me in a position that's uncomfortable maybe. That's going to put me in a position that maybe people look at and go, "Well, why are you associated with them or why are you hanging out with them?" but that's the call of the gospel because people matter. People matter.
Jesus came, scripture says, and He was full of grace and truth. This is not a call today to compromise by any stretch. I'm not saying that we go out to the world with a message of, hey, anything goes. Whatever you want to believe, that's fine. That's not what I'm saying at all. I believe firmly that Jesus, when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," meant every single word of that. But I'm equally convinced that when Jesus said that the world will know you're my disciples by the way you love, He meant that too. And here's the thing. I don't have the power to convince somebody else that they're wrong and I'm right. Even more importantly, I don't have the power to convince somebody that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, but Jesus does.
What I do have the capacity to do and what you and I as the church have the capacity to do is to live out Jesus as the way, the truth, the life in such a way that the world looks at us and goes, "What's going on there?" Because in a divided world, I see a church that's united, and it's not about a political system. It's not about anything this world says matters. It's about a kingdom with the king and His name is Jesus, and they're rallying around Jesus, and they're kind, and they're compassionate, and they're people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all ethnicities gathering together, not because they have so much in common here and now, but because they believe that Jesus is king and that so because of that, they see the value in each other. They see the dignity in each other. They're able to work through things and have conversations that are difficult and challenging because the mission is to elevate Jesus is king, and to tell the world that Jesus is king.
That's the opportunity we get as the church to go, "There is a better option than the us versus them that everybody is giving into today." There's a kingdom. There's a king. His name is Jesus. He's the way, the truth, and the life, and if we can just offer that to people, Jesus can do work in people's lives that I cannot do. But if we're going to get there, it takes a deep humility and a deep love for people that only God can bring about in our lives.
I love what Paul says. Paul is in prison, and he's praying for Timothy. Think about that. He's in prison. He knows his life is coming to an end, and one of the first things on his mind is I want Timothy to know that I love him and I'm praying for him. There's so much selflessness there, so much humility. Paul's like, "I just, I want Timothy to know. So, Timothy, I'm writing this letter to you. I'm praying for you day and night. I'm remembering your tears. I'm longing to see you because there's value in relationship."
So, two quick questions, one, who are you praying for today? Who are you encouraging today? The second question, who's praying for you? Who's encouraging you? Who's showing up in your world when you don't even know you need somebody, but they're just there because they're praying for you, they love you, they care about you, and who are you being that person for? Second thing that we need to remember, we need to remember the legacy of faith that we carry. Paul says to Timothy, "Timothy, I'm reminded of your sincere faith, but it's not a faith that only exists in you. Sure, you've got a personal revelation of Jesus, and you know that Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. You've come to faith in him, but this faith also dwelt in your grandmother and your mother." We don't get the backstory there. We don't know how Timothy's mom and grandmother came to faith in Christ. This is 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus, but we know from what Paul says. Hey, there's faith that's been passed down to Timothy, and now Timothy has owned this faith for himself.
Now, I just want to remind us today that, again, we have a tendency to remember things we should forget and to forget things we should remember. It's easy for us to get so caught up in 2022 that we forget we serve a God who has been faithful through the generations. We serve a God who has preserved His church and built His church for 2,000-plus years. Maybe not plus. That's bad math. 2,000 years, give or take a few. We serve a God who, when He showed up to Moses in Exodus 34, said, "I keep steadfast love to the thousandth generation." We serve a God who works through the generations. And so, we are here like, "God, where are you? What are you doing? What's happening?" You've got a legacy of faith because you serve a faithful God.
Maybe we don't see what God's doing right now, but is it possible that God who thinks generationally, who sees the end from the beginning, is it possible that today with what God is doing in your world, it's really not about you, it's about your great grandkids, and He wants to set your family up to experience a legacy of faithfulness to Him. He wants your great grandkids one day to hear the story of how you were faithful through a global pandemic, and how in a time when the world was divided about everything, you were part of bringing people together and part of bringing people to the message of Jesus, and when the economy tanked, you didn't put all your money, all your eggs in the stock market basket, you trusted in Jesus, and this is going to be a legacy of faithfulness that your family will tell the story of for generations because that's how God works.
We see the moment that we have here, but God sees the whole thing, and He's faithful, and He's faithful, and sometimes I think we're brought to a point where we just have to go, "God, I don't know what you're doing. I don't understand, and maybe I wouldn't have chosen this moment what I'm walking through, but here we are. Here's where you've placed us. And so if you've placed us, you're going to use us. We believe that because you're faithful and you're good, and so I'm going to trust you." Paul says, "Timothy, you've got a sincere faith. It dwelt in your grandmother, Lois, your mother, Eunice, and I'm sure it dwells in you now." And then he says this, "For this reason because your faith is real. I remind you to fan and to flame the gift of God."
Remember, the third thing, the calling of God on your life. Remember the calling of God on your life. Scholars, theologians, they debate a little bit, what exactly is this gift of God that's on Timothy's life. Maybe it's the gift of leadership. Maybe it's the gift of teaching. Maybe it's the gift to preach, whatever it is. Because Timothy has faith in Jesus, he's a Jesus follower, he's got a calling from God on his life, and he's got a gifting from God in his life. And I would say the same thing to each and every one of you in the room today. Maybe you're discouraged. Maybe you're wondering why life is happening around you the way that it's happening. If you know Jesus, there's a calling from God on your life, and there's a gift that will equip you for that calling God has given to you. Scripture says that God has equipped us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus to do the work that He's called us to do.
So, if you're here today and you're a follower of Jesus, the spirit of Jesus dwells in you, and that's a weird thing to kind of wrap your mind around a little bit. It's like where's He at in there? When they x-ray me at the doctor's office, I didn't see the spirit in there, but that's what scripture teaches is that he's in there. He's dwelling within you. He's literally working inside you to change you from the inside out to empower you to walk out the calling of God on your life. And so, if you're here and you're a follower of Jesus, here's the incredible thing, God put you in 2022 with that calling on your life. God's not in heaven like, "Oh my goodness. James, we put him in 2022? He was supposed to be four decades before. We messed up. What happened? Who let him out and put..." No, that's not how God works. God's like, "Oh yeah, every single person in the room today, they're exactly where I intended them to be."
You're sitting here and maybe you're like, "Well, my life doesn't look like I think God would've wanted it to look," but you're here today, and scripture's clear. There's a purpose and there's a calling on your life. God prepared good works before you were ever born so that you could walk in them. The spirit of Jesus dwells in you, comes alongside you, empowers you to live out the gifting and the calling that is uniquely yours in this moment. So, if you're discouraged, be encouraged today. There's a calling on your life. God's put something in you. Timothy was feeling the pressure of leadership, the weight of pastoring this church in this city, and Paul was like, "Timothy, there's something inside you. God put it there, and here's your responsibility, fan it into flame. Fan it into flame."
You ever lit a campfire or something? What happens when the fire starts to die down and you see the embers, if you go and blow on the embers, what happens? Right? I've got two boys. There's nothing better than watching that happen, and my boys like, "Ah." They love it. It's amazing. That's what Paul is saying to Timothy. "Timothy, there's something inside of you, and the spirit of God is ready to ignite in your life to work through you, but you've got to fan it into flame. You've got to embrace the calling that's on your life."
What's that look like? It looks like prayer, and it looks like opening yourself up to the scriptures and submitting to their authority. It looks like coming alongside people in a life group and saying, "Hey, I want to follow Jesus. Let's do it together." It looks like worship even when you don't feel like worship. And it's not just that we're trying to check off the spiritual checklist so that God's happy with us. No, we've got a calling, and we don't want to miss a moment of what God's called us to do. We don't want to miss a thing that God has for us.
So, if there's any way that we can open ourselves up to the presence of God and allow God to work in us and through us, we're like, "God, I'll do whatever you want so that you can use my life, and if there's anything in my life that's not like you, anything in my life that's keeping me from running this race, anything that's keeping me from pursuing who you are, God, get it out because I've got a calling and I've got a mission and I've got a purpose," and just believe with all my heart that I'm looking at a room full of people and people online today who have a calling from God on their life.
You've been gifted by God to walk that out. So, fan that into flame. Figure out what that is and pursue that with everything you've got because at the end of the day, we can gain the world, but if we lose our soul, what does it do for us? Not a thing. But if you spend your life walking out the calling of God, pursuing the people that God's put around you so they can enter into a relationship with Jesus, living out your faith, at the end of it all, you'll look back and go, "God, you have been good. You've been faithful."
And how do we do this because this is quite a challenge, right? The calling of God, that's quite a challenge. The fourth thing, we remember the good news of God's grace. This is not a life that I can live in my own strength. I don't have enough strength within me. This is not a race that you can run in your own power. This is something, this is a walk of life that requires the good news of God's grace. I love verse 8-10. Just listen to these words from Paul. "Therefore, because God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control because there's a gift in your life, a calling on your life, a sincere faith because there're people that love you and care about you. Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me as prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God."
How do we do this? "By the power of God who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of His own purpose and grace which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages begin, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
What has Jesus done? What does grace do? Grace takes death and makes life in its place. Grace takes people who are broken by sin and calls them forgiven. Grace takes people who do not deserve love and says you are loved by God. Grace puts us all on even ground before the Father in heaven and says, "Hey, whoever will, you come and experience the love, and the mercy, the freedom, the forgiveness of Jesus." That's grace. Do we deserve it? No. Can we earn it? No. That's why we spend our whole lives saying to God, "God, I'll do whatever you want, not because I'm trying to pay you back. I never could, but because you've given me everything. You're worthy of it all." Grace is unconditional love, unmerited favor, forgiveness, and freedom, and life. That's grace, and that's what's on the table. That's the invitation for every single one of us today.
If you're discouraged today, remember God's grace. Remember that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, you stand forgiven in the grace of God. You stand free in the grace of God. You are loved by almighty creator, God of the universe. Why? Because of His grace. You know what's amazing is that God has freely given His grace, and God is not ever going to wake up and go, because God doesn't sleep, He's not ever going to wake up and go, "You know what? I didn't mean to give them that. That was meant for somebody else."
You ever been at Christmas and you pass out gifts and somebody starts opening a present, and you're like, "Ooh, that wasn't theirs." You know? And you're like, "Can you pass that down three people because that doesn't belong..." God's not going to do that with His grace. It's for you because He loves you, and it's for us because He's building His church and He's calling the world to experience grace. Here's what grace does. Grace causes us to do things that most people would not do. Grace causes us to love most people, people that the world says we should not love. Grace causes us to bold acts of courage that are beyond our capacity and our strength.
I want to close with a story this morning. In 1941, there was a young man named Desmond Doss who was working in a Naval shipyard. It was in the shipyard when the events of Pearl Harbor took place, and he felt the calling at that moment in time to go into fight for the freedom of this nation. He believed so highly in the ideal and the value of freedom that he was like, "I've got to do something. I can't just sit here and do nothing. Freedom is worth the cost." And so, Desmond Doss signs up for the Army, and in 1942, he enters the army. The issue for Desmond Doss is that he was a conscientious objector. He was raised Seventh-day Adventist. His faith in God was strong, and he took literally the call of scripture to not take a life, to not kill. And so, he was like, "I'm not going to carry a weapon, but I feel called to the fight for freedom, but I'm not going to carry a weapon."
So, he signed up, and he is like, "I'll be a combat medic," and he ends up in an infantry unit, a rifle infantry unit, and Desmond Doss was ridiculed beyond belief because of his conviction that he was not going to carry a weapon. His unit tried everything to get him thrown out, even to the point where they took him to court martial because they were like, "This guy is a liability. This guy, if we get in a fight, we can't trust this guy. He doesn't have the conviction to stand there and to be in the fight with us." But they couldn't get him out. He wouldn't go anywhere. He wouldn't quit. He wouldn't give up. But he also, he wouldn't back up on his conviction. He refused to carry a weapon.
Desmond Doss, in 1945, May, he finds himself in Okinawa at a place called Hacksaw Ridge, and the American troops begin to climb this 350-foot rock face. They get to the top, and they're ambushed at the top of this rock cliff, and instantly the call goes out, "Retreat, retreat, retreat." And so, they begin to fall back, leaving about two-thirds of their men wounded or dead on top of this rock face. They're all going back down the cliff, and in that moment, one man said, "I've got a calling. I signed up for this, maybe for this moment," and Desmond Doss, unarmed, rushes back into enemy fire on top of Hacksaw Ridge, and over the next 12 hours, one by one, Desmond Doss lets down more than 75 of his wounded comrades. Amazing. Why? Grace sent Desmond Doss where nobody else was willing to go, and he rescued 75 of his brothers, his troops, his friends, and he was a hero, not like anybody thought. Nobody looked at Desmond dos and said, "This man, he's got it. He's going to be a hero."
You know, Jesus of Nazareth, when He walked on this planet, nobody looked at Jesus and thought, "You know what? There's the savior. There's the Messiah. There's the king." He didn't look like anybody thought He was going to look, but His message of grace has changed the world. His message of strength and conviction, courage under pressure has changed the world. It's in the grace of Jesus who came and died a death that you and I should have died to pay a debt that He did not owe, but we did. Jesus did that for us so today we can stand in freedom and mercy forgiveness and love and go out into a world.
Peter writes it like this in 1 Peter 2. He says, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Once you are not a people, but now you are God's people. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Who did this? God did. Why did God do it? So, we can sit here and go, "Oh my goodness, we are the people of God." No. Why did he do this? So, that we can walk out into the world and say, "This is all about Him. This is all about His grace. This is all about His goodness." The answer that you were looking for is not found anything, in any system, any political idea, any economic solution. The answer is Jesus. He's called us by His grace, and we're going to tell His story because it's a story worth telling again and again and again.
So, tomorrow when you wake up and your feet hit the ground, remember you stand in the grace and the forgiveness of Jesus. You carry the message of Jesus. You're enough for the moment, not because you're amazing, but because Jesus is enough and His grace is sufficient. So, let's live out the mission of Jesus in a way that the world looks at us and goes, "There's something significant happening there." And when that we get the chance, we can look back at the world and say, "The answer's Jesus. The one you're looking for is Jesus."
Today, if you're in the room and you're trying to figure out this whole life thing, you're discouraged, you don't have a faith of your own, I want challenge you this morning. The one you're looking for is Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. There's nothing better that could happen today in your world than for you to meet Jesus. And I'm not saying it's going to change everything in a moment because the circumstances in your world today may not change in a moment, but your eternity will be different in a moment because you'll be changed. What's going on around you, it may not get better. It may get hard, maybe harder, but Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, and if you know Jesus, you've got the strength to make it through whatever this life brings your way.
If that's you today and you're like, "I want to experience this grace, I want to experience this forgiveness, this mercy," it's as simple as a prayer of surrender saying, "God, I turn from my sin and I place my faith in you. Change me. Use me." And again, the promise of God is that now you've got a people. You've got a family. You've got a calling. You've got a mission, and you've got the grace of Jesus filling your life.
Maybe you're here this morning, and you're like, "I need a church. I need people that I can trust, that will encourage me, and support me, and pray for me, and walk with me." And if God has led you here and today you say, "I want to make this my church family," we would love to celebrate that with you this morning, but maybe you're just here today, and you're like, "I'm just discouraged, and I just need to respond in prayer, and spend some time with Jesus, asking Jesus by His grace to move in my life in a way that brings me hope and brings me courage for what's to come," because the truth of the matter is we can sit here today and we can pontificate about all kind of stuff. We don't know anything. Do we? We don't know what the future holds, but we believe Jesus is king. We believe that His grace is sufficient, and we believe that whatever comes, He wins.
And so, we believe today that's enough. We can walk out of this place knowing Jesus, knowing that together we've got the strength to live out our calling in a way that hopefully, prayerfully will cause the world to go, "I want to be part of that. I want to go wherever they're going because they're joyful, and there's life there, and there's hope there, and I don't see that anywhere else, but Jesus."
So, Father, we give you this moment. We give you this time. We admit this morning that there's so much we don't know, so many answers we don't have, so many solutions that we cannot manufacture, but God, we believe you're in control, and we believe the words of Jesus are true. He is the way, the truth, and the life. And so, Father, in our discouragement, we look to you believing that by your grace, we will find mercy and help in our time of need. We need you this morning. So, Father, I just pray your encouragement over the lives of the people in this room and online today. By the power of your spirit, build us up, call us to yourself, change us from the inside out. In the name of Jesus, amen. Let's stand up and let's worship together this morning.