September 3-4, 2005
[A video is played at the beginning of the service showing a man’s retrospective look at his life and many of the times he disobeyed authority (parents, police, God). Ultimately, it costs him his life. Ed comes on stage after the video holding an umbrella.]
Lisa and I met when I was 15 years old and we fell in love. That summer my family and I took a vacation to Jamaica. It was the first time that we (Lisa and I) were apart, and since we were in Jamaica for a couple of weeks, Lisa wrote me a letter. Somehow I got the letter that was mailed all the way from Columbia, South Carolina, to Kingston, Jamaica.
I want to share with you an excerpt from this letter. She sprayed it with Charlie cologne. I can only read the highlighted part. I can’t read the rest.
Dear Edwin B., (B stands for Barry). I think about you all of the time and that’s the truth. All I can do is think about the time when I’ll be with you again. I hope that will be soon, because it seems like a month until I last saw you. Love always and forever, Lisa.
While in Jamaica we were staying at a friend of my family’s house, a beautiful estate, and I would walk around that estate and read the letter about every other hour. I just couldn’t get enough of the letter. And my parents would ask me, “Hey, Ed, what did Lisa say in her letter? Why don’t you read her letter to us?”
I said, “Are you crazy? I’m not going to do that. It’s a love letter, Mom; a love letter, Dad. You wouldn’t understand it, you know?”
I grew up in the country. And for a long while we lived on a dirt road. Across from the dirt road was a bunch of woods. There was a path through the woods that led to a lake. And one evening my father took my brother and me down the path to the shore of the lake to watch the sunset.
As the sun was melting onto the horizon line, for some reason, a bunch of water moccasins come out and were everywhere. My brother and I were really scared, and we began to kind of yell and “Whoop,” and “Whoo! Wow!” and all this.
So my father said these words. I’ll never forget these words. He said, “Son, jump on my back. Okay, Son, come on. Jump on my back. I’ll carry you out.”
So Ben and I jumped on our father’s back. We held him tight. I watched him turn the flashlight on that he had brought down with him, and I watched him find the path which led through the woods to our home. It was a harrowing experience, something I was glad I got out of, if you hear me screaming.
Lisa and I just bought a Doberman Pinscher. I brought him up to my office a couple of days ago. He only had one accident. But I had all these papers and books stacked on my desk. And this dog walked up to my desk, grabbed a sheet of paper. And on this sheet of paper were all these Scripture verses I was going to use the following weekend. And I watched the dog begin to eat the Scripture. I said, “Lisa, our dog is spiritually mature! What a disciple. A Doberman who is feeding on God’s truth. Incredible. Our dog is anointed!”
My grandfather suffered a stroke. And for the last half of his life he was confined to a wheelchair. He was a wonderful Christian man. He went through a lot of suffering, yet he always had that smile on his face. He influenced and impacted many, many people.
I can see him now in my mind’s eye in that La-Z-Boy chair with all the TV trays around him with stuff just stacked on those television trays. He always had the Bible, though, on top. I remember as a little kid, you know, running around, he would never let us put anything on top of the Bible. Literally, it was his life.
God is a God of authority. He wants us to get under the stuff that he’s put over us so that we can get over the stuff that he’s put under us. Most people live their entire lives without ever understanding that simple yet profound phrase I just shared with you. If you’re going to have success in this one and only life, you’ve got to get under the stuff that God’s over, so you can get over the stuff that God has put under you.
How stupid would I look in a rainstorm holding the umbrella like this? [Ed holds the umbrella at arm’s length.] How ludicrous is it to try to live life out from under God’s authority? Every time we do it, we’re going to be hammered by Hell—H-E-L-L—pelted by problems, and drenched in dysfunction.
The authority of God is just one prayer away, one step away. We need to get under the authority of God. We’ll never reach our ultimate position until we live a life of submission. To gain control we’ve got to give up control. We’ve got to get under the authority of God.
What is the authority of God? I’ve used an umbrella to illustrate the authority of God. What is it? Specifically, it’s the word of God. What’s the word of God? The Bible. The B-I-B-L-E. That’s the book for me. That’s our authority. This umbrella represents the Bible. I should live my life, you should live your life, under the umbrella. We’re under the authority of God’s word.
“Boy, I sure wish God would speak to me. I sure wish I would know what God says about marriage or about finances or about my company or about this situation I’m dealing with a friend. Or I sure wish I knew what God’s word said about my dying relative. I’m having this problem with fear and anxiety and stress…”
God has spoken.
The most used term in the Bible to describe itself is “the word of God.” In the first five books of the Bible this phrase, “the word of God,” is used over a thousand times. In the books of the prophets it’s used another thousand times. In the Old Testament alone the phrase “word of God” is used 4,000 times. In the New Testament it’s used another 44 times. Thus, when the Bible speaks, God speaks.
Fifteen years ago we kicked off Fellowship Church with about 150 of us in a small rented office complex in Irving, Texas. We made one decision. We said, “You know what? Fellowship Church is going to be a Bible teaching, Bible believing church. It’s our authority.”
So whenever someone asks you, “Hey, what kind of church is Fellowship Church?” It’s very simple. We’re a Bible teaching, Bible believing church. It’s our authority. We have no manmade creed; no group in Australia or Denmark or in some other part of the world telling us how high to jump or how to do church. We’re under the authority of the Bible. We believe the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. We even believe the maps!
The Bible is the word of God. It is our authority. The Bible is what it is. The Bible is what it is.
Some people, though, deny the Bible. You know some people like that? There might be a few here. Not very many, but some just deny it. That’s like me saying, “Well, I deny that there’s a four and a half foot drop off from this stage to the floor. I just don’t believe it. I just don’t buy it. I’m sorry, I just don’t. And I’m going to take a run right here and I’m going to show you that there’s not a four and a half foot drop off.”
But I would fall and get hurt. I don’t care how much I disagree or deny the fact that there’s a drop off, there is a drop off. This stage is what it is. The Bible is what it is. You can say you don’t believe it, you can do whatever, but it is what it is. It is the word of God.
So some deny it. Some people we run into actually distort the Bible. They take a verse out of context, a paragraph out of context, and build an entire theology around it, an entire false religion around it. And we can see many of those illustrations throughout our world.
Others dissect the Bible. They treat the Bible like a math book. Now and then a scientist will make a discovery that will validate the Bible, and someone will invariably run up to me and say, “Ed, did you hear about this scientist who made this discovery that validates Scripture? Man, Ed, I bet that gives you more faith in the Bible, doesn’t it?”
I say, “No, it gives me more faith in the scientist! I already had faith in the Bible, dude.”
The biggest thing that I struggle with, and the biggest thing that you struggle with, is not denying, it’s not distorting, it’s not dissecting the Bible. It’s disregarding the Bible. That’s our biggest struggle.
Most of us here—if we were honest with ourselves, if the truth were known, if the bold reality was revealed, if we put all of our intellectual and behavioral cards on the table—that is what we struggle with. We just disregard the Bible.
[In this next section, Ed begins to tear out pages of the Bible to illustrate how some people treat Scripture.]
We take the Bible and we thumb through it. “The Bible says, ‘Love your wife as Christ loved the church?’ I don’t like that. The Bible says, ‘Wives, submit to your husband as to the Lord?’ Oh, I really don’t like that. The Bible says, ‘If you look at a woman with lust you’ve committed adultery?’ I don’t like that. The Bible says, ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (into the local church)?’ Oh, I really don’t like that. The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not covet?’ I don’t like that either.”
Some of you are thinking, “I can’t believe Ed has ripped apart the Bible.” Well, how do you think God feels when we rip apart His word? We all have our own versions of the Bible, don’t we? When we have our own versions, our lives end up being perversions. So what I want to challenge you to do is to pick up the pieces, to pick up the pages of Scripture.
I don’t care if you feel like that little film you just saw. I don’t care if you feel like your life is shattered or in shambles. I don’t care if you feel like you’ve scattered your own version of the Bible everywhere. We’re going to pick up the pieces, put them back into our Bibles, and understand and process what it means to live under the authority of God’s word.
In Proverbs 28:9 it says, “If anyone (the word “anyone” means “anyone”) turns a deaf ear to the law…” What’s the law? The law is Scripture. “…even his prayers are detestable.” So if I have an incomplete Bible, I’ve got an incomplete life. And if I turn a deaf ear to Scripture, even my prayers are detestable.
And some people can even use prayer as a form of rebellion. We hide behind prayer. We say we need clarity when God has already spoken. So don’t give God that smoke and mirrors stuff. Don’t pray stupid prayers. You’re wasting God’s time and your time as well.
Well, what’s a stupid prayer? A stupid prayer would be something like this. Let’s say a family would pray this prayer. “Lord, bless our family.”
Well, how in the world is God going to bless your family when you’re not under His authority? How in the world is God going to bless your family when you’re not involved in a local church? When you’re not serving in the context of the biblically functioning community? When you’re not bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse? When you’re not loving your wife like Christ loved the church? When you’re not submitting to your husband as you would the Lord? When your kids are not obeying the parents? When you’re not forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you?
How in the world is God going to bless you? Positionally, you’re in the rain. You’re drenched in dysfunction. You’re being pelted by problems. You’re being hammered by Hell. We’ve got to get under what God is over and then he’ll put us over the stuff that needs to be under us.
That’s a stupid prayer. A stupid prayer is like, “God, bless me in my relationships.” And maybe you’re a single adult or a student and you’re hooked up with someone who’s not a believer. You’re having sex outside marriage. You’re taking God’s name in vain 24/7.
God’s not going to bless your life. Don’t give that weak stuff to God. Don’t waste His time or your time. Prayer? No, no, no. Obey and then pray. You don’t pray, then obey.
We disregard Scripture. We edit the Bible. But the Bible is what it is. You can say what you want to say about it, but it is what it is. And we have a problem in this whole area when we disregard Scripture.
WHAT IS THE BIBLE?
A LOVE LETTER
The Bible is what it is. What is it? It’s a letter. Let me let Jeremiah 31:3 unpack that thought. God is speaking here in Jeremiah. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.”
The Bible is what it is. It’s a letter. Specifically, it’s a love letter. Isn’t that amazing?
I took this love letter that Lisa wrote to me and I read it over and over again. I read it over and over again because she wrote it and she was crazy about me and she is crazy about me. She loves me. And I wanted to read something about me; and especially it just fired me up to know that a girl loved me like she loved me.
What is the Bible? The Bible is a bunch of love letters. The Bible is not sprayed with Charlie cologne, but it’s sprayed with the cologne of Christ.
The Bible has one villain—Satan. It has one hero—Christ. And one message—Jesus saves. The Bible is all about love. I would tell you something that you need to think about. Do you know there is nothing that you could do or I could do right now that would cause God to love us less? Nothing. That’s how much God loves you and me. He loves us. We’re on His mind 24/7. He’s crazy about us.
Do you know the psalmist said that, when we cry, God even collects our tears in a bottle? He knows how many tears that you’ve shed and I’ve shed. That’s how much God loves you and me. He wants us, he desperately desires us, to be under His authority, under His word, because He wants the best for us. He doesn’t want us to have a good life or a decent life or a life that’s above average. He wants us to discover the best. We’ll never reach, though, our ultimate position until we live a life of submission; submission to the word of God.
God’s love is tender. But notice, too, God’s love is also tough. Here is where I mess up. Here is what I have thought before and maybe you’re the same. I’ve said this, “Ed, man, when you obey Scripture, that’s tough. I mean that’s hard.” And some of you right now are thinking that. But that is a lie from the villain, from Satan himself.
It is not hard when you obey. It’s tender when you obey. When you disobey, it’s tough. When you walk outside the authority of God, that is when it’s tough, that’s when you’ll get hammered by Hell, pelted by problems, and drenched in dysfunction. That’s the tough stuff.
So God loves us enough to tell us the truth about our condition. And a lot of people have a vested interest in keeping the Bible at bay, because these people know that once they open Scripture, it opens their lives. Once they study the Bible, it studies them. Once they mark the Bible, it marks them.
The Bible is what it is. It’s a love letter, you could say. But not only is it a love letter, it’s also a light. The Bible is a light.
I was on the shore surrounded by water moccasins with my brother, and my father said, “Jump onto my back.” He turned the light on and found the path that led home. Our heavenly Father is the same. We’re surrounded by snakes; we’re surrounded by all this junk and funk, and our Father is saying, “Jump into my arms. Jump into my arms. I’ll carry you out.” His arms are open. We’ve got to jump. Have you jumped?
And once we ride on the back of the Lord, His word is a lamp unto our feet, the Bible says, a light unto our path. We can discover our design, our purpose. Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet…” What does a lamp do? A lamp illuminates. Then it says, “…and a light for my path.” What does the light do? It penetrates.
God, though, is not going to give us any more light until we step out in the light He’s already shown for us. Once we obey the known, then he’ll reveal to us the unknown.
It’s like when you’re driving in your car tonight. Maybe you have a car where the headlights turn on automatically. I don’t know. But you’re driving down some freeway or road and the light shows you just enough of the road or the freeway or your driveway or whatever to give you the opportunity and the ability to drive your car. And then, when you drive your car into the light, it sheds more and more light. And a lot of us are just standing as opposed to stepping out and following the light.
God says, “My word is the lamp. It illuminates the path. My word is the light. It penetrates and shows you where to go.”
Life is full of decisions. It’s full of umbrellas. What do we do? Do we submit to authority or not? God has placed governmental authority, spiritual authority, educational authority, family authority, and marital authority in our lives for a reason.
What’s the reason? He wants us to discover the best. What’s the best? We’re diamonds in the rough and these authority figures chip away the junk to make us into beautiful diamonds.
When we’re under the authority of God, we’re in the place of protection. We’re in the zone. We discover our uniqueness and our true power and octane for living.
The Bible is a love letter. The Bible is a light. Notice, also, the Bible is a lunch. You remember my disciple Doberman Pinscher? Well, he ate the Word. We’re to eat the Word. We’re to feed on the Word.
Jeremiah 15:16. He said, “When your words came, I (say it with me) ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.”
As I’ve said before, I did not want to come up to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to start Fellowship Church 15 years ago. I did not want to come up here. I love Dallas/Fort Worth, but I told my friends, “Hey, man, there’s too many churches in Dallas/Fort Worth. It’s the belt buckle of the Bible belt. There are too many seminaries and televangelists. And when you fly into this place all you see is a bunch of steeples. I want to go,” I said, “to another place where there’s some spectacular sinning going on—Las Vegas, Nevada; Brooklyn, New York; Toronto, Carmel, Maui; somewhere else. Not here. There’s too many obese Christians in Dallas/Fort Worth. Too many Fat Albert men and women of faith. [Ed imitates Fat Albert] ‘Hey, hey, hey, I’m the Fat Albert of faith. Just feed me. Feed me some more. I’ll go to another Bible study and then I’ll go to this church and that church. Just feed me!’”
And a lot of Christians in Dallas/Fort Worth are so obese and so fat, their pot bellies are spilling over the belt buckle of their Bible Belt. Their Bible belt is on its last hole.
But don’t ever say you’re not going to go somewhere in God’s economy. Don’t ever say that. You see, I wanted to go to those other places, but God takes me not where I want to go, but where I need to go. God’s love letter, his light, and his lunch, as we eat it, doesn’t take us where we want to go, but where we need to go.
We began Fellowship Church with a very simple strategy. We’re going to be a Bible teaching, Bible believing church. Period. That’s it. And I discovered in the midst of all of these obese believers, there was a bunch of people who didn’t go to church. There was a bunch of people who were Christ followers who were lean and mean; who wanted to get off of their blessed assurance and do the stuff. (Some of you won’t get that joke for about two or three hours. Blessed assurance.)
The cool thing about Fellowship Church is the fact that we have a diet and exercise church. A diet and exercise church. See, a lot of these obese Christians want a Bible study on the Book of Revelation, but as true believers, as diet and exercise believers, we need a Bible study on how to be a revelation. We don’t need a Bible study on the Good Samaritan. We need a Bible study on how to become a Good Samaritan. We don’t need a Bible study on how Phillip shared Christ with a prominent person. We need a Bible study on how to become like Phillip and share Christ with the person God has placed in our path. That is the difference. Because at Fellowship Church we don’t have the time or the patience or the energy to deal with people who just want to get fat.
Why do you eat? Why do I eat? It gives me the calories and the energy to do the stuff. And that is why we have this vitality. That is why God has blessed our church. That is why God has grown our church; because we have a bunch of diet and exercise believers.
Yeah, you feed on God’s word, you feed on God’s truth. But then you step out and do the stuff. The last thing a lot of you need is another Bible study. You don’t need a Bible study. You need a place to serve. And if you’re not serving, you’re looking pretty stupid, aren’t you? “Hey, hey, hey, feed me some more.”
The Bible is our lunch. [Jeremiah 15:16]“When your words came to me, I ate them; they were my joy,” the Bible says, “and my heart’s delight.”
Look at Proverbs 28:26, “He who trusts in himself is a fool.” Have you ever trusted in yourself? I have. And I have made some dumb, “What-was-I-thinking” moves. I have been looking pretty stupid when I’m out from underneath God’s authority; when I try to please Ed and do what Ed wants to do and what makes Ed look good or what makes Ed feel good or what gives Ed pleasure.
I travel to the Bahamas a lot. I have some good friends down there. In fact, I’m going back to speak down there in a couple of weeks. And they have a phrase in the Bahamas when you’re doing something stupid. They don’t say, “Stupid.” They say, “Hey, man, you’re doin’ fool. You’re doin’ fool, man. Don’t be doin’ fool.” Well, many times in my life I’ve been doin’ fool. And so have you. How do you “do fool”? You do fool when you follow your own ways.
But this verse continues, [Proverbs 28:26] “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”
Why does God have authority? Why does God work through authority? Why is authority who God is? He wants us to live a life of protection. He wants us to live this life of uniqueness and to discover who we are before God. He wants us to discover our DNA.
We’re protected when we’re under the covering of God’s authority. When we’re out here we’re pelted by problems, we’re hammered by hell, and we’re drenched in dysfunction. The Bible is a letter. Are you reading the love letters? Some of us know more about the Wall Street Journal and the Dallas Morning News and USA Today and Cosmopolitan Magazine and Vogue than we do the Scripture.
How many believe every word in those magazines and newspapers? No one does. How many of you believe the word of God? Most of us do. Why do you know more about that, then, than this Bible right here?
The last thing I want you to notice about the Bible is, the Bible is life. It’s a letter, yeah. It’s a light. Yeah, I can dig that. It’s lunch. But it’s also life. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
This word “living” is where we get our word “zoo” from. Have you ever been to the Fort Worth Zoo? That’s a pretty awesome zoo, isn’t it? Things are alive there, not dead. The Bible is living. It was living to first century Christians; it’s living in 2005. It’s living.
Every week when I’m walking around the community—I’m maybe in a coffee shop or a restaurant or working out—someone will run up to me and go, “Man, Ed, I can’t believe what you said! I mean, have you been following me around? Have you been reading my emails? I mean, I needed that message and that was, like, right to me!”
It’s not me. It’s the word of God. I have the opportunity to preach with the authority of a prophet or an apostle. Why? Well, I’m not an apostle or a prophet, but why can I preach with that authority? Because I’m preaching their words. I’m the man of God preaching the word of God.
And the Bible says throughout the pages of Scripture that through the foolishness of preaching, God’s word will be revealed. It doesn’t say that preachers are fools, although some might be. But it says, “Through the foolishness of preaching….” I’m a fallen and fallible guy. I don’t have it together. I’m a sinner. Yes, I’m elevated on a platform so you can see me better, but at the foot of the cross we’re all equal, man.
But something supernatural takes place when men and women who are called by God open up His Word corporately and share it. That’s the Holy Spirit of God. It’s not me. It’s not some other teacher. That’s the Holy Spirit of God. What is the church’s role? We’re to preach life. What is life? The Gospel. What’s the role of the church? To preach the Gospel. That’s the most important thing. What’s the Gospel? It’s the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If I don’t preach the Gospel, then why not go to an Anthony Robbins’ seminar? If I don’t preach the Gospel, what’s the difference between me and Anthony Robbins or some other preacher who does not preach the Gospel? Because without the power of the Gospel, I’m toast and you’re toast. We can’t do a thing.
I mean, I can talk all day and night about five ways to become a better leader, six ways to become a better husband, eight ways to success, and ten ways to financial freedom; and I can scatter some Scripture verses in there. But if I’m not preaching the Gospel, I’m a heretic. I’m not a true pastor.
And one day I’m going to have to give an account to God himself about how I talked from Scripture. And I don’t want to hang my head in shame and say, “Well, God, I just talked about your grace and forgiveness and love and that you have a good plan for everybody’s life and that was it.” That’s half of the counsel of God. I cannot preach and edit the Bible. I can’t do that before God. I’ve got to give you the total package, the full counsel of God.
Yes, I’ve got to talk about the fact that God’s a loving God, that God has tender love. But also, I’ve got to talk about the fact that God’s love is tough, that God disciplines those he loves, and that we will face the consequences of sin. So there’s no way we’re prepared to hear the good news, which is the Gospel, until we hear the bad news.
What’s the bad news? We are in trouble. We’re all fallen and fallible. We’re separated from God and God loves us so much he commissioned Jesus Christ to live a perfect life and to die a sacrificial death and to rise again. And if I make a faith decision, the righteousness of Christ is transferred into my life. And because of His power, not mine; because of His grace, not mine; because of His octane, not mine, I can live the life. It’s from the inside out.
The Gospel is from the exterior and we move it to the interior by a faith choice. But to sit here and say, “Well, let’s just think positive thoughts and let’s just follow what we like. Let’s just talk about how God wants us to be happy.” That is not the full counsel of God. We’re to be a church that preaches the Gospel.
The greatest compliment you can give me is this: “Ed teaches the Gospel.” There are a lot of people who can teach the Gospel better than I can. But they can’t teach a better Gospel, if you hear me screaming.
2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God breathed..” The word in Greek is “theopneustos.” I love this, because God never has bad breath. What does “God breathed” mean? It means in the original autograph the Bible is inerrant, unable to err. [Ed continues the verse.] “All Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching”—that’s what we’re doing right now. “Rebuking”—uh-oh. Rebuking? Well, that means the Bible tells me what’s wrong with me. “Correcting”—well, I like that. That tells me how to get right. “And training in righteousness”—that tells me how to stay right in righteousness.
Proverbs 6:23, “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is the light, and the corrections of discipline are a way to life.”
Are you under the authority of God? Have you gotten under the stuff that God’s over so he can put you over the stuff He wants under you? Have you made that decision? Because if not, man, you’re looking pretty stupid holding the umbrella at arm’s length, aren’t you? You’re being pelted by problems, hammered by hell—H-E-L-L—and drenched in dysfunction.
Have you ever made the decision to give your life to Jesus Christ? Because if you haven’t, you’re going to crumble. And some of you can really connect with that film [played at the beginning of the service.] You’re saying, “Ed, man, I’m in pieces. I’m fragmented. I’m all over the place. I have edited the Bible and all the pages are here and there and yonder. You mean, Ed, there’s hope for me? There’s no way God can change my life.”
Who are you trying to kid? We’re all sinners. I don’t care what you’re involved in. I don’t care how far away from God you think you might be, Jesus is a pursuing lover and He wants to meet you right where you are.
Some say, “But, man, first of all, I better clean up this stuff.” No, no, no. He wants to meet you right where you are and He’s brought you here today to hear this message.
If you’re born once, you’ll die twice. If you’re born twice, you’ll only die once. If you’re born once, if you have a physical birthday—which all of us have because we’re here—you’re going to die twice. You’ll die one day here because of a disease, because of a heart attack, because of old age, or whatever. You’ll die here on this planet. And then you’ll die eternally in hell if you only have one birthday.
Now some of you right now only have one birthday. You have only been born once. Others of us—and I’m in this group—have been born twice. I’ve got a physical birthday—March 16, 1961. Also, I’ve got a spiritual birthday. And because of that, I’m going to die once. Once I die, I will meet Jesus and live forever and ever in heaven, continuing this purpose-driven life that He’s given me.
And many people here are in that camp. You’ve been born twice. You have a physical birthday. We can all recite those. But you also have a spiritual birthday. And because of that, you only have one death. I want to be in the one death camp. And it’s there for the taking if you’ll just receive what Jesus Christ has done for you. You can get born again. That’s what it means—born again. It means to be adopted into the family of God.
But the amazing thing is, I don’t deserve it and you don’t either. We’re fallen and fallible. God’s perfect. He can’t wink at sin. But He sent Jesus and Jesus took all of our junk and funk and sin on the cross, and he offers us eternal life. We either receive it or we don’t. It’s from the word of God.
Once you make that decision, you can say this right now with me. Just say it to yourself, “Jesus Christ, I believe your assessment of me in your Word. I turn from my sin, from my moral turnovers, and turn to you. I repent.” The word “repent” means to do a 180. “I receive what you did for me on the cross. I give you everything I am right now and everything I ever will be—tax, title, license. I give it all to you. Jesus Christ, take control of me.”
The moment you said that with me, the moment you confessed that, Christ came in. And he’ll never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever leave you. So I can sing, “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday new believer, happy birthday to you!”
When I was in high school my father gave me this Bible. And he wrote some stuff in this Bible that I want to be our application. And you might want to get a good shot of it here with one of the cameras. (We only have about 50 cameras in here.)
STUDY IT THROUGH
He said, “When you read God’s word, first, study it through.” That’s the first thing we should do with God’s word—study it through. When we study the Bible, what’s going to happen? It will study us. Study it through.
I’m going to challenge you for 15 minutes a day to read God’s Word. For the next 30 days just take The Gospel of John, The Gospel of Luke, whatever, and read it. You might be saying, “Well, Ed, I don’t even have a Bible.” The Source bookstore is right behind you. We’ve got Bibles.
“Well, man, I want to know more about how we got our Bible.”
I’ve done teachings on it. You can pick that up there.
Or, “Is there a book that’ll help me study it?”
There’s books that will help you, but study it through.
PRAY IT IN
Second, pray it in. Pray it in. Many times I know what I should do as a believer, but I don’t want to obey God in certain things. And you’re the same way. Sometimes I don’t want to love Lisa like Christ loved the church. “I don’t want to do that, God.” What do I do? Do I do something stupid and get out into the rain? Do I get drenched in dysfunction, pelted by problems, and hammered by hell? No, no, no, no.
Sometimes I’d pray, “God, give me the want to. I don’t want to, but give me the want to, to want to obey you, to step out into the light.”
So pray it in. You read a section of the Scripture then pray, “God, what are you saying to me?”
LIVE IT OUT
Third, live it out. Live it out. The Bible was not written for our information. It was written for our transformation. Because information without application is an abomination.
A couple months ago, I bought these boots on the Internet. [Ed shows the boots that he is wearing. The boots have a cross on each side of them.] They caught my eye because they have a cross and they’re kind of rugged. I love boots and I thought these were very unique looking, so I bought them.
Several years ago someone gave me a Bible and this Bible had a unique cover on it. The cover was hard. I could barely even open the Bible, it was that hard. It was almost like boards, but it wasn’t board. I smelled it, and it was leather.
I said, “Do you mind asking me why this Bible so stiff?”
This guy goes, “Well, it’s made of shoe leather.”
I said, “Shoe leather?”
He said, “Yeah, shoe leather. Every time you open it, Ed, it should be a sign to you to not only study it, not only pray it, but to put shoe leather beneath it and to live it out. Diet and exercise.
I bought these boots because they remind me that it’s all about the grace and the mercy of God. It’s because of the cross that I even have the opportunity to take up space on planet earth. It’s because of the cross that I even have the opportunity to be a pastor, to walk with the Lord, to share with you, and to live the life. So it’s great to study and all that stuff. But it’s all about living it out. So when you read the Bible, when you hear teaching, are you living it out?
PASS IT ON
The fourth thing, pass it on. Pass it on. As we live it out, we’re to give it out. We’re to pass it on. We’re to pass on what God has done in our lives. We’re simply beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. We’re being light and leaven and salt as we penetrate a world without Jesus Christ.
The authority of God. God is the author of authority and He wants to write a chapter about your life and mine. He wants us to play a huge role in His redemptive plan on planet Earth. But it’s all about getting under what God is over so He can put us over what’s under us.