August 20, 2006
Great news! A wealthy relative has left you $100 million! You can’t access it, though, until you’re 60. But that’s some pretty good news. I’ve got some better news for you. Everyone in the place is 25. You’re 25 and when you reach 60, you’ll get the $100 million. But the downside is, you’ve got to wait 35 years. Thirty-five years to scratch out a living, 35 years until you inherit the big kahuna.
But let’s just say, because we’re talking hypothetically, that the trust was written in such a way that you could access the wealth today. Let’s say at 25, you could begin to live off 5% of the interest, which would be about $5 million a year. So, you’re rich, you’re wealthy. Five million a year. You could make that when you’re 25, 26, 27, and then when you’re 60, you could inherit the big kahuna! Would that be off the chain, or what? I mean, if that happened to me, I would do anything possible to access that kind of money.
Wouldn’t it be horrible, though, to get to 60 and have a bunch of attorneys look at you say, “Hey, you could’ve accessed that money for 35 years! You could’ve lived off the interest. You could’ve made $5 million a year, but you didn’t talk to the right people. You didn’t know who you are. You didn’t know whose you are, and you didn’t really understand what you had. So, man, you blew it. Yeah, you’re 60 and you’ve got the big money now. But, it could’ve been unbelievable for 35 years.” That would not be a happy scenario, would it?
Well, let’s face it—a lot of us are living in spiritual poverty. We don’t know who we are, whose we are, and what we have. We don’t know the wealth that we have access to. We don’t know the kind of currency that’s available for us. Our gracious God has so many things in store for us because of who we are, whose we are, and what we have. But many times, we walk around and we are clueless regarding what’s available to us. We’re clueless concerning what God has for us. We’re clueless.
The Bible is a book of promises. If you understand the promises of God, you can understand virtually every verse of Scripture in the Bible. God has promises for us to claim. Oftentimes, I talk to people who are clueless about the promises of God. That’s why I’m doing this series called, “Clueless.”
Others, though, are clueless because they think they’re clued in to the promises of God; but in reality, they’re clued in to fantasy land stuff. They walk around and say, “Well, God has promised me health and wealth and a pain-free life.”
I look at them and say, “What are you smoking? Where’s that in Scripture?”
It’s critical that we understand and know the promises of God. Because if we don’t, one day we’re going to get to heaven and inherit the big kahuna with streets of gold, mansions, etc., etc., and I’m afraid that God will look at many and say, “I had all of this for you, all of this real currency for you to tap into, but you didn’t know who you were, or whose you were, or what you had. You didn’t realize it.”
I don’t want that to happen. That’s why we need to understand the promises of God. The Bible is all about the promises of God. The promises of God are foundational. So, picture in your mind’s eye a stool. And on one leg you’ve got knowledge. On another leg, you’ve got belief. On another leg, you’ve got action. I’m talking about A-C-T-I-O-N. [with claps] Do that with me. A-C-T-I-O-N. We can do better than that. A-C-T-I-O-N. Thank you! I knew that last one would really get it!
When it comes to the promises of God, I’ve got to know them. Do you know them? Are you clueless, or are you clued in? Most of us are clueless, let’s face it.
Then we’ve got to believe them. “Okay, I believe, God, in your promises. I believe them. I know them. I believe them.”
Then, the third leg is I’ve got to put shoe leather or shoe rubber beneath them. I’ve got to live them out. I’ve got to tap into that. I’ve got to know who I am and what’s available to me and what God has done in my life. Those are huge, huge things for us to understand and for us to know—the promises of God.
The Bible says this in Hebrews 6 about the promises of God. Hebrews 6:17-19 says, “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath.”
Isn’t that cool? The heirs—that’s you and me.
Verse 18, “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.”
This series, over the next several weeks, about the promises of God will be encouraging. I mean, you will be fired up!
Verse 19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
We’re looking for an anchor. Our culture is all about empty promises. We make and break promises all the time. Someone you don’t know walks up to you and they say, “Hey, can I borrow your iPOD? I promise to give it back.”
You’re thinking, “This guy’s going to probably rip it off. I’m not going to give it to him!”
Maybe your son or daughter says, “Hey Dad, can I borrow your iPOD? I promise to give it back.”
You definitely don’t let them borrow it, because you’ll never see it again! Maybe, though, your spouse asks you, “Can I borrow the iPOD, honey?”
“Yes.” I mean, hopefully you trust your spouse. Your spouse is where it is good, and you can count on your spouse’s promise!
Well, when God makes a promise, he boldly backs it up. When God says things, he does things. We serve a God who does what he says and says what he does. God wants the promises to be operative in our lives. He wants us to walk in his currency. He wants us to stand secure on his promises. Come hell or high water, we can stand on the promises of God. Broke, busted, and disgusted, we can stand on the promises of God. When rogue winds hit, we can stand on the promises of God. When your best friend disses you, you can stand on the promises of God. When someone walks out the door, you can stand on the promises of God. When you get the phone call, you can stand on the promises of God.
What is a promise? A promise is simply a declaration assuring that a person will or will not do something. We live in a culture of the empty promise. We have so many people just kind of cruising through, floating around. But talk is cheap.
My parents got me a John boat when I was a kid. It was an old green, aluminum boat, a cheap thing. They gave me one paddle. We lived off a dirt road, and I took the boat across the dirt road to a small lake. And I would paddle this boat in the high winds, because this lake was windy. One day, I thought, “I’m going to make an anchor. I’m tired of paddling. I’m going to make an anchor, something secure, something heavy.”
So I got some clothesline and a Clorox bottle. I put the Clorox bottle in the sandbox and dumped all this sand in there, put the top on it, and tied that to the clothesline. I took it to the lake, paddled out and found a good spot. I threw the anchor overboard. But I had made a dumb decision. I forgot how deep the lake was. This lake was something like 18 or 20 feet deep, but the clothesline was only like 10 feet long. And then, the Clorox bottle was so light that the sand didn’t give it the weight it should’ve had. It got all muddy and was just floating in the water. I ended up being blown all over the lake! It was terrible.
So many people I run into are looking for things that are secure and firm; yet, they’re using anchors made of clotheslines and Clorox bottles. They think, “If I sleep in this bed with this person, that’ll be it! If I make this deal, that’ll be it! If I move to the corner office, that’ll be it! If I have this high, that’ll be it! If I go to that physician, that’ll be it! If I go to that college, that’ll be it!” And they’re being blown around the lake of life with no security, nothing solid, nothing secure.
Well, God comes along and says, “Throw your anchor overboard. Put it on my Word, in my promises. Know them, understand them, believe them, and live them out.”
Well today, I’m going to talk about a promise that is the foundation for all promises. All the other promises emerge from this promise. When I tell you the promise, you’re going to say, “Ed, I’ve heard that a squillion times. I can’t believe you’re even insulting me with those words. You’re tellin’ me that’s a promise of God? Come on, let’s get something maybe deeper, something more profound.”
Well, I’m going to tell you something, this promise is so deep, most of you won’t even understand what I’m talking about. But you will one day, once you begin to walk in the fullness of this promise. And the reason I’m sharing this promise with you is for you to discover the depth that God wants for every single life here. Because remember, the promises are for our best, our best life now. It’s for us to walk in fullness.
GOD LOVES ME
So, drum roll, please. Hold onto your theater seats. Here’s the promise that we need to understand, the key and critical promise: God loves me.
That’s the promise. Let’s say it again. God loves me. Say it with me. God loves me. I’m talking about, in Scripture, the unconditional, irrational, one-of-a-kind love of God.
You see, I have a hard time getting my mind around that promise because it is so deep and rich.
“Why do you say that?”
Well, I say that because our world is all about conditional love. You keep the terms, you do this, you do that, and I’ll do this and I’ll do that. Then I’ll keep the terms and we’ll come together and, then you know, we’re going to love each other. But God says, “I love you unconditionally, irrationally, with a one-of-a-kind love.”
There is nothing that I can do; there is nothing that you can do to cause God to love you any more or any less. Nothing! That freaks me out! That blows my mind if I think about it.
“You mean, nothing? God’s going to love me unconditionally? Irrationally? With a one-of-a-kind love?”
There is nothing I could do right now to cause God to love me any more or any less. That’s what Scripture says. Now some of you are thinking, “Oh, this is a great message. God loves me unconditionally? There is nothing I can do to cause God to love me any more or any less? I guess now I can go buck wild! I can just do whatever I want to do! This is great! I love Fellowship Church! Ed, I love you. Thank you for sharing that with me. I will go out and go crazy, man!”
Ahhhh! No, no, no, no, no. No—no—no.
Yes, God loves us unconditionally, irrationally. There’s nothing we can do to cause God to love us any more or any less. That’s a fact. We can count on it. It’s a promise of God.
However, for us to access the fullness of the unconditional love, there are some conditions that we must meet. What’s the key to the Christian life? What’s the key to discovering the irrational, unconditional love of Jesus?
I’ll tell you what the key is. It’s one word—obedience. That’s it. Trust and obey, there’s no other way. Obedience is the key that unlocks the door to this deep, unconditional, irrational love. Here’s what’s so interesting. A lot of people are experiencing the unconditional love of God, but they don’t even know it. They’re walking through life without tapping into the power of God’s love. They don’t even know it!
“Well, Ed, how can you say that?”
Well, I’ll tell you how I can say that. Because, I know people who are far away from God. They’re clueless about God and the fact that God loves them, but their hearts are beating. They’re breathing. They have roofs over their heads, food on the table, clothes on their backs. Where does it come from?
Some say, “Well, they’re pretty creative. They have a good business mind.”
Well, who gave them that mind? Who gave them the body? Who gave them the ability for their hearts to beat, for them to take in breath? God did. So, they’re experiencing the unconditional love of God just by existing! That’s how much God loves them.
Now, others of us have been ambushed by God’s love. We’ve responded to God’s love. We’re like, “Wow! Lord, thank you! I love you, and I see how much you love me, and I want to return that love to you! I want to demonstrate that love to you.” A lot of people are that way.
Scripture says that God’s love is eternal. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Again, I’ll throw this out at you. The one who knows me the best loves me the most. Think about it. With skeletons in our closets, with the moral turnovers we’ve made, with the sin, with the junk and the funk; the God of the universe loves me with an everlasting love. He knows me the best and knows you the best, and he loves you the most! That just messes me up!
Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God loves me just the way I am. There is nothing I can do to cause God to love me any more or any less. God loves me unconditionally. But for me to tap in to his awesome love, there are some conditions that I’ve got to meet. God loves me just the way I am, but he loves me too much to allow me to remain in the state that I am. I hope you didn’t miss that.
John 14:15. Here’s what Jesus said: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
I’ve known Lisa for over 30 years, and I’ll never forget the first time I told her that I loved her. Guys—some of you are married—do you remember the first time you told her that you loved her?
We were sitting in a porch swing on Lisa’s back porch, and I was working up enough nerve to make this high-risk pronouncement. You know what I’m saying? I said, “Lisa, I like spending time with you.” And I just waited to see if she, you know, gave it back.
She said, “Well, I like spending time with you, too.”
Then I said, “I really love hanging out with you.”
She said, “Well, I love hanging out with you, too.”
And then I thought, “Okay, I’m going to say it.” So I said, “Lisa, I love you.”
And it seemed like hours. Guys, the women love to make us sweat and wait, don’t they? She was just looking at me and I’m thinking, “Okay, what will she do? I gave this high-risk pronouncement. Will she reject my love? Will she spurn my love? Will she say, ‘Ah, no, I don’t feel the same way’? What will she say?
I mean, I put the cards on the table. “I love you, Lisa…”
And like two hours later, it seemed like, she looked back and she said, “I love you, too.”
Well now, we didn’t just say it, we demonstrated it. So we’ve said it a squillion times; we also demonstrate it. We boldly back it up every day of our marriage.
God says he loves you and loves me, but he boldly backs it up. Think about it. God has said, “I love you,” and all heaven is waiting for your response. He’s brought you to this point, maybe to this service to hear this. God says, “I love you.” And he’s boldly backed it up. He’s waiting for your response. What’s your response? Are you going to hydroplane over it? Are you going to reject it? Are you going to do the stiff arm and push-back? Or, are you going to say, “I love you, too”?
And, are you going to demonstrate your love. Because again, what’s the key to walking in the fullness of the unconditional love of Jesus? Obedience. And I’m not talking about a legalistic trip. I’m talking about a love relationship. We live a life of purity, a life of holiness before God. It’s not out of our own strength and power, but because of his grace and mercy. We live it because we love him. We want to access the best for our lives, and the best is when we walk in sync with the Lord, when we walk in concert with him, when we walk in this unconditional, unfathomable, one-of-a-kind love. When we do that, we’ll find ourselves doing things that are just totally supernatural. We’ll feel the supernatural octane in our lives that the world just doesn’t have.
What did Jesus say in John 10:10? “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Maybe in your translation, it says “…to the full.” The word “abundance” in the Greek is pronounced “par-a-soss.” It’s a cool word. Look behind the word. The word is the picture of someone with a glass, and another someone pouring liquid into the glass. And instead of that someone saying, “That’s enough, big fella,” the pitcher keeps pouring and pouring and pouring and spilling over the brim, spilling on your hand, spilling on the table, spilling in the kitchen.
You say you love Jesus? You say it? Well, are you obeying it? Are you obeying him? Are you following him? Because, if we are, we’re spilling love onto everyone. I should be spilling love onto Lisa, spilling love onto my kids, spilling love to people I come in contact with around the community, and spilling love to people when I travel. I’m always spilling love—this unconditional, one-of-a-kind, supernatural love.
I recently spent several days in Hawaii with my family because we were celebrating my father’s 70th birthday. And there was a guy staying in a condo beneath my parents, and he had some kids with him. I found myself talking to him one day, and I discovered he was from the northwest. And I’m thinking to myself, “Why am I even talking to him? This guy can’t do anything for me. I mean, why do I want to hear about his story? I’m on my vacation! Why am I doin’ this?”
And I began to feel this connectivity with him as he told me about his family and his life. And then I began to say to myself, “I know why. God has hooked us up together.”
This guy is far away from God. He does not know Christ, and I have this love for him that’s not love from me. Because in the natural, who gives a flying flip about him? But because I’m walking in God’s supernatural, one-of-a-kind, irrational love, I have this desire to talk to him and to see what was going on in his life. And after we talked for a while, we exchanged phone numbers and emails. Then I discovered, amazingly, in March, I will be in his city doing some speaking. And we’re going to hook up there.
Nothing just happens. And since nothing just happens, and we have this irrational, unconditional, one-of-a-kind love going and flowing in our lives, it should spill over in everything we’re about.
Here’s a test that I do with myself. I always ask myself, “Ed, are you walking in this love? Are you walking in the fullness? Are you obeying? Are you serving somebody? Are you sharing with someone? And are you giving something?”
Those are three little things I ask myself. Am I serving somebody?
Jesus said, “If you want to become great, serve.”
People ask me all the time, “How do you get all these people at Fellowship Church involved in volunteering? Do you pay them or twist their arms?”
Again, I’ll tell you, I try to convince people, based on Scripture, that they’re madly loved by the God of the Universe. And when people understand that and they’re ambushed by that, they cannot wait to express their love back to God by serving him! They cannot wait to demonstrate it in the context of the local church. I’ve got to ask you, are you serving?
How about sharing? Are you sharing? I ask myself that. Am I sharing with someone?
I have a story to share, and I love to share. But it is also nerve-wracking to share, because sometimes I don’t know all the answers to the questions people ask me. And one of the best answers you can give is this: I don’t know, but I’ll find out. Then I’ll go to the Source Bookstore or I’ll go on the worldwide web or I’ll call someone who’s smarter than me (and that’s not very difficult to do), and I will get most of the answers to share.
Another question is, are you giving something? I mean something that matters, something that means something to you? Like money. Like stuff you like.
As I told you a couple months ago, Lisa and I are in the process of giving, by far, the largest gift we’ve ever given to Fellowship Church in the history of our lives. Now, if an accountant saw that, it’d probably give him or her heart palpitations. But you know what? I don’t go to the accountant before I give. I go to God. He’s the ultimate accountant.
And speaking of these things—are you serving somebody, are you sharing with someone, are you giving something—speaking of these things, I hope you see where I’m tracking. You see, risk and love are linked together.
So many people are walking around hooked on extreme sports. Snowboarding, hang-gliding, riding the giants like Laird Hamilton. It’s all about the adrenaline, that buzz, that rush. It’s sweet!
Now, that’s cool. I think it’s great to be into sports like that. That’s awesome. Why do we have this desire for adventure and risk and adrenaline? I know why. It’s given to us by God. Have you ever thought about that? It’s a God thing. God’s a God of risk. Talk about risky! Yeah, God is sovereign, but sending Jesus Christ to planet earth to die for sinful people like you and me? Talk about rolling the dice. It’s incredible!
So, yeah, if you’re an extreme sports guy or girl, good for you. But I believe that desire you have is a microcosm of a bigger desire that can only be fulfilled when you’re walking in the fullness of God’s unconditional love!
So, here’s what I’m saying—when was the last time you risked something spiritually that was so big, that was so massive God had to show up to get you through it? When was the last time that you did that? You’ve got to serve somebody in a risk-taking way. You’ve got to share with someone in a risk-taking way. You’ve got to give something in a risk-taking way, on the edge and the ledge, on the ragged edge of adrenaline and adventure. There’s nothing like it!
That is the way the Christian life is supposed to be lived. And it’s time for us to take risks as believers. That’s what I love about Fellowship Church, man. We’re a risk-taking church.
And here’s what’s so cool about taking risks. Are you ready for this? When you take a risk, what does it matter if it messes up or if you fail? If we’re in Christ, if we’re walking in the fullness of Jesus, we can fall flat on our faces. We can embarrass ourselves. And at the end of the day, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. At the end of the day, I’m irrationally and unconditionally loved by God. So as a believer, I should be the biggest risk-taker out there. Because, again, you’re talking about a safety net; you’re talking about confidence and security and a healthy self-esteem. Jesus is smiling at you and me and saying, “I love you. You matter to me. You’re awesome.” So, we should be able to do all this stuff.
That’s why at Fellowship Church, we’ve taken a bunch of risks. It was a risk to start and to build the campus in downtown Dallas. It’s a risk to start one in Plano. It’s a risk to start one in Alliance. It’s a real risk to go to South Florida and do Fellowship Church in Miami! But, it’s fun! I love it! It’s a risk!
What if it doesn’t work? Well, who cares?! Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. And, at Fellowship Church, we have tried to create this environment, because this is the environment as we walk in love where we do take risks. And that’s the Christian life. Read the gospels. Look at Jesus. Talk about taking risks, look at the disciples. Look at the early church followers.
Christianity should not be this thing that’s stifling, this thing that’s limiting. It’s a thing of freedom and liberation. We’re made for this irrational, one-of-a-kind love, and we can never walk in the fullness until we trust and obey, until we say, “God, I love you and I want to demonstrate my love to you.”
I John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.”
I’m not loved because I’m valuable; I’m valuable because I’m loved by the God of the universe. And once I’ve discovered that, once I say, “God, I love you back,” and once I begin to walk in that, that’s when the lights come on. That’s when I discover my best life, and you’ll discover your best life as well.
Some of you have made this decision to connect with Jesus Christ, and that’s great. Serve somebody. Share with someone and give something. Take the risk! Yeah, you can still participate in extreme sports, but do the real extreme stuff.
Others of you, maybe you’ve never made the decision to say “I love you” to Jesus. Jesus said, and he says, “I love you.” He’s brought you here because of his irrational, one-of-a-kind love. He’s tried to communicate his love to you time and time again. He’s using this service, the songs, the video, my voice box and vocal cords right now to say to you, “I love you.”
You’ve never locked eyes with someone who does not matter to God. But so often, we like to carry around this little unpublished list of people that we think that don’t matter to God. You know what I’m saying to you. We think, “Oh, she’s not really loved by God. He’s not really loved by God.” Only, that’s not true. We’ve never seen anyone who’s not loved by God. You’re loved by God. God loves you. He’s crazy about you, and he’s waiting to hear your response.
Some of you are saying, “Well, Ed, you know, this is cool, but someday I might say ‘I love you’ back to God.”
Well, the Bible says there is going to be a someday and it’s called the Day of Reckoning. A lot of people will lock eyes with Jesus that day, and Jesus will say, “I sought you. I went after you. I loved you despite all of your stumblings and fumblings, all of your failures, all of your sin. But at every interchange, you kept your distance from me. At every interchange, you didn’t honor me. You hydroplaned over my love. You didn’t treasure my love. You trampled it.”
At this point, people say, “Well, Ed, how could a loving God send someone to hell?”
And I always say this: God doesn’t hurl people to hell. We make that choice. And Jesus will say to many, “You had it your way on earth and you’re going to have it your way in a Christ-less eternity.”
So I plead with you, don’t put it off. Respond to the love of God. Say, “God, I honor it. I receive Jesus Christ into my life. I want to treasure your love, to walk in the fullness and obedience that you have in store for me.”
Don’t remain clueless. Get clued in. Clue in to the radical, supernatural, one-of-a-kind love of Jesus.
[Ed leads in a closing prayer.]