April 20th, 2003
The human condition is very interesting. We love to trade things, don’t we? There is something about human beings that makes us like to trade things. We trade land, cars, clothes, jokes and jewelry. I hear some in this place even used to trade stocks. That’s kind of a cruel joke, isn’t it? We like to trade things. Sometimes trades are good and sometimes they are not so good. Normally, when we trade something, we ask ourselves, “Is this a good trade or not?” We want to trade up. I think all of us here can look back in the rearview mirror of our lives and see times that we have made bad trades. I know that I can. Maybe during your life, you traded work for family and you are still paying the consequences. Maybe you’ve traded sex for self-esteem, or money for security. Maybe you have traded truth for situational ethics. As I said earlier, some times trades are good and sometimes they are not so good. Some of us are still reaping the benefits of good trades and paying the consequences of trades that weren’t so good.
Speaking of trading things, have you checked out this brand new series on television called “Trading Spaces?” That thing is the rave, isn’t it? People love to watch the show “Trading Spaces.” I know people who are rearranging their calendars around the show. They tape it. They want to watch “Trading Spaces.” If you don’t know what I am talking about, let me give you the premise of the show. “Trading Spaces” has several elements involved. You have got the designer, the people, the carpenter and cost, and the budget. You have a couple that trades spaces with another couple. The designers, carpenters, and couples redecorate each other’s rooms. Then, while the entire television audience watches, the reveal takes place. The couples move back into their original rooms. Then, you watch their reactions. Sometimes their reactions are like this. “Oooh, aahh, oooh, aahh!” Other times, people break out in tears, “Oh, you ruined my space! What were you thinking? It’s hideous.”
I thought that “Trading Spaces” was a brand new show. I thought that they had made the whole thing up. But, when I thought about the whole Easter account, I thought to myself, “Trading Spaces was invented by God.” The first Trading Spaces program premiered on a little hillside outside of Jerusalem. It was there that Jesus left his place and he took up our space on the cross. The Bible says he offers us, not “ho-hum” grace, but amazing grace.
Today, over the next couple of moments, I want to talk to you about God’s trading spaces, about his redemptive show, because it’s critical that we get down the elements of God’s show. On top of that, it’s critical that we understand the part that we play in God’s series.
Right up front, we have to understand that God is the master designer. God is the designer and he has drawn a perfect set of plans for all of us. Just for a second, let the word of God sink into your spirit.
Here’s what the Lord said in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Every time you plan something, you have got to have a purpose behind the plan. What is the motivation behind God’s awesome plan? You might say, “Well, I know why God made us. He made us because he was lonely.”
No, but that’s a good try. God has never been lonely. He has perfect fellowship within the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He didn’t make us because he was lonely. He made us because of his irrational, unfathomable love. Love has to have an object. The Bible says that we are the objects of God’s love. That is why he designed us. That is why he made us. Let’s face it. We are God’s MVP, his most valuable possessions. We matter to God. In fact, if we knew how important we are to God, we would blow a fuse. We couldn’t take it. That’s how amazing God’s love is for you and for me.
A lot of us like to look at houses. In fact, if you go to different neighborhoods during the weekends, you will see the mini vans and Suburbans cruising through them at a parade-like pace checking out houses. We all do that. I have often wondered what people are saying inside the cars about the houses.
Some are probably saying, “Must be nice. Look at the size of that one! Wonder what they do for a living? Man that is ugly. Can you believe someone would paint their house that color? Oh, that’s where the Pastor lives, huh?”
We love to do that. We love to look at houses. There is something unique about us. We like to see where people live. Speaking of cool houses, check this out.
[Video of house demolition begins]
Look at this rubble. This place used to be an awesome house, one of the most beautiful dwelling places I have ever seen, on wooded acreage that opens up to a gorgeous lake view. Now, the place is trashed. It’s really sad to sit here and look at it. The Bible says, in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.” If we saw our dwelling place before God today, we would have to say, “God, I am in rubble trouble.” We really are. We have messed up, and it is the result of sin. Sin devastates. Sin demolishes. Sin destroys God’s ultimate design.
So, yes, God has designed a perfect dwelling place, but we have messed it up because of our sinful nature. We trashed it. We have gone our own way. So, what now? What do we do in this state? What do we do in the midst of this rubble trouble?
God is the divine designer and he has drawn a perfect set of plans. Not only has he drawn the plans, he has also built the structure. But, we have a problem. I have a problem. You have a problem. Our sin has bulldozed God’s design. You heard me quote a scripture verse from Proverbs 14:12. “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.” There is a way, there is a method of construction, you might say, that seems right to us, but it only leads to destruction. We have this southward, downward, and gravitational pull in our lives to do our own thing and to go our own way. The Bible says that God’s standards are perfect. We are not perfect. We miss the mark. We make moral turnovers and mistakes. We commit sins day in and day out.
The Bible says that our sins separate us from God. Most people follow the way that seems right to them. These people live in denial. Denial is huge these days. A lot of us just deny that we are in rubble trouble. What must we look like in the eyes of our divine designer when we stand there in the midst of our rubble and say, “Hey, God, everything is cool. My structure looks great! Everything is fine and dandy.” We are in denial, and denial breeds deception. We use denial and we deceive ourselves because it puts off what we need to really think about, contemplate and decide on.
A Details Magazine writer asked movie star Vin Diesel a question. This writer said, “Vin, why in the world do you drive yourself so hard? Why in the world do you live life at this break neck type pace?”
Listen to what Vin Diesel said. [A picture of Vin Diesel is displayed on sidescreens while Ed reads quote] He said, “Maybe it’s because I’d be forced to take stock of where I am in the world, and that’s a little harrowing.” I think a lot of people who are hearing my voice right now can identify with Vin Diesel. Maybe you are a little afraid to take stock in your life. It’s a little harrowing, so you fill your life with all this stuff, all these things, and you live in denial. Vin Diesel is in denial. He’s in denial because he knows down deep he has an appointment that he can’t put off. He knows that he is going to die.
Last Saturday evening, after the 6:30 pm service, I prayed with a young woman in her thirties, a victim of cancer. I prayed with her and her husband. With tears streaming down their faces, we talked to God about her condition. Several hours later, after attending a service here at Fellowship Church, that young woman died. She left three children. We shouldn’t be shocked when someone dies. Sometimes we are. “I can’t believe he died, or she died.” We have an appointment that we cannot put off. Death is inevitable. What we do on this side of the grave, the Bible says, determines where we will spend eternity. Are you afraid to take stock in your life? Are you kind of unsure about the heaven or hell thing and how to find the preferred option? Denial breeds deception.
We have this tendency as human beings to look within ourselves for the answers. If you look at this entire self-esteem movement that is so popular these days, a lot of it is based on denial and deception. The Bible tells us how to have a healthy self-esteem. The Bible says you can have a healthy self-esteem by seeing yourself the way God sees you — nothing more and nothing less.
The world tells us in many seminars and books that I’m okay and you’re okay. God comes along and says, “No, that’s wrong.” Here’s what the Bible says. The Bible says, “I’m not okay and you are not okay. We are in rubble trouble.” We can’t look within ourselves to find meaning and purpose for life. Yet, we have this amazing ability to do just that. I sometimes look to Ed for meaning and purpose in life. What if I handed you the keys to a brand new house, a brand spanking new house, your dream home with all the high tech gear? You would move in and say, “Thanks a lot, Ed.” After you moved in, you wouldn’t look to the house for answers. The house wouldn’t tell you how to work all the high tech gear. You would have to talk to the designer who designed the house. If I gave you an invention, you would not look to the invention for the answers. You wouldn’t look to the invention to see how it works. You would look to the designer. Why do we deceive ourselves? Why are we in denial? We look within ourselves for answers. It’s a way that seems right to us, but it only leads to destruction. It leads to rubble trouble.
Some of us are not in denial. Others of us are in what I call Home Depot Land. We are the quintessential Home Depot people.
“No, I’m not in denial, God. I’m the Home Depot person. I’m in rubble trouble and here is what I am going to do. I’m going to do this. I’m going to build out of my rubble a perfect structure that is pleasing to you.” That’s what we try to do. God does leave that option open for all of us. God says that if we live the perfect life, if we reflect righteousness 100% of the time, then we can get to heaven.
If you study the major world religions, you will see that, basically, they are colossal human construction plans. Basically, they say that mankind can look within himself, can look within his rubble, and build a structure that might be pleasing to God. One day, when we face death, we might hit nirvana, or this state, or meet God … maybe. World religions are based on works. They are based on people picking up hammers and nails and trying to build their way to God. But you can’t build a flawless structure with flawed materials, can you? You can’t do it. God says that the moment you have one speck of sawdust in your structure, the moment you have one nick in the molding, the moment the bricks aren’t perfect, then your human construction plan is not going to get you where you want to go.
Many here hearing my voice are on the human construction plan. “Well, Ed, I’m a Catholic, man. I can build my way to God.” “I’m a Baptist. Surely, I can build my way, work my way, give my way and, ‘do good’ my way to God.”
No, you can’t. Because at the end of the day, we are all sinners. We are all in rubble trouble. Yet, so many of us are hammering and nailing with our hammers and the nails. Ironically, those are the same two instruments that they used to nail Jesus to the cross. At this point, in our denial and deception, at this point in our Home Depot Land, what did God do?
God could have said, “Well, I set forth the perfect structure. I designed the perfect set of plans. I built them and you blew it. You bulldozed it, because you chose to rebel against me.”
God could have cruised, but he didn’t. Do you know what God challenged us to do? God challenged us to put down the hammer and the nails and to turn to him. God set forth a new plan and he challenges us to follow his new plan. He constructed an ingenious way for us to get to him. Here’s what he did. God sent the carpenter, Jesus Christ, to leave his place, to take our space on the cross, and Jesus, by his death, burial and resurrection offers us his grace. If we got what we deserved, we would be to be nailed to a cross — eternal separation. You heard the song. [Ed is referring to a song, “Wake Me Up Inside” and drama that were played earlier in the service.] You saw the people coming off of the crosses. That’s the great news of Easter. Christ’s resurrection power is available to rank and file people like you and me. It gives us the power to have victory over sin and it gives us the power to have victory over the grave. It’s all about the Carpenter. God commissioned the Carpenter to do the work, to build the bridge from God to man. We can’t build it from man to God. God has done the work.
In Romans 5:6, the Bible says this, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” I hope you are following me with the elements here. Think about the “Trading Spaces” show. Now think about God’s redemptive show. You’ve got the designer, that’s God. You’ve got the people, that’s you and me. You’ve got the carpenter, that’s Christ. And you’ve got the cost, that’s the precious blood of Jesus that he shed voluntarily for your sins and mine.
My brother gave my eleven-year-old son some basketball cards. These cards were pretty cool, because my brother, Ben, collected them when he was nine to eleven years of age. He gave E.J. a Pete Maravich basketball card, an Elgin Baylor basketball card, a Happy Harrison basketball card, and a Lou Alsindor basketball card. Some of you old guys are saying, “Yeah, man. That’s sweet!” Some of the young guys are asking, “Who are those guys?” E.J., when he got these cards, asked, “Dad, how much are these cards worth?”
I said, “E.J., I don’t know.”
Every day, he was wearing me out. “How much are the cards worth, Dad? This card, Pete Marovich, how much?”
“E.J., I don’t know.”
After four days of it, I finally said, “Son, let me tell you something about cards. Let me tell you something, E.J., about life. An object is only worth what someone will pay for it. That’s what you will learn in life. It’s only worth what someone will pay for it.”
Take a wild guess what happened. Several days ago, a friend gave E.J. this book. [Ed holds up a Beckett pricing magazine.] Do you know what this book is? This book tells you how much every basketball card is worth. So, E.J. was looking at this book. For example, let me give you one here. A 1997-98 SB authentic card of Shawn Kemp, a jersey card of Shawn Kemp, would be worth $300-$500. That’s a lot of money. E.J. began to look up all of his cards and said, “Dad, this card is worth $5.00. This card is worth $10.00.” This book was telling him how much they were worth.
How much are you worth? How much am I worth? We are worth as much as someone would pay for us. This book [Ed holds up his Bible], not this book [Ed holds us the Beckett], tells me that I am worth the blood of Jesus. I’m worth a lot. I’m worth the blood of Jesus. Jesus loved me so much that he died on the cross. My sins nailed him to that cross. He lived a pristine life just for you and me. He rose again, and if I bow to that, defer to that and receive that, then I am a new person. I have a purpose for living. I have victory over sin. I know my home, my space, in heaven is secure.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
What’s God’s glorious standard? Perfection. His standard is perfection for your life and mine. We are in rubble trouble. This is God, now. He’s holy. He’s perfect.
But check out Verse 24, “Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty.”
What’s up with that? He’s done this through Christ, Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. So, it’s time that we put down the hammer and the nails. It’s time that we go with God’s plan. If you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, you only believe half of the Gospel. The other half is this. Not only did Christ die on the cross for our sins, but Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life. He was 100% righteous. He met God’s standard. If Christ had been 89.7% righteous, he wouldn’t have met God’s standard. If he had been 75% righteous, he wouldn’t have met God’s standard. He was 100% righteous. So, watch this now, on the cross, God treated Jesus as if he were you and me. He did that so that he could turn around and treat you and me as if we are Jesus.
The moment I open the door of my life and put out the welcome mat, the moment I drop the hammer and the nails and abandon the self-construction plan, the moment I say, “God, I am in rubble trouble,” the moment I say, “Jesus Christ, come into my life,” what happens? A trading of spaces takes place. I trade my failures for forgiveness. I trade my guilt for God’s grace. I trade my sin for a Savior. So now, when God looks at you and me, he does not see Ed Young, the sinner; he does not see you, the sinner. He sees the righteousness of Christ. We have applied what Jesus did for us on the cross. The righteousness has been imputed into our lives. So, we are before God, 100% righteous and the resurrection gives rank and file people like you and me the opportunity to have victory over sin and the victory over the grave.
2 Corinthians 5:21 hammers this once again. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
I have a very simple question for you. What plan are you on? Are you on the colossal human construction plan? Are you trying to build your way to God, or have you put down the hammer and the nails? Have you admitted your rubble trouble and said, “God, I want to go with your grace construction plan.”
How do we look in the eyes of God, when we are standing here in this dwelling place that we totally demolished by our sin? How do we look before God when we say, “God, I can rebuild it. I’m okay. Everything is cool in my life.”
As he looks at your life and mine, he sees the rubble trouble that we are in. At this point, a lot of us understand the fact that God sent the carpenter, Jesus Christ, to reconstruct our lives, to die on the cross for our sins, and to burst forth with resurrected power. But many of us say, “Well, first of all, let me go ahead and clean this life up myself. I can clean this life up and I can make it because, surely, I have done enough good things to stack up enough bricks to work my way back into heaven — to build the perfect structure.”
But we don’t have the tools to do it. We cannot do it. Yet, Jesus, in his love, does this. In Revelations 3:20, here is what Jesus says. [A video clip begins on the side screens with Ed standing at the door of the demolished house. The rest of the message is played on the video.] He says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.”
Even if your house is trashed, like this one is, even if your house is all messed up, (look at this — all the wiring and everything) Christ still wants to enter into your life. But the deal is this — we control the doorknob. We have a choice. The choice that we have is all about our heart, because our heart is that spiritual square footage that our attitudes, actions and abilities come from. So, I want to challenge you to open the door of your life and let Christ in. Because once Christ comes in, he can take a house that’s trashed, a house that’s full of rubble, and turn it into something beautiful. That is the story of Easter. That is what we are going to talk about over the next several weeks as we talk about renovation of the heart. If your heart is going to get renovated, you have got to understand what it means to get involved with trading spaces. Let’s bow for prayer together.