WOW Relationships of Jesus: Part 2 – Jesus with the Failures: Transcript


WOW Relationships of Jesus

Jesus with the Failures

January 18, 2009

Ben Young

We long to be loved, and God longs to love the unlovely…Then why do we sometimes miss this love Christ has for us? Join Ben in the second message of this series as he unlocks a passage of Scripture that will challenge you to recognize your own brokenness before God. We all need to be at the feet of Jesus asking for mercy and forgiveness, and to be loved and affirmed, rather than reclining and thinking we aren’t that bad.


WOW Relationships of Jesus

Jesus with the Failures

January 18, 2009

Ben Young

We long to be loved, and God longs to love the unlovely…Then why do we sometimes miss this love Christ has for us? Join Ben in the second message of this series as he unlocks a passage of Scripture that will challenge you to recognize your own brokenness before God. We all need to be at the feet of Jesus asking for mercy and forgiveness, and to be loved and affirmed, rather than reclining and thinking we aren’t that bad.

Several years ago while on a flight back from Mexico, I was seated next to a young lady I’ll just call “Jenny.” She was a very fascinating person right from the get go. She was Chinese by ethnicity, but was born and raised in Australia. She had recently been to Cuba as well, and she was on her way back to New York City where she lived with her husband.

The first dilemma Jenny brought to my attention on that flight was the fact that she had thousands of dollars worth of Cuban cigars with her, and she showed them to me right there! She was asking me if I could help her get them through Customs! It was funny, because you hear those dumb announcements in airports all the time—“If a stranger gives you a package, don’t…” I thought to myself, “No stranger would ever give me a…” Well, it happened! So, I said, “Jenny, I’m not really that good at smuggling, so, I’m going to have to pass on smuggling the Cuban cigars!”

Whenever I meet a stranger, especially on a plane; this is how I respond to the typical question, “What do you do for a living?” If I want to talk to them, I’ll say, “Well, I write books about dating and relationships.” When I say that, man, they just pour out their entire lives to me! I could tell you stories you would not believe that have happened, but that is a whole other message!

When I don’t want to talk to them, and they ask, “What do you do for a living?” I’ll say, “I’m a Baptist preacher.” When I say that, it’s kind of like the glass in the limo! They get out the headphones and watch the movie!

Anyway, Jenny and I started talking, and she said, “I’m on my way back to New York City. I’m going to go see my husband. He’s one of the top designers for Calvin Klein, and we live in a very fashionable part of New York City.” As we continued to talk, she began to confess to me another problem she had besides trying to get the Cuban cigars through Customs. She said, “Though I’ve been married to my husband now for some six years, and we have a very nice charmed life; I’ve been having an affair with a guy in Germany. I just have this special bond with this guy there, this special relationship. Whenever I’m with him, I can’t describe it! It’s like magic. There is so much romance and passion, and I feel so loved!”

Jenny went on to tell me that the guy she was having the affair with in Germany was living with another lady, and they already had two kids out of wedlock!

I know you need a flowchart to keep up with that, but as I thought about that flight and this conversation I had with this young lady; I thought about how desperate she was to feel loved and to feel special. In other words, for those few minutes and hours of ecstasy and passion, at that one moment, she was willing to compromise all that she believed and all her values in order to feel loved and special, even though on another level, she knew it was all a lie and that she was simply being used.

I believe that all of us are born into this world with a desire to be special in someone else’s eyes. We desire to be accepted for who we are; to be loved and to be affirmed from the get-go, so many of us are disappointed. Maybe you grew up in a home where your dad was not there, or your dad left, or he never affirmed you as a man; or if you are a lady, maybe your dad never loved you and showed you what a man is like. Or maybe you had a mom, or a broken home, and you have all these expectations as this little child, but you grow up disappointed; searching and longing for love and acceptance.

Brent Curtis, a writer, said this: “All women are basically asking a question that goes like this—‘Am I lovely? Do you want me?’” He says men are asking a different kind of question, though it’s related, and that is: “Do I have what it takes? Am I adequate?”

So many times like Jenny, and like Zaccheus that we looked at last week; we’ll go and search to find meaning, love, acceptance, and affirmation; only to realize that we were drinking out of a dry well.

Karl Barth is arguably one of the greatest theologians of the 20th Century. If you read any systematic theology, or any commentary, which I know you do a lot; then you will find Barth’s name. He was a brilliant scholar and theologian. He was touring the U.S. years ago, and someone asked him, “Dr. Barth, out of all the theology, all the things you’ve known, read and learned, what is the most valuable truth, the wisest theological truth you’ve ever heard of?” Dr. Barth said this: “Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so!”

If Jesus really does love you and me, why is it that so many times we’re not experiencing His love, and living out of that love He has for us? Why is that?

In my life—I think I may have said this last week; I tried to earn the love of God. I don’t think I’m the only person who’s ever tried to do that; but I tried to earn the love of God by following the rules. When I was in high school, I had a list of rules that I followed. By the way, these were good rules! Nothing was wrong with the rules. But I thought by obeying these rules that God was going to somehow love me and accept me more. Then I went to college, and I met some other people, some other Christians, who had even more rules than I did! So I had not only to match their rules; I had to “up” their rules to feel better about myself so I could look down at them as well! So—sorry! Truth hurts. I had a rules-based relationship with God. What I discovered is that basically, God is not really concerned as much about rules as He is an ongoing relationship with Him.

Something strange happened. I began to re-read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Gospels, or brief accounts of the life of Jesus. As I began to read these Gospels from these four different perspectives, I discovered something kind of weird, and that is that Jesus didn’t like people like me! He didn’t. Jesus didn’t like people whose whole lives were basically in their heart of hearts, based upon the rules, and keeping things out, and keeping people out. As a matter of fact, as you read the Gospels, it’s kind of like Jesus was hanging out with the pimps and the prostitutes, and not the preacher-types really. Did you ever notice that? Not only was Jesus hanging out with them; it was like the more unsavory the character, the more at ease they felt around Jesus! That’s kind of a “wow” isn’t it? That’s kind of strange!

Yet somehow, when Jesus would meet someone, whether they were up and out like rich Zaccheus who we looked at last week, or whether they were down and out like Jenny who’s searching, somehow Jesus would meet them at the point of contact, at the point of their need, and He would somehow meet that longing of their heart. We were born with this longing to be loved, and to be affirmed.

Listen to the story of longing. It’s found in Luke 7:36-50. Here’s a great story of longing! Here is Jesus, messing things up again! Have you ever noticed how Jesus is always turning things upside down? Right side up? Upside down… Just when you think you’ve got Him—you don’t! Jesus is always messing things up, but in a good way! You know what I’m saying. Listen—this is great!

Luke 7:36, “Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.”

Back then they didn’t have chairs to sit around a table like we do in nice homes. Imagine a spoke in a wheel. People would recline, leaning on their left elbow, and they would eat with their right hand. Their feet would kind of be hanging out around them. So the people lying around the table were kind of like spokes on a wheel. Does that make sense? I know it sounds strange to you, but if we had told them about Pottery Barn, that would have been strange to these guys!

So Jesus is at the Pharisee’s house, the rule-keeper’s house—“When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume.”

Many people are wondering who this lady was. Some say she was Mary Magdalene. Some say she was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha. Others say she was just another Mary. We don’t really know her name. She was a sinful woman who brought this alabaster jar of perfume, and “As she stood behind Jesus at his feet, she began to wet his feet with her tears.”

As we read this story today, some of us have heard this story a lot; some of us are hearing it for the first time. I want you to enter into the story, because it is a very sensual story that involves the senses. I want you to listen, and to imagine what was going on here. Here was Jesus eating a nice dinner at a nice home. Here was this lady who some believe was a prostitute who came in. She poured out this expensive bottle of perfume, and it said that she was weeping! You can hear her crying! She stood behind Him, weeping. Then she began to wet His feet with her tears. Tears are running off her face onto the muddy feet of Jesus. Then she wiped them with her hair. She kissed them. Can you hear her kissing His feet? She poured perfume on them. Can you imagine how the perfume, the wonderful odor filled the room? People began to ask, “What in the world is going on here?” That’s what the Pharisee did.

“When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this, he said to himself: ‘If this man were a prophet, He would know who was touching Him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.’ Jesus (read his mind) answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’ ‘Tell me Teacher,’ he said. Jesus continued, ‘Two men owed money to a certain money lender. One owed five hundred denari, and the other fifty. Neither of them had money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both.

Now, which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said. He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Simon, do you see this woman? I came into your house, and you did not give Me any water for my feet; but she wet My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet! You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests were grumbling, saying to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’” A better translation says, “Go into peace.”

You had two people who were seeking to have those questions of love and adequacy answered. Simon, the rule keeper, was taking a risk by having this radical Rabbi, Jesus, come into his home. Yet He was seeking Jesus to trap Him, or to see if He had more rules. This lady of the street, this prostitute came in, and she desperately needed to be loved and forgiven. She realized her own brokenness, and she cried on the feet of the Son of God, pouring out this perfume on his feet. This perfume was the perfume she wore to attract others to her, to fill that longing in her heart to be loved and be special. Now she was taking what she had used as a symbol of her love and security, and was pouring it on the feet of this Jesus.

We long to be loved, and God longs to love the unlovely! We long to be loved; we long to be accepted, and known by the God who made us. We try many different paths, and many different things, and many different relationships, all to fill that longing in our heart, or to feel like we’re adequate, or “I’m the man” or whatever! Only God’s love through Jesus can revolutionize our heart in such a way where He can answer that question that we’re all asking.

Why do we miss it? Why do we sometimes miss this love that Christ has for us? I think the reason so many times I miss it is that I’m too busy reclining with Simon, instead of being at the feet of the One who knows me and can forgive me. I’m too busy hanging out with Simon, thinking that we’ve got it because of the rules; rather than at the feet with this sinful person who realizes her brokenness before God.

Don’t miss the story! Jesus is not saying, “Simon, your sins are not that big a deal! Now this sinful woman, her sins are a big deal, and she’s been forgiven a lot, and that’s why she is going to love a lot!” No. He was really saying, “Simon, you don’t have a clue as to how dark and twisted your own sinful life is.

When it comes to God’s forgiveness, and when it comes to our debt; we’re all equal, whether you have a five hundred dollar debt, or a five thousand dollar debt, or a five billion dollar debt, or a U.S. government kind of debt; we all have this huge debt! It doesn’t matter if it’s a trillion dollars, or a billion dollars, or a thousand dollars! We still are infinitely far away from God’s standard. We’ve all blown it; we’ve all messed up. We all need to be at the feet of Jesus, asking for mercy and forgiveness, and to be loved and be affirmed, rather than reclining and thinking that, “Oh, we’re not that bad…”

One pastor puts it this way. He says the Gospel says, “Cheer up! You’re far more wicked and depraved than you imagined! Cheer up! You can be far more accepted and loved than you ever dreamed possible because of what Jesus did for you.”

John was the disciple who wrote the Gospel of John, I, II, and III John, and the book of the Revelation. He called himself in the Gospel of John, “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” That’s the way he described himself! In the Epistle of I John, he talks about two aspects of God that help connect us to the love of God, and show us how to live out from this love. He said two things about God: First of all, God is light. We’ve got to allow God’s light to shine down in the darkness of our lives, and to realize that God’s light shows the unlovely and the ugly places in our lives. It shows us how far we missed God’s standard, and it shows us the lengths that we will go to in compromise, in relationships, in business, with money, and in dating. It shows us the lengths we’ll go to, and it shows us that we’re still empty and that we still need to be forgiven by God. That’s what God’s light does. “God is light” means that God is holy. God is perfect. He is pure beyond our wildest imagination!

The second thing that John says about God is that God is love. God is love! So the light shows us our need for the love. The love shows us the Cross, and at the Cross, you can see God’s justice and God’s love join hands in this incredible event, which shows how valued you are, and how valued I am in the eyes of God…that God Himself would step down from Heaven in His Son to die in your place, and in my place. That’s love!

John goes on to say this. He says, “Love is not…WOW, that person loves God! Man, they’re in the Word! Man, they love God!” No, no.

John says, “It’s not that we love God; it’s that God first chose to love us, and gave Himself for us as a sacrifice for the many screw ups, and the unlovely things that we have done.”

Romans 5:8—you’ve got to like Paul! He doesn’t tell good stories, but he’s got some great one-liners! I don’t know if I can wrap my little ant brain around this, but this is just sweet right here! Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Let me translate that in my own little paraphrase, okay? It means this! Before you and I ever came on the scene; before we came out of the shoot, and that nurse or doctor whacked us on our bottom, and someone chopped off that umbilical cord; before we were even here, before we were a mere twinkle in the eye of our mom or dad—before all of that; God is, and God acted to love you, and to forgive you, while you were not yet here! God had already sent His Son to die for you, to rise again for You so that you could know that you are lovely, that you could know that you are beautiful, that you could know that you’re adequate and a child of the Living God and know Him as your Heavenly Father—not as a slave. He had done all of that for you before you and I came onto the scene! It’s already done! The faith that you have to exercise and to experience that is also a gift from God! When He gives you that faith, it’s already done; but it’s already done objectively in time, space and history. That’s love!

Before we got it, before we came on the scene, while we were still shaking our puny little fist at God, sewing our wild oats, smoking the “whacky tobaccy”—whatever we were doing; God had already sent Jesus to die for us, to set us free, and to forgive us.

Psalm 32:10, “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him.”

I don’t know what you’re going through right now. I don’t know what we’re going to go through as a nation in the next six months, or nine months, with all the things and problems that are facing us; but I want to know that the God who made all this and who made the nations is still surrounding me with His love.

Paul says it again in Ephesians 1, “God has lavished this love upon us, if we can simply receive this love, and be broken and humbled before Him. His love will transform our lives.”

Do you know what happens after that? When you receive God’s love unto yourself; when you kneel at His feet, weeping and broken—you say, “Thank you so much for forgiving me! Thank You that even before I came on the scene, You had done everything necessary to clear me, to accept me, to make me Your child so that I could know that I am lovely, beautiful and know that I have what it takes! Lord, thank You for that!” Then we kneel at his feet in brokenness and humility, and we know that we are loved, and God meets the longing of love that we have in our hearts and our lives. After that, you know what happens to us? Yes—exactly! We cry out! We cry out, “Thank You” and then we cry out, because we want to love much! We want to love much! Love becomes love when we give it away, and we want to love much when we realize how greatly loved we are by Him, and that love is unchanging.

I have twin nieces that live in Dallas—Laurie and Landra. They go to a school called Grapevine Faith Christian School, and are known as the “Grapevine Faith Lions.”  Recently, a guy who is a Sports Illustrated writer named Rick Riley, who now writes for ESPN, wrote an article about a strange and unusual game that my nieces’ future high school played. I want to read you some parts of this article:

“They played the oddest game in high school football history last month up in Grapevine, Texas. It was Grapevine Faith versus Gainesville State School. Everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through. A banner had also been made for the players to crash through at the other end. It said ‘Go Tornadoes!’ which is kind of strange, because Faith’s mascot is the Lions. It was rivers running uphill, and cats petting dogs! More than two hundred Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on, by name! ‘I never in my life thought I’d hear people cheering for us to hit their kids!’ Recalls Gainesville’s quarterback and middle linebacker, Isaiah. ‘I wouldn’t expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids, but that’s what they wanted us to do!’ Even though Faith walloped Gainesville 33 to 14, the kids were happy. After the game, the kids from Gainesville gave their head coach, Mark Williams, a squirt-bottle shower, like they had just won State! It’s got to be the first Gatorade bath in the history for a 0 and 9 coach.”

“But then you saw twelve uniformed officers escorting the fourteen Gainesville players off the field; two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five, handcuffs in their back pockets, and marched them to the team bus. That’s because Gainesville is a maximum security correctional facility, 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.”

“All this idea for a game started when Faith’s head coach, Chris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. He wanted to love much. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score.

After all, Faith was 7 and 2 going into the game. Gainesville was 0 and 8, and only scored 2 TD’s the whole year. Faith had 70 kids, 11 coaches, and the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault, and robbery, many of whose families had disowned them; and they were wearing seven-year old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.”

“Then Hogan had this idea. He said, ‘What if half our fans for only one night, cheered for the other team?’ He sent an e-mail to all the Faithful fans and said, ‘Here’s a message I want you to send: I want these kids to know that Jesus loves them, and has a plan for their lives. I want them to know that they are just as valuable as any other person on planet earth.’ He wanted them to know that they were loved.”

“Some of the people were confused. One of the players came up to him and said, ‘Coach, why are we doing this?’ Coach Hogan said, ‘Imagine if you did not have a home life, and pretty much everybody had given up on you; and now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you!’”

“After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray. When Isaiah surprised everybody then, by asking to lead in prayer, Coach Hogan said, ‘We had no idea what the kid was going to say.’ But Isaiah said this, ‘Lord, I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say Thank You, but I never would have known there were so many people in the world that cared about us.’ It was a good thing everybody’s heads were bowed, because they may have seen Hogan wiping away the tears.”

“As the Tornadoes walked back to the bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home: A burger, some fries, a soda, some candy and a Bible along with an encouraging letter from a Faith player. The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, and he grabbed him hard by the shoulders, and he said, ‘You’ll never know—you’ll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You’ll never know!’”

“As the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side of the bus and pressed their hands to the windows, staring at these people they had never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.”

Let’s pray.

Dear God, I thank You that You are God, and we’re not. I thank You that only You can meet the longing of our hearts. God, I thank You that You have called us not only to be loved, but to display radical if not simple acts of love just like this small school up in Dallas. God, I thank You that before You—it’s equal ground. It doesn’t matter if we are a preacher, or a prisoner, or a prostitute. We have all stolen the goods; we have all cheated on you, trying to find love. Dear God, thank You for being so patient with us. Thank You that You call us by name. Thank You that You’ve already provided a way for us to live out of Your love, if we simply would just receive it, God.

Lord, there are many here today, listening here at Woodway Village, listening in the E-gym and here in the C-gym. They desperately need to stand and walk down front today and receive the love that only you can give that comes through being broken and honest and saying “O’ God, help me! O’ God, forgive me! Give me a new heart! Give me a new life, and help me to walk into peace, and into Your purpose.” Lord, lead those to stand and come today.