Serious About Community

Serious Church

Pastor Wes Aarum - February 3, 2019

Community Group Study Notes

  • Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.

  • Read Hebrews 10:24, I Thessalonians 5:11, and Romans 12:10. According to these verses what are some of the benefits of being connected with other believers?

  • What are some of the blessings you’ve received in your life by being in community with other believers?

  • Read through Mark 2:1-12.  What stands out to you and why?

  • One way we can bring each other to Jesus is through prayer. Share with the group some things they can bring to Jesus this week for you.


Sermon Transcript

Alright, good morning. How many of you are planning on going to a Superbowl party today? Can I see your hands? Alright, how many of you are expecting amazing food at that Superbowl party? Alright, yeah. You know what makes that thing great is when you come to that party and you see that food and you are hungry. You have an appetite for it. That just makes a great meal so much better, 'cause how tragic is it to come to an amazing meal and not have an appetite? You're not hungry. You look at the food, you can admire it, but it doesn't do you any benefit.

What's true in the physical realm often is also true in the spiritual realm, because if we have hearts that aren't hungry for God and hungry for His truth, then we'll come and no matter how amazing the truth is that God puts in front of us, we'll look at it and we can admire it, but it will do us no good. It will not benefit us. Here's why I bring that up, because I've been praying for myself and I've been praying for you, that together we would come today hungry for God, hungry for His word, that we would have an appetite for His truth so that His word can have its way in us and that God can have His way in us.

I want us to pray together to that end. I want you to ask God to give you a heart that is hungry for Him, hungry for His truth, because, I mean, come on. If we just show up and, hey, we're just marking time until we can get out of here, why would you do that? Let's not do that. Let's not have that attitude. Let's say, "God, man, make us hungry," 'cause we need Him to do that. I'm praying that He will. Let's pray together. I'm gonna invite you to bow your heads and close your eyes and just ask God silently. I know we all come into this place, Nick said it, a lot of things going on. Man, just ask God, "Would you give me a heart that's hungry for you and for your truth today? I want your truth to benefit me."

Heavenly Father, I pray for myself first as I pray for all of us. Lord, I confess that sometimes I, sometimes we, we don't have hungry hearts for you, God. That's shameful. We're so busy stuffing ourselves with things of the world, things that the world says we need. Lord, it dulls our appetite for you. God, it's a tragedy. Lord, I pray in grace and in mercy that this morning you would give us hearts that are hungry for you. Man, you would give us an appetite that is ferocious for your truth and that, Lord, your word would go deep into us and have its way with us, that Lord, you would have your way with us. God, we just pray that you would do that by your Spirit. God, I wanna also pray for Pastor Jerry today as he is away from us. God, bless him and use him. Lord, we come to the table. We look forward to what you have for us, God, and you'll get all the glory 'cause you alone are worthy. We pray this in your name, Christ. Amen.

Would you please open your Bibles to Mark, the Gospel of Mark, chapter two? I have the Bible, I just grabbed one from one of the seat backs there. You have one on the table there in the east worship center in front of you. You can use this Bible or the Bible you brought with you or get it on your electronic device, but Mark 2, we'll be there in just a little bit. This is gonna be a story. It's not gonna be on the screen, so I want you to be ready for it. We're gonna be reading from the New International Version, the NIV.

Okay, I wanna start this way. I wanna start with an experiment as you find yourself in Mark 2. Alright, when you hear the word "villain," what comes into your mind? What picture do you get in your mind? Maybe it's something that looks like this. Or maybe it's something that looks like this. Or maybe when you hear the word "villain," you think of something that looks like this. Yeah, how many of you are parents here? How many parents? How many of you have seen that look on your kid's face? Yeah, right. I got two, I know. Yeah, right, right, okay. How about this? When you hear the word "love," what comes into your mind? Maybe it's something like this, or maybe something like this.

Okay, you're a little milder than the 9:00 crowd, man. I mean, 9:00, they were bursting into tears when they saw this. "Ohh!" Wow, okay. Or maybe when you think of love you think of this. Yeah, every college student in the house. Yeah. I'm with you. That was my breakfast, lunch, and dinner in college, man. It was awesome. So fantastic, a pizza diet works wonders. How about when you hear the word "disaster?" What do you think of? Maybe you think of something like this, or maybe something like this. Or maybe when you think of the word "disaster" you think of something like this.

Now, I know some of you are thinking it. "Wes, wow, is that your high school yearbook picture?" No. It's not. But let me just say to you, don't fear the mullet. Don't fear it. Don't fear it. Yes. It's coming back, man. You'll love it. You wait, man. You're gonna want one someday. You're gonna want one. Wish you had parachute pants to go with it. Alright, you know what I'm saying? Know what I'm saying? Hey, here's the reason. Here's the point of all of that. Often when we communicate and we say words, we think different things. You know, that ends us in some very different places. That can be a real problem when you're talking about something serious.

This morning we're gonna talk about something serious: community. When we talk about community, it's important that we're on the same page, 'cause when I say that word instantly you're thinking probably about different things. Some of you are thinking about maybe a neighborhood, or maybe a sports team, or maybe getting together friends for coffee. When we talk about biblical community, which is what we're gonna be looking at today, this is what we're talking about. I want us to all be on the same page, so this is what we're speaking about when we talk about community this morning. It is a relational connectedness among Christ-followers who, together, pursue a life of godliness, or in other words, a life of living like Jesus.

One more time. A relational connectedness among Christ-followers who, together pursue a life of godliness, a life of living like Jesus. See, when you become a Christ-follower and when you come to the realization, when the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to the realization, that you are lost, man, that you are a sinner, because we all are, the Bible makes it clear, God tells the truth. Romans 2:23, "For all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory." We have all fallen short, man. We are all broken on the inside. We are all separated from God. Sin is an eternal hate crime against God, man. There is justice for that because God is a God of justice. There has to be payment for that and the payment or penalty for sin is death. Romans 6:23 tells us that.

If nothing changes in our lives, when we walk off of this planet into eternity, into forever, we're gonna be separated from God forever in a place of justice and judgment called hell. That is the reality that the Bible presents. The good news is, and what makes it so good, and so we understand the bad news, the good news is that that's not what God wants for us. Because He's a God of justice, there's has to be payment for that sin. He can't just look the other way, sweep it under the carpet, so He sends Jesus, His Son, to live the perfect life and to give His life in payment for us.

John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." He says, "I'm coming after you." "So that whoever," wide open invitation, "whoever believes in Him," not believes about Him, but "believes in Him," surrenders their life to him, commits their life to Him, "will not perish but will have eternal life," a guarantee. When you come to that realization and you give your life to Jesus and say, "Jesus, come into my life," it's not just, "Hey, I'm gonna negotiate with you, God." God doesn't negotiate, you got nothing to bring to the table, man. You're dead. I'm dead. We need life. We don't just need a spiritual Band-Aid, we need life.

When we come to Him and we surrender our lives to Him, we realize His great love for us and His grace and He comes in and He changes. He comes in to live inside of us by His Spirit. We are initially and immediately connected in a relationship with God. The big thing about eternal life, it's not first and foremost about getting us into Heaven. First and foremost, it's about getting us to God, into a relationship with God. When we invite Christ into our life, that's what we do. We step in this incredible relationship with God who comes to be with us. He is for us. He's guiding us. He gives us a life that matters and He puts us in a brand new family. He puts us in a brand new family, the family of God.

There's some Scriptures that talk about that and we'll look at a couple real quick. "Now, all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us, so now you Gentiles," that's all of us who are non-Jews, "you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family." When you become a believer, God puts you into a brand new family. You become what the Bible also calls a part of the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the head and we are members of His body. Romans talks about this, "For just as each one of us has body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body and each member belongs to all the others."

Do you see this? Each member belongs to all the others. That means as Christians, we belong to one another. This Christian thing is not just a personal thing. Some people say, "Hey, man, my relationship with Jesus is private." No, it's not. It's personal, it's not private. It's personal, but it's not just personal, it's also a family thing. God calls us to be in one another's lives, to encourage, to pray, to help, to admonish, to push each other towards Jesus in a relational context. Now, that makes sense because first and foremost, our relationship with God, our faith, is relational.

What's the first and greatest command? Not "love this doctrine," not "love this belief system," not "love your quiet time." All those things are super important, absolutely, but they all flow from one great commandment, and it's "love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength." It's relational, and then "love others as yourself." It's a relational faith. God has wired us that way. He's made us as relational creatures. That's why relationships are important to us. They matter. They hold weight. They have power in our lives because God created us that way.

Now, we see this on display in the early church. We've been looking in this series at a passage in Acts 2 and I want us to look at it again but through the lens of relationships. Take a look. "All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day, they continued to meet." Every day. "Every day, they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all of the people, and the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."

These people, the early church, they were connected and committed relationally to one another in the Gospel. That is what God wants for us. That is what He's designed for us. In fact, He has commanded it. See, it's not just enough to, "Hey, man, we're just gonna do life together," as if that's enough. It's not enough. That goal is too small. You wanna have the right people in your life in order to do life God's way. That's what was happening in the early church. That's what God wants for us. In fact, He commands that.

Now, a few weeks ago, Pastor Jerry talked about all the one anothers that are listed in the Scripture and there's a boatload of them. I wanna just look at a couple real quick, all from one book, the same book, the book of Romans. Take a look at this. "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Be devoted to one another. Honor one another. Live in harmony with one another." Here's another one. "Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you in order to bring praise to God. Accept one another."

One another. It's reciprocal. You can't do one another on your own. Takes another, that's why it's one another. Me to you, you to me. It's reciprocal. That is what God wants. You know, you have a real hard time. You gotta work really hard to read God's word and then walk away going, "Yeah, I think I can do this Christian thing on my own." You can't because the Bible doesn't let us get away with that. God doesn't let us get away with that, and that's for our good, by the way. That's for our blessing. We wanna be serious about biblical community because God is serious about it.

How do we get at that here at The Chapel? One way is through community groups, hence my t-shirt, if you missed the clue. There it is right there, got the community group swag on today because that's it. We launched the small group initiative last week and we wanna be serious about community. We want people in community groups. We want every adult who calls The Chapel their home connected to a community group. We have that happening our middle school ministry, in Shine. They have small groups. We have that happening in Movi, our high school ministry. They have small groups. We have that happening in Vintage, our college ministry. They have small groups called e-groups.

From post-college on, 20s and 30s and up, we want you involved in a community group. By the way, quick advertisement, if you're in the post-college, 20s, and 30s group, we have a new environment for you if you're in that range. We have a new environment that we have started. We have it the second Monday of every month. Doors at 6:00, program begins at 7:00 over here in the east worship center. If that is you, we would love to have you come and be a part of that. We can hang out, we have live music, we have a great time together. We look at truth and we connect relationally because we want people to get connected here at The Chapel relationally in community groups.

That's what our hope. That is what our prayer is, 'cause wanna be serious about it, 'cause we believe God is. Now, let me tell you right up front the big hot why of community groups. You need to know that because however you answer the why and everybody answers why for the stuff in our life that's important, however you answer that is gonna shape the contour of whatever you're talking about. For example, when you ask somebody, "Hey, man, why'd you get married?" A lot of people have different answers for that. "Well, because we were in love" or "Because we really wanted to have security" or "We wanted to have babies." There's all kind of different answers for that.

But here's the thing. However you answer that why question is gonna shape the contours of your marriage. Same thing with small groups. We wanna be clear about the big why. That's why I've actually even put it on this handout that you got today right here. I'm gonna put it on the screen 'cause we wanna see it. Our community groups exist to leverage the power of relationships to help us love God, love the church, and love the world with the time that we've been given. That's the definition. There's three components there. First is the power of relationships.

The Bible tells us that relationships hold power. One of those verse is Proverbs 13:20. "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Relationships move us in a direction, and there's only two options, by the way. You're either gonna go towards God or you're gonna go away from Him. The wise is a person who- "Yes, God, I'm gonna follow you, I'm gonna give myself to you." The fool is the person that says, "No, I don't need God. I can run my own show. I know better than God and I'm gonna run this way."

The directions couldn't be more opposite and the results couldn't be more different. By the way, the results, listen, the results are backed by God's character. You can't look at that and go, "Not me." It is you. That's what's happening. Who you lock arms with, man, is going to land you in a place and God says, "I want you to walk with the wise so that you can grow wise, so that when you hang out with people and you connect with people who are following after God, who are hungry for Jesus, guess what. That's gonna impact your hunger for Jesus, too, in all the right ways."

We wanna leverage that power by connecting us in groups where we're running after Jesus. Does it mean we do it perfectly, of course? Nah. Man, we're stumbling, we're making choices, we're like upp!, but that' why we need people in our lives to help us, 'cause we all got blind spots and we need brothers and sisters that'll help us and encourage us in the right direction so that we can be wise.

Second component is this, to love God, love the church, love the world. By the way, those are the blanks on your notes. Just in case you were wondering, that's it. For those of you on the radio, sorry. Love God, love the church, love the world. We referenced this earlier. First greatest command is this- By the way, love God, love the church, love the world, those are marks of what we believe a disciple is. When you say, "Man, I name the name of Jesus," that's what a disciple looks like, someone who loves God loves the church, loves the world. We didn't come up with that on our own in some really cool marketing seminar. This is from God's heart.

"Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.'" Love God, love the church, and then love the world. Look at this. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors." Man, we are His mouthpiece. We are His representatives to the world, to the people around us, ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through us, as though God were speaking through you.

That's what it says, man. How cool is that? "We implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." Listen, if you're a believer, then in your environment, do you know and do you realize that you might be the only Bible some people will ever read as they watch your life? Yeah. That's His plan for us, man. His plan for us is to be a witness for Him and we wanna be connected with people that have that same heartbeat. All of that flows out of the first and greatest commandment, to love God. Listen, if you wanna love people well, you wanna love your spouse well, you wanna love your kids well, you wanna love people around you, your friends, well, then you gotta love God because God is the source of love.

If you don't have the source of love operating in your heart, you're not gonna be able to love them well. You just can't. You can't. You gotta love God well. By the way, you know why sometimes we struggle with sin and we allow sin to just get a stranglehold on us? It just seems like we can't beat this one dominating sin in our life. One of the reasons why that is sometimes is because we try to beat it with just "no." We say no to sin. No, no, no, and we leave it at that. How well has that worked for you? Just say no. Just try to get it out.

Is that important to say no? Absolutely, it's important to say no, but that's not enough. You gotta have a bigger, better, stronger yes. You gotta have a greater yes in order for that no to stick. You've gotta have a greater, better yes. I've been married for almost 25 years and no one has ever had to sit down with me and say, "Hey, Wes, you gotta stay away from hookers." No one's had to say that. I know some of you are like, "Woah, didn't see that coming. Hang on. What just happened?" Some of you just woke up. "Is that a blank on my sheet? I don't know where that is." You're like, "Where's Pastor Jerry?" Some of you are going, "Man, the dude's wearing sneakers. I knew he's loose, man."

Here's the deal. No one ever had to tell me to say no to hookers. Why? Because I had an amazing and have an incredible yes in my wife. She is my bigger, better, amazing yes. I don't need someone to tell me no to that. Why? Because I have a greater yes. Because I have a greater yes, my no sticks because I have a better yes. Listen, the Bible tells us, "Turn from sin to embrace righteousness." "Hate what is evil, cling to what is good," Proverbs 1:12. You wanna have a better yes? You gotta love God first. He's your better yes, man. He's your bigger yes. You wanna treasure Jesus in your heart, man, 'cause you know what I'm talking about.

When you fall in love with someone on a relational level, man, you talk about them. When you fall in love with something, you talk about it. Today you're gonna see people talking about stuff they love. They're gonna wear jerseys. They're gonna write stuff on their cars. They're gonna make cupcakes with little designs on them. We spent all night going, "Look at the meatloaf I made in the form of a football." They love it. Listen, when you love something, you talk about it. You invest in it. Listen, you love Jesus and you make Him your treasure, you're gonna be able to say no and make it stick stronger because you got a better yes and you keep there and God wants us to connect with people that want that.

There's a third part, final part. The time we've been given. The time we've been given. Here's a Scripture that's attached to that. "Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise." Make the most of every opportunity. Be very careful. Pay attention. Be intentional. Don't just drift. Make some intentional choices. Andy Stanley says (this is great), "We don't drift in good directions." Be very careful, then how you live, not as unwise, not as apathetic, not as, "Well, I'll just try to make it up as I go. It's not a big deal." No, but as wise, running towards Jesus, allowing His heart and His priorities to become ours.

Making the most of every opportunity. Making the most of every opportunity. Listen, 100 years from now, you're all gonna be dead. I know, "Hey, welcome to church. Thanks." All your friends are pretty much gonna be dead, too. Yeah. Listen, we got this one little blip on the radar screen of eternity to live our lives. Dot. Just a little dot. God says, "I want your life to matter. I want you to make the most of these opportunities." God says, "I want you to connect with people who want that, too." That's the heartbeat of our community groups, man, that we would leverage the power of relationships that help us love God, love the church, love the world with the time we've been given.

Practically speaking, how does that work out? Well, first of all, you need to get a community group. We talked about this last week. If you missed it, let me reinforce again. Right here, people out in the atrium on all of our campuses, out there after you're dismissed, you're gonna see people in these t-shirts. Go talk to them. Ask them. But you don't need to have a conversation with them in order to sign up for a group. You can do that all on your own. They'll be happy to walk you through computers and answer questions that you have and show you how this all looks, but it's real simple. Our community group page will come up. You click on the button that says Find A Community Group. When you do that, it'll show you all the community groups that are now available. A lot of them have closed because you guys jumped on board with that. Awesome. But we got more. We got more. You can search by location. We've updated that. You can search by season of life. You can also search by time of week. You sign up for one. Next thing you do is you come to church, you get one of these handouts, you take notes. Fill in the blanks, take any other notes you want. Then you go home, you fill out the flip side, which is community group study notes. You fill that out, then you bring this to your community groups.

You talk about the message and then you flip it over and do a little bit deeper dive into the biblical content that is associated with the topic so that we can stay tethered and connected and anchored to God's truth. That's it. You encourage each other towards Jesus. Now, as we told you last week, we have designed our community groups throughout the course of the year, four quarters. Each quarter is nine to 10 weeks in length and we are asking our community groups to meet a minimum of four to five times during those 10 weeks. That's what we ask them to shoot for. You wanna meet more every week? That's awesome. You can do that. But we ask for a minimum of four to five weeks. Shoot for that 'cause it takes some time to get some traction.

At the end of the 10 weeks, listen, at the end of the 10 weeks, you can stay with that group or you can try on a different group if there's ones open, or you can even think about starting to lead your group. What we don't wanna have happen is people just become community group nomads, just go from group to group to group, wandering around. Man, you gotta get to one, stick in it, get known, get some traction, but we do understand that it might take a group or two before you really feel connected. That's okay. That's okay. But in order for any of that to happen, you gotta get in one. You gotta sign up for one. You gotta connect to one.

God says, "I'm serious about community. I want you to be serious about community because it is life-giving." I wanna close our time together this morning by looking at what biblical community looks like in action. It's found in a story, the Gospel of Mark. We turn to it, chapter two. Please follow along as I read, beginning in verse one. "A few days later when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and He preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to Him a paralyzed man carried by four of them."

"Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.' Some teachers of the law were sitting there thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone?'"

"Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and He said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier to say to this paralyzed man, your sins are forgiven or to say get up, take your mat, and walk? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins.' So He said to man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat, go home.' He got up, took his mat, and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this.'"

I want you to step into the story with me. As a paralytic, he's staring down the long, bleak, hopeless future that he has. You see, in those days, there's no neurosurgeon. There's no physical therapist, no specialty doctors, no medical breakthroughs coming around the corner. No, the only thing, the only prescription, that his town can give him is sympathy. He's had enough of that. He doesn't want anymore sympathy, he wants his life back 'cause the life he has now is confined to a three by six foot mat, filled with boredom and bedsores. His spindly arms and legs form the prison bars to the cell that keeps him confined day after day, week after week, month after excruciating month.

He's never able to just rise and stretch with the morning sun, never able to just take a stroll with his friends, never able to walk off any frustration, never able to go out and run around with the neighborhood kids, never able to do anything. Instead, he has to depend on other people for everything, literally everything. Every time he wants a drink of water, every time he wants a bite of food, anytime he has to go to the bathroom, has to have somebody else take him, bathe him, turn him, toilet him, feed him, put him back on the mat. There he lies on a three by six foot mat.

Words like "frustration," "anger," "loneliness," "despair," those are some of the words written over his life. But for all the negative words there's one positive one, one positive one. That's the word "friends." He has four faithful friends. Today, incredible news brings them rushing to his side. "The miracle worker's in town. Jesus Himself has come to our town!" The house where Jesus is speaking is packed and jammed, every nook and cranny filled with a human being. Two, three, even four people deep out the front door. People are leaning in. They're standing on their tip-toes, cupping their hands to their ears trying to catch any of the teaching of the Master.

When the four friends show up, each of them shouldering a corner of the mat on which their paralyzed friend lies, they try to get in but that's no use. The wall of humanity is just impenetrable. Every time they try, they're pushed away, so they move over here and they try again and they're pushed away. "Shh, be quiet. Shh, we can't hear. Shh! Go away." They step back to regroup. They're not gonna be denied. All of a sudden one of them remembers. "Hey, stairs. The outside stairs to the roof." Quickly they go around the side and they start climbing up the stairs and with every step they take, their heart begins pumping adrenaline, pumping.

They get to the top of the roof and they lay their friend down. They have to quiet their breathing, steady themselves, because they're trying to listen, trying to pinpoint the exact location where Jesus is teaching. "There, do you hear it?" "Yes." They begin to remove the clay tiles. They begin to burrow their way through and they punch through the roof, a hole right through the roof. Inside, the debris that falls creates clouds of smoke. People, they push back, squinting, coughing their disgust into their hands. When the cloud of dust begins to settle, people look up and what do they see in that hole? They see four faces, four sets of eyes darting around looking for Jesus. There He is. It's Him.

The next thing you see is the bottom of a mat being lowered down, people instinctively raise up and grab the mat, and they lay him in front of Jesus. The text says that Jesus saw their faith. Wasn't the faith of the paralytic that captured His heart. It was their faith, his friends. It's not what He heard, 'cause the Bible doesn't say they said anything. No, it's what He saw. What did Jesus see? Four friends. Four friends that were willing to put their faith into action, willing to put a shoulder to what they believed, four friends that were willing to do whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus, four friends that believed if they could just get their friend to Jesus, something would happen.

Jesus' gaze turns from the friends to the one friend. As He looks down at the paralytic, He sees the paralysis goes much deeper than just the human body. Jesus sees everything and He sees that the paralysis goes all the way to his soul. His soul is paralyzed by sin, captive by shame. Jesus looks at him and He goes to work right at the spot where the paralysis is the greatest. He says, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." How long? How long has he waited to hear those words? How many tears has he cried? How many prayers has he prayed to that stoic, empty ceiling? Does anyone hear? Does anyone care?

The truth is that someone did hear. Someone did care. I'm sure that when Jesus spoke those words to him, He looked him right in the eyes and He did it with a smile, as if to say, "My son, take heart. God is not angry at you." The paralytic closes his eyes and years of pain that's been stored on the inside bubbles to the surface, streams down his face. He's free for the first time in his life. He's free. But what comes as a tender embrace for the paralytic comes as a slap to face of the religious leaders that were there.

They reasoned in their hearts syllogistically, "Jesus claims to forgive sin. Only God can forgive sin. Jesus claims to be God." Yes, exactly. Precisely the point. Their reasoning brought them right to the perfect, accurate conclusion. But it didn't bring them to Jesus. Their hearts were hard. Jesus knew that, so He spoke to them, looked right at them and spoke to them. "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or take up your mat, go and walk?" Truth is, both of them are just as easy to say and both of them are equally impossible to do, unless, of course you're God, then one is as easy as the other.

Jesus, looking right at the religious leaders, says, "So that you may know, so that you may know, the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins," and then He turns to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat, go home." Instantly, a surge of power and strength rip through his body. Muscles became strong, bones became strong. He stood up. His eyes were wide, his mouth was dropped. A hush settled over the crowd. He couldn't believe it. They can't believe it. He looks at Jesus. He's not sure what to do. He's almost giddy. Jesus smiles and nods. "Go ahead." Quickly rolls up his mat, heaves it over his shoulder, and he walks out the door praising God the entire way, and the crowd that just moments ago refused Him entry now reverently parts as he walks out into the street.

Inside the house that day, people got a glimpse of a coming kingdom and a glimpse of the coming king. Out in the street, five friends. Five friends laughing, dancing with the joy of Heaven running down their face. That is what biblical community looks like. Four friends willing to do whatever it took to bring their one friend to Jesus. That's what it'll look like in your life, having friends in your life that are willing to do whatever it takes to bring you to Jesus, to bring you to His truth, to His help, to His forgiveness, to His healing, to His instruction, to bring you to Him. Why? Because at the end of the day, that is exactly what every single one of us needs.

Jesus alone knows exactly what you need. He created you. He designed you. He knows everything about you. One look, He understands the depth of who you are. He understands your future. He's the one we need to listen to, 'cause not only does He know all that, He loves us. He wants you to be connected to people that love Him, too. The application here, fourfold. One, for some of you, you need to take an honest look at the relationships you have in your life right now. You need to take an honest look, 'cause that promise is guaranteed. He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Again, those outcomes are backed by God's character, man. You can't dodge that.

What friends, what voices, are you allowing to speak into your life? What voices are you giving authority to in your life that you're listening to? Are they encouraging towards God and towards His truth, or away from it? For some of you, you need to take an honest look at your relationships and decide right now who needs to stay, who needs to go, and what relationship needs to change. Which one needs to be encouraged and thanked and nurtured? Secondly, for some of you, you need to get connected to God-centered community, man. That's God's plan for His church and it's His plan for our church. A great way to get started is to sign up for a community group.

Listen, you know, I don't really think that Satan is all that afraid of churches that are big, but I think he's terrified of churches that are unified. That's what Jesus prayed for in John 17, that we would be one. Getting involved in a community group allows us to all be pulling and running in the same direction. For some of you, thirdly, as a believer you need to come to Jesus today. You need to be reminded today that He sees and He knows and He cares, and you think that you've been praying blank prayers and He says, "No, I've been listening. I've been paying attention. I'm the God who sees and cares and I am the God who's by your side."

You need to be reminded today that just like Jesus looked at those religious leaders and stood up for the paralytic and spoke truth to their faces, Jesus will do that for you, that He will speak truth on your behalf, that He will speak truth over you, and that He will speak truth to you. Today you need to be reminded that you need to come to your Heavenly Father. At the end of the day as a believer, on your best day and your worst days, Jesus is still your best friend 'cause there's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. You need to be reminded that He has power and that He knows and that He cares. He wants to work on you where it matters most.

Finally, some of you need to come to Jesus for the first time. You're like the paralytic. Your heart is paralyzed by sin. It is captured by shame. You are under the wrath of God and the only thing that's keeping you from experiencing that is that you're still breathing. Maybe you're here for the first time and you're like, "Man, I need Jesus." Yes, the answer is yes. Or maybe you're here for the hundredth time. You've been coming for weeks, for months, for maybe even years and you've been coming up with reasons why not to give yourself to Jesus. Listen, that's why the Bible says, "Today's the day of salvation."

Look, every single one of us, we all got a number above our head right now, how many days that we have on this planet, and it's counting down. Right now it's counting down. That's why Jesus said, "Today's the day of salvation." If you don't know Christ, today's your day because one day, there won't be any more days. You say, "Wes, you're trying to be dramatic." No. No. Trying to be real. Today needs to be your day of salvation where you give your life to Jesus. You let the one who loves you and died for you come in and rescue you. What did God talk to you about? What do you need to do about it? Let's pray.

Heads bowed and eyes closed, just for a moment. Thank you so much for your attention. You guys are super gracious always. But man, this is the moment. What has God said to you? What will you do with it? If you prayed and said, "God, speak to me. I want a hungry heart," man, He did 'cause He honors those kinds of prayers. What is it that God spoke to you about? What do you need to do? Will you do it right here, right now? Will you do it? It doesn't make sense to wait. Take a moment. If you're here and you're a believer, take a moment and just respond to God. Whatever He's talking to you about, man, in the tenderness of this moment, the heart the believes in you. It's because He's so great. Take a moment and respond to Him.

Final question. If you're here and you don't know Jesus, can I just tell you that's the singular reason why God positioned the details of your life to put you right here, right now, whether you're in this auditorium, in the east worship center, you're watching online, you're listening online? That's why it's happening. That's why you're here. God wants to rescue you. Say, "Wes, that's me. I want Jesus in my life. I wanna give my life to Him." Awesome. Tell Him. Just tell Him. Say, "Wes, I'm not exactly sure what to say." Cool, let me give you some words. Somebody loved me enough to give me some words, let me do it for you.

Just pray something like this. Not out loud, in your heart. Mean these words as your own, just say something like this, just pray, "Dear Jesus, I'm a sinner. I get it. I need a Savior and I know I can't save myself. I believe you died for me. You have life to give me and I want that. I want you. I turn from my sin. I repent. I don't want that. I turn to you. Come into my life. Rescue me. I believe in you and I am all yours. I'm all yours." Heads bowed, eyes closed, no one looking around, I'm gonna ask for just a little bit of house lights, just a little if I could. No one looking around, but if you just prayed that prayer and you meant it, prayed it and you meant it, I just wanna pray for you.

Here's what I'm gonna ask you to do. With no one looking around, I'm gonna ask you to raise your hand and look right at me. Say, "Wes, I just gave my life to Jesus, man. I'm lifting my hand as a testimony to God. He saved me. I love Him. I gave my life to Christ, man. He rescued me right here, right now. Here's my hand. Pray for me." In the east worship center, raise your hand, man, as a testimony to the Lord. If you're in this auditorium, raise your hand, put it up. Come on. Look right at me. Awesome. Right on. Come on. Jesus talked to you. You did it. This is your moment. Yes. Look, if you got your hand raised, wave it at me just for a moment 'cause I don't wanna miss anybody. Okay, I see y'all. I see y'all.

Listen, there's a pile of you. Here's what I'm gonna ask you to do. Here's what I'm gonna ask you to do. In just a moment, we're gonna dismiss. In just a moment, I'm gonna dismiss. I'm gonna take off out this center aisle and I'm gonna go to the fireside room. It's right across the atrium. I want you to come. If you're serious, I want you to come. I wanna spend just a handful of minutes with you. I wanna give you some material that's gonna help you. This is the most important decision you'll ever make. The worst thing I could do would be, "Hey, good luck with that. See you. Enjoy the Superbowl." Tragic. I wanna help you.

I'm just gonna tell you right now, the enemy doesn't want you to make that walk. If you're serious about it, Jesus will give you strength to do it. You come. Somebody loved me enough one day to talk to me and give me some material. I wanna do it for you. If you didn't raise your hand and you know you need to come, come. Join me. Join us.

Father, I pray for these who had their hands in the air. Lord, help them to know that you have business with them, God. They meant business with you. You're serious about it. Help them to know that you've moved into their life right now, that you've grabbed ahold of them and you're never letting them go. God, they belong to you. Lord, I pray that they would follow you all the days of their life, that they would make you their great treasure. Lord, I pray that you'd bring them to the fireside room, that we could have a conversation, God. Lord, for the rest of us, I pray that you'd help us to walk out of here encouraged today, knowing who you are.

Lord, help us to evaluate our lives and our relationships based on your truth. Lord, help us to get connected in this fellowship, running in the same direction together. Help us to remember that you are the God who knows, who sees, who cares, and is still in charge. We need that today. Thank you, Christ. Thank you. In your name we pray these things, Jesus. Amen.

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