08 August 2015

You Matter

Here were some words I shared today from the roof of the Living Room. 
About a week ago, Mark Halvorsen emailed me and told me about this event and asked if I would be interested in saying a few words as the Spirit led. I immediately jumped at the chance. You see my passion, my burden, is to get the word out that Jesus loves sinners.  But then, as the week went on, I began to doubt. I began to think, I don’t have anything to offer. I’m just going to get in the way. So, I texted Mark and said, are you sure you want me there? Are you sure Ron wants me there?  I’m willing to speak, but I don’t want to be there just to take up space. 

Mark said, “I am going to speak truth to you. Your worry that you are just here to fill space is a lie from Satan.”  Immediately, I felt unburdened. I felt the conviction to speak and the fire to speak rekindled. You see, Mark is right.  Satan does not like people to hear that Jesus loves sinners.  So, let me say a few words before Mark comes up.

As I was having my quiet time yesterday, I felt the Spirit compelling me to grab a notebook and start writing a few thoughts. The first thing I wrote down was “You Matter.” Yes, we would probably agree that people matter to God. But here’s the thing that gets too easy for us to miss. You matter to God.   You are cherished by God. God is not a God who simply desires to save people, He desires to save you. God cares about you.   You are valuable. You matter to Him. 

But maybe you are saying, I’m really a mess.  I’ve screwed up too many times. My sins are so bad that I don’t even want to be with me, why would God? You think there is no way back to God, but listen, God desires to be with you. Romans 5:6 says that while you were still weak, Christ died for you. Not when you got it together. Not when you stopped sinning so much. Not when you were really nice to people, but right in the middle of your junk and mess and filth, Jesus died for you.

Listen, you matter to God. 

But I want to let you in on a little secret—you are still weak. You are still imperfect. You will never, under your own strength, overcome your flaws and imperfections. This side of heaven, you will continue to sin. But here’s the best news of all—Christ came to stand in our place, bearing the punishment for sins he didn’t commit, so that we could have the eternal life we don’t deserve.” 2 Cor 5:21 says, “he became sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Why? Because you matter to God. 

As Christians, that must be our lifeblood. We live from the reality that God loves us not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who he is and what he has done. 

And here’s the thing—the people standing next to you? They matter to God too.  Every person—EVERY PERSON—matters to God, from the most well recognized celebrity in the world, to the terrorist perpetrating evil around the world, to the tiniest baby resting and growing in his mother’s womb. Every person matters to God. 

As Christians, I think we can sometimes get our motivations mixed up.  We rightly call evil, evil.  We speak out against the atrocities on the other side of the globe and in our neighborhoods. We read God’s word and we try to live accordingly. We try to live as people of conviction. But sometimes in our zeal, we forget to actually love people. How many of us rightly condemn the horrors of abortion, but have never wept with a young pregnant woman anguished over her future. How many of us get angry about drug addicts, drunk drivers, and pedophiles without ever seeking to understand. 

In John 4:19, John wrote, “we love, because he first loved us.”  What does love look like in the face of a fallen world? Here’s what I think—we need to be people of conviction who actually love people.  We need to get into the mess of people’s lives. Jesus was a man of conviction, but he never shied away from sinners.  In modern terms, we might say that he was a man who rolled his sleeves up and got down in the mud and the muck. He spoke truth, but he also bound up wounds and healed the broken. 

We love, because he first loved us.  The unearned, unending love that God continually shows toward us enables us to love Him in return, but also to love others. I came across this quote the other day. Barbara Dougherty said, “there is no point in getting into an argument about this question of loving. It is what Christianity is all about—take it or leave it. Christianity is not about ritual and moral living except insofar as these two express the love that causes both of them. We must at least pray for the grace to become love.” We must pray for for the grace to become love.

So when, as Christians, we are burdened for the unborn, for those caught up in human trafficking, for the martyrs around the world, our burden must flow from actual love for actual people because they matter. They matter to God and so they must matter to us.

How do we do this?  First, get in the habit of moving toward and valuing messy people—criminals, rejects, addicts, pornographers, self-righteous snobs, legalists, Pharisees. We have already established that we are all messy—every one of us—but God loves us anyway. Learn to bring Christ’s light into the mess rather than away from it or judging it from a distance. If you claim to be pro-life, you need to be willing to get into the mess of life.

Second, give yourself. Don’t just give money. Don’t just pray. Please do those things, but don’t do only those things. When someone brings a burden and you say "I'll pray for you," that serves to keep you out of their mess. Give yourself. One of the things that Mark and I learned from Larry Crabb is that the Bible is about relationships from cover to cover. Give of yourself. Practice other-centeredness.

Finally, bloom where you are planted. It is too easy to get into the mindset that Christ’s work happens through missionaries in India. It does. It is too easy to think that God’s word is proclaimed by pastors from their pulpits. It is.  But God has placed you right where you are to be a light—in your family, in your neighborhood, in your workplace. There are hurting people not just in Asia, but even in this crowd.

You matter. They matter.  God says so.

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