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The God Who Loves

By Kevin Miller

May 28, 2023

Thank you for checking out this sermon. If you are moved by what you hear and are in the Boston area, consider visiting in person!

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Guys, it's great to be worshipping downtown. Amen. The worship team that exists here is like no other in the Boston Church you clap for that a lot of work. We can't say that too loudly because the rest of the Boston Church goes, we'll send some of them. Then I asked Andrew to sing that song before I got to preach because that's what we're going to be talking about today. We're going to be talking about the God who loves us. Now, this line was inserted only this morning into the presentation. The God who loves us. If you doubted that he loves you then after last night there is no doubt anymore, that would be the epitome of conditional love right there. But it still felt good. I was looking for Josh Salter all morning just to celebrate with him. Now, Josh is not a Celtics fan. He's an Orlando Magic fan. And the Orlando Magic kicked the Celtic's rear ends all season, but they didn't make the playoffs. But I was just looking for him, Josh is my NBA buddy. I wasn't looking to rub it in his face or anything, but it is encouraging.

But anyway, how many of you stayed up and watched that game last night? Right? I had to text Tony. Tony Fernandez leads the church down there in Broward. He's also a New Yorker. So I had to text him this morning that the Celtics are on the brink of coming back. Zero three to the heat. And the only other situation that happened like that was the Red Sox beating the Yankees like that. There's lots of encouragement to go around. But anyway, it's great to be here of course.

Yesterday I was at Walt Parish's memorial service. Walt Parish was a disciple in the Boston Church. I think he was a disciple of Jesus who was converted out of Kansas, I think over 30 years ago, probably close to 40. He's been a member of the Boston Church down the South Cities region. And it was an amazing time. A number of you were there. Darryl spoke at it. And I've been at three funerals here within the last sort of calendar year. Ray Matthews was Jesse Gohman's stepfather, who was a disciple in the Boston Church for easily over three decades. Of course, Ma Rachel was a disciple in the Boston Church for at least that long, three or four decades. And then Walt Parrish was a faithful disciple of Jesus for over three decades. Was an amazing time, really. I sat there and thought, wow, I pray to Jesus that this is what is said about me when I die, but we get to live an amazing life in Jesus. Amen. It really is great to be here. It's an honor to preach to you. I'm grateful that Stewart asked me and allowed me to preach. I have kind of been traveling around both the world and the Boston Church.

I try to get to all nine regions of the Boston Church as the lead evangelist of the church, just to inspire, preach, connect with them, and inevitably, I end up sharing a lot about you and the downtown region. I'm very proud of the downtown region. We've seen nearly 30 people come to the Lord in the downtown region just this year. Since January, we've seen over weekly peak baptisms conversions. That's an amazing thing. The campus ministers Stewart and Ashley are doing such an outstanding job leading the region here, no doubt about it. And we have to always be very careful how we share the good news because sometimes it makes people jealous and so we want to be careful about that. But anyway, we're going to be talking about the God who loves us. I just got back two Saturdays ago. We go to the next slide. Two weeks ago, Melissa and I, we are part of a fellowship that has churches all around the world and we had an EMS meeting. The Boston Church takes part in a mission Society.

It's a group of churches that give funds to try to support churches all over the world. There are mission societies connected to our fellowship. There's african Mission societies. Caribbean Mission societies. Jesse Gomen down in South Carolina is on the Caribbean Mission Society because that's where that church donates. Those are fun mission trips when the students go down there. But we support Europe. And so a couple of weeks ago, I was in that green area, which is Kishnio of Moldova, which is right next to Ukraine. We had our mission society there. The churches in Ukraine were being visited by some of the folks on the mission society. They were sending text messages back with missiles flying overhead. Val Koha was there and in the middle of the night had to go down into the bunker because missiles were going into Kyev. It's amazing hearing the report from the brothers and sisters who are in Kyev, the normalcy with which they describe life with missiles and gunfire is spooky. Honestly, it's disconcerting. But it was an amazing time. You go to the next slide we visited with the church there. That's the Kishniya Church of Christ.

And that's right there in that green country that we talked about over the last couple of years, that church was about 50 people. And then Sean Wooten and his sort of gang revive EE. But Emily served on a number of them, Hannah, Ryan, and of course, Holiday, who was converted at MIT, and just served for a year in the Northwest Region, is now going to be on staff with Sean in Revive EE. But Revive EE is a team of like, 30 crazy Americans mostly, although some from all around the world who are going to preach the word in that place. They give up a year of their lives to just preach the word and their impact in that church. That church was about 50 people two years ago. Now it's about 100 people because of the work that's going on in that place. And Sean describes the church was about kind of like most of our churches. Most of it was over, whatever, 35, 40 years old. So many of the conversions. Now it's a young church, you see that and so many young people are being converted, but super inspiring what's going on there, of course, Ryan, Hannah, D'Souza, Holiday, all those guys.

And you can go to the next slide. That is EMS and Sean Wooten and some of the gang. I'm in there somewhere. But we were talking about, how do we build churches in Europe? After that, I spent about a week there in Moldova, and then I went and you can go to the next picture, to Milan, and got to spend about a week with Melissa, and Austin and Sarah Bolves and their children and John and Rachel Buckholtz and their children. So John and Rachel were campus students here. They became disciples. They went into the ministry. Ten years ago, they decided to go to Milan to learn Italian and to lead the church there. They've been doing it for coming up on nine years. Amazing. And then Austin and Sarah just went to Berlin. They're learning the language. They were campus ministers here as of January. Now they live in Berlin, they're learning the language. Their kids are involved in that community, in that society. He was just asked to really lead the church. As of about a week ago. They asked him, we would love you to lead the leadership team.

They call that the gemindarat. That's German anyway. But you can go to the next slide, it's a very difficult building. It's very difficult giving your life and living in a foreign place, in an international place, a place you're not used to. So Melissa and I have, like a monthly Zoom call with them to talk about their parenting and talk about their marriage, talk about their church. And this was a little time with the kiddos, of course, so it was just an awesome time with the church there. And it's not easy giving your life up to serve. Can I get an amen? Anyway, just that's an update about me. We're going to talk today. You can go to the next slide. And we're going to talk about the God who loves us today. This was the passage I've been given. Oh, there we go, the God who loves us. And we're going to be out of Matthew 18 today. We were in Matthew 16. We're skipping right over 17 because we kind of covered 17 earlier in the year and now we're in 18. And I'm going to be talking to you about Matthew 18.

Verse ten you say, why verse ten? Why not verse one? Well, we're going to get to verse one next week, in the week after. But right now we're starting in verse ten, Matthew 18. I'll actually cover some of it in the whole thing. But in verse ten, let's take a look at the Scriptures. It says Matthew 18, verse ten. It says, See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly, I tell you, he's happier about the one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Jesus starts off and he's warning us, don't despise the little ones. And he's talking about children. In fact, the whole chapter is sort of about children. We're going to look at a couple of those.

But the whole chapter is also about love, the love of children, the love of the little ones in the spirit of God that actually loves humanity. How are we doing in this area as a church talking about love? If you're visiting, you are among people that are trying to love one another. I think we're, for the most part, succeeding, although anybody who's tried to love another human being knows it ain't easy. Can I get an amen? If it was, Jesus wouldn't talk about it so much. And if it was, then we wouldn't need Jesus in the first place. It ain't easy to love our neighbor, it's not easy to love our children. It's not easy to love our spouse. It's not easy to love people who are different, and it's not easy to always even accept God's love for us. But that's what we're going to be talking about today, the God who loves us. We want, if you're visiting, you to feel the love of the church here today. This is a community that really does try to do that, and we believe in it, and this is what we're giving our whole hearts to.

But we're going to talk about the God who loves today. And our first point as we jump in is he loves us differently. We can go to that. He loves differently, Jesus loves differently. In verse ten, we just read, he says, see that you don't despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father. You know, the idea of loving children, the idea of the value of children, the idea of the value of human life was not always just some foregone accepted, oh yeah, that's just how the world is, everybody loves puppies and everybody loves babies. Well, that's not always how the world was. And that's what Jesus is talking about at the beginning of the chapter. We're not going to jump into it, but in chapter 18, verses one and two, this whole thing starts because someone comes up and says, who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus, it says, calls the little child to him and he begins to tell everybody listening that unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Who's the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And he brings up children and says, you have to be like these. This was not a common notion in the first century and it's not really a common notion now. In Matthew 18 verse 6, he says, if anyone causes one of these little ones, those who believe in me to stumble, it'd be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. We've got to become like little children. And oh, by the way, if you mess up little children, if you cause them to sin and to stumble, Jesus says the consequences for you are severe. Jesus had a different perspective about the value of human life and the value of all life and the value of the vulnerable and the weak. This was not the way that Zeus thought about things. This was not the way that the Greek gods or the Roman gods or the emperors talked and thought about humanity. In Isaiah, chapter 40, of course, this goes way back to the Jewish scriptures. But he says throughout the whole verse there he tends his flock like a shepherd.

He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those who have young even back then, God's perspective about moms and dads, I've got a lot of new moms and dads in here. It's not easy to have little children. Can I get an amen? It's not easy to be a parent. Can I get an amen? Life is not always smooth and calm and easy when you're a parent. And sometimes you think I am messing this up more than I'm helping, but I love that he says, he gently leads not the young, he gently leads those who have young and the moms and dads say, thank God for that. We need a gentle Jesus in our life. But this is the perspective that God has had about humanity for all time. There's a book that I brought up here, and we'll look at a couple of quotes from it. It's called? Who is this man? It's by John Ortberg, and it's about Jesus. It's about the impact of Jesus on society. And there are a couple of quotes in there that I wanted to read. You can go to that next slide.

In the ancient world, unwanted children were often just left to die, a practice called exposure. Babies that were disabled or appeared weak were often disposed of by drowning. An ancient Roman law said that a boy that was, quote, strikingly deformed had to be disposed of quickly. One archaeological dig found a gruesome discovery of the bones of nearly 100 little babies apparently murdered and thrown into the sewer. That's our first-century world right there. Now, the next slide goes on to talk about the impact of Jesus's faith community in molding and shaping the world as it moved forward. It says, by the late fourth century, a Christian emperor outlawed the practice of exposure for the entire empire. Over time, instead of leaving babies on a dunghill, people began to leave them outside of the church. The beginnings of what would be known as orphanages began to rise. Usually associated with monasteries or cathedrals, Jesus had a different perspective on the value of human life and the value of the weak.

And because of scriptures like this, began to shape the church's approach to children, babies, to the weak. In time, the church began to change society, even as Christian principles and beliefs made their way into the Roman Empire. On the EMS trip that I just came from in Europe, there's a brother who's a 60-year-old brother. He shepherds the church in Bordeaux. And he's a good friend, he's a great guy. And I'll leave his name out of it just for the purposes of the story. But he's a granddad. He's the father of a daughter who's a disciple in the church in France, and his son-in-law is also a disciple in the church in France. And their son and daughter, recently, within the last year and a half, got pregnant and they figured out in the womb that they were having conjoined twins. And as you can imagine, that was scary and heart-wrenching and all these things. And the brother who's my friend is telling me about this whole process of a year-long odyssey, a year and a half odyssey of having the babies through C-section, nursing them to health.

They were conjoined in the front, so the two babies were facing each other and through the course of a lot of prayer and a lot of just answered prayer and miracles, they figured out that the babies did not share any organs. They shared a liver. But they weren't sure if the liver was two livers just connected, or if they were one liver, which would have been obviously a huge issue, but it was actually two livers. They were connected. The story goes, they had the surgery a few weeks and months ago. It was totally successful, and the babies are completely healthy. But as the granddad is sharing with me the story, the reason I bring it up today, you know, you have these health issues that go on in your life, and you go to the doctor and you go to the hospital and you say, what should we do? And what's the percentage? And if we do this, then what do we think about that? And you kind of wrestle over these things in the hospitals in Paris, I believe it was, had nothing to offer them. They had no sense of what the percentages were because there were no doctors and nurses in those hospitals that had ever done anything but abort children in that situation.

100% of the time, they had no experience, and they were looking at these Christian parents who were going, well, we're not going to do that. No, we're not going to abort them. We're going to trust in God. I mean, that was, I'm sure, a wrestling match and all these kinds of things, and we can kind of read about first-century Rome and go, oh, my goodness, they do what? There are over 900,000 abortions that take place in the United States as of 2020. Why? Convenience, sickness, weakness. I mean, I remember when Caleb was in the womb. They can do all these tests while they're in the womb, and it looked like he might have some developmental stuff in his brain, etc. And then, you know, two weeks later, they look again. They went, oh, no, that just was developmental. It was just this week versus that week. This is my son. But they tell you these things in part. Sometimes they can fix it, help it, whatever, but they're also telling you these things in case you want to kill that living thing.

The world needs Jesus today as much as it ever needed Jesus. Can I get an amen? The Christians are the ones who care. Jesus brings a different value to us. There's a picture of a brother. I don't know if that's where we are. This is Patrick. So I landed in I went from Moldova, and then Melissa was meeting me. She was coming from the United States because she wasn't at the EMS meeting. So I was in Moldova, and then I flew to Milan, and I landed in Milan, and I have no idea where I'm going. I don't speak the language. I'm kind of an anxious traveler. And so John and Rachel and their love sent that wonderful disciple brother named Patrick to find me at the airport and then take me on the two-hour train ride to get to where the Bucklets live. And it's amazing as a disciple because I've never met this person before. He's a college student in the church, the family that he came from in the distance with his father and African families, and he's going into all these things. He gets to this point when he's a student in Milan, and he's like, Where is God?

I'm not happy. God, if you're up there. And he's telling me this story that reminded me so much of my own story in Western Mass 28 years ago, of going, God, where are you? And if you're up there and you find me, I'll do whatever you want. And I'm always so grateful that when I prayed that prayer, there were disciples in Western Massachusetts who God went, boom, boom. Bring them together, and help this kid become a Christian. And as he told me his story, I couldn't help but think, wow, this guy's praying the same prayer I prayed from Africa to Italy. And because some folks, John and Rachel Buckolts decided to go try to learn Italian and lead that church, there's a church there with the word of God shining bright that went boom, boom. Put them together, and help the guy become a Christian. It was amazing. But God loves in a different kind of way. Do you feel his love? you know, "God don't make no junk." I don't know how you're doing today. I don't know how your performance is going. I don't know how excellent your Christianity is being lived out. I don't know how on top of the mountaintop you currently feel right now, but God don't make no junk.

He loves you. He cares for you. Are you ever in awe, like, just thinking about, I can't believe God loves me? Because he does. You may not feel it, but he loves you. Do you ever think I can't believe God loves that person? I've had that thought, too. But God does. He loves us all. He made us all unique. He made us different. He made the world in a different tapestry of all kinds of things. But God don't make no junk. He cares for you. And he expects that if you know that, you will care for others in the same way that he cared for you. If you're visiting, if you're studying the Bible, if you're considering these things. And I remember coming to that conclusion of, like, wow, the cross, wow, he died for me. Well, that was real, and thinking, I don't know much, but I know no one else ever did that for me. How am I going to live my life? Like that mattered? You got to make that decision. He loves differently. Do you feel the love? The second point we're going to go to is he searches diligently he searches, and he says differently.

But that was supposed to say Diligently. Now Stewart makes the PowerPoint for me. I didn't say anything. Maybe I sent it to him wrong, but I don't think so. Well, yeah, he's back there. We're going to get an argument right here and now in front of all of you. Stewart no, he does search differently and he searches Diligently. You could write both of those things down. That was the Holy Spirit trying to tell you that. Matthew 18, verse 12. It says, what do you think? I'll read it again, he says, what do you think? If a man owns 100 sheep and one of them wanders off, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly, I tell you, he's happier about the one than about the 99 that did not wander off. We see a picture of a God here who he does love. He values. He says, don't despise the little ones in your heart. But then he goes further. Sometimes we can have a nice feeling, sometimes we can value the right things.

But Jesus describes that God is a little different. He doesn't just feel it. He actually is like a shepherd who goes and searches until he finds the one that wandered off. God is a God that searches diligently he's a God that seeks and finds. That's a God that the Bible describes, right? He's a God who searches. He sets up people and sends out people to search. And if He finds, He rejoices. This next slide. The Boston Church and the downtown region already described it. There have been so many people that have made the decision to become disciples of Jesus over the last couple of years in the Boston Church. In two years, 140 college disciples have helped about 140 of their friends become Christians in the Boston Church. Yeah, that's super encouraging. That's not just downtown. Downtown this sparsely populated, now group of summer disciples, campus disciples. The group, about 60 of them, as of May of 2021. So about two years, 60 of those college disciples have helped about over 80 of their friends. This downtown wild group, the Harvest, Jesus says, is plentiful, but the workers are few.

That's what he says. The harvest is plentiful. Do you believe that? Do you believe that the Harvest is plentiful? There are people out there that will respond to Jesus. They need love. They need to figure out that God loves them. They need someone to care. They need someone to go search and find them. Look at this scripture, Galatians 5, it's funny, we used to preach that a lot. We still need to, but we always used to focus on the sexual morality part and all the impurity. And those are sins, no doubt about it. But let's read this. I'm going to focus on a couple of other things. It says the acts of the flesh are obvious sexual morality. It's any sex outside of marriage. Impurity. It's all the stuff that sort of leads up to sex outside of marriage. Debauchery is wild. Living sensuality idolatry, putting anything before God, witchcraft, getting on a broomstick with a hat on your head, and flying around. No, it's not. That is something else. We won't get into it. He says, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfishness, ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness orgies, and the like. Things that are like this.

He says, I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now he's writing to the church and he's saying, if you live like this even though you already became a Christian, you're not going to be saved. But that's not really what I'm here to preach about. He has these two things he says hatred and fits of rage. That's what I want to talk about for a moment, hatred and fits of rage. Sometimes. Don't you think when you think hatred, don't you think of a fit of rage? "I hate that. I hate that person." That's what the Miami Heat think about the Celtics right now. You know that I hate that person. But that's not hatred. That's a fit of rage. I want to kill that person. That's a very Italian feeling that the Italian people have to repent of a little. Right, Joe? Are you with me? It happens. And then we have a fit of rage on you. And then like two minutes later we feel better and we're ready to move on. But you're damaged Italians have had to repent of that.

I've had to repent of that. But that's a fit of rage. Hatred is not a fit of rage. Do you know what hatred is? It's indifference. Hatred, biblically, is indifference. I don't care. I don't care enough to do anything. There's a psychological word. It's afraid. You can go to the next slide. It's called the bystander effect, or sometimes it's called bystander apathy. It was first proposed by psychologists after the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York, in 1964. This Italian girl in New York was stabbed to death outside her apartment building. And the New York Times reported that 38 different people were aware that something was going on out there screaming and that kind of thing, and nobody called the police. Now, they looked into it after the fact, and maybe it wasn't quite 38 and they kind of did this whole thing. But psychologists who studied it coined the term the bystander effect. And it's the idea, the theory goes that when there are more people that might act or could do something about it, the likelihood increases that no one will actually do anything. If you see that there are other people that oh, I'm sure Andrew will take care of it.

I'm sure Ashley will make that phone call. I'm sure somebody else will deal with it. Hatred, the bystander effect, not doing anything about this incredible love that God has given us. What about us? Church? Is that what you do?

Oh, yeah.

No, I'm part of 300 people in this church. I'm sure somebody else will share their faith. I'm sure the family group leader will take care of that. Oh, yeah. No, the ministers, they study the Bible with everybody. No, we don't. That's not what we're doing. That's not even what we think we should do. The ministers doing all the Bible studies with all of the sort of non-Christians who want to figure out who Jesus is, that's not what we want. No, the ministers are there to prepare the church to do that, and we'll do it, too, because we're disciples also. But it's not the minister's job, not in this church. Some churches might do it that way, but that's not what we believe. We're disciples of Jesus, one and all. How's it going in your walk? Do you know we have about 75 to about 100 people, that work for the comms team, if you're anything like me, now, I don't come here every Sunday because I'm preaching in the Spanish South, or last week, I was preaching in the Northwest, or two weeks before that, I was in Europe. So I get I have a weird schedule, but whenever I pop in and today's no different, I'm like, oh, I know who that person is.

I don't really know who that person is. I've never seen them before. There are a lot of people visiting, and we're so happy to have you. We're so happy for you to hear the word of God. We actually applaud you coming, and we're so grateful, we applaud you for that. We're grateful that you're looking for God, that you're looking to worship God. But so many of these people, want to look into the Bible study and go, what does the Bible say about what it means to be a Christian? And sometimes it's hard to find disciples to do the work. The harvest is plentiful, Jesus says, but the workers are few. This is a picture of my brother as an old man. And next to him, the night that he baptized me, on the right is the night he baptized me on the right, and on the left is the day he baptized his son. 25 years later, my brother is my hero, my best friend, all those kinds of things, and we're both getting very old at this point. But he leads a family group in the Western Mass area.

He still lives out there in Springfield, and he currently is leading a Bible discussion with about eight of his friends who are coming out from his town. Three of them are cops. One of them is a lawyer. Two own restaurants. One of them owns the Biggie fairgrounds, which is kind of out there, and the other one owns eleven restaurants in the area. And then two of them are his son's, lacrosse and head football coach at the high school. And these eight dudes are coming out because he said, we need to get a Bible discussion going to teach us about Jesus and how to be men and how to be fathers that our sons can look up to. Would you be interested in that? And the first guy, the lawyer was like, I would be. I think we need to do that, too. And he kind of got these guys to start coming out and preaching the word. It's awesome. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. It's funny. A couple of the brothers in the Springfield Church, two of my great friends who I'll leave nameless, but they also went, Steve, We'll come and help you with that. And Steve said, I don't know if this was right, but I really liked it. He said, you know what, you get a Bible discussion going in your own town. I got this one going in my town. I liked it. I don't know if that was right. Do you sometimes think, how do I make sacrifice comfortable? Ask a mom who's about to give birth to a child or just did. How do you make that comfortable? It ain't possible. I've witnessed three of them. It's war right there. I'm sure it's going to be great. Sure. How do we make sacrifice comfortable? Is that what you're trying to do? You know, Stuart was telling me we're trying to send a mission team to the South Cities region of the Boston Church because most of the Boston churches are older and the downtown region is so much younger because of the sacrifice and investment that the rest of the church Boston Church gives to our region to say, convert young people down on the campuses. Build something great. We have resources that we're using that we did not come up with, that we didn't provide.

But the idea is, is that we can help the Boston Church get younger because the Gospel spread is connected to that. If those regions are going to help young people make it, well, we got to get young people down there that can help that. But it's been a serious uphill battle trying to find in this group of 308 to ten disciples who are willing to care, who are willing to go search and seek, who are willing to get uncomfortable to go make that sacrifice. But how could I do that? This is such a great worship experience. The song leaders down there aren't as good as Andrew Mo. How could they be? No one is as good as Andrew Mo. It still doesn't change the fact that that's what sacrifice is. I got an amen from Stewart on that. Will you give an amen? Will you give more than an amen and actually consider doing that? That's the plan for the Boston Church for the next eight years and maybe forever. Downtown is going to send mission teams from our professional ministry to bolster and strengthen the church. That's what we want to do. We've tried to do that with the campus students, but do you know what a campus grad looks like? They just graduated. They have no job, no car, no idea. They got nothing. They got a degree and that's awesome. That's not the crew. Right? We've discovered that over 20 years of being a campus manager that the campus seniors are not the group to go to, you should move down to Bridgewater.

How am I going to do that? Where's Bridgewater? I don't even have a car. No, the professionals, that's who we got to do it. They're stronger in that area. So anyway, I've gotten off but bring it back in. He searches diligently. That's what we were talking about. Let's close out with this very short point. Point number three. He never gives up. He never gives up. Matthew 18 verse 14, says, in the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. My Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Can we take a left turn and go into a little bit of a weird scripture? We'll do a little teaching for a moment if I could. It's in Romans 11, verse 28. Now, when you I memorize the book of Romans. I love memorizing Scripture and the book of Romans, it probably needs a little bit of a firm-up. I have to go through it, but I've memorized Romans. And so that means when you memorize scripture and when you memorize whole books of the Bible, it means that you're going to be in some areas of the Bible, like in the book of Romans.

Romans 8 is super easy and inspiring, and you get it, but you get Romans 9, 10, and 11 there's some stuff in there you're like, what? But it forces you when you're memorizing it because you're going over so much to really meditate on it and think about it and understand areas that you might have skimmed past. This is one such scripture and I love it. In verse 28, it says, as far as the Gospel is concerned, he's talking about the Jews of the first century. The non-believing Jews of the first century say, as far as the Gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake. But as far as election is concerned, they're loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who are at one time disobedient to God, have now received mercy as a result of your disobedience. So they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he might have mercy on them all. You're like, what is that talking about exactly?

You know, a good chunk of the Book of Romans is written for the Jewish Christian to be able to make sense of why so many Jews in the first century weren't becoming Christians. In fact, many of the first-century Jewish folks were the biggest persecutors. They hated the church. That's why he calls them enemies in that passage. I mean, God loved them, but they were acting like enemies. And the Jewish Christian was struggling because if Jesus came as the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures, then why did so many have so much trouble figuring out Jesus? Was the Bible broken? Were the promises not strong enough? Was the Church doing it wrong? These were the questions that people wrestled over, and the answer is complicated. But it has to do with how religion often turns the heart hard. And sometimes the older we get spiritually or the more we know, the worse we can get, because religion often corrupts, even though Jesus purifies. But he gives us this Scripture that we just read, and he's talking to Christians about the Jews who aren't following Jesus and aren't saved. And he says, election. He uses this word.

He says, as far as election is concerned, they still loved election. That's a Bible word. We vote. We decide who we want to elect. We vote on that, and then they're elected. Well, God's election is, God voted for you on the cross and in Jesus, He voted for you. He put His stamp on you. He said I want them. But just like a political race, you have to choose to be chosen. He voted for you, but you have to do it. And He says, as far as that's concerned, the Jews are still there's still an opportunity, which is awesome. We are with God. And then He starts describing things. You Gentiles are with God in part because the Jews killed Jesus, so he used their disobedience to save us. Now they've become disobedient. He says they've become disobedient so that they can get saved too. He says God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he might have mercy on them all. Does he say you want to go be a sinful wretch? Do you want to go wreck your life? Do you want to go destroy yourself? Go ahead. I'm not going to stop you, but I'm going to be working all the way through.

By the time I met the Disciples in 1995, I studied on a Tuesday and was baptized the following Tuesday. We studied every single night. I came to my first church service that Sunday and I was baptized. People say, wow, you did that so fast and I say, oh, God had destroyed me up to that point. I mean, he let me ruin myself at that point. So by the time I met the disciple just tell me what I need to do. God's at work in that way. Can I get an amen? God does not give up on people. God keeps trying and trying and trying. He's not willing that anyone should perish. But some of you and that's why I bring this some of us get weary because as you've gotten along in years, you've seen friends, sometimes lots of friends walk away, lose heart and lose faith. And you ask the same question are the promises broken? Is the Bible not strong enough? Is the church doing something wrong? Teen camp and the teen ministry is always an interesting thing to me. We run a church teen camp every summer. Hundreds of kids go to it.

It's a glorious and awesome thing. Can I get an amen to that? It is. It's an awesome thing. But from another perspective, it's a majority of non-Christians that get together at a camp in the summertime. I don't know if you knew that we see it as the spiritual community, but it's actually the children of disciples who have yet to make him Lord. Some do, but that's just the beginning. We know this picture as we come to a close here. You can go to Shimitra. It's just Shimitra's restoration an amazing thing. I probably feel about the restoration the same way as I felt about Walt's memorial yesterday, which is they're a little bit even better to me personally selfishly than a baptism. The baptism, it's the beginning and people share and they're excited about the hope of this person's life. But when someone passes or is restored and they have a long history, you kind of feel like this person's seen a thing or two or they made it Shimitra. She left the Lord for a number of years, but the story was not over for her. It wasn't done for her because there were faithful people that were loving her in her life.

Biblically, there's nothing unprecedented happening when friends leave and walk away. This is a very biblical, sadly not unprecedented thing. People have to choose. And just because they grew up with parents who valued God doesn't mean that they were going to, not right away, or maybe they began to. But if they don't continue to root, then Satan, the world, and their sin will shake them out. And that's not the church's fault and it's definitely not the parent's fault. Could things have been done better?

Of course.

Do you know how many mistakes I make as a parent? It's amazing how many. But you're trying with all your heart, but you know how many mistakes the church has made with me? You say, oh, you know how many it's made with me though? Oh, we can get our list out and we can compare. I bet we can all go a while if you've been around for a while because guess what? It's a bunch of humans. But those that are going to follow Jesus have to follow him. And if you don't figure that out between the church and the people and the Bible and the Scriptures and Jesus, you won't make it. And that's some of what Paul is dealing with here. But at the end of the day, he goes, but take heart. God never gives up on these people. He's constantly trying to use their ups and downs and sins and whatever to bring them back to a soft heart. What do we need to do? We need to keep the faith. We need to grow. We need to keep growing. I was telling Van Owens, I was preaching about him in most of the places anchimetra where I preach.

Did I talk to you about the cows in the buffalo? The buffalo run into the storm. The cows run away. And it makes the cows multiply the amount of time that they're in a storm versus the buffalo who cut through it. And I always share Van Owens. I put his picture up and I say, Van Owens, he's one of my favorite buffalo in the Boston Church. He kept growing. He kept his eyes on God. He fought through it. Have you allowed the low points in other people's journeys to affect your faith? It's easy to sort of start looking at the church through the lens of everything that ever went wrong. You can't do that. You have to build parents. You're not guilty. The Bible's not broken. God never gives up. Have you? We're talking about love today. We're talking about the God who loves. And he loves us so fully and he loves us so differently. And he loves us with great diligence and he searches for us and he never gives up. Christianity is the greatest thing going because it's the only place where there's a God who unconditionally loves and Jesus who came down here to show us and prove it to us by dying on the cross for us. God don't make no junk believe it. He loves us differently. Amen.

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