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As I was preparing for this message, I kind of struggled with what direction to go. Of course, my mind first went to a Christmas message. It is our Christmas service after all.
It’s easy to go on autopilot and bring a traditional Christmas message. But, I could sense the Holy Spirit trying to get my attention. And as I silenced my mind, it became very clear what God has for us today.
You see, it’s easy to get so distracted by Christmas that we forget Jesus. Now, don’t get me wrong. Decorations, presents, and special gatherings are not bad things. We just can’t let the hustle make us forget what Christmas is all about.
It was a chilly February evening as we pulled into our neighborhood. On the side of the road sat a young girl, hysterically crying, wearing only a tank top and shorts. We pulled over and I got out and moved toward the woman saying, “How can I help you?”
She muttered the words, “He kicked me out. I’m pregnant, and my boyfriend kicked me out.”
As I searched for words, my only thought was, She’s a person. Show her dignity. So I asked, “What is your name?”
I replied, “It’s very nice to meet you, Brittney. Would you like a ride to where you’re going?”
“Yes, my grandma lives nearby.” she said.
We walked to the car, and my husband hopped into the back seat with our two children – who both sat with eyes and mouths agape. Without missing a beat, I introduced my family to Brittney as though I’d known her for years.
“Brittney, would it be okay if I get you some clothes? I can just run inside our home and get them.”
“Yes, I’m really cold.”
I pulled into my driveway and went inside. To my surprise, Brittney followed close behind me. I grabbed a long-sleeved sweatshirt, sweatpants, and flip-flops. I handed her the clothing, and she went to the bathroom to change.
We then took her to her grandmother’s house and wished her well. On the way home, our children inquired about what had just happened, and I simply said, “I’m sure that’s what Jesus would have wanted us to do.” They agreed, and we went about the rest of our evening.
The next morning, I was casually reading my devotional when it was as if the words leapt off the page, “I was naked, and you gave me clothing.” My heart quickened as I remembered the events of the night before.
Opportunities to love like Jesus might happen anytime, anywhere. We can love the stranger on the street like Jesus. When Brittney meets Jesus, I pray she’ll recognize Him as the one she encountered on her way to grandma’s house one cold February evening.
We’ve spent the last three weeks in a series called Love Like Jesus.
In week one, we discovered how to forgive like Jesus forgives. Jesus actually gave us specific instructions on how to forgive. The first step is to pray for those who hurt you.
So, instead of getting stuck in those bitter thoughts, turn it around by praying for the person you are mad at. This forces you to renew your mind which in turn refreshes your attitude and keeps you from doing something you’d regret.
The second step is to forgive as you have been forgiven. Jesus didn’t just forgive you of a few things, He forgave you of everything past, present and future. And it doesn’t matter how bad it was. He forgave it.
And when we take time to remember this simple truth, it empowers us to forgive others the same way Jesus forgave us.
You probably can’t muster up forgiveness on your own, but when you receive Jesus’ forgiveness in your own life, the power of the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to forgive others, regardless of what they’ve done to you.
In week two, our discipleship team leader, Chris Wills, examined the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet. This was a nasty job, and one normally reserved for servants. Yet, Jesus took the place of a servant to give us an example of how we should serve each other.
Serving when it’s convenient is something anyone can do. But, to serve like Jesus serves, we must be intentional about serving even when it is something we’d rather not do. Like, picking up a mess you didn’t make.
In week three, one of our board members, John Curry, talked about investing in others. Jesus spent His life on earth serving others by healing them, teaching them and even providing meals.
Do you carry the same attitude of giving? Do you give your time when someone needs help? Do you provide meals to those who need them? Do you take time to pray for others?
Loving like Jesus is a tall task. And it’s only possible when we understand His love for us as individuals.
So today, we are going to wrap up the series by flipping it around. Instead of talking about how you can love like Jesus, I am going to show you how much Jesus loves you.
How many of y’all like Mondays? Well, when you have three kids ages three and under who decide to wake you up several times, it makes Monday morning all the more challenging.
This past Monday morning, Beth and I rolled out of bed, trying to find a good attitude while fixing the kiddos breakfast. When walking into the kitchen, we both noticed a rank smell.
We were both sniffing around trying to find the source. Was it the trash can? Did the dog poop somewhere? Did someone track in poop on their shoes? Are the onions rotting? What is it?!
We searched everything. Beth cleaned the floor. We couldn’t find the source, but yet the smell kept coming back.
As we were sniffing around, our one-year-old woke up. She’s usually the last one awake (she likes to sleep in like her mom). I went to her room, opened the door, and BAM, I was hit in the face with a terrible smell. I had found the source.
Apparently, at some point in the night, Adalynn not only threw up several times in her bed, but also blew out of her diaper. Yeah, she had a rough night.
There’s only one way to fix this problem. You have to tackle it head on. So I put her on the changing table and unzipped her little onesie sleeper to find that poop was all over her. And, it had been there awhile.
At this point, my heart broke into a thousand pieces. I started play a scene in my mind of what the night must have been like for her. In her room, all alone, wondering what was going on while rolling around in her mess.
You see, we still have a baby monitor in her room. So, we heard her fuss a bit in the night, but it was never anything extensive. But, if I’m honest, there was a moment in the night where I wondered if she had gotten sick.
In hindsight, now I know it was the Holy Spirit giving me a gentle nudge. But I never went and checked on her. I fell back asleep.
So, after playing the scene in my mind and then realizing that I should have been there to help her, I fell apart. I don’t cry often, but in this moment, I was sobbing.
The entire day ended up being a roller coaster of emotions for me. I guess that’s just a tiny glimpse of what it is like to be a woman.
I went for a walk in the late afternoon to try and pull my emotions back together. I was talking to Jesus and He revealed something to me.
When we are rolling around in our mess, His heart breaks just like mine did with Adalynn.
But the difference is, as soon as we call out, He comes to our rescue. We don’t have to worry about Him falling back asleep or putting us off. He’s there the moment we cry out for help.
You see, I didn’t have to think about cleaning up Adalynn’s mess. I just sprung into action, trying to get her clean as quickly as I could. I couldn’t stand the smell and the mess being on her because that’s not my baby girl.
Often, we try to hide our mess from Jesus. We’re not quite sure if He is interested in cleaning us up.
But, just like I was with Adalynn, Jesus is waiting for you to come to Him. And, when you do, He springs into action without giving it a second thought.
Because He can’t stand that mess being on you. It’s not who you are.
How do I know this?
Woman Caught Cheating
Jesus was in the Temple, doing His thing, teaching a huge crowd of people. As usual, I imagine there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
While He was teaching, some religious people brought in a woman who had been caught cheating. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?”
So here’s this woman, probably half-naked, in front of a crowd of people while somebody airs her dirty laundry. And, the people humiliating her were the ones who supposedly prayed all the time and lived a Holy life.
To make matters worse, these religious people didn’t really care about getting justice for the wrongdoing. They were just trying to set a trap for Jesus so they could bring charges against Him.
They kept at him, badgering him. He finally said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.”
Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”
How Jesus Reacts to Sin
This story reveals how Jesus reacts to sin. Often, we view Him as the critical, every Sunday church goer that loves to point out others’ mistakes. But, that’s not Jesus at all.
He’s actually your advocate, even when you make mistakes. He stands up for you when everyone else is accusing you. He pours out forgiveness when everyone else is airing your dirty laundry.
This is an amazing display of love. And often, we assume that this unconditional love means that Jesus ignores our sin. But He doesn’t ignore it. He does something much better.
Jesus frees you from your life of sin. He empowers you to “Go on your way and sin no more.”
If Jesus ignored our sin, there’d be no change. We’d find ourselves in the same place over and over. Just like if I ignored Adalynn’s mess, you’d be smelling her right now, and you’d probably have to step outside.
For Jesus to free us from sin, we have to confront our sin. We must bring it before His great love and receive forgiveness and freedom.
I don’t know what you’ve been struggling with. Maybe you’re trying to shake a pornography addiction and it keeps coming back. Or, maybe you keep lying about things, stupid things, and can’t seem to stop.
Maybe you find yourself eating things you shouldn’t to try to fill an emptiness that keeps you on the verge of tears. Or, maybe you really messed up years ago and it just keeps coming back to haunt you.
Maybe you’ve been flirting with someone who’s not your spouse. Or maybe you’ve committed adultery like the woman we talked about earlier.
Maybe your like Karen in the video we watched earlier. You live your life believing that you have no value and that no one could really love you. You’re surrounded by walls that you’ve put up and no one is getting in.
Or maybe you’re still mad about something someone did to you. It could have been yesterday or years ago, but you can’t seem to forgive them.
Regardless of what it is or how bad it is, it’s time to let Jesus clean up your mess.
No more hiding, no more ignoring. Today is the day to confront whatever you’ve been struggling with. Bring it before Jesus, receive His forgiveness and receive His power to move forward and sin no more.