The Kingdom Net (Matthew 13:47-50)

Jesus’ Words About the Kingdom of Heaven

The Kingdom Net

Matthew 13:47-50

First Family Church
317 S.E. Magazine Rd.
Ankeny, IA 50021

 Transcript of Message by Todd Stiles
July 14, 2013

As you take your Bibles and locate Matthew chapter 13 let me just make a couple of pastoral comments to you. We are only about two months away from the launch of our {?} satellite. So I want to encourage you in you giving and in your serving to stay faithful and to continue. Our offerings are picking up and so we are almost at the break even point. We have got some large goals in front of us, not only with our children’s wing breaking ground back here this fall. Also the {?} satellite, but our Utah church plant in the next few years. There’s other things on the horizon the elders are praying about and we reveal those at the right time, but just continue serving and continue giving and I just want to say thank you for the way y our do that. You are a very faithful church. I love seeing you at summer fest and the food and the parade and different places to serve as I have seen you out there mingling and serving and I count it an honor to pastor among you.

So I just want to encourage you to not grow weary in well doing, amen? What does the verse say? For if we don’t faint we shall reap. Fill the blank in there for you. Thanks for your participating. I appreciate that a lot.

So just keep those comments in front of you about our satellite, our launch there, just some good things happening. It is going to be a lot of fun.

There is a preview service for that launch, by the way. It is August the 18th. It will be nine o’clock at {?} high school. You are welcome to go there if you like. It is not really going to be announced to the public. It is just more of a kind of a dry run opportunity, kind of a dress rehearsal opportunity, but it will be church, the gathering of the body. You are welcome to go there that day at nine. You can come here at 8:30 or 10:30 and then, of course, we launch September 15th. So just keep those things in mind. Pray for the teams out there. Pastor Carlos is on board and ready to roll. So I am pretty pumped about all that is happening. I just want to make sure that you are aware of it. If you have any questions you can see us after the service down front, ok? 

Matthew 13 is where we are looking today in the last parable in this chapter.  It begins in verse 47 and runs to about verse 50.  Some think verse 51 begins another parable in that area. I don’t think so. I think it is probably just more of an illustration or some type of like exhortation to the disciple. I tend to think this is the last actual kingdom parable in this chapter. We are going to look at it today. It is quite sobering, somewhat stunning. So I want to encourage you to really listen well as the parable is not meant to be hard to understand.  But it is difficult to sometimes talk about. And we are going to see more of this in a few moments.

I would remind you that we have looked at about seven parable so far. This will be number seven or eight, I think it is. We have got several more to go in Matthew 18, Matthew 20 and 21 as the summer wraps up.

Can I review so far for you what we have learned about the kingdom, because that is what the parables do?  They are meant to conceal or reveal truth about the kingdom of God. And we have taken this summer so far to learn about the kingdom and what it is like. Here is what we have learned so far from the parables in Matthew 13 about the kingdom. Are you ready? That the kingdom is proven by fruit, not by words, but by fruit. And kingdom ground always bears fruit, doesn’t it.

We have seen the kingdom as opposed and counterfeited. The numbers there are the actual parable we looked at where we learned that.  In parables three and four we learned that the kingdom is small at first, but sure at last.  In other words, you could say it like this. It is gradual and inevitable.  Last week we learned that the kingdom is inherently priceless. Regardless of what you think it could or should or maybe won’t do for you, guess what? The kingdom is worth every sacrifice you are going to be called to make.

And today we are going to see that the kingdom is an environment in which things are eventually sorted out in terms of judgment. So what do you say we dive in to Matthew 13 verse 47? Let’s glean some truth from this parable about a net.

Now some of your versions will say dragnet. That is not a word we hear much, but it refers to a large net. I prefer to call this just the kingdom net and that is how it is described here. Let’s read together, verse 47.  The Bible says this. It is Jesus Christ talking to his disciples. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every  kind.  When it was full men drew it ashore. They sat down and they sorted the good into containers, but they threw away the bad.

Now there is the end of the actual story or parable. Here is the hinge phrase of the text. Here is what both sides swing on. Are you ready? Verse 49.  So it will be at the end of the age.  Just underline that phrase. Box it. Star it. This is the hinge phrase.  Verses 47 and 48 and then the end of 49 and 50 swing on this hinge right here. He is saying: What I just said, the story about fish and men sorting out the good and the bad, that is what it is going to be like at the end of the age. So he is going to explain it now. He says: The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous.  Now that is a very succinct  clear statement. It is laid out more in Matthew 24 and 25. In fact, this is also talked about in a previous parable beginning in verse 24. Do you see that in Matthew 13?  Carlos taught on this a few weeks back.

So the idea of angels with Christ judging the earth, separating the wheat and the tares, here distinguishing between the righteous and the evil. That is not a new thought.  He is restating some things that he has said before, but this time much more succinctly in a single sentence. He says the angels will come out. Much like men do after the net gathers all kinds of fish, both good and bad. Angels will come out and they will separate the evil from the righteous and then they will throw the evil into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

And then he ends the parable. He ends the story, a stunning, somewhat abrupt ending, isn’t it?

Now I want to bring you into my world for a minute, the world of pastoring and preaching and say this to you.  When I studied this several months ago and kind of laid out some initial notes, I thought I would talk about fishing.  But one of the benefits of expository preaching and simply teaching the Bible book by book and verse by verse is that we don’t decide what it says. Are you with me? We simply teach what it says. And I began to realize that I kind of had a wrong initial emphasis. This isn’t really about us fishing and finding folks to get into the net. This is really about the ultimate separation that is going to happen when God draws in the net of all humanity. 

Now I don’t believe parables walk on all fours. And I have told you that several times repeatedly. But let me simply say if I were pressed a little bit to kind of make this parable have some deeper meaning, I would say that this net probably refers, in some sense, to like God’s time of opportunity and the idea of gathering fish of every kind is really the inevitable, inescapable truth that everyone will answer to God at some point, lost or saved. You will have a reckoning day. Does that make sense? So here is this net just being cast out and at a certain point it is drawn in. And suddenly all who are in the net, whether they realize it or not, are going to answer and be judged. 

Now what I think is similar about that is that it sounds a lot like the parable of the wheat and tares, doesn’t it? Remember Christ said: Let them grow together. Don’t try to pick out certain ones because then you will upset the other ones. Just let them grow together. I will do that at the end. So this idea of God separating things, distinguishing things at the end is kind of a common theme. However, here is what is different about this parable.  If you look at the wheat and the tares parable, 24 through about 30, the real emphasis is on the coexistence in the current. Let me say that again to you. The real emphasis is on the coexistence in the current.  But in this parable it is about the separation at the end.  In fact, I would even go further and say this. If you read the parable of the wheat and the tares, or as it says in the ESV, the parable of the weeds, he actually talks a good bit about the righteous. It seems like that parable is about vindication of the righteous whereas this parable is about judgment of the unrighteous.

He says, in fact, to close the parable, that when he separate the evil and the righteous, he will throw the evil into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Can we just go ahead and state the obvious truth this parable is teaching that the kingdom of God is a kingdom where there is a coming judgment?  Eventual judgment is just part and parcel to the kingdom. We don’t live in an environment where it is live and let live and when you die you kind of turn back to dust and matter and you are forgotten and there is nothing to be said of what you did. It is quite the opposite, First Family. There is a separation day still to come.  Judgment is part of the kingdom of God.

Now let’s be true to our text and make some comments and observations, ok? In this text the judgment being talked about is the judgment of those who aren’t believers. Are you with me? You see that in the text. There are those who are unrepentant. There are those who aren’t in the kingdom even though it appears for a while that they might be or that they are gathered in. But the truth is this net is simply speaking of God’s inescapable command, God’s ultimate draw of all people to answer to him. And so those who don’t believe, those who are evil who have not been made righteous in Christ, who are still in their sins, then they are judged and they are thrown into a fiery furnace.

In this place there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This judgment that is being talked about here is none other than the judgment of hell. 

Now, again, this is the benefit of expository preaching. Listen very carefully. I wasn’t planning on talking about hell today. Now I don’t think I am afraid to, but can I be just really frank with you? I was planning on speaking on fishing for me or maybe even the net, but as I just kept unfolding the text I realized the real point of this parable is that there is a judgment coming and this is a judgment of those who aren’t in the kingdom and the judgment is horrible. It is tremendously painful. Does that make sense, guys?

And when you take this simple parable and compare it to Christ’s teaching in other places, you realize what he is saying is those who aren’t in the kingdom, who have refused to believe and are unrepentant will be separated at the end and their place will be one of torment and anguish and pain and regret in a place called hell. That is the judgment that is coming to unbelievers.

Now I realize that it would … it is difficult to discuss this subject, hell. No one comes into a discussion on hell, you know, with a smile.  But could I submit to you that it is far more dangerous to ignore it. So however difficult the next few minutes might be, understand this that you are far better to understand some things about hell than to perhaps wish and pretend that it didn’t exist and then wake up one day and realize, wow. It is real when it is too late. Are you tracking with me? 

So can I just for a brief moment share some things about this judgment of unbelievers, of those who are unrepentant who aren’t in the kingdom. God calls them here evil. First of all, from this exact text, first of all I think just four quick comments for you.  And I honestly will be quick. Watch this. In this simple parable we see that the judgment, this final judgment it is soon to be or it is coming which is actually good news, church.  Even though right now most of you are sitting there with pretty solemn faces as I talk about the coming judgment, if it is coming that means you still have time. I don’t know how much time. But guess what? You have today apparently… in fact, let me be more specific. You have right now that is actually good news. So when I say to you that in the parable the judgment is still to come, man, thank God. He has given you breath at this moment. So if you have yet to decide where you stand in relation to Jesus, wow.  The good news is the judgment is still to come. You have got at least this moment. Hallelujah.

This judgment is also very thorough. You don’t find anywhere in the parable where there is like some fish who got away and oh I missed that one, overlooked that one or I misjudged that one. The judgment is very thorough, isn’t it? He takes all the fish and he sorts them. Angels do.

By the way, if you want some more insight into this sorting read Matthew 24 and 25 as it was the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Mathew seven. You will find that the angels are actually mentioned several times in Matthew 24 and 25 as working with Jesus when he judges the earth. So there is a day coming, the great day, the last day when Christ will come with his holy angels and he will judge. 

So it is coming. It is thorough. It is also final. In the parable once he separates then there is this destination for those who don’t believe. Based on the parable of the wheat and tares there is one for those who do believe. But then that is kind of like the eternal state. That is how we exist. That is it. It is final. There is not like a chapter two and three and four where you get to kind of redo. It is not elementary school where you get to take a fourth or a fifth strike. This is a final judgment where our destinies for eternity are settled.

And then what I think is most striking is this is horrible. It says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in this place that he refers to as a fiery furnace. I think it is a reference to hell.

Now when you consider that coming judgment to unbelievers, understand something, that Jesus did not avoid this topic of hell, this coming judgment, this one that is horrible, that is final. He didn’t avoid it. In fact, do you know that Christ talked more about hell than any of the apostles? And if you were to track subject matter, Jesus talked more about hell than he did what? Which is why probably if he were here today they would crucify him again, wouldn’t they?  It is not the most popular topic and it is difficult to discuss, but I remind you it is more dangerous to avoid than you realize. 

So here is this coming judgment kind of referencing this parable. I want to take this parable and kind of set it along side some further scripture about this judgment we know as hell and let you see a little more insight into it. It is in Revelation 20. Revelation 20 is where we get a little more insight into this final judgment. And actually it takes place at this place called the great white throne. So look at Revelation 20 just for a moment, would you? Here beginning in verse 11 we actually have the scene described, the one that Jesus described in a story form kind of in a parable. Here it is described by John in a prophetic fashion. Here is what is to come after the 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth we know as the millennium. And after Satan is ultimately and finally defeated beginning in verse seven he is thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur along with the beast and the false prophet. After those things happen it says then in verse 11 then that on this great white throne there is one seated there. He is so awesome and great the Bible says that the earth and sky fled away and no place was found for them. Who is them? Them is the dead, both small and great. And they are before the throne and as you read this passage you realize that suddenly here is this final judgment, here is this place where they are now separated and they are going to experience their condemnation. These books are opened. Their names are not in the book of life. And as you read through this description of the great white throne judgment all those dead of the ages who were brought before the Lord, they are lost. They are now having to answer to him. It says they were judged. Their names were not found in the book of life. And it says in verse 15 some tragic words. If anyone’s name was not found in the book of life he was thrown into the lake of fire. This is in more prophetic form what Jesus talked about in Matthew 13.  This is the ultimate destination of those who don’t believe, which is why saying to someone, “Go to hell,” is not what Christians do, amen?

Do you know what you are saying to someone? You are saying, be separated from God forever in a place of torment and fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yeah, I want you to experience that. See, that is not our heartbeat is it? Even in discussing a difficult doctrine like this and in seeing that that is kind of part of the kingdom. It is a kingdom where judgment is coming. It is just the nature of it.  We don’t in an arrogant or superior way or in some type of {?} way, want to get back at those who are still yet to repent. Instead, we want to kind of latch ourselves onto, watch this, one of the key words that Jesus used as he talked about the kingdom. Now watch this. What did he say when he made his kingdom announcement? What is the very first word he used? Does anybody know? Repent. Why?  Because repent is the most gracious, compassionate word you can offer someone who is on the way to judgment. 

See, our society hears repent in a negative way, don’t they?  Oh, you want me to quit doing what is wrong?  Yeah, I want you to turn from your sin, because if you don’t, you don’t even know what is ahead. Does that make sense? In a kingdom where judgment is part and parcel of the environment, when that is eventually what will happen, an ultimate separation. And those who are not found in Christ will be cast into a lake of fire, the fiery furnace, weeping, gnashing of teeth. The best thing we can say is here is the avenue out of judgment.  It is repentance. It is turning from sin. And the very king who one day will come in judgment stands today offering escape, a rescue from judgment. That is what Jesus offers. And that is why I bring you really good news today on the heels of a difficult doctrine to discuss. And that is repentance is your best friend.   Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

If you are wondering what the word means, let me show you what repentance means and then I will take a few questions. If I am going this way and I see, wow, judgment ahead and I repent, this is what I do. Watch.  And I go the other way. This is not a theologically difficult thing to grasp, people. But often people assume, well, I can do everything but turn around. But the truth is in the Bible that is exactly what Jesus meant. When he says here is the kingdom, if you move forward in your sin, if you hold on to all the wrong, if you persist in evil, then judgment does loom. That is all that is left. But if you will repent which that is your best friend, if you will turn from sin, change your mind about it and then ultimately, obviously, your body follows, your actions follow, change what you believe about Jesus and what he did, then no longer judgment because Jesus took the judgment. You find yourself in Christ. You believe his work for you is satisfactory. He shields you and Jesus actually becomes your rescuer no longer your judge. 

If I were to offer you one of those two I would say, Danny, do you want a judge or a rescuer? I have no doubt Danny would take the rescue in a heartbeat. Most logical people would. But the enemy blinds the minds of people so much so that we continue headlong, don’t we, in our sin towards judgment when all along the gracious and merciful King is saying, repent, repent. And that is what I call upon us to do today is to repent.

Now the good news is this, before I take a few questions. Most of you have probably done that.  I look around the room from my right all the way to my left. I would say most of you probably are believers. I don’t know your heart. I don’t know every person here. But most of you probably are believers. You have repented. That is good news. If you haven’t repented of your sin, which, by the way, in a generic kind of general sense is thinking you can get to heaven and miss judgment on your own. But without Jesus, you won’t. the nature of the kingdom is there is a separation coming and you won’t escape the ultimate accountability to God. The net will draw you in. It will get you, so to speak.

Repentance is saying, “Wow, my way will never work. Jesus is the only way.” And then trusting what Jesus did and who he was to save you from coming judgment. That is repentance and that is the glorious work of Jesus. And if you are here this morning maybe you weren’t planning to hear a guy talk to you about hell. You thought, man, why can’t he talk to us about how to get out of debt or something, you know?  Or I actually am spiritually.  And Jesus stands as your only sufficient rescuer in coming judgment. And I appeal to you. Watch this. I want to do what Paul said in the New Testament. He said, because of the terror of the Lord, we persuade me. What was Paul talking about? He knew the nature of the kingdom was such that there is an ultimate separation. There is judgment looming.

So what do we do now? We plead with me. Don’t keep going head long towards judgment. Turn. Repent.  And embrace the rescuer instead of facing the judge.

We will close in a minute or two with a testimony, but let’s take a few questions first, can we?  First question: How does this teaching… how does the teaching of this parable compare to the popular teaching that there is no hell? 

We will stop there for a moment and just take that first question. I like when you guys ask multiple questions in one sentence. I don’t know which one to answer sometimes. We will just take that question there.  To answer the question it compares as like in the opposite, I guess.  I am not sure how to answer that. We don’t buy the notion of universalism, which is the belief that ultimately, regardless of what you believe or what you do God will just save everyone. And so they would accept the notion that we are all God’s children. The Bible teaches, however, that we are all God’s children by creation and then we are… those who believe are God’s children by redemption. Does that make sense? So God owned all people at once. I mean, he owns believing children twice. 

So we would disagree with any teaching that says there is no hell.  I think those who teach that or those who propagate universalism, twist the Scriptures. And as you read through this thread of the New Testament there is clear, unavoidable language about the coming judgment and the end destinations, the eternal destinations of those who don’t believe as well as those who do believe. It is not fun to talk about, but I think to twist the Scriptures… and we see this in our culture a lot. It is not just about eternal destinations. It could be about sexuality issues, other sin issues. It could be about relationships. It could… pick your issue. When we don’t like the end result what our society tends to do is change the Scriptures.

And I am just simply saying to you today based on this parable and in a number of consistent teachings from Jesus, hell is a real place with real pain where you will have real memories and it will last for really a long time, like forever.  In fact, let me just simply pause here for a minute and say this.

I thought it was kind of ironic this week that as I thought about where do we find substantial teaching on hell it is actually in Luke 16 which some believe to be a parable. Did you know that?  I don’t think it is a parable. I think it is a story that actually happened because the are a lot of specifics to it. But some think it is a parable.   But it is interesting in Luke 16, rich man and Lazarus, the rich man died. After a great life here and he found himself in hell and he was conscious. He was able to feel things. He remembered his former life. It wasn’t the party that he was expecting.  But the poor man, the beggar, tons of sacrifice here, difficulties galore, perseverance and tribulation.  But suddenly eternal pleasures by the side of God. That is what he enjoyed. But you find, ah, then next is that as the rich man cried out to help there was no way to bridge the chasm that went from earth and, you know, get him out of there. There is all these doctrines from Luke 16 which is interesting. If you want to know more about hell, that is the first chapter, I would suggest you read.  And so before you mark it off your list like, well, that is just a mean thing that Christians believe to kind of keep everybody motivated and keep them kind of in the pasture. Read the Bible and take it for what it says. Hell is a real place and it is the eternal destination of those who don’t believe.

How does that compare to the other popular notions? I guess it just compares as in that it is really different than what they believe. We don’t hold to what they say.  Instead we hold to the Bible in an untwisted fashion. 

Next question.  What is the difference between my daily sin and homosexuality as a sin?  Ok, we have got multiple questions in a row. Can a homosexual still be a Christian? Will they go to heaven? I love Jesus. I have accepted my Savior, but am I still a sinner as any other gay person? There is a lot of questions in there. Let’s just take the very first one. What is the difference between my daily sin and homosexuality in sin?  From God’s perspective sin… there is not really a large difference.  Does that make sense? Sin … we are condemned to hell because we are sinners and out of that nature then we do sin by action. We are condemned by hell, all of us at birth, because of that sinful nature. So whether you are lying or whether you are pursuing a homosexual lifestyle or whether you are an adultery, you are sleeping with the opposite sex too much. I mean, all of those are sins that we do because we are sinners by nature.  The difference would be is that some of those sins have a greater visible consequence. Would you agree with that? But none of them have a greater condemning affect on us.

Now our society would like to make you think that.  So certain sins we think have more condemning affect and they, you know, but the truth is from God’s perspective sin deserves hell. So all of us are deserving of hell. How those sins are displayed often does come on a digression and sometimes the more we say no to God the more blatant our sin becomes. Read Romans chapter one. And so often they get the most attention.

I will say this to you as well, that often the most blatant sins and the ones that are the most in God’s face will, I believe the Bible teaches, have a greater severity of judgment in hell. There were sins in the New Testament that Jesus rebuked and he said it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for you, because they knew so much truth and still rejected. So hell may be the end destination, but those who have blatantly rejected over and over might have a higher degree of torment in hell.

But I think there is a lot here that whoever wrote that I want to talk to you afterwards.  I can’t get into all of that in this service, so I would say that if people are saying, well, certain sins condemn you, certain ones don’t. I think that is not true. Sin deserves death and hell. That is what Romans 6:23 says, right? Here is the good news. Regardless of what your sin is, no matter how little or big you think it is in man’s eyes. Jesus Christ has power over every single one of them, from the person who lies at work and laughs about it to the person who feels trapped by sexual sin. Jesus has power over all of them.  And just as they all will condemn us regardless of what we think about them from our level, Jesus Christ can give you a victory from every one of them. 

So I would invite this person… I would love to talk with you afterwards and hear more about what is going on and just kind of walking you through some of that. Or one of our elders will, ok? And I appreciate that kind of honesty. Can we say that for sure?  And I am sorry I can’t address every bit of that here.

So let’s go to the next question, if we could, if there is one more.  Will there be a chance to decide once the judgment begins?  I think the Bible teaches that the opportunity to decide is on this side of eternity. Once eternity occurs  your chances—and that is a word that is kind of an odd word—but your opportunities end, which means that as we look into the kingdom and we think about its nature, it is not only one in which there is a coming judgment, but it means that the kingdom has this imperative environment about it in which God—now watch this—God calls for a verdict from me. Did you know that? God demands a decision.

What did he say one time to the Old Testament prophets? How long do you halt between two opinions?  So God is not ambivalent or even neutral.  He presents the truth on this side of eternity so that you are brought to a decision point, a crisis of belief, because once eternity happens, I think the Bible teaches that there are no second chances.

Now knowing that it would be good for you to hear from someone who came to the precipice of judgment and realized that God was reaching out and giving him his last chance, so to speak, on this side of it. And he responded in awesome faith and belief. I want you to meet Michael Blake. Michael will you join me on the platform for a moment? I want you to hear about Michael’s story.  And you will just relish in God’s grace as he shares with you how as his judgment loomed and the impending day in front of God was coming closer and closer, even without him even slight agreeing, God reached down and in his incredible marvelous grace rescued Michael. And so, Michael, tell us about how God just saved your soul. Would you?

Michael: I am Michael. It was about nine years ago my mom passed away when I was 14.  I grew up in a home with two parents, a sister. But when I was 14 it all changed and she died unexpectingly. And I was really, really angry at God. I didn’t really believe in any of this whatsoever, but I knew that all of this didn’t come by chance. So I had to put my blame on someone and I chose it to be God. I was angry at him.  I rebelled towards him in many different ways. A couple of years after my mom did die, she… my dad got remarried and something I wasn’t… I just didn’t understand and so I was very upset about at first for a really long time.  I got transferred from a public school to a private school. I then started … I didn’t say this in the first service, but I did start cutting myself. I started smoking weed. I started drinking all at this private school. And the kids at first weren’t nice to me whatsoever, because they had found out that I was gay. 

And so they did not want to be around me at all.  They didn’t want any part of me. Eventually, though, there was teachers and there were students that apologized on behalf of the school whether they wanted to apologize or not.  And still, though, because of the… the meanness or the bowling or whatever you want to call it, it kind of pushed me away from Christ even more. So I was there for a couple of years doing my own thing, rebelling against God.  I left my parents house. I didn’t want to live with them anymore. I wanted to do my own way.  I wanted to live my own life, how I thought it should go. And I moved in with a boy friend at the time into {?}, Iowa.  It was very abusive emotionally, physically and all of that.  I started getting into really, really hard drugs when I was there. That was when I really pursued that which ultimately I view as it… it was an idol in my  life. It was something I practically bowed down and worshipped. I loved it. It wasn’t really… I never viewed it as an addiction. It was just that was my God. My God was pills.

And so and I loved doing it. I loved the party scene. I loved it all back then. And I left Adell. Eventually I left that relationship and came back to {?}, got back in contact with my dad and my step mom, my family and some old friends. And I moved into a place where I started using heroine. I started shooting up. I started really, really going into the gay lifestyle and just calling that my family, but that is where I thought I was because it felt good. But that was really all it was. And so drugs are really expensive and I didn’t have money after a while to pay for them, so I became a very manipulative, deceitful person.  I stole from my parents. I stole from friends. I lied about it 99 percent of the time. I sold my body for drugs. I mean, I did it all. I am not boasting about it. I am just saying I became homeless because of this because I did steal from them. I did lie in front of my family and friends. They wanted no part of me. And so I became homeless. I lived in a tent in the woods here in Des Moines by myself for a while. And I stole from some schools and I had some warrants out for my arrest and I just knew where I was was not where I wanted to be, but I couldn’t let go of the heroine. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to, because it was what I loved. It was like a relationship I had. And so I wanted to end it all. I had planned to end it all in the bathrooms at {?} mall. I don’t know why there, but it was last year April 13th, it was on a Friday.  And I had … was on my way to the mall. I was going to go into the bathroom and do it. I had everything planned, everything with me to go do it. And instead, God had a different plan for me.

I got arrested before I could even go to the bathroom by the mall security cops and they knew who I was. They knew I had warrants out for my arrest. So I got arrested. I went into Polk County jail for six months. The first month was rough. I had to sober up.  It was the most difficult thing ever and I am so thankful that it happened.  But eventually there was chaplains that are in Polk County jail and they actually have Bibles in prison now instead of schools. And so I … which is good. I am really grateful for it. But there was a chaplain that came up to me. I didn’t even ask him to. He came into the cell and he asked me if I was a good person.  I said no, because I was in jail. And I thought that was a really stupid question at first.  And most of the time people will proclaim their own goodness, though.  And… but he continued to ask: Have you ever lied?  Yeah. How many times. What does that make you? A liar.  Have you ever stolen? How many times? What does that make you? A thief. You know, have you ever looked at someone with hate? Jesus said you are a murderer at heart.

And yes. What he was doing was going down the 10 Commandments, the law and I think it is Paul that says that actually it is the law that is a school master that leads you to Christ. And so I never realized that is what he was doing at first, but first I was just getting really offended because I was like you are telling me I am a liar and a thief and a murderer at heart, but it is actually by my own admission. He wasn’t saying it. He wasn’t telling any of these things.  And so he gave me the bad news and I realized that I am a sinner and I realize that, you know, I deserve judgment and so then he shared the good news with me.  You know, if I was in a court room and God was the judge, you know, you are looking at life in prison. You can’t just sit there and stand and say, “Hey, I am sorry, forgive me.” You know, a judge is going to look at you and laugh if you do that in a real courtroom.  He said that a stranger came into the courtroom and paid a fine that I could never pay in a million years. And he said that stranger was Jesus. Now he paid the fine that I could never pay on the cross with the work that he did.  And he paid the fine for me and loved us so much that he would do that. And it made sense to me.

I was still a little bit offended and he left and I went to my jail cell and I cried myself to sleep and I woke up. That is when I cried faith in Christ and I wanted to turn away from the gay lifestyle.  I wanted to turn away from the heroine {?}, turn away from being deceitful and all of that.  Count everything as loss so could gain Christ.  And so I wanted to persistently and consistently follow Christ. And eventually after six months was up I left the jail. I went to a Mecca which is drug rehab and did time there.  I went to a homeless shelter after that, tried to figure what I was going to do. While this is all going on I am rebuilding a bridge back with my parents, because they are so gracious to actually do that.  And I found out about a place called freedom for youth and a place called the promise {?}. Men can go for transitional housing and I didn’t say this in the first service, but they are like, you know, set up the interview with the house parent, because there was a house parent. And I did and I got to freedom for youth and I met the house parent and it was actually the same guy that witnessed to me in jail.  And so I am sitting there with Tony Didlow and, you know, I told him that I was like.. {?} he doesn’t remember me because he probably talks to millions of people in jail, but it was just that and looking back on when I was going to kill myself in the mall that I don’t believe in chance anymore. There is nothing that really happens by random, you know. God has a will for everybody and it, you know, he has a purpose for everything an do I knew looking back now at that place in my life that rock bottom when I was going to kill myself, I know where I was going to go and it… I was going to face eternal separation from God. I was going to be in the place, you know, with weeping and gnashing of teeth and God has given me new desires. I want to seek and save the lost the way Jesus did. I want to do that, not because I think it is going to save me. I already know I am saved. I want to do it because I don’t want them to face the judgment that I was facing.  You know, and I fear God. I do and I love him, too. But … and I want them to see what I have been doing. You know, I want them to hear the gospel. He has given me new desires like that and new desires actually to read my Bible inductively, to serve with all love and, yeah, so I don’t… I can’t think of really anything else to say except just the most important thing I could ever probably think to say is that Jesus, you know, says, “Therefore, who is ever in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone. The new is come.”  And, you know, like I said on the first service. I am not gay. I am not an addict.  You know, those are the things that the world was telling me that I was. I am redeemed and I am justified.  I have been rescued, no longer a bad fish, you know? I … yeah. 

Todd:  Maybe you wonder, like, why did you have Michael share that, because, man, he was a footstep away from judgment, wasn’t he?  Yeah, he had some big sins from man’s angle, like that question. But the truth is he lied and all those sins have to be paid for. So as long as he refuses God and heads headlong that way, he is going to pay for those sins.  But at just the right time while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you and rescued you, didn’t he? And me and so many of you.  And so when we talk about hell and judgment and the fact that that is kind of part of the kingdom and ultimate separation, don’t hear it like, well, they are just mean.  Hear it like people who are standing at the edge of the cliff saying, “You don’t have to step off.” Instead, repent. Trust Jesus. That is why he shared his testimony. And I don’t know where you are spiritually and I know Michael doesn’t either, but we would both say to you: It is never too late as long as you have breath in your lungs to repent and turn to Jesus so that the coming separation won’t find you in the fiery place, but, instead, in the presence of Jesus. 

So, Michael, thank you very much. Amen. 

Let’s pray, can we?

I know that you are more than ready to worship God.  Since the bulk of you probably are thinking back to the day God saved you from that precipice of judgment, you are ready to approach that communion table, aren’t you? And you are going to take that bread and that cup and you are going to thank God for the cross when right in the middle of your sin, both great and small, both seen and unseen, right in the middle of that, God rescued you.  Some of you God rescued from your self righteousness. You wouldn’t have a clue what Michael is talking about. In your mind you are better than that, but you are saying your sins condemn you to the same hell.  So God saves us from our self righteousness and our wickedness, doesn’t he? Yes, he does.  And so in a few moments the band will start playing. Just come to the communion tables as we do each week. Take the bread and the juice and remember the price that was paid to rescue you from judgment. 

And then as we go into some songs and singing, man, will you just let your heart loose?  Maybe this morning for the first time you have turned away from sin to God almighty. What a day this will be for you as you rejoice and sing of this great mercy and love and redeeming power. 

Lord Jesus, thank you for doctrines that are difficult to discuss, yes, but too dangerous to avoid and for living examples of what it looks like to come face to face with difficult truth and then to realize that you are the Savior, the rescuer. Lord, I pray that you will do that mighty work today. You will save people from their sins, rescue us from sure coming judgment because you are a God of mercy, truth and justice and love and grace that none of us could ever earn, but by simple belief in who Jesus was and what he did by repenting of our sin and trusting Jesus you were {?}. Do so today by the power of your Spirit in Jesus’ name.