Sermon Details

This Changes Everything

January 9, 2022
Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville, IN, invites you to join us as we worship in this time of SARS-CoV-2. Today's virtual service will be led by Pastor John Van Nuys, Sermon - "This Changes Everything"; Hymns led by Jennie Swick, accompanied by Alan White.
(21) Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, (22) and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
– Luke 3:21-22

“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus, no doubt, needed to hear that. He’d heard good things about himself from his family, and he’d probably heard not-so-good things about himself from others. Having this word – the definitive word – from God pronounced over him gave Jesus what he needed to be his truest self and live his truest life.

“You are my child, my beloved; with you I am well pleased.” We – you and me; all of us — need to hear that, too. Not because we’re idolatrously trying to equate ourselves with Christ, but because we need to get the Truth in us: God loves you. God says to you: “You are my child, my beloved. I am pleased to love you. You are mine. You are loved. Always have been; always will be.” That is true for you.

Growing up, we hopefully hear good things about ourselves from our families. Inevitably, we hear not-so-good things from others. All of us have had unkind words said to us: a name we were called; a label we were given; a wounding we had to carry. Having this holy word, this divine and definitive word that God pronounces continuously over us, gives us what we need to become our truest selves and live our truest lives.

The prop comic Carrot Top is considered by most comedians to be a joke – and not in a good way. Carrot Top recently said that despite his decades-long, lucrative Las Vegas gig; despite audiences continually laughing, loving, and applauding him, that the years of unending criticism from his peers was crippling – until he heard George Carlin, a true comedic genius, declare these three words: “You are funny.” After that, Carrot Top said no other opinion mattered. He was free, and he has thrived.

Today God wants you to hear these three words: “I love you.” No other opinion matters. God loves you. You are valued. You are loved. Whatever name, label, criticism, or other dehumanizing thing that’s ever been said about you or that ever will be said to you, God loves you. God’s love doesn’t depend on you being young, beautiful, thin, sexy, wealthy, famous, successful, influential, or important. God just loves you. God loves you for who you are. Period. You can’t do anything to make yourself more lovable to God. God’s love for you is already infinite. Besides, God’s love isn’t earned. It’s given. It’s all grace. It’s all sheer gift. Pure mercy. Total. Unchangeable. Constant. Free. You can’t earn it, change it, or lose it. God loves you – just as God equally loves everybody else.

That truth can change your life. That truth can change the world. There wouldn’t have been bloodshed at the Capitol one year ago if every person there would’ve known the truth that they are loved and everyone else is, too.

If we all knew and lived that truth, we’d realize that there’s nothing to lose or gain. Everything has already been given – is being given – continuously, now and forever. That love means there are no winners and losers. That love means there are only brothers, neighbors, and friends, who, when they disagree, can reason together; respect one another; and find a way forward together so that the common good is advanced.

Thanks to people like me, religion has mostly been equated with do’s and don’ts; right and wrong; us and them. That focus creates moral performers who are never really sure if they’re saved or not; if they’re loved or not; if they’re going to heaven or not. And it creates an idolatrous binary: If I can be right, then you can be wrong. If I can go to heaven, you can go to hell. If I’m on God’s side and I disagree with you, then you clearly aren’t on God’s side. And if you aren’t on God’s side, then God doesn’t love you – and I don’t have to either. Therefore, I can oppose you, oppress you, fight you, destroy you – because you aren’t my brother, neighbor, or friend. What you are is my enemy. You’re an abomination. You’re evil. You’ve gotta go.

But… the Bible says God is love. Scripture testifies that God loves me and you and us all. Jesus says: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love everyone as I love you. If all that is true, then it isn’t about do’s and don’ts, right and wrong; us and them. All it’s about – all that God is about; all that life is about; all that you and your destiny is about — is love. God loving us. And we loving God back and loving each other.

If you love someone, you don’t have worry about rules, which are there to ensure that you are loving. You’re loving already! You aren’t just keeping the letter of the law. You are fulfilling the spirit of the law. If there is nothing to gain – and nothing to lose; if it can never be us versus them because there is only we, then there’s nothing to fight over; nothing to fear; nothing to hate, persecute, demean, attack, or kill.

“You are my child, my beloved child. I love you. I love you all.” Jesus was born, taught, healed, lived, died and arose to show us; to save us; and to share with us that Way, Truth, and Life; that salvation; that, in one word, that Love.
Believe it. Receive it. Know it. Share it. Live it. Today.

In reading this, your heart may be stirred. What you’re feeling is the Holy Spirit drawing you to Christ. To begin or renew a relationship with Jesus, just pray:

“Lord, help me receive your love. I regret the wrong I’ve done. Forgive me. Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son and the Savior of the world. Be my Savior. Save me from myself. Save me for yourself. Enter my heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to serve you faithfully and well. Help me to love as you love. Lead me in your Way, Truth, and Life now and forever. Continue to show me who you are and who I am in you. Amen.”

If you pray this prayer, contact a pastor. They’ll show you how to live for Christ with purpose, peace, and joy. Jesus says: “Behold, I make all things new.” That definitely includes YOU!