Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Hi Calvary, I'm sorry I couldn't be with you this evening, but I'm happy to leave you in the capable hands of Pastor Terry Gray. Now, Terry attended our School of Ministry here at Calvary Albuquerque, and is the founder and senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Sun City in El Paso. So let's give a warm welcome to my good friend Terry Gray.
Terry Gray: Good evening. How are you tonight? This is a blast to be here. This is wonderful to be with you. Nathan Heitzig is twenty-seven years old—I'm old! My wife taught his first grade Sunday school class, and she tells me he was quiet a handful too. No, he was just fine.
But it's so good to be with you guys tonight. This is home turf for me. As I was driving up yesterday and I got here a little early, I got some time to walk around the campus and see all the different changes. Twenty-one years ago this month I graduated from the first School of Ministry offered at this church, twenty-one years ago. [applause]
A couple years later I graduated from the first Shepherds School offered at this church. Right after that I married my wife Kim who worked as a secretary to the assistant pastors here at this church. And then ten months later we packed a U-haul and we moved to El Paso, Texas, to plant a church, a church that we call Calvary Chapel Sun City. I've been living in El Paso now for sixteen years—now that requires a hand. [applause]
We have three children: my daughter Lindsay is fifteen, Connor will be fourteen this month, and my youngest son will be thirteen in July. So I'm going to have three teenagers in the house; you can fast and pray for me now. Actually, they're wonderful kids, I love them, I'm crazy about them most of the time.
El Paso has been an adventure. There have been a lot of twists and turns. I'm pleased to report tonight that Calvary Chapel Sun City is a growing, thriving, church on the west side of El Paso. God has done wonderful things, is doing wonderful things, we are thrilled to serve there. And if you ever find yourself in El Paso on a Wednesday night or a weekend, come by and say hi. I always love connect there from people here, with people from here.
And this church means so much to me, and I appreciate all of the encouragement and support that Pastor Skip, the staff, and this body has been to me over the years. You are truly a blessing. You never forget your home roots, and I love everything that God did in my life here. I look back in great fondness and he did wonderful things. And I am so appreciative of the opportunity to share with you tonight.
Tonight I want to show you a picture in the Scripture, a Scripture picture, if you will. This is a picture that I just recently noticed, even though it's right out of the passage that I think we're all very familiar with. This is a picture that is staying with me, it's haunting me, it challenges me, and it encourages me—all at the same time in my role both as a pastor and as a Christian.
You find this picture in Matthew, chapter 14, beginning in verse 22. So will you open your Bibles with me to Matthew 14 verse 22. I believe this is a picture of what we as the church are facing right now in our country.
Father, as we now look into your Word, my prayer tonight is simply for courage. Courage, Lord, give your people courage. Give us strength. Give us perseverance to endure the challenges that we're facing right now. Raise up mighty men and women, like the mighty men and women of old: the Davids, the Joshuas, the Deborahs, the Esthers. Give us courage.
Lord, and I pray that you would bring encouragement to us. Lord we give you this time; we ask that you would do mighty things in our hearts, in Jesus' name, amen.
Look at verse 22, Matthew, chapter 14. It says, "Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Now when evening came, he was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary."
Jesus and his disciples have just spent a long, full day ministering to a large crowd. They had actually tried to get away for some rest and relaxation in a remote place, but fifteen to twenty thousand people found them. And so Jesus didn't send them away, he had compassion on them and he began to minister to them all day long. Jesus has just miraculously fed these fifteen to twenty thousand people with five loaves and two fish. So it's a happy crowd, an excited crowd, a full crowd. But the day is now over and so Jesus sends the multitude away.
And verse 22 tells us something very interesting. It says, "Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side." Very strong in the Greek language; Jesus "forced" his disciples on the boat to cross the sea without him. The idea is they didn't want to get on the boat and cross the sea without him, but he made them, he forced them, he constrained them.
So they get on the boat and they go. Jesus sends the rest of the crowd away. He's all by himself. He goes up on a hillside to pray. It's springtime, mid- to late April, there's a full moon out, and from his vantage point he's able to look upon the Sea of Galilee and see that boat on the Sea of Galilee. And he's looking down upon them, he's watching them intently, and he's praying for them.
And the disciples begin to struggle. They run into a windstorm. The sea gets angry; the waves get nasty. They let down the sails, they take out the oars, and they begin to row—and they rowed, and they rowed, and they rowed. If you look at the timing details of this passage, those disciples rowed for about seven to eight hours, and they couldn't get any progress. They're rowing, they're rowing, they're rowing, and they cannot make headway.
Mark's gospel tells us that "Jesus saw them straining at rowing." I looked that word up in the Greek—basanizó. It's a word that literally means "examination by torture." Torturous, tormenting, rowing—those guys were utterly exhausted, those guys were frustrated, those guys were wet, those guys were cold, those guys were afraid. Yet, to their credit, we never once read that they ever stopped rowing; they kept rowing.
Take a mental snapshot of that. Paint that picture in your mind: the disciples in a boat facing angry seas, rowing like crazy, and Jesus up on a mountainside looking down intently upon them, watching them, and praying for them. That is a perfect picture of the church in the world. I think that's a perfect picture of the church in America. As Christians, Jesus has sent us out into this world to make an impact. Dare I say that Jesus may have "forced" some of us out into this world to make an impact?
The world's angry, hatred is boiling, the winds are contrary, but we're supposed to row. And Jesus our High Priest is looking down from heaven watching us, interceding for us, as we're told in Romans, chapter 8. Beautiful picture! Keep that picture in your mind.
You know, I found that many early Christians in the early part of church history were enamored with this imagery. In fact, some of the earliest Christian artists painted pictures of the church using this imagery. A lot of pictures are similar: the boat's in this angry sea and you see these waterlogged, bearded, wide-eyed faces rowing, looking out into that turbulency, and Jesus in the distance looking down, praying, watching.
I even learned recently that the earliest church buildings, the earliest church cathedrals had sections that were built in them where the congregation would sit, where they would hang out, where they would fellowship. Those sections in those early church buildings were called naves, N-A-V-E; from the Latin word navis, which means boat, ship.
When the early Christians went to church, they went into the mother ship; they went into the boat. There's sanctuary in the boat, but there's hostility outside. If you're a Christian here tonight, you've come into a big ship, and I hope you find peace and sanctuary here. But listen, do you feel the boat rocking? Do you feel the angry waves out there, the vicious, contrary winds of this society?
I want to look at different parts of this picture. First I'd like to look at the seas, and the winds, the angry waves. That represents the world; doesn't it? That represents all the hostilities that we face. And I don't know if you know this yet, but it's getting pretty difficult out there for the Christian faith; isn't it?
A true evangelical, biblical, Christian worldview isn't all that welcome out there anymore. It's getting harder, scarier, and more costly to share the Christian message and that would include the gospel message and standing for biblical morals in this society.
And quite frankly, many Christian—quote/unquote—Christian churches and Christian organizations are beginning to cave. We live in a culture that's becoming more and more antagonistic towards the Christian faith. There were several news stories that came out last week that I think really give us a measure of where we're at.
One news story came out the public school system. As you know, there forces that have successfully removed prayer from school, removed Bible reading from school, teaching our kids evolution as fact, not even mentioning creation, or when they do they treat it as some kind of a legend, and "that's for people who are stupid."
"Walter Tutka of New Jersey is a substitute teacher in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. He was recently removed from his school district's approved substitutes list for reciting a Bible verse to a student and then giving him a Bible. The Bible verse he quoted to the student, however, did not come from Leviticus or Lamentations; instead it was in Matthew chapter 20 verse 16, which says, 'So the last will be first, and the first last.' Not a very controversial verse.
"A student kept asking him where that quote came from and the teacher eventually showed him in his copy of the New Testament. The student then said he didn't own a copy, so he gave him his Bible." And he was fired for that. Now, my understanding is it's almost impossible to fire a public school teacher—unless you're handing Bibles out. Do you understand that there are forces at work who are absolutely committed to keeping the truth out of the hands of children—at any and all costs, and they're relentless?
My wife and I homeschooled our three kids for the last six years. And we made a decision this last year; it was a scary decision. We prayed about it, but we decided that we would send them into the public school system. We've raised them in the ways of the Lord, we've trained them, and we wanted them to have an opportunity to go out there and live in the world for Christ while they're still under our roof, so we can be with them, answer the questions, work with them, and so that's what we did.
And I gotta tell you, it has been tough. The world didn't disappoint me. My three kids have been exposed to every filthy thing that you can possibly imagine. It is tough out there. We don't teach kids truth, so what do you expect? But my precious kids, they're out there, and they're making a difference. There are pockets of truth. There are still Christian teachers and Christian principals.
And my wife and I are in that school all the time; they know us by name. I'm a favorite dad to the math teachers there, because I was an engineer and I love math. And I go in and we are there. We found the other Christian parents. We found the principals, the clubs. And you know what? We're going to get in there and we're going to fight for the souls of kids. Amen? [applause] There is a war being raged over the souls of kids, and we need to be in the fight.
Then there was some news that came out last week from the military, maybe you heard this. Actually, I remember a couple years ago news came out that somebody said that Christian chaplains were no longer allowed to pray in Jesus' name. You know how we as Christians we pray "in Jesus' name, amen." Can't do that. I guess you gotta make prayer real general so nobody knows what god you're praying to, right? But I know chaplains ignored that and they continued to pray in Jesus' name.
This story came out last Tuesday, you may have heard it: "The Pentagon has released a statement confirming that soldiers could be prosecuted for promoting their faith: 'Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense. Court-martials and nonjudicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis.' "
"The statement released follows a Breitbart News report on Obama administration Pentagon appointees meeting with anti-Christian extremist Mikey Weinstein to develop court-martial procedures to punish Christians in the military who express or share their faith.
"Weinstein is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and says Christians—including chaplains—sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the military are guilty of 'treason,' and of committing an act of 'spiritual rape' as serious a crime as sexual assault. He also asserted that Christians sharing their faith in the military are "enemies of the Constitution.' "
Last Tuesday, later last week, the Pentagon came out with a statement totally denying it. Totally saying, "No, we're not doing that; people can share their faith in the military as long as it's an informal way." Now, I hope that's true. But my question is: Who's Mikey Weinstein? And who's the Military Religious Freedom Foundation? What in the world's going on in our country?
Forces are working hard to get God out of every aspect of our society: public school, military, government position, politics, you name it. We gotta row. We gotta be in the fight. We gotta push back.
Then we think about all the different moral issues that our country is seeing. There was news on the abortion issue this last week: "The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday [last Tuesday] lowered the age at which people can buy the "Plan B One-Step morning-after pill without a prescription to the age of fifteen—younger than the current limit of seventeen. The FDA decided that the pill could be sold on drugstore shelves near condoms, instead of locked behind pharmacy counters."
What are we teaching our kids with that? Go live an impure life and take a pill the morning after. And you know as Christians we're to teach purity to our kids, aren't we?
I think most of us have been horrified at the reports coming out of a Philadelphia courtroom: "Dr. Kermit Gosnell, seventy-two, who ran the now-shuttered Women's Medical Society Clinic, could face the death penalty if convicted by the jury. Gosnell is charged with four counts of first-degree murder for delivering live babies during late-term abortions and then deliberately severing their spinal cords, prosecutors said."
Four babies born alive; the man severed their spinal cords. This guy specializes in late-term abortions. How proud would you be of that? "I specialize in that." Now if it happens inside the womb, it's not murder. But if it happens inside the womb it's not murder, but if it happens outside, just a few moments later, after birth, then it is murder?
You know, in a spirit of love and grace and mercy and kindness I say this—abortion is wrong, abortion is sin, abortion is murder. We need to protect life. And you may say, "Why do we have to be so aggressive in that issue as Christians?" Because we're supposed to be a voice for those who don't have a voice. We're to defend the defenseless. Amen? [applause] But I tell you what, if you take a public stand for that issue, you got a firestorm coming—takes guts.
Many of you also know about a debate in the issue that's taking place in our country over same-sex marriage and all that. I read in the Albuquerque Journal today that Delaware became the eleventh state to legitimize same-sex marriage. And listen, we live in a country now that celebrates, glorifies, and rewards homosexuality. There are politicians that glorify, reward, and celebrate homosexuality. It's rewarded and celebrated on the TV, in movies, in culture; isn't it?
And last week we hear about an NBA player that came out. And it's a well-known, public fact that president of the United States called him to congratulate him thanked him for his courage. Now I gotta tell you that's symbolic right there of where we are in this nation.
Now I get it, we live in a free country. People can do what they want. People can say what they want. People can make that opinion, but I'm tired that that is the only opinion that's out there in our culture because there's another opinion, and actually it's the Word of God. And, again, in a spirit of grace, love, and mercy, I must say in truth homosexuality is wrong. It's a sin. Marriage is to be between a man and a woman. You take a public stand for that and you got a whole other firestorm coming.
It's interesting how people who take stands on that, well-known, high-profile Christian leaders, they take stands on that and they get persecuted, man, and they get banned from speaking in public. Wasn't it a couple years ago where Franklin Graham was banned from speaking at the pentagram—or Pentagon—not the pentagram, he wasn't anywhere near that—the Pentagon. [laughs]
And I don't think that was because of any statements he had made on the homosexual issue; I think it had something to do with what he said about Islam, which whatever he said was true, he's Franklin Graham. But he was no longer allowed to speak at an event like that. You know, Billy Graham's been called "America's pastor." America's pastor's son couldn't speak in this country.
We heard earlier this year that Louie Giglio another well-known was going to do the inauguration, the prayer at the inauguration. He was pressured out of it; the pressure's great. We need heroes. We need men and women of God who will stick and stand for the truth.
Pastor Greg Laurie is one of my heroes; I love Greg. [applause] He was involved in the National Day of Prayer things happening in Washington, D.C., last week, and he was pressured by that very militant homosexual agenda that he shouldn't be speaking.
Listen to what he did: "At a prayer event held Wednesday morning at the Washington, D.C., office of the Family Research Council, Pastor Greg Laurie told those gathered, 'I won't back down. They do not want me to pray. They describe me as a "homophobic" and so forth. How can you deal with such a situation? We're in a time in our country now where I'm attacked because I believe what the Bible teaches. If people want to make it all about that, I'm not going to back down. In the immortal words of the great theologian Tom Petty, "I won't back down," I won't. I'm not going to apologize.' "Can't you just hear him saying that with that little smirk on his face? That takes courage, my friend.
Now I just mentioned two topics that are hot buttons; those are very controversial: abortion, homosexuality. In fact, I think when I mentioned them I saw some of you squirm: "Are you really going to go there?" Listen up, that's how the world wants us to react. We don't need to be ashamed of truth.
And listen carefully; the world tries to pigeonhole us on those very issues. They say if we're against homosexuality that we're homophobics, we hate homosexuals, we're racists, we're bigots. If we're against abortion, we hate women. That's so untrue. I don't hate homosexuals. Jesus doesn't hate homosexuals. Church, do we hate homosexuals? [audience: No!]
But we hate sin, and we have to take a stand against unrighteousness. And I'm against every sin. I'm against gossip; that sin's caused nightmares for my family. I'm against adultery. I'm against cussing. I'm against drug abuse. Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a "sinophobe"—all of it. And why, why, why? Because sin in all of its shapes and forms destroys people's lives. It crushes marriages, it destroys families, schools, communities, and worse, it separates people from God. We should all be against sin.
I always love what Billy Sunday said, he said, "I'm against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot. I'll fight it as long as I've got a fist. I'll butt it as long as I've got a head. I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth. And when I'm old and fistless and toothless and footless and toothless, I'll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition." Amen? [laughter]
But they say, "Christian, you're a hypocrite. How dare you judge people? You guys are sinners. You're hypocrites." Show me any Christian who claims to be perfect. We're not claiming to be perfect. In fact, the first thing you have to do to become a Christian is admit imperfection, right?
As Christians you and I all sitting here tonight know the destruction of sin we've experienced prior to Christ. We know that it still hurts, that we still struggle with sin. But we also know that there is a wonderful Savior who died on the cross, and his shed blood, wipes away all sin, and that's what we share. That's what we're sharing. [applause] That's what we stand for.
You know, if abortion has touched your life in any way here tonight, it can hurt. There can be a lot of guilt there, but you know the blood of Christ can wash away that sin. Jesus died so that we could be forgiven of our sins, all sin—the angry seas.
Let's now turn and look at those disciples rowing, consider those guys rowing. Look at that picture, look at their courage, look at their tenacity—that's what we need to be. We need to be rowing just like that. And I'm telling you it will take courage to live a Christian life in this society. It takes courage and sacrifice and energy just to live your Christian life in this society personally as a Christian.
Think about it, we are called as Christians to live starkly different lives than people in the world, aren't we? I mean, our lives are to stand out. Now, there are people in this world, all they live for is wealth and riches. As Christians we're not to live life like that. There are many people in this world that are living their whole lives just for pleasure, for one sexual experience after another, from one drug to another, from one party to another, and that's how they live. We're not supposed to live our lives that way.
There are people that celebrate sinful lifestyles; we're not supposed to do that. There are people that preach this "tolerance"; we are to stand for the truth. We are to be utterly different. And when you are utterly different, when you are truly living for Christ, you will face contrary winds. You will be rowing upstream while everyone else in your life is cruising downstream.
It will cost you friendships, it will cost you relationships, it'll cost you business deals, it'll cost you clients, it'll cost you promotions at work. It'll cost you something. It'll cost you good grades at school. Just last week I had a college student come up to me and say how she had written this wonderful paper in college, but she got a D on it because she wrote from a Christian perspective. It costs.
Story out of Texas, a relay team in track won this race and they're headed for state. The anchor man, when he crossed the finish line, he went like this [points upward], thanking God. The whole team was immediately disqualified for "excessive celebration." Give me a break. Somebody didn't like him giving thanks to God publicly, and they're disqualified, they're not going to state. It will cost you something.
My brother and sister in Christ, it's not going to be easy, but tonight take up an oar and row. Will you take up an oar and row? Will you follow Christ with all of your heart? The Bible also teaches that as Christians not only are we to live a different life in this world, we're to be involved in ministry. We're to actually be out there helping people, showing the love of Christ to people, share the Gospel with people, reaching out with energy and effort—all of us are called to be in the ministry in some way, shape, or form.
And when you find your place in the ministry, it's a wonderful place. You know where you are. But ministry isn't always glamorous, and ministry can be very, very difficult. And there are some times when you're in a ministry and you're rowing, and you don't even think you're getting anywhere, but you gotta keep rowing.
There's a ministry in El Paso, it's the El Paso Rescue Mission, and they minister to the homeless community in El Paso. Incredible organization, we support them as a church, we send teams to help feed. But I'll never forget a couple winters ago I was there, very cold out, and the place was packed. Every bed was taken. And there was this poor man who had just come in and they didn't have a place for him, so they kind of sat him on a chair over here in the lobby area.
And I will just tell you this man smelled like a sewer. He was high on who knows what? He was passed out, and he was sitting there drooling all over himself. And I'm going to be honest with you, I look at a guy like that and I think, "What do you do with that? What do you do with that?" But there are people in that mission who love people like that, clothe them, feed them, hug them, dry the drool, and share the love of Jesus Christ with them—they're rowing. Those are the heavy lifters in the body of Christ, and we need to come alongside and help.
Missionaries—you know, we think of missionaries and some of us, I think, think it's so glamorous. But I mean they're doing some tough work. They're leaving the comforts of home, right? They're out in all kinds of different places. A missionary in Africa was once asked if he really liked what he was doing. His response was shocking: "Do I like this work?" He said. "No! My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonable refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse, but is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to 'go,' and we go. Love constrains us." Heavy lifters—rowers.
You know, pastoring a church—I know a lot of people have a thought that, you know, you just work a few hours on Sunday and a few hours on Wednesday night, and the rest of the week you just play golf, and you have all kinds of time—that's not how it is. I can't even begin to imagine the pressure on Pastor Skip's shoulders. And I think about the assistant pastors that serve faithfully at this church behind the scenes; you have no idea what they do. They're rowing.
Getting involved in a men's ministry, a women's ministry, a youth ministry, a children's ministry, a hospital-visitation ministry, a prison ministry, a marriage ministry—get in there. I will warn you, you will get beat up. It does get hard. You will be wounded. The world will hurt you. The devil's after you. And unfortunately sometimes you even get hurt from brothers and sisters in Christ. But you can't give up, you gotta keep rowing.
Amy Carmichael wrote a beautiful poem: "Hast thou no scar? No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand? I hear thee sung as mighty in the land; I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star. Hast thou no scar? Hast thou no wound? Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent. Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent by ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned: Hast thou no wound? No wound? No scar? Yet as the Master shall the servant be, and pierced are the feet that follow me; but thine are whole. Can he have followed far who has no wounds nor scar?"
Do you have a wound? Do you have a scar? Are you in the fight? Again, I'm going to ask you—take up an oar and row, be a part of it. It's tough out there. All hands on deck! Don't be the person on the boat who's taking video footage of everybody else rowing: "Oh, look at 'em row." Don't be taking the snapshots. Don't be the person on the boat who's reading the Good Book on rowing. Yes, read the Bible, but do what the Bible says. Amen?
I want you to look at another part of this picture now, the best part—Jesus! We've seen the world; we've seen those disciples, now look at Jesus. Now, Jesus is up on the mountaintop watching and praying, but he doesn't stay on the mountain. Look at verse 25, "Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on sea."
Right between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., after they'd been rowing for seven to eight hours, Jesus comes off the mountain and he begins to walk on the sea right towards their boat. It wasn't hard. He didn't have to fight to keep his balance. He wasn't tossing about. He walked right on that sea, right over that angry sea as easy as you and I might walk down a sidewalk, walking right over the things that scare us.
Verse 26, "When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, 'It's a ghost!' And they cried out in fear." Loose paraphrase: "Jesus scared his disciples half to death that night, walked right by the boat—they screamed." In the Greek it's a loud scream, horrified. They thought they saw a phantom.
Verse 27, "But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.' Peter answered him and said, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.' So he said, 'Come.' and when Peter had walked down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, 'Lord, save me!' And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' "
You could do a whole sermon on that, right? But Peter, he's my hero, too. I mean, of all the things that—you know, he said the silliest things, he did the silliest things, but on that night, on that angry sea, he walked on water. Not a long time, but he did walk on water. [laughter]
Verse 32 says, "And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased." Now you picture this: they get into the boat and immediately the waves stop, the wind ceased, the storm is over. Folks, who's in control in this story? The Lord Jesus Christ is sovereign; he's powerful. He walks on those things that frighten us. He gets right in the middle of the boat and the storm ceases.
Now, you take courage. I'm asking you to row. I'm asking you to be courageous in it, but never take your eyes off Jesus. You keep your eyes on Jesus. He's watching, he's praying, we're always rowing under his supervision. The Holy Spirit has been poured out to empower us, and he walks on the water, and can stop anything. He's powerful over—and we're with him! We're with him.
"Be of good cheer!" he says. "Do not be afraid." Literally in the Greek, "Stop being afraid now, and don't ever be afraid again. You don't ever have to be afraid again." Those disciples saw Jesus do amazing things that night didn't they? I mean, let's admit it; it was a difficult, difficult night.
They worked very, very hard, but in the end look at what they got to see: Jesus walking on the water, Peter walking on the water for a spell, Jesus getting in the boat, and the storm ceased. They saw glory that night. They saw miracles that night.
And, in fact, I think years later looking back on that night, I don't think they remembered the rowing. I don't think they remembered the sweating, the crying, the struggling. You know what I think they remembered? The miracles: "That's the night Jesus walked on the water to us."
Listen, if you take up those oars and you row, this same kind of thing is going to happen in your life. Jesus is going to show up in a mighty way in and through your life. God will do amazing things in your life, but you have to row. If you get in the fight, you're going to see miracles. You're going to see walking-on-water-like things take place in your life. That person that you've been praying for for years is miraculously going to be saved. You will see it. You'll forget all about the rowing, and you'll be rejoicing in all of the miracles.
You know, as a pastor I have had these seasons at our church where I felt like I'd been rowing and rowing and rowing and nothing's happening. I think last time I was with you I told you about how we bought a piece of property several years ago with a cotton gin on it. And we thought we could just move into this cotton gin and turn it into a church building, and the El Paso city said, "Buzz—wrong answer, you can't do that."
And it was a big fight. And what ended up happening was we met in a tent as a church for four years, in a very hot El Paso, Texas, and it was tough—four years. I was attacked by wasps in the pulpit. We lost weight in that tent in the summers. I mean, it was unreal what we went through. And it went on, it wouldn't stop, it wouldn't stop!
Well, God did finally move one day, and we didn't take—we weren't able to remodel that gin, the cotton gin is still there. But we were able to put another building up here on the other side. And we were going to move out into our new place. And I kid you not, one week after we moved out of the tent, the tent collapsed. It was as if God willed that tent to stay up for four years.
But we went into our own building, and I was so excited about it. There was a man who came up to me towards the end of our tent experience there, and he said, "Pastor Terry, I'm going to miss this tent. And I am so glad you didn't pull down that gin, the cotton gin." I said, "Well, explain." He said, "I don't know if you know this, but in cotton gins they bring cotton in and they refine it. Cotton actually gets refined through the gin; they take out impurities."
He says, "I want you to know that I got saved at your church about three years ago in the tent, and God has been refining me ever since. And come with me." And he took me out behind where we met in the tent area and in the cotton gin. And he said, "Right here is where me and my buddies in high school began using cocaine. We spent all our weekends here. This is where I became addicted. This is where I became abused by this world. But I want you to know this tent, this cotton gin is now holy ground because I've met Jesus and I've been refined."
Listen, that fills up the gas tank. When Christ shows up—Oh, and he will! You'll see miracles, but you gotta be out there rowing. Some Christians never experience that because they never take up an oar and row.
One commentator said, "If you never climb a mountain, then you'll never bruise shins, but you'll also never stand on its peak exulting in victory in the alpine air. Never play baseball and you'll never strikeout, but you'll never hit a home run either. Never obey Christ and you may miss some of life's contrary winds, but you will also never know the winds of the Holy Spirit in your sails bearing you on in service and power."
You know, the disciples discovered something else that night; they got a whole new understanding of who Jesus was. Look what they say in verse 33 when he comes into the boat. "Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.' " That was the miracle that—"You're the Son of God!"
Up to this point they knew Jesus was from God, they knew he was special, they'd seen him cast out demons, they'd even seen him still the storm before, they've seen him feed a multitude with five loaves and two fish, but still they never really—until this miracle—they saw—they got a whole new understanding. And when you take up those oars and you row, you will get to know Jesus Christ so much better. He'll blow your mind. He'll use your life.
Quite a picture, isn't it? It's a picture that's been lingering in my heart; I hope it lingers in yours. And I hope you will be encouraged. Pick up an oar and row. What do you need to do? How do I do that? Go out and tell people about Jesus. Don't be afraid to take a stand on the issues of the day. Do it tactfully.
You know, Ephesians, chapter 4, says that we're supposed to speak the truth in love; look for that blend. If you speak the truth without love, you become very harsh and judgmental. You say things like, "Turn or burn you miserable sinner!" That doesn't work. Now, if you're speaking with love, but no truth, then you're mushy, and you're sentimental, and it's lovey-dovey. But you're not telling them the truth and you're not helping anybody. But if you can find a perfect blend of truth and love, in the power of the Holy Spirit, oh, watch God move. Watch him move.
There are three groups actually in this picture. There are two groups in the boat, those are Christians. But within the boat of the Christians, there are those who are rowers and there are those who are watchers. And I want to invite you tonight to become a rower.
But I think there's also another group. There's a group in the sea. There's a group in the world. There's a group being tossed around, drowning in sin, turmoil in life. Those people need to get in the boat.
And you know how you get in the boat? By asking Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior, by admitting that you have sinned, by believing that he came and he died on the cross for your sins and rose again that third day. If you ask him to be your Savior, he'll grab you by the hand [tugs], in the boat safe with him all the way to heaven.
Would you bow your heads with me and close your eyes. Take some time and think through what we've just considered. You know, if you're here tonight and you've never received Christ, maybe you sit here feeling so guilty over sin, whatever it may be, he can forgive you, he can wash it all away. He can make everything brand-new in your life. He died for you so that you could be saved.
And you don't have to go through any religious hoops, you don't have to do any of this crazy—all you have to do place your faith in Jesus Christ. He's alive. He's here tonight. If you're here tonight and you've never received Christ, I'd like to lead you in a prayer right now.
Would there be anyone here that needs to pray, to get in the boat? If that's you, I'd like you to raise your hand as high as you can so I can see it. Anybody here tonight? I see your hand back there, God bless you. Anybody else? And raising that hand would be like saying, "Jesus, get me in the boat." Anybody else?
Would you pray with me then. Whether you've raised your hand or not, if you need Jesus, you pray. Say, "Lord Jesus," in the quietness of your heart say, "Be my Savior, grab my hand, take me out of the angry sea. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Wash them all away. Help me to follow you all the days of my life."
If you prayed that prayer to receive Christ, then you need to come forward and share that with somebody right after the service so that we can help you with your walk with Jesus Christ. Let's stand.
And as we stand, Father, I once again pray for courage, I pray for strength, I pray for the power of your Holy Spirit upon our lives. Lord, give us the right blend of love and truth. Use us in mighty ways, Lord. Lord, even for the young Christian, I pray they'd begin to take even baby steps. Use your church, Lord, in Jesus' name, amen. God bless you.