Behold the Lamb

  |   Sep 16, 2018

Good morning. If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab those. John, chapter 1, is where we're going to be. Before we dive into John 1, I just want to read this. A group of elders and exec staff wrote this out so we could communicate what we're allowed to communicate and not communicate any more or any less. I need to take a few moments before the sermon today to address a difficult situation that we believe you should be aware of based on a formal investigation that's in process.

The investigation is regarding information that has come to light about the 2012 Mount Lebanon Kids Camp that The Village Church attended. The Cedar Hill Police department, under the direction of Detective Michael Hernandez, is investigating a report of sexual assault by an adult against a minor at that camp. Earlier this year, the minor came to a place where it was possible to verbalize the memory of what happened for the first time through ongoing therapy. Detective Hernandez has been investigating the case since that time.

If you are the mom or dad of a kid who was at the 2012 camp, we had a meeting Monday night with Detective Hernandez to inform you of this. If somehow you slipped through the cracks of that, will you please accept my apologies on that? We did all we could with a database, trying to go back six years and find you and inform you.

We already realized even when we had another meeting Wednesday night… We didn't want you to send your kids to Focus without knowing this information. So we had to try to get into a database and go a long way back, so if we missed you, I just hate that you're hearing about this right now in this space, so please forgive me for that. Know we did the best we could to try to loop you into that Monday meeting. Let me finish reading this.

It took courage and strength for the child and the family to share this, and we want to support them in any way possible. We have been working directly with the family and Detective Hernandez to do all that we can to bring healing and the light of justice to this situation, including the decision to make this investigation public now. We only have one reported incident at this particular camp and year, so no other camp or event is under investigation at this time.

We want to state clearly that there are no persons of interest in this investigation that have access to children at The Village Church. We would not let someone who is under investigation for a crime like this be near any of our children at TVC. We have strong child security and safety practices in place through ongoing training provided by an outside consultant called MinistrySafe. We require all staff and any volunteers who work with children to complete this training.

We are committed to doing all that we can to protect our children. On Monday night, when Detective Hernandez met with the parents from the 2012 camp, he noted that our child safety practices and training were strong in 2012 and have only gotten stronger since 2012 in light of our ongoing relationship with MinistrySafe. This is heartbreaking news to deliver. The weight of it leads us all to pleading with Christ to bring healing and justice to this situation.

Over the course of two meetings that we've had this week with parents, we were able, with the detective's help, to distill a few FAQs we can answer, so I want to answer some of those. All of this will be posted online later today.

"Can parents be confident in the safety of their children at TVC in light of this news?" Yes. We are very serious, intentional, and committed to the safety of our children. We have strong safety and security procedures and practices in place, and they have only increased over the last few years, as we continue to work with MinistrySafe to train us in child safety and protection, and we require all staff and any volunteers who work with our children to go through the training that MinistrySafe provides.

"What prompted sharing this information now?" Simply put, Detective Hernandez asked us not to share the news of this investigation any earlier, as it could have hindered his work. We have been working closely with the family and Detective Hernandez on the best time to make this news public, and everyone agreed this is the proper time.

Later today, we'll post this statement, along with these FAQs, to our website. We will continue to stay in close contact with the family and Detective Hernandez and provide timely updates as we have them. It's important to know we're not driving this process. I am a pastor. I am not an investigator. You don't want me driving this process. We're taking our cues from the experts in this field. We can't drum up updates. We have to receive them and be cleared to share them. So we will update as we are given information and are allowed to update you.

"Do I need to keep an extra eye on my children at church because an alleged perpetrator is at our church?" No. The clear and emphatic answer is no. We would never allow anyone under investigation for a crime like this be near children at TVC.

"How should we talk with our children about this?" Every family and child will be different, so we encourage you to share what you feel is best and wise for your situation. Our main encouragement would be to center their hearts and minds on the power and justice and goodness of God. He is ruling and reigning over the universe in the midst of this, as hard as it can be for us to believe and understand and trust this truth at times like these.

"Will we have overnight events for elementary, middle school, and high school students in the future?" We have decided to no longer do overnight events for elementary children based on counsel from MinistrySafe, reflection, and prayer. We will continue to do overnight camps for middle school and high school students based on their ages and the safety and security guidelines and procedures we have in place through our ongoing work with MinistrySafe.

"How are the child and the family doing, and how are we supporting them?" The family actually asked if they could write this section of the statement, so here is their statement: "We believe the Lord is giving a voice to the voiceless in this situation. He cares deeply for those who carry the false shame that a victim often bears and calls us to cast this false shame at the foot of the cross where the healing love of Christ awaits.

The Lord exposes what has been done in the darkness, and he has faithfully brought it to light. As parents, our hearts have at times been angered and grieved beyond measure, but we know we have never been left without hope. Our children and our family have seen the Lord's abounding love in this through the listening ears and tangible hands of loved ones, our church leadership, and staff.

We ask for continued prayer for our church leaders who desire to serve us all so well. We clearly see that they are just as heartbroken and angered over this as we are. They deeply care about our church body and desire justice and truth. Finally, we ask for your continued prayers for healing on our family. Please pray for the justice process that is ahead, that we would continue to exercise patience and trust in the Lord, and that we will all steady our hearts on Christ alone."

Let's just breathe for a second. There is nothing I know of that evokes more primal emotion in us than our kids. As we've looked at this, I find myself wanting to start a "last chapter of Nehemiah" ministry here at The Village. I don't know if you know what happens in that chapter, but Nehemiah finally loses his mind, and he pulls the beards out of faces and beats men with sticks. Maybe we'll look at starting one of those ministries here.

Then I have found in myself an immense sadness. I don't know how this is striking you, what your background is. I know many of you have come out of family backgrounds where there has been abuse. I can only imagine what this might be triggering in you this morning. I find myself bouncing back and forth between righteous anger (not sinful anger…righteous anger, because the Lord will bring this to light and there will be justice) and a deep sadness. Justice and healing is what I find in my heart.

I'm reading this not just as one of the lead pastors and elders of The Village Church but as a daddy whose daughter was in 100 to 200 yards of this. By the grace of God alone, as we've had these meetings this week and as we've been trying to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and the detective and the family and do what's right before the Lord, I've been, by the providence of God, steeping in John, chapter 1, which in the goodness of God this week is "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" and the hope that's found in that text and the healing that is found in that text and the justice that can be seen in this text.

My prayer for us all week as the Spirit has been ministering to me, trying to get me into a place where I could even do this, that maybe the Word this morning might encourage you, might if you have a wound deep in your soul, because a wound and a scar aren't the same things… A scar shows where things have healed. A wound hurts to touch. If you have a wound then maybe the Word of God might, in the miraculous way that only the Holy Spirit can do, meet you in that wound and heal it and put some things back together.

So I'm hopeful, as we behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, that the Spirit of God might comfort us wherever we are today in the midst of this news. If you have your Bibles open, I want us to look at this. I will not be going long today, but I do just want to point out a couple of things and then want us to, by the mercy of God, just settle into God's goodness and grace. John, chapter 1, starting in verse 29:

"The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, "After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me." I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.'

And John bore witness: 'I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit." And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.'"

The first part of this passage has to do with the relieving work of Jesus Christ in the hearts of those who trust in him. You have this statement that might not resonate with us in 2018 but would have certainly resonated with the audience that's gathered around John the Baptist as he preaches this sermon. He says, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Lamb of God probably doesn't resonate with us, but to those who were hearing this, who were Jews, the lamb meant everything. So if I could walk you through some of that…

You had the Passover lamb in Exodus, if you remember that story. They had to put the blood on the door, and the angel of death passed over their homes, sparing them from death. Then you had the lamb in Exodus 29 that was a lamb of morning and evening sacrifices, taking away the guilt of God's people. You have the suffering servant lamb of Isaiah 53. You hear about that most often around Christmas time. You have the gentle lamb of Jeremiah 11. You have the triumphal lamb in Revelation, ruling and reigning.

John sees Jesus, his cousin, walking up and says, "The lamb is a man. The lamb was a shadow, and here is the substance: the Lamb of God." He says about this Lamb of God that he's going to take away the sins of the world. The darkness and brokenness in creation and in us is not some unnamed principality. It's sin. It's brokenness. It is falling short of the glory of God. Jesus has come to take away the sins of the world.

What's interesting to note is I think that you and I, more than likely, have a sad theological understanding of the complexities of sin. Most of us think about sin in regard to behaviors. I don't and would never say there aren't sinful behaviors, but rather, we are sinners; therefore, we sin, not that we sin; therefore, we are sinners. If sin is merely behavioral and not something more insidious and complex, then all we've done is set up a new system of law by which we can walk in self-sufficiency and self-righteousness, judging others.

The Bible is going to talk a lot differently about sin than just mere actions. In fact, I love Colossians 1:21-22, the apostle Paul, as he tries to explain the complexities of sin to those of us who would just go, "I kind of know what sinful actions are. I want to stay away from those, and I want to do good things, stay away from bad things," as though that would cure what's wrong in us. Look at Colossians 1:21-22.

"And you…" That is "And y'all," so as Texans, we should appreciate that text. He's saying, "You all," as in all of humankind. This isn't, "Hey, you," like this particular niche group. Seriously. If you knew Koine Greek, this is "Y'all. All y'all," or if you're from California, "All you guys." All of us. "[All] who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he [Jesus] has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you [y'all] holy and blameless and above reproach before him…"

Let's talk about this. You were alienated. When it talks about sinfulness, we're alienated from God. Let me tell you why that's so huge. Let's plug it back into what we've already covered in this gospel. You have been made by Jesus for Jesus. That's why you exist. That's what you were created for. You were not made by your spouse for your spouse, by your job for your job, by your kids for your kids, by your money for your money, by your house for your house. You have been created by Jesus for Jesus.

Therefore, if you are alienated from that, then you're stuck pretty badly. On top of that, I thought JT English did an exceptional job last week of saying that by seeing Jesus rightly we understand who we are and who we are not. If we are alienated because of sin, which is not a behavior but a state of heart that leads to behavior, then we can never step into what we were created for, and we can never see who we clearly are and who we clearly are not. So now you have all sorts of dysfunction and all sorts of confusion driving human existence.

The Bible is saying sin has alienated you from the one you've been made by and been made for, and sin has alienated you from being able to know who you are and know who you're not. That leads to a hostility of mind that leads to evil deeds. There are two directions you can go with your hostility of mind and evil deeds. The first… I'll use this language. It's psychology, but I believe in common grace, which means you can see the handwriting of God all over the place.

You have this idea of ideal self. It's a projection of yourself as strong and together. "I know what I'm doing. I want everybody to know. There's no weakness in me. I've got things locked down." If you are alienated and you respond that way, what you'll do is you'll use a lot of religion to justify how good you are. Your hostility of mind and bad deeds are actually going to be in the world of religion.

You're going to self-justify by, "I go to church. I tithe. I only use made-up cusswords, not real ones. I rarely watch a rated-R movie, and if I do it's just violence; it's nothing perverted or anything like that. I only listen to worship music." We start to create these categories that in God's eyes and mind don't exist. You don't get to tilt scales that don't exist in your favor.

This is why I've been saying in this series that to bring morality to God as though that's currency that he accepts is a fool's errand, because it's not just not accepted; it's called, in the Bible, filthy rags. Not only are you trying to present to him something you think buys your way in but it's offensive to the… Nobody talks about their goodness in front of God in the same way that nobody is proud of their degree in front of the Grand Canyon.

You don't bring up your paltry little successes at the base of Mount Everest. "This is impressive, but I have a PhD in rhetoric." You just don't do that. Right? What you do in light of Everest is you shut your mouth. Nobody stands in front of something awe-inspiring and brags about themselves. You don't go into the holiness of God with your good deeds. But some of us, alienated and hostile, camp out here.

Then others of us, in what psychologists would probably call the shadow self, where there's guilt and shame and "I'm not lovely, and there's nothing good in me, and there's no way if there's a God he could ever accept me," then give ourselves over to licentiousness. "Since I'm already worthless, I might as well treat myself cheaply."

These are two ways this can play out in our lives, but one of the things… I want to read this as I wrote it. Sinful actions don't make you a sinner, but rather, because we're sinners there are sinful actions. To think about sin in terms of just behaviors is to create a new law by which we can grow in self-righteousness and self-sufficiency while judging those whose struggles are different than ours.

I love the way Chuck DeGroat puts this. He says, "More often than not, [we] see sin reduced to bad behavior/actions. Sin is something [we] did wrong… [We] do not see sin as a complex matrix of motivations, attitudes, and actions which are rooted in hiding, self-protection, and self-preservation…" He's saying sin is far more complex than just your outward moral behaviors, which is why spending all your energy at managing outward moral life lessons isn't the pathway to freedom. More on that in a minute, lest you think I'm overselling the mercy of God.

He says here that this Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world… The thing that stuck out to me as I studied this was the fact that this had a participle in it that makes it present ongoing action. If you think about it in its context, that doesn't make a ton of sense, or at least it didn't to me at first. I had to do some digging. Here's what I mean. It would make more sense if John the Baptist said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who's going to take away the sins of the world."

Jesus hasn't died on the cross. He hasn't resurrected. He hasn't ascended. John doesn't use the future. It would make sense if it was past tense, because John the apostle has seen Jesus resurrected, ascended, and he can look back at the cross and the resurrection and say, "…who did take away the sin of the world." But here he's like present tense. Jesus right now is taking away the sins of the world.

What does that mean? I think the present tense participle here is meant to encourage the church to keep on telling the truth of truths and to not drift away from it and to double down on it and make it our message over and over and over again. "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." The more we point to Jesus as the only hope of salvation, the more men and women will hear the good news, will be drawn to Jesus, and will move away from sin and into life in Christ.

I also think it's important to note (I don't have time to build this out all the more, but maybe in the weeks to come) not only when Jesus takes away the sin of the world does he just take away sins in regard to those who have rebelled against him, who are alienated and hostile toward him. All suffering is in one of four streams.

We suffer because the world is broken. We read about this in Genesis 3. Florence slamming into the East Coast is a Genesis 3 world. The Bible says all of creation groans and longs to be fixed. We understand all of the physics behind hurricanes, but there's something underneath it, and it's the brokenness of the universe, God's not ideal, where his creation has been affected by sin.

We know that suffering occurs because we have behaved in such a way that we reap what we sow. Is there anybody who would testify, "Some of my suffering has been self-inflicted"? My hand is up on that. I have done some things to myself. Sometimes suffering is tied to demonic principalities and spirits, but I know we're too enlightened for that, so more on that at another time.

Then fourthly, sometimes suffering is because other people are sinners. When Jesus takes away the sins of the world, he not only grants forgiveness to those alienated and hostile in mind, but he steps into broken spaces and heals them. He steps into broken spaces where people have been harmed, abused, and broken, and he heals.

One of my favorite parts of Celebration services at The Village Church where we baptize is the stories of how Jesus does this now. Not how Jesus used to do this, not how Jesus maybe one day will do this, but how he does it now. Like, continues to do it. In October, we're going to baptize a ton of men and women who would testify, "Hey, I was broken, and Jesus met me, and since then, Jesus not only met me and saved me, but he has healed me and is allowing me to walk in greater and greater victory as I submit to him and lean into the promise that I am welcome in his presence."

Let me read this quote by Frederick Bruner. "Churches that leave this vivifying center for what are thought to be more contemporary or relevant or gripping centers or issues sooner or later wither away, as history has shown again and again. Churches that obscure this life-giving Center ['Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world'] with a hundred-and-one spiritual disciplines or social-political enthusiasms are eventually overwhelmed with activities and guilt. [Churches] that, like the Baptist…"

Not the Baptist denomination. John the Baptist. I don't want there to be confusion, although I'm happily a Baptist…90 percent of the time. "…keep pointing to the victorious Lamb [that's continuing to take away the sins of the world] [create] joyful Christians, who advance the mission ever farther and farther into a social and spiritual world that longs to hear believable news and to experience loving care."

I heard many years ago and often that I only have one sermon and I just preach it out of different texts. Every time someone says that about me, I just feel like I'm winning. I don't want it to be a secret. If you end up here, you're going to hear this message every week and how it applies to other things, because what I want for us is to be joyful Christians and that that joy spill out of us and onto the world around us.

It is not easy in 2018 to love like Jesus commanded us to love. Our own brothers and sisters like to devour us and cannibalize us for that, but what would it be like to love like Jesus loves, show grace like Jesus showed grace, walk in hospitality like Jesus walked in hospitality? What might God do with a group of people who were committed to that? I'm eager to find out with you.

So, you have sin continually being removed from the believer and for those drawn into relationship with Christ, but it's not just that we are relieved of sin, but then we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Look at verse 32. "And John bore witness: 'I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.'"

If you like to write in your Bible, I would circle that remained. "I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain…'" You can circle that remain again. "…this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit."

Again, when the early Christians would have read their Bible, what you and I call the Old Testament, they would have seen that the coming Messiah was going to be baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit. Over and over again the promise that the Davidic king who would come and make all things new would be immersed in the Holy Spirit. Probably the verse you are most familiar with would be, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to preach good news to the poor." That's Isaiah 61, that messianic prophecy. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me."

There are two things I want to point out. One is not only is that, "Behold, the Lamb of God who's continuing to take away the sins of the world…" Not only is that present ongoing action, but so is the remaining power of the Holy Spirit on Jesus as Jesus then baptizes us in the Holy Spirit at our conversion. So you begin to get a sense of what the Christian life is.

Here's what I mean: Jesus, continuing to take away the sins of the world as the Holy Spirit fills us and reminds us that Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, as the Spirit reminds us as we believe the truth, as the Spirit reminds us, we believe the truth, so that the gospel becomes the focal point of our entire existence.

The gospel isn't something I walk through to get to something else. The gospel isn't something I just listen to and am saved by and then move on to more in-depth things. The gospel is the thing. Period. It's just what we're about. We're about the Lamb of God who is taking away the sins of the world. I'm prone to forget that, because I tend to blow it, so the Holy Spirit reminds me that the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world, which emboldens me to be in the presence of God.

You're getting a picture of the Christian life: the Spirit reminding you of the truth that Jesus loves you despite you over and over and over and over and over again. The other thing that I think is profound in this text is that that word remain that I just gave you a little option to circle or highlight in your Bible is the exact same word Jesus is going to use in John 15 when he talks about the invitation to always be in the presence of God. Let me read this to you, and then we'll close out our time together. John 15:4-11:

"Abide [remain]in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in [the vine]." Are you getting the redundancy of that remain/abide word?"I am the vine;you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is thatbears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.If anyone does not abide in mehe is thrown away like a branch and withers;and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Ifyou abide in me, and my words abide in you,ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.By this my Father is glorified, that youbear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.As the Father has loved me,so have I loved you. Abide in my love.If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…"

You cannot pull "If you obey my commandments" out of its framework. And what's its framework? What bookends "If you keep my commandments"? Do you see it? I want to walk you back, because this is so hard for us to get. "As the Father has loved me…" As God the Father has loved God the Son. "…so I, the Son, have loved you, sons and daughters of God, so abide in my love; therefore, obey my commands if you abide in my love."

"…just asI have keptmy Father's commandments and abide in his love.These things I have spoken to you,that my joy may be in you, and thatyour joy may be full." Confession: I want the joy of Jesus. Not Spirit-sprinkled, weak happiness. I'm talking about ridiculously rigid, thick joy. Betrayed by a close friend, disowned by his disciples, lied about, mocked, beaten, spit upon. Hebrews says, "…who for the joy set before him endured the cross."

An immovable joy in who I am and who I'm not, abiding in the presence of the one I was made by and for in the Father's love. I want you to notice that yet again you will not pay for salvation with moral deeds. You'll pay for it with the grace of God given to you freely, because there's no other currency he accepts. Again, I know this is hard for us. We're achievers. We want to at least do something. You get to do something. You get to receive. It's awesome.

He says here that abiding in the presence of God helps us bear fruit. According to Galatians, what are the fruit of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. Against these things there is no law. If you want to grow in these areas, you don't do it by willpower; you do it by being in the presence of God, abiding in the presence of God.

Have you ever just tried to be more patient or made that promise to yourself? Anybody do that? Like, "I'm going to be more patient today," only to find out that the entire universe said you're not. Have you ever just decided, "You know what? I'm going to love from my heart these people that I really don't." How well does that work out? What happens is you're like, "Hey, are you doing well?" All the while just wanting bad things. Maybe I'm just talking about myself. Maybe you're godlier than I am.

So how does this inward transformation occur? By stepping into what you have been welcomed into: the presence of God. How do we abide with Jesus, then, since this is the invitation? The Son of God, this man we have been talking about, is saying, "Hey, abide. Remain. Don't leave. Hang out. Stay with me." So how do you get in there? I think it has a lot to do with positioning yourself under the waterfall of God's grace.

I think the reason we study the Bible is not so we might know the Bible; we study the Bible so we might know Jesus. The reason we get in classes and come to service and do these things is so that our hearts might be encouraged to know and love and walk with Jesus. Now, where does Jesus reveal himself most fully? In the Word of God. In the sufficient, inerrant Scriptures.

The question I've been asking you for 15 years, and I'm just such a big believer in answering these questions in a way that you'll find yourself… I think you have to ask…What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ, and what robs you of those affections? That's just old school. We've been talking about this for 15 years. You can't hyper-spiritualize that. At least I don't think you can.

For me, 5:30 to 5:45 a.m. stirs my affections for Jesus Christ. I know some of you are like, "Nope! Exact opposite for me." Maybe 11:00 p.m. does that for you. For me, 11:00 p.m. puts me in my flesh. There's something about getting up early, the quietness of the morning, making a good French press cup of coffee, and sitting in the quiet by myself with just myself that sets an edge on the day that helps me remember who I am and who I'm not and allows me to be with the one who made me for himself.

I'm not pulling that from the Bible. I can't stand up here right now and go, "You know what? If you're sleeping in and drinking Keurig coffee, you're in trouble." I'm not saying that. I would say that, but I'm not saying that. I'm saying…What stirs up your affection? If you're a parent, if you pay attention to your children… I have three, and I can tell you this: my son is all about way-too-loud worship music right now, and it's doing something in his heart that I'm just like, "Crank it up, bro."

Normally, I like quiet. I thrive in quiet, so I don't usually want, while I'm trying to have a conversation with my wife or my daughter, blaring worship music coming down from upstairs, yet this is a season where I'm going, "Okay, this is how the Lord is moving in him right now, so crank that thing up, bro." What stirs our affections? What robs us of affections? And then to be serious about cultivating those things.

Understand what's a means to an end and what's an end in itself. The end in itself is to know Jesus and make him known. Everything else is a means to that end. If you make anything else the end, it becomes idolatry and creates things that are ultimately harmful for you and harmful for us, as the people of God. Get yourself under the waterfall of God's grace.

We get in the Word to see Jesus, to know Jesus, to love Jesus, to worship Jesus, to make much of Jesus, to have our inward character formed by Jesus as he continually forgives our sins and the Spirit re-immerses us in this truth over and over and over again. That's not second baptism language. You're filled once and for all by the Holy Spirit at salvation, but the Ghost likes to flare up. The Ghost likes to turn up the volume sometimes.

We position ourselves under the waterfall of God's grace. We are serious about cultivating a relationship with Jesus, not just facts and numbers but presence and power, because the Lamb of God is taking away the sins of the world, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us, remains in us, and extends the invitation to be where we were created to be with who we were created to be with as we are not our ideal self, projecting strength and like we have it all together, and not our shadow self, wallowing in shame and self-pity, but resting in the triumphant grace of Jesus in his presence, enough, just as we are. I'm eager for us to know that all the more. Let's pray.

Father, minister to our hearts this morning. Again, I know across the spectrum here, today is hitting us in different ways, but we turn our eyes to you, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the sender of the Spirit that dwells in us as believers in you, Jesus. Remind our hearts today of things we're prone to forget.

The one thing we need to remember today is not this moral code, is not this right or wrong, but that we are secure in your love, that you have invited us in, and that you are transforming us from one degree of glory to the next. We thank you that truth and justice are yours, that healing and grace are yours, and we cry out that you would lavish all that you are on us for the sake of your name. We love you. Help us. It's for your beautiful name I pray, amen.

Scripture John 1:29-34