Millions of movie fans became aware of the beauty of New Zealand because of the filming location of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Then one of its cities—Christchurch (my hometown) made international headlines nine years ago when a massive earthquake destroyed it. And now it has hit the news once again, because of a terrible mass shooting that took the precious lives of 49 human beings just hours ago. But most are not aware of New Zealand’s rich (but vertically forgotten) godly heritage...
April 24, 2019
On July 30, 1967, Joni Erickson Tada dove headfirst into the Chesapeake Bay and became a quadriplegic. She misjudged how deep the water wasn’t. She said these words: “We pilgrims walk the tightrope between earth and heaven, feeling trapped in time, yet with eternity beating in our hearts. Our unsatisfied sense of exile is not to be solved or fixed while here on earth. Our pain and longings make sure we will never be content, but that’s good. It’s to our benefit that we do not grow comfortable in a world destined for decay.” We are all part of the ultimate statistic: Every single one of us are going to die.
We All Have an Appointment
I visit, as a pastor, as a bit of a death enthusiast, cemeteries. I go up and down and I read the tombstones and the epitaphs that are written and I get mesmerized by these people that have gone before us. We have no idea, I’ve got no idea the legacy that is left behind. Does anybody have any idea who these people are, who they were? Any siblings? Were they married? No idea, but one thing is for certain. All of us, every single one of us, are going to join them one day. We are all going to die.
We all have an appointment with death. James says this: “You do not know what will happen tomorrow, for what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then it vanishes away.” Living, knowing that your life is a vapor, is different than just living. Do you realize that your life is but a vapor, that at any moment, God can snatch away your breath? He gives it to you and He does not have to give it back to you once He takes it. We continually suck in the mercy of God.
“100 years from now, none of us will be here, and more than likely nobody will know your name. How does that make you feel? The name that needs to be remembered, however, is the Name above every name.”
He does that for every man, woman, and child alive. We are all living on borrowed time, and the moment that we stepped on into time, we began to decay, we began to die. Some of us, very possibly, can die within 2015. 100 years from now, none of us will be here, and more than likely nobody will know your name. How does that make you feel? The name that needs to be remembered, however, is the Name above every name. It’s that Name at which every knee will bow and every tongue will confess to this one. He is the King of kings and he’s the Lord of lords. He’s had no predecessor, and He’ll have no successor. You can’t impeach Him, and He’s not going to resign. This is Jesus Christ.
You Are God’s Poem
Life is so valuable because it is so quick and it is given to us by Him who is the ultimate value. God Himself. Everything He does is valuable. Now He spoke the world into existence, but He touched man to make man. You have the fingerprint of God on you, and when God made you, He said you are fearfully, you are wonderfully made. I didn’t just place a set of hair on your head. I strategically placed every hair on your head as a master artist, placed every freckle and every mole. Nothing is out of place. You are Mine, and you are beautiful. You are My poem. You are the expression of My heart, the sympathy of My praise. You are My creation.
Now, God did not die for the angels. You think about the mercy. God has no mercy for the angels. They blow it one time and that’s it. Isaiah 14 says that Lucifer fell down out of heaven at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, and he falls down, and he takes a horde of the angels with him, the demons, roaming here on earth. Time is precious. We are fragile. Life is short. Eternity is long. Every minute counts. Everything within me says, God I want to be a faithful steward unto You and I want to give back to You what You’ve given to me.
Just Speak, God
I remember praying a very provocative prayer when I was 13 years old, when I was in eighth grade. I remember praying, saying, “God, I believe that You may be real, but I don’t know if You are real.” God condescended to answer a very crazy prayer. Because I put God on trial and God’s not on trial. God reigns and rules supreme as the Judge of the universe, but I prayed this very unusual prayer. I remember, it was very foggy. I was a bit suicidal. I was moving around a lot. I did not go to the same school twice in a consecutive year.
I remember going to the school in Fountain Valley. It’s called Tamura Elementary School, and I was praying out in the middle of this fog-filled park at like three in the morning, and I said, “God, if You’re real, I want You to speak to me.” I waited. I remember thinking, God, there’s nothing too hard for you. Just speak to me. Speak. That’s what I thought.
Okay. I don’t know what it was, but something inside of me conceded to the fact that maybe God can’t speak but that’s okay. But maybe He’ll answer a different prayer, and I prayed this. “God I’m going to count down from ten to one and when I get down to one, I want to hear You honk. I want to hear a horn.” Right? This is the way my little 13-year-old mind works. Now bear in mind, I was a senior in high school when I found out there’s no Santa Claus, okay? That’s true by the way. That is true.
My mind is not at the place where everybody else’s mind is at. Can we just get over that and not tell anybody? Man, I shouldn’t have said that. Senior in high school. Okay. Let’s move on. So I started counting down, and I went “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two…” and right when it got down to one, this car came zipping around the corner with these teens laying on their horn. I went “Well whoa.” I remember falling down on my knees and I just began to weep and I began to cry. I said, “I will follow You all the days of my life.”
The Forgotten God
Then, something happened. My body began to change and I started to notice the opposite sex. I didn’t notice God. There was no more room for God at that point because I pushed Him out of my circle, out of my realm. I noticed sports, and I became a bit of a sports enthusiast. I realized that I can have a whole lot of fun without God. I did not realize that God was wanting to stamp eternity on my eyelids, that whether I was awake or asleep, I would come to the conclusion and the reality of the fact that this life is about Jesus Christ. That’s it. Nothing else matters.
Well the next four years, I lived the life, and I did my own thing. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, where I went to the Harvest Crusade, that I surrendered my life without reserve. I called Heaven and Hell as a witness before me that day. I said let nobody go with me, still I will follow You. I went to the Harvest Crusade with my girlfriend at the time, and it came time almost for the altar call, and I went forward out of turn. It wasn’t even time for the altar call, but I went forward anyways.
The Most Valuable Piece of Trash
I was standing there in front of Greg Laurie, all by myself, and he said, “I’m going to give the rest of you the chance to respond, just the way this guy has but not yet. Stay in your seats.” Well I was just Niagara Falls, but he shared a couple verses that day, and one of them was, “What would it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and yet he forfeits his soul?” Well, that night I was supposed to steal hundreds or thousands of pairs of Levi Jeans from a store called Miller’s Outpost where I was working.
I put that heist off until the next day to go to this Crusade. Now nobody invited me to the Crusade. I found a gospel tract, an invitation on the ground and it was crumbled up. Now I got voted most polite in school. I don’t know why. Well, I do know why. It was because I was a conman. I loved conning the best way I knew how. I was a loner. I didn’t have many friends. I was just kind of left to myself, sat by myself, ate by myself, wandered, meandered all by myself.
I found this piece of trash, and I didn’t want it to sit there at the park, so I went to throw it in the trash. As I went to throw it in the trash I looked at it and I saw that it was a tract, and on the other side was an invitation to the Crusade and that’s what made me go. I looked over at my girlfriend that joined me there at the Crusade and I said, “I want to go forward. I want to do this. I want to surrender. You want to go?” She said no.
She looked the other way, and she wouldn’t even look at me. I got forward and I stood there and that’s when I just started crying. I started weeping. I got plugged into a church. A friend of mine named Greg invited me to his church and for about two years, I don’t ever recall one person sitting next to me, for two years, at this church. Not one person.
I remember the words of Peter when he’s at Caesarea by the sea, talking to Jesus and Jesus says hey man, where is everybody? Hey Pete, where’d everybody go? Peter, are you going to leave also? What did Pete say? “Where am I going to go Lord? You alone hold the words to eternal life.” I remember saying that over and over and over again. I would fall into sin as a Christian, but then what am I going to do? Stay there? No. Where am I going to go? You alone hold the words to eternal life.
John Duncan once said, “Before I became a Christian, I deserved hell. After I became a Christian, I deserved hell ten times over,” and that was a testimony for my life because the things that I practiced, the things that I tried, the things that I saw, the things that I did were unbefitting of a Christian. I would always go right back. Where am I going to go Lord? You alone hold the words to eternal life.
Kicked Out of College
Well I went away to Bible college, and away at Bible college, I’m thinking, all right, why are these people here? Now this Bible college is about a mile up the road here. That’s where I went. I was there and I remember waking up in the middle of the night. I remember not setting my alarm and just thinking, God, You want to wake me up in the middle of the night, I’m going to spend some time with You. Otherwise I’m going to sleep through the night. If I wake, I’m going to spend time with You, I’m going to get inside Your Word. I’m going to go through Your Word, but more importantly, I want Your Word to go through me. Lord, if You’re going to make my bladder want to go in the middle of the night, I believe that’s not because of my bladder. I believe it’s because You want to see my eyes. You want to hear my voice. You want to hang out. While everybody else sleeps, I’m going to just, the best way I know how, I’m going to pursue You. I’m going to ask. I’m going to seek and I’m going to knock.
“The real you is who you are when nobody’s around. When the lights go out, when you got the remote in your hand, when you’ve got the internet before you…”
It got to the point where the professors came and sat me down and told me to mellow out. I ended up getting kicked out of Bible college, which was ironic because about six months later, now I’m speaking at a chapel in the Bible college, and I shared that in my opening story. It’s so good to be here. You guys kicked me out of here.
God just has a sense of humor, and I laugh at it. I find it amusing. Life is quick. Life is extremely fast. You will exist forever. You and God are both in this universe forever, either on His terms in Heaven, or on your terms, in Hell. What are you going to do? See, it’s easy to be a Christian in a club, in a clique like this. I know. I really bet it is, but the real you is who you are when nobody’s around. When the lights go out, when you got the remote in your hand, when you’ve got the internet before you… you got whatever, you fill in the blank. You know you. You know you. That is you. That is the real you, and as much as you think that it’s not you, that is you.
Do You Desire God?
Now what are you going to do about that? Because it’s your terms or it’s His terms. If you crave the things of the Lord, if you crave to just get away from the sheep, knowing that the sheep are noisy, and you want to get away. “Baa.” And you have, your heart just poured out before the Lord. Now when I was in school, I had to sit on my hands continually because I was always getting in trouble. I was pulling on people’s hair and throwing stuff and doing stuff.
My teachers would continually say, “Mark, sit on your hands.” I adopted that into my Christian life, that when I go to God in prayer, a lot of times I just kind of sit on my hands, in a sense. Listen, I’m not here to offer you anything. I’ve got nothing to say to you. I don’t know how many people got to you in prayer and just they want to dump off, they want to vomit out their prayer list. There’s nothing wrong with that. I do it. Really? Right.
But how many people just go and sit? “Here I am God.” My little girl Eden was inside of her crib and I remember going by and looking at her and I was just enthralled with her chubbiness, right? She’s just a bundle of joy. I look at her. She’d be sleeping and I wouldn’t want to leave. I would just be staring at her. I remember one time, she opened up her eyes. She smiles, and she went back to sleep and I began to cry. I went, “Lord, if I’m like that toward my daughter, what goes through the mind of Omnipotence and Omniscience and Omnipresence when I just come and I just smile? And I just want to say thank you, God.”
So find me weird. I go to Starbucks and I order my two cups of coffee, one for Him and one for me and I throw it in the trash when I’m done with the meeting. I write a note to the Lord, I write a poem to God or just a helium balloon and I send it off to Him and I trust that He’s going to read it. You do your thing. I do my thing. Find it weird? Sure. David danced in his chonies, right, and his wife, Michal—weird name for a woman—it was a woman—rebukes him. Worship is weird, guys. It’s weird. It makes no sense.
What do you close your eyes for? Why are you raising your hand? What’s going on? What are you really doing? You realize the world looks into your life and is left scratching their head. What are you doing? I remember walking into Calvary Costa Mesa on Monday night when Greg Laurie would be teaching. People would have their hands raise up. I’d go up and give them high fives. Yeah, what’s up? Really, you getting closer to the Lord doing that, are you? I’m six foot three. I’m closer to Him than you are. Right?
I would just mock, I would mock worship because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand come aside and rest a while. I didn’t understand what it would mean to just sit with the Lord, to write poetry to God, to sing songs to Him that I will never sing to another person. I didn’t know what it was like to hear the words, “I love you,” with no strings attached.
“Scripture encourages us to number our days in our youth. In other words, count your days and make them count.”
Well, God knows what it’s like. Scripture encourages us to number our days in our youth. In other words, count your days and make them count. Number your days in your youth. Make your days count. Mark, where do you see yourself five years from now? Doing what I’m doing now, but to a greater degree. Ten years? Same thing. Where do you see yourself five years from now? Well with this profession, maybe going to school. Okay. But really, can you say doing what you’re doing now, but to a greater degree?
God, I call Heaven and Hell as a witness before me today and I say You have permission to be God in the man. I want to be that person who God can fully entrust to squash, without having to ask for my permission. Maybe someday you’ll hear that that happened, or that I dive into the water of Chesapeake Bay and I become a quadriplegic and I’m only able to worship the Lord with my eyelids or with my tongue, but not with my hands, not with my legs, not with my feet. That’s okay because God is in control, and really my first point is this: it’s not about you.
It’s About Him
It’s about Him. It’s about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Surely God means for our minutes on earth to count for something significant. Have you ever felt the pulse in your ear or paused long enough to take your own heart rate? Ever seen an x-ray and begin to check out at your teeth or your bones or the things that you are comprised of, but really that is not you. The real you is what God sees when no one’s around. I’ll take it a step further.
How about this for weirdness and Christianity. I believe that when you go to God and you go to pray and you go to talk to Him, He doesn’t even understand English. He speaks heart-ish. Through all the muck and the mire and all the words that you’re going to say and the many things that you may vomit out or say in the sweet praise or song or a hymn, when He hears and the only thing that He hears is really what your heart yearns within you. “Be exalted oh Lord in Your own strength,” David said, “Because I got nothing to give You.”
As we sit there with the Lord and we just begin to talk about God, could it possibly be that what God really speaks is heart-ish? Not English but heart-ish, with His ear up against the heart of His people, listening to the true cry. It sounds weird, doesn’t it? But welcome to the reality of God. The only box He’ll fit in is that box that says other. It’s the only box that God will fit in.
“But let him who glories glory in this: that he knows Me. That he understands Me.” Can you imagine that? Hey, I know President Obama. I know Kirk Cameron. I know Tom Cruise. I know God. Hello? No competitors. Nothing else to say. Microphone drop. Walk away.
Welcome to Christianity
This life is not about you. Since it’s about Him, He has permission to do whatever He wants to do. Trials, they’re going to come. Piles and piles of trials and the hardest trial you’ll ever go through is the one you’re going through right now, until tomorrow hits. As a Christian, you have promises that await you. There are persecutions and temptations and sufferings beyond measure. Welcome to Christianity.
You don’t fit in into this world. You’re an odd peg in a square or round world. You don’t fit in. Stop trying to make a name for yourself. You can’t fit in. You’re not the cool kid. You’re an outcast. Now it doesn’t mean you need to go out of your way to be weird and foolish and ugly, but you are a child. As a child, we enter into the kingdom of God. It doesn’t mean we’re childish. Don’t be childish, but be as a child.
“Love is giving somebody what they need, not what they want. We don’t even know what we want.”
What does that mean? It means having simple childlike faith. You listen to one of my prayers, it’s real simple. I pray as if God is listening. Why? Because He is. I pray expecting to receive. Why? Because He desires to give. When I pray and I sit, and I offer up my prayer to the Lord from my heart, I believe He’s going to cut through all the junk and the jive and the slang that I’m speaking, He’s going to say, “I know what you need. I love you too much to give you what you’re asking, so I’m going to give you what you need.” That’s what true love is.
Love is giving somebody what they need, not what they want. We don’t even know what we want. Our hearts are fickle, crazy fickle. You know on that day when we pass from time on into eternity, the only thing that’s going to matter is what we do with Jesus Christ. We’re going to be gone from this place soon and there’s going to be people that are going to tread after us and they’re going to walk in the same place where we walked. They’re going to visit the same conference center, sit where you’re at. Sit in the same chairs that you’re sitting in.
More Than Half of You Are Going to Hell
Some 25 years ago, I was sitting inside of a service with Dennis Eastman. Sitting there and our college pastor, his name was Bruce. He said, “You know the statistics are right. More than half of you will not be walking with God 20 years from now.” I’ll make it more real. I read a Barna research group stat. It said this: 61% of today’s young adults who were regular church attendees are now spiritually disengaged. They’re not actively attending church, praying, or reading their Bibles. 20% of those who were spiritually active during high school are still maintaining a similar level of commitment.
What does that mean? Half of you will not be walking with God 20 years from now. What does that really mean? More than likely, half of you are going to Hell. You’re part of a club. You’re part of a clique. You look good. You fit in. I applaud you, but I’m the only one that does. You know Heaven talks about an applause that is reserved in Heaven and the only time that an awed applause happens is when a man repents. If you’re living a habitual sin and you have no problem with it, Scripture says you have not been born from above. You have not been born by God. You are a liar. The truth does not abide inside of you. You are deceived and you are on the broad road that leads to destruction.
The ones making it to Heaven are on a narrow road. There’s only a narrow road that leads to life, which means the majority of people are on their way to Hell than are on their way to Heaven. Somebody once asked an apologist during a debate, “Are you saying you believe most of the people in the world are going to Hell?? He said, “This may surprise you. I believe most of the people in the church are going to Hell.”
The atheist thanked him for his candidness and his honesty. Now, when we say church, we’re referring to a building, but the real Church is the believer, the person who’s turned from their sins and they’ve placed their trust in the only One who can forgive them of their sins, because He’s the only one that can condemn them. That’s the Church. Now, people play church, but the real Church are those who are homesick for a home they’ve never been to. Who don’t put their stake very deep here on earth, but say this isn’t my home. You want to take my possessions? They’re not my possessions. Everything I have belongs to Him. You want to take my time? It’s not my time. You do it outside of time.
Don’t Waste Your Dash
God sees the first day as if it’s the last day and He sees every day in between. If you wanted to give this message a title, you can call it, “Don’t Waste Your Dash.” What does that mean? We all have a birthday and we all have a death day, but in between you have this very narrow little line and it’s called a dash. It’s all over for every one of us, whether we’re young or whether we’re old. Well, God knows. God knows you and it’s not about you.
You don’t need to be in control because God is. You know, Corrie Ten Boom said, “There is no panic in heaven, only plans.” There’s no panic in Heaven, only plans. So when we begin to think and wonder, Where is God? Where are You, Lord? He’s not pacing back and forth. He doesn’t have raised brows wondering what’s going to happen. He knows what He’s doing. He’s in control. He doesn’t need your wisdom. Doesn’t need your counsel. He’s God.
He’s not pacing back and forth. He doesn’t have raised brows wondering what’s going to happen. He knows what He’s doing. He’s in control. He doesn’t need your wisdom. Doesn’t need your counsel. He’s God.”
When trials come, and they will, you realize that those trials are little soapboxes of virtue, that you may stand up on top and point to the gloriousness of God. That there remains a rest for the people of God, Hebrews chapter 4 says. I love experiencing that rest in the midst of my trials. People freak out and they wonder, Hey where’s my next meal going to…you guys don’t have this because you have parents or guardians or you know where your next meal’s coming from perhaps, at least 90% of you.
I tell you, as you get older, maybe parents can begin to wonder or worry. They worry about finances, so they highlight the verse that says, “And my God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” Some people highlight it. Some people underline it. Some people claim it. Some people do all of the above. But I’ve just kind of come to the conclusion where I’ve realized, you know what? I’m going to let somebody else worry because I’m not going to worry about my life.
No Need to Worry
What a joy as a believer to come to the place where I go, “I don’t need to worry about my life because it’s not about me anyways. It’s about You and You will supply all of my needs. You’re going to give me exactly what I need when I need it and You’re going to make a way where there seems to be no way because You’re a God who is Spirit and nothing slows You down.”
What an amazing God we serve, who can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, to whomever He wants and He answers to no one and He doesn’t care what you think. You can’t slow Him down. Everything’s in motion to do an awesome work that can point the glory back to Him. It’s not about you.
I talk to people, point two about devotions. People say, “Should I do devotions in the morning or should I do them in the evening?” My answer is, “Yes.” I mean, what? It’s not about devotions. It’s about devoted. I’m just devoted. I’m devoted to Him because He’s devoted to me. I just crave and yearn to get inside of His Word. His Word pops off the pages because they’re alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.
The Promise of Prosperity
Can you imagine if somebody had the ability to come up to you and say, “Do you want whatever you do in this world to succeed?” I want you to think of just the most amazing things to be able to do. You put your mind to that and you begin to move forward in that direction. You’ll either really want to head that direction as you begin to head that direction, or you’ll go, You know, this isn’t the direction for me, and you’ll want to head this other direction. But either way, whatever direction you head, you’re going to succeed at it. You’re going to prosper in that direction.
Imagine if somebody had the power and the authority to be able to do that to you? Be the most successful person in the world, and I love that. Psalm chapter 1, listen to this guys. Psalm 1:1-3. It says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law he meditates day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not whither and whatever he does shall prosper.”
But what’s the caveat? You’ve got to be meditating on God’s Word. When? At night? In the day? In the morning? No. It’s just a part of me. It’s just a part of me. I’m just meditating through God’s Word. I’m just chewing on it like a cow. I chew on it and then I vomit it back up. I taste it again. Hey, it’s kind of sweet. All right. Then I swallow it again. It goes into the next stomach, and all throughout the day, I find God’s Word to be what I need. As sweet or as sour as it may be, it’s exactly what I need and I’m going to be healthy.
As I meditate on God’s Word, only two times you’re to meditate on God’s Word. During the day and at night. If you do that, whatever you do will prosper and you have God’s Word and He cannot lie. He is the truth. Lying lips are an abomination to Him. He’s not going to lie. So now you have a promise of God that whatever you do will prosper. Welcome to the simplicity. What am I sharing with you guys right now?
I’m sharing with you what I wish somebody shared with me when I was 14, 15, 16 years old. I wish I can go back in time and grab a hold of a 15-year-old Mark Spence and slap some sense into him and to tell him, “Listen Mark. Hey, life’s going to be quick. It’s not going to be about you. You’re going to blow it. Get back up. Put your eyes on Christ. Sit on your hands. Trust in Him. Move forward and listen. Amazing things are going to happen. Hey if you meditate, day, night, just chew on God’s Word, whatever you do will prosper.”
Truth in the Commotion
What? Guys, that is the truth of the matter. Whatever you do will prosper. You delight yourself in the Lord, He’ll give you the desires of your heart. You draw near to God, He will draw near to you. What happens? You’re not asking for the junk and the jive that the rest of the world is asking for because you know what truth is. You know what billboards and articles and advertisements and movies and radio things, you know what they do? They suck the life out of you. You can do it. All things are lawful and I go to the movies and I watch whatever. I do things everybody does, but more than just a time-sucker, they’re just not helping me out.
Because in the economy of God, God always works in the economy of a paradox. A paradox is not a contradiction. A contradiction is something that goes against truth. A paradox is something that seems like a contradiction but it’s not. It is actually truth. I’ll give you an example. You want to be great? You got to serve. The two get married. They become one. The last, they shall be first. Nothing makes sense.
When you listen to these radio programs and watch these videos and these movies and it’s all about you climbing up the corporate ladder it begins to just fog out the things of God. Listen to this. God won’t compete. He’s not going to raise His voice with the commotion in your life. As a gentleman, He’s going to continue to speak and He’s not going to raise His voice. He shared His voice with you. You can open it up. You can see exactly what He means.
If you want the commotion to be there, it can be there. What’s drowning Christ out of your life? Nothing? Praise the Lord. Grab ahold of somebody who is being drowned out. You who are spiritual, be there for those who are not. So, God knows, God knows what you’re going through. What does He know? He knows you personally. He knows your rising up and He knows your sitting down. He knows your sitting down right now. He knows your thoughts from afar, not just because He’s far off way in outer space, but He knows your far-off thoughts. He knows what you’re thinking.
You think, Nobody knows what’s going on…I’m going through these things and I feel like I’m on an island all to myself…and God says, “I see it. I know. I see that thought. I see your worry. I see your stress. I see it all. It’s okay. I’m still sitting. I’m not pacing back and forth.” Knows you personally.
To get personal with you guys, 16 years ago I went through something very tragic in my life. It was very overwhelming to me. It’s still very overwhelming to me to this day. If I begin to think about it, I will become overwhelmed with tears, and I won’t be able to even finish this message, but God has used this thing in my life to keep my feet walking in a straight path, clinging onto a risen Savior. It didn’t matter what I did. It’s not going to make it go away. It’s something that’s with me for life. I’m just so overwhelmed by it and I had a pastor friend come up to me. His name is Richard.
I was looking down amongst different people that were at this church that I used to attend, and he said, “Mark, I just want to say that God knows what you’re going through.” I felt this load off my shoulders. Why? He who knows God only needs to know that He knows. I’ll say it again. He who knows God only needs to know that He knows. If you know God, you realize He’s not playing games with you. This isn’t a playground. This is a battleground, and because it is a battleground, He’s not going to be playing games with your time. He’s not going to be playing games with your head and with your heart or your physical body. He’s not going to waste time because time is too valuable.
“He who knows God only needs to know that He knows.”
So I realize that God, You could have stopped that thing from happening, but You didn’t. For Your glory God, do what You want to do and got to do, and it’s okay. It’s okay. Because we’re going to enter into Heaven through much persecution and tribulation. We’re going to enter into it by force, and this life that is quick, is going to be a violent one. You are hated for His namesake. If you desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, you will suffer persecution. Not even if you are living godly, but if you just desire to live godly, welcome to the family of God.
He Paid the Debt
God knows you physically. “God, why didn’t you make me thin?” “I did. You took a turn south, you know. You did your own thing.” But God knows everything about you. He knows you physically. He knows you personally. He knows you spiritually. He knows what makes you tick. He knows you prophetically. He knows where you’re going to be 100 years from now. Scripture says in Psalm 139 that all of your days were laid out and numbered in His book before there was even one. He knows all about you.
He knew what your name was going to be when your parents were deciding on 15 different names and He inscribed your name on the palm of His hand, Isaiah says. A tattoo of me on God? Yeah. See, God is so intimately involved with you as His creature that He would do whatever it takes to make sure you don’t go to Hell for the sins that you’ve committed. In fact, He did. He did whatever it took. He paid the ultimate price on that Roman gibbet 2000 years ago, and He paid a debt He did not owe because you and I owed a debt we could never pay.
You Cannot Escape Him
It’s Hell to pay. God was in this room before you showed up. He dwells in places where you would think not. You can try to evade Him but you can’t outrun Him. You try to make your bed in Hell and get away from Him and yet He’s there. You try to ride on the wings of the heavens and go to Heaven and He’s there. God is there. He’s just, He’s omnipresent. There’s no way you can try to escape away to get away from Him. You’re going to try to outrun Him and all you’re doing is running into Him because He’s everywhere. He’s at the left and He’s at the right. He’s in front of you and He’s behind you.
>It reminds me of the story of General MacArthur away at war. He was encompassed with the enemy all around him. As the enemy was all around him, he was heard saying these words: “Men, the enemy is in front of us. The enemy’s behind us. The enemy’s to the left and to the right. They’re not going to get away this time.” That’s the way it is with God. He’s to your left, He’s to the right. He’s in front of you, and He’s behind you. You’re not going to get away. God’s in control.
Death cannot remove you from God. Distance cannot separate you from God and darkness cannot hide you from God. A little girl was once asked, “How do you know there’s only one God?” To which she replied, “I know there’s only one God because there’s no room for anyone else.” This God is the Alpha, and this God is the Omega; He’s the end.
Alpha means He is the first letter of the alphabet. The Omega means He’s the last letter of the alphabet. He’s the beginning and the end and He’s everything in between and anybody or anything that tries to have the last word only has a middle word because He’ll always have the last word. Every one of us will find God as our Omega, as our end. For some, we will find Him as a well-spring of life. As an oasis in a dessert leading unto life.
Do You Love God?
But some of us will find him bitter in our mouths, not sweet to the taste because we found the things of this world sweeter than the things of God. We will find Him as a winepress of wrath, where we will experience the full fury of God as He gives justice to mankind. What would I tell a 14-year-old Mark Spence? I would say don’t count your life dear to yourself. You’re foolish. Reach out to the lost.
“Carl Sagan, the atheistic philosopher, said, ‘When you love someone, you want to tell the world.’ Are you telling the world? If not, deductive reasoning says you don’t love Him.”
Life is quick. Your life is not your own. Carl Sagan, the atheistic philosopher, said, “When you love someone, you want to tell the world.” Are you telling the world? If not, deductive reasoning says you don’t love Him, but no one can fall in love with God and not tell others about Him. We can’t sit idly by, reading a good book by poolside while infants are drowning into the water and not do something about it.
God’s Not Done with You
Philip De Courcy, you may have heard of him, he said, “If a Christian hand were cut off, it should bleed evangelism.” Charles Spurgeon said, “No pursuit of mortal men is to be compared with that of soul-winning.” I was driving along with Ray Comfort this week. I told him what my message was going to be on, and he goes, “Okay. So what you would tell a 15-year-old Mark? I’m curious Mark, all right.” So, I’m in my 60s. I was born in ‘49. What would a 65-year-old Mark say to a 42-year-old Mark? Because you’re 42 now.
I would say, “Pick up the pace. Pick it up. Let’s go. Let’s get going. Let’s get moving. Don’t get sidetracked. Lay aside that weight that so easily ensnares you. Pick your friends wisely. There’s no time. We’re out of time. Time is almost out. It’s almost over.” So guys, don’t waste your dash. Your dash is almost over. It’s almost through, but God’s not done. The reason why I know God’s not done with you is because you’re still alive. Being that, that you’re still alive, you can trust that God will meet you where you’re at and He will offer you mercy and grace if you come to Him on His terms.
Thomas Watson said, “He that sins because of God’s mercy, knowing that God’s mercy is there, shall have judgment without mercy.” Thomas Manton said, “God desires to exercise mercy as much as you desire to feel it.” Sam Storm said, “God has a holy temper, but He has a very long fuse. And even those who deny and blaspheme His name are recipients of His patience and long-suffering. He permits His enemies to live, to spew forth their horrid blasphemies, all the while blessing them with food and air and earthly pleasures.”
The Law of God
You think about grace. God’s unmerited favor to the infinitely ill-deserving. Grace is everything for nothing to those who don’t deserve anything. When you begin to look into the Law of God, you begin to realize that you deserve the justice of God. Man runs from God’s Law but just like God himself, it is transcendent. It is holy. It is perfect. God’s Law exists everywhere. You shall not lie. As a non-believer, you hear those words and they’re very condemning words. You shall not lie, but as a believer, you hear those words and you say, “I, I shall not lie.”
I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to lie anymore. I’ve been set free. As a non-believer, you hear the words, You shall not steal. No thief will inherit the kingdom of God, but as a believer we hear, “You don’t have to steal anymore.” You’re going to inherit the kingdom of God because Jesus paid the ultimate price. Lying is wrong because God is ultimately honest. He is holy and He is perfect. He’s without sin. He’s without blemish. We are not.
If you look with lust you are an adulterer according to Jesus and no adulterer will inherit the kingdom of God. You dishonored your parents, you are a sorcerer according to the Old Testament. You text “OMG” that is blasphemy, and the Bible says, “Your enemies use your name in vain, oh God.” Would you count yourself as an enemy? No way. God does.
There’s Still Time
Sin is so serious that He paid the ultimate price so that you wouldn’t have to pay the ultimate price. If you would be willing to come to Him on His terms, confess your sin before God, while there’s still time. His arm is not short that He cannot reach out to you. His ear is not dull that He cannot hear you, but your sin has separated you from this One who created you, who made you. That fuse is shortening up and there’s going to come a time where God will have no more patience, and there will be no more time as it were. God does not give His grace by calculated measure. Grace is not only undeserved favor but it is a favor shown to the one who has deserved the very opposite. You deserve God’s wrath, but He desires to forgive you. To reach into the dark cavern of your heart and to turn your heart towards Him, if you would come to Him on His terms.
It’s not saying a simple prayer. This is what you have to do. You need to cry out to God to have mercy on you. You need to cry out to God that He might hear you. He’s not as far off, as Peter says in the book of Acts, but you have to come to Him and you have to cry out to Him. You cry out to God to have mercy on you, to forgive you. You beat your chest and you say, “God, I deserve to go to Hell through the thoughts I think, even in the last activity I did. You’d be a deserving God to throw me into Hell.
“Lord, I’m coming to You not asking for justice. I’m coming to You asking for grace and mercy, that You would be merciful to me, a sinner, and that You would give me what I don’t deserve, that is grace, the hope of Heaven, fellowship with God.” And God the Father grabbed a hold of His Son and the full wrath of God that was deserving unto you, came pouring down upon his son Jesus Christ, and He took the full blunt, the full force of the wrath of Almighty God so that you wouldn’t receive it because you do deserve it.
He’s Willing to Save You
He never asked what you thought about that when He died on that cross. He’s willing to forgive you. Playing a game with God, you know what you do in darkness? God knows your thoughts that are far off, that’s a good thought or that’s a horrific, horrendous thought. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch of the good as well as the evil. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet he forfeits his soul? For what shall a man forfeit his soul?” Your life is but a vapor. It’s here today but it’s gone tomorrow and when you breathe in you suck in the mercy of God and there’s going to come a time when God will not give that breath back to you.
The most intelligent thing you could ever do is to give that breath back to God through praise and say, “Thank you.” God, I ask by the power of your Spirit, that You would sanctify our brains, our minds, our wandering hearts, our tiredness, God. You would have Your way for Your namesake, for Your covenant, because of Your fame, because You’re great, God. Remember that these people are but dust, that we sit in the shadow of dust and we walk in the valley of the shadow of death and we eat and drink iniquity like water.
Lord, everything within us says, We hate You, God…and if you’ll open up the gates of Hell, every person inside that place would charge right up to You and cuss You in Your face. That’s how much this world hates You and Hell hates You. If You were alive today, we would crucify You all over again. God, what I’m asking for is mercy. I’m asking for grace. I’m asking, God, simply for Your smile. Would you smile down upon these people and meet them where they’re at and make their lives count and stamp eternity on their eyelids? Before it’s too late. Before they have a lifetime of regret. For your namesake God, I trust, in simple childlike faith, that you will be God in this place. All because of what Jesus did. Amen. Amen.