How Do You Relate To Jesus
Examining The Question, "How Do You Relate To Jesus?".
Jul 9, 2023 1hr m
Every person is in a different place in their relationship with Jesus. This message asks you, how do you relate to Jesus? Scripture teaches us ways we can more easily evaluate where we currently are in relation to Him and His truth. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.
Tagshow do you relate to jesus pursusion support spreading the gospel gospel mission work persecution resistance self-reliance pride hurt anger teachers disciplers encouragement
This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.
This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.
Ross Sawyers: [00:00:04] Multiple times I've mentioned the name Jim Dennison, and he writes a daily article interacting with what's going on in the cultural moment and then bringing a biblical way to respond to the culture, I would encourage you to look him up, and maybe subscribe to the same thing. I think it's increasingly important that we have people who are helping us understand the culture around us and how to respond to it. Things happen so fast that it's difficult to keep up and there are people that are working hard at helping us to be able to do that.
Ross Sawyers: [00:00:39] Well, this week in one of the Denison articles, he made this statement and then commented on it a bit. He talked about America's great problem, and that most secular Americans don't know the peril that they face. America's great problem is that most secular Americans don't know the peril they face. A number of things might run through your mind as to what Denison says is that great problem. But the way he responds is the great problem is they're separated from God. The greatest problem in our country today are people and their hearts being separated from God. That's a worldwide problem, and it's a US problem. We have a lot of external problems that we could spend our time chasing, but the greatest problem is a problem of the heart and a separation from God. He goes on to quote his friend and before he quotes his friend, Paul Powell, he says, we owe it to them to tell them. We owe it to people to let them know this is the greatest problem in our country. We owe it to them. And then his friend Paul Powell says this, quote, "America needs you standing courageous before evil. The sin of silence is all about us." When is the last time that you've heard silence called a sin? The sin of silence is all about us. Our generation and Paul Powell is older, he said. our generation needs to remember that silence is often golden, but at times it may be yellow. To stand neutral is to stand for nothing. This is not a day for us to be silent. we actually can bring a solution to bear on the great problem, and we owe it to people to tell them what that solution is.
Ross Sawyers: [00:03:08] If you'd turn your Bibles to Acts Chapter 18, we'll hang out in all of this chapter, some of it I'll summarize, but the bulk of it I think we'll be able to work our way through. There are a number of people that are in Acts 18 that are described, and when we think about these people today, what I'd like to do in breaking down this message is to think about the question, how do you relate to Jesus? So how do you personally relate to Jesus? And can you find yourself in one of the people in this part of the story of acts in Chapter 18? It'll make more sense in a moment.
Ross Sawyers: [00:03:51] We're talking about being on the move, and certainly, the apostle Paul, who has been sent by God to bring the message of Jesus. We've been looking in the last few weeks at different parts of his journeys, he was going to cities where they had never heard the message of Christ before, he was establishing worship where there was none, he was leaving churches and then moving on to the next one, while people would stay behind to disciple and lead the people in those churches. So it's a beautiful pattern we see in his life unfolding on the move. He tells us to imitate him. so in the same way we want to be on the move with the message of Jesus.
Ross Sawyers: [00:04:29] Before we jump into that idea, I want to add to it on a bit of a side note and encourage you to go to a movie. This week I went to two movies at the theater. On, I forget which day I went, but I went to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. And as I read someone this week talking about the culture and what screens do to us, while it was fascinating and it was cool that you can de-age with AI Harrison Ford from 82 looking younger, I left the theater probably a little bit dumber than I was two hours before I entered it. But yesterday I did not leave the theater dumber, and I was invited by Travis Muscatel, who helps lead worship up here at times. And he said on Thursday, will you go to a movie with me this weekend? He's never asked me to a movie that I can remember, and he told me which one, and I'd received an email from someone this week. And I thought, hold on, I think that's the movie that someone sent me the email on, The Sound of Freedom. some of you may have already seen it. And I would say to you, if you don't do anything else this week, you need to get to the movie theater and you need to see that movie, The Sound of Freedom. When we left yesterday, nobody was walking out saying, oh, how cool the AI and all the effects that were generated by it. Nobody was saying or critiquing the movie. Nobody was saying that was a great movie, it was quiet because it was substantive, it was real, and it was heavy. And really, the only way you could leave is wondering, what am I supposed to do with what I just saw? If you don't have the courage to do that, don't go. But if you're willing to get your head out of the sand. and watch something tough to digest. everything I know about the sex trafficking of young girls and young boys, I felt like they depicted it really well, unfortunately. And fortunately, people were not silent on this topic and are speaking. I don't know as a mom or a dad, how you could not be moved by something if you show up in that movie theater.
Ross Sawyers: [00:07:27] On the Move. Let's talk about the greatest problem that actually creates that sex trafficking problem, and it's the problem of the human heart not being in line with the ways of God and the ways of Jesus. So the way I want to break this down, it's several categories of people as I mentioned, and I want to begin with the persuader. So if you're taking notes, you might want to just jot down these things and say, okay, I wonder who I am in relation to Jesus right now. And the persuader is what I would start with in verses 1 through 4 of Chapter 18, "After these things, he left Athens and went to Corinth." To catch us up, Paul is on a missionary journey, he's been in Greece. For the last few weeks, we've been in Thessalonica, which is in Greece. we've been in Berea, which is in Greece, we've been in Athens, which is in Greece, and now we're in Corinth, which is in Greece.
Ross Sawyers: [00:08:21] Each of these cities have different characteristics, and Paul is showing up in these places and he's bringing what is strange to their ears in Athens. It's an intellectual city, they're bantering about ideas, and he brings to bear the idea of Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. It's strange to them, and they banter that idea with him, but he brings it boldly and personally to them who Jesus is.
Ross Sawyers: [00:08:46] Now, Paul is in Corinth, and when he arrives in Corinth, he's arriving in a city that businesspeople here would have loved in the day. It was a heavy commerce kind of city. And then it was also a city known for its freedom. In sex, anything goes, just a license to do whatever. We are not the first generation to have sex out of control. We only go back to Corinth, where sex was out of control. There was a phrase, to live as a Corinthian. If someone used that phrase about you, what they were saying is that you are an immoral, sexually out-of-control person. That was the reputation of the city. The goddess Aphrodite was the statue that oversaw it, and she is the goddess of sex. So now Paul comes into a place, and we know in the First and Second Corinthian letters that he's dealing with the backgrounds of people that have this sexual immorality and how hard that is to change, and yet God can change that to a place of freedom and purity. This is where he arrives.
Ross Sawyers: [00:08:46] "He found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome." I want to come back in a few minutes at the end of the chapter and talk about Aquila and Priscilla, but I want to stay focused on Paul, who is a persuader. And just a side note for Christianity, it is based on history and it's through fact and evidence from which we have our scriptures. Oftentimes times we see the names of people that were in political realms or government realms that help us date what was happening. In 49 AD we know that Claudius, who was the leader of Rome expelled these Jews from this area. So we know historically that occurred, and it's written in the scripture to give us context of when this was occurring. "He came to them, 3and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tentmakers." They were leather makers, Aquila and Priscilla, husband, and wife, and now they're with Paul. Paul would oftentimes work to earn enough money to be able to continue to share and talk about Jesus. And in this case, he was he was working as a tent maker with them.
Ross Sawyers: [00:11:23] In verse 4, we find him doing what he does in every city, "He was reasoning..." He was dialoguing and having questions and answers. "...in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks." He was trying to persuade them. Now, Paul is a Jew, not a Greek. He was bringing the message of Jesus to Jews and Greeks. To anyone who would listen, he would bring it, he was trying to persuade. He was a persuader, to persuade means to compel, he was compelling them with the evidence of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, and why He is worth believing and following. That's interesting because when you go to First Corinthians. He says to them, "I did not come trying to persuade you." So which is it? In Acts 18 it says he's trying to persuade them. But then he writes a letter and said, that's not what I was trying to do. Well, when we get to the context of the letter, he talks about the foolishness of the message he brought. And he said, the message of Jesus I brought to you, it's a foolish message, and that's mostly how people receive it as foolish. They said the foolishness of God is greater than the most wise of men, and God uses the weak things of the world, the base things of the world, to bring the power of God. What does he say? I'm not trying to persuade you. He said I'm not trying to be clever and figure out how to persuade you with this, I'm coming in the power of the Holy Spirit and I'm going to lay out the message of Jesus for you, and that's what I can do. And it's God's spirit who has the power to take this message so that you no longer hear it as foolish, but it becomes power for you as well. Paul was a persuader, he was one who was always mixing it up, bringing the Gospel. He was not yellow, he was not neutral, and he was not silent. The sin of silence would not be one he's confessing. Would you say today that you relate to Jesus and to those around you as a persuader? One who will get in the mix of ideas with people and bring the strange and foolish message of Jesus to bear on the conversation. Paul was a persuader.
Ross Sawyers: [00:14:13] There are others then, right? So the supporter is the next one, I would say, can come from the Scriptures and see that there are those who are supporters. "But when Silas and Timothy..." Verse five, "came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ." Now, last time we saw Silas and Timothy, these are friends of Paul, these are the ones that are following Jesus. Silas and Timothy are with him in Bera, Paul gets booted out of the city. He heads to Athens, he's waiting for them to show up in Athens, but they never do. He moves on to Corinth, now, Silas and Timothy show up in Corinth. It's like you're in a hard situation and you're waiting for a couple of your friends to show up for support, and those who are persuaders need people around them that can be supporters. Now, in this particular case, in verse 5, we see that Silas and Timothy must have brought money to Paul and maybe it was collected from other believers, I'm not sure, but he no longer had to make tents. Now he could focus on being devoted to bringing the word every day, not just on the Sabbath, but every day. So supporters are sometimes, though not always financial, but sometimes in often financial supporters, so that those who are the persuaders can be about the persuading.
Ross Sawyers: [00:15:44] We see that in Luke chapter 8, verse 3, Jesus had several women that were disciples that traveled with him. And it says in verse 3 of chapter 8 in Luke that they were contributing to the support of Jesus and the disciples in order that they could be about the mission they were on. So there were financial supporters. Many of you fall into that category, you're supporters of ministries here of 121, you're supporters of global workers, multiple ministries where God's grabbed your heart. Many of you are a part of International Justice Mission, which is all about fighting sex trafficking, by the way, they don't give you anything at the end of that movie to go do with it. If you go to it, International Justice Mission is who we partner with that's working in the sex trafficking world, and they do an amazing job at what they're doing. Whatever your background is, I think you would love the way they roll. Supporters. But it's not just financial support, there's something about just having the presence of other believers when you're mixing it up with somebody else. So they are present with him in their support, and they're praying for him in what he's doing.
Ross Sawyers: [00:17:15] We have A teams for all of our global workers across the world, and an A team is a group of people at 121 that is on a team supporting the work of someone doing the global work in really hard places, persuading with a message of Christ. And it's a way to be a strength to them. We send people over there, they pray for them, they'll help gather things that they need or that they would just like to have on occasion, it's a big deal. Can you imagine being in a place where you're basically by yourself, and you're in a whole world that's different than yours, and how cool it is when 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 people show up from 121 to just be with you for a week and cheer you on in your work? Are you a supporter of those who are the persuaders? It can sometimes be one and the same.
Ross Sawyers: [00:18:16] Well, there's a third category here that's not as positive as those two are, and it's the resistor, this is the person who's against the things of God. Verse 6, "When they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” There were some Jews who were not happy about the message that Paul was bringing about Jesus, they were mad about it and they resisted him and they blasphemed against him, they're coming after him just like every other city where he found himself. Now, Paul says in First Corinthians 1:18, he said, "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." It's foolishness to those who are perishing, and its power and salvation for those who believe it. To the Jews, it's foolish, it's not power, and they don't like the effects of it, so they're resisting. Who are the resistors today? We have more and more people that are exiting churches, they are rejecting God, rejecting the Scriptures, rejecting the church, the message to them is foolish now. There are those who aren't familiar with what the real message is that also are resistors, I think sometimes it's just people who don't know, they're resisting something they don't know.
Ross Sawyers: [00:20:03] But some people have heard it, and they resist it. Why is that? One thing in the mix is a phrase that I've heard more and more, I'm usually a few years behind and I start hearing phrases used and oh, okay, we've put a name on it now, and now I'm caught up and we're already on to something else. But church hurt, I can't tell you how many times I've heard that in the last 2 or 3 years. Now that it's not new, that it occurs, it just has a phrase that goes with it. And I think a number of people are resisting Jesus because of church hurt. Now, that can be real for sure. I've been in the church for 40 years, I can talk to you about being hurt by the church if you'd like to have that dialog, and I'm confident that somebody that's been under my leadership who is probably going to be in some pastor's office this week talking about something I said or something I did and how I hurt them. I'm not trying to, but we're not acting as if we're perfect people, we are broken people and we will hurt each other. And God has given us really healthy ways in him to reconcile the hurt rather than rejecting the whole thing. Can I cheer you on today if there's hurt, and it's real hurt, to step in and work through it rather than moving away from faith? There are a number of reasons people resist, perhaps that's one.
Ross Sawyers: [00:22:15] Self-reliance and pride are another, and it plays out in these next two categories. And I call the next one in verses 7 and 8, a religious unbeliever. And this, most people would say, is probably the scariest one because it's hardest for religious people to recognize they're an unbeliever and not in a real personal relationship with God, that's probably the hardest category. In verse 7, "He left there...." So they wanted him out, which by the way, when he says in verse 6, "Your blood be on your own heads, I'm clean. From now on, I'll go to the Gentiles." What he's saying there is I've been responsible, I've brought you the message of Jesus, you're resisting it, I'm clean. I fulfilled my responsibility, and I'm moving on to other people and bringing the same message. Now it's on you with what you do with the message of Jesus. This is, in essence, what He would say to us today at 121 and online, is you've heard the message of Jesus, the responsibility is now on you, and we pray that God would break in and bring about change so that you might respond and believe the message of Jesus. Once we hear it, we're responsible for it.
Ross Sawyers: [00:23:39] Well, he doesn't go very far, "He went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue." So he just goes next door to this guy, he's a religious guy. And then verse 8, "Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized." Let's pause on these guys, there's Titius Justice and Crispus. Crispus is a leader of the synagogue; he would know and understand the Old Testament as we describe it. He would know the rules and the rituals of how the synagogue functioned. He would be the guy in the community if you had a question about God, you'd go to this guy, this is him. But he doesn't know Jesus, he doesn't know God through Christ. He's religious, but he's an unbeliever. And for many people today, we can be religious, we can go to church, we can get on the right team, we can get in the make a difference thing and jump in and we can do that, we can serve children for years and not know Jesus. And Paul tells the Corinthians at the end of one of his letters, he said, check yourselves. That was my lingo, he said, examine yourselves, examine yourself, and make sure you're in the faith. So there are those who can know it but do not know God. We also see here a cool picture because Crispus is one of those religious leaders who recognizes he's an unbeliever and lost, and he responds and believes the message that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead and that God is reaching down to rescue and save him.
Ross Sawyers: [00:25:43] Now, I want to say something here that doesn't go well culturally, and I get it. Crispus believes Jesus and his household followed. We've known for years here, both anecdotally and statistically, that so goes the dad/husband, so goes the family. Are there exceptions? Yes. What is normative is that when a dad or husband believes Jesus, the family follows. When the dad/husband follows Jesus and lives it out in the home, the family follows the majority of the time. And this is where you're not going to love me from a cultural perspective, when the wife/mom leads the charge, it's a small percentage that the whole family follows. Does it happen? Yes. Is it normative? No. There is a hefty responsibility on men. And we live in a culture that some describe as toxic masculinity, where we are emasculating men rather than men stepping up as humble servants, leaders by grace in their homes. Crispus, a religious man, an unbeliever following Jesus, and his household came in behind him.
Ross Sawyers: [00:27:25] There's another category here that I would say, and that's irreligious unbelievers. And we find that in verse 8, "Also, many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized." Remember who Corinth is, they haven't heard the message of Jesus, and they are wild and sexually out of control. And yet, they're hearing the message now and many of them are believing it, they're believing what Jesus says, and then they're being baptized, they're following him in obedience to that. So these are irreligious people who are now believers, believers. So there are both religious people and irreligious people, and there can be unbelievers in both categories, and each of them needs to hear the same message.
Ross Sawyers: [00:28:07] Watermark, a church in Dallas, put out a video that I think is helpful when we talk about a bridge and explaining to people the message of Jesus. So let me put it into images Watermark did to give us a picture of the message that goes out to the religious and irreligious unbelievers.
Video: [00:28:26] (Video Plays)
Ross Sawyers: [00:30:25] I think that's a beautiful picture of the Gospel and the good news. Yeah. And that's the message that we're delivering, and we can deliver it visually. By the way, if you're not real confident in talking about Jesus with someone, you could show them this video and then you can talk it through or you can draw it out, there are all kinds of ways to think about it.
Ross Sawyers: [00:30:45] Now we move on from those two and say, okay, what happens here in verses 9 through 11? And there's a quick encouragement for the persuader, so we head back to the persuader. And I don't know about you, but when I think about Paul, if you know the Scriptures, I know not everybody does. But if you do, when you think about Paul, he's just like this bold warrior, he doesn't ever seem to get discouraged, and brings the Gospel to bear no matter what beating he takes or what prison sentence he gets. And yet, here's what Jesus says to him in verse 9, "The Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent." Do not be silent, that's where we started today, don't be silent. He's telling them. Don't be afraid. Go on speaking. "Don't be silent, I'm with you..." Jesus is with us, that's why we don't have to be afraid, "...and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” That was probably a relief to him because he got attacked about everywhere he went, "And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them."
Ross Sawyers: [00:31:53] Can I just cheer you on today if you're afraid? And I can't tell you how many times, I'm afraid, I like sharing the Gospel much better when someone's with me, I'm less afraid. But I also don't back down when I'm afraid. I'll take that fear to the Lord. Sometimes I do, sometimes I just lose, and I get fearful and I end up not saying anything. But we can identify here, right? Here's Paul, we think the guy never has a bad moment sharing the Gospel, but there must have been some fear because Jesus is assuring him, Don't be afraid, and don't be silent. Don't be silent. go on speaking, I'm with you, I'll carry you through. That is encouragement for the Persuaders today.
Ross Sawyers: [00:32:45] And then here's one we don't want to be, but I'm concerned that sometimes we can drift to this. I want to summarize verses 12 through 17, this is the politician. Gallio is the man that's mentioned here, he leads the Roman government in Corinth. The resisters, they're mad about Paul, they can't figure out how to get rid of him and they go to the government to do it for him. Gallio had nothing, he didn't want anything to do with it. He starts to hear him, and he just says, hey, quit talking, you don't have any case here. You've got a religious problem, y'all go figure it out yourselves, this is not a Roman law that's being broken. He's indifferent, he's impartial, he doesn't really care about Jesus so much, doesn't really care about Paul, doesn't really care about the Jews bringing the charge. He just kind of like, yeah, no, we're not going to mess with this.
Ross Sawyers: [00:33:40] And then I just find this so interesting in the Scriptures that oftentimes when those who are the leaders let someone off, and still somebody gets beaten. So this time in verse 17, it's a man named Sosthenes, and he was also one of the leaders of the synagogue. It's like they looked at him and said, okay, well, if we can't get rid of Paul, then we're going to take it out on somebody, and they did. Now, whether it's the same Sosthenes or not, in First Corinthians 1:1, the first letter Paul writes to Corinth after he leaves there, he mentions his brother in Christ, Sosthenes. Now how cool to think about the very man who took that beating, became a follower of Jesus somewhere in there. I urge us to be careful to not slip into politician mode as believers, to kind of be impartial, I'm following Jesus, but now Galio was not. But I think what's difficult today is we might slide into that politician mode, I'm going to kind of go with the crowd over here at work, so I'll make sure I don't want to lose the promotion, I want to make sure I have the route running through, or I want to make sure I can jump ship and go to the next job and make 30,000 more doing the same job, going somewhere else. But I am this way with Christians, I'm this way with non-Christians, I kind of know how to work my way through. And there's a difference between wisdom and discernment and being a wily politician. I'm not saying they all are, but some can. I want to be careful over here in the stands, it's a long season, and I'm going to be with these families quite a bit. I've heard this guy, and this is how he sees Christianity. I kind of talk about this over here, and then I get away from him and I talk differently over here. Do any of us find ourselves in politician mode? Impartial, and indifferent, just figuring out how I want to roll rather than standing firm as a persuader supporter, and some of these others that I'll mention here briefly.
Ross Sawyers: [00:36:19] Verses 18 through 23, I'm going to skip. Paul leaves Corinth, that's the big picture. He goes back to Antioch, which is the church that sent him starts another journey. And now we find in verse 24 a teacher, "Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures." If you're a Christian, wouldn't it be cool if you were listed in the Scriptures as being mighty in them? That's how you're described, as a person that was mighty in the Scriptures. "This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila..." This was the husband-and-wife couple I talked about at the beginning of Acts 18, "When they heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, 28for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."
Ross Sawyers: [00:37:38] Now, many of you are teachers, you teach preschoolers, you teach children, you teach teenagers, you teach adult life groups, and you might teach in larger settings on occasion. You're mighty in the Scriptures, you've studied them, labored in them, which, by the way, it is work and labor to understand the Scriptures, it's fruitful work in labor, and then you turn around and you deliver to someone else. Many of you are in that role as a teacher, maybe God's been nudging you to step more into a teacher role somehow. What cool descriptors of Apollo's, fervent, bold, mighty, learned.
Ross Sawyers: [00:38:30] A few of us were in Alexandria back in November when we visited Cairo, looking at some different mission opportunities there. And we went to the library in Alexandria, and it's just this massive library, it's always just been a great learning center in the world in Alexandria. And that's where Apollos was, that's where he learned, and he was a he was a teacher. But there's something in here that's interesting about him, it says he was teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, but he was only acquainted with the baptism of John. And Aquila and Priscilla take him aside, they don't do this publicly, they take him aside. And I would call this next category a discipler, that when we recognize there's a gap in people and they're willing, we spend time with them to teach them the things of Christ. That can happen one on one, it can happen in a group, it can happen in larger settings. But are you a discipler? And it's not arrogant, by the way, Aquila and Priscilla, they're with him, they're hearing everything, and this guy is amazing, and there's still some gaps, and they saw where they could step in and be a help with those gaps. It's really nice when we recognize our own gaps and seek out people to say, hey, I have a gap in this knowledge area of the Bible, can you help me with that? I have this gap in trying to share my faith, can you step in and help me with that and disciple me with that? Are you a discipler. We have marriage mentors. What a gift when an older couple comes alongside a younger couple, and you can help fill in some gaps from your own experience, there are ways you can be a help. Disciplers.
Ross Sawyers: [00:40:33] And then the last category is encouragers. See in verse 27 Apollos he'd been discipled by Aquilla and Priscilla, and now he wants to go somewhere else to teach, and everybody sees that gifting in him, and they encourage him, encourage him to do it. Are you an encourager? Do you just see in somebody their penchant for things that would really be effective overseas, and say have you thought about global work full-time overseas? I think you're bent that way. Or I see such business acumen in you, can you imagine if I got you connected to a couple of Christian CEOs who could disciple you of how to impact your business for the sake of the Gospel? Wow, I can see you doing that. And if you had the right people helping you, you could do it. Are you cheering people on in whatever it is in taking the message of Jesus? That's a lot of categories, do you find yourself in one, maybe two, or three?
Ross Sawyers: [00:42:00] I think one of the best ways that we can practically figure out what some of these things mean is through live a story. And I've invited Sam Ehlinger to come and to share his story today of what God's done in his life. Now, when I came back from my sabbatical, I told you that I don't know how long I would do it, but for some period of time I would repent from speaking negatively about other colleges besides A&M. Now, the fruit of that repentance is four weeks now, I've gone for weeks without making fun of another college. And I've invited a former UT quarterback and current Indianapolis Colts to come and speak, if that doesn't bear fruit, from what I've said, I don't know what does. Many of you may know, Sam from his football world, but I want you to hear who Sam is as a man, as a follower of Jesus, and it's incredible the work that God has done in him and is doing in him.
Sam Ehlinger: [00:43:08] Thank you, Ross. I'll spare you the Aggie jokes, I know we've got a lot of them in here. Thank you, guys. Thank you, Ross. I don't know how many people in here know the Degiovanni family, but I was fortunate enough to marry into the Degiovanni family, and Craig Degiovanni is very good friends with Ross, and so we made that connection really quickly. You know, as the marriage process went on, we did premarital counseling with Ross, and he was the officiate at our wedding. And the best piece of advice, not actually the best, but the funniest piece of advice that Ross gave was in the process of preparing for the wedding, was the phrase sounds good to me. And he told me to use that a lot, and I did, and now, unfortunately, my wife heard Ross tell me that. And so she was like, Ross told you to say that, I need your opinion. So that was good.
Sam Ehlinger: [00:44:00] But thank you, guys, for allowing me to be up here, it's an honor and a blessing. I know it comes with great responsibility and accountability to stand before you. And I'm so proud to be up here in front of you, and I promise to uphold that accountability here, and then also outside of here.
Sam Ehlinger: [00:44:18] I want to start by saying standing up here does not make me better than. It doesn't make me feel as if I know more than, or that I have things figured out. And in that process, I just want to share two things out of a list of many that I continue to struggle with on a daily basis in my sin. And the first one being pride, as Ross mentioned, being in the NFL, being in the entertainment industry, and being in football, there's a lot of glorification of athletes. There's a lot of glorification of the platform that you've been given, and there's a lot of pitfalls and traps, and it's very easy to fall into those. And for myself, it's very easy for me to fall into that. The second one of the many being the approval of man. I work in an industry, as I mentioned, where the GM, the head coach, the scouts, they're always watching. It's a performance-based industry and you're judged basically upon your production. And so it can be very easy to fall into the temptation and the trap of, well, what do they think about me? Instead of thinking, well, what does God think about me today? So I just wanted to share that.
Sam Ehlinger: [00:45:21] Backtracking, I'm an Austinite born and raised in Austin. I consider myself one of those people from Austin that's very salty about the way that things have changed over time and commonly use the phrase it's the Californians moving down to Austin. But yeah, born and raised in Austin, went to Westlake High School, younger brother, and younger sister, and a two-parent household, and grew up in a great environment. My parents loved each other, we grew up in the church and had a perfect model for what love looked like in the household. I knew who God was, I had a relationship with God, kind of, maybe probably an unreligious, nonbeliever, unbeliever. So went through different phases, but it was never a personal relationship, and sports took that role. Sports making good grades and UT sports was kind of what filled that role for me, and that was kind of consistent all the way through. We went to church and played sports, and I believed in God, I prayed to God, you know, I'd wear the cross necklace, and maybe draw a cross on my wrist before games. But it wasn't a personal relationship, and my life wasn't marked by it.
Sam Ehlinger: [00:46:30] And so in eighth grade, the end of eighth grade, my dad was a triathlete, so he did a lot of different triathlons, he was a great athlete. And he was competing The Escape from Alcatraz in San Francisco, where you swim in from Alcatraz and then do your bike and your run. And as I said, I was playing basketball that day and we had a basketball tournament, I was doing homework late at night on Sunday night, and my parents were supposed to come home on Monday. I'm doing my homework and a family friend calls and says, hey, is everything okay? I'm like, yeah, what do you mean? I'm just doing my homework, we didn't win the basketball tournament, but everything's fine. And he's like, well, I'm watching ESPN and I see that a 46-year-old man from Austin has passed away. And so immediately heart drops, I'm like, Man, I hope that's not true. So I'm calling my mom, calling my dad, and nobody's picking up. I ran downstairs, we still had phone books at that time, so I was looking for the phone books for all the people who were on the trip to figure out, hey, what's going on? Is everything okay? My mom was supposed to return, my parents were supposed to return the next day, and as I was flipping through the phone book, my mom walked in the door, tears in her eyes with all her friends. My father had had a heart attack in the water unsuspectedly and passed away. And so that was really tough for our family, and for me. You know, in that grieving process, about 30 minutes into it, I'm crying and we're all with our family and friends, and a family friend comes up to me and says, hey, you're the man of the house now. I know you're sad, but you've got to be there for everyone else. And so in that moment, I turned it around like, all right, yeah, I'm good. Put on a good face, I was 14 years old, man of the house. I don't know what the heck I'm doing, and so I stuffed down a lot of those emotions, did all my crying, all my grieving by myself because I wanted to be strong for my mom, for my brother, for my sister.
Sam Ehlinger: [00:48:16] And so I prayed to God, but it wasn't putting everything to him, and that led to a lot of numbing in high school and college. Football was my idol, popularity was my idol, I cared about what the girls thought about me, I cared about how many followers I had on Instagram, and I cared about all of those things, and that led to bad behavior, drugs, alcohol, and all of the things that are associated with that lifestyle. The ways of the world, the ways that the world conditions your heart when it has a hold of it and that was me. In that process created a lot of bad behaviors, and it wasn't until...And then I created the idolization of playing at the University of Texas and playing quarterback, because I grew up in Austin, and both my parents went there. If I can play quarterback at the University of Texas, go to the McCombs School of Business, my dad will be proud of me, and I'll have it figured out and this problem in my heart will be okay. And I got to do it, and it was a blessing, and it was incredible, and it was a dream come true. But I still wasn't content, my heart was still not full. And I came to that realization when I came up to Dallas to meet with a best friend, this is right before Covid, before my senior year of college. And I met with one of my friends and he had another youth pastor that came, and we sat down, he had also lost his father, so he knew the feeling of how to relate to an eternal Father. And he asked me, he said, hey, on a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you'd get into heaven? I think my answer was like eight, six, maybe a three after a long weekend. And he said, okay, well, you get to the gates of heaven, and God's standing there, what are you going to say? Like, well, I think I'm a good person. Like, I think I deserve to get in. I go to church, I listen sometimes, I read my Bible, and sometimes, I pray before meals. He's like, you've got it all backward, every answer that you proposed started with I, and what you've done, and that is a weight that you can't carry because all falls short of the glory of God. And God has sent His one and only Son to sacrifice himself and live a perfect life for you. And in that appreciation, I finally got it, I was able to equate the pain that I was feeling of my earthly father not being here for the love that my eternal Father had for me. And I was able to bridge the gap, as the video showed, with the cross and understanding, hey, I'm going to continue to fall short, I'm going to continue to struggle with pride and approval of man and all of these things that are associated with a broken world, but I know that I'm free. And that was the radical transformation that took place in my heart. And that took time. You know, I had to scrape away from the behavioral patterns that I had in sin, and that was with a group of brothers that we were constantly in the Scriptures challenging each other, having accountability groups for sinful behaviors and being accountable and providing and seeking God's grace in those processes.
Sam Ehlinger: [00:51:17] And so then I graduated college preparing for the NFL draft. My brother had helped me and had kind of been talking about this girl, and he set me up with this girl in March of 2021, and we started going on dates. We started dating for a month, and then the NFL draft was May 1st, and I got drafted to the NFL Colts, which was a dream come true. And then I go to the Indianapolis Colts, and I get my locker, fitted for shoulder pads, the helmet that has got the horseshoe on. That same day, the same exact day, I'm on cloud nine in Indianapolis, a dream come true. And my buddy texted me, and he says, hey, call me ASAP. Like, uh oh. So I called him, and he said, hey, there's nine cop cars and four FBI agents outside your brother's house and they won't speak to anybody, but they want to talk to you. I'm like, oh gosh, this isn't good, this is in the Indianapolis Colts locker room. And I get on the phone, the APD said, hey, Sam, I regret to inform you, but we found your brother unresponsive, and he's passed away. We later found out that he had fallen victim to the epidemic of the fentanyl crisis taking place in America, 20 years old, and passed away in his sleep at the University of Texas. And so obviously, incredible grief through that process. Flew back home, but the same girl that he had set me up with a month before didn't leave my side for two weeks. And it was very evident that God had placed her in my life through him because he knew that I was going to need her. And we got married last June, praise God, it's been incredible. Thank, thank, thank you.
Sam Ehlinger: [00:53:02] But that process has been hard, and I'm not going to stand up here and say that it's all okay because I got God and I got Jesus, he doesn't guarantee that that's the prosperity gospel, that's not real. Life is still hard and it's still a struggle, there's still grief, and there's still processes that I need to go through in my relationships. But there's a peace that surpasses understanding when you know, and you have the perspective of eternity that Christ has granted me. And I have a great group of friends and brothers that we continue to be in the Scripture, continue to challenge each other. And it's been really cool to see the way that I dealt with death the first time in turning to the world, and then also the second time when I had Christ in my life, and when He radically transformed my heart, I got to turn my pain into my purpose. And so it's an absolute blessing to be here today, thank you for this opportunity, it's challenged me. And I hope that if there's anyone struggling with grief or who knows what it is, whether it be loss or shame and guilt, understand, that shame and guilt is from Satan, that's not from Christ. And there is a Father and his Son that love us to death and have sacrificed their life for us. And it doesn't mean life's going to be easy, but it definitely makes it a lot better. So thank you guys for having me. God bless.
Ross Sawyers: [00:54:27] Hey, could you hold on a second? I'd like to, I didn't do this to other services, but I'd like to pray over Sam. And I think that most of us in here can't identify with being an NFL quarterback or a college star. Well, there's more of you that I didn't know, this is awesome, I'll be sure to have you up here soon. But we can identify with the grief, and we can identify with the pride. Someone said to me years ago, a nun, she said, people admire your strengths, but they identify with your weaknesses. And I love that Sam has the humility to share the weaknesses, and while we can be impressed with certain things and not really connect, we can all identify with core things, and that's the beauty of his story.
Ross Sawyers: [00:55:23] Did you hear in his story, there are supporters, there are disciplers, and there was a persuader that brought the Gospel to him? And he's now persuading people, and he's encouraging people, he's all over Acts 18, and what a beautiful picture of it. But I'd like to if we could in this service, I'd like to pray over him. God's given him incredible influence, and I've been with him in 2 or 3 different settings, and he just drips with leadership. And the opportunity to influence for Christ is exponential, and Satan will have his attack waiting and ready to wipe guys like this out. So I want to pray over him, and then if God prompts you along the way, you can do the same in the coming days.
Ross Sawyers: [00:56:17] Father, thank you for our time today, and you've been incredibly gracious to us in your word. And then, Father, thank you for Sam, I'm grateful for who he is in Christ. And I love, God, that you reached down and rescued him from darkness and brought him to light. I love, God, that you made the message not foolish to him, but a power to him in Jesus. And I thank you that he's your son and that you call him a saint, and a citizen, and an ambassador for you. And I love, God, that he has stepped into being that ambassador on your behalf. And God, I pray that you would continue to be a comfort and a strength to him in the grieving. And, Father, I pray that you'll continue to bring humility to him. And, Father, I pray that it would be your approval and your approval alone that he seeks. And God, we all can connect with that.
Ross Sawyers: [00:57:27] And I pray for all of us that we would be a people genuinely devoted to you with humility, seeking your approval, being in the middle of what your will is, whatever way you've designed our tasks. And Father, I thank you that you'll continue to meet the rest of us in our grief as well, at the very depth and core of our soul in a way that only you can. And, Father, I pray you'll just expand Sam's influence in the days ahead and opportunities with his teammates and other teams and opportunities like this that he gets. And I pray, God, that people would be encouraged in Christ through Him again and again and again. And I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen. Thank you.
Ross Sawyers: [00:58:14] I want to say one thing before I give us a little bit of space. When I started earlier about the silence and the sin of that, I think a lot of times we stay silent because of our own sin, and we think we're not worthy to step into the fight for something else. And I just want you to know today that is a lie from the devil. If you wait until you're worthy and have all your sins cleaned up, you're going to tap out of this life having done absolutely nothing. But God meets us where we are, and while we're working through our own battles, we can be in the fight and other ones as well, we are not disqualified. That is the grace and mercy of Jesus.
Ross Sawyers: [00:59:14] I'd like for you to have some space to be quiet. And I'd love to have this space at the end because we've talked about a lot, and I don't know what things God is working in you, but at least want a moment before we get rolling to dwell on those things. And then Sam will be with me out in the lobby if you'd like to talk to him. If you have trouble distinguishing between me and him, I'll point out Sam to you, and I'll be able to get you to him. All right let's be quiet before the Lord, and whatever it is he's working in you, let him work and continue that.
Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.