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  • We're focused this week on the word of salvation.

  • When Jesus was dying on the cross, he said to a thief who was crucified with him

  • You, of course, would know that the crucifixion was not an anomaly.

  • In Jesus' time it was a common form of capital punishment.

  • Jesus died the death of a common criminal beside two common criminals.

  • One of them mocked him and said, "If you were really who you say you are, you would get

  • down off that cross, and you would get us down too.

  • Save us."

  • While one mocked him, the other one, who was on his right side, recognized the distinction

  • of his divinity, or at least his innocence, and said, "We deserve this, and you don't.

  • Sir, I'm not quite sure who you are, but when you come into your kingdom, remember me."

  • Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

  • The word of salvation.

  • I had the privilege this weekend to perform my brother's wedding ceremony.

  • I don't do a lot of weddings.

  • I'm good at them.

  • I just am typically preaching on Saturday nights.

  • Our campus pastors do such an excellent job with the wedding officiating.

  • I was kind of nervous doing his ceremony.

  • I don't want to mess up my man's wedding, because, hey, man, he has this girl here at

  • the altar, and he might not get this chance again.

  • She might change her mind, so we have to get this done.

  • It's my little brother, but he's a lot taller than me.

  • He serves in the United States Air Force.

  • He's cool.

  • He could beat me up, but I have mind game on him, so he doesn't know that.

  • He asked me to do his wedding, and his fiancée…

  • They asked me to come, and I was privileged to do it.

  • Holly said I did a good job.

  • In fact, she said exactly this.

  • She said, "You did so good officiating that wedding, I kind of wish I could marry somebody

  • else so you could do the wedding."

  • I wasn't sure how to receive that compliment.

  • I rebuked her.

  • Kind of a twisted compliment.

  • Anyway, I only bring it up because, truth be told, although I really love the opportunity

  • to do the wedding, I kind of have a problem not with weddings

  • I'm not anti-marriage.

  • Do not send me emails.

  • Send them all to Jonathan Josephs, your Ballantyne Campus pastor.

  • It's not that I'm against love.

  • I have nothing against it.

  • It's just that, can we all agree, especially those of us who have been married for more

  • than 10 years, that marriage has very little to do with the flower arrangement you choose

  • or how many layers of cake you can roll out that you're not going to eat anyway, because

  • only the top one is real, and all the other stuff is just decoration

  • It doesn't matter how many shades of magenta your bridesmaids are standing there dressed

  • in.

  • What happens in marriage happens in the middle.

  • That's my sermon today.

  • It's in the middle that a marriage is made.

  • It's in the middle that a Christian grows.

  • It's in the middle that you find out what you're made of.

  • This sermon is like a Tootsie Roll pop.

  • What you bought it for is in the middle.

  • I admire the thief, and I'm thankful that he was saved on the cross, but most of us

  • don't get to be in paradise the day we get saved.

  • The fact of the matter is we don't get raptured up to heaven the moment we make Jesus Christ

  • the Lord of our lives.

  • We are left here on this earth so we can bring heaven into our situations.

  • It's in the middle.

  • The way we typically focus on the moment

  • I believe God can save you in a moment.

  • I really do.

  • If you're here today and you're thinking you have to memorize some Bible verses or there

  • are some certain habits you have to correct in your life

  • Are you all tired of hearing me preach?

  • I've been preaching to y'all for 11 years now.

  • For 11 years, I've been saying this same message.

  • God can save you in a moment.

  • If you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and confess with your mouth

  • Jesus is Lord, you shall be saved.

  • I know it, because that thief did not have to enroll in a theological school.

  • He didn't have to go through a catechism class.

  • He didn't have to prove the legitimacy of his faith by giving up certain things.

  • Come as you are, but don't expect to stay that way.

  • Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

  • Part of me thinks that would be kind of nice, if I could just be married and stay married

  • without a process.

  • I'm kind of a process preacher.

  • I really am, because one of my core beliefs is that God is in the process.

  • Don't get me wrong.

  • He can move in a moment.

  • Something can happen in your soul when the Word of God goes forth that is so strong the

  • chains are broken and you are never the same.

  • Why not today?

  • The apostle Paul said, "Today is the day of salvation."

  • He said that to the Corinthian church, backslidden.

  • He said, "Now is the time of God's favor."

  • Not when you get your act together.

  • Not when people approve of you.

  • Now is the hour.

  • Today is the day.

  • The privilege of my life is seeing someone in a moment make a decision to follow Christ,

  • in a moment for the weight to be lifted, for the chains to be broken.

  • In a moment.

  • What about the middle?

  • I know he could save me in a moment, and I know that when I die, in a moment, in the

  • twinkling of an eye

  • "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

  • I'm going to heaven when I die, and I'm glad about it, and I don't have to fry and burn.

  • I know all that, and I'm really glad about it.

  • One thing the thief and I did not have in common

  • We both deserved the cross Jesus died on, but I didn't get to go to paradise the moment

  • I trusted Christ with my life.

  • This message is not about paradise; this message is about process.

  • This message is not about flower girls; this message is about the fight for faith in the

  • middle.

  • I want to present it to you in a way that hopefully can help you understand why it is

  • that sometimes, even though you got saved, you don't feel saved, and what to do in the

  • middle.

  • Touch your neighbor and say, "I need to know what to do in the middle."

  • When I die I'm dead.

  • I'm gone.

  • I'm in heaven.

  • I'm there.

  • But here and now I need God

  • The thing about me is I got saved, but I still need some saving.

  • Maybe you don't, but I still

  • Look real good at the person next to you and see if they look like they still need saving.

  • See if they look like there are still some times in their lives that they still need

  • saving.

  • It's a seven-mile journey, and the miracle is in the middle.

  • Did you notice that?

  • We've been studying from this Emmaus Road, where Jesus just shows up beside these two

  • disciples.

  • Jesus just shows up right in the middle of their conversation.

  • It's a man named Cleopas and, some scholars suggest, perhaps his wife.

  • He and his companion were not expecting the presence of Christ to show up, but he showed

  • up in the middle of their disappointment.

  • He showed up in the middle of their disillusionment.

  • He showed up in the middle of their "We thought so."

  • He showed up in the middle of the "What now?"

  • He showed up in the middle.

  • God will meet you in the middle.

  • It's in the middle.

  • They walk, the Bible says, seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and when they got there

  • Check this out in Luke 24:28.

  • When they approached the village that, in their mind, was their destination, the village

  • called Emmaus

  • "When they got to the place they thought they were going, Jesus continued on…"

  • I love the next two words.

  • "…as if he were going farther."

  • Like he's a man on a mission.

  • He has people to see and things to do and only 39 and a half days before he is ascended

  • to the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick

  • and the dead.

  • So he acts as if he were going farther.

  • Sometimes it feels as if God is leaving you.

  • I would suggest that some of the moments when it feels as if he's walking away from you,

  • he is creating a desire within you, so that if you draw near to him, he will draw near

  • to you.

  • God is trying to set your faith free from the need to feel it to have it.

  • The next time the Devil tries to tell you God has left you, that God has abandoned you,

  • look him right in the eye and say, with your hand on your hip in your best "white girl"

  • teenager voice, "As if.

  • As if he would leave me.

  • He said he would never leave me, never forsake me, never abandon me.

  • He won't stop what he started.

  • I am his and he is mine, and he's with me in the middle."

  • "As if he were going farther."

  • They asked him to come in and stay with them.

  • Now professional pointer.

  • Be careful when you ask Jesus to come in, because if he comes in, he's going to take

  • over.

  • God is not going to settle for a shout-out.

  • He's not going to make himself a cot in the foyer of your heart.

  • He's coming in the kitchen.

  • I feel God on that, and I don't know why.

  • Touch somebody and say, "He's coming in your kitchen."

  • He wants to get into the ingredients.

  • Watch what Jesus does.

  • This is verse 30.

  • He walks in, sits down at the table, and takes their bread.

  • Remember, it's Cleo's house, but Jesus reaches right across the table, takes Cleo's bread,

  • and just starts doing stuff.

  • See, I need you to know that God is not going to come into your life and stay on standby

  • so that when you kind of, sort of need him and maybe can fit him into your schedule

  • "Maybe I can get a little Jesus juice when my boyfriend isn't calling me back."

  • When he comes into your life

  • I feel the Spirit of God.

  • It is all up in me right now.

  • God said, "I'm taking over.

  • Today is the day of salvation.

  • I'm taking over your thoughts.

  • I'm taking over your imagination.

  • I'm taking over your desires."

  • Salvation is total surrender.

  • This is how I used to preach when I was 23, man.

  • This is how I used to preach to people who thought God could be a part of their life.

  • If God gets in your life, he's going to get all up in the middle of it.

  • God is going to change who you have listed in the contacts of your iPhone.

  • God is going to change who you "friend" on Facebook.

  • God is going to change what you do at 11:30 on Friday night.

  • God isn't just going to wait for you to get to church on Sunday morning and bless you

  • with a goose bump.

  • "Is it okay?"

  • Jesus doesn't ask any permission.

  • He sits down at Cleo's kitchen table, takes Cleo's bread, blesses Cleo's bread, breaks

  • the bread, and gives the bread, and when he gives the bread that he broke, which is also

  • the bread he blessed, which is also the bread he took

  • When he takes over your life, he blesses your life.

  • The same hands that blessed your life are the same hands that must be trusted when your

  • life is broken.

  • I mean, when your heart is in a million pieces.

  • I need to preach this, because sometimes we think when we get saved everything is going

  • to be sanitized and everything is going to be safe.

  • See, this is the kind of preaching that will help you.

  • When life is doing its best to tear you apart, you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt

  • Somebody shout, "I'm still saved!"

  • I'm saved when I'm happy; I'm saved when I'm sad.

  • I'm saved when they're with me; I'm saved when they walk away.

  • I'm saved when I'm up; I'm saved when I'm down.

  • I'm saved when I'm blessed; I'm saved when I'm broken.

  • I'm saved in the palace; I'm saved in the pit.

  • God is with me in the middle.

  • There are three things I want to give you about the middle.

  • I was saved.

  • It happened.

  • I will be saved.

  • I'm going to be with him forever.

  • But I need him to be with me in the middle.

  • This is not a moment-to-moment contractual arrangement with God.

  • We kind of think his grace will save you, and his grace will get you to heaven, but

  • you're on your own in between.

  • I want to declare that the same grace that will get you there (wherever your there is)

  • is with you here.

  • If you will believe the words coming out of this country preacher's mouth today

  • God is in the process, and the gift is in the middle.

  • They sat down to eat with Jesus, but they didn't even do what they sat down to do, because

  • while he was breaking the bread, the process of the way he broke the bread revealed his

  • presence to them.

  • God is in the process, and the gift is in the middle.

  • "Today you will be with me in paradise."

  • What an awesome promise to that thief, but I have a better one for you.

  • That's pretty good.

  • Right?

  • I mean, come on.

  • You're a dying thief, and you're trying to slip in before the door closes.

  • You're trying to get on Noah's ark, and it's already halfway out in the water.

  • With your drowning, dying breath, you half-heartedly make a request, just in case it works.

  • That guy got in.