Chosen At My All Time Low

We started a new series called Chosen at Gateway Church in Austin.

When Jesus showed up in people’s lives in the Gospels, something shifted. The same is true today. When we radically encounter who God really is, in the greatest way possible, nothing is ever the same. God will stop at nothing to show you that you are chosen like two men who abandoned Jesus. Despite your sin and your mess, you are chosen by God.

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, or get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning. 

Digging Deeper

Video:

Audio:

Message Notes by me and Carlos Ortiz:

Well today my wife and I are celebrating 29 years of marriage! Yes on this day! So I want Deborah to come up so we can renew our vows! Just kidding! She comes to the 11:15am service and she does not like that kind of public romantic gesture!

Here we are back in the early 1990s when we were dating. Dating pic

You know marriage is one of the greatest experiences of my life, and she would agree that marriage can also be one of the most challenging experiences of life

You aren’t choosing someone to be with for the rest of your life. Every day you have to make that choice. And they don’t always show up the way they did when you were dating. When you are young, opposites attract. It doesn’t take too long for opposites to annoy each other.

Even still, you have to choose again and again.

We got off to a bit of a rough start where Deborah had to choose whether she still wanted to marry me or not.


You see the day of the wedding I woke up with Chicken pox! I had never had it in my life until that day! What are the odds?!? What’s next? Diaper rash on the honeymoon?!

So I called her the day of the wedding to let her know and to find out if she had ever had chicken pox. She had and then she asked with a great deal of fear and even frustration: “Why do you ask?” That’s when I panicked and lied telling her one of my cousins had it, and then she said: “Well tell him not to come, he will ruin everything!”

That is not what I wanted to hear. 

So I had to be honest with her and wrote her a note letting her know. Her sisters thought the note was going to be romantic so they took a picture of her reading it. Look at the shock in her face! Letter about chicken pox pic

In spite of my contagious disease, she decided to marry me that day.

All went well On the Altar pic during the ceremony. Although the pastor said to the crowd: “The couple would like to invite you to their reception down the hall, but I should warn you – the groom has chicken pox! Enjoy!”

Some people waved from afar! Others kept sending their little children over to me – I suppose to get chicken pox so they didn’t one day get it on their wedding day!

Here we are at the reception. Kissing her forehead pic I know it looks like I am on my tiptoes, but it was just for the photographer. 🙂  Notice any spots on my neck?

Well, we got married and went on our honeymoon to Los Angeles where I may have infected hundreds of children at the Happiest Place on Earth!

She chose me that day and in spite of our hurts, hang ups, and habits, we have kept choosing each other over the years.

Here we are with our kids when we lived in Los Angeles.

With little kids pic

Here we are during the pandemic. Family during the pandemic pic It’s my facebook photo because that was at my thinnest since 1994. We were eating only homemade foods and lots of walks!

There is a troubling misunderstanding in our culture that you are supposed to find someone that makes you happy. Deborah says it this way: “If our happiness is dependent on someone else, we will never be happy.”

You see, this isn’t a 50-50 relationship. We both need to bring 100% of who we are. And when we find our joy, our happiness, and our identity in our relationship with God, then we are able to be there for each other. When one of us is down, the other can lift us up.

If you are married, make sure you are still going out on dates and still getting time alone to connect with each other’s hearts. If you aren’t find a sitter, and start doing so. 

We plan to have a Maximizing Marriage workshop this spring, so be sure to sign up for that when we have it or if you don’t want to miss, just email at eric@gatewaychurch.com with “Marriage” as the subject and I will be sure to get you the details.

WE

Let’s think about the choices we all make throughout our lives.  The circumstances around our lives very much determine the direction we choose to go, and the people/ colleges/ friends/ homes/apartments/jobs we choose to pursue.  But what happens when we hit a different season, or the circumstances shift, and we regret the choice(s) we made?

In ​​​​​​Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol – Scrooge explains it this way:

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

The truth is much of how we measure ourselves and measure each other is by the choices we make. 

  • Going to college vs. starting to work right out of HS. 
  • Working in non-profit vs. working in business. 
  • Who to marry or whether or not to marry
  • Having kids young vs. having kids later vs. not having kids at all.

If we are not careful we allow our choices both right, but even more so when they’re WRONG, to define us. 

And our hope in this message and in this series is that you understand, God chose you. 

And He still chooses you. 

He saw the highs and the lows, the amazing choices and the choices you don’t even confess to your dog, he saw your good and your bad and he still says “yes.”

​You need to understand failure is an event not a person. 

It’s never too late to become who you might have been. 

Our hope is that you would know you are CHOSEN, and today you can choose a new path forward in Jesus.

GOD

The same goes for Jesus and the choices he made in the people he would trust.  

This series is going to guide us through a few of the choices Jesus made as we prepare for The Weekend that changed human history, aka Easter.  

In each of these stories we see the most unlikely, and seemingly marginalized, people who are Chosen by the one who came to live and die so that we could be resurrected in him.

First up we see Jesus choose and call people to follow him:

Matthew 4:18-22 – NLT

 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.

Then we see a progression of those who all accepted the call to follow him, and a select few who would then be apostles (the ones who are sent).

Luke 6:12-16 – NLT

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Here are their names: Simon (whom he named Peter), Andrew (Peter’s brother), James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (who was called the zealot), Judas (son of James), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him). 

For today’s purpose we are going to focus on two of the apostles who unknowingly have a parallel storyline being forged.  

Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot are two of the best known apostles, albeit for very different reasons.  

Yet, we forget that these two individuals are not so different, they simply chose to respond differently to their own sin. 

These were two very broken and flawed people, and yet we have to understand this…despite their sin and their mess, they were chosen by God.

Let’s begin with Peter, the hot headed disciple who had foot in mouth syndrome. We have much to read about him, and maybe much of it was because he was up front and center in the story of Jesus. Peter likely lived by the mantra “speak and act first…think later.” That left him open to making more mistakes than any of the other disciples. Raise your hand if you identify with Peter- “call it how you see it, apologize later.”

  • Mark 10 – Peter hates kids
  • Matthew 14 – Peter attempts to walk on water and fails
  • Mark 9 – Low self awareness on the Mt. of Transfiguration
  • Matthew 17 – Speaks on behalf of Jesus on taxation
  • Mathew 16 – Peter rejects Jesus entire purpose for coming to earth
  • John 13 – Peter’s above following Jesus’ instruction in the washing of feet
  • Matthew 26 – Peter falls asleep during prayer

Homeboy was getting a C+ in disciple school. He was that kid in class skating by with pure charisma and effort.

Then we have Judas Iscariot, who has a completely different personality and responsibility than Peter. He’s more behind the scenes, he’s more than likely administratively gifted since he’s charged with stewarding the funds that Jesus and the disciples have. 

But this means we also do not know much about Judas, other than his position on the team, but we do know that he too made mistakes:

John 12:1-8

12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

  • Verse 5 – Judas doesn’t value sacrifice
  • Verse 6 – Judas built a reputation as a thief
  • Verse 8 – it is questionable if Judas sees the value of Jesus

Judas wanted Jesus to be something he was never intended to be, an earthly ruler who would free his people from tyranny.

We can see the lack of ability in these two men, and we can cast judgment on them as people who should know better, and yet we have to fully embrace that despite their sin and their mess, they were chosen by God.

So we’ve established that these are flawed human beings, and now we see another parallel in their betrayal of Jesus.

First, let’s look at Peter in Luke 22:54-62

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Compare that to the tragedy that unfolds in Judas’ life.

Luke 22

22 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

This kiss was the most brutal way to betray Jesus.  

A kiss in this way, this time and culture didn’t represent a romantic affection, but instead it was a sign of respect and honor.  

So Judas is saying, I greet you with honor and respect as I then hand you over to your death.  It gives new meaning to…

Proverbs 27:6 – “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

Now we have two imperfect men, two backstabbing men, who are now facing their shame and the collective weight of it all. 

Imagine this scene, the screen on one side is Peter head in his lap as his tears puddle on a dirt floor. 

On the screen on the other side the camera focuses on Judas. No more tears. Deadpan eyes. Distraught. Numb.

Peter’s response is to quit.  He walks away from his call to be one who is sent, an apostle.  He returns to his life as a fisherman…until John 21 when Jesus reinstates him to his true calling to be a fisher of men. He still had to face the consequences of his sin, but he was met with overwhelming love that washes away our sin.

Judas’ response is captured in Matthew 27:3-5

3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Judas’ response is to be so overtaken with grief that it separates him from the grace and love he had experienced for 3 years.  He actually walked with Jesus, saw miracles, experienced life change, but when grief becomes our master, when our sin takes control, it robs us of the very grace and life we so desperately need.  He forgot that despite his sin and his mess, he was chosen by God.

  • Both men took turns making mistakes, one from the front and other from the back.
  • Both men took turns betraying Jesus, one to his face and the other behind his back.
  • Both men took turns facing their shame, both left, one was restored and the other lets it kill him.

YOU

Let’s be honest here, you have a little bit of Peter in you, and you have a little bit of Judas in you. We all have moments when the sermon and the music hit just right and we’re on the mountaintop, and we say “Yes God! I’m ALL IN- FOREVER!” and a week later we’re trading God in for cheap because he didn’t meet our expectations. 

We all are broken and faulty people.

Isaiah 64:6  For all of us have become like one who is unclean,

And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;  And all of us wither like a leaf,

And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

but what you really need is that the entirety of who you are to be covered in Jesus. 

He comes to earth and is fully man to walk in our shoes, lives a sinless life to guide us towards his righteousness, dies to take on our shame and then is resurrected gloriously so that we too can be resurrected from our sin and shame.  

This is SALVATION!

Isaiah 61:10  I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God;

For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

because… Despite your sin and your mess, you are chosen by God.

But listen, it’s never too late to come back to Him. 

Don’t give up. 

It’s never too late to be who God designed you to be!

After Jesus’ resurrection there’s a number of encounters of him appearing to the disciples, none probably more famous then when he restores Peter.

In 2017, I got to go to the beach where this happened!

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

It’s interesting that Jesus meets him where he first found him and first called him- fishing. God will often take you back to the simplicity of when you first followed him. 

And Jesus asks him 3x “Do you love me” ON PURPOSE as a call back to his denial. 

Not to shame him but to heal the shame. 

God will often bring us back to the place of our deepest pain, not to shame us but to heal us.

See regret/shame left unchecked will kill you. It’ll kill your spirit, tear at your relationships, and destroy your self worth. 

The question is- DO we let shame define us, or do we let Jesus REDEEM us?

You are CHOSEN, and you have a Choice.

We have people in the room who are still exploring the realities of God, and then we have people who have followed Jesus for decades.  

AND YET, we all still have the propensity to fail, to sin, to reject God’s choosing of us.  What is pushing you towards SHAME that isolates and what is pushing you towards REPENTANCE that brings comfort?  

Shame is from the enemy of our soul, and REPENTANCE is the gentle nudge of love from the creator of your soul.  

Let’s take a few moments to ponder the question, “what is currently keeping you from the fullness of God’s love and grace today?”

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws….

Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame… because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our leaders and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 

Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant…. 

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.””

‭‭Daniel‬ ‭9:4-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

​Jesus’ foretelling of Peter’s death later comes true. Church history tells us that Peter is executed in Rome in his older age. The evil emperor Nero blamed Christians for a fire that devastated Rome. Christians are slaughtered in high numbers. Peter being one of them. Early tradition tells us that he is ordered to be crucified and he requests to be crucified upside down saying he is unworthy of dying in the same way as his Lord and Savior. Decades earlier before he denied Christ, he prematurely told Jesus “I will die for you”, and now he is living that reality.

​I have to imagine on his way to his death, he’s not thinking about his mistakes. 

He’s thinking about Jesus. 

All the ways that God has been there with him every step of the way. 

The teachings, the miracles, the signs and wonders, the movement called Christianity that he’s seen. 

I have to believe He’s thinking of God’s faithfulness. 

And in my imagination I think this song we’re about to sing was the soundtrack to his final moments. “This is how I thank the Lord”… I give him everything. Because he did it for me. Despite your sin and your mess, you are chosen by God. Today you can make this your anthem.

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