Living with Jesus is a choice we must decide to make.

Linn Winters
Dec 24, 2017    29m
Linn Winters' preaches that the decision to live with Jesus is a choice than will change our lives. The different doors of decisions provide vastly different results. These doors are in the form of the acceptance or rejection of God's plan. King Herod once stood in front of these two doors as he was approached by the three wise men. Instead of choosing the door of acceptance, Herod chose to reject as he was fearful the messiah would take his throne. Mary had also been placed in front of these two doors when the Angel of God came to her, telling her that she would be carrying the son of God. Unlike Herod, Mary chose the right door, the door of obedience and surrender. Although every one of us has a bit of Herod in us, it is important for us to choose the door of surrender. Because the Lord came to heal us, not harm. Video recorded at Chandler, Arizona.

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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.

Narrator: 00:00 Consider the Christmas story. Mary had a choice: trust or rejection. King Herod had a choice: acceptance or rejection.

Narrator: 00:32 We stand before doors of opportunity every day. This Christmas Eve, join us and learn about walking in faith, recognizing God's hand at work, and finding true life when we say, "yes."

Linn Winters: 01:06 Hey, Merry Christmas cornerstone! Glad you guys are here.

Linn Winters: 01:08 Hey, if you're visiting you may not know but we've actually got a couple other campuses. We've got a campus in Scottsdale and we've got a campus in the San Tan Valley. And I just thought it'd be super, super cool if the Chandler campus would like, wish them Merry Christmas. So here's what I'd like for us to do, on the count of three, we're just going to yell "Merry Christmas" as loud as we can to our San Tan and to our Scottsdale campus'. OK, you ready? One, two, three.

Linn Winters: 01:37 "MERRY CHRISTMAS!" Very cool. Just want you guys to know we love you, we're thankful for you, we're glad you're part of our family today.

Linn Winters: 01:47 Alright, so, chances are, hopefully, you've learned this life lesson. And it's simply this: that decisions we make change our lives. That doors we decide to go through take us on paths on the other side. And our lives are different because we made that choice, because we stepped through that door, we end up in a different spot. I'm 17, I'm getting ready to go to college, and in my mind I wanted to go to a college that was in Arlington Texas (tiny little college), and my family was saying, "Hey you know maybe a larger college that has more accreditation," and so they were encouraging me to consider college in California. When it came down to the choice, I decided, I stepped through the door and said "Hey I'm going to go to that small college in Texas."

Linn Winters: 02:43 Interestingly, that's where I met my wife Lisa. And so now you look in retrospect and I think, "You know what, if I had not made that choice, if I'd headed to Cali- I would have never met my wife."

Linn Winters: 02:53 Which then takes you to a whole other layer of questions. So if I had never met Lisa, would my son Joshua have ever been born? And if he had, if I had gone to California and still had Joshua, I can promise you this, he wouldn't have been named Joshua. He would have been named "Hey dude," or "Skeeter," or after some extinct moth. Something, but it wouldn't have been Joshua, right?

Linn Winters: 03:19 Because when you make a decision your life turns out different. My guess is, you already know this. You've picked a friend, and you've looked back later and said, "Wow that friendship that I decided to have, that door I stepped through, that changed me." And for some of us we would say "I wish I'd never had that friendship. That friendship took me in a path of destruction and of disappointment and of regret."

Linn Winters: 03:44 And others of us who would look back and say, "No, no, I'm telling you, that friendship represents probably some of the best- my life would be empty if I hadn't had that friendship." Because doors of decision change our lives.

Linn Winters: 03:57 That's why it's such a big deal when you start considering a job transfer across the country, because you know that if you take that job, and you move your family to a complete- Everyone's life is different on the other side of that door. Every one of us in this room, who is a child of divorce, has asked this question. "I wonder what my life would be like if my parents hadn't stepped through the door of divorce, and if they had stayed together? How different would my life be?"

Linn Winters: 04:34 Because, because, because. Are you ready for this? Decisions, doors of decisions change our lives. Here's how that plays into the Christmas story: 2,000 years ago a little baby is born in Bethlehem, and you and I are suddenly left with decisions to make about that little boy; and what you decide is going to change your life. And I'm going to suggest to you that on that first Christmas, God placed in our world, four doors that each of us has to stand in front of and decide what we think about that baby. Is he a savior? Is he the son of God come to earth? Or is he a nice little fable story that makes all of us just better people, once a year? And which door you choose will change you. Or not.

Linn Winters: 05:27 You realize 2,000 years ago, there was a guy by the name of King Herod who stood in front of two of those doors. It was the door of acceptance, or the door of rejection, and he had to decide what to do with this "messiah," this "infant savior" come to earth. Was he really God come in the flesh? Or was he a usurper trying to steal his throne? Some of you know the story, that there were astrologers. Some of us call them wise men.

Linn Winters: 05:57 Some of us call us Magi, who had been watching, and they saw something happen in the heavens that wasn't explainable. It was not normal. And they began to search the scriptures and realize that, that star was a sign of the Messiah; and so they began a journey to go find this infant. They get to Jerusalem, and they think to themselves, "Well who would know better, who the messiah or where he is, than the present King of the Jews? Who would know more about this new King than the sitting king?"

Linn Winters: 06:32 And so they go in to see King Herod and they say to him, "Where is the Messiah?" To which King Herod says, "Messiah?" "Yeah, the new King that's been born, his sign is in the heavens!" And he says, "Oh, I hadn't heard. I'll tell you what, when you find this little boy, you come tell me where he is so that I can go and worship too." And what we know, because of the scripture, is that his absolute intent was not to accept this savior. His absolute intent was to reject this savior, to have him killed.

Linn Winters: 07:14 Thankfully, in Scripture, God tells the wise men not to go back and reveal to Herod where Jesus was born. And then Herod makes his decision. He steps up to the door of acceptance and the door of rejection, and he decides, and his decision is recorded in Matthew Chapter 1.

Linn Winters: 07:35 And here's what it says, Verse 16: "Then Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi. He was furious and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time that he had learned from the Magi."

Linn Winters: 07:55 So Herod in that moment says, "I will not let another King sit on my throne." Matter of fact, his behavior is not necessarily surprising if you know the life of Herod. He has lived his life in absolute paranoia that someone would steal his throne. He actually kills his first three sons and his first wife because he believed that they were becoming popular, and they might take his throne from him. Matter of fact, there was a saying in Israel at the time, "Better to be a pig in Herod's house." A pig, because Herod was a Jew and he would not eat pork. So, better to be a pig in Herod's house than one of his own children. And this man who was filled with fear and terror, and believed that this new King would somehow run his kingship, makes his decision.

Linn Winters: 08:54 And his decision cost the lives of not just a few, but probably hundreds of infant boys. As he rejects. And history tells us that Herod lays on his deathbed, dying an excruciating death, probably from kidney failure and gangrene. And even in that moment, he continues to reject, and he spits words that are vile and dark. All because when Herod came to the door of decision, he opened the door of rejection.
King Herod: 09:49 "When I die, my kingdom will fall on your feeble shoulders. I have sacrificed everything to build it. Chances are, you will ruin it. I was willing to execute my first wife. Killed my own children. Your older brothers, who weren't worthy of my kingdom! I did all of this for you. And yet none of you were grateful for my sacrifice!"
King Herod: 10:26 "Men fear me. Women and children tremble at my name. I was willing to kill hundreds of children in Bethlehem to secure your thrones, from fast Messiahs! Promise me, you will rule with a sword in hand, iron in your soul. I charge you to protect all that I built, so that my name might be remembered."

Linn Winters: 11:05 So, I know it didn't happen, but what if, what if, in that moment, Herod had chose the other door? What if, instead of rejecting this King, this Messiah who had come to earth, what if instead he had accepted him? If he had opened his life, opened his heart, he had pushed back his fear, and simply said, "There's something better here." And here's the interesting thing he would have discovered: This King did not want the throne of his palace. This King wanted the throne of his heart.

Linn Winters: 11:41 That most of the regret of his life would have never occurred had he opened the door of acceptance; and the things that were most broken, and most wounded about him, would have been healed in that moment. And how different would Herod's deathbed have been if he had simply opened the other door? If he had simply chosen the door of acceptance?

King Herod: 12:15 "My children, learn the lessons of my life. When I was a young man I ruled in fear."

King Herod: 12:18 "Fear that someone take my throne. I was ruthless. My insecurities cost me the lives of my first wife and three of your brothers. Then I was visited by three wise men, who said they saw the sign of a new King in the stars. I went to see this new King, fully intending to put him to death. But when I saw him, when I saw him, I knew this was a new type of King. I surrendered my throne to his. Strangely, I knew he would give it back to me, but I was changed. From that moment forward, the one who had been the bringer of death was transformed into a bringer of life. His kingdom was now flourishing. The economy is booming. Peace is reigning. I would never have accomplished such things before. It's all because of my encounter with this new King. It's your turn now. Promise me, you'll make sure the people of our kingdom know this Messiah."

Linn Winters: 14:03 So you get, you get that the door you choose makes a huge difference. That you and I have to decide, "is this baby that was born 2,000 years ago, is he a threat? Or is he a savior? Or is he a fable?" And the door that you and I choose changes our lives. And here's why this is a discussion for tonight, because I guarantee you there are some of us in this room who have stood in front of those two doors, and we have chosen the door of rejection.

Linn Winters: 14:38 We've said, "Look I don't know if it's true, I'm not even really interested in finding out, because here's the deal. I'm pretty sure if I ever let Jesus in my life he would screw up my life; he would mess me up." Because the truth is, there's just a little bit of Herod in all of us. And the same thing that he feared, we all fear, before we push open that door of acceptance. And I'm just telling you, that he is not a threat. He did not come to ruin. He came to fill that which is broken and empty in our lives. And the door you choose will change your life. It's part of the story of Christmas.

Linn Winters: 15:23 There's a second set of doors and it actually happened earlier than this. They were the doors of, "Will I actually follow God with all my heart? Will I put my faith in him and trust him? Or is what he's asking too much? And, I mean, I want to follow God, but I'm only going to follow him as far as is comfortable. I'm only going to follow Jesus as long as it's safe, and as long as I can look forward, and I can kind of make out where this goes and why it turns out OK. But the minute this gets too scary, I'm out."

Linn Winters: 15:59 And the person standing in front of those two doors, was a 15 year old girl by the name of Mary. And the angel of God had come to her and had said, "Hey, God's going to do something with you, and you're going to be the one who gets to carry the son of God. And you have a privilege that's beyond every other privilege." And here's what we know. We know that in that moment, that 15 year old girl chose the right way, she chose the door of obedience and surrender.

Linn Winters: 16:41 What if she hadn't? What if, what if Mary in that moment had said, "Hey wait, wait, wait, God, wait a minute. What you're asking me to do, you've never asked anybody else to do. Why do I have the harder road? Why, why is my decision more terrifying, more filled with faith than any other person's decision before me? So, God, look, here's the deal, I'm planning to follow you. I'm in for that. I just can't do this, this is too big. This is, this is too outlandish of a thing for you to ask me to do."

Linn Winters: 17:11 What if Mary had chose the door of halfheartedly following Jesus? Would she have still ended up married to Joseph? Or would she have married some other guy, by the name of Simon? I mean we don't know what would have happened if Mary had only halfheartedly followed Jesus.

Mary: 17:11 "Just leave! Leave like all the others."

Simon: 18:09 "You would know about being left wouldn't you? What am I, number four? Or is it five? Mary, I've tried, tried to be everything for you, but it doesn't matter what I do. You are so bitter."

Mary: 18:32 "Oh. All I have ever asked for is one man. Any man who truly loves me. So go! Clearly you are just another disappointment."

Simon: 18:39 "So just push me away, like you've done to all the other men in your life. I can't be what you need. No one can."

Mary: 18:39 "Simon! Simon! We have a baby on the way. You're not really going to leave me? You're not going to really leave us? I'm sorry. Simon! Simon! Simon! Joseph would have never left me like this."

Linn Winters: 19:30 Aren't you glad, that Mary didn't play it safe. That she didn't stand in that moment and go, "Look I can't see how this turns out okay, I'm not sure God I can trust you that far, so I'm going to choose the door of halfhearted obedience. I'm only going to follow you as far as I can understand you." Instead, instead a young teenage girl standing in front of two doors; the door of surrender and obedience, the door of saying, "God, you're Lord. And I'll follow you even though I don't understand you right now."

Linn Winters: 20:04 And the door of halfhearted obedience that says, "God, I'm only going to trust you as far as I can see." And guys, you understand she stands in that moment, and she has no idea what Joseph is going to do if she obeys. She's got a pretty good idea what the town's going to do, and the snickering that's going to go on behind her back. But she has no idea that this thing turns out right. She has no idea that 2,000 years later, you and I are going to be sitting in a room, talking about her faith. And in that moment, I guarantee you, she surrenders. She surrenders all of her 15 year old plans, because I guarantee you this wasn't her plan. She pictured a little white picket fence, she was going to be driving the kids in the carpool van, camel with reclining leather seats.

Linn Winters: 20:53 It was probably a caravan.

Linn Winters: 21:02 This wasn't the plan. This was a moment of choosing which door to go through.

Linn Winters: 21:19 And because of it, think about this, because of it, her life is blessed beyond anything that she could have possibly imagined or even hoped; when she opened that door, of obedience and surrender.
Joseph: 21:57 "When the other fathers tell me I'm raising a great son, I'm reminded of who he truly is."

Mary: 22:09 "And to think, when God first told us what was going to happen, we hesitated. Can you imagine the blessings we would have missed? The privilege of raising God's son."

Joseph: 22:25 "Even if he's not mine. I wouldn't trade these moments for the world."

Mary: 22:31 "Never again will I hesitate when God calls upon me. If every request brings this much joy, I'll obey."

Linn Winters: 22:53 Here's why the decision of Mary is so powerful: because I guarantee you that there are Christians in this room, and we've chosen the halfhearted door.

Linn Winters: 23:07 We've said, "Hey look, God, I'm in, I'm going to follow you. Just don't ask me, don't ask me to break up with him. Don't, don't ask me to break up with her. See I'm in, just not my relationships." Or maybe for you it's finances and money. Or maybe it's what you use for entertainment. I don't know. Maybe it's that person that you're just committed to being angry and bitter to. And you know, if you ever fully followed Christ he'd ask you to forgive. And so you've chosen the halfhearted door. But tonight, because of the Christmas story, you and I stand again in front of those two doors.

Linn Winters: 23:49 And God is asking, "Which one will you choose? Will you choose the door of halfheartedness, or will you choose the door of surrender, and allow me to be lowered just like a 15 year old girl did 2,000 years ago?" There was an interesting passage of Scripture. It's in Revelation, Chapter 3.

Linn Winters: 24:14 Here's what it says. "Here I am." This is Jesus speaking. "I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him (with that person) and they with me."

Linn Winters: 24:36 It's interesting that it uses the phrase "I'll eat with them." It's a gesture of friendship. It's a gesture of acceptance.

Linn Winters: 24:43 It's as if Jesus was saying, "Guys, there's a right door to open, and I'm standing on the other side of that right door. I'm knocking. And I'm saying if you would just, if you would just open that door, and I would come in, we would, we would have a whole new type of relationship together. If you would simply open that door."

Linn Winters: 25:13 Because the doors you open, the doors you close, change your life.

Linn Winters: 25:18 So here's what I want to give us the opportunity to do. I want to give us the opportunity to maybe open some new doors in our life, together. So, we're going to take a moment, I'm going to pray two prayers. One prayer, is for those of us in the room who would say, "Linn you know what, I don't think I've ever opened the door to a savior. I've consistently gone to the door of rejection and today I'm going to the door of acceptance. I'm stepping through that door."

Linn Winters: 25:50 For Christians in the room who would say, "Linn I've been following Jesus but only to the point that it got scary. Only to the point when he began to ask me things that were uncomfortable, and in that moment I said, 'whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.' And I've lived on the other side of the halfhearted door. And I'm choosing the door of surrender. I'm choosing to make, the little baby who was born 2,000 years ago who later went to a cross, Lord."

Linn Winters: 26:23 "I'm choosing a new door." So here's what I'd like for us to do, is just bow our heads. I'm going to lead us in prayer. And with everybody's head bowed, and no one's looking around, just you and me right here. If you're in a moment in your life and you go, "Linn you know what, I'm pretty sure I'm going to pray one of those prayers with you in just a moment. And I'm just, I'm just ready to acknowledge that I'm getting ready to choose a different door for my life." There's nobody else looking around, just you and me. I want you to raise your hand and say, "Linn I'm getting ready to pray one of those prayers with you." OK.

Linn Winters: 26:56 OK. All right. All around this room, hands are going up. Anybody else? OK.

Linn Winters: 27:05 If you're a person who's never accepted Jesus as your savior, you've stood at the door of rejection. Today's the day to open the door of acceptance. You'd pray a prayer or something like this: "Dear Lord Jesus, there's a little bit of Herod in me, and I've been afraid. I've been afraid that if I let you in my life, you might be a threat. You might ruin my plans. I've come to understand, you didn't come to ruin me. You came to heal me. And so I'm asking you in my heart just now.

Linn Winters: 27:47 I'm asking you to be my savior. I'm asking you to forgive my sins, and come into my life, in Jesus' name."

Linn Winters: 28:09 For the Christians in the room, who would say, "You know, I'm done with the halfhearted or, I'm choosing the surrendered," your prayer would go something like this: "Dear Lord Jesus, I followed you. I followed you until it got hard. I followed you until I didn't understand. And then I held back, I withdrew. And I've lived my life up until now, as a halfhearted follower of you. And I'm choosing a new door. I'm choosing surrender. I'm choosing to do what a 15 year old girl did 2,000 years ago and simply say,

Linn Winters: 28:51 'Whatever your will is for me, let's do that. I choose you, as Lord. In Jesus' name.'"

Linn Winters: 29:03 Amen.

Recorded in Chandler, Arizona.
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Cornerstone Church
1595 S Alma School Road
Chandler, Arizona 85286