HEAVEN HEARS — Enemy: Cosmic Christmas  1 John 3:8

Have you ever looked at a picture and thought, “There’s something wrong with that picture!”  I heard about this ad that Dillard’s placed in the newspaper and it said:  Dillard’s 60% Off Sale; December 14-21; Dillard’s will be having the largest sale of the year just in time for Christmas.  There will be a special appearance by Satan between the hours of 5 pm – 9 pm for your kids!!      We wouldn’t want to scare you with Satan!  Just your kids.  Come sit on Satan’s lap!   I’ve been known to make a few spelling errors in my day.  As a youth pastor, I did a series on relationships and dating for high school students.  I called it “The Urge to Merge.”  I printed all these promos and I transposed (some letters) and it was “The Uger to Merge.”  I can relate.  I’ve never invited anybody to sit on Satan’s lap though.

You look at some pictures and you go, “There’s something off with that picture.”  (Ryan displays picture of ladies sitting on a “bench” with no seat.  Shows a picture of a man on the moon with the moon in the background. Shows a picture of men rescuing babies from rubble of war-torn Syria.)  I’ll tell you what’s wrong with this picture (Syria).   Places like this actually exist.  What’s wrong is you have men running out of a war-torn city of Aleppo in Syria that’s been in war zone since 2012.  They’re trying to get these babies to safety.  You don’t have to look too closely, turn on the news and listen too intently to figure out that it’s not just problems “out there,” but it turns out that there’s a problem here.  You look at our world and you’ll recognize that there’s something wrong and broken with the world we live in.  If you live in this area, you heard earlier this week that there was a mom in Highlands Ranch who felt live was too hard to go on.  She went and bought a gun and she killed herself and her two kids.  You look at things like the racial divide in our country.  You look at issues like homelessness and social injustice; there’s something in us that goes man, there’s something wrong with this picture.  There’s something wrong with our world.  There’s something off, there’s something broken.  There isn’t a person in this room that doesn’t look at those things that we see on the news or hear or read on our app and have this deep longing in your soul that things are off.  We’re designed for more than what we often experience.  There’s something wrong with this picture.

There was this newspaper that posed the question “What’s Wrong with our World?”  The great Catholic thinker G.K. Chesterton supposedly wrote in and said, “Dear Sirs:  I am.  Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.”   It’s true.  At a very fundamental level, what’s wrong with the world is…..people!!  That’s what’s wrong with the world.  We don’t have to look too much further to think people are the source of the problems.  Evil in the heart of humanity is why we look at pictures like what’s going on in Aleppo or Mosul or around the globe and go, man, I just have the sense that we were designed for something different, for something more.  What’s wrong with the world is people, but what’s wrong with people?  The Scriptures would say that there is something distinctly wrong with us, with the world we live in….    Listen to the way that John would say it to the group of believers that he’s writing to:  We know that we are from God, {He’s talking about those who follow the way of Jesus. He’s talking about those who by faith have stepped into a reconciliatory relationship with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  He’s talking about if you’re a follower of Christ then he’s talking about you!}  …and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)   He draws out these two categories you can be in in this world.  You can either be a child of the Most High God, redeemed by the blood of the Messiah Jesus, OR you can be under the power of the evil one.  No in-between!  We would love to think that there’s a third category, but John would say no, you’re either of God or you’re of his enemy, Satan.  There’s just two categories.  So what’s wrong with the world?

What’s wrong with the world is simply this….we live in a war zone!  That’s what’s wrong with the world.  The world is under siege!  Here’s the meta-narrative of Scripture.  Meta-narrative would be the story that stands above every story in the Bible.  The meta-narrative of Scripture is that in Genesis 1 and 2, God designs, creates, and speaks the world into existence.   In this poem in Genesis 1 & 2, God says it’s good, it’s good, it’s good and when he gets to humanity he goes, “They’re REALLY good.”  It’s like God pats himself on the back when he creates you and goes, “I’m pretty good.  I’m God.”  It’s “really good” for two chapters.  Then in chapter 3, the enemy, the Satan, steps onto to scene, onto the pages of history, and mars God’s good and beautiful creation. Genesis 3–it happens that early in the Bible.  Here’s what you have to know this morning!  I know that we have people that follow Jesus in here and we have people who aren’t yet followers of Jesus in here.  Regardless of where you stand with God, you need to know where you stand with your enemy.  You have an enemy!  He hates you!  He wants to destroy you and his goal is that you would experience the same type of death that he does. For some people in this room, you are living out that storyline.  Here’s the way Jesus says it in John 10:10 — The thief {This is also Satan or the devil.} comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  {But Jesus says something different.  He says that’s the enemy’s intent with your life.  He wants to drag you down with him.  Jesus says…}  I came {He’s saying that this is what Christmas is about.} ..that they may have life and have it abundantly.   Not just life where you exist and breathe, but the type of life where you breathe deeply and go that’s what I was designed for, that’s what I was created for.

So, God is good.  There is an enemy.  He hates you.  Every square inch of God’s globe is bathed in His glory. Every square inch of it is contested by His enemy.  Here’s the Satan’s tactic.  You’ll notice if you read cover to cover the Scriptures, Satan never goes head-to-head with God.  He knows he loses.  So here’s what he does. He goes after God’s most prized possession.  He goes after the crowning jewel of everything that He’s created.  It’s the way that the enemy attacks God’s good and perfect creation.  He goes after……YOU and he goes after me. He knows if he can get the thing that’s most important to God, if he can destroy you…..if he can destroy you physically, if he can destroy you emotionally, if he can destroy you spiritually…..he knows that eventually (or he thinks eventually) that he will win.  So the Scriptures will describe in 1 Peter 5:8 that you have an enemy of your soul that prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

You may be going, Paulson, what does this have to do with Christmas?  EVERYTHING!  We sing songs at Christmas like: O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free/ Thine own from Satan’s tyranny/ From depths of Hell Thy people save/ And give them victory o’er the grave/ Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel/ Shall come to thee, O Israel.  We have so over-sentimentalized Christmas that I wonder if we realize what it’s actually all about.  Here’s the way John will describe the reason for the season (1 John 3:8):  Whoever makes a practice of sinning {In case you’re wondering if John meant whoever sins.  John means is whoever continually sins without running back to the Father and saying, “I repent.  I confess. I’m broken and I’m in need.”  In 1 John 1:8, he’s already said that anyone who claims to be without sin is a liar.  He’s not talking that we need to be sinless.  He’s talking about being the type of people who do not let sin rule and reign and become slaves to it.}  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, {Just a quick timeout.  As Westerners, we struggle with this, don’t we?  If we lived anywhere other than the United States and western Europe, we’d go sure, there’s a spiritual battle that goes on right beneath the surface of everything that we can see.  But in our very materialistic western world, for us to propose that there’s an enemy, a spiritual enemy of our soul that wants to destroy us, many of us don’t buy that.  Then all I say to that is that you disagree with the Bible!}  ….for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared {The reason for the season….} ..was to destroy the works of the devil.   We think that Christmas is this sentimental gathering around a tree and giving presents and joining together with family and exchanging gifts and pleasantries.  That’s all good and that’s all fine as long as we recognize that underneath all the tinsel and all the songs and all the presents is the waging of a war.  The incarnation is a declaration from the God of the universe that He refuses to leave humanity bound, captured, in their sin.  He will and has come to our rescue.  So…..Merry Christmas!  Destruction is the reason for the season! {How’d you like to have a Christmas card that said that, right?}

John does say (in this passage) the reason the Son of God came and the reason that he appeared was to destroy. In the Greek, the root word is luó.  It has two meanings.  One is sort of more metaphorical and that’s the one that we have translated here.  It’s destruction to annul, to completely take down.  So I think you could sing at Christmas time……(Ryan sings) Jesus came in like a wrecking ball!  The more literal definition is to loose, to untie.  Jesus with his divine, masterful, beautiful grace steps into humanity’s issue….our issue is that we are tied up in the lies, in the deceit, in the hopelessness, in the fear, that the enemy of our soul would love for us to live in.  Quite literally what the passage says is that the Son of God came to untie you.  The Son of God came to free you.  The Son of God came to speak hope into your despair.  To speak joy into your pain.  The Son of God came to un-do and untie every single evil work of the enemy in your life.  That’s what the Scriptures say Christmas is all about!  That’s the reason for the season! 

Here’s my question…was He successful?  If that’s what Jesus came to do….and the Scriptures are really clear in saying the reason he came was to untie humanity from the work of the Satan, from the work of the devil. Did he succeed?  I see some heads nodding.  And to that I would say yes and amen, and yet, we must be astute enough and culturally aware enough that we know the next question from people on the outside looking in will be…then why in the world does the world look the way it looks?  If Jesus, the Messiah, has untied humanity, why in the world does the world look the way that it looks?  To that I say, you’re going to have to hold on for a few minutes.  I’m going to answer that question.  But first I want to talk through what John has in mind when he says your chains are gone, you’ve been set free.  What does he have in mind when he says that?

If you look at just this one passage, here’s what you’re going to see — Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, {So this is the devil’s main tactic.  It’s to entice, instigate, draw you towards sin.}  ..for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  That’s who he is.  That’s what he does.  It’s in his very nature.  John wants to point us back to the very beginning of the story.  To point us back to the meta-narrative.  To say okay, well how did this whole thing get started?  {That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked it.}  Genesis 3.  Let’s talk about the beginning.  Now the serpent {That’s the devil John was referring to.} was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” {Anecdotally, God never said, “Don’t touch it,” but she’s adding to the commands of God, which sounds eerily familiar.}  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  

I want to lay out the lies of the enemy and the way that Christmas breaks those chains.  Here’s the first lie of the enemy — from the ‘beginning.’  His main tactic, his main tool….{Will you look up at me a second?}….not just in Adam and Eve’s life, but in your life and in my life, follower of Jesus, not follower of Jesus….his main tool is the same.  He wants to lie to you!  That’s what he’s going after.  If he can get your bearing of reality and truth and design off, he can win in your life.  But when Jesus comes in like a wrecking ball, when he comes and unties the chains of humanity, He, by truth, frees us from the bondage of Satan’s deceit.  He frees us from the bondage of deceit.  Jesus will echo these same sentiments in John 8:44-45.  Listen to His words; speaking to the Pharisees He says: You are of your father the devil, {Just a quick timeout. It’s things like this that got Jesus killed.  It’s times like this that raised people’s blood pressure when it came to Jesus, because He didn’t let people ride the fence.  In fact, He pushed them off the fence.}  ….and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  {What he’s saying is that when there’s words coming out of Satan’s mouth they are lies, because that’s who he is.}  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  

There’s two ways the enemy wants to lie to you.  First, the enemy wants to lie to you about God.  You can see this in Genesis 3:1.  The enemy asked, “Did God actually say that to you?”  He wants to distort your understanding of what God actually commands of you and what God invites you into.  Later on he says, “You surely will not die.”  In fact, if you disobey God, you’ll start to be like God.  What’s underneath it all is the Satan wants Adam and Eve and you and I to start to have this thought in the back of our mind, “Oh, maybe God is holding out on me.”  “Maybe there’s something better outside of God’s will than there is inside of God’s will.” “Maybe my life will be more joyful, more hopeful, more happy, if I make this decision that I know is against what God would command.”  If I take this relationship with my boyfriend or girlfriend to that level, well then maybe we’ll be happy and maybe we’ll be fulfilled.  We start to buy the lie.  Maybe if I live my life and I hold onto that grudge…..I know God says forgive however many times somebody wrongs you, but sometimes it feels good to say no.  I’m right to hold onto all my stuff and to say, “I know, God, that your ethic and the kingdom ethic and heaven’s ethic is generosity, but, man, I’ve got to look out for me.”  So we start to look back at God and we start to go God, I’m not sure I believe your motives.  I’m not sure I believe that you’re really actually good.  And that you’re actually for me.  If I follow you, where’s my life going to end up?  So we start to doubt God and we start to believe man, it would be way better—this is what Adam and Eve believed—to be like God than it is to be with God.  That’s at the core.  If I could just elevate myself then I would be okay.

So that’s the lie about God.  The second is the lie that we start to believe about ourselves.  Here’s where the enemy gets to work in your life and mine.  He will point out, “I can’t believe you did that.  I can’t believe you went there again.  I can’t believe you’re in that same pattern of sin and you’re such a moron.  There’s no way God could actually love you and be for you.”  So we start to believe man, I know the passage says there’s no condemnation for those who are in Jesus, but there’s got to be a foot note with my name on it.  Except. For. Paulson.  We start to believe that in order to be okay we have got to hide who we really are.  Here’s the way the great existential Danish philosopher, follower of Jesus, Soren Kierkegaard put it: “Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God.  Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God.”  

How does Jesus come in like a wrecking ball?  How does He untie the lies of the enemy—the lies about God and the lies about ourselves?  Let’s first tackle the lies about God.  He (Jesus) reveals what God is like.  Jesus doesn’t appease God; Jesus reveals God.  He pulls the curtain back (and reveals) this is what your great God is like.  He would rather chase you down in your sin than leave you in it.  He’d rather step into humanity than have you die apart from divinity.  He loves you.  He’s good and He’s for you.  He comes in and He takes our sin and He takes our shame.  So we can no longer live in one of the two lies that most of humanity live in:  Either “I’m doing good and I’m okay.”  Have you ever heard somebody say that?  I’m good enough.  Man, the enemy loves that lie.  He’ll just keep whispering in their ear, “Absolutely, you are.  You’re awesome.  In fact, let’s build a pedestal for you to stand on.”  The other side of the lie is:  I’m worthless.  Garbage.  How could I ever be in relationship with a perfect God with sin in my life.  Into both of those lies, Tim Keller beautifully speaks the gospel:  “The gospel is this:  We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”  When we can hold both of those things as true at the same time, we walk in the untied, relentless freedom that the gospel purchases for us.

Along with the Apostle Paul encouraging the church in Corinth, we get to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corin. 10:3-5)  As we look at truth and lies, that’s part of the challenge — Alright, God, am I believing truth or am I believing lies here?   Do you know the best lens to look at that through?  The gospel. Am I believing God’s grace over my life in this situation?  Is fear going to rule the day?  Is despair going to win? Is that thought about that person….am I going to let that seed be planted in my life or am I going to preach the freedom of the gospel over it?  That’s the question, friends, that stands in front of all of us.  If you hear nothing else today, will you hear this?  God’s invitation to you is to learn how to preach the gospel to your own soul.  To learn how to preach the untying, wrecking ball freedom of Jesus over your own life.  To identify the lies that you believe—either I’m good enough without God or I am crushed even with Him.  Both of them are from the pit of Hell and the Satan loves them both and will feed them both.  To preach the Christmas gospel over them that says, “Jesus came for something better, for something more.”  You’re deeply flawed.  Merry Christmas!  And you’re deeply loved.

What else, Paulson?  Here’s what John said leading up to Jesus coming in like a wrecking ball.  Here’s what he says in 1 John 3:4-5, more tools of the enemy — Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.  You know that he appeared {That’s Jesus. That’s Christmas.}  in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.    Notice, sin is lawlessness.  What he does not say, and he could have, is that sin is breaking the law.  Lawlessness and breaking of the law are two different things.  Breaking of the law or violating of the law is a form of sin, but ALL sin can be couched under the category of….it’s not that we’ve broken the law, it’s that we’ve completely disregarded that there was any sort of standard that God laid out for truth whatsoever.  It’s an active, rebellious heart against the King of kings and the Lord of lords and what John says is that that type of attitude ties you up.  The bad news is that sin is not a slip up.  It’s not a personality defect.  It’s not a little tiny missing of the mark — “Maybe next time I’ll get it right.”  It’s a complete disregard of the reality that God reigns above it all. {Look up at me for just a second.}  There is a God and you are NOT Him. That’s what John is saying.  We live otherwise; we live contrary to that and we make decisions contrary to that. The question is this lawlessness, this idea of the law of God.  Wouldn’t it be nice….613 laws….wouldn’t it be nice to know what it is we’re actually standing above?  If that’s what sin actually is.  Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody, at one point, asked Jesus, “Hey, could you just summarize the law for us, Jesus?”  Okay, so those who’ve been around the story know…..they did and He did!  Here’s his answer, here’s the law summed up:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.  Jesus goes, “Hey, if I could add another one, just a close second.  One that flows out of the first.”  Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)  Follow me on this:  If the law of God is summarized in love of God and others, and sin is rebellion against the law, then sin is actually, at its very core, a lack of, a refusal to, or an inability to love both God and the people around us.  And that’s what the enemy wants.  So from the very beginning, this lawlessness is an inability to love the things of God, to love the people of God, to love God Himself and instead, we start to love……ourselves.  That’s lawlessness.  That’s an inability to live by the ethic that rules and reigns above every other command.  So lawlessness is actually lovelessness (if that were a word).

When Jesus comes he lives, dies, resurrects, and ascends in such a way to where love now replaces the pride of lawlessness.  Instead of saying, “God, we need to stand above you,” we say, “God, we stand WITH you because we are good.”  Here’s the deal — None of us would probably ever say, “We are lawless.”  We’d say, “We’re RIGHT!”  That’s what it sounds like.  That’s what it sounds like on Facebook, right?  With the grenades that get lobbed back and forth….   No one admits to struggling with lawlessness!  We go, “I’m right!”  Politically, I’m right!  Socially, I’m right!  Relationally, why should I forgive?  I’m right!  That’s the way it plays out in our lives. It’s Adam and Eve deciding they know better than God.  And when that decision is made to look outside ourselves for direction, the direction of our lives turns IN on ourselves and starts to haunt us.

If I’m right about this, we should assume that in some way, shape or form, John is going to address the command to love.  Look a little bit further in chapter 3 (1 John 3:11) and here’s what you’ll see:  For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.   Here’s what Jesus does when he comes in like a wrecking ball, when he unties us from the Satan….He releases us to love God and to love the people around us.  Question:  How does He do that?  The Scriptures say: We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)   The untying nature of the incarnation is that Jesus comes to declare that you are loved by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  When you know that you are LOVED, you are FREED to love.  You show me someone who hates and I will show you someone who doubts that they are loved by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  But you show me someone who passionately, ruthlessly loves the people around them, forgives the people around them, pursues the people around them, and I will show you someone who’s CONVINCED that are loved by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  It’s the freedom that God wants you to live.  You can’t live in His freedom if you aren’t convinced of His love.  You can’t!  Christmas reminds us—we don’t know why—that we’re loved by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

One more tool of the enemy that Jesus destroys.  In 1 John 3:6 it says:  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.  Follow the reasoning that John unpacks here.  Therefore, sin, at its core, is the inability, or the failure, to abide in Christ.  If you could abide perfectly, you could live purely.  That’s what he’s saying.  Jesus comes and he starts to speak into that gap—the gap between what we’re designed to live in (relationship with God) and what sin has caused or purchased for us (division).  Because of the work of Jesus, abiding displaces the death of division.  It displaces it by grace.  It displaces it by instilling in you….  {Will you look up at me a second?}  If you’re a follower of Jesus, the Spirit of God lives in you!  We talk a lot about keeping Christ in Christmas.  I’m all for that, so long as we first decide that we are going to abide with Christ IN us.  Who cares if we keep Christ in Christmas but have no awareness that God lives in us!  That’s what Christmas is all about.  It’s God, by His Spirit, clothing himself in humanity first, then leaving His Spirit that we can live in abiding relationship with Him.  Which, friends, is why what we do on a Sunday morning is not trivial.  It’s so important to gather around the story every single week to remind ourselves that our chains are gone, that we’ve been set free.  That the King of love has stepped into humanity by the way of grace and is showering people with His love.  I don’t know about you, but I start to believe the Satan’s lies.  Every single week I get a little bit tied up.  I preach the gospel to myself and I preach it to my own soul, but sometimes I need YOU to remind me as we sing songs like ‘O Holy Night’ that the chains are broken and it’s gone.  We are Spirit-empowered but we’re ritually-sustained.  It’s why we gather together, to remind ourselves of the story and to invite one another back into the relentless love of the Father that says, “Your chains are gone.  I came in like a wrecking ball and you’re set free!”

There’s this interesting sociologically phenomenon that’s called Stockholm Syndrome.  Stockholm Syndrome is when someone who’s been captured or kidnapped starts to associate with their kidnapper, and even grows to have an affection towards them.  The most famous Stockholm Syndrome case is a woman by the name of Patty Hearst.  She’s the granddaughter of the newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst.  She was kidnapped and held for a year, then started to have an affection for her captor and even went so far as to participate in bank robberies and theft. So back to the question if our chains are gone and we’ve been set free, why does the world look the way that it looks?  Stockholm Syndrome.  The majority of humanity unfortunately looks at their captor instead of their Savior and has an affection for him.  He (the enemy) says, “You can stand on your own pedestal. You can be the master of your own domain.  This can be all about you and you deserve it.”  We start to go, “Okay, I’m in!”  The King of kings and the Lord of lords has a better invitation for you, friends.  Most of humanity falls into this category that John clearly lays out.  This is what’s wrong with the world.  The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13) THIS is the invitation that is put out in front of all of humanity.  John succinctly summarizes how we live in this victory.  Here’s how he says it in 1 John 5:4-5 — For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world—-our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  Friends, it is faith in the victor, instead of associating with the enemy and giving him our heart and allowing him to define truth and law and abiding, we say back to the King of kings and the Lord of lords, “You came to destroy lies and bring truth.  Bring it to me.”  “You came to destroy pride and lawlessness and invite us into love.  Shower me in your love and set me in it!”  “You came to bridge the gap of division and invite me into abiding.  Allow me to abide in you.”

So, according to the great words of John Lennon:  A very Merry Christmas / And a happy New Year / Let’s hope it’s a good one / Without any fear / War is over, if you want it / War is over now.  Let’s pray.

Before you go running out of here today, I just want to invite you to take a deep breath and ask your King, Jesus, if you’re a follower of His today, are there ways you’re buying the lies of the enemy.  Are there ways he’s stealing, killing and destroying life in you, where Jesus the Messiah is saying, “The chains are gone, you’ve been set free.  Come home.”  Are there ways that you feel divided from Him?  In some ways the voice of the enemy and the voice of Jesus sound similar.  Jesus says, “Confess your sin.  Repent.  Come home.”  The enemy says, “Dwell on your sin.  Let it define you.”  He speaks condemnation into your sin, but Jesus speaks repentance and invitation.  Will you surrender to Jesus this morning?  Then reaffirm to Him that your life is in his hands.  If that’s for you this morning, will you just raise your hand?  I want to pray for you.  (Keep it up in the air.  It’s a declaration to God that you want Him to speak over you.)  Jesus, we do this morning.  We believe that you are a Good Father and that you do good.  This morning, we’re just saying back to you that we want the freedom that you’ve purchased by your incarnation, resurrection, and ascension.  We want that freedom.  We want that life. We want that goodness.  So this morning, Jesus, I pray that you would stir in us, that you would invite us, that you’d speak loudly into the situations in our life that are causing us to walk in bondage and not the freedom that you have for us.  We’ll say back to you this morning that we surrender to you, to your love, to your goodness. Then by faith that we would overcome the world.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.