Symbiosis - Rahab
Your reputation with God is the only thing that matters.
Good evening on the internet!
My name is Charlie Kae and I’m the lead pastor at Grace Empire in Wesley Chapel, Florida and I would like to welcome everyone to week 44 of Grace Empire online.
Our vision is to restore, revitalize, and refresh the community of Tampa Bay through an intimate relationship with Jesus X.
Everyone is welcome at Grace Empire, but if you were to ask us what our focus is, we started Grace Empire to reach the non-affiliated, gnostics, and non-believers. If you or someone you know has been hurt by religion or has been burned out by doing church, Grace Empire fits a unique role for those that are looking to reengage their faith or find an accepting community.
As a church, we try to keep Jesus at the center of everything we do, so we are praying that you encounter and experience our living God tonight.
We love interaction. So feel free to comment, ask questions, and ask for prayer while you’re watching and the admins will address them ASAP.
But before we continue, our online disclaimer.
Grace Empire Online focus on giving you sermons - so without a doubt - this is an incomplete version of church.
As we move forward with this online church thing, I wanted to urge you and remind you that online church should never replace the community you get from your local church.
We love and are so very honored that you tuned in with us today and by no means am I saying this to guilt trip you, hurt you or make you feel inadequate in anyway. We know everyone is on a different journey with God and the fact that some of you are watching is a huge step and I applaud you for that.
At Grace Empire, our goal is to keep Jesus at the center of everything we do and a big part of that is understanding our place within the church. It’s not just that you need people (which you do); but it’s that people need you.
But as I said, the online church is an incomplete version of what God intended the church to be. The local church also gives you a place to
Worship / Praise / Sing
Met with other believers in Fellowship and discipleship
To serve our community through social action
Fulfill the Sacraments of the church - Which for us is baptism and communion.
This is the first week of the month so we will do communion at the end of the service.
And lastly, gives our tithes and offering
At GXE we teach that we give to give, not give to get. We give our tithes and offerings because we are thankful to God for providing for our needs. It is also to acknowledge that we live, work, and are sustained because He allows us to be. And because of the advancements in technology giving is an easy one.
You can give online through our website www.graceempire.com, or via text by texting the words GraceEmpire to the number 77977 and then follow the link texted to you.
You can either do that now, or at the end of the message.
Alright with all that out the way…lets get to Jesus shall we?
Before we really get going, I know what you’re thinking. Will we be done before kick off? It is Superbowl Sunday and a historic one for all Tampa residents. The Buccs are in the Superbowl; what more proof do you need that God is real? Some of you guys are here cause it never hurts to pray a little bit more for your home team, eh? And yes…we will be well before kick off.
So now that that is clear, lets get it! This is week 1 of our brand new series titled Symbiosis. This series is all about living in a connected relationship with our Creator. In order for our living faith to remain healthy, it must be connected to a living God.
Symbiosis is defined as - interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. Symbiotic relationships in the animal kingdom are fascinating.
The Nile crocodile is well-known for being hyper-aggressive whenever an uninvited visitor steps into their territory. However, there is one creature that is gladly welcomed.
Incredibly, the Egyptian Plover aka “Crocodile Bird” will fly into the crocodile’s open mouth and feed upon the decomposing meat stuck between the teeth. The plover gets a solid meal while the crocodile gets some free dental work!
Remora fish, a type of suckerfish, attach themselves to sharks and other large fish. They detach when the larger fish feeds and eat the leftover scraps.
Many years ago, it occured to me that in a way we share a symbiotic relationship with God. In our relationship, we gain all the benefits and advantages, while God gains - doesn’t need but wants - our love and allegiance.
Now for all the biology nerds out there, I know there are different kinds of symbiotic relationships; I’m not here to give you a science lesson, I’m just using symbiotic relationship as an analogy to understand a greater truth. So biology nerds…chillax my friends.
We will be unpacking this concept for the next three weeks. I want you to think of this as one long sermon, sectioned into 3 parts. The idea of symbiotic relationships will become clearer by the time we reach the end of this series.
Last week was an important message for anyone that calls GXE their home church, because we cast our vision and direction for 2021. If you have not had a chance to watch that yet, I would definitely go back and give it a watch so that you understand the direction of our church for the upcoming year. As a brief recap, the vision for 2021 is Visibility. Being the salt and light of the world is a part of our calling as believers. Jesus once said,
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Our savior has directed us to let our light shine before others, the light of Jesus that lives in us, is to be a beacon for those in need of light. And how are we to do that? By showing the world through our good deeds…our works. It’s not about gaining favor or presuming righteousness. We are trying to appear better than we are, but if the love of God is in us, than it can’t help but come out. But as we exercise our faith in action, we don’t take the glory for ourselves, but point the act so that others may praise our Father in heaven. We help people understand that we do what we do because of the light that comes from Jesus. That’s what it means to be visible to the people around us this year. To love people in action, to serve them, and point the very act back to Jesus.
I know for some this ignites a passion in their servant like faith. They hear this battle cry and run forward with their valor in hand, ready to charge the gates of hell with a water pistol. Thats some of you. But their are others, though they are not ready to admit it, hear this and freak out a bit.
I carry God’s light in me? I am Christ’s ambassador? Me? I mean Pastor Charlie…that’s a lot of pressure. I’m not sure I am the right man/woman for this particular job. At least not yet; maybe in a couple hundred years, I’ll have my act together enough to be God’s emissary, but definitely not now, and definitely not this year.
We further back up these claims with verses like this:
1 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! 2 It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. 3 So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.
9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
“What if by my own failures I become a stumbling block to the weak? I don’t want to make someone stumble. I don’t want that burden on my head.”
So what do we do? Nothing? For some, that IS the answer, but others answer this call by doing the exact opposite. They try to do EVERYTHING. And by everything I mean they try to nobly live out their faith to near perfection. “If I live a completely righteous and holy life, than I will be the most effective for Christ.“
This thought although earnest and honorable at first will soon become a unique stumbling block of their own. This concept of legalistic perfection or the desire to earn their way into God’s graces becomes a putrid stench to anyone around them. False piety and spiritual arrogance begins to pour out of every orifice, calling to the like but becoming repellent to the ones that desperately need a touch from the Savior. Some begin to feel entitled to God’s blessing, or power, or even His supernatural influence. “If I live out my life as a good person, I will be rewarded. I should be rewarded. I am worthy of this title. I am worthy of this crown. I have earned it. I am worthy of the crown of life. ” And once that becomes their mantra, even if it is only implicitly stated, they lose their way because it becomes all about their reputation and maintaining that reputation in front of others.
But whose eyes matter in the end?
And that’s what I want to spend the rest of our time on today. Our reputation.
I once had a well meaning pastor tell me, “guard your reputation, cause you only get one.” Made sense. Can’t be an influence in my community if people don’t respect me. If people don’t think I’m a Godly man, I can’t be effective right? So I tried. I tried my darndest to be without sin. I tried to hide my vulnerabilities and only share the things I had victory over. I would have never admitted it at the time, but I wore a mask. A mask of the perfect pastor. I would say, “don’t put me on a pedestal; I’m just a man,” but I never lived like that. I expected people to look up to me, and when they did, I put immense pressure on myself to keep up the holy facade. I was a pressure cooker and after 10+ years, I felt like I was going to explode. I began to BELEIVE that God was using me BECAUSE of my goodness. God was using me because of my righteousness. God was using me BECAUSE I paid my dues and BECAUSE I had suffered and earned it.
And then something even worse started to happen. I started measuring people the same way. God will use this person and not that person. I need to get this person on my team. I need to get this person in my core group, my inner circle. I started to see people like pieces on a chess board. There were pawns, and rooks, and knights, and queens. Some were more valuable than others. Sure they all play a part and once in a while a pawn is all you need, but most of the time they are not as important as a queen. Of course, I never said that…Oh God no. I just adopted catchy phrases like, influencer or spiritual leader, chosen by God, called to a higher purpose. And for those that got to hear these words, they were elated, but there were so many more that felt unworthy, less than nothing.
For many people, becoming Jesus’ light to the world is a terrifying thought and also sort of unbelievable. How could God use me? I’m not an influencer. Do you know my history? Do you know my insecurities? Do you know how incapable I really am? My reputation? What reputation? I have a bad reputation or no reputation.
We all think like that sometimes don’t we. We all have a way stoking the fires of other peoples reputation, whether for the good or the bad, but we also have a tendency to fan the flames of our own reputations too.
What people think about us often informs what we think about ourselves.
It did for me. And whether it was how I treated others or how I treated myself, I knew something wasn’t right. And that’s when I remembered Rahab.
Open your bibles to Joshua 2 because we will read about a very special woman in the Old Testament. Someone with a not so good reputation. Matter of fact, she had a bad one. Let’s read about Rahab.
1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
When you read Shittim - make sure you read it with a long I…Sh-eye-tim. Just a heads up. So at this point in Israel’s history, Israel being the chosen nation of God, has been in slavery for more than 400 years. Moses, one of the most important historical heroes in Israel’s history, has lead the Israelites to freedom, but has recently died, and Joshua, Moses apprentice has taken up the mantel of leadership. They are about to cross the Jordan and enter into the land that the Lord God has promised them. So Joshua sends two spies into Shittim. They spies go in and end up finding refuge with a prostitute named Rahab.
So a couple of things. Even back in the day, prostitution was not a favorable life profession. Not a good thing to be a prostitute. Even in our woke culture, prostitute…doesn’t really elicit thumbs ups. Number 2, Rahab is a Canaanite; which means she was considered an enemy of Israel. Again, not a good sign for my girl Rahab here. Third, as you will see, she is a traitor to her own countryman and a liar to boot. So yeah…Rahab. Not a good look for my gal Rahab here. But lets continue reading.
2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.)
So her king of Jericho hears or suspects that the Israelite spies were seen at the house of this prostitute and sends men to bring them out. But she betrays her king, hides the Israelite men, and leads the soldiers away. Again, good for the Israelite spies, but Rahab doesn’t give off Wonder Woman vibes if you know what I mean. Lets continue.
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.
12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”
So…Rahab cuts a deal. I know your God is the God. We’ve heard all the stories and know that the Israelite God is THE God. And since I helped you, please help me and my fam. When you come to take over, save my family and I. The Israelite spies agree and she’s saved.
Sort of a weird and boring story, if you ask me. But here’s the thing. Rahab is not going to be a throwaway character in Israel’s history. Her action here will be remembered and spoken of years later.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
Rahab was remembered as someone that stepped out in faith and her actions where counted as righteousness because of it.
Wait a minute. Her faith was counted her as righteousness? While she was a prostitute? While she was the enemy? While she was a traitor and liar? But I thought God only used the worthy? I thought God only used the good? I thought God only used the influencers and spiritual giants of this world.
You see, while you and me, look for the people that have good reputations to associate with (however you define that) God is a lot different. God has a different reputation. God has a reputation of using people that others feel unworthy. God has a reputation of taking the outcasts and pariahs to make his spirit know. God has a reputation of taking the have nots of this world and working his wonders through them. That’s God’s reputation. And you know what the story of Rahab tells me about God?
God is going to work through the people that he wants to work through. Ain’t no stopping God. There is no enemy greater than God. There is no circumstance greater than God. There is no history stronger than God. Oh you think you’re bad? You think you’re unworthy? Rahab was a traitorous, enemy, harlot and God says…yup I can use her.
God is going to work thorough the people he wants to work through. He doesn’t care what your reputation is. He doesn’t care what other people think of you. All he cares about and wants you to care about is what He thinks of you.
God’s opinion of you is what matters most. Remember I told you about that pastor that told me “guard your reputation; you only get one.” You what God says to that? You focus on integrity and following me, and let me worry about your reputation. And your reputation with me…is fine.
See God didn’t change Rahab before he used her. It doesn’t say she used to be a prostitute, it says she is a prostitute. Matter of fact, James and the writer of Hebrews makes sure you understand exactly who she was. The prostitute Rahab is what they call her, but you know what God used her anyway. Am I saying go and sin and do whatever? Of course not. What I am saying is that God choose to use an imperfect vessel to do his work, you think He can’t use you?
God didnt change Rahab before he used her…check this.
The love of God is not the reward for change, it is the resource by which I am changed.
Rahab had nothing to offer except faith and that was enough. You may think you are unworthy. You may think you have nothing to offer. You may think you are an imperfect vessel, a dirtied mirror to reflect the light of Jesus, but so what? God says, I am going to use who I am going to use.
The issue with reputation is not really about how others see you; it’s how YOU see YOU. And the problem with how you see you, is that it does not reflect how God sees you. You hear me? How you see you, your doubt, your lack of experience, your unworthiness, is not how God sees YOU. God has a much higher opinion of you than you realize. Your reputation in heaven is much much much much higher.
So again I will read this:
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
You are worthy because God says you are…so let your light SHINE.
But as we will learn, having a knowledge of God and intimately knowing God are two very different things. Being closely tied to God, like a symbiotic relationship changes things.