The Story: Restoration

The Story

Once we are redeemed from our sin, how can we be restored to a Christ-like condition? As we wrap up our sermon series called The Story, John Elmore shows us how God restores both our souls and our relationships, and ultimately restores us into His dwelling place.

John ElmoreDec 19, 2021

In This Series (6)
The Story: Your Next Chapter
David Penuel, Jennie Allen, Blake HolmesDec 26, 2021
Christmas Eve 2021
John ElmoreDec 24, 2021
The Story: Restoration
John ElmoreDec 19, 2021
The Story: Redemption
David MarvinDec 12, 2021
The Story: The Fall
Timothy "TA" AteekDec 5, 2021
The Story: Creation
John ElmoreNov 28, 2021


Once we are redeemed from our sin, how can we be restored to a Christ-like condition? As we wrap up our sermon series called The Story, John Elmore shows us how God restores both our souls and our relationships, and ultimately restores us into His dwelling place.

Key Takeaways

  • When God restores us, He restores our souls, He restores us to and with His people, and He restores us to His dwelling place.
  • Restoration of your soul includes both restoration from sin (Romans 6:13) and the restoration of identity (Colossians 2:14-15). It is “already, but not yet” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5).
  • When our identity is in Jesus, we transition from “sinners who saint” to “saints who sin”.
  • The removal from sin is the act of expiation; imputation is when God goes further and bestows upon us the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • As Christians, our identity is not what we’ve done but Whose we are.
  • We are living in an in-between, but one day He will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4)
  • Restoration to and with God’s people involves restoration to God’s family (Ephesians 2:18-22), restoration from the pains of isolation (Galatians 6:1-2), and the restoration for Christ’s return (Titus 2:11-13).
  • Jesus is coming back, and nothing should clean our souls like His coming.
  • Our Blessed Hope is a Hapax Legomenon, meaning it is the singular, only time blessed hope is used in the entire Bible - pointing to priority and emphasis of the Church’s hope in Christ’s return.
  • When God restores us to His dwelling place, this means restoration to a home with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:8), that we will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:20-21), and that the new heaven and earth are restored (Revelation 21:3-5a).
  • The gospel in ten words: Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead.
  • As we live in the in-between, we can grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
  • For the unbeliever, this world is as much heaven as they will ever see. For the believer, this world is as much hell as they will ever experience.
  • We can choose either forever restoration by allowing Jesus access to hearts or further deterioration by denying Him access to our hearts.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • As Jesus stands at the “door” of your heart and knocks, are there “rooms” you aren’t ready to give Him access to restore?
  • How can you be more connected to the body of Christ right now? Do you need to return to church rather than streaming, join a church, or plug into a community group?
  • To whom can you confess a piece of “glass” in your soul (James 5:16)?
  • Who can you invite to Christmas Eve service this week or to a church service/Bible study/ministry in the future?

Resources for Further Discussion

  • Suggested Scripture study: 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:13; 1 Peter 4:1-2; Colossians 2:14-15; Revelation 12; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Revelation 21:4; Ephesians 2:18-22; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:16; Hebrews 10:25; Titus 2:11-13; 2 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 15:20-21; Revelation 21:3-5a; Revelation 3:20
  • Book: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • The Story: Advent Guide

Good morning, Watermark. Merry Christmas. Glad to be with you this morning as we wrap up The Story series. We had creation, fall, and redemption, and today we're going to be talking about restoration. As I saw that I was going to be teaching restoration, what immediately came to my mind was our 55-year-old house.

Laura and I live in a 55-year-old house that we've lived in for the last two years. Over the course of those two years, we have done a lot of restoration. It's not because of the previous owners; it's because it's 55 years old. There are just some things that have been falling apart over the course of time.

Two years ago, we were brand new into the house. I think we'd been there for two months. We moved in on Thanksgiving. By January, the heater was not working. Things were kind of weird. So, we had this person over to check it out, and he was like, "Hey, you need a new heater." I was like, "Come on. We just had it inspected. We just moved in." He was like, "No, the whole thing needs to be replaced." I was like, "Well, when?" He was like, "Like, I wouldn't sleep here tonight."

I was like, "So, what's the problem?" He was like, "Well, it's totally rusted out, and when that fails, there's going to be carbon monoxide released throughout. It actually could burn the house down. You might not know because you've already been killed by the toxic gas." I was like, "Great. When can you have it installed?" So, literally the next day, on a Saturday… We always get these Christmas presents from our deteriorating house.

A year ago at Christmastime, Laura was like, "You know what was happening last year at this time." I was like, "No," because I've just blacked it out. I'm upstairs, showering, and she starts screaming. I'm like, "What is going on down there with the kids?" I go downstairs. There's literally water cascading out of a wall where our washer and dryer hookup is, just pouring out, running out into there. I'm like, "Oh, this is terrible."

So, I turn off the shower, clearly, and go into the bathroom. Our bathtub has filled up with something I can't mention here with integrity in church. The toilet is overflowing into the entire house. So, we have the plumber out. I'm like, "All right. Something clearly just backed up. I don't know. We're just figuring this out at this house." He clears it. I'm like, "Great. Good." It happens again the very next day. I'm like, "That plumber was terrible."

He wasn't terrible. He scoped it then. He sends a scope, like an endoscopy for the house, and he's like, "Hey, so, this neighborhood has cast iron pipes. They were installed about 50 years ago, and the timeline, the life expectancy for cast iron is about 50 years." It literally just collapsed. It fell in upon itself, just dirt compacted. So, of course it's overflowing into every area of our house.

Then this Christmas, what we received for our restoration gift from our 55-year-old house… Our windows… There was a gap this big, cold air (or hot air last week) just blowing through. Our son's room… Anytime it would rain, more water… I mean, it would just drip down like a waterfall, like one of these noise machines so you can sleep at night, just trickle of water. It was like, "All right. That's the water I can see. Where's the water I can't see?"

Here's the thing. I'm restoring this house what feels like monthly. There's a restoration process that's happening in the house, but one day, do you know what's going to happen to the house after all my restoration? The thing is going to get bulldozed. It will be bulldozed after all my effort, like, laid to the ground, and somebody is going to build a new McMansion on it. There will be a new house there. After all my labor, all my work to restore this house, one day it will all seem in vain.

That's exactly what's going on in our lives, but it's not in vain. It's never in vain. We are in a process of restoration. We are subject to decay. I'm clearly aware of this as a 46-year-old. My body is subject to decay, but we're in this in-between, as we're journeying home unto a final restoration, but right now, we know this, with the aches and pains physically and those spiritually of sin, but there is a restoration that's happening as the Holy Spirit is sanctifying us into the image of Christ.

One day, like our house, you will be laid to the ground. You're like, "Was all that restoration in vain?" No, because the restoration story is that we will be raised again with a glorified body that will never perish, that new house that will never age in a new heaven and a new earth at Christ's coming. So, today, we're going to talk about the culmination of the story…restoration. There's a lot of ground to cover, because the restoration is already and not yet as we go through it.

So, this is restoration, how God is making all things new. The definition of restoration, just like from a worldly standpoint, is the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition. We remember creation and the fall. Creation…we walked with God. Then sin entered in, death entered in, and there was division. Restoration is that we're being restored unto God through Jesus, now indwelt by the Spirit, shaped into the image of Christ, being progressively sanctified, one day glorified, and then returned to him, holistically, to live forever in the dwelling place of God.

So, today, these three points we're going to talk about are: a restoration to your soul through Jesus; secondly, a restoration to and with God's people; and, thirdly, a restoration to God's dwelling place. Each one of those points (and you can pray for me) has three subpoints. We'll see if I pull it off.

  1. Restoration of your soul. Second Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." When it says new, I want to make a point that it doesn't say better. It's not "improved upon." You are not better. You are new in Jesus. He has made you into a new creation.

I saw this firsthand. I was in Sudan for the summer my second year in seminary in 2009, and I was working with these alcoholics, as a recovering alcoholic. They were meeting under this tree and doing discipleship and daily sobriety by the power of Christ. There was one guy there named Kosimos. We would try to worship, but we didn't have any instruments. I can't play or carry a tune to save my life. This guy shows up with this crazy Sudanese harp. I have a picture of it. This is Kosimos.

Kosimos was a town drunk, trusted in Jesus, got set free from this lethal moonshine they were making, and he brings this crazy harp. Through my translator, I'm like, "Kosimos, what is that instrument? Is that some kind of traditional Sudanese instrument?" He's like, "No, it's a land mine." I'm like, "Excuse me?" Because of Darfur and all that mess, as the Muslims came down to kill off the Christians in the south… They're now two independent countries.

There were land mines in the fields. They would be marked off with white ribbon, like, "Don't go into that field. It hasn't been cleared of land mines yet." He had dug up a land mine, taken out all the ordnance and explosives, wrapped it in a goatskin, strung it like a harp, and he would play in our recovery meetings these songs that we might worship.

I will never forget Kosimos' land mine harp, because I'm looking at his harp like, "Kosimos, your harp is you. You were the one filled with destruction and death, and God cleaned you and cleared you of all that death and then made you a thing of worship." I'll never forget it. I'm looking at him, and I'm thinking about me, and I'm like, "That's the gospel. The old has gone, the new has come."

It's just true that if you are in Christ, he has taken out all that sin and death and made you new. It's why Bailee can share her story in the Watermark News, because that's not her. She has a new identity. She's like, "You can read about my past. My past is not condemning upon me, because I am a new creation. I'm not better. I'm not different. I'm new in Jesus."

Romans 6:13 says, "Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought…" Think about the land mine. "…from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness." Like that instrument, him playing that harp. But here's the thing. Sometimes we take ourselves as a land mine that has been gutted and now strung and used for worship for God, and we'll use it in both ways.

We're like, "Well, one day I'll use it for worship, and the next day I'll use it for destruction as I return back to porn or my control or my anger or my rage or my lying or my cheating, or whatever. On Sundays I want to worship, and Tuesday night at The Porch, and when I go to The Nine, but then there are other times when I'm with my coworkers or alone in my bedroom, but then, Lord, I want to raise my hands. It's December 24. I want to worship." We go back and forth and vacillate.

So, there are two people. One needs to trust in Jesus. You're still filled with death. You've never experienced the life of God, the newness I'm talking about. You're striving to become better. What you need to become is new, to place your faith in Jesus, who died for your sins and rose again so that you can too and have a new life.

Others of you, it's not to trust in Jesus for the first time but to entrust to him your entire life and quit using your land mine harp once for worship and the next day for destruction, but instead to say, entirely, "My life is yours. It's all for you." In 1 Peter 4:1-3 it says we are no longer to live the rest of our human lives for evil desires but, rather, for the will of God. It says this: "For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do…"

Whenever I get tempted to drink again, and I do… There are times when I see everybody enjoying something, and I'm like, "Man, that would be nice. I could probably have one." The Spirit reminds me of 1 Peter 4:3. "You've spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do." My drunkenness. It's like, "Nah." Twelve years of alcoholism… That's enough. You don't need to tangle with that which has mastered you.

So, restoration of soul. Now restoration of identity. Colossians 2:14-15: "…by canceling the record of debt…" This is like a legal record of all the indebtedness, all of the crimes, all the sin. This was a record of debt that stood opposed to us with its legal demands. Meaning, Satan could point at that and say, "They're guilty! Because of the sin, because of everything they've done, they are guilty, God. You know it. You're holy. They're sinful. Therefore, they can't be with you." It has legal demands. "This he [God] set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him."

You know the tomb is still empty in Jerusalem. You can visit it. Some people think of the Garden Tomb. Some people think of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but there is still a tomb in Jerusalem, debate it however you might. There is still an empty tomb. But do you know where the cross is? Gone. The cross is gone. You see, the crux of restoration is the resurrection. Many, many people were hung upon a cross. Only one rose from the dead.

So, the fact that you can visit the tomb has huge implications about our sin and the Scripture we just read, because it said all of our sin was nailed to the cross. If the cross is gone, then so is the record of your sin. Last week, David Marvin did an incredible job walking us through redemption. If you were here, we had these ornaments, and we wrote in Sharpie our sin upon them, and then we hung them on a Christmas tree as an image of hanging them upon the cross, that all of our sin was nailed to the cross.

I sat there, and I was thinking about it, and I was like, "You know what we do, though, with our identity?" Because, again, this is restoration of our identity. We hang it on the cross. We're like, "I know I'm forgiven. Lord, I know I'm forgiven." Then in a lesser moment of doubt, we take it back off the tree and wear it upon us, like, "Now I'm just a worthless drunk. I was trafficked as a child. My sexual sin… I'm an adulterer. That's just who I am. That's my identity." I think it's time that we take those and put them off, that we don't have that identity upon us.

It says in Revelation 12 that the Enemy, Satan, the great Serpent of old… It says he accuses us, the brethren, day and night before God…accuses us, saying, "Guilty! They're guilty! Look at their sin. You know there are legal demands. You're holy. They're full of sin." But it doesn't end there. It says we have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb…the Communion we just took, the cup that was poured out…

We have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, saying, "No, that is what I have done, but that is not who I am. That is not my identity anymore. My identity is firmly fixed in Christ. I am not a sinner who saints; I am a saint who sins." So, my identity is in Jesus. I am not an alcoholic. I am not an adulterer. I am not a liar and a cheat. That identity is gone. It has been nailed to the cross, and the cross is gone.

To try to save some money, I demoed our old kitchen. Talk about restoration of a house. It really should be a step in re:generation. It was incredibly therapeutic. So, I demoed our kitchen, but I didn't just leave it like that. Right? Now it's an unusable room. I've just demolished something that was somewhat functional, although broken down with rotted floorboards and all that. I would never just leave it like that. Instead, someone came in more powerful and skilled than I am and restored it.

So it is in Christ. It's two theological terms. One is called expiation. One is called imputation. They both must happen. Expiation is the removal of sin. The sin is removed, but God can't just leave us in this sinless state. He then imputes righteousness to us. He takes our sin and puts it off onto Christ. Then he takes Christ's righteousness and clothes us in that. Expiation and imputation. It's 2 Corinthians 5:21, where he says, "He made him [Jesus] who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God." What a gift. Restoration of identity.

Thirdly, restoration is already but not yet. The reason I say that is because you've been restored. If you are in Christ, you have been restored spiritually, justified, made right with God. The restoration has begun, but it's not yet. It's not fully complete in totality. We know this. Laura was recently walking through breast cancer. If you haven't tracked, she's okay. She's past the treatment, and we pray it'll never come back.

There were nights as she was asleep beside me… I was lying there in bed, and I couldn't sleep. I've not told this to anyone, really. There have been probably three times in my life that I've done this. I was literally with my hands up, reaching. I wasn't praying with my hands lifted, as Scripture instructs us to. I was lifting my hands because I was like, "God, I could really use a hug right now. I need to be held right now, because I feel like you're silent, and I don't feel like you're present." I was just reaching up.

Do you know what happened? My hands laid back onto the bed, because we are living in an in-between. But I know it says in Revelation 21:4 that one day he will wipe away every tear. I can't wait to feel his hand on my face, wiping away those tears. I know you have them too. We all do. Everyone has pain and a battle they're walking through. So, the restoration is already, but it is not yet, but it will be. It is coming, and he will make all things new. That's God's restoration of our souls.

  1. God's restoration to and with God's people. Ephesians 2:18-22: "For through him [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father." Here's a Trinitarian passage already. "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens…" Which is just separate and in isolation. "…but you are fellow citizens…" Now we have an ingathering and a joining to a people. "…with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets…" He's talking about the Scriptures here.

"…Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." He lives and dwells in you, the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing.

First, restoration to God's family…fellow citizens, saints, members of the household of God. On Laura's cancer journey… This is not just Laura, a couple of doctors, and me. I'm thinking about this church alone. I don't know how we would have navigated through it. It's in the hundreds, 300 or more people… I can think of all of the different ways…somebody showing up with doughnuts and another with meals and another taking our kids and another helping with scheduling and another taking something off my plate so I can run home to help with the kids while Laura goes… Like, hundreds and hundreds of people, the body of Christ.

This is restoration to God's family, because we can't walk this journey alone. We can't. So, some of you… I don't say this out of any kind of condemnation. I say this as all carrot and no stick. You need to be joined to the body of Christ, to come here, to be a part, because your storm is coming, and we are not to walk alone…for the body of Christ to walk around you. So, join the church. Go to the connecting events that happen regularly and become a part of a church.

If it's not this one, then another Bible-preaching, Christ-exalting church where you'll be led and shepherded and cared for. It's crucial. There's no other way. Some of you are a member of the church, but you haven't joined a Community Group or you're in between. Let me tell you, it's God's provision that we walk together. We would not have made it through that season without the church, without our Community Group who carried us through that time. Don't go through as you are restored to God's family.

Secondly, restored from the pains of isolation. This past week, I went to a dermatologist. You maybe can see. I had something frozen off my face. I was like, "How long will that last, because I'm teaching Sunday?" She was like, "It'll be gone." It's not gone. She was a lying dermatologist. But I go to the dermatologist. I'm a pretty good candidate for skin cancer, so I know I'm going to get stuff burned off, frozen off, scraped off, biopsied, but I didn't expect this.

I went to the dermatologist after I'd delayed it because of COVID and all that, just things getting canceled. I have had something in my hand… I thought I was just subject to decay. You know, my body is getting old. But every time I hold a pen or a fork, which is quite often, there's this shooting pain in my hand. I'm like, "Man, I don't know what that is. Maybe it's cancer." She holds my hand very gently and takes out this surgical scalpel that looks like… I mean, she could have lopped off my finger if she wasn't careful.

She just starts scraping. She goes, "Oh, you know what? I think that's a piece of glass. How long have you been feeling this?" I was like, "Six months?" She was like, "You should have come sooner." She goes, "Maybe it's not glass, because it's colored." I'm like, "Is it blue?" I'm colorblind. She's like, "It's blue." I'm like, "Yeah, that was a casserole dish that busted on our front porch when someone was bringing food for a cancer treatment, and we were picking up the shards of glass. That has been in there since June."

I tell you that because we have glass stuck in our souls we've been carrying around a long time. Do you know who can get it out? You're like, "Jesus." No. Jesus will forgive you, but God has so ordained that your brothers and sisters in Christ are the ones who can get the glass out of your soul. It's James 5:16, where he says, "Confess your sins to one another, and pray for each other…" Why, God? Why would we do that? That seems kind of humiliating and embarrassing. "…so that you may be healed."

Some of you need to send a text right now or nudge the person beside you and say, "Hey, I have glass in my soul." You'll get a text back, because they'll be like, "Wait, what? That was autocorrect. What do you mean you have glass in your soul?" "I need to talk to you. I need to confess something. There's something in me that's bringing about a lot of pain, and I need to confess it to you, and you pray for me."

Others of you, by way of application… You're like, "I've never had anybody do that. I've never had anybody come to me and confess sin." I think it might be because when they come and say, "Hey, I have glass in my soul. There's something I need to confess…" Instead of gently taking it out, you've cut them with criticism and condemnation, so they're not coming again, not to you at least.

It says in Galatians 6:1-2, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression…" And we will be. "…you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Robert Murray M'Cheyne is known for saying, "The seed of every sin known to [humans] is in my heart." I'm capable of anything and everything, so how could I ever condemn anyone else when they come to me to confess sin?

Another application is… I think with the shelter-in-place and COVID and all that… I can't believe we're still talking about it, and now we have Omicron. It's just like, "My goodness!" You need to come out of isolation. It has become really convenient with the technological advances to sit at home and stream. Clearly, you're like, "I'm sitting here," but there are some who aren't. I'm not throwing stones at you as you look at your laptop still in your pajamas. I wish we all do too. We're like, "Man, it was cold out. It was 39 when I walked in. I earned this." I get it. You know, you get sick kids or you're traveling.

But there is a supernatural blessing that happens as you're here. When I'm at home and I'm streaming because of a sick kid or we're out of town or something, I'm not raising my hands and dancing to the rhythm or praying together corporately. I don't get to take Communion. There's a blessing as God has ordained, "Do not forsake meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing." For some of us, it became shelter-in-place, then it became "sermon-in-place." I'm just saying, let's come back and be the body of Christ together. Out of the pains of isolation.

Thirdly, the restoration for Christ's return. Recently, we threw a staff Christmas party for the re:gen team. So, all the re:gen team was coming over. Our kids… Man, talk about restoration. Every single day, they destroy our house. It's like it's intentional. They're like, "Come on. Let's spill. Let's empty Legos. Let's put queso and salsa all over the playroom floor." I mean, it has to be intentional. So, every day we put it all back together, which seems really in vain. You'd think we'd just live in the mess, but we don't. We put it all back together.

Thursday night… The re:gen team is coming over Friday. Laura is like, "Hey, we have to get ready for the party." She's upstairs getting the kids ready for bed, and I'm cranking, just throwing things in the dishwasher, putting the cushions back where they belong, and all that. She walked down, and she was like, "Whoa! It looks good. It looks like we don't even have children," because it was so clean.

Well, y'all, I was cleaning extra because company was coming over. There's a phrase. I've heard Blake Holmes say it a lot. "Nothing cleans like company." Laura and I have often said… We're like, "You know what? We need to throw a neighborhood gathering, because we need a deep clean." It just forces your hand. You put a date on the calendar, and you're like, "All right. Well, got to fix the fence, got to paint the wall, and got to get everything fixed." Nothing cleans like company.

Y'all, Jesus is coming back, so nothing should clean like company. His coming should be our cleaning, that we would be ready, as a bride without wrinkle, stain, or blemish at his appearing. Here it is in Titus 2:11-13. Before I share the passage, I want to state this. There's a theological term called a hapax legomenon. It's a big theological term meaning it is used one word or one phrase in the entirety of Scripture.

The phrase you're going to hear is the blessed hope. That is the hapax legomenon. It happens once, one singular time, in the entire anthology of Scripture. There's one blessed hope. Listen for it. "For the grace of God has appeared…" This is Jesus. "…bringing salvation for all people, training us…" Here's the body of Christ. Restored to God's people. "…to renounce…" Here's what the us is doing…us together.

"…renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…" That is an incredible Christological statement as well, where he equates Jesus being God and that he is coming. This is our blessed hope. Nothing cleans like company. Company is coming. Jesus is coming again; therefore, may we be ready at his coming. You don't do that in isolation but with the people of God. The restoration for Christ's return.

  1. The restoration to God's dwelling place. First Corinthians 15:3-4. Here's another one of the hapax. "For I delivered to you as of first importance…" First importance. Only time used in all of Scripture. So, at that point, if you hear "first importance" or "blessed hope," you're leaning in, like, "Wait. What are you about to say?" First importance, utmost priority. What are you going to say, Paul, to the Corinthians?

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…" Here's the gospel in 10 words: Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead.

He is the only one who rose from the dead. The resurrection is the crux of the issue. It would go on later in 1 Corinthians 15 and say, "If the resurrection didn't happen, then our faith is futile and in vain. We are still in our sins and we, above all, are to be pitied." But the resurrection did happen. Christianity alone. The tomb is empty.

Our kids, because they're 7, 6, and 4, talk a lot about Disneyland. They've never been, but they want to go. Our 7-year-old, because he has heard the "legends" from the other kids who have been… He says to our kids, "Hey, you know that when you get to Disneyland, here's how it works. You go in, and then they put all of the kids on a ride, and this ride is really difficult. It's really scary, and it zips around, and all this. If you're crying at the end, you don't get to go to Disneyland, but if you're not, then you get to go in. It's a kid ride test."

I'm listening to this. As someone who has been to Disneyland, I'm like, "Well, they either changed it or you're crazy." No joke. (That's our oldest, Hill.) Penny says, "Daddy, I don't want to go to Disneyland." I said, "Hey, baby, he's lying. He has never been. It's amazing. You're going to love it. We just have to leverage your future education and our retirement, but it's going to be awesome." Our oldest son goes, "No, it really is." I'm like, "No, that's not true. Hill, have you ever been?"

"Well, Dad, but it's true."

"Have you ever been?"

"No, Dad."

"It's not true."

So it is with every other false, dead religion. You see, you can visit Muhammad's grave in Medina, Saudi Arabia. He told a lot of people what was on the other side and how to get there. I'm like, "Yeah, but you've never been, bro. You've never been. So, how can I trust what you say?"

Or Joseph Smith of the Mormons. You can visit his grave. It's in Nauvoo, Illinois. You can walk right up to it and visit it. He told a lot of people what was on the other side and how to get there. "Joseph, you've never been. You saw a vision, wrote it down, that nobody else could see but only you. I don't know, man." It sounds a lot like Muhammad's vision in the cave, actually, with the angel who said the things that might have been a demon, was a demon. I don't know what's on the other side for you.

Or you have Buddha who's buried in part. He was burned in part, ashes, but then also the Temple of the Tooth. It's like, "Nah. You're telling me I get reincarnated over and over and over again until I reach nirvana? But how do you know that? You've actually never crossed over to the other side." Jesus alone went to Disneyland, came back, and said, "I can tell you exactly what it's like." He did two round trips.

He came from heaven, incarnation, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died the death on a cross, told us what was on the other side. "If I go, I'll prepare a place for you. If it were not so, I wouldn't have said. In my Father's house there are many rooms." Really? How can I trust you? Laid into the tomb, rose again, appeared to the disciples, appeared to 500, appeared to Paul, appeared to James. They wrote it down. Then ascended to the Father, and he's coming back.

He came from heaven, died, into the grave, rose again, ascended to heaven, coming back. We can trust because he has been there. He alone was resurrected. So, whatever he says is on the other side, you know he's telling the truth. For others, they're still dead and liars. Jesus alone. "You can trust me. I'm going first, and I'm coming back."

Restoration to God's dwelling place is home with Jesus. Restoration to home with Jesus. Second Corinthians 5:8: "Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." In 1 Thessalonians 4 it says, "We grieve with hope." And not hope "wishful thinking." It's hope as an anchor of certainty. The second a Christ follower closes their eyes and breathes their last, they are instantly in the presence of God.

So, Jesus could say to the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise." Not even at the resurrection, not at his second coming…today. Paul says to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord, with no soul sleep, nothing in between, immediately in the presence of God. Some of you are living with that pain and loss and grieving because someone has… You are in this in-between where they've gone to be at home with the Lord.

You need to know they are there, and they are now outside of time, just like God. They're not missing you and longing for you. There are not tears and anguish in heaven. They're at peace. They're whole, and one day you will be reunited to them in Christ. As David said in 2 Samuel 12 when his child died, "He will not come to me, but I will go to him," because he rightly knew where he was.

Someone in our Community Group (this was just last night) received incredibly difficult news about a family member, a terminal diagnosis. This was their response in the text, not even knowing what I was preaching: "I am heartbroken and grieving this terrible news, BUT I know that he will ultimately be completely healed and with Jesus, and with that I have hope and comfort." Yes. Praise God for that. You have to know this before you enter into that season, that there is restoration to be home with Jesus.

Here's what I would say, y'all. You have neighbors who are winning "yard of the month," and they are dead in their sin. They're going to die and go to hell forever, and you don't know when that day is, whether they're driving on 75, drop dead of a heart attack, or whatever it may be. So we have to tell them. You have to reach out to your neighbors and love them. Invite them to dinner. "Do you mind if we pray before the meal? Have I ever shared my story with you?" Then share the gospel through that.

Invite them to church. People are really willing to come to church on Christmas, because it's the tradition still here in America, so you can invite them to one of those four services. If you're like, "I don't know how to share the gospel. I feel awkward about sharing the gospel," just invite them to church. We'll share the gospel with them. They will hear the good news. Just know that all need to be reconciled with Christ before they die.

Secondly, restoration means we will be resurrected. First Corinthians 15:20-21: "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death…" This is Adam and the fall. "…by a man [Jesus (fully God, fully man)] has come also the resurrection of the dead."

The Nicene Creed, which is an incredible Trinitarian creed that was written in AD 325 to establish the Godhead against all of the falsehoods that were being said and spread… The very last, after the Father, the Son, the Spirit… The very last phrase is "We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen." That's the punctuation. That's the "Amen."

We are looking, not in this life… In this life it's passing away, subject to decay. We're looking for what's to come, the life everlasting. Amen is a Greek word that means "So let it be. Let it be so. Verily." It's like that amen is "Yes, Lord. Let it be." I brought an acorn from our front yard. We have a red oak that I can't get my arms around. Someday it'll crush our roof, probably. I can't get my arms around it it's so big, and it began as this.

I think what happens in this life, especially here in America… I think we focus really hard on the here and now. We're trying to polish up this acorn and make it super great. God is like, "No. Whoever loses his life will gain it." God is looking for what's to come. We're to live for eternity, with eternity in mind, for the resurrection, the life to come. Instead, we're focusing on what's subject to decay, this little acorn. God is like, "No. I'm after these oaks of righteousness. I'm after forever and eternity and the immortality of souls that are going to spend forever in heaven and hell." Live the gospel, church.

Thirdly, restoration of the new heaven and new earth. I'm reading the news this week, and it's the horrific tornadoes in Kentucky, and then I'm going to share a headline that I think… All of you probably know that, but then another one that probably not many know about, because it's not in our backyard… Six hundred women and children were abducted in Mozambique by militant Muslims to be raped and sold as wives, children brides, to soldiers. That barely even hits the news. I follow this Christian news. That's how I even picked up on it. Nobody is reporting that on BBC or anything. Six hundred.

Y'all, one day, all that's going away. The horrible tornadoes in Kentucky, the abductions in Mozambique, all the evil that's happening all around and within will go away. Revelation 21, as the restoration of the new heaven and new earth: "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.'" This is Immanuel that we sing about now at Christmas, and there is a second Immanuel, a second advent.

"'He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'"

All things new. Restoration of your soul, restoration to God's people, restoration to God's dwelling place. I started today by talking about our home that's in need of restoration, that 55-year-old home. Whenever a contractor comes, do you know what we do? We're like, "Hey, here's the key. The doors are unlocked. Go wherever you need to…crawl space, attic, under the sinks. Tear down what you need to." They get the all-access pass. We trust them, because we know they are there to shape, rebuild, repair, renew. We want them there. So it is with God.

C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity: "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

Church, give God the keys. Give him the keys to your soul. Give him the keys to your mind. Give him the keys to your body. Turn everything over to him, because what he is after is restoration of you, for you, unto himself, with your body and your mind and all your sin-sick longings, the brokenness, the aches…all of it. He is after the restoration, so let him in. It says he stands at the door and knocks. Will you open the door of your heart and let him in? If you don't, it will mean further deterioration, but if you do, restoration. The restoration of God will be upon you. Let's pray.

Father, thank you so much that you restore, that you said loudly from the throne, "Behold, I am making all things new." Not better, not cleaned up, but new. So, Lord, with our hands lifted heavenward, you stand at the door and knock. We will let you in, Lord, let you into our souls, our bodies, our minds. It's all yours. We have been bought with a price; therefore, we honor you with our bodies. We're not our own. The opposite would just mean further deterioration, but as we surrender to you and walk with you, it's all restoration. So, God, be glorified, be exalted, as we sing these praises to you, amen.