Garcia keeps it real with Chapel message
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Suede Williams
GCU News Bureau
Noe Garcia took his Chapel listeners on a journey Monday morning through the trials of his life and through the second chapter of Ephesians.
There really isn’t much difference between the two – for him and for everyone else in the world.
The chapter begins, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”
Garcia had begun his talk in Grand Canyon University Arena by recounting in great detail his troubled past, filled with those cravings of the flesh. The Senior Pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church is as real and direct as any speaker who comes to Chapel, and it’s as if you can feel the audience nodding in “been there, done that” acknowledgment as he breaks down what broke him down.
“Here’s what I was doing wrong,” he said. “I was looking for behavior modification. I was looking for, ‘If I act better, God would love me more,’ and if I just put boundaries up for sin then I could fight sin.
“I could not fight sin. I was looking for behavior modification – I wasn’t looking for spiritual transformation. I was just broken. I was doing the church things, I knew the church words, but I wasn’t walking with God.”
He asked for a show of hands from the audience.
“Anybody here struggling with sin? Don’t lie. If you’re hand’s down, you’re sinning. Because you’re struggling – we’re all struggling with sin in this place. Everybody.”
Before going on, Garcia noted that if Scripture stopped there at the third verse, we would feel hopeless. He talked about people who never feel as if they’re good enough and do all the wrong things to compensate – never being satisfied with how they look, for example. But then comes verse 4:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love for us, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”
That, right there, transforms us all, Garcia declared. That verse is the game-changer.
“If there wasn’t a ‘But God’ in Scripture, we wouldn’t have hope,” he said. “… We serve a God who is rich in unending mercy.”
He explained that mercy in a most unusual way – by telling, to the audience’s delight, the story of how he used to watch pro wrestling on television with his older brother. From time to time he would surprise his brother, who was laying chest down on the floor in front of him, by jumping on top of him, putting him in a choke hold and demanding that he cry out, “Mercy!”
But, Garcia said, “God doesn’t put us in the pretzel position. We do it to ourselves.”
Herein lies the most important part of Garcia’s message, the part that so many people grapple with as life takes them to the mat. He talked about how we tend to turn to God only when we’re broken, only when we need Him – even though it can feel odd at times. But we must get over any feelings of awkwardness. That’s when God’s love feels sweetest.
“The enemy’s job, once we’re indulged in sin, is to bring condemnation and isolation,” Garcia said. “The hardest thing to do is to go straight to God after you’ve sinned. That’s the last thing you want to do. You just sinned. You don’t want to go to God.
“It feels weird. It feels hypocritical. That’s exactly where you need to be.”
And here’s why. Chapter 2 concludes with this:
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – and not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
In other words, we’ve already won. We just need to believe.
“We fight to victory, we don’t fight for victory,” Garcia said. “We fight to victory because of who Jesus is.”
● For a full replay of Chapel, including the music by the Chapel band, click here.
● Next Monday’s Chapel speaker is Brian Kruckenberg of New City Church.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.