This weekend, on the one year anniversary of the Dallas police officer shootings, Todd spends time in 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, and 1 Peter, calling us to be a blessing to the city in which God has placed us. Our future and hope are in Jesus' resurrection and, as we seek God, that future and hope will transform our city.

Scripture References: 2 Chronicles 7:14 , Jeremiah 29:11 , Genesis 3 , 1 Peter 2 , 1 Timothy 2

Todd Wagner

About Todd Wagner

If you had told me I would be serving and leading as a Pastor in the church 25 years ago I would have taken a swing at you. I saw the church as a place of compromised... Read more

Message Transcript
Good morning, my friends in Dallas and Watermark in Plano and Fort Worth. I am never with you in Fort Worth and Plano in person, and this morning I'm not with you in person in Dallas, but it is great to be with you. I am participating in something on the West Coast this morning, but I wanted to make sure and have a chance to communicate with you something that's very timely. As you know, wherever you are in the Metroplex, this is the one-year anniversary weekend of a great tragedy. We lost our good friend Mike Smith, who was a member of our body. He served with us, part of our team of Dallas police officers who are here with us in Dallas on Sunday morning. Mike lost his life a year ago with us. What I want to do on this particular weekend is not so much talk about Mike but talk about who Mike was and who we must be so that things like happened a year ago won't continue to happen. I had a chance this week to write an op-ed in the _Dallas Morning News_. They asked me to write some small reflection on where we are a year later. You can check that out. It was published on Friday. It's still online. One of the things I said in there is that if we, especially as individuals… It's our city. As we go, our city goes. One of the things I say a lot when I talk to the church is that because of the unique role the church has in a city, because of the unique role the people of God have in the land, when we have a land that's full of chaos, when we have a city that's full of trouble, it's really good news, because we don't have to hope for something to happen in our city from _outside_ the city. Our city is made up of who we are. When _we_ change, our city is going to change. What we can't do is scoff at what changes men from being people who don't honor the king, people who don't love one another and care for the brotherhood. If we don't acknowledge that humans, left to themselves, are in trouble and we keep being left to ourselves, we're going to keep having events that make ourselves wonder what can save us. But if there is a group of people who have been saved from the craziness that is the way of the normal course of men and there are an increasing number of them and they live the way they should, your city changes, and when your city changes, other cities take notice and will change _their_ city, and when a bunch of cities change, the land changes. Let me just tell you I'm in need of change. That's one of the things I mentioned in this little op-ed. I said that I know the very first thing I have to do when I think about my city is make sure that if everybody in the city lived like me it would be a better city. I shared in that article what we talk a lot about here, which is that we should draw a circle around ourselves, change everything in it, and then invite others to join us. That's what we're doing as the people of God. The way we fellowship and relate to one another here should be a glimpse of the kingdom of God, the way people should live in harmony, unity, and peace with one another, people from every tribe, every nation, every tongue, every color, every race. We live together as one under the same creed, under the same Christ, who has healed our hearts. We live in a blessed way with one another. I am a guy who needs his heart changed. When I was a single man, if you knew me at all, I had a dog that was extremely obedient, a dog I had raised and loved to where we could do all kinds of amazing things together. This dog understood a lot of different commands. The best way for me to sum it up is I could tell him to go fetch me a cold one, and he would go and grab the sock tied around the refrigerator, open it up, grab me a Mountain Dew or whatever I was drinking, bring it to me, lay it at my feet, and shut the door. I could take him anywhere, anytime. He was never on a leash his entire life. I had just trained him. I had spent a lot of time with him, because I was a single guy in my 20s. I didn't have much else to do. I was doing ministry and training a dog. We had a lot of fun together. I one day was at a park, and I was reading. The dog's name was Caleb, which in Hebrew means dog or male prostitute, but let's just go with dog. Caleb was lying at my feet and literally was asleep. I'm reading a book. It was a Christian book. I think it was _The Pursuit of God_ by Tozer. It was a beautiful day, and I'm sitting there. There are ducks running around and people running around, and my dog, which was this massive, strong, dark golden retriever, a great athlete, great hunter, great friend, was asleep at my feet. All of a sudden, I feel an officer of the law walk up to me. I look up, and she goes, "Is that your dog?" My smart-aleck self wanted to go, "A dog!" and jump, but I looked and went, "Yeah, that's my dog." She goes, "Oh, is that a golden retriever?" I go, "Yeah, that's a golden retriever." She starts writing things down. She goes, "Is it a male?" I go, "Are you writing me a ticket?" She goes, "Uh, yes, sir. I'm writing you a ticket. There's a leash law in this town." I looked down and looked up and said, "Let me ask you a question. What is the purpose of a leash? It's to restrain an animal, right? That dog is lying at my feet." She goes, "Sir, we have a leash law. You need to have that dog on a leash at all times." I just go, "Hey, ma'am, can I just say something to you? There's a lot going on here. It says right there on your little badge your job is to protect and serve." I took _Pursuit of God_, folded it up, and put it underneath my leg, and started running my mouth. I said, "Your job is to protect and serve. You're not protecting anybody from this dog, and you're certainly not serving me." She goes, "You want me to do my job?" I go, "I want you to do your job." She goes, "Great. Where's that little dog's tag? I'll write you another ticket." She ripped that one off and wrote me another one. I just sat there. I said, "I just want you to do this. You remember…" The entire time she talked to me, Caleb never raised his head. I go, "You remember that dog is in physical contact with me the entire time you do this." She says, "Oh, I'll remember." I go, "You remember!" I said, "Let me ask you a question. How long is that ticket good for? Because I'm about to let that dog run crazy right now and chase a bunch of ducks, since he has already paid his fine." She said, "Sir…" That's when I kind of settled down and realized I was causing trouble in my city. I'll finish that story for you, because I _did_ go to court. I was a poor man in ministry and went to court and challenged the ticket. When I got to court, the district attorney was there, the city attorney for this town, and I said, "Hey, I'd like to talk to the judge." He goes, "Why? You have two tickets right here. First, your dog didn't have his license. Second, he didn't have a leash on. Sir, that's not going to work. We always give those fines." I go, "I want to talk to the judge." So he says, "You want to make all of these people wait while I go get the judge and process this thing?" I go, "I don't want to make anybody wait. I just want to talk to the judge." He goes, "Go sit down!" So I went and sat down. I was in youth ministry at the time. A mother of one of the kids I knew was sitting there. She goes, "Todd, what are you doing here?" I said, "Well, I was at the park with Caleb…" She goes, "Caleb! Oh, you guys wouldn't believe this dog. This is an amazing dog. He uses this dog to speak." I go, "Hey, are you going to be here for a little bit? I'm going to call you as a character witness." True story. Fast-forward. The judge comes in. They gavel it in and start talking. They have the officer there now. I said, "Hey, Judge. I just want to tell you that I know my dog at that particular time didn't appear to have a leash on, but my dog _did_ have a leash on." The district attorney goes, "No, he didn't." The lady goes, "He didn't have a leash." I go, "Yes, he did. Judge, that dog had a verbal leash on. That dog was no more likely to leave my side than if some elderly woman was walking her dog that could have jerked the chain right out of her hand and run all over." I go, "I'd like to call to the stand a witness." He goes, "What? What? You brought a witness for your dog?" The lady in the back sat up and said, "Oh, your honor, you need to know this is the most wonderful dog." He hit his gavel. He goes, "Would you sit down? This is crazy! Nobody brings a character witness for a dog." I just went on to explain a little bit about the dog. He goes, "The attorney is saying something else. That lady is saying something else." It wasn't exactly what you would think of as a high court setting. Quickly he goes, "All right, listen. Son, I'm sure you have a great dog. What about the other problem? He wasn't wearing his little dog tag." I go, "Judge, let me ask you a question. Have you ever been out at night when your wife told you to go to the store and get some milk, and you just grab a few bucks and run out, and you're driving to the store, and maybe you rolled a stop sign and got pulled over, and all you have is cash in your pocket, and the officer asks you for a license, and you go, 'Well, I have a license. I just don't have it with me. I just came out to get some milk.'" I go, "You have a license, and when you produce the license, they're going to let you off for not having a license. You were just running a quick errand." I go, "Hey, I happened to change his bandanna that morning. I didn't change the tag from one to another. Here's his license." He just looked at me and went, "Man, you're unbelievable." I said, "I just want you to know, Judge, the entire time I was talking to that lady… Ask her where my dog was." She goes, "Your dog was without a leash." I go, "No, I'm asking. Judge, would you please have her answer my question? Where was my dog the entire time?" She says, "Your dog was without a leash." I go, "Judge, would you ask her to answer the question?" Finally, she just goes, "He was asleep on your foot." The judge looked at her and looked at me. He goes, "Son, do you know why we do this? I know it's a great dog. If you open your front door and your dog goes out to get the paper and comes back, that's violating our leash law. We have great dogs all the time that bite people in the city." I just go, "Your honor, I know. I've learned my lesson." He just goes, "How does $10 sound?" I go, "Sold!" I was all for $10. That's a long story to say that this poor woman was doing her job. I was the one who was making a mistake. Me making it difficult for this officer to protect and serve is not what godly citizens do. There's a reason I had to take _Pursuit of God_ and put it under my thigh. I wasn't being a blessing to my city. I put myself in a special class, was living in a special way, and I was causing problems. I did cause delay. I did cause trauma. I did cause tax resources to be sent with a district attorney and an officer who should have been out catching dogs who were off their leash and a judge who should have been dealing with more important things. It was my fault for the situation I created. Now listen. That's small compared to the problems that were caused in our city a year ago by somebody who thought he knew what a righteous act looked like. I want to talk about two verses today. One is almost always quoted when you talk about how to change our country, and the other one is almost always quoted when you talk about how you want your life to go. I'm going to explain both of them to you and tell you why it's great news that we're in this city. Here's the first one. Anytime you gather a group of people who care about the country they live in and want to see change come to that country, you will hear them quote this verse. It's 2 Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 14. **"…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land."** We pray that prayer corporately a lot in this country, and we start thinking about how God is going to heal our land. Now I'm going to talk to you about why that prayer is not an appropriate prayer for us to pray with America at the center of our minds, and I'm going to tell you why it's absolutely an appropriate prayer to pray. Now I'm going to give you another verse you often quote, not for your land but for your own life, that I'm going to ruin a little bit and also encourage you with. Jeremiah 29:11: **"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"** That is a verse you see placarded a lot and sold in a lot of little stores and displayed in a lot of houses. It's a lot of people's favorite life verse. I'm going to tell you why that verse doesn't apply to you, and yet it applies to you. Are you ready? Now listen. It is appropriate that we humble ourselves. In 1 Peter, chapter 2, as part of people who have received the provision of God through Jesus Christ, we are called people of God, called by his name. Second Chronicles says, "And when my people who are called by my name humble themselves and seek my face and pray and turn from their wicked ways, I'm going to do some good things. I'm going to bring healing to their land." Let's just talk for a second about what's going on in 2 Chronicles. Second Chronicles, chapter 7, is a time when Solomon, who's the son of David… David wanted to build a house where God could be worshiped and honored, and God said, "David, you can't build my house. You're a man of bloodshed. You're not going to build my house, but I'm going to let your son build a house for me and a place that folks can come and appropriately seek forgiveness and celebrate my grace." In the Old Testament, men and women were saved in the same way men and women are saved in the New Testament: by understanding the holiness of God, seeing that they fell short of the holiness of God, and accepting the provision of God, which is an offer of grace and mercy, that he would forgive them when they acknowledged that which separated them from God. He used a system of sacrifices and them going to the temple and having a substitutionary atonement offered for them, that God in his grace would overlook their sins and allow them to continue to exist as his people. They had to continually offer those sacrifices day after day. The reason they did was those sacrifices were only a picture of the perfect sacrifice. As it says a little bit later in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews, the Jewish people… He said, "Hey, it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away your sins. That's why there was a continual offering, and that's why there was always more and more sacrifice. That's why your high priest never sat down and why it argues the value of a better high priest, Jesus, who was the perfect sacrifice. He was the fulfillment of all of the other sacrifices. He was the Lamb of God, the perfect, unblemished Lamb that took away the sins of the world, and that's why he is now seated at the right hand of God. He's not in just a picture of the holiness and presence of God; he is in the very presence of God, seated. The work is done. Your High Priest has offered a sacrifice for you that was eternal and perfect. Therefore, that which separated you from an eternally perfect God has been dealt with. So don't go back to your old systems. The old systems weren't wrong. They were just a shadow of the fullness that was to come. Now that the fullness has come, enjoy him, and come boldly before the King of Kings and receive grace in time of trouble." In 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, Solomon goes through a very long series of prayers about what he hopes will happen, because now there is a temple folks could go to and take advantage of the sacrificial system, which had been instituted by Moses as they made their way through the wilderness. That had always been in a temporary Tent of Meeting. David wanted to make it a more glorious house of worship that was worthy of the name of his God who had delivered his people and so blessed the sons of Abraham. God said "No" to David but "Yes" to Solomon. Solomon prayed this all throughout 2 Chronicles, chapter 6. Watch this. I'm just going to jump around a little bit in 2 Chronicles. He says in verse 18, "First of all, God, we know you don't really exist here. This isn't your house. This is for us, not for you." **"But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built. Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O** **Lord** **my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You; that Your eye may be open toward this house** [as it becomes a place where we acknowledge our sin before you, as we try to acknowledge your holiness and our brokenness] **."** That's what Solomon is starting to acknowledge here. He then says in verse 22, **"If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath, and he comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this house, then hear from heaven and act and judge Your servants, punishing the wicked by bringing his way on his own head and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness** [when he does what you ask him to do in light of his sin] **."** Verse 24: "If Israel is defeated by your enemies and we come here and acknowledge the reason we're defeated by our enemies is because we haven't been walking with you, our strong deliverer, forgive us." In verse 28 he says, "If there's a famine because of our disobedience, if there's pestilence, if there's blight or mildew, if there is locust or grasshopper, if our enemies besiege the land…" He goes on and on through every possible scenario. He goes, "God, we know the reason Israel is going to suffer is because we don't walk with you. In the same way," in effect, he's saying, "that men have always suffered when they've left you, when the Eden of God became a cursed place because Adam didn't honor you and you were gracious to Adam. How? Innocent blood was shed." Do you ever wonder where the clothing was that God used to cover Adam? Adam tried to do what makes sense to man. He took fig leaves, a plant, and made a covering for himself and a covering for his wife. God said, "That's not going to do it. The works of men won't cover up the sins of men. You in your sinning against me… The wages of sin is death." So what God did is he took, I think, a lamb, a perfect, unblemished, innocent animal, and it was sacrificed, because life is in the blood. Life was sacrificed, and God covered Adam with it and gave him provision so he wasn't immediately going to die, even though now there was a judgment on him that eventually ended in physical death. God said we can be restored, but this earth is not going to be like it should be. There wasn't meant to be death. There wasn't meant to be terror. There wasn't meant to be horror on the earth, but now it's here. "But, Adam, I'm going to show you my kindness. Walk with me. Teach your kids to walk with me. You see the expense that has come to you. Now this blessed place you were in where there was work… The work is going to be hard. Now the children you bring forth you're going to bring forth with pain, because they're going to be little rebels just like you, because each creature produces after its own kind. What kind of man are you? A man who doesn't trust in the goodness of God." By the way, it always cracks me up when people think women shouldn't get epidurals because they're somehow escaping the curse God put on women, because it says they should bring forth children in pain. By the way, if you want to follow _that_ logic, don't be using combines in Kansas to turn your wheat, because he says, "Adam, now you're going to bring forth fruit and produce from the earth by the sweat of your brow." What he's talking about when he says, "You're going to bring forth children in pain" is "Some of your children are not going to walk in obedience. In fact, _none_ of them are going to, because their nature is that they're children of wrath, and until they see the goodness of God and the kindness of his way, they're not going to walk with _you_, just like you don't walk with _me_, and you're going to experience the pain of that. Hopefully, they'll come to know me, because you, as a loving agent of grace, can model for them the better way of walking with me, and they'll see the goodness of God and choose to honor me, and then they'll be kids who aren't as much of a pain to you. That is why it is absolutely true that I have no greater joy than to see my children walk in the truth, because there is no pain like the pain of a godless child." That's all Genesis 3. God makes provision for sin, which is sacrifice, until the perfect sacrifice comes. That's why in the New Testament you hear this said about Jesus. Almost the very first words spoken about Jesus are from John the Baptist. "Behold, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world." Second Chronicles is Solomon saying, "Now we have a place that is worthy of your glory, as best as man can create, where we will go and acknowledge our sin and your goodness, and because you've made provision for our sin by faith we will stay rightly related to you." What happened was over a period of time Israel stopped going to the temple or they just went through the temple service without really engaging their hearts, and God just said, "It's an offense to me. I wish you'd stop your temple sacrifices. I wish you'd stop your singing." In the same way that some men go through the action of going to church, walking up at an altar call, or saying, "Yeah, I'm a Christian." They honor him with their lips, but their hearts are far from him. Israel became that people. They still had a temple and would still often have people in the temple doing temple work, but they weren't people who were engaging with God in humility, and God brought judgment to their land. In the same way that over 70 percent of America still identifies itself as Christian… Do you know that? If you ask folks who they are, they go, "Yeah, I'm a Christian." We honor him with our lips, but our hearts are far from him. As a result of that, we have a land that doesn't look like we honor God. We do what seems right to us and are experiencing the way of death, and it's costing us. Second Chronicles 6 is Solomon saying, "Lord, please. When we come here, forgive us." Then there's a seven-day celebration. This is now 2 Chronicles 7. Tens of thousands of animals are sacrificed, and for seven days… It says it right there in verse 5 of chapter 7. **"King Solomon offered a sacrifice of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. Thus the king and all the people dedicated the house of God."** The priests took their posts, and a lot of singing was done, and then it says that at the end of those seven days there was an assembly. Verse 9 says on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly of all of the people, and they dedicated the altar and had this tremendous feast. Then Solomon sent everybody away, and he finished the public dedication and went home. Then in verse 12, that night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said to him, **"I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain…"** Sometimes God brings consequences to people to show them the way they're living is not the way he wants them to live. God says, "If I shut up the heavens and there's no rain, if I cause other types of hardships to come to your people, if I bring locusts to come to the land, if I bring pestilence among your people…" Then he reads verse 14 very specifically to the people of Israel, that God said, "You're the ones who know me, and I want you to be a nation that walks with me. I'm going to protect you and provide for you uniquely, and as you walk with me and as you're a holy people, people will come to know who I am." One of the things Solomon said was, "I hope the renown of God goes over all this land so that when the foreigner and the sojourner come here and worship at our temple because they acknowledge you as holy and that they need forgiveness…" Solomon prays that they would be forgiven. That's a part of 2 Chronicles 6. It's the fulfillment of what God intended Israel to be: a kingdom of priests. When they are blessed and it goes well with them and they live differently than all of the other nations on earth, with a sense of ethic, kindness, goodness, love, and strength… They were not to be arrogant and proud. They were to say, "This is the Lord in his kindness. We'd love for you to know him. He's not _our_ God. He's the God of _all_ the earth." Then those people would come to know him. That verse in 2 Chronicles 7 is for the nation of Israel, that they would be continually used by God to be a source of grace to the world. They didn't. Fast-forward to Jeremiah. Even though there were still some vague religious observances, it had become ritualistic. It was all form without a functional relationship, and God, after warning after warning after more and severe discipline, eventually sent them into exile. Now almost all the nation except a very few people had been taken from Jerusalem and had been pulled over to modern-day Iraq or Babylon. Jeremiah, who is still back in Jerusalem, is around a group of people who are believing that God is going to eventually restore them and that the remnant in Jerusalem is going to be the means through which God restores his people. Jeremiah keeps telling those folks, "No, he's not going to use _you_, but God _is_ going to do what he said he would do, which is one day reestablish his people." In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah writes a letter to those who are in Babylon. Watch this. This is Jeremiah 29. **"Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon."** It tells you when that was in verse 2. It says who it was sent by in verse 3. **"Thus says the** **Lord** **of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…"** Verse 5: "Don't think you're coming back quickly. You're going to be there for a while. Build houses and live in them. Plant a garden, because you're not coming back for the next harvest either. Eat the produce. Take wives, that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there and do not decrease." Watch what he says. "But don't forget who I am. As you live there, now under discipline, seek the welfare of the city I sent you into. Humble yourself before me there, and pray to me on the behalf of that city, for in its welfare you will have welfare." Do you see how these two things are related? "Be a blessing to that city so the city can be blessed, and then _you'll_ be blessed." It's why in 1 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 1-2, we are told to pray for kings and all those who are in authority. We're to make "entreaties and prayers and offers of thanksgiving on behalf of all men, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we might lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." When can you not live a life that is godly and dignified? When a king tells you you're going to do things that are ungodly and not worthy of the dignity of man. So you pray for your kings, that they don't make laws that force you to rebel against God, because when you rebel against God, it's not going to be tranquil. If you rebel against the king, it's not going to be peaceful, and you're not going to be quiet, and you're going to be thrown in jail and fed to lions and burned at the stake. So you pray that your kings are godly and that your land wants God's will and way, and if it doesn't want God's will and way, then you have to get ready to honor God and not men and to pay the consequences thereof. When we live in a land like our Old Testament brethren we are to seek the welfare of the city in which we live. If the people of God, who are called by his name… This is where I'm going to tell you there is some application here. Ultimately, the application is not America. The call of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is going to prevail on this earth long after the Statue of Liberty crumbles into the Hudson, long after Mount Rushmore decays and is wiped away. When there is no more Washington, DC, there is still an opportunity for us to be God's people. We are Christians who live in America; we are not Americans who are Christians, but we should care about America, because it's where God has us right now. When we do what God wants us to do, guess what's going to happen in a democratic republic, which is a land that is a government _of_ the people, _by_ the people, _for_ the people. If the people are godly and elect godly kings whom you pray for with entreaties and thanksgivings and they make laws that are righteous and just for _all_ men and men learn to love one another and serve one another and be gracious, not materialistic, self-absorbed, and paganized, then it's going to be a blessed land. It doesn't mean it's going to be without sin. It's just going to be a lot better world than if we fragment out into small interest groups and go to war with each other. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. What Marxists do, what ungodly people do, is they don't call you to care about larger communities. They call you to care about _your_ community, and they fracture you off into special interest groups. They tell you that they'll care about your special interest group. If you give them power, they will give you what you want. They let all of the groups war against each other, and they make little promises to all kinds of different groups and say, "I'll tell you what. We're going to make a commune" or "We're going to make it better for you and have it go well for you if you give us power," instead of calling all men to "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind consider others as more important than yourself." One of the things they do is go, "Hey, you don't need to be Christian. You don't need to honor God. You just honor what you want. All truth is good truth. You want to be Islam? Great. You want to be of some other faith? That's fantastic. You don't need to honor God. Don't worry about what those Christians say." _Postmodernism_, which is the idea that we've evolved from this small-minded thinking that there is absolute truth… They tolerate everything except somebody who says that certain things are intolerable. You guys have heard this a hundred times. Postmodernism is self-defeating. They go, "There is no absolute truth," and you say, "Is that true?" and they go, "Absolutely." That's not the case. What they basically start to do is say what the French said during the French Revolution, where they threw out God and king. You guys who have ever studied the French Revolution know one of the great revolutionists was Diderot, and one of the things he said was, "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled by the entrails of the last priest." In other words, we have to get rid of all authority so we can do whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it. Question. Who in America is still saying, "I don't think it's a good idea to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. I don't think all truth is relative. I don't think just because you feel a certain way you should act a certain way. I think men were made men and women were made women. I think marriage (just like, by the way, almost all of human history has believed) is best done between one man and one woman. I think the family really matters, and when you start jacking with that, it's going to jack with all of society." Postmodernists are going to make you the enemy. Why? Because they see everything should be permissible, and their goal is to say, "Hey, we'll let every little special interest group and everybody who wants to do what they want to do do it," and everything becomes permissible. Then they say that everything permissible is desirable, and then they say everything desirable becomes normal. Folks, you're living in that country. You're living in a country where people go, "It's normal to be an Olympic decathlete and want to be a woman. It's normal to not assign your baby a gender. It's normal to raise your kids so they can decide they want to be whatever they want to be. It's normal for people who are 20 years old to present themselves as a cat because that's what they feel like." You and I look at that and go, "No, I don't think it's normal, and I don't think it's good." As I seek the welfare of the city in which I live, I have to keep speaking out. "No, there is a God who made us who we're accountable to, and when we scoff at him it's not going to go well with us." I'm about to tell you quickly how Jeremiah 29:11 _does_ relate to you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "I know the plans I have for you, people of God." We're not the people of God who were in Babylon who were told to seek the welfare of Babylon. We're the people of God who happen to live in Dallas, Plano, and Fort Worth, Texas. Plans for our welfare, not for calamity, and he wants to give us a future and a hope, but you have to realize this. The way you apply that verse to you is with a New Testament sense. It says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, "All the promises of God are 'yes' in Jesus Christ." The way that we are ultimately blessed is through Jesus Christ. I want you to see something. First Peter, chapter 2, verse 9. I'm going to read a section of Scripture that will bring all of this together. Here's what it says. **"But you are a chosen race …"** That's Old Testament language. **"… a royal priesthood …"** That's Exodus 19. **"… a holy nation…"** That's Exodus 19.**"… a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of** [your Gentile, pagan] **darkness…"** Why? The whole world was in darkness, even Israel that had come back to the land and still did not walk with God until God sent a full and final prophet, the greatest revelation of himself, to show up. His name was Yeshua. He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He said, "You want to know what the Father is like? You're about to see the Father. You want to know what the love of God is like? You're about to see the love of God. What you guys have made… My Old Testament revelation and the systems I put in place for you to know me have been perverted into outward forms without an inward conversion, and you need to see that that's an offense to God. I am very God of very God. I'm going to come and be the provision for the sins of the world to be taken away, and you're going to find life in me. People, then, who come to me…" He wants Israel first to receive him as their promised King. He wants Israel to receive him as the means through which they can ultimately be reconciled to God in the final sacrifice and as the great King they would live under and prosper, and then all of the other nations would see the prosperity of them and come to them, but they rejected him as their King, so he went not just to the Jews but to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles received the promise of God, that we are reconciled to God. It says in Ephesians 2 those of us who were apart from God, without hope and without promise in the world, all of a sudden have been brought near to God. In the way that, before, the Jews were the ones who were brought near to God through the revelation of his holiness and the means of forgiveness available in the sacrificial system, now _we_ have been brought near to God through the awareness of his holiness revealed in his Son Jesus Christ and the provision for our sin made through Jesus Christ. Now listen to this. "We who were once not a people are now the people of God. We had not received mercy, but now we've received mercy." He says, "You're going to be aliens and strangers in Babylon, and I want you to abstain from fleshly lusts. Don't live like the rest of the Babylonians." **"Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you…"** Meaning, your belief in the existence of God and his good ways. **"…they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God** [when he visits them] **."** Because God has left a remnant, an example of the better way, your community ought to be more loving. Your community ought to be more gracious. Your community ought to be a place where they go, "I don't much like what they say, but I can't argue with their families. I can't argue with their kids. I can't argue with their morality. I can't argue with the way they care about the oppressed and the widow and the orphan. We hate them because they make us feel guilty, but the truth is if more of us were like them it would be a better world, but we don't want to be like them, because we want to do whatever we desire, and whatever we desire we want to make permissible. They're saying certain things aren't permissible, so we kill them, we burn them, but the truth is we're killing and burning all of the best citizens." Do you all see what's going on here? He says, **"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right."** There's your government. That's what they're supposed to do. **"For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men."** In other words, you're not going to be lawless, not just to the king you have but to the king you have above you. **"Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people…"** Did that happen last year on July 7? **"…love the brotherhood…"** Did that happen last year on July 7? **"…fear God, honor the king."** He talks about the centrality of the family and the husband and wife relationship in the first part of 1 Peter, chapter 3, and then he picks this back up in verse 8. You want application? Here it comes. **"To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult…"** One of the things that happened last year with Micah Johnson is he thought he was doing a righteous act. He thought those who were to protect and serve weren't protecting and serving the way he wanted, so he said, "I'm going to show you what it looks like to have somebody not treat you well." Does Jesus say that's the way we should do it? He said, "No, the strong go first. God is the strongest one who ever existed. You've offended me. What did I do? I was offering mercy and grace to you." The way of Micah Johnson is not the way of God. It creates terror. "You hurt me, I'll hurt you worse." God says, "Here's a better way. This is what Christians should do." **"…not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, 'The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.'"** Don't lie about a way that is going to bring freedom when it's not going to be a freedom way. The way of Jesus is freedom's way. **"For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."** If 70 percent of Americans today started to humble themselves and pray, seek God's face, and turn from their wicked ways, do you think America would be different? If those who were in positions of authority and power didn't use their power to maintain power and bicker back and forth and serve special interest groups and say, "You have to keep me here, because I'm the one who's going to give you what you want," but instead, we all did what was right and lived lives of sacrifice because we have created a debt to ourselves and society and we cared for one another, don't you think this thing could turn around? In a heartbeat. He's going to tell you something. I want to remind you Jeremiah 29:11 says "Not for calamity, but I want to give you a future and a hope." Watch. **"Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?"** The answer is everybody who doesn't love good and doesn't love God. That's who's going to harm me. **"But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame."** Jesus said in John 16, "Hey, you're going to have trouble. Just like I came to a world that was bound by dead religion and they were oppressive to widows and orphans and were living unholy lives. They kept the appearance of godliness but denied its power. They killed me, but the Father raised me from the dead. The Father brought me into his presence. The Father has given me the name above all names. You follow me, and I will give you a future and a hope." Are you ready, church? The future and hope that applies to you is not in this land. It is not a promise that your wife is going to get better-looking, your kids are going to get better grades, and you're going to lose that last difficult 10 pounds. It does not mean your job is going to get better. The future and hope is that because you lived faithfully for the King of Kings and sought the welfare of the city you were in by calling them to acknowledge that there's a God who is sovereign over them and who's going to cause them one day to give an account… That you lived with them in such a way that they went, "You know what? There _are_ people who live differently than me, and their lives _are_ better, and they live in humility before God who they say forgives them, because they say there's a judgment coming, and when God appears, he's going to say, 'I gave you evidence that I change men from being selfish, lustful, immoral people, and they're made up of every tribe and every nation, and they loved each other, didn't they? I gave you testimony of my power, because you saw those people. By the way, the more of those people there are, guess what's going to happen? The better it's going to go for the city. There will still be hurricanes. There will still be random rebels who will do crazy things, but not as many.'" Watch this, believers. Your job is to be an individual who lives faithfully, but when Hebrews 11 comes around, it says, "Abel lived faithfully, Enoch lived faithfully, Noah lived faithfully, Abraham lived faithfully, Sarah lived faithfully, and all these died and didn't receive the promise." It goes on a little bit later in verse 38. "There were men of whom the world was not worthy. They were tortured. They didn't accept their release so they might obtain a better resurrection." They had a future and a hope. The future and a hope is not that it's going to get better in Dallas or not that America will exist forever. The future and hope is that we're going to live faithfully in our America, in our Babylon, in our Dallas, as God-fearing people who fulfill the covenant promises of God, who acknowledge when we don't and seek forgiveness, who are salt and light to a world that doesn't want it, even if they murder us and slander us, because this world isn't our home. Just like Jews in Babylon were aliens and strangers, Christians in America and Russia and Israel today are aliens and strangers. Your future and your hope is that there is a resurrection. Your future and your hope is that God might use you in his kindness to have more people begin to follow Christ with you, and then temporarily things will get better, but that's not your future hope. It's still going to be an imperfect world. It'll be a better world, but not yet the world to come. There's always going to be somebody who gets cancer and always going to be somebody who cocks a gun and shoots people he shouldn't shoot, but the more you love and the more you evangelize, the more they follow Christ, the less that's going to happen. It'll be good until the whole world knows, including ISIS. Chances are that's probably not going to happen until the King himself comes and states the case before their eyes. Here's the question. When they come, will they go, "Yeah, we should have known because we saw the power of God in his church"? Here we go, church. What an incredible privilege we have to seek the welfare of this city by being people who live as God would have us live, who, as it says in 1 Peter, love the brotherhood, do good to all men, and honor the king as much as we're able unless he tells us we can't live faithfully before our King. Then we don't repent of our testimony. We don't accept our release, because we'll say, "No, there's a better way for us." "It's better for you if I stay, but for me to die, if that's what's going to happen, is gain." You seek the welfare of the city, and you seek your future welfare by living as Christ lived and being hated by a world that says, "Whatever I desire is permissible and whatever is permitted we should do radically and rebelliously." So let's go. Father, I pray that we as your church would be faithful in the way we live in this land, that we would be humble and know the reason we see what we see is not because we're better than others but because your grace has prevailed in our hearts and allowed us to see your kindness. Your kindness is what has led us to repentance, and so I pray that we, too, would be kind, that the kindness of Christ, the Spirit of God, would mark our lives, because we know that kindness has converted more men than zeal and eloquence and education. Lord, help us to honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, and honor the king. Help us to know that our future and our hope is not a better 2017; it's a better eternity. We thank you that your way is better even now when we live with intact families and present, loving fathers and humble wives who pray for their husbands and delight in following them as they follow Jesus; where we pay our taxes and render to Caesar what we should render to Caesar, and if we make excess, we take what you've given us that we don't need and give it to those who have a need, so that in all things God might be glorified. That we are kind to evil men the way you've been kind to us, so that they might see the kindness of God, and we don't just do random acts of kindness, but when we're kind we tell them where the kindness comes from, so that the grace of God would be made known through us. We thank you, Father, that you are who you say you are, and I pray that you allow us to do what you say we should do. In Jesus' name, amen.