Message 8 of 11

Relentless Pursuit of Oneness

Todd Wagner · Mar 24, 2019

Message 8 of 11

When you hear the word conflict, what comes to mind? Part of the “Watermark brand”—that being, the Christian brand—is that we are people who deal with conflict swiftly and in its entirety. We believe conflict is a constant opportunity to glorify God, to grow others, and to change & grow ourselves. As those who have been forgiven by Christ, Scripture exhorts us to be marked by peace and unity.

Scripture References: Matthew 5 , Proverbs 19 , Proverbs 18 , Ephesians 4 , Proverbs 6

Todd Wagner

About Todd Wagner

In 1999, a group of friends and I desired to be the same awe-inspiring community that we saw in the Scriptures and to connect God's people with opportunities to know... Read more

Message Transcript
Hello, friends. It is great to be together. We are diving back into our series _How He Built This_. What we're doing right now is really, really key and strategic to what we hope God will continue here in the next decades, if the Lord tarries, we get to pursue together. I was reminded this week that over 50 percent of our members, the core people at Watermark who are committed to gathering together weekly corporately and then throughout the week in practicing the "one anothers" of Scripture, who are committed to developing and deploying their gifts after they're discovered for the glory of God, individuals who are committed to investing their lives, their sacred honor, their resources, or their fortune to the advancement of the kingdom here… Those individuals who make up the core of our body who have been all the way through the membership process and are saying, "This is the body of which I'm a part…" Fifty percent of us have been here for less than five years. There are a lot of things that are second nature to those of us who have been here for a while. It's like a bunch of freshmen have rolled onto campus, and they don't yet know the fight song. If you've ever been hanging around someplace for a while, when you graduate from a school, especially schools with a lot of school spirit, you know the words of the fight song. So we thought as we moved into our twentieth year together that it was important we went back and said, "Hey, we maybe haven't done a good job of saying, 'These are the things that mark us. This is what it means if you are going to ride for the brand here.'" Watermark has a logo. You've seen it. It's in that little bumper we just did. It's a _W_ with a line that goes through it. We live in Texas. All of us are branded, if you will, by the fact that this is the body of which we are a part. If Watermark is Jesus' church, it is a part of something much bigger and more important than Watermark. Watermark is not the body of Christ; it is the local expression of the body of Christ that we are all seeking to do the best we can. One of the things we're doing now is trying to strengthen other local bodies of Christ, because they're our brothers and sisters, so that every church, every community of Christ followers all around the world could be a thriving Acts 2 community. But we know this: if every community is going to be a thriving Acts 2 community, _this_ one _has_ to be. So whatever we do to serve other fellowships and other communities of Christ, we have to make sure we can say, "The things you've learned, received, heard, and seen in me, practice these things, and you will be a prevailing, Christ-honoring community." It is the brand. It was interesting, because this week some friends asked me to jump in with them on communicating to maybe some people we'll be adding and are communicating to the wider world what the brand is at Watermark. I happened to meet with some incredibly smart people, gifted people, people that to do what we did together would have cost six figures-plus to invest that kind of thinking together. It was a joy to sit in the room. We started talking about brand ideology. You may not know much about brand philosophy. I didn't. I could speculate about it, but they gave me some words that were really helpful. When you start talking about brands, you're talking about their effort to communicate something in a simple idea that is clearly articulated and (this is key) relentlessly pursued. So let me see if these brands did a good job. Let me run you through some rather famous brands here. _This_ brand. When you think of that brand, what is it that they relentlessly pursue? We might say it a thousand different ways, but this is what Disney would tell you is their ultimate brand: they want to keep alive the magic of childhood. That's Disney's brand. So what they're doing is they're confusing gender identity in children with some of the things they're currently… No. Sorry. I diverge. Disney's brand is to keep alive the magic of childhood. That's what they do. How about _this_ one. This is Coke. I would have missed this one. What do you think Coke's simple idea is that they're trying to say? When you have a Coke or when you're around Coca-Cola, this is basically what will happen. This is what their brand promise is. I heard "A smile." I heard "It's the real thing." This is it: they inspire optimism. I don't know how. "Drink this, because it can corrode a bunch of stuff off a battery, so I'm sure it will make you optimistic." That's Coke. Nike. Here we go. If you get the Nike brand, if you have it on your feet or wear it on your chest or your jacket, what they say that brand does is it unleashes your inner athlete. So if you're wearing Nike right here, we all know you might have an inner athlete. It doesn't look like you have an outer athlete, but I know you have an inner athlete. That's why you buy Nike. How about Apple? When you think Apple, what do you think about? This is a good one. This is so interesting what companies think their brand is. If you have Apple, what Apple is trying to say, if you buy their products, is you're a part of this elite creative class. You're not just a wonk who uses Microsoft and just processes and gets it done. You have some taste and some artistic value that you add to the world. That's what Apple's brand is. How about _this_ one? This is the only one, by the way, I got right. What's the simple idea that Volvo communicates? They're trying to say, "If you drive a Volvo, you're going to be safe. You're going to be all right." That was the one I got. Lexus. I heard the word _luxury_. They want to say, "Lexus is reliable luxury." This was interesting to me. I'm going to tell you why in just a moment. We'll go to the last one: Starbucks. What's _their_ brand? "We make idiots drink burnt coffee." That's their brand. I'm among the idiots. But here's the big question…_What is the brand of Watermark?_ (I'm not even going to give them… The human spirit. We'll get to that later.) Watermark. _This_ is where we care about the human spirit, because we're drawing you back into a relationship with God. Let me tell you what we've done. What we've done in every message up to this weekend in this series is we've been telling you, "This is our brand." Now a brand is a simple idea that is clearly articulated and (this is key) relentlessly pursued. I really do think one of the things that's different about this local expression of Christ's body is that we are committed to relentlessly pursue these things together. The gap between the rhetoric of most churches and the reality of who they are is significant. There are a lot of churches with great doctrinal statements that don't have great practical lives. In other words, orthodoxy might exist, but orthopraxy and calling people to that is a huge gap. I think that is our big distinctive here. We're going to be about it. Honestly, this whole series could be summed up by saying our brand is we're going to not be merely hearers of the Word who delude ourselves, but we're going to do what the Word of God says. What we've been walking through this series… The second week we came and said, "We expect God to do something great." One of the things that's here because we're doers of the Word is we believe Jesus is still alive and that he wants to do something amazing through his people that's going to cause a sense of awe, that's going to rescue people from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son. We believe that's going to happen here. We don't _go_ to church; we _are_ the church. Secondly, we are going to be concerned that we're going to be faithful to the Word of God. The brand here is that we will be biblical and not worry about our size, but if we're biblical, may the whole world know. The third week we began to talk about some of these specific things we said we're going to be marked by love. Jesus says if love isn't here, love biblically defined… That's going to really be important as we move into next week: love biblically defined. If that doesn't happen here, then whatever we're doing is just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. We said we're going to be committed to measure our success _this_ way: not by size or buildings or budgets but by our ability to be and make disciples. You might be going, "Todd, you're going all over the place." What I'm trying to tell you is when we say we're committed to being all about it, these are the things that people who are all about it do. They have marked us. They are distinctives. It's how God built this. It's how we've gone about it. We believe we are missionaries here, not members of a club. That's part of riding for the brand. You don't jump in and like this place and go, "You know what? They finally put something together that's pretty good. There's a great children's ministry here. By and large, they're communicators. I can roll with them. The music? Yeah, that's the kind of music we like. Right, honey? We're going to come here again." No. That's not what this place is. This is a pastors' conference. This is a mission. We are here and we are encouraging each other to be faithful in the mission this week. We gather to scatter. These have been all of the things we've talked about before this. One of the weeks we said we are going to be in the business of doing life together. You want to come here? You are not going to get to hide. You're going to be part of a family. You're not going to be a disconnected member of the body. We're going to be one, and we're going to get after it together. We're going to do the "one anothers" of Scripture, which gets to _this_ one. If you commit to do life together, I'm going to tell you something: it's not going to always be easy. We're going to relentlessly pursue our love for one another and sharpen one another. There was a slide that went up I didn't mention. I'm going to give it to you really quickly. We don't think we can do _any_ of this unless we do the thing I did the very first week, which was the slide that was up here just before _this_ one. It said, "We know that apart from God we can do nothing." We're not going to will ourselves into any of the things we just said. We're not going to try harder to love God. We pray, as we say so often around here, not because we're disciplined but because we're desperate. We started this whole series to say God built this with us saying, "Not my will but your will be done, Father. Not according to my flesh but by the power of your Spirit which indwells me. I'm not going to lean on my own understanding and my own want-to. I'm going to deny myself, and I'm going to follow you. I'm going to live prayerfully." None of these things will we ever be able to do if the Spirit of God is not actively, sovereignly in control of our lives. We know that apart from him we can do nothing, so we're prayerful people. But as we go about living as prayerfully as we can, sometimes we're not going to perfectly live prayerfully, and when we don't live perfectly prayerfully, it's going to cause conflict. Some people think conflict is a problem. I see conflict as an opportunity. I tell people around here very often that about 80 percent of what I do in my job is work through conflict. A lot of it I cause or at least just my existing in this world is a part of it. We just got done with a two-week insertion here talking about forgiveness, and we talked about how forgiveness is just one of the things you have to learn to do if you live on earth. Why? Because we create conflict when we live with one another. A story I told here probably two or three times in the first 15 years we were together that 50 percent of you have never heard goes like this: It's a story of a guy who was out sailing one day and having a big time, and the ship he was on shipwrecked. Everybody died, but he got washed up on a shore. He was a fairly industrious guy, so he thought, "I hope I get rescued, but while I'm not able to be rescued, I'd better make the best of this place." So he did, the best he could. Eventually, though, one day there was a ship that was coming by where he was, and he got their attention. They came over, and they found this guy. They go, "We thought everybody on that ship was dead. We can't believe we found you. Come on, let's go. Let's get you home." He goes, "Awesome. I'd love to. Let me just run back on the island and find a few things that will be mementoes of my time here." They go, "Well, sure. Where are you going?" He goes, "Just follow me." So they ran in. As they ran through the initial jungle and the brush that was there, they got in, and there were these three magnificent structures. Think _Swiss Family Robinson_, for those of you who watch Disney to keep the magic of childhood alive. There were these three amazing structures there in the jungle of the tropics that this guy had built. They go, "That's unbelievable! Were these here when you got here?" He goes, "No. I built all three of these." They go, "Well, what are they?" He goes, "Well, that first building is my church." They go, "That's amazing." They go, "What's the middle house?" He goes, "Well, that middle house is my house." So he gathered a few things from those two places and started to go. They go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa! What's that third building?" He goes, "Oh. That's the church I used to go to." That story makes me laugh, because that defines so much of what's going on. Do you know the people who study these things found that 40 percent of individuals who today are not a part of a local community of individuals of faith say it's because they used to be a part of one and it didn't go well so they're not going back? Of the people who are out there who are not connected and loved and encouraged, 40 percent are out there because they never learned to walk through conflict. Let me read you this. This is from one of my favorite authors. His name is A.W. Tozer. Tozer needed to be part of a church like Watermark. Tozer is one of the most thoughtful men of the last 100 years. I put him up there with C.S. Lewis in terms of his ability to articulate and write. Can I just say this about A.W. Tozer? A.W. Tozer was not a part of a biblical church, and the reason I say that is because when A.W. Tozer died, his wife later remarried, and they asked, "What's it like to be married to somebody after you were married to A.W. Tozer?" She said, "Well, let me tell you what it's like. A.W., my first husband, loved God, but my second husband loves me." That is a rhetorical reality gap. A.W. Tozer's family did not experience the knowledge of the holy and the pursuit of God. That doesn't change any of the truth he wrote and the amazing beauty of it, but that's a tragedy that there was conflict in his home that was never resolved. Without love you're nothing. I don't know what will be said at my funeral, but it will be a tragedy if people go, "Todd was a part of an amazing work of God" and my wife says, "I hope my next husband loves me," if my kids say, "Yeah, of course you guys all love my dad, because he was with you guys all the time. He didn't love _me_. He wasn't there for _me_. He wasn't _my_ dad." That would be a tragedy. A.W. Tozer writes, "Some misguided Christian leaders feel that they must preserve harmony at any cost, so they do everything possible to reduce friction. They should remember that there is no friction in a machine that has been shut down for the night. Turn off the power, and you will have no problem with moving parts. Also remember that there is a human society where there are no problems—the cemetery. The dead have no differences of opinion. They generate no heat, because they have no energy and no motion. But their penalty is sterility and complete lack of achievement. What then is the conclusion of the matter? That problems are the price of progress, that friction is the concomitant of motion, that a live and expanding church will have a certain quota of difficulties as a result of its life and activity. A Spirit-filled church will invite the anger of the Enemy [so he will seek to divide them]." The Scripture says in Proverbs 14:4, "Where there are no oxen the manger is clean, but much increase comes from the strength of an ox." A lot of people get rid of human community because they go, "I just can't get along with people," but they are miserable and lonely and they are not what God created them to be. Do you know that people who study such things say the number-one predictor of divorce is habitual avoidance of conflict? The comic strip says, "Oh, we never talk anymore because we figured out that's when we have all our fights." One of the things that's going to happen here is we're going to call you to work through conflict. Conflict is an opportunity to glorify God, to grow others, and to change and grow yourself. About 80 percent of what I do, I said, is to work through conflict and misunderstanding and miscommunication and real grievances. Conflict is not sin. Now let's be honest. All sin leads to conflict, but what we do when sin enters into our hearts and causes us to be jealous or envious or spiteful toward one another or to not live in a way that makes for the bond of peace… What we do with that when it comes to light is what will mark us as children and sons of God or as people of the world. This is what Jesus said as simply as he could in Matthew 5:9: **"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."** What happens in most churches… You're going to know this. On the spectrum of "God wants us to be peacemakers," there are two straw-man extremes. When we're not yielding to the Spirit of God and being ministers of reconciliation, as he calls us, we all default one of these two ways. When you're not a peacemaker you're either a peace-breaker, like, "You hurt me; I'll show you what hurt looks like, and you won't do that again," or you're a peace-faker, which is like, "Yeah, you annoy me, but I'll smile when I'm with you, and I'll kind of move on. I'll avoid you. I'm not going to pursue oneness with you anymore. I'll keep a safe distance from you. I'll act like we're okay, but we're not okay." About a week ago, my adult children and I sat at a table, and we had one of our most encouraging times together that, my wife and I said, maybe we've ever had. There was some stuff that had happened that was going on. There was miscommunication. There was hurt. There was misunderstanding. We sat down, and we had a lot of fun. I said, "Hey, guys, there are three things I want to cover tonight in the midst of all the fun we're going to have, what we always do around a meal." I kind of entered us into it by saying, "Here's what I'd like to do." After we worked through some of the stuff that was there… That was one and two. Actually, there was a little update from family, and then there was "I want to address this issue I see happening between us and some siblings and some things, and then I want to talk about this third thing." The third thing I said I wanted to talk about was _this_. We use a little phrase around here talking about the way people handle conflict. It's called "being a WENI." We don't want people to be a WENI. Don't be a WENI. The _W_ is _Withdrawal_. That's a peace-faker. The _E_ is _Escalate_. That's a peace-breaker. The _N_ is _Negatively Interpret_. "There's no conflict here. If you didn't have a problem, there wouldn't be a problem. The problem is the way you view this." Then the _I_ is _Invalidate_, which is a combination thereof. I just said to them, "Which one are you in our family? Do you withdraw? Do you escalate? Do you negatively interpret or do you invalidate?" We all went around. It was really interesting. "With you I think I do _this_. With you I think I do _this_ when I'm not living as Jesus wants me to live." We all asked for forgiveness from one another and said, "Help me with this. I don't want to be a WENI. I want to pursue oneness. I don't want to have a typical American family portrait where we smile for the camera because it's Christmas Day. I want us to love one another. I want us to live in peace as God intends. So we're going to have to deal with the foxes that come racing into the vineyard here that want to destroy the richness of what God has created." And off we ran. It was beautiful. **"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."** Do you guys know what the very first casualty of sin was? The very first casualty of sin was relationships. God and man were separated. Man and woman were separated. Humanity and creation were at war with one another. What did sinful humanity do? We immediately withdrew. Adam hid. Adam was also an escalator. "The woman _you_ gave me…" And on and on it went. But do you know what God did in the midst of conflict? What we, as God's people, should do. God ran to Adam and said, "Adam, where are you? I'm looking for you. I know what has happened. I know what's going on. I know what has now marked you. I know what your problem is, and I'm going to run to you and fix this. I'm not just going to show you I'm holy, because I am; I'm going to show you that I'm loving and kind and merciful and gracious. But you're going to have to deal with your sin, and we're going to have to reconcile," which is the basis of the last two weeks of what we've talked about. We forgive because he forgave us. It's interesting. Also this week, because of the way we communicate with each other every year when we re-up and say we're committed to these things, I was looking at some reasons people leave Watermark. There are four reasons people have left Watermark, primarily. First is theological differences. They no longer want to be biblical with us. They just go, "No, as I rightly divide the Word of truth, I think you're wrong," and they leave because of theological differences. Some leave because "It's just too big; I can't get assimilated," which is why all we're trying to do is create smaller environments where we can answer questions, call you to smaller communities, work through community formation. I just want to tell this to you guys: every month there are hundreds of people it's working for. It's not easy, but we are here to help you. The bigger we get, the smaller we need to get. The third reason people leave is because they go, "I'm an A.W. Tozer. I want to study theology. I want to be equipped, but I'm not going to do life with you, and you're not going to talk to me about things. I don't want to be shepherded. I don't want somebody else speaking truth into my life. I'm just not going to do that. I want to go to church and be left alone." Well, that's just not God's church. The fourth reason people have left is because of conflict. I will tell you that people who leave because of conflict have a theological difference with us, because I'm not bothered by conflict. Conflict is an opportunity to glorify God, serve others, and grow ourselves. That is called a win-win-win. It's why I'm not afraid of conflict. I don't like it, and that's why I do what God says is the thing which will fix it. "Well, Todd, what's going to fix conflict?" Before I go too far into that, let me show you that God's Word makes it really clear that this is what his… The very first thing he says is going to be evidence that we're his children, that we are his church is that we are going to be what the world isn't. The world can peace-fake. The world can have a bunch of societally correct smiles and cocktail conversations or the world can go to war. Would we all agree the world is good at those two things: political correctness and political violence? But do you know what the world is _not_ good at? Personal relationships and love, reconciliation and unity. God says, "That's the thing I'm going to choose to say marks my people." Example one: Ephesians, chapter 4. Ephesians 4 (I've looked at this carefully) follows Ephesians 3, 2, and 1. It's an amazing observation I made this week as I looked at my Bible. One of the things you'll see in Paul's books is that he always starts with theology. He always starts with, "This is what God has done," and now he's going to say, "This is the word. Now walk in it." He doesn't ever want you to be an Ephesians 4:1-3 person and be a behaviorist who does these things apart from believing and being empowered by who God is and what he has done for you. So here's Ephesians 1-3: "You guys are all lost and hiding from one another. You're filled with political correctness or political violence, and Jesus loves you and has rescued you through the cross." Chapter 4. Aren't you anxious to hear now what your Father is going to say to you in light of the cross? **"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord…"** Held captive by his love, if you cross-reference what he means when he uses that phrase. **"…implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…"** What is Paul thinking right here? He's thinking, "My Lord and my Savior who died for me said if I want to be his son, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.'" This is part of having the family name. We don't have irreconcilable differences. Verse 2: **"…with all humility and gentleness…"** That is a life's work for me. But here's the good news: "Todd, don't wait until you're humble and gentle. If anyone wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." It's the humility and gentleness of the Spirit. Isn't the Spirit of God in me? I must decrease; he must increase. I'm not going to live according to my own understanding or according to the flesh, for the flesh is at war with the Spirit. With the humility of Jesus who ran after those who hated him, with the gentleness of God who said, "Adam, where are you?" **"…with patience** [longsuffering] **, showing tolerance** [forbearance] **for one another in love, being diligent…"** That is a word which means ongoing, relentless activity. This is the brand. It shouldn't bother you that you have to work at this, because we're not home yet. I am being sanctified, but in those moments when I quench the Spirit and grieve the Spirit, there's going to be conflict, or because sometimes I perceive what you've done as an injustice toward me in a certain way, I might start to see you a certain way, and _that_ creates conflict. We have to work through it. We have to be diligent to preserve what the cross has accomplished. Now watch these next three verses. Watch what God says is where he is. **"There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."** What word pops out right there? _Oneness_. What does the Enemy want to do? Divide. A mark that the Spirit of God is not present is that there is division. This is Philippians, chapter 2. When Paul is praying for the church at Philippi, he says, "Therefore, in light of the love of God, if Christ has encouraged your heart at all, if there's any consolation of the love of God, if there's any fellowship in the midst of your spirit, if there's any affection and compassion, make my joy complete, as your pastor, by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, and united in spirit, intent on one purpose." It is the mark. Hebrews 12:12: **"Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak** **and the knees that are feeble…"** Let me tell you what I'm doing so much in this message. I am paying attention to the Scripture, to public exhortation and teaching. I'm just trying to read to you and remind you this is the brand. This is what God says should mark us. Let me say it again. Conflict is an opportunity for us to be who we say we are. Jesus doesn't say that all Christians are perfect; he says all Christians have acknowledged their imperfection, have received the grace of God that covers our sin through the cross and faith in Jesus Christ, and then are controlled by our love for him and are doing the best we can to walk as he walked and to love as he loved, and when we don't do it, where we start to think with minds that separate us, we deal with it. We have an opportunity to be sanctified, to glorify God, serve others, and grow ourselves. How many things in life can you think of that are a win-win-win? We have to retune our hearts to understand what conflict is. Hebrews 12 is just saying, **"Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak…"** That's what I'm trying to do this week. I'm trying to say if you're going to ride with the brand here, we don't expect you to be perfect. We don't expect you not to annoy us. We don't expect not to annoy _you_. We expect that we will strengthen each other's hearts and "make straight paths for our feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed." That's just metaphorical language. **"Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…"** Wow. So beautiful. If I talked about conflict and I didn't read these verses, I would have conflict with myself. Let me read what it says is true about who we are. This is, again, what God would say. In 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, there's a section of Scripture that says, basically, we are not called to find churches that are largely pleasing to us. We're not supposed to find a mate we never argue with. Churches are formed and forged through a commitment to yielding to the Spirit of God. Godly families are not found. I love Jeff Foxworthy. I grew up as a kid listening to Casey Kasem at _American Top 40_. I loved Bob Kingsley even more when he used to do the _Country Top 40_ countdown, and then later Jeff Foxworthy had his own countdown. Casey Kasem used to always say, "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. See you next week on _American Top 40_." Jeff Foxworthy had his own little thing he signed off with. It was this: "Everybody's family is crazy, so call your mama and hug your kids." That's the way _he_ signed off. I just want to tell you everybody's family is crazy. Right? You guys are acting like, "_We're_ not crazy." Smile for the camera; it's Christmas morning. Everybody's family is crazy, so call your mother, hug your children, and seek to be reconciled. This is who we are. This church will be flat crazy and not what God wants it to be if we don't call each other and greet one another with a holy kiss, which is to say it's not going to be the kiss of Judas. "Hi. How are you doing? It's so good to see you." That's the kiss of Judas. The holy kiss is "I love you enough that I'm going to tell you some things that are true, because I want nothing between us. The things I'm going to say about you in the car on the ride home with gentleness and grace I'm going to say right now, because I don't want there to be something between us." Second Corinthians 5:18-21: **"Now all these things** [I'm sharing with you] **are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation."** The word _oneness_ popped all through Ephesians 4. What word is popping all through here? _Reconciliation._ Play along. Circle it. Underline it. Make a note. Reconciliation seems to matter to him. "Therefore, because we're riding for the brand, there is to be relentlessly pursued, as his ambassadors, as if God himself was making an appeal through us…I beg you on behalf of God, be reconciled to him. Then, as you're reconciled to him," it continues a little bit later, "be reconciled to one another." Clothe yourself in the gentleness and humility of God, who made him who knew no sin to become sin on your behalf, that you might become the righteousness of God in him. Let me give you a few things. Romans 12:18 says, **"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."** Two chapters later, Paul writes, **"So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another."** That's what we have to do. That's who we are." In Proverbs 6:16-19, God says, "There are six things which I hate, seven which are an abomination." Somebody asked me one time… I was walking along, and they asked, "Todd, what are the seven deadly sins?" Do you know that there _are_ no seven deadly sins in the Bible? That is an invention that's extra-biblical. But when I was asked that I went, "If you want to know seven things that it does say in the Bible God hates, turn to Proverbs 6 with me." This isn't venial and mortal sins that comes from the expression, where the seven deadly sins came from, but this is what God says he hates. Have you ever played that game TriBond, where they mention three things and you have to figure out what ties them together? Like, if I say _mantle_, _crust_, and _core_, the answer is _earth_. You throw out three things, and you have to find out what ties them together. This is not TriBond; this is "SevenBond" right here. So, what's consistent with all of the seven things I'm going to list off? Watch this. God hates this: **"…haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife…"** Answer: things which destroy human relationships. God hates it, because it's the first evidence that sin is at work and not his Spirit. Do you want to know what God hates? God loves you. He hates the fact that you're divorced. He hates the fact that you're divorcing. He hates the fact that you're unforgiving and bitter. He _hates_ the fact. He doesn't hate divorcees; he hates divorce, because he loves _you_. This is not to say there's not a time to get out of dangerous situations, but even there he has an admonition to us: be single or reconciled. If you're like, "Are you kidding me?" I'm just saying… Do you want to be marked with supernatural love? Ride for the brand. Here's the thing. God hates one who spreads strife among his brothers. I want to talk a little bit about this. Again and again, throughout Scripture, it talks about how people who gossip and slander and speak maliciously about one another… We had a thing here, which I know that 50 percent of you who have been members for less than five years have maybe never heard me talk about, called the _24-hour rule_. It's time for me to rebrand that into your hearts and minds. You need to know that's the way we roll around here, because we want to honor God and not just have rhetoric about being sons of God but the reality be very far from it. We want to be the people of God, so that means we have to do the things God wants us to do. So here we go. This is the 24-hour rule. When somebody comes to you and says, "Hey, did it bother you when she…?" or "Did you know that that person…?" or "You know, Todd…he's just a little bit…" I don't ever expect you to go, "Well, Todd is our pastor. He would never make a mistake." You're like, "Well, don't worry, bro. I don't _ever_ do that." When you hear somebody speak poorly of another person who is not present, you just go, "It sounds like they hurt you. Have you told them that?" Or "It sounds like there's a character flaw there that isn't what God wants to exist in the life of somebody who has taken his name, so the loving thing to do would be to address that with them." I'll just insert this before I go back into the 24-hour rule. The Far Side is my favorite cartoon, and this is one of my favorite Far Sides of all time. You can see that this guy has a problem. Right? He has a rhinoceros coming out his lower back. The doctor is going, "Hmm. Wait a minute here, Mr. Crumbly. Maybe it isn't kidney stones that are troubling you after all." No, he has a rhinoceros hanging out his back. Do you think his wife knew that, his kids knew that? Do you think the folks who worked with him knew that? Do you think everybody went, "Hey, bro, have you seen Crumbly? He has a rhino hanging out his back." I think probably godless people around Mr. Crumbly never told him the truth and had to send him to a professional who could diagnose it. May it never be. Do you have people who love you? If you're part of this church, you should. Do you know what's amazing? So many people get around folks who have not… When we first come to Christ, of course there's a lot of the old man or old woman that's still attached to us, so we have a lot of work to do to be conformed to his image. But have you ever seen people who say they've been around the family of God for 10 to 15 years and nothing has really changed? The world goes, "That's a leader in your church? That's a person who has been there for 15 years? I can be around that guy for 30 seconds and I know what his problem is. Have you guys not addressed that to him?" **"Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed."** Deceitful are the kisses of Judas, but faithful are the wounds of a friend. There are only two people in the world who can tell you the truth about yourself: an enemy who has lost his temper or a friend who loves you dearly and is going to come alongside of you and say something to you, but a friend who loves you dearly doesn't tell everybody else, "Have you seen Crumbly? I've never seen a rhino like that." This is what the Scripture says about a person who talks about other people's rhinoceroses: "Therefore, don't associate with that person." It says God hates the one who causes strife, who makes fun of people's rhinoceroses. Proverbs 18:8 specifically says, **"The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body."** Isn't that true? Does anybody else here love doughnut holes? I love doughnut holes. I'd rather eat eight doughnut holes than one doughnut. Wouldn't you? There's just something about them. I don't have to work. It's just in, melting, swallow, go again. I don't feel as much like Elvis, just shoving the same jelly doughnut in my mouth for two minutes. It's just one at a time. I love them, but here's what happens. When I'm eating these dainty morsels, they all of a sudden sit with me and stick on me, and they change me. When I hear people say something nasty or less than flattering about somebody else, it's kind of sweet, like, "Oh, well, that person is saying that about them. Right now they're saying that person is not like _you_, Todd. You don't have a rhinoceros." It kind of is sweet to my fallen ears, but when I carry all that around, it creates arrogance and pride and judgmentalism and just a nastiness that isn't helping me. So you just need to know this. This is what's going to happen. Anytime you come to me and say something to me about somebody else… This is the way I've rolled for decades since I've known Jesus. You say, "Todd, so-and-so just [this] and [that]." I'm like, "Hey, man. Have you told that person that yet?" "No. Are you crazy?" "No, I'm not crazy. In fact, I'm just going to ask you, in the next 24 hours, to reach out to them. Just say, 'I need to get together with you.' What I'm going to do is I'm going to reach out to you in 24 hours and say, 'Have you had a chance to reach out to them yet and say, "We have to work through this"?' If you say, 'No,' I'm going to call this person, and he or she and I are going to come to you, and we're going to work this out." We read it _this_ way. Now I charge you that if you ever hear another member speak an unkind word or criticism or slander against anyone…myself, another pastor, a person who's greeting you here, a member of your Community Group, anybody else… It doesn't matter. You have the authority… In fact, I would say you have the biblical responsibility to stop that person in midsentence and say, "Excuse me. Who hurt you? Who ignored you? Who slighted you? Was it Todd? Let's go to his office right now, man. Let's call him. He'll get on his knees, he'll apologize to you, he'll seek your forgiveness, and we'll pray together so that God can restore the peace he intends in this body or he'll clear up the misunderstanding in a way that you won't have to carry that around." But mark my words. We're not going to let you talk critically about another person who's not present to defend themselves. Please understand me that we're entirely serious about this. We have to put a death to the slanderer and to the gossip and to the dainty morsels. Proverbs 20:19: **"He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip."** Leviticus 19:16: **"You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor…"** Don't ever say, "Oh, that's just the way they are." No. God loves you the way you are, but he loves you enough not to leave you that way. We should never say, "That's just the way they are. They just talk too much" or "They just don't listen" or "They're a little bit racist" or "They're just homophobic" or "They're just a loudmouth. They just bully people." We should never say that. We should say, "No, they love God and they want to be more like him." We are committed to that. It's called the _sanctification process._ You might ask yourself, "Wait a minute, Todd. Am I supposed to be a troublesome meddler, that every little thing I come up against somebody and see them do some things is reason for me to shoot off an email or to call them?" No, because Proverbs 19:11 says, **"A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression."** Now what question should you ask when you read that verse? You should go, "Okay. How do I know if it's something I should overlook or if it's something that I should go, 'Hey, you know what? In love, the way it tells me to in Galatians 6… If I see anybody in a spiritual trespass, "You who are spiritual, restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking first to yourself," so you won't be arrogant or fail to get the log out of your own eye, so that you're not tempted to sin in that way, but no, you go and bear one another's burdens and thus fulfill the love of Christ.'" "How do I know, Todd, if I'm supposed to go because there's something going on there I should deal with or if, because I'm discreet, I'm going to in love overlook a transgression?" Here's how you know. It says in Galatians 6 "if a brother is caught in any spiritual trespass." What's a spiritual trespass? A _spiritual trespass_ is one of four things. It's when somebody does something that's dishonoring to God. If somebody is acting in a way that is not consistent with the character and nature of God, because you're their brother or sister, in love you must go to them, because you know they have said, "I have been identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and the life which I now live I want to live in newness of life for the glory of him." Here's an area where they're not living to the glory of God, so you're going to go to them in a spirit of gentleness and say, "Hey, I need you to love and help me in this same way. I want to ask you, has anyone ever mentioned to you… Please forgive me if the way I'm doing this is discouraging to you, but I'm coming to you because I love you and I believe you want to be God's man or woman. So here I go." If something in their life is dishonoring to God, you can't look over it. Secondly, if it has damaged your relationship, because that should never be. This is Ephesians 4:3: "Be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit." So maybe you can go to them and say, "Listen. I've really asked God to search me and know me and try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there's any hurtful way in me and to lead me in the everlasting way and to see if this is just a petty jealousy that's maybe in me and that's what's causing this conflict. Maybe I have an unhealthy need to be noticed by you. That may be a part of this, but there's something between us that I have to work out. You might need to help me. This may not be a 'you' problem, but I'm coming to you because our relationship is suffering." Thirdly, if you see somebody doing something that's hurting or might hurt other people. We don't go, "They have a right to choose." No. We have to say, "That can't be. You're not hurting _me_, but I see you hurting others, so I have to do what I can to stop and speak against that and say that's not what God does. God's people don't do that to people." Fourthly, an offense is too serious to overlook if a person is doing something that's diminishing that person's utility or usefulness to God. They're not gathering here. "Oh, I stream about every six weeks. I go to most Community Groups twice a semester. When I'm there I look at my iPhone more than engage and ask you how you're feeding your soul, how you're feeding your flesh, how you're feeding others. I don't play that game." That's hurting that person's utility to God. You just need to know that's how we roll because we're God's people and we love one another. That's part of the brand. It's who we are: ministers of reconciliation, faithful wounders, kingdom restorers. We forgive each other, but we also work to reconcile. _Forgiveness_ is a one-time act that I do, whether you seek my forgiveness or not. _Reconciliation_ happens when we work toward something together. I want to close with this and just meld our last couple of weeks together. This is Ephesians 4:30-32, where the Scripture exhorts us about how we're to live. **"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."** It grieves God when you hurt each other this way. **"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."** Quick question…_Has God forgiven everybody?_ Answer: God has offered forgiveness to everybody. Is everybody reconciled to God? Well, let me just say this before I go a little farther. All of us are responsible to forgive, which means I no longer want to see you suffer. I'm not going to move toward you in hate and vengeance. I want to be forgiving toward you. Forgiveness doesn't mean I forget what happened. Forgiveness doesn't mean I pardon you. Forgiveness doesn't mean I condone what you just did. You don't condone things that are wrong, and you don't need to forgive things that _aren't_ wrong. Forgiveness is not condoning. Forgiveness is not forgetting. There's a Real Truth. Real Quick. on this. Forgiveness is not reconciling. We are to forgive each other as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven us, which means we are to go to each other and say, "I want you to know you've hurt me, and I want you to know I'm willing to forgive you." Somebody says, "Well, I've said I'm sorry." Listen to me. When you hurt somebody and you say, "I'm sorry…" And I'm the king of this. Sometimes I've said this to my wife. I'll go, "Hey, I'm sorry. Get over it!" That doesn't usually reconnect us. Do you know what reconnects us? When my wife loves me enough to say, "Hey, Todd, I know you want to be a godly husband. I know you want to love me. What you just did? That tone wasn't kind." I don't go, "Well, I'm sorry." I go, "Well, that _was_ a sorry tone." When you say, "I'm sorry," what you're really saying is, "I'm agreeing I acted in a way that was sorry." So what does a person who acts in a way that was sorry do? They go, "Yes, I am sorry, because that's not how I want to live. I confess and agree with you that is sorrowful living." Now watch. "Will you forgive me? Will you, by the grace of God, let me back in?" The Scripture says if we confess and forsake we'll find compassion. So I don't just agree that it was wrong; I seek forgiveness and I forsake it and I surround myself with people. I look at what the triggers were, and I go, "Sweetie, I don't want to do that anymore. Let's widen it. Let's get others to pray for me. Let's talk about what the things in my life were that made me short with you." I begin to forsake that thing, and I rebuild the trust. I come back in, and we are one again. It's a really awkward thing when people have said this stuff to me before. They go, "Todd, I just want you to know I'm really sorry." I just listen. What do most of us say when people say, "I'm sorry"? "Hey, man, I'm really sorry about that." What are the next words? "Oh, that's okay." No, it's not, which is why we have to go and say, "Hey, will you forgive me?" I do this when people say, "Todd, I'm really sorry." I go, "What are you sorry for?" Sometimes I'll say, "I appreciate your sensitivity. I didn't notice what you did. It wasn't sorry acting to me, but I just heard you say that, so I want to honor what you just said, and I'd love to forgive you. I want you to know there was no angst between us anyway." The person says, "No, I know I wronged you when I did that." "Great. What would you like from me?" "I just wanted to tell you I thought it was wrong." "No, what would you like from me? I don't really even agree with you that what you just did was wrong, but you're telling me it was wrong. So what would you like from me?" "Well, I want to restore the relationship." "Great. I'd love to restore the relationship. What do you want? Do you want me to forgive you?" "Yeah. That's why I said I'm sorry." "No, you said 'I'm sorry,' and now I'm agreeing with you it was sorry." Do you think I'm kidding? You watch the power when people start to go, "Will you forgive me?" and you go, "Yes. Come here. Yes, I forgive you." Father, I pray we'd ride for the brand. I pray we'd be people who reconcile with one another and forgive each other. I pray we wouldn't be too hard on ourselves and act like just because a person has asked for forgiveness that everything is all of a sudden good. It takes work to reconcile, but I pray we'd be ministers of reconciliation, kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven us, and reconciling just like our Lord and King. This is what marks us because we're yours. Help us to abide with you and not grieve your Spirit. Make us one with one another. In Jesus' name, amen.