The chaos results when a people loses its bearings is nowhere more evident than in the chaos we see all around us in our country today. While reliance on ultimate truth leads to freedom (John 8:32), moral relativism leads to chaos. This message kicks off the series "The Big XII," twelve non-negotiable principles that those who profess to be practicing Christians must understand, embrace and live out.
The Lamb who Came is the Lion who is to Come: The Certainty of Christ's Return and Why it Matters
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (9 am service)
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (5:30 pm service)
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (11 am service)
Why it Matters that Eternal/Abundant Life Starts Now
The One Hope for You and for the World: Why it Matters that the Church is Healthy and Defined Correctly
The Person of the Holy Spirit: Understanding Who He is and Why That Matters
Salvation: Two Equal and Opposite Errors and Why Getting Them Straight Matters
Jesus: Who Do You Say He is and Why It Matters
Understanding Our Total Depravity and Why it Matters
The Image of God in Man and Why it Matters
The Character and Nature of God: Who He is and Why it Matters
Who Is the Trinity, and Why It Matters
The Truth About Truth: Where to Find it and Why it Matters
We're going to start a series called The Big XII, if you have not yet figured it out. Basically, we're going to talk about 12 core essentials of the faith. These are things that are really non-negotiables. If you are here and you're a guest, boy, this is a great time to jump in with us. We're going to spend the next 12 weeks talking about things that absolutely are essential and non-negotiable if you want to call yourself a biblical Christian, a follower of Jesus, an orthodox follower.
Ortho- means straight; it's the prefix for straight. Orthodontics is straight teeth. Ortho-doctrine or orthodoxy is straight belief. Orthopraxy is straight practice. When I go through this series with you, I'm not just going to talk about orthodoxy. I am going to drive toward orthopraxy. I'm going to go basically through every one of these, and I'm going to say, "This is what we affirm. This is the alternative and the consequence of that alternative. This is the application."
One of the problems is too many times, we focus on what we're supposed to believe and not, in effect, what we're supposed to become. When we talk about these things that are central and non-negotiable if you are going to be a biblical individual, a God-follower, a Christ-follower, let's make sure that we don't ever confuse the importance of just believing these things without understanding what it is that we're supposed to become.
I'm going to go this way. I'm going to say, "This is the profession we make. This is the problem that's denied. This is the practical result." If you will, I'm going to say it this way to you every week: "Here's a core reality I'll give you. I will give you the core result if denied, and I will give you the core response if believed."
What do we affirm? I want to start by saying this. It's funny because we've talked about this series coming up for awhile. A number of people thought they were going to come in here and see the Big 12 North, the Big 12 South on that side, and we'd use the school colors every week. My wife sent me an email (she very rarely does), and she said, "Hey, I have a great idea for you. Why don't you take one of the school names from the Big 12 every week and work that into your message titles and teach these essentials off it?
You could do this: The Sooner you believe this, the better. If you don't Bear this truth out in your life…" I go, "Keep going. I want to hear what you do with Cornhusker. Come on, keep coming. It's interesting to me that your email listed those two ideas, but I'm not going to spend three weeks trying to figure out how to get essential truths to line up with mascots from the Big 12."
I'm doing this, obviously, with the kickoff of Big 12 football. We always think about, "Man, we have a lot to look forward to this fall." This fall, I want to look forward to truths that you should die for, truths that you'd better make sure are deeply embedded into your heart and that your heart informs everything about your life, making its way out to your hands.
The problem we have in America is we have a church that agrees with many of these principles but does not apply these principles. We have what we would call a lot of values that are not actual; they're only aspirational. What we are is a group of individuals who are saying, "These are the things we're going all in on." If you see us, in any way, compromise on these, bring it to our attention. Talk to us about it, and if we guffaw at you, if we tell you that you're taking things too seriously, run for the hills. Find a church that isn't dead, because if you don't grab these 12…
By the way, I grabbed 12 because this is the part of the country that we live in. You could make it 8; you could make it 20, but I think I have 12 that I want to go to the grave absolutely living my life for and in response to. So we're going to start in the most logical place to start: the topic of truth. What is truth? How do we know truth? Where do we find truth? What does truth accomplish in our lives?
This is the most important thing because out of it flows everything else that we'll talk about. Everything that I'm going to share with you in the next 12 weeks flows out of this first week, which is God's revelation of himself, which is most fully through Jesus Christ, but that which we have which shares with us the good news of who Christ was, why he came, what he accomplished, and when he's coming back is found in the Bible.
What's interesting, as I said, is still about two-thirds of America, 60-plus percent of Americans, would tell you that the Bible is God's Word. The problem with America is that we affirm that, but we do not apply that practical reality to our lives. We are, in effect, though we say we believe something, really living under the alternative. What I want to do this morning is make a case for what we believe, why we believe it, and what that must accomplish in us as believers. Here we go.
We believe as an essential that the Bible is God's Word. It is our authority, it is our conscience, it is our guide. We believe in what is called the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture that is inerrant and infallible in its autographs, meaning in its original state. We have manuscripts that are outstanding and excellent. The Bible that you have is not the original autograph.
There is a reason that God did not allow us to keep the actual parchment that Paul penned the words on. I think it's because that relic would be warred over and fought over, and we would worship it as opposed to the truth it contained. What I can tell you is that the Bible is unparalleled in its manuscript evidence. In other words, there is more support that the Bible you have today is consistent with the Bible that God intended for us to have than any other book in antiquity.
There is nothing even close. There is no second. It goes from like 26,000 to 600, and yet we don't debate those books from antiquity that have some manuscript evidence in the hundreds and sometimes even the dozens. The Bible has tens of thousands of copies. We look at these copies and see that what we have is not just a reliable representation of an autographs, but in no area is there any question of doctrine or central claim to Christian faith that is in any way even compromised.
We do have some manuscript disputes. Any time you have a wording issue… Does it say, "Jesus Christ our Lord," or, "Our Lord Jesus Christ"? We're not sure which one Paul wrote down, but it doesn't change the meaning. Every time we find a misspelling… If you find a word duplication, that is considered a manuscript error. When you hear people talk about all of the errors in the Bible, ask them to point one out to you, and often they cannot. If they do, you will find they are easily answerable.
We believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the original autographs, and we believe that the Bible we have is 99.8 percent pure and in no area of doctrine or central claim to our belief is in any way compromised. That is what we affirm. Let me show you where we get this, from among other places. One is in 2 Timothy, chapter 3, verse 16.
Let me tell you very quickly what I mean by verbal, plenary inspiration. Verbal means that every word, not just ideas and concepts, but every word that God gave us is true. Plenary means that all subjects and matters, in totality of what it claims, are absolutely true. When you go to a conference, in a plenary session, everybody is there. All subjects attend. Everybody is in that section. So the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture is that every word, every subject, every matter is, in fact, given to us by God.
We don't use the word inspired to mean that Paul saw a sunset and was moved and so he wrote the book of Romans. That's not what we mean. This is not Jim Croce in love, writing a great song. This is not Shelley, finding a girlfriend that he inspired by, so he writes a great poem. This is not Shakespeare, moved to communicate great truth through the arts. It's something different. This is what we believe.
Second Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is inspired…" The word is "God-breathed." We believe that the very breath of God, that God intended for these words to live, to come to us. We believe that the eternal God revealed truth to temporal men. The infallible God used fallible men to produce a perfect book.
"All Scripture is inspired by God…""It alone," it means in the original idea. It alone… There is nothing else in your life that is worthy to be considered authoritative. It alone can tell you what is right. It alone can tell you what ain't right. It alone can tell you how to make right what ain't right and how to live rightly. That's what 2 Timothy 3:16 means. So that you might be glorious again, so that you might be adequate, equipped for every good work… It is "…profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…" That all of us might be what God intended us to be. He loves us, and so he has given us this book.
Let me show you where we have this in other places. In 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, verses 9 through 14, this is what it says: "These truths that we have are not truths that have been brought down from the ages by philosophers and learned men. No, the truths that we have in God's Word, that he gave to us, are truths that the eye has not seen, ear has not heard, things which have never even entered into the hearts of men. All that God has prepared, we believe, for those who love him."
"For to us God revealed them through the Spirit…" In other words, these are not individuals who came up with these ideas. God's Spirit gave that to them. "…for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God." Illustration: "For who among men knows the [real] thoughts [the motives, the inner workings] of a man except the spirit of the man which is within him?""Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God." Good news: the Spirit of God is going to tell us what the very heart of God is about.
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things…"
This is why it's an essential. The natural man rejects that this is ultimately true. It is "…foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." No matter what you say, if you don't believe that God's Word is that which God has given us by his Spirit, which eyes can never see, ear can never hear, and man can never discover in his own longings, thinking, and philosophizing, then you are not spiritually appraised. You are not a person in relationship with God, in unity with his Spirit. It is essential.
Another verse: 2 Peter, chapter 1, verses 19 through 21. It says this: "So we have the prophetic word made more sure…" In verses 12 through 18, Peter is talking about as a follower of Christ, when he was here, he saw Christ do a lot of things. He saw a lot go down. He experienced a lot. Peter is saying here, "Even better than my experience, we have something better than my testimony.
We have God giving us his Word, which is more sure than any experience." "…to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts, " Until all truth is made known to you even as you are now fully known."
He says in verse 20, "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation…" There are a lot of different ideas about this. Some people say that it means you shouldn't read it on your own. Some denominations will still espouse that. Or the Scripture has to be read in context; that's clearly a good way to understand your Bible. No verse is to be read without understanding the context of what it was written in.
Others would say that you need the Holy Spirit to illuminate it in your life, which is certainly a truth that is taught within the Scripture, but really what he's focusing on here is specifically explained in verse 21. "…for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will…" In other words, prophets didn't decide what to prophesy about. Jeane Dixon and Nostradamus didn't do what the writers of Scripture did. They did something else. They were prophecies by human will.
The Scriptures are not the best ideas of prophets. They were men moved by the Holy Spirit who spoke from God and for God. In other words, the word for men moved is the word pherō, which means moved along or carried along by. It's used in the book of Acts of a ship that Paul was in when a great wind came and pherōed it, moved it along. It filled the sails and directed it and drove it. That is what we believe.
We believe that this book is not the collection of Wisdom writings by brilliant men. This book is God's revelation to us. It is our authority, it is our conscience, and it is our guide. We don't just affirm that. I'm going to explain to you today the consequence of believing alternatively, and I'm going to tell us how to apply this truth to our lives.
I'll show you this is not just some guy's ideas; Jesus thought the same thing. Jesus, in Matthew, chapter 5, verse 17 through 19 says this: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished."
Some of your Bibles might say, "not the smallest jot or tittle." A jot is the smallest Hebrew letter. Not one letter will be changed. Or one tittle, which would be any simple stroke which makes up a letter, like the dot on the i or the cross on the t. A tittle would be like the leg on the R that makes it different from a P.
Jesus is saying, "Every single thing that God gave to you in his perfect Word, I am all about because God is not a liar. He is not a man that he should repent. When God speaks, he is true, and I am committed to it." He goes on further to say in verse 19, "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments [what jot and tittle together teach] ,and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great[useful to God, a great person]in the kingdom of heaven."
That's what you and I want to be: useful not just to heaven but to others and self, which is consistent with God's character. That every time we worship him, we find out it doesn't just ascribe to him glory; it allows us to walk in the fullness of goodness which a loving Father wants us to have. He does not want us in the dark. He doesn't want us to put up with, as Plato said, the best ideas of men, like ships making their way through a storm in the sea at night.
We have heard a sure word from God, and so we don't need the best ideas of men. That is fundamental to what we believe. You can call yourself a Christian if you want and not believe that, but I will tell you that are misinformed. I don't want to be too dogmatic, but if you disagree, you are wrong. All right?
Here's the deal. That is what we affirm. So what's the alternative? Aren't there many books that claim to be divine? Yes! There are other books that claim to be the Word of God, so what makes this book unique? I want to say this very quickly. I did an entire message on this in a series called Why? It was the tenth message in the series Why the Bible Can Be Trusted. There are unlimited resources. I'm not going to give a complete Bible apologetic here right now but let me just tell you.
Unique among all books that claim divinity, this book, by God, can be tested. This is what Proverbs, chapter 30, verses 5 and 6 say. "Every word of God is tested…" Every word of it on subject and matter. "…He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar."
Here's what God did. These are not just a collection of ideas. This is not just a wonderful work of philosophy. Some other books that claim to be divine have great truths in them, but you cannot test them. You cannot apply to them scrutiny other than through just working it out through life. But what God did specifically is anchor his claims about how he was and what he was doing in the context of history past and history future.
God would say, "You go back and look. If there was not a David, if there was not a Pilate, if there was not a Jericho, if there is not geological evidence for this universal flood, then dismiss it." You can test this book and verify that it is not nonsensical, meaning you can't just take it at face value or not. If some guy claims that an angel appeared to him and wrote truths on a golden tablet, I can't test that.
I can test these claims historically, archaeologically, and not only that, but God says, "Don't just take my word for ancient history. Go back and look at what I said about what's coming in future history. If anything this book claims is going to happen doesn't happen, then dismiss it. It might have good ideas for you, but it is not from me because I alone control the future." All of that can be found and explained more in that little message I'm talking about. Let me just say: this book can be tested.
This is why I love God's Word and I trust God's Word more than my learnings and my own experience. A number of weeks ago, I gave a message, and a lot of folks came up to me and said, "Todd, I really struggled with what you were saying because, while I really couldn't argue from God's Word with you, my experience would indicate maybe some other things are true." So I sat down, and I wrote down why truth is better than experience. I want to share that with you now. I shared it with them when they asked me the question.
This is why Peter said, "We have something even better than my testimony about what happened on the mountain of transfiguration. We have the prophetic Word of God made more sure." Truth is better than experience for this reason. Experience, specifically, is inconsistent from person to person. Secondly, experience can tell what happened, but it does not always explain why something happened. Thirdly, experience can be, and I quote a famous pitcher, "misremembered."
There were two guys who lived through the exact same life, had the exact same experience, but where it was truth. One said, "Well, I know that was his experience… I think he just misremembered." Fourthly, experience can produce arrogance. "I've been through this; you haven't. I've experienced this; you haven't." It can produce arrogance that isolates and separates us from others who have not endured or enjoyed similar events. We are not people limited to our experience.
By the way, I'll throw this out: experience is a great teacher; it's just often a very expensive one. Many of us have learned things by experience that truth would have taught us without the scars. This is the difference between truth and experience. While experience is inconsistent from person to person, truth is consistent. It can be tested. It can be scrutinized.
I don't know if you guys know much of what's going on in the Muslim world, but there is a lot of revelation being given to Muslims that has never gone out before. Specifically, there is a Coptic priest who grew up in the Middle East and who is very familiar with Islam, who himself was converted from his dead orthodoxy to true, biblical Christianity. He's known as Father Z.
His full name is Father Zakaria Botros, but there is a bounty on his head. He is the most wanted man in the world by the Islamic community. It has been reported for years that there is a $25 million bounty on Father Z's head. Through Trans World Radio, he is answering the questions of Islam from a Middle Eastern perspective and showing the truth and the wisdom of the Trinity, the truth and the wisdom of Jesus Christ, that he wasn't just a man and a prophet, he was God and very God. All of these ideas that Islam challenges, Father Z is answering.
There's a bounty on his head. It was $25 million. It's been reported by recently by some who are experts in this that it's up to $60 million for Father Z. It was interesting; Gaddafi was recently asked if he would himself pay the $60 million if somebody could take out Father Z, and he said, "I will not pay $60 million for somebody to kill him, but I will pay $60 million for somebody to answer him." I love it. Father Z is saying, "Bring it," and the imams cannot because his words are true, and no amount of scrutiny can affect it. Good stuff.
Secondly, truth explains what, how, and why. It is not just limited to what we perceive to happen. Truth informs completely. Truth is always there, and it can be tested. Truth unites and is available to everyone. Truth, gang, leads to life. Lies and distortions lead to death. Here's what I want you to know. If I had to boil all of this down… I always put all of this stuff on the web for you to go and check out, so you don't have to write furiously while you're here. I don't wait for the pen; I just keep moving, but it's always there for you Sunday afternoon, Monday.
If something is true, then it's true everywhere, not just in certain cultures. It is timeless. It is not dependent upon cultures, and it always brings blessing. If it doesn't meet those three criteria, it isn't true. There are temporal truths, certainly. There are truths of opinion, but ultimate truth, authoritative truth is timeless, it is not conditioned upon culture, and it always brings blessing. If that ain't happening, it ain't true.
This is where I want to focus a little bit and where I'm trying to get us. I want to focus on this specifically. When you don't hang on to truth, and when there's a jump ball for what is right and what is wrong, then you move very quickly to a great problem. Let me show you. In Jeremiah, chapter 6, verses 13 through 16, this is what it says.
"For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain…" People have gone this way. Greed is the way to find life. "…and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely." There's no one walking in truth, even those who are supposed to be communicators of truth. "And they have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace." They offer it through little false systems and false practices, but there is no peace.
"Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? There were not even ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be cast down…" There is going to be a consequence to this.
But look at this: "Thus says the LORD, 'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.'" But they said, "We will not walk in it." When you don't walk in it, this is what happens. Look at Isaiah, chapter 5, verses 18 through 23.
"Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, and sin as if with cart ropes…" In other words, they just drag lies and sin and iniquity along like somebody pulling a cart. "…who say, 'Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it…'""Bring it on, God. What's the consequence to mocking your Word?" "And let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come to pass, that we may know it!"
But God says, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" You are in trouble when this is your paradigm for truth, when you get into what is called a tournament of narratives, when you let the most educated and philosophical among you, the most well-spoken and the people with the loudest megaphone determine for you what is truth.
We don't want to do that. We don't want the best ideas of men. We don't want those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight because that leads to trouble. Let me explain something to you. There are three divine institutions God has given us, ultimately. The first is family. The purpose of family is to educate, to train, to pass on truth.
The family is to make up the second organization, which is the church. It is the job of the church, the collective family, to correct, to reprove, to remind, to confront individual families who move away from the truth so they can educate correctly. Here's our problem. The third institution is the government.
The government has two roles. We went through this… I did a whole worldview series last fall. I talked about the role of government. Government has two roles: to protect the righteous and to prosecute evil. That's what 1 Peter 2:14 says. It says that armies, in effect, the judicial branch, is sent by him, the king, for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. But what does that verse beg? Who is evil, and who is good? Who do we need to punish, and who do we need to praise?
This is why there has to be an objective standard of truth. If we lose truth, we lose a common sense of morality. When we lose a common sense of morality, we lose civility. When we lose civility, it brings chaos. When there is chaos, we are filled with terror. When we are filled with terror, we look for deliverance from that terror, and that is when tyrants rise up and say, "I will deliver you." Then those tyrants oppress, and we have lost our freedom that truth was to give us to walk in.
Let me explain this to you. There's a game I used to play as a kid. It was called Dictionary, and my family would play it. We would get out the Webster's Dictionary, and we would sit there, and we would look it up a word. It's now being sold for a profit in a board game called Balderdash. Are you familiar with it? Save your money, all right?
All they do is get a bunch of words that you can just flip through the dictionary and find a word that is obscure, that no one really knows, and then you, as the person who is moderating at that time, write down the word. Then, once you give the word, everybody else writes down what they think the definition of that word is.
You collect it, and then you read all the definitions, and people vote on what they think the real definition is. If you wrote a false definition that people pick, you get a point. If you pick the correct definition, you get two points. If you pick a word that nobody gets the right definition, you get five points. That's the game.
Watch this: let me just play the game with you. Are you ready? Here's a word: koomkie. We're going to play Balderdash, Dictionary, right here. Is koomkie a small, finch-like bird found in a remote region of Guatemala? Is it an organic cereal consisting of flakes, nuts, and berries? Is it a trained female elephant used to attract wild male elephants? Is it a food delicacy common to countries to central Africa consisting of potatoes, hash, and ginger root? Or, is it the smallest born in a litter of arctic seals?
All right, here we go. What is a koomkie? How many think it's a small, finch-like bird? How many aren't going to play? All right. How many think it's an organic cereal consisting of flakes, nuts, and berries? Anybody? Okay, a couple… How many think it's a trained female elephant? All right, welcome. How many think it's a food delicacy common to countries in central Africa? A bunch of you; very good. And how many think it's the smallest born in a litter of arctic seals? It is a trained female elephant.
By the grace of God, it doesn't matter what a koomkie is. But what if it did? What if we sat around, and we started to go, "Well, hey! Our country is going to go to war over the fact that koomkie is a finch-like bird"? And you say, "Well, bring it, because I'm going to tell you something. It's a combination of hash and ginger root in our countries." There is a great discussion until somebody enlightened can stand up and say, "No. You don't need to war with each other; you don't need to confuse each other. This is what the word means."
Let me give you another one. How about a trichobezoar? Is a trichobezoar a machete, a hairball, an instrument used in the 1900s to pick cotton, or the smallest seal in a litter (it's back)? How many think it's the machete? Yep. How many think it's a hairball? How many think it's an instrument used to pick cotton? More… How many think it's that seal? A bunch of you… There it is. It is a hairball! It is what your cat spits up. This is why you own dogs, because of trichobezoar.
Do you know what we just did? This is the way our society… What is family? "I think family is just two folks who hang out together." "Well, I think family is just a couple folks who hang out together as long as they want to." Somebody else will stand up: "I think family is this." We go to war. We have red states and blue states. We have red moms and blue dads. We have red dads and blue kids. We have lost truth.
People start to say things like, "Can't we just disagree without being disagreeable?" Yes, if you're talking about koomkies and trichobezoars, but not when you're talking about matters of good and evil. Not when you're talking about who you protect and who you prosecute. You go to war over that. It splits societies.
Let me tell you guys, I'm going to do this quickly. This is what God says. Proverbs 13:13 is a key verse and it says, "The one who despises the word will be in debt to it…" In other words, if you don't affirm this, or if you affirm it and ignore it, there is a serious consequence. "The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded."
We're teaching our kids right now, over there, this month, the key word, the key wisdom principle is knowledge. All of our kids over there this month are memorizing Proverbs 9:10. Any kids in this room who were there first service who are over here, who memorized Proverbs 9:10? I have my son here; I'm going to use him a minute. Hey, boy. What's Proverbs 9:10?
Cade Wagner: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."
Todd Wagner: All right; excellent. He said, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." That's what he has learned here. That's what we're teaching him. I am teaching him, "Bro, if you don't know this, you're going to be in debt to that. Getting a right view of God and having knowledge of the Holy One will produce understanding in your life."
Did you know right now that we have a leader, a national leader, who when asked to define sin, responds by saying, "Sin is what violates my values." That bothers me because what if his values aren't my values. What if he thinks something is right that isn't right? What if he wants to define family this way, righteousness this way? I go, "We cannot do that because we are now calling evil good."
Let me take it to you this way. Lose that particular national leader. I, by the way, want somebody who is going to say, "I define righteousness based on that which offends God." That's what I'm looking for. I want to know that there is an objective and clear standard. I want to know that somebody defines truth correctly and not just based on their pulpit, their eloquence, their party, their country, or their position, but the position of God.
Our country, Europe, England, specifically in America, was founded, by the way, on this major idea: what is called lex rex, not rex lex. What does that mean? What we basically believe here, and the reason that when it was formed, our government was broken off into three branches, with an executive, a judicial, and a legislative, was because of a fundamental belief. The fundamental belief was that man is a liar. That comes from Romans 5. We believe that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
We don't believe rex lex. We believe lex rex. What does that mean? It's just Latin. Rex is king; lex is law. We don't believe that the king is law; we believe the law is king. The king's job is not to tell you his values. The king's job is not to tell you his ideas. The king's job is to prosecute evil and to protect those who do right. According to who?
When it started, our country started with fundamental understandings. Not everybody was Christian, but there was a fundamental belief that law had been revealed. This is what God said. Israel was rebelling; everybody was doing what was right in their own eyes. "We want a king!" God said, "No, you don't. You don't want a king from amongst the people. Let me be your king because if you get a king from among your people, he will start to lead the way as right to him, and it will be the way of death.
You will live under a tyrant, not under a benevolent lover of man. If you want your king to be your law, you're going to suffer underneath that king. You'd better make sure you find a servant leader who follows me." That is what separated England from its days of monarchy and oppression. There was tyranny, loss of freedom, and a crying out for deliverance so that they could live under truth that would set them free, not on the mood of the king.
So I'm not mistaken that I think only certain parties espouse saying things like, "Sin is my value being violated"… I was recently on a conference call with a gentleman who served for 19 years in Congress. He is a Fox News guest commentator. He is a senior Republican leader. He is running for a major office in a key state. He was talking to a group of us, specifically, to get support and to garnish the ability to put himself in a key role that is significant to our country.
I asked him this question. I said, "Sir, how does your worldview affect your platform and issues that will define and support how you will lead?" He said, "It doesn't. I can't let my beliefs affect how I lead on political issues. If you're wanting to know if I stand here on pro-life, yeah, I'm pro-life. But in no way will I lead in a way that lets my religion interfere with my decisions." I said, "Sir, I cannot support that."
He asked me, "What does worldview have to do with whether or not I'm fit for office?" I said, "What does a blueprint have to do with how you build a house? What I'm asking you for… What is your blueprint? What is your grid for deciding right and wrong? I don't want a Fox News commentator telling me what's right and wrong. I don't want a Republican leader telling me what's right and wrong. I don't want a Democrat, I don't want a country, I don't want a party, I don't want a man.
I want a holy God who has revealed himself as true, right, and benevolent, and I want you to serve him. Apart from that, I'm not interested in you being my leader. I don't want rex lex; I want lex rex. So what is your law, sir? That is your worldview." An interesting conversation ensued.
What I want to share with you guys quickly is that our country understood this. There are some basic truths and some quotes… This is what's going before I even read this. I ripped this out of the paper a month ago; it's written by a guy named Leonard Pitts who is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He says this: "These are strange times. They call to mind what historian Henry Adams said in the mid-1800s: 'There are grave doubts at the hugeness of the land and whether one government can comprehend the whole.'" In other words, can our government lead this entire mass of geography?
Pitts writes this: "Adams spoke in geographical terms of a nation rapidly expanding toward the Pacific. Our challenge [is becoming] less a question of the distance between Honolulu and New York than between you and the person right next to you. […] On paper, he is your fellow American, but you absolutely do not know him, recognize nothing of yourself in him. You keep asking yourself: Who 'is' this guy?" How can he call that right?
They look at you, and they go, "Who is this guy? How does he say that's evil?" We are moving quickly away from truth to what is called moral uncertainty, which leads to practical incivility, which leads to chaos, which demands tyranny, which costs freedom. Do you see why this is a big deal?
This is not about our government. This is about that which makes up our government: you and me, individuals who will determine whether or not we're going to live certain ways, under certain ideas, or whether there's going to be a tournament of narratives and whoever is the most eloquent, the most attractive, the most powerful, the most funded will define what is right and wrong. Our country will rise and fall from it.
Let me show you something. In 1963, there was a decision that took prayer and devotionals out of school. Not altogether a bad idea that we would propagate certain belief systems as necessary, but the loss of teaching morality and the loss of teaching a standard of truth went out with that decision.
I can only track statistics through the 90s, but let me tell you what happened the 30 years, coincidentally, after removing the teaching of morals in schools in our country. From 1960 to 1990, our country grew at a 41 percent rate. Our population was 41 percent bigger. There was a 300 percent increase in a domestic production. There was a 500 percent increase in government programs to support social needs. We had to increase our funding of social problems 500 percent.
Let me tell you what changed from 1960 to 1990. There was a 560 percent increase in violent crime, a 419 percent increase in illegitimate births, a 400 percent increase in divorce, a 300 percent increase in children living without moms or dads at home, a 200 percent increase in teenage suicide, a 10 percent decrease in educational performance and scores. TV viewing went up 2 hours, and we started to get our morality there. Children on welfare went up 400 percent. Chaos, because we stopped saying, "This is right; this is wrong." It became a tournament of narratives.
What does Hollywood think? What does the left think? What does the right think? What do the Democrats think? What do the Republicans think? What do the liberals think? What do the educators think? What does the North think? What does the South think? What do the Baptists think? What do the Catholics think? What does God say? He says, "He who ignores my word will be in debt to it," and we, my friends, are in debt to truth. When you leave that which God affirms to be true, that alternative leads to slavery.
For the sake of time, I'm going to move it away from our nation. Let me read to a couple of emails I got this week because, gang, look. The way that our government is going to be transformed, the way our government will be changed, is when you change your neighbor, and when your neighbor and you change your city, and when your city changes your county, and your county changes your state, and your state speaks to other states in a loving, intelligent way. Until we do that, we have problems.
James Russell Lowell says this: "Democracy gives every man the right to be his own oppressor." That's what we have. We are oppressing ourselves because we think we are king, and we're going to decide what is right and what is wrong. I love Churchill. Churchill said, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
As we laugh at the average voter, church family, let remind you who is to educate. It ain't Fox News. It's you. Let me tell you who is to correct. Let me tell you who is to rebuke and confront and to encourage. It is us. Our government is oppressing truth because we have not done our job in eloquently, kindly, respectfully, rightly defending it. We say, to a 60-plus percent tune, we believe that the Bible is God's Word, and we don't apply it. It doesn't just cost our country, it costs you.
Two emails I got this week… Here's the first one. I got permission to read both of these. It says this. I love it; the guy said, "Tom…" (He later responded and said, "Bro, I know you're Todd.") "First I was made known about Watermark about a week ago by one of my good friends who just fought for my heart. She and her husband regularly attend. I watched about 10 hours of your messages from the website and felt the message from this past Sunday really impact me. I was given some other peoples names… I don't want to ease into the church; I want to jump in."
Second paragraph: "For me to say that death sounded great to me within the last week, or even last night, would be an understatement. I feel that I carry the weight of over 24 years of sheer pain around with me, always thinking I could handle that weight.
I thought I could roll with the largest blows, but now I'm reduced to weeping on my knees with every little tap. I have grown to live for my job and absolutely dread the weekend. I don't know what is right or wrong anymore but worry about it all day. The only solutions I know involve both alcohol and food." "I am in debt to truth," is what he said.
Where was his Daddy? Where was the church? Well, I'll tell you something. The church showed up last week, and he's here today with a Bible, and he's beginning to know that we love him and that there's a God that doesn't want to leave him behind. But this isn't just about people who are out there in the dark.
I got this email this week, again, with permission to read it. This is somebody who has been here 9 years. This is somebody who, at Watermark for 9 years, has said, "I believe the Bible is God's Word. It's our authority, conscience, and guide. We stand where it's firm; we remain flexible where it remains flexible." Then he left there and did not execute. One is walking in dark. The other one is walking in light but not applying that light. Here comes this email.
"Todd, I know you weren't directly talking to me in open group this morning. The Lord definitely put your words in my heart. I have lived for years with the knowledge of his words in my heart [meaning God], but I have been too prideful to lead and model that for my wife and family. Our marriage is broken. My heart is broken.
The Lord has used these events to break me of my dependence on self and my desire to please man. Man doesn't have the capacity of grace that our Lord does. My wife and I are in desperate need of grace. Please know that I cherish the environment that has been created at Watermark even though I have often been bucking at it for my own pride's sake."
I know this guy. He has bucked at it. He has mocked community. He has mocked things we've called him to, all the while saying that God's Word is true. "He has us here to facilitate our rehabilitation and our relationships with him and with each other. I am so grateful that we were immediately surrounded by families who are going to fight for our marriage with us. Friends in community are loving us enough to get dirty. It's absolutely gut-wrenching and the most painful thing I could have ever imagined happening to my family. Why? Because I assented to this big idea, I just didn't do jack with it."
This is what Jesus says. Cade, come on up here. Jesus says that we are to not just hear this word but to act on it. I want to show you why this is a big deal. I told you about the family; I told you about the church. There's a lot there. I used an illustration last week about how, in fact, there are all kinds of folks walking up to the doorstep of life and opportunity, and they don't have a clue how to get there. You look at some of the things that are out there… Can you see anything?
Todd: All right. I agree with Proverbs 9:10. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…" But right now, you'd better fear your daddy's word because I am, in a sense, here to educate you and to tell you where truth is. You're going to run into all kinds of stuff. I know that average TV viewing has increased by some two hours since the 1960s, probably even more. TV is going to tell you all kinds of things about what is true and what is not. You don't want to listen that.
It's going to tell you in society about sex and how to handle your body and your growing hormones at some point. You're going to be exposed to different solutions. When we don't have morality that will keep us healthy, people will medicate themselves in order to be able to survive. Money is going to come at you, Cade. You live in a society where you're going to want to be tempted very, very strongly to find life in money. I want to tell you that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
Bro, there's porn out there. God made beauty for us, but it's deceivingly represented, and we have become men who have given ourselves away to an illusion and not to reality. Your daddy wants to walk through that. What I have on stage are real bear traps. These things will take down a grizzly.
If Cade just works his little 9-year-old self through life… Cade, take two steps forward. Good. Take a shuffle to your right. Good. There's a ledge to your right, and there's a bear trap to your left, so you have to walk straight ahead, son. I want you to walk straight ahead five steps. Okay. We talked about this, buddy, and I mentioned to you that that was just a baby step. I told you I didn't want to take small steps; you take big steps.
Come all the way over here. Big steps, straight ahead. I know it's scary. There's a lot out there that could take your leg off but come on over here. Take five big steps. There's nothing around you that's going to hurt you, buddy. I'm not going to mess with you. Keep coming. Keep coming, buddy, that a way. Good.
Now, look, here's the deal. I don't have to just yell at my son, Cade. All these are… Yeah, they are. They're set. All right, good. We made it past that one; isn't that good news? How about if I could do this? How about if I didn't know what truth was myself? Cade, let's do this. I've done my best to try think through this, what it would probably look like. How about if I lead you like this. Now I can't see anything.
I think there's a ledge to my right, and I think there's a bear trap somewhere out there, but Cade, why don't we just make our way through life together? I'm not really sure what truth is, but let's just figure it out. Do you feel good about this?
Todd: I don't either. That's why I have to be able to see. Jesus says in Matthew, chapter 15, verse 14, "When the blind lead the blind, they both fall into a pit." When you reject his big idea, folks, you see what's at stake? You know what God wants? He doesn't want me just to bark out orders at Cade.
Cade, hold my hand, buddy. Let's walk through this life together. Come on, follow me. You're good. I'm going to walk you right here. Just stay with me. Just walk big. You're good. I'm going to take you away from the ledge; I'm going to take you away from the traps over there. Let's see… Oh, good, that one didn't go off. I have lettuce here that will be chopped up, but just stay with me.
We're going move quickly past drugs and money. I'm going to make sure that doesn't pervert you. Keep walking. There are some traps right here. Let's just kind of weave our way through this one. Porn is a tricky one, I promise you. Let's keep going this way. All the way… Keep walking. Atta boy. Hey, way to go, and hopefully, over here, I'm going to teach you how to do that when you get older. You can take that off.
This is a picture of how God wants our world to walk through this little dangerous world that we live in. He wants us to have truth that guides us. He's a loving Father. He's saying, "Don't go through there, trusting the best ideas of men. Trust a God who sees all things. Trust me who is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path."
Do you know what's going on? We have guys that say, "To say that death sounded attractive to me is no surprise." Why? Because they're living in chaos, and they've rejected the one who says, "I want to give you my truth, and my truth will set you free." This idea is a big deal, and there are major consequences to us not getting this thing right.
Here's what I want to do. I just want to close very simply with this. I want to give you the application. What's the application of all of this? Here it is; pay attention to it. Deuteronomy 32:47 says, "This is no idle word; it is your life," meaning don't let it on your bookshelf. Get it off and read it.
People ask me all the time: "Todd, how do I know my Bible? How to I know how to quote Scripture? How do I know what to instruct my son about dating, about porn, about sex, about money? All of these things…TV, sex, drugs, money…they're all great if you use them appropriately. They're his gifts to us. But he says, 'Here's how you use them.' So how do I know?"
I say to them all the time: "You want to know your Bible?" They go, "Yes!" I go, "Are you reading it?" "Well, no, no, no. I'm not reading it." I go, "Start there. Read it, and read it not just as some amulet, some rabbit's foot that you read in the morning and move one. Jot it down. 'What's this mean to me?' Read it through."
Then, folks, pray it in. "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." Pray it in. I meditate. "Lord, today I don't want to be conformed to the world, but I want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind."
I had a sweet, dear girl who has been at Watermark for five, six years, taken countless hours of our time. She has fought depression, she has been in and out of places to give her assistance, and she came up to me this morning, and she said, "Todd, I heard you say something that's going to change my life. Do you mean to tell me that I know if something isn't true, it will lead to death?
I've been listening my whole life to people tell me I'm ugly, unacceptable, unloved, that I'm stupid. I've heard that since I was a little girl, but that's just brought me despair, death, suicidal thoughts, and isolation. That stuff can't be true if that's what that does in my life." I go, "Sweetheart, that's what we've been telling you." She said, "I'm going to start walking in truth."
I go, "Yes, you are beloved. You are redeemed by God. You are made in his image to walk in glory." You could see her, for the first time, start to go, "That would change my life if I believe that." I go, "He's been screaming it, but you're going to have to meditate on that. You're going to have surround yourself with friends who remind of things that are true."
Read it through. Don't just attend a church with a good doctrinal statement for nine years. Pray it in and live it out. Have it affect the way you treat your wife, the way you shepherd your kids, the way you deal with conflict, the way you make amends, you way you seek forgiveness, the way you extend forgiveness, the way you walk in dependence. Live it out.
Then, gang, here's the deal. Pass it on. Tell it to your neighbor. Reason with your neighbor. Do it with gentleness. Do it with kindness. Do it with respect. Give an account for the hope that is within you. Let your behavior be such that the thing on which you are slandered, those who see your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. Pass it on with gentleness and respect.
Look at Colossians, chapter 4. It says we should pray for one another. Colossians 4:2-6, it lays out that we should be devoted to prayer. In other words, meditating on God's Word, that we're reading, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving that God has shown how to walk through this world and not get our foot caught in bear traps. "Praying, at the same time, for us, as well, that God would open up a door for us through relationships, care, and love, that we might speak forth the mystery of Christ for which Paul said, 'I'm suffering greatly.'"
I want to tell you something. Truth is worth dying for. I am asking you to die with me, become unpopular and countercultural, because it matters. "…that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of every opportunity. Let your speech always…be seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."
Here's the statement that I would give you to kind of bullet this thing out. Focus on how you communicate truth as much as on the issue of truth. If you don't know the truths, you can't pass it on. Read it through, pray it in, live it out, and pass it on. We affirm it, the alternative is ugly, and the application is clear.
About four years ago a member of this church and I wrote this song. We're going to close in singing. I wrote it right out of Proverbs 3:13-18. We're going to stand, we're going to read it together, and we're going to sing it. By the grace of God, we will live it. Let's stand together. Here we go. Let's read Proverbs 3:13-18.
"How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast." Following you, God, brings us great reward. Let's sing.
It doesn't say, "Affirming that your word is true brings me great reward." It means applying that truth to my life brings great reward. If you're here this morning and you don't know that God loves you, you don't know that Jesus came to set you free and the truth is what sets you free, the truth about who he is, who you are, and what he's done about it, we will not leave here today until we're done talking to you. You're sitting next to somebody who might know, but if you don't, just let us know so we can love you.
If you know that truth, as you pray it in, as you live it out, will you pass it on? Will you be attentive to his Word so that you would not be conformed to the world, but that you might be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you can worship all throughout the week, educating, caring, confronting, rebuking, and restoring because, folks, life and death are at stake. May we not be a church with a great statement and no doing. Let us not love in word and tongue but in deed and in truth. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.
"This series will cover twelve truths that if you don?t get exactly right, the ramifications and the impact on your life will be enormous. They matter today and eternally. If you want to call yourself an orthodox follower of Christ, these are truths that you cannot miss. These are twelve central, non-negotiable principles of theology and we will discuss what it means to embrace them, the alternatives to them, as well as the application of them. In other words, what it should look like when devoted, orthodox followers of Christ live them out." Todd Wagner