Why it Matters that Eternal/Abundant Life Starts Now

The Big XII

For many believers, faith in Jesus Christ fails to make the transition from profession to practice. Old habits, struggles and strategies just won't go away. Thanksgiving, for example, is the same old dysfunctional routine we can't wait to get on the other side of. What's the secret? Is abundant life available today? How do we live a life that honors God and speaks of His glory and goodness?

Todd WagnerNov 29, 2009Colossians 1:24-29; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Peter 2:12-14; Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 12:5-11

In This Series (14)
The Lamb who Came is the Lion who is to Come: The Certainty of Christ's Return and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerDec 13, 2009
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (9 am service)
Nick VujicicDec 6, 2009
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (5:30 pm service)
Nick VujicicDec 6, 2009
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (11 am service)
Nick VujicicDec 6, 2009
Why it Matters that Eternal/Abundant Life Starts Now
Todd WagnerNov 29, 2009
The One Hope for You and for the World: Why it Matters that the Church is Healthy and Defined Correctly
Todd WagnerNov 22, 2009
The Person of the Holy Spirit: Understanding Who He is and Why That Matters
Todd WagnerNov 15, 2009
Salvation: Two Equal and Opposite Errors and Why Getting Them Straight Matters
Todd WagnerNov 8, 2009
Jesus: Who Do You Say He is and Why It Matters
Todd WagnerNov 1, 2009
Understanding Our Total Depravity and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerOct 25, 2009
The Image of God in Man and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerOct 18, 2009
The Character and Nature of God: Who He is and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerOct 11, 2009
Who Is the Trinity, and Why It Matters
Todd WagnerSep 27, 2009
The Truth About Truth: Where to Find it and Why it Matters
Todd WagnerSep 20, 2009

In This Series (14)

We are in the middle of a little series called The Big XII. We're talking about 12 major truths that if you don't embrace these fully are going to significantly impact your life. We have built week upon week with these different truths. There is an order to them. There is a reason we've taught them the way that we have. They're implications; one leads to another.

I'm going to review the last couple. I want to remind you that we talked about how and we've already sung about the fact that Jesus is our great hope, and he is the one who has dealt with our imperfection.

Then we went from that, and what he's given us because he's pulled us back into relationship with a perfect God, he has covered our imperfections, so we don't have to be consumed by the wrath and righteous justice of God, and he's given us the gift of being saved from our own independent, finite, fallen nature. Salvation, we've talked about, is a gift that can't be earned, it's certainly not deserved, and it should never be ignored.

We talked about after that, that what God gave us along with a renewed relationship with him is the benefit of never being separated from him. He gives us his Spirit. We talked about the Spirit as not just an impersonable force, but the Spirit of God is personable, he's a he, not an idea or, "it," he is fully present in those who believe, and he is fully necessary for you to live a life that is honoring to God. In other words, the habits and the priorities of a disciple are forever the same.

If you were around Christ when he was physically here on earth, you had to be where he was, do what he said, and you had to let him be your rabbi (your teacher) in order to learn from him. The same is true of Christ today. The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, and the helper are all names God has given us of the Spirit. So what we must do is listen to the Spirit and his will and way in our life for us to experience the transformation that comes by being encouraged through him.

We need the Spirit. We don't trust God. We aren't saved by faith and then live faithful lives by works. No. We are saved by faith, and we live effective lives by faith. In other words, if you've ever said, "I'm just not going to do it. It doesn't feel right to me," what you're doing in that moment is saying, "I don't really care what God says or his Spirit or his Word says. I don't care what the community of saints that spur me onto love and good deeds say. I'm going to do what I want to do. If it doesn't make sense to me, I don't care."

In other words, you're not going to ever really want to do what God wants you to do because you, like me, are a sinner. What I am is a sinner whose eyes have been opened, and I see the destructiveness of my ways. I was just sitting back there, and I scribbled this down. Thanksgiving is a great time to talk about this because most of us just got back together with our family, which means most of us stepped back into the dysfunction that is our families. Right? All of us.

I wrote my journey for next year. They always give me January 1. For January 1, I had the genealogy of Christ. As you look through, all I did with the genealogy of Christ is looked through and saw that there were murderers, liars, and prostitutes in Jesus' earthly family. So I took some comfort in that because to the best of my knowledge, in my immediate family there are no prostitutes or murderers. There are a bunch of crazy people.

I thought about my buddy Jeff Foxworthy who always ends his little country countdown by saying, "Remember, everybody's family is crazy. So call your mama and hug your kids." What I want to let you know is if you just had a discouraging Thanksgiving, or you had moments in there where you went, "This is nuts," welcome to the world. This is what I just scribbled down… If you continue to relate to one another the way you've always related to one another, you will continue to have the same relationships you have always had with one another.

Now you go, "Genius, Wagner. Absolutely genius. We came here for that?" Yes. The reason you had insanity in your Thanksgiving gathering is because you related to each other the way you have related to each other for generations. Dad was grumpy until he didn't want to be grumpy. Mom always told you, "Shh. Let him go. He'll come back eventually."

Or Mom is a controlling, manipulative individual. Everybody knows she's controlling and manipulative, and nobody is going to speak truth into her because if Mom isn't happy, then nobody is happy. The truth is if you let Mama live like that, nobody is going to be happy anyway. Junior is rebellious and apathetic. You are arrogant and prideful and don't believe you have issues that you contribute. Everybody brings that to the Thanksgiving table, and it's crazy.

If we relate to one another the way the Scriptures say we should relate to one another because we've learned from Christ how to relate to one another, it can change your Thanksgiving. It can change your life. But just praying a prayer, acknowledging that God is good, and saying you need a Savior doesn't change your turkey dinner. What changes your turkey dinner is when you begin to walk with Jesus and listen to him and know he is fully necessary in your life.

Last week I talked about how God gave us the church. I said, "The church is the hope of the world, and it's God's gift to you. It's his means of grace to the world." Rightly, I had a great conversation with a friend this week. He goes, "Wait. I thought Christ was the hope of the world. We're not to put our hope in anything other than Christ. I thought God's gift of grace came through Jesus. You just said the church is the hope of the world, and the church is God's means of grace to the world."

Well, that's true in the sense that we're talking about today the ultimate hope is Jesus, the only means of real grace is Jesus, but when we are yoked with him, and we are the body of Jesus (that's what the church is called) the church becomes today's manifestation of that. Let me read this idea to you from Colossians 1. It segues very neatly into where we're going today. Each of these builds onto one another.

By the way, the reason most churches are dysfunctional and not productive is because they keep relating to each other the way they've always related to one another. So they're just as nuts as your Thanksgiving dinner. Pastors don't lead and serve and love the way God wants them to lead and serve and love. The body doesn't lead and serve and love the way the body is supposed to lead and serve and love. So the church is a disgrace. It's a dead gathering.

People go, "Why do we do this? Why do we get together like this?" Not every Thanksgiving, but every Sunday. We still are a dysfunctional family during the week. It's because it doesn't matter if you pray over the turkey or pray over Communion, if you don't follow the Spirit who is fully present and fully necessary, you're going to keep relating to one another the way you've always related to one another, and your relationships are going to be like they've always been with one another. Do you see this?

This is what Paul says in Colossians 1. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." It doesn't mean the church and what Paul did made Christ's death sufficient. That's not what Paul is talking about. Everything Christ did was sufficient for us to be reconciled to him. Paul is saying, "I am manifesting to you now the love of God. I am suffering for you to show you the love of God."

The body of Christ sacrifices for the world, so the world might perceive God's goodness, that God would let his children, his church, suffer, not be consumed with their own comfort, to come to be served but to serve and give themselves as a gift to others, just the way Christ gave himself to others, and we suffer. We live in a world that hates us. We live in a world that misunderstands us.

So today has a means of seeing the grace of God at work. When we live sacrificially, when we give of our time, when we live humbly and avail ourselves to Christ, when we don't just stack up provision for ourselves, but we use it to advance God's name and God's purposes, the world goes, "Why are you doing this?" We say, "So you might see the love of God expressed through us." Paul says,

"Of this church [that kind of church which suffers for the sake of God] ** I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit…that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."**

Paul goes on to say, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ." The word man there is human, not male. "For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me."

What Paul says is when the church gathers like this, the church united living as Christ lived, loving as Christ loved, and relating to each other the way God relates to himself in the context of the Trinity and relates to us in the context of love, it becomes a source of glory. It becomes the hope of the world. People want around that Thanksgiving table. That's what God wants our sanctified families to be.

The truth is that all of us have a tendency to go, "It doesn't feel right to me. My flesh doesn't want to love. My flesh doesn't want to be gracious," and so we don't. That's where we looked two weeks ago. We looked at what Christ said. "Be controlled continually be the Spirit of God, not by what seems right to you, and there will be life there."

One of the things we do every week is we ask people to put out the first impressions of what they think about Watermark and what they first experienced. It lets us know what the aroma is that we give off. These are unedited. These are some of the things that folks wrote down for the last six weeks. Some of them are really encouraging.

"It's welcoming."

"It was big." We hear this a lot.

"No one welcomed me. This is my first time here at Watermark. All I wanted was to come to a church that wouldn't outcast me. I feel outcast. Nobody greeted me."

"I really feel welcomed here." We hear this a lot too.

"Friendly. Large, yet warm. Lively."

"Very welcoming. Everyone was really nice."

But one individual not living the way God wants or can not experience what we're trying to share, and it affects their opinion of Christ's body. What I want to do is put up this last one because I want to talk about how we are to live. I have no idea who this is.

"Very crowded."

"Love it. Trust it. Agree with it."

"I've been coming regularly since July. Love it."

"Very similar to our former church. Felt right at home. Great message."

"A lot of potential to be a pillar in the community and be famous for Christ."

I love this one. "The volunteer in the Community Room is laying lengthwise on the couch with his shoes off while pregnant ladies are standing in the back or having to sit in the stackable chairs." That was their first impression.

Just so you know, we didn't have a volunteer, per se, in the Community Room until that. Now we do. We don't know the story, but somebody came and was wearing a shirt. Maybe he had served early setting things up around here. They went in early before folks filled in, and they had laid down on one of the couches in this room over here, and they took their shoes off and just laid there. Then folks came in later, and some of them were pregnant, and apparently, there were no more chairs in that overflow room at 11:00, and that was their first impression.

They go, "You know what. I don't really see Jesus in that. 'For the Son of Man did not come to lounge but to give women a seat.' I mean, civil people do that." That's hilarious to me. I have no idea who you are. I'm not even mad at you, but it does let you know folks are coming here and they're going to go, "I want to see if there is a Spirit-filled community here. Are people transformed?"

It's not just here. When you say you're a Christ follower, people watch you and go, "Okay, Christ follower. Let me see what it's like when someone follows Jesus." I want to show you a little video right now. We've used it before. Many people have a misunderstanding, and I'm going to give you the truth that we affirm this morning.

One of the things we've said from the very beginning is that full devotion is normal for a believer. That doesn't mean devotion to propositional ideas. Propositional ideas are important, but Jesus is a person and calls us to live in relationship to him and not just ideas put down on doctrinal statements.

One of the problems with the church in America and sometimes with us individually is that we are committed to orthodoxy (straight truth) and not orthopraxy (straight practice), which is to say walking as Christ calls us to walk. What makes us who we are is we are people who don't just say something about Jesus, we walk with him. He's not just words on a page. He's not just some plastic Jesus. He is a person, and we know him and enjoy him.

Here's our affirmation, and if you don't understand this… You want to say, "We're Christians. We gather around the table and give thanks to God," which is to say that this would come up. "Our Thanksgiving meal is dysfunctional and a disaster." Just because we pray and end up at church on Sundays, doesn't mean our lives have been affected by the gospel.

The life that Jesus offers, which is eternal, is eternal not just in quantity. In other words, it's not just what you're going to assurance for at the grave forward; it is about a quality of life. It is an abundant life. This is the truth. The life that Jesus offers is eternal in quantity and quality. If you walk with him today, there is going to be joy around the turkey or joy around the stale bread because there is love there in the way people relate to one another.

How many of us had incredible Thanksgiving spreads, and yet we couldn't wait to leave it? Scripture says, "Better is a dish of vegetables and love with it than a house full of feasting and strife." Amen to that. Christ wants you to have a house with love in it. How do you get love in a house? It's not by relating to each other the way you've always related to each other. It's by relating to each other the way Christ calls you to. Following him. Not doing what feels right, but what is right.

In John 10:10, there is one who's come to steal your joy, to destroy your Thanksgiving, and to kill your family. He is a liar. Verse 10 says, "…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." How are you going to have life abundantly? Every one of Paul's books in the New Testament is set up the exact same way. It's set up with a significant (often half) amount of the book on doctrine, on truth, on who Christ is, and what he's done to deliver you from bondage to sin and self and to reconcile you to a holy God.

He always then gets to a pivot point in his books where he says, "Finally then," or, "I urge you, therefore," or, "Therefore, my brothers." He does that in Philippians and Ephesians and Colossians. He does it in Romans. Paul, when he's writing, goes to a point of application. If we don't ever apply this truth we know, it doesn't matter if we pray before we carve into the turkey, we're still going to destroy one another.

Jesus has come that you guys can start to have the blessing of his kingdom life now. It will never be perfect. That's why we need a Savior and need to give each other grace. Christ's hope was that there'd be communities of people here now who would give hope that there really is a heaven because they would start to relate to each other in a way that folks would go, "You really do persevere in love."

So here's what I want to show you. In Romans 12 is a classic verse. You're going to find out that, just like we were told in Ephesians, "To all of you, let God continually lead you," you're going to see the exact same thing in Romans 12.

Romans 12 says, "Therefore…" In other words, in light of 11 chapters of truth. "…I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God…" The best way to translate that is that it is the right response to all he has done for you. Verse 2 is the key.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…" This is important. Where it says, "Be transformed," that is just like, "Be filled."It's an imperative plural command.It's a command to all of us. It is a perfect passive present verb, which means it is an action which should be continually be happening constantly to all of you.

It is not something you do. This is the mistake most of us make. "I am going to transform myself because I love God," and you don't ever transform yourself. You keep screwing up Thanksgiving. You have to let God lead you. Don't be discouraged that you still want to get angry, and you still want to go back to your old patterns of relating.

This is what it says. "All of you be consistently and constantly being transformed. Let it happen to you." That's what a passive verb does. It's not something youdo; it's something you let be done to you. So how are you transformed? Answer: Romans 12:2. "…by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is…"

So many of us think, "If we do this, then we will live in a way that is good and acceptable and perfect." That's not what Romans 12:2 is saying. Romans 12:2 is saying, "Don't do what your mind thinks you should do. Don't lean on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him." When you do that, it'll prove out for you that that's a better way. You'll see that that's the good way. That's the acceptable way. It is the perfect way. It is God's way.

How did we handle conflict this Thanksgiving? How did we deal with Mom's dysfunction, Dad's dysfunction, or my dysfunction? The way God wants us to, or the way that anger, human manipulation, and old family patterns do?

Did you see anybody withdraw this Thanksgiving and go, "This is crazy. Gah"? Anybody see somebody escalate? "You jack with me? I'm going to jack with you more, so you'll learn not to jack with me." Anybody see somebody negatively interpret? Someone made a comment, and then somebody spun off. They didn't even mean that comment to be critical, but they just took it and ran with it. Did anybody see somebody invalidate another person's feelings when they talked about how they felt, like, "Well if you just didn't feel that way, we wouldn't have a problem"?

Those are all normal human ways to relate to one another, and that is not the way God relates to us. God never withdraws. He always initiates. God never escalates. He's always gracious. God never negatively interprets. He always interjects truth. God never invalidates. He understands.

When you begin to love and live that way, it's still going to cause some conflict because people will have a hard time with what you do when you all of a sudden say, "Hey, we don't roll that way." When Dad's losing his temper, everybody backs away. We don't go to him in love. We don't let him experience consequences. That's why Dad continues to be dysfunctional and screw up Thanksgiving.

God says, "This is how you are to relate." This book is exceedingly practical, but I want to tell you something. You don't win the Super Bowl by getting issued a playbook. You don't lose weight because you join a gym and get a personal trainer. Every now and then when I go to a gym, I see people with personal trainers. I sometimes see that person sitting down and getting back rubs by the personal trainer during the training session that they're telling their friends, "I go to see a trainer." They're getting foot rubs and back massages, and they're talking. That won't change you.

What changes you is when that trainer says, "Drop and give me 20. Run around that. Go do three sets of that at this weight." On and on and on. By the way, not just when you're in the gym. "When you leave here, don't eat that. Eat this. Good nutrition is a part of how we train together." If you want to eat the way you want to eat and you can say you have a nutritionist, it doesn't matter because you're not doing what your nutritionist says. So you look the same way you've always looked and feel the same way you've always felt.

This is your nutritionist. This is your trainer. This is your playbook. So how are you changed by it to begin to experience a life that everybody would look at and go, "That is a good life. Those are good people. That is a perfect community"? Answer: You don't do what's right to you. You go, "What's this book say? Am I going to live by it?"

I don't do what Dallas says about the ways that I organize my kids' athletic life or social life or dating life. I do what this book says about how my kid dresses, whether or not he goes to see that movie, or whether or not he participates that way in sports. When you do it that way, the world doesn't always like it, but you start to experience the peace, and you go, "This is a good way. This is a better way."

Let me just encourage you with something, and then I'm going to dive in and get very practical with some more Scripture. Don't get beat up that it's hard to begin to follow a God who you just understood for the first time is good. Most of us have been used to serving one god our whole life (it's me).

Most of us have been to church for our entire life. For 18 years, I went to the Wagner Family Church. I was taught there how to marry and how to relate in a marriage by a guy. I watched a guy for 18 years model for me how to lead a family. That was my church. I watched a mom go, "This is how you feed a family. This is how you cook."

It's so funny because when you have someone else's apple pie, it's not Mom's apple pie. It may not be better, but it's the apple pie I grew to love, so it's the apple pie I want to make. It may not be the best apple pie, but if it's my apple pie, I'm going to be mad at you if you don't make my apple pie. God says, "You need to start using my recipes. Good ol' Mom has some good things. Dad has done some good things, maybe, but only if they're consistent with my recipe."

So I've had to reeducate myself about how to lead a family. I've had to reeducate myself about how to use money. I've had to reeducate myself about how to inform family decisions. I was not taught at home how to make family decisions and relate to one another the way Scripture says redeemed people related to one another.

Some of you guys grew up in families and went to church at home in families who were really, really crazy. The way you were lead was through intimidation and name-calling. Some of you were even used a source of pleasure by uncles and cousins and fathers and were told, "Your worth is only that which can give me pleasure in that moment," in very abusive ways. You have to relearn that's not who you are. The way you will be transformed is by listening to a loving Father who cares about you.

Here's my analogy. Before I got married, I had a dog. His name was Caleb, and Caleb was a great dog. He and I had a great relationship. I would literally tell him to go fetch me a cold one. I watched that Stroh's beer commercial. Remember that with that dog, Alex, who would go in? So when I would tell Caleb, "Go fetch me a cold one," he would go in and grab a sock I'd tied around the refrigerator. He'd open that door and grab me a Pepsi or Mountain Dew. He'd open it and drop it and nose the door shut and walk back in and put the soda at my feet.

He was the ring bearer in my wedding. When it was time for me to get the ring, I turned to the best man and kidded around. I said, "I guess Caleb has it." I whistled for him, and he came up with in a little bowtie and little cufflinks. He sat next to me. I leaned over. He lifted his paw up. We acted like he had the ring in his palm. I told him to go out of there, and I got the ring. He was a very well-trained dog, to say the least.

Caleb was what was called a "one-man dog." I could tell him to sit and stay, and it didn't matter if you were strong or beautiful or rich. I could throw a little dummy out there for him to retrieve, and he would not move until I told him to move. In fact, if you got up there and whistled, and you begged, and you did everything but touch him, he would just turn around and look right at me until my voice said whatever I told him to go to release, and then he would go. I could whisper it, and when my voice said it, he went. He knew I was his master.

Let's just say I was an abusive master. Let's say the reason he did it was because I beat the sap out of him if he didn't do what I told him to do. This was not the case. I never had him on a leash his entire life. We had a relationship that was bound by love. But let's say I intimidated him, I beat him, I starved him, and I was cruel to him, and somebody came up and said, "Hey Todd. I don't like the way you're treating that dog."

I go, "Well, tough. It's my dog." They go, "Well, I'll tell you what. I'm going to redeem that dog for you." I go, "He isn't for sale," but then somebody paid a price I couldn't resist. Pick your number. They gave me $1 billion for this dog that I hated. I said, "Okay. You're giving me $1 billion for that dog that I'd just as soon kick as look at? I have $1 billion, and he's been redeemed."

He is now your dog. You love him and care for him. You bring him back to your house, and you tell him, "Caleb, you live with me," and you put Caleb in your front yard. It's been a day, it's been a week and I go driving by, and I say to that dog, "Heel." What do you think that dog is going to do even though you're at the house going, "No, no Caleb. Stay here. Don't go! Stay here."

He is going to come running to me, so I can kick him, so I can beat him, and so I can abuse him. Every time you call him back and say, "Come over here. There's food. There's healing," he might go back because he's running away from me in that moment, and I can't come on your yard. If he comes to me, I'll run over him if I get to because I'm just an abusive jerk.

How many times do you think I would have to go by even though you keep saying, "Caleb, you don't have to listen to him anymore. I'm your master. I love you. You don't need to keep going that direction. There is a new way to live in relationship with somebody who loves you." It's going to take him a long time to not respond to that voice, isn't it, because that's the voice he learned. He was a one-man dog.

You were a one-god person, but that god hated you, and he came to steal, kill, and destroy. Now you have learned that you don't need to be oppressed by that master. You have been redeemed. You've been bought with the blood of Christ, and you have a new Master. Guess what? He's going to win you by love, and he's going to say, "Stay with me. Follow me."

That old master you've listened to for years, that your whole family went to his church, keeps saying, "No, relate this way. Respond this way. Live in anger this way. Live in lust this way. Deal with your problems this way." And you don't change. It breaks God's heart when he watches you run back to that old master who's not even your master any more. But it's a familiar voice. It's a familiar way. It's what you were taught, and you don't experience life.

By the grace of God, you're his, and when you die, he'll take you and bury you and deal with that. But right now, he says, "You don't need to go." So what do you do? The first thing you want to do is chain yourself in that guy's yard. You want to say, "Put up a fence." You want to say, "Let me get around other dogs that can remind me and bark truth to me when I hear that voice, and say, "You don't need to go."

That's called church. That's called community. That's called friends. It means you don't act in impulse because your impulse has to run where you've always been trained, and where you've been trained screws up Thanksgiving. There's the analogy.

Now I want to show you this. This is what most of us just got through. Second Peter 2:12-14. He talks about individuals who follow false spirits, unholy spirits. They mock the power of the deceiver. "But these [interestingly enough to my earlier illustration] , like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct…" In other words, to do what is right to them when really all they're going to do is be captured and killed. They revile where they have no knowledge.

It says they are "** … ***suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong."* The reason their family is dysfunctional is because they live in a dysfunctional way. So they suffer because they live dysfunctionally. They don't practice the "one anothers." "They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you…" It's talking about people who are not led by the Spirit.

"…having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children…" How would you like to have Thanksgiving with that? People whose hearts are trained in manipulation, trained in divorce, trained in adultery, or trained in anger. "But I go to church, and I've said Jesus is my King." But are you going to listen to him?

What you have to realize, first of all, is don't beat yourself up that that voice is so familiar and it's so easy to go back there. Of course, it is. For 18 years that's what you were trained in. That the one voice that told you, "This is how you relate," and now you're learning of Christ. Are you sick of that kind of Thanksgiving? Look at Matthew 11:28-30 and look at what Jesus says. "I want you to start to experience life now. I'm just not going to be here at the grave so you can move in paradise. I want you to start to redeem your Thanksgiving table."

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke…" In other words, you have to yoke yourself to something, so yoke yourself to Jesus. Then what's Jesus say? "…and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS."

Your Thanksgiving is going to be a blessing. Even if the turkey is burned, Mom doesn't freak out because her self-worth is not tied to her stuffing. Mom's self-worth is tied to her Savior. Jesus said, "…My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.""Better is a dish of vegetables with love with it, than a house full of feasting and strife."

Do you know who we are, people? We are people who screw up Thanksgiving when we live as we've been trained to live. We are people who are a blessing that others want to be around us and our families around the church when we learn from Jesus.

Here's what you need to know. Do you know how you start to experience abundant life right now? It's not by trying. It's by training. Its spiritual disciplines are the means. When you give yourself to Bible intake, when you give yourself to memorization, meditation, and prayer on what the Scripture says you should, you're learning of Christ.

When you put yourself around a pack of other dogs who have now been redeemed by another master, who have learned his voice better than you, and you don't go bolting out the first time your flesh has a shot of adrenaline to do something, but you turn and look in the context of community and go, "What should I do, dogs?" They go, "Let's run together this way. Let's go ask our master. He knows what to do."

Some of you guys go, "But I can't. I can't not go." Yes, you can.I don't care if there's a dog in heat across the street and you feel like no one has ever been attracted to that scent like you have. Yes, you can, but you have to get inside. You have to say, "Put me on a leash." You have to say, "Let me meditate on your voice," and you don't try, you train.

Let me show you a number of verses that talks about this. Look at Luke 6:39-43. Jesus says this. "And He also spoke a parable to them: 'A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?" In other words, your dad who doesn't live with the "One Another's" of Scripture, can't teach you how to have a Thanksgiving because he didn't know how to have a Thanksgiving. If your dad is not informed by the Spirit of God, if your family was not informed by the Word of God, you're going to screw up Thanksgiving if you follow him, and he is your pastor. Make Jesus your pastor.

"A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher." Be trained by Christ. Don't be conformed to the world but be conformed to Jesus. What would Jesus do in this moment? How would Jesus handle this conflict? Jesus is not conflict-avoidant right here in this context.

*"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye." *

Jesus is saying, "I want you to take the log out of your daddy and your mommy and your spouse and your kids, but before you do that, make sure you're going to do it the way Jesus would do it." So I'm not conflict-avoidant here, but I want to make sure I do it the way Christ would do it and not the way I would do it (just to humiliate them and show them how smart I am). When you're trained, then you can live that way.

In Romans 12:2 it says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…" How do you renew your mind? By Scripture. It alone is given by God, and it's profitable to teach you, to reprove you, to correct you, and to train you, so you may be a man of God, equipped for every Thanksgiving and every family tragedy.

There's another way that this happens. That is that you keep going through Thanksgivings and you go through marriages, and you lose relationships with your kids, you get your butt thrown in jail with another DUI, and you have another affair, and eventually, you go, "You know what? I'm sick of listening to me. I'm sick of going to church under that leadership. Have you forgotten what it says in Hebrews 12:5-11?


It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

Do you know what that means? If you don't want to learn from Christ and be trained by him, if you don't want to learn from the Scriptures and be trained by that, God will let you be trained by your own divorce and dysfunctional family around a turkey. Eventually, you'll go, "I don't want this to be my legacy." Then you have to stop leading the way you were taught to lead and lead the way Christ taught you to lead. That doesn't happen by trying. It happens by training.

One of the things the Wagner family does a lot is role-play. We role-play all the time. I role-play what my girl is going to do when she's asked out on a date. I role-play what my son is going to do when he thinks he's attracted to a girl. I role-play what my son is going to do when he is offered porn. I role-play what my son is going to do when he is offered alcohol. I role-play what my son is going to do when he has been dealt a crushing defeat.

We talk about it. They're not perfect at it. Neither am I, but we go back, we confess a spiritual discipline, we get with community who can remind us, and we train ourselves for the next opportunity.

There's a guy named Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry was robbed. After he was robbed, he went home. He sat down, and this is what he wrote in his journal that night after he was robbed. "Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed."

You can plug in, "rape," or you can plug in, "verbally abused," and you go, "How can a guy who was robbed who was faithful in the service of God like Matthew Henry, sit down at night and have everything he had taken from him and thank God?"

Answer: This man trained himself to respond like Christ. He knew there was a God who was just and a God who was good. This was a man who wrote a commentary on every verse in the Bible. So when he was robbed, he sat down and did a commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. "Rejoice always…in everything give thanks."

"Lord, what do I have to be thankful for? I was robbed today. I'm a minister. I don't have much money. All my money was taken."

"Have you ever been robbed before?"


"Thank me for that. All right? Done. They took everything, right?"


"But you didn't have very much, right?"


"Thank me for that. Did they kill you?"


"So you have another day to make money and live again. Right?"


"Thank me for that. Are you a robber who is going to be condemned by me if he doesn't meet the grace of God, or have you met the grace of God?"


"Thank me for that."

"Thank you, Lord."

That isn't normal. That is an alien and a stranger and somebody I want to share turkey with. Here's what I want you to know. God calls you to experience that kind of life now. Are you disgusted by your Thanksgiving tables? Why don't you learn from Jesus and start experiencing abundant life now?

My prayer is that I will be the kind of dad… I have had two kinds of Thanksgiving at my house with no relatives around. Great ones where my kids' hearts are full, and they're grateful that they're led by me. And Christmas mornings where I'm sitting there opening gifts, and somebody hits my elbow and the coffee goes out onto my precious new sweat suit, and I go, "What are you doing?" I have screwed up Christmas.

I am training so there are more wins at Christmas and wins on Monday and wins on Tuesday than there are scared, shrinking-back children. I'm in a community of saints who love me, confront me, admonish me, encourage me, and help me. The church is God's gift to me. If you aren't in one that loves you enough to take the log out of their own eye so they can see clearly the speck in yours, find it. Train yourself to follow Jesus. Start experiencing life.

Father, I thank you for my friends here this morning. I pray we would quit living in this little fantasy world that because we've prayed some prayer over turkey or prayed some prayer at some revival, that our life should be easy. No. Training is difficult. May we take what you have offered us that we might be rebuked, reproved, corrected, and trained so we can be a source of blessing.

Many of us, Father, have gone to church under godless shepherds for a long time. We are familiar with masters' voices who will steal our joy, will kill our families, and will destroy our marriages and children. We want to learn your gentle and humble voice. So put us around another pack of dogs who've been made sheep, who can remind us of the Good Shepherd so we can live in your will, and we can know how good your way is, how acceptable to our soul your way is, and how perfect it is to walk with you. Amen.

Let's stand and sing this one chorus. When you sing, "How great is our God," what you're saying is when you live and lead the way he wants you to live and lead, you experience his greatness and goodness. So as you sing this song, make it your prayer to be trained by him.


All will see if you're not conformed to the world, but you're being continually and constantly transformed by the renewing of your mind so you might prove out how great it is to be led by a Christ-follower. "This is good. This is an acceptable family. This is almost perfect, even though it's not even perfect, but it's close. I'm so glad I'm a part of this family, that you're my King, and that you love me the way Christ loved me. I want to be around your turkey. I want to know your Lord." That's the life.

If you don't know that King, would you let us tell you about him? Would you check that box, "I want to know that King," and we'll meet with you this week? If you know him, will you train yourself to follow him in community and in humility now?

Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.

About 'The Big XII'

"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