A Great Assurance From a Great Leader

Gospel According to Mark, Volume 4

As Jesus speaks with his fearful disciples concerning his upcoming betrayal, death, and resurrection, we see that great leaders are in touch with their peoples' fears and concerns; that great leaders are willing to do themselves what they are willing to ask of others; and that great leaders are able to provide perspective that makes the sacrifice make sense.

Todd WagnerJan 13, 2002Mark 10:32-34; Mark 10:28; Mark 10:28-30; Mark 10:31-34; Mark 10:32; Mark 10:33

Lord, thanks for the chance right now to apply one way to do what we just asked that you would do, to run after you by taking some time and ordering and prioritizing our lives in such a way that we would gather with other people that would encourage us and would remind us that we're not crazy.

Thank you that we get a chance to go to your Word and to remember some things that you've said to us to spur us on as well as to think about ways that we've practically fleshed that out here together. We thank you for a chance to do that right now wherever we're at, Lord. I pray in your grace you'd give us the means to take that next step to follow more after you, to follow hard after you, whatever that looks like for each of us. Lord, meet us there. In Christ's name, amen.

Last week we took some time to set the stage for the year and remind ourselves what it is that we're openly about as a group of folks who worship together here at Watermark Community Church. We talked about our core purpose is for all of us to be fully devoted followers of Christ and that we measure our success by our ability to be and make disciples.

We've been looking at a book called Mark, which is one of the four gospels we have that tell the story about Jesus and how he has called us to live in right response to him. In the process of revealing to those that were with him on this earth who he was, their different responses to him teach us about our responses to him even today.

We're in Mark, chapter 10. If you have your Bible and you want to open up there with us, we're in Mark, chapter 10, verse 28. We're going to look at just a few verses this morning. Then wrap up in a focused way what we began last week as we begin a new year together. Let's just read this little section of Scripture. Let me set the stage for you as you turn there.

This is a book that God is using to tell us who this Jesus is. The best way to understand somebody is to let him speak for himself. So God worked through man to produce a perfect record of the life of Christ. Now a lot of people ask, "How can imperfect men produce a perfect book? How can men that are finite in their understanding write about infinite truths? How can people that are temporal, that are here and gone, know about eternity?"

The Scripture tells us the answer is that God used men, used individuals, about 40 different authors, about 10 different civilizations, about 3,000 different years from three different continents to record for us a Word that he himself authored and preserved. There really is no other explanation that we can make for a book that is so accurate in its history and its archaeology. It is a book that reveals meaning that man cannot introduce through philosophy, purpose, and significance. It talks about beginnings and endings.

There is no other explanation for a book like this unless there is a divine Author behind it. God has said, "I want you to have this so that you can know me. There are things which eye hasn't seen, ear hasn't heard. There are things which haven't entered into the hearts of men. All these things are freely given to those who love me."

He gave us this book that we might know perfectly what it is that God wanted us to know. That same thing is true with the preservation of it. How do you know that this book is what God intended for us to have, even if he worked through men to initially write it, what they call the original autographs? How do we know that what we have today is an accurate representation of that book?

I have to ask you again, "If God wanted to work through humankind to produce a book, and then God wanted to preserve that book in the midst of all sorts of copies and manuscripts through time, couldn't he do it?" The answer is yes. If you say no, then your God is too small. Your God isn't big enough. By definition, God can do whatever he wants to do. So if he wanted to do that, he could.

Let me just throw this out here as an aside. I realize that some people out there are like, "Well, listen. I'm not even sure I can still be confident that the Bible is God's word." That's completely appropriate. I want to remind you. We've got a place and people that you can go to and fire any question you ever want to ask about the contradictions, supposed errors, and things of that sort and wrestle with them and to work through them. We have people who said they know this book is from the Lord or are basing their life on that. You can compare it to other sacred writings.

One of the great things about this book is if it is true, then no amount of scrutiny can affect it. There are no secrets. We don't say, "Please don't ask that one question." If it's true, then it doesn't matter what question we ask. We welcome questions. Let's dig in and look at them together. God gave us this book. He preserved it for us and wants us to go forward with it. We're going to look at it now, at the life of this person, Jesus Christ.

Mark, chapter 10, verse 28. He just got through in Mark 10 talking about how there was a man who came to him who wanted to offer himself to God on the basis of his own righteousness. We sang a song a little bit ago, "Righteousness is what I long for. Righteousness is what I need. Righteousness is what you want from me."

That word righteousness is a big word. What does it mean? The best way I can describe it to you is somebody whose life is as it ought to be, absent of anything that is less than good. None of us by the standard of righteousness that God has set, which is perfection, can ever give to God what he wants from us in and of our own selves.

This little section in Mark that we just got through with a couple of weeks ago is Christ explaining that to a young man who came and said, "Hey, listen. I've done everything as far as I can tell that you want somebody to do in order to give you a resume that you would go, 'Hey, that guy is righteous.'" The righteousness the Bible tells us is available to all men as a righteousness which comes when you acknowledge your shortcoming and ask him to bridge that gap between the best and worst life that we can live and his holy standard.

The Scriptures are all about how God has done that. It's done through this thing called a cross. It had this one Jesus hanging on it who claimed to be God himself. He was fully God and fully man, perfect and without sin, and yet bearing our sins on the cross that God might be just in executing his wrath against sin and yet loving and justifying, or declaring righteous, those that weren't. That's the story of the Bible in a nutshell.

To close the loop of that little earlier, if you're here today and people say to me, "Hey, I'm not sure that's where I am with the Scriptures." What I usually say to people is simply this, "I'm not asking you whether or not you think the Bible is God's Word. What I'm asking you is if you understand the central message of the Bible.

Without a question, it is the most debated, recorded, produced, filmed, talked about, read book in all of history. More languages have this book than any other. It has been attempted to be snuffed out. It has been memorized. It has been burned. It has been banned, but it has never been eradicated.

It would be a rather unintellectual approach to completely throw out what this book says before you even understand the central message of it. So what's the central message of that book? That's the main question I would have you ask before you let it roll off your back that it's not important. The central message is that righteousness comes, not from anything that we do, but from what God has done. In a nutshell, that's our faith. It's not what we do but what he has done.

The section we just got through is Jesus illustrating that. He illustrated it to a guy who has come to be known as the rich young ruler by showing him that he did not truly have a heart that loved God. He said to him, "Hey, if you want to really follow me, then get rid of all the things that are encumbering you and that are really what your life is about," which for this gentleman was possessions.

He said, "You leave them and you follow hard after me." The guy didn't want to do that because that was his god. He exposed ultimately where his heart was. He wasn't following hard after the Lord. Jesus was saying this and his disciples were listening. Peter, who had left a lot, chimes in right here. That's where we are. Look at verse 28.

"Peter began to say to Him, 'Behold…'" Unlike that guy, "…we have left everything and followed [after] You." Jesus responded by saying, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with…" **Mark very honestly adds,"…persecutions; and in the age to come…" You will receive something great."…eternal life."**

Now he throws that out right there. Let me just make a quick note. There's no chic advertising campaign by Jesus here. He doesn't say, "You be faithful now and we'll just chuck you 70 brown-haired virgins, men." Or, ladies, "We'll put you someplace where you don't have to wear makeup or shave your legs." It's called Europe.

There is no cheap, subtle offer of life here. He just says, "Look, what I'm going to tell you is that some of you, by making a decision about who I am, are in fact going to cost yourselves relationships with individuals within your immediate family because not everybody in your family is going to say about me what you're going to see, and that is that I am the one and my words match up with my works.

It's going to cost you, but I'll tell you what. Whatever you lose, you're going to get back a hundredfold because I'm going to put you into a community of faith where every guy is your brother, where every gal is your sister, and where every older woman will mother you and care for you, shepherd you, and provide for you.

They will share with you, not because it's a communist society or even a socialist society, but because these people, who I will work in the midst of, will follow my servant leader example. They will do whatever they need to do in order to care for those that they are kindred spirits with." That's what Christ promised.

You're going to hear me talk in just a second about one of the things that we call you to here and God calls all of us to in terms of what a fully devoted follower of Christ looks like. It is an individual who is committed to authentic community. That means that we genuinely look at each other when we are clear about our profession, not just somebody who shows up and who says, "Hey, I need some help," in order to get what they want and then to move away.

The Scripture says in relationship to women who had lost husbands and who were, therefore, unable to provide for themselves, that you should only care for those who are widows indeed. Simply holding up a sign or showing up someplace and saying, "Hey, I need some stuff from you? You guys are the people that are supposed to provide for me. So, how about a handout?"

There is no question that a ministry of grace to them in order to share with them why we're motivated to serve them makes some sense. But to continue to enable an irresponsible lifestyle is something that God's Word specifically warns us against. It does tell us that if we are part of a household of faith, truly connected with each other and doing all that we can to pursue the way, we should do no small thing in order to care for one another and make sure that we are well-clothed, well-fed, and well-loved.

Jesus is saying this, "Listen, you're going to lose some stuff. Let me just tell you, Peter, you didn't make a bad decision. You're not going to lose a thing. Maybe you got rid of the house that you owned in the region of Galilee which you lived, but have you ever been left out in the cold as you walked with me? No. No."

In my years of doing what I've specifically been called to do, which is to serve in a vocational role, I will tell you that my first five to eight years out of college I was raking in $10,000 to 12,000 a year sometimes. Just loaded. There were some times where I was involved that there wasn't even enough to pay the salary for a few weeks at a time. I will let you know that I was more cared for by that community of faith which I was serving than had I been making $120,000.

Groceries would show up. People would have me over for dinner. I never for a second thought that I would be left out in the cold. It didn't even cross my mind. I also knew that I probably wasn't going to be somebody who was going to be able to invite a lot of people into my supper table. At that point, God was teaching me a lot about trusting him and letting the body of Christ care for me in a way that now I can be a part of that in loving and serving some other people.

I have seen this Scripture lived out in my life. I can remember as I was wrestling with what I wanted to do with my life. I think I've shared with a number of you before that I was kind of headed toward a law career. Right there at the last minute instead of going to law school, I went ahead and continued with the ministry that I was associated with, which was a camping ministry at the time.

I can remember where I was seated when I let go of that last little bit of what was, for me, a disguised motive in going into the ministry. I wanted to go and have a successful career as a lawyer so that I could support the ministries that had so much effect on me. I could let that guy that's serving faithfully use my house in Florida and go skiing and stay at my place in Vail. I had it all mapped out.

I was going to be on the local board. I was going to care. I was going to be faithful and do all that I could, but I wanted to be able to share these wonderful things with these great servants. Now that was a game that I was playing for myself. What I really wanted to do was be a success in the world so the world would tell me I was a success and have creature comforts. That was ultimately what I, at that point in my hidden mind, was really serving and striving after.

I want to let you know that people who have made a decision to go into law, many of them have made a decision as a very godly decision. That's where God has called them to serve. People say all the time, "I want to know if I should go into full-time ministry." I tell people, "If you can do anything else, and not just have the Spirit of God gnawing at your soul, then do it. We need godly lawyer and bankers and moms and construction people and godly postmen and godly you name it."

So don't feel like it's the more spiritual thing to do what I've done. It was the right thing for me. It may not be the right thing for you. We're both in full-time ministry. The question is…Where _ _does God want you to serve his people? There are some folks that God is going to prosper in different ways so that they can share those things with other people as much as they are even necessary to have for us to enjoy.

Next week as a staff, we're getting away. I don't have a lake house that I can take our staff to to just take a little bit of retreat and go have some time together, but I want to tell you something. There are so many people in this body that have said just today, "Anytime that you need to get away for an extended time to pray, to plan, to think ahead, here's my number. Here's the key. Don't even ask. Just go."

We see this fleshed out right here in our body. I'll tell you, if you're getting connected in community, you don't do it just so you get a lake house or a place to go in Colorado or somewhere else, but that just happens because God blesses people in the body. My dad and my mom have a timeshare. That's their big deal.

They went someplace and they bought a couple of weeks with some families. It doesn't even cross my parents' mind to consider, "Should we let the kids to have an opportunity to enjoy what we have?" It is the joy of their lives if we can work it out to match up with their week to go with them sometimes, because we're part of their family and they want to share that with us.

I've seen that happen here. That's what Jesus is saying. He's not saying if you just do this now, when you get to heaven, you'll live in a better zip code there than you even lived in here. Or if you give your life to the church in such a way that you remain single, that we'll give you more women than you ever could have had here on earth. That's not the promise.

He is saying something far better. I have to tell you something. You're going to have a quality of life right now and even later that you can't even imagine. So Peter, you don't have to worry, and if you would just look around you would see it's already happening. I know you've left a lot, but you've got to admit, you've got more people caring for you right now than you ever did back there in Galilee. You've got one specifically who loves you so much he's going to go to a cross for you. That's where we're headed. Look at verse 31.

He says, "But many who are first will be last, and the last, [will be] first." Which I think is a word of warning to Peter. He said, "Peter, listen, don't get in this thing for the payback. Don't even kid yourself that because you were the first to follow me, that in the eternal sense that you're going to get the most. Don't try and promote yourself to a position with me to get more, because if you want to promote yourself in God's eyes, then you need to be a servant."

What kind of servant? Watch this. Verse 32: "They were on the road going up to Jerusalem…" Twice already Christ had told them why they were going there. Now he's about to tell them for a third time. "…and Jesus was walking on ahead of them…and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him…" As if to illustrate that he was convinced of what he just said.

He said, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man…" Which is a term that is used of the Promised One of God that would deliver the people from the oppression, sadness, and hopelessness that they were living in. "…will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death…" As he pointed to himself. "… and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again."

Let me just make some quick applications right out of this about what it means to be a great leader. Every single one of us says next year is an opportunity to be a leader and be the kind of leader that Christ was. Then we're going to wrap up what it is that God wants us to be about as people that say we follow after this man.

Again, we're in the midst right now in these first couple of weeks of just evaluating, "How are we really doing? Are our goals actual goals or are they just aspirational goals?" In other words, do we just say we want to do something or are we really ordering our life in such a way that we are about being people who follow after God?

I love this statement. People are going to judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You might have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg. Nobody is going to say a hard-boiled egg is anything special just because it's got that heart of gold. You can tell me all day long what you want to be about. The question really is…What are you about?

The world is always judging us by our fruits. That's the only way the world can know. You see that all the time in relationships where individuals say, "I know you say you love me. I'm just not experiencing that at all in the way that you're prioritizing your life, in the way that you're speaking to me or not speaking to me."

I was doing a Q&A one time about sex and dating with some high school kids. There was a kid that raised his hand and had the courage to say, "There's a girl I really like. I want to spend some time with her. She tells me she just doesn't have time right now. What should I do?" So I sat there and I thought, "Okay, by gift I'm more of a prophet than one who emanates mercy, and I'm going to figure out if I'm going to try and talk around the truth or just save this kid some time."

So with all the grace that I could muster, I said, "Well let me just tell you something. That girl has got some time. What she's saying is that she doesn't have time for you. The sooner you figure that out…" I just turned to the girls in the room and said, "Girls, if you like the guy, you have found him attractive, you have found him the kind of man that you would want to nurture a relationship with, can you make some time in your busy week?"

I saw a lot of heads nod yes. I just said, "Man, here's what she's telling you. She doesn't have time for you. So wear black for a day, act like she just died, and get on with your life. All right?" That, by the way, is why James Skinner is on staff. Because he would give a much more compassionate response.

What I would say to those of us who say, "Man, I'm all about following hard after God, but I just don't have time" is, do you know what you're really saying? "You know, God, I just don't have time for you. I can be very disciplined in the things that glorify me. I have time to work out. I have time to go places so that I can dress the way that I want to dress. I have time to catch the shows and the movies and the things that I want to catch. I got time…"

Guys, they say you can't get out of bed early. It's amazing come hunting season how they can get out of bed early. It's amazing when there's a tee time that they can get a round of 18 in before they get off to work, how they can make time. See, you've got time. The question is…Do you have time for him?

The old saying goes; you know how kids spell love? T-I-M-E. That's the way kids spell love. That's the way God spells love with us. He says, "Martha, Martha. Listen. What you're doing isn't bad. There are many things that you can pursue, but one thing is really important. Mary has chosen the better part, and I will not deny her that. Will you just come here and sit with me for a little bit? Spend some time so when you get up and serve me, you're not doing it thinking that you have to do these things for me to love you, but you can do it in the context of relationship."

We want to evaluate ourselves. How are we doing? We can have every great purpose statement in the world, but how are we really doing? Let me give just a little quick bullet point right here out of these things and from Mark 10:32 and following. As I thought about this year and how I in my world want to be a great leader and how I know many of you want to shepherd and lead and are shepherding and leading other people. Here are some observations I made.

1._ Great leaders are out in front._ Mark 10:32 says, "They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed…" Why were they amazed? Because he had already told them twice that there is trouble in Jerusalem.

Jesus knew that what God was going to do was something great right there. These guys were scared. They knew that they were enemies of the state and of the religious leaders that camped in Jerusalem. The walk toward Jerusalem was the walk toward their death. Jesus simply said, "I know that God will take care of us. There's a mission that I'm going to accomplish. You guys might be scared, but I'm not going to walk thirteenth in line here." He said, "Let's go. Get behind me. Here we come."

This week, many of us have heard on the news W.A. Criswell died, and they celebrated his life. I was just thinking about this man. Whatever you make of him, he did many of these things. He was one of the first people within his denomination to stand up and say, "I will base my life on my confidence in this book." He was a bulldog for making this Word his authority, conscience, and guide, standing firm where it was firm and being flexible where it was flexible.

Whatever else you want to say about the man, and I've heard almost entirely good things, you would say, "This was a guy who was out in front." He didn't wait to see if it was politically expedient to cave in to the liberal view that was starting to swarm around that particular denomination. Today it continues to fight for a face.

He just said, "I'm going to get out in front. I'm going to say, 'I as a pastor, I as a shepherd, I as a leader, we as a local body of First Baptist Dallas will stand on this book and agree to be one of the most influential congregations'" They blessed thousands of people in this city as a result. Great leaders are out in front. They're not waiting to see if it's going to be okay and accept it to take a certain view. They do not run their administration by polls.

They are aware, as we'll find out in a minute, of the feelings of the people, but that does not dictate who they are. As individuals who want to be leaders in our society, we've got to make a decision if we want to be theologically sound or politically correct. Jesus was one that was always concerned about being theologically sound, not physically safe, and not politically correct. Great leaders are always out in front, and that's right where you see Christ. His face is set to Jerusalem, and he walks there ahead of his disciples.

2._ Great leaders are in touch with their people's needs and fears._ This is what it says in verse 32, continuing. "...and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside…" See he saw that there was fear in their eyes. So he pulled them aside and said, "Guys, let me just talk to you. I know you're scared and I'm going to slow down and take a minute to minister to you in your state of fear, in your moment of need."

I'm not going to go, "Maybe these guys won't follow me if I keep walking this way," but I'm going to do what I need to do so they can walk with more confidence. Great leaders are aware of the needs and fears of their people. They are out in front, addressing those needs and fears, communicating to folks, and speaking lovingly with hope and with strength.

Men, I'm going to tell you something. This is the way to lead your family. Get out in front in terms of spiritual matters. Don't wait to see if your kids are going to celebrate that. Be a man that pursues God with all of your heart. Be aware of the fact that they're probably going to think, "Dad has gone off the deep end spiritually. Now he's going to be wacko religious nut. We'll probably be moving to Waco in the months ahead."

Talk to them about their fears, about your decisions to be a person who starts to reorder his life according to the Scriptures. Be sensitive. Spend time with them. There is some credence for polls. President Bush cannot be everywhere, so he ought to be around people who are taking a pulse of the people.

One of the things that we do on staff is we spend time with those who spend time with those in the body, because we don't get to spend time with everybody in the body. Yesterday we had a hundred of our shepherds and key leaders together. One of the things that I hope comes out of that is a sense of where different folks in the body are feeling some tension, some frustration. This last week myself and the other elders met with six or seven godly men, some of the older (age 50-plus) men in the church.

We got them together and said, "We have no agenda except to let you speak to us. What do you all see from your perspective, from your maturity, from your wisdom, your 20 and 30 years of walking with Christ that we could learn from right now? We want to know what people we are missing so that we can more effectively lead. Budget, staff, introduce different programs, teach, communicate in worship…whatever it might be." You have to know the needs and the fears of the folks.

Mark 10:32 also says this about great leaders. "…and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, saying, 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles.'" What point would you get from that? Let me just give you a chance.

Jesus is saying, "Listen, I know you're scared of dying. I'm telling you to follow me." What point would you get about great leaders? Let me just tell you, "I'm going to Jerusalem and I'm going to die." Here's the point that I would get from that. I just said it this way:

3._ Great leaders are willing to ask more or as much of themselves than they are to ask of those that they call to follow them._ Christ wasn't telling folks to be radical in their follower-ship without him saying, "I'm willing to serve God to the point of confusion." Let me just walk you through this one more time, because too many of us think that it was easier for Jesus to be faithful because he was God. He knew what the deal was and so it just wasn't hard for him. This is a very difficult concept.

The church has traditionally held that Jesus is fully God, complete in essence even while on earth. Jesus always was God, always will be God, and never stopped being God. Yet when he came to earth, he took on another nature without compromising his former nature. That nature was a human nature. Then it says in the Scriptures that Jesus laid aside, if you will, his right to act as God in his own self interest.

He didn't stop being God, but he said, "I'm going to identify with Todd Wagner, who cannot just turn the stone to bread when he wants to but can cry out to a loving heavenly Father and say, 'God, I'm going to die here in a moment if you don't provide for me. God, if you don't do something right now, I'm about to be nailed to a cross.'"

Jesus followed God as a man to the point of confusion, so much so that when he was sitting there in the garden, he was deeply grieved. He said, "Father, I know it's clear that you wanted me to come to this cross, but I am very confused. I am pained and scared to death of the suffering that is ahead of me, the humiliation and the physical suffering that is before me. If there's any other way to do this, can't we do it?"

He got a dead, "No. This is the way. Keep following me." So as a perfectly yielded man, he took up his cross. He was still to the point of confusion when he was on that cross. He cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? You heard what they just said. Surely if this man is God he will call the angels from heaven to come down deliver him at this moment. If you're some great miracle worker, then save yourself."

Jesus, in his own deity, probably would have, but he said, "No, I'm going to be an individual that will live as man lived and trust in God the Father." Never himself stopping to be God, he trusted in God the Father only to expire on the cross as a man. What I love about Jesus Christ…this is what the Scripture says; this is what makes Christianity unique among world religions…is we don't have a High Priest who cannot empathize, sympathize with our difficulty in following after God.

He knows exactly how hard it is to trust him, because he's done it. So it says, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are…" He never caved, as we so often do. He never said, "You know what? This is just too much to ask! I can't trust you because you're just not coming through in time. So I'm going to get on my own journey. I'm going to get on my own path. I'm going to throne myself and do it my way because you're, frankly, too silent and too scary." He never did that so that he can make provision for those of us who do.

The next time you're sitting there and you're struggling and you want to tell God how hard it is, you know what? He doesn't mock your pain. He wants to hold you and say, "I know, I know, but trust me. Whatever you're giving up, I'm going to replenish it in ways you could never imagine, both in this life…

I know that there are persecutions in this life, and I don't want to deny that from you. If you follow me, you will have a hundred more persecutions than you ever would if you didn't." It's right there. We just read it. "But I'm also going to comfort you with a family that is just beyond words and in the age to come, something unspeakable in its goodness." Jesus, being a great leader, was willing to sit there and say, "I'm going to do what I asked them to do and more."

Last one on being a great leader. It says, "…three days later He will rise again." This is the way this little section ends. Somebody tell me what you would say there about a great leader. By the way, this is the way to just sit there and over the Scriptures and continue to wrestle. "God, what is there for me? What can I learn? What do I learn about being a leader from Christ right here?" I'll tell you what I got from that last little bit. It's simply this:

4._ Great leaders provide a perspective that makes the sacrifice make sense._ That's what great leaders do. That's what FDR did. That's what Kennedy did when he told our country to get behind him and do some things that no one thought we could do. That's what George W. Bush is doing right now.

He said, "Listen, this is a long, different kind of war, but it makes sense to defend our freedom and justice and have this prevail. We're not a perfect country. We're going to deal with our imperfections, our gross sin, and our immorality, but we will also, in a way that is appropriate, stand against the injustices which other people see as right."

Our country, in its formation, never declared what was right and wrong apart from a concept of this book. We have gotten away from that book at many times, but when we do what is right, when we get back here and begin to think again, "What is right?" not according to what men think or what we think or what the controlling party thinks, but according to what God has thought, it is traditional, moral, Judeo‑Christian ethic.

He'll call us to something greater than ourselves. He will tell us to sacrifice our sons and daughters, if that's what it takes. He will tell us to sacrifice the amount of time we use electricity and the amount of time we drive, if that's what it takes for us to prevail. Churchill is renowned in history because that's exactly what he did with England. This is what Jesus did.

He gave them a perspective. He said, "Listen, I know I'm asking a lot of you, but I'm going to give you something that's going to make this sacrifice make sense. It's going to be a little bit of perspective. No matter how much you give up here, no matter how much you suffer here, if they destroy your body, you need to know this. Let me give you some perspective. That isn't the end of the story."

One of my favorite places in Scripture is in Matthew 10 where Jesus grabbed the disciples and pulled them aside. They were scared to death because he told them he was going to send them out as sheep among wolves. There were some shepherds in their midst, and they knew exactly what that meant.

I think Jesus grabbed a few of them by the scruff of their robes and he said, "Look at me. You don't fear the one that can destroy the body, but you fear the one…" I think he pointed right to himself and said with fire in his eyes, "You fear the one that can destroy body and send the soul to hell forever. That's who to fear.

Yes, you will apparently come onto the short end of the stick sometime on this journey, but you can be sure of this. The grave is empty. My grave is what's called the firstfruit of all graves who loved God. The firstfruit is the first apple that's ripe. When you pick one apple off, you know that tree is producing good fruit and there are more good apples to come. There are more graves to be emptied. Follow me."

Let me just close this with this focus on what it means to be individuals who do follow him. For us to have the kind of community that will allow people who leave all relationship because they've made a decision about Jesus Christ, we've got to be intentional about the way that we track and serve one another.

Here are the questions that we're going to give you to ask as we put them out. If you're a member of this body and we wonder if, through community, you're connecting, here's the way we want you to process through. It'll say this when you get it. "As you reflect on the past year, how would you describe your connection to the body of Watermark?" The options will be:

First, I'm not connected at Watermark. I'm really not in community. We'll come alongside of you and love you and say, "Let us help." Secondly,I'm in a group, but I have little connection with my group outside of meetings. Thirdly,I'm more connected than I was last year, and I'm taking steps toward deeper relationships. Fourthly,I'm connected to others but don't sense that there is a leader-shepherd who is personally involved in my spiritual life. We would see that as a problem, and we want to remedy that situation. Lastly, I'm intimately connected in a safe, loving, and growing environment.

That's what we want every single person to be able to say, because that's what Jesus promised. If it's not happening with you, we need to do all we can to make it happen. We have these things called Group Links. In the Watermark News we give you, you see it says "Get Connected." In that Get Connected section it talks about an opportunity for you to go into people's homes.

A large number of other people are looking to assimilate with trained and godly leaders who will help you get connected into smaller groups of folks who can know you and love you and intimately walk with you on this journey where there are many persecutions.

Sometimes we do stuff corporately. There'll be times when we'll take a Sunday and we'll roll out this thing we call the chuckwagon and feed each other and celebrate together and rent fun stuff for the kids. We'll have times of celebration to deepen. We'll do retreats where we want to get the women together specifically. We do stuff just for the men. We do stuff for the singles, like the ski trip coming up. There are other things all the time.

One thing that we think is worth prioritizing your life and making some sacrifices if that's what it takes to go on is something we call Watermark in Estes Park. We do it once a year where we'll load up as many folks as can go. I want to make it very clear, just like with this retreat. We don't ever want money to be the reason that one of our brothers and sisters can't go with us when we go on a family time away.

If you've not yet connected with us at Watermark in Estes Park because of the financial reason, do what anybody in the family does. Say, "Dad, things are tough down here at college, but I wouldn't mind coming home to see you and Mom at Thanksgiving. Can you send a few bucks for gas?" Dad, once he realizes that the son in fact needs the money for gas and hasn't spent it too many times in other directions that weren't good, will get his son home.

I can assure you that we'll never let money be a reason that if some of us are doing something, that others can't who want to. I want you to watch this video. It has this idea that one of the values here that we say we're about, being committed to God, being competent in his Word and doctrine, and being connected to each other. Watch this video.


I love what she said. That's just simply fulfillment of what we talked about. She said, "It's like you're here with your family." Listen, I realize there are some of you that are out there like, "I've never experienced that anywhere. Not in my real family and certainly not in a church. I come here and people all know each other. They all say Hi and they all move about. I don't go to lunch with anybody. If I do, it's a superficial conversation. I'm in a Community Group and we're not getting anywhere."

I'll tell you something. We're not satisfied with that. We're very much in process here. We are committed. What we are trying to tell you is we are committed to doing the best we can to get out in front, set our face, and to head that direction. We want to invite you to join us. We want you to be a part of solution, to identify problems with us, to speak to us, and to share the needs and perceptions.

Let us be a beacon and a light saying, "You know what? Some people today still want to follow hard after Christ, knowing there are many persecutions that come with it, but also know that it's worth it in the perspective of not just the immediate gain of a community of followers, but because the tomb is empty it's the only thing that makes sense."

We want to follow hard after God with you. If you aren't even sure that God is worth following after, would you just come and say, "I'd like to talk with you about that." We're glad that we're here with you, worshipping week after week and following this great leader as a man who is committed to God's Word, purposes, and people, competent in what he said is true, and the way that we live our life connected to each other, contributing each of us with our gifts, creative in the way that we do it.

That's what we're about. We pray that you take these forms if you're a member that you're about to get in the mail. Prayerfully think about them and give us honest feedback so we can see how we're doing and not just have a heart of gold and be a hard-boiled church. Let's pray.

Father, thank you for these friends and the chance to come together today and see that we serve a great leader who does not ask of us more than he was willing to do himself. I am so grateful that when I come and say, "Lord, this is not what I really wanted to experience today. I'm not really sure I wanted to follow hard after you in this way today and I wish you'd show up and do something right now to change the circumstance that I don't like," you don't just thumb me down and say, "Wagner, you're so soft."

God says, "You know what? I've been right there and I understand. Please don't run from me. Just stay here. Let me speak comfort and truth into your life and let me hold you that you might be faithful so that when you stand before me on that day we can rejoice together and you can share in my glory even as you shared in my sufferings."

God, I want to tell you I thank you that as a whole I don't know enough of persecutions and sufferings. I pray that as we grow together all of us in this room would be more prepared for them so that whatever you ask, we are ready as a body and as individuals. Would you do that this year so that we can be great leaders who get out in front and set the standard for your people who call on your name? Thanks for this great day with my friends. I pray that we would worship you now as we go out with each other in Christ's name, amen.

Have a great week. We'll see you Sunday.

About 'Gospel According to Mark, Volume 4'

The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 9:1 through Mark 10:34 and includes the 2-message series "Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: The Ordeal and the Ideal".