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It's the Relationship, Stupid: The Right Well for Your Bucket

Jesus' interaction with the woman at the well in John 4 can tell us a great deal about relationships. He understands our brokenness and our flaws. But until we acknowledge the lengths to which He has gone to reconcile us to Himself and we respond to His love, our earthly relationships will consistently leave us thirsty for ultimate satisfaction.

Todd WagnerFeb 13, 2011
John 4:4-20

In This Series (10)
Compassion and the Compentency We Have with Christ: How We Can Feed Five Thousand
Todd WagnerJun 5, 2011
Bingo! The Answer is "Jesus". (And the Question is: "Who is God?")
Todd WagnerMay 29, 2011
The King and His Kingdom and What You Must Know to Enjoy them Both
Todd WagnerMay 1, 2011
Jesus on Jesus
Todd WagnerApr 17, 2011
Do You Want to Get Well? Here's Your Man and Here's How.
Todd WagnerApr 10, 2011
From Confusion to Crisis to Clarity to Completion: The Progression from Christlessness to Contagious Faith
Todd WagnerApr 3, 2011
What Worshiping in Spirit and Truth Means for Disciples and the Harvest
Todd WagnerFeb 27, 2011
The Woman at the Well: A Picture of Grace, a Picture of Us
Todd WagnerFeb 20, 2011
It's the Relationship, Stupid: The Right Well for Your Bucket
Todd WagnerFeb 13, 2011
Clearing the Way, Preparing the Way, Getting Out of the Way: How Great Men Respond to the Greatest Calling
Todd WagnerFeb 6, 2011

It is great to be here with you all. We are making our way through the gospel of John. If you've been tracking with us, you know that we are about to dive in to John 4. We've been racing through John so I want to slow us down a little bit this morning. Kidding, most of you guys are already wondering when we'll finish this book.

What I want do is take a moment and just show you at the very end of the next major section in John, there's a really interesting conversation. It's one where Jesus is talking to a woman who he is telling, "Look, I have what you're looking for. You've been trying to find life in all kinds of places." Jesus uses a metaphor of water because he is by a well, it's in the middle of the day, and it's very hot.

He says, "Woman, if you knew the water that I had to offer you, you would ask me for water and you would never thirst again." He is not talking about physical water, but like so many of us are prone to do, we always look for an immediate and almost a literal experiential tangible right-now way to find everlasting fulfillment, satisfaction, and promise.

Jesus is alluding to something much greater, which is restoration to her Creator. She says, "Where is this water? I'm not familiar with that kind of water," when she kind of clues in to what Jesus is talking about. He says to her, as an illustration that he understands her brokenness, he says, "Why don't you go get your husband and bring him back and I will tell both of you about this water?"

She says, "I don't have a husband." That's where Christ says, "Well, you speak the truth. You've already had five and the guy you're living with right now is not your husband." That's when she says, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet." ("Because how else would you know this about me?") God knows all about her just like he knows all about all of us. The Scripture says that he knows the words we're going to say even before they're on our lips.

He knows all about the things that you're sure if he knew about, you could never be in relationship with him. So if you're here this morning and you're concerned that you could never be restored to God because you could never tell God what it is that you've done, you need to know God already knows what it is that you have done and God loves you and seeks you in the midst of that brokenness and that thirst that still is in your life that you're still trying to satisfy by pursuing anything other than him.

He is not mad at you because you've been married five times and the guy you're living with now is still not your husband. He just loves you like a Father loves any kid and he is just saying, "Would you please come drink of the water that I want to give to you so that you could have life?"

As we get going here in John, chapter 4, what I want to do is just pause. It's obviously the day, as John kindly reminded all of us in this room, the day before our world wants to celebrate romantic love with one another. I want to just tell you that God is fan of romantic love, but he knows a romantic love is going to be fleeting unless you understand how to really love.

If all you do is live for romantic love, then you're going to have a lot of short bursts of ecstasy and then you're going to have deep hangovers of despair. It's just another, if you will, fleeting way to get through moments while we're largely defined by an ocean of loneliness and hurt. God wants you to sail differently than that.

He doesn't want you to have to live from just some passionate experience and then created to wonder if you can ever get there again. He wants you to live with a sense of joy and abiding peace. Such a better way to live. Even in the midst of that joy and abiding peace, there are clear moments of wonder and ecstasy, but there isn't that deep despair.

This morning, we're going to talk about relationships. What I want to let you know is that God is a fan of relationships. There is a verse that if you've ever been in a failed relationship that I'm sure has been thrown at you or that you might've heard somebody even whisper to you if you were around religious communities when you're thinking about moving on. That is this one from Malachi, chapter 2, verse 16.

It says, "'For I hate divorce,' says the LORD, the God of Israel…" You kind of go, "Oh great, see I knew it. Now God hates me." It doesn't say, by the way, "God hates divorcees." What it says is, "God hates divorce." Why does God hate divorce? Let me say it again. God doesn't hate women who have been married five times and the man that she is now living with is not her husband.

Those are the kind of people God seeks. He says, "I love you, and I want you to quit throwing your bucket down the wrong well coming up tired and thirsty and beaten down by the noon day again. Drink from this well and you'll stop living in the land of mirages and brokenness and shattered dreams. I'll teach you how to love. I'll teach you how to find forgiveness." God doesn't hate divorcees. He loves divorcees. He hates divorce because he loves people.

Let me just show you something. Someone has asked me before, "Todd, what are the seven deadly sins?" I go, "Well, I don't know if there are actually. That's a title of a book, but there aren't really seven deadly sins. The closest you can find to things that God, in one little section, says he despises or hates is in Proverbs, chapter 6." So let's just take a look at this together.

In Proverbs, chapter 6, in verses 16 through 19 it says, "There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him…" Now look Bible scholars, this is not going to take a lot of great insight. We're just going to read these seven things, and I want to just ask you what you think the common characteristic of these seven things are. Okay, here we go. You ready?

"…haughty eyes…" Which is to say, people who discount the actions or words of others. They are invalidators. They just kind of go, "Whatever. I know better than you and if you thought like me, this wouldn't be a problem." Secondly, "…a lying tongue…" Thirdly, "…hands that shed innocent blood…"

Verse 18 starts with the fourth one. "…a heart that devises wicked plans…" Fifthly, "…feet that run rapidly to evil…" Sixthly, "…a false witness who utters lies…" Lastly, "…and one who spreads strife among brothers." What is consistent with all seven of those things? The answer is every one of those things brings death to human relationship.

What God hates isbroken relationship. Why is that? Because he created you in his image, and that means that you are created to live in community in connection in intimacy in oneness. You're meant to experience love and togetherness, and anything that threatens or breaks or shatters that oneness, that unity that is there when God is there, that peace, God hates it.

Why? Because he loves you. God doesn't hate peace-breakers. He hates a lack of peace and therefore he is against those who want to break peace, but in the end what he wants to do is to make them peacemakers. Not peace-fakers, not peace-breakers, but peacemakers. If you go back and look at the fall, the state of the world after we left God who is himself eternal unity, community, and intimacy and oneness and love, the very first thing to leave was all those things.

If you go back and look at Genesis 3, we won't because of time, but you'll see that right away the firs thing that goes after we leave God is relationship. Our relationship with God is broken. Our relationship with each other is broken. Blame starts to be assigned. There is no cherishing. There is no honor. There is no mutual concern. There is no others-centeredness. There is no intimacy. There is no peace.

There is blame, self-protection, pride, denial. There is broken relationship. It's the first thing to go at the fall. That's why God didn't want you to leave him, because you are made to be together. What I want to share with you this morning is just some truths about relationship more than I've already shared and just give you a reminder of what God would encourage you with as you seek to live back in that restored place that has in it that which we all long for so that you can stop throwing your bucket down the wrong well and start to experience life again.

Let me just make some very obvious observations. I just sat down. I thought, "Okay, what's true about relationships?" Because I think back to the Clinton campaign when James Carville and George Stephanopoulos kept telling Clinton, "It's the economy, stupid. Don't get out there and talk about anything else. Talk about the economy. It's the economy, stupid."

What I'm going to do this morning is just say, "Do you know what the world…? It's the relationship, stupid. Talk about the relationship. Don't talk about the rules and the regulations and the laws and the darkness." Really, if you take a look at the gospel of John, it's God saying, "It's the relationship, stupid. I'm not concerned about homosexuality or abortion or pornography or materialism."

Let me just say those things are all things that God isn't fond of. Why? Because they are the things that break relationship. God said, "It's about the relationship. I have come to restore the relationship. I didn't come to judge pornographers and adulterers and women who have been married five times and now live with another guy. I came to restore the relationship. It's the relationship, stupid. The lack of relationship with me is what causes all the problems."

One of the great problems that the church has today is that we keep trying to get people to do things and stop getting them to understand the one thing: that God is good, that he is loving, that he is filled with grace and compassion and mercy. He cares for them. He says, "Would you quit throwing your bucket down the wrong well? Would you just come home, because I love you?"

It's absolutely correct and right to say, "Look, that well of pornography is the wrong well. That well of abortion is the wrong well. That well of materialism is the wrong well. But it's about the relationship, stupid. Your relationship is with the wrong wells. Let me tell you about this well." We have to start celebrating the depth of the glory and the goodness of God and give testimony to where we drink and then walk around as if we are not ourselves dehydrated, desperate people.

What confuses the world is when we say, "God is where life is," and we take our buckets and we go where they go. They go, "Look, I know if I drink from this well it is going to make me thirsty again. The question is you're the one who tells me you know where another well is. Why are you throwing your bucket down the same well?" To which we should say, "Good question," and repent.

Now it's appropriate to be by the wrong wells at times, to love people and say, "Come over here." You don't go to those wells with your bucket hoping to find a little bit of refreshing water there. You have to be people who know where the well of life is. It's the relationship, stupid.

Well, let me just say this about relationships. Relationships are the source of our greatest joy or the source of our greatest pain. Aren't they? Let me just run you through a very cursory set of Scriptures that talk about relationships. If your relationship… In fact, let me say this. It's the source of our greatest joy.

Third John, verse 4, says, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." That they love what I love, they do what God says they should do, and that we have no bitterness or hatred or angst with one another, and they're not destroying themselves by throwing their buckets down the wrong well. There is no greater joy that I have than to be in intimate relationship with my kids.

The Song of Solomon is an entire book written about the joy of the relationship of a man and a woman. Psalm 133, says, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!" The reason we love beer ads is because they go, "Look at the great relationships! The joy! Everybody is having a ball there!" Now it's the wrong bucket. It's fleeting relationship, but we go, "Wow, wouldn't that be great if that's what real relationships were like?"

Relationships can be the source of our greatest joy, there is no question, when they're done well. They can also be the source of our greatest pain. I asked my wife this question this week, and I knew the answer going in, but I just said to her, "What male in the history of your life has caused you more pain than any other male?"

I led with my chin. I knew the answer because I have now for 20 years… I've watched the deep sorrow that I have brought my wife when I've thrown my bucket down the well of manipulation and anger and self-will. Just the dearth of life that has brought her at times underneath my leadership.

She said, "Really?" I go, "Really." She was like, "Other than you or just anybody?" I go, "You've already answered my question. You realize that." I was also pleased when I asked her what male has brought you the greatest joy that I was at the top of that list. I would tell her the exact same thing is true about her.

She has brought me more joy than any woman I have ever known. The greatest moments in my life have been with my wife and the deepest, darkest moments of my life have been with my wife. The difference is not the relationship. It's what we do in that relationship. There are times that I've brought darkness and pain and emptiness into that relationship, and it caused me great pain because I've given my heart to her like nobody else.

This is again why God hates broken relationships. He goes, "Todd, this thing that I've given you is a gift. "…a prudent wife is [a gift] from the LORD.""What does the Enemy want to do? He wants to steal, kill, and destroy, so what do you think he is going to do? He is going to try and convince you that my greatest gift for you is your greatest source of pain."

That's why… Just, note to self. Your mate is not your enemy. Your mate is God's gift and provision for you. The Enemy is a liar, and what he tries to do is if he can make you think that God's greatest gift is your greatest problem, he has you whipped from the get-go. There are times, okay, that I sit and I go, "You may not be my greatest enemy, which is Satan, but you're at least his sister." I want to think that way to her.

Again, that's where he has me beat, when I label. I go, "Look, we are lovers who want oneness, but there is an Enemy who is capturing our hearts and our minds and breaking what God intended. So let's work together to fight against the common foe instead of making each other the foe. Let's learn to love and let's go to battle together."

That's why, by the way, when you go look at Ephesians, it's laid out beautifully. It just says, "You have to restore your relationship with God. When your relationship with God is restored, then your relationship with each other can change. This is what I intend for your relationships with each other to look like."

Then it says at the very end of that, in chapter 6, "Be aware. You are in a battle." So it tells you how to dress yourself with spiritual armor so that he won't defeat you who have been restored to God, which would then break your relationship with him that would then break your relationship with each other again.

I was sharing this with couples I was doing premarital counseling with. That's why one bride-to-be just said, "Well we shouldn't get dressed in white if that's the case. We should get dressed in camouflage because we're ready to go to war." I said, "That is really, frankly, a great idea. I dare you. Go for it."

Because I want to tell you what. The Enemy is trying to destroy that which God says is going to be the source of life. That's why he tries to convince you that God is your enemy, that all he wants to do be a cosmic killjoy, a ruling policeman, an overbearing landlord, a distant king. All these lies. Where do you think they come from? From an enemy who hates you and hates God. If he can convince you that God is your biggest problem, then he has you beat from the get-go.

I tell my wife. I said, "Look, the last thing I want to do is hurt you. It's still on my list, but it's the last thing I want to do." When I go through everything that God has me do, if I abandon God, then what I do is I try to hurt her and wound her. I go, "I'll teach you never to treat me like that again." What I'm trying to do is get it off my list and lean not on my own understanding.

The way that I, gang, ultimately roll is that I am self-protective and self-loving. I destroy relationships. By the grace of God, he has shown me that left to myself, all I will do is bring heartache and despair and he has restored me into relationship with him and he has forgiven me for all the brokenness and being an active participant in the things that God hates.

He has taught me to love. I try and now increase. I go, "Okay, this is not about me, but I want to not lean on my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge him, and then he will make my paths straight. He will restore my relationships. He'll take ashes and make them beautiful." That's what God has been doing in my life these last years, but I have to learn to walk with him. Relationships can be our greatest source of joy and our greatest source of pain. Amen? Absolutely. Absolutely.

Relationships ultimately are what define us. Let me just say to you that I can look at the history of your relationships in life and I can tell you who you are. A better way to say it is I can tell you whose you are. Now look, you could take the word relationship out of this entire little message and plug marriage in, but it's bigger than marriage.

All marriage is is the pinnacle expression of relationship. So this is especially true of everything marriage, but I'm just going to let you in on a little secret. We have this little ministry here that a couple of years ago I thought, "I want to start this thing called re|engage." So we put together some material that we really thing will help you.

Do you know what re|engage is? It's to tell you how to have successful relationships. The one relationship that brings us more pain than the other is the marital relationship because it's the extreme relationship. Here's the gig. I'll just tell you a little secret. All re|engage is is principles from Scripture that will tell you how to have successful relationships, especially with the one who you have covenanted with to love the way Christ loves the church.

So it's a tremendous set of principles to apply across every relationship you have: with your children, with your coworkers, with your parents, with your friends and your neighbors. A whole conflict series. I did a series called Conflict: A Constant Opportunity. Can I tell you what that was? It was a series on relationships. The whole series was on relationships. How to have successful relationships.

What you do in life, relationally, defines who you are. Better said, it defines whose you are. Are you defined by bitterness, a lack of forgiveness, isolation, divorce both in the context of a legal agreement and in the sense that if you look back there is not a long string of healthy relationships in your life? Ex-roommates, ex-family members, ex-coworkers. Broken, broken, broken, divorce, no longer talk, no longer talk, no longer talk.

Well, let me tell you whose you are, if that's the case. I just want to tell you God loves you and he wants you to throw your bucket down what well so you can start to change that in your life. When you look at John, chapter 13, verses 34 and 35, it just simply says this. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." Then look at this in verse 35. He says,

"By this all men will know that you are [learning from me, drawing wisdom from my well] if you have love for one another.""You want to show the world that you're my disciple? Then have relationships that work." Relationships define who you are. You can give testimony all day long about your relationship with God, but if you do not have successful relationships with people, you are kidding yourself that you have a relationship with God.

First John, actually, we read just a couple of verses in our worship time. Here is 1 John, chapter 4, verses 7 through 11. It couldn't be any clearer. It says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." Now this is not a set of rules that we're called to follow.

This is John writing to people who say that they're in relationship with God, reminding them how they should then live. He is pointing out to them that no matter what they do, religiously, no matter what kind of services they attend or psalms they sing, if the relationships don't work, that is what defines who they are. Verse 8. Watch this.

"The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [or the satisfaction against his wrath] for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

What John is just saying here very simply is this. "I'm going to tell you who you are. How are you doing at loving one another? How are you doing relationally?" Then God defines love appropriately. Not with romantic love, but with real love. The Scripture says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, "I don't care really who you are. I don't care how eloquently you can speak. I don't care how gifted you are musically. I don't care how professionally competent you are. If you are all those things and you have not love, you are nothing. I define you as nothing."

Then God, just so you wouldn't be confused as to what really love is, he goes through this and starts in verse 4. He says, "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…" Then it goes through this little impressive list. Love "…does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…"

Now just again, even as we read Proverbs, chapter 6, verses 16 through 19, if you read 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4 down through 8, you would just find at a very cursory level one specific fact, and that is that nothing the Bible uses to describe love has anything to do with how you feel. It is not an adjective which describes how you make me feel. It is a commitment of the will to say, "This is how I will behave toward you."

In other words, when you provoke me, I love you. I'm not going to be provoked. I'm not going to use that as an excuse to validate my now-breaking relationship with you. I'm not going to seek my own. I'm not going to take into account a wrong suffered. When I see you doing things that give me the right to call out failure in your life to other people, I won't do it because I won't rejoice in unrighteousness. That doesn't mean I won't confront it in your life. It just means I'm not going to celebrate problems in your life to justify how much better I am.

I'm going to bear all things. I'm going to come alongside of you and do what I can do encourage you and admonish you and help you. I'm going to believe all things, which means I'm always going to believe that you are not my problem. That you are God's provision for me and that I'm going to do everything I can to help you be everything that God wants you to be because I believe in you.

One of the greatest gifts that my wife… I've told her, "Sweetie, whatever goes on in my life, when you see me acting inconsistent with God, know that is the Enemy at work in my life and me giving myself over to a lie. Remind yourself of who I am. Listen to my testimony. I am a lover of God. When you see me acting inconsistently with that, believe in me. Remind me of who I am. Remind me of the goodness of my Father. If you must, bring others around me who will spur me on to love and good deeds, but don't you ever stop believing in me."

See, love believes that in the midst of my giving myself away to lies and self and death that there is in me God at work. Okay? I'm going to say this again. I am not good because in my deepest nature I am good. I am good because by the grace of God, he has remade my broken nature. Because I have come aware of the fact that I am all the things that God hates.

I've asked him to forgive me and I've seen what love is. Not that we love God, but that God loves us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for my sins. I'm trying to respond to that fully. I don't do anything to make God love me. The Scripture says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while [Todd was still a self-willed imp] , Christ died for us."

When I understood the truth of that, that it wasn't about my lack of following rules and regulations, but it was about the relationship, stupid, I couldn't believe it. It was too wonderful to be true. Then as I looked, I saw it was true. That God in his kindness made all of history pivot on that one thing, that he said, "It's about this. It's about me dying for you, paying the debt for your sin that you might be restored into relationship with me."

I've been trying to get over it the rest of my life. My wife believes in me. She keeps spurring me on and pushing me back that direction. That is what defines us: relationships and how we do at them. There's great stuff that I've shared here before about how in the second century, there was a man who wrote an apology or a defense of Christianity.

It was Aristides, and he was writing to the Hadrian, who was basically the caesar at the time. It goes through a long list of the way that Christians love one another. He was giving a defense that these are people who aren't just following some new system of philosophy; they're living completely different. His entire defense of the faith was, "Look at how they love one another," as if John, chapter 13:35 was true.

I got an email this week from a sweet young gal here who has just lost her mom. She was the last living member of her family. Because she has been committed here and she is connected here and because she has thrown into follow Christ here with other people, she wrote me this email about how overwhelmed she was by the way she was loved.

The way people were leaving Dallas to go sit with her until four in the morning in groups of three or four and then some would drive back so they could be here at work consistently as her mom spent her last days in Oklahoma. How when things caved all around, there wasn't really anybody there to share the mourning of that with her.

How the friends showed up to be pallbearers when distant cousins and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles for whatever reason didn't want to make the trip. She said, "My friends who didn't really know my mom, showed up to be pallbearers. All my friends who were Buddhists and atheists and skeptics, they kept saying to me, 'Who are these people who love you this way?'"

She had to say, "It's what defines us. What you're seeing is a shadowy expression of God's great love for us. It's what defines who we are, the way we love one another." It's what defined us in the second century. It's what defined us in the time of Christ. It's what defines us now. Relationships defined us, specifically our love for one another.

Relationships are God's tool to grow and sharpen us. Now I need to let you know something. If you're in a relationship with another human, you are in a relationship with a notoriously broken person. I'm going to just say this very quickly, but just suffice it to say that if all you do is go, "I'm leaving this broken person because there has to be somebody else better for me," all you're going to run into is another broken person.

I tell folks all the time. When you marry, you are marrying a notoriously broken person, an unpredictable, unreliable person. They are called humans. I have this deal that I've kept forever in my little inbox or I guess really just in my hard drive in my storage. Every now and then I go back and read it. It's just a very simple little funny thing.

It's just called Recall. It says, "The maker of all human beings is recalling all units manufactured, regardless of make or year, due to the serious defect in the primary and central component of the heart. This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype unit's code named Adam and Eve, resulting in the reproduction of the same defect in all subsequent units.

This defect has been technically termed: Sub sequential Internal Non-Morality, or more commonly known as S-I-N, as it is primarily symphonized by loss of moral judgment. Some other symptoms: (a) Loss of direction, (b) Foul vocal emissions, (c) Amnesia of origin, (d) Lack of peace and joy, (e) Selfish, or violent, behavior, (f) Depression or confusion in the mental component."

Wow. See, that's who you're in relationship with. People who that is their nature. So why are we surprised sometimes when we leave our restored state we drift back to these things? Whenever we operate in and of our own understanding, we break relationship. The reason we're broken is because the Enemy has convinced us that our original manufacturer did not have our best interests in mind when he made us. He told us to break free and operate on our own. We have been corrupted.

There is a virus in the unit, but God in his kindness and grace has wooed us back. You need to know this. Part of the way God grows us is by staying in relationship with one another. I will tell you, the people at Watermark, the people who I know whose lives have been the most significantly changed, are people who stay in relationships that are difficult. Specifically, they stay right here when we hurt and wound and disappoint one another. They don't let guilt and shame drive them away. They don't let somebody else's foolishness write them off.

No, they keep bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. They say, "I'm not going anywhere, man. It might change the way we experience life today, but I'm not going anywhere. When you run away from me, I will have my tiptoes on the edge of the ranch looking for you to turn. I will run to you." This is a grace-filled community. We don't ever celebrate unrighteousness. We're going to call it what it is. We won't laugh at you. We won't mock you in your sin. We'll let you know that isn't right, but we're not done with you.

I just scribbled this down. If you constantly run from God's sharpening tool, which is other people, other broken Christ-followers, you will be a useless person, always taking, consuming, and destroying. You will be sucking resources in life from others. You will be living in despair, darkness, hate, and bitterness. You will live in constant brokenness.

If all you do is say, "I'm out of this relationship. I'm out of this relationship. I'm out of this relationship," you will have five churches, and the one that you're in right now you won't be a member of. You will never grow. Do you want to know why we push community so much here? Because it's God's sharpening tool for you.

When you get around other broken people, you're going to see how much you need grace, how much you need to learn how to love, because you don't know how to love, and how much you need to learn how to forgive, because you don't know how to forgive. We'll constantly remind you how much you have been forgiven (much) so that you can forgive and that you have been loved much so you can love. You're going to go, "This is not in me to do." I'm going to say, "That's right. That's why you need Christ in you. He is the hope of glory."

This is just a fact about relationships. I just want to tell it to you straight up as I can. This is why the world sometimes mocks us, because we're throwing our bucket down the exact same well of, "You're not romancing me enough anymore. You're not erotically pleasing to me enough anymore. You're not giving me enough of what I want anymore." We go right down the road of breaking off our commitments to one another the same way others do, but it's a fact that relationship problems are spiritual problems.

You don't ever have a marital problem. You need to know that. You have a spiritual problem every single time. I've had trouble in my marriage, and it has universally been directly related to my lack of yielding to Christ. I had a guy tell me. He said, "Todd, from this moment on (when I was getting married) I will never have to wonder about your spiritual condition anymore. I will just look in the eyes of your wife and I will know how you are doing in your walk with the Lord."

He has been right 100 percent of the time. I have never had a marital problem for the last 20 years in my marriage to my wife. I have had tons of spiritual problems that have lead to relational issues. I want to let you know straight up, if you have marital problems, it is directly tied to spiritual conditions. Every relational problem is a spiritual problem.

Look at James, chapter 4. There are so many places I could go, but I just want to throw this out. James, chapter 4, verses 1, down until I stop reading. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" In other words, aren't you about your own selfish desires and lusts and wants?

"You lust and do not have; so you commit murder." In other words, your strategy is when you can't get what you want is, "I will wound you. I will kill you if I have to. I will own you. I will employ these techniques to manipulate you to get you to live the way I want you to live so I can have from you what I want to have from you. If I don't get enough from what I'm doing to get it, I'll eventually just walk away from you and go try and manipulate and murder somebody else."

You want to know why you have relational problems? Because your strategies are wrong. "You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask." This idea here is you don't have the relationships and the things you want because you still think you know what well to throw your bucket down. You have the wrong bucket list.

There should be one bucket list. Know God. Know that he is good. Enjoy him forever. See, I have to tell you guys. Do you believe with me that, "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." If that's the truth, you don't have a bucket list. You have one well. Is there anything wrong with wanting to have different adventures and do different things? Of course not as long as they are not that which ultimately you live for. That's why it says,

"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." So should you eat, I love food. Should you love adventure and competition? I love adventure and competition. What he is saying is, "Don't go after those things like they're life to you. Enjoy them for what they are. The gift of a loving God who allows you to experience these things on earth, but don't make them your God." That's the idea there.

James goes on to say, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." In other words, what we're asking for is not for counsel and not instruction and not leadership, but, "Lord, change them. Make my wife do this so that I can be happy."

God says, "No, you're getting it all wrong. What you should ask for is, 'Lord, how do I make relationships work?'" Don't try and change the world around you. Try and change who you are in this world. That whole thing goes down. It talks about why God is zealous for his Spirit to live in you. Guess why God is zealous for his Spirit to live in you? Because he wants you to experience life, relationships that work.

He says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD…" Who think they know how to make life and relationships work. "…BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." When you come to re|engage, guess what the very first principle is that we're going to teach you? Do you want to know how to make every relationship work? The very first principle of re|engage is this. Recognize I need God's help. In other words, "I don't know how to love. I swore to a woman I'd be her lover. I don't know how to love." Then you expect nothing in return.

Then you learn how to extend and seek forgiveness that you yourself have been extended and received forgiveness. Then you nurture and defend the relationship at all times. You give up yourself for the benefit of your spouse. You advocate for their life and their purpose. You grow in the adventure of knowing and being known and you endlessly excel at pursuing oneness and unity with others. It's a constant battle.

The very first thing, look at that, is you recognize, "I don't know how to love." So you have relationships that aren't working? Here's the first thing you should do. "God, will you teach me how to love a woman? I don't know how to love a woman. Would you teach me how to love a neighbor? I don't know how to love a neighbor. I know how to love me. I am a broken human. There is a defect in me. Can you come in and heal what I have lost?" He's like, "Yes, Yes I can."

I love what… Martin Luther said he learned more about his spiritual condition in marriage than he ever did in the monastery. That's why you don't run away from relationships because you're running away from the finest school that God has given you to grow. One guy said, "The state of intimate relationships or marriage is one that requires more virtue and more consistency than any other. It is a perpetual exercise of mortification," which is a glorious word for death to self.

Do you want to know how you can experience more life? It's John, chapter 3, verse 30, "He [God] must increase, but I must decrease." The more that I die in my relationship with my wife, the more my life prospers with her. It's beautiful, but it's not what the world is selling. The world is selling ecstatic, fleeting moments of experience. I think it's only fair to say this. You need to know this about relationships, and God wants you to focus on this. The only person in the relationship that you can control is yourself.

That's why the Scriptures tell us instead of looking at the problems in other humans; focus on the problem that's in yourself. That's why in Matthew, chapter 7, verses 3-5 is so central to any relationship really working. Get the log out of your own eye. Don't focus on the speck that's in their eye. Get the log out of your own eye.

It says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…" You just control yourself. The only person you can control in any relationship is yourself. That's why God says, "You treat others the way you want them to treat you." It doesn't say what Confucius said years ago, which is, "Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you."

God makes it proactive, and he says, "You do treat others the way you want to be treated." Do you want grace? Be a grace-giver. Do you want forgiveness? Forgive. Do you want somebody to believe in you? Believe in others. Love that way. Live that way. That is a full-time job for me. To not worry about the insufficiencies of all who are around me but to let God change the insufficiencies that are in my heart.

I think it's just such a lie and so easy to focus on other people's issues. What I want to do is just share with you a little story about one couple here at Watermark who has been married three times. The third time, they finally have a marriage that works. The first marriage failed. The second marriage failed. Now they've found each other. I wanted to let you hear their story. Check this out.

[Video]

David Renken: Hey, we're David and Denise Renken.

Denise Renken: David and I have both been married three times. For me, I fantasize that if I cooked, if I cleaned, if I kept myself attractive, if I did all the things that I thought a wife was supposed to be and do, that I would have a happy marriage.

David: I had actually modeled most of my expectations of marriage from the sitcoms because I was raised in a pretty rough home. So in order to see what a marriage looked like, I looked at television. Whatever they were projecting on Leave It To Beaver or Father Knows Best, that's kind of what I thought it would be.

Denise: My first marriage ended very tragically. The first year, we were so focused on working, trying to go back to school, and having the baby, and then he was born and that was our whole world. Then the second year, I discovered he was having an affair. He left, went with her, and the marriage ended. The devastation of that, of that trust being broken, it just ripped me apart in a way that I didn't know was possible. That was tough.

David: Yeah, the first marriage, we had gotten married very quickly. It was maybe… We had known each other 10 weeks. I was working hard and wasn't a very happy person, basically. My wife, the one who was so attractive, whenever I started coming home, was dressed in sweats every day or something else. My idyllic world really wasn't there in this dream I had. We ended up divorcing.

Denise: So my first marriage is over, and I am being pursued by husband number two. I was hearing something different from this man. I was hearing that he understood the trauma I had been through, that he would never do something like that to me, and so we ended up marrying, but what I learned after a few years into the marriage was that he was having an affair.

David: The second marriage lasted for a lot longer, but I had multiple affairs during that relationship and that was the end of that marriage.

Denise: So the marriages ended, and I am yet pursued again and marry again, and this man is… He comes into the marriage just telling me, "I know what you've been through, and I'm willing to give you whatever time you need to heal." For the first time, I was married to a man who was willing to shoulder family responsibilities.

David: After the second divorce, I called a few friends looking for advice because I was still pretty miserable. I got the best advice I had. That was that what I needed to do with my life was be the best godly, single man I could be. That instead of looking for what I wanted in relationships, I really needed to look to God, who is the relationship I walked away from. That night after that confrontation, I felt like my world was over.

Basically I cried out to God, and I said, "Take my life." I asked him at that time to… I surrendered control. It was the first time where I really surrendered control to God. I was going to church for maybe three or four months, and I began to date and pretty soon we ended up getting married. This time, that marriage wasn't based on what she could do for me or what I could do for her. I wanted to make God the centerpiece of our marriage. All three times, I was married to the same person.

Denise: That's right. We've been married three times to each other. Wow. David and I went through re|engage as a couple.

David: And the re|engage program took God's Word, took his plan for our marriage, and made it simple so that we could understand.

Denise: And then we're now in the process of facilitating our third couple. Every time we go through that, it takes us another step forward.

David: I tell you, the joy that I've had, I wouldn't trade it for the world. There's nothing too big that God can't handle.

[End of video]

Todd Wagner: Well, when we shot that thing… What I want to share with you is that see so many of us think the problem in our marriage is, "I haven't found my soulmate." Two times, the issue was not that they weren't with their soulmate. The issue was their soul wasn't right and they couldn't mate until they realized they didn't know how to love. Now they're together in the same relationship with the same person who is completely different because they know now how to love because they have been loved and received grace.

See, the problem is not with your spouse. It's not with your neighbor. It's not with your employer. The problem is with your heart and learning how to love. "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." There are some people you can't be at peace with, but that doesn't mean there aren't individuals you can't love when they don't want to be at peace with you.

That's where you need the body of Christ to remind you and encourage you how to walk and navigate through those very difficult waters. Know this: there is no relationship that is so far gone that God can't restore it. It's what he wants to do. I don't know where you are this Valentine's Day, but God wants to restore your relationship with him so he can give you the means to which you can restore your relationships with one another.

The marriage that you're currently in is the marriage that can be the marriage you've always dreamed of, but you have to be the man or the woman who God calls you to be who will make it work. The greatest example of relationship and how to make it successful is God's love for us through Jesus Christ. It's as simple as this.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." For God so loved the world in its broken, rebellious, sinful state that he sent his own Son, initiating with us love and grace and mercy and forgiveness, that whoever receives that love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness should not continue to live in a constant state of broken relationship and despair but start to have life again because you're connected again to the author and giver of life.

If you're here this morning and your life is a string of broken relationships, you need to know something. God is not angry at you. He just wants you to take your bucket and throw it down the right well. It's the well of Christ and his provision for you. It's the community of saints who can remind you where to keep being refreshed continually as you learn to exhibit and experience grace with one another.

We'd love to help you re|engage. Do you want some tips real quick? Here's the deal. Guys, you want a good Valentine's gift? It's free. Write a little note to your wife that you want to improve your relationship with her and say, "I'm going to give you the next 15 or so Wednesdays from 6 to 8 o'clock where we're going to focus on the things God says will allow us to be the people we need to be, for me to be the man I need to be so that you can have the husband you've always dreamt of. Let me re|engage with you this season." Jump in with us and hundreds of other couples on Wednesday nights and come to re|engage.

I'll give you one last little tip and place to go as we just celebrate and close. We recently just shared a story there at re|engage by Tim and Emily Loerke. Tim and Emily… Emily is on our staff. Last year, in 2010, Emily just started writing down their story in a little blog called Today's Letters. You want to bless yourself?

In fact, do you want to vomit at a loving relationship that is so over-the-top great that you just can't believe it? Go to todaysletters.com because the first place I want you to go is their talk where they shared about their story. The first several years of their marriage almost ended in absolute disaster. Then they started to execute on God's program for restoring relationships.

It has so completely restored what is there that you look at and go, "That can't be possible." Instead of breaking their relationship and moving on, they restored their relationship with Christ and restored the relationship with each other. You want to be blessed? Go to todaysletters.com with your wife for Valentine's Day. Start asking the same four questions they ask each other every Tuesday. Start implementing the biblical principles they implement in their marriage. Reengage. Reconnect. Resurrect. Have life.

Father, I thank you for great examples of people who have walked with you and have restored what has been lost. We thank you that in everything, you are our great example and that we can be reconnected, that we can be reengaged with you because you have met the need for our sin to be satisfied in your Son Christ and he has been resurrected to life where he now offers that opportunity to live to us.

I pray this morning that we would be individuals who would heed your instruction. That you would say to us, "Hey look, I'm not angry at you that you keep throwing your buckets down the wrong well. I just want you to come find where life is," that we would believe it and receive it and walk with you. May we drink deeply of relationship with you this week so that we can be restored in relationship with one another. For your glory and our good I pray, amen.

You guys have a great week of worship. We'll see you.


About 'The Gospel Of John: The Visible Image, Volume 2'

Who was Jesus Christ? A mythical man created to give a false sense of comfort after we die? Some sort of character that enables us to justify our own choices while simultaneously giving us the power to judge others? Or was He something much bigger? God, in the flesh, walking and living among His creation. A sinless man who became the sacrifice for our sins. The Gospel of John is more than Christology 101. It is an invitation to a living and active faith in Jesus Christ. Come join us on this life-changing journey through the book of John: the story of Jesus Christ.