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John: Where We've Been and Our Intention Moving Forward

Todd takes a quick look back at where we have been over the last 42 weeks in John. Moving ahead, he challenges us to live in the truth that is revealed and work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Todd WagnerOct 14, 2012
John (all)

In This Series (18)
No Mean Love
Todd WagnerDec 9, 2012
The Sovereignty of God in the Sabotage of Judas
Todd WagnerDec 2, 2012
When Jesus Took Up the Towel and Loved us to the Uttermost
Todd WagnerNov 11, 2012
Israel and You: A Good Example or a Horrible Warning
Todd WagnerOct 28, 2012
For This Purpose He Came: Unveiling God's Glory in His Humiliation
Todd WagnerOct 21, 2012
John: Where We've Been and Our Intention Moving Forward
Todd WagnerOct 14, 2012
A Perfect Message if you "Wish to see Jesus"
Todd WagnerAug 26, 2012
King Jesus: Why the Leaders Missed Him, Why You Must Not
Todd WagnerAug 19, 2012
Albert: A Living Picture of Lazarus a Man Once Dead
Todd WagnerAug 12, 2012
Lazarus: A Dead Man Who Becomes a Picture of Life
Todd WagnerAug 5, 2012
The Pivot Point That Is Personal Belief and The Rightness of Radical Response
Todd WagnerJul 8, 2012
What Should and Shouldn't Matter To You
Todd WagnerJun 24, 2012
Jesus versus the Ultimate Predator
Todd WagnerJun 3, 2012
The Reason for Everything and How We are to Respond to It
Todd WagnerMay 20, 2012
The Identity of the Good Shepherd and the Attributes of His Sheep
Todd WagnerApr 22, 2012
The Good Shepherd: What He is Doing, Why He is Doing It, and How it's Going to Get Done
Todd WagnerMar 25, 2012
A Blind Man You'd Better See Yourself In
Todd WagnerMar 4, 2012
Sons, Slaves and Freedom Indeed
Todd WagnerFeb 26, 2012

Good morning. We're going to dive back into John. Are you all ready? Have you missed it? Forty weeks of not missing it, and then six weeks of being away from it. It's time to dive back in. I'm going to ease you back in this morning by taking the first 12 chapters and reminding you what the story is, and then, frankly, go back, remind ourselves of what we celebrated last week, and talk about how it is so applicable to us where we are in that gospel and what we need to do today. Are you ready?

Let me start by saying this. John 1:1 is the very beginning of your Bible. Genesis 1:1 is after John 1:1 in all of history, because John 1:1 talks about what was there before creation. It was the uncreated, eternally existent, self-sufficient God. That's who was there. Now, John used a very important term. The term is Word. There's a reason he used the term Word. We're going to see it says in John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word…"

The reason John used that, as we taught at the very beginning, is because there was this philosopher about 4 BC in the Mediterranean Middle East who basically had come up with the idea that there is this impersonal, unknowable, abstract entity that no one could really get their arms around, but that this word, this certainty, this truth, this logic, this preexistent ordered reality is out there called the Word, and if you scoff at it, if you ignore it, if you reject it, it's going to cause great pain and turmoil in your life.

So there was all this competing narrative and competing philosophical attempt to attain to what the Word was. "What is the ultimate truth, so we can know it, so we stop hurting ourselves and hurting others?" John boldly, about 500 years after that idea was prevalent throughout the known world, especially the intellectual world… John shows up and makes an amazing claim. "This idea you guys are seeking to find? This idea is not impersonal. I knew him. This force that if you reject is going to cost you everything existed recently in Israel. His name is Jesus, and I want you to know about his love for you." That's the gospel of John.

So now, with that as an understanding, when you hear the word read right here in John 1:1, when it mentions the Word and how the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, how incredibly radical and extravagant that claim was. What John is going to start to do is show you why that's not an unreasonable claim. He's going to say, "Anchored in history is this man who claimed to be more than a man. He is the preexistent, eternal truth, and if you don't know him, you will pay for it, not just in terms of hell but hell right now, because you live contrary to that truth."

Let me say this again. So many people think that all we're doing is telling a story that you'd better buy into so when you die it's okay. That is a gross misunderstanding of the gospel. The gospel is good news not just for what happens at the grave. The gospel is good news for now. This week, I was meditating on this idea, so I tweeted out this idea. I said, "Psalm 23 is often read at the gravesides of men."

Listen. I'm happy for that psalm to be read there ("The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want"), but that was never a psalm that was written for men at gravesides. That psalm was written for 13- or 14- or 15-year-old little shepherd boys who were facing lions and about to face giants, that they could know throughout their life if they walk with this Word, this Lord who is intimate and a shepherd, it would be well with them no matter what happened around them, even if the giant took their head off one day, because he is sovereign over death. What a claim. What a truth.

Watch this. Let's walk through John very quickly. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men." Understand Word. Don't you want to go, "Well, tell me more"?

Watch this. Verse 14: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. […] No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained [what God is like] ."

A little bit later, we have John the Baptist show up, and it talks about his interaction. John was out there telling people to prepare for a coming judgment because they were ignoring the Word. Then he said this amazing thing in chapter 1, verse 29: "John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and said, 'Behold, that's the Lamb of God.'"

The Word is not just somebody who was always with God, and all things came to exist through him, and nothing came into existence or being that did not come through him, and not only is he the Light of the World, but he is this Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world. John said, "I myself have seen, and I testify that this Word, who is Light, who is Creator, who is a Lamb, is God."

John 3:14-18. Jesus then himself says this. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness…" Quick reference back to a story in Numbers, where because of people's rebellion to God there was a plague among them. This plague happened to be vipers that were constantly hacking at their feet, at their shins, at their legs. They were dying, and God instructed Moses to take a bronze serpent and put it on a pole.

Think through this for a second. How would you attach a long squiggly straight line to a pole? If you just nailed it to the pole going straight up and down, you'd hold the pole and they would just see a pole there. How would you do that if you were holding up a pole? You'd probably fix a crossbar to it and have that snake go across it. Have you ever seen the sign that physicians use that talk about their job to heal people? It comes from this idea.

So what, in effect, are they holding up at that particular moment? It's a bronze serpent that is on a pole with a crossbeam, and everybody is looking to a cross that is the antidote for the viper that struck them with death and poison because of sin and rebellion against the Word. What a picture. Jesus refers back to this historical incident.

He says, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life." Again, don't think just at the grave, but it's going to have an abundant quality of life right now. Do you want your life to change right now? Then get in step with the Word, with truth, with right.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already…"

This is the same idea that existed five centuries before. Your life is filled with chaos and death and war and insecurity because you're kicking against the Word. There's a phrase Paul uses a little bit later in the Bible. "Paul, why are you persecuting me? In vain do you kick against the goads." A goad is a shepherd's instrument or a herder's instrument. It's a long stick, longer than the longest leg of the animal you are moving along.

You would take that stick and drive it right into the, shall we say, tender area of the beast. When you get hit there, it's going to move you or it's going to agitate you, and you're going to kick. But you can kick all day long against the goad, and you're never going to get the goader, because there is a sovereign truth greater than you moving you toward something. Pain moves us away from what we're choosing back toward that which is life-giving, or in the case of an animal, driving you where there are green pastures. This is the idea.

"He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Jesus says later in chapter 5, verse 20, "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing…" Jesus, in the story John is telling, says, "The Father will show him greater works than these that you've already seen, so that you're going to marvel."

"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes." Why? "Because I and the Father, you're going to find out, are one. I was with the Father in the beginning, separate from the Father, yet we are the same." "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." We're told in John 5, "Just like the Father raises the dead, you're going to see me raise the dead."

John 5:24: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." Right now. Present tense. Certain and secure. It's the story of our lives in this room. It's why we get together and sing. Every now and then, we enter back into death, but John is saying, "There are a group of people who have met the Word, who have met God, who have met this Jesus, and they're beginning to walk with him, and it's bringing about a transformation in their lives."

We, as a staff, are making a video. Our buddy Patrick Ryan Clark… One of the songs he has written that we've sung a lot these last three years is "Where Would I Be Without My Savior?" We went around our staff one day. I said, "We're going to do this. We're going to sing this song, and then I want us to take a moment and stand up. Let's talk about where we would be without a Savior."

I go, "I'd be divorced. I'd be addicted to porn. My kids would hate me. My friends probably would all be friends from the last three to six to nine to twelve months. I would be on a spiral of destruction, angry at God, angry at the world, and isolated." That's where I'd be without Christ, but with Christ and what he has done in my life, that's not my story at all.

In John 6:26-29, Jesus answered some folks who were being critical of him and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.""You like me because of what you think I can do for you. You don't know who I am."

"'Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.' Therefore they said to Him, 'What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'"

See what John is trying to do in this gospel? "Let me tell you who he is. Let me tell you what he's doing. Let me tell you why he came. Let me tell you how you can enjoy him forever." Verse 35 of the same chapter says:

"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.'"

Jesus goes on to talk a little bit more about this metaphor he was using about his body being the bread and his blood being a source of life, and they were confused. It says, "As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, 'You do not want to go away also, do you?'" He didn't dumb down his teaching; he just raised the call. "Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.'"

Are you catching a theme here? This Word is God. He came and dwelt among us. He didn't come to judge us; he came to rescue us because he loves us, and life is with him. "Where else should we go? We have believed. We have come to know that you are the Holy One of God." In John, chapter 7, though, we find that there were some others who were grumbling, and among the crowds concerning him they were saying, "No, he's just a good man." Others were saying, "No, no, no. He's not a good man; he leads people astray. He's taking them to a bad place."

Jesus tells you what he thinks about himself in chapter 8, verse 12. "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." John 8, verses 28 and following, says, "When you lift up the Son of Man…" Sound familiar? Way back to John 3. " [When you lift me up, you're going to then] know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him."

"That's why I'm going to do what I'm going to do." You're about to see what the Father loves. He loves to raise dead men, and the way he raises dead men is he gives them an antidote for their death. "I am the antidote for their death," Jesus said. Verse 29: "'And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.' As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him…"

"Listen. I'm not just an idea. I'm not just a propositional statement. I'm a person. You have to have a relationship with me. If you continue in relationship with me…" "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." A little bit later, Jesus is going to say to them, "I am the truth. I am the way. I am the life."

In John 8:45 he says, "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me." Why? "Because you're not of the truth." Verse 46: "Which one of you convicts Me of sin?" An amazing statement. "If I was God, I would have no sin, because God is good and God is holy. So I'm asking you, in the midst of all my enemies…" What an amazing statement.

I think this is the most amazing statement in the book of John. He is surrounded by people who hate him, and he goes, "All right. Let's just go. Who has ever seen me do something wrong?" I'm not going to ask that question, because there are a bunch of rocks here, and you'd go, "Not only have we seen you do something wrong; we're a little annoyed with it." You're going to rush the stage to fire them at me, if this is not a community of grace.

But Jesus in John 8… "Which one of you convicts Me of sin?" There. "If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?" The answer is because they didn't want to believe him. They wanted to keep doing what they were doing. God loves you enough to let you kick against the goads all you want, but as they observed 500 years before Christ, there are certain laws that are fixed in the universe that if you kick against, it's going to cost you. John, chapter 10, verse 7:

"So Jesus said to them again, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life [that's why I'm here] , and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.'"

Verse 17: "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father." What a story.

Isn't this riveting? Can you imagine this guy, the things he's saying? "Who here thinks I've ever done anything wrong? Let me just tell you something. You're going to kill me because you're a bunch of liars, and when you kill me, it won't be because you're in control; it's because I'm in control, because I'm the Lamb.

I'm going to be led to slaughter, because I'm the antidote to sin. God is holy, and the wages of sin is death, and I in my love will offer you a gift. I will die for you." Amazing! "That's why I'm the Good Shepherd. Do you want to know what God is like? Look at me." Don't you want to go, "Keep talking. Read faster, Wagner. Get out of the way"? Verse 25:

"I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We're the same. In John 11, he says this amazing thing in verse 25: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Then we're pretty much to where we were when we shut it down for a few weeks to talk about some seminal truths that really need to shepherd us as we respond to this love.

It talks about how the Pharisees were, at this moment, certain they wanted to get rid of him. Jesus had, in fact, resurrected a man everyone knew was very dead. It says they sought now not just to get rid of Jesus but to get rid of the one who was evidence that this Jesus was more than just a philosopher or a good teacher.

There's something about opening up tombs and calling people out from them that makes people go, "Maybe we ought to tune in." There's something about commanding the wind and the waves, defying natural law because he's sovereign over natural law, walking on water, bringing forth fruit and food out of nothing, turning water into wine, telling the lame to walk. Jesus says, "I didn't do these to impress you. Anybody can say these things; few can do these things. Take note."

He says, "The greatest thing I'm going to do is I'm going to lay my life down, and when you think I'm good and dead, I'll raise my own life up, and you're going to have to deal with that." So the Pharisees wanted to get rid of him, and it says the whole world is going after Jesus and his disciples. It says right after that in John 12 that a group of Greeks came, because they were God-fearers. We taught on this.

I've just covered 42 messages in about 15 minutes. Go catch up on your bike ride or your walk. This is basically where we were. Jesus said to these Greeks who came to him, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." Watch this. This is so important. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." This is where I started throwing apples, if you can remember.

"He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him." Great leaders never ask others to do what they themselves are not willing to do. Jesus is going to model for all of us that the Father is trustworthy.

This is where he says, in verse 27, "Now my soul has become troubled, because I know what is ahead, and my soul understands the pain I'm going to experience." But watch this. I taught on this and said the pain he was about to experience was not just the physical pain. He said, "My soul is troubled," because he knew there was going to be a moment when he bore the sins of the world that that eternally present unity and love and communion…

There was going to be a moment where it was compromised as he became sin. Jesus shouts out, "Father, where are you? Why have you forsaken me? In this moment you've left me." The answer is because he bore our sins on the tree. "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Look at what it says in John 12. He said, "My soul is troubled. Father, save me from this hour. But, Lord, this is the hour I came for. I'm not going to try to CLEP out of it. Glorify your name." This is the moment where I mentioned what Jesus did at the cross… It reckons back to some of the great moments in our military's history. There are great stories of guys who have won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

There are stories from the Vietnam War. There was a guy who was completely surrounded by the Viet Cong, by the enemy, and he knew there was no way out. He got on his comm and radioed out and said, "Call in the fire. Bring in the air cover. Destroy everything in this particular area," and he gave out his specific location. In came all the force of American judgment on those folks who were oppressing the land, and that person who called out that communication himself died with the enemy so truth could advance. We celebrate that story.

You need to understand that's exactly what Christ was doing when he went to the cross. He called in the fire. He said, "Bring it down right here, right now," and he received for that more than the Congressional Medal of Honor. He received everything I started to reread there in John 12:23-26. The one who loses his life will save it. The one who serves the Father, the Father will honor it, and the Father has honored it.

This is why it says in Philippians 2 that God gave him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is exactly who he said he was. The Father has given all glory to the Son, because he's the one who took the shot. That's our story.

What I wanted to do, as I made you hang on right where John is, as you started to go, "Okay, Todd, tell me what happens next," as he teaches us more about who he was and what we're to do in light of that… I felt like I needed to stop again right here and just say, "Listen." In the Bible, one of the things that is incredibly true is this idea that to whom much is given much is expected.

There has never been given a greater opportunity than to be God. There has never been given a greater opportunity than to redeem people you love, and you'll see what God did to redeem people he loves. Now, having come to believe that this story is true and having been personally saved from the death that comes in kicking against the Word, much has been given to you and me.

Last week, we celebrated the tremendous reality that he has given us an incredible physical provision and gift. He has given us a tool and a resource, that if we don't steward this tool and this resource well, woe be to us. But the greatest gift God has given us is our lives in connection and relationship with him. He has given us the leadership of Christ, that he says, "Imitate me."

The word for imitate me in Greek is the word we get mimic from. "You do what I do." So folks who love Christ see as he saw, do as he did, love as he loved, and give themselves the way Christ gave himself. They steward their life, they steward their resources in a way that will lead to life for others. My friends, that is the story of this community.

We are a group of people who are trying to respond to the example of our servant leader who gave everything he had that we might come back into a relationship with life. What Christ calls us to is to pick up where he left off and to give ourselves away to others and to serve them. He expects us to do what he did. "If you know who I am, then you'll live as I live."

Watch this. Again, right there in John 12. I want to read this part again. "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." God has called us to live as dead men and to no longer do what our flesh wants to do but to live by faith. Sometimes that's really hard to do, Jesus says. The Scripture says he has been tempted in every way as we have been, yet without sin.

He understands when it's hard to give yourself away to an eternal Father and to set your mind on the things above and not on the things that are on the earth when all the earth is right there for you to enjoy, yet Jesus says, "There's not life there, and there will be honor for those who serve with me and who give themselves away the way I did." God has called us to that great privilege, and we can't take it lightly.

I have so many illustrations up here of folks in this body who have done that well. Let me just remind you, as we look back a little bit and remember these things, of what it is we must do as we get ready to study more about what Christ did when he moved into that last week of his life, because really, from this point on in John, we cover just seven days of his life as he gives himself away.

It's what Paul encourages us to do. He says, "Therefore, you should work out your salvation with fear and trembling." He doesn't say work for your salvation. Your salvation is a gift, but knowing that Christ faithfully served the Father and, therefore, was honored and given the name above all names, you, too, faithfully serve the Father. Have your salvation work its way out in obedience, in humility, in surrender, and in selfless living.

Call in the shot every day. "Lord, let me die here that Christ might live in me." Jesus said that John the Baptist, among all those born of women, was the greatest man who ever lived, and the reason that is true is because John lived by this mantra. John 3:30: "I must decrease; he must increase. I must learn more of his ways and less of my ways."

I have an email here from a guy who not long ago was at Watermark on a Sunday morning, and he wrote this to me. He said, "Todd, I was fairly new here and have been very encouraged by what I've heard. I always leave Sunday mornings feeling a sense of conviction and accountability. You're providing material that can be applied to our daily lives, and I'm growing. I want to thank you.

Following a recent Sunday morning service, I went to my daughter's soccer game, and the coach of the opposing team was yelling at his players quite a bit because they weren't playing very well. At one point, the coach picked out one player and yelled at her. 'Don't just stand there! Get involved! How else do you think we're going to win this game?' All I could think about was what you had talked about that morning and how, in effect, each of us can't just come and listen."

Don't just sit there! Get in the game! How else do you think he's going to reach that neighbor of yours, that coworker? How else is he going to have another story written on these rocks? I'll tell you what. We have probably 3,000 to 5,000 rocks up here, with Sharpies right there, ready to be written on by the next 3,000 to 5,000 stories.

We have always said at Watermark the most important people at Watermark are the next 100 people who come. I've never said that without saying this: it's because those next 100 people are so important that we invest so deeply in you. We have Equipping Days and Training Days. We have communities to shepherd you and encourage you, because you are the means through which they're going to be reached.

Recently, all of the men and women at Watermark have been studying the book of Romans. All of the guys, about 700 of us, have memorized Romans 1:16-17. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith…" The idea there is as people, like Paul, ready to go into the very epicenter of world dominance and societal greatness and philosophical discussion and government strength…

Paul said, "I'm not afraid to go to Rome. I can't wait to get to Rome, because I'm not ashamed of this truth. It's the only truth that can set Rome free." Folks, we can memorize that verse, but if we don't do something with that truth, it doesn't matter how we sing, how we study, or what we say. I also shot out this statement this week: We're not a country club here. We're not a cruise ship here. We're not a people who compulsively take notes. We are the church of Jesus Christ.

I want to ask you a question. If every single person far from God who you prayed for, just prayed for by name… Not one of those, "O Father, Dallas is a lost and hurting city. Will you save it? O Father, this world is dark and filled with despair." No, people you know by name. If every single person you prayed for this week was here this morning, made a compelling and heartfelt decision to trust Jesus Christ and follow him who is the way, the truth, and the life, and became a radical disciple of Jesus Christ, how many people would be saved?

How many of the 3,000 to 5,000 rocks would have people rushing up here to write on them things like, "I was lost, but now I'm found. The life which I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me. I was an atheist for 26 years, but now I know him. I used to find my significance in alcohol and in women or I used to seek for my significance in men, but now I have found one who truly loves me."

How many of those stories would be on the rocks this week if we did that? How many folks who you prayed for did you take a moment to share with and look at them and say, "I just have to tell you my story of grace. Let me tell you what I found to be true"? How many of you have sought to equip yourself?

This week, I had a few moments. I dropped into a Starbucks to read between meetings, and there was a gal sitting there across from me who goes to Watermark who was nice enough to say "Hello" right away and just encourage me. Then another gal came and sat down next to her, and she right away chose to engage her and just began to love on her a little bit, and they started to have a conversation. I had some stuff I needed to do, so I was just sitting there reading.

It wasn't long, though, before she pulled me into the conversation. And she did it the wrong way. I love her, but she said, "Oh, this is my pastor." I'm like, "Don't blow my cover like that. Just say, 'This is a friend of mine.' Don't be telling people yet. Don't throw that baggage on me. We'll get there." But we started talking, and she actually looked at me, and she goes, "Have you heard what we've been talking about?" I go, "Well, I've tried not to listen, but I've heard a little bit."

She says, "Oh, so you're a pastor, huh?" She goes, "Well, let me just tell you, I don't go to church, but if I did, I'd go to the Unitarian church, because I believe there's some good in all religion." Now what would you say to that? I'll tell you what I said. I just go, "Well, listen. You probably said that thinking I'm going to disagree with you because I'm a Christian, a follower of Christ. I do agree with you. There's probably some good in all religion, but some good isn't necessarily good enough. I think there's some good in all of humanity, but the question is…How much good is good enough?"

Then I said this just kind of extemporaneously. I said, "Let me ask you a question. What if I told you there was some good in that coffee but there was also some urine in your coffee?" Now, I said that, and everybody at Starbucks, their heads kind of swung around, so I thought next time I might use a different… But I did. I said, "What if I told you there was some good in your coffee but there was also some urine in it? Would you drink it?" She goes, "Well, no, I wouldn't."

I go, "Well, how about this? You're talking about the greatest and most important truth in the history of the world. Is 'some good' good enough for you, that you would take something much worse than urine in your coffee and ingest it because it sounds nice to you?" She goes, "Well, I don't believe what you believe." I go, "What I believe doesn't matter. I'm talking now about truth." And we engaged in a conversation.

She goes, "I just need to prepare more before I debate you." I said, "Wait a minute. I didn't know we were debating. I thought we were having a discussion." I go, "Is there something I've done that has made this into an argument?" She goes, "No. Just this is very frustrating." I said to her, "Is it frustrating because somebody, in a loving way, is helping you face for just a moment that some of the ideas that sound really nice and help you get along, not dealing with truth, is exposing you that that might not be the best way to live and you might be ingesting something that's doing great damage to your soul though there's some good in it?"

There are people all over this town waiting to have that loving conversation with you, and we're going to leave these rocks up here until they're gone. Some of you guys are in this room, and people have loved you that way. I encourage you to come up here and write your story on it. We'll collect them. We'll put these shots together. This is going to be the art that decorates our campus. We're going to put these all up. Some of these stories will be amazing. You can walk around.

The ones that are out there are some that are nice already, but we have hundreds over here behind us already that we're taking pictures of and that we'll eventually put out, where you can be walking with your kids and pick up a rock of remembrance and say, "This is why we learn of Jesus: because God uses broken people like us to bring people like this." You should have a rock yourself that you've written somewhere on this campus about your story. Just leave it here, and we'll get it out there so you can walk around, and if one day you want to find your rock, you can go through 12,000 of them until you find it. That'll be great.

Here's what I want to let you know. You're not just some rock lost out there. God loves you. When he was hanging on that cross and the Lord heard his Son say, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" he could have picked up any rock and said, "Because of Todd Wagner. That's why. Because of Malcolm Holland. That's why." Think of your name. Because of you. That's why. "Because I love them, and I want them to know life, so I came."

What we're going to do over these next weeks… Because I want to tell you something, gang. I don't want to just study John so you guys can know John in case Jeff Foxworthy has you on The American Bible Challenge and you might not embarrass yourself, like the rest of the nation has been doing, but so that you might be compelled to tell others about what you have found and to call them to come and see. "Come and see this Jesus."

We're a group of imperfect people who are following him, and one day he'll take us home, but until then, we're going to serve him as radically as we can, because we are not a cruise ship here. We are not a country club. We are not a compulsive note-taker group. We are the church, and God wants us to go love as he has come to love. Jesus says in the next chapter, "By this they're going to know you're mine: that you love the way I have loved, that you serve and give your life away so that they might know where life can be found."

We made 12 of those "Thanks for making room for me" videos. We're going to watch one every week. Here was the first one from about four years ago. Some of you guys are on this video. Some of your friends want to be. Watch this.

[Video]

David Sprawls: By God's provision, I came to Watermark. A friend told me about it, and I was glad I came here, because I found authentic, real community. Thanks for making room for me.

Edie Hudson: When Wake started up again, everything was too full, but they managed to find a place for me in a small group. Thanks for making room for me.

Debbie Cunningham: Thank you for making room for me.

Roseana Smith: Thanks for making room for me.

Ronna Cross: I became a believer on September 6, and I hope y'all make room for all those searching hearts out there.

Jarrid Ghaffari: When I first moved from New York to Dallas, I had no friends or family. If it wasn't for God blessing me with Watermark, I wouldn't have the accountability I have today.

Kimberly Opitz: Thanks for making room for me.

Eddy Badrina: Thanks for making room for us.

Morgan Buchek: Thanks for making room for us.

Kristina Thornhill: Yeah, we really didn't want to come, but then I loved it.

Amanda Thornhill: I thought it was going to be really stupid and boring, but it ended up to be really great and fun…

Kristina: Yeah, because they have, like, music and fun…

Amanda: …hanging with Bodie and David. And we went to DTown, and it was awesome.

Kristina: …and video games, and they have, like, doughnuts in the mornings.

Amanda: I know. Yum.

Casey Green: Thanks for making room for me.

Kelly Fillingim: Thanks for making room for me.

Kaity Robertson: I was a really lost college student, and a friend brought me to Watermark where I learned who the Lord was, and I am learning to love Christ more and more every day. Thank you so much for making room for me.

Jackie Merck: Thanks for making room for me.

Maggie Rodriguez: Thanks for making room for us.

Holly Mason: Thank you for making room for me at Watermark.

Jen Manoleas: Thank you for making room for me.

Denise Link: God has used Watermark to help us work through areas of our marriage through the marriage ministry and through a Bible study called Shiloh that helps couples who are experiencing infertility. So thanks for making room for us, Watermark.

Anna Patterson: Through the love of people here, just every day, and the evidence of changed lives that has given me hope.

Freddie Mayfield: I just basically had come off the street. I was pretty much homeless, desperate, and lost. I came into the church and sat on the front row. I hadn't been in a church in years.

Anna: Now I'm in relationship with God again, and I'm on my way back to healing and on a journey with Christ.

Freddie: I asked to be baptized, and the rest is history. I couldn't tell you what happened or how it happened. It was just amazing grace.

Andra Davidson: Thanks for making room for me.

Alycia Brown: Thanks for making room for me.

Ryno Appelgryn: Thanks for making room for me.

Gabe Knapp: I moved here from Austin about three weeks ago, and I hardly knew anybody, and the Watermark community helped me to get plugged in. I went on the Launch retreat. I met a ton of new friends, and I even met a couple of new roommates. So thanks for making room for me.

Debbie Wiechmann: Thanks for making room for me.

Amy Strealy: Thanks for making room for me.

Matt McCuen: Thanks for making room for us.

Marti Good: It wasn't long before I was in CR and plugged into a Community Group and began serving with the children's ministry. It made a big difference in my life. No more isolation.

Jarrid: I just want to thank each one of you individually for making room for me.

Sarah Graham: Thanks for making room for me.

Female: Thank you for making room for us.

Sue Bohlin: Thanks for making room for us.

Kaity: Thank you.

Anna: Thanks for making room for me.

Kristina & Amanda: Thanks for making room for us.

April Mureen: Thank you for making room for me.

Marti: Thank you.

Freddie: Listen. Thank you for making room for me. God bless all of y'all. I just love you.

[End of video]

We just spent a little bit of time this morning trying to get to know the greatness of our God, and there are a bunch of folks who were not stirred to be here who are praying that there are folks who know the greatness of God, who know what the Word is, that the Word is love, that the Word has come, the Word has given his life, and you are his ambassadors.

So I unleash you to worship him. I unleash you to go and compel them to come and see this Jesus who has taken people whose hearts are as hard as stone and given them a tender heart that's reconciled to him. You are the means. You're not here to observe. Get in the game. How else do you think he's going to reach those he came for? He has chosen to use you. Let's go glorify him. Amen?

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