As followers of Christ we should set the curve in the way that we love others. "'By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.'" (John 13:35) Our love should not be average we should look different: "they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world" (1 Peter 2:12).
No Mean Love
The Sovereignty of God in the Sabotage of Judas
When Jesus Took Up the Towel and Loved us to the Uttermost
Israel and You: A Good Example or a Horrible Warning
For This Purpose He Came: Unveiling God's Glory in His Humiliation
John: Where We've Been and Our Intention Moving Forward
A Perfect Message if you "Wish to see Jesus"
King Jesus: Why the Leaders Missed Him, Why You Must Not
Albert: A Living Picture of Lazarus a Man Once Dead
Lazarus: A Dead Man Who Becomes a Picture of Life
The Pivot Point That Is Personal Belief and The Rightness of Radical Response
What Should and Shouldn't Matter To You
Jesus versus the Ultimate Predator
The Reason for Everything and How We are to Respond to It
The Identity of the Good Shepherd and the Attributes of His Sheep
The Good Shepherd: What He is Doing, Why He is Doing It, and How it's Going to Get Done
A Blind Man You'd Better See Yourself In
Sons, Slaves and Freedom Indeed
Yeah. Well, let me ask you again. How many folks did you make room for this week? How many folks did you compel to come and see? How many relationships that you have nurtured did you take advantage of and invite them into your life to be a part of something that's going on throughout the week to tell them, "Listen, I know you know you think what we are and what church is about, but let me invite you to come and see this Jesus who is working powerfully in the lives of people."
If we didn't do that, we did not worship this week. If we did not go and boldly and gladly and purposefully make room in our hearts, in our prayers, in our time, with our resources for others, then we're doing something other than worship. What we're doing right here on Sunday morning is reminding ourselves and remembering who Christ is. We are reminding ourselves how to respond and remembering his great love for us.
Then we're trying to follow him. We are saved not because of what we do for him, but we do for him what we do because of what he has done for us. We're just trying to follow his example. We don't gather here for good music. We don't even gather here for friendship. We gather here to spur each other on to love and good deeds.
So I want to remind you, church, that this is where we equip the saints, encourage one another, admonish each other, help each other with great patience and instruction that we might be worshippers. If you're here this morning as a guest and some friends compelled you to come in, welcome. We're so glad you're here. Thank you for putting up with all that is flawed in our lives.
We just pray that through our imperfection and insufficiency that you can get a glimpse of him. That is who we are: a group of people banded together to remember God's love. By his grace, may we remind you that there's a God who cares for you. That's what we're going to talk about this morning. We don't show those videos for no effect but to remind you how grateful people are when you love them as Christ loved them. Amen?
Father, I pray that we would be a body that as we gather, we do get another glimpse of who you are. I thank you for the gospel of John that we're just studying that you have preserved for us that we might be reminded of your great love. Having come to this moment in history, you showed us what love is.
You brought the most amount of glory to yourself that you could and you showed us what love to the uttermost, to the very end, looks like. Then you told us, "Listen, while I'm away, I'm leaving it to you to tell people, show people, remind people of who I am and what I've done. Here we are 2,000 years later, Father. You have been patient in wiping out, eradicating evil because you want evil ones like me to come to grace.
So I thank you, Father, that before 1979 or 1980 you didn't wipe out evil because I would've been among those numbered. I thank you, Father, that even now you don't judge us according to our own deeds because I would be among that number of evil. I thank you that your grace is sufficient.
I thank you that your grace is teaching me and thousands of other folks who gather with me here at this little place you've given us to serve you with to overcome evil with good and to walk in your steps. I pray as we dwell on the glory of Christmas and dwell on the glory of your love for us expressed in what Christmas came to accomplish, that it would change us, that people would see your love, and you would get the glory. In Christ's name, amen.
There is a phrase that I've even quoted here a lot. I like it a lot. I just don't think it's ultimately as true as it should be. It's a phrase that a guy who has been greatly used by God in the last number of years who likes to fancy himself a Christian hedonist has used. He says God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
This is what he is really trying to accomplish there. When you see the goodness and the fullness and glory of God, you'll run to him. People see us running to him and they'll go, "Where are you running? What are you doing? What are you in love with? Why are you so crazy about God?" I think in many ways it is true that God is incredibly glorified in us when we are incredibly satisfied in him.
I have to say, I think there's maybe a better way to say it about what ultimately glorifies God than us just being satisfied in him. It comes in this. It comes in that God's ultimate glory is in showing that the only thing that could satisfy him was his own offering of his own eternally perfect self, and it's the only way that he could love those who are unlovable and not just wink at sin but fully satisfy his wrath.
Where do I get that? I get that from where we are in John 13. God is most glorified in us when we respond to his provision for us.God is most glorified in us when we follow his example in giving our lives as he gave his life for us. God is most glorified on the cross. That's Jesus' entire point. He says, "Now is the Son of Man glorified…"
Now I will tell you this. He says, "The way people are going to know going forward that you have relationship with me is you're not going to be mean." What's the word mean mean? You know, I always think of mean… Well now Taylor Swift has me think of that little tune, right? One that my wife sometimes says, "Quit saying it." She just hums that melody at me at this point, you know?
Do you know what? At first, she does it in a cute, playful little way like, "Bro, you're drifting toward mean." Usually that means I'm not drifting toward. I'm in full "Hallelujah Chorus" mode of mean, but let me just tell you why that doesn't bother me. What she is trying to tell me is, "Hey Todd, in this moment what you're doing is you're not walking in the fullness of the intention of a worshipper."
The word mean we pull across really from math. What is a mean in math? It is average. It is common. If you're talking statistics, the mean is the expectant value. The expectant value of going right now to park at a mall is that somebody is going to fight you for that spot and take it if they can no matter how long you've been waiting.
The expectant value of this world is that they're going to be committed to you as long as it's convenient to them. The expectant value in marriage is, "I'll be committed to you as long as you're committed to me." That is common, and it is mean. That's what the world expects.
What Jesus is about to tell you right here in this great text in John 13 is, "Y'all ought not to be mean. You ought to not be average because you are my people called out of the meanness of what is average in the human condition and to rise above it and to be holy. Don't withdraw yourself from the mean world. You live in the midst of the mean and you set the curve. You be excellent in your behavior so that the thing in which they slander you, when they see your good works they may give God glory in the day when he visits them.
Because they will be able to say, 'We knew you were there because there were a group of people who lived among us in a way that we could not explain. They kept telling us the reason they lived among us the way that they did was because they were no longer common but something uncommon had invaded their lives. There was a divine presence that came in and shook their world and called them out of the meanness, the averageness of sin, and allowed them to become glorious creatures.'"
Do you see what the expectation is? We're not supposed to have great musicals. We're not supposed to have wonderful emotional experiences. We're not even to have just good friendships. We're not even just supposed to do decent things. We are to set the curve as to what it looks like for a human.
This is what the Scripture had in mind when it said, "Listen, all of you have become mean. '…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…'"The world has now dumbed-down the glory that God intended for humankind to be because we don't live in relationship with a God who is loving and kind and true and holy and righteous.
The word holy means to separate. Not horizontally, but to live in the midst in the way that the world looks at you and just goes, "Who are you people? Who are you people?" Now we are at a place in John 13 where all this is collapsing. Let me just remind you. Jesus says, "Now is the Son of Man glorified…" This is the moment. We looked at verse 31 last week. Let's pick it up right there.
It says, "Therefore when he had gone…" Meaning that Judas was out of their number. Now it was just Jesus and the Eleven. He reminds them. He says, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him…""And all the fullness up to this moment you've seen what I've said about myself and what I've done. I've glorified the Father up to this moment, but now even more because you're going to see that God approves me as worthy, that he can be satisfied in my sacrifice.
In me, who is one with the Father, who is eternally part of what the godhead has always been, who is the visible image of the invisible God, who is the Word made flesh, you're going to see who the Word is. You're going to see what love looks like. 'Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.' You're going to see what true justice looks like. I'm not going to wink at sin. I'm going to pour out all my wrath.
You're going to see what truthfulness looks like. When I said that I would save you, you're going to look at me saving you. You're going to see what faithfulness looks like when it's hard and I am distressed to the point of death, I'm going to persevere. You're going to get a glimpse of who I am. You're going to be amazed at the goodness of who I am,"
Jesus says. In verse 33, now that it's just Jesus and his close disciples, he says, "Little children [tender lambs] , I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.'" It's interesting. He didn't say to the disciples, "You will not find me. You cannot follow me." That's what he said to unbelieving Jews.
He told his disciples, "Listen, you'll be able to find me later. You'll follow me later where I'm going because I'm going to do a great work in you. Those who don't know me can never find me or follow me. They can't go where I'm going. They can't do what I'm about to do, which is to stand before the Father and offer a sacrifice which is acceptable to him."
To these guys he says, "Look, right now you can't go where I'm going to go. You can't do what I'm going to do. Unless I wash you, you cannot be clean. This is not what God wants you to do because you can't do it. Your job is to be saved. My job is to save. Your job is to acknowledge your sin. My job is to pay for your sin. You can't go do what I'm about to do."
Off he goes to show his incredible love right here. He says this, the focus of what I really want to do today, in verses 34 and 35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if…"
"…if you have a solid doctrinal statement." Right? "…if you speak strongly against gay marriage. If you vote Republican. If you radically oppose gay people in general." No. He says, "You want to know? You want to know how people are going to know that you're connected to me? It's this crazy little word called love." He said, "Don't you be so mean. Don't you be common anymore. People ought to see in you something completely uncommon, something otherworldly, and something divine. If they don't see it, they're not going to think that you're with me."
In John 17, he is going to up the stakes. "They're not going to think that I'm with the Father because I said that I came to rescue you out of meanness, out of average, out of death, and out of inglorious self-infatuation. If you remain selfish, then the world has a right to think that I'm not the one who I said I am." That's John 17.
Right here, he is saying, "The world is about to see that I am who I said I am and God is going to glorify himself in me and ultimately he is going to glorify me by raising me from the dead. They're going to know that you're with me if you love as I love." The command to love has always been around, but what he is going to do is, "I'm going to show you love to the uttermost."
Remember? This is how the whole thing started right here in this little section in John, chapter 13. He said, "…knowing that His hour had come…He loved them to the end."He loved them until there was no opportunity to love anymore because he breathed his last. Folks, that is love. Love is not a feeling. Love is a will to execute selflessly for the benefit of others.
Every time I do a wedding, I talk about 1 Corinthians 13. I just give a cursory reading of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, where it talks about what love is. There is not a single word in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 that talks at all about feeling. There's not a single word that has anything to do with feeling. First Corinthians 13:4-7 talks all about how you act.
It says this. "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered…" Wow. It goes on to say that love "…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…"
There's not a single word in there that has anything to do with how we commonly define love. We commonly define love as a feeling. As a result of that, we have a world that is really confused. I just want to take a moment right here and talk specifically about the idea of marriage in our culture.
Strike that. I really want to take just a moment here to talk about marriage in the church. Because so many of us, even here, when we talk about love, we think that love is a feeling you feel when you feel like you've never felt before. You'll know when you should marry when you really can't stop thinking about and wanting to be with another person.
Can I just tell you something? God does not so much want you to marry the person you love as he wants you to love the person you're married to. We have to start teaching that. Listen, I know that some of you have been in horrible, abusive, painful relationships and your lives are hardly healed from some of the brokenness that has come.
I don't want to pick at scabs that have just started to cover up incredibly sensitive areas of your life, but I want to say this. We cannot continue to dance around the failure of us in the Christian community who are not mean but are holy and not talk truthfully about the way we have failed in marriage.
I came across an article months ago that I have saved that I go back and re-read a lot. I want to just read to you some excerpts from it. The title of it was this, "Marriage Is a Mess, and Homosexuals Didn't Do It." This lady wrote this. "The truth is, marriage has been a mess for quite some time. And homosexuals weren't the ones who messed it up.
Homosexuals didn't set off the epidemic of divorce in this country. Homosexuals didn't create the millions of feral children who spend most of their time alone, raising themselves on video games, drugs and interactions with their peers. Homosexuals don't cheat on our spouses. Homosexuals don't break into our homes and yell and curse at our families.
They aren't the cause of the rising number of unwed births and the global pandemic of abortion. We did these things. Marriage is a mess and it was heterosexuals who messed it up. We insist that the legal definition of marriage should be a union between one man and one woman. But we behave as if it says that marriage is a union between one man and one woman at a time. [...]
But the truth is that serial monogamy is NOT monogamy. Serial marriage is not marriage between one man and one woman. And heterosexuals, especially Christian heterosexuals, have a responsibility before God to care for and raise their children, cherish their spouses and build enduring stable homes which can nurture a true family. Heterosexuals who have failed to do this are the root cause of most of the social problems we face today. They, not homosexuals, are the ones who have brought marriage to the sorry state it is in now."
Now, gang, you know that I have spoken strongly about what God's intention for marriage is. I want to say, not just on it being between one man and one woman, but I have spoken strongly about this topic before. Let me just say this to you again.
As believers who love God, who believe that we're called to love our spouse, if we're men specifically, as Christ loved the church, and we are not loving our wives in the way that John 13 is describing, then you need to know the world has a right to go, "I don't know who you guys are, but you're not followers of Jesus apparently or more likely Jesus is not who he said he was because you're just as mean, just as common, as unloving, and as uncommitted in your relationships as we are.
So don't you go telling me about your God who saves, because I don't see him saving you from anything. Yes, maybe you're not homosexuals and maybe you marry one woman at a time and maybe you are monogamous one at a time, but when it gets hard, you get out. You all don't love to the uttermost or to the end any more than we do. You guys get married because you love somebody. You don't love those you are married to."
Folks, that's a hard teaching and it's thoroughly biblical. I have to tell you. I know this is a tender topic. I say this to a lot of singles because when I marry folks, we always talk about the vows. I just say, "Hey, is there anything that would cause you to not love each other to the uttermost, because you want to get married in the name of Christ in the church. That is wonderful. I support that. But you're going to say you're going to love her as Christ loved the church."
We walk through what that looks like. I take some time to make sure they fully get their arms around it. Then I just say, "Is there anything that if you are a person who God purposes to love or who God makes provision to love, which is all men, that you can do that would make God not want to seek you anymore?"
The answer is, "No." I said, "So what is it that in your relationship with this woman or this man that will make you believe that you have the permission to get out? Because at the very least, what I want you to do is write that in your vows." Now how many times have you been to a wedding and this happened?
"I…take…to be my lawful wedded…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. Forsaking all others, I will keep you only to myself until death parts us unless you wear me out because you consistently nag me to death. You become largely indifferent. You quit wearing silk to bed and start wearing burlap.
We don't have sex as often as I think we're going to. You lose your job and become largely depressed. You become addicted to porn. You have an affair with your secretary. You become more like your mother than the girl who I'm marrying. You become distant from the children and have an affair with your job."
Have you ever heard that vow? But it's what we mean. I bring you the evidence of failure within Christian marriage as evidence. This is why, when the disciples heard Jesus talk about marriage… Let me say that another way. When you heard Jesus talk about love, the disciples said, "Hey dude, if that is the standard, it is better that we don't marry."
Jesus said, "Guys, let me just tell you, there are some who are born eunuchs…"If you don't know what a eunuch is, maybe the kindest way to say it is like a steer is to a bull. If you don't know what that is, it is a man whose sexual organs are not functioning in all their fullness or presence.
He says, "There are some who are born that way in the tragedy of the brokenness of the world. There are some who were made that way by men who want them to care over their harem in their broken world so they don't mess around with their harem." Jesus says this. "There are some who are eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven that the world will know that there is a love that is nothing like this world."
Then he moved on in his teaching about marriage. Jesus said this. John 13 is all about a transition. He says, "Listen, I'm going to go do something that no one else can do but me. When I do it, I'm going to be glorified. After I'm glorified, I will appear to you just to convince you that what I did is what I said I was going to do and who I am is who I said I was and the Father glorified me. I'm going to go away, but I'm not going to leave you as orphans."
From John 13 through John 17, Jesus is going to teach them about what's going to happen while he is not physically present. He said, "I'm not going to abandon you. I'm going to send you the Helper, the paraklētos, who is going to come and even greater things than you have done with me present on earth, you're going to do in my departure. During this little parentheses with me now being with you and showing you what love looks like and me coming back and accomplishing the full intention of my love, you are going to be the people who show the world who I am and what love is."
He is now setting them up. He is telling them, "This is what's going to happen right now. Men are going to know that I am who I said I was and that you are connected with me the way you say you are in this one way and you cannot be common. You cannot be expectant value of the world. There has to be an infusion of divine, supernatural, otherworldly love in you."
I told you I get letters a lot, and I do. I talk to folks a lot, and I do, about pain and brokenness. I got one recently that was another spectacular description of suffering that comes when you marry yourself in this world. I always tell folks when I marry them, I just say, "Listen, you need to know you are marrying a notoriously unpredictable person. It's called a male or a female. It's called a human. I don't know. I don't know."
This is why Jesus says, and I say this all the time, "Don't marry somebody who is not already well-married. The best you can do is find somebody who is already radically committed and covenanted with Jesus Christ and has been faithful in every way to him. Because if they're faithful to him, they're going to be faithful to you.
If both of you do that, if both of you love one another the way you run after God, it's going to be the relationship that you always dream of. If you try and hope each other into that kind of love, it's not going to work." That's why Jesus rigs it. He says, "Let me just tell you. I would not want to yoke with somebody who did not have in them the love of Christ."
But even when you do that, because this is not a perfect world and we don't all perfectly walk with Jesus, there are moments when we have to hum Taylor Swift songs to one another until we come to our senses and confess and repent and make amends and restore and be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and walk in all the fullness thereof with a community of friends that will help us see all that's going on right there.
Oh, single friends. Do not be hasty. Do not love what is fleeting, deceitful, or vain. Bodies deteriorate. Persons develop. You love a heart that loves Christ. You yoke with that and it will be well with you. There are many who have found themselves in relationships they didn't know. I have one who was filled with tragedy. I'm not going to go into details, but here is my response.
He was basically saying after years of faithfulness and years of still pursuing this wife, he said, "When am I free?" I said, "I am so sorry." Let me start just talking about all the pain he shared that had been through. I started by saying, "Let me just start by saying I don't know any of the context of your story, but I do know Proverbs 18:17 is true, which simply says this. 'The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.'
But having said that, assuming everything you said is true, I also know that Luke 6:27-36 is true. I also know that Galatians 6:9-10 is true. I also know that Ephesians 5:25 is true. In that, I call you to this. I'm praying that the Spirit would fully enable you to participate with him in living this out.
In the end, my prayer is that you will continue to pursue her until you cannot. Meaning, your death, her death, or her entering into a covenant relationship with somebody else. This persistent undying love, as you have already shared with me, is impossible without God's supernatural presence in your life. I am grateful that presence is there by your testimony. I pray that others, your wife first among them, increasingly will see it."
Jesus calls us to love this way and it is hard and it is beautiful and it is possible. "I am praying that your life will be a present example of his eternal love, and I'm praying that his joy will be your strength. These are easy words to type, humanly impossible words to live. I am grateful with you that Christmas reminds us that nothing is impossible with God."
Friends, let me just tell you what those verses say. Let's start in Galatians 6. "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." I don't know if his wife is ever coming back. I don't know if she is ever going to see the love and the transformation. I don't know if the grace of God is ever going to penetrate in her and there's going to be a tenderness if that's the case.
All I know is that while we have the opportunity, we are not to grow weary in doing good to all people, especially to those of the household of faith, and especially to those who we stand before the world and say Ephesians 5:25 to. "I am going to love her as Christ loves the church." The world should look at you and go, "That is crazy! Move on! You're young! She is wicked! She has hurt you! Get out! There is no reason to continue to be faithful to that covenant oath."
Unless you are a follower of Jesus Christ and you said, "I'm going to show you what love looks like and I'm going to love her to the uttermost in a way that is not just the expectant value of love but is so otherworldly that the world is offended by it. That even disciples will come up and say, 'You don't need to keep doing that.'"
God forbid it, Lord, that you should be faithful to that end. Your right response to those kind of Christian friends should be Christ's response to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! …for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." That's the way man loves. Do you understand what we are saying we're a part of? This is crazy talk.
Jesus says, "This is otherworldly talk." One of the reasons that so many of us get in trouble in marriage is because we go into marriage thinking that we can just… "We love so much. Yeah, okay, tell me about how I need a Spirit. Have you seen this girl naked? She is hot! All right? I'll be fine. I know, yeah, you were in love when you got married, but we are in love love. We have it made."
That, friends, just so I can cover the text and I don't have to come back to it next week, is exactly the mistake that Peter made. "Hey, I'm going somewhere you can't go. Right now until you become fully appraised of who I am, and I will finish this good work which I began in you, Peter. There will be a day that you'll follow me to the cross and, therefore, there is a day you'll follow me to glory, but right now you can't come. You're not ready yet, Peter."
Peter said, "I'm going to go. I will not deny you. I'm in!" He said, "No, Peter, in fact, '…this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.'" Peter couldn't believe it. I have done all kinds of premarital counseling with Peters where they go, "Go ahead, Pastor. Tell me I can't follow the commands to love my wife."
They are just sitting there. They are so stone-cold infatuated that they don't think they're going to need the Spirit to be successful in marriage. I do my darndest to tell them. Can I just say this about Peter in this very last section, then I'm going to come back and show you something? Here was Peter's deal.
Peter's problem was not that Satan was in his heart. That was Judas' problem. Peter's problem was that he had too much confidence in his flesh, in his ability to love. Note: sincere desire never can match spiritual dependence. If there's ever anybody with sincere desire to honor and serve Jesus Christ, it was Peter. I love it. "I want to go now. I want to do it now. I'm all in now. Nothing will stop me, Lord."
He goes, "Peter, you have no idea how hard it's going to be to love me when the world turns against you. You have no idea how hard it's going to be to pursue oneness with each other when two humans get together in all their imperfection, even humans who love Jesus. Unless you are wholeheartedly radically following me and indwelt by me, this will not go well. Even if you don't divorce, you'll just be undivorced and not married the way I want you to be married."
Watch what it says in Luke 6. I said to my friend, Galatians 6 says, "…do not grow weary." When you're done breathing, in Ephesians 5, we're told to love as Christ loved to the uttermost, to the end. Listen to Luke 6. Here's a good love text. "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…"
As your ex-spouse and all the pain that she has caused you. Is she your enemy? Great. Then the Lord has given you very clear instruction. Is she doing you evil? Great. Do good to her. Very clear instruction, verse 27. Is she cursing you to the children and to relatives and to others? Bless her. Pray for her if she mistreats you.
"Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?
For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
As I think about this text, it would've been so easy to glaze over and to make love this thing that's attainable to all of us. I would've done you a great disservice. Love, as it's described here in John 13, is attainable to none of us. Part of our problem is sometimes we think that we're going to be able to love God and do good just because we love God and want to do good, and we can't. Unless we cling to Jesus and keep our eyes focused on the cross, we can do nothing.
That's, largely, what the world has seen the church do for generations. Because of that, they despise the church and go, "I don't know where Jesus is, but I'm not going to go to the church to look for him. I'm not even sure that Jesus is who he said he was, because this church is mean. It's average." All I want to do is respond to the love that God has given me.
Can I just stop right here? I have so much more I could do, but I want to just encourage you. I want to encourage you that I live amongst a bunch of people who are not mean. I'm going to ask you to help me unless I forget it later, and I'm sure I will. If you have experienced God's love here from other people, I would ask that you would just send it to me.
I just did this with my staff this week. We all went through and just started sharing stories of how we've watched otherworldly love manifest itself in this body. This is the truth. I didn't even have time to read them all! This is no mean place right here. This is a place where there is supernatural renown.
The reason that there is supernatural renown coming out of Watermark is not because we have a beautiful building. We're not supposed to have beautiful buildings. We're supposed to have beautiful people, and this is a place where I see beautiful people. I want to just encourage a number of you.
Do you know that there are a number of people that this is not just an idea they might subscribe to when Todd talks about marriage? Do you know that there are scores of people in this church that that is already the way they are loving, being criticized by their families, mocked at by other believers, having other pastors counsel them to move on, give up, and they're saying, "No, I'm going to love to the uttermost."
I have here story after story of otherworldly, radical love. Let me just let you dip in with me. This is a sweet little lady who was here who kind of went through the membership process, 74-years-old, started hanging around. I hope you're watching, Elizabeth. I know you can't come. She has leukemia.
When she was here for a while, and she began to go through the process… Every year, as we're about to do, we always just kind of go back through our body and say, "Where are you? Are you still here? Are you still committed to these things, these values, this Jesus, us, being sharpened and encouraged right here?"
So when the year came by, Elizabeth, we didn't hear back from. We didn't know how she was really connected in community. She wasn't able to finish. We got this sweet letter from her. She says, "I have leukemia, and my doses have increased to the point where I've not so many days when I feel well. I'm not complaining. It's just the way it is. I can handle it by the grace of God.
I'm 74 years old. I can't involve myself in the church like I did when I was younger. I love Watermark. It's a wonderful place. I wish that when I was younger with my children there was a Watermark. I watch Watermark on most Sundays. I love it, but I can't be a member if this is the standard. I don't need any visitation since I can't tell when I'm going to feel like conversation.
Holding still and not moving is usually my best defense outside of prayer and meditation on God's Word. I am, however, reading the Bible, reading the materials that my dear friend Linda, who sat next to me one day, brought me. Let me talk about that dear woman. She has taken me out for breakfast. She has gone to the store for me. She has brought me a wealth of spiritual information.
She has called me, visited me before my chemo increased. She brought me lunch, took me to the store, and other wonderful things that I can't think of at this moment. She has been the nicest and most diligent disciple of Christ that I've ever seen. She was there at 7 a.m. when I said I wanted to get baptized and someone met me up here early. She came.
There was nothing that I can think of that she hasn't done to keep me close to Christ and make me intimate with him and a member of this body. She and her husband have taken me to church many times. I can't say enough wonderful things about her." That all started because Linda just sat next to her and loved her one day.
I think about a group of guys who have always heard about how you're supposed to treat homeless, and they decided to start to do something and they did it very imperfectly. They got crazy and started loving homeless guys in ways that they thought were best, engaging in every way they could.
Because of the way they loved these guys so much, they started to say, "You need to come over here to these guys because they don't believe there are people like you." There were so many homeless guys that they were going and engaging and loving and sharing with and not just throwing money at, but walking with through life, that they ended up a group of men here bought a 15-passenger van so that they could go around the city and pick them up and bring them here.
One of the homeless men, the very first one they started to love this way, got hit recently. His name was Moses. Moses was hit by a car and was in the hospital. They were with him in Parkland when he died. They had shared Christ with Moses. Moses had been attending Watermark with us for some time. Moses had trusted Christ and began to be a disciple and have a ministry himself to other homeless people.
They were there in the hospital when Moses died, and they took Moses. He wasn't homeless at the graveside. These men were there. They knew him. They knew his name. They cared for him. They loved him. The hospital goes, "Who are you people who see an opportunity and invest your resources and go and do this?"
I think about this sweet gal who came and heard me talk about the importance of not trying to do this alone. She said that she jumped into a Community Group. Her family got there, and she said, "As soon as we got our Community Group in March of this last year, my family got bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, pink eye, and pneumonia.
Our house was not the place to be, but the ladies in our group sent an email and arranged meals to be delivered before I could even ask them to help. Not only were they amazing cooks, but they brought me enough food that I didn't have to cook for three weeks. We just started our group. We didn't really know each other. We just knew we loved Jesus and want to love that way and off they came toward me.
Also, we have been struggling financially as a family. As we shared that with our group, one week my husband was meeting with one of the men and after it was over, he handed my husband a check. I'm not going to tell you the amount of the check, but let me just tell you. It takes more than a few zeros to make it up."
See, this is the kind of radical love that happened in Acts, chapter 2. It happened right here because people said, "I know you. I see what you're doing. We've done this in the counsel of community. You're not living self-indulgent lifestyles. You're not living irresponsible lifestyles. We have something you don't have; therefore, we're going to give you what we have in the same way that Christ did for us."
See if this rings a bell. "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." Is that Watermark 2012 or the church in Acts 2? See, you shouldn't be able to tell the difference.
How about this? A young gal in Dallas meets a guy. He starts talking to her and invites her to church. She says, "I don't really want to go." He says, "Why?" She says, "Because I was in an abusive relationship and I had an abortion, and I know that God would never want me again." He said, "We're done talking."
She said, "What do you mean? I figured that's what you were going to do. You share Christ with me, you heard I had an abortion, we're done talking." He says, "That's right. We're done talking because you're going to come and see that you're wrong." That night (it was a Sunday afternoon) she came to Watermark.
She said, "I grew up in a very religious family and I still made decisions to turn from God, and it turned my world upside down. I felt lost ever since, but he looked me straight in the face and said, 'We're going to the evening service at my church at 5:30.' And he got up and he walked away and let me think about it.
We went to Watermark that night, and that was the first time I ever heard the word abortion mentioned in church, sitting in that service. It was constantly addressed to people who feel like they don't belong and won't be accepted with the mistakes they have made. I was completely amazed and cried through every song that was sung that night and couldn't bring myself to stand up through it all.
Then we went again this last Sunday and I felt once again I was being talked to directly during the service. Lo and behold, the Watermark News story that week was about abortion and recovery." This woman has now dived in with Someone Cares and is being cared for and loved there.
How about Jason? Jason shows up here. Jason, when he was in third grade, began to sexually experiment with another male friend. After that, another friend. By the time he was in junior high, his boyfriends were his guy friends. He became very exposed to homosexual porn and found his comfort in drugs and drinking and trouble until he was 25, unemployed, came to Dallas, living on his sister's couch, and living the gay lifestyle in Dallas, Texas, when a girlfriend that he had from days gone past reached out to him and said, "Come with me and see."
He said he knew he had committed the unforgivable sin and was beyond help and sure to be ostracized, but he came. He heard leaders talk about their brokenness and their sin in the same way he felt about theirs. He trusted Christ 18 months ago. He is now a disciple. He is a shepherd here. He is fully engaged and plugged in. He is a disciple-maker. He just got back from Haiti with a group of folks who served down there.
Along that time, he got involved with a group of Community Group guys who really encouraged him and loved him, heterosexual guys, guys whose lives were completely out of control heterosexually. One of those guys was a guy named Brian, who even though he grew up understanding about God had left God completely. Brian was chasing life in clubs and looking for money. He dealt ecstasy and stopped dealing only when his primary distributor was arrested and he knew he was next.
He threw himself into career and education, but satisfaction, he said, still eluded him. Then in the summer of 2011, Brian met somebody who invited him to come and see. Three months later, even though he had rejected the testimony, the claim, and the love that he had seen here, God humbled him and broke him and he began to ask more questions. He came here.
He heard Blake talk about how the Bible can be trusted and began to read the Bible. He found men who sharpened him and encouraged him. He came to know Christ. He got in the exact same small group as Jason. They began to love each other. Recently, Brian is a disciple-maker and is a lover of Christ.
When he heard Jason talking about the fact that he loves Jesus, but he still has incredible temptations in his isolation, Brian said, "Move in with me, and I will love you and I will hold you accountable to all the fullness that God intends. I will be your friend." I think about the stories that happen where people here in our midst, in our body right here… There are so many I don't have time to tell you.
They have been generous in the way they've given in other ways. I think about a woman who came to Christ here who God had blessed and she said, "I've adorned myself in all the glory of the world and it's brought me no satisfaction," So she took some of that jewelry and watches and those things and they shared with me that she gave them generously. She didn't just give of her possessions, but she has given of her life. She is here, she is saved, she has changed, and she is leading and radically telling others about Christ.
About a family here who, in their own words, have been called out of the darkness into his marvelous light, and they wanted to do something to help other families here be encouraged. They didn't have much to do it with this time, but they said, "We have a double oven and we don't need a double oven and we can use one oven."
They take the double oven out of their house and they sell it so they could give to this place so that others might come and have the bread of life served to them. Their child said, "But Mom, I want to do something. I love to ride my bike. I want to sell my bike so other people can come to church." Crazy, radical love.
I think about this guy who has been unemployed for over a year, part of a Community Group here. He was trying to finish college. He was wiped out and unable to pay. He was trying to find a job, so he was missing classes. He was about to be kicked out. He finally shared with his Community Group about his brokenness and despair. He confessed he should've done it sooner.
They stepped up. They said, "We have your car payments. We have your gas. We have your rent. We have your living expenses until you graduate. We're all in." It wasn't just two people. It was the entire Community Group. Since that time, he just walked two weeks ago across the stage and received his diploma. He has a job. He is fully plugged in.
That happened about a third of the way through a couple semesters ago. It says, "The only condition that we as a Community Group have that we love you this way is that you tell your teachers why you've been missing and you tell your teachers now why you're able to attend." That opened the doors, they said, for some pretty awesome conversations that we wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to have.
One of my favorite stories was his philosophy teacher kept saying, "Wait a minute. You're telling me that people from a church did this?" He kept repeating the question in front of the class. "Wait. Stop. These are people from your church who do this?" It's no wonder he is a philosophy professor. He is trying to find where there is wisdom and life, and all of a sudden he is going, "Wait a minute! That's the highest philosophy I've ever heard of! Selfless love and concern for one another. Where is this? Where can I attain that kind of wisdom?" Jesus is saying, "With me."
I'm telling you. All I have is stories. I'm asking you to send me yours so I can glorify Jesus in and through your life in the way that just some of these do. I can stop right here and I can make eye contact with the stories I know. One of the reasons I resent that Watermark has gotten so big is I don't get to talk all of you anymore, and I know every one of your lives is a story of grace. Many of your lives are becoming a story of grace to others.
Friends, let me encourage you. This is a place where people know you are his disciples. If you are one who is out there and people don't know you're his disciples yet, join in with us. I need your encouragement. I need your spurring on. I need you to join me in doing good, because I need to have Jesus lifted up so that others just like me in all their brokenness can find life.
We love because we have been loved. "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." We have been recipients of the kind intention of his will so we ought to gladly extend it to others. I bid you come and die with me. I bid you to join the march of saints who have been loving and are loving that way right now. If it seems foreign to you, it's because you have not yet seen Jesus. When you see Jesus, what we're doing won't seem foreign.
It will seem strangely familiar and right and appropriate and true. But "…let us encourage each other day after day as long as it's called today so we're not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin…" that we might remember him who has come for us at Christmas, died for us on a cross, sent his Spirit to dwell in us, that we may walk with him and bring him glory. By this men will know that we are his disciples. Here is love. On the cross, in John 13, here is love on LBJ in this community of saints. I pray the world would see it in you.
Father, I thank you just for this morning that we could sit here and just be sobered by what it is that we say we believe and what it should produce in our lives. Lord, I pray that we would join in a long line of saints who understood the fullness of the cross. By the power of your Spirit that mightily works within us, we follow you.
Lord, when we talk about love and people see goodness in us, I pray that we would say, "No, here is love. Not in us, but in what Christ has done. What you're seeing in us is just a faint… It's a shadow. It's a small reminder. If there's any goodness in me, you can be sure it's because of my King Jesus and his dwelling in me.
The life which you now see in me is evidence that I am his disciple and that he is who he said he was." The Word of God became flesh who crashed into our dark world and rescued us from the darkness. This life of non-meanness, this life of love that you see is the life of God. To his glory and his praise may people see this love, amen.
Let's stand and remind ourselves of that love that we might be reminded of our chance to reflect it to others. "Here is love vast as the ocean, loving-kindness as the flood…"