There is an expectation that we as believers will grow through the mess of our lives as we mature. Our "marinara stains" (sin) should occur less frequently as we learn to handle our "pasta" (lives in Christ). The responsibility of the church is to make disciples of the body of Christ so that when the world sees us, they will want to know who taught us to live the way we do.
Don't Let Them Fool You, Just Keep Trusting Him
From Futile Speculation to Futile Regulation: The Foolishness of Life Apart from Christ
Experts Are Everywhere but Can They be Trusted: How to Respond to Philosophy's Challenge
Our Journey to Get the Stain of Spaghetti/Sin Out of Our Lives
Why The Light Has to be Left On
What You Lose If You Leave This Chance To Serve This King
Our Colossal Christ and What You Must Quit When You Know Him
The First Thing We Ought to Pray for and Pursue
Investigating the Colossal Claims and Obligations of the Gospel
Lord, it is our privilege to get to celebrate that love as we gather here together today. We're grateful for our guests and friends who are here to listen to us declare your love. We don't want to just to declare it through song or the spoken word. The love of God is greater, Father, than our ability to talk about it or to sing about it. I pray our lives would radiate it in the way we welcome them, the way we greet them, and in the way we live our lives before them.
In the same way you showed your love not through some lesson or liturgy, but you showed your love through the life of your Son who, while we were all in direct rebellion against you (you called us sinners) and while we were men and women who lived disregarding your desire for us, you demonstrated your love for us in the sacrifice of that Son.
We are grateful for that, and it is that Jesus and his life that we seek to respond to in a way that others would see as authentic and powerful and real that would produce humility and grace and love and gentleness and patience and goodness and kindness and self-control and every other fruit of that which is divine.
Lord, we want to live our lives as if we knew you just like you said we should and could if we know this love in the person of Jesus Christ. Would you help us be those living testimonies this morning and the song that the world cannot resist hearing? That's our desire that you'd do that and that melody would fill the hearts of our guests and friends in a way that would make them want to sing, "I will praise you, too. Hallelujah!" Amen.
Welcome! Please be seated. We are glad you are here. When you walked in, we handed you a little thing we call the Watermark News. This is our effort to let you know how we want to come alongside of you in more than just our time together on Sunday morning. There are all types of life-stage information in there. It's our desire that you would engage deeply with us.
Let me just tell you, if you are a guest here and you're not sure the love of God is something worth responding to, you're at the right place. We want to make ourselves available to you to ask any question. We have groups who are set up just for you to explore with integrity the questions you have about who this Jesus is and, if God is loving and sovereign, why our world is such a messed-up place.
If God is so transforming, why have there been so many people who have taken his name and done such atrocities or committed such great acts of immorality? How do you know the Bible is God's Word? For all of those kinds of questions we have a place you can begin to explore the claims of Christ and why they are true.
This is the beauty of it. If it is true, no amount of scrutiny can affect it, so we welcome you, and we will spend all kinds of time laboring with you as you service your intellectual integrity, and we'll also challenge you when it becomes obvious you're just playing intellectual games (when you have no real desire to understand truth but you want to give yourself all kinds of excuses to not have to believe). If it's true, there should be no fear in the questions, and we want to welcome you here with whatever questions you have about who this God is and what he has to do with your life.
Likewise, if you've come to understand who God is and you profess a relationship with the Lord, then it should be impossible for you to just manage life on your terms. We want to call you to action, and we want to call you to be people who live a life of full devotion whose lives begin to match the plumb line or the standard of righteousness and integrity and community God holds up in Scripture, and if you're not connected somewhere, we want to challenge you to consider why that's the case.
If we can be that place where you can go forward with others as God intended, we'd love to, but if not, we want to work with you to find the right place for you to begin to experience all that God calls you to experience in a place to be loved and to fully respond rightly as you steward your life for him.
We don't want you to just sit. We want you to know you're welcome to be anonymous as long as you want, but it's our great desire that you would engage with this Jesus and realize if you're not for him you are against him. To sit there platonically is not an option for any of us. He is either who he said he was or the rest of us need to wake up and get on your side of the ledger. Welcome!
We had told you a number of weeks ago that we would update you regularly on how we were doing with the opportunity we have on LBJ and the 13 acres we have. We have let you know from the very beginning it hasn't been for us about building a facility, but what we have said from the very beginning is that we will measure our success as a group of Christ followers by our ability to be and make disciples (people who are learning more about who God is).
I want to let you know I feel nothing at risk in terms of my leadership or visionary in terms of getting this structure built. I have made my case as to why I believe personally and why other leaders in this church believe this is the right thing for us to do, but I am more concerned and forever will be more concerned about our ability to build our own hearts as people who have professed a relationship with God and want to live in relationship with him in right response to him than I ever will be about building a facility.
If the resources came in and we had a facility that the world marveled at and the city filled, yet those who were filling it were no more like Christ it would be a tragedy. One of the ways we said we were going to measure our success in this thing is not in terms of dollars but in terms of the participation of individuals who are willing to say, "I want to consider what God would have me do," so we told you on a regular basis we'd update you, so here it goes. We'll do it again in four to six weeks after we ask the question again.
About two weeks ago, we asked the question to our members, "Have you diligently and earnestly sought the Lord's will in how he would have you respond to our opportunity as a body?" It said nothing about how he would lead you to respond or not. We're not matching answers. We could care less. I don't know who has responded and who hasn't in that particular way, but I am interested in how we're doing as a people at even just saying, "God, I'm available to you."
Here's the deal. Right at 70 percent of those who have responded have said, "I am considering diligently and earnestly before the Lord as best that I know how." There have been 30 percent who have been honest enough to say, "I really haven't, and I need to either get on that or I don't care to get on that," which we would see as a problem.
If there is any area of our lives where we're not saying to God, "What would you have me do? How would you have me think and live? What would you have me consider about this?" that's a problem if you're saying you're a fully devoted follower of Christ, yet you won't take the time to respond.
Some have said, "I didn't know how to define diligent or earnest." Some I know have said, "I haven't diligently and earnestly sought the Lord," and some who have come and told me, "We are participating and have and are continuing to participate financially, and we've had a discussion about what it means to earnestly and diligently seek the Lord."
We've had honest conversations with ourselves as leadership. There are some of us who have said, "Yes," and have grown in our understanding of what it means to be diligent and earnest in listening, not in terms of dollars but in terms of ground surrendered and eyes being opened to what God would have us do as individuals.
Anyway, that's where we are on that. The bad news is there are still some 500 to 600 members we haven't even heard a response from, so we're not even sure what the real percentage is. Some, because I guess their spam filter wouldn't let that email go through, and others (several hundred) who have received the email haven't even bothered to open it to give us a response.
Just to be very honest with you as leaders, we're extremely concerned about the membership and core of our body if we won't even together reflect on how the Lord would have us steward the resource of land he has given us. It has nothing to do here with the dollars. The dollars have some effect down the road. I'm only concerned and where I will forever be striving and pushing and admonishing and teaching is toward us being able to say, "I've asked God, and as best as I'm able to discern, this is how he's leading me."
We don't want to know how he's leading you. We want to know that you, with integrity, can say that before the Lord, and it's our job as shepherds to spur you on to be an individual who would say, "I'm doing that not just with that area but with every area of my life," and we're going to talk about that today. Let's be people who walk in authenticity who say, "There's no area of my life that I won't consider before him."
The great news is there have been some folks who have taken us up on our offer to meet with them and discuss their own wrestling with this and their own issues with the conversation we've had about this. Last Sunday night, we met with a group of them, as we will with anybody who asks us to meet, and one person shared their heart in such a way that I felt, "I really wish the body could hear what you shared just then."
We asked her to come in this week and talk about some of the things that were passionate in her heart, because I want you to hear. This is what we all want to be driving toward. It's not about a financial response primarily. It's about making sure that we filter through the right response to how the Lord would have us live in the context of this opportunity. I want you to hear from Denny for just a minute. Watch this.
Denny: I have been a member of Watermark from the beginning, and one of the reasons I was drawn to Watermark was the heart of Watermark. I loved the idea of community, of accountability, of authenticity, and of the teaching. When I saw the building when I walked into Irving Bible, I saw a mall church.
What that meant to me was a lot of faceless, nameless people who were not going to get the touch I felt like they needed from us and that our heart has always been, so seven of us met with Todd and three of the elders, and what took place there changed the way I felt about what I considered a mall church.
What I found in talking to the elders and Todd was their heart has not changed, and as we talked through that process, it was more about each of us getting our hearts in the right place. In order for us to adequately care for all of those people who will come, and they will because we're in a strategic location and people will come, we need to have every member of our body step up and be shepherding people.
[End of video]
There's the point I wanted you to hear from Denny, because when she shared this with us last week, what I loved about her… Denny said, "No, I haven't diligently sought the Lord in this," but here's what she said. "The reason I haven't is I've been afraid to participate in what to me looked like was going to create a nameless, faceless, event-driven place, and that's not what I've seen change people's hearts."
What I wanted you to understand is what drove Denny to be a person who is passionate about what her fears were and to come talk to us about it is when we had a chance to say, "We can talk about the wisdom and the strategy," but you need to know something. The things that brought tears to her eyes last Sunday night was when she said, "I have friends who I am desperate for them to meet this Jesus, and I'm concerned we're about to move to a style of ministry that's going to prevent them from experiencing Christ the way I did, with the authenticity, the community, and the personal concern that won my heart."
I let her know, "Denny, I want you to know, as your leaders and as best as we can discern, there will never be anything we do which will threaten that as our purpose." We're going to talk about that today. We are at a great place to let you know that whatever we do… This is why I'm telling you.
We hope to produce hearts like Denny's that say, "I will leave where I am if I think it's going to compromise my ability to reach and love those who don't know the love of God, but I will sit with you and ask you to give me assurance that's not what's at play here." That's the heart we want to see developed.
My family has many cousins. One of my cousins is a man who is mentally challenged. David was about my age growing up. When we would go to Victor Emmanuel's in Reading, Pennsylvania, a big Italian joint, together, we would, as young kids… My brother, my sister, David, and all of my other cousins would make quite a mess when we would go there, but everybody kind of understood. It was just part of the deal. Everybody laughed a little bit, in fact, about eating spaghetti with kids.
It's just that picture you get in mind. If you turn kids loose with a bowl of spaghetti, what should happen? It's almost cute to watch them make a mess of themselves with it, but when we get together now as a family and go to Victor Emmanuel's I, by the grace of God, have been designed in such a way that as I got older and became more aware of my faculties and learned how to eat, I don't get spaghetti all over me anymore when I eat, but David still does in a way that is not cute or humorous to anybody in the family anymore.
Everybody looks and goes, "This is not the way it should be." This is a picture of tragedy. This is a picture of things as they should not be, and no one laughs anymore. Everyone does their best to clean up, but there's not really a sense of, "Isn't that sweet?" With new babies, everybody understands, but there's an expectation that you will grow through the mess you make of your life if you grow to maturity and adulthood.
Well, that metaphor is true not just in what happens within families around tables where we eat, but it is true of what the expectation is when you engage with something that is to be transforming in your life. We're taking a look at a little book in the New Testament called Colossians. We're calling it CSI, which stands for the Colossae Scene Investigated, or CSI: Asia Minor.
Every time you see CSI, we want you to be thrown back and reminded of a little book in the New Testament that God has made a case in that should make a radical difference in your life, and not just this book but the one that this book talks about. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Colossians, chapter 1.
What you'll find here is this young man who was writing this letter (Paul) to a group of friends he had never met, but he knew an individual who had shared the hope of Christ with them. A guy by the name of Epaphras had taken the message of who Christ was and what he can produce in your life, and he had shared it with his friends in this little city.
They had embraced it, but after embracing it, there were others who came alongside of them and said, "We're not really sure you guys should be that excited about this message like it's the end all of truth," and Paul wrote them a letter and said, "Let me just tell you why you should be excited about this like it's the end all of truth."
Starting in chapter 1, in verses 15 through 20, what he basically said was, "Christ alone is the one deserving of your full attention. Christ alone is the one who should be exalted in the eyes and minds of men. Christ alone is worth being the center of everything in your life. He shouldn't be a priority. He shouldn't be prominent.
He alone should be preeminent in your life, and he should be the filter through which everything runs and the foundation through which everything is built because he is who he claimed to be. He is the Creator of all things, the one through whom all things are held together. He is the head of the church. He's the firstborn from the grave. As evidence that God is satisfied, he is the sense of justice against all that is wrong."
For five strong verses, he talks about how this Jesus you have heard of is worthy of everything. In verses 21 through 23, Paul goes through there and talks about how this Jesus is not just this highly exalted one, but he is the vehicle or the means through which you can be restored back into a relationship with God.
He picks it back up in verse 24 and says, "This Jesus is the full revelation of who God is. His life is the picture of what God wants for you, and his life is the picture of what God is and who God is." To see him is to see the Father, to know him is to know the Father, and to love him is to love the Father.
Then, he gets to verses 28 and 29, and he says, "This Jesus is our source of perfection and hope." Paul says, "As a result of all of that, we proclaim him, and we will admonish every man that we can, and we will teach every man that we can with every bit of wisdom available to us in order that we might present every man complete."
If you have an NIV, it will say perfect in Christ. I want to let you know these last four weeks have turned out to be a great little four-volume series for who we are as a body at this particular time in our history on our calendar. We're five years old last week. What we set out to do was say, "We are going to be reckless and zealous and intentional at calling all people to be fully devoted followers of Christ whether they're unchurched, they're de-churched, they're dead churched, or they're unmoved in a great church."
We want to see men get to a place where their lives are fully available to whom Christ is, and we will do everything we can, availing ourselves to every bit of creativity. We'll pursue excellence, which is to say we're doing the very best we can with all that we've been given in order that we might let this Jesus who is all Paul has talked about here and all that God has revealed through history and the Scriptures to be something others can engage with in a way that would transform them and change their eternities.
We have said that no matter what you base your foundation on as a church and no matter how you say it… I told you how we say it. If you don't accomplish Colossians 1:28 or Matthew 28:19-20, you can call yourself a church, a group of called-out ones by God, but you are not his church if you, as a body, are not doing what his head, Jesus Christ, said you should do.
In other words, if this body isn't doing what the head of God says it should do, then we aren't his body because this body always does what this head says. If your purpose as a church is not to go and make folks who are learning about God… That's what the word disciple means. It means a learner. It's not our job to convert folks. It's our job to do everything we can to rightly present this Jesus to a watching world, and we're going to talk about a major component of that today.
Guess what. It has a lot to do with how you live life. If you have spaghetti all over you and you're well into your teens and 20s, there's a real problem there, and it causes people to go, "That isn't the way it should be, so whatever the DNA that is growing that person must not be divine. It is broken and wrong, and I still must look for truth elsewhere."
If you are not about going and making learners and doing everything you can to put truth out there and if you're not about helping them engage with who God is (the person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) and if you're not about teaching those folks who are learning about who God is to observe everything he commanded them and to do it as Matthew 28:20 says or as Colossians 1:29 says, according to the power which mightily works within you… Jesus said it this way. "…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
In other words, "You go out there and be faithful. Your responsibility is to respond to my ability to convict of sin, of righteousness, and judgment, but you have to be clear and concise and compelling communicators of who I am. You go, people! You tell others. It's never about you." I don't care what kind of church you build, whether it's a cute little 20-pew church that's painted white with a nice steeple and a bell on top, if it's not about making disciples it's not God's church.
I don't care if it's a nice new, spacious mall-looking church with breakout areas and seating places and extravagant sound systems that won't be audacious to man but will honor God. If it's not going to be a place that is radically concerned for other people, it's not his church. It's never about making those who have already come comfortable. It's always about helping those who have come to him be all they should be so that those who don't know him yet might recognize that which is divine in the life of those he has transformed.
I've said many times the most important people in our lives, as the body of Christ, are the next 100 people who will come. That is not because we are concerned about our number. I mean, healthy things in all of nature always grow. I can show you biblically that Jesus only had one place where he told three stories to illustrate one point, which is that lost people matter to God a great deal, and he is desperate for them to come into a relationship with him.
Watch this. Because God in his sovereignty has decided to use us, his body is the means through which those folks would recognize him and come to him as the head. It's because those people matter so much that you all are so doggone important. It's because they are the most important people in our church that you are priceless, because you are the means through which they will be reached. You are the ambassadors who will go and love them. You are the feet which will take good news to them.
You are the lives which will create a sense of awe in them which will call them to come to the one who is at the head of this table, but folks, if we have a group of folks who don't know how to use the utensils before them and whose lives are consistently a mess personally, prone to addiction, prone toward despair, prone toward a life that is sloppy with destruction and sin, and it's all over them in the way they are bent toward arrogance or legalism or gossip or slander or insecurity, then the world is going to say, "There's a tragedy happening over there, and whoever is teaching those folks to eat is not divine."
If, on the other hand, the world watches us and sees that there is a maturing and sees there is joy and sustenance and strength and growth and they see in us a conforming into that which is right and true and pure, they're going to want to know who taught us to live (taught us to eat in the metaphor) this way. They will ask for us to introduce them to the same Father who shepherded us to the place that has allowed our lives to not be destroyed by the messiness of the sauce of sin.
So we proclaim this Jesus individually and corporately, and we admonish every man that we can and we teach every woman that we can with every bit of wisdom that we can attain to in order that we might present every man perfect or complete in Christ. When you hear that word perfect, you go, "Are you telling me the longer I hang around you, Wagner, I'm going to become perfect?"
We have a problem with the way we define perfect because we take it in the Greek mindset. The Greek mindset of perfection is without fault or without blemish, but in the Hebrew mindset, the idea of something that is perfect is something that fulfills its purpose. When Paul wrote this, he had in mind that something is perfect when it fulfills the purpose for which it was created.
What is the purpose for which humankind was created? It has been said a lot of different ways, but probably the best way it has ever been said was, "The chief end of man or the chief purpose of man or the reason man was created is to love God, to know God, or to glorify God and to enjoy him forever."
That is the means through which we ultimately fulfill our purpose. When we enjoy God and glorify him with our lives in the way we go through life using the utensil of his Word and the forgiveness of what Christ accomplishes and the enabling of his Spirit to live lives that aren't just slaves to sin and self-destruction but live a life of hope and purity and discipline and goodness and righteousness in a way that the world starts to say, "That is the way a life ought to be lived. There's something divine about that life."
Perfection or completeness here is saying that Jesus Christ alone is the vehicle which allows men to be what God wanted men to be. Let me tell you this. That happens in basically three different phases. The Scripture says that Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but whenever you hear the biblical term salvation, you have to break it out into three things. Let me give them to you very quickly.
1._ Justification. Salvation is, first of all, what happens when you are saved. You are justified. It is what is called _justification. That is a legal term which means you are decreed free and not guilty. You are delivered from, if you want to put this down, the penalty of sin. The Scripture says, "All men have sinned." That's not a surprise to anybody anywhere. We all know we are not flawless and glorious in every aspect of our thought and living, but the Scripture also says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
It says, "** Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God…" We have been brought to a place where there is now no condemnation in us because the Scripture says," ***He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."*
It says, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him," so the justice and wrath of God have been propitiated (a big Bible word which means to say satisfied in him). We are considered legally righteous. God justifies us and says, "The debt is paid. Tetelestai. It is finished. Paid in full."
When you are justified before God, it is what happens when you trust in the provision God gave you, the vehicle which will make you acceptable to God, because his wrath has been complete. The Scripture says, "How can God be just and still the justifier of those who he loves?" The answer is the figure in Colossians, chapter 1, verses 15 through 20. Through Jesus Christ, the unblemished one who deserved no punishment, yet bore punishment that those who did might be saved.
2._ Sanctification. When you are saved, there is a process that begins called _sanctification. Salvation is these two things: justification (freedom from the penalty of sin) and sanctification where by the grace and power of God which mightily works within you (he will be with you always even to the end of the age) that not only are you positionally made righteous, but you are being practically made more and more like the one who redeemed you as God works in your life through community, through his Word, through his Spirit, and through the refining of trials.
God takes you to a place where you are, by the enabling of his Spirit, delivered from the power of sin. In other words, before we had one who entered into our weak lives and broke us free and ransomed us from this master which was sin in this world and our Enemy, which is the Devil, and has broken us free from his bondage and placed us over here under a relationship with him that is based now not on our servitude through foolish acts but rooted in love, he says, "Now you are free to choose to live as I intended you to live. You can still choose to be a fool if you want, but you are now free to live as my child because I have released you from your obligation to sin."
In other words, we are free now to make a decision as to whether or not we will continue in our relationship with God or whether we're going to break that off and go back and give ourselves again to this destructive lifestyle and spread, if you will, spaghetti all over our faces. I want to make it very clear again.
Sanctification is a slow and long process that God is in the middle of and that he uses his Word to transform us that we might eventually prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect, but I stand before you and I want to let you know, if you're going to come here and you're going to be excited about what the truth of Jesus Christ is because you think the pastor of this church is going to be perfect, I want to let you down right now.
I am perfect in the sense that I have, by the grace of God, been delivered of the place that I am now in relationship with God, in love with God, enjoying God, and glorifying him increasingly in my life, and the vehicle of Jesus Christ has delivered me back into a relationship with him as God intended man to be, so I am perfect in that, but I am not perfect in everything I do.
I've had an exceptional week of displaying that these last seven days. More than once my family (my wife twice and two different children) have pointed out to me at different times in different ways, always being for me, "Hey Dad, or Hey Sweetie, the life I'm seeing right now is not really the life I, frankly, can follow or trust."
I think the word mean was used one time. I had two different kids together say, "Dad, you told me I could tell you when stuff like this was going on. I'm just telling you right now you're not doing right." After she got up off the floor when I smacked her, I said, "That's right. Thank you for pointing that out."
No. That's not what I did. I said, "Thank you. You're exactly right. I don't want to be like that. I need to ask your forgiveness because I am right now being temperamental, but let me tell you what's going on in my life." What's going on in my life is not too different than if you go and dine with me.
You guys are like me. Sometimes you go out. Even to this day, when I come home, especially if I'm having my good Italian food with a little olive oil and a little marinara, there are spots that sometimes show up on my shirt. I get little dots here and here. We see businessmen tucking their ties in or throwing them over their shoulders and putting it everywhere they can.
At times, I still get a little spaghetti on myself, but what happens is the spots are a lot smaller than they used to be, and it's not every time I go out to an Italian restaurant. The distance between my marinara wrecks are further and further apart, and the depth of the stain is smaller and smaller because I am growing in my ability to handle pasta.
Let me tell you this is exactly what is happening in my life. There are times when I still have issues with the way I love my wife, shepherd my children, respond to conflict, respond to insecurity, or respond to tendencies toward pride or arrogance or self-promotion or lust or whatever it might be. Just pick your favorite struggle.
What happens in my life is that the struggle, if you will, or the destruction of that decision to give myself to it is a little bit less. Instead of having an outburst of anger where everybody is hiding under the sofa couch, there's a moment of, "You guys are driving me crazy!" To my wife, an unloving response in a minute that doesn't turn into a 4- or 5-day coldness and isolation, but it turns into a 5-minute or a 15-minute issue where I have to go and say, "I need to ask your forgiveness because of what just happened right there."
What's happening is that the stains in my life are smaller and the distance between them is growing ever greater because God is doing a work in my life, but there have been individuals in this room who have had some interactions with me when they go, "Todd, that's a little messy. Do you see that in your life right now?" I look down and go, "What? Did that happen with you?" "Yeah." "Well, I need to ask your forgiveness."
If you want to test if you've been sanctified, gang, you just have to look at how large the spills are in your life. I have some little ones in my house who, if they drink pink lemonade, it is like there is a skunk stripe right down their shirt. It is a pink shirt. If they have Italian food, it is on them, in their hair, on me, and all over them, but as they get older now, the kids are slowly starting to come home with the same color shirt that they went to school with as evidence that they are growing and maturing in their ability to handle food.
We expect to see the same thing in their lives. I don't expect my 9-year-old to be Elisabeth Elliot or my 8-year-old to be Billy Graham, but I hope they see in me a march toward Jesus Christ that is consistent and progressive which speaks to the fact that there is divine DNA at work within me. I have been justified, and I am being sanctified.
3._ Glorification_. The third part of salvation is that I will be glorified. There will be a day when I will be delivered even from the very presence of sin when Philippians 1:6 takes place. It says, "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus," when Jesus makes himself known that he is everything that the Word of God has revealed him to be and we hoped he was, when he makes us perfect not just positionally but practically, and until then we are exhorted to pursue a life of purity that we may not shrink back at his coming.
We proclaim in admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom God's Word that he has revealed to us that every one of us would be increasingly perfect in the sense that we are justified, in the sense that we are being transformed by his Word, and in the sense that one day we will be completely made whole as he intended us to be and walk with him forever without the freedom of sin having an inch in our hearts and even a presence in the world in which we will then live.
We do that today not by our great giftedness but, as verse 29 says, we work and strive mightily "…according to His power, which mightily works within me." That idea where Paul says, "I am striving," that word is the Greek word where we get the English word agony from. Agōnizomai. Agonize. Paul is saying, "For this, I labor to the point of exhaustion."
Folks, if you know this Jesus, and your life is not defined as wholly committed toward this purpose, you ought to ask yourself how connected you are to your head. I want to let you know what brought a tear to Denny's eye last week and what motivates the core of our body and the leadership of this church is we will bring ourselves to the point of exhaustion to concern ourselves for this purpose, and it doesn't matter where we meet or how many we meet with. This is our end.
We'll pursue strategies to allow us to do this in an ever-increasingly effective way to an ever-increasing number of people so that more folks can be perfect in Christ, but no matter where we go or what we do, you mark it. That is what should define us and will define us and how we will measure our success.
Paul goes on to say this in chapter 2, verse 1. He says, "For I want you to know how great a struggle…" **Again, there's that same word. "I have agonized.""…I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face…"** What Paul is saying right here is, "You guys in Colossae and your friends in Laodicea… I never met you, but I had a chance to talk to a guy named Epaphras who went from where I was in Ephesus and took the Word of God to Colossae.
He took the Word to Laodicea, and he told you about this Jesus, and you have embraced him. Epaphras has come back to me and told me about your faith, and I celebrate it, and I have prayed for you. Even though I don't know you personally, I am agonizing over who you are. I am taking every bit of strength that I have, and I'm writing you notes of encouragement. I am praying for you. I am building into those who will come back and make a difference in your life that you might be a community of faith that the whole world cocks its head at and says, 'Unbelievable!'"
What Paul is saying is, "I'm not just happy and content that I'm already perfect in Christ, and even though I don't know you personally, you're the next 100, and you matter explicitly to God. Therefore, you matter to me." If you ever find your life only concerned that you're in a place that services you well, that has standards and practices and music and genres that you embrace and chapels that you want your daughters married in and sizes that you think are comfortable to you, you have lost the heart of the head who you say directs your body.
Because he says, "You care for those who might still be nameless and faceless to you, but they're not nameless and faceless to me." When those folks heard Jesus cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" those people you don't know yet are the reason why the Father forsook the Son, and it is compelling and imperative that you and I take that heart and we go and we proclaim and we make room for them and we live lives in such a way that they would want to come to dine at the table of the one who has fathered us to live in such a way that our lives are not a mess.
He continues in chapter 2 by saying, "…that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself…" What Paul is saying is, "I want everybody to know the fullness of who Jesus Christ is, this revelation as the exact fullness of time that allows God to be seen for who he is to accomplish what it was that he was always about, which is to allow every man to have a relationship with him."
A little bit later in Colossians, he'll say, "There is no distinction between Jew and Greek." The Jews thought for a long time that God just loved them. God's program all along was that the Jews would live their lives in such a way that other nations would look at them and say, "Why are our nations a mess? Why are our marriages a mess? Why do we serve gods who bring about debauchery and war into our lives and you serve a God who brings about harmony and purity and righteousness?"
In that case with them, it would be prosperity and peace, and the Jews were not to say, "Because we're brilliant." The Jews were to say, "Because we're not worshiping a god we've invented; we're worshiping the God who is, the one who created us, the first of all creation, the one who all things were created by and all things are sustained through, and he has revealed himself to us in this kind of cryptic name.
He is the I AM, meaning before anything was he was there. He is the uncaused cause. He is the eternal one, and he is the one who you need to know, and we call him Adonai or Lord. We won't speak his name Yahweh, which is the Hebrew for I AM because it's too holy for us, but he is not just our God. He is the world's God, and he has decided to clean the marinara up off of our faces and clothes in a way that would make you curious as to where we learned to live and learned to eat. Come and know our Father."
That was God's design, and Paul is saying the mystery that all of the nations would be blessed through him has finally been revealed, that this descendant of David is this Jesus who has been crucified, buried, and resurrected as a sign that he has satisfied the wage of sin which is death. Paul is saying, "I want you to know the full wealth of this mystery," so he says, "There are two things that have to happen for you to know that. You have to have the fruit of that around you to know the foundation the truth is built on is real."
He said, "I hope that you attain to a life that is knitted together in love." In other words, "I hope you see the fruit of the encouragement of truth which you have received." When you get those two things together, then you get to get the full assurance that what you believe in is real. Truth is always universal, it never changes, and it always produces fruit.
Paul is saying, "I pray that the Spirit of God does such a work in the life of faith among you that you love each other in a way that the world just marvels at. As you follow the sacrificial servant example of your leader that you are committed to selling whatever you have according to the needs that other might have in your community."
We've said it many times here. There is not ever going to be a member of this body who, as we meet with them and we determine they're living responsibly, is going to ever, as long as anybody in this body has a means, live without the ability to get food, shelter, and clothing, and probably some blessing on top of that, because it's not about us.
It's about us caring for each other in this body, and we ought to love each other in such a way that we have favor with the world, that creates an awe as the world watches us, and that causes others to be added to this number day by day those who are being justified, sanctified, and anticipating the hope of our salvation which is glorification.
We live the way that we live so that people demand an explanation of it. There are times in my life despite its sometimes practical perfection that I do things that the world looks at and people say, "That was beautiful," or "Why did you do that?" or "Why were you so kind?" or "Why were you so other minded?" or "Why were you so sacrificial?" or "Why were you so giving?"
Whenever anybody asks me that, I jump on that opportunity every time. I let folks know I don't ever do a random act of kindness, and neither should you. There is no such thing as a purpose-driven person doing something randomly. Every single act I do should be for the purpose of proclaiming him, admonishing others, and teaching others with all wisdom so that others might know the vehicle that has delivered me to this place that is some semblance of the divine.
Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you that you love one another. Even as I loved you, so you should love one another. By this all men will know that I am who I claim to be. By this all men will know that you are learning of me. By this all men will know that you have come into relationship with the one that to know him is to know the Father. If you love one another, if your life reeks of goodness and gentleness and kindness and faithfulness and self-control and patience, the fruit of the divine is in your life."
When somebody says, "Can you explain that to me?" I say, "I'd love to." Here's what I typically say. I say, "I pray this small act of kindness would remind you of God's great love for you. I'm one of those crazy Christ followers. I'm one of those guys who loves Jesus Christ and knows what he has done for me, and I would love for you to be encouraged by the way I just treated you or tipped you or served you in such a way that it would be a reminder of how much God loves you."
That's it. Sometimes I go deeper. If they want to engage some more, I say, "Do you understand that? Has anybody ever explained to you how you can be friends with this Jesus who has so changed me that I would want to be this way with you?" Sometimes they go, "No. You've given me more than enough information there, weirdo, already. I'm out of here!" Many times, they go, "I'm a little curious." There's no such thing as a random act of kindness.
This is why, by the way, kids who live in legalistic homes who have great truth and are drilled in Bible doctrine but who have a distant or harsh daddy or a dad who is very religious and very legalistic about what they admit and deny in the home but the daddy doesn't serve and love and hug and embrace and isn't kind toward the mom and isn't tender toward them and isn't focused on them as a family, have a hard time really being excited about having a relationship with God.
Because all they know is that God is a restrictor of things, that God is harsh, that you don't cross God, that if you don't do the right things there is going to be severe judgment and consequence, but there's no love. There's no relationship. There's no joy. There's no celebration. Not long ago in the midst of me saying, "No, let's not do that," my little girl (one of them) looked at me and said, "Dad, do you ever say, 'No,' to us just to ruin our lives?" I said, "What do you think?"
She goes, "Well, I don't think so, but when you tell us, 'No, we can't have ice cream,' again or this or that, sometimes it just seems like you're saying, 'No,' just to ruin our fun." I go, "I totally understand that, but let me ask you a question. Have you seen your daddy always want to do stuff for you?
Do I look for opportunities to celebrate ice cream when it's the right time or go to certain places or to stay up a little later at certain times or to throw a party for no reason at all or to make good choices? Have you ever seen me not let you do that just to be a cosmic killjoy, or do you believe there's always a why that is rooted in love behind my what?"
As we talked about it, she goes, "No, I believe you love me," but sometimes when you get denied ice cream or a friend spending the night or you have to go to bed earlier than you want, it's fair to ask, isn't it? People who grew up in a home where they drilled their kids in Bible doctrine and yet there is not a love between the mother and the father, a tenderness there, a cherishing and honoring and respecting and mutual submission and love and harmony and seeking after one another…
If there isn't a dad who is present in the home shepherding the child and available to the child, the dad can say all day long who God is, and he can intimidate them to make sure they live in such a way that they show they know there are rules in this household, but if they don't see the attaining to love in that home, they will not grow in their assurance that this God is really worth loving.
That is why folks who grow up in legalistic homes have a really hard time celebrating the full assurance of their faith. They haven't seen what Paul is praying that the folks in Colossae would see and what we are striving to make sure we see, what Denny said with tears in her eyes. "I don't ever want to lose the teaching we are getting and the community we're experiencing," which is the authenticity which will give folks the assurance that our God is real.
I go, "Denny, that is what we're about, and if you can show us what we're planning is going to threaten that, we are off it." Those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive. We don't want to be a big place; we want to be a biblical place, but healthy things grow, and let's love and shepherd each other well, and let's just welcome anybody into this lifeboat out of the frigid waters of massive sin that we can. Just because we're dry doesn't mean we stop.
Paul continues and says in verse 3, "…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." You don't need to look somebody else up to see if he can add to something that this Jesus can provide for you. He says, "I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument." This is great! I love sometimes the language this was written in because we get so many of our words from it.
Peíthō is a Greek verb for to be persuasive. Logos is a rather familiar Greek word. Many of you shop at a little bookstore here in town called Logos. It means the word. If you get a peíthōlogos, it's put together in a compound word in the Greek. It's pithanologia. The word that is down there is persuasive argument. It is a pithy statement.
Have you ever heard that? When somebody gives you a pithy statement, they're giving you a short, persuasive way to defend something whether it's true or not, but it sure sounds convincing. See if this pithy statement didn't sway some people. "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit." That makes sense to me.
If this was, in fact, the glove that person wore who murdered these people, then, if it doesn't fit the person who we think murdered those people, he can't be the murderer, but there are probably some other facts you ought to bring to bear on that evidence and testimony including the way, maybe, the glove was tried on. I'm not here to talk about O.J. That will be taken care of in another court whether he's free or not.
My point here is sometimes that word I talked to you about was used in that culture of a defense attorney who would make a case for his defensive in every pithy, persuasive way he could, and that is why, when you give your closing arguments whether it be at the murder trial of one Scott Peterson or at the murder trial of one O.J. Simpson or defending one Todd Wagner because he failed to yield, there is every pithy argument made in order to persuade people that maybe we shouldn't prosecute here.
Guess what. People are going to bring to bear against you all kinds of pithy statements and tell you to back off of your Jesus. How about some of these? "Who are you to force upon me your belief system? What if I forced my belief system on you? You wouldn't like that, would you, so why should you force your belief system on me?"
How about this? "How can you tell me that just because I love differently than you love that your love is better than mine? Who are you to say that? How can you deny me what our culture says by every means is the happiest day in the life of any individual? Why can you deny me my right to celebrate my commitment of love for another person when you get to do that just because I don't look like you?
How can you tell me that you're pro-family and yet you're denying my right to covenant in a monogamous way with one other person just because I'm covenanting and being monogamous with a person you don't think I should be coveting and monogamous with? Don't you know that years ago they wouldn't let white people marry black people? We both agree that's asinine, so why would you now do this just because you haven't grown and evolved to the place you need to grow to?"
Some of those things you go, "If that isn't pretty persuasive? I think I'll just back out of this conversation and let you guys go on." There are a thousand more! One of the things we need to do is participate with each other with all wisdom and say, "Let me answer those. There are good answers to every one of those."
Do you know that? How many here are against a woman's right to choose? I sure am not. How many of you here want to stop women from murdering other women? I think I might. We have to enter into some other conversations here. It's not just women. It's men. It's everybody involved.
My point here is the ways certain things are positioned are not by accident. They are to persuade, to make something that is guilty or wrong look true, so what you must do is grow in your ability to respond to those statements that seem persuasive which, when wisdom is applied to them, you may find out they're not. That is why we talk about issues like this. If many of those questions I just presented to you and others just like them…
"How can you condemn me when I was born this way?" Well, if you're born that way, how could you be guilty? That's the way you're made. That's why psychologists tell you, "If you're gay and you try to become un-gay, it's as stupid as a cat going to a veterinarian saying that he wants to be a dog. You'll never be a dog. You'll just become a neurotic cat."
That is the teaching and thinking out there within psychotherapy. How do you answer that? We have a CD for you that we did back there called Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage: An Apology, an Answer, and an Assignment. We admonish you to grow in your ability to love and serve those who are taken into bondage by these pithy statements.
Next week, we're going to study philosophy. That's what verses 8 and 9 of Colossians 2 are about, and I'm here to tell you there are great answers for the philosophies of this world and what the Scriptures have to say. You have all wisdom in this Jesus. Do you know that? This book alone is the means by which you can be delivered.
Let's continue right here and finish this little section. He said, "For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.""You are on this solid foundation. Don't leave it!" Then, he says in chapter 2, verse 7, a verse that Dawson Trotman, the founder of Navigators, was so moved by that his entire discipleship learning curriculum was built around.
If you've been around a Navigator and if you've been in the military, especially, you've been around individuals who are there to grow you in your faith, and you have been put through what is called a 2:7 curriculum. We have a guy at this church who loves to teach that curriculum. If you want to grow through that curriculum, you call us this week and we'll get you in a group right away. The whole 2:7 ministry comes from this verse right here.
"…having been firmly rooted…" Things that aren't deeply rooted are easily moved. Paul is saying, "I want you to go deep in your faith not just that you would be deep down so you can't be moved and easily pushed aside and err from truth but that you would grow up and be established in your faith."
It said earlier in the verse, "…and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude," that God is going to make you a secure, fruitful blessing to others. Let me just tell you we do a lot to ensure that you would be moving this direction.
You're not a member of this church if you're not an individual who has somebody who will come alongside of you and use the metaphor that is thick through Scripture, which is to have a shepherd, somebody who cares for you and is concerned for you. It means to know who you are and to partner with you in life and to pray for your wellbeing and to push you on to be more firmly rooted and established and built up in your faith.
As you become one of those individuals yourself, you self select who that shepherd is as we affirm, "Yes, that is a mature person. There have been increasingly smaller amounts of marinara on the mess of their lives, and it's further and further apart. They are fit to spur other people on to love and good deeds."
As you choose that person and as they walk with you and process the 5C form with you one time a year and figure out how you can become more committed to God's persons, God's purposes, and God's people, competent in doctrine and doing, connected to other folks, contributing with your gifts and talents, and creative in the way that you ask God, "What do you want to do with me?"
We have that tool as a primary influence in your life, but secondly, we're about to introduce something today that, folks, I believe is one of the most significant things we've done in the five years we've been together, and we're going to ask you to join us in the journey. Here's the reality. God will not sanctify a stupid Christian.
The means through which he wants to take you more into the view of his Son, to clean you up, and to have you eat life and live life well is to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.
Starting today, you can sign up. You can go to our website and jump on this and say, "I want to be a part of this journey." You can go to jointhejourney.com and sign up right there. What we have done is we have approached 300-some-odd members of our body who are mature in their faith, deeply rooted, firmly established, and being built up, and they have written for you a daily devotional that is based on three chapters from God's Word that will take you to a place where you can be growing in your faith.
You can read through the Bible with us in a year. If you can't be somebody who reads three chapters a day, you can be somebody who can just read of those three chapters until God shows you something. You can even just read the devotional that was made for you by a member of our body with some application questions and some tips that will help you as you continue in that travelogue as well as get to know somebody from the body, as a little basic information about them will show up.
You have a sample of it right there today in your Watermark News. We encourage you to put it in your Christmas cards to other folks. "Join me in the journey this year. Go to jointhejourney.com. Find out what we're doing as a church." You can sign up out there, and we're going to share this thing all around the world. We're praying over 1,000 folks from right here would be a part of that and we would begin to be firmly established and rooted in God's Word.
One of the ways I've been admonished is to get us out of here on time, and I'm growing in that area, so I'm going to shut us down right here right now, lest I get more marinara on my face for getting too excited about what I want to talk about and taking you away from your pasta. Let me just close with this little deal. I want to read you this. This is why we're calling you to the journey. You can find this on the front of every Gideon Bible. I love this!
"The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter.
Here too, heaven is opened and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. […] It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents."
Will you join me in the journey into it? You read it through, you pray it in, and you live it out.
Father, I pray we would forever be a body that would embrace this book and that we would read it through, we would pray it in, and by your grace we would live it out in such a way that others would say, "There's something divine about the Father who taught them to die in that way." Would you do that with increasing clarity for your glory? Amen.
From a book that is 2,000 years old comes evidence that has been preserved about the greatest truth the world has ever known and how it can transform our lives. The book of Colossians walks through the radical change that happened to some in an ancient east Asian city, revealing the struggles they faced, the resistance they met, and the transformation they found as a result of the hope they had. Join Todd Wagner as he studies the Colossians scene to discern how their journey can reveal truths that can change us.