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Psalm 133 is a very short Psalm, consisting of only 3 verses. It shows us the joy of living in unity. One of the things that drives people away from the body of Christ is that the people of Christ don't live in unity: they don't love to be together nor do they serve one another joyfully. When you see people loving each other, it's the most irresistible thing on earth. God's church should be unified in its proclamation, purpose, passion, product, and praise.
Unity: I Like it, I Love it, I Want Some More of It
The Good Stuff - Found Only in the Perfect Relationship
Do Only the Good Die Young?
We Are the Apple of His Eye
Father, I pray right now as we go to your Word, as we look to your psalms, I pray we would find real life and freedom. I pray we would find instruction and I pray you would correct us, that you would reprove us, I pray you would teach us, and I pray you would allow us to be equipped for every good thing. As much love as is evident in this body, we can go deeper. We can do better.
We can die more to self, and unity can more clearly mark us. We know as it does that your name would be more renowned, and more people would know what it means to find real life. So we pray you would let this perfect Word do its perfect work in our sometimes very imperfect world. We just humble ourselves right now and we just say we need instruction, we need correction, and we need reprove, and we need to be equipped for your glory. In Christ's name, amen.
Look at this psalm, it's just three verses long, but David wrote this. It comes… It's number 14 in a collection of 15 songs, or psalms, that were sung as different people in the nation of Israel made their way up to Jerusalem. Now we say made their way up even though Jerusalem is in the south, because Jerusalem is a city on a hill, and that's where God called his people together to worship.
As you know today, Jerusalem continues to be a highly contested little piece of acreage a number of the world's faiths see as holy ground. What makes any ground holy is not its longitude and latitude. What makes any ground holy is that the presence of God is there. God chose to reveal himself to the world by embracing a nation of people and by allowing them to know who he is by his gracious revelation, pulling back the curtain and introducing himself to them through his servants, the prophets, and through others whom he recorded his Word to and reveled himself to.
Then he allowed them to build a tent of meaning, a tabernacle, a temple, where he said he would abide or some physical manifestation of the glory and greatness of God, where they could worship him and where they could connect with him and offer sacrifices, acknowledging their need before him.
That was the temple mount. There were a number of feasts throughout the year who God wanted his people to all make a pilgrimage from wherever they were to this city. On the way there, there were songs that were called songs of assent, because as you got closer to Jerusalem, no matter where you came from, at some point you came from a valley and you worked your way up to this city on a hill.
So they were songs of ascent. It starts with Psalm 120 and goes all the way through Psalm 134, so there are 15 of them, and Psalm 133 is the fourteenth of the 15. What this psalm is saying… It starts by embracing how good it is that as they get closer to the city, they see more and more people all coming together for one purpose, and that one purpose is to worship God and to acknowledge him for who he is.
They, in fact, were seeking to be what we seek to be, which is one nation under God. How good it was when the nation was unified. So David was writing a psalm describing that. This is what he said, "Behold…" Which is his way of simply in our English vernacular going, "Check this out. Just look at this. This is inspiring. This is just awesome."
I think of a couple things. In Laura Lynn's story in the Watermark News today, she talked about how refreshed she was being together up there at Estes Park. It was like heaven on earth for her. There were a number of times, both this year and last year when we were up there with 400 of you guys, that we were singing and we were laughing.
I mean, I laughed until I cried I don't know how many times that particular week, but just some times we were together, and you just thought, "Man, this is so good to be together like this. We can't always be like this, because sometimes God wants us to come up off the mount to go back into the valley of need, but it's so good."
A couple weeks after, I had the chance to go speak for a week at a family camp where Brett Johnston, one of our elders, is serving as a director this summer. There were I don't know how many families who came together that week who had never met each other before and about 50 college kids who were there to serve us that week.
At the end of that week, we stood around in a circle, and it was just one of those moments where you go, "This is the way it's supposed to be. How great is this. I wish I'd known the folks who scoffed at organized religion in the church. I wish they could see this. I wish they could see the way people come together when they humble themselves under the same God."
This is what David is saying. He goes, "Look how good this is. As I come from my path, I see other people coming from theirs, and we're all moving toward not just our view of God but God as he has revealed himself to us. Check this out. "…how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!"
Now he's going to give two simple analogies about what unity is like. He says, "It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes." To most of us, we go, "What's that? Who's Aaron and what's such a big deal about his head, his beard, and his robe?"
You have to understand your Old Testament a little bit to get the metaphor of which David speaks. We'll unpack that for you in just a second. Then he goes right on to verse 3. He simply says. "It is like the dew of Hermon…" Again, same thing, "Well, who's Hermon? What is that?"
It says, "…coming down upon the mountains of Zion, for there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever." Okay, what's that mean? Because that's a great psalm because it's short, right? There are two analogies there, but what in the world do those poetic references mean and what do they have to do with verse 1?
Let me just unpack verse 1 for a second and give you a couple of explanations for verses 2 and 3, then some specific applications for you and me. Then let's just live this thing out as an act of worship this week. How good and right it is when brothers get together in unity. The opposite of this is equally true.
How awful and miserable, and embarrassing it is when people don't get along. Whether it be in a family, a sports team, a business contract, or God forbid a church. When you get factions and schisms among you, it gets really nasty and really ugly, really quick. A lot of us don't have to think back really long to know what I'm talking about.
When you find folks who just are going to say, "Look, this is not about working together toward unity. This is about having my understanding and charging forward with it. It says, "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." That's Proverbs 18:2. One commentator said, "That is the double trouble of a fool. He's got a closed mind and an open mouth."
He doesn't really care about understanding. His goal is just to let you know what he thinks, and he's not going to let facts get in the way of his understanding of truth. So they will hunker down and they will say, "This is the way it's going to be, and it will be no other way. We will come to blows or we will divorce and separate, but we will not dwell together unless you come on over to this side."
It is true it is great when things work right. There is nothing like a marriage. I'm tell you, there is nothing like a marriage when the husband and wife are walking in step. Where there is unity, were there is mutual submission, even in the midst of very clear and defined roles. Where there is love, where there is community, where there is care, where there is a commitment toward completing one another, where there is an offering of each other's bodies, and where there is just deep respect and honor.
That is a really sweet thing, but there is no pain like the pain of a broken heart and a broken relationship, and a betrayed love. There is no pain like a covenant with a selfish pig. When you see a marriage…I mean, really see a marriage…when you really see love, you just go, "That is an unbelievable thing."
We make movies about it. We write sonnets about it. It is the stuff that moves the hearts of men, but there is nothing as painful as a broken covenant relationship. What David is saying right here is, "Look, one of the things you all need to understand as we move together up this holy hill is one of the marks that God is with us and for us. One of the marks God is in fact our God, is that we are together."
Real life comes when we are in a relationship the way God designed us to be in a relationship. See we are made in his image, and part of being made in his image, part of that, whatever else it means, it means we are destined for relationship. God exists in relationship. Do you know that? The Lord our God is one, but he has revealed himself in a way that blows our categories.
This God, who is one singular God, exists in three persons…the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This idea of love, community, and mutual submission and distinct roles and serving, completing and caring for one another without compromising individuality and personhood, that is an eternal truth. It's one that we can't quite understand how three can be one, because we know nothing like it in this world, because we always see schism and faction whenever you see multiplicity.
But not in the Godhead. God said, "I want to make something in my image, and in that image, as he walks with us, experience what we experience and be some representation of who we are, who I am." David said, "That's what we are destined for. That is why there is not a single person here… You can deny it to your core, but at the very center of your being you were made for relationship."
That is why love is still the most seductive and attractive thing on the face of this earth. When you see a group of people loving each other, caring for each other, submitting to and sacrificing for one another, it smells of the divine. Cults take this and they use it in a way where they bombard you with love, but that love had a motive behind it, which is to seduce you into bondage and put you in a place where you will ultimately come under a strong hand that doesn't have your best interest in mind, but the furthering of (usually) the cult leader.
The distinction with that in with Jesus Christ is he calls you to come and be in a relationship with him, and as your leader, he doesn't look to you to exploit you for his own physical pleasure. Nor does he look to exploit you for his own financial gain, because the cattle on a thousand hills are his, but he dies for you because he is the great example of what it means to live in community and care.
When you see folks love each other, it's the most irresistible thing on earth. You're going to hear Elizabeth tell her story today about how, in the midst of all of her intellectual pursuits, the final apologetic for her was love. She could not deny there was something divine about a gathering of people who died to self, and because they followed the example of their servant leader, cared for her.
This is what is going on in verse 2 where it says, "It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard…" Even Aaron's beard. Aaron was Moses' partner in leading Israel. He specifically was the one God laid his hand on. It was Moses' brother who lead Israel from a priestly position. God laid his hand on Aaron and said, "I want Aaron to be the one who stands before me who offers the sacrifice I will accept as a means through which the people will be forgiven for another year."
Aaron and his sons, four of them, were given this incredible responsibility and one of them, specifically Aaron, was set aside as the high priest where on one specific day…it comes in September on our calendar and is called Yom Kippur, with Yom meaning day, the Day of Atonement, the day of covering…when God would allow the high priest to walk into the Holy of Holies, which was an earthly representation of the heavens of God where the shekinah glory of God…
That's a big word that just simply means the physical presence of God as he revealed himself by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night resided. He would move into this Holy of Holies one day a year, and he would offer a sacrifice that God would say, "I accept your acknowledgment you have sinned against me and innocent blood must be shed."
This was just to anticipate ultimately another Lamb that would be slain one day who would take away the sins of the world. It was a picture of our coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Aaron, on this day, would be anointed with oil, and I mean lavishly. It was a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit of the covering of God, and it was a sweet smell, a fragrant and a pleasant smell.
It was a good thing knowing this man was now going to be acceptable to God. He could go where no other man could go, because God put his mark on him of holiness and made a provision for him that he could go in and do business with God so that all of us could receive forgiveness. In fact, what is says right here is this goes down, not just on Aaron's head, but down through his beard and on his robe.
The beautiful thing about his robe is on his robe he wore in two different places the symbols of the entire nation of Israel, the twelve different tribes. So that covering went not just on Aaron's head but covered symbolically the entire nation. What David is saying right here is just simply this:
"This anointing is the mark of holiness Aaron got. Our unity and our being together and following this God who Aaron goes and does business with for us is also a sign of holiness, just like the perfume on Aaron's head is a symbol he is in fact God's man to go and do business. Unity on my people is a sign that they are my people, and they are now prepared to go do my business in the world."
He goes on is verse 3 to say this, "It's like the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion…" Now Hermon… In Colorado if you have a mountain that's 14,000 feet, it's a significant mountain. Colorado 14'ers… There are 58 of them people like to try to climb. Colorado, as you know, is a state that the lowest elevation in Colorado is higher than the highest elevation in Pennsylvania. So it's well above sea level as a state. So when you have a 14,000-foot mountain, you have got to realize that you're going up from 5,000 to 9,000 feet already.
Hermon is a mountain that is right there at sea level and is about 9,200 feet high. It can be seen from 40 miles away. Israel as a nation is really only 70 miles long front to back and about 30 miles wide. Not very big, so you can see this. It's up by the northern party of Israel in Galilee, and you can see it from most of the country.
So it's 10,000 feet roughly from the ground you're on, and it is a majestic and beautiful mountain. Many people believe it's the mountain where Christ went up and showed his glory to Peter, James, and John. As majestic as it is, as much as it adorns the countryside's landscape, what makes Hermon really a blessing to the people of Israel who live in an arid desert region, is that lots of snow goes up on that mountain. When the spring thaw comes, that snow melts to water and it just fertilizes the entire region.
You all know if you go camping in a mountainous area, the dew on a mountain is much thicker than we experience here closer to sea level. What he's saying right there in verse 3 is like the dew of Hermon, which is abundant in its nature, it comes down… Notice this, that unity always comes down, or the blessing of life David equates with unity, always comes down from the higher to the lower.
Let me ask if this isn't true. Can you imagine a family who has unity when Mom and Dad are at war? No. Can you imagine a church staff that is as unified when the senior staff is at war with one another? Can you imagine a church that has peace when the elders don't see eye to eye? I'm just going to tell you it doesn't happen.
Unity always comes in the same way that dew comes. It comes from higher to lower. The greatest gift you can give your kids, parents… When people say, "I love my kids, and I'll be a good dad. I'll always be a great dad." I'm going to make a statement right here I believe is true: It is impossible for you to be a good father and leave your wife.
It is impossible for you to be a man who says, "I'm going to be a good example for my kids and give peace and security to my kids and fracture their home." Now can God deal with divorce and bring life into the midst of death? Absolutely, but I want you to mark this. I want you to understand how serious this is.
Kids get security and love not from the way their daddy cheers for them by being present at their baseball games, though that makes a big difference, but watching in the way that daddy treats mama and watching the way Mom is secure in Daddy's arms. That makes a baby bird secure. A church is secure when it sees its elders love and embrace each other, when it sees its senior staff and fellow staff and Community Group leaders work together to be unified in purpose.
It brings life from higher to lower, and it should go from God to saint, from saint to saint, and from saint to the world. When you get fractions in leadership and you get schisms in leadership, it's just a matter of time before the kids are crying and running and looking anywhere else for protection.
David said God determined, God decreed there would be unity and the mark of the divine on Israel forever. He says it's good we're participating with God, because if we don't participate with God willfully as we go up to worship him and be one nation under God, then God will bring whatever form of correction is necessary to get us to that place where we, in fact, humble ourselves underneath him again.
Israel has its toughest days ahead of them, because they are not a nation right now under God. So if you understand the Bible the way I think it was written and clearly meant to be understood, God has said Israel will be a place where unity begins forever. I think we'll see, if not in our lifetime, from a good seat in heaven, Israel become that nation again. You will see all the nations of the earth worship the God of Israel whose King is Jesus Christ.
Let me just unpack this with a little bit of application and observation for us. I'll do this very quickly. Time is the truest of tests for the nature of things. Now where do I get that from Psalm 133? I get that from simply this. It is easy to get along with people in short bursts of time. Have you ever had that experience?
How many of y'all have fallen in love on Spring Break? You go down there, and you just can't get in a fight in three days with that girl you met and you walked the beaches with. You're both down there on vacation away from the reality of life and you get one of these romances. Some of you guys look back and go, "You know what, that was one of the sweetest relationships I ever had in my life."
That was not a relationship, people. That was called a fling. There are very few people who I cannot have a dinner with and have a wonderful time, but time is the truest of tests for the nature of things. I tell gals when they start to date a guy, when he starts to smile, just hang in there because when Dracula smiles at the beginning of it, it looks like he's got a nice set of teeth, but the more he smiles you see there are fangs behind that gum.
Just let that smile keep coming open. Spend some time with him. Long-distance relationships are hard to really understand what your relationship is ever going to be like, because when you take some time just to be together for a weekend, you plan all these activities and you don't get in the grind of life.
What marks a marriage, what marks God's presence in a marriage, is not a honeymoon. Not even a tenth anniversary. I will tell you it's not even the fact you don't divorce. It's that you still love, care for, and are tender toward each other, value each other, and honor and respect each other all the way to the grave.
Even in the midst of the seasons when you don't feel like it. When for worse, for poorer, and in sickness love persists. When the beauty that so attracted you to that wife of yours is gone, you still delight yourself, as the scripture says, in the breasts of her youth. You don't go somewhere else because it looks prettier and it's easier to get what you think you deserve.
Love never fails, and the way you tell if someone is loving is you just take some time. Proverbs 19:2-3. This is a proverb worth carving on your forehead if you're single. "Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs." Or, "…he who makes haste with his feet errs," is what the NAS says. "The foolishness of man subverts his way, and his heart rages against the LORD."
In other words, "God, I thought this was good. I ran right in, nobody else endorsed what I was doing, they thought I was too quick, but low and behold I found out now this guy is a scoundrel." One of the things I tell my single friends is simply this: If you are marrying somebody who has no history of continuity in relationships, beware.
I was just with a friend of mine who is a single mom now and she was so desperate to find love, she found a guy who had kind of a scarred, storied past. He had no relationship with his mom or dad, no relationship with his siblings. All of his ex-roommates and friends were shattered. He was addicted to alcohol, but when he met her, he looked her in the eyes and he said, "I have never been loved like this before. I've never had anybody make me feel so full, so complete, so alive. All these other people have let me down, all these other people have hurt me, but you, you love me."
Now girls, how does that make you feel? "Really? Everybody else is a jerk, everybody else was evil, everybody else was an ogre, but you know that I love you and because of that, you'd cherish me above all the earth." See it can make you feel really special for a little bit of time, but I'll just tell you if you have somebody who has no history of unity in their life, beware.
This is what makes Christ so significant. Here's a key verse in the New Testament talking about the person of Jesus Christ. We said the truest nature, the truest test of things, is time. Look what it says about Jesus. Jesus is not going to turn on you. He's not going to give you this offer of love and then want to exploit you and ask you to sell all your possessions so he can live in comfort or give you his wife so he can have pleasure with her.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever more. He is good and there is nothing in his past that contradicts that claim. It says how good it is for brothers to dwell together. Did you catch that word? It doesn't say it's good for folks to get along for a little bit together, but to dwell, which means to abide, to reside, to stay.
That's a good and pleasant thing, to continue together. Unity is a defining mark of the presence of God, and that is why we must war for it. That's why we just did three weeks on conflict resolution. That's why I am a freak about restoring relationships when they're broken. There was a time just this last week that myself, Rick Wisner, and Kyle Kaigler had dinner together at the end of the day. They both were worn out, and I saw it in their eyes.
I said, "What's wrong?" "We have spent five hours today in five different relationships working through conflict. That's what we did with our entire day." I said, "Really? I had three of those things today." Then I realized that part of their five was me, so I had five then. We want you guys to know something. We are freaks about this.
We'll work through this thing until no end. My buddy James and I had a conversation in the middle of the service about what to say here and just a little bit about folks who had to stand too long. Once the Spirit kicked in, I looked at him and said, "James, what do you want me to do? What should I do? What do you think I should do?"
I tired to humble myself underneath him. He said, "I'll tell you what you should do… You want me to love people and greet people? I felt like we had them standing too long. You need to acknowledge that." After the service we'll clean up our mess about our tone and the midst of getting to that place with one another.
Do you know why James Skinner is here? Because that brother has been my friend for 20 years. He's gifted is why he's here. That guy I have seen dwell together and become committed to unity, and he is a leader. When you find unity in a person's life, it's a mark God is there. When you find somebody who has a long history of relationships, and there's nobody in this church who had more long relationships than James Skinner, it's a mark of the divine.
It's a mark of somebody's character and humility. It's a mark of their Christlikeness. This is what is says in 1 Corinthians 14:33, "…for God is not a God of confusion…" Where God is, there is oneness. Where God is there is clarity. This is what is says in Ephesians 4:1-6.
"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God…"
When you get one nation under God, that is a miraculous thing. You can't just put it on your coins that you trust God, and you can't just have some pledge of allegiance you adopted 100 years ago where you say there's one nation under God. For that to really happen would take an absolute miracle, would it not?
It takes a tragedy that humbles us to realize we can't get along without each other. It takes 100‑story buildings collapsing for us to come together, but it doesn't take us long to start to reassert our independence and not make an effort to get along. The only thing that will ever bring this nation truly together under God is when this nation comes to know God and doesn't have schoolchildren recite some poem.
Unity comes when God does a miraculous work through hearts, and that's why the best way to bring our country together is to figure out who the Lord of this country is. That's why this vision for world peace, Jesus says, "Quit envisioning world peace. Peace will come when people see me as the head, and when they see me as the head, we will be one body with one head, seeking to glorify one thing."
There will be world peace one day, and it will come when we are one world under God. Not God as we interpret him, but God as he is. When you see that, you will go, "This is the will of the divine." Here is where we come down on this. You're going to hear me say four or five different things here.
God's church should be unified in his proclamation. If this is true of God's church and this is true of Watermark, this ought to be true of you and true of me. What we have to ask ourselves is, instead of asking our country to come together under God, the first thing we need to do for our country to be under God is…what? For us to be under God.
For Israel to be a nation that dwells together in worship David and the other pilgrims had to make their way to the feasts. When they all did what they were supposed to do, the nation was what it was supposed to be. For this church to be the church that God wants, to have the mark of divinity, you have to be a divine person who has one faith, one Lord, one baptism of the Spirit, one hope of your calling, serving one God who has revealed himself in the Scriptures, Jesus Christ crucified, dead and buried, resurrected on the third day.
You have one proclamation, one hope. This is what Paul says in Galatians 1:6. He spells it out very clearly. He says, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" That's pretty clear, isn't it?
"As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!" Because he violates what God intends, which is unity, and Paul says there's no room for that. James says, the Word of God is first pure, and then it's peaceable.
This movement toward ecumenicalism and, "Why can't we all get along?" is… The reason we can't all get along is because there is such a thing as objective truth, and we cannot budge on it. We are to die for truth. We are to die for the fact that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. We're to love people who do not accept that, serve them, pray for them, but we are not to join ourselves to them in marriage or in worship, and we will be hated for it.
We are promised that. And he says, "Though your joy will last for a night, your hope will come in the morning." You've got to figure out right now if your God is the God of the morning, because most of us will not live in a life where we see the world come together under one King, Jesus Christ. If it happens, it will only happen because he comes to meet us in the air and seven years of hell break out.
We're going to deal with that explicitly come August when we do a little series on the end times. We have got to be a church unified in our proclamation. That means you've got to know the gospel, and you've got to be committed to preaching the gospel. God's church should be unified, not just in its proclamation, but unified in its purpose.
Our purpose here at Watermark is to call all people to be fully devoted followers of Christ. Everything we do is measured by its contribution toward that purpose. One of the things I love about the fact Blake is coming on our staff right now, that Jenny's been over there in our children's ministry, that Braun is leading our student ministry, is everywhere you go we are about the same thing.
There are not silo ministries happening here. We are all working together for one thing, and that is to allow other people to engage with Jesus Christ and to make disciples. I just got a chance to speak to a church out in California and I told them, "Let me just tell you guys something, if your church does not exist for the sole purpose of making disciples and making those who make disciples, you are not a biblical church. You can call yourself whatever you want, but you are not God's church if you don't exist for that purpose."
I should get 1,000 pastors in a room and say, "What is your church's purpose and mission statement?" and our semantics might be different, but if they don't in some form or fashion have Matthew 28:19-20 in it, Acts 1 and 8 in it, then it is not God's church. Matthew 28:19-20 makes it very clear.
Go and make disciples. You baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yesterday in the Religion section you had a guy in Austin with his great church, with his toupee he ripped off a year ago June, and his whole church has broken back to repentance and getting away from ideology.
It sounds like God is doing some great things down there, except he is what's called a Oneness Pentecostal. He doesn't baptize in the name of the Father and the Spirit. He baptizes in the name of the Son. T.D. Jakes dabbles in what's called Oneness Pentecostalism. It's confusing the personage of God as revealed in the Scriptures.
He says, "You go and don't try to understand it, but believe it that I am one God who is three in persons, who is subordinate in function, and specific in role. You baptize people and you exist for the purpose of being and making disciples. If we do anything for any purpose other than that, we have lost our mission."
God's church should be unified in its passion. One of the core statements we make here at Watermark is that full devotion is normal for a believer. Being a disciple is not something safe or some super-saint, or for the salaried or some seminary student. Being a disciple is what every single follower of Christ should be, and we ought to be united in passion.
Here's my question for you: Are you passionate about Jesus Christ? Passionate about unity? Passionate about walking in obedience to him? If not, that's fine. Just don't call yourself a member of God's family. Full devotion is not something only the radical are embracing. Full devotion is normal for the believer.
This is what Paul says. "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." You are passionate about one thing, and that is advancing the name of Christ. Not your own comfort, not your own fame, but ultimately who Christ is and how to respond to him.
God's church should be unified in its product, and that product is love. It's the final apologetic. This is what it says in John 17. "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."
Do you see that? If we don't produce unity, if the world doesn't look and go, "How good and pleasant it is to be around the folks who know Jesus Christ at Watermark," and name your favorite church that says they follow Christ, if our product is not love for one another, then the world has a right to say whatever it marks you as a church is not ultimately divine. Therefore, if Jesus Christ marks you, Christ is not divine.
This is the nut right here. If we don't produce by our brokenness and yieldedness before the Spirit of God, love for one another, whatever else we do, Jesus is not the Messiah. Do you understand that? He goes on to say, "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me…"
If we are not producing love for one another, the world can look at us and say, "Whatever you are, you're not divine, and if you're followers of Christ, he is not divine. So wherever Jesus is from, he is not from heaven and not from the Father, who is God." You see the stakes that are on the line here for this thing called unity? Do you see why it's pleasant and good for a church to be unified in passion and proclamation, in product?
Elizabeth, come on up here. Kyle, come on up here. I want you to meet a person who can testify to the fact love is the final apologetic. Elizabeth, through a friend, began attending a Community Group and in the midst of her relationship with that Community Group, the barriers she had with Christ began to come down. Elizabeth, why don't you and Kyle walk us through that?
Kyle Kaigler: One of the great privileges I have being on staff is I get to go and sit in people's living rooms and hear their story. Last Thursday night for about an hour and a half, I got to hear all the details about Elizabeth's story, and we're just going to hit the highlights of that right now, but I really want her to tell you a little bit about who she is and what role love has played in her life. Elizabeth, tell them a little bit.
Elizabeth Niksich: Thank you. As Kyle said, my name is Elizabeth Niksich, and I've been attending Watermark for the last two years with my husband, Steve. Pretty typical upbringing, with the exception that coming from a very large family…I have seven brothers and sisters…my parents imbibed themselves with a lot of alcohol.
In addition to that, my father traveled a great deal with his job. So my parents were very much not involved with the upbringing of my brothers and sisters and I, and as such we learned to really fend for ourselves and take control of everything on our own. In addition to that, when I went on to attend college, since I was having to pay for it myself, I decided this was the time of my life I was really going to set my sight to developing myself intellectually and developing my profession.
That way I wouldn't have to be dependent upon my family either financially or emotionally since I was not ever able to receive that at home. As I went on through my life, I continued to take part in behaviors that were not really productive or growing spiritually. In fact, doing a lot of things that were really setting me up for a lot of troubles, whether it was involving myself in relationships that were not healthy, or actually taking on behaviors such as stealing and using drugs that really, again, continued to lead me further and further away from God.
Kyle: Elizabeth, tell everybody just what as the connections and changes started to happen, who was involved and how that worked?
Elizabeth: About seven years ago while I was working at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, I met Catherine Coleman (41:36) and she and I traveled a great deal together for our jobs. During that time she gave me the opportunity to ask her questions, and an opportunity to really learn a little bit more about Jesus Christ.
In addition, she invited me to attend church where Todd was speaking at the time, Northwest Bible. It was also during a time I was going through a divorce with my first husband. We had been married a very short period of time. After a year of marriage, he decided to pursue a girlfriend, and as you can imagine, as any female, you become to really develop a lot of hatred and a lot of lack of trust in males.
I continued to pursue my learning within my spiritual realm because I was realizing at that time, I was making bad decisions and I needed to figure out a better way to make decisions and a better way to chose men. During a part of that course I decided since everything started with the Old Testament, I might as well start studying Judaism, and decided I was going to pursue the possibility of actually converting to Judaism.
I spent about a year and a half studying the process. During that time I met Steve. A mutual friend introduced us. Steve gave me another opportunity to not only learn more about the Word, but also to see a male having behaviors I had never seen before. It really gave me an opportunity through our dating and our experiences together to develop my trust in men.
Kyle: Tell them a little bit about the connection to Community Group and how all that worked.
Elizabeth: Well, when we decided to get married, I told Steve even though I really wasn't completely believing in Christ, I would go ahead, and we would make Christianity our religion. "Just pick a religion. Let's go." As a part of that, we went through premarital counseling with Laura Lynn and Joe Stoltz, and they also provided a wonderful opportunity for me to ask questions and learn a little bit more about the religion and to determine if it was something I could really pursue and commit myself to as a part of the marriage.
We got married, and we decided we needed to get more involved, so we started coming regularly to Watermark. As a part of that, since I decided I was going to make this decision to become a Christian, I had better start learning about it. Something beyond the Old Testament. I picked up the phone and called Tonya (44:10) with the Community Groups and told her a little bit about ourselves.
She placed us in Fred and Ann Sewell's (44:16) Community Group. In a very short explanation, during the time we were in our Community Group, which is now over a year and a half, I had the opportunity to really witness individuals who really demonstrated not only their belief in Christ but also the way they treated each other in their relationships. Something as simple as seeing how Fred and Ann Sewell, who led the group, provided us an opportunity to mentor us as a couple.
For example, Tom and Lynne Schott in their relationship. Tom is a surgeon, and yet he made time to come to our sessions and made it a priority within his life. Also to have the opportunity to, as a group, pray for the births of the Whanns' and McInnis' children. Just the really simple acts of seeing people interact together and to have an opportunity where I could ask questions and not feel like an idiot, because when we're sitting here in church, we can't really ask questions, and the small group really made me comfortable in being able to do so.
Kyle: Tell them how you and Ann had lunch and what happened that day.
Elizabeth: Back in the spring, Ann and I met for lunch and she asked me how my growth had been going. It was something that really just didn't have this lightning-bolt experience. I really expect that was what was going to happen. I was going to wake up one day and I had this experience and now I'm a Christian.
What had happened was over time with prayer and with witnessing these relationships with individuals, it just became apparent to me this is what I believe, and this is the lifestyle I need to choose. As simple as when Steve and I would have our prayer time together as a family to when I would compete…I'm a long distance runner…with my races I would really trust God would be involved in that process and getting me to the finish line.
When I explained this to Ann, pretty much the lightbulb came on that this is it, I've decided I'm going to give my life over to Jesus Christ and make that commitment. One other side note is during the course of all of our time together in the Community Group, the ladies who did not have children at the time, Lisa Whann and Catherine McInnis, they were both in the process of trying to conceive, and as a group we prayed and they conceived, of course, and had their children.
In the same vein, Steve and I had been trying for quite some time to get pregnant and, of course, not having luck and being someone who thought she had control of everything in her life, all she'd have to do is do the business and she'd get pregnant, right? Well, of course, it doesn't happen that way, and as a group and their prayer for us… In my time with Ann last spring, I was really realizing I had to relinquish my control of my life to Jesus Christ. Of course, miraculously now we're pregnant and things have changed tremendously as a result of that.
Kyle: One of the things that was just incredibly impactful as I sat in their living room that night was to watch how many different people, through Catherine Coleman at the beginning, Todd's teaching, Tonya connecting them to community, to folks in the Community Group, played a role in the transformation in Elizabeth's life. It's so fun to sit in that living room and to see what kind of change that has made. So, Elizabeth, thank you very, very much.
Todd: Without that product, without that dew of love and unity flowing from this church, it doesn't matter how we adorn ourselves in dress. It doesn't matter how we adorn ourselves in a building or how we adorn ourselves in worship. Mount Hermon was a blessing to Israel, not because of its magnitude and because people looked at it but because of the life that came from it, the life that comes only in the love that comes from a broken relationship with Jesus Christ.
The applications for this message are obvious. In a marriage, if you guys are just tracking along but there's no oneness, no commitment to pursue true unity, not mutual toleration but the oneness God intends, there's a problem. The dew that should flow from the mountain of your marriage to your children and to your neighbors is causing them to starve, and there's a drought there you need to deal with.
If you have the history of what I would call "dating friendships" where you just kind of hangout with buddies as long as it's easy and you don't have to work through the real issues of life, I would ask you to think through having different kinds of friends where you begin to covenant with one another in the midst of community and say, "I want you to sharpen me and speak hard, loving truths into my life but to be for me and not just move away from me the first time something awkward happens."
Then you have got to figure out what the gospel is. You have to figure out what you're going o be passionate about, and you have to be figuring out where your pilgrimage is toward. If God has got a group of 1,500 people all moving in the same direction, I think this city would begin to cock its head and say how good and pleasant it is to have that sense of divine unity in our midst and look at the life that flows from them.
For some of you who are here today, you need to understand where unity begins. Unity with God, the Scripture says, is life and separation from him is death. Today might be your day where you begin to deal with the disunity you have with your Creator. The Scriptures make it really clear eternal life, abundant life, real life comes from one thing, and that is knowing the one who all life flows down from, Jesus Christ.
In John 17:3 it says, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." The Scripture tells us how to do that. In Romans 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…" God's people are to be unified in his proclamation, God's people are to be unified in its purpose, God's people are to be unified in its passion, and God's people ought to be unified in his product.
We're going to close our service with this amazing truth. God's people are to be unified in their praise. So we're going to sing one song together that talks about how we are one body, with one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. As we do what we ought to do, there ought to be other Elizabeths who come and say, "I want to know the origin of the divine love that exists in your midst." Pray with me.
Lord, I pray that as we sing this song there would be some who would be out there today who would look and go, "I just heard that guy talk about love, and I heard him talk about community. I heard him talk about unity." I pray that they would see here enough in us that today would be the day they realize they want the life that only comes from unity with you.
As we talk about how we celebrate our sorrows have been traded for joy, as we sing about how now those of us who used to be very self-centered people by the grace of God are being transformed day by day to being others-centered people, and how we have come together to be unified in our proclamation that Jesus Christ alone saves, that there is nothing worth living for except his kingdom and there is nothing that marks the presence of you like the anointing of oil on your high priest, like the anointing of the Spirit of God in our lives that bears the fruit of love.
I pray they would want to meet you today as a result and they would deal with their superficial understanding and intellectual assent and do what Elizabeth did and cross that line of faith and say, "I need to make Jesus my King, the one who never changes, who is true and doesn't look to exploit me but who died to set me free." Lord, how good and pleasant it is to be your children. How good and pleasant it is to know a King who dies for his people. He is our head, and we worship you with one voice.
Music has incredible power to touch our hearts. And some of the greatest songs ever written are found in the book of Psalms. In the Songs of Summer we focus on four biblical "lyrics" to show how they capture the essence of joy, life and relationship found in Christ. You'll be challenged and encouraged as you hear how beautifully God's Word speaks to the deepest needs of our hearts.