The ABC's of Recovery: Meet the Healer Who Doesn’t Live in the Middle


We are a community of people who have been rescued from every kind of sin symptom imaginable, we have been recipients of His grace, and eagerly want to share His grace and love. But He doesn't just want you to escape some specific symptom, but to really know the source of the problem that is your alienation with God.

Todd WagnerJan 19, 20141 Peter 2:9; Luke 18:9-14; Isaiah 57:14-21; Luke 4:16-21; Matthew 4:13-5:12

Eleven years ago I did a series called Hurts, Habits, Hang-Ups, and Hope. In that little series we talked about the issue of recovery, what it was and why we were going all-in to help, love, and serve people. Coincidentally, it was 11 years ago today…it was January 19, 2003…that some barfly named Jonathan Pokluda walked into the back of Watermark and heard one of the messages in that series. He grabbed on to a hope and a belief that there might be a God who loved him and wanted to help rescue him from the nonsense that was a life lived in a way that seemed right to him.

I love it when I hear from friends that God uses this place full of people who have been rescued by him and how they become passionate and are partnering with God to rescue others. We're going to spend four weeks talking about how God wants rescue you from the death that is a life apart from him and in bondage to sin.

What I'm going to do is I'm going to talk a lot about this group that meets on Monday nights at this thing called re:generation. That's what we call our recovery ministry. It used to be called Celebrate Recovery. We're still great friends with those who came up with that, but there are specific reasons we don't do that anymore. It's part of their design to come up with how that ministry is done.

I'm going to tell you right now why we don't do Celebrate Recovery, though we are exceedingly grateful for this thing called Celebrate Recovery. You may never have heard of it, but hundreds of thousands have. When you use Celebrate Recovery, however, they want you to place people in sin-specific groups, and we told those folks why we didn't think that was necessarily the best way to go at it.

We didn't think we needed to put the drunks here, the porn addicts here, the co-dependents here, the eating disordered here… We told them all of us are recovering and all of us have the same problem, and just because our symptoms are different we don't need to put folks who have sexual-identity issues over here and anger issues over here. They're just different manifestations of the same issue.

We also didn't really stand with them in the way they dealt with this thing called confidence. They wanted it to be a very confidential time, to where if you came and somebody shared what was going on you never really moved into that in a way that would bring some level of accountability, that you let them discover their need for that.

I want to let you know one of the things that happens here at Watermark. Whenever somebody says to me, and I beg you to use this same thing in your life, "I'm going to tell you something, but before I do you have to promise me you won't tell anybody else," don't ever cut that deal, because it's just not loving.

What I always tell people who say this is that if you want to tell me something you must believe it's because I love you and I'm trustworthy of what you're about to share with me. I can assure you any information I receive I will not use as party conversation or idle chatter or pass it along in the form of a prayer request.

I will also tell you that you can share this thing with me confidentially in the way that word was originally intended to be used. The word confidence in English comes from two Latin words that just mean with faith, and I will handle this information faithfully. I won't surprise you with what I'll do with it.

If there's something going on where somebody else is suffering, you're in danger, or others are in danger I'm going to share with you why I have to act on that information, and I won't surprise you. I won't involve anybody in the conversation who is not part of the problem or part of the solution. You can have faith in me that's the way I'll act.

Now if you have that information and you no longer want to share with me, that's fine, and I'll pray for you that God will be gracious and merciful to you in whatever way he chooses. That is the way we roll here. It's the way we've rolled for the last 11 years in our recovery ministry, and I can't think of a single instance where somebody said, "I went there and courageously, for the first time, acknowledged the bondage I was in and it showed up on some social media site or came back to haunt me in a negative way."

Let me just tell you something. Even if it does it is still worth it, because freedom is worth whatever you have to pay, but when you're dealing with people who faithfully follow Christ that is not what's going to happen. Our staff has written incredible curriculum for the re:generation ministry, and it is for everybody. Let me tell you, there are two things you do not want to do in the next four weeks.

You don't want to sit there and go, "Man, I wish my husband (or my friend, my father, my prodigal) was here because they could sure use this information." This is not a series for other people. This is not a series for other people. The day that the only place you can find authenticity, compassion, rescue, and discipleship only on Monday nights at Watermark at re:generation is the day we stop everything and only do re:generation at Watermark.

The truth is, and I want to let you know something… All Monday night is is the church as God intended it to be gathering. I'm going to say this a lot over this series. The healthiest people at Watermark show up on Monday nights. Now I'm not saying the only healthy people at Watermark show up on Monday nights, but the healthiest people at Watermark show up on Monday nights because they're in touch with their sin and their desperate need for God.

They are living in authentic community with each other. They're working through steps… That's recovery vernacular for what the Scripture calls walking in the light, walking in the Spirit, or letting the Word of God richly dwell within you. Because recovery has become, since 1935 with the initiation of Alcoholics Anonymous, so coupled with this idea of working the steps, we have 12 steps.

What you need to know about the guys who came up with Alcoholics Anonymous is when they went to come up with a program for recovery they went to the original recovery book. They went to God's Word. They looked in God's Word for principles of redemption, rescue, and restoration. Because they didn't want certain people who weren't followers of Jesus to not come they took the names Jesus and God out and put in higher power.

I want to say this to my Alcoholics Anonymous friends: We are grateful you are getting sober, but you need to know something. We don't believe sobriety is your highest need. We think your alcoholism (or your sexual addiction, your narcotic addition, your compulsive eating) is a symptom. I think, appropriately, some folks have just basically said if you're not careful recovery apart from Christ can be designed this way: get sober, die, and go to hell. I don't think the Enemy cares one bit whether you go to hell sober or whether you go as a drunk.

Some people will say, "Todd, people can't process truth until they're sober enough to do it," and so be it. But I want to let you know the Enemy hates you and doesn't care whether you find contentment apart from God in a bottle or in some escape from a bottle as long as you don't run to the divine Healer.

Another way it's been described that folks would talk about the recovery without Christ is it's like giving painkillers to somebody with cancer. They might feel better, but they still have cancer. What I want to let you know straight up, right away, right at the top, is we are followers of Jesus. He has left us here to proclaim his excellencies and the fact that he has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, and we understand darkness.

We are a community of people who have been rescued from every kind of sin symptom imaginable. We have been recipients of his grace, so we eagerly extend it to you, and we love you, but we just don't want you to escape some specific symptom; we want you to really know the source of the problem, which is your alienation from God.

The Scripture says there are people who are really, really in trouble, and those people who are really in trouble are people who think they don't need God, the people who think they don't need others, the people who think God is unnecessary and a figment of weak men's imaginations. In fact, Jesus tells a story about people who are in desperate need. It comes in Luke 18.

The story begins with him telling you right off and straight up why he tells you this specific story. It says, "…He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt…" There were people who just didn't think they were sick, who didn't think they needed regeneration. They were angry that Jesus was spending time with people who clearly were broken and clearly were living unrighteous lives.

They said, "What are you going hanging out with those people?" Jesus responds, and he basically says, "It's not those who are well who need a physician but those who are sick," and those men did not think they needed Jesus, because they didn't think they were sick. Christ, in fact, said, "You're the sickest of them all," because the very first step that anybody has to take in order to really recover from their condition is to acknowledge a condition exists.

Listen to the story. He says, *"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector." * A tax collector was just somebody in that day who clearly everybody in that day and age hated because he had kind of sold his soul to the enemy. He was exploiting others in order to comfort himself.

"The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself…" Interesting, who he was praying to. ** "'God, I thank You that I am not like** [those people who meet Monday night…those drunks, those addicts] swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'" Jesus then says, "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

What you don't want to do these next couple of weeks is fall into the trap of thinking Monday night is for the really sick, perverted, and dirty. No. It is for the healthiest people at Watermark. In fact, if you can't get connected here and you want a fast-track to biblical community and discipleship, I commend to you Monday nights.

We're here every Monday night…including Christmas Eve, if it ever fell on one…to encourage each other, help each other, love each other, remind each other of things that are true, and grieve with each other, and to keep our hearts fervent in dependence on and meditation of the God who rescues us and wants to set us free. Don't think it's for the sick. Don't wish somebody else was here.

The book of Isaiah talks about a time when God was fed up with people who basically thought they were righteous, and they weren't at all. In Isaiah 57 he begins to deal with them. He says, "I'm not going to be patient forever. There's a consequence to what you do. But I'll tell you what else I am: I'm a guy who loves you and wants to rescue you from where you are." Here's what I want to share with you this morning. I don't know what your view of God is, but I'm going to give you a chance to meet God as he reveals himself this morning.

I'm going to tell you why God is pursuing you. I'm going to help you remember and realize why there might be real anger, control issues, frustration, or fear in your life, and I'm going to give you a way out. I'm going to pray this is your Damascus Sunday. I'm going to pray you find this is a safe place because you have other people themselves who have found rescue in their condition. Just walk through this little section of Scripture in Isaiah 57 with me, verses 14 and following.

This is what it says about the Lord. "And it will be said…" One day at this God who's there who hates the condition of broken humanity. "'Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.' For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy…" God is going to tell you there are two places he hangs out.

Isaiah 57, verse 15: "I dwell on a high and holy place…" And that might be exactly what you think about God. That he's nothing like you. He's so good and so righteous you might be fearful to ever meet him. That is an appropriate response, but you need to listen to where else God says he goes, because God is love, and the one thing God can't do is deny his character. He has to share his goodness and his kindness with those who don't know it or have rejected it, even.

It says God dwells on a high and holy hill, and about the other place it says, " [He dwells] with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite." That means where God isn't is in this huge abyss of lukewarmness and okayness with him, having you tip your hat to him, where there's dead, rigid religiosity and performance-based living. God doesn't dwell there and say, "I am perfect. You'd better be perfect." None of us is perfect.

That means you're going to be separated from God, because what fellowship does light have with darkness. You're in a very dangerous place without God. It's a spiral of death, despair, and degradation, but guess what God does as he comes rushing into that dark place to people who say, "I don't like darkness. I'm sick of degradation. I'm filled with despair. Is there anybody who can help me?" And there's God.

He's not in the middle with those who are trying to impress him. He's not in the middle with those who think they don't need him. He's with those who know they need something and they cannot find it in themselves. He says in verse 16, "For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry…" In other words, "I'm not going to always be drilling at you. The reason you're experiencing the consequence of your living apart from me is because that pain should make you want to deal with the condition you're in."

He says, "For the spirit would grow faint before Me…""No man could endure my constant wrath, so I'm coming." Verse 17, "Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry and struck him; I hid My face and was angry, and he went on turning away, in the way of his heart. 'I have seen his ways…'" Watch this. Has God seen your ways? He knows all about that thing you're committed to everybody else never knowing anything about.

You might be able to hide it from me, you might be able to hide it from your wife, you might be able to hide it from your best friend, but God already knows about all that stuff you're keeping in your little closet, and he wants to rescue you. Look at the Words of God. "I have seen his ways…" What do you expect to hear next? "…and I'm coming to get you, to nail you to the wall." No.

"…but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him…" Verse 19: "'…creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,' says the LORD, 'and I will heal him.' But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. 'There is no peace,' says my God, 'for [those who live in the middle] .'"

What I'm telling you is if you right now are able to tolerate your sin and manage your sin, if right now the lies and the coping strategies you're embracing are working for you, they're not going to work very long. I'm going to offer to you that if you would just take all the energy you have in covering up, protecting, and managing your sin and the way you deal with it and you start to direct some of that to crying for help, God's going to come rushing in in ways you could never imagine, but a lot of us are really, really guilty of buying into the lie.

I've already mentioned to you, I don't think the Enemy cares one bit about you and about what your vice is or if you can live largely in a platonic relationship with God without a vice, but many of us are really confused and broken and we're hurting. We start to buy lies. We start to think incorrectly. We get involved with different things, and we say stuff like, "This will be the last time." Have you ever said that, and yet it wasn't the last time? You need to be rescued.

Or, "I'm never going to trust anyone again because I've been hurt so many times. I'm going to live in isolation and anger. I'm going to try and control my life. I'm going to try and be my own god. The way I'm going to work this thing out is by never trusting anyone again." Have you ever said that? Is that a good way to live?

How many folks have said something like this? "No one could ever understand. No one has suffered like me and been through what I've been through. There's too much pressure on me keeping up this façade. No one has been in my position of celebrated status and been honest. I'm trapped by my reputation. No one has been as addicted as I am and in as awkward a way as I am. I can't share this with anybody." Have you ever said that?

Have you ever told yourself this? "Things aren't going to change right now. This won't be the last time now, but maybe when I get out of college that's when it'll change. Maybe when I get married that's when the porn addiction is going to go away. Maybe when I have kids is when I'll get serious about changing things. Maybe when my kids go away and it won't humiliate them. Maybe if I get divorced I can start over and make this thing work."

Have you ever told yourself this? "If anyone really knew me, no one would love me." Have you ever told yourself this? "I'll never be good enough." In recovery vernacular all of that stuff is called stinkin' thinkin'. In biblical language, in Proverbs 23 it says, "As a man thinks within his heart, so is he."

What I want to do is begin to tell you that Monday nights (and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) there are people here who are trying to be transformed by the renewing of their minds so they can not be conformed to the coping strategies and broken ways of the world so they can begin to live in relationship with God and prove out in their own lives how good, wonderful, and excellent it is.

You're sitting amidst a room full of people, and you're going to meet the staff at the end, but I want you to meet some of the leaders and people God is regenerating on Monday nights right now. We are a group of people called out of darkness into his marvelous light, and we are proclaiming his excellencies. I want to let you know I commend to you the biblical truth of walking in the Spirit, of walking in the light that is Discipleship 101 that we call re:generation, and we do it in many, many ways here. Here are some of the folks who do it on Monday nights.


Female: I'm Brandy.

Male: Hi, my name is Andrew.

Female: My name is Lindsey.

Male: Hi, I'm Rob. I have a new life in Christ.

Female: I have a new life in Christ, and I'm recovering from alcoholism.

Male: …my own marital infidelity.

Female: …anxiety.

Male: …anger.

Female: …overspending.

Female: …shame from my divorce.

Male: …addition to pornography.

Female: …and co-dependency.

Male: I'm recovering from homosexuality.

Female: …past sexual abuse.

Male: …fear of abandonment.

Male: Hi, my name is Scott.

Female: My name is Teresa.

Female: I have a new life in Christ, and I'm recovering from…

Female: …depression.

Female: …bitterness from unforgiveness.

Female: …guilt and shame from past abortion.

Female: …disordered eating.

Male: …drug addiction.

Female: …lust.

Female: …pride.

Female: …finding my significance in what I think people think of me.

Female: …overeating.

Female: …insecurity.

Male: …selfishness.

Female: …not trusting God.

Male: …and shame.

Male: Before I came to Recovery…

Male: …my life was hopeless.

Female: …full of secrets.

Female: …controlled by bitterness and anger.

Male: It was a lie.

Male: My life was defined by my sin.

Male: My marriage was falling apart.

Male: I was tired, exhausted from losing the battle against my struggle with sin.

Male: My life was a disaster…

Female: …unmanageable.

Male: …full of chaos.

Male: …isolated.

Female: …self-centered.

Male: I had lost my way.

Male: I just didn't like the way God had made me.

Male: I really just struggled with what people thought about me.

Female: My life was all about controlling others so that I couldn't be rejected.

Male: I sought pleasure in all the things that the world had to offer, and all those things left me empty.

Male: Before I came to Recovery my life was…

Male: …unmanageable and out of control.

Male: …a ball of insecurity.

Female: …filled with frustration, anger, and bitterness toward my husband.

Male: …way too focused on me, what I want, and what I think.

Female: I wasn't ready to give up and surrender what I'd worked so hard to control.

Female: …and I couldn't figure out why I wasn't finding any healing.

Female: My first night at Recovery I felt…

Male: …like I was unredeemable.

Female: I thought, "How is this going to help me?"

Female: …no one could really understand how I felt.

Female: …terrified that I'd have to figure out how to live life sober.

Female: …completely defeated.

Male: I didn't want to see anybody, talk to anybody, have anybody acknowledge I was here.

Male: I wanted it to end really quickly.

Female: I felt weak.

Female: …numb.

Female: …dirty.

Female: …like I had a spotlight on me.

Male: But I was amazed by everyone's courage.

Male: I felt a glimmer of hope because I knew I was among some other broken people.

Male: …and I didn't have to hide my junk any longer.

Male: I was desperate for help.

Male: I didn't care what people thought anymore, I just wanted to be well.

Female: I shared things I thought I would never tell anybody.

Male: I felt encouragement.

Male: …like there was hope.

Male: …relief.

Male: I started to believe…

Female: I started to believe a new life was possible.

Male: …when I heard story after story after story of how Christ showed up and changed everything.

Female: …when I actually was able to forgive my husband.

Male: …when I realized I was not alone in my struggles.

Male: …when I could see that my sin could be forgiven.

Female: …when I heard about God's grace.

Female: I started to believe that a new life was possible…

Male: …when I acted in obedience to Christ.

Male: …and shared what had been done to me.

Male: …when I saw God changing the lives of the other women in the group.

Male: …when I realized how much I'd allowed my sin to define every single decision and behavior in my life.

Male: …when I realized God loved me no matter what I'd done.

Male: …when people didn't run screaming from the room; they put their arm around me and they walked with me through that part of the journey.

Male: …when I heard it wasn't about what I had done but what Christ had done for me.

Female: …when I realized that I didn't have to gain the approval of anyone; God had already chosen me and he wasn't unaware of my struggles or my past.

Male: Because of Christ…

Female: Because of Christ…

Male: …I now have joy.

Female: …my life is now free from self-harm.

Female: …peaceful.

Female: …filled with hope.

Male: …and meaningful.

Female: …and I'm able to share that with people.

Male: Because of Christ my life is now completely changed.

Male: …just because I know that God loves me regardless of what I do.

Male: My marriage is thriving.

Female: My life is no longer determined by circumstances.

Male: I'm free from the pain of the past.

Female: I'm free of the bondage of my addiction.

Female: I find my joy in my worth in Jesus Christ.

Male: There are times when I still struggle, but I have a group of men behind me that spur me on and encourage me.

Female: If I could tell you one thing…

Male: …one thing.

Female: …one thing.

Male: If I could tell you one thing tonight…

Male: …it would be this:

Male: You are not alone.

Female: God loves you, and he has plans for you.

Female: You haven't done anything that God cannot forgive.

Male: If could save a wretch like me, he can save you too.

Female: Don't let fear hold you back from experiencing the freedom that Christ has for you.

Male: This is a safe place to work through the pain of your past.

Male: You're in the right place.

Male: I'm so excited for you.

Male: Don't give up. Be here every time you can.

Male: It is worth your time.

Female: Be fully committed.

Female: His grace is sufficient.

Male: Bring him all your struggles.

Male: There's recovery in Christ when life is broken, because you matter to God. God loves you.

[End of video]

That is what we call the newcomer video on Monday night. It, frankly, is a newcomer video to the church. The healthiest people at Watermark speak like that. You need to know your pastor speaks like that. I have never been to re:generation to work through those steps, and the reason is that by the grace of God I was discipled and taught to walk in the light, to let the Word of God richly dwell within me, to walk in the Spirit throughout my young college days and on so that I did not need to be rescued from sin that gripped me to the point of being flat on my back.

That is because God in his kindness gripped me and convicted me of sin while I was still running in a way the world thought was just fine, and I saw my desperate need for Jesus. I can remember early on writing stuff like this: "God, if you need to take away all my health, if you need to paralyze me from the ears down for me to see you're there and you're good, you have my complete permission because there is nothing that I want to keep me from you.

I want to live my life, God, so well that if something happens where I am paralyzed from the neck down I don't think you had to do that to teach me how desperately I needed you. God, by your kindness and grace you have shown me in my relative 'goodness,' in my acceptable sins, how desperately I needed you."

I'm working the steps all the time. I do it every single day. We'll walk you through them in the weeks to come. But I'm going to tell you who it is who wants to walk through them with you. Do you remember how in Isaiah 57 God says there's going to be a day when he's going to build it up, he's going to make a way, he's going to go to his people and heal them, lead them, restore them, bring them peace, and put praise on their lips?

Well, you fast-forward about seven centuries from the time Isaiah wrote that, and lo and behold there came a man crashing on the scene, and he said he was the fulfillment of all those prophecies Isaiah and others had spoken of. In fact, the very first time he publicly spoke was in his own town of Nazareth. It's found in Luke, chapter 4.

"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written…" And it's Isaiah 61, which says…

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to…" To go down to the place of great need. Right? That lowly place where the contrite in heart are. "…to proclaim healing to [those that are captive to sin] , recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."

It says he closed the book, and then he said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.""I am Isaiah 61, right comin' at ya." Now, if you keep reading you'll find out they didn't like that. In fact, a mob formed, and they carried him about a mile away down through a valley up to a little hill that's called Mount Precipice. They wanted to fire him off because they thought he blasphemed, because that was what God was going to do; not some man. Yet Scripture says very clearly that Jesus made his way through them because it was not yet his time.

He went from there about a day's walk to Galilee, and he hung out in a little town called Capernaum, which, interestingly, means the town of comfort. That really was the basis of his ministry. It wasn't far from that little city of Capernaum in the Sea of Galilee that one day as he was talking to folks he saw a crowd gathering.

They were gathering because he was doing the things Isaiah 61 said God would do one day. You can imagine. Everybody who was distressed, tired, depressed, discouraged, and feeling the effects of sin would want to go, because word got out there was a healer who was there. In Matthew, chapter 4, verse 13, it says, "…leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum…"

Go down to verse 17. It says, "From that time Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of [God] is at hand.'" In other words, do you want a different way to live? Do you want a different kind of peace? It's right here if you want it. You just have to acknowledge I'm your King and I will usher you into a new place.

In Matthew 4:23 it says, "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people." Just like he does on Monday nights. "The news about Him spread throughout all [the land] ; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics…"

They also brought the porn addicts (they probably didn't have those then, but they had plenty of folks who were committed to prostitutes), drunks, and people who didn't like the way they found themselves when they looked in the lake and saw their reflection. "…and He healed [and loved] them. Large crowds followed Him…" So what does he do? It says he walked up to a hill not far from there and he gathered them. The very first words out of his mouth in his public ministry in this little region were:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit…" Not the folks who don't think they're sick. Not those folks who live in the middle. "Nobody lives in the high and holy place, and I don't pay much attention to folks who don't need me. But the hurting, the abused, the trapped, the scared, the contrite? Blessed are you, because you might just be in a place, or because you're flat on your back you have nowhere to look but up, and up is here. Up has come, and I love you. You want heaven? You have to acknowledge you can't bring it into your own life." "…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are those who mourn…" Those who are so broken up over their sin they can hardly speak. It's not unusual for folks to send me emails saying they're here on Sunday mornings and all they did through all the worship was cry. They couldn't sing songs of praises yet; they were just overwhelmed that maybe some of the songs we were singing might be true. That might be you this morning.

It's not unusual that folks come on Monday night and they can't speak for a few weeks because they may be scared but also because they're overwhelmed that there are honest, normal-looking people who love them and are talking about the great Rescuer who has come, telling them his name, telling them they can know him. "…for they shall be comforted."

"Blessed are the [meek] …" That doesn't mean week. It means people who bring all their strength to God and say, "You take my life, all of it, all of me, and you begin to direct this ship. Your Word, your Spirit is my rudder. My life and my flesh are your sail, and you direct it from here on out. "…for they shall inherit the earth.""In every way I intended you to walk in it and have dominion over it, you can come if you trust me."

Can I tell you what the first three steps are, what every healthy person who ever lived says? They say, "I'm poor in spirit; I'm broken. There is a God, and I'm not him. He loves me, he's kind toward me, and he wants to heal me, help me, rescue me, lead me, and call me his. He made provision for my sin. He bore my iniquity on the cross. He did not wink at wrath; he paid my debt and offered me his righteousness."

Poor-in-spirit people know they are not God. Poor-in-spirit people know if they are left to themselves it won't be long before they're left without hope. Poor-in-spirit people know they need God. That's why the very first step in getting well is just to admit…to dare to face the reality and to admit you're powerless over…your addictions. The brokenness and sinful patterns are never going anywhere without God rescuing you. In your own power your life is unmanageable.

What does that sound like to you? It sounds to me like those are people who took Jesus at his word. Do you want to be blessed? Do you want to be happy? Acknowledge your life is unmanageable and you're unable to help yourself. Paul, one of the greatest men who ever lived, said this. "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."

That's all you have to say. You just have to come to him. Here's a simple thing I might commend to you to pray. Step one. Just say, "Dear God, forgive me. You have loved me, but I have not lived as if I've loved you. I've chosen ways that seem right to me but have ended in death. I need help, forgiveness, and hope."

Step two. You have to believe. You have to dare to hope. You have to say, "I have come to believe that God is the one whose power can fully restore me." We say this together on every Monday night. "We believe that God is the one whose power can restore us from our sin." The Scripture talks about how that's exactly who he is. It says in Psalm 103,

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle."

Pray this. "Dear God, I cannot break out of my sin alone. I believe you're my only hope. Help me in my unbelief." But watch this. It's not enough to admit you have need. It's not enough to believe Jesus is what you're looking for. There's a third step, and you have to commit. Admit, believe, and then commit yourself in that belief. We might use the word trust. Where you say, "I've got knowledge, I agree that knowledge is true, and now I'm going to trust in it."

There are lot of people in this building right now who have never taken that third step. They have all kinds of intellectual assent, but they've never wed their own life to it. They miss recovery by 18 inches, and that is an eternal difference. Some of you wonder why your life continues in this loop, and the reason is you are not doing step three where you dare to decide.

Every Monday night…every day…healthy people say, "We decide to trust God with our lives and wills by accepting his grace through Jesus Christ. There are so many verses of Scripture that talk about this, but this might be a prayer you say. "Father, thank you for being slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, to the point where you sent your Son to die for me. I thank you for paying my debt of sin on the cross and for offering life and forgiveness to me. Teach me to walk in your ways and not lean on my own understanding."

Gang, that's where freedom is found. I'm going to tell you, what Jesus does when people make that last decision to commit is he doesn't leave them there; he begins to bring restoration and healing in their life. He tells them specifically what it looks like to be a forgiven person, and we're going to dive into that next week, but as we do, I want to let you know Monday night isn't the only place you can get this. It's everything we do, everywhere we go. We are people who have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light.

We have a little song. It was written by one of our staff guys who went through re:generation. It's called "Where Would I Be?" We have a whole staff here of people who are ready to tell you where they'd be without Jesus and where they are because of him, and I pray you listen, I pray you sing, and I pray you come.

Father, would you allow us over these next weeks to really wrestle with these basic, simple truths of the gospel. Might we never confuse anything we do with a program that somehow got magical powers if we just walk through it, but Lord, what there is is supernatural provision for those of us who run to you as you have run to us, who acknowledge our desperate need, who ask for your grace and for your mercy and then find it in Jesus Christ.

Lord, Watermark is a body of people who say, "Where would we be without our Savior?" We're also a group of people who sing songs and have praise on our lips because you're righteousness has become our righteousness. May we respond fully. In Christ's name.

Welcome to re:generation. It's what every biblical church in the country is. It just grieves me that so many places look like it's just all where the pretty people are, the folks God was already pleased with and, "We gather because he's pleased with us." No. We gather because we're desperate for him.

I don't know where you are, if you just stumbled in here this morning, but you need to know something. We all stumbled into grace ourselves, and when we go out of here we don't stumble out of here; we run out of here to go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, that Jesus Christ is Lord, that God has come to the lowly and the afflicted, and the broken-hearted, and he has rescued us.

We're trying to walk in the light. We're trying to walk in the Spirit. We're trying to live by faith, confessing what we do that's inconsistent with that profession, finding grace and forgiveness, extending it to one another in the midst of repentance, forsaking those things, waiting for that day when we're all the way home, spurring each other on, encouraging each other day after day as long as it's called today lest any of us be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. That's who we are, and we invite you to join us in freedom, hope, and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

If you're here this morning and you've never experienced that, would you come? Would you check the box? Would you show up tomorrow night? Would you let us love you with the love we have received? And, man, if you've been forgiven, would you boldly tell people what you've been delivered from, and would you tell other people where they can be delivered and who the Deliverer is? That's how you worship.

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