Regeneration's Final Purpose, Product Abiding Intimacy, and Unspeakable Importance


God wants us to be regenerated, to be made new. He wants us to be authentic, confess and repent, turn to Him, and go deeper into a full life with Him. Todd shares about what true regeneration is. John Elmore and Nate Graybill also share their stories of grace, living new lives in Christ, and on the ministry called Regeneration. Regeneration's product and ultimate purpose: abiding, intimacy and a calling of unspeakable importance.

Todd Wagner, John Elmore, Nate GraybillFeb 9, 2014Colossians 3:1-17; John 8:1-11; Romans 12:1; James 4:7-8; John 17:3; Colossians 3:1-17

Todd Wagner: All right. Two last things before we jump in. First of all, I'm Todd. I'm not a believer who struggles with tanning salons, although it may look like it to you. I am a believer who will struggle with my marriage if I don't intentionally invest in my bride, so I stole three days with my wife this week, and we went someplace where it wasn't below freezing. We ran into some sun. Thus, here I am, bringing the shekinah glory back with me. You know what that is.

One other thing we want to do just to invite you into an opportunity to really enjoy God... This weekend here on our campus we have this thing called the Linger Conference which we're hosing with our friends Shane & Shane and others who lead worship. It's worship artists from around the country.

It's going to be some amazing time of us just lifting up and reminding ourselves of who our Savior is along with some teaching that will hopefully edify that I'll get to be a part of. JP's going to jump in. My bud Matt Chandler here in town is going to come. Ben Stuart from down there at A&M. John Piper is going to be with us.

The thing we really want you to be excited about is Christ. That's all we want you to be excited about. I was so encouraged after the first service. Somebody came up to me and said, "Do you know what I love about this place? You guys don't give us the answer; you keep pointing us to the answer." Whether it's Shane & Shane through music or John Piper or Todd Wagner or Matt Chandler or John Elmore or Nate Graybill, through teaching we want to point you to Christ.

We don't want you to make us fans of ourself or fans, frankly, of Jesus. We want to make you followers of Christ and help you understand the power in that. That's the purpose of Lingerthis weekend. What we always say is if there's anybody who's a part of our family who, because of anything that prohibits them from being here, can't be here… It costs to do things like this.

Even as we host it, we've said part of that is we want to make it as accessible as we can to this family, so they've been very gracious in allowing members to come at a much, much reduced price, but if you're a member and that is prohibitive, if you've processed that with your community, your community agrees you need to be there, and there's no resource for that, you need to let us know and we'll jump in with your community in that conversation. So that's what's going to go on this weekend, and we look forward to you being encouraged by it. Let me pray.

Father, thank you for this morning. I pray you would allow us now to be reminded of what it means to engage with and have a relationship with you in every way you intend. Amen.

Christ does want us to be regenerated, made new, brought out of despair and death or even a delusion of everything going well only to find out things weren't going well…when relationships fail us or, frankly, for some of us maybe only finally on that day when health fails us and we find out it wasn't going as well as we thought. By the grace of God a lot of us, though, get to a place in our life where we are laid flat on our back and we have no sense of there being even any hope that things might go well, and it is often at those times that God speaks most clearly to us.

It's been well said that most of us never look up until we're flat on our back, so sometimes God, in his kindness, elects for us to experience the consequences of our trying to make life happen without him, the Author and Giver of life. Then, for the first time maybe we'll have ears to hear and eyes that want to see something other than our own plans come to fruition.

We have been explaining to you what it takes to be healthy. Biblically, the healthiest people are those who know they are not God and they've come to a place where they understand the God who has revealed himself to us in the Scriptures is a good God, he loves you, and he wants it to go well for you.

That doesn't mean your economic status will increase, and it doesn't mean you'll never have health issues; it means in the midst of a world that still is filled with tyrants, sin, death, and disease that we have hope, joy, and peace because we have a God who has overcome the trouble in this world, and he wants us to live, ultimately, not just as people who are experiencing peace, hope, and life but as ministers of reconciliation to others.

There's always a completion in the cycle of regeneration that with these words you have heard that have been life-giving to you, you become a life-giver to others as a servant of Christ. That's where we end up as we walk you through this rather logical, necessarily progressive road of redemption that God calls us all to be on.

You admit you're powerless, and you come to the point where you just honestly believe that apart from God you cannot make sense of your own life or of this world or, frankly, bring into your life that which is lastingly good; you believe God might be; and ultimately you commit to the God of the Scriptures who has come to rescue you.

Because you know he has rescued you from sins past, sins present, and sins forward you can honestly face the pain you have faced. You'll take a fearless moral inventory and confess those things to God and to others, that you might experience healing and know you've been forgiven as you go to another person redeemed by God and share with them these things.

Often what you'll share is not just the harm you've done to others but also the harm that's been done to you, and as you confess your need to be forgiven, you then are a person who offers forgiveness to others. We get there from that fearless moral inventory, our own confession, and then our own repentance.

Repentance, though, is not just to say, "I'm not going to do those things anymore." Too many small-minded people think all God wants you to do is tell you, "Stop it! Stop it!" and you live in fear that you're not pulling your hand back from the proverbial cookie jar enough and that God is still somehow angry with you, watching you, and waiting to catch you again.

You need to understand God is not looking to catch you in your sin; he knows you are caught in your sin. He's looking to deliver you from your sin, so what you're called to do is to turn, to repent. Biblically that doesn't just mean you stop sinning. It's not a life called to not sin; it's a life that is called to come to him, to run to him.

Jesus, in that section we've come to know as John 8 in Scripture, although I shared with you how this story may not even be in the original Bible. Go check out the sermon My Favorite Bible Story that's not in the Bible from my series on John called The Visible Image.In John 8 he comes up with that woman who's caught up in the act of adultery, and at the very end of it he says. "Where are those who condemn you? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."

He tells her, "I don't want you to sin. I want you to come to me. That's been the whole purpose of the story: to reconcile you to me. The reason you're looking for love in all the wrong places is you haven't found love in me." So he calls her to come, to turn from finding life in fleeting relationships in a way that seemed right to her and to find life in him, the lover and healer, the perfecter of our faith.

Jesus calls us to turn and come after him. That's why we teach you to follow him. We repent, we stop following our own will and way, and we start to follow Christ. As we follow Christ we love as he has loved us; thus, forgiveness is a part of our experience. We love and are kind to ungrateful men, even as we ourselves have been forgiveness. Then we do what we can, and the restoration we're experiencing is to restore those we have hurt. We make amends. We talked about that last week.

Now we come to our last three. All of these things always flow out of a life that is increasingly walking with Christ. We call this regeneration. We call this recovery. It's something all of us who truly know Jesus Christ go through. Monday night is a fast track to biblical community. Monday night is a very clear discipleship process. If you don't know where to go, go there. But you need to know something: everything we do at Watermark is to help you recover, to help you be washed in the ministry of regeneration and be renewed by the spirit of Christ.

People who are renewed by the spirit of Christ continue always in that relationship. They dare to abide. They say things like this, "We continue to take every day a fearless personal inventory, and when we sin we promptly confess, turn, and walk with Christ again." Repentance, as I've said, is both a one-time act and a continual surrender.

Dying is hard business. Paul, in Romans 11, completes his effort to share with us the wonders of the promises and provisions of Christ. Then he starts, in chapter 12, with application. This is how he starts. "I urge you, therefore, brethren in view of the first 11 chapters of truth…" (We might say, "I urge you, therefore, brethren in view of the first nine things I've taught you.") "…present yourselves as living and holy sacrifices."

Here's the thing. If you think being holy is hard (and it is), being a living sacrifice is hard, because the problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar. Have you ever had that experience? Man, I have said, "Lord, here's my life. Let it be yours. You've got it all," and while I'm singing it I'm working my way out of the picture of surrendering to him.

I heard a good friend of mine who is a stand-up comic in Hollywood do a whole routine from Genesis all the way through the end of the Bible. He'd take different Biblical characters and capture them in just a pithy way. When he got to David he summarized his life this way. As the writer of almost the psalms, "'O God and Father, I will sing of your lovingkindness and justice forever. To you I will sing praises.' Who is that woman?!" Can you relate? I can.

That's why people who are faithful to the Lord are continually living in repentance. We are living sacrifices, and what we want to do is continually remind ourselves, "I am going to die to myself. The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and delivered himself up for me, because sometimes my flesh doesn't feel very dead. It feels very lustful, it feels very angry, it feels very controlling, and it feels very self-serving, all these things which are inconsistent with my Savior," and Jesus calls you to not be that.

The foundational truth that builds this as a principle of recovery is found in James, chapter 4, verses 7 and 8. "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

You might pray something like this. "Father, keep me vigilant against sin. Keep me wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. Help me be careful in how I walk and to live in continual confession and repentance before you." That's what I'm doing every day of my life. It's what allows me to continue to serve him. By the grace of God; the conviction of the Spirit; and the loving, gentle reminder of community; and the constant teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness from his Word allows me to follow him.

When we follow him we also deepen in intimacy, and as we deepen in intimacy we become more like him. As such, we are ministers of reconciliation. Let me just capture for you in Scripture the truth of all of the spiritual life, and let me let you hear from leaders of our ministry on Monday nights, guys who right here began to work through these processes we're talking about and now have risen to the level where we say, "Imitate them as they imitate Jesus Christ."

But let me take away the mystery. In Colossians, chapter 3, verses 1-17, this is all we're talking about. The Scripture simply says, "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." You continually seek him and seek him first.

"When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." Until then, this is that continual surrender. "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry." See these things? I'm not dead; I'm living by faith. I consider myself dead and of no importance because I know a God who loves me and died for me.

" For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self…according to the image of the One who created him…" It's an act of faith, an act of obedience. It's a continual daring to abide.

"… a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other…just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you." Does this sound familiar? It sounds to me like the process of recovery and regeneration. That's what we've been teaching. It's what we invite you into here.

"Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Who you walk with intimately because you've been restored through Jesus Christ.

I want you to meet one of my friends who does that as well as anybody I know. His name is John Elmore, and he leads with me here at Watermark. Welcome him, won't you?

John Elmore: That man you just heard from shared the gospel with me when he was 21 years old and I was 9 years old at a summer camp in Missouri. If you've been around Todd for any amount of time you've probably heard him say that God's not trying to rip you off; he's trying to set you free.

Well, from the ages of 13 to 30 I believed the exact opposite. I believed God was trying to rip me off and was trying to keep me from fun, so while I wanted him to be my Savior there was no chance I was going to let him be Lord of my life. I was lord of my life, and I was going to make my choices, and I chose sin. I said, "God, I'll come back to you when I'm done." The problem was, I never did.

I used to hear people talk about freedom in Christ, and I thought it was a joke. I thought they were delusional because Jesus didn't give freedom; he kept me from I wanted to do. The problem was I didn't know what I needed was freedom, that I was actually a slave to sin. Here's what life looked like for me, the good life I wanted.

I went to a good school. I got a good degree while I partied all along the way, and I didn't suffer any consequences from that. I got good jobs. I had nice cars. I had a new home, lake property. I made six figures, had beautiful women and big vacations, and I partied every night. It sounds pretty good, huh? At the height of all that I called one of my friends and literally said, "Hey, man. We've arrived."

It's worth laughing at. They say pride comes before the fall, and it did, because days later I was living on a couch, going through a divorce, and confronted with my alcoholism. I was abusing marijuana and painkillers anytime I could get my hands on them, going to strip clubs, and looking at pornography. I was full of hatred and unforgiveness.

I slept with another woman while I was going through that divorce, and when I woke up that next morning I was full of so much self-hatred that I loaded a shotgun and put it to my head because I just wanted to die. I just wanted out. I was 30 years old, I had been dealt a good hand, and I wrecked it. I wanted to be done.

But five months later I bought this Bible. I opened up the cover, and I drew a little picture. I was charting my life from the highs and lows, from +10 all the way down to -10. At the age of 30 you can see there is a steep, sharp valley that goes all the way to -10, where I wrote "Threshold of hell," because that's how I felt.

Now here's the peculiar thing. That same year, when I was 30 years old, my life went from -10 and shot all the way up to +10 to where I was at such a place of peace, hope, purpose, contentment, and joy. What in the world happened there at the age of 30 that I could be plummeting the depths and then at the very heights in the same year? The answer is simple. It's that I began to have a deep and daily abiding relationship with my Savior and my Lord.

I started depending on his power to do his will instead of my power to do my will, and he set me free. That's Step 11 of this re:generation program. Step 11 in a word is intimacy. Dare to go deep and depend. The step says we seek to deepen our relationship with God daily and depend on his power to do his will, which is his Word. A prayer might be, "Lord, I want to walk with you daily, and I want to do your will by your power. I love you. Amen."

This step is based on John 17:3. This is Jesus the night before he goes to the cross, some of his dying words. There before the disciples he looks up to heaven, and he prays. "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and [your Son] Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Now if Jesus says, "This is eternal life," our ears should be very in tune to what he's about to say next, because he's going to tell us how we can have eternal life. "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and [his Son] Jesus"

There are two things I want to talk about there in that passage that are very pertinent to all of us. First, eternal life. I used to think eternal life was distant, in the future, and only mattered when I died…that I would be given immortality, would walk on streets of gold, and wouldn't go to hell. That's all eternal life was for me. It had no bearing on the here and now, but when I was 30 I began to experience eternal life daily.

I began to know what Jesus meant by experiencing eternal life, the fullness of all God intended. I was created by God for God, and I could never experience eternal life apart from him. I was filled with that peace, hope, purpose, and joy. That was the eternal life, and it was only found through knowing God through his Son Jesus.

There are two words for the word no in Greek. One means to know about something, to know the characteristics of something, such as we know God is holy, just, righteous, patient, compassionate, slow to anger. The other means knowing on a personal level, as a husband knows a wife, intimacy, a daily communal, covenantal relationship.

Well, guess which one John used when he wrote about Jesus and said "This is eternal life through knowing God and his Son Jesus." It was that. It was through knowing him on a personal, daily basis. So that's how we can experience eternal life. The question is…How do we deepen our relationship with God and depend on his power to do his will? How do we do that?

The answer is we develop a deep relationship with him. How do you do that? By spending time with him. You spend time with God in his Word, because he's revealed himself in this. When I got this Bible I tore it apart. I searched on every page for every word I could find about God because I was so starved to know him. What I found was that he was loving, wise, personal, and present for me. Not just in general, for me, and I fell in love with him.

As a result of that I desired to do his will, which was his Word. The problem was I didn't have the power to do it. I needed his power, so I began this daily dependence upon him in prayer, saying, "God, I can't, but I know you can, so help me." I've been sober for eight years now. I haven't had a sip of alcohol in eight years.

The applause right now is all for my Lord and Savior, because let me tell you, I don't have self-control. What I like to do apart from God is get drunk on scotch, but by the power of the Holy Spirit in me I have self-control. When you spend time around someone you become like them, so a fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control. As I spent time with God he gave me self-control, and I was set free from that trash. I'm no longer defined by those things.

The other thing I did was I spent time around his people, reminding each other of our promises. I started to experience that eternal life Jesus promised by knowing him through Jesus. I'd take the last eight years over the previous 30 in walking with God. It's been incredible from that ‑10 to the +10. I don't know where you would chart your life right now, but know that +10, that eternal life, awaits you, and it's through a daily abiding relationship with God. Quiet times are good; they just aren't sufficient. You have to walk with him every hour of every day and yield to him.

It's no coincidence that the next guy you're going to hear from is going to talk to you about discipleship and the Great Commission, because I've spent the last two and a half years being discipled by him, and I'm not who I was because of what God has done through his life in mine. I'm so thankful you now get to hear from Nate and Teresa Graybill.


Nate Graybill: Pornography had been a struggle on and off in my life for a number of years, from the time I was in junior high… It was actually during a season of freedom that Teresa and I met, but about a year into our marriage I accidentally stumbled across a website, and before long I was into a full-blown addiction to pornography. I remember the night I realized I was in trouble. This time was no longer going to be the last time; I couldn't lie to myself any longer. On that night I decided to get others involved in my struggle, and I confessed to Teresa.

Teresa Graybill: I was totally shocked. Angry. I had a lot of questions that he couldn't answer. I just knew our marriage was in crisis.

Nate: It took us about nine months to get our arms around my struggle, and when we felt like we were at a good spot we scheduled another meeting with Todd just to kind of let him know where we were at. He said, "You know, I'm making a video here in a couple of weeks about authentic community and living in community with others and how God can use that. Would you be willing to do a video for me on your story? We said no. Then we went and prayed about it for a little bit.

Teresa: We really felt convicted that God was beginning to heal us and really wanting to share that with others.

Nate: We gathered our community around us and shot that video, and then our community sat with us in the service as that video aired just to provide support to us. We were afraid some people might reject us. Some people might assume things of us that were even worse that what actually was the case in our lives.

Nate Graybill: Not too long ago I was struggling with visiting websites that a Christian man shouldn't be at, let alone a Christian man who claims to love God and is in a leadership position, someone who claims to love his wife like I do. The Bible says if we confess our sins we'll find compassion and if we conceal it we will not prosper. In a very real sense you feel the opposite of that.

Teresa Graybill: I feel like we're already being healed, and I think that's one of the things that really convicted us to come forward and just share with everyone else. We have a lot of hope for our marriage and our family in the future, and we want to share that with other people who are struggling with this sin or any other sin who feel alone and feel like, "This is too big for the church; it's too big for God," and are just being lied to.

Nate: We realize we're not alone here at Watermark. Whether it's visiting inappropriate websites or anger…

Teresa: Name your sin.

Nate: Yeah, name your sin. We know there are people out there really struggling right now and maybe just having a hard time dealing with it and feel like they're all alone. We've just found that Watermark is a place you can come and be open and be real, find healing, and just have hope.

Nate: At the time there wasn't a recovery program at Watermark, and we just spent the next several months working with community, wrestling through Scripture on what I was struggling with, looking over my history, looking over times of freedom and times when I was trapped in sin, and really started to discover the source of my struggles.

I really wanted God's glory for myself, and that made me a people pleaser, so whenever I was afraid I would disappoint somebody or was afraid of failing I would run to a fantasy world, and in that fantasy world I never failed. I was worshiped. All my needs were met. I didn't have to think about anyone but myself. That's why pornography fed my addiction.

God gives us confession for the sake of healing. He says to confess your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. We had no idea at the time how God would use that not only in our lives but in the lives of others at the church.

Teresa: Now we're 13 years since he confessed, and he's not the same man that he was. That's very exciting and encouraging just how the Lord has given us a marriage that I didn't even think was possible.

Nate: I think sometime when we celebrate the work God has done we tend to talk a lot about the great marriage, the health in the family, or a good and healthy career, but even if none of those things would have happened in my life, I want people to know that the best thing that's happened to me is an intimate relationship with the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, my maker and your maker.

His goodness and his mercies are new every morning. He can take brokenness and sin and all those things, and he can change it into something beautiful if we let him do it. There is freedom, joy, and life in an intimate relationship with the Lord.

[End of video]

Nate Graybill: Hello, my name is Nate. I have a new life in Christ, and I'm recovering from an addition to pornography. Hey, before I get started, I just want to say my wife is gorgeous. There are 13 years between those videos, and we added three kids. Ladies, Jesus is better than Botox. I'm tellin' ya. She is wonderful. I remember when we were shooting that video. We were so nervous. I said I lived for the approval of men, so we just didn't know how it would impact our relationships, how it would be received by the church, and how it would impact our careers.

When we were invited, there was just a real pause there, but we just didn't want anyone to feel like they were going to struggle alone. We also felt like that invitation was really an invitation by God to say, "Okay, you say this life is about me and not about you. Here's your chance to kind of put your reputation on the line."

Over the years I've just discovered that's really what discipleship is. Being a follower of Christ is accepting the invitations he gives us to join him on his journey, to be fully known, to be fully loved, and to participate in the work he's already up to. He doesn't need us; he invites us into something bigger than us so we can know his goodness, his power, and his eternal joy.

Really, discipling others is just inviting others into that journey with you. That's why the steps work so well. We're still working those steps on a regular basis to draw close to the Lord, and we just invite others into that and journey together. By that our lives are kind of thrown together. It's always God's plan to do more in us than just heal us and make our lives better. He does want to heal us and wants to make our lives better, but he wants us to know his greatness, walk in his strength, and share his work in others.

A lot of us come to recovery or come to God when we need him to fix a struggle, take away temptation, or heal a hurt so we can be done with that and move on with our lives, but God doesn't save us so we can move on with our own lives; he saves us so he can move us into the life he designed us for, for his purpose and his glory.

Second Corinthians 1 says he comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with a comfort by which we've been comforted. That brings us to Step 12, which is Regenerate. At re:generation we say that in experiencing regeneration in Christ we carry this message of reconciliation to others, and we practice these biblical principles in every aspect of our lives.

Our foundation verse for Step 12 is 2 Corinthians 5:17-18. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…" Do you see that? God made us new creations. He reconciled us through his Son, and then he gives us the ministry of reconciliation. He hands it over to us.

That's why we put the colon in the name re:generation. In written communication, re: means with regards or concerning. So regeneration means new life or new birth but, also, re:generation means concerning a generation. We are in a generation of people who are hurting and stuck in sin.

So what's our message of reconciliation? It's our lives, our changed lives, because we've met our maker and the lover of our souls and are walking with him. Our message is there's hope in Christ and forgiveness is available. You can be reconciled to God. You need to be reconciled to God, because I've been reconciled to God, and I needed to be reconciled to God. There's hope. God loves you. The result of living in that message is fellowship and relationship and eternal joy.

The apostles understood this. The apostle John, years after Jesus had given them the Great Commission, gone back to be with his Father, and sent the Holy Spirit, wrote in 1 John, chapter 1, verses 3 and 4, "…what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete."

Did you catch that? John is writing and sharing the gospel so that his joy may be made complete. Todd has been saying all through this series that God created you for relationship. Relationship with him, reconciled to him, sending Christ to settle our debt with him so that we could live in harmony with him (that's what reconciliation means) and in fellowship with others. When we do that, when we follow him, God completes our joy.

There are a lot of you in here who aren't experiencing that joy in Christ. Maybe you're not reconciled to God at all. You need to accept his offer of forgiveness through Christ. Some of you have accepted that offer, but you're still trapped in sin, and your lives right now aren't reconciled and in line with where God wants you. Some of you aren't sharing your story. You're still hiding. God offers you the opportunity to enter into that fellowship and to know his joy.

This was always God's purpose for the Christ. People who have been humbled and rescued by God are filled with his joy, and when they live authentically to know God more and accept the invitations he offers to be part of his work, God transforms the lives of those around them. When the church does this God transforms the world.

That's why when you come to Watermark and you're looking for help, our first referral is always going to be to authentic community. It might be your community. It might be re:generation. It might be re|engage, Shelter, Shiloh, Someone Cares, MENd, GriefShare. Someplace where we're going to journey through this together. God's Spirit working through God's Word and God's people is all that's needed to change a life, and we want you to experience this transformation together, because there is deep fellowship in it.

So when you come to re:generation on Monday nights here's who you meet. Our leaders don't have letters at the end our names from an educational institution to prove our learning; we have changed lives. We haven't been trained as clinical experts; we have the Word of God which fully equips us for every good work. We aren't certified by the state as approved practitioners; we've been commissioned by God as ministers of reconciliation. We don't try to fix you; we couldn't fix ourselves. We point you to the one who gives you new life.

We journey to God together to know God more. We speak the truth in love to one another, working through conflict because we are relentless in pursuing intimacy with Christ. It's the completion of our joy, and in that we get to see lives transformed around us. We have freedom, new identities, and purpose, and we want a front-row seat to the work God's up to.

In Step 12 we might say we dare to accept God's invitation to join in his purpose. A Step 12 prayer might be, "God, thank you for reconciling me to you through Jesus. Help me to recognize and accept you invitations to know you more and be part of your plan. Fill me with your joy as I walk in your purpose."

I'm still overwhelmed with how God uses my messes to show his power and goodness. Think about the lives that have been bonded together over the years just being in the middle of what he's up to. For a résumé builder who was concerned about his reputation, the only thing that qualifies me to head a recovery ministry is that I have an addiction and a new life in Christ. It's God who gets the glory in that. God's plan for recovery at Watermark was going to happen with or without us. Teresa and I were just the first to accept the invitation, so we get a front-row seat.

Here's my encouragement to you. If you're stuck in sin and you're hiding, don't waste any more time. Jesus offers you new life. If you don't know him, come talk to us. If you do know him and you're stuck and hiding in sin, tell somebody. Tell someone who loves Jesus. Jesus knows your struggle, and he makes all things new.

There are those of you who are currently struggling in authentic community of unqualified yahoos like me, and I say trust God to work through his Word and those yahoos. He's bigger than the shortcomings in people. He loves you greatly, but he's called you to heal with others for the purpose of discipleship, growth, and relationship.

For those of you with a story of God's rescue from brokenness, share it. Share it in your family. Share it with your neighbors. Share it at work. Let others know. You are the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus Christ offers freedom to the world through you through his Son. Share your story.

Jesus says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." Living in the light of God's goodness, sharing the message of reconciliation will complete your joy. There is no better place to live than in the middle of God's purpose. Pray with me.

Lord, I just thank you for the opportunity and the invitations you give all of us each day to know you more and to see your power and goodness at work. I pray for those who are stuck right now and just feel like they can't be known, that they're going to be rejected, and I just pray they would know there's a God who's pursuing them, who loves them deeply, and who wants to give them freedom and complete their joy.

I just pray those who are scared to share their story will trust you enough to work beyond the shortcomings of the people around them and that they would glorify you in the community and neighborhood you've put them in. So, "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever." Lord, take our lives and let them be, ever only, all for thee. Amen.

Todd: When we sit and sing like then and we say, "Here am I," what we're saying as a body is, "Here we are, Lord. Take our lives. Don't just take this moment. You don't get just Sundays; you've got everything." Everything from the gospel's perspective starts with admitting you need a Savior and ends with you serve the Savior. Even as he pursued lost people, having been found and been made like him that you follow him and forgive like him as you walk with him, you give your life as he did.

We're ministers of reconciliation. Our joy is made full in having been brought back to God that we can then serve God with God by the power of God in our lives, and it makes our joy complete. Some of you here don't need your joy to be made complete; some of you guys need to be brought into relationship with the one who gives joy.

That starts with you just acknowledging that there's a God and you're not him. You've been acting like a god in your own life, and as a result of that there's anything but heaven that defines you and your little kingdom. Today by faith you walk out of that kingdom of self and walk into the kingdom of heaven by grace, through faith, not according to anything which you have done, no deeds of righteousness but by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

To you we say, "Come." Come. And when you come, understand that you're coming into a relationship where as you get to know God you grow, as you get to know God you fearlessly let him take care of every issue in your life, as you get to know God you abide with him, serve him, and say, "Take my life. All of it. Not the first 10 percent, not one-seventh of your week, not what people can see publicly, but all of it."

There's a reason I asked Nate and Teresa 13 years ago to make that video. It's because I didn't want to be part of a body of God that had to live in whispers and secrets and act like we had our lives together, because that's not what I saw in the Scripture. I saw people being radically saved and talking about the God that radically saved them. Not a bunch of good people who just cut God in but a bunch of lost people who God radically rescued.

That's why we tell stories here. This is not a vulnerability contest. Your story might be like my son's, who last night shared his story and said, "By the grace of God I have largely walked with him all the days of my life, but I had to find out on my own that I desperately needed a relationship with Christ or I was going to not walk in the steps of my parents, who aren't good people; they're redeemed people."

My son, who at a very early age came to understand his need for a Savior is now, late in his teen years, beginning to understand his need to abide with that Savior day by day, just like me. We invite you in. God's people don't live alone; they live in community. They confess their sins to one another, they pray for one another that they might be healed, and they minister together for the glory of God.

If you don't know Christ, would you come, and if you know Christ, will you go this week and worship him with all of your life, all of your possessions, all of your words, all of your way, that you, because you do worship him, make his way for the glory of Christ? We pray that every week you're here is renewing in your life.

We're going to make a big deal about what happens every week. Next week some of the folks who are going to be with us for the Linger Conference are going to linger, stay here longer, and be with us Sunday morning, and it will be another Sunday filled with awesome opportunity to celebrate him, seek his Word, and respond. Would you come as your response, or if you've come before would you go and serve him now? Have a great week of worship. God bless you.