Dying to one self may be the most difficult spiritual discipline, but we know that those who seek Him know Him. But, as we live on in the flesh, it's important to put that to death. "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Death to Self: the Truest Fruit of All the Disciplines
Baptism: Why You Should Why You Shouldn't and What it's For
The Discipline of the Lord's Supper
True Test of Being a Servant
The Secret Place as the Secret to Christlikeness
The Activity and Attitude of Prayer
The Spiritual Disciplines: Spending Time in God's Word
The Key to Knowing and Serving the God Who Loves You
Good morning! There are certain names that are just absolutely perfect for the profession that person found themselves in. Right here at Watermark one of my good friends happens to be a doctor. His name is Tom Schott. I have another friend who is actually a partner with Dr. Schott whose name is Dr. Hurt. On our staff we have Peter Biebel and Jinger Lord. Isn't that great? Those are just funny the way that all works out.
The very first class I ever took when I was learning… I was already in ministry. I never went to seminary like you go to college; I grabbed classes when I could here and there down at Dallas Seminary. The very first class I took when I just said, "I'm going to go take one class and learn from one guy," was from a guy named Dr. Pentecost.
What else is he going to be named? He taught a class called The Life of Christ. Dr. P just passed away here in the last week or so. He was 99 years old. When I took my class from him he was around 75. I'll never forget. You just get a right when you get a little older to just kind of be who you are. You know?
I was in class and he was talking about something. I really wasn't square on it and was trying to get my arms around it. I was sitting there talking with a friend about it, and I saw Dr. Pentecost. He was walking right there into a building, and I said, "Let's just go ask Dr. Pentecost." So I took a position of humility and just said, "Dr. Pentecost…Dr. Pentecost."
He stopped with the door was halfway open and goes, "Yes?" I said, "Dr. Pentecost, listen. I was in your class today, and I have a question. I'm not even sure I know enough to ask the question in the form that will give me the answer I'm looking for, but…" He just goes, "Well, when you figure that out, come find me," and he shut the door and started walking away.
I'll never forget! I was standing on the other side of the door that just swung in my face like, "Well. There ya go." We both cracked up, because I guess when you're 75 you can do that kind of thing. It was a funny moment. I laugh, but Dr. Pentecost was a very kind and gentle man. He made time for a lot of people.
This week they posted the last message he gave to the students at Dallas Seminary, and I watched it, because when you get a 99-year-old man who is still teaching Bible… He was teaching at 99, right up to the end. He taught a message called The Goal of Knowing God. I love the way it started. He said, "Why are you here?" The last message he gave, he looked at this packed-out chapel of current seminarians, who knows what they'll be in the future, and just said to them, "Why are you here? To get a degree?" He said, "If that's your goal you will accomplish that goal, and your piece of paper will be worthless." Yay, Dr. P.
I have spoken at Dallas Seminary a number of times. The very first time I spoke down there, this is the way I started. I said, "Listen, guys. You need to know something. When I go to hire staff I don't necessarily hold it against you that you've been to seminary," and I really meant that, because I really couldn't care less about a credentialed piece of paper. I mean, it means you met some semblance of academic propriety and you passed some curriculum at some level and got a little piece of paper, but that's not who we hire here.
I would tell you the majority of folks we've hired at Watermark are people right here who have been spiritual mothers and spiritual fathers who have said to others, "Follow me," and they've cared for them. They love God, and they love others. The easiest thing to teach somebody is theology. You can teach them pneumatology, Christology, and theology all day long, but if they don't know how to love God and abide with God and they don't love other people because they love God, I don't want anything to do with them.
I don't care how much Hebrew, Greek, or learning or how many degrees they have. Their love for others is their letter of commendation. That's very biblical, and we take very seriously the doctrinal positions and theological understanding of our ministerial staff here, but I don't necessarily hold it against people if they've been through seminary.
I love that at the end of his life a man who had given probably 60 years of his life to that institution said, "You'll have a piece of paper, and it'll be worthless." I love what he said next. "You're here, and you say, 'I want to study the Bible and know the Scriptures, so I will give myself to the original languages and I will sweat over them, because that will contribute to my goal.'" He said that wasn't the right goal. I love that.
I was talking to somebody this week, and I just said to them, "Listen, man. You are not spending time with the Lord in his Word, but that's not even the problem." Let me just tell you something. When you're not spending time with the Lord in his Word, that is a problem, it is a significant problem, but an even bigger problem is there are people who spend time in the Word but the Word doesn't spend time in them.
They don't abide with it. They don't meditate on it. They aren't careful to do according to all that is written in it. The Scripture says you're a fool if you hear it and don't act on it. The Scripture says the man who is blessed is the man who walks in that Word, it's the man who is careful to do according to all that is written in it.
Listen. You can't do what's in it if you don't know what's in it, so you have to read it, but not reading it is not even as big of a problem as reading it and not doing anything with it. In fact, all you're doing is reading judgment on yourself because yours is not at all a problem of revelation; it's of submission and humility.
The Bible says the one God looks to is the one who trembles at his Word, who understands this is the very Word of God and if they don't cling to this and don't yield to it their life is going to be a disaster. They have such respect for God, that he is such a wonderful lover and he's such an amazing giver that when he tells you this is what you need you run to it and cling to it and go, "I'll do anything except lose an opportunity to be obedient to that."
God says, "That's the one to whom I will look. That person is humble who will just say, 'Dad, what do you want from me?'" I've tried to teach my kids since they were little that whenever they have an opportunity they should look to wise people and they should always make sure that if a wise person is not around they should go back to their words.
The wisest person is the person who takes you to God's Word and teaches you God's Word. I want to be that kind of person that when somebody asks me a question I go, Dad, what should I do? Okay. I want his Word written on my heart so that when I speak I speak the words of God, so that I'm a steward of the mystery of God, I'm a servant of other people. That's all I want to be.
It's amazing how much time when God was here on earth he quoted himself, not with a ton of new revelation, but it's amazing how much he just went back over what he already said. Dr. Pentecost said, "If you're not here to set yourself to know God then you're here for the wrong reason." I don't know why you're here this morning, but if you're not here to set yourself to know God, to be reminded…
Would somebody on staff please remind me I want to take down the "Worship" sign out there. I don't like this to be called the Worship Center, because this is the worship center. This is where we come. I love that we call it the "R&R." It's a double entendre. It's where we come to get rest, because we remind ourselves God is working for us, and we remember what he's done so we can remind ourselves how to respond to him in love.
We are not a bunch of performance-based people who are looking for acceptance. We are accepted people who only want to respond to his love for us. This is acceptance-based performance you're seeing here, not performance-based acceptance. There's nothing I need to do to make God love me more. He's already demonstrated his love for me while I was yet a sinner.
I don't know who you are here this morning, but there's nothing you need to do to earn God's love; you just need to receive it. I'm going to tell you something. If you receive God's love it's going to change you. It's going to make you want to live for him, honor him, and do anything he wants you to do because you're going to see how wonderful he is.
One last thing from Dr. P. He just said, "Set yourself to know God, the infinite God whose glory cannot be self-contained. He delights to share his glory, and he allows others who know of his glory to enjoy him." All God wants you to do is know him. All God is obsessed with is his glory. The reason he's obsessed with his glory is not because he's trying to establish his glory; his glory is firmly established. God doesn't need more glory.
God is committed to his glory being revealed so you might see it and go, "That is glorious! I want some more of that. Give me some of that love. Give me some of that forgiveness and some of that mercy. Give me some of that rightness." God says, "I'd love to give it to you. I would love nothing more than to give it to you."
I'm here this morning to tell you God does not force-feed. He doesn't cram himself down anybody's throat. He just reveals his glory. He reveals his goodness. Then he says, "Come on. Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Come here. Do you want more of me? I would love to give you all of me." God is not out there where you have to hope you might find him. He has crashed down through the heavens. He has made himself known.
He has pivoted human history on himself being revealed in the person of his Son, the visible image of the invisible God. He's saying, "Come on. I'm going to show you my love. I'm going to give myself for you. I'm going to show I am who I said I was by being resurrected up from the grave as an expression of my power that you might know I am God and that I paid the debt you owe me because you're a sinner.
Now I just want you to enjoy me, the God who would come rescue you this way. I would create you, be born among you, be scoffed at by you, be tortured and betrayed, and be declared a sinner for your sin, that you might receive my righteousness and love again." Then he says, "Come on. Follow me. Be intimate with me. Don't perform for me. That's all I really want."
I have six kids; God has eight billion. A lot of them are prodigals who have never come home. A lot of them are still living with him and think they have to perform for him. I don't want my kids to perform for me; I want my kids to know I love them, and nothing would delight me more than for them to listen to me as I am the steward of God's Word and as I am an incarnational example of wisdom, love, and (hopefully) humility before them. I want them to want to be with me. That's all I want. That's all God wants.
I want to just walk you through some very basic truths to wrap up this little series we've been in called inTIMEacy, because the way you have a relationship with God is the way you have a relationship with anybody: you spend time with him. God is not up there waiting for you to pay a tax. He is not up there waiting for you to pass a test.
God has come down here that you might have a relationship with him, find your rest in him, and break through the deceit of the Enemy who says, "God's not good. His Word's not true, and disobeying him is not that big of a deal." He would tell you he is good, his Word is true and is absolutely perfect, and disobeying him is a really big deal. He's here just to help the spirit of truth invade your spirit of darkness, that you would want to know him and walk with him in intimacy. So here we go.
Let me just start by saying something here. When you practice disobedience… We've all thought like this. We've thought, "I'd follow God if every time somebody screwed up he'd just fire a lightning bolt out of heaven and take them out." I'd go, "Okay. I'll listen to God." Do you know why God doesn't do that? Because none of us would be here. None of us! We would be constantly zapped to a Cheeto every moment. Everywhere we walk it'd be like one big, never-ending bug zapper.
What happens is that God says, "Listen. You need to know this. There's going to be a day when you're going to face me, and in my kindness, in my forbearance, and in my longsuffering I am not always letting you immediately reap what you sow, but do not be deceived. I am not mocked. You will reap what you sow."
One of the verses I remind myself and those I shepherd of continually is in Ecclesiastes, chapter 8, verse 11, which simply says, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." In other words, we do what we know is not right to do and we kind of look around and go, "I got away with that." It was kind of fun and exhilarating. Sometimes it brought me real physical pleasure. I get a little more brazen, a little more bold, and I just do it again.
One of the things I do when I'm approached by people on the street when I'm with my kids is I always engage them personally. I just go, "Listen. This is not about you hitting me up and making me feel guilty in order to give you five bucks or me wanting to feel good so I give you five bucks. This is about you being another person made in the image of God who God loves, just like he loves me. Maybe the image of God is more defaced in you than it is in me, but it's not erased; it's there. I see his glory in you. It's very diminished, but I see him in you. I know he loves you. What is your story?"
"What is your story? How did you get here?"
"Aww, man. It's a long story."
"Well, boil it down for me. I've got a young lad here who I don't want to be homeless. What is your story?"
I want to tell you that, universally, they've all said, "Aww, man. Here's my story. Bad decisions, bad decisions." A bad decision, then another bad decision, and then another bad decision. Sometime by others on them, sometimes societal, but at the end of the day, a bunch of bad decision. People without God and people without humility have gotten themselves in a place where they often are broken and unwilling to ask for help from others. They would rather just get something for a moment and keep living isolated and independent and not graft back in.
When I offer them opportunities to be discipled, changed, and transformed, as many have said yes to… Do you guys know we have leaders in this church who were formerly homeless in Dallas? Do you know that? They just said, "I'm ready to humble myself before God, because my life isn't working out so well." God gives you the freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it, but here's the deal. He will not give you what he cannot give you, which is life apart from him.
I mean, he made your body to experience pleasure when it does certain things, and you'll experience fleeting moments of pleasure, but you will not experience life. You might have a good little run, but you will not have a life that runs with peace and blessing. Psalm 106:15 says God gave them the desires, but he sent leanness to their souls. Another translation says he sent a wasting disease among them. That wasting disease is just the disease of self-glorification, self-satisfaction, and self-pleasuring. It never brings life. The first thing I want you to know is…
1._ Practicing disobedience without immediate consequence is the fastest way to grow bolder in disobedience in the future._ Practicing disobedience without immediate consequence makes you more brazen to be disobedient again. I'm just going to tell you. Don't be deceived; you're not getting away with it. What you're doing is your heart is getting more calloused and you're becoming more convinced by a lie that you're going to be okay without God. You will not be okay without God!
You might even live to the age of Dr. Pentecost and die a rich, pleasurable, Hugh-Hefnerish life, but you will not get away with it. The most blessed people on earth are the ones who at sometime in their run of disobedience pay for it now that they might come to their senses. You will not get away with it, and you'd better pray that if there is God he would send a wasting disease among you that you could taste so you'd learn to go to that which is life.
I want you to know this morning that God is not just some mysterious being out there you have to hope you can figure out who he is. This is an amazing truth: God is more willing to reveal himself to you than you will ever be to see him. God desires to spend more time with you than you'll ever desire to spend with him. I know now as a father that I want my son to spend more time with me than my son will ever want to seek me. I know my dad wants more of me than I'll ever want to be with my dad.
Your Father in heaven wants intimacy with you. He's not dying for it; he died for it. He just says, "Come. Come here, son. Sit down." This book, this Bible we have, is not a Bible that is there to give you tips and techniques to get through life. Take your Watermark News. I brought mine up here for this reason. Open it up. I want you to look inside your Watermark News.
This is a sweet young girl, Lisa Parker, a member of our body who lived through just a horrible tragedy because people didn't walk according to the will of God. I want you to look on the left side about three-quarters of the way down. You'll see a line that says, "When I walked into Watermark it felt like home." Do you see that?
She said, "At the service I filled out a card. A girl named Katie Beth got in touch with me." Lisa had the courage to just say, "I need to know if there's anybody here who will love me." Katie Beth, a spiritual mother, called her. Lisa said, "I told her I didn't know much about the Bible. I thought it was a book of parables, stories to teach me how to live a better way."
Some of you guys are here this morning and think this is a place where you can learn more tips and techniques from the Bible about how to live. That's not what the Bible is. The Bible is not a book of how to live a better life. The Bible is a book that reveals God. The Bible is a book that tells you God is committed to making himself known. God wants to know you. God loves you. He's not needy; he is loving. Because he's loving his love can't be self-contained.
If you love, the one thing you can't do is keep it; you have to give it, and God is love. That's what the Bible says. He's here to love you. The Bible is a story of God making himself known. There are parables in it. There are things you will do if you know God, but that is not what the Bible is for. The Bible is there that you might know that God is good. He's filled with lovingkindness and truth. He's slow to anger. His lovingkindness goes to several generations, and he wants a relationship with you.
Look at it. What God does is he puts beauty in the midst of chaos. This world was formless and void. It was filled with darkness and chaos, and he spoke order, life, and beauty into it. He put you into it. You and I spit in his face. We believed he wasn't good, his Word wasn't true, and disobeying him wasn't that big of a deal. Then we had sin and shame. What did God do?
The very next thing in the Bible is that God says, "Adam, where are you? Adam, I want to know you. I want to restore the intimacy you've lost. It won't be free, and it won't be cheap, but you're going to know even more of me now. I'm going to use what you intended for evil for good. I'm going to reveal myself to you in a way I've never been revealed before. Everybody has always known I was holy and powerful, everybody always knew I was righteous, but now they're about to see I am tender, loving, merciful, and gracious. Are you ready?"
Then it goes from Genesis 23 all the way through the end of Revelation. The whole book is about God being committed to making himself known, that you might have an intimate relationship with him. The crescendo of the Bible is in John, chapter 1. "In the beginning was the Word…" This is the very beginning. This is even before Genesis 1.
John 1 predates Genesis 1. Did you know that? If not, go back and listen to series called TheVisible Image. I did 60 weeks on it. Okay, maybe 62. What I'm here to tell you is that this predates Genesis 1. It's God trying to tell you what was going on at the beginning. John 1 takes you from the very beginning all the way to about 2,000 years ago. Watch this.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." The Word was. "All things came into being through [the Word] , and apart from [the Word] nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him [the Word] was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light [shone] in the darkness…"
Because he want to be known. He wants to get rid of chaos and despair. Is your heart dark this morning? I'm telling you, you're in the right place. Don't shower up to come. You can't get clean enough. Come dirty and say, "Clean me." That's all it takes. I'll say that again. Come dirty.
Come say, "I should be a mom. This should be my seventeenth Mother's Day. This should be my third Mother's Day. I should have been a mother for six months now, and I'm not because of what I did." Just come. He loves you. We're not mad at you, and God's not mad at you. We just want you to know it's like he's saying, "Where are you, Adam? Where are you, Eve? I've taken care of that." "The Light [shone] in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
We find out that John came. He's not the Light. Go to verse 9. "There was the true Light…" That's the one I'm talking about. "…which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." He wants the world to see. "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him." Oh my gosh. That's crazy.
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood…" In other words, they weren't descendents of somebody. "…nor of the will of the flesh…" In other words, they didn't decide to love God. "…nor of the will of man…" In other words, other men didn't decide they should love God. "…but of God." They were born by the grace of God, and God, in his kindness, even gave you the right to believe and the desire to believe.
You heard something like I'm saying today, and something in you got convicted. Some light went on. You're going, "Are you kidding me? All this time I thought I was supposed to clean up for God. All this time I thought I was supposed to read the Bible for tips and techniques, it was a book that told me how to live, and that if I lived long enough that way then eventually God would love me. I thought it was performance-based acceptance. Todd, you're telling me this morning that not what you're about?"
Yes, I'm telling you that's not what I'm about. This morning I'm here to declare to you the grace and wonder of God. He wants intimacy with you. He has died to create that opportunity, and all you have to do is just say, "God, if you can make me new again, if you can take this dark heart and bring light into it, if you can take brokenness and make it whole again, if you can take unforgiven and make it righteous, I'm all in." That's your Bible.
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." He's not half grace and half truth; he's 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth, and he never compromises one or the other. This whole book, from beginning to end, is about God telling you who he is. He is lovely, and we are here to sing his praises and invite everybody who wants to to know him.
Gang, practicing disobedience is the fastest and most immediate way to get more confidence you don't need God, and you could not be more deceived. What you need to know is God is committed to making himself known, and we are his people here to love you this morning that you might know him still.
2._ Those who seek him will know him._ Those who seek God will know him. Jeremiah 29:13 talks about how desperate God is for us to seek him. He says, "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." Not when you seek me on Sundays. Can I just say something to you? You are no more a Buddhist when you go to a yoga class than you are a Christian when you go to church.
I actually wrote a whole blog post, "Is It Wrong for a Christian to Do Yoga?" I've got some ideas there, and if you want to go look at it, go for it. But can non-Christians go to church? Yes! This country is filled with them today. What God wants you to do is not be one of those people. He wants you to know him, and those who know him seek him with all their heart.
He says in Matthew 5:6, " Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…" He says in Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it will be given…seek, and you will find; knock, and [the door] will be opened…" God does not force-feed. I love Psalm 81:8-10. It's such a vivid picture. It says, "Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, if you would listen to Me!" You can hear the pleading of a father. "Son, can't you just listen to me?"
"Let there be no strange god among you; nor shall you worship any foreign god." They are no gods at all. "I, the Lord, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide [little bird] and I will fill it." Be that little bird with his neck stretched out. "Gimme the worm. Gimme the worm. Gimme the worm." Are you guys like that, or are you like, "Ahhh, Bible. [Yawn] All right. There's my proverb for the day"? No, you want to hold his hand.
My kids are old now; none of them are going to trip when they walk. Most of them can have an intelligent conversation…most of the time. I love it when I'm walking and all of a sudden I feel one of them just reach and grab my hand and just walk with me, just like they did when they were 3 at Disney World. I just go, "Oh, I love that."
That's what God wants from you. He just wants you to hold his hand all through the day. He doesn't want you to read your Bible and move on. It's a big deal if you don't read your Bible, but it's just as big of a deal if you read your Bible and that's all you do…you just forget about it. No. Those who seek him will know him. Those who know him will live for him.
See, that's the deal. If you know God you're like, "I'm all in!" "The love of God constrains me." That's 2 Corinthians 5:14. I cannot live apart from wanting to live for God. "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died…" And I want to live for him. Here's the deal, gang…
3._ Living for him means you have to die to yourself._ Listen. This is the ultimate spiritual discipline. Living for God means you are going to die to yourself, and it's not just a one time thing. It's a constant, every day thing.
So this week my wife and I are having a conversation. It's not a conversation; it's conflict. My wife and I are having a conflict. Both of us are exceedingly annoyed by the other person. Me much more justifiably, but that's irrelevant. All right. So here we go. She just goes, "I don't want to be here."
I'm leading very well at this moment, and I say, "Well, do you think I want to be here? Do you want to go? How long are you going to go for? What does what we want have to do with it?" That's just so gentle, kind, and wise. You know, she's thinking, I'm so glad I married this ape. I don't know what she's thinking. I'm just a child. It's like two 4-year-olds fighting over a lollipop. Somebody has to grow up. We're both sitting there, and I know we're both praying. We just stopped.
I was actually supposed to go meet with a bunch of women, leaders at our church. I walked inside that house and said, "Hey, I want to lead you in a patient and understanding way. I want to cherish you and honor you. I want to hear from you. But, you know what? I don't really care about you right now. I made a promise to love one woman differently than every other woman I ever know, so for me to be patient and understanding and listen and give you my heart right now would not make any sense when I'm not loving my wife the way I should. So excuse me. I'm glad you guys gather, but I have some work to do." And I went home.
I met my wife for about an hour and a half. We talked and we prayed, and I asked her forgiveness. It was just the hardest thing to die. I don't like to die; I like to win. I like to be right. I like to explain to her why, "If you would just talk directly…!" (32:14) it would be good. Everybody in my community (32:23) is like, "Bro, it's not her thinking that's the problem." But that's just the problem: I think it is because I love me. Dying is the hardest thing I have to do all the time. Living for him means dying to self. Dying to self is the hardest discipline there is.
I don't have time to go through this, but Romans 6:1-14 talks about this. In Romans 6:11 there's this word that's a great word in the Greek, logizomai. Now when you think of logizomai, can you think of anything in your awful history of high school that sounds like logizomai rhythm? Yeah, logarithm tables. Do you remember logarithm tables?
I don't even know if they teach those things anymore, but I remember they were a beating. What they are is a form of calculation. It's a way to figure things, and that's exactly what this verse means. It means to consider…to figure…yourself dead. See, my flesh is not dead at all. It's very alive. It screams, it lusts, it wants, it's angry, it's controlling, it's prideful, and it's self-glorifying.
I have to continually go, "No. Down, boy. I no longer listen to you. You are a slave to the God who died for me. I have considered that one died for all; therefore, all should live for him. You are fallen and corrupt, and there is a day when you'll be vanquished and judged forever and God will make you as new as my soul, which used to rebel against God but now, by the grace of God, longs to know you." That is really hard.
Romans 6:11: "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin…" There's a reason it says consider or figure. It's because it doesn't feel like it. I'm going to tell you again. Feelings are real; they're just not reliable. I feel very alive, but that aliveness will lead me to death. The death to that will make me alive.
Ultimately I'm not forgiven because I die to myself; I'm forgiven because he died for me, but I want to live in relationship with that God now. I want to experience his will and way, his abundant life now, and the only way I can do that is to not follow my finite, fallen life now. Dying to self is the hardest discipline, but…
4._ Every other spiritual discipline is what enables the only discipline that matters._ What is the only discipline that matters? Dying to self. It is the discipline. How can you die to yourself? Answer: Everything I've been teaching you these last weeks.
There is no way to die to yourself unless you're convinced the one you're living for is good, righteous, true, and beautiful; seeks pagans; seeks sinners; seeks people who have had, committed, or created the need for abortions; and seeks people who have made, participated in, or funded pornography. He loves those people, and he's calling them (you) out of that.
Let me say it again. Here's the point I want you to hear: every other spiritual discipline is what enables the only discipline that matters. Why do you read your Bible? So that you might be reminded that God is good. So that when your flesh says, "Don't follow God," you can say, "Why wouldn't I follow that God who loved me and gave himself up for me? That God who led those guys out of bondage in Egypt has led me out of the bondage of my sin. That God who keeps revealing himself to fallen, stupid people is revealing himself repeatedly to me."
The reason you pray is so you can talk to God. "God, strengthen me." The reason you fast and you say no is you discipline your body for moments so that your body might know it's not king. I'm not going to eat. I'm not going to listen to what I want to listen to. I'm not going to do what I want to do. I'm going to tell my body it is my slave. All the other spiritual disciplines exist for the one discipline of dying, so that I can be intimate with the Father, so that he can live in me.
This is Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things." In other words, they want to make sure they do well so they can win in some game where they're going to receive a perishable wreath, but Paul says we are competing for something far greater.
"They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified."
What Paul says is, "I'm going to discipline myself." Why is he disciplining himself? Because God loves disciplined guys who are cut, with 2 percent body fat and can quote Romans through Jude? No! God loves sinners, but I memorize his Word so I can live as if I'm not a sinner, as if I'm an enlightened man who knows God and loves God.
God doesn't love you because you look good in the mirror; God loves you because you look at the mirror of his Word (James, chapter 1, which I'm about to teach), you see what you're not, you repent, and you align yourself with it by the miracle of transformation. If you don't like what you see, confess. "The way I'm living right now is not good, Lord." Right then, let that sin fall off you and run to him, go to others. Every other spiritual discipline is what enables the only discipline that matters. Let me just end with this.
5._ We don't die to earn his love; he died to show us what love looks like._ We don't die to earn his love. We don't die to our flesh so God will love us. He already died to show us what love like looks like. " In this is love not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." That's 1 John 4:10.
Do you know what I have up here? I asked some guys to just kind of go through and print out in very small type people who have started to do some of the spiritual disciplines and how it led to life change. I was going to read you a couple, but they gave me so many I couldn't even go through them and decide what to read to you.
Let me just tell you this. Based on your own feedback, people who are daily in God's Word recognize God's sovereign control over circumstances in their life and feel less need to control people or events. That's if they're in God's Word. We have people here in our body who are not in God's Word so they still need to control because they've forgotten there's a God who is good.
They control their wives, they control their kids, they control their businesses. They control things they can't control, and that's why they're neurotic people who are often depressed. People who are in God's Word regularly are more in relationship with the Father; therefore, they're less likely to follow their flesh's need to control. They know the Father's in control.
People who are in God's Word are 35 percent more likely to have tender hearts for those who don't have relationship with him, are 50 percent more likely to engage people who are far from God in conversations, and are more likely to be in a group with others who hold them accountable. That's why we call you into community. That's one of the disciplines God calls you to because it's going to help you do the things that will help you do the only thing that matters, which is dying to self so that Christ can live in you.
I could go on. It's overwhelming. I have statistic after statistic of folks who have been through Equipped Disciple, who are daily abiding in the Journey, who are living in community, and their lives are abundantly different than those who aren't doing the disciplines. Why? Because they're walking with the Father. They're intimate with him so they're more able to follow him. When you follow him it goes well with you.
That doesn't mean you won't get cancer, it doesn't mean your job is going to take off, and it doesn't mean your wife is going to lose 10 pounds and your kids are going to get better grades. It just means you're going to love your wife no matter what kind of weight she puts on and you're not going to weigh her down with your own hyper-controlling, narcissistic issues. It will go well with you.
This is the reason I did this series. All those disciplines are not what we do so God will love us. God showed us he loves us so we do these things. We discipline ourselves so that we might be reminded of his love so we'll follow him. Is your flesh alive like mine is? Mine is very alive, and it says, "Follow me! Do this! Speak this way! Find satisfaction in this!" So I have to say, "Wait a minute. I think there's a better way."
I'm going to tell you something. Every single time for 30 years that I have done what God's Word says he has never failed me. I'm talking about hundreds of thousands of times. That's just the testimony of my life. But every time this week I just let Todd take over for a little bit it's been very expensive, very expensive. So, come. Come and receive forgiveness. Come. Come to the waters and be healed.
Discipline yourself to follow him so that you might be intimate with him and well acquainted with his ways, because if you're well acquainted with his ways you will not leave him. Some of you guys are having an easy time…getting sexually satisfied, getting filled with pornography, getting materially deluded…because you don't know what good is. Come. Be intimate with the God who saves and who is filled with life.
Father, we thank you for just your abundant kindness. I pray we'd be people who are intimate with you and that through the intimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ we would receive that blessing and that we would look and know you are good so that we can follow you, trust in you, and believe in you all the time that we might walk in the ways of life and we might be like trees firmly planted by streams of water that will yield their fruit in season and will not wither when the heat comes, and boy there is heat all around us.
May we be people who flourish so that others say, "In this desert and weary land that is Dallas, Texas, in 2014, why is there so much joy in you?" and we can tell them where our roots go. We are rooted and grounded in the faith. Lord, help us to pursue the things which lead to life, to buffet our bodies not so that you'll love us but because we love you.
So now we come, we confess, and we bow here to find our rest. Without you, God, we fall apart. You're the one who guides our hearts. Lord, we need you. Help us not just to sing it but to hold your hand constantly. For the glory of Jesus, amen.
If you are here and you sang those words and believe them, if you've never met Jesus Christ, come. Come and receive his forgiveness. Take that little perforated section, like hundreds have done, and check that box. We'll call you. Come right now, right here with my friends and me. We'll tell you how we've come to know the one we need, Jesus Christ. Don't shower, just come.
If you know him, would you go hold your Daddy's hand? Listen to him speak through the Word of God. Meditate prayerfully on the Word of God and pray back to him his Word. "Father, I want to be this man (or this woman)." Deny your flesh in seasons of fasting. Get alone with your Father. Be intimate with him. Pursue the disciplines so that you might do the only discipline that matters, which is dying to yourself that you might live.
As you die to yourself, if Jesus goes out of here and lives in his church, can you imagine where Jesus is going to go this week in this city? Christ in you is the hope of glory. I'm grateful it's here in Dallas. I'm grateful it's in Fort Worth. I'm grateful it's gone to Plano. I'm grateful it's getting on jets that your company is sending all over this country this week. Follow him. Walk with him. Hold his hand on that plane in the conversation you're having. Let your Dad speak if you don't know what to say. Be intimate with the God who loves you that it might go well with you.
Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.