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Listen in as Todd begins the sermon series on Watermark's Community Core Values. The first step to living life together in a way that honors God is to "Devote Daily." Healthy communities are made up of individuals who spend time daily in God's word. Be encouraged as Todd shows the need for and benefit of being completely devoted God.
Admonisher and Admonishable, Two Things We Must Be
External Focus: How Watermark Serves Its City
Don't Let Your Mouth Be a Minaret. Counsel Biblically
Pursued and Pursuing: Our Story, Our Script
The Authentic Life and the Life That Comes With It
The Danger of Fools and How Not to Be One
Coming together is what we're going to be talking about during these next six weeks as we start a series I ought to do several times a year, because it gets right to the core of who we are as a community of faith. If you don't consider yourself a devoted follower of Christ, welcome. We're glad you're here.
These next six weeks, I'm going to be talking about what you should expect to find if you ever get around people who truly are devoted followers of Christ. That means I'm going to be talking a lot to folks here at Watermark who have called themselves true believers, who have a faith that has some effect in their lives, who don't just pass quizzes about the character and nature of God and his work through his Son, but who are real believers.
One of the things that should distinguish us is the way we relate to one another and how we live life together. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…" That wasn't new. That goes way back. He said, "…even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples…"
There was something about the way believers were going to live life together that was going to be the distinguishing mark of God's people in this age between the two comings, if you will, of Christ. He came to redeem man and bring him back into a relationship with him, and he will come ultimately to restore the earth. That's the story we're living in the midst of.
How do you know if you have done more than just learn the facts? How do you know if you have a true faith? One of the things I say here a lot is if you're a believer in Jesus Christ, and you're just showing up at a place where other believers gather and sing songs about the character and nature of God, or if you call yourself a regular attender of a community where you hear guys talk, hear songs sung, and watch people use their gifts…
If you are not known there, if there are not people accountable for your soul there, if you have not raised your hand, shared your story, publicly declared your faith through the act of baptism, and regularly participated in the Communion of the saints, where you remember the broken body and shed blood of Christ, where you are admonished when you're unruly, encouraged when you're fainthearted, and helped when you're weak…
If you go to a place called church, but you're not really a part of the church, you are not what we would biblically call a regular attender. You are an irregular believer, which is to say you ought to go back, take a really good look, and make sure you're not somebody who hangs out where other people are.
For decades, I've heard the whole story. Just because you park yourself in a garage for a while doesn't make you a car, and just because you show up at a place where other people who are devoted to Christ show up, that doesn't mean you are a Christ-follower. One of the core values we have here at Watermark is we believe full devotion is normal for a believer.
In other words, it's not just those who are salaried, seminary students, or super-saints whom some Christian biography is written about who are supposed to be all in with Jesus. That is what is normal for a person who says they understand about the character of God, the love of God, the work of God, the way he pursues us, and what he redeems us from.
We are not to be people who paddle along in warm waters while Jesus rows by, and we wave at him while enjoying a skinny dip in the lake and decide whether or not we want to get into the boat, because we're having a lot of fun as he paddles by. He's not a lifeguard there to watch us if we're in trouble.
If you understand Scripture, you know your boat has been flipped, and you are in the dark, frigid waters of the Atlantic. You are desperate, you are without hope, and you have no chance of survival unless the kindness of God draws you out of those waters, warms you with his person, and rescues you.
Gang, if that is your picture of who you are, who God is, and what he has done, it ought to change the way you swim to him and cling to him. You're not looking to jump back into the water to cool off. You are glad you have been saved, and you are devoted to him. That, my friends, is the picture that is normal.
I want to walk you through six characteristics that make up a community of saints. Today, I want to talk about what is necessary for you to be… Maybe I'll start by doing the negative. We'll talk about what is necessary for you to not be if those who commune with you are going to have it go well for them. Maybe another way to look at that is you need to make sure those you are communing with are like this so you won't suffer from being related to them. The Bible says, "…the companion of fools will suffer harm." Let me pray.
Father, I pray we would not be the companions of fools. I pray we would love all men and women and that we would not be arrogant, condescending, flippant, or calloused. I pray we wouldn't be pious or believe we're smarter than anybody else. This is a sea full of freezing, cold, drowning people. We don't know why your truth has come near us and we have been plucked out of this certain death and the numbness that is the icy Atlantic of this world, but you have genuinely saved many of us.
I pray, Lord, we would appropriately sing praises of you, we would fasten ourselves down, we would not be prone to wander, and we wouldn't jump back into icy waters. If we fall in, we pray we would be close to others who would draw us back to safety. I pray we'd love all people, that we would make our lives as purposeful and missional as you made yours at seeking those who are lost.
I pray we would commune with the saints, and that we would have something to offer. I pray we would be people who know you well, and that your life in us would be a source of blessing to others as you always intended. Would you teach us now? Remind us of things that are true, and help us to walk with you. Amen.
If you're a good Jewish young man or woman and you read from the rabbis commentary on the Scripture and you came across Proverbs 26, you would come across what rabbis commonly call the Book of Fools. The Bible warns you about fools as much as anybody in Scripture, but I want to let you know there is somebody who is worse off than a fool. Let's start, though, by looking at how bad it is to be associated with a fool, to be counseled by a fool, or to be a fool.
This is what the Book of Fools, Proverbs 26, says there. "Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool." In other words, if you give a fool a place of honor in your life or a position of authority or if you make yourself a companion… Watch this. Jesus was a friend of sinners. We all know that, but Jesus was never a companion of sinners.
There's a whole lot of difference between loving lost people and doing business with lost people. The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. It's a word that means to do business together. It is to be comrades in arms, to lock arms and say, "I'm in this thing with you until the end." The Bible says if you lock arms with a fool as friends or certainly in marriage, it's not going to go well with you.
It's going to cause all kinds of trouble in your life. It's going to be like snow coming in the summer. That's going to ruin all your crop. It will not be a bountiful year. It's like rain in the harvest. That's when you're supposed to glean what has come over months or years of nurturing, cherishing, and cultivating. It's going to ruin the whole deal.
Jesus was never a companion of sinners. His running buddies were people who were learning of God and believing in God. He was a friend to sinners, which means he spoke the truth to them, he cared for them personally, and he called them to change the way they operated. That's what friends do. They speak the truth. They love. They don't treat you as a project; they treat you like a person. That's the way we ought to treat folks who are far from God, but you had best not lock arms with them, or it's going to cause you real problems.
One of the things I'm going to say as we start this whole deal is at Watermark we're a very large community of faith, and we drive you and call you to be a part of a fellowship that is smaller, in community, so you're doing business with other people. One of the things I want you to do as you start this new year is I want you to take a really good look at your Community Group. I want you to test it and compare it to what I'm saying here, and I want you to ask yourself, "Am I locking arms with the people Jesus said I should be locking arms with?"
You might go, "Wait a minute, Todd. These people are members of Watermark. Don't they have to necessarily be okay?" No. They might have slid through, they might have answered some questions on a test, or they might have said some things, but they are not doing life with Jesus. I want to encourage you to take a look, love them, and help them come to the realization that though they've said they want to honor Christ, they are not making that the practice of their lives.
You want to encourage them, help them, and be patient with them, but if they look at you and go, "I'm not going to go there. I'm not going to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. I'm going to be inconsistent in our gathering, and when we gather, I'm going to want to have superficial conversation.
I don't want you to mingle in my life. I don't want you to talk about what I'm struggling with. I don't want you to comment on my marriage. I don't want you to know what I do with my money. I don't want you to ask about what I'm doing in my thought life. I don't want you to ask me about what my standards are with my girlfriend." That, my friends, is a fool, a person who isolates himself.
Wise men seek solitude, time alone to be still and devote themselves to intimacy with Christ. Fools seek isolation. There's a big difference. You have to ask yourself, "Am I going to bring a loss of produce to my life because I'm running with guys, girls, or couples who have said one thing but are doing another?"
When you really start to say, "We have to be the church. We have to really be about what God has called us to be about," some people are going to go, "You're taking this too seriously," or, "You're a legalist." We've had folks say this to other people at Watermark who talk about appropriate standards for relating to one another as single people and appropriate ways to abide with Christ. They'll go, "Man, I'm not into telling others what they should do."
By the way, I'm not into telling other people what they should do either. I am, however, a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God, so if I'm going to be faithful, I am going to tell you what God's Word says. If you want to call my reminding you of what God's Word says legalistic, then that's something I should go to Proverbs 26:2 to be informed by. I shouldn't really worry about your words. I just have to be faithful to what God has called me to.
What I mean by that is this. When people call obedience legalism, they will be at the height of their heresy, their changing what the true faith is. One of the things I want us as a church to do right now is ask ourselves, "Am I running with people who want to obey Christ?" Jesus says, "He who has my commandments and keeps them continually before him, he it is who loves me."
If you're around people who have no desire to know God, obey him, or learn his ways, I would tell you you have to love them the way Scripture does and move out of intimacy and companionship with them. We need to love them, minister to them, and invite them to Great Questions on Monday night.
If they're stuck in sin, we need to invite them to come with us to re:generation on Monday nights where we're working through all the hurts, habits, and hang-ups that tangle us down. Invite them to come to some of these groups we start that are going to give you a chance to process the story of Scripture.
We're going to love you. We're not going to love you more if you turn into Mother Teresa around here, but we're also not going to let you say you're abiding with Christ when you're not, because that wouldn't be loving. If we make ourselves companions of people who are not devoted to Christ, and if we do business with you, the Bible says we shouldn't be deceived. Your bad company will corrupt our good effort to walk with Christ. He who walks with wise men will be wise.
By the way, I'm going to use words like stupid. In the past, when I've used the word stupid, some moms in the past have said, "We tell our kids not to use that word. Don't say that from the pulpit." That's stupid to say that, I'm going to tell you right now. The word stupid has its place, and so does the word idiot. I don't want to just throw them out, but I'm going to use them in a way that is etymologically correct.
The word stupid, and I'm not kidding, comes from the Latin word stupidus. It's a word we bring across. Trans means across, like transatlantic means across the Atlantic Ocean. A transliteration is a word we bring across from one language to another, and we use it literally. It's like taco. If you ever want to confuse your blonde daughter, ask her what the word for taco is in Spanish, and she'll struggle for a while.
Stupidus means numbskull. It literally means numb or dull. A stupid person is a person whose brain is numb. It's not alert to truth. I don't recommend using the word stupid in casual conversation or certainly with a tone of condescending, pejorative verbiage, but I would say there are times you should go, "Listen. What you're doing is stupid. It's numb to reality. It's going to hurt you. I love you, so I'm telling you when you think like a fool and obscure reality, that is stupid. It's dull and not clear thinking."
The Bible tells us to be sober-minded and clear-thinking. It tells us not to be idiots. That's another word we bring across from the Greek. It means to own one's own business as opposed to koinonia. So koinonia means to do business together, while idiot means to do business by yourself. An idiot is literally someone who minds their own business and doesn't let anybody else speak into their world.
That's an idiot. They will not be sharpened, corrected, or spurred on by anybody. "I have my business, and you have yours. Leave me alone." That's not the way believers live. We live in community and humility with one another. We're called to clothes ourselves in humility. All of us are called to do that. First Peter 5 says, "Younger men, be subject to your elders, and all of you, clothe yourselves in humility with one another." Fools don't like that.
One of the things fools will do is they'll curse you. They'll call you legalists. They'll call you Sister Bertha Better-Than-You. They'll call you a member of a cult and say you're taking this thing too seriously. Proverbs 26:2 says, "Don't you worry." It says, "Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, so a curse without cause does not alight." Don't worry when fools curse you and call you names. If something somebody says is true, change. If it's not, don't stoop to consider it.
If you're going to run hard after Jesus, people are going to say, "You're taking yourself too seriously. I think you're a legalist. I'm more of a grace-oriented person." Listen. Those two things…being obedient and being grace-filled…are not mutually exclusive, and the Bible warns you against being around people who come up with all kinds of words that keep themselves from moving toward obedience. It will not go well with you.
Here we are at Watermark beginning 2015, and I'm going to say, we have to really evaluate our community right here and say, "Who's all in? Who wants to learn more of Christ? Who wants to see more of Jesus and less of them? Who wants to be like John the Baptist, who said, 'He must increase, and I must decrease,' and who wants to keep coasting?"
Numbskulls coast. Numbskulls get deluded by the things of the world. Wise men fear him and run to him. They know the Atlantic is a cold, dark tomb. They have found life in the God who is in the Scripture, and they want more of him. So don't you worry. Have you ever seen a little swallow flying along out there?
It flies all over and sits down for just a second. It doesn't stay long. That's what a fool's curses are going to do to you. Don't you worry about it. You just keep marching in obedience. Verse 3: "A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools." That's ultimately what's going to come to them. Fools sometimes think they're getting away with it.
I say this a lot. They're like that guy who jumped off the top of the Empire State Building. He said, "This is the greatest moment of my life. I'm filled with adrenaline. You fools are stuck walking on the stairs and taking the elevator. There's life out here. I'm free." That might be true on the 120th floor. It might be true on the 115th floor as they go whistling by you. It might be true on the 100th floor and the 90th floor, but sooner or later, the reality of their choice is going to catch up with them. You can count on it.
"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.""I'm looking at porn, I'm not pursuing my wife, I'm not meditating on God's Word, and I'm cutting corners financially, and it hasn't cost me yet." They're going to keep doing it, and the fact is, until it hurts more to stay the same than it does to change, most people never change. The Bible is saying it's going to eventually hurt to stay a fool.
Psalm 37 says, "Do not fret because of the evildoer. He will wither quickly like the green grass." You trust in the Lord and do good. You cultivate faithfulness. Let the fool tell you you take it too seriously. I do that to my friends who eat well. I hate to go to lunch with John Cox. The guy eats skinless chicken breast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I am merciless in my teasing of John Cox when I go have lunch with him.
Why? Because I want him to get a double cheeseburger like me…until lake day for staff when Cox takes his shirt off and we all go, "I want to eat skinless chicken breast." The rest of us are talking about how we're concerned about the UV rays. We have three shirts on and all this different stuff. Cox takes his shirt off on the way down to the lake. There's a day when the way you eat will catch up with you. Don't worry. Keep moving forward, and let the whip, bridle, and rod get the fool.
Look at verse 4 and 5 very quickly, here. It says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes." You might go, "That's why I don't read my Bible. It's full of contradictions." Well, your Bible is telling you there are different ways you relate to a fool. Sometimes there are comments which can be largely ignored, and you have to let it go. Sometimes you're dealing with a person who doesn't really want information. They're out there spouting stuff off.
Jesus would say in Matthew 7, "You don't throw your pearls before swine," but mark my words: If you're a member of a community and you're with other people, you don't ever want to call somebody a swine until you've walked them all the way through what the Bible says you should with a believer who says they love God and maybe isn't living that way.
You have to walk them all the way through until they are exposed to the fact that their words don't match their works and they have no interest in dealing with their struggles. Then, it says, you can treat them like a tax-gatherer or a non-believer. By the way, how do you treat a tax-gatherer, a Gentile, or a non-believer? You love them. You don't treat them as projects; you treat them like people. You call them to repentance, and you speak the truth to them.
What Proverbs 26:4 is basically saying, though, is, "Don't become a fool to answer a fool." There's a good reason for that, because they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. The Bible is saying, "Don't answer a fool like a fool." Verse 5 is saying, though, "Look. Erroneous ideas that have to be corrected should be addressed." If you don't give good answers to objections, sometimes people will think there is no good answer.
You want to simply ask people, "Would you like to talk about that?" If they don't want to talk about it, then you pull others aside. Here's the reality. You're going to be one of two things in this life. Every single person in this room is a teacher, and you're either going to be a great example or serve as a horrible warning.
Sometimes, when I see people who are living a certain way, I'll let that fool go, because they don't want to listen. I'll call others around and I'll go, "Now just watch this. I know it doesn't look like it right now because they just jumped off the Empire State Building and they're hang gliding and thinking they're having a great time…except they don't have a hang glider. Sooner or later, the reality of that experience is going to catch up to them."
By the grace of God, let's keep shouting to them in every way we can. Let's see if God can flap them back up by grace before they go splat on the concrete. We don't want to give up on them, but if they don't want to listen and they're filled with all their fury of rebellion, all we can do is remind ourselves of things that are true.
The Bible will tell you you have to be discerning in understanding what you're doing. Don't just respond because you've been provoked. Love is never provoked. If you read forward into Proverbs 27, you'd come across this verse. It says, "A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them."
That means if you put a 50-pound bag of sand or a rock on your back and someone said, "Scale that hill," that's not going to be easy. If you live around a fool who's always provoking you, that's going to be really tough. Proverbs 26:4-5 is saying, "Be careful. You had better be an abiding, wise person to determine how to respond." When I respond, I want to always speak the truth in love with gentleness and reverence. I want to have open rebuke when it's appropriate, but there are times to not waste your pearls. That's 4 and 5.
Verse 6: "He cuts off his own feet and drinks violence who sends a message by the hand of a fool." That wouldn't be a good thing to do. By the way, we are called God's evangelists. Eu means well, and angelos means messenger. We are God's good messengers. If you get people who mess up the message, or worse yet, get distracted on the way to delivering the message, or frankly, don't think the message isn't that big of a deal…
If you were a king and you sent a courier to deliver a message, and that courier either thought the message wasn't important or thought there were more important things they should say when they got there, because they didn't want to be received poorly, how would you view that person? Every single one of you in community with other people are God's messengers.
You have to ask yourself, "Am I saying in my Community Group what God wants me to say?" That's going to make you go, "Wait a minute. I don't know what God wants me to say." That's going to get to the number one thing I'm talking about today. Don't be in community with fools, but don't be a fool and make others be in community with you.
Lest I forget it, I'm going to say it now. Any relationship is only as healthy as the least healthy person in it. When you talk about changing your marriage, you don't want to focus on that person. Here we go again. Draw a circle around yourself, and change everything in it. That's the best chance you have to make this relationship work.
Do you want to make your community better? Devote yourself to Christ. Make yourself everything Christ wants you to be, and out of the overflow of that intimate relationship with him, start to spur others on to love and good deeds. Don't be the fool the community has to leave. Be the messenger of righteousness and love who is lifting others up. This church is only going to be as healthy as every small Community Group, and every Community Group is only going to be as healthy as every individual person in it.
For you to be effective in this church or as a member of a body, you have to do your part. You have to first of all be a part of the body. What do you call it when somebody's arm is severed and thrown to the side? It's called dismemberment. It's grotesque, sad, and horrifying. That's the state you're in if you are not functioning in intimate accountability underneath a headship God himself has said we should be in. It's an irregular thing for a believer.
Right now, every single one of us has to be a healthy, functioning part of the body. By the way, there are times when all of us get sick or stung or there's a problem. We don't run off those people. We love them. We say, "Let's address this." All you have to do is say, "I'm hurting right now." Where you have problems is when people say, "There's nothing wrong with me." That's what a fool does.
It's like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You come up and lop his arm off, and blood is spouting directly out of the side. You go, "Dude, are we done?" and the guy looks down and goes, "It's all good. It's just a flesh wound." You go, "It's not a flesh wound. You've just lost your arm."
Then he mocks you, and he keeps charging on, so you cut off his other arm. He keeps charging you, so you cut off one leg. Then he's sitting there, and he can't even kick you, so you cut off that leg. Then he threatens to come back and bite your bloody head off… That's a fool. If you have somebody in your Community Group who is struggling, we don't get rid of them. There are times every single one of us lose…
Through just war with this world we start bleeding out. That's where we come around and love. We don't shoot our wounded here. We heal our wounded, but if you have somebody who is sick and bleeding, and they don't acknowledge it, that's a fool. If you have somebody who doesn't want somebody else to step in with them and look over them to make sure they are well, that's a fool.
Look at verse 7: "Like the legs which are useless to the lame, so is a proverb in the mouth of fools." In other words, he can't put it to work because he doesn't know how to use it. He disagrees he needs to use it in the way it was intended to be used. Verse 8: "Like one who binds a stone in a sling, so is he who gives honor to a fool." You are arming somebody who is going to wound you if you are a companion with anybody who does not believe God's Word alone is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.
If you put people in your life, if they are in your community, and they're either indifferent toward God's Word or indifferent toward their necessity for Jesus to live in and through them, and you give them authority in your life, you are putting a stone in a sling and letting them get ready to launch that at your head, and it will not go well with you.
"Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard, so is a proverb in the mouth of fools." Think of it this way. We don't have big thorns today. That's not a big problem, but like a knife or a loaded gun in the hand of a drunk person… That's not a good situation. "Like an archer who wounds everyone, so is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by."
In other words, you be careful who you get into community with. This is why the Bible says, "…what fellowship has light with darkness?" Why are believers fellowshipping with unbelievers? I want to say to you again, you have to look around your Community Group and ask yourself this question:
"Is everybody here all in with Christ? We might be at different stages, but is everybody here all in? Do they all want more of this God who has rescued us from the frigid waters of self-reliance and the way that seemed right to us, but that we all acknowledged was the way of death? Are we here to help each other and encourage each other? Are we devoted individually to learn more of Jesus, so we can bring Jesus to each other? Are we inviting each other in to help us winnow out the chaff that's in our lives, so the fruit of the Spirit can blossom?"
If you're not in relationship with people like that, and if you're just in with folks who are floating along together, it will not go well with you. Let me give it to you this way. There are certain things you can have around you for a long time that won't hurt you, but there are certain things that, if they got near you, are going to be a guaranteed problem.
I came across this story and couldn't believe it. This is from St. Louis, Missouri. This guy's name is Arthur Lampitt. Arthur is happy because he has something in his hand that used to be a problem. Really, it wasn't a problem for 51 years.
Here's the deal. Not long before that picture was taken, Arthur stumbled into a courtroom and went through a metal detector, and it went off. They pulled him aside and got the wand out, and they got to his left side, and it went off on his left arm. They patted him down and couldn't find anything, and they went, "Huh. What's going on inside of you?" He goes, "I have no idea. That's never happened before."
He went to the hospital to get x-rayed, and they saw something in his arm. He thought, "They messed up when I did surgery 51 years ago. They must have left something in my arm." He had surgery 51 years prior as a young 20-year-old. They go, "Look. It's not bothering you. Here's a note for the next time you go through some kind of metal detector. If it happens again, you're all good."
He does what every 75-year-old who just set off a metal detector does. He went home and started moving concrete blocks. While he was doing that, all of a sudden, something happened that made his arm hurt. He went inside and said, "This is the craziest thing. Now my arm hurts." His wife said, "It doesn't just hurt. It's swelling up."
His arm got bigger and bigger, so back to the hospital they go. This time they dive in and do some surgery on Arthur, and they pull out this seven-inch-long metal object. It wasn't a surgical instrument. They could not figure out what it was. He goes, "I did have surgery, though, a long time ago."
He had surgery a long time ago because he ran his 1963 T-bird into the back of a truck. He hurt his hip really badly, so they were focused on that. His buddy went back, looked through pictures, and showed him this picture. He said, "Arthur, we're missing the left turn signal lever." That left turn signal lever was in his arm for 51 years. That's all to say, if you're remodeling a '63 Thunderbird, he has a part for you if you want to go get it.
That's crazy. I tell you that story because it's amazing. You can apparently have a seven-inch-long left turn signal in your arm for five decades, and it's not going to go poorly for you, but you can't have a fool for five weeks. If you have a fool in your Community Group and you don't know, there's a chance there are two of them.
If we have a bunch of Community Groups that are filled with fools, we have a church of foolish people and a world that's going to be very confused and unimpressed. That is why we have to be individuals who go, "I don't want any fools in my Community Group, so, God, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Let Watermark be a church where there are no fools. Change me. We have to deal with me."
Here's the deal. Just to warn you, there's something biblically worse than a fool, and there's a pretty high bar here for a fool. To wrap it up, verse 11 says he's like a dog that keeps going back to its vomit. Do you know who it is? It's in verse 12. It says, "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."
Let me explain this to you. This is what you have to be really careful of: When you get before God's Word, you look at it, and you are like a man who looks at himself in the mirror, to quote James, you see something there, and you go, "Nah. No one is doing that anymore. None of the guys in my group are doing that anymore, but I'm not really worried about them right now.
It's just me. I'm going to ignore it. I'm going to be around a bunch of other guys who help me ignore it. I'm going to call it community, and we're going to keep moving along. When our lives are hurting, and others admonish us, we're going to call them names and make it about them. It's never going to be my fault and my problem." There's nothing quite so creative as a person in the midst of self-justification. "If my marriage didn't work, it must be her fault." "If I'm not growing, it must be the community's fault."
Instead of just being a person who takes a lot of personal responsibility, who asks God to search them, know them, and try them to see if there is any hurtful way in them or if there are any anxious thoughts and then begs that God leads them in the everlasting way, we have to be individuals who go, "Look. I'm going to be humble before God's Word. I'm going to make sure I get busy and I'm not wasting my time."
I'm not surprised when the world wastes its time, but we're not of the world, right? We're people who, by the grace of God, are not numbing ourselves in the frigid waters of Dallas, Texas. We have been plucked out of darkness into his marvelous light. We say we know there's a God who is there, and if you really walk with him, he's going to lead to blessing.
If you take this book of the law, you meditate on it day and night, so you might be careful to do according to everything written in it, and you devote yourself to it, you believe it's going to make your way prosperous and successful. It's going to go better for you. You might still get cancer, and you might still have tragedy in your life, but you're going to know it's going to lead to the kind of life that is filled with peace and joy. You're going to be a marvel to many, because he is your Rock of refuge to which you continually go, to quote Psalm 71.
If we just float along, waste our time, and don't devote ourselves to Jesus, we're going to be a very average community. We're not going to serve our world the way we should. God is going to look at us the way we would look at anybody who isn't a faithful messenger, and it will not go well with us in this life or the life to come. As we start 2015, I want to say, we have to address, individually and personally… Now I'm not talking about community. I'm talking about you. I'm asking you to really take a look at who you are.
When you're on an airline, and they're going through all the safety precautionary stuff at the beginning, they say something like this: "In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will automatically drop from the ceiling." What do they tell you to do next? "Please make sure everybody else in this airplane is getting it done." No, that's not what they say. They say, "Please securely place the oxygen mask over your own mouth, don't freak out that it doesn't inflate immediately, and then care for small children or adults who act like children next to you."
Does everybody see the application here? If this is going to be a healthy church, every single person who is a true member of the universal body of Jesus Christ has to go, "Every day, I have to put that oxygen mask of abiding with Jesus on my life. Before I start trying to help my community, I have to make sure I am taking what God has given me and abiding with him non-stop."
If you don't devote yourself daily, it doesn't matter what Community Group you're going to be in, because there will be a fool in it. One of the problems with the core part of our church is we have individuals who are not daily abiding with Christ and devoting themselves to his Word. Sometimes, if they get around each other it then becomes a community of fools. That begins to be a little leaven that leavens the entire dough. Let me bring it to you like this:
To my Fort Worth friends, if you were more excited about TCU's win than the joy of sharing your faith this last week and following hard after Christ, that is a problem. If you were more devoted to the outcome of the Baylor game, and if you were more devastated by Baylor's loss than the loss of holiness in your life or the loss of the Spirit's influence in your family, that is a concern.
If you want to know more about your college's recruiting class than the recurring truth in God's Word, that's a problem. If you're looking more forward to your favorite TV show releasing some new first-run episodes this year than renewing your first love with Christ, that's a problem.
I love college sports. There are certain shows that are funny. I've obviously seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (It was the BC days, but I've seen it.) It has scenes that are funny. Some of us are given more to the inane than we are to the eternal. That's all we live for, and we are exactly what Blake talked about last week. We are constantly distracted and choked out by this bombarding morass of distraction, and we don't devote ourselves to anything except the inane. People are counting on us to be God's messengers, and we have nothing.
I'll continue. If you are more committed to physical discipline than spiritual discipline heading into 2015, that's a problem. If you're more concerned with your child's grades and future college degree than your child's spiritual development and future devotion to Christ while they're in college, that's a problem.
If you care more about the next season of The Bachelor than you do how you should live as a bachelorette, that's a problem. If you care more about today's playoff game with the Cowboys than you do about today's payoff for being in authentic, biblical community, that's a problem. If your everyday new day resolution is not to devote yourself to learning more of, abiding more with, or yielding more to Christ and the Holy Spirit, then that, my friends, is a problem.
First Timothy 4:7-8 tells us, "But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." How are you doing with devoting yourself to things that matter?
Every year, Google lists the top searches by state, and they also list the top searches in general. This is what America searched for in 2014. "What is ALS?" "What is Ebola?" "What is ISIS?" "What is Bitcoin?" "What is asphyxia?" "What is Gamergate?" The top trending searches for the entire year were trying to look up about Robin Williams, the World Cup, Ebola, Malaysian Airlines, Flappy Bird… That's all you need to know about what's going on.
The top 10 life advice searches: "How do I AirDrop?" "How do I contour?" "How do I vote?" "How do I kiss?" I'll tell you how you kiss. The Scripture says a person who gives the right word at the right time is like a kiss on the lips. Do you want to kiss well? Do you want to greet one another with a holy kiss? Then you have to have something to say.
I recently had an experience I didn't think was going to happen. Glenn Beck got ahold of the Declaration series. You may or may not have heard this. He was encouraged by it, and he wanted me to come share it with him and America, first on his radio show and then later on his TV show. It's what I've been telling you, what we've been talking about in terms of what God wants us to understand about where life, liberty, and happiness come from.
I go, "Okay." His producer calls and says, "Todd, come in here. Glenn usually does about 20 minutes of commentary on the things that have happened throughout the day, and then he'll probably bring you on for one segment. It'll be about 10 to 12 minutes." I go, "Great." I show up at Glenn Beck's show. He has 15 million viewers per day and 50 million unique viewers over the course of a month.
I get there, and Glenn says, "Todd, I'm so glad you came. I want you to know I really want to let you have the show today." I go, "Glenn, I'm glad to be here." He said some other things with some pretty powerful metaphors I just kind of let go about what he felt like he was called to do. I let them go, but I said, "Glenn, your producer told me you were going to talk about the current events, and you might bring me on for 10 to 12 minutes."
He looked at his producer and goes, "I want Todd to have the show today. Todd, I'll do about 3 minutes, and then you have 40 minutes to talk to America. I have a blackboard up there and a pen. We have a couple of commercial interruptions and some things we have to do, but there are 43 minutes of live broadcast time. We start in 35 minutes. You're on." I'm thinking to myself, "I hadn't really prepared a message for America, Glenn, that I'm ready to give."
I sat there, and I said, "Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer." I said, "I am a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. I'm not going to come and be persuasive with my ideas. I'm going to give them some real truth, real quick. I'll do what you want."
I said, "Glenn, let's make it a dialogue, but I'll go as much as you want." He did what he really felt like he wanted to do, which was to ask questions. I largely talked for that entire show about things we felt like were seminal to the future of blessing in America from a biblical perspective.
Here's the deal. It might totally freak you out to be put on TV in front of 15 million people and have somebody say to you, "Go," but I believe God is no less passionate about your readiness to do that with five people than he was with me in that moment. By God's grace, I was ready. The reason I was ready is because I devote myself daily to his Word.
I know, if I'm going to be a steward of the mysteries of Christ and a servant of him, I must attend myself to it. I can enjoy the TCU football game, I might catch a little bit of the Cowboys game later today, and I might find a show that's appropriate and doesn't poison my soul that I get a little bit of fun in the middle of, but I am not given to those things.
I am given to not walk in the way of the wicked, stand in the path of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers. I am given to journey through God's Word and to make it my delight. People in this church need you to do the same thing. When you show up before them, God wants you to go, "Are you ready?"
Are you going to step up and go, "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight today as I'm with these people," and do you have something to say? My Bible says we are a kingdom of priests and we are all to be ready. This is what happens. As we get ready for this new year, we can't be here. We can't be like this.
In the seventeenth century, the 1600s, in France, a guy named Blaise Pascal, a mathematician, a scientist, and a man of faith, was observing what France was doing. It was a move toward the Revolution. They were not willing to deal with their mortality, emptiness, and despair. He said, "I have often said that the sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room," and, "Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for miseries…" In other words, entertainment consoles us from our miseries. "…and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries."
Gang, you're spending your time doing something. I don't know what you're hitting Google search for, but if you're not spending time going to God's Word consistently, and if you're looking to be distracted and entertained by college football, some TV show, pornography, some fantasy, some book, or anything other than the eternal Word of God… If you're given to inane things, not only do you not have something to say, you're a fool, and you're numb to what is true. The community of which you are a part will not be what God wants it to be.
We must be about disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness. Let me ask you a question. If every leader at Watermark pursued learning at the rate you're pursuing learning, what kind of church would we have? If everybody in our body… If this church was defined by your appetite for spiritual things, what kind of church would we be?
If you're a member of this church, we're going to be what we are now becoming. There is going to be a rot in this room if we don't spur each other on to love and good deeds. Before I talk about how we should live in community, we have to talk about how we're living individually. Full devotion is normal for the believer. Every one of us needs him. God expects you to seek him.
That's why we have Join the Journey. It is not just some exercise so we can submit it to some church program award ceremony which, to my knowledge, doesn't exist. That's not why we did it. We did it to help you learn. This year we put in interactive opportunities in the way you communicate at the bottom.
There is some fellow I've never met who responded to my Journey entry on January 1, when I wrote that very first Journey. He shot out some questions. Ted Mattos doesn't even live in Dallas, but Ted was reading God's Word, and he had a question. It was the day I had written a devotional about it.
Ted said, "Hey, I'm reading there in Genesis 1:29 where God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed. It shall be food for you.' He goes on to instruct it should be food for animals. I want to know what's God's intention. Are we to be vegetarians?" I thought to myself, "Way to go, Ted. Way to read God's Word, see something there, and go, 'Maybe that's instructive for me.'" I jumped on with Ted. Every day: "Do you have a question? Do you want to read through the Bible with us?"
You go, "What in the world is going on in Genesis 6? Who are those people?" The first thing we're going to do is, if you're here, we're going to drive you back to your community and go, "Ask everybody in your community that question. Use the question you got from studying God's Word to grow everybody else."
Let's say Ted is in your group, and he just read in 1:29, correctly, might I add, that it looks like God gave us vegetation. There was no death on the earth prior to sin. This is two chapters before sin. You can make an argument, largely from silence, that we're to have dominion over the animals, and harvesting an animal for food was okay. We don't know animals were septurnal like we were intended to be at that particular moment. It's a little bit of an argument from silence that we have to be vegetarians from Genesis 1, but it's certainly a possibility.
I responded to Ted. You can go back and read it yourself. It's still there, and it'll be there all year. Go to January 1. Just click on the link, and you'll see me walk through there. At the very end, I basically sign off by saying, "I have to go, Ted. My wife is making chili, and there's meat in it." I don't just tell him that because I like meat. I walk him through why I know it's okay to eat meat. I go to Genesis 9 and Mark 7. I look at the life of Christ, who is our example in all things. He ate lamb and fish. I walked him through.
Are you ready if your Community Group goes, "I want to do what God's Word says," and they come to you and say, "It looks like we should be vegetarians"? Are you ready to answer that? It's what God wants. Here's the deal. If I have to show up at your Community Group and share with all of you about any aspect of God's Word, I am willing to do it, but gang, I won't have to do it for long.
Let's say I'm the only person who is filled with biblical knowledge at this church. By God's grace, that's a thousand times over wrong, but if I came to your Community Group and helped you with something, what I would then say is, "Hey, gang. Guess what. The next time somebody asks me this question, I'm going to send you eight to answer it, because you know the answer from God's Word. I want you to keep studying, and every time you have another question, ask me."
That's how you learn. If you learn something and you don't need to ask anybody, but you know it's true now, that's great. By the way, you might say, "Hey, Todd, I'm all committed to having a prosperous and successful 2015. I'm going to be committed to the Journey and be faithful to God's Word, so I know it's going to go well with me."
You would say, "Todd, I don't even need to call you and ask you that, because I have been already reading in Genesis, and I find the three guys who are first mentioned as real heroes of the faith, Abel, Enoch, and Noah, all believed in God and were faithful. I don't need to call you as to what prosperous and successful mean, because I know it must not mean we're not going to ever die, because Abel was murdered, Enoch was taken up and didn't die, and Noah lived, but everybody else died."
There's no exact pattern as to what prosperity and success look like other than you will be pleasing to the Lord, and God will shake it all out in the end. You know, because you've just read the first few chapter of Genesis, whatever it means, it doesn't mean that. You've devoted yourself daily. How are you doing? What kind of church do we have?
The Bible says, "You ought to be able to say the things you have learned, received, heard, and seen in me. Practice these things, and the peace of God will be with you." If you can't say that in your Community Group, you're living like a fool, not a follower of Christ. Every follower of Christ ought to be able to say today, "The things you have learned, received, heard, and seen in me… Practice these things."
By the way, you make not know cum from siccum, and you may not know how many books are in the Bible, but you can be a leader in your Community Group if you'll do this one thing: Every time somebody speaks with a question, you go, "I have no idea where to go in the Bible to find the answer to that, but I am committed to finding it. Does anybody here know what God's Word has to say about that? Not just some verse pulled out of context, but what would be a good, deep, rich, theological answer to that question?"
Then you lay it out. All you have to do is say, "If none of us know it, Todd said we can call him." By the way, there's going to be a lot of layers before you get to me, because I've made disciples here. There are other places where I'm the first call because I'm in that little group of folks.
We have people all through this church to meet with you, but you have to bring your community together and go, "None of us know. We've looked everywhere we can. Disciple us, so we can be ready for you to send us to the next Community Group that needs us." Spend time daily in the Word.
To close, I want to tell you why we do what we do at the end of every year. We put our church back to zero. Our membership is zero right now. We ask every single member of our church to re-up and go through. We say, "Our goal is to help people believe in Christ, belong to his body, be trained in truth, and be strong in a life of ministry and worship."
Every year, we give you a chance to evaluate in your own heart how you have done in each of those areas. We have this thing called a 4B form which we ask you to fill out, and one more time, re-up and recommit: "This is where I want to be known, this is where I want to grow, this is where I want to be shepherded, and these are things we all agree the Bible says we ought to be about."
We don't look at that individual response from you. We're going to give you a chance to ask yourself questions. Then, we send you a very nice .PDF of your responses that you then can forward to others in you Community Group who will sit with you and say either, "Hey, you were way too hard on yourself. We've seen a lot more growth in that area than you have," or, "Hey, you gave yourself a whole lot more credit."
You can say, "Hey, gang, help me with this. Let's go over this. Every place I said never,let's make it a sometimes. Every sometimes, let's make it an often. Every often, let's make it a consistently. Let's grow in these areas together."
If you're not even willing on time a year to evaluate how you're doing in your devotion to Jesus, that tells us something about your devotion to Jesus. We're not going to tell you that if you don't fill out a 4B form you're going to hell, but we are going to say you're not pursuing heaven with us, and we'd be fools to yoke ourselves with you. Jump in.
Every single person here is going to struggle throughout the year. That's why I need to be in community. I need people to encourage me when I'm fainthearted, help we when I'm weak, and admonish me when I'm unruly. It happens to me every week. My primary community is with my wife. I get all three of those six times a day on a good day, and it's a blessing.
If you devote yourself daily, this is what you're going to run into. I'll be able to say to you what I say to my son and my daughters: "One day, you'll be able to answer the most complex problem in the world with confidence. If you devote yourself daily to God's Word, his people, and his Spirit, one day you'll be able to face the darkest and most difficult of circumstances with hope.
If you devote yourself daily to his Word, one day you'll be sought out by multitudes to provide them comfort, guidance, and leadership in their distress, and you will be found ready, full of unfailing confidence that you can serve them well. One day, you'll be able to stand firm against the passions of your flesh, unwaveringly remaining pure, though all around you fall to the irresistible titillations of the moment.
If you devote yourself daily, one day you'll be able to speak with profound insight, great courage, and unwavering boldness while others are uncertain, constantly changing, and consumed with the opinions of others. If you devote yourself daily, one day you'll be a pillar of strength for a world ready to collapse under the weight of its foolishness.
If you devote yourself daily, one day you'll be able to stand strong when others crumble. If you devote yourself daily, one day you'll speak, and others will be fed by the fruit which pours forth from your lips. One day, you'll be able to reveal to others what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and you'll be able to unveil powerful truths that have never even entered into the hearts of men. This could be you.
If you devote yourself daily, you'll be able to restore souls, rejoice hearts, enlighten eyes, and inform minds with perfection. If you devote yourself daily, one day you'll be ready to step up, lead courageously, speak out boldly, stand firm bravely, stay humble continually, and serve the one true King nobly.
If you devote yourself daily, you will be blessed, and if you delight yourself in the law of the Lord, and on that law you meditate day and night, those who are in community with you will be blessed as well, and this church will be a place of honor for Jesus Christ." Let's go.
Father, I pray we would devote ourselves individually daily, that we would get on the journey, and that we would not be satisfied with anything less than a word from you. Lord, we need you. May that not just be the song that pours out over us as we leave. May it be the abiding attitude of our hearts.
Thank you, Father, for college football. Thank you, Father, for creative comedies. Thank you, Father, for good music, but may we not love them more than you. May we be students of the Word. May we be able to rightly divide the Word of Truth. May we be able to raise our hands in humility and say, "I need somebody to disciple me. I have to deal with my sin. I have to deal with my inability to start a sentence without profanity. I have to deal with my complete lack of knowledge of the Word."
Thank you for Equipped Disciple. Thank you for faithful, godly men and women who are ready to take me in. Father, help us to be your people individually, that we may gather corporately and give you honor. I'm Jesus' name, amen.
If you are here, and you need to join the journey with Jesus, come. We'd love to help you. If you already know him, don't be a fool. Worship him.
Have a great week. We'll see you.