The Authentic Life and the Life That Comes With It

Better Together 2015

In the series, Together, Todd teaches on the core value of "live authentically". All of us are on a journey and struggle with sin and the enemy. It's important that we don't hide, but live in authentic fellowship with other believers. This allows us to be more deeply connected with others, believe the truth about God's love and experience healing from the sin struggles in our lives.

Todd WagnerJan 11, 2015Luke 8:40-48; James 05:16; 1 John 1:5-10; Luke 8:40-48

Good morning, Plano. Good morning, Fort Worth. Good morning, Dallas. This is really an amazing day that we get to gather like this. Dallas friends, you need to know that some of us are up serving in Plano, taking care of some of the children up there and greeting and whatnot as that body gets its feet on the ground. Plano friends, you need to know we are excited that you're there.

We're excited that room is full and that hundreds of folks have decided to begin to make that the place out of which they will launch into believing in Christ, belonging to his body, being trained in truth, and being strong in a life of ministry and worship to the Plano/McKinney/Allen community, just as we seek to do here in Dallas.

We just opened up probably about a thousand more opportunities to invite people here on Sunday morning, because our friends who are north of here are willing to start opening up thousands of seats up north. I just want to start by doing something this morning that I think will tie us all together. I just want to get on my knees, and I want to say again we don't care about Watermark expansion.

If you're visiting up in Plano specifically this morning, you need to hear me say this. We're not trying to spread Watermark to Fort Worth. We're not trying to spread Watermark to Dallas. We're not trying to spread Watermark to Plano. We are trying to follow Christ and to share with others the hope we have found. Right now, we believe the best way to do that is by having one staff that's meeting in different locations and sharing and discipling others.

We don't know what God is going to do with these other locations, but I know what we want him to do, and that is to further his kindness in the lives of people he loves. We don't want the name of Watermark to go out. We want the name of Jesus Christ to go out. You need to know that about us. We are to gather together in local communities, and local communities typically had a name. The church at Philippi.

The church in Dallas has a lot of different names because we gather in much smaller communities. This little church in Dallas, this church in Plano, this church in Fort Worth as we gather this morning is called Watermark, and that means something to us. There's a reason we chose that name. I'm going to talk about that a little bit this morning. I just want to pray and make sure we make this about what it's always going to be about.

If you're a guest and you're here for the first time, just know this: we're not trying to do anything to impress you. We are trying to respond to what God has impressed on our hearts, and that is he is good, he is kind, he loves us, and the more we lift him up, the better it will be for us and the better it will be for others, and because we love him and he loves you, we're doing everything we can to lift him up. Would you all just pray with me?

Father, it is so typical of man that he wants to elevate himself. It's typical of us that we want our name on things. It's typical of us that we want to be known, celebrated, that we want glory. It can look like maybe sometimes, as we spread out what we're doing to other places, that that's what we're about. We are not. We ask that you would just show us. We give you our friends in Fort Worth. We give you our friends in Plano. We give you our friends right here in Dallas.

If there is a better way to love and serve them, would you not let us miss it? But while we're connected together in every way as a staff, as a family, as we share messages and God's Word together, our prayer is that the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart and everything we say and do would be acceptable in your sight, because you love people, Lord.

I thank you for other communities of faith that aren't called Watermark that are streaming with us this morning around Texas, in military bases around the world that are watching. Lord, we're humbled by that. We pray that they would not see Watermark or Todd or any other communicator, that they would hear from you and be reminded of your goodness. So Lord, we as a community of believers…

Not everybody who's here believes in you, and we're glad that they trust us to come, but as a community of believers, we want to be servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. We need your help to do that. Would you help us be deeply connected to you? Would you glorify yourself? Would you make disciples? Would Jesus become more famous, and him alone? In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

I have to tell you, when you do stuff like that… It's a little awkward for me, because I don't want to do that so you go, "That was really humble for Todd to get on his knees." It maybe looked humble. It maybe looked like something a pastor will do, and that's kind of what I should do: do things that hopefully a pastor would do.

But there is an occupational hazard to being a pastor. That occupational hazard is that you become an individual who feels like to do your job well you need to always look like a pastor, and most of us believe that if you are a pastor what you look like is that you always have your life together. Well, let me just let you in on a little secret. I definitely don't have my life all together. There is a reason we talk about Jesus here and not anybody on our staff.

We are an imperfect group of people. We have an imperfect pastor, an imperfect staff, but we have a perfect Savior and a perfect mission, and as we say every time we seek to connect others with us as members of the body of Christ, "If we don't lose you on the first three, that we're an imperfect pastor, imperfect staff, imperfect church, we'd like to talk to you about the fourth, that we believe we have a perfect mission."

Sometimes guys who do what I do can get to where they don't feel the freedom anymore to be somebody on the way to Christlikeness, and that means they don't feel like they can share with you the truth about their life. Gang, when you stop sharing the truth about who you are and about your life, about your need, about your awareness that there is an Enemy roaring around, seeking whom he might devour…

When you stop clothing yourself in humility, which means you know absolutely that you have to be part of a body, a herd, a commune, a community of people who will do the business of abiding with Christ with you, you are in very dangerous places. I don't know if you've been watching Animal Planet much lately or the National Geographic specials. If you're a herd animal and you don't run with the herd…

If you're a wildebeest and you're over there smoking cigarettes with lions, you're not tough. You are next is what you are. Fools isolate. Wise men seek solitude so they can be reminded of the goodness of God, the promises in his Word, the kindness that defines you, so that when you fellowship with others you can be to them a gift because you are abiding with the truth that you are deeply, intimately acquainted with.

We are talking about how we can be successful in every way that God intends as we come together. Gang, there is nothing more important than how we gather. Now listen. We appropriately gather communally here. We can share resources, do things together, and because of the diversity and strength of who we are in a larger entity, we can do things we couldn't do if we were a smaller community of 10, 20, or 50 people.

It has been amazing to watch what we collectively have been able to do together, but one of the dangers of this is sometimes people think coming together is this, one to many. We're reminding you in this series that to be a real part of the body of Christ you have to be an individual who is connected to others, where your name is known, where you are intimately acquainted with a shepherd who knows you and loves you and knows what the threats are in the environment in which you live.

The Bible does not separate saints from the common believer. All of us are called to be priests. All of us are called to be shepherds of one another. Now there are offices that some of us fill, but all of us are called to love one another, to care for one another, and to spur each other on to love and good deeds. If you are not in a smaller community where the things I'm going to be talking about this week…

It starts with you being in community with people who are devoted daily to abiding with Christ and knowing him. That's why we don't have community with people who aren't really sure that Christ is worth being devoted to. We love you. We have places for you to process who Jesus is, to encourage you, to disciple you, to entertain questions from you, to not be threatened by your disbelief that that's the right way to live.

But once you say, "I believe Jesus is God. I believe he died for me. I believe he wants to graft me back into relationship with him and that part of the means of grace he gives me is to have a relationship with his people, his body. I am committed to that, and I'm committed, like any healthy part of a body, to be connected to the head and to take my commands from the head and be devoted to the head, who is Jesus, and to do my part for the rest of the body, to connect in much smaller communities…"

That's what we talked about last week, that every one of us has to move that direction, and if you connect yourself to somebody who's not connected to the head you're going to be very uncoordinated. It's going to be very clumsy. It's not going to go well with you. There are six characteristics of healthy communities. The first one is that individually we are devoted daily, continually, to Jesus. Secondly, that we live authentically with one another.

The name Watermark, if you're new and joining us from Plano because friends invited you or you're new here in Dallas or Fort Worth this morning… Watermark was chosen because it engages a conversation with you. A watermark is three things. When there's a flood and the water rises to a certain level and then recedes, there's a line there on the wall. It leaves a lasting impression.

We believe if we're God's people, if we know him, if our lives have been redeemed and we are being changed and we speak things that have not entered into the mind of men and see things that mere finite men can't see because God has revealed them to us, not in a special way but through his Word, which is special revelation… If we can love in a way that hasn't even entered into the hearts of men…

We believe if we do that, long after we're gone, evidence that we have been there, that the grace of God has shown up through a people who know him, will remain. Plano ought to be forever different every place a true community of believers is established. Fort Worth ought to be more different now than it was 18 months ago because there's another community of believers who are establishing a beachhead to disciple one another and spread out into that community.

Dallas ought to be a different community than it was in 2000 because thousands of us have been seeking after him. It's a lasting impression. Secondly, it's a symbol of excellence. You find a really nice piece of paper, and there's a watermark on there. You hold it up to the light and you can see it. It's a symbol of quality. We believe if God is who he says he is he is worth our very best, and we believe excellence honors God and inspires others.

We define excellence as doing the best you can with what you have. We bring it all to him. If it's true that Christ is God and he died for me, then no sacrifice is too great. Then thirdly, a watermark is a symbol of authenticity. Our dollar bill has a watermark on it. You hold it to the light and you can see a watermark in there, so it's not easily counterfeited. You can see it's the real McCoy, the real thing. We are committed to that level of authenticity with one another.

Now the danger of what I do is that I can believe if I don't impress you that I'm really holy and do things holy men do you won't let me serve in this way, and that's setting me up… I've heard too many guys say, "I just don't have anybody I can be real with." I've heard men counsel guys like me, "You have to find somebody outside your church you can be real with," which is amazing to me, because I'm going to tell you what that's going to do. That's going to breed…

Everybody in the church is going to find somebody they can be real with. Maybe it's going to be somebody they pay $150 an hour to have an authentic friendship with them because they signed some agreement with the state that they can't reveal anything they say to them because of the way we operate within the professional counseling community. That's not the way to get well.

When you tell somebody whatever you want but they can't really help you deal with it or bring others into your life to deal with it in a way that is loving, it might make you feel better for a moment, but you're not going to change that way. You might have grown up, if you were ever around a church growing up, and you saw some places like this. This is the occupational hazard of my job.

This is a picture of an old church. You can see we used to lock you in like cattle, like you can't leave until we're done. If you look up front there on the right, you'll see a little green piece of cloth with a cross on it. That is the pulpit. Here's a stone pulpit. I think you have Calvin on one side and Luther on another and other great saints in some Protestant church. It is elevated, it is enclosed, and when you get up there to communicate and to preach it is easy to hide.

In fact, that was part of the mindset. (This comes back to me now. We'll go to another picture in just a second.) When you communicate sometimes… They used to put the preacher in a robe, because it's not about the preacher. It's the Word of God. We don't want to focus on the preacher, so we put him in a robe so he's kind of anonymous was the original idea there. The same thing with the lectern. The lectern was lifted up, and here came this preacher in a robe who's hidden behind this orifice, this structure, and he could not easily be seen.

Now here's the problem. That's appropriate that we don't make it about the messenger. As I've said here before, we don't make our mail about our mailman. We make it about the mail. Our mailman should just deliver the mail. It's just insane today that people go to churches or move to communities of faith because they like the mailman. The mailman is hip and dresses cool. He's funny.

It's a bad reason to move to a neighborhood because you have a hip, cool, funny mailman. You just want somebody who's going to bring the mail. The mail here is the Word of God. What you should do is take the things I say and test them to make sure that what I'm saying is consistent with what God says. That's how you test the mailman. "Is this the mail I'm supposed to be receiving?" These aren't Todd's ideas.

I was asked a number of years ago to come speak to a group of young men and women who were training for ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. They every year do a thing called Spiritual Formation Week, and they ask somebody to come and speak four times to those students consecutively. That's a really tremendous privilege and responsibility. It kind of sets the stage for their entire semester, and you talk about heart formation.

This was an amazing thing, because at Dallas Seminary when you go to speak, you're talking not just to the student body, but all of the professors are wrapped around you in a U. They're all right up there with you, and they're, in a sense, standing with you as you communicate to the students. Many of these guys were guys who when I took classes down there, when I would go and grab a class here and grab a class there, as I did for about 12 years, I knew these men. I read their books. I was encouraged by these men, and I really cared about these students. I wanted them to grow and learn.

I was there, and I was getting ready to speak, and I had to use the restroom. I ran to the restroom really quickly. Chapel down there starts around 10:30. It was 10:25. I ran in, and I have to this day no idea what happened. Janet Jackson had a very famous wardrobe malfunction. I had a very awkward bathroom malfunction. I have no idea how it happened. All I know is I came out of that place, and I was wet in spots you weren't supposed to be wet.

I'm not talking about, guys, I pulled my britches up too quickly. I'm talking about it was all over the back. It was wet, because I had needed to, as you would, sit down. You might be going, "Todd, this is a bit too authentic," but let me let you into a little secret. If you think I don't defecate and urinate, you're in the wrong place. The very first person I ever heard cuss was my great-grandmother, who I knew.

I knew my great-great-grandmother, because we had a series of 18- and 17-year-old pregnancies in the Wagner family. My great-grandmother one day in my presence was talking about the president and didn't like what other people were saying, and she finally said, "Don't give me that. His excrement stinks just like mine does." I thought, "Wow. That's a very interesting fact about our president and to hear my grandmother say it that way."

I don't know how, but when I stood up there was no excrement, but there was wet all over the back of my pants. I don't know if there was a mess there before I sat down. All I know is I stood up, and I was about to walk out there, and I had a problem. I did the best I could to try and clean myself up. I had no chance. Then I go sit down, and the chair I sit down in… I kind of quickly moved to the very back wall.

I sat down, and the chair I sat down in had a big old looped arm like this. When we stood for the very first hymn, it caught my pocket in my pants, which were open, and I stood up, and my right pocket ripped. So now I have a ripped front right pocket like I'm some guy looking to expose himself, on the back it looks like I can't control myself, and I'm going to show you a picture of me in that moment. Here I am. What do you see? Nothing.

You have no idea that I'm very uncomfortable, that I've soiled myself and have no pants on, basically, because I'm hiding behind the lectern, which comes from the Latin legere, which means to read. You're supposed to be up there and just read, but here's what happens. Too many times, guys in my job get up there and don't let you see what's really behind, and it leads to them bringing great shame to the name of Christ.

We're trying to be authentic. There's a reason we don't hide up here. I'm not in a robe. I'm just like you. I'm a guy on the journey. Maybe I'm not like you because I've really understood how desperately I need community. I'm maybe not like you because I understand how desperately I need a Savior, but I am not going to let you make me what I cannot be, which is a man who doesn't need community, admonishment, encouragement, and help.

If it freaks you out that I have to email my community and say, "Hey, gang. DirecTV is blessing me with HBO, Skinemax, and Showtime right now through this free weekend, and if I'm not careful, I'll just see what movies are there, and I won't just see what movies are there. There's some stuff there that my heart is still very attracted to…" If that bothers you that I send that email out to guys and say, "Pray for me. Ask me Monday when the free movies are done if I watched any that I wouldn't have watched with my Savior," then you're in the wrong place.

If it bothers you that my wife and I sit and talk about our struggles with others and confess our sins and the way we are seeking to excel still more in our marriage because you think that because I'm a pastor my life has no struggles, then you need to know something. You're not paying attention to, first, the way I've been communicating to you for 15 years, and, second, what the Bible says about men.

They did a study of pastors who fell. (This is coming back to you in case you don't know this.) They did a study on pastors who fell who had been given tremendous opportunity to lead, and they found that there were a number of things they did wrong. First, they counseled the opposite sex. Second, they did not keep a daily devotion to the Lord. They knew enough that they could keep it going without real daily dependence on Christ.

Third, they never thought it would happen to them. They never thought they would be that guy. I want you to know something. I wake up every day knowing I could be that guy. I don't get from waking up at 6:00 in the morning to 6:30 without knowing how desperately I need Christ and the means of grace he has given me, which is his people, or I'm going to be that guy. I'm not going to hide behind some pulpit up here and just impress you. I want to run hard to the end.

Gang, that's what God calls you to do. He calls you to live authentically with one another. There is a story in Scripture that when you see it you're kind of like, "What in the world is Jesus doing?" I'm going to show you what he's doing. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Luke, chapter 8. Luke 8 is a very exciting text. It's one of the busiest days in the life of Jesus. He's constantly being pulled one way or another.

There's a very influential man who has come to Jesus, and he said, "My daughter is very sick. Please come, come, come." So Jesus leaves where he is. He's already fully engaged, but he's moved to go help this man with his daughter. The man's name is Jairus. I want you to watch this, because I'm not really going to focus on Jairus today. In Luke 8:40 (I'm going to read down through verse 48), it says…

"And as Jesus returned, the people welcomed Him, for they had all been waiting for Him. And there came a man named Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus' feet, and began to implore Him to come to his house; for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying."

Can you imagine the intensity of pain and the hope that he had heard about this Jesus who had healed people and cared for others and done amazing things and who had disrupted the effects of sin? He came and said, "You need to know I have a problem I cannot handle. No matter how impressive I am to my world, I have a problem I can't handle, but I believe you can." And Jesus went.

"But as He went, the crowds were pressing against Him. And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone…" It says in another gospel she had been to many doctors and spent much money. Luke is a doctor, so he didn't put that in his gospel, but Mark did. Mark said this woman had been completely depleted of resources. She was still isolated. She couldn't commune. She was considered continually unclean.

You can imagine the way people whispered about her. "I wonder what she's been doing with her uterus that it bleeds all the time. What kind of woman is that?" From what we understand, through no fault of her own, for 12 years she had this ongoing problem. " [She] came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped."

You read that and you go, "What an amazing thing that this woman came by faith and reached out in faith and just said, 'Jesus, I believe you can help me.'" Jairus said, "You have to go with me to where my daughter is." This woman said, "If I can just touch him," and she just reached out and touched his cloak, and immediately she was healed. It's a great story if it stopped right there, but something horrifying is about to happen.

Jesus said, "Hey, who just touched me?" You're like, "Oh no. Oh no." First of all, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing on you everywhere. This is the Million Man March right here from Capernaum back to where Jairus wants us to go. I bumped against you. John bumped up against you. There are people all around. We can't take a step without hitting… What do you mean who touched you?"

Jesus said, "No, no, no. Someone touched me in faith. I was aware that somebody touched me in a way that caught my attention." He says, "I felt the dunamis, the power go out." Whenever you have faith in God, there's always power that goes out. It's healing power and sustaining power. Verse 47: "When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how [through Jesus] she had been immediately healed."

"I have been bleeding for 12 years. I've been unclean, unloved, unable to be intimate with a man, unable to fellowship with others in my community. I've been isolated, alone. I've dealt with this in private. I've been mocked in my community, but he just healed me," she said. "And He said to her…" Think about some of these words. "Daughter…" That's a very intimate expression. "…your faith has made you…" How about this? She heard the word well. "Your faith has made you well. You're well." Then he says, "…go in peace."

Can you imagine hearing those words? "Daughter, you're well. Peace. Welcome." He wanted her to experience something there that just the touch and go was not going to get done. He wanted her to come and in coming to him experience the transformation and the change, and experiencing the transformation and the change, to confess that he is the one who can do what no one else can do and that she needs continual relationship with him, not or she'll start to bleed out again but that she is her savior. He's the one who has done this amazing thing.

It amazes me sometimes how hard we try to keep one another from knowing how desperately we need Jesus. How many of us go, "You know why I don't like church? Church is full of hypocrites." Literally, it means one who wears a mask. It was used of actors on a stage who would put a mask on, and they would hide behind that mask and take on a different character.

George Burns… You may not know who George Burns is. A very old guy who's now dead. He played God in the Oh, God! movies with John Denver, if you were alive in the 70s. Anyway, George Burns used to say something like this about acting. "The key to acting is honesty, and once you can fake that, you have it made." Very acerbic, George Burns-ish way to get after it. Some people act like that's the key to spirituality. It's looking like you have your life all together, and once you can fake that you have it made in Christendom. No, you don't. You're next.

See, part-time Christians cannot hang with full-time devils. There is a Devil who is constantly around you, seeking whom he might devour, and when you get partitioned away from the herd, you are not tough, you are not wise, you have not ascended to another level of spiritual strength. You are next, and you're not going to be experiencing what Jesus wants for you. I'm asking you to get behind the little lectern of your persona and invite people in.

TED talks are fantastic. One of the reasons people love them is because they're tight. I don't know why you wouldn't love Watermark. I give like four TED talks every Sunday right here for you. One of the things that's fun to do every now and then is go back and look at the most listened to TED talks in the history of TED talks. One of the ones at the very top was given by a woman by the name of Brené Brown.

She is a researcher sociologist at the University of Houston, and she has spent the last decade studying authenticity, shame, courage, and vulnerability. She gives 22 minutes on vulnerability that is one of the most watched TED talks, because everybody can relate to it. What she found is totally counterintuitive to what she thought she would find there. She began to look at what made people really enjoy life, and she said, "What I found is the people who were vulnerable had a deeper connection than anyone else."

Bottom line, she wants to study how connection happens, because people who are connected, she said, are people with the most joy and the fullest of lives. So how do people connect? She said it was counterintuitive, because she thought it might be people who were impressive and that others wanted to be around, but what she found out is what people want to be around is others they can connect to.

Think about that. If every part of your puzzle piece is male and asserts, "I'm good, I'm competent, I'm coming at you," there's no place for somebody to connect with you. There needs to be… And all of us have it, don't we? Some of you might have… I have nothing but little divots in my life. When you let people know, "This is the hole in my heart. This is the pain that's there. This is the need I have. I'm not at all a competent human being. I need you to connect with me…"

See, the truth is all of us have a hole in our heart that's divinely shaped. God alone is the one who can fill that void that needs to be connected with, but he also says, "As I connect with you, one of the things I want you to experience is human interaction. I want you to be around others who are going to love you in my name the way I'm going to love you. They won't do it perfectly. They might do it very imperfectly, but it's the way you are going to experience fullness in this life."

She said this was horrifying to her, because as a researcher, her entire purpose in life is to explain things so we can control them, and her research was taking her to a place where she was faced with this reality that until you are willing to give somebody else control by sharing with them your fears and shame you can't connect. She said she had a crisis, like a full breakdown, when her research kept showing her that competency, strength, self-sufficiency, reliance, and control were not the keys to greatness in life.

She said close friends called it a spiritual awakening, but she said, "No, it was a breakdown." She talked about the things that keep us from really connecting that are called shame and fear. I've said this kind of tongue-in-cheek before. I've heard a friend of mine who I love deeply and I learn a lot from who's a pastor as well… One time I heard him say this, and I've repeated this probably four or five times in these 15 years.

He goes, "Gang, if you knew the truth about me, you wouldn't come here and listen to me speak. I mean, really the truth about the thoughts that go into my mind. I can remember. Sometimes I'm sitting there and I'm speaking, and a thought comes into my mind. I'm like, 'Oh my gosh! That is horrifying.' If people really knew who I was, no one would come and listen to me speak." But he always says, and I agree, "If we knew who you were, we wouldn't let you in, so we're kind of even."

What's amazing is we go, "This is the place we come, and we all put it on, we all fake it, and we all go, 'I can't really connect with anybody there.'" Do you know who connects? People who connect are people who are broken, who have nothing to do except the cavern in their heart has been fully exposed, usually through great devastation through personal choice because they were some wildebeest hanging out with the lion who sought to devour them, and they had no way to deal with it.

By the way, do you know how we deal with most of our guilt and shame? We try and numb it. We are individuals in our country who have the greatest amount of debt of any adult commune that has ever lived. We are the most obese, addicted, and medicated adult commune in the history of the world. Do you know why? Because we're trying, whether it's through a beer or, she would say, through a banana muffin, to numb our shame, our fear, our hurt.

We're isolating and looking for something else to fill us for a moment…our fantasy sports team, our Cowboys today at noon. It'll distract you for three hours. It's what always happens in a culture that is spinning toward destruction. It wants increasing entertainment, something that will numb it. It wants more beer, more football, more porn, more Vicodin, less deep connection.

You will never, ever have authentic, biblical community if you don't tell people, "Hey, this is why I touch Jesus. This is the sin and the brokenness that's in my life. By the way, if I don't walk with Jesus, this is the path I'm going to shoot off on." For me it's porn. For me it's unhealthy relationships with women. For me it's love of comfort. For me it's control and domination.

If I don't hold Christ's hands, those are the paths I am walking on, and every day Jesus is really wanting to say to us, "Hey, who's holding on to me? By the way, if you let go of me, you need to tell everybody else that they should tackle you." Sometimes we get this crazy idea that the more spiritually mature we are, the more we can let go of Jesus and go, "Hey, I'll see you guys. You need to walk with him. I'm going to go over here and be faithful."

When you're devoted daily… Get out of your mind this little quiet time you have for a few minutes, and then you get to run off and just on your own serve God and come back and give a report at night. No. You abide continually with him. Are you living authentically? Are you here with anybody? Do people know why you reached out and touched him the first time? Do people know if you let go of his hand where you're going to go?

Then you are not together, and there is a beast who wants to destroy you, and you are next. You are missing out on everything you were designed for, which is truly to be known. God loves us enough… One of the things it says in Psalm 3 is, "Thou, O Lord, are a shield around me. You're my glory and the lifter of my head." Think about that. I often, when I make mistakes… Just in stupid, athletically… What do you watch? You watched it in the Cowboys game.

You watch. When Romo throws his third pick deep in the fourth quarter and all of Dallas hates him, he's going to do this. That's what athletes always do. I don't think Tony is going to do that. I hope it doesn't. I hope he has a great game. I hope Dallas enjoys it, but I pray that you, my friends who say you know God and are learning more about him, don't need to be entertained by the Cowboys because your heart is full.

There's nothing wrong with football, but it's a lousy god. It's a fine way to fellowship with friends. Make sure you shut the TV off, though, and tell somebody, "Hey, when I get blitzed, this is where the blitz comes from. If Jesus doesn't offensively coordinate my week, this is where I'm going to go down. You guys need to know this. Hey, let's practice and play together. Let's go over the playbook all week long." Are you doing that?

So learn from the Cowboys today. They've been working all week long for this encounter. The difference between the Cowboys and us is the Packers are showing up at noon. Our Enemy is always seeking to devour us, and we need to huddle up even more, and we'd not not huddle up and be fake. Can you imagine the insanity if they line up and one goes, "How are you doing?" "I have no problem. There's no 300-pound guy I have to worry about. I'm good. I'm all cool."

You're like, "That's a dangerous guy to huddle with. He'd better be ready, and he'd better know what's going to happen. He'd better know what to do and where he needs help, and when that formation changes, the blitz package changes, and all of those sets change, that back is going to come over, that other guy is going to handle and assist, and we're going to audible, and all this different stuff, because we're together."

I'll make one more observation from this stuff she found. She said the amazing thing is that when you really face your fears and your shame… It's true that the very core of our shame is fear and the core of our vulnerability is shame, but she said what's interesting is it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, and love.

Some of you are here and you wonder, "Why don't I have real joy? Why don't I have real love?" The answer is that you're still numbing your shame. You're not living authentically. You're trying to impress people, and you're scared to death someone is going to know the truth about you. And no one knows you. You can't have enough beers or banana muffins, and Jesus is inviting you in, and we're inviting you in.

You need to know something. We are a group of people here who celebrate the kindness of our God. This is an amazing fact. Look at this beautiful woman. This is Padma Lakshmi. She is now famous for some of her cookbooks and things like that. I think actually she was married to Salman Rushdie, if you know who he was, who wrote The Satanic Verses and has kind of hidden for years now because of that, but at one point they were married.

She in her early years was a model. When you look at my friend Padma, you might go, "Wow, that's an interesting look for a model." There's a big seven-inch scar. It looks like she has a left turn signal in her right bicep. Well, what happened is when she was a young woman she had a bad car wreck. She had to punch herself out of the car that was about to consume her, and it mangled her right hand and left a seven-inch scar.

Early on, when she was doing photo shoots, because she was a beautiful young girl, they noticed she would always wear long-sleeve shirts. When they said, "No, we need to put this on you," they noticed she'd always kind of stand like this to the camera or they noticed she would do this a lot. They went, "Hey, let us see your scar."

What ended up happening is that when people really saw the scar they were drawn to her because she was unique. Photographers and designers wanted her exclusively to model their stuff. Guys liked it because it made her seem rugged and human to them, and women loved it because it showed she was anything but perfect. The very thing she was trying to hide and cover up was the very thing that made her career take off and distinguished her.

Gang, you want people to connect with you? You have to do something very counterintuitive. You don't tell them how male and competent you are. You show them why you need to be connected. You show them where you have let Jesus meet your deepest need, and you take what Jesus has offered you, which is a body that comes around you and completes the picture of love in your life.

That story with Romo with the "pick your head up" or me when I would make mistakes… I always drop my head down, and I love Psalm 3 because it says, "Thou, O Lord, you're the lifter of my head." He says, "Todd, come here. Look at me. The thing you just did? I died for that. I love you. I don't want you to do it. It's real. We have to make amends. We have to confess it to other people, but I love you."

One of the things God tells us to do… James 5:16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another…" It means agree with God that there are certain things in your life that aren't as they should be. "…and pray for one another so that you may be healed." That doesn't mean if you confess all of your sins you're not going to get cancer or if you have polio you're going to run now. It just means you're going to experience…

Only when you experience from God's people love, grace, acceptance, communal lifting of your head, affirmation, and reminder of restoration back into community are you going to experience the healing God wants for you. Some of you have made it your life's work to never need to confess anything, and you wonder why you're lonely and why your community has no strength. It's because you've never connected.

We get together in this room, and every week when we sing our songs we look like our lives are put together, and by the grace of God we are changing. We're not hemorrhaging out anymore, but we still are human. We still bleed when we're cut. I don't think it's even an unbiblical thing to say all women hemorrhage cyclically. In fact, I could make a case… In 1 John 1:5-10, this is what it says.

"This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." In God there is no darkness at all. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie…" In other words, if you are living in sin, if you are living in addiction, if you are living in emotional or physical affairs, if you're living in brokenness, don't believe for a second that you have fellowship with God. It's human to have the darkness attack us and our flesh still want to veer off course with him.

"…if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." Do you see that? Not only would it be bad for me, as a pastor, to act like I don't have a sin struggle or that sin is still alive to my flesh; it ought to scare you because I'm an unbiblical leader. Listen to me. I need Christ.

The only reason I don't tube it every week is because I am walking with him and I have friends who walk with me, and they ask me questions. They go, "Todd, when you're in solitude, are you in isolation or are you in solitude with the King?" What you do when you're alone is alone who you are. When you come out with other people, if you don't talk about who you really are when you're alone, then you're never going to get the healing God wants for you.

One of the ways God deals with your darkness is he brings light into it. We are called to even expose the evil deeds of darkness. The only way you change is by bringing who you are. If you go to a doctor and are committed to not telling him any symptoms… If you go someplace and you're like, "I'm not going to tell you anywhere I hurt. I'm going to just grin it and act like it so I can walk out of there, so you can think I'm healthy," that is pretty foolish, is it not? Yes.

So much more spiritually. We have to live authentically with one another. We are a bunch of broken people who have connected with Jesus, and we are a bunch of people who daily need to hold on to him and spur each other. We need to admonish each other when we wander. We need to encourage each other when we're tired of holding on. We need to help each other when we're weak, and we need to do it with great patience. The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

A number of years ago, I took my little girl to the orthodontist early in the morning. This was about eight years ago. She was younger. On the way from the orthodontist office to school, we stopped by a Jamba Juice. I walk in there with her, and there was a woman in line in front of us, and she had ordered. We're trying to hurry because I want to get my daughter to school and not miss her first hour of class if I can.

The woman was scrambling and looking. She obviously was having a hard time paying for her product. She goes, "Uh!" She looked at this one little debit card she had, and she finally went, "My spouse took my debit card. She does that all the time." I heard the pronoun. I heard the woman say "she, spouse." The woman behind the counter just kind of looked at her, and I just said, "Hey, would you let me pay for your Jamba Juice?"

She turned around and looked at me, and she goes, "You would do that?" I go, "Absolutely. We've all left our wallet at home." She goes, "Well, my spouse took my card because hers, I'm sure, was out of money. I just grabbed the one that was lying there, and it's hers. Oh, would you do that?" I go, "I would love to do that." She goes, "That is the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me." I go, "Well, it's not that big a deal."

She goes, "Listen. I work at Bank of America. If you ever have any banking needs, here's my card. Please come find me. I'll do anything for you." I go, "That was a $5 Jamba Juice. That was a heck of an investment on my part." I go, "I'll tell you what. My banking needs are covered, but…" And I reached in my pocket and handed her a little Watermark trifold I carry. You can get these things right out here at the visitor's center. I just carry them everywhere.

When you tip well, leave it. Please tip well, whether you leave it or not. When you're in a conversation with somebody, just share it. I go, "I'll tell you what would bless me. Why don't you come hang out with some friends of mine and me as we try and love each other and make our way through life where sometimes debit cards aren't there?" She goes, "I'm going to do that." I went out to my car with my daughter, and I was backing out, and here comes this woman.

She comes quickly across the parking lot, and she knocks on the door on my daughter's side. So I put the window down, and she leaned in. She said, "Can I ask you a question?" I go, "Absolutely." She goes, "How do you feel about same-sex relationships? Are you okay at that church…? I was just reading about what it says. Are you guys okay with same-sex relationships?"

I go, "Well, it depends on what you mean by okay. If you mean does it just freak us out because that's where somebody is struggling, not at all. We all have different struggles. Every single one of us is trying to figure out how to find life and meaning and connection. I happen to struggle with heterosexual perversion, and people aren't okay with it, like, 'That's no big deal, Todd. That's just what you're going to do.' They help me understand the beauty of God's design and his love for me."

She took that card and took a step back, and she goes, "It's not a struggle!" and she fired the card right there in the car and took off. My daughter was just sitting there like this, and she goes, "That was awkward." I said to my daughter, "Which part? The fact that she just fired that card at me or you just found out that your dad is a heterosexual pervert?" She goes, "Both." For the next five to seven minutes, as we drove to school, we talked about brokenness and our need for Jesus and how my need for Jesus was just the same as hers.

I said, "Ally, I don't know right now where yours are. I have a few ideas, but sweetie, we all need Jesus, and when we start acting like we don't and we make certain needs a bigger deal than others, that's not loving, or when we say that certain needs aren't needs at all, that they're normal, that's not loving. We have to live authentically." Authentic people tell the truth. They speak the truth in love. Authentic people bring the truth. Authentic people lay down truth.

Go after truth. Pursue people, even when pursuing them the way God wants you to has them reject you. You're vulnerable enough to say, "I'm going to love you anyway, even if you hate me and call me names. I'm going to run after you the way Jesus runs after me. Some of you are going to know him, and I need you to run with me, but really with me. Not the me that my flesh wants you to know but the me Jesus has saved."

I don't know what you're doing in your community. I don't know if you're in one, but if you're not boldly leaning in with who you are, you are not living the way Jesus wants, and your life is lonely, without joy, without love. To you I say, "Come, change, and tell others of the goodness of God."

Father, I pray that we would do that all across this city, that we would not pretend and play games but that we would be genuinely in love with you, talking about our mutual admiration for the Savior, full of deep dependence and humility. I pray that we would clothe ourselves in humility. You have told us you're opposed to the proud but you give grace to the humble. I pray, Lord, that we would be individuals who would walk in humility.

That I would say to others, "This is where I need you. This is where my flesh is vulnerable. This is what the Enemy wants to do, and if I just take part of what God wants, his full-time attack on me is going to reap great destruction." Father, I thank you for many of us, because we've walked this way this week. There's been joy. There's been life. There's been love. There's been provision.

I thank you, Lord, for others who have not lived authentically. They're still trying to numb themselves with alcohol, with porn, with fantasy, with money, with distraction, with illicit relationships. I thank you, Father, that even today you say to them, "Come." We're not afraid of a single sin, because you died for every single one of them.

But you want people to have to come to you and get well, and when they get well you want them to tell others what they've been healed from and to walk in a community that will then begin to strengthen them and pull them toward you. May we do that with one another, Father. May we come down, if you will, to the river and let ourselves in, and that we would make good on your promise to heal us so we would never hurt again. Amen.

If you are here and have never come, all you weary and heavy-laden, if you're here and you've never deeply connected… When we talk about community, this is what we're talking about. We come lay them down. We lay down the truth. We expose the darkness that's in our flesh, and we say, "I want to live no longer by my flesh, but the life I live in my flesh I want to live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered himself up for me, and I need you to help me, to encourage me day by day as long as it's called 'today.'"

Are you doing that? If not, there is no surprise that you're being devoured and that your numbing devices increase and your joy decreases. Would you come? If you've never found the true and full freedom that comes through Jesus Christ, start there. Check that box in that little perforated section and say, "I want to have a relationship with God." If you want to have a relationship with others, say, "I need to get connected here." We're trying to drive you that direction. Come. Lay down your pride. Find life in Jesus. Love one another. Worship him. God bless you all.