As a Christian, we are called to be personally devoted to Christ by faith and devoted to authentic, biblical relationships with others who are pursuing Christ. Listen as Todd Wagner encourages us to know and be known by others as we encourage, sharpen and admonish each other.
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
Every now and then, somebody comes up and says, "I don't much like the way Watermark does things." I often respond by saying, "Well, tell me how you do things," and they go, "Well, I'm not a part of the organized church. I'm not really a part of a group that is accountable to one another that way." Then I would always say, "Well, I like my way of doing things better than your way of not doing things."
What I would tell you, though, is there isn't any such thing as a "Watermark way." There never has been, and I pray there never will be. Watermark is part of the holy catholic church. Have you ever heard that before? I didn't say Roman Catholic Church; I said holy catholic church. If you grew up in some of the mainline denominations, you would have said the Apostles' Creed. In the Apostles' Creed you would have said something like, "I believe in the community of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the holy catholic church."
I can remember, when my family would go to church periodically, we would go to a Methodist church, and I would always go, "Why are we saying we're part of the Catholic Church when we're Methodists?" Same reason I didn't sing the National Anthem when I was a kid and went to Cardinals games. "Why are we singing we're the 'home of the Braves' when this is the home of the Cardinals?"
I was a conscientious objector twice, once at Busch Stadium watching my Cardinals play and then every Sunday that I would go to church with my family and we would say the Apostles' Creed. I didn't understand. Well, the word catholic just means universal. The Roman universal church is a denomination that has… Watermark is not looking to be a denomination. We don't want to be a denomination, but we want to be part of the universal church.
We have a campus in Plano right now and a campus in Fort Worth. There are other places that are streaming Watermark material and every week using Watermark resources that we're saying, "Look, we're not going to shepherd you. We're not going to have a hierarchy of bishops and cardinals. There is no pope in our Bible. There's no pope in our system. You guys use whatever you want. Just don't call yourself Watermark and don't look to us to be shepherding you."
Right now, our staff meets together every week. We work together, we pray together, and all we do is just are deployed a few miles apart to shepherd different people and make disciples everywhere we go. The Roman Catholic Church is spread out all across the world and has its ties back to leadership, as you know, in Rome. It got started that way, but there is not to be a Watermark way or a Roman Catholic way. There is to be a biblical way.
By the way, the early church was called people of the Way. Did you know that? They were called that because they wanted to live the way God exhorted them to live. They believed that Jesus was God. I sometimes hear people say, "Jesus never claimed to be God." Let me walk you through a little bit of Scripture really quickly.
Not only do other parts of the Scripture say he's the exact representation of his nature, that all of the fullness of deity dwelt in him, that he's the visible image of the invisible God, that we beheld God's glory that nobody had seen at any time in the person of the Word who was always with God the Father but wasn't God the Father.
Not only did Jesus say, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father." Not only did he say, "I and the Father are one," but people who knew God and loved God picked up stones to throw at him and kill him because he blasphemed. Meaning, he attributed to God some attribute that either wasn't true of God or attributed to himself something they thought was blasphemous, in which case they said, "We're stoning you because you, being a man, claim to be God."
So the people who were hanging with him all the time sure thought he claimed to be God, and people who began to gather in his name, the name of Jesus, believed he was the way, the truth, and the life and if they lived in relationship with God through the provision of his life laid down for them it would go well with them, that they would, in fact, be saved by grace through faith in his provision, and they were called people of the Way.
They were never called Christians until they got to Antioch. It was a rather disparaging term. The term Christian means little Christ. You guys are all trying to be little Christs, which frankly, is a compliment to us. We want to be like Jesus in every way. In fact, it's God's design that we should all be conformed into his image, and that's a great segue into what I want to talk about today. Every single one of us wants to be increasingly conformed to his image.
We're talking about how we are to act when we are together, and there is no Watermark way. There is a biblical way, and if Watermark is a biblical church it ought to sync up with the biblical way. We are a rather large part of the universal church. One of the problems with a large church is it's easy to hide here. It's easy to be here and think you're doing what God wants you to do when you go to where the church is gathered and not be a part of the church that God wants you to be.
God doesn't want you to attend a church gathering; he wants you to be a part of the church that gathers, and there's a big, big difference. God asks each of us to be walking in the way. If you are not personally devoted to him, if you have never started your journey into the community of faith by saying, "Identify me with Jesus; I am by faith dipped into relationship with him…" That's what baptism means. It means to dip into or to identify with.
A pickle is a cucumber that was baptized in vinegar. A red shirt is white cloth that is baptized into red dye. It changes its very nature and character when it is baptizo'd (that's the Greek word) into dye or into vinegar. We start by publicly announcing what we have already done by faith, which is to say, "I'm a sinner. I'm separated from God. I believe God has made provision for a sinner like me by, at great cost to himself, paying my debt to God so God could be just and also merciful and loving."
God can never not be just. He must always be just. It's part of his character. But he wants to be loving. So how do you reconcile that? The Scripture says at great cost to himself. I'm going to show you the level of that cost and how God did that today and what that says to us about the way we roll and love one another.
When you're baptized, what you're doing is saying, "Identify me with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which is God's affirming stamp that the wages of sin and death have been overcome, that I might be resurrected into life with him. By the way, the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me. I am a changed/changing man."
There's a time when you do that. It's an outward expression of what you've done individually, that everybody might know, "Hey, count me among your number. I'm like you, a broken person who has been healed, an individual who has been forgiven. So with the love with which I have been loved I seek to love you. With the forgiveness I've received I seek to offer forgiveness to you. The grace I've received I want to extend to you. The acceptance I've received will be the way I treat you."
That's the way we roll. We are grace-filled, forgiving, merciful people who are concerned about righteousness, holiness, and truth. We don't think any of the things we do on our own are what's going to make God love us. We're doing those things because we've come to know the God who created us is that way, and we have been reconciled back into relationship with him, so we learn his way.
Let me show you something amazing. When God created us, every day at the end of what he was doing he said, "And it was good. And it was good. And it was good." Then at the very end of the sixth day, after in the middle of the day saying, "This ain't good," he said, "This is very good." Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." He is sufficient. God is our all in all, but God doesn't ever want you to have only a relationship with him.
He calls you to have a relationship with his people, because as he supplies all of your needs according to his riches in glory in Jesus Christ, part of the way he supplies that is through community, through individuals who are reconciled to him. God wants you to know him, but even when Adam was created, before he completed the sixth day of creation, which involved all of humanity (specifically the yang to his yin), God said, "This ain't good."
Why wasn't it good? Was God not enough? You bet God was enough, but God is spirit, and he knows that man needs touch and affection, so he created woman. Even as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have eternally existed and provided companionship and completion and community for one another, he wanted man to experience that so he would enjoy relationship, as a person who is created in the image of a God who has eternally existed in relationship should.
It is not good if you are a "just Jesus and me" person. If you tell me, "I don't need the institutional church, I don't need the organization that is the church," you're not criticizing the institution of the church; you're criticizing God's sovereign decree. You do need the church. Maybe not the church as it has been bastardized and corrupted by man, but if you are not living in an accountable, known, intimate relationship with his people, you are not experiencing the fullness of God's provision.
I'm not talking about salvifically. I'm talking about experientially, and it isn't right. It is not good. The problem with a large church like this is you can come into a room and be deluded into thinking you're doing what God wants you to do, but God doesn't want you to come where the church is gathered; he wants you to be the church that gathers with others. The problem with small churches, by the way, is that sometimes you can think it's the job of the few who lead the church, the pastor, elders, and significant leaders in that church of 40 to 50…
Do you guys know, by the way, that over 80 percent of the churches in our country are less than 200 people? In most of those churches that have less than 200 people in them, most of the folks go, "Well, the pastor when you're sick should come. The pastor when you have need should be the one who comes and visits you. When you need counseling you go to the pastor." The problem with being in a small church is you can think it's the job of the staff or the clergy to do the work of the church. That is error.
I don't care if you're in a big church where you can hide and no one knows whether you're doing the work or in a small church where you don't have to do the work because a few people can carry the load for you. Both of those are wrong. By the way, in a dead church, whether you're big or small, no one does the work. Nobody knows what's going on in your life. Nobody calls you into account. Nobody encourages you to devote yourself daily, live authentically, pursue each other relationally, counsel biblically, admonish each other as appropriate, and live on mission.
How are you doing? Are you part of a dead church here in this large church that seeks to do what God wants us to do? Are you in a smaller community where you think it's your Community Group leader's job to do all the work of loving and pursuing and counseling? None of those are right. What God wants you to do is to live as a person who is conformed to his image, and I'm going to show you that what God does is he seeks, he initiates, and he pursues.
It isn't good when you don't pursue others and welcome others into pursuit of you. What was true in Genesis 2:18 before the fall is true now after your redemption. It isn't right. It is not good for man to be alone. Let's take a look at this together. Let me show you a little bit about the character and nature of God. After God created woman and brought her together with man and the two became one and lived in community together, there was this little thing called sin that entered into the world.
You will notice the very first casualty of sin was relationships. Sin always leads to break in relationships. It divided us from God, and because God is the source of light and love, since God is the origin of all that is right and good and true… When God leaves you, kindness leaves you, gentleness leaves you, others-centeredness leaves you, righteousness and goodness leave you, faithfulness leaves you.
If you're not righteous, good, and kind, filled with self-control, patient, and loving, you're not going to be in a relationship very long. That's what happened in Genesis 3. At that particular time, you'll notice what happens is God begins to immediately pursue man. Some of you guys have this mindset that before you come to the membership class you have to get a little rhythm of goodness going, because who are you to show up in God's community? Who are you to come barging in and say, "I want to be part of this church"?
You have to get yourself put together first, maybe start giving a few weeks here before you can come. Or you think, "I can't come; I just looked at porn last night" or "I just woke up with a girl this morning, brushed my teeth, and came here. Maybe I'm still a little hungover." Our buddy JP… I have it in my calendar. This is the Sunday… It was January 19 about 12 years ago that he had his Damascus road moment.
I always thank God that he sat in here, having come from the bars of Lower Greenville on a Saturday night with not much sleep. He'd get dragged in here, as God was wooing him back. I love that this was the day in our little church history that the lights went on for my buddy JP, where he started to believe that God loved him and was pursuing him, and he didn't need to get his life cleaned up before he came to God; he couldn't ever clean it up enough to come to God. He needed to take God's pursuit and provision for him.
Here's the problem. Some of you guys have a mindset about our being wed to God that is too informed by an American wedding tradition. Here's the American wedding tradition. The groom is up there in his righteousness, with all his stud muffin men behind him, waiting, and when that door opens, there comes the bride, and she is all buffed up, cleaned up, dressed up, coiffed up, polished up, from her French-tipped toenails to her little manicured fingers, and she is ready.
She has made herself beautiful, and she is coming to present herself worthy of this man's love. That is not a good picture of our wedding day. A good picture of what happens in the Scripture is those doors open and nobody is there. No one knows where the bride is. She's gone. In fact, she's with some other lover in some dark room, probably with vomit all over her, hair nasty, maybe with some needle tracks in her arm.
She has been whoring herself out to every kind of relationship imaginable. She's not beautiful. She is sad and lonely, and all she has are faint memories of her time as a little girl when her dad would read her a story about noble men who would seek a princess, but she knows she's no longer a princess; she's a prostitute, and she is far from being loved by a godly, noble man.
My Scripture says the right picture is that that door opens, and that bridegroom goes seeking and running after you and finds you in your broken, used-up, left-after-somebody-had-their-way-with-you, vulnerable, scared, guilt-ridden, shame-filled, vomit-smelling self. He shows up and brushes your hair back and wipes your face with a cold rag and kisses you on the cheek and says, "My beloved, I'm here to redeem you and love you and rescue you. I'm here to make you mine. I'm here to make what is ashes beautiful. I am here to make you holy in my sight. If you'll just come with me, I will give myself to you, and you will enjoy all that is mine."
That's a biblical picture. That's who God is when he goes after you. He doesn't want you to clean up so you can come. He has come to you. Now, the American wedding works just because, in a sense, the guy has already gone to the woman, he has already offered himself to her, and she's doing everything she can, as that relationship moves toward consummation, to make herself beautiful. That's really what we should do.
Our vow has already been made. Our relationship is already secure. We are betrothed, and there's a wedding day coming when we want to be as pretty as we can, but we know what makes us acceptable in his sight is his offer to love us and redeem us. See, God is a seeking God. That's what happens in Genesis 3. Right after man and woman leave him, they are exposed. They are filled with nakedness, which is a picture of shame. "Adam, who told you you were naked?"
"Well, no one had to tell me, but I'm self-focused. I look at myself. I see all of my blemishes, all of my faults. I'm not focused on Eve and the gift that she is and the physical presence that comforted me. Now I'm focused on me, and I'm angry at her because of the way things have gone. I don't know, God, what's going on, but it can't be my problem. It has to be yours because you gave me this woman who led me astray or it has to be hers because she was not listening carefully when I told her things."
One of the things about blame is that blame allows you to not have to change anything because it's somebody else's fault. That's what you see Eve do. That's what you see Adam do. That's what you see anybody who's a sinner does. But what does God do? He seeks right here in Genesis 3. It says in Genesis 3:8, "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves…" They didn't make themselves ready. They hid themselves.
What they were trying to do was cover up their nakedness and shame the way men always do through their own works. They grabbed what to them made sense. They grabbed anything to cover themselves. There were fig leaves, which would deteriorate, which would die, which would wither, which would go away. It wasn't a sufficient and appropriate provision to cover their sin, but it was the works of man. Watch what God says. "Adam, where are you?"
It wasn't because Adam found a really good hiding spot. He was trying to let Adam know, "Hey, Adam. Do you see what happens when you leave me? You're not in a good place. Adam, do you know that you need to be rescued?" Adam's response should have been, "I'll tell you where I am, Lord. I'm scared. I'm separated from my love. There is guilt in my heart. I feel death on me. I am alone. I am lonely. I am scared. I'm broken. I am ruined. I am not in the light. I am hiding in the darkness. What I need, God, is mercy."
That's what he wanted to hear Adam say. "What I need, God, is grace. What I need is you who created everything to make me new again." "Adam, where are you?" That's what God is saying to you this morning. He's not saying, "Why aren't you prettier?" He's saying, "I know why you're not pretty: because you come from Adam. You come from that family that is broken, but I'm running after you. Where are you? I want to make you whole. I want to rescue you." That's my God.
There's a book that came out a number of years ago (it's coming up almost on 20 years; it's hard to believe) called The All Better Book. It's where they asked a bunch of elementary kids to try and solve the world's biggest problems one at a time. Like, "How do we deal with global warming?" or the "ozone problem" was probably how they said it back then. "How do we get people to stop smoking?"
One of the questions they asked kids was, "With billions of people in the world, someone should be able to figure out a system where no one is lonely. What would you suggest?" Listen to some of these answers kids gave. One girl, Kalani, said something like, "People should find lonely people and ask them their name and address. Then ask people who aren't lonely their name and address. When you have an even amount of each, you should assign lonely and not lonely people together and put their names in the paper and tell them to write one another." That was her response. Isn't that cute?
Max said, "Make food that talks to you when you eat. For instance, it would say, 'How are you doing?' and 'What happened to you today?'" Let me just take advantage of what he said. Do you know that's really what God did? God says every time you eat… Every time. Not when you're in church and you're given a pureed piece of a saltine cracker and a shot of grape juice, but every time you eat, if you're with other believers, let that food talk to you.
Jesus used the metaphor, "I'm the Bread of Life." Every time the Wagner family has a meal… We're a family that is made up now of all believers. Every time we fellowship together and we get ready… I don't care what it is. When we break bread and we're drinking something, we stop and go, "Let this food remind us of something. We need something outside of ourselves to come into us to give us life, just like Adam needed something beyond his ability to sew up some fig leaves to make him no longer exposed."
By the way, what God gave him was an innocent life that was shed that covered him and atoned for his nakedness. I can't prove it from the Scripture, but I'm betting it was a lamb, and I bet he said, "One day you're going to get a real Lamb that's not just a picture of the Lamb that's going to come that's going to cover you with something much, much better than just some animal skin. He's going to cover you with his own blood and make you righteous in my eyes again."
Every time we eat, that food speaks to us about how God pursued us and loves us, and we are to not eat or drink in an unworthy manner, which is to say we don't just dive into food while there are conflicts amongst the Wagner family. There are many meals that have gotten a little cold because we had some reconciling to do before we dove in and fed our faces, because there's something more important than feeding our faces, which is our souls.
Our kids have watched me ask their mom for forgiveness for growing a little bit distant, being short with her, not serving her, exasperating them or something, or the way they haven't served their mom or loved each other, and we reconcile. That food speaks to us about what love looks like…sacrifice, commitment, provision…and we follow that King. That's how believers eat meals together. That's why I don't feel bad about not praying before I eat with a nonbeliever.
I'm not going to commune with somebody who doesn't understand that's what God has done. I even tell them that. I've used that before. I've said, "Hey, you want to just dive in?" They go, "You're not going to pray?" I go, "Why would I pray? Usually when I pray I'm reminding myself what this food reminds me of. Has anybody ever told you what Communion is and what we do and why we commune over food this way?" It gives me a chance to share the gospel, which I think honors God a lot more than some token prayer that is forced on a nonbeliever.
That's what Max thought you should do. How about this? Matt said something like, "We could get people a pet or a husband or a wife or something." That'll help them not be lonely. The question is, "With billions of people in the world, someone should be able to figure out a system where no one is lonely. What do you suggest?"
This one was hard. This is Brian. He said, "Sing a song. Stomp your feet. Read a book. (Sometimes I think no one loves me so I do one of these.)" Isn't that something? Some little kid is left to a book, to stomping his feet, to singing. With billions of people in the world, someone should figure out a system where no one is lonely. Guess what? God did. It's called the church.
It's a place where people are supposed to come together, and anybody can walk in and go, "Guess what? I'm lonely, because sin separates relationships, and I'm a dysfunctional person. I'm self-protecting. I'm self-exalting. I'm sometimes angry. I sometimes tell somebody I love someone, but because it's hard to really do that, I run off to fantasy worlds and invent relationships with women who are paid to act like they love me. That hurts people and breaks relationships."
I don't know what you're going to say. Some of you guys might say, "I'm so broken, and I can't have real relationships. I numb myself with alcohol" or "I numb myself with fantasy sports" or "I numb myself with weight lifting and steroids so I think I look okay, and that might impress you, but I'm a scared, insecure person. I'm broken." If you come into this place, you should say, "But I've been healed by Jesus, and I know that I am loved. I know I do belong, because Christ died for me. But I need you to remind me of that.
He told me that this is the place that I could walk in here and that you, who have also been forgiven, you who have also received grace, you who have also been loved would love me with the love with which you've been loved, and that's what I'm going to try and do. I won't do it perfectly, but I'm devoting myself to Jesus daily so I can know more of him, that Christ in me would be an expression of God's love to you. I need a reminder that God is good."
Sometimes we gather together like this and sing songs that he alone can rescue, he alone can save, that he's always there for us, but guess what? God goes, "It's not enough just for you to know those songs and sing them on your own and stomp your feet and read a story about my love. Sometimes I want you to feel it. It's not good that you're alone, and you need to pursue people relationally."
Do you want to know where the abundant life is? It is in the awkwardness that is human relationship with imperfect people, even those who have been redeemed, who are extending each other grace in the name of Jesus while we're running toward Jesus, which makes the need for grace minimized as we become more like him, but it's always going to be there until we're home, because none of us are perfect. We're all screwed up. Everybody is crazy until you get to know them. You guys do know that, right?
I don't know if you've been reading through Genesis with me or not, but it has not been pretty up to this point. If you were in community with some of the guys who were there in the early days of Scripture, you would have run across some real numbskulls and knuckleheads. These are some of the guys who were there: Adam. This is what I would say about Adam if he's in your Community Group: passive, blame-shifting, wallflower. How about having community with him? Abraham: habitual liar.
Welcome to small group with Lot. Who's Lot? He's a compromising, incestuous drunk. Who's Jacob? He's a manipulating, self-righteous, self-promoting mama's boy who had the ultimate dysfunctional family, including raising sons who turned on each other and sold one into slavery and lied to their dad about that kid being dead. Two of his grandsons were so wicked the Lord took their lives, and one of the widows of those grandsons took to dressing up like a prostitute to provide for herself, since one of the other sons was unwilling to make sure she was cared for, as was required by custom and law.
As one guy said, this is not The Waltons or The Brady Bunch. By the way, if you go and look at the lives of the people who acted like the Waltons and the Brady Bunch, they weren't such functional people either. God calls us to pursue each other. He calls us to love each other even as we have been loved and to not just stand back and wait for people to get normal before we welcome them.
Do you know what God's program is with the billions of lonely people in the world? To seek them, bring them back into relationship with himself, re-parent them, teach them his ways, and then call them to live together as family. We are responsible to do that. You do know that, right? Sometimes people go, "Hey man, I'm not into that. That's a generational thing." It is a generational thing. Community is a generational thing.
Sons of Adam, or sons of righteousness, live together, practicing the "one anothers." Sons of wrath, sons of rebellion, children of the Devil don't. It is a generational thing. It ought to really concern you if you're an individual who's out there going, "I don't need people. I'm not going to pursue people. It's awkward. People annoy me. Even in the church, there are still some people there who aren't really people I want to fellowship with."
Well, guess what? None of us, without a deep, abiding relationship with Christ are going to do anything but fracture relationships, and what God calls us to is to be committed to each other, to pursue each other, love each other, admonish each other, encourage each other, help each other, be devoted individually to Jesus so that we are less of a tyrant, but we're all in the process of being discipled, and we are to be a community of grace.
If you're not deeply pursuing others, and I'm not talking about just membership… In a large church, you can hide. That's why before you're a member here, there have to be three or four other members who say, "You're my guy. I'm your guy." By the way, this is one of the hardest things for me. When Watermark first started, we were smaller, and I knew everybody's name. I would be very involved in everybody's life, just like everybody was involved in my life.
But we quickly grew. It wasn't long before we were at 500 or 600 people, and at that point some folks would sometimes walk up to me… And I love people. I get my energy from people. They would go, "Hey, my wife and I have really enjoyed this. We love the vision being painted from God's Word for what a biblical community looks like. We'd love to get together with you and your wife over dinner and talk about this," and I would have to start to say, "I can't."
They would go, "What do you mean? I want to get to know my pastor." I go, "I want you to get to know your pastor too, but I'm not going to be your pastor. I serve a role here to the larger community, but if all I did…" He goes, "I'm not talking about next week. We can do it three, four, five, or six months out." I go, "No. You don't need dinner with me." Some folks just want to come up here and talk with me afterwards and get community from me.
Now listen. I love talking to people. I can be an agent of connection for you, but some people are here every week, and I know I'm the only touch of love they get. You may feel really great because after a couple of weeks I know your name and I pray for you every time you come up, but God wants for you something so much more than just a touch from some bozo on the stage. He wants somebody who relationally pursues you all the time, who prays for you every day, who calls you throughout the week, who wants to know how you're growing.
So I would tell people, "You don't need coffee with me. That's not going to change you. What's going to change you is a relationship with a pastor, a priest, an individual who's going to know you personally." By the way, there are dozens of people who I share life with. I get to know folks. There are some folks who have been to Watermark for two weeks who I'm going to spend more time with than with people who have been here for 12 years, because I'm the bridge they came to Watermark through.
Kids through my friends or through teams I coach or the community I live in… I get to know them. I'm their touch here, so I bring them along and father them and shepherd them and am part of their community until they have a community. But this is more Manhattan than Mayberry. If you want to know the sheriff, you need to move to Mayberry, where when you dial 911 it's Andy's cell phone number and Andy answers. Andy already knows your name, and he's going to show up.
If you dial 911 in Dallas and wait for the chief of police to show up, you're in trouble, people. It's about two to three hours, anyway, for them to show up. They might get there in about five minutes if your head is almost severed but not quite and you can still tell them what's going on. They might show up quickly. The job of the chief of police in Dallas is not for him to know you personally. His job is to protect and serve you by raising up a community of officers who work the beat, who know what's going on in your area of town.
By the way, the best neighborhoods are made up of neighborhood watches. Today's Real Truth. Real Quick. is…Is It Ok for a Christian to Have a Concealed Handgun License? Go check it out. You'll get my answer. (It has nothing to do with the message, but I thought I'd advertise that.) What I'm going to tell you is we need to care for one another. That's the program. I don't know the chief of police in Dallas, but I feel protected and served.
We are committed to that here. You're going to know the policemen who work your beat much more than you'll know the chief of police, because that's the kind of community we live in here. By the way, we want to equip you to care for your block. We want to help you be a peace officer, because that's what Jesus was. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." If you're a son of God, you ought to be a peace officer. We'll show you how to do it.
Let me show you something amazing about our God. This should take our breath away. This should never cease to amaze us, that the perfect, completely satisfied, omnipotent, self-sufficient God, who owns everything and needs nothing, chooses to seek for something. Did you hear that? The all-sufficient God who owns everything and needs nothing chooses to seek something, and the something is you. He seeks you with your nappy hair, needle-tracked arm, and vomited-on shirt, your very unclean life.
He seeks you. He wants to rescue you, and he loves you. He's not waiting for you to get cleaned. He just comes after you. Jesus said in Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.""That's why I'm here. That's what I do. I seek lost people." Just to wrap up the idea a little bit sooner… You go, "Why are you doing that?" God might say to you, "Hey, how are your brothers doing?" and you go, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
Do you know who asked that question? His name was Cain, and he was a rebel against God. The implied rhetorical answer to the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" is "Yes, Cain. You are. You're responsible for him." Jesus loves you, and he's responsible for you, so he comes after you. He makes every provision for you. The Scripture says that God is seeking you.
In John 4:23-24 it says, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers." Why is God seeking worshipers? It's not because he needs affirmation. He doesn't need daily thoughts of affirmation and encouragement. He is the all-sufficient God, but he knows if you will worship him, if you will come together and sing songs that remind you of his goodness and his love and his glory, you'll go, "I am crazy to not seek after that God."
That's why we gather. That's why we sing. We have been declaring to you this God. I love to call this room the R&R (rest and relaxation). It's really what it is. You come and remember the greatness of our God and are reminded of a right way to respond to him so we can go and be the church. We come together as the church. We lift up the name of God. We're reminded how to respond to him. We are not a performance-based, acceptance people.
We come in here in all of our ragamuffin ways, and we are reminded that he runs to us in our brokenness, and we are reminded how we should live in relationship with him and take his love to the world and how we should love one another. The Father seeks people to worship him so they can enjoy him. That's what God does. It says in 2 Chronicles 16 his eyes go to and fro, looking for anybody whose heart gets who he is so he can strongly support them. "Anybody, come to me. I would love to support you."
Let me just show you something that is amazing to me. I have read Matthew 13 I don't know how many times in my life, but this week I have to admit I double-clicked on it and stopped on it in a way that I never had before. My eyes were opened. I can't believe I've missed this, but I have. In Matthew 13:44, there's a parable. It says, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field…"
Jesus is telling us stories about what the kingdom of God is like so we can know what's going to happen in the kingdom. By and large, the nation that he was going to be their King has rejected him. He starts to tell stories. He tells you all kinds of reasons why he tells those stories, but for the purpose of our time this morning, watch this. One of the stories he tells in Matthew 13 is a story about how valuable the kingdom of heaven is.
The kingdom of heaven is so valuable it's like a treasure in the field that when you find it, from joy to get it you go sell all that you have to buy that field. In other words, if you knew how great God was, you would run to him. That's why I'm telling you this morning. That's why we've sung songs about him this morning. It's to remind you you're crazy if you don't seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. You're crazy if in all your ways you don't delight in him.
A friend of mine said this to me this week. He was quoting a guy by the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I thought it was a great quote. He said, "If you don't want to know more of God, it is questionable whether you know God at all." That's brilliant. Let me say it to you again. If you don't want to know more of who God is, a sun and shield who gives grace and glory, who withholds no good things from those who love him, in whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forever…
That's who God is. He's not here to judge you or whack you or rip you off. He's here to bless you. If you don't want to know more of that God, I question whether you know God at all. He is good, and all his ways are peace. Maybe your view of God needs to be corrected by Scripture, but that's who God is. That's all that parable is saying. But watch this. This is what I missed. I've often told this other story. Not from up here, but I sometimes go, "The gospel is like the pearl of great price. You find that pearl and you go sell everything and you get it."
No, no, no, Todd. That's the treasure in the field. Watch this. Matthew 13:45: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant…" Wait a minute. It doesn't say the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl. You want to know what God is like? God is a merchant. Heaven is a merchant. "…seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."
Do you see what that parable is saying? This is Luke 15 before we get to Luke 15. This is a guy who has 100 sheep, loses one, and leaves the 99 to find the one he has lost; the woman who has 10 coins who has lost one who turns the house upside down, even though she has nine, to find the one; the father whose son is here but who's anxiously looking on the edge of the ranch for that other son who's gone.
This is what Jesus is saying. Heaven is here seeking you. You're not seeking him; he's seeking you. You are the pearl. Let me show you something else that's amazing. It says the merchant, when he found this one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. We can ask ourselves from the treasure deal, "Am I doing everything I can to seek God first in all his righteousness?" I don't know, but let me tell you something. I do know that the merchant saw you, the pearl, and paid a great price.
"How great a price, Todd?" Well, how about this? Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane, and he says in John 17, where he's praying to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane… He's getting ready to go to the cross. He says, "Father, glorify me, together with yourself, with the glory that I had before the world was." In other words, "Don't give me the glory now that I've laid down." What glory did Christ lay down? Answer: all of it.
Because he valued you, Adam's children, who were separated from God and, as a result of that, are whoring yourselves out in every unclean way to try and find life, which can't be found apart from the God who is life… He wants to rescue us, and there has to be innocent blood that is shed. Who does God pay the price to to redeem you? Some of you have this dualistic worldview where you think Jesus is what allowed God to ransom us from Satan. No. God didn't owe Satan anything except judgment, death, eternal vanquishment, and suffering.
The debt was paid to God. Do you understand that? When we are ransomed, we're not ransomed from the Devil. We're ransomed from the judgment of violating the holy standard of God. We owe God death, and God pays the price himself so that we who knew sin would not experience the consequence of it. That was a great price. There is only one holy, infinite, and perfect provision that can pay a debt to a holy, perfect, and infinite God, and he became flesh and dwelt among us.
See how much you're worth? Do you see the way the God you say you love and worship pursues you? He pursued you all the way. He did nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind considered you more important than himself. He didn't merely look out for his own personal interests but also for the interests of you, and he calls you to be in community and to have this attitude in yourself which was also in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:6. Let's pick this up, this great price. "…who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [held on to] …" That's why he's asking for it back in John 17. He laid it down. "But he emptied himself of that eternal glory that has always existed and took on the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of a man and being found in the image of man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
Why? Because you're beautiful in your little matted-hair, needle-tracked, unclean, vomit-smelling self. He's running toward you, and he loves you. He's not angry. He's just hurting, because he created you for intimacy with him. He's a good Father, and like any father of any prodigal… You just hurt, because you don't want your kid to be trafficked and trashed. You want your kid to be provided for and loved and healthy and beautiful. He loves you and pursues you.
Here's the deal. The reason God tells us to confess our sins to one another, the reason God wants us to live in community is that he knows that even though he is the all-sufficient, all-perfect God, you were created for relationship and tangible touch, and because he is spirit he's not here to tangibly touch you. So guess what? The Spirit of God in believers is here to touch you. Psalm 3 says, "Thou, O Lord, are a shield around me. You're my glory and the lifter of my head."
Do you know what I need sometimes? I need sometimes for people to walk up to me and go, "Come here, Todd. Come here. Get your head up. That thing you just did that was ugly that exasperated your children that was dishonoring to your wife that tampered with your soul? It was ugly. In a sports metaphor, that was an interception, that was a turnover, that was a strikeout in a crucial moment, but get your head up. It's not over. Jesus paid for that. It's covered. We win the game. We lost that battle, but we're going to win a lot more battles.
Get your head up. Walk with him. Abide with him. You didn't take the way of escape there. Forgive me for not being closer to you through those moments. Forgive me for not exhorting you to devote yourself more daily to him so the provision for you to resist that sin wasn't there, but get your head up. It's paid for." God wants me to experience that physically. He wants me to have you lift my head, stand me up, and with the grace you've received extend grace to me. Not enable me to keep being a fool but go, "Hey, that was wrong. Do you admit it was wrong?"
"Yes, it was wrong."
"Well, I love you. God forgives you. We forgive you. It's not over. Lock arms with me. Let's go. Let's win this next battle. Let's go stomp on the head of that Enemy that just ruined you, but he didn't ruin you. He is weak, and greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world."
You need that. God wants that for you. That's what he intends. If you're not in biblical community, you are missing it, and you wonder where the abundant life is. It's right where his riches in glory have always said it was. Do you want to know how expensive it was? Second Corinthians 8:9: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake [the pearl] He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich."
Do you see the way God seeks you? Well, that is why we pursue one another. It's what we do. If you're not pursuing other people in an accountable way in this church who are being equipped and trained and are connected to others, then your way is not the biblical way, and whatever church you're a part of, the "just Jesus and me" church, is an unbiblical church. Romans 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…"
Do you see that? "Be devoted." That word devoted means time and energy. If you're putting more time and energy into youth sports than you are one another, something is not right. If you're putting more energy, time, and investment into your workout regimen than you are in other believers, something is not right. Be devoted to one another. Initiate. Devotion means pursuit. It means you're going to pursue that thing in a dogged way. It's your job to pursue.
I've said this before with people who have said, "Todd, I need a little bit more of you." I've said something stupid like this: "Well, hey, my phone rings, bro. Your phone calls out. Just pick up the phone and call me." I've said that to somebody I was in community with who was saying, "I'm hurting. I need Jesus around me right now."
It's like my wife. When my wife says to me, "Hey, Todd, I feel like there's something missing right now in our oneness," what I typically want to do is adjourn the court, get everybody together, and start giving testimony about how great a husband I am and all the time I've spent and the game I didn't watch, the things I did do and the things I didn't do, so that everybody would know that my life is harder than hers and I've done really well.
Let me just tell you something. That is not a case I ever really win. Ever. Do you know what God says? "Love her, bro. Be devoted to her. Nourish and cherish her. Go after her. She's not asking you to bring evidence. She's telling you she needs you to be present and pursuing her. This is not a math problem. She wants you present, and I want you present. Go love her. Go show her that I'm her God by being flesh."
Everybody in this room deserves that. It's God's design. He wants us to yoke and commit to one another in that way. Being devoted means pursued. Being devoted takes grace. We're all broken people. Adam, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, and Todd. Would you please eject the fantasy in your mind that if you were in community with me it would never be hard, that if you were married to somebody like me you would never struggle in marriage?
The Bible says, "Such will have trouble." That's the one promise that's in Scripture about marriage, but he says, "You're going to be different. You're not going to just move on when something sexually is more appetizing or something relationally is easier. You're going to stay and love, and you're going to model for the world what steadfast love looks like in my name." That's community. That's the church.
When the world sees that, they're irresistibly drawn to it. They go, "How do you guys love each other that way?" Answer: Christ in us. That which we have received we freely give to each other. We don't put up with things in this community that break relationship. We call it out. We repent, we confess, we make amends, but we extend grace and we forgive and we are devoted to one another in brotherly honor. How are you doing, Christ follower? What's the way you do church? Do you know him?
Father, I pray that as we wrap up this service right now and as we talk about how you love us we would be reminded of how we're to love one another. Lord, I thank you that we this morning were reminded that you're a God who pursues us relationally. You're not waiting for us to get our lives cleaned up and perfect. You come to us. While we were yet sinners, you died for us. While we were still nappy, odorous, ungodly, you demonstrated your love.
Thank you, Father, that in this community all of us have been redeemed to you and are being redeemed, being sanctified. In some ways, all of us are a little bit more tolerable for relationships, but none of us are on days we don't abide with you, so we're going to still need to be a grace-filled community who forgive each other and love each other. Help us to do that in your name.
Help us to devote ourselves daily to you. Help us to live authentically and tell people where we're wanting to deviate away from the God we say we know, and help us to pursue each other until the end, that we might present to you one another complete, lacking in nothing, filled with tangible love from your Spirit through your people. In Jesus' name, amen.
If you did not imagine a human being at least once in that song as a tangible expression of the fulfillment of the promise of that song, you're not living according to his riches in glory that he intends for you. There's a reason the Scripture says, "Greet one another with a holy kiss. Embrace each other warmly." God wants you to feel that unforeseen kiss that is heaven's expression of love for you.
If no one has hugged you this week, come here. I will hug you. I will. I'll stand here and hug every one of you, but God wants you to not form a conga line to get loved by some joker. He wants people every day in your life loving you. When I think about how God loves me… I thought of my wife during that song. I thought of my community. I thought of Kyle. I thought of Dean. I thought of Lucina and Tawney. I thought of my kids. I thought of Luke and Ryan. I thought of guys I'm in community with, people I lead with here.
I am getting loved every day by people who are devoting daily to him, and I believe I'm lovable and I belong because Jesus has told me I'm the pearl of great price, and I'm communing with other broken people. I don't see the value in me except for the cross. I'm accepted here by God, and I'm around other people who have been accepted by God, and we're loving each other by faith as our Father loves us.
If you're missing out on that, you're missing out on what he wants for you. We want you to connect in that way. It starts with just saying, "I want to be a part of this body," and then this body drives you to smaller communities, where a beat cop trains up other beat cops, where you can all love each other and beat back the oppression that is this journey home.
By the way, if you're here and are part of our body and are suffering… You should never have to raise your hand and say, "My water heater is out. My car broke down. I don't have money," because people who already know you, who have done everything they can to provide for you, who maybe because they're a smaller community can't do everything they need to do, who are connected to our larger community…
They come to us for you and say, "This is a devoted, faithful brother of Christ, a sister who's godly and working hard and not spending her money foolishly. We've done everything we can to care for her, but she still has need." The larger body will come, and you'll never be homeless and never without basic provision met here. Ever. You won't have to go to a food bank here…ever…if you're a member and connected, as God intends, unless none of us have anything.
If you've never been loved by God, if you've never met the first love, the kiss of heaven from Jesus, would you just accept that today? Would you receive God's provision for your sin and know that you don't have to get prettied up to come to the wedding? He's running to you. He finds you in that crack house. He wipes away the vomit, brushes back your hair, kisses you, and says, "You're mine. The King of the universe. I love you. I'm going to redeem you from the wages of sin, but you have to take my provision. Where are you?"
You should just say, "I'm broken. I'm scared. I'm alone. I'm lonely. Are you the Bread of Life? Will you feed me?" The answer is "Yes." Receive that gift, and if you've received that gift, extend it to others in this community. Do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith. Worship him.
Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.