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This week's message focuses on Core Value - Counsel Biblically. Todd explains the importance of knowing and speaking from the Word of God. It is perfect and sufficient for all that we encounter. We should be committed to the study of it and go first to it as we counsel each other in community.
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
Father, we pray that we would receive truth in every channel from which it comes, and we pray that the only thing that would come from us, the only thing we would be is a channel of your truth. I pray for friends who are here today who don't know who you are, how good it is to run everywhere with you, that you've run everywhere looking for us, that you've found us, that you've made provision for us on the cross, that you draw us near and you've made provision so that when we come near we wouldn't be consumed in our unrighteousness. You love us.
You're not looking for us to be cleaned up, but you've done everything for everybody everywhere, that we might be reconciled to you. Father, having been reconciled, I pray that everywhere we go, every time we speak, everything we say would be filled with your truth, your light, and your love, that all may know the God we have sung about already this morning who it is so sweet to trust in. Would you go deeply and everywhere through us as we go everywhere you have for us this week, that we might be faithful in every way? For Jesus' glory and his name I pray, amen.
Last night, we were in here with a couple thousand of the folks who lead the smaller communities of Watermark, and we were talking about their responsibility to shepherd and lead you. We're in the middle of six weeks of doing this, where we're talking about how if we are not all individually in this community members of the church, devoted daily to know more of Christ, then we're not going to have much of Christ to give.
If we don't live authentically with each other and declare, "This is where I'm vulnerable. This is where I'm prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love," folks can't help us, pray for us, encourage us. If we don't pursue each other with the same fervor God pursued us with, we shouldn't call ourselves his people.
Today, I'm going to talk to you about how, as people who call themselves reconciled to God, servants of Christ, stewards of the mysteries of God, we ought to speak to one another. If we don't do this, we are not his church. Woe be to us if we're individuals who try and inform other people's lives with the limited experience and wisdom we have accumulated in our two, three, four, five, or eight decades of life.
I've been everywhere, and everywhere I've gone I have seen that the Word of God is sufficient. Honestly, years ago there was a big debate within the church. There was a big discussion as to whether or not the Bible was inspired, whether it was infallible, whether it was inerrant, and there was a lot of discussion. There were schisms and splits in the church over that. You need to know something. We do believe that the Bible is inerrant, infallible, inspired. In all of its fullness, rightly understood, it is perfect and true.
We believe that God's Word is our authority, our conscience, our guide. We stand firm where it's firm, and we're going to be flexible where it's flexible, but we are a biblically based, totally submissive to the Word of God community of friends right here at Watermark. But I want to tell you something. Even within the churches that held on to the infallibility of Scripture, the inerrancy of Scripture, today there is a debate or, if you will, often a struggle to maintain the sufficiency of Scripture.
In other words, yeah, God's Word is good, God's Word is true, God's Word is perfect, but we sometimes need more, so we have to insert some of the learnings of today. I'm just going to tell you something. When something is perfect, complete, lacking in nothing, it doesn't need more. When something is perfect and true, it doesn't need to be improved. We are for progress, but progress when you are moving away from truth is not progress; it is regress.
A long time ago, I was in a hotel, and I picked up a Gideon Bible and was looking at it. When I opened it up, on the inside of that front cover I read this description of God's Word. I wrote it down, and I've reminded myself of it often. I have had the privilege of speaking all over the world, almost every continent and many countries. I don't care what the context is. God's Word has proven sufficient.
I've been in rooms with people who have dealt with every heartache in life, loss of children, inability to have children, betrayal by a spouse, terrible news from doctors, awful injustices by wicked men, and God's Word is sufficient. Anything else I add to it or bring into the conversation other than the truth from him weakens my ability to love others.
When I go and speak someplace, I always start by saying, "I'm not here to share with you the wisdom I have attained in my 40 or 50 years of living. I'm not here as an American to bring you the wisdom of American culture and the American way. I am not here to change your culture to American culture. I am here to share with you the truth of who Jesus Christ is."
I quote 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. "When I came to you, brethren, I didn't come to you with superiority of speech or of wisdom, but I came proclaiming to you, if I have done what God wants me to do, the testimony of God. What I should have done is determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified." What I want to go on to tell them is, "The truth is I'm with you in much weakness and fear and trembling."
I love getting to do this before you, but every week I'm like, "Lord, what do you want me to share with your people?" Sundays come with an amazing amount of regularity, and I'm like, "Okay, what do I have to offer these people again? They've heard me talk for 15 years." And God is like, "Hopefully none of it from you. Hopefully you're giving them what I have. Todd, I'm glad you feel weak and that you have fear and you're trembling that you might not have anything to give. You don't unless you're a servant of mine and a steward of my mysteries."
So I tell people, "I'm determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I was with you in weakness and fear and trembling." That verse continues and talks about how our message and our preaching are not only in persuasive words of wisdom, because I don't want to convince you of anything. I'm not trying to convince anybody here of anything. If I can convince you of something, then somebody can convince you of something else.
What I want to do is faithfully sow the Word of God into your heart, and I do pray for your heart, that it would be soft and receptive soil to the truth of God. I pray that God would protect you from error that I might bring and that you would be wise and discerning and noble-minded people who would test everything I say by the Word of God, because I don't want your faith to rest on the wisdom of men, as 1 Corinthians 2:5 says, but I want it to rest on the power of God. This is the power of God. This is his Word.
This is what the Gideons have in front of their Bible. It says, "The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter.
Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good the [ultimate] design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents."
It's the Word of God. When I read that, I thought to myself, "What am I doing if I don't devour that day by day? What am I doing if I don't set my heart to study it, to observe it, to practice it? What am I doing if I don't meditate on that night and day? What am I doing if when people ask me what I think I don't share with them from that source?"
When God calls us to live life together, he expects that we would be people who would admonish, encourage, and help each other with that perfect provision he has given us. Second Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is brought forth, God-breathed, inspired by God, and it is profitable…" The language there says it alone is worthy of being used in this manner. It alone can add to you the blessing you want added when you speak.
There is nothing else beside the Word of God and every derivative truth from it that is going to benefit you to teach you, to reprove you, to correct you, and to train you in righteousness, that you might be adequate, prepared for every good work. To teach you what is right, what you aren't doing that's right, how to make it right, and how to live rightly. That's this Book.
When we gather together, God expects us to speak truth to one another. I've been everywhere, man. Let me tell you something. There is no end to human need, human frailty, and human stupidity. There is a way that seems right to us and in the end is a way of death. Even those of us who by the grace of God have come to understand the sufficiency and inerrancy of God's Word are prone to wander, prone to leave it.
It was Einstein who said, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." I can attest to that. What I need is to constantly be taught by, reproved by, corrected by, and trained by a loving Father who wants it to go well with me, so he teaches me his Word. He gives it to me. He tells me to set my heart on it.
He tells me that I should be careful to attend all that is written in it so that it would make my way prosperous, free from the pain of foolishness, and make my way successful, that I wouldn't be running the wrong way after the wrong thing. This is the Word of God. I don't know what you think it is. It's a story of God pursuing and rescuing and loving. We don't have to pretend that we don't have problems.
The whole book has said, "I know you have a problem, and I'm a loving God, and I want to restore you and redeem you and help you when you're around others who need restoring and redeeming. I'm going to teach you how to love, how to be kind to evil and ungrateful people, because I'm going to teach you who I am." That only can come through the Word of God and through the counsel of those who love him and know him.
You hear me say again and again that the way I want to be regarded is as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God, and that ought to show up in the way I speak. When someone says, "Todd, what do you think?" before I tell them what I think, I have to remember who I am: a steward of God's mysteries and a servant of his Son. So what I say ought to be reflective on whose I am.
People aren't asking for my opinion, or if they are they're fools. This is really, by the way, what the writer of Proverbs said, who had all the wisdom of God. In Proverbs 30:2-6, there is this amazing little section where the writer is being self-deprecating because there are people who say, "I don't need the Word of God."
He goes, "Well, surely I'm more stupid than all you other wise men. I don't have the understanding that you learned people do. I haven't learned wisdom. I don't have the knowledge of the Holy One. Who has ascended into heaven and who has descended? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Surely you know who has wrapped the waters in his garment. Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name or his son's name? Surely you know!"
In other words, people who don't need revelation, people who believe they're the compendium of all wisdom, surely they know the answers to all of these things. I've mentioned this to you before. It's worth repeating again. I was again in the presence of somebody who just said this to me recently this week. I've taught my kids how to respond to this. Somebody this week said to me, "I don't believe in God's Word. I believe in science."
I said, "Well, listen. I'm glad you believe in science, but I have a book I believe in." They go, "Yeah, yeah. Well, I believe in science books." I go, "Well, I'm glad I don't." They go, "Why?" I go, "Because if I believed in a science book, what I believe would have to change every year." Being a Christian doesn't mean we're anti-science. We're all about science, which is just taking observable data, observation, and using study and research in order to show us "This is how things work in a uniform world."
But we also know this world is not completely uniform. We know this world has a beginning. We can't explain how that happened. We can't explain the beauty of God in design. Science is trying to explain what God is saying, "Listen. Go for it. Try and figure it out, but I'm going to start by telling you how this thing came into being."
Decades ago, Nobel laureates, heads of NASA said, "We're coming to the horrifying reality that science has been scaling this hill of learning, only to get to the top after centuries of effort to find theologians standing there already, willing to greet us." That's what they said. I'm not against science, but I don't want to base my life on it, because science is constantly changing, catching up, and finding itself consistently aligned with truth that God has already revealed.
Proverbs 30:5 says, "Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar." One of the things God says is going to be a form of judgment that comes on a group of people is when they are prone to change a lot.
It's just not going to work out well for you if you believe one thing one day and another thing another day and another thing another day and another thing another day, just trying to make your way through life bouncing around based on the spirit of the age, when God, the author of the age and every age, is saying to you, "This is the way. This is the truth. This is the life."
I'm making myself not go back and read to you what Moses at the end of his life said in his message to Israel again and again. "I want you to know you shouldn't take away from this Word. You shouldn't add to this Word. I've taught you the statutes and judgments of God, so keep and do them. Keep these statutes, that it might go well with you, you and your children after you." The heart of God is to give you counsel that will lead to blessing.
That doesn't mean you're not going to be around treacherous people and a world that has spun away from God, but he tells you even how to handle them. We grieve, but not as those who are without hope. We love, not the way men love with an end to their ability to love, but we love according to his power, which mightily dwells within us. He expects us to give counsel according to the wisdom that comes from him.
How are you doing? When somebody in your Community Group goes, "This is what's going on in my life. What do you think I should do?" if you don't start by asking, "Who am I?" and if you don't answer the "Who am I?" with "I am a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God," then people are not in community with Christ followers, and it will not go well with them.
You'll be just like a science book with all different data brought to bear and all different kinds of arguments, and that person is going to be one who suffers according to the spirit of the age and the limited wisdom that's in that room. It's a form of judgment. In Isaiah, chapter 3, this is what God says. "For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support…"
He goes on and talks about physical provision in the early part, but he gets down there to verse 3, and he says, " [I'm going to take away the] captain of fifty and the honorable man, the counselor and the expert artisan, and the skillful enchanter. And I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious…" That's one of those words you say all the time and don't know what it means. It means subject to or prone to unpredictable and radical change.
That's what kids are like. One moment they throw an absolute fit because they don't get that cookie. They can't live if you don't buy them that toy. The next second they forget the toy even existed. One moment they want to do one thing, then another. They're all over the map. That's what children do. It's a mark of immaturity that how you feel and what you see consumes your entire entity and being.
He says when you have leaders over you who are like children, who aren't anchored in maturity and wisdom, it is judgment on a land, and it will be judgment in your Community Group. If you are in the companion of fools, you will suffer harm. A fool by definition is somebody who doesn't fear God.
Fear, not as in, "I'm scared," but fear in like, "God is good. His Word is true. I don't want to miss a word he says, so before we do anything, let's check in with our Father who loves us and wants it to go well with us. What does he say we should do? Let's not listen to our flesh. Let's not listen to the current of our culture. Let's listen to the God who makes all things beautiful. What does he want? We would be crazy to miss that. Shh! Let's hear from him."
That's the way your community should live and counsel one another. I mentioned to you a while ago about a time that I sat down and wrote a note to my kids I was giving Bibles to. I talked about what will happen if they'll just commit themselves to that book. I posted that. It's on wordsfromwags.com. You can go there and check it out. I titled it "A Letter to My Son," but it's to all my kids.
In the midst of that, I also had something in there where I said, "You need to know something. As much as I love you, I'm just a shadow of your perfect Father, and the only way I can really serve you is by being to you a father who pushes you toward Christ. You need to know something about your dad. He's fallible. His example won't always be perfect. There are going to be times that if I'm all you have you're going to be in trouble.
But guess what? All I want to do with all I have is point you to a loving Father. You're my child, but you're really God's child. I'm a steward of you. It's the highest privilege God can give me. I'm going to counsel you biblically. I'm not going to try and be your friend. I'm going to faithfully wound you. I'm going to shepherd you toward him."
Psalm 19 is one of my favorite psalms because it does, in a very poetic, Hebrew way, what the Gideons did in the front of the Bible. Starting in verse 7, Psalm 19 is talking about basically what will happen if you avail yourself to this special revelation that is Scripture. It uses a number of different ways to talk about God's Word.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in your Bible, and every verse in Psalm 119 talks about God's Word. Every single one. It uses a lot of different names for God's Word. Psalm 19 does the same thing. In verse 7, it calls God's Word the "law of the Lord." In verse 8, it calls it the "precepts of the Lord." In verse 9, it's the commandment, the fear, and the judgment of the Lord. If you went and looked at this, you could highlight each of the things it says about God's Word, and then you could highlight what it says about it.
In verse 7, it says the law of the Lord is perfect. It says it's sure. In verse 8, it's right, it is pure, it is (in verse 9) clean, it is true, it is righteous altogether, it is more desirable than gold, yes, much fine gold. It's better than honey, sweeter than drippings of the honeycomb. In verse 7, it restores the soul. It makes wise the simple. It rejoices the heart in verse 8. It enlightens the eyes. In verse 9, it endures forever. Verse 11: "…by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward."
I put a note next to each of those things. I said, "God's law is perfect. Your father is not. God's law is sure. The example of your father is sometimes suspect. God's law is right. The practices of your daddy are sometimes wrong. The commandment of the Lord is pure. The instructions of your daddy might be polluted. The fear of the Lord is clean. God is a leader you can always follow without regret."
I just said, "Listen. I'm going to do my best, but I can only serve you as much as I give you what a loving Father wants to give you." Is that your mindset? Is that how you shepherd and parent your kids? Is that how you counsel each other in community? If not, we are not a church, and folks in community with you are not in a biblical community, and God warns them against you.
In fact, God says to you, "If you're a messenger who shares something other than my Word, then you make me like a fool who cuts off his own feet and drinks violence. Such is the man who sends a message by a fool." I don't know about you, but I don't want to make God drink violence and cut his own feet off. I want to be his servant, and I want to counsel biblically.
If you're going to counsel biblically, that means in addition to knowing all this about God's Word you have to do four things. There are four things I constantly remind myself. "Todd, take God's Word. Read it through, pray it in, live it out, and pass it on." Do you guys know that this year in Join the Journey we're working our way through the Bible? If you read your Bible just 12 minutes a day, you would read through the entire Bible in a year.
Read it through, pray it in, live it out, and pass it on. Folks, if you don't read it through, if you don't spend time devoting daily, you have nothing to give anybody but harm. You might get lucky every now and then and find your truth in some way lines up with his, but God wants you to be an individual who speaks the truth in love. He, in fact, warns you in Luke 17. He says, "It's inevitable that stumbling blocks are going to come to people, but woe to him through whom they come."
God doesn't take it kindly when fools give his children bad advice. What God loves is what it says in James 5:19-20. When you turn somebody back, when you turn a sinner from the error of his way, you save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins because you admonish him with truth. That's what God wants for us.
We might think, "Well, in good ol' Dallas, Texas, Todd, it has to be easy to find people like this," and I would tell you you're wrong. Every year about this time the American Bible Society and George Barna, who next to George Gallup is probably the largest pollster in our country today… They have studied and found out what the top biblically minded cities are in America. Dallas is not in the top 5. It's not in the top 10. It's not in the top 15. Dallas is not in the top 20. It's not even in the top 25 cities that are biblically minded.
Biblically minded, by the way, they determine this way. It's a biblically minded city if an individual in that city has read the Bible, which they don't define… It could be any book you think is God's Word. Have you read a holy book these last seven days, and do you believe it's accurate and true? If you can answer that question "Yes, I've read a holy book in the last seven days, and I consider it accurate and true," then they would put you on the biblically minded side.
Good old "buckle of the Bible Belt" Dallas, Texas, is not a town where you should expect to find a bunch of folks that that is their practice, to read it through, pray it in, live it out, and pass it on, which means just because somebody shows up around you, even walks into a church, goes to The Porch, carries a Bible, doesn't mean they're reading it. If they're reading it, it doesn't mean they're praying it in. If they're praying it in, it doesn't mean they're living it out, and they certainly if they're not living it out are not going to pass it on to you.
But let's make it about you and me. How are we doing at giving counsel biblically? I don't know if you've been watching this or not, but up there to our northeast in Durham, North Carolina, there is this fine little building. This is the university chapel bell tower up there at Duke University. Duke University was founded as a Methodist university originally. It was founded by a group of people who loved God and God's Word, just like most of our institutions were.
Harvard, Yale…those were Christian institutions at their beginning, but now the leadership of Duke would gladly tell you their relationship with not just the Methodist Church but with Christianity in general is purely historical and symbolic. There was a big discussion up there this week because they decided about two weeks ago to let the Islamic student union do the adhan, which means to announce. It's Arabic for announce. The adhan is the very public amplified call to prayer that would come out of a minaret.
They decided to use this chapel, this church on their campus, to call people to pray to Allah, to the Islamic call to prayer. Now listen. It's one thing for a very liberal, secular university to amplify a call to error. It's another thing for you, who may not be speaking in Arabic and calling them to follow Allah, but if you're not calling them to follow Jesus and his will and his way, then your mouth is a minaret of another kind, and that's a problem.
I'm not nearly as concerned about Duke, although it's a great picture of the ignorance and the confusion with pluralism and a misdefining of what tolerance is to try and meld together different worldviews, but I'm speaking here to the church. What I'm going to say is if your mouth is not speaking the words of God it is a minaret, and that is not how it should be. The only adhan that should come out of your mouth is that Jesus is true, his Word is pure, and that following him there is great reward and life. Is that your counsel?
Our friends here and I just sat down and went through different things we've heard different people who walk into this building say at different times. They say, "Hey listen, man. It doesn't matter if they're not really divorced yet. They've been separated for months." They say, "Sex…everyone is doing it. God wouldn't give you that desire if he didn't want you to do it." They say, "Hey man, just trust your gut. Do what you feel in your heart."
They say, "I wouldn't forgive them. No way. I'd be out and done with them." They say, "Hey, you're taking your faith far too seriously. You just need to relax a little bit." They've said, "I think it's good that you guys try out some physical stuff right now while you're dating just to make sure you're really compatible." They've said, "Of course you have to watch that movie and show. It's okay. We have to be culturally relevant. We should know what other people are watching."
Folks who want to be in community whose mouths are minarets will say something like this: "Well, it can't be supposed to be like this. If God was in this, it wouldn't be hard." They say, "Hey man, in God's eyes you're already married. You've told everybody you're going to get married. Why wait?" Minarets. They say, "Maybe you're not praying hard enough. That's why you're not getting what you want."
They say, "Hey, since God is sovereign, he won't let you make a mistake. He won't let you make a wrong decision. Just be bold. Follow your heart." Minarets. "Go with your gut. What are you feeling? That's how the Holy Spirit talks to you." Minarets. That's not a call to the way; it's a call to error. How are you counseling biblically?
First Corinthians, chapter 6, talks about how if we're not in fellowship with others who know his Word and teach his Word, then our relationship with God is just purely historical and symbolic, and people associated with us are not going to have it go well with them. This is where the Scripture says, "What fellowship does light have with darkness?" If you say the light of God dwells in you…
By the way, that's where the word minaret comes from. It's similar to the Hebrew word menorah. It means light. It's similar to the words we would use for a lighthouse. It's the Arabic word for light. They think light is coming out of that. I'm going to tell you, this is not about Duke. This is not about Islam right now. This is about you and your mouth.
If what you speak is not consistent with God's Word, which is true, right, pure, and perfect, then your mouth is not a lighthouse; it is shepherding people toward darkness. So what do you do? How do you grow? How do you become somebody who speaks the words God wants you to speak? You're not the first person who has asked that question. In God's Word, even, you have examples from that, where you're trying to figure out what to do.
I love this. I tell my kids this riddle often, and they know it now, but I still review it with them, because it's helpful and a reminder of how God can allow us to be what otherwise we would never be. The story is of a guy who was a butler for decades of the smartest man in the world. This guy heard the smartest man in the world give numerous speeches, be in numerous Q&A sessions, and he finally got to the place where he thought he was as smart as the smartest guy in the world.
So one day when he's driving around, he says to him, "I think I could do what you do. I've learned pretty much everything there is to learn from you." The other guy goes, "Oh really?" He goes, "Yeah. I think I'm ready." The guy goes, "Okay, I'll tell you what. Guess what? I'm speaking someplace next month that I've never spoken at before. Why don't when we go over there I'll dress up like the butler, I'll carry your bags, I'll usher you around, and you go and speak. Now listen. They just want a three- or four-minute speech. What they love to do when I'm there, as you know, is answer a lot of questions." The guy goes, "I got it."
So he stood up there and gave a three- or four-minute speech he heard the smartest man in the world give numerous times. He goes to the very first section of the Q&A, and a guy raises his hand and, lo and behold, wouldn't you know it, the guy asked a question he had never heard asked of the smartest man in the world before. So he's on the spot, and he's not sure what to do. I ask my kids, "What do you think he did at that moment that allowed him to still appear to be the smartest man in the world?"
The answer is he looks down and goes, "Let me just tell you something. That is such an easy question even my butler can answer it." I tell my kids, "Listen. You don't have to be the smartest man in the world. All you have to do is tell them who you are and say, 'My God, my Father.' He'll answer it. He'll show us where to go." By the way, if your Community Group doesn't know the answer to something and you email and say, "Todd, I want to know what the answer is to this question," I'm not going to respond to you.
I'm going to ask, "Have you shared it with your Community Group yet? Have they taken their best shot at it?" If they go, "Yeah, none of us have a clue," then I'm going to say, "Then why don't I get with all of you, and I can share with all of you what the answer is. That way there are going to be six or seven people next time who know how to walk through this situation, know how to respond to this crisis, who know what God's Word would say about this question."
That's why when I do Real Truth. Real Quick. it's not Todd's take. I'm trying to take you to God's Word and show you what it says about the death penalty this week, last week about how we use a concealed handgun license, or if we can even have one. What about the Old Testament law that says homosexuality is wrong but it also says you stone your daughter? Why don't we do that? How come we do some Old Testament laws and not others? We share with you God's Word and God's perspective on those things to equip you and have you be ready. God wants you to be ready.
Moses didn't feel ready, but watch what God said to him. Moses was given by God the ability to turn his stick into a snake, as you read with me in Exodus 4. He had the ability to put his hand in his cloak and pull it back out and be leprous, the ability to take water from the Nile and pour it on the ground and turn it to blood, but he was still like, "What am I going to say? That's going to get me on the stage. That's going to get me an invite to the fair, but what am I going to say?"
God's answer in Exodus 4 was this: "Who has made man's mouth? [I know you're a stutterer.] Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say." What a gift. Moses wasn't given a script. It was just, "Trust me. Go." Can you imagine? I think if I was Moses I'd be like, "Can you write it out for me so I can study it, as opposed to getting there and hoping you show up?"
Guess what? Moses wrote it down, and God had other servants write it down and give it to you. If you stood here today and you were like Moses, stuttering, "In my community, what should I do?" Moses would look at you and go, "Dude, you have the script. God is there." By the way, Moses was just figuring him out. God revealed himself to Moses. He said, "I should be known this way unto all generations: I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I'm a God with a résumé."
Moses is saying, "Did you read the story? Did you hear what I testified that God did for me, how he plundered the Egyptians, how he parted the sea, how he led us through the desert with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire at night, how he drove out seven nations more powerful and numerous than we were?"
On and on and on the story goes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's God who is your God. Moses is going, "Read it. Learn his ways. You'll know what to say." Read it through, pray it in, live it out, pass it on. This is exactly what God told Ezekiel to do a little bit later when the people moved away from him. In Ezekiel 2, Ezekiel says:
"Then He said to me, 'Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!' As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children…'"
In other words, "I'm sending you, Ezekiel, to the Community Group that many of you feel like you're in." This is what you should do. "As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them." That's our charge: to counsel each other in a way that people know that there has been a prophet, a messenger of God, that our adhan, our announcement is from the Word of God. Verse 7 of chapter 2 says, "But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not…"
Chapter 3 tells you how you get the words. "Then He said to me, 'Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.' So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, 'Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll…'" Read it through, pray it in, live it out, and you'll find how sweet it is, and you'll have boldness when you pass it on. That's what it says in Ezekiel 3:3. "Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, go…and speak…'"
God always raises up a deliverer. When he brought Israel back, he raised up Ezra from the time of judgment. He brought Ezra back to the land. Whenever God wants to deliver a people he always raises up a deliverer, be it Moses, be it Ezekiel, be it Ezra, be it you, and every time, he expects his servant to do the exact same thing. "Speak to them what I have told you."
This is Ezra 7:10. Ezra set his heart to study the law of God and to observe it and to teach his commandments to his community, which was Israel. Is that what you're doing? If not, then God is not raising up a deliverer; he's raising up a demon. Your mouth is a minaret. It is not a source of life and light.
Let me just say this to you very quickly, and I'm going to show you a picture of why we do this. There are only really three reasons why we don't speak the Word of God to others. First, we don't know it. My counsel to you would be to read it through. Secondly, we don't really want to live by it ourselves. We're not living it out in our own lives, so we don't want to be held accountable by the advice we give. My counsel to you would be to pray it in and live it out.
Or thirdly, it's because you think, "If I share it, it's going to offend other people. I'm going to be marginalized." I'm going to tell you that you might be right on that one. Here's what's going to happen if you become a steward of the mystery of God and a servant of Christ. People are going to sometimes roll their eyes at you. They're going to say, "You take yourself too seriously." They're going to say you're a fanatic, a Bible banger, and they might even persecute you.
Second Timothy 3:12 says, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Matthew 14 talks about John the Baptist. He spoke the Word of God to Herod about the way Herod was conducting himself in his relationship with his brother's wife, and it got John the Baptist thrown in a dungeon and his head served up on a platter.
Jesus says, "If you speak my Word, your mom might hate you, your dad might hate you, your brother will probably hate you, your sister will probably hate you." But he says in Jeremiah 1, "You need to know something. If you don't speak my Word that dismays them, then I will dismay you." He tells him in verse 18:
"'Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests and to the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,' declares the Lord."
What's going to happen if you become a person who counsels biblically is it's going to change your life, not always for the better in the short haul, but mark my words; it's where life is. I'm going to tell you something else that's going to happen if you counsel from God's Word. It's going to change other people's lives. They're going to hear from God like they've never heard him before. They're going to be shepherded in the way. Watch this.
Newley: One morning in August of 2012, we were getting ready to go to church, and a fight erupts between us. I don't even know what it was about, but it was bad. Karen just looked at me and she said, "We're a joke. Our marriage is a joke."
Karen: Life was crazy. Working full-time, three kids, and Grady, in the middle, who has Down syndrome.
Newley: Living a life that looks like we are Christians and we have it all together. On the inside behind closed doors we're fighting, and we're fighting a lot.
Karen: I went to a baseball game of one of my boys, and one of the other mothers sat down next to me, and she began talking about the freedom her husband had been experiencing from confessing pornography in their marriage and how they were healing and working through that. That night I just felt almost like I was being prepared to hear secrets.
Newley: She's asking me if I struggle with pornography, which I deny over and over, and she starts to pack a bag. She says, "I know you're hiding things from me, and I'm not going to put up with it anymore. I'm done." In the spirit to win, I volleyed at her a confession to hurt her. I confessed that I'd been unfaithful to her. She left with her bag, and then I didn't fall back asleep.
The next day, I get the kids off to school, and I went to work, and I was a wreck. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't talk to anybody. Karen called me. "I'm going to meet with these two ladies tonight, and I want you to call me with their husbands." I shared with them what I had shared with Karen, and they were great listeners. One of them had gone through and kind of walked the path of confessing sin against his wife and was in that process of recovery and healing and had hope to offer. Karen was scheduled to go on a trip the next day.
Karen: As I'm driving from Fort Worth to Dallas, my phone is just going nuts with text messages, and it's all Scripture, encouragement from these girls, and I'm just, "Why this? Why not 'Hey, you're going to be this close to NorthPark mall. Go blow some money. Go shopping'?" I remember the very first verse I fell on was Exodus 14:14, which says, "The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still." There was this surrender that was starting.
Newley: Karen was in the hotel in Dallas. She called and asked me if I would come and have breakfast with her the next day. I'm in my truck. I turn my radio off and begin to pray. My prayer is interrupted with my mind being filled with sin, more and more sins that I had committed and committed against Karen that I didn't confess to her, and it just broke me. I barely got my truck parked. I was a sobbing mess.
All of those bad things he had been replaying in my mind, I had no way to fix it, no way to get to him, and I cried out for him to have mercy on me, and I cried out for Jesus Christ to save me. I immediately felt different and hopeful. I went into Karen's hotel. She opened the door. My knees buckled. I poured into her hotel room, and I just began to confess. Sin after sin rolled out. It was 40 or 45 minutes of confession and crying, and she was there to receive it.
Karen: We just had a really long day of confession and understanding, I think, for the first time in our marriage.
Newley: I had a friend who I called and asked to come and talk to me. He came over that night at 11:00 in the evening, and then just sharing with me the gospel and me hearing it for the first time with a different set of ears, and Scripture after Scripture in support of this great news. We spent time studying God's Word and what his design for marriage was, what his design for forgiveness was, how he has forgiven us of so much and how he calls us to forgive each other.
Karen: I most mornings have a love note from him that's telling me what he has learned, how he wants to encourage me that day. Because of Jesus I have a family. They just see what an example of a godly man looks like, the way he leads this family, the way he leads me. I never knew this was how we're called to live life together and authentically.
Community has been one of the biggest blessings. They're going to be there, not with just the worldly advice we all want to hear that sounds good, this is just the truth, and get back Scripture. For the first time in my life, I felt the Lord's presence. I felt him speaking to me directly through Scripture.
Newley: God pursued me. I feel like he passed the baton to this group of guys, that he said, "I'm going to pursue you through these men, and together you guys are going to go from here." We've grown into a Community Group. We're committed to one another. My day-to-day decision making, the attitude I will have toward Karen, my employees, people I will meet in life, is shaped and formed by those words he has provided as a love note to me. It's an awesome gift he has given us.
[End of video]
Let me explain this story to you. About two years ago, I went over to Fort Worth and had a first coffee with a few folks who had been from Watermark, Dallas, who were living now in Fort Worth. There were about 20 or 30 people in the room. Newley and Karen were one of those couples, and we talked about how we do life together, devote ourselves daily, live authentically, pursue each other, and counsel biblically.
I know they walked out of there with some of the friends who invited them to come and they said, "That is crazy. There's no way we're doing that." Little did they know how crazily they were going to need people to speak God's truth to them in a moment of crisis. Did you hear what Karen said? It was that community that she then later became a part of. When she came to get away after hearing that her husband was unfaithful, she began to drive over here.
Instead of getting texts like, "Go numb your pain with some shopping; you deserve better," what she got was Scripture that reminded her of a loving, forgiving, restorative God who has the power to heal, who has the power to restore, who has the power to make her relationship with Newley what God intended it to be in the first place, what they both dreamt it would be. Scripture flooded her phone.
Throughout the night, she was reminded of things. She knew that Newley had not been honest with her, and friends encouraged her and him to go. They said, "She's ready to hear from you all that you've done." He went over, having been encouraged by men to humble himself. Let me tell you what's going to happen if you counsel biblically. People are going to get their life back. Boys are going to get their daddy back.
Wives are going to have a man for the first time who leads and loves and serves and cares for. Jesus is going to be glorified. Christmases aren't going to be at three different places. Friends are going to start to walk up to you, like they do the Spikes, and say, "What is going on with you two? He treats you differently. He talks about you adoringly behind your back." That's what's going to happen if you counsel biblically. Maybe not right away.
What's going to happen is someone like Karen is going to say, "For the first time I'm hearing God speak." How? Through people who read his Word to her. People like Newley are going to be pursued. How? Through people who run after him with God's Word. That's what the church does. If that's not your practice, your mouth is a minaret, and that is not good.
So I pray, church, when we gather together you keep your mouth shut. When someone asks, "What do you think?" you only open it when you go, "I am a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God," and if you don't know what to do, then you lead out by running to others who do and bring that counsel together. Don't send somebody off to get it alone. You go together to get counsel if your group doesn't know how to counsel, and you love, and you let people experience the tangible expression of God.
If you're here today and you don't know that expression, would you come and let us share that love with you? Can we counsel you how to be restored to the God who always pursues people, who has raised up a deliverer for you today? Would you come and be discipled, that you might be that source of life to others? And if you know him, would you go? Read through his Word, pray it into your heart, live it out, pass it on as an act of worship. God bless you.