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Todd discusses the final of six Community Core values: Admonish Faithfully. He reminds us that too often we tell each other what we want to hear, and essentially play dead church. He encourages our community groups to actually admonish each other and also counsel biblically, in the manner of Galatians 6:1 and 1 Thessalonians 5:14.
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
We are thrilled to be wrapping up our sixth week of this series we're calling Together. Together we gather for this purpose: to remind ourselves of the greatness of God, to remember how we should respond to him, but we don't gather together in this setting to shepherd you individually. That would be hard.
There are thousands of folks I'm going to interact with today whose name I'm never going to use. I'm never going to talk to you personally, even though some of the things I say you might go, "That brother is talking to me personally." And that's good. I want you to feel that way, but God wants you to have more than just a sense of conviction when you hear somebody speak or hear a Scripture read. God wants you to be fully known. He wants people to know your name.
The Lord says he knows the number of hairs on your head. We're not going to know you that well, but somebody ought to know you well enough that they know where you are prone to wander, prone to leave the God you love; people who know where you need to be admonished, encouraged, and helped with incredible patience.
The Bible says one of the marks of the early church is not that they gathered in large settings where they sang. Jews had always done that. What marked the early church… It says they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. It says that day by day they continued meeting with one another, breaking bread and encouraging each other.
Community is not something we do once a week. God doesn't want you when you come once a week to not really be known. God wants you to engage with people who are walking with you in smaller communities day by day. We ought to encourage each other day after day, as long as it's called "today," so that none of us would be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We've all had that experience.
We come here, we're convicted, we're certain this week is going to be different, and it's not until the following Sunday that we're around God's people again. That is a very unbiblical way to live. So we call you into smaller communities. Our goal here at Watermark has never been to be big. We don't ever want just to impress ourselves with how many folks come and gather to our corporate meetings. It's appropriate that we gather this way, that we can share our gifts with one another.
That's why we can do all the amazing ministries we have here, because God is always raising up individuals who are gifted, passionate, and godly in certain ways, who can create opportunities that all of us can benefit from, but all of us are then called to be known and to practice the "one anothers," where we individually devote ourselves daily to Christ, where we know him and walk with him, where we then live authentically with those who know us. We don't have to put on airs and pretend, but I move toward you and show you who I am. In fact, I pursue you relationally.
Consistent with the God we say we know and love, who runs after us and cares for us, we run after each other. Then when we give each other counsel, we counsel each other biblically. Not based on what we think but on what God says, and we engage with one another missionally. By the way, I want to take a second and tell you I got a great email this week from somebody who I've never met, but she was kind enough to shoot me an email.
Last week, after we talked corporately and reminded ourselves about the greatness of our God, the way he loves us, the way he runs after us, and that we should run after others that way and engage missionally with our world, there was a great couple, Paul and Lexi… I found out Paul and Lexi aren't in here with us this morning because they're one of those young married couples who are discipling young men and young women here, and they're with their Small Group all weekend that they're leading over in D-town.
Paul and Lexi are this couple that left here last week, and as they were driving home they saw a woman who was in distress on the side of the road who was wondering, "Dadgumit, Lord. Why has this happened to me? Why am I in these positions where I don't have what I need and I'm alone?" They weren't alone when Paul and Lexi drove up. They pulled over and saw that she needed help.
She wrote and said, "I just want to thank you, because I met some members of your church. Their names were Paul and Lexi." This is a letter to us corporately. "They were angels," she said, "sent from heaven. They knew it, and they knew the second that they stopped and helped me and my children, because we were stranded on the side of the road, that we needed to hear from God. We needed to basically be encouraged. My life is forever changed because of this chance encounter, and I want to tell them thank you and the body thank you."
I know there were thousands of Paul and Lexis who came out of here last week, and there are a lot of people you engaged with missionally. If all we do is gather here and sing about how great God is and we don't show that by the way we love others… The way God has determined that others are going to be loved is through us. If we don't do that, then we have a very empty faith. So way to go, Paul and Lexi. Way to go, all of you who this week were evidences to other people that God hasn't forgotten them, that God loves them, because you cared. You knew their name.
God said the way he's going to work in this world is through his people. Watermark is a mission. We are not a weekly meeting. The way we're going to grow in our ability to be effective on this mission is that we meet in smaller platoons, where we are equipped, encouraged, trained, and cared for. So this is when we all gather together. We sing songs about the greatness of our God. We make sure we're all aligned under the same commander in chief. We all follow our head, we're all part of the body, and off we go in smaller platoons. We gather that we might scatter effectively.
Now let me say something. The something I'm talking about here is not for those who are still trying to figure out if our God is greater, if amazing grace is really that amazing, if Jesus is the cornerstone. To you I want to say we're glad you're here. Our job, though, is not to get you to come here. Our great desire is not to convince you of anything but to share with you the love of God and to remind you of his kindness and that he's not looking for you to perform long enough, well enough, that he would accept you, but that he has been running toward you.
He has made every provision for you in your sin through the provision of his Son, who left the glory of heaven to come and live a sinless life and give himself on the cross for you, that all you would have to do is acknowledge that your way has not been his way, that your life isn't perfect so there's no way for you to have fellowship with a perfect God unless he did something amazing through grace, and that is: made you righteous in his sight.
We've already celebrated that that's what we believe has happened. Our first job with you this morning is to sing his amazing grace before you, and then, once you understand it, to call you to be a part of this community of friends that then begins to love each other with amazing grace and help each other move toward the image of the Son. We'll never be gods here, but God's purpose is to take all his children and conform them into the image of his Son.
If you find anybody in history that the world goes, "That was a good man," it's Jesus. "That guy lived a glorious life." That's Jesus, and God's desire is that he would move us toward Christlikeness. How does that happen? It happens when we gather together, devote ourselves daily to his Word, prayer, and his people who we live authentically with, who we pursue relationally, that we counsel each other from God's Word as we're on mission.
Then because this is a tough mission and a long road and because our flesh has not been yet redeemed… The Spirit inside of us that's now operating our flesh… Our mind has been transformed that God is good, that our flesh isn't a good god and we shouldn't follow it, so that Spirit calls us to discipline our flesh, and the life which we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and delivered himself up for us, but we're prone to wander. We're prone to leave the God we love.
So what do we need? We need the sixth thing that is in this little series called Together. We need to admonish each other faithfully. This is what the Scripture says in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. We are to be individuals who admonish the unruly (that's sometimes me, it's sometimes you), who encourage the fainthearted, who help the weak and are patient, longsuffering, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness with everyone. We've received grace; we extend grace, but grace never says, "Do what you want to do as long as you want to do it."
What grace says is, "Hey, I want to give you what you don't deserve, which is unrelenting love. I want to make provision for you in my heart." God has made more than provision for us in his heart. He has made provision for us before his holy throne through his Son Jesus Christ. That's the expression of love we model for each other. All of us are redeemed people who are being redeemed and moving toward him, but this is tough, because sometimes in the midst of our being redeemed we don't act very redeemed, and a lot of times the world will look…
In fact, the world looks at us and the church in general and sometimes says, "Hey, these people have been hanging around with God and saying they know God for a long time. They say they're part of God's family. I don't see that reflected in their moving toward glory. They're still just as quirky, just as weird. Their marriages are just as platonic. Their kids are just as rebellious. Their parents are just as distracted. Their affections are just as committed to the world as mine."
That is one of the reasons that people say, "I'm not impressed with the power of God," because they don't see it evidenced in the power of his people. Well, let me tell you that one of the reasons we don't see people changed is not because God is not powerful but because his people don't avail themselves to the major means of grace God gives us that supplements his Word and his Spirit. Guess what it is? People who love his Word and yield to his Spirit.
That is why you hear us here continually call you to community where you can be known and loved and admonished as necessary. It's not as it should be when somebody is around Jesus for a long time and their life isn't changed. In fact, if you look at anything in the Scripture, people who are confronted with Jesus, people who have come into relationship with Jesus… There is radical transformation.
So if Jesus is alive today and he lives in his church today (and he does), then there ought to be radical transformation we see here. If there's not radical transformation happening in your life, it's not because God is dead, and it's not because his Word isn't powerful. It's probably because you are not with his people or you are stiff-necked and hard-hearted and deluded in thinking that you love him or you're not availing yourself to the means of grace he's giving you, because Jesus is still bringing about radical transformation.
Now look. One of the things you need to know is we're not a perfect people, and you're going to get into community sometimes with people who are very early in the sanctification process or haven't been shepherded much, haven't been discipled, and God is going to use you… Christ in you is going to go to work, and that means you have to learn to speak the truth in love. We call that admonishing faithfully.
But brace yourself. Everybody is crazy once you get to know them. Everybody. A couple of weeks ago we gathered with leaders of these smaller communities and encouraged them. We celebrated what they were doing. We reminded them of the call, and we put before them a fun, humorous reminder of what they might run into, and I'm going to share it with you right now. We know community is hard. Here's part of the reason.
All right. Everyone is crazy. No one is going to go to GroupLink today. That's a fact. You're like, "That's why I don't do community right there." Let me just tell you something. If you don't do community, that's you. You're one of those things, and no one is going to love you enough to tell you, because they're not around you. You isolate yourself from them. This isn't easy. We are all in process. Jesus died for all of those, and not just know-it-alls and time-keepers and ramblers.
Those are personality quirks that if people really love you, they're going to bring you along and shepherd you and help you get a sense that you say "like," like, like, like, way too much, and they're going to help you understand that. You might not even be aware. That's what friends do. I love to say there are only two people in the world who can remind you of the truth about yourself: either an enemy who has lost his temper or a friend who loves you dearly.
God wants you to have friends who love you dearly. It is a tragedy when everybody in the world sees what the issue is with somebody, and they're a part of your family, and because you're more interested in self-protecting and not moving into an awkward relationship, which is sin, because you're concerned about yourself and how you might be perceived as opposed to loving somebody else…
That's the problem. Most people would rather sin themselves than deal with somebody else's dysfunction or sin. It's a tragedy when other people see things that are plainly a problem. In fact, we have to send them to a specialist who will tell them the truth because we won't tell the truth to one another. One of my favorite cartoons is The Far Side. Gary Larson was a wicked observer of human nature, and he would always use different things to help drive home points.
I'm going to show you a picture of one of my favorite Far Side cartoons. It's relevant to this point I'm making. It's a picture of a guy who obviously is having problems with his back, and he doesn't know what the issues are, so he goes to a doctor. He says, "Mr. Crumbly, I don't think your problem is kidney stones." We can see what the problem clearly was.
All of us have things that sometimes are like these elephants in the room, these dinosaurs up our backside. If we really love one another, we're going to wade into that and admonish each other through personality quirks or sometimes something a lot more difficult. It's hard. I'm reminded this week of the fact that somebody asked the coach of the Seahawks if he wanted to win the Super Bowl, and he goes, "No, I think I'll pass."
What I would tell you is that it's sometimes hard to go up against that goal line front that is somebody's self-protective ways, maybe even striking back in anger, so we just go, "I think I'll pass," and something much more precious than a Super Bowl victory is lost. Somebody God cares deeply about who he wants to conform into the image of his Son goes by the wayside. It should never be that way.
Now look. I'm not talking, as I said, about poorly timed spiritual people or time gurus or know-it-alls. I'm talking about some things that I see happening at Watermark that shouldn't be if we're in biblical community and walking with one another. You might recognize some of these people. These are people around Watermark, none of them real. Just little bios I've written that I've observed, but you might recognize them.
Here's one: "He lives by the motto, 'If I can, why shouldn't I?' His business is boom or bust, and when it's booming he is spending, traveling, and counting on the seasons of up and to the right to never end. He has no plan except to roll with the good times and complain during the bad. His giving is inconsistent because his view of money and blessing is inconsistent with God's Word. More and bigger property is a sign of God's prosperity in his eyes, and his eyes are always on to the next thing he can get, certain that his next 'get' will be the one that gets him satisfied.
He needs friends, true friends, who love him not because he has a lot of things but because he is God's son and a steward of God's things, and one day he will stand before his Father and give an account. Because he says he loves his Father today, he needs brothers today who will hold him accountable for all that he will be accountable one day for."
"Her favorite pronoun is I. Even though 18 years ago she entered into a marriage where she took a vow and entered into a covenant before God, family, and friends to live as a we, she lives as an I. She believes her self-sufficiency is 'just-go-get-it-ness,' and she desperately needs real friends who will tell her the truth, friends who will tell her that her self-sufficiency is really a sign of her oneness deficiency in her marriage and that it's a sign of a lack of respect and desire for sharing all of her life with her husband.
She doesn't complete her husband; she competes with him. She complains about his passivity but doesn't pursue him, pray for him, or partner with him in seeking the Lord's way. She desperately needs friends who will remind her of the Lord's way and passionately pursue her with truth. She needs community who will pray for her as she begins to, for the first time in years, love her husband consistent with the vows of her youth."
How about this person? "Their favorite ministry is 'Missionary Dating.' Never mind that it leads to their being pulled off mission themselves and consistently found in a missionary position that is more Playboy's version than Paul's. They love to rationalize and justify and ignore revelation. They scoff at judgment. They tell their friends that if they don't date this person someone worse will, and worse yet, they believe that this makes sin make sense.
They are blind to the reality that their professing to follow Jesus while following their flesh is the single greatest reason the person they're falling in love with doesn't think faith matters. They are not living consistent with their professed desire to be a disciple, because they are, for all practical purposes, living with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They are deluded, and they desperately need disciples to remind them of the danger of forsaking their first love and encourage them daily toward wisdom and grace."
How about this person? "If he led his business the way he leads his family, he would have been fired years ago. He's a respected professional, but he is passive in his home. He convinces himself that his lack of engagement with his wife and kids is because he wants to provide for them, but what he really is doing is providing himself with an excuse that leaves his wife vulnerable and his kids alone.
He wants to be God's man, but he doesn't know how, and he isn't slowing down enough to learn how. He has never been discipled, but he will go to church. He'll meet other guys for conversation and coffee. The problem is after they pray for their breakfast all they do is talk about sports and business instead of Scripture and the business of being real men.
He doesn't know how to step up, speak out, stand firm, stay humble, or serve the King. He is passive, silent, and weak, and he needs godly men who will encourage him to be engaged, alert, faithful, and strong. He needs to be a part of a band of brothers who run together toward Jesus instead of drifting together toward judgment."
"He loves US history. He especially loves to quote the presidents. His favorite quotes are, 'I did not have sex with that woman' and 'Well, it depends on what is is.' He thinks he is still honoring his commitment to not have premarital sex because, for him, intercourse is not an option, but of course, everyone knows he thinks clothing and pretty much everything else is.
He says he struggles with purity, by which he means his habit of feeding his thought life with pornographic images and romantic comedies that glamorize casual sex is continuing to affect every area of his life and every relationship he pursues.
He is a wordsmith and an expert at self-justification, and he needs friends, real friends, who will lovingly take him to the Word and help him see he is really self-destructive and injuring his witness, his walk, and the women he's in relationship with. He needs friends who will ask him to ask not what his girlfriend can do with him but what he, if in truth he pursues Jesus, can do for Christ and his girlfriend."
How about this person? "They love to seek counsel from everyone, but they never want everyone they seek counsel from to meet together. They are talking to many, including their own licensed professional counselor, but they march alone through life, and in truth they don't have any confidence in God's Word or God's people.
They long for real friends, but they aren't really friends with any of them. They are constantly managing information and sharing only what they want with who they want, and they tell others who give them counsel, 'Well, that's not what the others say I should do,' without acknowledging that the others don't have all the same information.
They live together with others in total isolation. They desperately need friends who will kindly let them know they are not living according to wisdom, friends who will sit them down, all down together, and collectively listen, love, pray, and point to God's Word. They don't need their confused understanding of safe and confidential to continue to inform them. They need godly friends and biblical community."
How about this last one? "They pride themselves in being disgusted by the institutional church and how 'just Jesus' is enough for them. They know exactly what they think God wants the church to really be like, even though they have never done anything to help someone else know or even like it. The truth is, though, they do love to go to church, and then they love to go to lunch afterward and talk about what the pastor said right and wrong and what the church could have done better.
They podcast all of their favorite pastors and know a lot about what those pastors have recently said, but sadly, because they are committed to not committing to any church, they are a regular church attender, or to say it another way, they are an irregular believer. They need Christ followers to faithfully encourage them to engage with Jesus, as Jesus admonishes them to, by faithfully diving in together with others.
They need to devote themselves daily to the Jesus they say they know, live authentically with others, pursue God's people relationally, humble themselves under biblical counsel and accountability, live missionally, and there's no way it's going to happen unless true believers around them admonish them faithfully."
Some of those people are in your Community Group as well, and God expects you to speak into those things humbly. The Scripture says in Galatians 6:1, if you see a brother caught in any spiritual trespass, you who are spiritual, it says, first look to yourself that you too may not be tempted, that you wouldn't be tempted to be arrogant and play a pious, "I'm better than you" or to go at them in a way that's not consistent with 1 Thessalonians 5:14, which is patience.
It says, "You who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness" by first looking to yourself, making sure you're devoted daily, doing it biblically, and then you can come along and love them and thus fulfill the law of Christ. How are you doing? How is your community doing with you? I talked a couple of weeks ago about the value of the way we counsel one another biblically.
Counseling biblically is what you do when someone asks you, "What do you think I should do?" When somebody comes up to you and asks, "What do you think I should do?" you respond with biblical counsel. Admonishing faithfully, what I'm talking about today, is what you do when you are near friends who are busily doing what is not wise, what is inconsistent with biblical counsel.
The Lord desires that you and I have friends who are the kinds of people that I would ask, "What do you think I should do?" and that they would then counsel me biblically. God wants us to all have friends who will come up to us sometimes and look at us and go, "What are you doing? Todd, I know you. I know you love Christ. I know you want to be God's man, but let me see if I understand what I just think happened right there. Let me ask you a question about a pattern that's in your life. What are you doing?"
"Todd, what do you mean you don't want anybody to know your financial condition? God's Word says the way you handle your money is the best indication of where your heart is. What are you doing when you say you want to not have anybody else know anything about the way you spend, the way you save, the way you give? What are you doing?"
How about this? "What are you doing? I know that's a great business opportunity. I know this is the season where you have to say yes to everything you can so you can move up in the company, but that's your son over there. You're never going to get these years back. You're not going to be able to just go away and make money and come back and reengage when he's 14. You're going to teach him for 10 years to never really be around you. Don't buy the lie of quality time. It's time present with your kids. Are you really factoring in your marriage and your kids as you make this career decision? What are you doing?"
Do you have friends who love you enough in a spirit of gentleness, who have the courage to call you up and let you not like them for a season because they go, "Hey, we need to talk about what you're doing"? If you don't, you're not in biblical community and we're just playing a game. This is why the church in America is so incredibly inept.
When I started Watermark with some friends a number of years ago, I didn't want to see how big Watermark could get. I still couldn't care less how big Watermark could get, but I do say this. If we are biblical, if we're practicing the "one anothers" of Scripture, if we're doing the things I've been talking about in this series, I hope the entire world jumps in with Jesus, not with Watermark, and that we really care and love one another, and that people are being shepherded here and being admonished and encouraged and helped here.
But I don't need you just to show up and validate me with your presence, and I'm not going to say things to you that I think won't offend you too much so you might come back. That's what the typical American church does. You show up, you shut up, and you pay up. You give me enough money that I can keep the lights on, and you make me feel good because you're there, and I won't ask too much of you, and we'll both tell each other we're doing what God wants us to do. That is a dead church, and I want no part of it.
When I described to folks what I really believed God wanted us to do in Dallas, Texas, they went, "Are you crazy? Dallas, Texas? There are already hundreds of churches in Dallas, Texas, and there's no way people are going to put up with that. People are going to leave the second you call them to biblical accountability and discipleship. They'll leave there and go somewhere else in a heartbeat."
Do you know what I said to them? "Well, fine. Let their blood be on somebody else's hands." I have no interest in giving an account for souls that I don't give an account for. Let me show you in the Scripture where that comes from. In Ezekiel, chapter 33, there's this great text where the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel, saying…
"Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, 'If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head.'"
Then the Scripture goes on to say, "Because he heard the sound but didn't take warning, his blood will fall on him. If he would have listened, he would have delivered his own life." Then he goes on and says, "If, on the other hand, you're the watchman and you see trouble coming and don't blow the trumpet and those people die in judgment, then when I come I will hold you accountable for their blood."
I don't want to be a watchman who just wants you to like me. It says at the very end of that chapter… This is what happens so much in churches. Pastors get up there, and they want to be funny, they want to be winsome, they want to be relevant. I want to be all of those things. When I teach, I do try at some level to entertain you. You might go, "Well, you're doing a lousy job." The reason I want to… The word entertain means to hold someone's attention. What I'm talking about here is the only thing you ought to pay attention to.
So we try and put some creativity here. I try and give you illustrations. I try and say things as you go, "Wow, that does seem to pierce me right there," but I don't ever want to amuse you. You go to an amusement park. The word muse means to think, a means not. So you go to Six Flags and amuse yourself. You don't think. You must not be if you're sitting around all those halter tops, bad food, and long lines in that kind of temperature. You're clearly not thinking, but that's another conversation.
I want to hold your attention for what matters, but I don't want to have you not think. I want you to think about the only thing that matters. By the way, I don't want to convince you of anything. If I can convince you of something, somebody can convince you of something else. What I'm going to do is love you, and the kindest way to love you is to be a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God. If all we do is gather right here, and we don't, out of our devotion to Jesus, love others the way he loves us…
Does the Spirit of God leave you alone when you're drifting toward something far worse than being a know-it-all or a poorly timed spiritual person or a liker? I don't think he does, but sometimes what happens is that we can start to numb that Holy Spirit, and what God says is, "I'm going to send a prophet. I'm going to send my Spirit wrapped in human flesh. I'm going to send relationship to them, and I'm going to speak through that."
Sometimes those folks will stiff-arm you, and if you love being in the presence of that person more than you love loving that person, then you don't love that person. You're using that person, and you're not a Christ follower. Now listen, gang. People ask me all the time, "Is Watermark a safe place?" I go, "It depends on how you define safe. If you mean are we going to leave you alone, I don't think that's safe," because isolation is the garden in which idiosyncrasies grow.
The Scripture says, "He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom." If you take the name of Jesus… You've decided that God does pursue you, that God is good, that he has made provision for your sin, that he loves you and he's not looking for you to perform; he's looking for you to accept his provision. You see that he's a loving and good God. He then calls you to be around other people, other brothers and sisters who themselves are healed, cleansed lepers who know how good God is and don't need to manage their past story.
They know what their story is because it was a story without God, and they know that everybody with a story without God is going to go to a really dangerous place. So we celebrate what God has done. We share our testimony of what he has done, and we help each other to move toward him, that he might keep doing what he intends, which having justified us is sanctify us until that great and glorious day when he will absolutely make us like his Son, but right now he expects us to care for each other.
There are really only two things you need to be if you're going to be a devoted follower of Christ in this sense that I'm talking about. You need to be an admonisher, and you need to be somebody who takes admonishing. Selfish people will never admonish because they just want to run for mayor and be "Mr. and Mrs. Popular" all the time. Prideful people will never take any admonishing. What the Scripture tells us to do…
It says in 1 Peter, chapter 5, "You younger men…be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time…" Then it says to be sober-minded because there is an Enemy roaming around, seeking whom he might devour. And guess who lions always devour? The one who isolates from the herd, and wisdom would not have you do it.
We are called to love after and seek one another, admonish each other as we should. That's why right now we're doing this 4B form. Because our goal was not to see how big we could get, we said, "Every year we're going to reset. We're going to go back to zero. We're going to say to even people who have been through a membership, who have taken the step to listen to our core values, talk about our passion, agree fundamentally that God's Word is true…"
We get together and just say, "Okay, these are the things we're going to be about; here we go," and we go after it. Then every January we say, "Okay, who still wants to do that?" I know hundreds of people here at Watermark, but I don't know the thousands who are here, and what we're trying to do is go, "Hey, are the thousands who are here still in smaller communities? Are you still with us?"
We ask you on your own to just take some time, 15 to 20 minutes, to evaluate before God, "How am I doing as a person believing in Christ, sharing with others the goodness of Christ, and how am I doing in my belief myself? How am I doing at belonging to the body? Who are the people who know me and shepherd me and who I love and shepherd? How am I being trained in truth? What am I growing in? What am I learning? How am I using God's Word to counsel others, and how am I doing in being strong in a life of ministry and worship?"
That's what we call the 4 Bs: Believe, Belong, Be trained, Be strong. Believe in Christ, belong to his body, be trained in truth, and be strong in a life of ministry and worship. So we ask you every year to take a time and go, "I'm still in. I'm still about those four biblical things." Every year on this day, hundreds of folks who have said, "I want that" show that they don't want that. They want to go somewhere where they're left alone.
We're not going to love you more if you're a member, and we're not going to love you more if you fill out your 4B form, but you need to know we are going to give an account. Hebrews 13:17 is a very sobering verse for guys like me who are in the business of shepherding other people. Hebrews 13:17 tells you to obey your leaders, to submit to them. I do that right here. Why? "…for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account."
This is why we do the 4B form. This is why we write this letter. Hundreds of folks will get this letter. It's tragic that we have to even send a letter out to do this and it costs the Lord's resources, but we believe it's worth spending resource to find out who the Lord is going to have us be responsible for.
It says, "As you have heard us say many times, our heart's desire at Watermark is to help those with whom we have contact to become fully devoted followers of Christ, and we hope this letter reaffirms our commitment to shepherd and care for you. One of the tools we use as we work toward this goal is our annual 4B Growth Assessment form.
The questions asked allow you to think and pray through how God is working in you, and your responses allow us to help you pursue him even more fully. Additionally, through this information we can discern the areas God would have us focus on as a church." That's what we do. I don't look at your individual stuff, but I put it together in a macro sense, and it determines how we budget for the next year, how we evaluate ministry programs, if you will, and how we even evaluate staff.
It says, "You're receiving this letter because, as our last check-in, we've not yet received a response from you regarding the completion of our annual 4B Assessment. We're confident that you know our heart is not to trouble you with busyness, but as we have shared, we're in the business of changed lives, and this assessment helps us discern how we are serving you and, thus, our Lord regarding this purpose.
We believe God's Word calls all followers of Christ to hold the values of authenticity and community as nonnegotiable, and the 4B Spiritual Growth Assessment is one way we pursue these values as a member of this church family. It's our conviction as leaders, which is, to quote from 1 Peter 5, to 'shepherd the flock of God among you voluntarily, according to the will of God, and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness,' that this kind of communication is necessary for us to serve you and, therefore, our Father with excellence."
Listen to this paragraph. "The intent of this letter and the 4B self-evaluation is to once again connect with you and to help us measure how we are serving you in our effort to spur you on to authentic and abiding relationship with Christ, but also provide you with an easy tool to share with others in your community, as you help each other to excel still more."
See, when you fill this out, at the end we say, "Who do you want us to email this to?" and we take your 4B form and let you forward it to those who are in your Community Group, that they might admonish you, encourage you, and help you. That they might go, "Hey, man, you're way too hard on yourself. I have heard you say things that you really didn't say you did. Yes, you did. You did better than you thought."
Or to come across others who say, "Yeah, man, I inform everything I do by God's Word," and a person who loves you could say, "Can I tell you something? I've lived with you for the last year, and never one time have I heard you open God's Word or quote a Scripture to me to give me counsel when I've asked you what you think. You have to up your game, man. I need you to up your game, because I'm counting on you to be God's provision in my life."
"It's always our desire to continue our partnership in honoring, serving, and pursuing Christ with you. However, if we continue to be unable to connect with you, we will understand your unwillingness to respond is your expression of your lack of desire to continue to be a part of this body of believers, and we'll sadly have no choice but to release you from being among our membership whose souls we watch over and give an account for as leaders."
Gang, this doesn't mean you're going to hell. It does mean you're not pursuing heaven with me and with other members here who don't want to play church. We want to be the church. We want to love one another. We want to help each other. "Bro, you say 'like' too much. You're a know-it-all. You're abandoning your family. You're competing with your husband. You're a materialist." I need that. I get that all the time.
The first place I get that is from my wife. That's why you marry well. That's why the Scripture exhorts you when you yoke to yoke with somebody who's going to counsel biblically, who's devoted daily to God, who wants to live in oneness with you, and who loves you. My wife, God bless her. This admonishing starts there. A wife who knows her husband wants to be God's man… Every time she sees him drift off that center, she right then, keeping short accounts, says, "Sweetie, listen. I know you."
My wife says to me, "Todd, I believe you. I believe you want to be God's man." Yesterday morning I was getting up. It was still very dark. I got in from a great week with my wife, and I was getting up early. I flew up to the middle United States yesterday and spoke up there and flew back late last night. I was getting up early to leave, and my wife… I went over, kissed her on the forehead, and I started to walk out of the room, and she goes, "Todd?" I go, "Yeah?"
She goes, "I want to be able to pray for you today, and I told you last night before we went to bed that I didn't think you handled a situation with our kids well, and I didn't think you responded to it and to me the way you should have." I knew exactly what she was talking about. I had kind of already placed it in the "Well, we just don't agree about this thing," but she was just saying, "I don't think you led that well, and I know you want to lead well. I know you want to be a father who doesn't exasperate children. I know you want to be a husband who honors his wife."
She sat up in bed very early, turned her light on, and she said, "I love you, and I want to pray for you, and that's not right." So I walked over and said, "You're exactly right. Let's talk about it some more where we disagree, but you know what? I could have done some things better. Will you forgive me?" She goes, "I absolutely forgive you. I know you want to be that man. I want to help you be that man, and I will pray for you today. God bless you."
It was my wife lovingly saying, "What are you doing? What are you doing?" See, this is what David was like. Psalm 141:5 says, "Let the righteous smite me with kindness. Do not let me refuse it. It is oil upon my head." It means it's refreshing. It's life giving. It's cleansing. If you're going to be a serious follower of Christ, you have to be admonishable. You have to clothe yourself in humility.
God bless my wife, and God bless my community. Those people daily love me and help me think through how I'm doing as his man and his leader. God wants you to have the exact same thing. I need you to be a body that will do that. You don't have to be in my community. If you see me do something you think isn't right, just come put your arm around me. Go, "Let's talk about that." But here's what you do need to do. If you're in my community and hear somebody else say something about you, and this is what I'm going to do…
If somebody comes to me and says, "Hey, Todd, did you know that this person did that?" I'm going to say, "I don't, but now I've heard that you think they did, and you must be telling me that because you love them. And if you love them, you won't tell me in a slanderous way, in a gossipy way what they did. You should tell them. So I'm going to ask you in the next 24 hours to get ahold of them and share with them what you just shared with me."
"I'm not going to do that."
"Well, that's fine. I'll call them in 24 hours and say, 'Did you get an email or a phone call from this person? Because I asked them to call you, and if you haven't, I will get that person… I know it's scary sometimes to talk to people, but I know this person has taken the name of Jesus. I'm not saying they're perfect, but they would either want to clear up the misunderstanding or they would want to get on their knees and ask for forgiveness for what they did, and we will come to you.'"
They go, "If you do that, I will never forgive you. If you do that, I will never tell you anything again about other people." I'm like, "Perfect. Then I won't have to carry around your gossip crap everywhere I go." That's just the way I roll. I'm just going to say, "Listen, I know you're telling me that because you want counsel and encouragement to go to them humbly. If you're scared, I'll go with you. I'll get them, and we'll come to you, and we'll work through this thing. We'll be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, but you can't do this."
How do I know this? How am I giving you this counsel? Because of the book of Leviticus. Did you hear that? There's application from the book of Leviticus. In Leviticus 19, we come across this little section where Moses is being exhorted and encouraged to say something to Aaron and to the people of Israel. Leviticus 19:1: "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying…" In verse 2 he says, "You go and tell Israel this," and then it starts to list out what those things are. Let me jump down to verse 16. It says, "I don't want you to slander your brother."
"You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord." In other words, God has no tolerance for you admonishing your neighbor by telling me or somebody else what your neighbor is doing wrong. That is slanderous. It's what the people of the world do. It's not what people of God do. This is what people of God do.
Leviticus 19:17 says, "You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him." Another translation that maybe is a little bit clearer says, "Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin." That's Leviticus. God is saying, "This is the way my people roll. They don't slander and gossip. They love each other."
Sometimes it's as silly as, "Hey, dude. You just don't understand personal space." "Hey, man, I love you, and we all have our favorite TV shows, but sometimes you're not self-aware and you ramble and start talking about Guns N' Roses cassettes and TV shows no one really cares about, and it's just hard in a group. I love you enough to tell you that. Like, do you understand what I mean?" Sometimes it's silly stuff like that, but always, if we see stuff that's going on here, God says you can't turn yourself away.
Just like Ezekiel 33. Apparently, Ezekiel read Leviticus. He says, "I'm going to hold you accountable for their sin." The Scripture says he's going to hold shepherds accountable for their sheep. So use the rod. Use the staff. Shepherd them to green pastures. Shepherd them to still waters. Love each other. Admonish the unruly. Love each other. Encourage the fainthearted. Love each other. Help the weak. Love each other. Be patient. Be longsuffering. Don't celebrate sin. Go to the sinner. Don't ignore sin. Admonish. Be admonishable.
Father, I pray that we would be your church. I know if we're your church we would be effective and faithful, loving one another in every way. We would gather corporately like this to remember your greatness, remind ourselves what we should do, but we would be in smaller communities where we really talk about what we're learning individually as we daily abide with you.
We would be able to humbly communicate to each other and confess to each other stuff we're dealing with, and, Father, we would be individuals who would continually pursue, counsel your Word your way. We'd be on mission together, and we would admonish each other in areas that we can be sharpened still more. I thank you for your grace. I thank you for this body. I thank you for the way they love me.
I thank you for my godly, prophetic wife. I thank you for my godly friends in community and for my extended community who know me personally, and I pray that we would just love each other. I pray everybody here would have godly friends and godly communities and godly extended communities, that we'd be your church, that we'd grow and be conformed to the glory of your Son, and the world would go, "Who's your Daddy over there?"
And it wouldn't be, "Hey, what are you doing?" It would be, "What are you guys doing, because it is beautiful?" Father, that's what you are. You're the God who makes all things beautiful. Thank you for this body that's a part of walking with you. I pray you'd glorify yourself in it. In Christ's name, amen.
Can I say one more thing to you? This is a resource we put together. If you're not in a community that's currently doing this, then you're not in a community that's connected with us. What I mean by that is we just spent some time two weeks ago training and equipping the leaders of every Community Group we knew existed about what this material is. It takes the last six weeks I've done and puts them in short little weekly studies you can do together.
We filmed six-minute videos that go with each week that you can watch online at watermark.org/community. We want every single part of our body to be aligned and for the next weeks to go through this material together and have it deeply embed in our hearts. I want people who know your name and who love you to walk with you through this. There's a PDF you can download. If you want the hard copies, we'll get them to you.
Listen. We have to gather together, and we have to love each other. We're not playing church here. May this never be a dead church. May this be a place where watchmen are busy. Amen? Let's not pass. Let's love. Let's punch this thing across, and let's finish. Let's be his church. Let us know how we can serve you.
You have a great week of worship. We'll see you.