Believing That Leads to Life

2015 Messages

Todd discusses the biblical meaning of a saving faith. He discusses the true nature of "belief" and what it should look like in our lives. Belief is not a propositional statement, but rather is a personal relationship with the living God, an ongoing commitment, something you actively do in your life.

Todd WagnerApr 26, 2015John 20:30-31; Matthew 19:12

Well, good morning, Dallas, friends in Fort Worth, and friends in Plano! It is great to be together this morning. We are going to take one week here and do something we have, because we only have one week to do it. By the way, we finished the gospel of John last week, and the exciting thing is I found out John has written some other books, so open your Bibles to 1 John. It's not true, but I'll tell you what we are going to do.

We're going to talk about John, chapter 20, verses 30 and 31, and how it applies to us. Do you remember John 20, verses 30 through 31? There are lots of other things I could share with you about what Jesus did, but specifically it says, " I have written these things so you might know Jesus is the Son of God; and that by believing in him you may have life in his name."

We're going to talk about that today in a way that will allow the focus to be on us. Not Peter, not guys and gals who lived 2,000 years ago, but us today and what life and faithfulness look like. There are certain occupational hazards that go with every job. Let me tell you one of mine. That is, sometimes when people see me, if they think they're doing something they shouldn't do, they turn to me and go, "I'm so sorry."

If I'm playing golf, as an example, with some of my non-believing friends and they're not really pleased with their shot and they use creative words to describe that, they always go, "Hey, man! Bro, sorry." I'm like, "Why are you apologizing to me?" Part of me is encouraged by that, that they know I want to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, and I want to flee immorality, and I'm a guy who doesn't want to be corrupted by the way the world does things.

Bad company does corrupt good morals, so maybe they're just saying, "Todd, we know you don't want to go this way. If you're around guys who talk like this a lot, you're going to want to talk like this. That won't work out well for you on Sundays if, when you miss a point, you go… That wouldn't work out well." I don't know, but it's funny that people do that.

This is a true story. Thursday night, I'm at dinner with my wife, and somebody who knew us who does not go to Watermark walks up to us. They were sitting behind me, actually, so I didn't even see them. They walked up to me and go, "It was just one." I go, "What are you talking about?" They said, "It was just one. It was just one glass of wine. That's all it was." I go, "Okay. All right. I'm Todd. Nice to meet you."

From there, they started talking, and they go, "You know, it's so funny because the other day I work at a Mother's Day Out program, and one of the girls walked in. She said, 'I'm going to hell,' and I looked at her and said, 'Why?' She said, 'I just had a glass of wine.' I looked at her and said, 'That's okay. We're Methodists.' She said, 'No. I work here at this Methodist church, but I'm a Baptist. I'm going to hell.'

Then, another lady who was listening said to me, 'Hey! If you want to know the truth, us Methodists originally were not supposed to drink wine either. We were very methodical about the choices we made and we didn't do that,' to which I said to her, 'That's okay. I grew up Episcopalian. We can do whatever the hell we want.'" That's a true story.

I just went, "All right." I said, "Hey! Here's what's crazy. Whether we're Methodist or Episcopal or Baptist or, in my case, a member of a community church or a church we might call a Bible church, it doesn't matter about all of these little distinctions we think are supposed to make us unique. What matters is what we believe." I just had a chance to say, "Tell me this. Wine aside…" I'll tell you something I think about wine and alcohol in just a moment.

"Wine aside, what do you think we're all supposed to believe?" It turned into a short conversation for me to say, "This is it! We're not to be known by whether or not we have a glass of wine. We're to be known by the way we love one another, even as he has loved us, to know what his love looked like." I had a great chance to share the story of grace, but it did make me think of a lot of different denominational jokes that have come across my plate over time.

There are at least four different religious truths. We know Jews, for instance, don't recognize Jesus as the Messiah. We know Protestants don't recognize the pope as the mediator between God and man. We know the Church of Christ don't recognize other denominations as true denominations. We know Baptists don't recognize each other at the liquor store. That's just awful! You do know whenever there are four Episcopalians there is always a fifth. Right? You do know that?

That reminds me of a guy in Ireland who was on a train. All of a sudden, this guy comes whistling through this cabin saying, "Is there a Catholic priest in here? Is there a Catholic priest in here?" Nobody raises their hand, so he goes whistling through. In a few minutes, he comes back and goes, "Is there a Jewish rabbi here? Is there a Jewish rabbi here?" The guy goes whistling through and still nothing.

Finally, he goes, "Is there an Episcopalian here? Is there an Episcopalian-Anglican here? Is there an Anglican father here?" Nothing. He goes on by. Finally, the guy comes running back through, and the guy in the corner goes, "Sir, if it matters, I'm a Baptist minister." The guy looks at him really closely and goes, "No, we're looking for a corkscrew." He kind of kept on walking. That's funny!

Oh, man! Do you want another one? I mean, it's good to laugh. We're in heaven and Jesus is showing the newcomers around. He takes this person and says, "You can figure where you want to hang out." He takes him and opens up this room. There were a bunch of people in there singing praise choruses. Folks were generally having a good time singing and clapping their hands. He goes, "These are some Community Church people. Jump in, if you want."

The guy goes, "What else do you have?" He walks around and shows him another room. There were a bunch of people there with their hands up. They were kind of dancing with a lot more vigor and freedom. He goes, "These are the Pentecostals. You can join them, if you want." He kept walking around. Jesus does this a couple of times, and he finally gets to one of them and says, "Shh… Come here!" He opened the door and shut it. He walked away and said, "That's the Church of Christ. They don't know anybody else is here."

Oh, man! There were three preachers who were fishing. There was a Baptist, a Methodist, and a Bible-church guy. They were alone together and they could start to be authentic with one another, they thought, so the Baptist guy goes, "I need to tell you guys something. I sometimes take a nip. I know it's wrong, but it's one of my only vices. Every now and then I drink. In fact, I've been known to drink heavily."

The Methodist looked around and goes, "Well, I'm not always pure in my thoughts. In fact, sometimes I find myself over here making some decisions about sexuality that maybe I shouldn't make, but it's my only vice. I know it's a vice, but it's the only one I have." The third guy goes, "Well, I know it's wrong, but one of the things I do is I gossip. I pretty much tell everybody everything I know whenever I want to." It's so wrong.

So you're probably curious about how many Lutherans it takes to change a light bulb. Change? How about Church of Christ? How many Church of Christ people? They don't have light bulbs. There are none in the Bible. They don't use them. How about the Pentecostals? Ten. It takes one to actually change it and nine to curse the spirit of darkness.

Oh, gosh. There's one more here I thought was funny. Jehovah's Witness, which is not a denomination that would fall within these others in their orthodoxy, if they're orthodox, and that would be how many Jehovah's Witnesses does it take to change a light bulb? It would be three: one to change the light bulb and two to knock on your door and ask you if you've seen the light.

Anyway, there is so much of that stuff that is just hilarious. I love to laugh. It's funny. Good stuff!

This happened to me. Legitimately, the lady and her husband actually did that, so it gave me a chance to say, "What is it that's really supposed to mark us?" Let me ask you guys this. Watermark person, you believe. What's that supposed to produce? I will tell you this. I told you what I told her.

I shared with her about Real Truth. Real Quick. I've done a Real Truth. Real Quick. on should a believer drink alcohol, so if you want to know my take on that, I'm not going to take any time this morning. There are five or six minutes there. There's a reason we do these Real Truth. Real Quick. It's so you can go back and learn how to talk about this, so I encouraged her, "Go take a look at that Real Truth. Real Quick., because whether or not you have a glass of wine, is that really how you determine whether or not you're a believer?"

Check it out if you're curious. I would love your feedback and comments on all of those, but what I really want to do is have us to have a response and right feedback to this idea of belief in the Bible. We just got through with 65 weeks in the gospel of John, and John says, "The whole reason I wrote this book is so that you would believe." Here's what's interesting. Belief in the gospel of John is used 99 times. There is only one time it's used as an adjective, meaning, "He was a believing person." That's an adjective. It's a word that describes somebody.

Never in the gospel of John…never in the gospel of John…is belief used like a noun. This is really important. Belief is never a noun. Remember, what John is saying was, "I wrote this so you would believe Jesus is the Son of God and in believing you would find life." A noun is something you can own or possess. It's not an object of your faith, in other words, something I can own. In other words, a tale (I've said this before) is something you can own. I owned that tale. I accept that tale as true. That's not what belief means in the gospel of John.

Belief in the gospel of John and belief biblically is a verb. It is an action, and it always drives me crazy when people say, "Well, we're just a B-church. We meditate on what we know, and we're comfortable with what we know, and we just believe." Well, if you believe, that is a verb. It's something you do. It is not a propositional statement. It is a personal relationship with a living God, and if you believe in him, there is a mandate.

If he is your Lord and your Savior, he commands you, believing in his name, to have that produce something. Do you understand that? If you're his men, he understands you're not perfect. You do the best you can. You don't do something to get loved by him. The whole gospel of John is about God's incredible love for you. He is pursuing you. Jon did an amazing job this morning talking about his love for you and his running at you. His love never fails.

He knows your love fails, Peter. "But just give me everything you've got, acknowledging you don't have what I have which is perfect love which never fails. You just give me all you have and when your love fails me, when you don't act like you know me, just acknowledge that moment. Confess it. Humble yourself. Make amends in every way possible." Then, purpose again to run after him.

Let me just tell you this. We are not people who don't do things. In other words, we're not people who are supposed to be known by our fleeing immorality. That's only part of what we do. In fact, people who really struggle with their flesh and never really overcome the temptation in their life and sin are people who always focus on fleeing. "I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to do that. I don't want to look at porn. I don't want to look at porn. I'm not going to raise my voice. I'm not going to be angry. I'm not going to be angry!"

That's not going to work for you. It's like trying to forget an old phone number by saying, "I'm not going to remember my childhood phone number was 314-965-1159. I'm not going to remember that number. I'm not going to remember. I don't want to think about my old number, 314-965-1159 because I grew up with that. I have to remember my new number."

No. The Bible says, "Flee immorality." But watch this. "…and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." It's not like, "I'm not going to look at porn. I'm not going to look at porn. I'm not going to do heroin. I'm not going to do heroin. I'm not going to do heroin." It's going to saying, "God, tell me about who you are." The Scripture says in Psalm 73, all things become shadows in the light of you.

Whenever we are giving ourselves over to sin, it's because we are focusing on what sin promises us. Let me just tell you something. Sin is tempting for a reason. Sometimes it looks really good, and there is immediate, pleasurable feedback when I do it, but when you meditate on the goodness of God, the coming judgment, the coming reward, his sacrificial love for you, and the beauty of his will and way, it woos you and draws you to faithfulness.

If you just sit there all day long and say, "I'm not going to walk in the way of the wicked. I'm not going to stand in the path of the sinner. I'm not going to sit in the seat of scoffers," the Bible says that's not the way. The way is to meditate day and night on the law of the Lord and to be around other people who can push you toward God's will and way.

When you do that, when you are believing in his goodness, it is an action. It is a verb. It's something you do. You are pursuing as a believer righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on God with a pure heart. Do you see that? You cannot be a B-church without doing something.

In fact, the Bible warns us against those people who just accept the object of belief and the tale of Jesus without making him their teacher. So here's my question, Watermark. Here's my question for you individually. Here's my question for Todd Wagner today…How are you believing?

Next week, we are going to baptize people and, publicly, they're going to stand before you and say, "Friends and family, I need you to encourage me because I am believing God loves wretched people like me, that there's nothing I could ever do to make God love me. I don't care how much I do. God is perfect, and he has called me to be perfect. That's the standard. I'm not perfect. I messed that up a long time ago. It's in my very nature for me to be imperfect. I've tried to follow my nature and I did everything that seemed right to me, but in the end, it was death.

I have found love and life and Christ and his will and way, and I believe his death and his burial and his resurrection is what's going to allow me to escape the wages of sin and receive the free gift that is eternal life through Christ Jesus, and I need you to encourage me day after day, as long as it called today, so my heart is not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. I am not telling you I am checking true on the Jesus story. I am here to tell you today I want to live for him as he died for me. Will you help me believe in his name every day so I can live in the life?"

That's baptism! There is nothing that is going to happen next week that is going to make somebody saved. They're already saved by a faith relationship with God by believing. That's what the word faith means. Because they have faith, they are going to do faithfully what God wants them to do which is to publicly acknowledge, surround themselves with community, and run with him.

We have a responsibility to one another. Whenever I do a wedding, I say, "The folks who are up here are up here because they are standing guard to help this man be who he wants to be and this woman be who she wants to be. By the way, we're here as witnesses." There's a reason we get married publicly and that we wear this little ring on our finger as a constant, public reminder. "I am wed to another person. I am covenanted with another person." The way I treat her ought to be unique and different. That's why we do that.

Gang, next week it's important that you're here and you put eyes on these people and say, "I got you." It's the reason we're to run in smaller communities. I'm going to show you very quickly. These are some things that are to be true about us if we believe. In fact, I'll just walk you through a little bit of the gospel of John. These are the results and the effects of believing in Jesus. Are you ready?

In John, chapter 1:12, you can see, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…" The very first thing is when you believe, when you're actively believing, when you make that decision to trust in him you become a child of God.

In John 3:18, it says right there you are not judged. In John 5:24, you have eternal life and you have passed out of death into life. In John 11:25-26 you will live even if you die, so you don't fear those who can destroy the body but you fear the one who can destroy the body and cast a soul into hell forever.

In John 10:38, you have an understanding about the Father. Watch this! He says, talking about his works, "If I do them and you don't believe, then you have a problem." "…believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." When you believe in Jesus and you really understand this is God in the flesh (this is the Word become flesh), at that moment you're going to get a clarity on the person of God and even a human glimpse into what the Trinity is all about.

That's what happens when you believe. When you believe, according to John 8:31, then you're truly a disciple. Again, remember how John uses the word belief. It's not that you make a statement. "The Bible is my book," or "The Qur'an is not my book." The Bible is my book. Richard Dawkins and the new atheists are not my teachers. It's not that you say, "I believe in the resurrection. I believe God judges sinners." That's not what believing means in John.

It is an ongoing trust. It's not something you possess. It's something you actively do. Now, there ought to be a moment when you began actively doing it. How about this? Think how crazy it would be, because God is a living God and is a God of relationship, if I made a profession that I loved my wife and was going to live in a covenantal relationship with her, and then, after I made that very public profession… It was greatly clear! I said, "I do. I will." Then, I went and lived my life completely separate from that profession.

You'd go, "You're deluded, bro. Do you even know what you just did? Your word means nothing." "Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?" I mean, my wife would rightly say, "Depart from me. I never knew you." It's an ongoing commitment to my bride. That's what makes us married, this covenantal commitment.

How are you doing? Don't tell me, "Watermark is a do church." Jesus' church is always a do church. It's a verb church. It's a church of action. It's not merely diluted, James 1:22 says. If you believe, you then are his disciple. Not only are you his disciple, but John 15 says, "You are my friends." John 12:36 says you become sons of light. John 12:46 says you will not remain in darkness. John 14:12 says, "The works I do you will do also. In fact, even more works will you do." John 20:31 says, "You'll have life when you live with me and walk with me."

Let me just say this to you. This will help you have some clarity. We are secure, and it is impossible to separate us from the love of God when we truly come to that moment, that spark of belief that is given to us as a gift from God, because if there is a covenant I enter into with God, and I say, "I do," and I truly mean it and I walk away… Remember, my love will fail. His love never fails, but it begs the question, was it a genuine covenantal commitment by me if I say, "I do," and then I never do or I do when I feel like it or I do for an hour a week?

Listen to me. People sometimes ask me, "Todd, is that guy really saved?" I sometimes will say this to them first. I'll go, "Ask me a year from now, and we'll see if their belief is believing." I'm not trying to do what is called backload the gospel, which means you have to do certain things to make sure you're really saved. You're really saved because you believe actively in relationship with God's perfect provision for you sin.

But here's the thing, people. Jesus isn't looking for professors. He's looking for people who possess his Spirit. People who possess his Spirit see the world through different eyes, and because we see the world through different eyes, we live differently. If you're still living the way you've always lived, even though you've said you see God as righteous and true and holy and good, that should make you question whether you really saw him, but my job is not to see through you to see if the Spirit is there. My job is to see you through to faithfulness.

We are secure in Jesus Christ, but my assurance for you is based on what I see. That's what Jesus has told me. "Todd, you're going to know the tree by its fruit." He also tells me in Matthew 13, "Don't go around trying to figure out who is and who isn't by tearing up the roots because what will happen is you'll pull out some tares with the wheat. You just admonish, encourage, and help."

Part of the way I'm helping you this morning is just getting a little clarity here. What does it mean to believe? It is a verb. Do you get that? It is an action. It is an ongoing decision. That's what it means to believe. One of the things I want to insert right here… I'm going to show you a little bit of what we believe, and I want you to hold on to it, because our world is getting increasingly crazy. It's becoming absurd.

It's like I can't believe we're having to have these conversations about whether or not a child is a child, especially with 3-D imaging. I can't believe I'm having to argue and discuss with people. "That's a baby. I know we call it a zygote. I know we call it a fetus. I know we call it an embryo, but all that is is a human being in a different stage of development, just like outside of the womb you have a newborn, an infant, a toddler, an elementary school student, a middle-school student, a high-school student, and an adolescent. Then you have a young adult."

Those are all different words to describe the same thing. It's just a different stage of development. Yet, we play these absurd games. "No, no, no. We're going to treat that one differently." I can't believe we're having to in our world talk about what we believe about humankind. I mean, we are actually having conversations right now about whether or not because I think I'm a girl I can just walk into a female shower and you shouldn't have a problem with it.

We're starting to question whether or not biological, chromosomal, genetic imprinting is what we should use to determine what is male and what is female. This week was released by Planned Parenthood… At least, I became aware of it this week about Planned Parenthood up in Massachusetts.

They're trying to help you understand the whole gender identity and sexual orientation thing. This is what our world is now telling you we should believe. In your mind, that's where you make up what you are. I mean, there's man. There's woman. There is transsexual. There's transvestite. There's bisexual. I mean, what do you think of yourself as?

In your heart is where your sexual orientation is. It's not what I think about. As someone famously said on Friday night, apparently, "I think of myself as a woman." Maybe his heart… I don't know. I have no idea what his sexual expression is, but maybe his heart is still toward women. He just thinks of himself as a woman.

What Planned Parenthood wants to tell you is your sexual orientation might be straight, it might be gay, it might be bisexual, it might be asexual, but whatever your heart wants… Your biological sex is either male, female, or intersex. Intersex is the more politically correct name for androgynous or hermaphrodite where you share a dual sexual nature. I'll talk about that in just a minute.

When I saw that, I thought, "What do we believe?" Gang, you need to know this. One of the things I want to tell you is if you believe who Jesus is in a world that is increasingly refusing who Jesus is and the worldview that has formed Western society for generations, and now we've taken on not theological correctness and not revelation that helps us but political correctness and, even though most of us maybe think it's wrong or think it's crazy, I don't want to be seen as somebody who, because I think differently, speaks against them so I want to be seen as one of those magnanimous people who just gets along, so I'm not going to be on the wrong side of history on this one. Why shouldn't we just go along with them? Who am I to judge?

The answer is you're no one to judge. You're just like me. You're a fallen person like the next guy, but if there is a God and he will judge and if there is a God and he has revealed truth and if there is a God who loves us and, because he loves us, tells us things, we ought to pay attention to him. If you are a believer, which means you are a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God, you ought to start to go, "What does Jesus want me to say? How does he want me to think about this?"

I made my own little guy. This is a biblically informed worldview of humanity with general understanding that we're marred by the fall. Romans, chapter 1, verses 21 and 22 say, "** For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…"**

Take it down. Look at me for a second. We'll go back to it in just a moment. We can't just in our minds go, "I think I'm a woman, so I'm a woman." There's a story I posted this week about a couple who is being raised up as heroes because their child wanted to dress up like a boy consistently.

They go, "He must be a boy," so they changed his name and changed his gender identity because he said he's more comfortable being known as a boy at 4 years old. Mimi is no longer Mimi, and they don't think of Mimi as their daughter anymore, and they're being called loving parents. That's professing to be wise. It's telling kids, "We don't know, kids, if you're a little boy or a little girl in that body, so be a purple penguin until you decide what you are, and you get to choose."

Listen. After a while, you can start to go, "Am I crazy? Am I the one who knows the emperor has no clothes on?" Because when everybody goes, "That is great. He is stunning." People who see with the eyes of a child, which means they're not clouded by political persuasion… I just go, "Mom, he looks naked. That's naked." "Shh… Shh…"

There's a reason that story has been around for a long time. What I'm telling you guys is you're not crazy. You are not crazy, and when someone tells you, "I think; therefore, I am," go, "No, no, no! You can think whatever you want, but you're a human." " There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." That's Proverbs 14:12. Back to my little man now.

The mind is marred by the fall. I'm going to say something about this really quickly here, if I can, in just a moment. It is transformed by truth. That's Romans 12:2, which is, "Don't be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so you can enjoy the way of God. It's good. It's acceptable. It's perfect."

I'm going to say this to you really quickly. I wasn't even planning on doing this, but I'm going to give you one minute on why homosexuality and same-sex marriage and transgender issues and gender identity and sexual orientation are not civil rights issues. This is why so many people, by the way, are caving. They're caving because they don't want to be on the wrong side of this the way their forefathers were on the wrong side in the 60s, but listen.

It is not a civil rights issue because their worldview comes from an atheistic, Darwinian, or maybe a moral therapeutic deism which is the idea that God is just here to help you along, so if he's going to help you along, part of him helping you along is helping you feel comfortable in who you in your flesh want to be. They reject the worldview of the Scripture. What's the worldview of the Scripture?

In the beginning God created them. Male and female he created them. There was beauty. There was dignity. There was equality but not sameness. Then, there was an event that happened. It was called the fall, and because of the fall, male and female are now flawed, broken images. We don't ever protect civilly flawed humanity.

We don't protect people who want to have sex with animals. That's flawed humanity. We don't protect people who want to have sex with children. That's flawed humanity. We don't protect people who want to vent anger and strike and kill people. That's flawed humanity. We don't protect people who say, "I'm just an alcoholic. I'm a liar. I'm a thief." We don't do that. It hurts society. It will destroy us. It's an effect of the fall.

It's a Genesis 3 event that we have a law against, but if you reject the fall and if all you have is, "We came out of somewhere and not from a righteous God who created us a specific way," then you have to go, "We have to protect everybody. What they want to do, if they tell us that's who they are, who are we to say they can't be that thing?"

Watch this. This is why it's not a civil rights issue. It's why racial identity and gender identity are to be civilly protected. Why? Are they a result of the fall? No! God created them male and female (Genesis 1). God has human races. Every human race is trapped inside of Adam. Every color, every nation, and every tongue was there, so we protect humankind made in the image of God. We believe all men are created equal.

We also believe all men are equally fallen, so just because yours is an area of great physical desire doesn't mean I should protect it in your fallenness. Do you understand that? Does that help you? It goes back to a central worldview. Who is God? Who is man? Why are we here? What's our problem? What's the solution? The solution to sin is not to just let everybody do what they want to do. That's not going to work out well for you. Has it worked out for you? It's not going to work out for us collectively.

How about this? Going back to my little man, I'll just tell you a little bit more about this. The heart orientation is the source of trouble. In Mark, chapter 7, Jesus says, "…out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness."

Do you see where sexual identity comes from? The deceitful broken heart. I will tell my homosexual friends (back to me), "I get it. I am not monogamously heterosexual by nature." I would ask you, "Why would God have wanted to make me want to sleep with everything I could that I was attracted to (usually my neighbor's wife) if he didn't want me to do that?" I get having to repress my sexuality, but it's not about me, and God is good, and that would be destructive to me and my kids and my society if I do that.

Don't assume I'm just monogamously heterosexual by nature. I'm not! This is a work of God that you're seeing in my life. My heart is desperately sick (that's the next verse that's up there) and deceitful above all else. Who can understand it? There is no end to the corruption of my heart, but here's the thing. My heart is transformed by truth and by grace. That's Ezekiel 36, that God would give me a new heart and will take my heart of stone. He'll put a heart that is conformed to his image, a heart that is filled and transformed by a Spirit that will be careful to observe his ordinances.

This is really important. I want to talk about this for a second. What about biological sex? My Bible says in Genesis 1:27 that God created male and female. The lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community are not who I'm about to talk about. That's not what is being talked about in Matthew 19:12. In Matthew 19:12, this is what it says. This is Jesus talking. He's telling people, because they are believing in him, they should die to themselves and be covenantal people and love the way he loves.

The disciples go, "That is crazy! Nobody loves like that!" and Jesus says, "Well, you choose for yourself what you are going to want to do." In fact, the disciples say to Jesus, "It's better if we don't even marry if we have to marry and love like that," and Jesus said, "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."

That's when he was talking to people saying, "If you are estranged from your wife and she leaves, until she comes back be single or be reconciled, and you make yourself a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God," but what abut that very first category who are eunuchs who are born that way from their mother's womb?

Let me just say this to you. There are within the human race today in its post-Genesis 3 world men who are born without arms, men who are born without legs. Let me ask you how many arms do most men have? Two How many legs? Say two. It's not a trick question. On this platform right here is my good friend Nick Vujicic, who from his mother's womb and not as a result of anything we can see that his mom and dad ever did (they were godly people), came out and was born as a trunk. He has a head, he has a body, no arms, and no legs, and Nick is a great man of God.

He has been right here. I've had a number of people tell me, "I didn't realize I could envy a guy with no arms and no legs, but I want to be like Nick." Let me tell you. There are also, as rare as Nick, people who are born who genetically and chromosomally don't have either fully developed male or fully developed female or some combination thereof and even manifests itself physically. They're called intersex today. We used to call them hermaphrodites, taking the male Greek god of love (Hermes) and the Greek goddess of love (Aphrodite), making hermaphrodites.

This is not the 2 percent of America who is the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community. These are people who physiologically, because in our world we have kids born with spinal bifida and we have kids born with muscular dystrophy and with sickle cell and sometimes other chromosomal, genetic, or physical marks of imperfection, and the way we treat them should be with great care and tenderness and counsel. You treat these things medicinally. You treat these things with great love and consideration. You have to make some choices.

Some of them might just choose to say, "I don't know. Maybe my deal is just to honor God the way he created me. I'm fearfully and wonderfully made. I'm going to be a eunuch because I don't know what I am except I love God and he's good," just like Nick has done, but here's the deal. It's just like for a lot of people in our society we're calling everything mental illness and we're treating everything like a brain illness. We're medicating it.

I don't believe most of what we're treating with medicine is really mental illness. I think it's brain illness. Brain illness exists, but let me just say something. My Bible says mental illness is dealt with spiritually. It's dealt with by having transformation by the character, nature, and the goodness of God coming in. You'd better make sure you're not treating your spiritual illness, which is going to make you sick and sad and despairing and not full of life… You'd better make sure you're not just numbing your rebellion.

"Todd, sometimes does spiritual rebellion lead to physical deformation?" Yes, it does, so you'd better even then deal with these with a dual course in community with others with fear and trepidation, knowing whatever is going on physically all of us are sinners alienated from God. There you go.

People are listening. Folks are going, "Wow! No one is talking like that today." That's the problem! All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing and people who are believers not acting like they're believing in the goodness of God, and it's ruining our country and ruining our children and ruining our friends so when we do speak we don't speak in love.

I'm telling you. That's not our mandate. Our mandate is to speak the truth in love and to prepare to suffer for it, and if you don't want to suffer, you're not reading your Bible because Jesus said Christ suffered for us leaving us an example to follow in his steps. My Bible says love always suffers. In 1 John 3:16, " We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us…"

Are you willing to lay down your momentary popularity, your political expediency because you love people? If not, why are we surprised that darkness continues because the light is being covered up by cowardice? There's your mandate. When we believe we belong to one another, we love each other tenderly, we devote ourselves daily in community, we pursue each other relationally, we admonish faithfully, and we counsel biblically. We are individuals who engage missionally together. That's what we do. We belong to one another. That's part of the mandate.

Part of that is being trained continually. If you're here and you need to be trained, would you raise your hand? Would you write down in the Watermark News this week? "Todd, somebody has to help clean me. Somebody has to sanctify me with the teaching of the Word of God. I have to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with people. I have to get going here." Write that down. We will give you somebody to pour into you and your community if your community doesn't know how to pour into one another. Let us train you.

Then, you have to be strong in a life of ministry and worship. You have to get ready to get busy. Are you ready to be strong, to use the gifts and ministries God has given you for the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom and not self-promotion? When you see people use their gifts in the story God has given them with the gifts God has given them, it is intimately and really attractive.

I don't know if you noticed this or not. Come out here, guys. You know the worship team today had my friend Jason Castro. You might know Jason and remember him back when he was on American Idol just a few seasons back. You maybe didn't recognize Jason because he has cut off all of his dreads, but Jason uses his gifts, just like Jon and others do to encourage us.

Jason wrote a song that we sing here every now and then called "You Are." One of the things believing people do, as each one has received a gift (the gift of a song, the gift of a story, or the gift of a life), it says in that Scripture to be good stewards of it as evidence of the manifold grace of God. That's part of the mandate. Use your gifts to make other people know about the glory of God. I'm setting you up for something. I'm just warning you. Part of the setup is we're going to use Jason's gift and be encouraged by it, so let's stand up and sing this song together. Shall we?


That was a little bit of a setup and here's why. You're like, "Todd, that's great. That guy obviously has great gifts. I can't write songs. God hasn't given me the gift of song." Yes, he has. I didn't have Jason come sing that song this morning because I wanted you to be impressed with his musical talents, and they are a blessing, but because Jason, in isolation, moved on from the Lord.

We all will, and he wrote that song while his heart was still saying at times, "I'll never deny you," and he was moving on. What made a difference in Jason's life is when he believingly did what God called him to do. He began to be obedient and go, "Jesus, in every way you want me to, how do I begin to acknowledge you and honor you?" This is the Jason Castro I want you to follow. Be seated and watch this video.


Jason: Mandy and I met at a fall retreat in high school.

Mandy: At the time we were complete opposites. Jason was a grungy band guy, and I was a blond cheerleader who was into everything school spirit, and the only thing we had in common was Jesus.

Jason: Shortly after we started dating, my college career was cut short when I tried out for a TV show called American Idol. It went better than I could have ever imagined. I ended up being the third runner-up on the seventh season, and it kind of shot me into the music career I had always dreamed of.

As I pursued this career and this dream, things looked really good from the outside and things were going great professionally, but I really struggled to connect with God during this time. I was constantly traveling on the road and without any real community. In that time, I started heavily leaning on pornography to kind of deal with my stress and depression. The further I went and the longer I went in pornography and in isolation, it ultimately led me to an inappropriate relationship that would put my relationship with Mandy in jeopardy.

Mandy: I was just extremely hurt and in shock that the person I knew and loved could do this, and we decided to take several months apart, and after those months, I really saw Jason had a truly repentant heart, and I made the decision I was going to try and forgive him.

Jason: Over the next few years, Mandy and I made huge strides in the trust department. I did whatever I could to show her my true desire was to love God and to love her and leave my reckless behavior behind, so as we were doing that, we ended up getting engaged on Halloween. Then, we were married two months later on January 2, 2010. I really thought marriage would mark an end to all of my troubles, but instead, what it did was place a spotlight on my faults.

My pornography habit didn't disappear overnight, as I had hoped. About nine months into our relationship, we decided to go to a recovery ministry at our church at the suggestion of a friend. Around this same time, we also joined a small group at our church, and these two things started to have a big impact on me. I had always told Mandy half-truths about my past and about my struggles. I came to a point that I believed the right thing to do was to be open and confess.

Mandy: I decided I wanted out of my marriage, and I started looking up divorce attorneys in Dallas. Ultimately, my love for Jason was completely conditional and not at all a picture of the unwavering love of Christ.

Jason: Whenever we shared with our new small group where we were at and what was going on, we didn't really know what to expect, but we were really embraced with open arms, and we didn't feel any judgment or condemnation, but our mentor couple actually opened up to us in light of our circumstances and shared a bit of their story.

We were shocked to find out that they had a very similar past to ours. It was especially surprising just because they had three kids, a great marriage, and they were on staff at our church and were great leaders. If God can do this for them where they were, maybe he could do it for us.

Mandy: After hearing our mentor couple's story, I really had a change of heart. God gave me a new conviction to stay in my marriage and resolve to love my husband through this struggle and to forgive him. I often felt justified in my anger and my unforgiveness and bitterness and didn't see those for what they truly were. Luckily, God in his grace opened my eyes to my own sin and my own need for forgiveness.

Jason: Another thing we did along this journey that really helped was getting involved in our church's marriage ministry. It really laid the groundwork and gave us the structure to really build up our marriage again on the truths of God and what he says.

I continued to struggle, and my pornography addiction didn't stop overnight, but as I learned to be open and honest with my wife and our small group and even myself, my life and marriage began to change. Through confession God taught me humility. I had to acknowledge I couldn't overcome my sin on my own. I couldn't even love my wife well without God's direct and daily help.

Mandy: Today, I'm no longer a prisoner of pain or anger or the past. I'm free to forgive because God has forgiven me. Forgiveness isn't a one-time thing you say or you do. It's a way of life. My identity is in Christ alone, not in my husband, not in our marriage, not in how good and bad we're doing, but God alone is the only one who can satisfy me.

Jason: Second Corinthians 5:17 says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come."

Mandy: Jason and I are in a better place than we ever thought possible. I trust him, and he loves me well. God took our mess and made it into something beautiful.

[End of video]

Todd: All right, church. That's the Jason Castro who God has given a gift to. If you are believing in his name, he has given you the same gift I want you to follow. He's somebody who is free and saying, "If I'm not actively believing…" We used that this week in the marriage ministry training conference we did for churches all across this country.

Jason stepped up and said, "I need to work on my issues." He went to a discipleship ministry here called re:generation. He and Mandy went through re|engage. He and Mandy are in a Community Group, and I can hold them up as people who you should imitate as they imitate Jesus Christ. If you are believing, you have that same story, and you should be strong in it, and you are no fool. Jason, God bless you for sharing the gift of God's transformative power in your life. I'd ask Jason to close us. Say what you want and then close us.

Jason: No. I think that said enough. Really, sometimes I watch that and there are parts I just cringe at. I hate to hear the words, the things that bring me shame, things that for so long I kept a secret and didn't want to ever talk about, but now that truly is the power of Christ in my life and the power of God in your life. The story he gives you is the thing nobody can deny and nobody can debate. Nobody can argue the change they've seen in your life, so I would just encourage you all to use your story. I'll close us in prayer.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for this day and I thank you for this church and the chance to be here to gather in your name. I thank you for what this church has been for me and for so many others, a place where people are actively seeking you and desiring to be who you want us to be. I just pray for everybody here this morning, Lord, that they would be inspired and encouraged to move closer to you and to live open and honest lives, to have no fear but to live in your freedom. I pray all of this in Jesus' name, amen.

Todd: If you are here and you don't have a story of believing in Jesus' name, would you let us know? Would you come here and let us talk with you? Would you take that little perforated section in the Watermark News and just check it?

If you've never acknowledged that he is the one and then believing that you have life in his name, would you come? If you have made that decision, would you be active in your belief and worship him?

Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.