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David Marvin teaches us that in the midst of failure we have two choices: we can run away from God or run toward God. When our identity is defined by how much Jesus loves us we run toward the cross.
The Tree of Salvation and How to End on the Right Branch
How the Bible Preps Us for the Return, the Rapture and the Rupture: Setting Our Heart Not the Date
How the Bible Preps Us for THAT Day
How the Bible Preps Us for Loneliness
How the Bible Preps Us for Failure
How the Bible Preps Us for Doubt
How the Bible Preps Us for the Future
How the Bible Preps Us for Spiritual Warfare
How the Bible Preps Us for Perseverance
How the Bible Preps Us for Surprises
How the Bible Preps Us for Pornography and Lust
How the Bible Preps Us for Addictions
My name is David Marvin. I'm so pumped to get to be with you guys. I am going to start us off not with giving some candy as a treat but giving us a treat of a video our video guys threw together this past week that actually includes our senior pastor, Todd. If you are here and you're missing Todd, we're going to get a little taste of him right now. Check this out.
Todd Wagner: Hello, friends! My name is Todd Wagner. Welcome! We're so glad you've jumped onto our website, but what we really hope is you'll engage with us in a way that's going to be a whole lot more than just these few, brief seconds. Our goal is to help serve you in a way wherever you're at in your life and more…
That was close. Ready?
Taylor Jenkins: Ready.
Todd: I know. Well, I'm trying to keep it really tight. Like 30 seconds, right? Okay. That makes it easy. Here we go.
Hello, friends! My name is Todd Wagner. Welcome to the Watermark website.
Hello, friends! My name is Todd Wagner. Welcome.
I've never done this before. You're trying to get rid of me. You'd think this would be the easiest video I ever shot, Taylor, and I'm now on take nine. I'm just talking. I don't really have a plan. I'm going to start from the top. I'm going to go from the top, and it's going to be perfect.
Hello, friends. My name is Todd Wagner. I'm not really…
Try it again. Ready? This is the take. Ready? Yes, you're ready. The question is…
Taylor: I've been ready!
Todd: …am I ready? Oh, man.
Hey, friends. My name is Todd Wagner. Welcome to the Watermark website. As you can imagine, we're glad you're here. Frankly, our goal is not to…
[End of video]
Oh, man! I love it! What makes that video so great is Todd is so good on his feet. The rumor is he is "one-take Todd." That never happens. I've worked on staff six years, and I've never seen that happen. I start with that. First, if I lose my job this week, we'll all know why I lost my job (because I started with that).
Today my assignment is really to open up the discussion on how God's Word prepares us for failure. Just like in that case (or watching bloopers in general), failure can be fun at times to watch, but it's certainly not fun to live. More specifically, what I want to talk about for just the next few minutes… I'm just really going to tell one story from the Bible. I don't have any candy or a treat, but I do have God's Word. So Blake Holmes, you know what I'm talking about.
What I want to open up is the discussion of the feeling of failing God, which I think all of us in the room have experienced that common emotion of what it feels like to feel not just like I've failed the expectations of others… "I've failed to be the husband I want to be. I've failed to be the parent I want to be." The feeling of, "I feel like I've failed God." Maybe you feel that way right now.
Maybe you feel like when God looks at you, he sees this failure. "He is not reading his Bible enough." You feel like a failure because you didn't get here on time for worship this morning. You know, "I feel like I failed again." When God looks at you… Typically the common emotion of failure all of us experience… Maybe it's just from decisions from our past that we carry shame and guilt from. We wonder, "Can God really love me?"
Maybe it's decisions from this past week of just going back to sin, looking at pornography again, a past abortion that took place, a drug addiction, all these different things. "When God looks at me, can he love me?" The two responses when we experience the kind of emotion of failure (really quickly) that we generally see are polar opposites. In other words, when people fail, when people feel like they've failed God again, there are two responses.
The first one is so tragic. They feel like, "God can't really love me." They're covered in shame. Our tendency is to run deeper and further into the darkness of sin. We run from him. I mean, my own father's faith was broken because of just poor decisions. In the midst of being covered in shame from sin, he ran from his faith.
How common is that story even maybe in this room if you're back for the first time? You're feeling like, "When God looks at me, I'm just a failure. So I might as well go farther off the deep end." The second response is instead of running away from God, we run toward him. What is the difference maker in those two people? Why did they respond opposite? Why are they so different? What's the thing that will allow us?
Really the tragedy for you and for me is if you and I don't embrace the thing I'm about to talk about that's modeled for us by one of the disciples of Jesus, in the midst of feeling like you've failed God, you may just end up running from him and not running toward him or running toward things that will bring death and pain into life and not running toward him or toward life. What's that difference maker?
We're going to look at Matthew 26. I'm going to look at a story that involves the twelve disciples, because here's what happens. It's really an interesting story. All 12 of the disciples failed Jesus. There's this one moment toward the very end of Jesus' time in earthly ministry where all of the disciples failed Jesus. They all respond by running away from him except one.
There was something unique about him, and I think that characteristic that if you and I will embrace that was unique to him is embraced in our life, it will ensure that for the rest of our life, we won't have to face the battle of, "Who do we run toward? Do I run away from God because he sees me as a failure, or do I run to him?"
We're going to be in Matthew 26. This is right after the Last Supper. The Last Supper is the night before Jesus is going to die if you remember what's going on there. There's this supper. They all get together. Jesus is about to go to the garden of Gethsemane, and he is going to die the next day. He just had this last meal with his boys, washed their feet. All that took place. Now he is walking with them toward the garden of Gethsemane.
Here's what he says. We're going to pick it up in verse 30, and we'll go from there. "Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives," which is where the garden of Gethsemane was. "On the way, Jesus told them, 'Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, "God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered."'"
Jesus basically is walking with his boys to the garden, and he says… They're walking on this road at night probably carrying a torch. He looks at his guys he has spent three years with and says, "All of you tonight are going to abandon me." Verse 32: "But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there."
I mean, how painful that must have been! He knows they're all about to abandon him in his hour of need. Verse 33: "Peter declared, 'Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.'" So Peter says, "No way, even if everybody does!" I love Peter, because Peter is like a man of extremes. Most of the statements Peter makes in the Bible are just like this one where he says, "Look! If everyone else does, there's no way I'll ever abandon you."
Earlier in the day, Jesus is with his guys. Peter was just like the over-the-top superlative guy (if you know that guy). I'm kind of like that. "It was amazing!" Peter is that guy. He is with Jesus, and Jesus is like… Remember when he is washing his feet, and Jesus says, "I'm going to wash your feet"? Peter goes, "No, Lord. Wash my whole body!" Jesus is like, "I'm going to stick with the feet. Okay?"
That's just who Peter was. Even here, he is like, "Even if everyone else deserts, I'm not going anywhere." Jesus says this to Peter. "Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.' 'No!' Peter insisted. 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!' And all the other disciples vowed the same."
Peter says, "Even if they kill me, I'll never run away." All of them make this promise. "No matter what happens, I'm not going anywhere." A few hours later… It's not a few days. It's like 20 verses later. They're sitting in the garden, and this crowd shows up to arrest Jesus. They bring all these clubs and swords to bring him back.
Here's what it says. Verse 55 (same chapter): "Then Jesus said to the crowd, 'Am I some dangerous revolutionary…?'" This crowd showed up with Judas leading them to arrest Jesus and crucify him. "'Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn't you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.' At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled."
They all abandoned him. Jesus is led away. He is put on trial. He is beaten, and he is mocked. None of them are there. In arguably his worst hour of need, all of them flee and abandon. Peter comes and eventually shows up, watches from a distance, denies him three times. But Jesus is left and entirely deserted by these men. They all fail him in his time of need.
Jesus is led out to be crucified, and no disciple is even around. They have to grab some random stranger, Simon of Cyrene. The only reason we know him is because he carried the cross, because none of the disciples were there to carry it. Jesus is led, and he is crucified. Even at the cross, the disciples are painfully absent. Peter, the leader of all the guys, is painfully absent. In fact, specifically in Luke 22 it says while Jesus was being crucified, Peter goes out, and he mourns that he had failed Jesus. He weeps bitterly.
One disciple shows up. The only disciple we're told who shows up at the cross is John. Now what's unique about that? Scholars have long said things that are unique about John are not just that he is the one disciple who shows up at the cross. Why did John, despite having failed like all the other disciples, feel like, "I can go. I can approach the cross. I can go there"? Why would John feel that? What gave him that right?
What's unique about John is not just that he is the one disciple at the cross, but John gave himself a nickname. Do you know this? John is the one disciple inside of the Bible who actually gives himself a nickname. Does anyone know people who give themselves a nickname? It's a little funny, isn't it? They're like, "I'm going to go by Flash from now on." You're like, "I'm going to keep calling you Steve. Okay?"
That's John. John gives himself a nickname. He is the only person who calls himself this nickname. It's not just any nickname. It is, "I am the disciple whom Jesus loves." I mean, think about that. He says it in front of all the other guys. He mentions it five times in his own book. That's like today at lunch your kids getting together for lunch and one of them being like, "I'd like to make an announcement. I will no longer be going by Kevin. From now on, I will be going as 'The child Mother loves.'" You're like, "Finish your vegetables. Okay?"
I mean, that's what John is doing. For some reason, John just so saw himself… "What defines me is not my failure. What defines me is not the things I've done. What defines me is not the way I look. What defines me is not even how much I love Jesus. What defines me is how much Jesus loves me.
On the moment where I've failed him right after that, can I approach the cross? Of course! It's not because of how much I showed I love Jesus (I just abandoned him) but because how much Jesus loves me. In the midst of my failure, do I have to run away from him like Peter, or am I going to run toward him? Of course I'm going to run toward him because at the end of the day, what defines me is I am the disciple Jesus loves," John says.
If you know Jesus, that's the invitation. There's something about John that relates to all of us. My fear for so many of us in this room is we would look at our lives and the way we would define ourselves and put our value is, "How much do I love Jesus? How many Bible verses do I know? How many community groups am I a part of? How much am I doing to serve God right now?"
"Man, I don't know at the end of the day how good I'm going to be at knowing the Bible, but I know this. Jesus loves me." The most important three words you're going to hear today are Jesus loves you. If you're in Christ, you are the disciple he loves. It is knowing and accepting that that will allow you in the face of failure to not run from him but to run toward him, no matter how many times you fall. You're the disciple he loves if you've trusted in Christ. That's who you are.