Todd speaks to the congregation at our Plano campus about what it looks like to be the Church, to do the "greater works" of John 14:12.
At Home Worship
Christmas Eve 2015
The Greatest Invitation
Making Room, Making Disciples
The Lies We Tell Ourselves
Your Trial In Heaven
Fort Worth, Here Is What We Think of You
What the Church Who Believes Is and Does
The USA: United States of Anxiety
From Intimacy to Idols
The Standard: Old Testament, Jesus and Believers
The Path to the Good Life
Nothing Short of Miraculous
Confessions From a Bathroom Stall: Lessons Learned in a Battle With Gluttony
How We Come To God
Dealing with Disappointment
The Story That Never Gets Old the God Who Is Always Behind It and the Way We Are Told to Remember It
The "One Thing"
Baptism Celebration 2015
Believing That Leads to Life
What Should I Do With My Money?
Good morning, Plano. How is everybody doing? It is really fun to be here. My name is Todd Wagner, if you're new to Watermark or if you've just been here the last couple of weeks and I haven't had a chance to interact with you because you've been meeting some other friends. I'm part of the team here that gets to love the church and serve people, and it is a thrill to be in Plano this morning as we talk a little bit about what this thing is that we're doing called church.
It's great to be here. Somebody greeted me this morning and went, "It's good to see you're not just a two-dimensional guy." Normally, when folks do meet me, they usually say when they get up close, "Man, you're taller than I thought," but in Plano you're going to go, "You're about five feet shorter than I thought." It is crazy what we're able to do to encourage each other through technology.
This morning, I actually filmed something here on my iPhone that we sent back to Dallas, telling them, "Hey, if you live north of George Bush, you should be up here with me, hanging out with my friends in Plano." It is awesome to walk in here and be amongst friends, many I got to run with for a long time, others I've never had a chance to do a lot with day in and day out in the same small expression of the body of Christ, but I will tell you something. Wherever you go where God's people are, it feels a lot the same. It feels great.
It is so tremendous to be with you this morning just to talk together about what it is we're trying to do in this thing called church. Church was not exactly something I thought I would give myself to for very long. Church was the very thing I was looking to get away from as quickly as I could as a young man, because I typically saw church as a place that did not impact people's lives.
I was born back east, and when I was 5, my family was the first one on either side, all the way back, to get out of Pennsylvania. My mom and my dad's families, all the way back, worked in steel mills up in eastern Pennsylvania. My dad and mom were the first Wagner or Reber to bust out of that little area of the country, and they took us to the Midwest. I spent 5 through 18 in St. Louis. That's where I grew up as a young man.
Then not long after that, a series of events after college had me spending as much time in Dallas as anywhere, and that's where I settled. If you've been around me very long and have heard me talk much about what it is I get to be a part of, you would have heard me say this. Had you ever told me that what I would do with my life was be involved with a church, I'd have taken a swing at you, because it was the last place I wanted to be.
I saw it as a place of largely a societal phenomena and an expression of what people did because of what they thought they were supposed to do, and I certainly didn't see it impact anybody's life. It didn't really impact my family's life very much. There was never a time that I can ever recall growing up that anything we did on Sunday affected what we did throughout the week. That doesn't mean we were completely off the charts, but we were more that typical good Midwestern family than people who responded to this truth that apparently the church was supposed to represent. I just didn't see it.
This week, I had a chance to partner with one of my friends who leads with me in Dallas. By that I mean a member of Watermark who started a business about 10 years ago. When he started his business, he had been around Watermark for a while, and he said, "Hey, I want my business to be run on biblical values. I don't expect everybody who works there is going to believe what I believe about what the Bible teaches, but the values I see expressed in the Scripture I want to see pretty evident throughout my entire company."
He and I had spent some time along the way, and now 10 years later he said, "Hey, would you come and communicate to my company, which now has about 500 employees, why it's a good thing that we're a company founded on and largely operated by biblical values?" I went, "I'd love to." What's interesting is you can see the Watermark Dallas Campus from this gentleman's office. So I was in a room with a bunch of his employees. They knew I was coming to speak, and he was nice enough to introduce me as the guy who influenced some of the ways their company thought, operated, and connected with each other.
They knew I was a part of this thing called Watermark, this church, so I started on purpose this way. I just said, "Hey, how many of you all know what I do?" They all raised their hand. I said, "Well, how many of you guys who have never met me before today could show me where Watermark Church is?" Everybody who had not met me raised their hands, because like I said, you can see the Dallas Campus from their office.
I go, "Okay, why don't you guys all point to where Watermark Church is?" Simultaneously, they all pointed a little bit to the northwest from where we were. I go, "Who are you guys pointing at?" They looked at me. I go, "I kind of see Aaron over here. I see Keith over here. I see Tom over here," and other folks I knew who were a part of the Watermark body who were spread around. I couldn't really tell if the arms were pointing at one of them. They weren't. All of them were pointed out the window toward this building that was about a quarter mile away.
I go, "No, no, no. Maybe I wasn't clear. I said where is Watermark the church?" They all looked at me kind of strangely. Once again they pointed. I said, "No. Gang, you need to know something. If you're not pointing at me, if you're not pointing at Aaron, if you're not pointing at Keith, if you're not pointing at Tom, you're not pointing at the church. You guys are pointing to a building that sits over there in a parking lot. That's the facility we equip the church in, that we gather together as a church to love one another, to remind each other of the greatness of our God, to remember how we should respond to him, but that's not the church."
When we first started designing Watermark, the facility, I had to meet with a lot of architects, and they kept drawing me this picture of a building that they thought was supposed to look like what they thought the church was. I go, "Why do you guys keep showing me this? It's not what we're asking you to build. We want a place where folks can connect and gather and be welcomed, greeted, and served. Quit drawing me this thing that you think Aunt Bee wants to walk to on Sunday morning."
I said, "You guys are trying to build what you think a church is." I go, "Let me just tell you something. It's my job to build the church. Your job is to build a building for me and Kyle and Rob, the rest of the team, and the rest of the people who love Jesus who hang with us here to serve other people. So build a building that we would want to get together in." That's kind of how we ended up with this thing that looks like it does.
Let's just play a little game. If you ever hung out with me… In fact, this afternoon, just like you're doing a membership class here, I'm going to be doing one in Dallas with some people down there. One of the things I've done almost since the very beginning… Rob said one of the characteristics of the early church was… And it wouldn't have been a building that Aunt Bee wanted to walk into.
Now there's nothing wrong with buildings. People have always looked for shelter and a place that they could assemble. Assembling is an appropriate part of what we do when we're with one another, but we don't assemble as a job; we assemble as a means to an end. It is a part of God's grace. Some people think it's part of our assignment, and it's not at all. It's what God wants us to do so we can experience the life he wants to give us.
One of the things we do is we always go to Acts 2:42-47, because that's the very first time that this group of people called the church… There are a lot of names that could be used through the Scripture to talk about what the church is, but it typically means called-out people. In fact, one of the things I love to do with folks… I ask, "Hey, if you were starting a church, what do you think you need? I want you to think just for a second about what we would need." A lot of times, people think, "Well, we need a place to gather."
I would say, "No, 0 for 1."
"We need somebody to take care of the kids. We need a children's minister."
I'd say, "Well, no, 0 for 2."
"Well, we need somebody who can sing, somebody who can lead us in worship."
"No, 0 for 3."
You don't need any of those things to be a church. What we need to be a church is, first of all, just a bunch of people who have been called out of darkness. That's what the word church means: called out of. People called out of darkness into his marvelous light, who learn to abide with Jesus (in other words, live in a daily relationship with him), who love one another and really practice all the "one anothers" of Scripture, who will employ their gifts in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Every one of us has gifts, and we're to take these things and use them to serve other people.
So, first of all, we need people called out of darkness into his marvelous light, who then have a relationship with Jesus and abide with him (they don't just get orders and go out; they stay connected with him all the time), who love one another and do all the other "one anothers" of Scripture, who employ their gifts in serving one another, and who proclaim his excellencies to a watching world. That's all you need.
Now it's okay to have a building. It's okay to have Erik Nieder. It's okay to have image magnification screens. It's okay to have awesome places to care for kids, but that's not what the church is. In America, when people think about what the church is, they typically point to a building, they talk about a personality, they think of a time of the week, and it's messing us up. So what I want to do this morning is make sure we get to talk one more time about what it is we're called to do.
When Rob said one of the characteristics of the early church is that it would gather to pray, he's dead on. How does he know that? He knows that because he abides with Christ. What's the best way to hang out with Jesus? Well, you get in front of him, and one of the ways we get in front of Jesus today is get in front of his Word. If you were a guy who followed Christ back in the day, you would want to spend as much time as you could in front of him.
We know that the way to get to know somebody is to hear them speak. What a man says tells you a lot about who he is. The Word of God has been preserved so that we can get around Jesus and the Spirit of truth. The Spirit of truth has given us an early description of the church. It's in Acts 2:42-47. I want to just walk you through this. It basically says this, and I'll do it very quickly, because I want to get a couple of other places with you guys.
"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." In other words, they were getting together to do business. The breaking of bread idea means they were both enjoying one another through meals but also reminding each other of what Christ had done for them, and they were continually, when they were together, asking God to show them more of who he was and to allow them to be useful to his purposes.
They were always devoting themselves to the Word of God, because they knew it was their authority and their conscience and their guide, and they were going to be firm where it was firm and flexible where it was flexible. Secondly, one of the things that was going on in the church (I'm going to end with this today, talking more about it) is that there was a sense of awe. Something was happening that was awesome.
Typically, people don't walk into church and go, "That was awesome!" unless they're talking about the guy was really funny or some other event happened. That's not a good way to think of church. In fact, when most people are thinking of "How was church today?" they usually go, "Well, let me evaluate the music. Let me evaluate the speaker. Let me evaluate the way they served me. What was the coffee like? What was the general experience?" That's not a good way to evaluate a church.
While those things matter, certainly, at the end of the day, if you don't have some encounter with the truth that transcends any one man or any group of people, you have not had a good experience when you gathered with the church. When you are done meeting with God's people, what you ought to say is, "Was the name of Jesus lifted up? Did I come to know him more? Was I equipped? Were my gifts in some way developed? Was I spurred on to be more of who Jesus wants me to be and to abide with him all the more?"
If that's not happening, I don't care what else happens. It's not the church. When that does happen, when you interact more with the life-giving and transforming God, there is a sense of awe, because things radically change. It says in verse 44, "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common…" Now be careful here. They had all things in common. In fact, it says, "…and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need."
This is not socialism. It doesn't say they were sharing their things equally. It's not communism. It's not socialism. It's a group of people who are following the servant example of their Teacher. My middle girl recently through some deal got involved with some blood donor program, specifically a bone marrow situation with an individual. She goes, "Dad, my understanding is that I have more bone marrow than I need and these people may die if they don't get some bone marrow."
She goes, "So you tell me why I wouldn't give my bone marrow, which is more than I need, to help people who have less than they need. In fact, they have something I need, which is a place to use the more that I have." That was her logic. I thought to myself, "Can't argue with that." That's all that was going on right here. It doesn't say they just gave it indiscriminately to people who were irresponsible.
It says that people in their midst who were pursuing Christ with them, who were part of the family and living humbly in an accountable way… When there was a need and they had provision to meet their need, they went, "Well, why wouldn't I meet their need? Because they have something I need, which is something to do with that which I've been given." So not socialism, which is when you're forced to have other people, no matter how they live, share in what you do.
The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money, and it ruins the whole thing. The problem with materialism is it doesn't matter what other people's needs are; you're going to keep trying to get more for yourself, and it never satisfies you. What's going on here… The early church looked just like Jesus, who although he was rich, for your sakes became poor, that you might become the righteousness of God in him.
These people went, "Let's be like him, who although he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped and held onto, but he emptied himself, and taking on the form of a bondservant, being found in appearance of a man, being made in the likeness of man, he humbled himself and became obedient even to the point of death, even death on a cross, because he had righteousness and did not have any obligation to the wages of sin that he could share for our sake."
People who have been saved from the wages of sin, which is death, and not just physical death but the spiritual death that leads to the physical death we all experience… People who have been delivered from that death of walking around as zombies, finding a way that did not give them life and following the way that seemed right to man but in the end always led to broken relationships and emptiness and longing for more…
People who have been all of a sudden given more say, "How do I thank that guy?" and Jesus' response is, "Follow me. Acknowledge that you're a needy person, take my gift, and follow me. By the way, you won't even do it perfectly, but just follow me." This is what these people did. What else they did it says right here. "Day by day continuing with one mind…" This is why it's so important for you to jump in.
Before you throw in with a group of people, go, "How do you think? What do you value? What's your purpose? What's the way you're going to go about accomplishing your purpose?" We make sure we are synced up here, and what you need to know is we're synced up behind this Book. The Bible is our authority. It's our conscience. It's our guide. We want to be firm where it's firm and flexible where it's flexible, and we want to move on very quickly.
We ask you to help us if we are not doing something consistent with this Book. We need your help, and if we don't respond to your help as you open this Book and say, "Hey, guys, it looks to me like God wants you to live this way, and you're not; to love this way, and you're not…" If we just make some excuse or rationalize it, don't help you understand an appropriate application of the text that we're living in… If we can't do that, run for the hills, and take everybody you can with you.
This is our mindset. This is not Todd Wagner's church or Kyle Kaigler's church. This is Jesus Christ's church, and we are his servants and stewards of his mysteries. That's all we do. So we have one mind. That is consistent with the early church. It says they gathered together "with gladness and sincerity of heart." I have to tell you it blesses me… When I came in here this morning, there were people who were glad to be here.
They got here even before I did. I got here fairly early, and there were already cars in the parking lot. They were glad to be here, because they knew that today they were going to be here and were going to use their gifts to honor their Savior and it was going to give them great joy or they were going to themselves receive some benefit that would help them understand the goodness and excellencies of Christ.
They were excited, so they weren't here moping around. They were excited to see people. They invited their friends. They weren't selling anything. They weren't going to love people more if they agreed with them. They were just like, "I'm glad to be here. I'm sincerely trying to know more of this Jesus, because everything I know about Jesus is amazing." I love that about this place, and it's consistent with what has always been going on when God's church met.
Look at the last thing it says about them. "…praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being [called out of darkness into his marvelous light] ." I know that's happening. Just last night, I was with a group of friends from Watermark, and we were doing exactly what you're going to do tonight. We did it intentionally outside.
I had a couple of conversations with people who were enslaved to a vice that is commonly destroying our culture. I talked to two different Muslims, one from Saudi Arabia, one who was raised here. I talked to a pastor's kid who had done anything but been shepherded by his dad toward where truth was, and it was amazing to listen to these guys, as you interact with them as people not as projects, slowly start to wonder…
I had that sweet little Muslim girl from Saudi Arabia look at me and go, "I'm confused why Allah is not responding to me when I pray, and I want to know if there's a God who listens." What an opportunity. Let me tell you what happens, and I do this with every membership class I've ever been a part of, and I want you to listen to me, because this is amazing.
When you ask people, "What do you think of when you think of church?" most people will think of a denomination, an address, a personality, or they'll even go worse. They'll say, "Boring, irrelevant, judgmental." That's not what God intended for people to think of when they thought of his bride, his body, the expression of his Son, the head.
I love in my membership classes to give some folks a chance just to take a few minutes and write down different adjectives that if you were a reporter for the Jerusalem Times and you were assigned to write a story about this community of friends I just read to you in Acts 2:42-47… Describe them for me. What are they like? What are the adjectives you would use?
Over the years, I've done my own. If all we knew about the early community of people who were called out of darkness into God's marvelous light, who abided with him, who loved one another, who discovered, developed, and deployed their gifts to serve one another, and who proclaimed his excellencies, these are the things you would say about them based on Acts 2:42-47. It would go like this.
"Hey, what did you do on Sunday?"
"Well, I hung out with my friends."
"You did? Where? Did you guys watch the Cowboys game or something?"
"No, no, no. My friends who, like me, have come to understand the goodness of God."
"You went to church?"
"Yeah, I was with the church."
"Well, what kind of church do you go to?" Can you imagine being able to respond like this?
"I go to a church that's alive, awe-inspiring, attractive, authentic, aligned, action-oriented, biblical, blessed, bonded, caring, Christ-exalting, committed community that's compassionate, connected, consistent, creative, dedicated, devout, devoted, diligent, discerning, disciplined, driven, effective, encouraging, energizing, engaging, evangelistic, exciting, faithful family that's focused.
They're friendly, they're fun, they're fired up, godly, generous, growing, humble, hungry, hospitable, inspiring, intentional, intimate, intense, joyful, like-minded, loving, magnetic, miraculously motivated, neighborly; they're obedient, open, ordained, other-minded, passionate, powerful, praising, prayerful, practical, productive, purposeful, real, radical, redeemed, relationally minded, relevant, respectful, sacrificial, saved, selfless, Scripture-loving, servant-hearted, single-minded, sold-out, Spirit-filled, sincere, submissive, tenacious, teachable, transformed, trustworthy, thankful, unified, unselfish, unspoiled, unwavering, unstoppable, wholehearted, wonderful, wise, worshipful people. You ought to come hang out with me and meet them."
If you do something like that, people would go, "First of all, bro, you drink way too much coffee." Secondly, they'd say, "I don't even believe it's possible for there to be a group of humans that have even 10 of those attributes, but just out of pure curiosity, I'm going to come and check it out." Now let me ask you another question. Let's just say we would go back 2,000-some-odd years and you're like Andrew.
Andrew was one of the guys who became one of the intimate circle of men who followed Jesus. He had a brother named Peter. Andrew was the first one who met Jesus, hung out with Jesus, heard Jesus, watched Jesus. So now he's hanging out with Peter the next day. They're fishing. Peter goes, "Hey, Andrew, what did you do yesterday when we got done fishing? You know, we cleaned the nets, we took the fish to the market, sold them, and then Dad and I were hanging around talking. Where were you?"
"Well, I was hanging out with this guy who came wandering through our town."
"Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That rabbi. Yeah, the latest rabbi. We have a bunch of them coming through here. What's his name again?"
"Well, Yeshua. His name is Yeshua." He said, "Hey, Peter, you've got to come and meet this guy." Peter would go, "Well, why? What's he like?" Do you know what Andrew could have said? "Well, he's alive, man. He's awe-inspiring. He's attractive. He's authentic. He's aligned with God like nobody I've ever met. He's action-oriented. You talk about biblically-based. This guy is it. He's blessed. He's caring. He's committed. He lives in community with the guys he loves. He's compassionate. He's connected. He's consistent.
This guy is creative. He's dedicated. He's devout. He's diligent. He's discerning. He's disciplined. He's driven. He's effective. He's encouraging. This guy is energizing. There's life coming from him like I can't believe. He's engaging. He's the most evangelistic guy I've ever met. He's evangelistic. He's exciting. This guy is faithful. He's focused. He's the friendliest guy I've ever met. He's fun. He's fired up. He's godly. He's generous. He's humble. He's hospitable. He's inspiring. He's intentional. He's intimate."
Do you guys see where I'm going? I think he'd get down there and say, "He's the most Scripture-loving, servant-hearted, single-minded, sold-out, Spirit-filled, sincere, submissive, tenacious, teachable, transformed, trustworthy, unspoiled, unwavering, unstoppable, wholehearted, wonderful, wise, worshipful guy I've ever met. Come and see." What would you do? You'd go, "Okay. After we clean the nets and sell the fish, let's go. I want to hang out with that guy."
Just for a second, I want you guys to think, because if this is not what you're experiencing here in this community, there's something wrong with us. We might be called out of darkness into his marvelous light, but we're not abiding with Christ, because if we're abiding with Christ we're supposed to be conformed to his image, and if we are his body and operate consistent with his head, we are going to love one another.
We are going to discover, develop, and deploy our gifts in serving one another as a manifold witness of the grace of God, and people are going to go, "You just have to come and see." Now look. We're not perfect here. That's why we sing songs about the goodness and kindness of Christ. What we do is admonish each other. We help each other. We exhort each other and encourage each other and are patient with each other.
We confess our sins. We repent. We make amends, and we celebrate God's goodness and learn more of him so that our deviations are fewer and far between. Can you imagine? That's what you're a part of. You don't go to church; you are the church. We never wanted to start something in Plano that you would go to. It was never our design to have a place that you would come to, where you would go, "I went to Watermark."
Watermark isn't something you come to; Watermark, as a local expression of the body of Christ, are people who encourage each other, help each other, admonish each other, equip each other, love each other, and gather together so that we might then be scattered together to love other people. When people are around us, everywhere we go, it is an amazing and crazy thing that there are a bunch of little Christs, people who follow him into every neighborhood and every workplace that is represented in this room.
Guess what? When people are around you, they ought to go, "You know what? Ever since that guy… What's his name? Yeshua? Ever since he moved in across the street, have you noticed how much people hang out in his front yard? Have you noticed the way that guy is on watch in a way that none of us are really on watch? Have you noticed how there's glue in the neighborhood because of that guy? That guy is a good guy. There's something going on over there. I'd like to know more about him." That's the program.
When we're here together, it is to encourage and help each other. I'm going to tell you something really amazing. When God wants us to get to work, he expects our work to be more impressive than what you read in the Gospels. You talk about a sense of awe. This is the most amazing thing I might say all morning. I have to make myself read the Gospels sometimes and not stories that are coming out of the church to be reminded of why there are stories coming out of our church.
It's because we're following the guy whose stories are recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Why do I say that? Well, because hopefully, prayerfully, it's because we are a biblical people and we are his body. Now look at this amazing thing. If you have a Bible, turn to John, chapter 14, with me. I love this section of Scripture, because it's such a radical claim from Jesus. I don't have time to do all this for you, but if you read in John, chapter 14, verses 1-11, you would notice there's not a single command that is given. Not one.
Everything in John 14:1-11 is, "I have this one covered. I'm going to take care of it. It's going to be well with you, because I'm your man. I'm your God. I'm your Savior." In fact, there's a little verse right there… If you've been to a funeral lately, you've probably heard Psalm 23 or maybe John 14:2, where Jesus says, "Hey man, in my Father's houses there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. But I'm going to go and prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself."
He says that in verses 2-3, and everybody is like, "Oh, Jesus is building us a home, and he has been doing it for 2,000 years, and he's a carpenter. It's going to be awesome!" That's because we don't understand what Jesus is talking about right there. Listen. God doesn't need time to build beauty. He's God. He'll speak it into existence.
What's going on in John, chapter 14… I'm not going to beat you up if you use that at a funeral, but just use it rightly. You should know this. In John 14:2, when Jesus says, "I go to prepare a place for you," let's remind ourselves where we are. We're in the upper room. It's just hours before he's about to be falsely accused, falsely arrested, falsely tried, unjustly beaten, scourged, mocked, crucified, dead, and buried.
What he's saying is, "I'm going to go and prepare a place for you that has been burned, where the ground has already been judged. I'm going to go before the Father. I'm going to offer a payment that you can't pay without experiencing the full brunt of it. Here's the deal. I don't owe anything to sin. I've never sinned, because I'm God in the flesh, but I'm going to go and pay the wages of sin, and if you'll just stand on the ground that has been judged for me…"
It's a great illustration to what they used to do during times of the pioneers heading west. Have you ever heard this? Maybe you have. One of the greatest threats to pioneers who were making their way west was a prairie fire. Whether through lightning or a campfire that got out of control or who knows what you did that made Smokey mad, but there would be a fire that would be coming up out there in the wilderness, and the wind would start to blow it.
You're sitting there and you're driving out west, and here comes from the west this fire toward you, and you're like, "We're about to be consumed. There's no way we can get away from this thing." So what they would do was rush backward as fast as they could. They would light another fire, and here comes that wind. That fire would kick up, and that wind would take it and start to blow it farther to the east.
They'd maybe have 500 to 600 yards from where they ran the first time, and they'd start this fire and let that fire consume that area. Don't think Scottsdale desert. Think a wooded area. It would just burn that area. It would just ignite, and then what they would do was take their wagons, and as they saw this fire coming and judgment coming this way, they would move their wagons and their people onto the ground that had already been burnt, and then the fire would come and it would run out of fuel. There was nothing to burn, because judgment had already come to that one little area as it continued farther east.
That's what Jesus is basically saying here in John, chapter 14. "I'm going to go and I'm going to let the wrath of God be poured out on me, so if you'll just come stand by faith where I'm offering myself, you can receive what I paid for you." That's what's going on in John 14:1-11. He's just telling them, "This is what I'm going to do for you." Then he gets to this amazing verse in John 14:12. I want you to hear this, because this verse should get your attention.
John 14:12 says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me…" That's a very important phrase in John. The word believes is the most often used word in the book of John. It's used almost 100 times. It's not just who gets to a place of intellectual assent. It has much more to do… It's the same word that's translated sometimes as faith or trust, and it means "The person who gives himself to me, the person who is all in with me, who doesn't just agree about historical facts but the person who I'm in a relationship with. That person who believes in me."
"…the works that I do [the things you see me doing] , he will do also; and greater works than these he will do…""Because I'm going to go to the Father (see also verses 1-11), and I'm going to restore you into a relationship with him, all of you who want to. Just like the works that I do I do because of my relationship with the life-giving God, you now can have a relationship with the life-giving God, and God is going to use you, people called now out of darkness into his marvelous light, who will love one another by the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of love.
The fruit of the Spirit will be in your life, and then, as you abide with me and my Spirit works in you, you will discover, develop, and deploy your gifts for the glory of God. You'll steward them for the good of one another and the praise of your Father, and you will be able to tell other people about the same provision. We're going to change this world, and we're going to take people who are lost without God and without hope and bring them back into a relationship with God, and you won't believe… This little thing we're starting right here is going to change the world. It's going to save the world. It's the hope of the world."
That's us. Not Watermark. Anybody who genuinely is a part of the catholic church. "What are you talking about? That's nervy right there." Now listen. I did say catholic. I did not say Roman Catholic. Roman Catholic is like "Watermark Catholic." It's an adjective that goes in front of a word catholic, which means universal. Those of you who grew up around certain denominations that read a lot of creeds, you would read the Apostles' Creed, and it says, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the community of saints, and the holy catholic church."
The church I was dragged to when I was a kid was a Methodist church, and I didn't care much about the Methodist church. All I knew was I apparently was a Methodist, so when we would get to that point, I was always a conscientious objector to the Apostles' Creed. When it says, "I believe in the holy…" I would always say "Methodist church" as a little kid. I'd go, "If we're Catholics, why aren't we going to the Catholic church?"
It was like when I was a kid growing up in St. Louis, I would go to Cardinals games. It drove me crazy when we sang the "National Anthem," because we would always end that thing with "The land of the free and the home of the Braves." I was like, "No, we are not." Literally, I would go, "And the home of the…" Now everybody yells that, right? But as a kid, when we weren't doing that (we were a much more respectful nation), I was really confused why I was a Methodist who really liked the Catholic Church and why I was a Cardinal fan who sang we're the home of the Braves.
Catholic just means universal. The true universal church has many local expressions. One of the most powerful local expressions in the early days of the church was in Rome. It was the capital city. It was where commerce and government and political and economic power emanated out, so that church was well funded, so it had a lot of influence in a lot of places. The problem is it didn't always correctly represent what God's Word said.
So about 1,500 years after they affected a lot of the world, somebody stood up and said, "We have to reform this thing." Nobody really wanted to leave the catholic church, but they said, "There are some problems with what's coming out of Rome that we have to get right so we can all get together and back with God's Word, because we want to give attention to the apostles' teaching. That's what the church has always done. And we're not paying attention to the apostles' teaching. We're paying attention to what men have done to it." That was called the Reformation.
What Jesus is saying here is "If you're a part of my church, then you ought to do some amazing things." Now watch. I want to show you this very quickly. I'm going to walk you through in just a few short minutes why if you're not a part personally, today… If there aren't stories coming out of your life where people are being called out of darkness into his marvelous light…
Now I am spiritualizing a little bit here, because I've never been to a wedding and they've come up to me and said, "Todd, this is really embarrassing. We just found out they did not order enough shrimp" and bad-tasting punch that appears at every wedding I've ever been to. "Can you help us?" I've never turned water into wine at a wedding. I've never been down to Scottish Rite and had kids who had issues with their physical development… I've never seen anybody walk.
By the way, I believe God can do anything he wants to even today. I'll pray. I've just never personally been a part of seeing flesh regenerate. We have friends at Watermark who are blind. I've never been used by God, and I don't know anybody who has ever been used by God to give sight to blind people, other than Jesus and other stories in the Scripture. I believe he can do that. I think it has probably happened. I just don't know about it. I pray that it would.
But that's not exactly what he's talking about here. He's not talking about the kinds of things we always saw Jesus do. Basically, he's saying, "Listen. The most important thing…" By the way, this is why you know that physical healing was not the most important thing, because sometimes when Jesus took guys who were lame for, let's just say, 38 years and healed them, he says amazing things like this to them. "Hey man, your faith has made you well. Now take up your pallet, go and walk, and follow me, lest something worse happens to you."
"Worse? I've been lying on this mat for 38 years. What worse could happen to me?"
"Well, how about being separated from me forever? How about really making your way through earth not on a mat but maybe in a mansion, but you die after 85 years and then are separated from the God who gave you the ability to make wealth while you were here on earth. You spent your 'dot' rebelling against me, and I'm going to now let your 'line' have nothing to do with me, because you didn't want anything to do with me.
It's appointed for you to die once, and after this comes judgment. I didn't say you were lame because I was judging you. I'm saying that you're lame and blind and screwed up because you live in a world that's affected by sin. All of you are affected by sin. So let me just take one of the manifestations that people can see of a broken world, your lameness, your blindness. Let me correct that, and you might go, 'Well, who can reverse the course of nature?' Answer: the God of nature."
What he's saying is, "Don't come to me to get your lameness fixed. Come to me to get your separation from God fixed." Do you understand that? That's your real problem. What Jesus is saying is, "Let me connect you to me. Bro, I'm glad you can now run, skip, and play hopscotch and soccer if you want to again, but let me tell you something. You're going to die, and if you don't follow me, something worse than just being lame for 38 years is going to happen to you."
When Jesus says, "Even greater works than these will you do," what he's talking about is not just in kind that get news stories all fired up. What he's saying is something that's going to happen in terms of scope. "Because there's not going to just be me walking around from Capernaum to Bethesda over to Nazareth and firing down to Jerusalem and checking out a girl in Samaria for a while. We're going to go to the uttermost parts of the world, and it's going to blow your mind. There are not going to be 12; there are going to be a couple thousand in Plano in 2,000 years."
If you're not a part of that, there's only one reason: you're deluded that you're a part of his church or you're AWOL, absent without leave. You're not living the way he wants you to live. You might be called out of darkness, but you're not following him. You're not stewarding your gifts as a good representative of the manifold grace of God. You're not being equipped. You're not in community, loving others and being loved by others.
You're not being admonished when you're unruly, encouraged when you're fainthearted, and held when you're weak. You're isolating and you're out of line and you're, at best, an irregular believer, maybe even deluded. America is suffering, because most of the people who will go to church, which is not what Jesus ever wanted you to do… You come and are reminded of the greatness of God, and then you go and do the work of Christ as you yield to his Spirit.
How are you doing, Plano? We never wanted to start a church that you would come to. We wanted to start a place where you could be equipped and you could invite your friends to come and see, transformed people who love each other. Now watch this. I'm going to show you very quickly. This is what I was saying. It says this is whoever believes. That's what it says in John 14:12. That little phrase shows up a number of times.
Let me show you how much that phrase means to you, because a lot of people go, "Hey, I'm a believer." Okay, well, look. I think you might be. Here's how I know. John 1:12: "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…" Do you see that? Whoever believes can be children of God. That's awesome.
How about this? Go to John 3:16. Have you ever heard of this one? "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes…" You're like, "Okay, there's a 'whoever believes.' I'm a 'whoever believes,' so I'm a child of God. I'm a 'whoever believes,' so I shall not perish and have eternal life." Awesome. That's good.
How about this? Let's go to John 3:18. "He who believes in Him is not judged…" Well, I'm a "who believes," so I'm not a judged person. John 3:36: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life…" Well, I'm a "who believes" person. I have eternal life. I'm a child of God. I will not perish. I'm not going to be judged." John 5:24: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life…" I'm down with that.
John 6:35: "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." Not talking, clearly, about physical thirst. Jesus is using physical thirst as an illustration of the longing of the soul for satisfaction. John 6:47, same thing. If you believe you have eternal life. John 7:38: If you believe, from your innermost being will come this constant outpouring of strength and life to other people.
John 11:25: "…he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…" I'm not afraid of death. I'm a "who believes" person. John 12:46: "…everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness." What I'm trying to show you is this little phrase who believes shows up again and again all throughout the book of John, and everybody goes, "I'm a 'who believes' person." Then it gets to John 14:12, and it says, "Really? Because this is what's true about 'who believes' people."
"Who believes" people are people who do the work. They don't go to church. They do works that Jesus does. They love like Jesus did, and they're used by God to call people out of darkness into his marvelous light, and there's a sense of awe around them. They take what they have when they have more than they need, and they make sure other people who are responsible and who are part of the mission are sharing in that and that they invest in the mission so that people who don't have the message of the mission get it. Do you get that? It's amazing.
So all I want to say to you is if you're not a person who does the greater works, then there's a reason for that. If you're not a part of the greater works of John 14:12, then you're not a part of his church or you're an irregular, irresponsible person in his church or you're just an infant, and that's okay, and we want to equip you. I don't want to make you feel bad. I just want to say, "Look. God wants you to be a part of this thing, not attend a meeting."
So I'd gather tonight. I'd get on my knees. "God, teach me more of who you are so I can be more useful to you." If you're not a part of the "greater works than these" that Jesus talks about, then you are not believing or not abiding or not obeying. That's as simple as it gets. There is a sliding scale of destruction there. So this morning I really want you to go, "If I don't believe in Jesus, this morning is the time for me to believe in Jesus so something worse than being lame for 38 years doesn't befall me."
I'll tell you what else is going to happen. I've lived a lame life. I've destroyed relationships. I've been running up the wrong ladder trying to find life, and I have to re-lean my ladder. I'm not abiding with Christ, so I'm going to find out that I'm not experiencing the eternal, abundant life he wants me to have right now or I'm just ignoring his Word. I'm AWOL. I'm absent without leave. There's going to be a day that we stand before him, and we'll still give an account for our works.
We're not going to be judged as whether or not we're his son, because if we believe, we're his sons or his daughters, but every one of us will be judged as how we did as servants. There's going to be a moment where we stand before him and we're going to go, "O Savior, Lord, you saved me, and I didn't do anything for you." He's not going to be mad, but in that very humbling moment, I think there's going to be some sadness. I think in some way he's going to deal with it.
It talks about how there is going to be a distribution of rewards based on what we do for some period, whether it's the millennial reign, we don't know. We know that in heaven there's no sadness, no weeping of tears, and all that different stuff, but there is going to be a sense of "Man, I screwed up. I used these 80 years on earth in a really poor way, and now I never get to give to you again, because it's now you all giving to me."
The only thing we're going to maybe long for in heaven, if God doesn't change us, is a chance just for a second to love somebody in his name, because we're going to see that he's really who he said he was. So can I tell you why we're in Plano? To invite you in, to equip you, to set you up for success, and to say, "Let's go."
Let's go be a part of this amazing thing, that people go, "You've got to come and see. These people are not perfect, but, man, they love each other. When they screw up, they acknowledge it, they repent, they make amends, and they purpose to forsake it by equipping themselves to not do it again." We're a broken people. We're not a pretty people. We need him, but if we know we need him, let's depend on him. If we depend on him, greater works than these we will do.
Father, thank you for this community of friends. I thank you for a chance to be with them. We don't ever want to be a group of people who come and just hang out and sing a few small songs and get on our way and evaluate the pastor and evaluate the coffee and evaluate the kids' ministry.
We want to be people who come and evaluate our hearts and see ourselves for who we are: needy people who need an amazing Savior, and that we then abide with you, and because we abide with you, we love one another, we bear the fruits of your Spirit, and we look like the early church has always looked, and then we discover, develop, and deploy our gifts for the good of one another and the glory of God in a world that needs to be called out of darkness into his marvelous light.
So would you do that? First of all, if there's anybody in this room who has never said, "Lord, I need you," would they just do it during this next song? "Lord, I need you to go and prepare a place for me, because I'm not a perfect man. I'm not a perfect woman. I need a Savior who would die for me and give his life for me, and I believe you're it and that God affirmed that by raising you from the dead. So I call you Lord and King. Now, Lord, teach me to abide with you."
I pray that would happen right now. For those of us that has happened to, I pray, "Lord, I need you" would not just be referring back to our salvation but it would be our reference to what needs to happen the rest of this day if we're going to love our family, our city, and our world in a way that's consistent with your will for us. Lord, we need you, amen.
I am desperate for you to know the kindness of God, and I'm desperate for you to stay close to me and remind me. I need constant reminder from godly people who are spiritually appraised that what I said this morning is true, because this world is always going, "Todd, over here. Todd, over here." We are here not because we've been after this now for 15 years in Dallas and coming up on a year in Plano. That's not our righteousness. There is nothing in me that when I stand before God I'm going to say, "God, hey, look at what I did for you."
There's going to be me on my knees. I'm going to be standing on burnt ground. I'm going to say, "Lord, you did it for me. I have nothing to offer you except Christ's righteousness in me, and the works that I did do for you that were amazing, that were greater in number than you, because you gave me opportunity… Those were your works that you did through me." He's going to say, "Todd, thank you. Yes, you were a vessel," and I'm going to say, "Thank you, God, that you used a corrupt idiot like me."
Sometimes I get really discouraged, because in the midst of wanting to share the kinds of things with people that I shared with you this morning, there's a part of me that just wants to do amazingly perverse and selfish things, and I just go, "Oh my gosh! Am I even saved?" Then I sing a song like this… I shared this with the staff this week. It says in that song "Holiness is Christ in me." There's never a part of Todd that's going to be holy. That's why the Bible tells me to crucify my flesh and to live by faith.
That's why last night when I was singing songs and worshiping God and ministering to people who were at some conference that was very destructive to their heart and soul, and every now and then part of me would go, "Well, maybe I want to go in there and just minister to people in there so I can get a little voyeuristic look at what they're doing." I wouldn't get discouraged. I would go, "Of course that's what my flesh wants to do. It's bent on destruction, but, God, you've shown me my flesh is death and Jesus is life. Thank you. Lord, I need you. I've got nothing."
Maybe one of you guys is out there this morning saying, "Todd, you don't know who I am." And you're right. I don't, but I'm going to tell you something. I look out here. I have enough friends who are a part of this church that I know where they came from that you're going to have a hard time impressing me your darkness is darker than theirs. Some of them walked in real darkness while they were part of this church, and they've confessed it and are making amends and they're part of his greater work.
There's going to be a group of us up here to help you if you've never believed. I pray you'd just come or you'd take that little perforated section and check the box and say, "I want to believe. Will someone help me?" Some of you guys need to fill that thing out and say, "I want to abide. I want to be equipped." We'll follow up with you this week.
Some of you need to connect, where people are day in and day out walking with you, so that you can be spurred on continually. Come and see. It's where life is. I love you. Think about how much God loves Collin County. There are a thousand of us right now who are about to go out there and be little Christs. That's the work. Let's go, church. Have a great week of worship.