In this message, Todd continues our PREP series and discusses what we must do to prepare ourselves to give an account to the Lord for how we stewarded our lives. He shares with us from Jesus's teaching to His followers and some Pharisees in Luke 12 about what a truly faithful life looks like and how we should prepare to fight against unfaithfulness.
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
Good morning. It is great to be here in Dallas again. I have enjoyed my last couple of weeks being with my friends in Plano and Forth Worth. I would encourage y'all to go check out the time I spent with the folks in Plano two weeks ago. It was a different message than I've given here. A week ago in Forth Worth, that was a different message.
As I said to my friends in Forth Worth, I hope you pick up the amazing messages that were done here by the great staff we have. They did a great job. If a pastor should be insecure that the most powerful days a church has is when he's gone, I would be the most insecure pastor on the face of the earth. Was it not great hearing from those guys these last three weeks? I love for you to get to meet the gifted friends I work with all the time. They lead in amazing ways.
We're in a series called Prep, if you don't know. We've been helping you get ready and prep for temptation, whether that temptation is pornography, fear of man, love of self, spiritual warfare, addiction, fear of life, fear of failure or surprises, fear of how to persevere, or fear of anxiety. We spent the last three weeks helping you prep for each of those things in amazing little 12- to 14- minute TED Talks. You can go and capture each one of them individually. That's what we've been doing here at this campus.
We're going to spend a few more weeks on this Prep series. I want to show you Jesus has taught a Prep series. He's the first one who said, "I want to prep you." Today, I'm going to focus on what, ultimately, you need to prep for. It's the reason we want you to do well in your prep against temptation, fear, failure, addiction, and spiritual warfare.
If you're faithful in all those things, because you're ready, you will be prepped for the only thing that matters. The only thing that matters is that you are ready when you stand before the Lord to give an account. Every single one of you are going to stand before the Lord and give an account. It is a fact that we are saved by grace through faith, but it is a fact that all of us, even those saved by grace through faith, will give an account for how we worked out our salvation, how we did as servants.
You become a son or daughter of God by believing in God's name and his means of provision for you to be reconciled to him. There is nothing you can ever do that would make you worthy of God's love and acceptance, but the Bible does say if you have been reconciled to God by grace through faith, that faith will never be isolated from works.
In fact, in preparation for Jesus' coming, some guys were like, "Hey, we're all about the Messiah." John the Baptist said, "Well then, why don't you bear fruit in keeping with your professed faith that makes you ready? I don't see in you the things that would seem to indicate your faith is any more than some delusion."
Jesus is going to make sure we're not deluded and we are ready to give an account. I'm going to give you all kinds of statements at the end, because when you teach this correctly, it will take you right up on the hairline of heresy, but if you don't teach it at all, you are teaching heresy. In other words, you're not teaching that which is ultimately true.
We want to be faithful to you here. Our job as a staff team, just so you know, is not to sit and do ministry in a way such that you guys go, "Man, those guys are rocking. They are excellent. It's unbelievable the way they teach, lead, and serve." We ought to be good and excellent in those things, because it's part of how we use our gifts to serve the body, but let me say this.
Every single person on staff, people you graciously invest in as you seek to advance the ministry of the gospel… The job of the staff here is to equip the saints for the work of service. Our job is to set you up and prep you for the day when you will give an account of your life, so you might hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
As a staff of this mission we all share, we'll never hear God say, "Man, you guys were rocking. Those people really thought you were good at what you did. They loved to listen to you and watch you." Our job is not to get people to listen or watch us. Our job is to help you listen to Christ and be watchful, faithful, and ready, that you might be equipped and adequate for every good work.
Our job is to help you discover, develop, and deploy your gifts for God's glory. Our job is to prep you, so I'm going to do that with you this morning by teaching you and walking you through Jesus' prep series.
Next week, I'm going to tell you when that day of judgment is, prophetically. Are you ready? Brace yourself for that. I'm going to walk you through what Jesus said would be the signs of his coming. We're going to talk about blood moons, darkened suns, shmittas, and signs of his coming. That's next week. Get ready for that, if we make it there.
This week, I'm going to help prep you. I love the story about a guy who took over a new company, and this new company was one his predecessor was leaving. He said, "I'm going to help you out. I'm going to give you three envelopes, and if you ever get in trouble, you can open these envelopes each time you get in trouble."
This guy goes, "Well, that was very nice. Thank you very much." The guy jumped into the company, and because he was new at that particular company he turned some things around. The energy of bringing in new management and leadership caused Wall Street to respond. Investors were excited, and by and large, the way their stock was purchased and perceived on the Dow rocketed it up.
It was doing pretty well, but after about a year, they started to look a little bit harder at the numbers, and the company went back into a little bit of a decline. He started to get some heat from the board. His investors were wanting to know what was going on. He was a little frazzled, and he went into his office and said, "What am I going to do?"
Then he looked down and saw this folder he had been given with three envelopes in it. He said, "Awesome. I will open those envelopes." He opened the very first envelope, and the envelope said, "Hey, the first time you get in trouble, blame your predecessor." The guy goes, "Wow, that's pretty gracious. That guy was my predecessor."
He though about it for a little bit, and he actually called a press conference, stood up there, and said, "Let me tell you something. If you guys will look back when I jumped on board, you'll see the company has done really well for the first three quarters I was here. This last quarter started to slow down a little bit, and it's because we're bearing the fruit of the previous leadership."
He was tactful about it, but he said, "Our previous leadership did some things that, frankly, were not going to lead to our company prospering. We're bearing the fruit of that, but you need to know there's confidence in this company. The employees understand the strategies I'm bringing, and we have worked hard to sow and prepare, that the harvest we will reap from this work is going to turn this company around. This last quarter is the harvest of the previous administration, but something is here, and it's new now."
Wall Street bought it. People bought it. The stock went up, it rallied, and things were going well for another two to four quarters. Then, all of a sudden, things started to dip a little bit again, so he went back to his office, and he goes, "All right." He got the second envelope and opened it up, and the second envelope just said, "Reorganize."
He though to himself, "Okay. All right. I think I know what to do with that." He called another press conference, got out there, and said, "By and large, over the last eight quarters, six of them have been very profitable. We had one about a year ago where I talked to you about how we were bearing fruit of that particular prior predecessor. We've dealt with that, and that's why I continue to bring us, now, to greater times of prosperity, but here we are.
The reason my previous predecessor is not here is because he was stuck in a rut. I'm not that kind of guy. I'm innovative and hard-working. I think what we've been doing is correct, but we're going to change some things, because we can be better at what we're doing. We're going to reorganize. We're going to rally. We're going to make this company prevail."
Everybody bought it. The company went up and to the right again. Stock was doing well. Then, lo and behold, several quarters later, it starts to dip again. He walks back into his office and pulls out the folder with the third envelope. He opens it up, and inside he reads: "Prepare three envelopes. That's all you've got."
I want to tell you how to prepare, because there's going to be a time in your life, if you're not prepared well, when you're going to need more than blaming your predecessor or trying to reorganize. The time to reorganize is gone, and there will be no third envelope. It is judgment day. You will give an account. This is a great time to be doing this particular message, because this time of year, many of us are headed back to school, we have kids who are headed to school, or we remember what it was like when we went to school.
What do you do whenever you get your schedule? You go to people around you and say, "Hey, have you had this teacher before? What are they like? What are their tests like? Are the tests hard? Are they comprehensive? Do you have to write a lot of papers? How does he grade papers? What does he want to see in papers? What's the syllabus like? Does he take attendance? Does attendance matter?" You want to know everything you can about how that teacher grades, because that will help you prep to be successful.
Jesus was not cruel. He's going to lay it out for you and say, "This is how you will be successful. This is how you will hear, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'" That's what you want to hear. Let's take a look. Turn with me to Luke 11. We're going to rip through a bunch of this prep series Jesus gave.
We're going to start in Luke 11:37. We're going to talk about how he interacted with some of the leaders of the day. Then we're going to move to him speaking specifically to his disciples. Hopefully, you and I will show up at that particular moment. There's a very strong warning there, and I will give you some powerful, clear application that will help you be prepped for the only thing you want to be prepped for.
We spent the last weeks on temptation, addiction, spiritual warfare, surprises, doubt, anxiety, loneliness, failure, perseverance, and the future, so you could be ready for that one moment when you give an account, and give an account you will. That is exactly what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:10. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."
I'm going to say this to you several times today. Salvation is always by grace through faith, but having been saved, having become a son or daughter by grace through faith, there are works he has prepared beforehand, that we would walk in them. Let me read you this. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…" We ought to be the most humble people on the face of the earth. "…not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Salvation is there. It's by grace through faith, a gift from God.
Here's verse 10, because you always want to read these verses in context. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." There is an expectation, children of God. John 1:12 says, "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…" Having believed in his name, sons and daughters, be faithful servants. You, all of us, will be judged.
In Luke 11:37, Jesus is talking to some folks, and he's doing it in a way that strikes their ire a little bit. They're not wild about the interaction. He's going to take on their hypocrisy, the folly of their leadership, and the foolishness of their sinfulness.This might be the most heretical thing that would be said at any pulpit in America today. I was about to say Jesus is about to channel his inner Donald Trump and say, "Your leaders are stupid." Jesus doesn't have an inner Donald Trump. Donald Trump needs an inner Jesus.
Let's be clear on that. We all do. Todd Wagner needs an inner Jesus. There is no inner Todd Wagner to Jesus.The goal here is that we would be Christ's men, but sometimes Christ speaks in such a way that you're like, "Wow." It seems to me he's saying, "Your leaders are stupid," and he's telling those leaders, "You're stupid. You're a numbskull. You're not listening. Listen to me."
Watch this in Luke 11:37. He was finished speaking about a lot of different things. You can go back and read, and it would be important for you to go back and get the context of where we were. The reason, in fact, I went back in verse 37 is I wanted to give you the context of 12:1, and I had to stop somewhere.
Jesus had been teaching a lot about the kingdom and about how people are going to live in relationship with God and be prepped to have a relationship with God. The Pharisees were not wild about what he was saying, because he was basically attacking the system they had put into place.
There was one particular Pharisee who asked to have lunch with him. We know, because the Pharisees had already largely rejected Christ as God's prophet, this guy wasn't asking Jesus to come because he wanted to learn from him. The Pharisees who wanted to learn from Jesus we seeking him at night alone, like Nicodemus, because they didn't want to be criticized.
This guy had watched Jesus interact with his disciples before, and we find Jesus was not a guy who was given to tradition. He was absolutely all-in with truth, but not traditions or the traditions of men, which was the way they applied truth. By the way, I'm not big into tradition here. Watermark isn't big into tradition. That's why we have different music styles. Maybe I'll wear jeans and not a robe. Those are traditions.
Men had done some things in the past for certain reasons and in a certain way because they believed, at the time, that was the best way to do certain things to honor God. I want to evaluate every tradition we have within anything we do, even the 15 years we've been around. Let's evaluate the traditions of Watermark.
If they're still the best way to accomplish the truth of what God wants us to be, let's double down on them. If there's a better way to execute on what God calls us to ultimately be about, and the Bible gives us the flexibility in that area to do it differently, then let's do it. Let's become all things to all men, that by all means every man might be saved. We're not really committed to any forms here. We're committed to functions.
Jesus was absolutely committed to the truth, and some of the traditions weren't even amplifying the truth. They were getting in the way, so he's coming at them a little bit. One of the things Jesus wasn't really concerned with is this ceremonial bathing, this external cleansing. People who had the means and wanted to impress others that they were absolutely excellent and following every tradition of men…
There's what's called the Torah, which is the representation of the Word of God. Then there is the Talmud, which is the writings of the scribes and the Pharisees, describing how you apply the Torah, the Law of God. Jesus says, "Some of that which was in the Talmud and some of the traditions of men have hindered the true teaching of the truth."
That's why you see Jesus say this so many times to the Pharisees: "Why don't you go and find out what this means? Have you not read…" In other words, "Rightly interpret that. You guys have wrapped up some things around this that have gotten in the way of the thing." I'll insert this right here. I spent some time with The Porch a couple of weeks ago. We're working our way through the Sermon on the Mount. They asked me to teach on Matthew 7:1-5. There's a message in there that Jesus gives that says, "Judge not, lest you be judged."
I would say to this church, especially, the flock of God I'm a part of, "Go and find out what that means." Make sure you know what Jesus meant when he said, "Judge not, lest you be judged," because it is intimidating too many of you to silence. It is keeping you from being faithful today, and it will keep you from being told you are a good and faithful servant on that day.
You have adopted this tradition of the day and age, that we are supposed to be tolerant of everything, and if you're loving, you don't condemn any choice any people make. I would tell you that is not the tradition of Jesus. Go listen to that message at The Porch a few weeks ago, I beg of you. Learn the difference between being judgmental and making judgments. You must make judgments, which means you must be useful to God, to speak out when you see error.
Silence in the midst of sin and destructive behavior is sin itself. It's not loving. Tolerance where people are concerned is excellent. Tolerance where truth is concerned is a tragedy. Old tolerance used to mean we would respect different ideas. New tolerance means all ideas are equal. I will not tolerate new tolerance. Jesus didn't, either. Go and find out what that means. Take a long run and grab that Porch message.
Here we go. Jesus is saying to these guys, "Listen. Here's the problem. I know you notice I didn't ceremoniously wash myself before the meal." In verse 39 of Luke 11: "Now you Pharisees…" Here's the problem. "…clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness." In other words, "You guys take ceremonial baths, but the only thing God really cares about is your heart, who you really are. You're not cleaning that up at all."
He says, "But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.""I don't need you to take ceremonial baths. I need you to be seriously repentant. I need you to be grateful toward God. I need your heart. I want you to love me. Don't honor me with your lips. Give me your affections."
Verse 42: "But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice…" There it is. "…and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others." This is a summarization of the prophet Micah.
He said, "This is how you can know you're doing what God wants you to do. This is the basic syllabus of faithful service." This is Micah 6:8: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
The Pharisees didn't walk humbly with the Lord. They looked at themselves as better than other people and thought, because of the way they lived, works were good enough. We've already covered that, right? Works don't save. The Pharisees thought the way they worked out their lives was going to be good enough, and God was going to go, "Attaboy. Way to go. You guys come on in. You're as righteous as I am."
They didn't love kindness. They heaped all kinds of burdens onto the people. They didn't even love justice. Here's why I say that. I make mention of this at different times, and I want to keep hammering certain truths. This is where I believe people with same-sex attraction have a real beef with what has been called "the church," not with Watermark. I beg of you, if you're here, and you have a same-sex attraction struggle, go back and listen to 15 years of the way we have talked about your struggle.
We have said it is a struggle from sin and away from the righteousness of God, but we've always said, "…just like mine." I don't struggle with same-sex attraction, but I am a person who struggles with sexual purity in every way God says righteousness would be defined. God is a fan of sex, but he's not a fan of sexual perversion. I, in my nature, am not sexually pure. My heart is prone to wander, and just because my heart doesn't wander where your heart wanders doesn't mean I don't think I need grace and mercy.
The church (not this one or, by the grace of God, me) has not loved justice. We have made sins we don't struggle with the things that offend God. That's not just. God doesn't tolerate any sin, not just the sin I don't struggle with. Jesus is saying to the Pharisees, "You guys are like that. You pick out all the problems the other people have, like the tax gatherers and prostitutes, and rightly. The tax gatherers and the prostitutes need to repent, but you need to repent, too, of your self-righteousness, arrogance, and pride. Those things are just as vile to me."
We need to deal with our materialism, our love of comfort, our sexual addiction that doesn't hurt anybody in the quietness of my room, my pornography, or the socially acceptable sin of saying, "I'll be in a covenant with somebody for life," divorcing them, and starting all over again. Serial monogamy, church, is not the same as monogamy.
We have to start to get the log out of our own eye, repent, realize we need grace and mercy, love the justice of God, and not just say, "That's unjust. That will get the wrath of God." Here's the deal. My friends who struggle with same-sex attraction, we love you, so we have to tell you if you give yourself over to what you're doing… It's not the temptation. The temptation isn't sin, but giving yourself over to that because it feels right to you will not go well with you. "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." That's true.
To my young friends who are heterosexually drawn to be fornicators and give themselves away, I get it. The temptation for that is not sin, but don't give yourself away to it. We are not just if we pick and choose different sins we don't deal with, and that's what the Pharisees were doing. That's what Jesus is rebuking them for. "You guys aren't doing justice, you're not loving kindness, and you don't walk humbly." You had better prep yourself for judgment.
Verse 44 says, "Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it." You and I read that and go, "Whoa, man. Jesus is really throwing down on them now." We don't think that because we read that and go, "Okay, so he called me a concealed tomb? I've been called worse." Not if you're a Pharisee.
You might want to write down there in your Bible, "Numbers 19:11-22," and go read it, but let me tell you what Jesus was saying to them. "Hey, you righteous spiritual leaders of Israel, you're the reason Israel is unclean. You're the reason people are defiled in their efforts to worship me." That's clearer, isn't it? Imagine if Jesus went to the spiritual leadership and said, "You're not helping anybody. In fact, when you have a convert, you make them twice the sons of hell that you are."
Numbers 19:11 says, "If you come into contact with a corpse or a tomb, you're unclean for seven days, and you have to be outside the fellowship of Israel. If you touch a corpse and go into the temple, the whole temple is defiled." He's saying, "You defile worship." Wow. You can see why one of the Pharisees' leaders and teachers… That's what a scribe is.
Some of your Bibles say scribes, and some will say lawyers. Lawyers were people who copied the Word of God and then taught it. They were experts in the law, and they taught Pharisees what the traditions and applications of the law were. That's what lawyers do today. They teach the application of the law, or they defend it, or they pervert it. You choose.
Anyway, you get the point. They were listening, and they say, "Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too." I'm like, "Really?" This is not a good idea, to raise your hand and go, "Jesus, you insulted us." He's like, "Okay, you want in on the conversation? Let's go. I'll bring you into the conversation."
"Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.""You make all kinds of rules. You create stress. You don't set people free." "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them."
What he means there is this. He said, "Listen. The fathers, the self-righteous, when God sent his messengers to call people to repentance, didn't want to repent or hear what they were doing was wrong, so they killed the prophets." He's saying, "That's the line you come from. Your fathers killed the prophets, and what do you do? You say, 'Isaiah was a great man. Jeremiah was a great man.' You build them great tombs to celebrate them, yet you mock the prophet of God today. You're just like them, and it's not going to go well with you."
He goes all the way back to Abel. Abel was the very first prophet, because when God said he wanted you to bring a sacrifice, he said, "Bring it from the flock, because innocent blood must be shed in order to cover the commission of sins." Cain said, "I'm not going to bring something from Abel's flock. I'm a farmer. I'm tilling the land. I'll bring you some corn. I'll throw a few tomatoes in there, and if you're lucky, I'll give you an avocado. Since it's fall, here's a good grapefruit."
God rejected Cain's offering because it was the works of man. Abel said, "Cain, God is not mad at you. I'm happy to swap you out a few sheep for a couple of cantaloupe." Cain said, "God will take what I give him." Abel said, "I don't think that's going to go well for you." Cain said, "Do you want to know what's not going to go well for you? Telling me what God wants." Off goes Abel's head, or however Cain decided to eradicate him.
Fast-forward all the way to a guy we find right here in this section called Zechariah. Zechariah was a man who served under a king named Joash. Zechariah was the son of Jehoiada, the priest who was a part of saving Joash's life. Later, as Joash got older and did not follow the ways of his mentor, Jehoiada, Zechariah pointed out to him that was the case. Joash went ahead and had Zechariah murdered right there at the steps of the temple.
As for the Jewish Bible, by and large, many people would stop at 2 Chronicles. It's not that the other stuff isn't important, but really, when you talk about the history of the Jews, it would largely end there at 2 Chronicles. That's why Jesus is wrapping up the time from Abel all the way, really, to 586 BC, when they went into exile by saying, "You've killed all the prophets." That's what's going on here.
Verse 52: "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.""The key of knowledge is the Word of God. You've said only you can interpret the Word of God. You don't push the Word of God to people. You tell them what it means, and you confuse it with your traditions you don't even follow. You just do it publicly. You love seats of honor. You love a perceived reputation, and you don't have a real character."
Jesus is coming at these guys pretty strongly. It says, then, in verse 53, "When he left there, the scribes and Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to question him closely on many subjects, plotting against him, that they might catch him saying something wrong." Do you see where we are? "Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, 'Beware of the leaven [symbolic of the teaching] of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.'"
"This self-understood rightness, which isn't dependent upon the Word of God, isn't informed by humility and the illumination of the Spirit. Beware that doesn't make its way into your understanding of religion. Beware of the ways of men who are concerned with external propriety and do not surrender their hearts. They still follow what seems right to them, and they're not listening to me. You have to be perfect like I am perfect."
Nobody is perfect. Go back to his first message. "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, you can't get into the kingdom of God. All of you need to be poor in Spirit. Mourn over your sin. Surrender yourselves to me. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. That's the way. Beware that you don't become prideful."
He says, "But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.""I know you guys think the Pharisees, with their lengthened robes, their tassels, and their phylacteries, which were basically leather straps that had pieces of the Word of God in there…"
By the way, Deuteronomy 6 says we're supposed to teach the Word of God in our coming and our going. We're supposed to write it on the tablet of our heart and we're supposed to have it inform the way we think and what we do with our hands, so the tradition became you had to always have a little Bible. You can still go to Israel or orthodox Jewish communities today, and they have pieces of the Torah strapped to their heads in leather. They have the words of God written on leather and wrapped around their arms.
Jesus is saying, "Look, I don't really care if you do that, but I really want to make sure it seeps into your head. I'm not looking for you to wear a cross, Christian church. I'm okay if you do, but if anyone wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. That's what I want. Wear your cross. It's great that you go to James Avery and you get it for your sixteenth birthday, but take it up and follow me. Have it inform the way you date, study, and obey your parents."
This isn't just a 2,000-year-old issue. It's an issue for today. He said, "Listen, I'm going to know who you really are. It's great that you carry your Bible into The Porch on Tuesday night, but if you're only there to meet girls and eventually exploit them, that's going to be all revealed, man. 'I am the avenger of these things,' the Scripture says."
"Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.""You guys think you're okay because nobody knows what's really going on. I know what's really going on, and you're going to give an account for it. You had better prep for that." Jesus gives them, basically, four things he knows they're struggling with, and he tells them, "This is how you can do well."
1._ Preparation for persecution._ He basically says, "I know you guys are scared to death you're going to be persecuted because you see I'm getting persecuted. Guess what. If you follow me, you will get persecuted like I get persecuted. Some guys are going to want to kill you like they're going to want to kill me." If you're a follower of Jesus, you're like, "Dadgum. That's not great."
We're getting ready to head into college football season. Right now, Jesus is assigning mascots. He says, "Hey, here's the deal. You guys who are my disciples, we're going to have the mascot of sheep, and we're going to play the wolves." You're like, "Oh, Jesus, that's not going to work out well for us. I'm not sure I want to be part of the sheep, especially when, every week, we play the wolves." That's what he's telling them.
Watch this. He's saying, "Don't fear death, especially death by persecution." How many of you guys go, "I'm glad you brought that up, because I'm kind of nervous about death by persecution. In fact, I don't even like death by criticism. I don't even like people in my office thinking that because I say I'm a Christian I hate them, so I keep myself quiet because I don't want to judge, lest I be judged myself." Go find out what that means, by the way. We're like, "The heck with cutting my head off. I don't even want you to cut off my friendship."
Look at what Jesus says. I love this. He sees they're concerned about the way this thing is trending, so he says, "…do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.""All they can do is kill the body. All they can do is ask if you believe Allah is God and Muhammad is his prophet, and then they're going to cut your throat off if you don't agree with them, but don't worry. That's all they can do. I've got it.
Even if they cut your head off, which I'm not very happy with, and in fact, I will hold them accountable… I don't like when a sparrow falls out of the sky. Believe me, I will take care of my little ones. Don't you worry. I'll tell you who to fear. When they die, and they're all going to die, you fear the one who can throw them into hell forever. Death is not good, but hell, my friends, is the worst."
Right there, he's saying, "I will warn you who to fear." I think he goes, "Hey, Peter, John, look here. Fear me, the Sovereign Creator of the universe. They're going to nail me to a cross and think they won, but I'm going to lay my life down, and I'm going to pick it back up again, because they can't kill me. I'm giving myself as a sacrifice for you. You shouldn't fear them. You fear the one who can lay his life down, pick it back up again, and tell you who is with me and who is separated from me forever. You fear me, not them."
Listen, church. You're likely not to get beheaded this week, but there are some people who are going to bite your head off if you winsomely, kindly, and lovingly engage them in certain topics. Don't you fear them. Silence in the midst of sin is a sin. Don't shrink back when you are challenged, attacked, or criticized. Our job is to speak the truth in love and do everything we can to deliver this country from slaughter. When you get the prophets not being prophetical, the problem is not with the people; it's with the prophets. We are the prophets. Don't you fear them.
He goes on to say, "Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.""Your powerful, Sovereign Father cares for you. He cares for you so much that he knows when you lose a hair from your head. They're all numbered. Don't fear. You're more valuable than the sparrows." "And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God…""You just faithfully serve me." So don't fear death, specifically death by persecution.
2._ Preparation for defense._ You're going to be held up before rulers and leaders in the synagogue. This is verse 11. Don't worry about what you're going to say. You're like, "Oh, this is awesome. What does that say, Todd?" It says, "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities…" Jesus is saying, "You've got it, man." "…do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."
You're like, "That's fantastic! I could be ready at any time to have to give an account for my faith, and the Holy Spirit is going to tell me what to say." Let me insert a story. Here's a story of a guy who wants to be a spiritual pastor. I want to be a spiritual pastor. The spiritual pastor says, "I'm going to let the Holy Spirit teach me what to say. This week, I'm going to do all the other things that come before me, but I'm not going to really prepare for this moment when I'm before you.
I know you're not the rulers and the synagogue officials, and I know you're not looking for me to give a defense of my faith, but you are here for me to equip you. I'm going to trust Jesus, who right here in Luke 11 and 12 said, '…the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.'"
The story goes that this pastor was going on about his merry week and doing his merry things. He showed up on Sunday morning, and in a very spiritual way, he got ready to go. The bumper video to sync up the different campuses was over, and he said, "Okay, Spirit of God, what do you want me to tell the people?" The Spirit of God whispered to him, "Tell them you're unprepared. Tell them you're not ready. Tell them you broke the key to knowledge."
Go read what this says. Understand what it means. This does not mean, folks, that you do not have to prep for the moment when you will have to give an account for what you believe. The Scripture says, "Always be prepared to make a defense when anyone asks you to give an account for the hope, that you would believe. Be ready to do it with gentleness and reverence, as a vessel of the Spirit of God."
Look, folks. Jesus is talking to his disciples. I know this is a whirlwind. You think Wagner teaches fast? "This three years you're with me, you're seeing all kinds of things. You're experiencing all kinds of craziness, and I'm saying a bunch of different messages. Some of them are really long, and it's hard to take notes with rocks on dirt, because the rain comes, and you lose it. You're like, 'Oh, my gosh, what did he say? That was really good. I would tweet that if we had Twitter,' but you can't."
All this is going on, and he said, "Listen. I'll tell you what's going to happen. I'm going to go, and I'm not going to leave you as orphans. I'm going to send you the Spirit, and the Spirit will bring to mind everything I have taught you. Guess what. I'm going to supernaturally intend that you can perfectly remember what I said, and you're going to write it down. I'm going to supernaturally preserve it so 2,000 years from now, other followers of mine can study it, and they can know what I think, because I'm going to give them my Word."
How do you know the mind of God? You understand what the mind of God says and what the Word of God is. If you want to live your life consistent with what your Master's will is, you will learn the Word of God so you can think, speak, and live like him.
This does not mean you can show up at your office never having gone to an Equipping class, never having read the Word of God, never having listened to any podcasts, or never having tuned in to Real Truth. Real Quick. to get a five-minute summary of some issue and how you can speak to it in a loving, winsome way.
When somebody says, "I was born this way. Do you think people who are born this way should be judged?" or, "What do you have against love? Why are you so against love? These people just want to love each other. What's wrong with love?" all of a sudden, you go, "Holy Spirit, teach me what to say."
He's going to say, "Tell them you're not prepared. I wanted you to be prepared, because all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to be silent or to speak poorly and unwisely. If you had known me, studied, done what I've asked you to do, and disciplined yourselves for the purpose of godliness, you would have been ready." Jesus is saying right here, "Don't worry about it. I'll give you my Word." Here's the thing. You have to go to work with his Word.
3._ Preparation for financial trouble._ Someone in the crowd who basically wasn't listening said to him at this point in verse 13, "…tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." Can you imagine that? Jesus is trying to instruct them, and somebody said, "Hey, man, this guy is ripping me off."
Jesus tells the story right there, and he wraps it up in verse 22 with this. He's saying, "…do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.""That's crazy. Don't focus on that. That's not the thing you want to focus on." "For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.""Are you listening to me?"
Verse 24: "Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them…""Why are you worried about that?" "Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass…how much more will He clothe you?"
"And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world [people who don't know a loving Father] eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.""It'll take care of itself. Don't make it about that stuff."
Watch. You hear that, and you go, "Todd, that's easy for you to say. You said earlier we give sacrificially here so you and the rest of the staff can have a steady job at this particular moment and so you can find shelter for yourself and clothes for yourself. What you don't know is my husband left me. I have three small kids. I'm not sure I'm going to stay in my apartment. I don't know if you know the car I drove here this morning. I had to stop twice to put water in it. It's leaking.
I can't go to work. I've lost my job because I have no transportation. I don't know if you realize the fact that I don't have health benefits. I've been very sick. I have nothing but massive debt. You tell me not to worry about these things. It was nice of you to read from Luke 12 and of Jesus to prep me to not freak out because he's a loving Father, but it doesn't feel like I'm being cared for right now, so don't tell me to prep for that moment by reading Luke 12." Fair concern? Is anybody ready to answer it? You ought to be.
I can't teach on this long, but let me say this to you. Yesterday, knowing I was going to have time to expound on this, I put a blog post up. My blog is wordsfromwags.com. This post right here deals with this issue and why helping the poor costs more than just money.
I've said it here before: There will never be a member of this particular community of faith, a member who is not living a lazy, irresponsible, reckless, self-indulgent life, who will ever be homeless, naked, or without proper provision and care for them. In that blog post, I talked about that. I talked about why it's not loving to help everybody who says they want help but why it is absolutely consistent with Scripture that we care for, help, and love each other.
As long as I'm pastor here, anybody who's a member is going to be implored to care for, love, and provide for other members who, at that particular moment, for reasons beyond their own ability to control, cannot care for themselves. That doesn't mean you knock on their door and say, "Aren't you going to help me? Don't you know Jesus said, 'When I was poor and naked, you gave me clothing and food'?" No. I'm going to say, "Have you not read? Go and find out what that means."
In that blog post, I talked about how we care for each other. Every week here, I am so grateful to be a part of this body. Every week here, somebody's rent is paid by this community of faith. Every week here, cars are being bought, care is being given, health bills are being addressed, and opportunities to learn are being provided for by smaller communities.
They don't even get to me. I don't even know about it. Every now and then, there's a community of friends who can't provide for each other in a way that there's a need, or they've done it in such a way that they're tapped out. That little group of 8 or 10 are connected to 8,000 or 10,000 other members. We put them through a process where we say, "Let's talk about this."
The 8,000 or 10,000 will do everything we can to provide for that legitimate need, as we understand what's going on there is biblical and responsible, and we'd be loving to care for you. It happens all the time. Read that blog post. Check it out. Understand how we care for each other here. Understand why certain soup kitchens are offering help that hurts. Check it out.
4._ Preparation for deceit._ He wraps these three things up, and then he gets to one more right here in verse 32 of chapter 12. There's a fourth one where he says, "Prep yourself for this. Don't fear." He doesn't want you to fear for this one attack you're all going to get. This is very important. Track with me. It's the fourth thing Jesus says to be ready for, because it's coming.
It's going to be an accusation against the character of God, that he's not good, he doesn't love you, his Word isn't true, it can't be trusted, and disobeying his Word is not that big a deal. "Look at all those people going every which way they want and doing whatever else they want to do, and they're not being faithful. They're getting away with it. Maybe you should too. Maybe you should start caring for yourself, because God is clearly not caring for you."
Jesus says, "You need to be prepared for that lie." He says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom." He's going to say here, "I want you to know something." Think of these terms of endearment. Little: He's saying, "I know you're powerless and overwhelmed. I know this is a big, deep, dark, scary world. I know who you are, and I'm not, in any way, going to do anything but care for you. You're my flock."
If we're his flock, that means we're sheep. Sheep aren't smart, independent animals. They need a shepherd. Your Shepherd is your Father. Your Father is a Shepherd. He's not just a Shepherd and a Father. He's a King. He has a kingdom, and he loves you. In this particular moment, he says to them, "Remember this. If you, little sheep, know what's going on, you'll know your Father, the Lord, is your Shepherd, so you shall not want. He'll make you lie down in green pastures. He'll lead you beside quiet waters. He'll restore your soul." This is who your Sovereign King is.
"He'll guide you in the path of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you'll fear no evil, for he is with you. His rod and his staff will comfort you." His rod is to beat off enemies and his staff is to correct you and put you back on the right and appropriate way. They'll be your provision of safety and direction. They'll keep others from hurting you and you from hurting yourself.
"He prepares a table for you in the presence of your enemies. He anoints your head with oil. He refreshes you. Your cup overflows." This is your Shepherd. Don't buy the lie he doesn't care about you. "Surely goodness and mercy…" is how I've memorized it. I think the NASB says, "Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
It has been done. God has reconciled me to him through what Jesus did. I'm not going to buy the lie that God doesn't love me. He did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for me. Will he not give me, with Jesus, all things? Even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… By the way, this is not a psalm to read at funerals. This is a psalm that was written by a young shepherd boy who was being attacked by wolves, bears, and lions. It is a psalm to give you encouragement in the midst of the beating that is this life.
Jesus is saying, "Oh, little flock. Your Father gladly has chosen…" I love that. It was his will, and he's not begrudging. He's not like, "Stupid Watermark. Come on in. Come here. I'll let you in, you little wretches. Go to your room. I've been building it for a while. Get to your room. Welcome. Sigh."
That's not the image you should have. He is glad to welcome you. In fact, the only time in Scripture you see God running is when he's running to you when you finally come to your senses that he is a good Shepherd. It tears his heart out when you don't believe he's good and there's more life out there. His toes are on the edge of the ranch, and he's waiting. He's going to run, he's going to get you, and he's going to bring you back. He is glad you're home, and he loves you.
Jesus is saying, "Stop fretting. Don't buy the lie that he's not good. Sell your possessions. Give it to charity. Participate with God. Make yourselves money belts which don't wear out, for there's an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. Where your treasure is is where your heart is. I want you to love me."
Watch this. There's an assignment. Those were four promises, but there's an assignment. I'm going to give you a couple of things very quickly. Are you ready? He tells a story. He says, "Be ready. Be dressed in readiness. You be ready, and you keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master."
"If you just told me I'm your Master, you be one of those guys who are waiting for their master who returns from the wedding feast, so they may immediately open the door. You're not scrambling to get things together and make sure the inner side no one sees looks like what your attendance at the church looks like. You make sure you do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with the Lord. Study his Word and be useful to him, so you may immediately open the door for him when he comes and knocks."
"Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert…" Are you on the alert? Are you ready? Are you on point? Are you doing what you're supposed to be doing? Do you even know what the syllabus says? Are you doing your work? Sometimes, it's like the teacher says, "Here's the whole semester's work. Here are all the tutorials you need, all the tools to be successful. Get 'er done, and I'll be back."
You start throwing spitwads at each other, giving each other wedgies, pulling chairs out, putting bubble gum in Susie's hair, and causing all kinds of terror in the classroom. Then, all of a sudden, that teacher is going to show up at a time you don't expect, and he's going to go, "Have you gotten it done?" and you're not going to immediately be ready.
In fact, you're going to say, "I never thought you were the teacher. I thought I was sovereign. I thought I was in charge of this classroom. I lived my own life. Even though I was in school, I was not your student." That's not going to be a good day. He says,
"Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."
Let me say a couple of things here as a point of application to this. We're going to develop next week about how we can know when the hour is. Here's the thing. You need to know Jesus says, "You be ready." Some of you guys are in the schoolhouse, but you may not be a student. We know that because you're terrorizing this week, looking over your shoulder to see if the teacher is back. You're not investing your time like it's the Master's time or using the tools he's given you to be faithful in what you're called to. That is not the program here.
There are two mistakes faithless servants make. To say it another way, there are two mistakes faithful servants never make. First, faithful servants never make the mistake that what they do while their Master is not present doesn't matter. They never make that mistake. They never think, "What I'm doing now doesn't matter. I am saved by grace, man. We're all going to get an A, so it's all good." Faithful servants never make that mistake. My dog knows better than that. When I come home and open that door, if he's done things he shouldn't do, I can't find him. He is hiding.
How about this one? Faithful servants never make the mistake that whenever the master comes back, they'll have plenty of time to get ready. My kids have still not learned that. My kids still think they can scramble. They hear us pull into the driveway, and they're like, "Oh, we were supposed to do the dishes. We were supposed to shower. We were supposed to feed our 8-year-old brother, not play Xbox for four hours."
Unless you're dumber than a dog or as wise as a 13-year-old you should not make those mistakes, but here's the deal. We have people who are dogs returning to vomit in this room, and they're deluded. We have a bunch of people who have never grown up in their faith. We need to know there's a time when judgment is coming, and there is no such thing as a second chance. There's no such thing as a second chance for the unbeliever to believe correctly, and there's no such thing as a second chance for the believer to behave rightly.
Jesus wants to imply to you, "You had better not bank that you're a believer if you're behaving like there is no teacher. Even if there is a teacher, and you're really a student, but just a bad one, how you behave matters to me." I will give you this. I've already told you there's a day coming when we will all give an account. Some people will say, "Todd, do you want me to sell everything? Is that what I'm supposed to do?"
Martin Luther was well known. He said on his calendar there were only two days. There was today and that day. Those were the only two days on his calendar, and those are the only two days that really should be on yours. You should go, "I have today. My job is to be faithful today, to do everything today that I'm supposed to do today, because I don't know when that day is, but I'm going to give an account."
There's going to be a day when the whole world is called into account, and there's going to be a day when you die, and that's going to be the day you're called into account. High school kids, I don't know if you're going to make it to college. College kids, I don't know if you're going to make it to your 20s. I don't know, 40-year-olds, if you're going to make it to 41.
Your job is to be faithful today, to devote yourself daily to his Word. You're not to do it in isolation, either, but to pursue each other relationally in a community, to live authentically before them, and to tell them, "These are my struggles. This is where I'm prone to wander and leave the God I love. Help me. Spur me on. Keep me here. Use the rod and staff of your love, your life, and God's Word to keep me here. Counsel me biblically, and admonish me faithfully. Let us be on mission together." We have to be busy and about that stuff.
Eternal rewards, folks, are guaranteed for true believers, but it's a fact that the way you live today will determine what your tomorrow looks like. Salvation is always by grace, but judgment is always by works. It matters. Jesus said, "I want to prep you. You be ready. Quit jacking around. Quit acting like all you have to do is say something and move on. I'm not looking for said faith. I'm looking for saving faith. I'm not looking for people to sing me songs. I'm looking for people who love me, and the way I know you love me is by keeping my commandments."
You're not going to be saved because of that. Our accounting is an evaluation of what we have done. So no one can get confused, salvation is won on the basis of Christ's work for humanity, but rewards are won on the basis of our work for God by the power of his Holy Spirit which mightily works within us. Our work for God is never a substitute for God's work for us. I need to prep you for this. God's word to us is he will never forget what we have or haven't done for him. Be ready.
Father, I pray for my friends and family, this body, that we would be faithful, ready, and on the alert. I pray we wouldn't make mistakes faithless servants make, thinking what we do when you're not present doesn't matter and that we'll have plenty of time to get it in order when you get back. We don't know when you're coming back, Lord. We'll look at some signs, but you tell us to be ready always, at every watch of the night.
Help us to be ready. Help us to spur each other on to love and good deeds and to not do it in isolation, but to get connected to a community that can care for us, provide for us, and remind us of things that are true. We're your little flock, and you gladly choose to bring us into the kingdom. I pray we would choose to follow this great King, we'd be ready today, and we'd get serious about studying the Word you've taught us and speaking the Word you've given us. Make us ready.
Lord, if there's anybody here today who is not ready because they've never reconciled themselves to you by grace through faith and by depending on Jesus Christ and acknowledging their sin, and they don't do justice, they aren't lovingkind, and they don't ever humble themselves, that today would be the day they would accept your justification on the cross and your lovingkind expression of your Son for them, and they would humble themselves before the Savior. I pray they'd come. Pray for them, that they wouldn't leave until they do business with you.
For the rest of us, I pray we would not be in the risky business of thinking we can figure out when Daddy is coming home so we can throw a party. I pray we would be in the business of being faithful until the day you come, that we might gladly open the door and say, "Father, today I did what you wanted me to do. I was ready for that day." Make us those men and women for you glory. In Christ's name I pray, amen.
Come, go, and be faithful. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.