Resolve to Be Diligent to Stay Together


In this message, Todd continues the Resolve series, sharing the first of a two-part message on resolving conflict. He looks at how we, those redeemed by Christ, are to diligently live lives together, marked by healing and truth.

Todd WagnerJan 24, 2016Ephesians 4:1-3; Matthew 5:23-24; 1 Corinthians 8:1-2; Proverbs 6:16-19; Ephesians 4:1-3

Good morning. It's good to be with everybody. Hello, Plano and Fort Worth. I want to take just a second before we get started to talk about something that is available at all three campuses and just to speak about something I'm passionate about that I'm sure many of you are. It goes with the shirt I'm wearing. Some friends at Watermark and others around have started a little hashtag on social media called #StandforLIFE. You ought to check it out if you're around social media and see some amazing stories.

We do stand for life here. We believe that all men and all women are made in the image of God. Therefore, they have dignity and value. I just want to say something. Last week was National Right to Life Sunday. It always bothers me a little bit when we make a big deal about the resurrection on Easter as if that is the only day we talk about the resurrection. We celebrate the resurrection of Christ every single week. It is our hope. Without the resurrection, we're fools.

It's a little bit crazy that there is one Sunday of the year that we would act like life matters because everything we do is pertaining to God wanting you to have life. He has come that you might have life and have it abundantly. There has been, in our country and around the world, now in America for 43 years, the systematic, government-endorsed, affirmed by the people, willingness to not value and honor life. For the last 43 years, it has taken close to 60 million lives.

We are people who have an opportunity to speak into that. We are a government of the people, by the people, for the people. We have a responsibility to participate in government. In Plano and in Dallas and in Fort Worth today, there are folks who are going to help you register to vote if you're not already registered for upcoming elections and primary elections in March and then certainly with other elections coming up that will affect our country for years to come in the months ahead.

If you're not registered to vote, we're trying to give you an opportunity to register so you can participate in making your understanding of dignity and value and honor in life known. I want to also say to people who are here, just so you know something, that my goal in life is not to see Roe v. Wade overturned. My goal in life is for people to understand the goodness and kindness of God and the grace and forgiveness available to him and the grace that comes to us when we walk with him.

My goal is, frankly, just to help people know God so that abortion is unthinkable. I was born in 1963. That means that for my entire reproductive life, abortion has been legal. By the grace of God… I really mean it when I say it's only by the grace of God that I have never participated in an abortion. Lord knows I have wanted to do that and a hundred other things that are destructive to people, but because God captured my heart at a younger age… For me, it was just after my reproductive possibilities kicked in.

In my high school years, I came to know who Christ was. That is the only reason that I'm not somebody who is carrying the scars of having made a decision like that. I just want to say this to you guys. This is not a problem that is outside gatherings like ours. Of all women who participate in abortions, 43 percent would affiliate and say they are Protestant, and 23 percent would say they're Catholic. That means that two-thirds of all abortions that are performed in our country are performed on people with affiliations with the faith.

You might say, "Yeah, Todd. Protestant churches are not all in, but the Bible… Catholic churches are Catholic churches." You need to know that 20 percent of all abortions are performed by women who say they are born again, evangelical, Bible-believing people. This is something we have been participating in and being a part of even as people of faith. What I want to let you know is if you're here and have been a part of that story…

I said this the last time we were together talking about Resolve. This is the only organization in the world, the church of Jesus Christ, that I know of that the requirement for membership is that you walk in these doors and say, "My life is a wreck. I'm a sinner. I haven't done what God has wanted me to do. Because of that, I have caused great pain in my life and in the lives of others."

I already told you that because of the grace of God, part of the wreck I have caused is not in the context of abortion, but I want you to know something. I need grace just like you, and you can have grace just like me. Because abortion is not a part of my story, I don't look at you like, "What were you thinking?" I know exactly what you were thinking. It's exactly what I would think unless it had become unthinkable by the grace of God in my life.

I know this. When you were a mom and were pregnant, you went and had an abortion, and you were unpregnant. You did not become an un-mother. You know what you are. Any woman who has lost a child knows the pain of that. God loves you, and we love you, and we know we need the love of God and the grace and forgiveness of God.

We have a ministry here called Someone Cares. We have a ministry to men who have been through abortion as well. If that's part of your story… Hundreds, maybe thousands, of women here in a church of maybe 15,000 to 16,000 people have that as part of their story. Would you come and find the healing and grace that I have found and that scores of other women have found? There is a ministry called Someone Cares. We want to put you with other people who have been through that story and let them share with you the forgiveness they have found.

As people who have found grace and value and honor from God, we want to do all we can to protect life. Part of that is the way we communicate to our government officials and who we put in positions that can make decisions about where life begins. Science has really ended this question. It's not a matter anymore of, "Is it a baby?" You need to know something. The second you're conserved, you are 100 percent human. Everything necessary for life, everything you will ever need to be whatever you're going to be is already present in that moment.

What I want you to know is that grace is present right here. Would you let us love you? All you have to do is take that little perforated section and write your name. Put your contact number in there. Just right, "Does someone care?" One of these women will call you. If you're a man, one of the men will call you.

Whatever your issue is, you need to know something. We love you, and we value your life. I want you to know how good God is. That's why we talk about the gospel every Sunday. We are not here thinking that if we're good enough, God will love us. We're here knowing that God is good, so he loves us. We are trying to walk with him to become more of who he wants us to be.

Register to vote if you haven't registered to vote. Come to Jesus if you haven't come to Jesus. Deal with the fact that even though you're unpregnant, you're not un-mothered. That grief of losing a child is something on which God wants to bring healing into your life. Stand for life with me. Amen? Amen. We don't just do that on Right to Life Sunday. We do that all the time. Let me just pray, and we're going to dive in.

Father, thank you for a chance just to stand up here and just speak of your love. I pray that this would be a place where two things happen. First of all, we would look like we're people who aren't trapped by sin, that as we've known you for a long time, we would look like people who never really were scarred by the evil that is in our hearts and the evil that is in this world, that we're joyful and happy and peaceful and moral and righteous and true.

I pray that you would do that, that you would conform us to the image of Christ. I pray that even though we have begun to look like that by your grace, it would never be a place that would make anybody who is still dealing with a lot of pain or who is still trapped by sin and all that is broken in this world… I pray we would always be a place where they could come and find love and grace and see these beautiful people who are beautiful only because they've met a beautiful Savior. The beauty of grace is on us.

I pray that many more would come and find the healing that we have found and are finding. I pray you would do that. I pray you would use today's message to make us more beautiful still, that the world would see the way we run after each other and that we love because you first loved us. In the name of our beautiful Savior who gave us the gospel of peace I pray, amen.

Well, we are in the middle of a series called Resolve. What we're doing is just saying, "Man, we want to resolve to be about certain things." I need to let you in on a little secret. Originally, the whole series was going to be about what I'm going to talk about the next two weeks. Originally, we were going to make the entire time we had together be about resolving conflict, resolving to stick together.

If you remember, we talked the very first week about just resolving to be faithful. It's not a real long to-do list that we have. We have one passion, and that is to be faithful to the God who is faithful to us, even when we are faithless. Then we talked about how we want to resolve to do that together. God created us to run together. He uses the metaphor or the analogous statement that we're like sheep who need a shepherd. We need to run together and do life together underneath his leadership, even as we begin to shepherd and lead one another.

I think you'll remember. We showed this rather amazing video called "Battle at Kruger" on YouTube about an event that happened at a wildlife refuge there in Africa that was captured. I showed you the first part of it, but I told you to go home and watch the rest of it if you want. When you run with a herd, some beautiful things happen. I'll put it behind me again and just show you the exciting moment when the herd showed up and did what herds should do.

Here we go. That's what happens. That little baby is being rescued because big cape buffalo are coming in and just flinging the lions that want to devour them all out of the way, and they're gone. Don't you love it when the herd helps you? I do, but I wasn't completely honest. The truth is if you run with a herd, not only can those horns sometimes deliver you from lions. When you run with a herd, sometimes a herd hurts you and annoys you, kicks you, kicks dust in your face.

Some of you guys may feel like you don't run with a bunch of cape buffalo. Sometimes you feel like you're running in a herd like this if you hang around very long. When you run around with a herd like this… "I have a bunch of asses in my Community Group." "Did he just say asses? Is he allowed to say ass? Are we at the right church?" I did, because asses in the animal kingdom are stubborn, sometimes confusing, unwilling, inconsiderate creatures.

Don't you feel sometimes like you are running in a herd of stubborn, inconsiderate, sometimes annoying creatures? Guess what. I told you that this is the only organization I know of that the requirement for membership is to walk in and go, "Hey, look, man. I don't know about you, but I'm a stubborn, inconsiderate, unwilling, un-submissive, immoral, rebellious creature, and I need grace. I think I've found it in Jesus."

Has anybody else here found it? Okay. Because we have been loved, let's love other people together, and let's extend grace to one another. Let's not be excusing things that aren't as they should be in one another's lives, but let's just remember that we're not home yet. That complete and final transformation that love is going to accomplish isn't completely done yet.

We are a herd here that sometimes still kicks dust in each other's faces. We're a herd here that sometimes brays in annoying ways. We are a herd here that helps each other a lot. Here is the thing. We have to resolve to do life together. Here is the thing. We have to resolve to stick together while we're seeking to do life together. That is hard.

I have told a story here before. It's worth telling it again. It's a great story because it's a lesson to what we all go through. It's a story about a guy who is on a ship. This ship is wrecked, as ships often are, apparently in every story. This guy was washed up on some island. He was there by himself. He was the only survivor, and he was there for some time.

It just so happens this guy was a man of some skill, so while he was there, he built himself a really nice shelter and actually made a way to finally survive on the island. Eventually, one day, a ship was passing by, and smoke went up. They went, "It looks like there is something on that island. We don't even know that to be an inhabited island." They went over there and rescued this guy. It was an amazing moment.

They came to him, and he ran to the shore. He goes, "Unbelievable!" They go, "How long have you been here." He goes, "I've been here for about 10 years." They went, "No one knew. We thought everybody died on that ship." There was a lot of rejoicing. They said, "Come on. Get on. Let's take you back to civilization." He says, "Do you mind if I just run back and get a few things because I want to remember this decade I was here on this island?"

They go, "Sure. Do you mind if we follow you? We want to see where you live." He goes, "No. Come on. I'll show you." They ran through this path, through this tropical island, through this jungle. They got there, and they saw these three amazing structures. They were like, "Oh, my gosh. Were these here?" He goes, "No, no. They weren't here."

They go, "What's that?" The guy goes, "Listen. I'm a man of faith. That's part of the reason I got through this. That is my church." They go, "That is a beautiful building. What is that other thing?" He goes, "That's my house." He was gathering some things at that particular building, getting ready to leave, and they go, "Whoa, what was that third building?" He goes, "Oh, that's the church I used to go to right there."

That's a funny story because we all can relate to it. We all understand. "I'm done with those people." Biblically speaking, the only time you should get out of a herd of those kind of people is when they're no longer people who are running after the one God who is worthy of being worshipped. Any other reason to not gather together is the result of our pride and sin.

You need to know something. A core value here is that we are going to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and to really love each other and know each other, not just to float through and have superficial relationships but really resolve to work through conflict. Let me just tell you something. All conflict is not sin, but all sin always leads to conflict.

In fact, if you go back and look in Genesis 3, the very first casualty of sin was relationship. Enmity came between God and man, between male and female, and between humankind and the world they were sovereign over at the moment sin entered into the world. Sometimes, there are things that happen that cause conflict that aren't necessarily sin. Dust gets kicked up in your face. That wasn't because of sin. It just happens.

Sometimes, somebody breaks quickly, and they maybe slip and kick you. That's not sin. It just happens. The Bible talks about how it's a glory to overlook an offense. One of the things I will teach you in the next two weeks is when it's appropriate to overlook small things and when you can't overlook them. You have to deal with them if you're going to be a person who loves the way God loves.

Let me make it really clear. If we are people who have come in here and have received the love of God, if we have been forgiven, then we learn to forgive. If we receive grace, we are grace extenders. If we have been loved, then we love with the love with which we have been loved. It's what marks us.

The Enemy knows how we are easily annoyed. One of the greatest writers we have ever really known in the West is a guy named C.S. Lewis. You've probably heard of him. If you haven't, you need to at least be aware of him. C.S. Lewis wrote one amazing piece of work after another. One many of us are very familiar with is called The Screwtape Letters.

What Lewis did was he took an opportunity to teach us about temptation and annoyances and the way the Enemy lies to us by having a senior demon write to his nephew who was assigned a specific person. His job was to keep him from the faith and to make him ineffective in the faith once he came to the faith.

There is a very famous chapter in there that I want to read to you because it's going to sound very familiar to you. Lewis was brilliant in understanding the things that are washed across our souls, the temptations to operate in certain ways that will break the spirit of unity that God intends. Listen to these words. In this chapter, Screwtape writes to his nephew, Wormwood.

He says, "My dear Wormwood, I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. Do not indulge the hope that you will escape the usual penalties; indeed, in your better moments, I trust you would hardly even wish to do so." In other words, "You know you're going to get it because this guy has come to faith." "In the meantime, we must make the best of the situation."

Listen to this. "There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy's camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favour. One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy.

But fortunately [the true Church] is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print.

When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like 'the body of Christ' and the actual faces in the next pew. It

matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains.

You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy's side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father below [Satan], is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous."

It goes on. I'll skip a little bit. It says, "Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour. It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek.

It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing. The Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His 'free' lovers and servants—'sons' is the word He uses, with His inveterate love of degrading the whole spiritual world by unnatural liaisons with the two-legged animals.

Desiring their freedom, He therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to 'do it on their own'. And there lies our opportunity. But also, remember there lies our danger. If once they get through this initial dryness successfully, they become much less dependent on emotion and therefore much harder to tempt." I love this. "I have been writing hitherto on the assumption that the people in the next pew afford no rational ground for disappointment.

Of course if they do—if the patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge-player…" We might say a fanatical fan of some sport. "… or the man with squeaky boots a miser and an extortioner—then your task is so much the easier. All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question 'If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?'

You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is! Handle him properly and it simply won't come into his head. He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk."

That is brilliant. One of the things I mentioned the very first week when we were talking about resolving to be faithful is I mentioned a guy named Jonathan Edwards. One of his life resolutions, if you remember, was one that took my breath away. He said, "Resolve to see any sin or struggle or annoyance in a brother only to serve to remind me of my own yet unsanctified life and my need for grace and the continuing work of God in my life."

Do you put those glasses on very often? When you see something in another person's life, you just go, "Man, Lord, that just reminds me of how far I have to go." This has been one of the great joys for me as a father. I have to admit I haven't done it as much naturally before I was a dad.

Now as a dad to a daughter, when I see my children who will not avail themselves to the blessing and the kindness and the goodness I want to give them, it's never without a moment that as I'm instructing them and pleading them and having no greater joy than to watch my kids walk in the truth that in those moments, God says, "If you think it hurts you to see them not live up to your four or five decades of insight, you need to know how much it hurts me that even though you call yourself mine, you still wrestle with me as I direct you toward life in me."

See, one of the marks of being a part of the true church is that you are a person who knows your need for grace, and you see in others a reminder of grace displayed, that you yourself are a person who says, "I'm going to be with you. I'm going to stick in there with you. I'm going to gather with one mind in the temple, and we're going to be with one accord." That's Acts 2:46. The very first time the church got together, what happened is the curse was reversed.

This is the place where the curse can be reversed. First, it happens. The curse is reversed when we can come, and we find forgiveness for our sin. Then the curse is reversed because we're no longer at war with one another, but we have beaten our swords into plowshares. Instead of attacking each other and tearing each other apart, we start to build each other up.

When there are moments (because we're still herd animals) that we annoy each other and kick dirt in each other's faces, we seek forgiveness. We receive forgiveness. We make amends. We follow our shepherd again. We don't just build another church. We build each other up. Let me just walk you through a few simple facts on why this is not an option for us.

I said the very first effect of sin was relationships. That is why when you look in the Scripture at things God hates… Sometimes people come up to me and ask me, "Todd, what are the seven deadly sins?" That have heard that phrase. There was a novel written about that. They go, "What are the seven deadly sins?"

I go, "I don't know if there are seven deadly sins, but I can tell you this. There is a list in Proverbs that says there are six things God hates, even seven that are an abomination to him." Do you want to take a look at them? It comes in Proverbs 6:16-19. It says, "There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers."

Now, you might go, "Why did God give Solomon those seven things as illustrations of what God hates and what are an abomination to him?" The answer is very simple. All of these things destroy the one thing God loves most, which is relationship. Anything that breaks relationship God hates. Anything that tears apart what he intended to be a source of life and provision he hates. It's the sworn enemy of God.

As people who love God, we want to declare war on that which threatens the one thing God has brought his own Son to erase. The very first thing that was lost at the fall when sin entered the world was relationship. The very first thing Paul says that should identify us as people who have been reconciled to God is that we no longer destroy each other. We now build up each other.

We're careful with our words. Because we're not home yet, because we're not perfect, sometimes, like a bunch of asses (please keep thinking of the donkeys), we do things that are destructive. I know I have done that this week. I've done it to my wife. I've done it to my daughter. I've done it to my son. I did it with people I work with. I found moments that I was not bringing healing words from this mouth.

I was speaking in a tone that was haughty. I was speaking out of self-entitlement. I was speaking out of a love for what was right and easy for me. I was being destructive, and I had to seek forgiveness. There were times that others had to point out to me, "That is destroying the unity we want to have."

Watch this. Whenever you look at the way Paul wrote, Paul was a very logical communicator. He would always start by reminding you in his letters to different churches what Christ had done. You'll find in almost all of Paul's letters that there is a hard line. In some letters, it's very easy. The first half of the book is all about theology, and the second half of the book is all about not just just orthodoxy but orthopraxy, not just straight belief but how you live rightly in response to what you believe.

Romans is different. Romans spends 11 chapters talking about the greatness of the truth of who God is and the gospel and the last five chapters talking about how we then should live. Philippians is like that. Chapters 1 and 2 say, "This is who we are because of Christ." Chapters 3 and 4 say, "This is how we live." Colossians 1 and 2 say, "This is who we are." Chapters 3 and 4 say, "This is how we live." Ephesians 1, 2, and 3 say, "This is the doctrine of the church." Ephesians 4, 5, and 6 say, "This then is how the church must live."

Watch this, the first words out of Paul's mouth to the church in Ephesians 4:1. "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…" What I just wrote about for three chapters. "…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." That word diligent means persistent, hard, relentless, bring all your resources to bear effort.

Paul says right out of the chute… Again, I said, "Welcome to the church, a place where broken people have found love. You're going to have to work hard to maintain that love. It's going to take real humility. It's going to take a lot of gentleness. You're going to have to be filled with tolerance toward one another."

Watch. Paul does not define tolerance then the way it is defined today. Tolerance then was, "Tolerate the fact that people are not yet completely glorified by Christ." He never said… In fact, he admonishes the church to never tolerate immorality and deception, because that will ruin relationships. Lying tongues and destructive, immoral lives always ruin relationships.

Tolerance where people are concerned is a virtue, but tolerance where truth is concerned is a travesty. When Paul admonishes us here to be individuals who are diligent and hardworking, he's foreshadowing how hard it is to work through conflict. This is kind of an amazing thing. When you look in the Scripture at the words that are used in the Greek language to communicate what conflict is, there are two words that are translated as conflict in our English Bibles.

The first word is agon. You look at that. You don't have to know anything about languages to go, "Oh, I can see that to be a root of an English word." What is interesting is agon was a word that was used of a stadium, a place where athletes would go to compete in the Olympic games. We get the word agony from that because we watch these guys agonize, go to war, pour themselves out in order that they might win.

Conflict takes everything you have to not become prideful or to hit the eject button, to not become a person who will fight to destroy or have flight to escape. The Bible doesn't want us to do either one of those. The Bible wants us to stay and be diligent, to reconcile with one another. The other word, which is just as easy to decipher, is athlēsis. This is one of the reasons I love being a Christian. It is such a man's faith. Obviously, the word we get from that is athlete.

It's a person who goes to war in order to win the prize. Isn't it interesting that those are the two words for conflict? This is a man's faith. By the way, who is the greatest warrior of all time, who came on the greatest stage, as far as you and I are concerned, to win the greatest prize? His name is Jesus. He was not weak. He was a decathlete, an MMA fighter, and a Heisman Award winner all rolled up into one.

He agonized for you and me in the conflict between us and God. As people who follow him, we don't hit eject. We don't fight to destroy. We don't flee to escape. We stay and are diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The very first thing to be listed as men who study what causes fractures in relationships… They say the number one predictor of divorce or a failed relationship is when they watch couples who are habitual avoiders of conflict.

It's really interesting. There are so many of us who kind of think, "Well, I'm just going to act like there's not really an offense there," when it was a very real offense. Something happened that dishonored God, damaged the relationship, was hurting other people or was even hurting that own person's ability to testify about their love for God. "I'll just overlook that."

The Bible says you can't overlook those things because pain is real. What you need to do is be a person who is willing to forgive. What you need to do is be a person who is willing to lovingly speak to those issues and give that person a chance to ask for forgiveness, which you have already extended, that they might receive it.

The very first thing they look at to predict the success of future relationships, I would not just say martially but I would say as we merrily pursue Christ together, is if we act like we're not allowed to have conflict. Hey, look, man. You need to know something. We run into this all the time. We're going to talk about this at our gathering with our leaders next Saturday night.

Everybody things, "Oh, if I were just in that Community Group, life would be easy." Everybody thinks, "If I were just married to him or to her, I wouldn't have to work hard to make my marriage work." That is a lie from the pit of hell. When you got married, you got married to a notoriously unpredictable person. They're called a human.

If you spend time with them at all, you're going to see there are little annoyances. Dust is kicked up in your face, and they accidentally kick you sometimes. Sometimes, they just flat out get frustrated and bite you. It's not time to start a new marriage. It is not time to build a new church. It's time to love the way Christ loves.

Scripture says that the very first thing that should ultimately mark us as his people is that we are committed to working through conflict in a way that speaks to our love for Christ. Part of that is that sometimes, we come across these moments where we just go, "Nope. I'm going to act like everything is all good."

Jesus says, "No. The first thing you want to do if you're a worshipper of mine is not to sing 'Mighty to Save.' It's not to sing about how great my love is. What I want you to do is be loving people." Jesus says this amazing thing in Matthew 5:23-24. Watch this. It's why, sometimes, being late into this room might be the greatest act of worship you commit on a Sunday morning. He says, "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you…"

That could be your wife, your spouse, your child. They have something against you, something about the way you got ready, something about the way you went to bed last night, something about the way you handled something yesterday, something about the way you've led that week, maybe by not leading that week or by leading in intimidation. Jesus says, "…leave your offering there before the altar [stay in the car] and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering."

This is one of the reasons I'm zealous for what I think God intended Communion to be. Sometimes, people ask us why we don't do Communion here on Sundays every week. "If you were really a godly church, you would do it at least once a week or at least once a month, at least the first Sunday of a month. Why don't you do it the first Sunday of the month?"

I have to tell you that I don't have a problem. Some of the reasons we don't do it here in this large setting is because of the time it would take us to do it. The other reason is because this is not where we're supposed to do it. We're supposed to share and commune every time we are together, every time, as a kingdom of priests who work together in gathering in his name.

There are elements that remind us of God's lifegiving love for us. There was never a meal in the ancient Near Middle East where there was not bread and wine. He said, "As often as you break bread…" That is the way you eat bread. You don't just take the bread and eat it. You take the loaf, and you break it. You pass it.

"As often as you do that, as often as you are reminded that you need something outside of you to come inside of you to give you strength lest you die, let you be reminded that there is something outside of you that was broken that gave you something you otherwise couldn't have that gave you life. It is me," Jesus said.

As often as you drink this cup of joy, this cup of provision, as often as you drink of the fruit of the vine, let it be a reminder of the celebration, the new covenant between you and God. The way you approach God is not now through sacrifice and a longing for the final sacrifice to come but a remembrance back to the perfect and final sacrifice, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for you.

Then it says in the Scripture, "Careful. Don't just break bread and drink from the cup and remember that Christ died for you and reconciled you to God without first examining your heart to make sure you're living consistent with that understanding." If you're at enmity with one another and you take Communion, the Scripture says you eat and drink judgment against yourself.

I am zealous for Communion, and I take Communion usually three times a day. The only time I don't commune is when I eat with a non-believer, and I don't expect that non-believer to understand that when they break bread, they're remembering Jesus. They don't even know Jesus. I have told you before that it's one of the ways I share faith with my non-believing friends.

We're sitting here having a meal, and I'll just dive in and start eating right away. I'll go, "Hey, man. Did it bother you that I didn't pray? Did it make you wonder why I didn't pray?" They go, "No, I didn't even think about it," sometimes, or they'll go, "Yeah, I kind of noticed that." I will say, "Let me tell you. Do you see that when I'm out with others, sometimes, we've been in the same restaurant, and I pray with my family?"


"Do you want to know why I didn't pray with you?"

"I guess you're going to tell me anyway, aren't you?"

"Yes, exactly. I'm going to tell you. Here is why."

This is what we're praying. The prayers we pray are so funny. "Lord, we thank you for this…" They are mechanical little prayers that kind of kick right in, little empty liturgies that no one really knows what they mean. We've prayed things like, "Lord, we thank you for this food and for the hands that prepared it. May it strengthen our bodies." It's like, "Blah, blah, blah."

What you're doing at that moment, is you're stopping and saying, "Hey, God, as I am about to dive into this amazing-looking food that is just going to taste so good, I'm just reminded of what you did that is even sweeter and of your love for me and the fact that your Son's body was broken. I haven't remembered that since breakfast, in the busyness of my day.

Maybe I have, but I'm going to really focus on it right now. You let your Son's body be torn. You let his blood be shed. God, what a good God you are. I thank you that I think I'm at peace with everybody at this table because of Christ in us." There have been times at the Wagner house when we've eaten some cold green beans, cold steak, cold soup, because we sat down and were not ready to commune with each other.

We just say, "Hey, before we break bread, how are we doing?" Sometimes, I don't even have the courage to ask the question because I know we're not doing well because I'm the one who has fractured the oneness that God intends. If you want your kids to grow up thinking that Jesus is a joke, you go through some ceremonial family prayer while he watches you not love your wife the way Christ loves the church. Go through some dead liturgy when everybody knows there is immorality, hatred, bitterness, and rancor in the pews.

They're like, "What a joke. These two gossip and slander and are bitter toward each other all week long. They come and sit next to each other and sing. What a joke." Do you want to improve your marriage? How about assessing your marriage three times a day and saying, "How are we doing, sweetie? Are we one?

Have I led you the way I promised I would lead you? Are we at peace? Will you forgive me? I don't think I've pursued you the way I said I would. Would you forgive me? I'm so grateful for your kindness in my life. It's just a reminder of God's kindness to me. I want to be that man to you." You want to talk about having some good meals. Yeah. There is your Communion.

It's so right that we do it in here all the time, but that is the right way to do it there too. Jesus said that's a biblical way to go through your life. As you go out of here… Look, you can't fix every problem. You maybe just have to say sometimes, "Look, I'm really committed to working through this. I know the hurt is so big. If we waited until all the hurt was gone, we would both go on a 40-day fast.

It wouldn't be the Atkins diet. It would be the, 'We have to get things worked out,' diet. We would both die before we can work through all the turmoil of the last 20 years that we have not employed being diligent to protect the unity that God intends. I'm committed to that. As evidence of that, after we eat, I'm going to make a phone call to get some help because I'm going to do life with other people who will help me."

It will change your marriage. It will change your life. It will change your kids' view of Jesus Christ. It will change this church. It will change this country. The reason that we have so many problems sometimes is because of the way we go at this. I'm just going to take just a quick moment as we move toward the end just to show you how we go at conflict. Next week, I'm going to get really practical with what we do and how we look at this thing.

Here is how we sometimes look at this thing. I will call this the confrontational approach. Sometimes, when we're having an issue with another person, we kind of come at it this way. We kind of have truth on this side and truth on this side. What we're trying to do is pull the other person over to understanding exactly what it is that we think should happen and the way this thing should go down.

Right away, we're at enmity with one another because there is a sense that one of us has to win right here. I have to convince you that I'm right. This is the self-focused, confrontational way to go at conflict. There are so many problems with this and the way it is set up. It starts with this, "I know better. I know more than you." It also doesn't acknowledge, "Maybe I don't have all of the information just yet."

Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." In other words, "I'm just going to tell you what I know. If you knew what I know, you would think like I think." Listen. In 1 Corinthians 8:1-2, Paul is talking to a group of people, and they're warring about what they should eat, what proper dietary intake gave the most honor to God. It was centered around this eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols.

Some people felt like, "If that meat had been purchased from the butcher, but before being sent to the butcher, the animal was first maybe bought by some pagan worship temple, it was sacrificed on an altar." What they would sometimes do if it was sacrificed on an altar was still put it in the marketplace. There was nothing wrong with that meat. It had just been sacrificed on an altar instead of killed over here at the butcher shop.

Because it already had one use but was still good to eat, they would sell it for let's say $1 per pound at the market. Then the meat that had just been sold directly to the butcher would come over here. This meat that had not been sacrificed to the idol was $5 per pound. The church was arguing about, "Hey, is it good stewardship to just pay $1 per pound for meat, and then I have $4 extra to give to widows and care for those who are poor?" "No, I'm going to show my love for God. I'm not going to pay $1 per pound for meat because that's supporting some pagan worship."

There was a breach in the Corinthian church. They were arguing over who loved God more, the people who were willing to pay $5 per pound for meat or the people who paid $1 per pound for meat and were using that money to build God's kingdom. Here are Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 8. "Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge." In other words, "We all know what we're doing and why we're doing it."

He says, "People, knowledge makes you arrogant. Love, on the other hand, edifies, builds you up." Paul says, "If anyone supposes that he knows anything…" Really the reference there is that he knows everything about anything. "…he has not yet known as he ought to know…""Why don't you guys get together and talk about why you're willing to eat meat sacrificed to idols, and why don't you talk about the way you don't eat meat sacrificed to idols? You're going to find out that at the very core of it is this amazing thing called a deep love for God."

Do you know what Paul's solution was? "I'll be a vegetarian." That is a guy who is committed to the faith right there. He would say, "I won't eat medium rare filet anymore for the sake of Jesus. I can't make you happy and you happy, so give me a stinking salad. You guys are killing each other." Paul says, "Here is a better way." What he's basically going to do is talk not about the confrontational approach but the commitment approach.

It starts by coming to somebody and saying, "Look, I believe that you love God. I believe that you want to honor him all your life. I don't know what's going on, but I love you, and I know that you're committed to truth like I'm committed to truth. Let me start with love as my foundation, and let's work toward truth together. Would you teach me what I don't know? Would you help me understand why you did what you just did and why you're doing what you just did?"

How about if your wife came to you and said to you, "Hey, I have to let you know something." Let's just be ridiculously petty. "I don't like the way you put the toilet paper on." That's the classic one that comes up at premarital deals. I don't even know what the problem is there. My point is sometimes, they talk about silly things like that, but there are other times a wife would come to you and say something along the lines of, "I have to tell you that the way you do this annoys me, and I have to get you to change to be like this."

You're immediately on your heels, and that doesn't usually make it go well. Somebody has to understand (1 Corinthians 8) what God is saying. "Hey, sweetie, can I just start us over? It sounds to me like what you're doing is coming to me right now and reminding me how much you love me. You don't want there to be anything between us. It sounds like I've done something to annoy you.

I don't want to do anything that annoys you. I know you want to be close to me. That's why I think you're frustrated, because there is something where we're not close to each other. We both want a marriage that we wake up every day and thank God for. We both want to be the delight of each other's lives. Would you help me understand what I have done?

I know what you want. You don't want to make me feel bad. You don't want to heap guilt and shame on me. You don't want to judge me. You want to encourage me to be the lover I want to be. You want to be that lover for me. Sweetie, knowing that at the core of this is your deep love for me and desire to honor Christ in our marriage, how can we work together toward what is really true and what is really going on here?"

Do you think that would change the way that thing went down instead of starting to argue about, "You just care too much about little things."

"No, you're insensitive."


Then, all of a sudden, it's a tug of war. Is she a black hole of emotional need? Are you just some hardened hammer with no feeling? Or are you guys just two herd animals that sometimes hurt each other, and you want to honor Jesus?

Here we go. It's not going to be easy. We are committed to doing life together because all of us are better when we're together. It's going to be hard, and we have to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Next week, we're going to walk through very practical ways to move toward somebody as we move toward truth, and they go, "Hey, I don't think that's true."

I'm going to tell you what to do when somebody goes, "I don't think that's a problem." God has told us what to do, and his Word is there for us, and it's fresh, and it's real, and it's helpful. Let me just encourage you as you guys go out from this room today just to be people who are committed to community together, really community together.

Do you want to see your kids love Jesus? Let them watch you worship him as you reconcile, as you move toward oneness three times a day. Let your Community Group, when you get together, go, "Hey, have we hurt each other this week? Do some guys feel like they weren't pursued, weren't called, that we didn't initiate, that we were insensitive? We want to be for each other." That's love.

Father, thank you for this church that is committed to loving the way you loved us. I pray that in all things, we would grow to be more like our Savior who clothed himself with humility, who was kind to ungrateful and evil men. I thank you, Father, that you came to us and modeled for us what grace looks like.

You came to us. When you were reviled, you didn't revile in return. When you suffered, you didn't utter threats. You didn't say, "I have to find another planet to save." You went to war in an agonizing way on the battlefield of sin. You were an athlete. You were a man. You labored for us. You gave yourself for us.

We're your people, so I pray you would teach us more about how we can give our lives for one another. We want to be your church. Help us to learn to overlook small offenses of dirt kicked into our faces and hooves that slip and kick us. Help us also to be committed to dealing with arrogant bites and foolish wanderings in a way that would honor you. Teach us to love the way you've loved us. Amen.

If you're here today, and you've never been walked to God through that kind of love, I pray you would come. People ask me, "Why don't you give altar calls?" I don't want you to emotionally come here. I want you to see love. I want you to respond. I want you to run to it. Come. I would love to tell you about Jesus. Respond right where you are to Jesus. Let him walk you to the Father.

God demonstrates his love for you. While you were yet sinners, Christ gave himself for you. If you know that Christ gave himself for you, will you give yourselves for one another? You won't do it perfectly. That's why we get to have Communion, so we can be reminded what love looks like. We can reconcile.

We can go, "How can I do better between lunch and dinner?" Let's go, church. Let's resolve to love one another. Stick together. Be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You can't do that unless you're a part of the church. I have an unspeakable love for you and the gospel. I pray you would respond to it.

Father, if there is anybody here today who just needs love, who just needs to say, "Lord, I'm that rebel. I'm that person who has violated intimacy and relationship with you. I just heard this guy tell me that you love me. You love me so much that you took my judgment. He took the breaking and beating I deserve as a rebel against holy God.

Lord, I just trust in Jesus, that his righteousness was given for my sin, that my sin could be exchanged by your incredible economy of grace and righteousness. I thank you that you affirmed that gift by raising him from the dead, and the wages of sin have been erased. Now the free gift of God is eternal life. I pray I would start to walk in that life and that that life would be seen in me and the way I love other people.

Would you just grow me? Would you connect me with your people who I will offend and who will offend me, but we will then live out this grace with one another for the glory of God? May it start right now in my life. May it start in my family. May I have the wisdom to tell other people about the decision I've just made. May your Spirit hold me as I run with the herd until you return. In Jesus' name, amen.

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