As a part of the first week of the "Better Together" series, Todd explains the importance of community. In particular he highlights the importance of church membership. He explains that we are all called to belong to one another, that all parts of the Body of Christ are necessary, and that as believers, we should be deeply connected to other believers in a local context.
How to Pursue Relationally
How Is Your Location: The Importance of the Health of Every Community Group
Devote Daily: Staying Connected to God
Why Regular Attenders Are Really Scoffers
The Path of Accountability
Diagnosing and Dealing with 3 Spiritual Cancers in your Community Group.
Welcome. We're glad you're here at Plano, Fort Worth and friends, and folks watching online. We are going to talk about how we want you to connect all the time. It's a little different today. We're going to let you hear from a couple of us, because we want to keep you focused on major areas that, frankly, will make not just our body prosper but your life everything you want it to be, not just in 2017 but in general. I don't know why you wouldn't embrace this.
We have a lot of phrases we use around here that may not make sense to you if you've not been around here long. There's no way you should until you have some Watermark glossary. Specifically, the 4B form is one of those things. People are like, "What are you talking about, 4B form? What is that, and what am I supposed to do with it?" Well, you'll find that out if you come to the membership class we do in Dallas today at 2:00, and I will exhort you to do that strongly in just a moment.
The 4B's come from basically just an explanation of what it means to be walking with Christ, to say, "I'm a sheep in his fold. I am a part of his flock." When you have that moment in your life when you say, "I believe in Christ," when you become aware of your need… You have heard that God is holy, and so he is. His Word says you must be holy as he is holy, and you must be perfect as he is perfect. You're kind of like, "Oh man. Well, that kind of puts me out of this thing."
Then one day you realize that you're not out of opportunity to have relationship with God, because though he is just, he is also the justifier of those who love him. God gives everybody a chance to be people who love him, and if they knew who he is they would love him. Christianity in a nutshell is not what we do; it's what has been done. What has been done is the God who loves you demonstrated his love for you in that while you were yet a sinner Christ died for you.
There becomes a moment in your life when you go, "Look, I may not be the worst guy on earth. My surname might not be Hitler or Mussolini or Dahmer or whatever it is you want to plug in, but I know whatever you would say about me, I'm not perfect. There are things I should do I don't do and things I don't do I should do. I'm an individual who, if there is a holy God whose standard is perfection, I know I am separated from him. In fact, I feel that separation, and I don't know what to do to get back."
The answer is you don't do anything except acknowledge your need and rejoice that your prayers are answered, that God is there and longs to help you. But God is not just going to wink at sin. He is just. Even if you offered your life as a payment for your sin, all you would get is the death you deserve. The wages of sin, which you earn for being a sinner, like me, is death. Where is the good news in that? Well, here's the good news. God wants to do something for you.
Because he's an eternally holy God, there needs to be an eternally perfect sacrifice that he could pour his wrath out on for you to be forgiven. God solves that through this miracle of Christmas, where God introduces into the world his own Son, the very image of God, the visible image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ, who always was and always will be, who was with God in the beginning and yet wasn't the Father God. He's not the Spirit; he is the Son.
The Son, being found in appearance of a man and being made in the likeness of a man, humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. There's a reason we gather at Christmas and sing, because love has come. There's a reason we gather at Easter and rejoice that the Son who offered his life for us as a payment for our sin has defeated the grave and death lost its victory. Death lost its sting. God raised him from the grave as evidence that the wages of sin has been paid.
Then Jesus said, "I want to offer to you that which only a loving and perfect God could, which is though I was rich, for your sake I became poor, that you through my poverty might become rich." Just acknowledge your poverty. Cry out for mercy. Ask that you wouldn't get what you deserve. Ask that you would receive what you don't deserve. That's grace. You can have God's riches at Christ's expense. Grace. When you embrace that story anchored in history… This isn't just some tale. It's anchored in history. Go and look.
You become an individual who says, "Okay, if it's true that Jesus is God and he died for me, then there is no response that is unreasonable. The right thing to do is to say, 'I want to be absolutely a person who's attentive to that God in every way I can be, because if he loves me enough to die for me, surely he loves me enough to tell me how to live. So I'm not going to walk in the counsel of the wicked. I'm not going to stand in the path of sinners. I will not sit in the seat of scoffers anymore, but my delight will be in the law of the Lord, and on that law I will meditate day and night.'"
So you stand before the world and say, "Count me as that man or that woman who's identified with Jesus. His death was for me. His burial, his being separated from life and God was for me, but because he was the perfect sacrifice, death lost its victory, and he was raised to newness of life, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered himself up for me."
You declare to a watching world, maybe friends who came who still haven't come to understand that story… You want them to come watch you be baptized so you can tell them who it is you want to have a relationship with more than anything else: the loving God who has revealed himself through Jesus.
Then you say to others who are there watching who are already part of the family of God, "Hey, I'm doing this publicly because I want you to know I'm now your brother (or sister) in the faith, and I need you to help me. I want you to love me and encourage me and spur me on. I don't want to go at this alone. I'm not supposed to. I need brothers and sisters who will admonish me when I'm unruly, encourage me when I'm fainthearted, help me when I'm weak, with great patience. We now need to go about this thing together. God has not left me as an orphan. You are my provision. I am a member of this body."
If you forget everything I say… I've boiled this down to seven minutes for you. If you want to know what the Bible says about covenant membership and church care and correction, there's a "Real Truth. Real Quick." Go get it. Watch it with others in your life and say, "We have to be committed to this." Here's some real truth for you. The truth is we are all called by God to be members of a body.
I sometimes run up against people and go, "Are you a part of the body of Christ?" I won't ever really say it that way, but for the purposes of where we're at in Scripture, in 1 Corinthians 12:12 it says exactly that. It says that we are this one body and there are many members in the body, and yet all of the members of the body are one. They are one body in Jesus Christ. We're Jews, we're Greeks, we're slave, we're free men, but we're all one body in the Spirit.
I ask people, "Are you part of the body?" They go, "Oh yeah, I'm part of the body." I say, "Which body?" They go, "What do you mean? I'm part of the universal body of Jesus Christ." To which I want to say, "Hey, listen. There is no body in the universe that is not a part of a specific person." We are made to be members of one another. That's what the Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 12. We're not to isolate. People say, "The Lord is my shepherd, Todd." Great. Well, the Lord who is your shepherd would tell you that you need to have a specific fold as a member of his flock.
All of us are to be people gathered somewhere, called by name, shepherding one another. Look, I say this a lot. If you're coming to Watermark on a regular basis and you're one of those individuals who has said, "I have a relationship with God by faith through Jesus," and all you do is regularly attend, but you are not in community, not using your gifts for the good of the body, not regularly gathering in corporate worship to be reminded of the goodness of God, reminded how to respond to him…
If all you are is regularly attending and you're not deeply connected and being shepherded and shepherding and discipling others and being discipled, then you're not a regular attender; you're an irregular believer. Something is not as it should be. Let me just give it to you in Psalm 1 vernacular, since we're memorizing Psalm 1. This is what it says.
"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord [the law of his Shepherd] , and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers."
There are three more verses, but for the point of what I want to share with you today, that's what he says. In other words, it's great that you say, "Hey, I'm a tree, man. I'm part of the family of God," but God says, "Plant yourself by a river, by a stream." Watermark is a stream. It's one of the streams you can plant yourself by, and you have to figure out if you're going to plant yourself somewhere by a stream or be isolated out there somewhere in the desert alone.
God doesn't necessarily want you to have to be a part of Watermark. He wants you to be a part of some stream, some local community, where you say, "I'm going to plant myself here." When you plant yourself in this orchard that is the family of God, you ought to be in a little grove along that stream, where your root system is deeply entangled with others so that you can be strongly supported and encouraged the way God intends. You believe in Christ, and then you belong to his body (that's the second B) where you care for others and are cared for.
You are then trained in truth. You believe and belong, and you need to be trained in truth(the third B), that you might grow to the full measure of a man. "We admonish every man and teach every man, that we might present every man complete in Christ," Paul says. This is so that you would then be strong (the fourth B) in a life of ministry and worship. "As each one of you has received a gift, be good stewards in employing that gift as a manifold testimony to the grace of God." That's what we do. It's who we are.
The 4B form is a chance for you to assess as a member… Here's one of the things. You may not like the term 4B because you don't know what it means, but the thing we are the most clear in identifying and talking about is this thing called a membership class. I don't like it, frankly. It's at 2:00 today. I don't like it because people think, "Well, I'm not sure I want to be a member."
You don't have to commit to a lifelong commitment to membership on this stream by coming to the membership class. What you're doing is saying, "I am going to listen to what you all believe it means to be the stream God wants to provide life to his people." Along with the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the people of God are a major artery of grace to you.
Today and next week, we're gathering with all of you who don't want to be irregular believers, who don't want to be scoffers. Here's the deal. If you're not a member of a local body, you're not walking in the counsel of the wicked, you're not standing in the path of sinners; you are a scoffer. "I don't need what my Good Shepherd says I need. I don't need to plant myself by part of his provision." That's a problem.
Let me give it to you even more graphically. This is a heart. It really is. Now relax. It's not a human heart. I'm sure there's some law against that. This is a beef heart. You can get three of them for $17 at La Fiesta, so go get it. This heart is no longer a functioning heart. The cow of which it was a part is not thriving. This member of the body was never meant to exist outside the body. It is useless and fruitless, and the body itself is dead. Frankly, if the heart was still in the cow and functioning at 50 percent, the cow would suffer.
You as a member are not made to be separate from a body. You're not meant to be discarded. You're meant to be connected, and when you're not connected, something is not as it should be. You need to know this. We're not going to love you more if you become a member of Watermark, but we are going to love you differently in every way that we should.
I care about stomachs all over the world, but this stomach I care for differently. I have to keep it strong so I can care for other stomachs. God says if we don't care… In fact, in Galatians it says, "While we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men, but especially to those of the household of faith." In 1 Timothy 5:8 it says, "If anyone doesn't care for his own household, he is worse than a nonbeliever."
We care for one another. Membership is your chance to come and go, "Hey, this is going to be my stream. This is going to be the body of which I'm a part. This is where I'm going to be cared for and care and do what God wants me to do. I'm not going to be a scoffer. I'm not going to tell my Shepherd, 'I don't need what you tell me I need.' I'm not going to be an irregular believer. I'm going to not just attend a service; I'm going to tend to God's business. I'm going to make sure I am grafted into a body."
When you're grafted into a body, you will be cared for here. You will be like every good shepherd does: counted for. Hebrews 13:17 says exactly that. The shepherd of any community gives watch over your souls as those who will give an account. The reason we give an account for you is because you matter. You count to God. Our job is to raise up shepherds who care for one another, and the way we care for one another is done in this instrument called community. It's the grove inside the orchard that's planted by the stream that is the means of grace of God for you.