Commitment Is the Key to Change

2018 Messages

Have you come into relationship with Jesus Christ? If so, has it radically changed everything about your life? Tyler Briggs teaches us that life-change in Christ occurs when we commit to being in a relationship with Jesus, commit to getting well, and commit to being the church.

Tyler BriggsOct 8, 2018Matthew 9:10-12; Galatians 5:16; Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 7:18; Acts 2:42-47

In This Series (27)
The Power of Story
Nathan WagnonDec 30, 2018
How to Die
Derek MathewsDec 30, 2018Plano
Engaging With the Bible
Tyler BriggsDec 30, 2018Fort Worth
Christmas Eve 2018
Todd WagnerDec 24, 2018
Special Christmas Message from Todd
Todd WagnerDec 23, 2018
9 Things I Learned at "Seminary"
Jonathan PokludaDec 16, 2018
Making Room, Making Disciples...
Kyle KaiglerOct 21, 2018Plano
Commitment Is the Key to Change
Tyler BriggsOct 8, 2018
Enjoying The Benefits Of Your Faith
Jonathan PokludaSep 30, 2018
The Mode of Our Helping Matters
Tyler BriggsJul 29, 2018
Engage Missionally
Jon IngerbritsonJul 29, 2018Plano
Counsel Biblically and Admonish Faithfully
David DzinaJul 22, 2018Plano
Devote Daily and Pursue Relationally
Connor BaxterJul 8, 2018Plano
Beau Fournet, Kyle ThompsonJul 1, 2018Plano
Fort Worth Evening With The Elders
Todd Wagner, Beau Fournet, Dean Macfarlan, David Leventhal, Brian Buchek, Tyler BriggsJun 24, 2018Fort Worth
Evaluating Your Relationship With God
Jermaine HarrisonMay 27, 2018
Baptism Sunday
Todd WagnerMay 20, 2018
An Ounce of Mother Is Worth a Ton of Priest
David Penuel, Todd WagnerMay 13, 2018
Romans 5: Gifts From God
Blake HolmesMay 6, 2018
Dignity of Responsibility
Gary Haugen, Todd WagnerApr 29, 2018
Are You a Fool for Believing in God?
Todd WagnerApr 1, 2018
Good Friday
John ElmoreMar 30, 2018
The Cost of the Cross
Drew ZeilerMar 25, 2018Fort Worth
A Prophetic Word for the Mission
Todd WagnerMar 25, 2018
What God Has Done and What We Must Keep Doing
Tyler BriggsMar 18, 2018
Life’s Slot Machine
Adam TarnowMar 18, 2018
Put on Humility
Jonathan PokludaMar 11, 2018

In This Series (29)


Have you come into relationship with Jesus Christ? If so, has it radically changed everything about your life? Tyler Briggs teaches us that life change in Christ occurs when we commit to being in a relationship with Jesus, commit to getting well, and commit to being the church.

Key Takeaways

Life change happens when you commit to a relationship with Jesus

  • Jesus didn’t die so you could follow some rules, Jesus died so you could have a relationship with Him.
  • Jesus doesn’t say do, He says done. He say’s come. Come into a relationship with Me.
  • To come to Jesus is to trust Him. It is to say, “Not my will be done, but Your will be done.”

Life change happens when you commit to getting well rather than pretending to be well.

  • Jesus doesn’t ask you to be be something you are not. He asks you to be honest.
  • Jesus did not come for those who are “good”...He came for those who are not good!
  • Getting well is not about working hard, it’s about asking for help.
  • How do you get well? You commit to these four things:
  1. Commit to admit - “I am powerless to change” (Romans 7:18).
  2. Commit to dependence - “God, I can’t, but You can” (Galatians 5:16).
  3. Commit to confession - Declare that you are not well (1 John 1:9; James 5:16).
  4. Commit to repentance - Repentance is not avoiding sin, it is pursuing God (Romans 6:12-14).

Life change happens when you commit to be the church rather than just attending a church.

  • Life is better when you live in a relationship with Jesus and His people.
  • The word “church” isn’t in the Bible. “Ekklesia” is a group of people called out to work together for a specific purpose...followers of Jesus joined together for the sake of spreading the gospel and making disciples.
  • Acts 2:42-47 gives us an example of how the church learns together, experiences fellowship, shares meals, prays, cares for each other, has a unity of purpose, and is full of joy.
  • You were never created to live this life—or even follow Jesus—alone. And if you do, you will fall.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • Have you ever committed to a relationship with Jesus? If not, email us at; we’d love to talk to you about how you can! If you have, what’s one way you can deepen your intimacy with Him? Check out Equipped Disciple, an amazing ministry to invest in your relationship with Jesus.
  • Do you want to get well rather than pretending to be well? We all experience brokenness in life…are you honest enough to admit that you do? If you want to get well, check out re:generation, a 12-step discipleship ministry where you will find recovery and freedom in Jesus Christ.
  • Have you committed to be the church and become a church member where God has you, or do you just attend church? If God has you near the DFW metroplex and you are not a member at a church, check out our Membership Process at one of our four campuses and commit to the local church.

Good morning, Watermark. How is everybody doing? You're thinking, "Who is that guy? I've never seen him before." It's okay. There's a reason for that. It's because for the past four years I've been hanging out with the Watermark family over on the western front in Fort Worth, serving as campus pastor over there.

I just want to start by saying "thank you." Three Sundays ago, we gathered for the first time at our new facility, our new campus, and none of that would have been possible… The mission in For Worth would not be possible apart from your gracious support of what's going on over there, so thank you so much. As we celebrate, I want you to know that you celebrate and should celebrate as much with us, because you have a part to play in that.

I didn't start over in Fort Worth. My journey didn't start there. In fact, it started right here at Watermark Dallas in 2012 when I came through the Fellowship program. I showed up here in August of 2012 to dive into that. If vocational ministry is something God is calling you to or if you know of someone who is, I could not make a stronger encouragement or recommendation to you to consider and to check out the Fellowship program.

That year was probably the most transformational year in my life, not because I learned all about how to lead a church but because I came into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. So check that out. After that year of going through the Fellowship program, I spent another year on staff over here leading in the Community ministry, and then when my two years of wandering in the wilderness of Dallas were over, God smiled upon me and allowed me to enter into the promised land that is Fort Worth, Texas. If you don't believe me, come and see, and you'll probably be moving shortly thereafter.

Even before that, before this whole ministry thing started for me, I was in the health and fitness industry. It may not look like it now. Those days are long gone, but for six years after college I was both personal training and then moved into managing a couple of health clubs down in southeast Texas, fairly large health clubs. We had about 10,000 members between both of them. What that allowed me to do was to see a couple of things.

The first thing it allowed me to do was see how excited people get to see change come about in their lives. In the health club industry, it's largely about physical change and feeling better physically. People would get so excited, and they would come to the health club to look at signing up for a membership. It was clear that their journey or their excitement for change started well before then, because they would show up, sometimes with the tags still attached to their new workout attire and the fancy sparkling clean new shoes as they got really excited to go on this journey.

They would sign up to get started, and then very quickly, within the first month or two of someone signing up to go to the health club, they would fall in one of two paths. It's really the two paths that every single person who joins a health club falls into. The first path are people who experience a significant amount of change in their life, and the other camp people fall into are those who had all this excitement in the world but, for whatever reason, end up experiencing no change.

After observing 10,000 people go through this journey, it became very clear to me that there was one distinct difference between those who experienced change and those who did not. That one thing is commitment. Those who experienced life change as it related to getting more physically fit were those who were committed to showing up and not just making monthly donations to the health club, those who were committed to working out, and those who were committed to eating healthy.

If someone could simply commit to those three things and be consistent in them, they would experience a significant amount of change physically in their life. For the other camp, no matter how much they desired to experience change, if they weren't able to commit to those three things, no matter how much they desired to change, they would not experience anything.

The reason I tell you that is because when we come into religion or when we come into the church and we look at wanting to experience change in our lives spiritually and emotionally, it's very similar. I think the same traits, the same characteristics, are the difference between those who experience life change in Christ and those who do not experience life change in Christ. It's commitment.

I know right now there's a danger you're probably already thinking about or a path you're already thinking about. You're thinking, "Here we go. Another pastor telling me that I have to do, do, do to change my life." I want you to know that the commitments I'm going to share with you this morning have nothing to do with you doing and working hard, but they're commitments that are related to surrender and trust.

What's so fun about this is what I've gotten to experience over the past four years of being in Fort Worth is a group of people who six years ago looked 45 miles east and saw a group of people who were experiencing radical amounts of life change because of their commitment to Jesus Christ and then looked at themselves and realized that even though they had been around Jesus and the church their entire lives, nothing was happening. It made no difference in their lives.

They began to realize they had a casual acquaintance with Jesus absent of a relationship, absent of true commitment to walking with Christ. So they, over the course of the past six years, have made significant commitments to Jesus. Three commitments, in particular, I'm going to share with you this morning that have led to not only the change in hundreds of lives over in Fort Worth but that are literally changing a city.

So it's going to be a fun morning as we look at these three things. Also, as I talk about them, you're going to get to hear three stories of some guys who I've spent a lot of time with who are at our Fort Worth body of how these commitments have brought about change in their lives, and in the same way, praying that you can experience that same change as well. So we're going to dive straight in.

1._ A commitment to a relationship with Jesus._ Now you may be thinking, "Well, duh. That sounds pretty obvious." And it is, but I think we are at a cultural disadvantage to really getting this right. The reason I say that is because we live in Texas. If you live in Texas, by birthright you are a Christian, largely. We grow up, from a very young age, just doing things our parents take us to, such as going to church or going to a Bible study or praying or reading our Bible.

All of those things are good in and of themselves, but apart from understanding that you're not doing those things just because that's what Christians do but we do those things in order to engage in a relationship with the Son of God, those activities will do nothing for you at all. That's really a lot of my story. I grew up with a knowledge of who Jesus was.

I grew up frequently being around places that Jesus' people were around, but I thought those were just activities, and at the end of the day, my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian was a lot of doing these things, and I really thought I had to be good. I thought Christianity was about being good and following the rules. All that did was wear me out, because what I realized was that no matter what my best intentions were, no matter how hard I tried on my own or did these activities, I could never be good enough.

You may be in the same spot. Whether you grew up in the church or around God's people or not, you may be in a spot where you feel like you know you're supposed to do good, but you simply can't figure out how to be good on your own. That's because we're missing out on the message of the gospel. We think all of this doing, all of this rule keeping, all of this activity is what this is about, but it's not. It has never been about an activity; it has always been about a relationship.

Jesus gets to the heart of this in Matthew 11:28-30. This is at the end of a discourse where he is talking to a large crowd of people, a crowd of people who have spiritually been influenced by the religious leaders of the day who are committed to the keeping of the law, and not only the keeping of the Mosaic law but also adding requirements on top of it to show themselves that they are extra good. It's all about following these rules.

So this is the influence the crowd is under. Jesus comes and completely pushes that to the side. He says, "That's not what this is about at all." This is what Jesus says: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Jesus doesn't say, "Come, and follow these rules, and maybe one day you'll be good enough to know me." He says, "Come. I know you're tired. I know you're struggling. I know you have a lot of things going on in your life, both in the form of hardship and temptation that lead to struggle, and you are worn out. Come to me. Come to a relationship, and not just any relationship. Not a relationship that's marked kind of like a casual acquaintance. Don't stay out there in the crowd and view me from afar, but come to me."

Jesus wants to invite you this morning to come to him, to move away from being an unknown individual in this room this morning to being someone who is intimately known by the Son of God who gave his life for you. Jesus uses an illustration, an image, in this passage that we could quickly move over, but it's really beautiful because it shows the depth of the relationship he's inviting us into. He uses the image of a yoke.

There's a picture up here of what that is. You may be thinking, "Two cows staring me in the face is not beautiful." But here's what's beautiful about it. The term "Put my yoke upon you," in the context of those days, was often used by religious leaders to invite someone to be their disciple. To be someone's disciple in those days, and even today as it should be, is an invitation to do life together, to live together every second of every day.

As I was reading about what it means to yoke two cows together, to train them to walk in a yoke together, I learned a few things that are fairly interesting. One is that whenever you go to train cattle to be yoked together, you don't start with cattle that are already older that have been out on the farm working for a long time. You start with two cows when they are really, really young.

You begin to place this yoke upon them, and then you begin to train them and teach them how to walk in stride with each other. At first, they kind of fight and wrestle against each other, but over time they learn to trust each other. They learn to work and move together. Even at the end of the day, when the work is done and they go to rest, those cows are always tied up together, the left on the left and the right on the right.

What's so interesting to me about that is what Jesus is saying is, "Hey, I'm not inviting you into a relationship where we spend an hour and a half together every single week, but I want to invite you into a relationship with me where we will spend every second of every single day together. As you go through those trials and face those temptations, you don't have to worry, because I'm with you. You can learn from me, and I will help you navigate the trials of life."

It all starts with receiving that relationship with Christ upon you. See, there's something Jesus Christ will never do. He will never force his yoke upon you. He will never force you into a relationship with him, but he invites you always to come and receive it. If you will, if you do, it will change every single thing about you. I want to share with you the story of how this is played out in my friend Newley Spikes' life.

Newley Spikes was one of the very first people to come and say, "Hey, I'm interested in being the church over in Fort Worth." What he quickly realized was that before he could be the church in Fort Worth he needed a relationship with Jesus, and this is Newley's story. He says, "Before I had a relationship with Jesus I was a church attender, a small group member, a Bible study consumer, and I even served on a committee at one point.

I did all these things, but I did them with grumbling because they really weren't that important to me. I did them because that's what a good Texan is supposed to do. I was a cultural Christian but not an actual Christian. Outside of the religious activity, I lived to gratify my own desires. I had a high view of myself and a low view of God. Sure, I was a church attender, but I was prideful, selfish, angry, an alcoholic, and an adulterer. I wanted to change at times, but I simply couldn't. Absent of a relationship with Jesus, I was powerless to change."

Then he goes on to say, "In September of 2012 I was finally completely broken. I was on the brink of losing my marriage, my three kids, and my whole life that I had built up for myself was now coming undone. I did something at this point that I had never done before. I moved out of the crowd of being around Jesus, and I came to Jesus and cried out and said, 'Jesus, will you rescue me?' And his kindness drew me in, leading me to a restored life and a regenerated heart that has changed every single thing about me."

Newley then goes on to list largely everything that has changed in his life since then. He says, "Through a relationship with Jesus, I am now empowered by his Spirit to walk in faithfulness to God and have victory over sin. I'm now living and walking in my identity that I am forgiven and redeemed. I live with God's desire to see his will be done and not my will be done. I've now lived in sobriety from alcohol for six years, and not because I pulled myself up by my bootstraps but because I surrendered that desire over to Christ.

My marriage that was once on the brink of divorce is now thriving. Since coming to know Christ, we've had three more children that my wife calls our 'love babies' since we actually loved each other whenever we conceived these three. We understand in our marriage covenantal love and that we have an unwavering commitment to each other. We understand grace, so we forgive each other. We now live on mission to help other people who are struggling in marriage. I live authentically today, sharing my struggles, serving out of gratitude, and not out of obligation. All this because I chose to commit to a relationship with Jesus."

Do you want some of that? Who wouldn't? I want to invite you this morning to make the first commitment, not to do anything but to trust Christ and receive the relationship, the intimate relationship that he is inviting you into. If you do, it will begin to change everything about you.

2._ A commitment to getting well instead of pretending to be well. Life change happens when you commit to _getting well instead of pretending to be well. You probably see a bunch of people when you come in here on Sunday mornings, and every single week you're going to ask each other likely the same question over and over again. "How are you doing today? How are you doing? Oh, how are you doing? How are you doing?"

Whenever you ask people those questions…I need a little participation here…what's the most common response that you always hear? A bunch of liars. "I'm good." No, you're not. Maybe sometimes, but not all the time. Here's why: because we're still people and because we're not home yet. We're not perfect. Because of that, we're still going to struggle with temptation. We're still going to have a hard time with trials and hardships in our lives. We're still occasionally going to get into an argument in the parking lot right as we're getting ready to walk in.

Because we struggle with temptation and can be given to be in bondage to our sin, it might be that on a Saturday night you were locked in front of a computer screen, trying to escape from the problems in your life through indulging in the fantasy world of pornography, and then you show up on Sunday morning and say, "I'm good."

Or you've had a really hard week. You've lost a loved one. You've had trouble in your job. You're struggling financially, and you are just weighed down and burdened, but you come in, somebody asks you how you're doing, and you say, "I'm good." You pretend to be well, and you continue to struggle. Nothing changes. Nothing will change until we stop pretending to be well and commit to getting well.

This is what's so crazy about our response when we pretend to be well. We are putting this burden and expectation upon ourselves that Jesus is not putting on us. Jesus is not asking you to be good; he's asking you to be honest and to allow him to help you become good by his power and not your own.

Jesus addresses this in Matthew 9:10-13, this idea that we're supposed to be good on our own versus allowing Jesus to come to us. Jesus is dining with the outcasts of society, with the people who everyone knew had issues. This is an interchange that happens in verses 10-13:

"Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, 'Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners [these outcasts, these people who do things that good people shouldn't do] ?' But when Jesus heard this, He said, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: "I desire compassion, and not sacrifice," for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"

Jesus came not for the good but those who are not good and those who know they aren't. He's not asking you to pretend to be something you're not; he's asking you to be honest about where you are and then invite him in to be the Great Physician in your life and help you become well. Do you know what happens if someone has a really bad infection and doesn't do anything about it? What happens? Nothing. If they don't get help, they don't get well.

Do you know what happens if someone has a really bad infection and they put essential oils on? Also nothing. We have three diffusers in our house. I'll out myself. We smell better, but I don't know that it makes us better. Maybe it does. I'll leave you to form a personal conviction on that. But we're not talking about an upper respiratory infection. Sin is a chronic infection that will lead to death, and to do nothing about it is crazy.

What's even crazier is to think and believe that it's just going to go away, because it's not. The only way it's going to go away is when you stop pretending to be well and commit to getting well. You may now be saying, "Okay, that's great in theory, but what does that actually look like?" I want to tell you. What does it look like to commit to getting well? It's four things.

A. _ Commit to admit_. You commit to admit that you are powerless to change. Romans 7:18 says, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not." That means you are admitting, "Even though I desire to do good, I desire to get well, I can't do it on my own. I can't do this on my own. I need help. I am powerless to change." When you are able to commit to admitting that, that will move you toward dependence, dependence on Christ for the power to change.

Galatians 5:16 says, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." That means you commit to allow the power of the Spirit of God in your life be the power that helps you overcome the battle with sin in your own life. You commit to dependence to rely on God's power and not your own. Then you do something that's probably the hardest thing for anyone to do because of fear. We are afraid of being rejected, we are afraid of admitting that we are weak, but it is one of the most freeing things you could ever do.

B. Commit to confession. We confess both to God and to other people, other believers. First John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and [just] to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So we come before God and say, "God, I recognize that I am not well, that I have rebelled against you, that I have pursued things that have led to harm in my life and have grieved you. I am guilty, and I need help. I need your forgiveness. I receive your forgiveness and ask for your help to make me well."

Then we confess to other people. James 5:16 says we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another so that we may be healed, for the prayers of a righteous man can accomplish much. There is great freedom that comes in confession to other people. First, because we tangibly receive forgiveness from people we have harmed, and then also prayer is powerful. When people pray for us in the midst of our battles, it brings about change and healing in our lives.

C. Commit to repentance. Romans 6:13 says, "…do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead…" What I want you to hear in this commitment to repentance is it's not a commitment to avoid sin. Repentance is not a commitment to avoid sin; it is a commitment to pursue God.

Something amazing happens. When you choose to no longer fixate on your sin or your struggle or whatever it may be and, instead, you turn and fix your eyes upon Jesus and yoke yourself with him and walk step-by-step with him and pursue what he pursues, when you love what he loves, sin no longer has power over you. You no longer are trying or thinking about what the sin is in your life, but instead you are pursuing God, and in your pursuit of God you find freedom and wellness in your life.

I want to share with you another story of how this has played out in Fort Worth with one of my buddies, Graham Robbins. Graham today is one of the most joyful, amazing people I've ever known. Graham is the bearded wonder there on your right. This is the first night of re:gen over at the new campus. I am assuming it was the overflow of his love of Jesus that compelled him to want to capture that moment at the new campus, but he snapped that selfie.

Graham wasn't always a guy who was leading the charge on Monday nights for us, declaring that he's not well. He was a pretender, and his pretending was wrecking his life and ruining his family. This is Graham's story. Graham says, "My life was marked with pretending. I was always pretending to be something better than I was so that I could be accepted by more people, but it wasn't working. In fact, the opposite was happening.

My pretending moved me away from real relationships, away from real peace, away from real hope, and away from real rest, moving away from a real relationship with Jesus, which is the very thing that could set me free. Pretending, for me, looked like learning how to talk like a Christian, serve like a Christian, go to church like a Christian, and even give like a Christian. The crazy thing was that I even convinced myself at times that I was the real deal, that I was, in fact, good, but it was just a lie.

So while I had the appearance of being good, I was actually caught up in pornography and adulterous relationships and being crushed by the weight of needing and so desperately desiring the approval of other people so I could feel worthy. Trying to carry the weight of my sin was heavy enough, but it was the managing of a life built on lies and deceit which ultimately crushed me. Fear had kept me from finding the freedom that Jesus offered, but at this point my pain was greater than my fear, so I decided to do something crazy.

I decided to actually trust Jesus and confess that I was not well. In that moment, a decade of pain was lifted in 45 minutes of confession to God and to my wife, as I received undeserved forgiveness. In my wife's extension of forgiveness, I came to see tangibly how much more I had been forgiven by Christ. When I decided to stop pretending and committed to getting well, everything changed.

Confession of my struggles has become as natural as breathing, as I have grown in my trust in Jesus and overcome my fear of man and the need for the approval of others. My marriage is thriving, my life is full of peace and joy, and I no longer have the burden of managing a life built on lies. I have a joy that can only come from walking with Jesus and trusting in him."

Don't you want that to be your story? That you're free, that you don't have to pretend, that you can confess as naturally as you breathe because you know it's just a normal part of growing in this life and walking with Jesus, and as you confess you're continually inviting him in to help make you well? I hope you'll join us in that, because if you do, it will change your life.

3._ A commitment to be the church rather than just attending a church._ Life change will happen for you when you commit to being the church rather than just attending a church. You can simply put it this way: it is a fact that life is better when you follow Jesus and have a relationship with his people. If you don't believe me, you can reference TIME magazine.

Now, I don't know that TIME magazine could be charged with the offense of being overtly pro-Christian, but they recently published an article earlier this year citing several studies that reveal that active participation in a church body leads to reduced stress, greater optimism, increased life span, larger support networks, lower blood pressure, greater sense of purpose, reduced risk for chronic disease. That sounds horrible. Who would want that? Everybody would want that.

Other studies that have come out reveal even more. It says that active involvement in a local church can produce a greater expression in one's life of the values of respect, compassion, gratitude, humility, and harmony in relationships. Also, we would go on to say that it can bring about better sleep, less risk for depression, and if nothing else has convinced you, a more stable, happy, and sexually satisfying marital relationship. (Some of you just heard the first thing I said all morning.)

None of that takes into account the fact that the Spirit of God works through the body of Christ and that the body of Christ is one of God's main provisions for us to walk through this life, to receive encouragement, to love each other, and to be the physical presence of Jesus Christ on the earth today. Life is better when you move in to be a part of that instead of sitting on the fringe of that…that being the church.

In the Bible, the word church really does not appear anywhere. It's not in there. The word that's used to describe the church is the word ekklesia. Ekklesia was not even originally a religious term; it was a secular term, and it was used quite frequently. It could refer to any group of people called out for a specific purpose. It was used to refer to a group of citizens who were called out for civic purposes. It was used to refer to a group of soldiers called out for military purposes.

When Jesus is responding in a conversation with Peter and he says to Peter, "Upon this rock [upon this confession that Jesus is the Christ] I will build my ekklesia," what he's saying is "I will build my followers on the confession that I am Christ, and I'm going to call people to gather together for the purpose of loving God and loving other people and spreading the gospel." The word eventually got translated into the Septuagint into Latin, and from Latin is where the word church came from, but ekklesia is the word.

So we see that the church has always referred to not a place but a gathering of people. It refers to the gathering of people themselves. When we look to see what the church has always been meant to be, we can turn straight to the book of Acts where we see in Acts, chapter 2, a description of what the characteristics of this church were, this group of called-out people who were called to gather for a specific purpose. In Acts, chapter 2, it says…

"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."

As we look at what's going on in the early church there, we see that they were learning together, they were fellowshipping together, they were sharing meals together, they were praying together, they were caring for one another together. They had unity of purpose together, and they shared joyfulness together, and on and on and on and on.

What we see here is the church is not a bunch of individuals doing their own thing but a bunch of individuals united together. Even in that TIME magazine article, they referenced the fact that this interconnectivity that exists within the local church is likely one of the largest contributing factors to the increase of health and change in an individual's life.

An image that I've come across that helps understand this is a redwood forest. How many of you have ever seen the redwoods? They're beautiful. They are gigantic. They are big and strong and powerful individual trees, but there's something interesting about redwoods. Even though they grow to be over 350 feet in height, their roots only grow about six feet deep, which means that they should not be able to stand up.

If a redwood was ever growing by itself, it would not be long before a force of nature came through that would easily topple it, but here's what gives the redwood trees their strength. Even though their root system only goes six feet down, they extend out over 100 feet wide, and in the middle of the forest, all of their root systems mingle together, and in fact, some of them even fuse together, so that when one tree is sick and lacking what it needs they can literally transfer nutrients back and forth to one another.

It's through the forest, the individual collection of the trees together, that the trees themselves gather their strength and are able to survive. The same thing is true for you. You were never created or called to try and live this life or follow Jesus alone, and if you do, if you try it, you will fall. It's only a matter of time before something comes along in your life, be it sin or hardship, that's going to take you out, because you were never created to do this alone.

Jesus doesn't call you to follow him independently; he calls you to be a part of a group of people who pursue his mission together. It's in that and only in that, in being a part of the church and not attending and existing on the fringe of the church, that you will find your strength. I want to share with you one more story. It's the story of Steve Abney. Steve also joined up and became a part of the church in Fort Worth six years ago as we were getting started, and this is Steve's story.

He says, "I was a church attender. My wife and I would sneak into service late, sit in the back, and leave early. I rarely read or engaged with the Bible, rarely prayed. Serving was out of the question. I never confessed sin and certainly wasn't authentic. I sang the worship songs, but I had no heart for God. To say 'I love you' to God felt weird and untrue. Not only was I not growing in my faith; I was drifting into unbelief and dragging my family down with me.

This all changed when I met a guy named Kyle Thompson. He was different. He loved Jesus, and he lived with Jesus' people. He knew his Bible better than anyone I had ever seen, but not only did he know it; he applied it to every aspect of his life and invited people in to help hold him accountable to following the truths of Scripture. He didn't just attend church and hear sermons about Jesus; his faith impacted everything he did.

He and his wife sincerely loved people everywhere they went. Every relationship he had seemed to be thriving. His life was full of joy, and he was living the life I wanted. So I decided to do something. I decided to move from being a casual attender of church to being the church to see what this was all about. The first thing that changed for me when I decided to be the church was we started living in community and doing life together with other people.

When I started to have true accountability in my life from a place of genuine care, I went from living a life that was swerving all over the place from struggle to struggle to having guardrails in my life and people who helped keep me on the right path. This was just the beginning of me starting to grow. I went from reading the Bible as a textbook to engaging with it and living it out. I now love God, and my love for him grows, and it's overflowing into loving other people.

Being the church has meant not being a Jesus stalker, someone who observes him from afar, which is creepy anyway, but to being a Jesus follower, a person who goes where he goes and does what he does and loves how he loves. I still mess up and hurt people…" That's why he has the nickname "Steve Crabney." "…but now I know it, and I know how to own it, and when I hurt people I go back to seek their forgiveness and restore relationships that have been broken, and I have unity and thriving relationships in my life."

He goes on to say, "Kyle was being the church, and God used him to make such a difference in my life and in my marriage that I wanted God to use me to do the same. So I got off the sidelines and got in the game by serving in any way I could. One of the ways that I love to live out my purpose is to help others deepen their love for God by engaging with them in a ministry called Equipped Disciple. I love being the church. I love following Christ. I love doing his work. I love making a difference in people's eternity and their today. What else would I want to do?"

What else would you want to do? Doesn't that sound so much better than a boring church attendance, than struggling in proximity to Jesus' people but never being connected to them? If you want to see the change come about in your life that Christ can give to you, it's going to begin when you commit to move from being an attender of church to actually being the church and being connected to God's people.

There's one more thing that I noticed when I was managing those health clubs. There were a large number of people who experienced significant change in their life because they were committed to working out, to eating well, and to showing up consistently. They would experience all that life change, and all of a sudden they would stop. They would lose their commitment. And do you know what would happen? Not only would they stop growing, but they would actually regress back into the condition that they were before. Exhibit A. (You weren't supposed to laugh at that.)

Here's why I tell you that. Some of you may have been listening to this all morning, and you may be thinking, "I got it, I got it, I got it. I didn't need to hear this message." But we all need to be reminded of this message, because as soon as we think we've arrived we get complacent, and our commitment to the trust and surrender to Christ every moment of every day wanes, and then we begin to fall back into the same struggles and destructive patterns in our lives that we had before.

Commitment is the key that will change your life, and this morning I pray that you would move, just like our friends in Fort Worth did, from a place of being on the fringe and uncommitted to being committed through a relationship with Christ, committed to getting well rather than just pretending to be well, and committing to being the church rather than just being a church attender. Let me pray for you.

God, we thank you that you have come to us and that you do not require of us to do anything on our own to be good, but you invite us into a relationship, and you ask us and invite us to commit to a relationship with you by inviting you in and receiving a relationship, that you desire to be with us every moment of every single day, and in doing so, God, you are there to teach us, to help us learn, to help us walk with you.

We thank you, God, that you don't ask us to pretend to be good but that you invite us to be honest, to say, "I'm not well; I need help," and then that you are there through your Word, through your Spirit, through your people to give us the help we need to become well.

God, we thank you that you don't call us to live in isolation, to fight this battle on our own, but you invite us to be a part of the greatest force this world has ever known: the church. Not a building, but a people…a people called out to do life together, to care for one another, to help each other, and to spread the good news that you have come to save and you have come to heal. We love you, amen.