There is a big difference between going to Watermark and being part of Watermark. Between identifying as a Christ follower and following Christ. To be part of the body of Christ is to be part of the church, His Church. As we wrap up our series, “How He Built This,” Todd walks us through the importance of Community—doing life together and living out the one another’s of Scripture.
Authenticity and Repentance
Focused on Ministry and Service
Speak the Truth in Love
Relentless Pursuit of Oneness
Committed To The Uncommitted
Discipling the Next Generation
Love Is a Verb
Biblical Not Big: A Commitment to Measure Our Success by Our Ability to Be and Make Disciples
Why Not Us? A Confidence That the Lord Wanted to Glorify His Name
The Foundation, Fabric, Mortar and Maintenance Program of Everything
There is a big difference between going to Watermark and being part of Watermark. Between identifying as a Christ follower and following Christ. To be part of the body of Christ is to be part of the church, His Church. As we wrap up our series, “How He Built This,” Todd walks us through the importance of Community—doing life together and living out the one another’s of Scripture.
Hello, friends. How are we doing, Watermark? It's awesome to be together and to have this pastors' conference we're in the middle of. If you're a guest here, you may not be a part yet of this community of faith, and we're so glad you're here, but you need to know we gather together every week to remind ourselves of the greatness of our God and to remember how to rightly respond to him.
We're in the middle of a series called How He Built This…how God, over the last almost two decades together (we're starting our twentieth year), has formed this community of friends who desire to respond to the kindness of God that has radically changed my life. This has been the most significant element in my life in terms of spiritual formation: being a part of a community of friends who are committed to God's Word and doing life together.
What we've been doing is looking at some values that aren't just learned but are lastingly applied and lived. One of the reasons so many churches struggle is because the difference between the rhetoric of what they want to be and the reality of who they are is infinite. When you have aspirational values and not actual values, it doesn't change you; it just makes the world shake their heads at you.
You have all the information you need, but you're not applying it. The goal of teaching is not information exchange; it's transformation. So we're talking about the things that have transformed us. The glory of faithfulness is a transformed life. What are the things we want to continue to be faithful to so we can be everything God wants us to be? Let me start by giving you a little illustration.
Before America had its 9/11, there was a town about a hundred miles south of here that had its 5/11. Specifically, at 4:37 in 1953 (it was a Monday afternoon)… There was a town called Waco. These are a few little glimpses of this town Waco that, today, you may not think of as a thriving metropolis, but it was. Let me tell you about Waco.
Waco used to be a place that presidents would go to speak. Babe Ruth played exhibition baseball there. It was a farmer and business trading mecca. It was one of the most significant towns in this growing state of Texas, but then in 1953, an F5 tornado, one of the worst in the history of our state (in fact, one of the worst in the history of our country until recently), hit Waco, and it devastated it. One hundred fourteen lives were lost, 840-some-odd houses, 350-some-odd businesses.
In today's money, $1.5 billion dollars worth of property damage happened in Waco on May 11, 1953. It set Waco way back, and Waco didn't need a lot of help. That and the impending close of an air force base right near there left it kind of a joke, the armpit of Texas. But then there was this couple that showed up, and they didn't see what was; they saw what could be. They grabbed a lot of these turn-of-the-century homes and ranch houses and things that were built all around that then stalled-out economic area, and they got involved with a little bit of a fixer-upper mentality.
Now, I've never seen the show. I've walked past it while it's on. I live with four women, so no surprise. I've seen Waco. I've seen the change that has happened in that community. Do you know that, today, Waco is the number-two rising destination of individuals who desire to go there, according to TripAdvisor, trailing only Hawaii? More people visit Waco than the Alamo in Texas…30,000 people a week, 1.2 million a year.
I don't know if you know this, but deep in the Greek in Revelation, one of the signs of the end times is that Waco will be a tourist destination. I think David Koresh and the Branch Davidians were into that self-fulfilling prophecy back in 1993. Let me tell you what happened here in Dallas. Right there around the year 2000, my wife and some friends looked not at the physical nature of Dallas but we looked at the spiritual nature of Dallas, and we saw not what was but what could be, and we were committed to fixer-upper-ing it.
We didn't want to talk about how there was a lot of religious activity and large churches but we didn't see as much transformation as we wanted. Dallas was filled with good people. I mentioned this when I wrote Come and See. Right after Watermark started, Christianity Today put a cowboy hat on the cover of its magazine and said, "Dallas: The Capital of Evangelicalism." I just wasn't experiencing that.
It was the capital of large churches, but I didn't see a lot of transformation, radical transformation and life together around me. Rather than just abandon it, we said, "Let's do something about it. Let's talk about what could be." So we spent a lot of time looking at God's design for how to build a community of friends that would try and radically go about what God wanted us to be about, not just preaching the Word but applying the Word to our lives.
Dallas, by the grace of God, has been a place where a ton of good theology has flowed out, a lot of great Bible exposition, but we wanted to see Bible application. We wanted to do life together with our friends, and we wanted to see God do something great. We said, "Why not with us? Let's not just hold to certain truths. Let's follow those truths and live according to them." We dove in and got after it.
It wasn't just my wife and me; it was some good friends. One of my closest friends over the last two decades has been Donald. You know Donald. Donald has been a major part of this work. He has been one of the co-leaders of this work with me. He has taught here. He continues to be an elder here. Don and his wife have changed this community as they have applied their leadership.
You guys all know Don. You don't know him necessarily that way. This is a picture of him. Donald Dean Macfarlan. You don't know him by Donald; you know him by Dean. You know him by his middle name. That's kind of what he's known for. That's how we call him as we affectionately know him. Nobody knows his name is Donald; they know him by Dean.
Let me just say this to you. Our middle name, Watermark Community Church, is how God says people should know us: by the community we have here. Watermark isn't the thing; community ought to be the thing. Life together ought to be the thing. The way God built this… His design for his people would be that our middle name would be radically different from the way other communities gather, because this community was going to be God's community, and the way we love one another and live life together was supposed to mark us.
I've said a lot that Watermark to me isn't that big of a deal. It only is a big deal because it's where I am pursuing community, life together, the way God says he wanted me to invest in others and be with others. Again and again in Scripture it says, "This is the sum of my commandments: that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Because you love me, you love one another and you do life together."
It doesn't mean be polite to one another. I saw plenty of religious politeness and social acuity in Dallas, but I also saw folks who were a part of communities of faith for decades who didn't have substantive life change, because everybody was more attuned to spiritual correctness, political correctness, politeness, societal propriety than they were radically committed to one another. We saw an opportunity to fixer-upper it a little bit, and we dove in. Community is our middle name. It's how folks ought to know us.
I just want to say this about community. Community is not easy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived life together in the 1930s as well as anybody I know… He wrote an amazing book called Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community. He says something in there that I thought was really insightful. He says the person who loves the dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around him will create community.
If you love the idea of how easy it's going to be when you get with other people who are in the process of being conformed into the image of Christ, you will destroy community, because you're going to find out very quickly that because we're not home yet there are still elements of our lives that are not as they should be. I will say again and again, my wife and I run into this all the time when we're talking to individuals about marriage relationships.
People say, "Well, gosh. If I was married to someone like you" or "If I married someone like your wife, my marriage would be great too." I would just say, you don't know how hard we work at our marriage. People say, "Well, if I was in community with the kinds of people you're in community with, I'd love community too." You don't know how hard we work at life together. Great community is not some fairy tale. It's not some Prince Charming that comes riding in on a white horse that forever changes your life.
Great community, great marriages are forged, not found. They take work. They take diligence. They take commitment. They take grace. They take spiritual dependence on an infinite love of God. God, in the midst of that, brings about something glorious and beautiful, but you have to lose this fairy-tale nonsense that you're going to find this perfect love of your life and you'll be together and hold hands and walk perpetually toward a sunset.
Life together is hard. People who love the imaginary idea of it destroy it, but people who love those around them create it. My friend Jay Burns, who was an elder, a leader of an orthodox Bible church here in town, when he came to Watermark and we called him and his friends who were led to join us to do life together, very quickly realized they had not been doing life together. This is a note he wrote me some 15-odd years ago.
He said, "Todd, the first time I got together with the people you asked me to run and share life with here to pursue community, we started with some friends we've known for a long time, and it wasn't 45 minutes into our dinner that I was ready to flip them off and leave them at dinner and never get with them again. And these were our friends. I mean, these were people we enjoyed for a long time and never had any real conflict or problem with."
Jay is overstating here in his note to me, but the point is so many times we're committed to societal propriety and political correctness in our conversations instead of real love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Jay goes on to say, "Then we started pursuing community, life together with them, and I started thinking right away, 'I don't want to spend this kind of time with these people.' The reason is we were social friends, enjoying each other but not really loving each other. We were just exchanging tidbits of information, superficial stories about life with one another, but we were not shepherding each other faithfully or wounding one another."
Biblical community, life together, is not where you go to hang out; it is where you go to get headed, herded, if you will, in the right direction, shepherded. It's not a place for people to go just to have religious conversations or to share social updates or tips or life hacks. Biblical community is where we love each other even as Christ has loved us. When we faithfully wound each other, it can be hard. You're like, "I don't think I want any more of this." But it's what God uses to change us. It's the tornado of grace that wipes out the world he doesn't want us to live in.
When you look at God's Word and see what it says about how we do life together… What I did is I just took all of the "one anothers" of Scripture, because that's what Christianity is. It is a nonnegotiable commitment to the "one anothers." If you are here and are not in a "one another" relationship with other people who are committed to God and, therefore, committed to you because they're going to give an account for your soul, as God says we should, then you are not a part of God's church.
I just got back. I was away for 10 days. I was encouraging some friends who had been here and laboring for a long time. I took them to Israel. We were in Israel for just under two weeks. When we got back, it was the middle of the day, so none of my kids were able to come get me, so my wife and I decided to grab an Uber or Lyft. Before I hit that little button, I always pray, "God, give me somebody I can encourage. In the sovereignty of the wonder of the way these apps work, would you just allow me to have somebody who needs some encouragement today?"
As God's grace would have it, I got Gerardo. Gerardo picked my wife and me up, and we jumped in. He was kind. He was gracious right away and started talking to us. He goes, "Are you guys just coming in from somewhere?" We go, "Yeah, it was a long flight. We've been traveling for almost 24 hours." He goes, "Oh man. I did that once. A long time ago, I flew to Japan and then flew farther south and was in the South Pacific."
I go, "Really? What were you doing in the South Pacific?" He goes, "I was doing some mission work back in the day." I go, "Mission work. Really? Tell me about that." He goes, "Well, I grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist world, and they convinced me that this would be a good idea." I go, "How is that going now?" He goes, "Well, that was kind of a while ago." He goes, "I've gone through some tough times." I go, "Are you still a part of that Seventh-day Adventist community?" He goes, "No. I go to Watermark now." I go, "Do you?" He goes, "Yeah."
I go, "Why do you go there?" He goes, "Well, that preacher…he prepares me. He teaches God's Word. He doesn't say the same thing every week. He has a lot of information. It's really encouraging me." I go, "Well, he will be pleased to hear you think that. What's the last thing you remember him saying, Gerardo?" Then he mentioned, "Well, he did this thing that was about lights. He had us light candles, and he was talking about…" I go, "That was last September, Gerardo." I go, "We go to Watermark too." He goes, "Do you?" I go, "Yes."
I go, "But, Gerardo, we don't go to Watermark. Have you ever connected? Have you ever jumped in? Because when you go to Watermark… It's impossible to attend a place you're supposed to be a part of. God doesn't want you just to attend some place; he wants you to tend to his business. He wants you to tend to one another. The Christian life is a life of 'one anothers.' I'm so glad to hear that you're there. Let me tell you what changed my wife's and my life." We just started talking. He had no idea still who he was talking to.
We just started talking. "Have you ever filled out that little perforated section?" He goes, "No, I never have. And I've been there since the candles, but not very much. I work a lot." This faithful brother, a roofer, works hard on the weekends, drives to supplement some of his income in order to deal with some of the decisions he has made that have been hard for him. I said, "Man, how can I help you? Do you know that you can also reach out to them by going to connect.watermark.org?"
I said, "In fact, let's just fill that thing out right now." So I just opened it up. "Just give me your information." I go, "Here are some things. You're a 26-year-old man. Let me tell you about Summit that's about to come up, where we're forming what the spiritual life of a man looks like. There's a thing called Equipped Disciple where you can begin to grow, but I want you to become a member. I want you to have men who meet with you, not just randomly when they get in the car but day by day, who spur you on to love and good deeds."
So I just filled out his first impression ministry contact form. I let him read it. I go, "Does that seem accurate to you, what you said you'd like?" He goes, "Yeah." And I hit "Send." Then I told him, "Man, when you come again, you might see me." I go, "I want to help you, bro. I don't want you to come to Watermark, because when you know Christ you don't come to his church; you are the church, and we do life together."
I didn't tell him this, but this is what I could have said. This is just a compilation of everything the New Testament says about what life together is. It's where we love one another, care for one another, serve one another, admonish one another, show forbearance to and forgive one another regularly, not just week to week but all the time; where we keep fervent in our love for one another, are hospitable toward one another; where we employ our gifts in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; where we greet one another, have the same mind toward one another, are kind to each other, and speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
This is your New Testament. This is the church. It's where we build up, comfort, pray for, encourage, live in peace with, and seek after that which is good for one another. It's where we clothe ourselves in humility toward one another, where we live in subjection to one another, stimulate one another unto love and good deeds, confess sins to one another, live in peace with one another, give preference to one another in honor, where we encourage one another day after day, lest any of us become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
This is where we love one another just as he loved us. It's where what Christ wants is forged. This is the house Jesus wants you to be a part of, not a place he wants you to attend. We've talked about the values that make up life together, and you need to know something about community. Community isn't a ministry at Watermark; community is the ministry. It's how we live because of the foundation Christ has built.
I'm about to raise a house for you. I'm going to show you the studs and the pillars that make it strong, but you need to know what the foundation is. The foundation is found in Ephesians, chapter 2. The Scriptures talk about how Christ has something for us that we are to build on. This is what it says in the book of Ephesians. It says we have built our lives on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Ephesians 2:20). Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone.
Then it says, "…in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." I'm about to show you the house that is built on the foundation of the gospel. We talk so much here about how we're called to do, do, do, and we just want to be Christians. Let me tell you something. People who "be" Christians do certain things.
Jesus says, in fact, in Matthew 7:24, "…everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock." There it is again: the difference between rhetoric and reality, the difference between aspiring to and actually living in. This is why so much of the church is compromised. It's because we don't do what Jesus calls us to do. The Scripture says, " [Be] doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." Jesus says we're fools if we hear what he says and don't act on it.
I pray for the nations almost daily, and the way I do that is I get a daily email from something called Operation World, which, for years, has been involved with helping us understand the spiritual state of kingdom work around the globe. Every day, they're kind enough to send me an email that works alphabetically through the countries. This was the one I got yesterday morning. This is praying for Australia and the little islands that are associated with Australia, the Commonwealth of Australia.
It tells you a little bit about the background of the people, some unreached people in that particular area. What you're going to see as you read about Australia is Australia is 70 percent Christian, a lot like the United States of America. But does the United States of America look today a lot like a country that is 70 percent Christian? Well, neither does Australia.
The reason is because so few people… Only 10 percent of Australians regularly go to church, and that in and of itself is not the final statistic, because I would imagine probably 90 percent of the churches people go to in Australia are not committed to calling people to do life together. This is what it says specifically on the Operation World website. It's not so much about Australia, as I prayed for; it's about you and me.
"While over two-thirds of Australians identify themselves in some way as Christian, only 10 percent regularly attend church, and [even those increasingly] have negative attitudes toward the church's perceived intolerance and authoritarianism. Secularism is not so much the dominant ideology as is an individualized, New Age, pick-and-choose spirituality with no accountability."
That's what defines what's going on in Australia. It's what defines what's going on in most of the tornadic church activity of the United States of America. It's not the house Jesus built. One of the reasons God has been radically at work here is because we have been committed to not finding this dream called community but forging what God wants for us. The foundation is the gospel.
If we love our King, who has laid this foundation, and we're going to be built into this spiritual house as living stones, these are the pillars that make it up. We've talked about these, but recently, we got together about 250 of our most committed members who are leading with us and asked them, "Can you name the six core values of community?" Only seven of them could.
Now, I'm not so concerned about how folks will do with answering what the six core values are and the way we articulate what God wants us to be about. I'm even more concerned about whether we do them. You may not use the pithy words or summation that we do, but I want to tell us and remind us today that the reason our church will be what God wants his church to be, which is why I care about Watermark…
God wants his community of people everywhere to be thriving, and if his church and community of people is to be thriving everywhere, then our middle name will always be the same and we will be known by our love for one another, by the way we commune, by the way we fellowship, do the business of life together. You don't go to a church; you are the church or you're not. You're part of the body or you're not.
We think about somebody who was involved in some tragic accident where their arm is severed and the appendage is put over there. It is a grotesque image. We say they were dismembered. It's never what God intends. It's always a tragedy. It's always a bloody mess. The arm becomes dead and useless to the rest of the body.
You are called to do life together. As we do life together, here are some things. There is a method to the madness about the way we communicate these things. What I want to do is tell you this is why, week after week, we say to you, "Hey, the first thing to do, the very first step is to figure out, first of all, if these people here at Watermark really are committed to the middle name we all share." Are we committed to what God says we should be committed to?
So we encourage you to go to what we call Discover Watermark or the first week where we just talk. Going there doesn't mean you're going to necessarily jump in with us, but it certainly is how we figure out whether we should engage together. The Scriptures are very clear. We don't want to be unequally yoked. We don't want some person we're saddling up with to say, "I'm going to go plow this road" when God's Word says we should plow this road. We all agree together this is the road God wants us to plow.
So when you're ready to not join one of the ministries of Watermark but to be a part of the family of God, when you identify with his death, burial, and resurrection and walk in newness of life, this is what life together looks like. There's life in the flesh and there's life in the faith. Before we walk through these things, let me give you one last little set of Scripture.
In Galatians 5, it says, "For you were called to freedom, brethren…" You're no longer a slave to your own way. God has set you free. "…only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word…" Everything. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Watch this. This is what happens so much. "But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit [walk in faith] , and you will not carry out the [deeds] of the flesh."
Then it goes on and talks about what it means to carry out the deeds of the flesh. Then it talks about what it means to carry out and live in the fruit of the Spirit. Last night, somebody grabbed me after the service and said, "Man, it's amazing we were here. We were looking for a church that wanted to do community." I thought it was such an odd statement.
It's impossible to find a church that doesn't do biblical community. You will find a said church, an Australian church, an American church that doesn't, but you will never find Jesus' church that doesn't do life together. As I said, this is hard work. This is not easy, but it's what we do if we're wise and build our house on the rock. By the way, if you think community is hard, try isolation. Try living life by yourself.
So, what does it look like? First of all, it looks like you personally devote yourself daily to the God who loved you and gave his life for you. Bonhoeffer again. He says, "Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair."
"Let him who cannot be alone beware of community." What I mean by that is if you are left to your own devices, it won't be long before you find out you can't love other people the way Jesus says you should or the way you said you would. The way we become people who can forgive those who hurt us is that we experience the forgiveness of Christ. The way we extend grace is we are recipients of grace continually.
Jesus says in John 15:5, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him…" The word abides is the word remain. "If you remain in me with steadfast, unceasing dependence upon Jesus, you will bear much fruit. Apart from that devotion to Christ you can do nothing." A life in the faith is a life that will always be marked by personal devotion, Bible intake, Bible meditation, prayer, solitude. Wise men seek solitude, but fools live in isolation, and there is a world of difference. You're either going to devote daily or be spiritually starved.
Secondly, you will pursue relationally. These are the means of God's grace to you. His Spirit through the Word and through inner promptings and through meditation and prayer is part of how God pushes the cholesterol of sin out of your body. The other way he does it is another place that his Spirit dwells: in the context of relationship with other people. The opposite of pursuing people relationally is pursuing isolation, and isolation is the garden where idiosyncrasies grow.
Romans 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…" This isn't just getting together every other Wednesday and chatting it up a little bit and catching each other up on social information. This is life together. It's pursuing one another daily. The Scripture says in Hebrews 3:13, "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
Which is to say, if you don't pursue people relationally, you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. God says, "I don't want you to be in bondage to what I set you free from." So be around other brothers who will encourage you, remind you, and help you be everything God wants you to be. You devote daily and you pursue others relationally.
Then we live authentically with one another. First John 1:7 says, "…if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus [our Savior] cleanses us from all sin." Living authentically, the opposite of which is living life as a fake, living with a façade. It is the life of isolation. It's the life that lends itself toward fear of being exposed, fear of being really known.
Jesus says, "There's no way you should ever fear about being somebody who struggles against sin if you're my children." In fact, you need to know this. I think sometimes you think everybody here who is a part of this family who has been here longer than you somehow has lived this life of immense purity for decades. You're not paying attention. Read the Watermark News. This is an organization where the only requirement necessary for you to be admitted is to admit that you're broken. This is not a room full of pretty people; this is a room full of redeemed people, where God is making beauty from our ashes.
This week, I was standing in Gerasene, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, with 20 people who have been a part of this ministry with me for over a decade. We stood there on this hill where Jesus delivered this man from what is described as a legion's worth of demons and oppression and darkness, where the pigs ran down into the sea, and this man then was clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus.
One of the things we did is we just sat around and took a moment and shared our stories with one another. We said, "This is where we would be living among the dead, chained to our addictions and brokenness and self-will, if it wasn't for the Messiah who set us free. I'd be divorced, addicted to porn, have a string of broken relationships. My kids would hate me. My community would tolerate me only in that I was useful for them, and I'd be very lonely, no matter how many friends I had, if it weren't for Jesus." Bonhoeffer says this. It's a brilliant insight.
"Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother? God is holy and sinless. He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience. But a brother is sinful as we are. He knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin. Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the holy God? But if we do, we must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution…
Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and the forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves but with the living God? God gives us this certainty through our brother. Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person."
Can I just say this to you again? Why is it that we can so freely confess our sins to a holy God but we have such a hard time telling another brother, who himself knows the dark night of secret sin? It's probably because we don't really acknowledge our sins to God and we're just filled with self-absolution. The Bible says in James, chapter 5, "Therefore [live authentically] , confess your sins to one another…"
It doesn't stop there. It says when somebody confesses their sins to you and you admonish them about the dangers of sin and the dark night of secret sin, you do it faithfully. What does faithful admonishment look like? In James 5:16, after it says, "Confess your sins to one another," it then goes on to say, "…and pray for one another…"
The job you and I have when somebody says, "This is where I'm struggling; this is where my life is drifting" is to just go, "Thank you for sharing that. I praise God with you that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Let me pray with you, and then let me encourage you. Let's take a look at what's going on. How is your daily relationship with God? How are you pursuing this? How can we pursue you more? How can we strengthen you in this way?"
The Scripture says part of admonishing faithfully is to do it with great patience and tenderness. In Galatians 6:1-2, it says, "If anybody is caught in any spiritual trespass, you who are spiritual and who desire to be faithful, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, not judgment; each one looking to yourself, so you don't do it arrogantly or pridefully or even hypocritically, that you're not honestly living authentically yourself, so that you too would not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ."
This is the church, people. We confess our sins to one another. We pray for one another. We admonish the unruly, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says. We encourage the fainthearted, we help the weak, and we're patient with all men. When we speak, we don't just speak in little tidbits or "I think" or "Oprah said." We counsel biblically.
Second Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable…" Meaning, Scripture alone is profitable, not my ideas, not my life experience. " [Scripture is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that [others I'm doing life together with] may be adequate, equipped for every good work."
The opposite of being an individual who admonishes faithfully is being somebody who harshly and angrily judges others, who maybe stays silent in the midst of sin, and the opposite of counseling biblically is that we give worldly wisdom, the wisdom of fallen men.This is not a good idea. Jeremiah 17:5 says, "Thus says the Lord , 'Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength…'"
If in your community you're not devoting daily to where you have something to share from God's Word with them when they come to you and struggle in pain, then you have nothing except that which God says giving them is cursed.Let me tell you what I think should never carry as much weight as "Thus saith the Lord."
One of the things to do when you have no idea what to say to somebody who's struggling is just be somebody who says, "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm not going to rest until we see what God would say we should do in light of this circumstance, this financial decision, this sin that has happened to you, this sin you have committed, this struggle with your child. Let's see what God's Word says.
If we're stumped together, praise God we're part of a large house where there are more mature brothers and sisters we can go to and say, 'Hey, collectively we're going to come to you.' Not send the person with a problem away, but let's be discipled together. Let's go and devote ourselves to others who are a part of this same family who can instruct us in the ways of the Father." God's people counsel one another biblically.
Paul does this. In 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, he says, "I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith[the formation of your life]would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on [God alone] ."
Now, when we do all of these things… The reason we devote daily and pursue relationally and live authentically and admonish faithfully and counsel biblically is so God can produce something in us, that we can be useful and fruitful for him. Let me just say, the opposite of engaging missionally is spiritual narcissism.
Caravaggio captured the image of Narcissus in this great painting Narcissus at the Source. Here he is. This is Narcissus. He is sitting there looking at himself at the source of the river where it's still. In Greek mythology, he is struck by his own beauty until he becomes mesmerized with himself and falls in and drowns. That's the story of Narcissus.
It's where we get the name of the flower that's so beautiful you can't stop looking at it, and it's where we get the name of the psychological social disorder called narcissism where it's always about you. May it never be about us. Watch what it says in 2 Peter, chapter 1. "Grace and peace be multiplied to you…" That's why we gather together. Not just on Sundays in this pastors' gathering and pastors' conference, but daily encouraging each other so that grace and peace can be multiplied to us.
"…seeing that [God's] divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them [his precious and magnificent promises, the structure of his way] you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."
He says, "Now for this very reason, apply all diligence (constant, steadfast devotion and effort) to your faith. Make sure you're defined by moral excellence, and in your moral excellence make sure you add to it more knowledge still, and to your knowledge add self-control…" It's not just a knowledge that is aspired to. It's not just rhetoric. It is the reality of application.
"…and to your self-control, perseverance. Maintain a steadfast perseverance. To your perseverance add this thing that the world will call godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness… Let these six things that are in your life ultimately produce love." Paul used six. We have five that summarize them. Second Peter 1:8: "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you [not a spiritual narcissist] …"
You won't be useless and unfruitful, but you'll have the true knowledge of Jesus Christ that will make you somebody who engages with others missionally. We don't just come here and marvel at our beauty and the fact that we're no longer enslaved by our lusts. We go to others who are living among the dead and chained to their sin, unclothed and out of their right mind, and we implore them with the love of Christ.
When's the last time you had a meaningful conversation with somebody who's far from God? When's the last time you sat with a younger brother or sister and encouraged them with the truth of the faith? I was just at the Dead Sea also last week, and when you're at the Dead Sea you do stupid, silly things like this. You cover yourself in mud and save yourself $500 of buying this stuff at Aveda in NorthPark. You just grab it right there and slap it all over you.
This stuff is amazing. Before I could even wash it off, this is what happened to me. Is that not amazing? Somebody got ahold of my Instagram and Photoshopped it. When I saw that picture, we all laughed. Mud doesn't do that, by the way. I remember there was a guy on a talk show way back when, and it was back when the bodybuilding craze was really taking off in the 70s with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He kept looking at these guys with these massive biceps and huge developed quads and amazing lats.
He looked at these guys and went, "So, what do you do with those muscles?" The guy kind of posed. He goes, "No, no, no. Seriously. What do you do with those muscles?" And the guy posed. Really? Is that why God gives you strength? Is that why God saves you, so you can pose about how much better you are than you were? No. God does this, he gives you strength for a reason: that you would engage missionally, that you would do something with the restorative work of God in your life.
You will not be useful and fruitful to engage missionally unless you're a part of this thing that he says is life together. It is God's means of grace for you. It's how he built this. Why are most of you here? Most of you are here because somebody invited you. Not because you got a mailer to your home (we don't do them), not because you heard an ad on the radio (we don't do them), but because you ran into somebody who by the grace of God has been spiritually formed.
The glory of faithfulness is a transformed life, and they just said, "Come. Come into the saving grace of the work of God. Let me testify to you what he is doing in my life. I'm not home yet, so there's still much work that needs to be done, but come and see the glory of God." It's how he built this. God wants you not just to attend this place that transforms people; he wants you to be somebody who is being spiritually transformed.
When you build a house, you start with design plans, and then you custom build out, and then there's maintenance, and then eventually there is renovation. There's work that needs to be done on a continual basis to make it fresh, to make it new. As we've been about this for 20 years, we have decided it's time to do some renovative work in order to help you. We know the parking lot of the church is the graveyard of all message application.
You leave here with a commitment, like, "Yeah, that was good. I know. I need to be about that." Then you get out there and kids' sports and things you want to do with the rest of your Sunday and "honey dos," and all this different stuff kind of swallows it up. That is why we gather together on a regular basis day after day. It's why, by the grace of God, we've had a member of our body who is technologically savvy who has been working with our Community Team to come up with something we think is going to be helpful to you.
Take out your phone and go to the app store. When you download this app, just go to "Watermark Community Group." Type that in there, and you can download the Watermark Community Group app. It's part of the renovation work we're doing. We think it's going to be a helpful tool for you. Don't start it, because someone will start talking to you. Just download it. Let me tell you what you're going to find when you go there later.
You're going to find weekly media, where you can just go right here, and it'll be the last several weeks of messages that are there for you. We know through the 4B form that not everybody is able to be here every week, but when we're not here, we need to make sure we're of one mind with each other. So, there's the message we just did. Actually, there will be a five-minute clip from the message that you can listen to. There's a link to the sermon notes and a sermon summary and application questions for you to engage regularly with one another.
You're going to find out there's another page there that you can link to based on the life stage of your Community Group. It's called the Index. If you want more information on one of the topics that are there or a certain life stage, we will put the "best of" resources that have been created here that you can look at and listen to and jump in and discuss with those you are doing life together with. We want to help you and renovate the way you are doing life together.
We don't want you to get together and, as I said, just have spiritual conversations that are on a fluff level. We don't want you just to share tidbits and life hacks. We don't want you to get together periodically. We want you on a regular daily basis, as you're being equipped, encouraging and caring for one another to help each other's souls. What we've done is we've basically grouped these into twos, and there are three questions we want you to ask each other every time you're together. They're right there on that Community Group app.
The first one is simply…How have you been feeding your soul? "How have you been doing? Tell us what you've learned in your own time with the Lord. How have you been pursuing others? Let's talk about how much we've reached out to each other, emailed each other, texted each other, encouraged each other." These are the means of grace that God will make you strong in your life. "How have you been feeding your soul?" This is accountability, and this is encouraging each other to be about constantly being nourished in our faith.
Secondly…How have you been feeding your flesh? "Where has the dark night of secret sin been hampering you? How can I pray for you that God might heal you?" How are you feeding your soul? How have you been feeding your flesh? You ought to talk about this every time you're together.
Lastly…How are you feeding others? "How are you discipling other people, counseling them with God's Word? When's the last time you had a conversation where you dropped in what God would say even to those who are far from him? How have you shared the story of God's grace with other people? What have you done this week because you're not just some spiritual narcissist but you're on mission? How have you fed others?"
The Community Group app, if you forget these questions and these principles, will have those questions for you there every time. Open it up. Just hit it. You'll download it with others who are members of the family of God with you, and you can just sit down and go, "Hey, the message last week… Here are some questions that came out of it. Do you remember this statement he said? Do you remember this point?" Let's not let it die in the graveyard of all sermon messages out there in the parking lot. Let's encourage each other to keep feeding our souls, let's make sure we're not feeding our flesh, and let's be God's people who feed others. That's how he built this.
Father, I thank you for my friends who have been a part of your building this amazing ministry, which is the church of Jesus Christ right here in Dallas. I thank you, Father, for how you have restored what the tornado of sin in this community has wiped out. For twenty years, we have watched this become a God-advised destination for those who need rest for their soul. I thank you for what you've done to restore here the beauty and the mecca of fruitfulness and industry for the kingdom in this city through these people who have been committed to building on the foundation of the gospel.
Father, we don't want to be useless and fruitless. We thank you that we've experienced years of prosperity here. I pray that we would only now double down on the things that have caused the world to take note of this little community of friends who are trying to be obedient to what you said makes your house beautiful indeed. So, Father, may we continue to do that. As the designer, the architect, the sovereign landlord of this community, may you get all the glory, but, Lord, may we be about what it is you've called us to be about, that others may come to find life indeed. In Jesus' name, amen.
Friends, this is what we want to do and how we want to live. If you are here and have never understood the gospel that builds the foundation of your life, would you please, before you leave, just take that perforated section and check a box. "I want to know how to have more of that." Would you come visit with us here? Would you ask the person next to you? They should be ready, if they're members, to engage with you missionally. We love you. For those of you who are already doing these things, have a great week of worship. We'll see you next week.
As we approach Watermark’s 20th anniversary, the “How He Built This” series examines the ideas, decisions, and values that God has used to shape this community of faith.