If someone points at a dog’s tail and calls it a leg, how many legs does that dog have? Four! In a day and age where truth is questioned and postmodern relativism continues to spread, Christians must speak up—it’s what Scripture exhorts us to do…always.
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
If someone points at a dog’s tail and calls it a leg, how many legs does that dog have? Four! In a day and age where truth is questioned and postmodern relativism continues to spread, Christians must speak up—it’s what Scripture exhorts us to do…always.
Well, good morning. How are my friends doing over there in Fort Worth, Frisco, and Plano? We're right here in Dallas, and it is awesome to be together. We are in the middle of a series, actually, wrapping up very quickly now in the next couple of weeks a series called How He Built This, where we're talking about just things that have been core to us from the very beginning that have made us the community of faith that we believe God wants us to be.
This morning, we're talking about one that is increasingly important but something we have held near and dear from the very beginning. Let me set it up by just telling you this. I asked my sophomore-in-college daughter just yesterday if she had ever heard the story "The Emperor's New Clothes," and she goes, "You're such a dad. It's The Emperor's New Groove!" to which I said, "No. It's not."
I said, "I'm not talking about some mythical king who was turned into a llama and tried to build a water park on land that wasn't his to celebrate his birthday and love for self. I'm asking you if you know who Hans Christian Andersen is or (I should have said) if you remember the stories that I read to you when you were a little girl? Do you remember and know the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes?" and she goes, "Huh?"
Shame on me for not drilling that into my little girl and my little boys, and maybe for you. I've taught at The Porch a number of times, and when I do, I've actually made mention of "The Emperor's New Clothes," and they all do this same thing. They elbow each other and go, "New clothes; it's the new groove. Hah! Hah! Old man." You know? That's what they do.
Listen, I could care less if my kids don't know the sitcoms of my youth or the movies of my youth. I don't care if they don't even know the ones of the 90s. I don't care if they don't know about Cheers or M*A*S*H in the 80s or Seinfeld. I care deeply, though, if they don't know about the fables that teach morality that is consistent with the faith. "The Emperor's New Clothes." You know the story?
Here's how it basically goes. It's a Hans Christian Andersen written about 180 years ago. He was a Danish storyteller and writer. It's a story (very quickly) of a king who was obsessed. He starts the story by saying all this king cared about was his new wardrobe. Most kings were found in councils and being concerned with their soldiers. They said this king was not found in his council but in his closet, and he had a different outfit for every hour of the day.
Now there were some men from a far town who heard about this king's infatuation with his wardrobe and thought they could exploit that, so these swindlers showed up and said they were magic weavers and that they had some material that was more beautiful than any material that anybody had ever seen. They said they could weave it on their magic looms and that this material was so spectacular that only the most wonderful people could see it; it was invisible to everyone who was unfit for office and the job they currently had or who was simple in character and was a fool.
Now the king was totally smitten by this idea to have this new bit of clothing, so he said, "Here's some gold. Here's some silk, the finest we have. Go and add it to your material and make me a wonderful outfit," and the king gave them looms, so down they went. Of course, there was nothing on them, because these men were swindlers, and all they did was count the gold and laugh and hide the silk so they could sell it later.
The king eventually was so excited to see what he could see that he sent his oldest and wisest councilor down there, who went to see, and when he got there, he was shocked to find out there was nothing to see except these men mythically working on these looms. The men right away looked at him and said, "Can you see it? Do you see the beauty? You see the magic of these clothes that only the wisest of men can see, that nobody who is unfit for office can see, that fools can't see? Only smart men can see the beautiful intricacy of our work."
Now they guys did not want to go back upstairs and tell the king that they could not see this stuff because they'd already been told if they couldn't see it that they were unfit for their jobs. They didn't want to lose their jobs, so they went back upstairs and told the king, "Oh, it's amazing, King. You will be so pleased when they're done!" The king sent another councilor down there, to which they then added to the conversation they had had with the first, "Oh, the previous wise councilor saw this. Do you see what we see? Do you see what he saw? Do you see the beauty?"
He too didn't want to lose his job, so he went back up and told the king that, in fact, what they were doing was amazing work. The king was so excited he demanded they be done in the day, so up came the men with their magic clothes that only those who were unfit for office and were simpleton and fools could not see. He stood there in his underwear while all his court watched him be adorned in these clothes.
Everybody who did not want to say what they thought they didn't see because they didn't want to be considered unfit for office remained silent, and the king himself goes, "This is ridiculous, except everybody else is telling me they see something, and if I tell them I don't see this, they'll think I'm not fit to be their king and I'm a fool." He said, "Let the parade begin," and the emperor in his new clothes started to march through town in all of his splendor.
Everybody had heard about what the king was doing and about these weavers from another land, and they all didn't want to be considered fools, and they just sat there and went, "Oh!" and everybody's saying, "Do you see what all the wise men see?" until eventually, as the parade commenced, it got to a little child, and that little child spoke up and said, "The king is in his boxers! The king is naked! The king has no clothes!" Then people started to look at one another and whisper and go, "That's kind of what I see. Do you see what the kid sees?"
The next think you know, they started to whisper, and the whispers turned to laughter, and the king turned red. In shame, he made his way back. That's "The Emperor's New Clothes." It is a story so symbolic of what is happening in our day and age that it sets up well with where I am going. Let me just say what God has said is true of a land that is under judgment. I'll take you to Isaiah, and Isaiah is going to share with you why he is turning the people over.
They have rejected God as their King. They have rejected God's Word as their authority and their conscience and their guide, and now everybody is coming up with what they believe is right and glorious and true. As a result of that, they were going to be left reaping what they had sown. They're going to sow to the wind, and they're going to reap the whirlwind. They're calling evil good and good evil because they no longer look to God, a loving Father who tells them the way of life and righteousness, so they are going to now have this as their consequence.
He says, in Isaiah 3, verse 1, "For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water…" Here's why. You're going to live in a way that's foolish, and it's going to cost you eventually everything.
He says, "I'm not just going to take away bread and water. Bread and water are going to be gone because '…The mighty man and the warrior…' are going to be gone." Watch this. '…The judge and the prophet…' are going to be gone, and the one who can understand and hear from God…the diviner, the elder, the wise, the people who speak the truth…
There are going to be people in positions of power who will go along with the prevailing idea of the day, that if they hold to these old and ancient truths, the good way, as Jeremiah said in chapter 6, verse 16, "…the ancient paths, where the good way is…" those men are going to be gone, and everybody is going to try and impress everybody else with their enlightened understanding that they can see what even a child can say, "That's not true."
C.S. Lewis wrote about this in the twentieth century. He said this, "In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function." In other words, we pull the heart out of individuals, and we demand that the life is still there. He writes, "We make men without chests…" He's talking about without the essential organs to operate as men; lungs and hearts, courage; and yet, "…we expect of them [still] virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."
That's exactly what's happening. We no longer teach morality and virtue in our schools. In fact, we even mock it. There is actually something that I know for a fact is happening in our public schools. It's called the Kagan Cooperative Learning Structure. It's a round-robin with consensus, where literally, they will teach a story to kids, and they will say, "Hey, here's the story. Here are the true elements of it.
Now what we want you to do, though, is go in your groups and talk about it, and if your group comes up with a different answer than what I'm giving you, I want you to give me the answer the group is giving one another, even though it's inconsistent with what I'm teaching you." Did you hear what I just said? "Here's a story. Here's the truth, but go work it out on your own and come up with your own truth."
We know a story of an individual in our body who was in this class, and the group went back, and they said, "You know, we don't like the way that story turned out. We don't think that's true. We should make the story this. This is the truth," and so everybody turned in what they thought was the truth, except one person said, "No, you told us this was the truth." That person turned in the truth, and the teacher gave them an F because the whole purpose was to learn to think like other people.
That is called social conditioning. That is called teaching children how not to say, "The emperor is naked!" We all know the saying that is out there goes like this, "Art imitates life," but every now and then, life begins to imitate art just a little bit, and art can be used in a weaponized way. This happened, by the way, in Bolshevik, Russia…in Stalin's Russia. There was what was called social realism, where they manipulated and controlled public opinion, where there was an ideology that was enforced by the Soviet state as the official standard for art.
What they started to do is they said, "Listen, all artists must glorify political and social leaders of Communism." Every artist had to join the Union of Soviet Artists, and the government required that all the art that was produced idealized images of political leaders and communist ideas, and it was beginning to try and use art as a weapon to say, "Listen, this is truth. This is what you need to embrace." Here are some of the pictures that go like this, where you'll see again and again this art all throughout. It's called socialist realism.
Let me just show you something else about what's happening in our country, and I know art is subjective, so before I actually get to that, I'll just tell you, my second grandchild was born to us this weekend, which is awesome…very, very fun. My oldest grandchild, though, is 2, and so sometimes, we keep the oldest grandchild when things like this happen. Every now and then, we have meals and hamburgers, and we have mustard and ketchup, and we leave ketchup out. When 2-year-olds get ahold of a ketchup bottle, amazing things can happen.
When they get ahold of a piece of chalk, you know, they will actually jump up, and this is kind of what a 2-year-old will do. Well, this is actually not the work of my 2-year-old with ketchup, the previous one. This is the work of a guy by the name of Cy Twombly. Now why do I show you art by Cy Twombly? Well, because, if you had eyes and you weren't unfit for office and if you weren't a fool, you could see what I see when I look at that.
"What do you see, Todd?" Well, let me just quote Tate Modern, which is the museum for modern art in London. "This here is part of Twombly's Bacchus series. Bacchus is the Roman god of wine. Notice the red is the color of wine but also of blood, and these canvases encompass both the sensual pleasure and the violent debauchery associated with the god.
The contrast is echoed in the paintings' combination of euphoric loops that soar upwards and vermilion floods of paint that ooze downward down the canvas. The unfurling gestures of these paintings were made, like Henri Matisse's works of old age, with a brush affixed to the end of a pole, which lends them their vitality and scale." Y'all impressed? You ought to be because just a few years ago this sold for $46.4 million, and the emperor has no clothes.
Why did Twombly paint this in 2005? Well, because his other untitled work, which I'm going to call Scribbles on a Blackboard, that he created in 1968, was sold just a few years before Ketchup on Canvas…not its name. It's the one I'm giving it; it was also called Untitled. This piece of art sold for $70 million. It's because there's no beauty, there's no abstract reality anymore. It's just, "If you're enlightened, you can…" I think Twombly is down there counting his gold and his silk cracking up at the stupidity of the emperor. I really do.
Let me tell you, our kids see it. There were a couple of boys that were in San Francisco who were told to go to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art with the rest of their classmates, and they're walking around (this is a true story; this happened in 2016). They started to look around, and they said, "Is this really what you call art?" and they go, "I think we can do that" and they literally go, "Let's make our own art." They took their jackets off, and they threw them in a pile on the floor.
Everybody just walked by their jackets, so they picked up their jackets, and they were literally walking around. They were bored to death, thinking, "This is a joke. They want us to be inspired by this?" and one kid took off his glasses, and he walked up, and he put it next to a wall. This is exactly what he did, and then they walked away.
They came back in the room, and this started to happen right here. People stood here, and they looked. They started taking pictures of it and all the genius of it. They said they couldn't believe it. "I put my Burberry glasses on the floor beneath the placard describing the theme of the gallery, and within about three minutes people appeared to be viewing my handiwork as bona fide art, although I couldn't really tell because I couldn't see without my glasses."
Now look, this is funny when it comes to art, unless you're the one who's shelled out $70 million for Scribbles on a Blackboard, but what happens is, when you sit here, and somebody dares to take on the genius of modern art, people will start to call you names like, "Well, Todd, you're just a snob. Todd, you're just uninformed. Todd, you're just unintellectual. You don't see the beauty of Bacchus' wine and violence."
There's a woman by the name of Elizabeth Noel Newman. She was a writer in Nazi Germany, a Nazi propagandist, because she had to be if she wanted to keep her job. She survived the Allied invasion of Germany and later came out, and she started to study and ask herself, "How in the world could so many people sit there and be silent in the face of what was happening in Nazi Germany," so she came up with a social theory called the spiral of silence.
She says the way that leaders get folks afraid to speak out against the most horrible evils imaginable, which includes the mass slaughter of human beings, is they know that a tiny majority of the population can control the conversation because most people don't want to go against the tide of public opinion. All they have to do is intimidate the majority by taking a few courageous people who say, "The emperor has no clothes, and that's not wise."
When the cultural elite in media, the cultural elite in entertainment, the cultural elite leaders in university settings, the cultural leaders in art are saying this is beauty and this is true, even though you are deconstructing centuries of human consensus…even though you are flying in the face of millennia generational studies of what happens when you deconstruct and redefine the family, you start to say, "What we need to do is take a few people who are speaking out against this loud minority."
You say, "Well, you're just out of step. You're a bigot. You're intolerant. You're a hate-monger. You don't understand. You're unfit for office, and you're a fool," and then maybe even imprison them and make them suffer and persecute them. Then others will go, "Well, not only do I not want to really go against the tide of public opinion, I don't want to be called those names, and I don't want to suffer."
Even though they continue to see that the emperor has no clothes, they just get quiet, and the more they get quiet, the more everybody else goes, "Well, everybody else thinks it must be okay because, surely if it wasn't, they would speak up," and the next thing you know, nobody is speaking up…because Martin Niemöller is thrown in jail, because Dietrich Bonhoeffer is hung.
Can I just tell you guys something? I don't know where we're headed in this country, but let me tell you how he built this. He built this with a firm conviction that this is the Word of God, God is good, his Word is true, and disobeying it is a really big deal and it's not going to work out with people, and we were going to be prophets. I don't really care what they do to us, and I don't care what they do to me.
We are going to continue to speak the truth in love. He built this with a conviction that, when they start to shut down churches because they will not follow the party lines and they will continue to say, "Hey, I love you, but what you're doing is destructive. I love you, but what you're doing is going to lead to the ruin of society, and it's going to cost you your very soul…" When they call that hate speech, we're going to be the first church they shut down, and we're going to be the last church to shut up.
You need to know that, from the very beginning, we have been committed here to not really caring if this building that God has given us together to invest in and develop and to steward for his glory to make disciples and welcome others in to strengthen their hearts and give them courage… We are planning for the day when they come and take this, and the society of public opinion suppression and militant progressive ideology is housed here.
There will be thousands of faithful communities of godly people spread all throughout this community who will not lose heart and who will teach sound doctrine and who will keep saying, "Hey, I love you, emperor, but you're naked," and "That's not beautiful art. That's just chaos, and you're fleecing people, and anybody who doesn't want to say that is unfit for office and is a fool, and if you want to go ahead and punish me because I say that, I'm ready to be punished because to live is Christ and to die is gain, but I will be his servant."
You need to know something. We are not concerned that they would take this building from us. We are absolutely committed to making sure that God's voice is not taken from us. That's how he built this. That's why every week when you're together in your Community Groups you have to ask yourself, "What are we doing to strengthen the church? If we're the only church that is left, how sound are we in doctrine? How courageous are we?
Are we loving our neighbors right now when we're not thrown in jail because we do that? Are we willing to suffer for our faith? Are we going to remain steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord? Are we going to be on the alert, standing firm in the faith, acting like godly men and godly women, being strong, letting everything we do be done in love?" Or do we not want to go against the loud voice of the minority when everybody can see, "This doesn't look right. This seems a little crazy."
There's a lot of crazy going on, and I think our kids understand it, and our kids know it. A number of years ago, I was speaking at The Porch, and it was right about the time that one of my childhood heroes had been just offered the Arthur Ashe Award for courage in sports. His name was Bruce Jenner. I grew up watching Bruce Jenner in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. I was somebody who thought, "Man, I would love to be a decathlete. I'd love to be the greatest athlete on earth," and I ate Wheaties because of Bruce Jenner.
I can tell you that I agree with ESPN. Now I want you to listen to me in this next little section. I agree that Bruce Jenner should've won the Arthur Ashe Award for courage in sports for being willing to come out and say, "I'm struggling with my sense of manhood. I'm struggling with the fact that I feel more comfortable in women's clothes. I'm struggling with my gender identity." That takes a tremendous amount of courage.
Bruce Jenner's problem was not that he struggled with what has been called for ages gender dysphoria. Bruce Jenner's problem was his church. Bruce Jenner did exactly what we ask men and women to do here. We say, "Devote yourself daily to God's Word. Pursue each other relationally. Be committed to one another in love, and then live authentically. Talk about areas of your life that are troubling your soul and out of step with God's Word."
It takes a tremendous amount of courage for one of the greatest athletes in the world to stand up and say, "I think I'd more comfortable if I were a girl." Do you know what I would have said to Bruce Jenner if I were here and he said that? I would've said, "Bruce, let me just tell you something. I sometimes think I'd be more comfortable if I just gave way to my flesh and I just indulged constantly in pornography, if I left and forsook my wife and constantly had illicit relationship after illicit relationship.
I mean, Bruce, you need to know something. Every day I go to war against that mindset in my flesh, so the fact that you're following another road away from God in your sexual identity issues or in your gender confusion, I have gender confusion. I think a man is somebody who conquers woman and who is sexual conquest after sexual conquest and is defined by their athletic dominance and financial success.
That's all, Bruce, stuff that I have got to go to war against because it's waging war against my soul, so welcome, brother! God bless you that you would come to me and live authentically so I can pray for you, encourage you, and remind you of things that are true. Feelings are real, but they're not reliable, Bruce. Bruce, 'No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man…' And Bruce, with this temptation, God '…will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.' First Corinthians 10:13. I'm so glad you're here, friend."
Bruce Jenner's problem was not his courage to say, "Hey, I'm struggling." Bruce Jenner's problem was his church, and people called him to follow the Kardashians and not Christ, and somebody needs to stand up and just say, "Hey, Bruce. I love you, man, but that's not the way to truth and life." There's an article right here where Caitlyn Jenner, as he goes by now, is experiencing what's called sex change regret because there's a way that seems right to the Kardashians, but in the end, it's the way of death.
This is Romans, chapter 1, verses 22-32. It says, "Professing to be wise, they became fools…" They paid $46.4 for Ketchup on Canvas. They come after Paula Radcliffe, who is the world record holder in the marathon, and they come after Martina Navratilova, who herself is a lesbian. because they are speaking up and saying, "We cannot let individuals who say they're women, even though they're men, compete with women in sports.
We're going to completely eliminate everything that we as women have fought for, which is the ability to compete and enjoy sports the way men do, but if men who can't compete with men come over here and compete with women, there's going to be no more women's sports," and you watch the way the LGBTQ community has come after Martina Navratilova and after Paula Radcliffe. "Professing to be wise, they become fools…" When we start to say that, when a man says he's a woman, we have to treat him like a woman, crazy things happen.
I point to the case of Stephen Wood. Who's Stephen Wood? Well, Stephen Wood now goes by Karen White. Well, who's Karen White/Stephen Wood? Well, it's an individual who has pleaded guilty to multiple rapes, sexual assault of both women and children, and who, after being arraigned and indicted said, "I think I'm a woman," so in enlightened England, professing to be wise, they have determined that if a man thinks he is a woman they need to let him be incarcerated with women.
What do you think this man who has sexually assaulted women and children has done when you put him in a locked-up area with women? Answer: You have this headline in the Yorkshire Evening Post on 10/11/18: Prison Service Apologizes for Sending Transgender Rapist to Women's Prison because he sexually assaulted four women when he was in there. It is crazy, and everybody goes, "No, it's not, Todd. It's the enlightened way."
No, it's not. It's the way of death, and somebody with the faith of a child has to speak up and just go, "Guys, I just want to tell you, I've just noticed that, every time the judge, the prophet, and the person who can sense the divine and the elder, the wise person, or every time the child who just goes, 'What do mean you get to let us pick our sex? Why are you all doing this? Aren't you the adults? Children can rule the world?'" Someone has to speak up.
What happens is this, in verse 24, "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." Now I want to skip verses 26 and 27, lest in our arrogance that we don't struggle with certain things like Bruce Jenner and Martina Navratilova we become elitists, and let's just go to verse 28.
"And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind…""Well, what's a depraved mind, Todd? Back there in verses 26 and 27?" Well, yes, but let's just keep reading. "…to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed…" They live to make a living; they don't live to make a difference. They don't really care about other people as long as society is working out well for them. They're full of envy. They murder.
Jesus says, "You want to know what murder is? Murder is telling your brother you hate him. Murder is when, instead of telling a brother that you see some spiritual trespass or something that dishonors God in their life or damages relationships, instead of going to him in humility and loving him, you go and you talk about him behind his back, and you create strife and deceit, and you're malicious with your tongue, a gossip." This is all part of being men of depraved mind. May it never be.
"…slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." In other words, even though it's crazy that we say a man in underwear has the greatest clothes on imaginable we give hearty approval to folks who keep weaving those kinds of tales and that kind of fabric.
This is our job. You know, Jeremiah was God's prophet. Jeremiah was called by God to speak, and he didn't really want to speak because he knew it wasn't going to go well with what was out there, so in Jeremiah, chapter 1, verse 17, God just says this to him. He says, "Jeremiah, I've called you for this purpose. You're my prophet."
I can say this to you today, "Hey, church. God has called you for this purpose. You're his salt, and you're light. God has sovereignly determined that you are people who bring forth the Word of God. It's your job. It's not your job to be comfortable," and Jeremiah's like, "I don't want to do it. Who am I, Lord?"
"You're my prophet. You're my church."
"But I… Lord, they're not going to like me."
He says, "Now you gird up your loins [Jeremiah] …" You get ready to run. "…speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you…" I want to tell you something. The church and the world are being dismayed because the world looks at us and goes, "You guys don't believe what you believe. You don't know what truth is. You don't really care about truth.
Maybe you guys want to pick some pet sins in verses 26 and 27, but man, you're going to let 28 through 30 run wild in your churches and not talk about it. You're going to say that God is concerned about marriage, but when you guys don't get along in your marriages, you're just going to kind of turn the other way when they pop back up with a new wife or a new husband…irreconcilable differences." That's the last days…men fighting for themselves, teachers in accordance with their own desire, church.
Hey, we might be the first church they shut down, but we're going to be the last church that shuts up if we're Jesus' church, and we're going to suffer for the sake of the gospel because it's the loving thing to do. Listen, George Orwell said this. (We know who he is, right?) George Orwell said, "The further society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." He said, "In a time of universal deceit, [when everybody thinks the emperor has new clothes] telling the truth is a revolutionary act," and the world can paint Ketchup on Canvas and say it's beautiful.
Beauty may be beauty in the eye of the beholder, but truth is in the hand of the Creator. Can I just tell you this about tolerance? Old tolerance is, "Hey, we should all accept different views," and we should. One of the problems in our world today is that we no longer can have civil discourse. I don't ever mind sitting with somebody who goes, "Todd, I disagree with you. I don't think it's a good interpretation of Scripture. I think God does want us to follow our hearts. I think God does want us to be in touch with our feelings, and it's okay what the Kardashians are saying."
I don't mind having civil discourse about that. That is the old tolerance. The new tolerance is you must accept different views as true, and we cannot tolerate new tolerance because it's not love. Love without truth is not loving, and truth that's not said in a loving way won't be heard, so we have to be individuals who encourage and speak the truth in love and brace ourselves for the consequences of it. God says this to us in Proverbs 24, verses 11 and 12.
He says, "Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back. If you say, 'See, we did not know this…'" We didn't know they were going to slaughter. We didn't know they didn't have enough clothes. "Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?"
You know, it's so interesting, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who grew up under Stalinist Russia and was put in the Gulags and who suffered right there, said. He wrote 8 volumes trying to figure out how Russia gave itself away to oppressive Communism, and at the end of the day, he said, "We got here, this genocidal people who killed millions of our own, for one simple reason. It's the reason old men told me at the beginning of the communist revolution what the problem was."
He says, "We're beginning to swallow Communism, socialism, and all these ideas because men have forgotten God." He said, "I have studied now for years. I've suffered underneath it. I've written eight volumes of philosophy and speculation," and he says, "I can sum up the reason that Soviet Russia…that socialistic, communistic, oppressive, murderous Russia…became what it was: because men forgot God."
Can I tell you where we're headed because men forgot God and because courageous people aren't speaking up anymore because we're worried about how we're going to be dismayed in the public and called names like hate-monger and intolerant? But here's God's antidote. Let me just give you a point here. I want you to hear these points. The problem is that men are forgetting God. The problem is separation from God. That's our country's problem, and I'm never surprised when sinners sin. That's what they do; they're just fulfilling the job description.
What does God tell us to do with folks who don't know God is good? We have to tell them who God is. Most men don't even know the character and nature of God. When people say, "I don't believe in God because of blah, blah, blah, blah blah," I go, "I don't believe in that kind of God either. Do you know who God is? Do you know the story? Do you know that he loves you? Do you know he's not mad at you?"
The problem is separation from God, and the solution is that people would discover God again. Let me say it another way. The problem is sin, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution. Romans 1:16 is Paul's summary verse of this, which is "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation…" Of my country and my friends…of Bruce Jenner…of the Kardashians…of Stalin…of Todd Wagner. "…to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." I'm going to tell it to every single person I can.
Listen, this is a wise quote by Oswald Chambers, "Sin is fundamentally a destruction of a relationship." That's what sin is. It's not wrong-doing. It's wrong-being. It's walking around like Conor McGregor in your underwear, and everybody goes, "Look at that strut and look at those duds." Listen, I mean, first of all, it's just a man, and someone's going to punch him in the face one day, and he'd better learn how to walk right. Secondly, he doesn't have any clothes on.
What's the solution? It won't surprise you that God's given us one. It's right here in Ephesians, chapter 4. Watch this. Verse 11: "And He gave some as apostles [men sent forth from God] and some as prophets…" He gave people who would tell the gospel to others, folks who would shepherd their hearts withcompassion and teach them, and he would raise up a group of people, so if they shut their building down, there are all kinds people who wouldn't shut up.
"…equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." That's what we're doing here every week. You're not coming to listen to me. God forbid that that's church. Church is a people who have fundamentally been restored into a relationship with God, who love others.
"As a result…" Because we've been taught, because we've seen the goodness of God. "…we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…" And by Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures. "…we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body…" The church of Jesus Christ; it's the hope of the world.
"…being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." That's you. That's me. That's us. That's what our land needs. Paul writes, "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk…" May gossip and slander and evilness and greed not mark us any longer. But this is what's going on. This is when you want to go, "How is our world…? How is it going this direction?"
Verse 18 is the answer: "… [the world] being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them…" It doesn't mean they're stupid. It means that nobody has sat with them and said, "Let me talk about God. Let me talk about his love. Do you know he's not mad at you? Do you know that he doesn't think that you need to perform for him?
Do you know that the call is not the dead church? Do you know that going to a weekly meeting is not what he wants? Do you know that giving and being philanthropic is not what he wants? Do you know being inauthentic and acting like your holy while you go home and look at porn or you cross-dress there or you say you don't drink and go home and sip your little wine when no one's looking is not godliness?" Forgive us that we've represented it as that.
Verse 19: "…they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way…" Then he just gets down to verse 29, and he says this: you have to love them. Church, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment…"
Can I just tell you something? Westboro Baptist failed miserably at this, and the media, who is trying to make a point, loves to put up Westboro Baptist, this tiny 100-member church in Kansas that doesn't know the Word of God who acts like God hates homosexuals. God doesn't hate homosexuals, and he doesn't hate divorcees. God hates divorce, and God hates homosexuality because he loves men, and God hates broken heterosexuality like is rampant inside Todd Wagner because he loves me.
If it bothers you that your pastor has to go to war every single day to be chaste and faithful and kind and humble, then you just need to find another church because I cannot live inauthentically in front of you and be well. The day you start to say, "Well, Todd, come on, man. You know, give yourself a break. Just dabble a little bit in there, okay? Or just don't embarrass us publicly…"
Nuh-uh. I need you to admonish me faithfully. I need you to pray for me and counsel me biblically, just like my community does. The only difference between me and Bruce Jenner is that I had a faithful community who loved me and said, "Todd, the way of Christ is the way. Let me remind you of what is true. Let's pray for you. Let's meditate on the Word together. Let's remind ourselves about the character and nature of God."
"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification [the building up] according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…" Don't be silent. Don't swallow your sin. Don't forsake your calling. Be his prophet. Don't be dismayed before them, or he'll dismay you
Gird up your loins and run, and we have to make sure right here we "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." Then watch. "Be kind to one another…" Even to those, as it says back there in verse 18, who are dark in their understanding. Kindness has converted more men than zeal, eloquence, and knowledge combined, but man, we ought to be marked by zeal and eloquence and knowledge, and we ought to be kind.
I had a young man come up to me yesterday, and he said, "Todd, you know what? I grew up in (he named a church)," and he said, "You know, that church was all truth and no love, and so, when I said that I had sexual identity issues, they just pounded me with truth, and I got no love, and I went out into the world, and they gave me all love and no truth, and it destroyed me." He goes, "Thank you for loving me in my brokenness, and thank you for telling me the truth."
There's a cardinal, a guy who is a leader in another denomination, who said this, and I think he's right, although I think he's wrong and we ought to civilly have discourse about the sufficiency of the finished work of Jesus Christ and the cross, but nonetheless, this is what's happening in our land. Cardinal Francis George said, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization as the church has done so often in human history."
I don't know if we're going to die in shame or chains or flames, but I don't care. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." I'm going to do everything I can to rebuild Western civilization right now, and we might be the first church they come to shut down, but we, by God's grace, are going to be the last people to shut up.
We're going to do it in kindness and firmness. We are going to be 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 people. That's how he built this, so church, be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Act like godly men and godly women. Be strong, and make sure, as it says in verse 14, "Let all that you do be done in love."
Father, I pray that, that is how we would be marked. I thank you for the kindness of God that has pulled me out of my darkened understanding, my ignorance, and my hardness of heart. I thank you, Father, that you came along in my calloused state, given to my own sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness, and you taught me a better way.
I pray you'd make us your church, that we'd be the humblest people on the face of the earth. We're not smarter than anybody else. By the kindness of God, you've shown us the beauty of your way, and you've brought us back to the ancient paths where the good way is so that we might walk in it, and we pray you give us one pure and holy passion.
We pray we would not be ashamed of the gospel. We pray we would, with the kindness of a child say, "Hey, I don't know if this is what is going to get me in trouble or not, but that man has no clothes on" and, through our courage, the spines of others would be strengthened and, by your grace, potentially someone would be called out of darkness into your marvelous light. Father, give us this one pure and holy passion. Glorify yourself in us. In Jesus' name, amen.
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.