Stand Strong- Don't Give In

Summit - Spring 2019

Todd WagnerApr 4, 2019Dallas

We are talking about what it means to be God's men. Scripture says we are to act like men, so it begs the question…What kind of men are we to be? What I've tried very simply to do is just give you five things you can hold onto that almost any aspect of being a tender warrior or a courageous shepherd fits under.

I love Isaiah, chapter 40, where God is being revealed to the nation of Israel that is being called back to obedience to him. It says in that little section of Scripture, "Behold! This is your God," and it describes him as a coming, conquering King and as a loving, tender warrior. We are made in his image, so we are not to be anything less than those two things: strong and courageous, tender and loving. Any man who is too much of one at the expense of the other is not a man made in the image of Jesus Christ who was full of grace and truth.

Now, if you seek to live as that man in our day and age, you can be sure, if you step up, if you lead, if you initiate, if you assume it's your job and your moment, if you hate apathy and reject passivity, if you speak out, if you're an individual who knows that silence in the midst of sin is sin, if you're courageous, if you fear God and not men, and if you speak the truth in love, you will be attacked. That's what it says in 2 Timothy, chapter 3, verse 12. "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

If you're not being persecuted… I want you to listen to me on this because there are two separate sides to persecution. There is what I will call private and public. I'm going to start with talking about the private. The private persecution is the persecution that comes when your soul is being tormented and attacked by the Enemy who is doing everything he can to distract you and make you busy or discourage you or overwhelm you with sin and temptation. If you are not being tormented by the Enemy, it's probably because the Enemy is just fine with what you are doing.

If you don't find your soul constantly being wooed toward darkness or constantly being accused of being unworthy to serve the King, it's probably because the Enemy of the King is just happy letting you be there in your complacency, but when you desire to be godly in Christ Jesus…this is what Paul wrote to young Timothy…brace yourself, because the Enemy is going to come after you.

He doesn't waste his arrows on men who are already distracted and who are already being choked out by the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the concern for many things, but if you get a man who hates evil and loves God, and I promise you that you will find all kinds of torment.

We have an Enemy, it says in 1 Peter, chapter 5, who is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, so we are to be of sober spirit, which means we are to be clear thinking. We are to be vigilant. We have to constantly remind ourselves that our ability to be used by God is not based on our righteousness or who we are or who we are even going to be, but it is on what Christ has done.

As it says in Ephesians, chapter 6… If you're not explicitly familiar with the section where Paul uses a metaphor of a Roman warrior or a Roman centurion or a Roman soldier who was chained to him for what he must be as he is chained to truth, I would encourage you to deeply familiarize yourself with that metaphor.

He says, "You stand firm, not because you're a stud but because you stand on the gospel. You shod your feet and you get traction so you won't be pushed back because you stand firm in the gospel. When the Enemy accuses you and says you're not worthy to represent Christ, you tell him he's exactly right, but with Christ you have every right and you are completely worthy in every way that he intends you to be."

Be sober minded. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. You lift up the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. You gird yourself with the belt of truth, and you wield the sword of the Spirit. It's how men speak truth. We don't be wise or winsome. We just have to know the Word of God.

If you don't know what God's Word says, it's hard to speak the truth God wants you to speak, so we have to be students. As we talked about last week, we have to be men who have the Word of God buried in our hearts and the teaching of kindness is on our tongues, but if you make war, I promise there will be an Enemy who will make war against you.

I'll read it to you again. It's 1 Peter, chapter 5, verses 8 and 9. "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary…" You have one if you're part of God's team. "Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion…" You can't bind Satan. All you can do is resist him and submit to God. This idea of, "Lord, I just want to bind the Enemy…" No. You don't bind the Enemy. You flee immorality and you pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on God with a pure heart. That's 2 Timothy 2:22.

You have an "…adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." There are so many ways I could go, but before I get distracted on this and talk about some of the stories, we're just going to have a little fun.

There are a few moments in history when you watch guys who stand strong and who don't give in when they're challenged, attacked, or criticized. I do not commend to you the movie 300 unless you have VidAngel. How many of you guys have ever heard of VidAngel? Well, check it out.

If you're going to watch stuff that has compromising images the Enemy will gladly invite you into as you rationalize your ability to watch it because there is something there that stirs your spirit, and you don't seek to stream that out as a sober-minded person, knowing that images have an effect on our hearts, I would tell you to up your game there. I know I need to constantly be admonished to not justify things.

The movie, 300, is basically the story of King Leonidas and his warriors of Sparta who were standing against Xerxes in the marching Persian army who in his arrogance claimed to be God and was bringing the whole world into submission of him. Does that sound familiar? I love the scene where the emissary of Xerxes shows up. The Spartans are building a wall that is made out of stones from the homeland of Greece, and the mortar is the enemies of the Greek state that are built inside the wall.

When the emissary sees it, he just says, "You will pay for your barbarism." He raises a whip to strike these men, and when he does that, one of Leonidas' men jumps up and takes his sword. When the guy comes back with his whip, he cuts his arm off, and the guy goes, "My arm!" The guy looks at him and says, "It is no longer yours anymore." The guy, just shaking in his teeth says…


It's hard to just drop into that movie and catch the intensity of it, but when he was angry, he looked at him and said, "You barbarian! You fool! Xerxes will come and will make you submit. We will fire so many arrows it will light up the sun." In the movie, 300, they steal… Actually what happened, according to Plutarch who was a Greek historian and a biographer, was at one point some of Leonidas' men were beginning to back away from the battle.

They said, "The barbarian shot so many arrows it darkens the sun," and Leonidas just looked at them and said, "Then, we shall have the glory of fighting in the shade. Let's go! We're Spartans. We don't back down." He says, "You go tell Xerxes we are free men here." Guys, one of the things we have to do as you stand strong at the temptations of the Enemy that will wage war against your soul is you have to remind each other, "We are not weak men. We will be sober of mind, and we will make war against the Enemy who wants us to wilt in the face of temptation."

You need to know something. I know temptation is strong. I think it feels every bit as strong as the armies of Xerxes marching against the 300 men of Sparta, but no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. Did you hear that? Such as is common to man. You are not terminally unique.

Your addiction, your pull, your flesh, and your desires are no worse than anybody else's, and you don't have to give in when you're challenged, attacked, or criticized by the Enemy. You from God have been provided a way of escape also so that you might be able to endure it, but you are a fool if you fight alone.

Yesterday we were talking. As you know, we have about 2,000 leaders from around the world who are here with us this week, and we're just trying to encourage them and strengthen the hearts of them as they lead in their communities. One thing I said yesterday was, "Men, you are a sheep. You're part of a fold. We're animals who have no defense apart from our shepherd, and if you are a sheep who is isolating yourself and you're hanging out alone with a bunch of wolves and you think you're a stud because you're kind of making it, you're not a stud. You're the next snack the wolves are going to have."

The greatest warriors in our country we know of today to be mythologically understood are the SEALs. Those are great men. I say mythologically understood as if they're the only ones. There are amazing, well-equipped, ready individuals all across our military, but lately the media, and for appropriate reasons we've been celebrating the SEALs especially, but the SEALs are just one of the many warriors our country has who are fighting for righteousness and who are prosecuting evil and wielding the sword as a minister of the Spirit of God.

They have a motto. We have this idea that SEALs are these inoperative and completely competent young men. The SEALs have a motto and that is, "One is none and two is one." They don't go at it alone. You watch the way Jesus told men to stand firm and to stay strong, and he said, "Don't fight alone."

He doesn't mean to just show up for an hour in a week when you're with your men here at a Summit teaching. He means you make war and wage war together and you live in community with one another. If you don't have men encouraging you, asking you what you're hearing from the Commander-in-Chief, how you are packing into your heart every single day that which allows you to remain faithful and to wield the sword of truth to wage war, as I already said, against fleshly lusts…

If you don't have guys encouraging you to wear that breastplate of righteousness, you are not a stud. You're next. The one who separates himself and seeks his own desire quarrels against all sound wisdom. God has made it very clear that we are to be men who stand firm and to not be surprised when our adversary wants to take us out. I'm not going to waste my bullets on lazy men if I'm the Enemy, and if you are not suffering torment of the soul, it's probably because you're already a tormented soul.

Men wage war, but when you step up and start to do that and by the power of God who dwells in you he starts to enable you to live as God would want a man to live, you can be sure there's not just going to be personal attack you have to stand firm in, but there is going to be public criticism where it won't just be sin that comes after you but maybe even the sword.

We want to make sure, as it says in 1 Peter, that there are many others among us and brethren who are in the world who are suffering because they're standing firm. One of them I just want to point out to you. I sometimes put stuff on my Twitter account or my Instagram account, which are both @wordsfromwags. Search it. Go to that Twitter link a little bit later today and you'll see a link to the full context of a speech by Wang Yi.

Wang Yi is a Chinese pastor who saw that the communist regime… This is a picture of him. We haven't seen him since December 9, nor have we seen his wife. He and 54 other members of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, were arrested for inciting subversion to state power, which means they serve somebody other than the Communist party.

This man was a learned scholar and considered one of the brightest intellectuals in the country. In the early 2000s, he trusted Christ and began to pastor a church, and he saw the hope of the truth that was there. He saw the persecution that was coming. He was arrested once and released very quickly, and he knew it was coming again that he was going to be arrested, so he wrote a little manifesto.

He said, "If I am ever arrested and not released within 48 hours, release this to the world." He sent it to different folks around the world. He was arrested on December 9. We haven't seen him since then. I'm going to read you a few short paragraphs. It would do you well to read it all. These are some of our brethren, as the Scripture says, who are experiencing suffering, as they are faithful around the world.

He said, "On the basis of the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the authorities God has established in China." So should you respect the ones who are established here. "For God deposes kings and raises up kings." That's just Psalm 75. "This is why I submit to the historical and institutional arrangements of God in China." He's not concerned that he lives underneath the communist government. He is concerned that he follows Christ.

"As a pastor of a Christian church, I have my own understanding and views, based on the Bible, about what righteous order and good government is. At the same time, I am filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience. But changing social and political institutions is not the mission I have been called to, and it is not the goal for which God has given his people the gospel.

For all hideous realities, unrighteous politics, and arbitrary laws manifest the cross of Jesus Christ, the only means by which every Chinese person must be saved. They also manifest the fact that true hope and a perfect society will never be found in the transformation of any earthly institution or culture but only in our sins being freely forgiven by Christ and in the hope of eternal life."

He said, "I'm not a political revolutionary," just like Jesus wasn't. Jesus did not come to set men free from the tyranny of Caesar but from the tyranny of sin, and when men are set free from the tyranny of sin, they will begin to govern one another in righteousness. Let me say it this way. Communism, which is an oppressive ideology, will always lead to death and misery, but so will democracy led by evil men. In one regime, there is just a small group that is oppressing a larger group, but in another, it's all men just doing what seems right to them, which in the end will lead to death.

He says, "As a pastor, my firm belief in the gospel, my teaching, and my rebuking of all evil proceeds from Christ's command in the gospel and from the unfathomable love of that glorious King. Every man's life is extremely short, and God fervently commands the church to lead and call any man to repentance who is willing to repent.

Christ is eager and willing to forgive all who turn from their sins. This is the goal of all the efforts of the church in China—to testify to the world about our Christ, to testify to the Middle Kingdom about the Kingdom of Heaven, to testify to earthly, momentary lives about heavenly, eternal life."

How have you done this week with that, guys, in free America? How have you testified to the middle kingdom about the Eternal One? Or has it been socially awkward for you as opposed to being thrown in prison and not being seen for four months along with your wife?

He says, "For this reason, I accept and respect the fact that this Communist regime has been allowed by God to rule temporarily. As the Lord's servant John Calvin said, wicked rulers are the judgment of God on a wicked people, the goal being to urge God's people to repent and turn again toward Him. For this reason, I am joyfully willing to submit myself to their enforcement of the law as though submitting to the discipline and training of the Lord."

Let me tell you what I think Pastor Yi is doing right now if the Lord still has him with us. I think what he is doing is what Paul did when he was himself in chains. I think he's loving the people he's with. I think he's standing firm in the faith. I think he was ready. One of the ways you know you're ready to be faithful in marriage or faithful out here, as we've said again and again, that we are committed to doing right here is preparing ourselves for the day when they cut off the head of the snake. What do I mean by that?

There's a famous passage, and I would encourage you in your time with the guys, if you would just start reading in Acts, chapter 3, and make your way all the way through the end of Acts, chapter 5, it would be a fine way to spend your time together here in just a little bit. You notice why individuals were persecuted during the time of the early church.

They weren't persecuted for the foolishness we're capable of doing when we don't walk with Jesus. They were persecuted for the good they were doing in Jesus' name. In other words, they were not brash and arrogant fools. They were being persecuted because of the good they were doing in Jesus' name not the arrogance and foolishness that men are capable of doing when they don't walk with Jesus.

Watch what happens there. You watch the Lord use them, and you watch the Lord allow them to suffer underneath a middle kingdom that didn't recognize God as King. They beat them. They imprisoned them. They'd let them out and say, "Don't do it again." They went and did it again because they said, "We're going to serve God our King. As for you, you decide whether that's the right thing, but we've already made a decision." They went out and preached again, so they locked them up.

Then, when they were trying to figure out what to do with them while they were locked up, God released them, and they went out and preached again. Then they beat them, but the people who had seen the good they were doing cried out for them, and eventually the guys just tried to intimidate them. They said, "If we have to kill you, we'll kill you."

They said, "You do what you're going to do, and we're going to do what we have to do, because it's the loving thing to do in this middle kingdom, to talk about the Eternal One." They got together. They were trying to figure out what they were going to do. They basically said, "We need to maybe eliminate these men." Finally, Gamaliel stood up, who was one of the leading men of the day.

He said, "Let me just tell you something. There have always been different sects that popped up." He mentioned Theudas who was a false teacher and a false messiah. He said, "When Theudas was killed, then his men went away. Then, another man rose up, and he was killed, and they went away." He said, "Let me just tell you, guys. If this Jesus is not who he says he is, this, too, will go away, but if he is who he said he was, you may find yourselves not fighting against these apostles but against God himself."

Guys, they may cut off the head of the snake, which might be people you look to. We're preparing this church, men, for the day when they cut off us from this building, when this is the head of the society of political correctness and progressive love. I assume they'll office here one day unless the church does its job to not let wicked governments exist in our land because we have nothing but wicked people in it.

So we try to take captive the hearts of men, and we beg them to understand the redemptive work of Jesus so we would want righteous men to lead us so that religious freedom and liberty would continue in this land and so civility could continue to prosper in this land, but we will be ready the day they cut off the head of the snake to realize, "As long as they keep killing men, they will never be able to kill the risen Lord."

There may be a day when we can't gather like this, but wherever you are godly men should be ready to gather. Are you ready to lead? Are you going to step up when you're challenged, attacked, and criticized? If not, then we're not doing our jobs. That's our job, to have you ready to stand firm, not just to have you come listen to us talk about the strength and the righteousness of God's way but to be men who are convinced of it.

I was so encouraged this week. We sent out to a number of you leaders, "I'd like to hear ways that men have already been putting to work what we're talking about. How have men in your group stepped up?" I got dozens of stories this week from you about ways that you stepped up and things you did to serve people, to advance the gospel, and to care for things.

I'll tell you one story that happened. There were some folks in from another office. Some of them were attractive females. He was sitting right there, and some guy walked in and started to make some comment about the girls who were there to work in the office. One man just sat there and prayed.

He finally said, "Can I ask you a question? Does that ring on your finger match the words in your mouth? I don't want to make you feel bad, but those are somebody's wives and sisters and daughters, and we should welcome them here." He said it just went quiet and nobody talked anymore, at least in his presence, about the objectification of women. Let's go, church!

I heard story after story like that. That's what the church does. It needs to remind men that the way we impress other men is not by being subject to our flesh but by making war against our flesh. Let me just tell you what Jesus said, because we have to get to this. In Matthew 10, Jesus was talking about the fact that we weren't going to be out there on our own. We were going to be out there together. He said, "You need to realize that not everybody will be with you."

In Matthew 10:21, he says, "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death." You can be sure that somebody close to you is going to turn on you at some point when things get nasty. It's always happened. It happened in Nazi Germany, it's happening in China right now, and it's going to happen here if we ever lose the freedoms God has given us because we don't do our jobs.

"You will be hated by all because of My name…" Don't be surprised. If you guys want to go to other churches around here that are going to tell you it's always going to be easy and you're going to get healthy, wealthy, and wiser and prosper because you follow Jesus, go to those churches. That's fine. They're just not teaching God's Word.

What you should assume is Matthew 10:22. "You will be hated by all because of My name…" Verse 23 says, "But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next…" You just keep being faithful. You find a place to rest. We'll go to verse 24. He says, "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master."

What do you want? "If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul…" Meaning that Jesus said, "That's what they call me (a satanic emissary)." "…how much more will they malign the members of his household! Therefore do not fear them…" I love this. Just before this, as Jesus got ready to send them out…

I love to say this. Jesus said, "Okay, boys! Here we go! We're going to make ourselves a little team here, and our mascot is the sheep. We're going to be the Mighty Sheep of Jerusalem. We have some tough games coming up. We're going to play the Wolves." You think, "Can you just choose another mascot? It's hard to run out going, 'Baa.' Those guys over there have fangs on their helmets. We have a shepherd's crook."

I think Jesus saw his team kind of getting their heads down, and he just gives them one of these. He says, "Look at me, boys." He says, "Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." The middle kingdom won't last for long. "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops."

He says, "Do not fear them (those wolves that can devour a sheep's body while I raise up them in their little fleeting moment)." "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him…" I think he pointed to himself. "…who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

"I know my people." You just have to figure out if you want to follow that Jesus, because if he's not who he says he is, you're nuts, but if he is who he says he is and you follow anybody else, you are crazy and you are a fool. God expects us to gird up our loins. This is our time. This is our moment. He knows there are going to be things that are going to make us want to back down a little bit, but read the story of Jeremiah. In fact, just read Jeremiah, chapter 1. Start there this week if you're not going to read Acts 3 through 5.

In Jeremiah, chapter 1, God says, "Jeremiah, I'm going to call you to go to the land. I'm going to call you to go to the people." He says, "I don't really want to go to the people. I don't know what to say." He says, "You say what I tell you to say." That's what he's going to say to you this week. God has called you.

You are a chosen race. You're a chosen race. Just like he chose Jeremiah, he chooses you. It says in Jeremiah 1:7, "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' Because everywhere I send you, you shall go…" Jeremiah starts to whimper a little bit and says, "I don't really want to go," so in Jeremiah, chapter 1, verses 17 through 19… Guys, I want you to hear this.

Honestly, I have so much stuff I could talk about. I'm going to close with one story here at the end, but I'm going to give you Jeremiah 1:17. Then, I want you to get in your groups, and I want you to go, "How are we stepping up, speaking out, and are we ready to stand firm? Are we ready to make war against sin? Are we ready to face the sword?"

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Jeremiah finally goes, "I don't know if I want to go, because these people won't receive me," and God says, "Now, gird up your loins…" In other words, "You get ready to run." "…and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you..."

Do you want to know what a man is? "Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city…" I'd just insert right here one of my favorite proverbs. It's Proverbs 25:26. "Like a trampled spring and a polluted well Is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked." I don't know what God is going to produce here at Watermark, but I pray it's not a bunch of trampled springs and polluted wells but men who know God and are fountains of living water because they walk with Jesus.

Proverbs 24:10. Let me just insert that right here, because I'd kick myself if I didn't say it. "If you are slack in the day of distress, Your strength is limited." The strength of a man related to Jesus Christ should never have his strength limited. I don't want to hear how hard it is. I want to hear how much you love God.

You are a fortified city (Jeremiah 1:18). You are an individual who the Scripture says is to be "…as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests…" False priests were what Jeremiah was up against and folks who were redefining what love looks like and against all of the people who follow preachers they find in accordance to their own desire. I love this. "They will fight against you…" Mark my word. "'…but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,' declares the LORD."

The question you have to ask yourself is…Are you with him? I love what one man said about Jeremiah 1:19. A long time ago, he said, "They will fight against you. Conflict is unavoidable, but they will not overcome you. Defeat is impossible, 'For I am with you,' says the Lord, because you have an alliance that is inseparable."

Are you alive with Jesus? Then, you win. Read the end of the story. You need to know there have been men who faithfully served him who have suffered greatly like Pastor Wang Yi right now and like John Bunyan who, because he wouldn't bow to the misinterpretation and the poor theology of the state, was in prison, and while he was in prison all he did was write a story about the suffering pilgrim on his progress toward the Celestial City.

It is the best-selling Christian book of all times except for the Bible, and it's what he did when he was persecuted. He loved people. He wrote stories of truth, and he rejoiced in his King. They said, "We'll let you out of here if you just say you won't go preach," and he said, "I'll be in here so long moss will grow in my eyes." That's what he said. We'll fight in the shade.

Father, I pray we would stand firm when we're challenged, attacked, or criticized, that we would have the moss grow in our eyes when we're separated from our wives and our children like Bunyan, and we wouldn't be individuals who cower at the promise of freedom. No! We are free men, which is why we are not enslaved to sin and weakness and false ideology.

We are men who the teaching of kindness will be on our tongues, and we are men who know who our Shepherd is. Let them kill our bodies. Let them kill our careers. Let them kill our societal standing, but we will stand firm, because we are your men, and we have the shade of truth which strengthens us in the heat of persecution. Let us be those men. In Jesus' name, amen.