Full devotion to Christ is a gift any parent should want to give to his or her child, and is a non-negotiable attribute that all pastors should desire to see take root and grow in their congregation. It's not a matter of seeing how high we can set the limbo bar to make sure everyone can clear it, but yielding every aspect of our lives and asking how it can be set apart as holy to God, for Him to use for His glory.
A God-Sized Dream, a Servant's Heart and a Warrior's Passion: The Pursuit of a Heroic and Humble Life
The Grateful Heart: A Real Simple Way to Avoid Being Seduced
The Gift of Community: An Artery of Grace that Must Never Get Clogged
Serving all Men without Shorting any Truth: The Gift of Relevance
A Passion for Prayer: It's Not What You Think
The Gift of Authenticity: The Freedom to Show Our Scars
The Gift of Grace: Believe it, Receive it, Respond to it, and Pass it On
We Must Work it Out: Learning to Deal with Conflict
A Love for Those Who do not Love God: Commitment to the Uncommitted
God's Authoritative Word: A Product That Can't be Beat
Living a Life of Full Devotion to Christ: Out of the "Limbo Line" and into the Party
I think we said to you last week if you were getting here, you're getting here just in time because we're fixing to start chapter 2 of what we've really been about all along. I really meant that you're getting here just in time because before we start writing chapter 2, we thought we'd go back and remind ourselves why we're even wanting to write a book.
For these next 10 weeks, really for the better part of the fall, we're going to tell you why we tried to start this little thing called Watermark, which is the name we've given to the community of folks around here who want to follow Jesus, who want to extend grace to each other and say, "I know you're in process. I'm in process.
I know you're not the Savior. That's why we're worshipping somebody other than any personality in this world, somebody who came to this world who wasn't just a man. He was God. He did some things that no other man could do. He made some life available to us that there's no other way we could've ever experienced. We're worshipping him."
We want to share with you these next 10 weeks what we're really about. It won't be a surprise to some of you, the couple of hundred of you who were there early on when we started seven years ago that we did a little series that was called Gifts I'd Give My Children, that's what I'm talking about doing again. This is really what it is.
As a dad, somebody who has been given the privilege of shepherding six kids through the 18 years that we live intensively together, I sat down and I just thought, "If I as a daddy could give my kid some specific gifts, and not tangible things, but understandings, passions, convictions, what would I want my kids after 18 years with me to walk away with?"
This little series that we're going to be doing for the next 10 weeks is just that. It's called Gifts I'd Give My Children. It's things that any parent would want for their child and any pastor should want for their church. As I started to think about, "Hey, what are we going to do when we try and figure out what gifts we'd give to each other?" I decided to start by saying, "What does God want to give to us?"
Because look, my kids don't have a perfect daddy. There's no such thing as a perfect parent. None of us have a perfect father. We're all flawed. My kids certainly don't. My kids' parents struggle with their tone, with anger, and with control. I'm trying to see God take ground in all those areas in my life. My wife has issues she is trying to see God take ground in.
When I start to think about what gifts I want to give, I don't look first to Alex. I don't look first to me. I look first to the perfect heavenly Father who is the perfect giver who gives indescribable gifts. I go, "Lord, what would you want for us to have?" Then because by his grace I've learned to love what he loves, I go, "That's what I want to give my kids."
So here we go with 10 weeks worth of, "This is what we're really about." If you want to know where we're going to go, where we're going to drive each other, what we're going to embrace… If we don't do these 10 things, we would rather shut this thing down and sell all our assets and give them to some other nonprofit, other mission work that would get about it.
We'd rather divest ourselves of all our assets than to continue to exist without these 10 things being at the very core of who we are. So what's the first one? Well, as a daddy who loves his kids, who wants them more than anything in the world to have a rich and full life, there's the very first gift I want to give them.
I don't want my kids living in deception. I want my kids to know reality and to live in it victoriously. This is, by the way, one of the reasons why as my youngest man starts to move into a time where God is going to bring some different chemicals into his body and unlock some hormones that are going to transfer some of that little-boy-ness into a little man, I want to talk to him a lot about how the world is going to try and offer you fleeting expressions of life through indulging your flesh and your body.
I want to say, "Hey, God has something so much better for you than this fantasy world called pornography. I want you to not be a guy who finds pleasure in finding some imaginary relationship with some woman who, in your little world, dreams of wanting you. I want you to learn to live your life in such a way that you could one day find a woman who wouldn't just be in some fantasy in your mind but in reality would recklessly share herself with you emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
You don't have to dream that it's so. I want you to be the kind of man who walks in the truth, who becomes that kind of man that a woman would say, 'Hey, when I think of getting naked and sharing this with a man, you're that man.'" That's truth. It's not some lie that we find some fleeting meaning in, but boy, isn't the life of pornography powerful?
Isn't the life of finding a sense of just numbness to the pain that is this broken world through some sort of chemical addiction or some sort of drug or some sort of coping strategy in terms of possessions, isn't it attractive? It looks like it can work and it does work, but for fleeting moments. I don't want my kids to find their way through life zigzagging from one lie to another.
I want my kids to live in the way of truth, the way of life. His name is Jesus. Anything that is good has relationship involved in it. I want to tell you something. I am passionate about my kids. I am passionate about the body of Christ which I get the privilege of serving. Being absolutely in love, not with a doctrinal statement, being absolutely in love, not with a propositional truth.
Do you understand that? Our faith is not a proposition. Our faith is centered in a person, not a statement of fact. A person of history who is indescribable, who is so transcendent we could never get our arms all the way around him, but he is so here today that we can focus on him and be transformed by him because he lives. He lives.
About 20 years ago when I was focusing what I was doing on other people's kids, I was trying to capture this idea with them and letting them know that, "I don't want you just to come and find some sense of religious duty fulfilled in your time with me. I don't want you to be looking forward to or consider your spiritual life as defined by Thursdays with Todd. I want you to know that God wants to live with you all throughout the week."
I just went to that little study that one day with a bunch of sixth and seventh grade boys. I told them, I said, "Guys, I have some incredible news. I'm getting married." They go, "You're getting married? We didn't even know you were dating anybody!" I go, "No, I'm getting married." They go, "That is awesome!"
I go, "It's even better because this gal? I'm going to get to have all the fun I want to have with her when it's convenient to me, but she's not even asking me to wear a ring a lot. I'm not going to live with her, but I have full access to her whenever I need her. I'm going to hang out with her. We're going to share an address. We'll have other places we can go when we want to go.
It's going to be awesome, because no longer do I have to fight through some of the struggles of being a single man, but I am also not going to be weighed down by what some woman thinks that she wants me to do and what she wants me to be." The house I was in, the mom who was hosting that heard this and started to kind of just drift a little closer.
I saw her leaning through the door looking at me like, "What's going on in there?" I go, "So anyway guys, this is an unbelievable deal. A lot of guys want this kind of relationship or think and dream about it, but I think I have it. So I want you to come to the wedding. It's this weekend." They go, "You're getting married this weekend?"
I go, "Why wouldn't you just jump on that right away when you can still be king of your own world but not really have to change anything?" One of the kids had the courage to say, "That doesn't sound like a really good marriage." I go, "Really? Why not?" The woman who was hosting said, "Who is this girl who is going to put up with that?"
I said, "Well, let me ask you this. Can you think if the roles were reversed and someone just wanted to just cut you in when it's convenient, you'd put up with that?" They were like, "No!" I said, "Hey, let me just tell you. God isn't just looking for you to walk down an aisle with him, to put a tux on for a moment. God is not just looking for you to have all your friends and family in and throw a big celebration and have great dancing and then go on a honeymoon where it's all fun and away from the reality of this world and then just come back and blow him off.
God is looking for you to make a covenant with him and to have a change and alter every aspect of your life. You don't need Thursdays with Todd. You don't need Sundays with God. That's the not the way. That's not the truth. That's not the life. The life is living in a covenant commitment and relationship with this King whose name is Jesus who the Scripture says, 'You want life? You're going to find it in relationship with him.'"
There is no good without relationship, folks. That's why when we become people of a doctrinal statement, when we become people who are only defined by a propositional statement of truth that, "God is very good and you're very bad, so God did something very wonderful and if you trust in that you will be saved." Hey, is that true?
Absolutely, but that truth points you to a person, the person of God revealed most fully through Jesus Christ. What we are is a group of people who are never going to count how many folks have a wedding day where they don't wear a tux, but they walk in the water, and they go down and they come up and a celebration around friends, but then we just don't really care what you do with that covenant relationship.
We are going to be people that the rest of our lives are going to be spurring each other on to our marriage covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. We have an unbelievable spouse to pursue, each of us individually, because he'll never leave us or forsake us. He'll always be there, but the reality is all of our hearts will wander.
All of our priorities will get a little off-whack, but not our King. It's our duty to say, "Hey, what about that ring of faith that you put on? How are you doing in your relationship with him?" See, here's the deal. Most people think that discipleship, full-bore surrender and availing yourself to God, full devotion? That is what pastors get after.
That's what wild super-spiritual stars do when they go to Africa or go work like Mother Teresa in the pits of despair in India. Or that's what guys who are training for ministry do at seminary, but it's not what the normal, run-of-the-mill believer does. I want to tell you something. That is a lie from the pit of hell. It is killing our King. Nietzsche, the great German philosopher, and I say great in the world's eyes, who espoused all kinds of different statements, said something that I totally get my arms around and understand.
He said, "I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more redeemed." Then I go, "I understand that, man. I get it." Because what we have done is we have counted noses that have said a prayer or that have walked forward at a conference or Sunday morning.
Jesus says, "Not that they will know you're my disciples by your profession of faith. 'By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.' By the outworking of your life." The Scripture says, "They'll know what kind of tree you are by the fruit that you bear." I want to just tell you. Standing before you is a fully devoted follower of Christ.
That's who I am, but you did not hear me say, "Standing before you is a man who in every aspect of his life in every way will always make you go, 'That guy is supernatural in the way that he loves and lives.'" If you could say that about me, you would sing that I was indescribable. We're not considering it here, especially my family and those who know me best.
They go, "We could describe that. Jerk! Angry! Moody! Inconsistent!" By the grace of God, when they do it in a loving way, they don't come at me like that. They say, "Hey Dad, that's not the man who we know you want to be. That's not the man who God is reigning in his heart." I used to say, "You know what? You're right. You're right. Thank you. Forgive me. I'm grateful for a Savior who dies for that part of me. Let me yield to him again."
That's who we are here. Full devotion, gang? I want to tell you something. You want to follow Christ? You are so welcome. You want to consider Christ? You are welcome here, but you will not like being here very long if all you want is a place to go and say you're a follower of Jesus, but frankly you'll do it on your own terms.
Because this is a community that cares about our King. We will love you and spur you on to love and good deeds. "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Iron sharpening iron is a great thing, but have you ever thought about if iron had feelings? If there were nerve endings in metal? Iron would run from iron like nobody's business because you get those two pieces of steel and they clash against each other, and chunks of iron come ripping off. Sparks fly.
You go, "Oh man." If they could say something, they would go, "You have to be kidding me! You're smacking me up against that again?" The answer is, "Yes, because we believe inside that anonymous shape is a tool of great honor, useful to the King, but we have some work to go there." Here's the deal, man.
We're going to love you just the way you are, but we're also going to love you enough not to keep you that way, just like your loving heavenly Father says of you. Some great verses. As I started thinking about, "What gift would I give my children?" I went, as I said, to the perfect heavenly Father. I look at what he said in Romans, chapter 8.
He says, "Listen, here's the deal." "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…" What if I told you that something could happen in your life that would make you as kind, as gentle, as loving, as full of self-control, as full of patience and longsuffering as Jesus Christ?
What if I told you that process could begin to be birthed in your life and you would go forward? The Scriptures are saying, "That's God's purpose in you." Here's the deal. You have been created in the image of God, which means you were created for glory. When we talk about Jesus, we just go on and on and on for seven minutes and we go, "I wish I could describe him to you, but he is indescribable."
But what you just said about him was the most amazing thing you could ever say about a man. That's God's vision for you, and it's our vision for each other. So wrapped in a ton of grace, which I will talk about in some of the weeks to come, there is going to be a dead laser beam of purpose that's going to come out. Why?
Well one guy said it this way. He said, "The best argument for Christianity is Christians. Their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the best argument against Christianity is Christians. When they are somber, joyless, smug, self-righteous, narrow, or oppressive, Christianity dies a thousand deaths." Can we hear an amen to that?
Man, there are a number of us who have a hard time with the idea of God being a Father because we didn't have dads who loved us. The idea of a father being loving has died a thousand deaths. There are some of us who have just seen dead ritualism that make us go, "Church? Life? You have to be kidding me. That is as oxymoronic as it could get. Relevancy? Hope? Church? You have to be kidding me. Freedom? Fullness? Truth? Christian, you have to be kidding me."
Listen to what one man said as he meditated on this idea. He said, "How many people are radically, permanently repelled by the way that Christians who are unfeeling, stiff, unapproachable, boring, lifeless, obsessive, and dissatisfied? Yet such Christians are everywhere and what they are missing is the wholesome aliveness springing up from a balanced vitality of understanding and living in God's loving rule."
Then he says these great words. "Spirituality wrongly understood or pursued is a major source of human misery and rebellion against God. Spirituality rightly understood is life. Spirituality wrongly understood is death." Gang, all we want to be is a group of people who with tons of grace are going to say, "This is who we are. We are not people of the proposition. We are not holding up a doctrinal dogma only. The doctrinal dogma is simply our succinct way of stating clearly, 'This is our King. He lives. We are his servants. We follow him.'"
Gang, I'll tell you. Not many folks are doing that today wholeheartedly. In fact, I want to share with you a list of behaviors that exist in our world today. Is somebody believing that in a democracy like ours, a republic like ours where we install people in places of leadership where they can help make decisions and guide the course of our nation… What an incredible privilege to be an individual who wants a nation to experience the love and grace and awareness of God.
People who love Christ and people who don't love Christ have the same percentage of response largely as to whether or not that's important. People who want to take the resources they've been given and use them to assist others are largely the same percentage. Whether they said they know Jesus as a man who lived and claimed to be God and died on the cross that if you trust in him is the means through which you can find forgiveness from God and be eternally secure do it at the same rate of people who have a non-Christian worldview.
Giving their life away? It's largely the same. Stewarding their resources and trying to find a quick hit that will change their financial circumstances? Believers and nonbelievers alike are almost identical in that behavior. Seeking to encourage others. Attend a community meeting on a local issue in the past year. Seeking help through a counselor. It's identical.
There are so many other things like this where you just go, "This is a problem." Now born-again Christians, I want to define this for you. Born-again Christians are people who we don't ask them, "Are you born-again?" but they are people who have answered two questions, "Yes," according to the guy who did this study.
He asked them this question. He said, "Do you believe that Jesus is God's provision through which men might find forgiveness and relationship with him by trusting in his death on the cross and God's resurrection power through him?" If they say yes to that and they say yes to the fact that they believe that when they die, they will be secure in their relationship with God and live with comfort as a result of that understanding.
If they say yes to that, he puts them in a classification of "born-again Christians." In other words, people of the proposition, people of the profession, are no different than people of the non-profession, but there is another category. By the way, the category on the left under born-again Christians represents about a hundred million Americans.
There are 33 to 40 percent of Americans who answer those two questions affirmatively. Of that hundred million, there is less than 20 percent who answer another series of questions in such a way that this particular pollster defines as individuals who are fully devoted followers of Christ. Individuals who believe that God's Word is their authority, conscience, and guide and that they're going to be subject to it in all areas of their life.
That honoring Christ and believing that he is not just a Savior, but a Lord to be followed. People who believe that there is a real and tangible present evil in this world that must be strived against and that they must stand on the alert lest they're consumed by it. Individuals who believe it's their duty and responsibility to honor that King by sharing with others about their relationship with the King.
When you get to that and a few other characteristics, it's only 7 percent of American are Evangelical followers of Christ. The good news is in that group, the statistics are radically different. Do you hear what I'm telling you? What I'm telling you is that too many people in gatherings like this today are going to be called to profession, are going to be called to a doctrinal statement, but they're not going to be called to life change and full devotion.
We will never make that mistake here. You want to know who we are? A group of people who believe those propositional statements are true because we believe there is a King who has come who loves us. Everything that is good comes not through a definition; it comes through a relationship. We have a relationship with Jesus so we are seeking not to redefine marriage with him but to follow him. This is what God says about marriage. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."
In other words, they're transformed. It's a new individual when he comes into relationship. If you look back in the ancient Near/Middle East culture, when you would hear that somebody would leave their mother and father, that meant that they would leave their social-economic relationships, that means they would leave their recreational relationships, that means they would leave their financial-vocational relationships.
Everything is redefined in order that he might be committed to that woman who he wants to be one with. This is what I tell folks who are getting married. "You have to leave, which means adjust or refocus, every relationship or activity in your life in order that you might achieve oneness with your spouse.
Secondly, cleave, which means you're going to ask yourself from this day forward, not only is everything in the past redefined by your covenant commitment, but everything going forward changes by asking yourself, 'Will this activity, decision, or commitment of time and resource and emotion drive me closer to my wife or be a wedge that takes me further from her?' Based on your response to that question, you either embrace it or run from it like the plague."
I tell folks who aren't married, "Don't ever marry somebody who is not already well married." Meaning, God says, "Listen, I love you and I want your life to be yoked with somebody who loves me, because somebody who loves me is going to love you like nobody else in this world will.
So if they've said they love me, watch their life. Have they adjusted or refocused every relationship or activity based on their covenant commitment with me or did they just walk some aisle, check a box, move through a ceremony and now they're really on about their life," like that marriage I described to those kids?
"Are they making decisions today based on asking themselves this question, 'Will this decision, emotional investment, this turn of resources bring me closer to God and glorify him or will it drive me from him?' Then they will either embrace it or run from it like the plague based on that response."
If you find somebody who is inconsistent in their pursuing oneness with Jesus that they've said they made a covenant commitment with him to be their Savior and Lord and yet they turn to you and go, "Yeah, I know I haven't been very faithful in that covenant, but you babe, hey all 26 years of you? I think you can hold me. The eternal, perfect God couldn't hold my affections, but I think you can." And you buy that?
Then you're going to get exactly what you deserve. How arrogant to think that somebody would fulfill a covenant with us that they don't fulfill with a perfect supernatural mate. So how you doing? Have you professed that you want to be married to the King? Are you adjusting every relationship or activity based on your covenant commitment to Jesus Christ? Are you evaluating everything that comes into your life by asking yourself, "Will this drive me closer to Jesus? Will it show that there is oneness in my relationship with him or will it drive me apart?"
Jesus wants you to embrace that which will conform you to the image of his Son. "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren…" Glorious people who the world looks at and goes, "What's up with them? It's like they're from another world. They're so transformed in the way they love and serve and think and steward that I can't get over it."
See, here's the problem. The problem is that most of us have this mindset, "I'm going to just cut God in as much as I need to so that I keep the deal going." In fact, there was a guy who came to Jesus in that way. In Mark, chapter 10, his name was the rich young ruler. If you have your Bible, you can turn with me to Mark, chapter 10, verse 17. We'll look at it for a while and we'll bounce around to a few other places.
Here's what he said. "As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him…" It looked like a good act of worship. Didn't it? He even called him something. "…and asked Him, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'" What statement do I need to make? What action do I need to complete so that I can be in?
Jesus responded and said, "Why do you call Me good?" In fact, the word that he used for good in that little exchange is the word for intrinsic goodness, meaning not just an adjective like, "That is a decent thing." It means that your entire being is good. Jesus said, "If you knew what you said when you called me good, when "No one is good except God alone." You would have your answer."
Because no one is good but God alone. God won't have relationship with anything that is less than good. He won't yoke himself to something that's less than good because that would make him then not ultimately good in and of who he is. You have to realize there's nothing you can do because you're not good except trust in the Good One who will cover your lack of goodness.
Jesus decided to teach him something. He says, "You know the commandments…" Then he grabs some of what we call the horizontal commandments that God wants us to make to each other. He said, "DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud [lie] , HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER." The guy got excited. "And he said to Him, 'Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.'"
By his own accounting of what that looked like, the guy said, "I made it! I have gone under the limbo bar that you have required of me and now I am in. Thank you, sir. Now I can get on with partying the way that I want."
Jesus looks and him and says, "Wait a minute. First of all, rather than go back and show you that you probably haven't made it completely the way that you wanted, see also the message that I gave when you were on the mount with me where I said, 'Hey if you've looked at a brother and you've told him that in your heart you're angry, you've called him a fool, then you've committed murder.
'…everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' You ought to really go back and evaluate whether you've kept those things based on how I define them, but let's just say you passed the test. Here's what I want you to do." Now what Jesus is going to do is ask him a question which illustrates that the first four commandments, which deal with our relationship vertically with God, he probably hadn't met.
Because he says, "There should be nothing before me in your life. Nothing you worship more than me and nothing you love more than me." So Jesus looked at him and said, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…" Then he said, "But guess what? I'm not looking you even to do that one thing. After you do that one thing, which is illustration of the fact that there's nothing before me in your life, then I want you to keep following me. I'm not looking for a one-time act."
Here is the problem. The problem is that many places folks are looking for a one-time act. Like I said, just to use this metaphor, we'll walk over here. What a lot of folks do is they try and find out… They'll go lots of places where that bar is very comfortable and somebody will say, "Look, if you just show up and validate me, you tell me that I'm enough of a leader that you'll at least give me a couple of hours a week.
If you throw enough coin in a box in order for me to keep the lights on, if you'll validate this organization by your presence, that's all I really need for you to do. We'll get along just fine." A lot of people are very happy to join those organizations, and they'll say, "Okay. That's all it takes? Once a week to get underneath that bar? Thank you very much. I will party the way I want the rest of the evening. I'm not really into limbo lines."
What Jesus did with this young man is he said, "I'll just tell you. You think you passed those tests about how you treat other people," and he didn't really go into that as I've already said, but he said, "I'll tell you what. There is something in your life that I'm going to use to expose that you are not ultimately in love with me. Here's an area that you worship more than me. Try and get under that one."
"But at these words he [the rich young ruler] was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property." Great affection for his money, great security for his money. Do you know what a lot of people do? They go, "What's the deal?" By the way, listen to this. Do you know that less than 2 percent of Americans, and that includes the evangelical 7 percent and the 45 percent "professors of a certain proposition," operate on what's called a tithe.
See, here's the tithe moment. Jesus says, "This is a tithe," just to be very frank with you. He says, "Give me your 10 percent." We go, "Okay. That's very uncomfortable, but 10 percent and then I can do what I want with my other 90 percent? I'll go party with my life the rest of the time, working off 10 percent of my income." Jesus said, "First of all, who mentioned income? I said of what you have."
Secondly, in the New Testament, you cannot support the idea of a tithe. Do you know what you support in the New Testament in terms of how you give? It's not just, "Let me just cut through with my 10 percent," which 2 percent of Americans are willing to limbo under. The rest of us kind of go, "Man, that's way down here. I'm not going to get underneath of that."
What a lot of folks do is they just say, "All right. My 10 percent? I'm on my own. Or my 2 percent is enough, and the world is going to applaud even that." Jesus says, "I'm not looking for your 10 percent." In the New Testament, here's what Jesus says. "Give me everything." Just like to the rich young ruler. "Give me everything. Follow me every day."
Now does that mean you have to write a check for everything you have right away? It might for you. It hasn't this week for my family. I didn't feel as I sought God's face that, "Lord, this is your house. This is your car. This is your salary. This is your little bit of money in savings. What do I do with it?" Had I believed that God wanted me to write a check for all of it, I'd better get after it. Here's what I did do. I said, "Lord, my question this day is not, 'Have I cut you in at the level I'm supposed to and now I can get on with my life?'"
I just said, "Lord, I want to follow you. Everything I have is yours: all my time, all my resources, all my thinking, all my discretionary moments, the way I choose to use my entire life and gifts every day is yours. I want to follow you." I'm not able to and God doesn't call me to find some mark that is impressive to other people and go, "Watch this. Wagner is more fully devoted than most."
The point is, let's say I could limbo that. Some people look at me and they go, "Wow, man. Wagner's way down there. He is a fully devoted follower of Christ." Do you know what Jesus says? A fully devoted follower of Christ is not somebody who has made a certain mark. A fully devoted follower of Christ is somebody who says, "I want to excel still more. I'm not looking to give you my hour a week or my commitment to my wife or my stewardship of gifts.
I give you everything all day, all the time." When I mess it up, I get spurred on and get back on the mark where I say, "Jesus, what do you want me to do right now?" That's full devotion. Full devotion, and I told you I was one, just simply means if there is something in my life that is out of whack with God, I want to be spurred on toward it.
So I ask the Spirit of God, the Word of God, the people of God to love me that way. We are not looking for professions here. We are not looking for people to sign off on doctrinal statements here, though professions and doctrinal statements are something that people who love Jesus embrace. We are looking for people who say, "I will follow you, King."
This is, by the way, why Jesus calls us into relationship. When we walk through together a little book in the New Testament called Galatians, I said this to you. God called us into a love relationship, and love is always better than some bar. It's always better than some bar. Why? I'll give you four reasons.
Because the bar lives by rule of failure. You're going to be humiliated in the party along the way. Law rules by fear of, "Oh, you can't limbo like everybody else." Love, on the other hand, rules by fastening your heart to a person. If you fall, everybody goes, "That's all right. Just do your best and excel some more. If you can get to here, great. If you can get to right here, fantastic.
Let's see what we can do to produce in your life more spiritual flexibility so that you can get to where you're down here and you're going to strive more until the day that God allows you to do something that everybody goes, 'That is clearly supernatural. He is walking on the hair follicles on the back of his leg. How does he do that?'"
Well the answer is not just, "How does he do that?" It's, "Why does he do that?" Not because that's what he has to do for God to love him, but it's because he wants to do whatever he can because he loves God. That's the difference. God isn't just saying, "Do this, get through, and move on." He is saying, "It's not a limbo line. It is a party. It is a life that you're to walk in."
Law is effective only where the pressure of the party is around. Law is effective only where the power of accountability is present. That's why so many of our lives in private are an offense to God. Because when no one is around, "Hey, I checked in with God on Sunday. I wrote my amount, whatever it was supposed to be. I served my serve."
This week I heard somebody say, "Does this count as a serve?" I go, "That is the wrong question." That's the wrong question. The right question is, "Are you living today the way God wants you to live? Are you serving him all the time, all the way, everywhere you are?" You're not trying to pass a test. You're trying to follow him. That's all.
We are a group of people who say, "We want to be fully devoted followers of Christ." Love, gang, is effective everywhere relationship is accounted for, not just where the spotlight of limbo is before you. So even when you're in just a general mixing of the party, I don't need the pressure of a limbo line to see how low I can go. I'm over here where the lights aren't on.
Not taking advantage of the fact that I'm away from the spotlight, groping in a way I shouldn't, but over here going, "How can I serve my King over here and everywhere else I go?" See, this is what John said when he was quoting John the Baptist in John, chapter 3, verse 30. He said, "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less."
The more of Jesus you see in me, the better it is. I want my whole life to be about me bending over backwards for my King. By the way, this is what your King wants. Luke, chapter 14. Jesus says this when he was talking to some folks. I love it. Whenever Jesus got a large crowd, do you know what Jesus did when he got a large crowd?
He would go, "This is great. Now there are more people here, we can do more things." Jesus, and you can go whichever way you want, he lowered the bar so less people could limbo with him or if you want to go the other way, he put the bar way up there and said, "That's how high the bar is. You want some of that? Jump over it."
But in this deal it says, "Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 'If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.'" You hear that and you go, "Wait a minute. I thought he just questioned the rich young ruler about did he honor his mother and father."
What Jesus is doing right here, he is not saying you have to say, "Do you believe that I'm God? That I came in the flesh, walked in this life, died on the cross, was crucified, dead, and buried, raised on the third day and do you promise to say, 'I hate you, Mom. I hate you, Dad.'" That's not what he is asking. He is saying, "In relationship to me…"
In fact, in Matthew, chapter 10, verse 37, Jesus takes this idea and he says, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me…" Let me tell you something. You follow Christ the way Christ wants you to follow him, especially when Jesus said that, but a lot of times today, your mom and dad go, "That's a little bit too much. You're drinking too much of the Jesus Kool-Aid."
You have to say, "Mom, listen. If what I'm doing is inconsistent with his Word, please tell me. But if all I'm doing is responding as radically as someone should if God himself lived and died for me, then I don't care if you tell me you hate me if I do it, Mom, but I'm going this way. Dad, I don't care if you tell me I'm crazy. I'm going this way because I love Jesus. The best way to honor you is to be the full glory of the man that God intended."
Jesus goes on to say this in verse 27, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." In other words, he doesn't say this. This is so many of us would rather go this direction, just to put this here and go another direction with it like this. It's like, "Okay, I'll go ahead and take this big moment where I get nailed to the cross. Now that I'm nailed to the cross, do you see I'm nailed to the cross? Good, let me get on with my life."
No, Jesus says this, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must…take up his cross daily and follow Me." Now when he took up the cross as a criminal in ancient Roman society, what you were saying is, "I am forced to drag my cross through this town to show that I'm under the authority of the Roman government who has sentenced me to death on this cross."
You would carry it through the city until you were nailed on it and publicly displayed as somebody, who in relationship to Rome deserved that kind of experience in life. What Jesus is saying when he says, "…take up his cross daily and follow Me," is he says, "I want you to put it on your back, which seems burdensome, but '…My yoke is easy and My burden is light.' The way of righteousness, the way of God, the way of Christ, the way of the Spirit.
I want you to carry that everywhere you go, even when it makes you feel like you're dying, because you are in relationship with me. I had a cross to carry. Yours is mine." Jesus says, "Listen, '…all who are weary and heavy-laden… Take My yoke upon you…' because the cross of that world that you're dragging through…" ("I'm going to find meaning in fantasy. I'm going to find meaning in experience. I'm going to find meaning in possessions.") "You're lugging that thing through life and you're still dying and dead."
He says, "Take this one, but carry it with you everywhere you go." Jesus says, "Listen, before you dive in on this, 'For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him…'"
That's what's going on with the world. The world looks at us who have laid a foundation of profession and they'll go, "You know what? It's just too expensive to carry this out." So we become just like them. The world says, "I don't know what I should do with my weekend, but I surely shouldn't go singing about the indescribable one who doesn't do jack in your life."
No matter how much the church is hypocritical, it doesn't dumb down our King. Here's what I want to tell you. We love you. I love my kids. I love this church. I will call you to full devotion in Jesus Christ. I'll tell you why. Because it's the way of life. Life is in relationship with Jesus. He isn't trying to rip you off. He's trying to set you free. I am learning that. I am learning that.
As much as you look at my life and go, "Todd, it doesn't look like you're carrying your cross in this area of your life." Okay, tell me that and let me agree with you. "Okay, maybe I'm not. Let me get after it. Let me double-down in that area." I want to tell you I know this. I want to tell you there has never been a single time in my life, not one, that I have followed Christ and regretted it.
It has cost me sometimes some embarrassment. It has cost me maybe some time, a loss of temporary intense physical pleasure, but I have never gone, "Jesus ripped me off." Not once. Not once, but there have been numerous times that for a moment I just put that cross down, the way of Jesus, and went the way that seemed right to Todd.
I can tell you, I have experienced some pain in that relationally, personally, historically, emotionally. I see that his way is light, and so I want my kids to embrace life. I want my body, I want my family to experience the way of truth. Everything we can do to spur each other that direction, it's all we can do and should do.
If you get a moment later this week, go to John, chapter 6. Read John, chapter 6, because I love again when Jesus gets with folks in verses 26 through 68. I just want to close with just a comment of what Jesus says in this little passage. In John 6, Jesus is talking to a group of people who are following him because they just got fed by him on a hillside.
He fed 5,000 men, so that probably means there were 15,000 to 17,000 people when you think most of those men were with families. He fed them out of a few baskets and a few fish. So then they followed him and they went after him. He says, "You're coming after me because I just gave you a temporary physical sense of satisfaction, some emotional physical joy. I can give you something much better than that, a sustaining presence in your life. The bread that you should want is not the bread that you can eat. It's the bread that God has sent from heaven. 'I am the bread of life…'" Jesus says.
Then he goes into a long discourse where he says, "You must eat daily my flesh. You must drink my blood daily." He is not encouraging cannibalism or vampirism there. What he is saying metaphorically as a speaker trying to grab their hearts is, "You guys long for physical bread. You long and wonder why God doesn't give you the manna that he gave through Moses to the people of Israel. Well there is other bread that God just sent down. You need to ingest it every day. It's your relationship with me."
Now when he said that, the people said, "Man, that's kind of hard teaching." In fact, his disciples, when they saw the way people responded to what Jesus said… John, chapter 6, verse 60. This is where it says, "Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, 'This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?' But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, 'Does this cause you to stumble [that I'm the bread of life] ? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?'"
"If you think it's hard for you to understand that I am the bread that God sent to heaven, how are you going to get your arms around when I get to go back up and stand before God?" Then he says this in verse 63. "It is the Spirit…" Listen, this is what I'm telling you. "'…who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you [here] who do not [like my words, aren't going to] believe [my words] .' For Jesus knew from the beginning…"
Those who were just professors, who were just attenders, who were just hang-arounders on the outsiders, "…and who it was that would betray Him." Because they weren't really covenantally committed to him. He went on to say this. "'For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.' As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore."
Are you going to turn back? We're going to love you enough to let you. We're going to love you if you turn away, but we're not going to raise the bar so you can limbo through it and then get on with your life. Because it's not our life to call you to it. This is the life of a Christ-follower. There is a ton of grace here. We all grow and get flexible at different levels.
Sometimes we knock a bar off that's higher than we used to knock it off. Then we just go, "Hey, let's pick that back up. Let's think through this." But really, do you know what? We're not even playing limbo. We're just living to honor our King. Peter came to him and said, "Hey Jesus? This is kind of tough." As a result it says, "A lot of folks weren't walking with you anymore."
Simon Peter said to him, "What are you doing, Jesus?" Jesus says, "'You do not want to go away also, do you?' Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.'" Folks, here's what I want to tell you. Watermark is not the answer. Jesus Christ is the answer. You go wherever you want to be a part of a body, but make sure you go to be a part of a body that carries the cross of Jesus, that follows his Word, and that feels like it's their compelling duty to bring others into relationship with him.
Be part of a body that seeks to honor and live him all the way, not just limbo through a moment financially or a moment serving-wise, but says, "I am on the path of followership." Follow him. Make him the center of your life. It's a gift that God is longing to give you for you to have glory and to make him famous and to bring about in you the joy that you're looking for. Die serving the King.
Father, thank you for my friends and the opportunity that we have to come and spur each other on this way. I pray that we would find ourselves in every way focused on you and honoring you. Let us glorify you with our lives. May you be the center of all that we're about. May our friends here who have not yet made a decision to follow you find this to be a place full of grace, but also, Father, a place where it's very clear that you are our King. For your glory and our good we pray, amen.
Hey gang, if you're here for the first time and you want to consider Jesus, we have a room over here you can hang out in. You can just go right there anytime you want and consider, "How do I know this Jesus is the bread that I should eat?" If you know that you're ready to follow Christ with us and you want to know how to connect with our body, every Sunday there'll be a room right over here just through that little section where you can go and connect with us more deeply.
As you leave, Josh and folks around us are going to be just reprising that little song that reminds us, "We want Christ to be the center of our lives, the place we fix our eyes on him." May he be the center of your life as you worship him this week. Have a great week of worship.
What's the best gift you've ever received? What present is so special that you'll never forget the moment or the person who shared it with you?In this series, Todd Wagner overviews 11 gifts that the Lord desires for us to have. This collection of gifts forms the foundation that any pastor would want for a church and any parent would want for their child. In short, these gifts represent 11 non-negotiables in a life that is committed to full devotion to Christ.