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If it could be packaged and sold, the supply would never keep up with the demand. A product that would enable its user to respond to life's most complex problems with absolute confidence, stand firm against destructive passions, reject passivity, speak out against injustice, unveil powerful truths to the hearts of men, and restore souls. Among countless others. That product is available to us. So why hasn't our country made better use of it?
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
If you have just stumbled onto us this morning, let me tell you what we're in the middle of. We are in the middle of reshaping our hearts to be consistent with everything that we think God wants us to be about. We're working through a little series called Gifts I'd Give My Children. As I thought as a dad a number of years ago, "If I could give my kids gifts, if I could give my kids anything, what would I want to give them?"
I came up with 10 things that I said, "I want these to be instilled into my children's hearts." These are things I want my six who live with me and work their way through all the joys and struggles of that to be imbedded deeply in them. There are also things that I would consistently want to share with those who I seek, pursue, and represent God with. These are 10 gifts that a dad wants for his children and also that a pastor wants for his community of faith of which he is a part. We're going to work our way through.
It's really a great time for us to do this because we are at a time in our lives when we're about to just relaunch. We're writing chapter two. Before we go back and write chapter two or start chapter two, we want to go back and remind ourselves why we gathered together to begin writing this book in the first place.
A long time ago, I watched a movie called Legend in Granite. Those of you who are fans of football know of course that the trophy that is given out to the team that wins the Super Bowl is called a Lombardi trophy in remembrance of the man, Vince Lombardi, who coached the Green Bay Packers who won the first two Super Bowls back when the American Football League and the National Football League merged together.
Lamar Hunt came up with the idea that the two would play at the end of the season and they would have a Super Bowl to determine who the champion of the new league would be. Vince Lombardi really wanted his Green Bay Packers to win that initial huge game, but he also knew as he looked at his team that he had to go back and just start from the very beginning with them.
So Lombardi, legend has it, got these Packers together with many guy on that team who had already clearly established themselves as some of the greatest athletes and competitors on the gridiron of the day, many men who went on to the Hall of Fame. They were all together in a room.
The very first day as they started training camp, Lombardi got in there and said, "Hey guys, listen. We're about to take on some new challenges this year. There's a great opportunity before us to win a game that has never been held before. We want to go forward and we want to accomplish these goals together.
Now to do that as I've thought about what it's going to take to win, I'm not going to install a new offensive scheme. I'm not going to make our defense more complex. We're not going to go look for a bunch of new players. I think for us to accomplish what we want to accomplish together as a group of men, we have to go back to the very beginning and reestablish what it is that we're trying to do."
He said. "So men, welcome to day one of training camp. We begin this way." He reached under the little table he had and he pulled out a pigskin, a football, and he said, "Guys, here we go. This is a football." Max McGee, who was on that team, who was rather famous for his exploits off the field as well for sometimes his accomplishment as a receiver on the field, just immediately shot his hand up and said, "Coach, could you repeat that? You're going a little quick for a few of us right here."
Some of you may feel like that, that, "Hey, are we going to go back over and talk about the basics of what it's going to take for us to be a body that God is using when we've maybe had a few seasons of success already?" I want to tell you, "Absolutely." We want to go back and remind ourselves not just how to block and tackle, but why we're in the game anyway.
What these gifts really represent, what these things that we are passionate about pursuing together, what we're really saying is we would rather stop playing community of faith, we would rather stop gathering together, we would rather cease to exist as a group of friends who say they want to honor and serve Christ rather than compromise on any one of these 10 things.
Last week, if you can remember, we started with the ultimate gift I would give my kids, which is a life that understands who the author and giver of life is. I want my kids to have a covenant relationship with and a deep, abiding love for the one who is the way, the truth, and the life. In other words, if I could have my kids wed themselves to anybody it would be to Jesus.
Then in being wed to him in a covenant relationship, I would want my kids to really not just stay undivorced from Jesus, but I would have my kids be passionate and conforming themselves into his image. Just like any healthy relationship they would leave, which is to say adjust and refocus, every relationship or activity in order to grow closer to this one who they've made a covenant relationship with.
I would want them to evaluate everything that was coming by asking themselves this question,."Will it allow me to be closer to Christ or will it drive me further away from him? If it drives me further away from him, I will not cleave to it because I want to cleave to Jesus that I might become one with him."
What we said is that we believe here that full devotion is normal for believers. Now as Josh does such a great job of saying every week, we are so glad that there are some folks who are trusting us with their Sunday morning, they're trusting us with their time to come here, that haven't decided yet that Christ, that Jesus, is where life is. We're thrilled that you're here.
We wouldn't expect you to sing about him, to respond to him, or to adjust or refocus your life the way that we do. When you come to a place, when you take the name of Jesus, when you say, "That's my King," then we're going to get involved with you in a radical way to say, "Then let's fully respond to that." Full devotion is not for our staff. It's not for those who teach conferences. It's not for those who are training to be on staff. Full devotion is normal for every single follower of Jesus.
We are very intentional about the way that we come alongside of each other and say, "How can we serve you? How can we help you? How can we help you take a spiritual inventory and ask yourself, 'How have I done at adjusting my life in a way that honors my Lord? How have I done at taking things out or bringing things in that will make me more like him? How have I done at becoming a greater glory to the one who I love, who I say that I worship as King?'" With a lot of grace, we just go 100 miles an hour after that.
Well, just like we believe it's normal to have an absolute commitment to the living Word of God, we believe that it's absolutely essential that you have a commitment to the written Word of God. Now as I try and share with you this second gift that I would give you, which is a passion for God's Word, that it would be the authority in your life, that it would be that which speaks to your conscience. It would be that which tells you where to stay strong with some ideas and where to be flexible with ideas. It wouldn't be up to you. It's just yield to God's Word, his perfect and tested Word.
I started to ask myself, "Well how can I motivate folks to do that? As a daddy who wants to give that gift to his kids, how can I convince my kids that this is an awesome gift to receive?" I sat down and I wrote down a number of things that I believe would happen in my kids' lives if they took this gift that I wanted to give them and embrace it and love it and ingest it and be consumed by it. I want to share them with you in just a second.
I want to create a vision for you that if you receive this gift, if you take this gift, if you pay attention to it, if you treasure it, if you seek it, if you diligently pursue it, it's going to provide for you something you can't even imagine. After I'd done this, I sat down my boys. My girls were out last night, so I sat down my boys.
I said, "Guys, I want to give you a gift." They were like, "I'm in! I'm in! Go!" They're sitting there. They're all excited. I go, "Here's the deal. I want to give you a gift that's going to produce something in your life, guys, that you're not going to believe. In fact, let me just tell you. If you take this gift and you receive it and you cherish is and you honor it, this is what it's going to do in your life.
Son, I want you to know if you take this, one day you will be able to answer the most complex problems in the world with absolute confidence. One day, if you take this gift, son, you'll be able to face the darkest and most difficult circumstances that could come at you through life with hope.
One day, son, you will be sought out by multitudes to provide for them comfort, guidance, and leadership in their distress and you will be found ready, full of unfailing confidence so that you can serve those people who will seek you out because you have this gift. You'll serve them well. Son, listen, if you take this gift, one day you will be able to stand firm against the passions of your flesh. You'll unwaveringly remain pure though all the folks around you will fall due to irresistible titillations of the moment."
Now about this time, my 7-year-old goes, "Dad, I was thinking it was the new Xbox 360 game!" I go, "Well, hang on," because I understand why to a 7-year-old some of this stuff doesn't sound great, but my little 10-year-old is sitting there with me and listening. I said, "I want to give you this gift. If you take this gift, one day you'll be a pillar of strength for a world that is ready to collapse under the weight of its foolishness.
One day, you're going to be able to stand strong when everybody around you crumbles. If you'll take this gift, one day you'll be able to speak and others will be fed by the fruit which pours forth from your lips. If you'll take this gift, one day you'll be able to reveal to others what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard.
You will be able to unveil powerful truths that never entered into the hearts of men. One day, you will be used to restore souls. One day, you will be used to enlighten eyes. One day, you will be used to inform minds and rejoice hearts and you'll do all that with perfection. One day." I sat down one day and I thought to myself, "God wants us to be men. The Scripture says that." "…act like men…"
I read that in 1 Corinthians 16 in verse 13 one day. I go, "Okay, God wants us to act like me. What's a man? How would you define manhood?" So I also sat down one day, and I came up with a definition for manhood so later in my kids' life when they would say, "You're a man," they would know exactly what I meant that you would be a man.
I shared that with them. This next thing I said to them I said, "This gift I'm giving you specifically is going to be a means through which you become a man like no other gift I'm ever going to give you. If you take this gift," and here's my definition of manhood built right into this, "one day you'll be ready to step up and lead courageously. You'll be able to speak out boldly with great confidence when others around you are shaken.
You'll be able to stand firm bravely when others back off. You'll be able to stay humble continually, if you take this gift, and you will be able to serve the one true King nobly." For my kids, what I'm shaping in them is that definition. "Hey, I want you guys; I want you to be individuals who step up. You reject passivity. You're a leader.
You don't wait for somebody else to fall into the gap. You fall into the gap. You speak out against injustice, against wrong. Right now it's bullying on the playground and all the politics of elementary school, but one day you're going to speak out on a much grander stage. You're going to stand firm when those who speak out are criticized and attacked. You're not going to fall back because you're a man. Men stand firm.
You're going to stay humble because you're not a perfect man. You worship a perfect man. You're going to constantly be reminded of where your life needs to be refined. You're going to stay humble. You will serve the King, the only one whose opinion matters. That's what a man does. You'll live for a greater reward with great expectation that one day when you hear those words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant,' for the way that you've stewarded your life as a man, you'll enter into his rest.
If you take this gift, this gift like nothing else your dad's going to give you, is going to get you there. One day, you will be blessed," I told him, "because your '…delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.'" Listen, gang, can you imagine if somebody offers you a gift that would do those things?
You might go, "You have to be kidding me! There's nothing in the world that could do that for me!" Well, there's something that God has brought into the world that can do exactly that. If it is true that that's what God's Word can do, why wouldn't you avail yourself to it with all of your heart? What I told my boys, "Listen, this is what God's Word says about himself. In Psalm, chapter 19, verses 7 to 11, it says, 'The law of the LORD is perfect…'"
I tell them, "Look, your daddy is not perfect, but God's Word is perfect and it can restore your soul. 'The testimony of the LORD is sure…' The example of your daddy? Sometimes your dad is going to fail, but not here. 'The precepts of the LORD are right…' Hey, guys, the practices of your daddy sometimes? They're going to be wrong, but not with God's Word. It's going to rejoice your heart if you follow him. 'The commandment of the LORD is pure…'"
I told them, "Look, sometimes the instructions your daddy might give you could be polluted by my flesh, but you'll never have that problem with this book. 'The fear of the LORD is clean…' Okay, following me sometimes may not be the absolute right way to go, although I purpose myself to do all that I can to be a godly leader, but let me just tell you what I can tell you.
You follow God and his Word and you will never, ever regret it. 'The judgments of the LORD are true…' I'm going to sometimes make mistakes, but not him, not this book. Take this gift. Make it your authority, conscience, and guide. You stand firm where it is firm and you be flexible where it is flexible."
Now there's a guy who was an individual who was known as the wisest man who ever lived. I'm going to talk a little bit more about how that came to be at one moment, but when he sat down, this earthly father, to share with his sons what it was that he wanted to impart to them, this is what he said.
In Proverbs, chapter 2. I'm going to read to you this little passage, this amazing passage. This dad is sitting down wanting to bless his kids and he said this. "My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures…"
Do you hear that? You have to be purposeful here. You have to receive, you have to treasure, you have to seek, you have to incline, and you have to search. "…then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God." Just like I tried to do with that little list you saw on the two side screens, this dad is now going to give a vision to his son.
He says, "When you do this, when you discern the fear of the Lord, this is what has happened. 'From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course.
For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways…'
You're going to find those folks out there, and this is the key to standing firm. Not only that, listen. There are not just going to be others around you who are going to try and take you off course; there's going to be something within you that's going to be an incredible pull in your life in the coming years. This is the key to being a man who is not a slave to his desires, to rule your flesh and not let your flesh rule you. You are not an animal that acts on the impulse of his feelings. You are a man. Your intellect and reason and a spirit of truth rules you, not a spirit of pleasure.
This gift, son, this gift can, '…deliver you from the strange woman, from the adulteress who flatters with her words; that leaves the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death and her tracks lead to the dead; none who go to her return again, nor do they reach the paths of life. So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.' You want to be a man? Take this gift."
Now what daddy would not want his sons to stay away from devious counselors and to not be ruled by the strange woman? What man who has become a slave to the lusts of his appetite and has been reduced to a loaf of bread like an ox lead to slaughter doesn't pray that his son does not get ruled by some habit, hang up, or issue in his life that has so painfully hurt him?
What guy, what mom doesn't want the man who comes into their young girl's life to be that kind of man? To pray that their little girl would be a woman of such strong fabric that she would not allow a guy who is less than this kind of man to come into her life, but if a man comes into her life that it would be that kind of man?
Here's what we do. This guy who wrote that little section of Scripture, there was a time in his life when he was given an incredible privilege. It was a privilege to lead. Up in my office in that building next door, there has been one verse or a couple of verses that I have right there over my desk that when I sit down, I read on a regular basis. I'm going to read them to you. I put them down there early on when we started to undertake this opportunity to serve God together as a community of friends.
I knew that my role was going to be at times to encourage and admonish you, to help you, to spur you on, to teach you all that I could that God wanted you to know. I ripped out of 1 Kings, chapter 3, this little section of Scripture. It's when Solomon was at a moment in his life where he had just been installed as a leader of a group of people.
He said, "You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You…" I want to do the same thing. "…and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day." Then he went on to say this.
"Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?"
Who is able to lead well? Who is able to be somebody who says, "This is the way we ought to go." Who really can handle that responsibility? Look, all of us are in a position where we're influencing others. Some of you guys are influencing a group of friends. Some of you guys are shepherding a family. Some of you guys are shepherding an office. Some of you ladies out there are shepherding individuals where you work, where you lead. You're leading others in a social network, men and women.
You go, "You know what, God? You have put me here sovereignly to provide some source of salt and light, some source of hope and direction for this group of people. I have no idea how I might be able to do this effectively, so will you help me?" Let me just tell you. I love when my kids come home from school or wherever they've been hanging out with their friends and they say, "Dad, can I talk to you for a second?"
I said, "Sure, what's up?" They said, "Something is going on right now. I would love your help." Now to this moment (my oldest is in high school) from freshman year in high school all the way down to the dynamics of a preschool playground, when my kids have asked me, "Hey Dad, there is something going on at recess. There is something going on in my classroom. There is something going on with my teammates. I'm not really sure how to handle this bully, this insecurity, this frustration, this loneliness."
I have been able, with my 45 years of wisdom, to sit down and speak into their life in a way that has blessed them and enabled them to go back and know how to handle the situation that they're confronted with. I'm just 32 years ahead of my oldest. I am absolutely knocking elementary school and junior high out of the park. You've heard me say this before.
I think if I went back right now, and I really believe it, I could dominate kindergarten. I could! They would go, "This dude, he is unbelievable in the way that he navigates the social dynamics of 5- and 6-year-olds. It's like he is older than them, more wise and mature. He is a gift to our class." I really believe that the principal at that school might make me the Positive Panther for the month in the way that I live my life.
When my kids come to me and say, "Dad, will you help me with your wisdom navigate through elementary and middle school and junior high and high school," I have something to give them and I delight in doing it. Look, if I with just three decades of advantage over them, speak into their life that way, I have a hunch that my Father who is eternal can speak into my 46-year life, and say, "Do you want me to help you with that? In fact, I have to enter into time to even understand it, but since I created it and I know you're in it, I'm here to help you.
Anytime you want help, sit with me, and just say, 'How do I go through this one and not be full of despair or discouragement? How do I handle my insecurities? How do I handle a world that's sucking me towards finding life in fleeting things? How I handle these passions of the flesh? Why did I feel so strongly that I need to act this way if you don't want me to act this way because it's going to hurt me? How do I deal with that?'"
I think you have a loving heavenly Father who is desperate to help you. Let me just speak into your life for a second, guys, because I know some men they go, "Listen, I want to lead my family. I want to be that kind of dad. I want to be that kind of employer." I know some of you gals are like, "I want to be that kind of leader in my groups and in my areas of influence where I serve in industry and leadership in my world, but I'm not really sure that I know as much as other people around me."
You guys, I've heard a number of you specifically say, "My wife is in studies. While I go to work, she goes to BSF. She comes here on Wednesday mornings. She goes there on Thursday nights. She has been discipled. She studies her Word. The kids are now at school and she has become a student. How do I lead that girl? She knows more Bible than I'll ever know."
I want to say, "Here's the deal. Being a spiritual leader doesn't mean you're the first one to know the chapter and verse that speaks to a specific topic. Being a spiritual leader ultimately entails this. When you come across a situation, being a spiritual leader is you're the first one who says, 'Hey, I may not know exactly what my loving Father wants me to do at this moment, but I will assure you this: I'm not going to move forward, I'm not going to act until I am certain that this is what he would say to me in my little recess of life.
So sweetie, hey, have you been looking at something recently in one of your studies that speaks into this? As I've been trying to journey through God's Word myself right now, nothing is coming to my mind. Do you have an idea of what God would say about whether or we make this investment, whether or not we take on this financial burden, whether or not we sell this house, whether or not we purchase that car, whether or not we allow our kid to watch that movie?
Do you have an idea what we should do of whether or not we should have this activity involved with our social interaction with our friends? If we don't know, sweetie, that's okay because we're connected with a network of believers who have walked with God, some of them for decades. Some of them have really hidden God's Word in their heart. We can go to them and they can tell us before we make this decision.'" That's what a spiritual leader does. You can be that.
When I was a young man, my dad told me a story that has stuck with me for a long time. It's a story, he said, of the smartest man who ever lived. Now the smartest man who ever lived was sought out all over the world to come and answer questions and to speak and to give direction and influence to people.
He had a butler, so the story said in that day and age (today we'd call him a personal assistant) who traveled with him. This butler would always be impressed at the way his master could answer questions and help third-world countries and help complex political issues and incredible relational conflict with incredible wisdom and insight. He solved business issues. He solved relational issues.
He'd speak with jewels every time he opened his mouth. He also heard his master enough that he said, "You know what? I think I can do what you can do." So the guy said, "Well, you're in luck because tomorrow I am getting on our little jet and I'm flying somewhere to a group of people who have heard of me, but do not know me.
They won't really know what I look like. I'm speaking. Why don't I go, and I'll be your butler, I'll be your personal assistant and you speak and you show me what you have learned and how much you know." The guy said, "Okay, I'm in." The next day, the smartest man in the world dressed up like the butler and the butler dressed up like the smartest man in the world and they went in the jet and they landed.
The smartest man in the world was attending to him. The time came for him to speak and the man got up there and he made about 10 minutes of introductory comments and then it was time for Q & A. And, dagnabbit, the very first question out of the chute caught the butler off guard. The smartest man in the world always has an answer and he always spoke with an "apples of gold and setting of silver" kind of wisdom.
He sat there and he heard this question and he thought to himself, "Oh my goodness." My dad looked at me at the point in the story and said, "Todd, what do you think the butler did at that moment?" I said, "I don't know. Freaked out? Ran? I don't know. What did he do, dad?" He goes, "I'll tell you what he did." The guy said, "Let me tell you something. That is such an easy question, I think even my butler can answer that question."
My dad was telling me that story. He goes, "Look, I know you think I'm just some pigeon that's around here to kind of make sure you have your glove when we go to baseball practice. I know you think your daddy is not the smartest man in the world, but there are going to be some times when you're going to be confronted with some things and you're going to hear some questions that you may not know what to do. I would encourage you to consult your butler because he can help you."
Can I tell you something? I have a Father in heaven who wants to serve me. He says, "Todd, listen. You go, boy. You go be a man, but know this, man. I am for you. I want you to be a success as a man, so turn to me." You know what? "That's so easy my God can handle that. God, tell them what you would do and then make sure we do it."
Now watch. Look at what God says in his Word. Solomon had learned from his father David that ultimately the man who God wants to bless is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. David had written to him, "Son, don't stand in the path of sinners. Solomon, don't sit in the seat of scoffers. But you, my son, you delight yourself in the law of the Lord and on that law meditate day and night." He probably took Solomon one day out in Israel and he walked him by a stream.
He said, "Solomon, do you see this mighty oak that gives shade? Do you see this mighty oak that gives provision? Do you see this mighty oak that others marvel at? This is not like that tree set out there in the middle of the wilderness that really is a hollow hole for raccoons. This is a tree of life. You want to be an oak? You want your roots firmly planted by streams of water? You want to be a fruit-bearing tree that bears its fruit in season and does not wither when the heat comes and whatever he does, he prospers? Then you, son, sink your roots in God's Word."
A number of years later, Isaiah was reviewing what it was that God wanted. God said this to the people of Israel through Isaiah, chapter 66, verse 2. "Do you want to know who I look to? Do you want to know who I want to hold up? The one who is humble enough to know that there is a Father who is eternal, who has more wisdom and insight than they do.
Who is contrite enough in spirit to say, 'Not my will, but your will be done.' Who doesn't just know my Word, doesn't just say, 'My Word is important,' but he trembles at my Word and he is careful to do according to all that is written in it." That's why you find so many great leaders in the Bible who go back over this kind of thing.
This is what Joshua said when he was installed as a leader. He said, "Look, I want to remind myself of this, and I want to be reminding other people." "This book of the law [that God has given us] shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it…"
Because then when we do that the Scripture says, "…then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have…" a life that others look at and go, "You know what? That's the kind of life that if there was a wise man who lived, he would live. That's the kind of life that is glorious. That's the kind of life that if God had a friendship with a man, a man would live." Moses said at one point to his friends when he was speaking. He said,
"Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you."
I was out speaking one time to a group of men who were in the middle of some discussion about how they should lead the communities of faith that they represented. They had asked me and a few friends to come and speak with them and help them navigate themselves through this. There was obvious conflict amongst them.
The leader of that group at one point stood up and said, "You don't understand. You keep calling us to God's Word to resolve this, but what people in this room don't understand is that we are a group of people who have covenanted together under a constitution. We must make sure that our ideas are consistent with our constitution. It is important that you operate under the constitution of your church. You don't know our constitution, so you cannot help us. The problem here is that men do not want to operate under our constitution."
I looked at him and I said, "You are absolutely correct, but your problem is this is not your constitution. You have added to it or you have taken away. Where you have added to it, you put burdens on yourself that God never intended for you to have: limitations about leadership, limitations about decision-making that God did not intend for shepherds and leaders to have.
I agree you should live according to the constitution, but this is your constitution. If you live under a different set of bylaws and rules, then call yourself something other than the church of Jesus Christ because this is Jesus' Word to you and he doesn't need you to improve upon it. Don't add to it or take away from it."
Folks, you want to know who we are, as you get ready to write another chapter with us? We are individuals who fearlessly want to stand firm where this is firm. We don't care if it's politically correct or not. We want to learn to say it with increasing wisdom and gentleness, but we are not going to back off what God has said because we think it would gain for us favor with a world that's growing increasingly antagonistic toward him.
If this book goes down, I want to go down with it. This is our constitution. Can I tell you something as a friend? If you are here and we ever don't operate consistent with it, leave. Leave right away. Find a place where you'll be underneath individuals who say, "Hey, this is the Word of life and we're going to be careful to do according to all that is written in it, not the ideas and the inklings of men, but this book."
He continued in chapter 4 of Deuteronomy, verse 5, when he said this. "See, I have taught you statutes and judgments…" This is what a leader wants to say at the end of his day. "…just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'"
See, gang, I think if we do that, if we become a group of folks who live wholeheartedly with this book… I'll just be honest with you. For whatever reason, okay, God has given us favor with other people who are trying to lead communities of faith. So just like this week I had a chance to go speak to several thousand leaders of ministry at a conference. One of the questions I always get asked is, "What has been a secret to what's happened over there at Watermark?"
I tell them all the time, I go, "I don't mean to be too trite in my response to this, but I will tell you. I really believe that all that we're doing is we are recklessly, fearlessly, uncompromisingly pursuing God's Word. We're calling people to love Christ, to love his Word, and to love others. That is it, and people are responding to the person of Jesus Christ and to the wisdom of God's Word.
They're responding to a group of leaders who in the hundreds are saying, 'Follow us as we follow Christ.' They're seeing transformation in the lives of those leaders. They're seeing a goodness in the life of the leaders that folks are going, 'Who are these people?' It's exactly what happened in Acts, chapter 2," I said.
There's a sense of awe. Why? Because the leadership is giving attention to the apostle's teaching. They are consistently gathering together to remind themselves in prayer what God wants. "God, we're not asking you to do what we want. We're just saying, 'Make our hearts like yours.' Let's get together and remind ourselves about the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Let's not hold our possessions like they are our life, but when we see need, we care for one another."
We have said at our church. I'll say it again now. If you're a member of this body who is pursuing Jesus Christ, you will never be homeless unless we're all homeless. It won't happen. There is a sense of awe that has happened here. The Lord is adding to our number day by day and God has given us favor with the people. We are together in sincerity and gladness of heart.
I go, "That's what I want. That's what God wants for you, but you have to stop doing things in a way that you think is going to allow that to happen. Just do this. Follow this book. Make it your master. Make it the way of life for you." I have to tell you. I really believe that's why God has chosen to allow us to represent him and to send his people to us because we're trying to love the way that he would love them.
We don't have any new insight, but we are doing things… And I quoted then from 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, verses 9 through 12. "'THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN…'" We are leading with that kind of inside information.
We believe that, "…ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." Then I went on and quoted verse 10. "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God."
So I say, "Do you want to know what we're doing at Watermark? 'Now we have received, not the spirit of the world [and church growth] , but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God…' That we could be a group of friends in the thousands who love and pursue him and can love and serve others. That's it."
Now they're never satisfied with that answer. They want to know about some creative things you're doing on Sunday morning. They want to know about some facility. I have to tell them, "I've had a facility for two weeks, but God has given us something so much more important than a facility. He has given a group of men and women a passion for his Word. He has seen fit to bless it."
Hey, has someone come up to your family recently and said, "Can you tell me how you do this? What's the secret to your family? Where's your wife working out? Where are you employed? Where do you shop? What are you guys eating? What's the secret to having that kind of harmony? Why do my kids love coming to your house? What are you doing over there? What game did you buy? Do you have a Wii? Is that what you have?"
"Here's the deal, man. There is a spirit in our house which is not of us. It's the Spirit of Christ. We're loving and serving each other as best we can. We're acknowledging our mistakes. We're resolving conflict the way God is teaching his people who love him to resolve conflict. Your kids love that. I'd love to share with you what my Dad, not the one who lives in St. Louis, but the one who has created the heavens and the earth. He wants to lead you the same way so that your home can be that."
I love that phrase that's right there in that little section of Scripture. "…this great nation is a wise and understanding people." You don't hear that said about many churches today, do you? You go, "Man, look at those people that have just gone through that ritual. Who are those people who gather together on Sunday mornings? Who are those people who are trapped inside human organizations?"
That's what you hear most people say about the church. You know why? Because there are churches that are filled with good doctrinal statements that are stopping at doctrinal statements. God does not call us just to orthodoxy but to orthopraxy. Be careful to do them. I call them voodoo churches. What I mean by that is they have big Bibles. Boom! We're going to read from it.
Like in this little responsive moment, if we just read this little section of Scripture at this moment in our week, somehow it's going to magically change the rest of our week. God says, "No, man. Hey, have a great time reading it right then, but it's not some amulet. It's not some rabbit's foot you rub and then move on the way you want to move on. I want you to pay attention to it all the time."
That's why we say in here… Gang, we gather and we come together on Sunday mornings. This isn't church. This is the body of Christ coming together to just remind you that you're not crazy, to remind you that you're not in this alone, and to spur you on to love and good deeds. This is worship, when we sing like this, with a small W. WORSHIP, in size 56 font, W-O-R-S-H-I-P? That is what we do when we leave here with all of our lives.
We come to a worship time where the God who is so good that the very thing he created us for, as Josh said today, is the very thing that blesses our hearts because we sing about the God who is great that we might then go, "Why would I pay attention to that kind of dad?" Do you get it? It's where the Lord is passionate for us.
Listen to the claims of Scripture. Proverbs, chapter 3. "She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace." I want to go make an infomercial and go, "I have a product for you! This product will lead you to peace. It is more precious than silver."
I mean, by the time I got done before I told them what the product is, they're going to be crawling through the TV going, "Where do I get that? How much does it cost?" No, God wants to freely give it to you! Listen, Deuteronomy 30, "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach."
See, you don't have to go find the right mountain with the right trail with a gifted Sherpa to get you to the right altitude to find the right cave with the right guru who maybe you could get some wisdom that would help you in life. God is always going to be more anxious for you to know his will than you'll ever be to seek it. This is what this says.
"It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity…"
When was the last time that you go, "This is life and prosperity right here!" That'll make you not watch Entertainment Tonight and open this book. That'll make you lose a little sleep in the morning to open it up. It's a gift of life and prosperity. Look, we are not bibliolaters. There's a world of difference between knowing the Word of God and the God of the Word. Okay?
We're not going to teach it and study it and call you to it because we want to beat Northwest Bible Church, Stonebriar, and Bent Tree in the next Bible Bowl. That's not our goal. Okay? You ought to know God's Word because that's where you know the God of the Word. There is no relationship that is good without communication. Your Daddy wants to talk. Life and prosperity.
It is why, at the end of Paul's life, he said this. "Timothy, all Scripture has been given to us by the Spirit of God. You want to know what's in a man? You have to talk to the man's spirit. You have to get to know what's really inside of him. The same is true with God. Well, the Spirit of God has freely given us his Word. It's come through men. It alone, Timothy… It alone it is profitable." That's what the idea of this verse is.
There is nothing else in your life that you should let instruct you, teach you, guide you, reprove you, correct you, or train you. Nothing. This book alone should be your authority. Let nothing else complement it. It alone should be your teacher because it's from God, and he wants to give you life and prosperity. He is for you. He wants you to dominate elementary school.
Sit with your Daddy. Pay attention to it and you will. Step up like no man, no woman has stepped up in purity, in kindness, in love, in wisdom, and in truth. You will speak out. You will stand firm. You will stay humble because you'll constantly be reminded of how far you have to go, and you will serve the King in a way that the King will go, "That's the man who I support because he trembles at my Word. He doesn't just have it sitting there on some pulpit. He doesn't just have it written into his doctrinal statement. He has it informing his life."
Folks, it'll change you. I find people all the time who ask me that simple question. They say, "My life has been a wreck even though I love Christ." I want to say, "But are you walking with him?" I have to tell you, I've never found anybody who said, "I've lived my life according to God's Word, and my life is still a wreck." I've never heard anybody say that.
I've heard people say, "Since I've trusted Christ, I'm still a screw-up." I go, "Okay. Well, we all are. There's grace and forgiveness there, but are you training yourself by God's Word?" "Well, I'm not really reading my Bible." "Okay, let's talk about that. How can you learn to walk like your Daddy wants you to walk toward the paths of life if you don't know how your Daddy wants you to walk?"
Get around some other brothers and sisters who are a little ahead of you and say, "Come on, let me help you. I can get you that direction." It's why Moses at the end of his life in Deuteronomy, chapter 32, verse 47, said this. "For it is not an idle word…" The idea of being idle means this is not a word which is to be unemployed in your life. Constantly put it to work. "For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life."
Is that how you feel? Is this your life? You go, "I'm not going anywhere until I know what God has to say about this situation. Honey, if we can't figure it out, thank goodness we're part of a family that might help us. Hey, has Dad ever said anything to you about this? He has. He has." Moses encourages them that direction. That's why I do what I do today.
Second Timothy, chapter 4, verses 1 and 2. Same admonition. Paul, at the end of his life, "I solemnly charge you [Tim] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season…" Which is to say all the time in a poetic way. "…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." Then he goes on another place to say, "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture…"
Do you want to lead well? Lead the way your Daddy would lead. Call people to what your Daddy calls people to. Hey, I want to just very quickly just close with this little comment. You know, our country got off to a great start. The reason it got off to a great start is because there were a group of men who simply said this. "How can we lead this great new nation of ours?"
They sat down and they said, "We don't want to be ruled by a king. We want to be ruled by law." Not rex lex, the king is law, but lex rex, the law is king. They sat down and they said, "This is the law which will allow men to live in a way where they will prosper." They formed a way to govern themselves that involved the democracy. This is what was written a number of years later about a democracy. It was written about a guy who did not know God, Rousseau.
He said, "If there were a nation of Gods, it would govern itself democratically. A government so perfect is not suited to men." Because Rousseau, in his darkness, knew that men could not govern themselves. If they have a chance to influence and vote, they will vote for that which will lead them to despair unless those men are governed by a law that is true and perfect and right.
George Washington, early on as president of our country, in one of his inaugural addresses said this. "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. It will be impossible to rightly govern the world without God [and the Bible.]" John Adams said this. "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to govern any other."
Folks, you want to know why our country is no longer a city on a hill? Because our constitution is not made for a godless people. When people can vote and that vote is not informed by a loving Father but by an impetuous, self-indulgent, I-know-better-than-anybody child, that family is bent on disaster. That's what we have become.
We have become that because the institution which God said was to preserve morality and wisdom, the church, has made the Bible more about some doctrinal statement or some ceremonial attended-to thing than it has been a rule of life. It's not the government's fault. In fact, do you know this?
September 11, 1777. Think of the irony. The Continental Congress gathered together an appropriated $300,000 for the purchase and distribution of Bibles throughout the 13 colonies because it knew if we're going to prosper as a people, here's where life and prosperity is. We'll do the best we can to rule them from Philadelphia, but if God does not rule their hearts, these people cannot be ruled. Death will come among them.
A little bit later, Thomas Jefferson wrote to a group of men in Danbury, Connecticut, who were called the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut who were concerned that the state of Connecticut that was largely ruled by Congregationalists was about to make Congregationalism the primary faith, the state-approved faith. The Baptists wrote Jefferson in his leadership at the time and said, "Hey, we're Baptists. We worship God this way. The Congregationalists are about to say, 'You have to be a Congregationalist in Connecticut.'"
That is where Jefferson wrote in a letter, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."
Our leaders believed that men should have morality in Christ inform their rule of life, but it said, "We're not going to tell you to be Episcopal, Anglican. We're not going to tell you to be Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist, or whatever you want to be. But mark my word, people, when all of you guys whatever you call yourself and your –ic, -asm, or -spasm, don't love God, we are doomed." That's not just true of America. It's true of you. It's true of me. Are you committed to that book? Are you studying it like Ezra?
Here's where I close. Ezra, chapter 7, verse 10. There are four things here. "For Ezra had set his heart…" First thing. If I could give you a gift, I would give you a passion to study, to be committed to, to be consumed with, and focused on God's Word. Ezra said, "This is who I am as a man. This is how I'll discipline myself for the purpose of godliness."
"For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach…" That's the deal. Read it through. Pray it in. Live it out. Pass it on. Read it to be wise. Believe it to be holy. Practice it to be godly. Share it to be useful. If we do that, folks, God would love to use us to shepherd others. He'd love to bring people to these seats that are still available. He'd love to use us to be salt and light for his purposes. Will you join me?
Father, I thank you for my friends and the chance to come and remind ourselves, "What are we doing? We have words of life here. We don't have to cross some ocean. We don't have to climb into the heavens to figure out what right is. You have given it to us." So Father, today we just come.
We just say, "Lord, give us a passion for your Word." Not because we want to impress people with our knowledge, but because we want to be careful to do it, and we can't do it if we don't know it. So Lord, help us to read it through. Let it meld deeply in our hearts, to practice it and to share it. We love you, Christ, and want to honor you with all that we're about as your children, amen.
Hey, because of where we are time-wise, we want to release people and let you go. Every week, gang, when we come in here we think it's a great privilege to interact with those of you who are trying to figure out if this Bible is worth following, if this Jesus is worth serving. Right down here to our left, you go through those doors, there's a room, and you can go out the other way.
There's a group of people who just hang out in there who just want to begin to interact with you where you can ask any question and we will not be offended. If you say, "How do you know God's Word is God's Word? How do you know Jesus really is the way, the truth, and the life?" We'd love to interact with you about that.
If you are a follower of Christ and you're looking for a community of friends and family to pursue him with, there's a room right over here where you can connect and just begin to say, "Hey, I want to get a little bit further involved with you." Just go that direction. We love you and as we leave, be encouraged by the words that Josh and others sing. I ask you to have a great week of worship. God bless you.
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.