If our lives have truly been touched and transformed by God's grace, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of this gift. Have we allowed ourselves to be transformed by His Word, His Spirit and His people to the point that people will believe us when we tell them the Good News? Are we content to be spiritually apathetic and practically pathetic, or do we order our lives in a way that evidences our love for those who are far from God?
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
There's a recent study that just came out by a guy who looks specifically at folks ages 16-29. The reason I think this is an interesting statistic is because typically it's the younger generations that'll tell us the truth. They're not as concerned with feelings. They're not as trapped in some of the cultural mores and expectations. They'll just say, "Hey, the emperor is naked!" They don't mind telling you that.
This study looked at the spiritual attitudes of 16- to 29-year-olds and what they have been seeing. What's really interesting is that this specific generation of people who represent that 15 years feel more disengaged with spiritual things and are more disillusioned about Christians in the church than any before. In fact, eight times as disillusioned and discouraged as the same group just 10 years ago.
The study shows that only 3 percent, that's 3 out of 100 individuals in that age group, had a favorable view toward those who they were told had a devoted relationship with God. When they asked those folks 16-29 what they thought about people who said they were devoted to Christ, nine out of the 12 impressions that they gave were negative.
They said things like, "Well, they are hypocritical. They are judgmental. They are old-fashioned and stuck in their ways," and on and on they went. Folks out there said that they'd be interested if they found something that really spoke of a God who cares and loves and transforms, but they'll know it when they see it.
What do they see when they look at us? What do they see when they bump up against us? Do they go, "You know what? I wasn't really sure what a person who was transformed and touched by God looked like, but I think I see it in you." Let me tell you on the very first week we opened up this little building, I had down to share with you guys what often comes to my heart when I think about you specifically as a group of believers, as a group of friends that I'm just sharing life with.
One of the things that I typically do when I pray for you and for us together is I pray out of a little section of Scripture in Colossians. Colossians, chapter 1, verses 9 through 12. Here's a little prayer. This is what Paul said. "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it…" The it there is of your faith. "…we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of [God's] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…"
He goes on to say after that his heart is, "…so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the [calling that you have been called] Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; [I pray that you would be] strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light."
When I pray for y'all, that's one of the places I go just to pray things that I know God has had his men pray for people that they love for a long time. Specifically, that we would be individuals who would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. Now the thing I was going to tell you that I was going to ask you all to pray for me is also something I pray for you, but it comes also in Colossians in chapter 4, verses 2 through 4, where it says this.
"Devote yourselves to prayer…" I was going to ask you guys just to be about that toward me and toward those who you know represent Christ, which would be each other. "Devote yourselves to prayer keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…" Then watch this. This is what it goes on to say. "…praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned…"
There's a real important order to these two prayers. That we would be individuals who, first of all, would walk worthy of the Lord then, secondly, that we would take an opportunity and "…that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak." so those who do not yet have a relationship with God might have that relationship.
I want you guys to know that I pray that you might be strengthened in your man according to the will of God, that you'dgive thanks to God, that you'd bear fruit for God, and that you would walk in a way that people would look at and go, "That is worthy of the name of Jesus." Gandhi, when he was approached by a guy named E. Stanley Jones a long time ago and was asked why he didn't embrace Christ. He said, "Why don't you like our Christ?"
Gandhi looked at E. Stanley Jones and he just said this, "Listen, man, I have no problem with your Christ. I love your Christ. It's just that your Christians don't look anything like your Christ. So I'm not really open at this point. I'm disillusioned and disengaged with Christianity because I've not met anybody who suggests to me that there is something transforming and powerful there." There is really important order to this process, but I want you to understand it is a full process.
We are in the middle of a little series called Gifts I'd Give My Children. We're talking about things that I'm, as a dad, passionate to give to my kids. If I could have 10 gifts that I could give my kid, these would be the 10 gifts that we're working through these next number of weeks. I started with a deep and abiding transforming relationship with Jesus, where it's not just professional. It's not just platonic.
My kids really would love Christ, would really know this one who is the way, the truth, and life. To know Christ is to know life. I pray that kids would really engage with the Lord, have a relationship with him, and they would leave and adjust every relationship or activity in order to be covenantally committed to him.
They would cleave to him with everything they have meaning they would run everything through the grid of asking themselves this question, "Is this going to draw me closer to my Lord, closer to God, or is it going to push me apart from him?" Then they would either embrace it or run from it accordingly. That they would then walk in a manner worthy of their marriage to Jesus.
Then the second thing I want my kids to have is just a passion for God's Word. Because in order to live the way Christ wants you to live, you have to think the way Christ thought, which means you have to have the mind of Christ. You get that by being deeply embedded in a relationship with him and read what he says for you that you might know the mind of God, the Word of God.
That's why the Scripture says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…" Let this happen to you. Don't change yourself. Don't say, "I love God so I'm going to be different." No. Let God change you. Yield yourself to him. "…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." So you as a Christian look a whole lot more like Christ. So when you say, "I'm following Jesus," people go, "That is a path to walk on."
You have to get those two first, but when you get those two first, you have to realize God has a lot more in store for you than you just being an individual who starts to walk in a way that the world goes, "I want to tell you something. There is a wisdom, there is a joy, there is a fruit, and there is a solidity to that life that I am attracted to."
You are supposed to share with people the origin and the source of that transformation, that peace that passes understanding, that hope, that order that has come into your life. We are called to be individuals who learn to speak wisely and share with others the things that God has done with us, for us, to us as we've been brought near to him by grace.
I'm going to tell you the third gift I'd give my kids is an absolute understanding that God, having brought them near to him, expects them to bring others near to God. I'll tell you why I am personally very, very protective of a couple of things. Folks who have been around Watermark for very long know that our mission philosophy is that this is a mission.
People say, "What's Watermark's mission's effort?" I go, "Everything we do is a mission. Watermark is a mission." Church is not a building. Church is not a place. Church is not a time of the week. Church is a group of people who live missionally for him. We have said long that life is a long-term mission trip and every week is a short-term mission opportunity.
There are some 25 folks right now on a plane coming back from Africa who have been over there these last 10 days leading conferences on leadership and conflict resolution and the significance of an abiding relationship with Christ and how ruling your life and ordering your life in response to who Jesus is and who God is as revealed through his Word is the key to the instability and the genocide and the dysfunction that has been central Africa these last generations.
Governments in those regions and other organizations have asked you, this body specifically, to come over there and to speak to them and to share with them. So all throughout Burundi there has been magistrates, government leaders, civil leaders, public leaders, business leaders, pastoral leaders who have gathered together while individuals in this body have been talking to them about Christ.
In Congo, in Goma, there have been meetings with lawyers. There have been meetings again with military leaders. There have been meetings with government leaders. There have been meetings with civil leaders and pastors. In Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, same thing: women's conferences, pastors' conferences, business leaders' conferences, trips to prisons to speak hope there.
That's been happening through this body this week. I've had interaction with them this week, and I've told them while I'm jealous I'm not getting to experience the joy of that opportunity right now with you, let me tell you I know exactly where I was supposed to be this week and my short-term mission opportunity. I have had a ball this week, though, of course, I long to be with people who are being effective in other places.
Just like when I have a great conversation with somebody at lunch down there at Mockingbird and 75, when I hear about a friend who had a great conversation at the Tollway in Keller Springs, I long to have been there with them, but my short-term mission opportunity, that lunch, was down there.
Everything we do is missional. You are either a missionary or a mission field. There are really only two classes of people. The problem we have with so many bodies of believers in America today is that missions to them are when you go to the Dark Continent. Missions to them are when you leave your geography. I want to remind you.
From the very beginning we have said, "This is a mission." We don't send people places to go on a mission. Everywhere we go is our opportunity to be who God wants us to be, because having come into a relationship with Christ and being transformed by his Spirit and his Word, he expects us to walk through the doors that he gives us in the context of every day of our lives to share with people who God is and his love for them, what Jesus has done to draw them near to the God that their sin has separated them from, and to make a choice to follow him or not.
There is no option. Indifference is not a choice. It is the choice to say, "He is not my King," and it leaves them right where they were. I am passionate for my kids to realize that God has a great deal of interest in who they are as individuals who he expects to be useful to him in bringing others who he loves closer to him. I want to tell you why I'm passionate about this myself.
First of all, I know it to be the case that children who are raised in churchgoing homes, in professing believing homes, are exponentially more likely to become de-churched or un-churched people when they go away to college or off on their own if they grow up in a family that is not missional in nature.
What that means is the children who go to college and effectively walk with Jesus Christ, kids who leave parents who say they love Christ who continue to love Christ when they are independent, are consistently children who grew up in homes not where parents "went to church," but in homes where they saw their parents be missional in their living.
They saw their parents be intentional in their friendships with others. They saw their parents pray for lost people, engage with folks who are either platonic in their relationship with Jesus, who are walking in kind of a dead morass, who have been inoculated with a mild enough form of Christianity that they become immune to the real thing.
Kids who watch their parents actively engage people to devotedly follow Christ are kids who understand that Christianity is not a club that you go to on Sunday mornings and then get on with your life. They begin to see, "I understand that God loves me and changes me and makes me salt and light so that I might bring about a thirst in others and become a lamp to others to direct them toward the ultimate source of light, Jesus Christ."
When kids see Mom and Dad live that way, it affects them and they go, "This is not just a doctrinal creed that we check. This is not a box on the sentence that we record. This is a way of life. I see my parents being used significantly to deliver people out of darkness into light. I see my parents being used significantly to bring hope to hopeless situations. I see my parents caring and loving others and other people loving my parents because of it. I want some of that."
Hey, you want your kids to be kids who walk with Christ? Be missional in your living. I want my kids to be people with a purpose. I want my kids to embrace this. It blessed my heart this week. My sweet little seventh-grader Kirby was having her first little competition as an athlete for her school now that she's of that age. Before they got ready to take off on their little race to represent their school in a little cross-country meet, Kirby and a couple of friends pulled themselves aside and some of the girls said, "What are you doing?"
They said, "We're just going to pray." "You're going to do what?" Kirby said, "We're going to pray. We're just going to pray that we can do our best and that in doing our best, we would honor God because we think God is worth giving him all we have. It'll be fun if it helps our school win, but even if we can't help our school win by doing our best, we think it'll honor God. So we're just going to pray we can honor God."
She said, "Dad, it was so cool because a bunch of girls came over and I got to lead us in prayer and talk to some girls about how God has something to do with the way I run." I go, "Kirbs, way to go! Way to be missional in your living." I sit with my kids. I ask them, "Who are you praying for? Who in your class right now has something going on that you've noticed that we can pray for as a family?
Who can you talk to this week and maybe invite someplace where they can begin to be confronted with the truth of who Jesus is so that they might begin to find the hope that you guys are finding as you work your way through the very difficult years of elementary school, especially junior high and high school."
I love it. Let me tell you why I want this gift to be given to my kids. I want this gift to be given to my kids because I have found that people who are not committed to the uncommitted, people who are not missional in living become two things. They become spiritually apathetic andthey become practically pathetic. Those are two things I don't want my kids to be.
I don't want my kids to be spiritually apathetic. What do I mean by that? Well, I don't want my kids to be people who kind of come, show up someplace and sing a hymn, whether it's looking down at a piece of paper or looking up at a screen and kind of move on with their lives. They go, "Yada yada. We believe in God the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…"
Reading through their little creed and moving on. Doing their little daily devotional. Moving on. Never really understanding the amazing story of grace that is God interrupting us, seeking us, drawing us to him. I want my kids to have a vision for a life that matters in relationship with God that absolutely consumes them.
One of the things I get to do periodically is I get asked by some teams that come through to play the Cowboys to come out and do their chapel. One of the teams that does that when they're in town is the Rams. So last night, the Rams organization had called me and asked me to come out. It was a noon kickoff; they do their chapel on Saturday nights.
I went out there with my son, and I took another friend of mine and his son and we went, and I got a chance to talk to those guys. In talking to those guys, I was talking about what it really means to be a man. In fact, I had Cade, I said, "Cade, you start us off. I want you to read these verses. Read 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 to these guys, and it'll be a fun little story."
Cade gets up there and reads it. If you don't know, it says, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men…" I go, "Okay, say that again." So he looked up there at all these NFL linemen and said, "…act like men…" I said, "Say it again, Cade." "…act like men…" I go, "You go tell your buddies you told the Rams to act like men tomorrow."
By the way, public service announcement, if you're still foolishly betting on NFL games, I am 5‑0 in chapels, all right, previous to this. I don't know what that means. I'm thinking I'm going to be 5‑1 after today, all right? I told them that last night, which didn't go over real well. Nonetheless, if you want to slip out now like you need to go to the bathroom and call your bookie in the next 15 minutes, get on it.
Let me just tell you what I did. I sat with those guys and we talked about how they… It was interesting. I sat next to a guy named Ray Agnew. Ray was the tenth player selected in 1990 draft by the New England Patriots. Tenth guy picked in the NFL draft. I sat next to another guy who I've known from years past who has played for the Rams for 16 years.
We were talking about how Ray now is out of the NFL and how already the life that caused people to gather around him and that made people want to be part of his posse and know him… Now that he's just out of the NFL for a few years he is coaching still an NFL team, but he is no longer this man who other folks are trying to get around.
I talked to Andy who has been the center for the Rams for the better part of the last decade and half. He is saying, "I know my buddy Adam Timmerman, who just retired, is already enjoying being with his family. We already see that these things some of these young guys think is going to make them a man forever and have a rich and full life…
Ray is already experiencing it. I know it's coming for me. Tim already has it going on. There's so much more than just being a guy who has established himself as a man because he plays a game for a living. We love it." I love what Joe Ehrmann, who played for the Baltimore Colts, said for a long time.
He said, "We've dumbed-down where life can be found for men. We think manhood is defined by sexual conquest. We think it's defined by athletic ability. We think it's defined by financial success. What Ehrmann says to remember is that manhood is typically defined by what you do in the bedroom, by what you do in the boardroom, what you do with a billfold, and what you do on a ball field." Those guys are saying, "There has to be more to life than this."
The guys who are 16-year vets, the guys who are first round draft picks who are now out, they go, "You know what? If all these little boys do is grow up wanting to be like us, you get 2 or 3 years on average if you make it. Then the world isn't really attracted to you anymore. There's something far greater." That's what I talked to those guys about last night.
How about being a guy like Ray Agnew. Even though he was out of the NFL, he is a man of kindness; he is a man of integrity. He is a man who shepherds others well, who cares for people. I want to tell you something. You're blessed to be around a man like that. Even though you don't strap on shoulder pads anymore, put on a helmet, people want to be around that kind of man.
Not because he is a stud on a ball field, but because he is a stud in the way that he loves others, walks humbly with the Lord, practices justice and kindness. There's life there. When you get around the Word of God and what it produces, it'll make you go, "Who am I that God would draw me to him? Who am I that God would allow me to become the kind of man that the entire world stops and looks at and goes, 'Now that is a man!'"
When you share your faith and you talk about the fact that God has for some reason selected you, not to have the athletic skills of Michael Vick, not to be able to run as fast as Carl Lewis, but any man, any woman can be an individual who the world would look at and go, "Your life is not like our life. You are not self-centered and you are not wracked by insecurity and hopelessness like we are. There is a stability to your life. There is a perseverance in your life and a hope in your life. There is something going on with you. What is it?"
It'll make you very spiritually passionate. If you think you work hard to get to wear a jersey, you'll work hard to become more of that man, more of that woman. I want my kids to hear me say, "This is what a man is. This is what makes you essentially great." This is what it says in Philemon, chapter 1, verse 6. This is why you want to talk about what God has done in your life and what he can do for others. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith.
Look at a group of NFL guys that the world thinks are men and saying, "Guys, you're not a man unless you live this way, unless you're on the alert, unless you stand firm in the faith, unless you are strong, unless you let everything you do be done in love," 1 Corinthians 16:14 says. That's what makes you essentially great.
For Cade to get to sit there and look at those guys and say that made me go, "Cade, don't you ever forget that if you walk with Christ, you have what these men long for." "…and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ."
You'll not just be more spiritually passionate, but you'll be less pathetic. What do I mean by that? When you are active in sharing your faith, you know you can't share your faith very well unless you're an individual who has a life that when you share it will speak to the fact that you have a relationship with a God who does touch and who does transform.
You have to be an individual who does walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." You need to be an individual who bumps up against people who will tell the truth and when they look at you they'll go, "You know what? I don't know if Jesus is really a Savior, but you look like you've met one. Tell me more about why your life is so different."
It'll put you on the front lines to where you realize that what I do does matter. Now ultimately, whatever we all do doesn't give anybody a chance to write off Christ, because I tell folks all the time who don't like hypocrites, "If you don't like hypocrites, then Jesus is your man. Because there has never been anybody in the history of mankind who went after hypocrites like Jesus did. I mean, with reckless abandon.
He didn't just talk about hypocrites in the corner of the party behind their back. He went right into the very courts of their power and he said, 'Woe to you hypocrites. Woe.' In a way that got him nailed to a tree, but he didn't care because he was on the alert against those who denigrated the name of God. He stood firm in truth. He was strong, and he let everything he had done be done with love, but he did it like a man. Like a man who really loves what is true and right and honorable and pure." You'll become less pathetic.
One of the things that's true about my job is because I stand here like this before folks, there's a lot of people who I don't know who know me. I realize there are a lot of places I go where folks watch my life. They are either more drawn to Jesus because they go, "Okay, there's a guy who says he loves Christ and represents Christ. You know what? I like what he is doing."
There surely have been people who have seen me places and they go, "Huh. Huh. Not very impressed." A lot of people don't like to share their faith, don't like to go public with their covenant commitment to Jesus Christ because they realize, "If I do that, then my marriage ought to look different. My shepherding my child ought to be different.
If I go public, the way I interact socially ought to be different. The things that I take into my mind publicly and privately when I rent things and pay tickets to see things ought to be different. I ought to begin to love what is good and not what is evil. I, frankly, don't really want to do that. So hey, just me and this Jesus thing, we'll kind of keep it over here. I'll mean it; I just don't want anybody to know it because it'll change what I have to live like."
Let me just tell you something. You will be practically pathetic if you don't stand up and say, "Hey, count me as a follower of Christ. Don't make me your king. Don't make me your messiah. I am not." You should say. "But I want you to know that I seek to live a life that in every way honors my God and speaks to the fact that he is slowly changing me. So the way I employ you, the way I compensate you, the way I handle the compensation that you give me ought to look differently in light of me becoming more like Christ."
Are you willing to wear that label? If not, you'll be practically pathetic. I save, every now and then, a few things that I receive. Here's one that I got a while back. I asked this gentleman if I could share this. It's something I read on a regular basis just to remind me of what's going on with me because of how I am representing Christ to this world. He says, "Todd, as I close this little email to you in person I want to tell you this. I think you're honestly one of the greatest people I've ever met.
You set an example as a man, a father, a husband, a pastor, as a leader. On my biography in the place that I work, I listed you in my profile as the person I admire most. I often find myself trying to pattern myself after you, especially as a father to my children. I really mean it. I'm not trying to kiss your butt when I say it. (I love when I get emails like that.)
I'm telling you this because I have so much admiration for you as a follower of Christ, that if I ever find out that you've cheated on your wife, you've embezzled money from the church where you serve, or you do any other acts similar to those of other people who have said they love Christ who have walked away, I, and I'm sure many others, will completely lose all faith and I'll never be able to trust a leader again. I wasn't raised in a church. I didn't even know who Jesus was until a few years ago, so I place a lot of stock in you.
I hope you're not offended and I probably should not have written this because I know how seriously you take everything in your life and I know that there are risks involved with what you do, but I just want to thank you as it stands now for how you encourage my life. I'm proud to be a member of the body that you serve in and to be associated with people like yourself and others who are there. Don't screw up."
There was a paraphrase there at the end that I added, but that's what the letter said. I don't mind that letter. There are a number of you guys that's how we pray for you all the time. I want you to know something. I pray for you all the time. Because there are people walking around trying to figure out if Jesus is who we say he is based on how we love one another, deal with our sin, deal with our hurts and our hang ups, care for those who are less fortunate than us emotionally, physically, financially.
They're watching us and they're deciding if we have anything to say. I pray for you. Some of you have made a terrible decision which is to say, "You know what? I'll just keep my Christianity tucked away because that way I can live the way I want and it won't hurt Jesus." You are hurting Jesus if you don't announce to the world, "I'm wearing a ring. He is my loved one.
I want to adjust every relationship or activity so that it won't interfere with my covenant commitment to my newfound King. I want to evaluate everything I do by asking myself, 'Will it draw me closer to him or push me further apart?' and then appropriately run to it or avoid it like the plague because I am married to Jesus, who has passionately sought me and loved me just like I was, but he loves me enough not to leave me that way."
If you're not doing that, I guarantee you your life is more pathetic than it would be if you step up and say, "Imitate me as I imitate Jesus Christ." I want my kids to know that they may be the only Bible that some people ever read and to do the best they can. Stay humble. Acknowledge your wrongs.
Admit it when you could do better, but get out there and be a light. If you're not committed to the uncommitted, you will be spiritually apathetic because you won't be constantly reminded of God's great love for you expressed by Jesus Christ. You will be practically pathetic because you'll think your life doesn't matter, and it matters.
The second reason I want my kids to be committed to the uncommitted is because if they don't, they're going to miss out on the greatest life possible. Gang, I have to tell you this week, I had an unbelievable privilege just again both in spontaneous, divine appointments throughout my week and then sometimes in opportunities that I have had to go and share with some people.
This last Monday, I had a chance to go and be somewhere and talk to about 2,000 college kids. As I was speaking to them and I got done… Listen, there's one thing I really… I love to eat. I'm a big fan of food, good food. I like it. I just do. Food is one of my things, spices and sauces. I especially like it when somebody is paying for the meal.
After I spoke, the leaders of this particular place were waiting to take me out to lunch and to take me to a great restaurant they were excited to share with me. I was looking forward to going. My buddy and I were walking out as we walked out to meet these guys to get in the car with them and drive somewhere, and I saw somebody who was still sitting there and we stopped and we talked.
This young guy looked at me and said, "I just have to tell you, man. You talked about things in my life that I know I have to deal with." We sat and we visited with him. We prayed with him. We grabbed somebody who was in that location and we connected him with him. We started to walk out and we saw a little gal sitting in the back.
She made eye contact with us and we stopped and talked to her. We had a conversation with her. She looked at me and she said with tears, "I've been married for a month. Last night, my husband told me that he wasn't going to be intimate with me anymore except for once in a very prolonged period of time until I made myself more physically attractive to him." Just in brokenness and weeping this little girl goes, "What do I do?"
We went a little further. The car is still waiting. We stopped, and there was another kid who was sitting there. She said, "When I was 10 years old my dad left, and since that time I have looked for the love that a little girl is supposed to get from her daddy in all the wrong places. It is killing me." We sat and we prayed. We grabbed a gal from that area and we connected her with her.
They came back in and looked for us and said, "What are you doing? Aren't you hungry?" We said, "Oh, I'm hungry, but we have a bread that we are eating of that you do not know. It is filling me up." That's what Jesus said in John, chapter 4 when he was talking about this. When his disciples said, "Man, aren't you hungry?" He said, "Hey, I've already eaten, man. You don't know how rich this is."
When you give your life that way to other people… I'm sitting there, and those guys were great. Those dudes love Jesus. They go, "Hey, man, good for you. We'd have loved to have been there with you." This is what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. "Now all these things are from God…" These good things are what Paul is reckoning back to.
"…who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." He has given to us the privilege of being his ambassadors.
Look, it goes on to say, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." Do you understand what that means? That the God of the heavens is looking out there. "Who is going to represent me? Who is going to tell people about a place where there is no tear, where there is no sin?
Who is going to tell them that this world is not as I intended it to be? This is a broken world. There is sickness, there is insecurity, there is death, there is disease, there is betrayal on this earth because it is not run underneath my sovereignty and there are people who are running underneath a king who does not have their best interests in mind who wants to steal, kill, and destroy them.
But I have redeemed some, and I have made them my ambassadors. People who this world is not their home. I am sending you to that country decimated by genocide, death, poverty, materialism, greed, and power-hungry people and you speak hope to them. That is your privilege." I want to tell my kids, "Can I tell you something? How great would it be if the president of the United States called you and asked you to represent him in another land?"
They go, "That'd be pretty cool." "You'd get to be somebody who is the ambassador of the United States to this country. I have something even better that you won't get only because you've given a bunch of money to some political campaign as a favor. You'll get it because you're shown to be faithful."
God has a bunch of you in mind when he says, "You are my ambassador." If you go over there and you forget where you're from and you don't live in that other culture as if your culture really had something to offer them, then you are an ambassador gone bad. Your leader and king will not take kindly to it. I want my kids to know, there is no life like the life of being chosen by God to know him and to make him known. What a privilege.
It's the only life that you can live that isn't investing in fleeting things. See, in Matthew, chapter 6, verse 19-21, when Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," when Jesus was saying that, I don't think he was just talking about investing your financial resources, although clearly there was a major context of that.
I think he had in mind also what he said a little bit later in 2 Peter, chapter 3. Where he said, "Look anytime you invest in this world and anything other than that which is eternal, you're making a mistake." "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…"
Don't invest yourself in things. Invest yourself in people. When you are committed to the uncommitted, it is the only life where your investment and your intention profits forever. That's why when you go to funerals; you don't find people getting up to eulogize somebody saying, "Hey, you know what? I just want to tell you, I was really fortunate to know Jim. Jim? When we went fishing, Jim brought the best cigars. Jim had the best lake house. I just want to thank him for that. I love his lake house. Jim, when we wanted to carpool, Jim always had a newer year model car than I did. I love Jim and I'm grateful for the good things he possessed in life."
If a guy did say that, you'd go, "What? You used Jim." No, what you want is people to stand up at your funeral and say, "Look, I want to tell you something. This guy invested in me. This guy loved me. My life is different because of the time he invested in me." It is the only way to live that won't end up being fleeting and passing.
What Jesus is saying is, "You want to invest your resources? Invest them in a way where they are stored for you in heaven. You want to invest your life? Invest it in a way that when you get heaven, not only will your resources be waiting for you, but your relationships will be waiting for you."
And say, "Hey man, Jesus, I went ahead of this one, didn't I? That was the ambassador who you used, isn't it? That's the guy. That's the one who was passionate to tell me that he loved Christ and to watch his life. I knew it when I saw it. I saw that there was something going on in his life that was different. That's the guy, isn't it?"
"Oh, that's the guy."
"That's the one who even though he didn't have a long-time relationship in that moment, there was a divine appointment that you took and had the faith to step forward and make it a spiritual encounter. That's the guy, isn't it, that that one time sitting next to me, he's the one who shared with me. That's the guy."
"That's the guy. That's right."
Do you think there'll be a little of gladness there? How about Jesus who says, "I don't want any of them to perish. I want all men to come to me." How do you think he is going to feel when you get to bring him people who he died to save? Look, let's just be honest here. Theologically, God doesn't need any of us to bring people to him, but I want to tell you this.
Biblically? He has said he chooses to use you in participation with his Spirit to bring folks to him. That's why he left Paul in Corinth. Paul was ready to bug out of there because he was getting the socks beat off him. He said, "Don't leave, because there are many people in that city there who are mine." That was before a single person had trusted Christ that Paul knew of, but he said, "Paul, stay. Be my ambassador. Be committed to the uncommitted."
I want my kids to be absolutely passionate about those who are far from God because people who stop being committed to the uncommitted, they betray their profession of love for and adoration of Jesus Christ. I don't want my kids to be people who say they love Jesus but live a life totally contrary to that. Why do I say that? Because in Luke 19, verse 10, it says, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
So if it's part of Jesus' purpose on earth to seek and save the lost, don't you think at least a part of what we ought to be about is the same? How in the world can we say we love God and by grace are being conformed to the image of Jesus if we don't begin to increasingly think as he thought, do as he did, and speak as he spoke?
So if you, this week, have not been more intentional in pursuing lost people, have not been looking for God to create open doors for you to walk through, then I'm telling you, something is terribly wrong if you say you love God. Could you imagine Jesus living a day without having an encounter with somebody where he spoke about his Father in a way that potentially drew them more closely to him?
I want my kids to be people who are passionate about the uncommitted because it will something that says to God, "I love you and you love people who are far from you." In fact, there is only one place in Scripture where Jesus told three stories to make one point. It's in Luke, chapter 15. In that little section of Scripture, Jesus talks about a guy who had 100 sheep. He lost one of those 100 sheep. He left the 99 to go find the one.
A woman who had 10 coins. She lost one coin, couldn't find it. She didn't sit there and rejoice in the nine she had. She turned the house upside down to find the one. Then he came to a father who had two sons. One who was with him, but the other one was gone and giving his life away and squandering his resources on loose living and false friends. The father every day stood at the gate. When he saw that son far away, he ran to him.
Jesus tells these three stories, the 100 to the one, the 10 to the one, the two to the one. They get increasingly more valuable: sheep, provision, a son. All three stories are told for the purpose of illustrating, "Listen. Lost people matter to God. They ought to matter to you." In every one of these stories, something of great value is missing. In every one of these stories, that which was missing was worthy of an all-out search. In every one of these stories, when that thing that was lost was found, there was great rejoicing.
If you, this week, have not been concerned about those who are far from God, if you have not been part of his all-out search, if you are not absolutely thrilled like I am when somebody you've been praying for and investing in begins to pursue and be open to Jesus Christ, something is not right in your love for God.
It shouldn't be that way. We have never met an individual who doesn't matter to God. Listen, we love to say those kinds of statements, but too often we say them and it just rolls off our backs. I want to read you what one friend said when he was meditating on this. He goes, "We believe that lost people matter to God; therefore, they ought to matter to us.
We believe that Jesus came to seek and save the lost; therefore, we believe he has left us here in part to do the same. Those of us who have been in the church for a long time get very adept at affirming a statement like this and then completely ignoring it in our daily lives. We agree with it, but we don't own it.
We slot it in our minds right next to other biblical truths like, 'David was king. Moses parted the Red Sea. Ruth was a Moabite.' We nod our heads in intellectual approval and then we move on to other topics. It should not be that way." When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with somebody who was far from God?
If it has not been present in your past, something is not as it should be, and you are missing out on the greatest life possible. I'm sure you are growing increasingly spiritually apathetic and more and more practically pathetic. You're betraying your love for Christ. You're letting people who God loves go another day without having a relationship with him. Why is this?
I believe it's because relativism, syncretism, and pluralism have sought their way into the church today like very few times in history. Too many of us sit out there and we say, "Who am I to say that this is right and this is wrong? I want to judge not lest you be judged." I believe too many of us think like this. "You know, there are many different ways to God. You choose yours and let others choose theirs."
Too many of us sit around and we say, "All that really matters is that people are sincere in their belief and that what they believe works for them. I don't want to tell them about Jesus." Well listen, Jesus wants you to tell them about Jesus, because Jesus says there is no other name under heaven by which menmight be delivered from the death which is permeating this world. Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
I don't care how relativistic, how pluralistic, how syncretistic you want to be, Jesus is not relative, pluralistic, or syncretistic. He is narrow, and he was very certain that only in knowing him will you know life. I can't think of a more appropriate prayer in all of Scripture than the one that continues out of Colossians, chapter 4, verses 2 through 4, which says, "Devote yourselves to prayer…"
Devote yourself to these things. Then he goes on to say this at the very end of that little section of Scripture where he writes, "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."
That prayer, he says, "Listen, pray that the door would be opened for the Word and that I might speak clearly." Are you praying that way? Are you praying, "God, show me. Is this a new relationship that might grow into a faithful friendship that I can impart the truth of who you are to them? Is this a divine encounter that can turn into a spiritual conversation in this short little bit of time that we're together?"
I have to tell you guys. I love when I get stuff like this. I got an email that talks about somebody who was here at Watermark bumped into somebody they didn't know was here, and they said, "How in the world? What are you doing here?" They said, "Well, among other things, I met somebody from this body at work who showed me Christ's love. That gal who I worked with? She never complained. She never talked badly about anyone. She was used by God to introduce me into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ."
I got this email a while back that I saved and I'm so encouraged by. "Pastor," addressed to me from some guy out West. "You don't know me, but I met one of your members on an airplane on Friday while traveling from Dallas to my city. It was a blessing to talk with this young lady on the airplane and she is a passionate woman who is articulate on many different subjects and genuinely ardent about her walk with Christ. We discussed many different things and she expressed a joy in her relationship with Christ that I usually don't get to see in somebody, especially on an airplane, and it touched me."
What else do you want somebody to write after you're on an airplane with them, after you're in a neighborhood with them, after you're in a ball club with them, after you work with them, or after you share a meal with them? Here's the deal, gang. All we have to do is just live the way Paul encourages us to live, which is to ask ourselves this. "God, what do you want me to do today in every conversation you put me in and the short-term mission opportunity that for today is September 30, 2007, where I might love somebody who is truly hurting?"
One of the things that I did with the staff this week… The day after I was with some of these folks, I was just reminded at how much pain there is in the world. This week, I'll just say, I went to have lunch with my daughter at the junior high. I went and had breakfast with my high school daughter with a bunch of her friends, a little prayer time.
Normally it's just them and a youth leader in the area. I just went. I was sitting there in this room, and I just was reminded of the pain, the insecurity that fills up a junior high gal's life. The insecurity… Just read what it says in the Watermark News today about that sweet friend in there who just says, "I'm satisfied now, but for a long time, I looked good on the outside, but my life was wracked with performance and emptiness and isolation."
Do you know you meet people like that every day? Here's the thing. I hear about Watermark all the time, "That's just the perfect church. You guys have pretty people there. Everybody has their act together." Really? Really? Is that who we are? Did you struggle with anger like I did this week? Did you struggle with control issues like I did this week? Did you struggle with wanting to invest yourself in material things this week?
Did you struggle with wanting to be selfish and indulge your flesh this week and not care about others? Did you struggle with the way you want to invest your time just because it was comfortable for you and not good for those who were around you? That was me this week. That was what I struggled with this week.
When I find people who are absolutely controlled by this world and being jerked to and fro by a lust for the next material thing, I can relate to that. When I see a guy enslaved to his lusts and his passions, I can relate to that. When I see somebody who is insecure, I can relate to that. When I see somebody who can't be authentic, I can relate to that.
I can tell them, "Can I tell you where I found healing?" This week with my staff when I got back I was just reminding them, "Do you remember how much pain is in the world? Gang, turn with me to Psalm 26." We went to Psalm 26 and we closed with this. Look at this. Psalm 26. This is what it says. It is David in a moment of brokenness. David is sitting there and he says, "Vindicate me…""I am hurting."
This is a man after God's own heart. You might recognize this as something you might pray. "Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity [as best I can] , and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Examine me, O LORD, and try me; [show me if that's not true] test my mind and my heart." That might be what you say as a devoted follower of Christ.
"For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth. I do not sit with deceitful men, nor will I go with pretenders. I hate the assembly of evildoers…" Lord, I don't want to be a part of what they're doing. "…and I will not sit with the wicked. I shall wash my hands in innocence, and I will go about Your altar, O LORD…"
Why? And I also want to be an individual who because I worship you "…that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders [and works to those who are around me,] " David is saying. "Help me. I am trapped. I am persecuted. I am oppressed on every side."
He says, "O LORD, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells. Do not take my soul away along with sinners, nor my life with men of bloodshed, in whose hands is a wicked scheme, and whose right hand is full of bribes." Don't take my life away or my heart. "But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity…" as best I can in this broken, corrupt world that may not get better today. "…redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on a level place; in the congregations [of your people] I shall bless the LORD."
Here's what I said to the staff. I go, "Gang, where do you need to be vindicated?" One sweet little girl on our staff, leaders in our church said, "I'll tell you where. I really have a hard time trusting people." Somebody else said, "I'm a real people-pleaser." Somebody else said, "I fear rejection." Somebody else said, "Hey, I'm really struggling right now how to love my kids well. I just want to be a great dad. I don't know if I know the right thing to do in every situation."
Somebody else in our leadership team stood up and said, "You know what? I'm hurting deeply for a family member who is making decisions that are just destructive and they're isolating themselves from us, and it's killing us as a family. We're trying to wrestle through that pain." Somebody else said, "My child is dealing with significant developmental issues and I see the loneliness in them, and it's breaking my heart."
Somebody else said, "We have some health issues in our family that are just devastating us." I said, "And you know Jesus. And in the midst of your weakness, he is making you strong. How many of you people here are filled with bitterness and anger and are running away to a bottle today and numbing yourself with fleeting things?" We all went, "None of us."
"How many of you are finding enough hope to get out of bed and not just drudge yourself through the day but today are meeting these things that make you weak in your flesh somehow you're strong and victorious in your confrontation of them." We all went, "By the grace of God, we all are. I'm confused about what I should do with my kid, but I have a community to go to, I have God's Word to go to. I can get on my knees and know that God loves my kid more than I'll ever love my kid. It gives me hope even though I feel like I'm so worthless as a dad sometimes."
I go, "Can you imagine facing all those things we just shared without God?" You have to tell people! Do you want to know how to relate to people? Talk to them about how God is making you strong in your weakness. Don't act like your life is perfect. It's not! You live in a broken world. We're broken people.
We have a strong, victorious God and he expects you to tell those who don't have that relationship with him, who are without God and without hope in the world, you are his ambassadors who say, "Come here and let me hold you and make you effective, make you a survivor in a world that is broken, and make you a person who has peace that passes understanding.
I want to tell you. If you were in our staff meeting on Tuesday, you would've heard us sing, you would've heard us comfort one another, encourage one another, and you would've seen us go out from that meeting and be productive salt and light blessing people that day in the midst of all that pain. Why?
Because we have a Savior, a God whose Spirit strengthens us, and in our weakness makes us strong. Does the world need that? Are you telling them that is what he is doing with you? God loves these people, and he expects you and blesses you with the privilege of bringing them to him. Oh, I pray that we will always be committed to the uncommitted.
It breaks my heart to see an empty seat in here. I'm just going to tell you it does. Because there is a city full of folks who need our King. They don't need Watermark. They need Jesus. I love inviting people here all the time to get up against you so that you can tell them, "You deal with insecurity? So do I. You deal with chemical dependency? So do I. You start with homosexuality? So did I. So do I. You broke up your marriage by making idiot choices? So did I. So have I. Come and trust Jesus with me."
Father, I thank you for these friends and the chance just to sit with them and remind us what we want to be about. Lord, may we always be a church that is passionate about your strength, which means that we are firmly in touch with our weakness. We don't have to pretend to people like because we trust in God; we are healthier, wealthier, and wiser than anybody else, we've lost weight, and we look better.
Father, we know that's not the case. Our lives are still hurting. This world is still broken. Disease still comes. Relationships still malfunction, sometimes because we leave you. Other times because we're pursuing you and people around us aren't. It just hurts, Lord. Thank you that you give us a light to hold onto, a truth, a spirit, a person who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death so we can fear no evil.
Father, we can live with hope in a hopeless world that we have a light that is coming. We know that one day for those who hold on, there's going to be great rejoicing. Father, I pray that we would be people who would remember what it was like to be without you and without hope in the world. We would bless your name in the midst of the congregation of people that we are a part of that struggled just like us, but maybe without an intimacy with you.
Father, we want to bring them to you. So we sing of you right now. As we sing and celebrate what is true of us, I pray it would remind us of those who don't have the ability to sing and all they have the ability to do is hurt and come up with fleeting strategies to numb their pain. Father, we don't want to numb their pain.
We want to take them to the cross where you can cure it, where the life-giving truth of Jesus and the presence of his Spirit can set them free. We thank you for being our King. We pray that you would give us the ability and the passion to have open doors to walk through them and to speak clearly of who you are.
If you know that God who can get you through that storm, you know, if you say, "Still I will praise you," but you do it in your closet, that isn't what is intended. Sing about him in the congregation of the peoples of Dallas and wherever you're going this week in your short-term mission week because God wants people to have that hope of a light that is coming.
Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." He is coming. The tomb is empty. He is returning. So we sing. Are you weak? So am I, man, but I have a God who gives me strength in my weakness. I'm glad to be a part of a body who sings like that with me here and will go this week and sing out there so other people can come and sing where they go and God will be glorified and they will be well in this broken world until he makes it right. Will you join me in that?
Hey, if you're here today and you don't know Jesus, we'll hang out in that room to the exit sign and to your left as long as you want to talk. If you're looking for a body to connect with? Go through that exit sign to your right and we'll help you connect with us and spur each other on to be the lights in the world that Christ wants us to have as we worship him as the church who is missional all throughout the week. Will you have that great week of worship with me? Go. Take care.
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.