When’s the last time you engaged in a spiritual conversation with someone? Do you remember the last time someone engaged in a spiritual conversation with you? As we continue our series, This is the Life, Todd Wagner teaches how we are an embassy and that the most loving thing we—Christians—can do is share their faith.
Leadership: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 1
When’s the last time you engaged in a spiritual conversation with someone? Do you remember the last time someone engaged in a spiritual conversation with you? As we continue our series, This is the Life, Todd Wagner teaches how we are an embassy and that the most loving thing we—Christians—can do is share their faith.
Good morning, Watermark! How are we doing? It is great to be together with our friends in Plano and Frisco and Fort Worth. We're going to do something this morning we have not done in some time. We are going to give a mission report. Now hang tight with me, because you might go, "Gosh! I want to know where Watermark is supporting missionaries around the world and what we're doing," and there are folks all over the world who are doing different things, but we're going to give a mission report.
I want to welcome our friends who are not normally a part of Watermark and let you know that this is a gathering of God's people. We invite anybody to come to our gatherings where you can hear us remind ourselves of the kindness of our God and the greatness of who he is, and then also to spur each other on to remember how we should respond to him. We end all of our services with a little phrase, "Have a great week of worship," because we don't believe what we do in this time together on Sunday mornings or the weekends is what defines worship. It's what reminds us why we worship.
We're so glad you're here. We even call this weekly a pastors' conference, because we're a kingdom of priests and individuals who, together, are trying to respond to the kindness of our God. Not earn it. This is not a group of people you're in the presence of who are a bunch of performance-based acceptance people. We are an acceptance-based people who seek to respond to the love God has shown us the best we can with our lives, and we live on mission together.
The membership of Watermark… There are a lot of folks who are here all the time who aren't members of our body. Sometimes people say, "I go to Watermark," and those are folks that we're glad they're here, but members are not even people who have been to what we call Discover Watermark, because you don't want to marry yourself to somebody, yoke with somebody you're not sure is on the same mission as you.
We have this opportunity for folks to meet with us and discover and be reminded what it is we're ultimately about, and then we kind of go through, "This is what we believe, and this is what we're going to do together." After that, there are some folks who then say, "Okay. God doesn't want me to do this alone." When God talks about his family, he uses a number of metaphors. The first one is that we're a family. There is a specific family of which you're called to be a part.
There is the human family I'm a part of in Dallas, but there's the Wagner family that I am uniquely a part of, and we have a different relationship with one another. God says the same thing with believers. They're a part of the universal family, but there should be a local family, if you're serious about your faith, that you say, "This is where I'm known. This is where I'm going to be admonished and encouraged and helped. This is where I'm going to be uniquely cared for, and when this family can't meet its needs, I'm going to expand it to other larger parts of the family."
It's also called a body. We all know we're members of one another. You don't want to be an arm that's detached from the rest of the body. That's a grotesque thing. It's called being dismembered, and it's very sad and tragic. You're going to bleed out and not be a healthy arm at all if you're detached from the body. All of us are a part of the body, each of us in our unique way. It's called a flock, which is a little bit indicative of who we are. We're created by God to travel together and to have a shepherd, every single one of us. I need to be shepherded.
You're going to hear that we are ultimately also a group of people who are ambassadors, which means we're a part of an embassy. We'll focus a lot on that this morning, but we're going to give a mission report and tell you a little bit about what the people who are members of Watermark, who have identified that "This is the place where I'm going to be part of a family, where I'm going to be shepherded as a part of the flock; this is the body I'm attached to…"
If you're a member of Watermark, in fact, just raise your hand up over your head. Look around. Those are folks who are members. So what I want to do is just remind all of us, as we talk about what Watermark does here… Watermark is not this building. We're in four different buildings, in fact, this morning, and a number of our family that can't be here on a regular basis is tuning in online, but we're about to give a mission report.
Here's what I'd like to do. All of the members, all the kingdom of priests who are a part of Watermark… I would like each of you to turn to one another, those three or four who are around you, and give your mission report. What have you done this week to share your faith? What meaningful relationship have you had with somebody far from God? Now listen. You might be sitting next to somebody who is not a missionary, a minister of reconciliation.
So you get a chance to go, "I'm so glad you're here. Let me tell you why we gather, what it is we believe." Maybe you're sitting next to a bunch of folks who all have stories, and you start to say, "Hey, this is the person who I told about Jesus this week. These are the people I built a relationship with and was doing some service to, who I want to pray for, that more of who Jesus is would be known to them through my life as I care for them."
So, are you ready for the mission report? It's not a slide; it's you. If you're here as a guest, in the sense of mission field, we're so glad you're here. I hope you bump into one of our missionaries and they can love you right now. We're not just chatting; we're giving a mission report. "This is how the gospel was advanced through me this week." Ready? Go!
Okay. That was good. How many times do we think about "Yeah, what's the church doing mission-wise?" In a second, I want to talk about how the church has grown in doctrine and theological soundness, and I want you maybe to turn to each other and go, "This is what I've read this week to grow in my understanding of the true nature of God, a fundamental understanding of the authority of God's Word."
In effect, what I would do (and I'm not going to do this) is I would have you turn to one another and say, "Hey, I have to remind myself I am the church. The church isn't this organization I go to and evaluate. If I'm a member there, it means the way I grow, the way I love, the way I serve, the way I live is the way the church grows, loves, lives, and serves."
In America, way too often, the church is a thing we kind of buy into and go, "Yeah, that's the church I go to." It's not possible to go to church. You either are the church or aren't the church. I've said a lot lately… Can you imagine meeting somebody and going, "Hey, what are you doing tonight?" and they go, "Oh, I'm going to go to gang."
"What do you mean you're going to go to gang?"
"I'm going to go to gang. I'm going to evaluate the gang and how they terrorize the community, traffic women, and sell drugs."
You don't go to gang. You either gangbang or they beat you. You don't just go hang with the gang; you do gang work. What our gang does is loves, serves, grows, confesses, forsakes, yields, and encourages. That's what this body does. Now I want to tell you something we're going to do in two weeks, and then I'm going to teach as to why so you don't groan too much, and I don't think you will.
I know you know there was a storm that blew through here just a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty devastating. About $2 billion worth of damage. One of the things it did was it damaged some friends of ours at Northway. Northway used to be a campus of The Village Church, which we've for a long time, along with others, said, "Hey, man. Same team. We're all about the same work." We're Wagners, we're Watermarkers, we're Village, we're whatever we might be, but we're part of a larger family of God.
This particular family had their facility destroyed, so right away, we reached out to them and said, "Hey, listen. We know you guys need a place to gather." We said, "Come on over. Until we can figure out where you're going to be and what you're going to do, we have a facility that, specifically, Sunday afternoon we're not using, so come on." So Northway Church, for the first time in the history of their church, all got together. They do three services. Their facility holds about 1,000 people.
So last Sunday at 4:00, they gathered in here to meet, to worship, to equip each other, to remind themselves of what is true. We had a great time feeding them afterward. They're going to continue to meet here until they can find a more permanent place that's closer to where they were or that their building is restored. They'll be here today at 4:00. I texted Shea this morning and said, "Shea, I'm praying for all of the gatherings of God's people that will happen at 7540 LBJ today." So Northway is here. They've lost their building, but Northway wasn't lost.
One of the things that's heavy on my heart and the elders' hearts here at Watermark is we know there's going to be a day, potentially, when this building is either going to be destroyed by time or taken by government, and we will not be able to gather this way and speak freely this way. Our goal is that there would be thousands of communities of faithful people all over this city that will continue to minister together, gather together, and be embassies of God's work, and we're equipping each other for that.
Here's the question: Do people in your neighborhood know who God has put in their neighborhood? Well, in two weeks, we're going to give you a chance. In two weeks, 7540 LBJ will only meet at 4:00 in the afternoon when Northway is here. That Sunday, what we're going to ask you to do is, over the next two weeks, be very intentional with folks who live in your apartment complex or who live in your neighborhood.
Just be knocking on doors, building relationships that maybe you don't have or furthering one you do have, and just saying, "Hey, on November 17, we're going to gather together down here at my house for some brunch, some coffee. We're going to hang out. I'd love you to come." Some of them might say, "Sunday? I'm actually part of a community that gathers on Sunday," and you say, "Fantastic. Go there. I am too, but this particular Sunday, we're meeting in our neighborhood, and we're going to tell people why we're not usually here on Sunday."
We're going to tell all of our friends who are here every single week, "Hey, I want you to know that I am a part of a community of faith. I happen to be a follower of Jesus. God has placed me here in this community to be a means of grace to you. So I want you to know, if there's anything I can serve you in, if you've never met a Christian before, don't know anybody you can ask a question about things of the faith, I'm your guy. We're your family, and we'd love to serve you. Our body specifically wants to ask if you have needs right now that aren't being met, that you wonder if God is there and he cared for you, that he might show up in a specific way."
Then we're going to encourage you with you and your network of community, that you would do everything you can to meet those needs, and if you can't, we'll widen the circle and figure out how we should appropriately love people throughout our city where we're stationed in different outposts, where every embassy is located, where God's ambassadors are placed. We think people should know this is an embassy of God's work in this city.
So you're going to have a chance to say to your neighbors, "Hey, listen. This is why I'm not usually here on Sunday. I want you to know I'm here all the time. If you ever want to know a friend you can go to church with, I'm your guy. If you have a question about the faith, I'm your guy. I may not know the answer to your question, but guess what. We have this thing every Monday called Great Questions where I'll go with you, and no one is trying to convince you of anything. They just want to share with you good answers to your really good questions. Either I'll have them for you now or we'll get them."
This city needs to know where 15,000 to 20,000 of us are so they can be encouraged, because this building is not the church; we are the church. We have another couple on our block who are members here at Watermark. We're going to do it with them. We'll invite our friends and say, "Hey, come to one of our houses," and we'll be there together.
I want to give you some resources. This is what we do all the time. There will be a number of Real Truth. Real Quick. episodes listed in this week's sermon notes. Every single week, we put out sermon notes that summarize the big ideas and the Scripture we used and some application questions and other resources to deepen your understanding.
Some of the Real Truth. Real Quick. episodes we'll put there with links are…What Is the Gospel? You can just remind yourself of that as you get ready to meet with some friends. Your friends might even ask you this question: What Happens to People Who Have Never Heard the Gospel? I'm going to come back to that one in just a second. There's a Real Truth. Real Quick. just to refresh your mind on that.
May it never be said that people lived on the same street as us, lived in the same apartment complex as us, and never had the opportunity to hear the gospel. There are Real Truth. Real Quick. episodes called How Do I Talk to My Friends About Jesus?How Do I Have a Conversation with People Who Don't Agree with My Faith? and What Makes a Good Testimony? All of these links will be there for you to use.
There will be another link to how to share the message of the Bible in 30 or 60 seconds that you can listen to, maybe even play that morning. Your goal that morning is not to convert anybody. I don't ever try to convert people when I talk. It's not my job to convert people, and it's not your job to convert people. Our job is to love people and to share with people the love we have found from Jesus Christ. It's the Spirit's job to convict of sin and righteousness and judgment, but God has said, "Friends, it's your job to share with people what sin is, what true righteousness is, and what judgment looks like."
We're in a Proverbs series. Let me read you some proverbs. Proverbs 24:11-12: "Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back. If you say, 'See, we did not know this…'""It's America. All of my friends know who Jesus is." Nuh-uh. "If you say, 'See, we did not know this,' does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? […] And will He not render to [everyone] according to his work?"
There's going to be a mission report that's going to be given, and every single one of us is going to have an opportunity to give an account for what we have done with the ministry of reconciliation God has given all of us who have come to believe. Some people would say, "Todd, I don't know, man." We're being told right now, in fact, there's a community that… "Hey, why would you guys want to go and love people in this community? Have they invited you to come?"
I would just say we, as believers, don't go where we're invited; we do the inviting. Our job is to invite other people. "Well, are they going to like it if you come?" Some people might say, "They're not going to love it if you come down there and you haven't been invited." I would just say we don't expect to be loved. We love. The more we're unwelcome and hated, the more we're compelled by the example of our King to love our enemies and when we're reviled to not revile in return and when we suffer to not utter threats. That's what we do.
When you came in, we gave you a couple of things. This is a little card that summarizes all of the different areas for folks to connect here that can be of service to them and when we gather and things like that. We have this thing called a Top 10 Card that I want to point you to. This Top 10 Card is something you got when you went through our membership process. Every single one of us always has 10 friends who hopefully we have a personal relationship with.
I would define a personal relationship in this day and age as I have their cell number and they have mine. I can call them and they'll know who I am and I can invite them to watch a game, grab a meal, or do something, and they would be predisposed to do that. That's what a friendship is. In fact, here's what we say. If you look in the back where we talk about our seven-step strategy to be faithful ambassadors…
First, we initiate a friendship with someone far from God. We initiate a friendship with everybody, but specifically, we're saying part of our job to do what Jesus did, which is to seek and save the lost, is that we seek friendships with people who don't yet have what we have, which is a knowledge of the kindness and goodness of God, an understanding of the gospel, which is not that you'd better go to church and do good things or God is going to smack you, because that's not the gospel at all.
The gospel is God sees us in our state of rebellion and animosity with him, and he loves us. He doesn't wait for us to seek him; he seeks us. So we do what he does. Luke 19:10. This is our Master whose image we're supposed to be conformed into. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." We believe that we should also, in part, do the same with our lives.
He's the one we sing about. "You leave the 99 to find the one." Well, guess what. We're going to forsake one Sunday morning of gathering together so we can tell friends who don't know where we split off to why we're in their neighborhood as a means of grace. We initiate a friendship. We share our story of grace. At some point, we let them know what we know about the kindness of God and how our lives have changed, and then we invite them to come and see.
After that, God has to go to work. After that, we just pray that they would eventually one day come, that they would be introduced ultimately to biblical community, that they would then be trained themselves in the way that we're being trained, and that they would then devote themselves to Christ, and that they would then use their gifts the way we're using our gifts for his glory and they would start to invite somebody who's far from God and join us in the mission. That's what we do.
But mark my words. Every single one of us is going to give an account. This is the way the entire Bible ends. Revelation 22:12 says, "Behold, I am coming quickly…" You don't have a lot of time. These are the days. "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, [and I will recompense every single individual] according to what he has done." There is judgment even for believers. Salvation is always a gift, but you're either going to be judged to not have been a person who wanted the gift or you're going to be judged how you did once you received the gift. What kind of servant were you?
Are you a son? Are you a daughter of God? You become a son or daughter of God by acknowledging that there's no way you can have a relationship with a holy, perfect Father except that he makes provision for you. So when you, in that case, believe in him and pass out of judgment into life, you then move over into this servant, where God is going to say, "How did you do?" There will be reward, and there will be sadness, a sense of loss, where we frivolously lived our lives not in any way engaged in the things God left us here to be engaged in.
Our job as friends is to spur each other on that that wouldn't be our story. We have a ton of life and fun together, but we remind each other that (2 Timothy 2:4) "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." So, guys, we have two weeks to invite. This is not a week to take off. This is a week for you to let the world know, "Hey, I live here as a part of God's grace to you, and I want you to know I love you."
Let me just encourage you with a few things. First of all, God is going to use you. We've always done this here at Watermark. In fact, in 2004 or 2005, I gave a message similar to this one, and I've saved this for a long time. It was a note I got in January of 2005 from a member. It wasn't signed. It said, "Hey, Todd. Several months ago, you mentioned how it hurt you to see all of the opportunities we had here…" There were some empty seats in Lake Highlands High School at the time.
"…and how it hurt you that there were people missing out on the greatest news in history because we weren't doing what we could to invite others. Well, I was convicted as you said that, and since that time, I've continually been inviting friends I've known all along to come and hear what I hear, to come and know what I know.
It was amazing, just a couple of weeks ago, to see one of the guys I invited all of a sudden inviting others. He brought his sister. He brought his cousin. Thank you for reminding me of how many people will come to gather and learn if they're just asked. Thanks for reminding me to expect God to use me in great ways."
I think you're going to experience that. I really do. We've always said at Watermark that the most important people here (and this comes out of Luke 19:10) are the next 100 people who come, and I never say that without saying this: it's because those next 100 are so important that we so deeply pour into you, to shepherd you, encourage you, disciple you, because you're the means God is going to reach them with.
I'm going to pull something back from 10 years ago I used, because it's just so great. It's my friend Penn of Penn & Teller. Penn is a rather famous atheist. He's a rationalist. This very intellectual person, you're going to find, has not spent much time with the Bible. He doesn't, for instance, even know if Psalms is in the Old or the New Testament. I don't blame him, but I do challenge sometimes people who say, "I don't believe in God; I reject God," and they've never read the most influential book in history, which is the Bible.
It has been printed, read, and translated more than any other book. It has influenced more literature, it has influenced more civilizations and more people than any other book in history, and to reject the message of the Scripture without ever understanding it is not exactly an intellectual move. That's why one of the things I say to people a lot of times is simply, "Has anybody ever explained to you what the message of the Bible is?"
Most folks go, "Oh, I don't believe the Bible is God's Word." I usually say to them, "I'm not asking you if you believe the Bible is God's Word. I'm asking you if you know what the central message of the Bible is." Then I say, "It is the most printed, translated, influential book in literature and political civilization in history, and it would be rather unintellectual, and I see you care about intellectual things, if you reject this message without even knowing what it says. I'm asking if you know the central message of the Bible."
Most folks are going to say, "Well, do good or you're going to get in trouble" or "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." You can just parlay that, if they get that right. That's not the central message of the Bible, but you can say, "It's close. Let me explain to you what the central message of the Bible is," and you can watch that "Bible in 30 seconds."
This is Penn after one of his shows. He was doing a little video podcast. This is kind of a rough-looking Penn. Apparently, he does it very early in the morning. He's sharing an interaction he had with a guy who was at his show who he had actually pulled up and was onstage with him a little bit. The guy was complimenting him on the show, and I want you to listen to what he says, because I think he represents your friends. Listen.
Do you hear what he said again and again and again? "He looked me in the eye. He was polite and kind, and he just loved me." So many times, I hear people say to me, "Hey, Todd, I just want to know God's will for my life." I did a Real Truth. Real Quick. a couple of weeks ago called How Do I Know God's Will for My Life? One of the things I say in there is you shouldn't spend so much of your time trying to seek God's will for your life as you should just get busy doing God's will. God has told us what his will is.
In fact, at the very end of all four gospels, at the beginning of the work of the church… All four gospels end the exact same way. This is the end of the book of Matthew: "Go and make disciples." By the way, disciples doesn't mean converts. Your job is not to make converts, but God is just saying, "Teach people." The word disciple means learner. Your job is to go and let them see your good works so they might want to glorify your Father in heaven a little bit more, that you could explain to them what the central message of the Scripture is.
Most people think it's, "Do good long enough and you won't get judged." That's not the central message. The central message of the Scripture is "God so loved the world that he sent his only Son," that "God made him who was rich to become poor for our sake, that through his poverty we might become rich." The central message of the Bible is the wages of us leaving God is death, but the free gift of God anchored in history is the opportunity to be reconciled to God in eternal life through Christ Jesus.
Go and make disciples. Go and share that. Let them learn more of the goodness of God's way and the truth of God's story, and when they're ready to believe in it, then you baptize them, but the Spirit will take care of whether or not they're going to act on it. Your job is just to be God's loving voice. Go and make disciples. In Mark, chapter 16, the very end of that book, he said, "Go…" In case you want to know what all this is about… "Go into all the world and preach the gospel."
At the very end of Luke, chapter 24, the last chapter, Jesus sat with his disciples, and beginning with Moses and then all of the Prophets, he said, "This is the central point of the Bible: it was pointing to me. Everything that's going to happen now… Some of you guys and a few guys who don't know me yet are going to write some more about what I've done and what people should do with what I've done," and he explained to them, it says in Luke 24:27, all things pertaining to the Scriptures.
Then a little bit later, in verse 45, when Jesus was sitting with those friends, he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and said to them, "Thus it is written, that Christ would suffer (this is what I just did) and rise from the dead (that's what I am now before you) and that there would be repentance people could go through, and they would receive the forgiveness of sins, and his name would be proclaimed to all of the nations, beginning right here in Jerusalem. You, men, are witnesses of these things."
At the very end of the book of John, he says, "Even as the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Then, in the book of Acts, as the church starts, he says, "But you're going to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, when you believe in the truth of who God is and your relationship with God with the indwelling Spirit of truth that you now embrace and know and have an intimate relationship with. You then will be my witnesses, starting in your little neighborhood, expanding all around the Metroplex, and eventually to the uttermost parts of the world." It's pretty clear to me what God's will is for us.
Do you know this? There was a person who studied… And I don't like what they did. They decided to determine that a church was healthy if one out of 20 members actively shared their faith in Christ with others that resulted in tangible transformation in another life. If one out of 20 members did that once a year and it resulted in life change, they go, "That's a healthy church." When they studied churches in America, they said less than 3 percent of the churches in America are healthy by that definition. That's a problem.
One of the things we have tried to do since we've started is just go, "Hey, look. We're just one part of the family, so we want to be faithful so that others will see what we're doing and it will spur them on." That happens, I want you to know. Because of the way you faithfully live, because you're ready to give a mission report, I know there are other communities that are going, "Man, we have to get with it. Why am I not as excited about Jesus as my friends who are part of that family over there are?" And you can spur them on in amazing ways.
Do you know that our younger Millennial generation, when they question them…? This is "practicing." This is according to a recent study called Reviving Evangelism by George Barna who is kind of the George Gallup of looking into church world stuff. Of young Millennials who are practicing Christians… You're going to see they're not practicing Christians, because 50 percent of them believe it's wrong to evangelize.
Now why is that? It's because they have been socially conditioned and programmed that you don't tell other people what you believe. They are victims of a postmodern world more than they're victims of God communicating to them absolute truth. When you share with people, you do it kindly, you do it politely. You look them in the eyes. You do it out of relationship. You're not trying to convert them. You're just trying to say, "This is what I've come to know. This is the truth that has changed my life."
It says only 23 percent of nonbelievers in America are a part of a spiritual community or have relationship with a community of believers where they feel like, "Yeah, I think if I really wanted to explore questions about this thing called Christianity…" Only one in four nonbelievers even knows where one of those embassies is and has a relationship with them. They're amazing stats.
While 75 percent of practicing believers believe the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus, 25 percent say it's probably wrong to interrupt people's lives and share with them our faith. Now listen. I don't know who those folks are. I just want to love them, and if it's us, I want to repent. Do you know why? Because I know if you say, "See, we didn't know this, Todd," the one who weighs the hearts and the one who keeps your soul is going to render to you according to your work.
I want to remind you who you are and what God wants you to be about. I keep this. This is from a tract called "An Atheist's Testimony." This is something Penn would have written. This is the atheist's testimony. "Did I firmly believe," the atheist says, "as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another life, then religion would mean to me everything." I don't like the term religion. I'm using it because the atheist is.
The atheist says, "I would cast away earthly enjoyments, earthly cares, earthly thoughts as worthless. Religion would be my first waking thought and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I would look at one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never keep my hand from being active in the cause of the gospel, nor seal my lips.
I would strive to look upon eternity alone and on the immortal souls around me soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go out to the world and preach, and my text would be, 'What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?'" All the guy is saying is, "Look, guys. If this book is true, you don't love me if you don't kindly, in the context of relationship, look me in the eye and go, 'Hey, man. Here's something I've come to know.' That's what friends do."
So in two weeks, we felt like the right thing to do was for us to gather in smaller embassies, so on that day when this larger gathering space is no longer ours people are put on notice of who the church is. It's not on LBJ; it's right where you live. The text I want to spend the most time in this morning can be found in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, in verses 10 and following. I want to set this up, because I was talking to a buddy of mine who had a tragedy in his family, and 2 Corinthians 5 this week, as he lost a daughter, has meant a lot to him.
It talks about what's going to happen in verses 1-9. He said, "Todd, that idea that to be absent from the body is to be present in Christ has comforted me a lot." As he said it, I went, "That would bring a tremendous amount of comfort to me as well if I lost one of my daughters, knowing that she was in the presence of the Lord if she had a faith," but what I also thought as I heard that… Really, verses 1-9 say, "To be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord," but verses 10-21 can be summarized this way: "To be present in the body is to be at work for the Lord."
To be present right now in this body, the reason we're here… It's not a mystery. We know why we're here: because there are people like Penn, like our neighbors, like family members… Second Thessalonians 1:9 says, "These [who don't know the kindness of God] will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…"
See, right now, nonbelievers have some of the glory of God around them. God is here restraining evil. This world is not as God intended it, but it's not all the evil it could be. God is restraining evil. His grace is here on the earth. The rain falls on the land of the righteous and the unjust to produce crops. There is food. When a lost person's arm is slit, their blood clots like everybody else's. There are Christians who are on earth who are ministering and doing kind things.
The Spirit of God is restraining evil. Watch the Real Truth. Real Quick. on why God allows mass shootings. There are a lot of things God stops. There's some evil he lets out to remind us "This is not the world I wanted, because this world doesn't follow me." But there's going to be a day when there's nothing that will remind people about the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. It's a sobering idea.
I want to say this one little word right here, because some people go, "Well, Todd, that's awful. What about those who have never heard?" What about those? I told you there's a Real Truth. Real Quick., but let me give you a little phrase you're going to hear in there. Charles Spurgeon, who served people in the same way I am, as a communicator of God's truth, was asked one time, "Will the heathen, or the unevangelized who have not heard the gospel, be saved?"
I loved his response, and it's what has motivated us as elders and leaders to say, "We're going to do this in two weeks." Spurgeon responded to that question by basically saying, "You know what? It's more a question to me whether we who have the gospel and fail to give it to those who don't can consider ourselves really saved." Do you get that? It's not so much, "What about those who have never heard?"
By the way, there's a really good answer about what God is going to do with those who have never heard, but here's a question: Can you say you know God and that the Spirit of grace and truth indwells in you and you're indifferent to people? I think that's a little bit of what's going on in Proverbs 24 and Revelation 22, where he said, "I'm going to render to you according to who you really were." People say what they think, but they do what they believe.
The fact that you're not doing what people who believe do… This is just us having a moment of clarity. "Oh yeah. That's why we're here." Paul apparently read Proverbs. Look at the way 2 Corinthians 5:10 starts. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord…" If you want to know what the fear of the Lord is, this week's Real Truth. Real Quick. It's out there. Go get it.
"…we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God…" We do all we can to share with folks what we know, and we're made known before God, and I hope we're also made known to you, that you look at us and watch our lives and go, "Hey, that person is marked by love. That person is marked by mission. That person is marked by purpose. That person is marked by sanity."
Remember what Penn said? Paul is about to say, "If I'm crazy, if I look like I see something that most people in the world can't see, it's for the glory of God." That's who we are. We're people who have come to see this story of grace that's anchored in history. We have a faith. By the way, Penn has a faith. His faith is in suppressing evidence. His faith is in Darwinism. His faith is in this idea that there was no design and no Creator.
When you talk to somebody like that, an atheist, when they hear you say the word faith, they're going to say, "See, that's the deal. I live in reality. You live in faith." I always tell them, "Hey, the opposite of faith is not reason; the opposite of faith is unbelief. The opposite of reason is irrationality. Let's take a look at what I believe and take a look at what you believe and examine the evidence and see who takes more faith to believe it."
Paul says, "We are not again commending ourselves to you…" Paul is not saying, "I'm better than anybody else." "…but are giving you [in our gospel focus] an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart." Paul says, "If I'm crazy, if I'm zealous for the gospel, if I tell it and share it in a kind, purposeful, unrelenting way, it's for God. But if we live sanely, if our houses are different, it's for you."
Let me take this idea just a second. We had this moment this week called Halloween. I love Halloween, because it's a night when we all go out… I'm not saying you should dress up like the angel of death or some ghoulish thing or any of that nonsense, but there's a night that when people knock on their door, folks gladly answer it. It's not like, "There's a knock on the door. Hide. Don't answer it. Maybe they'll go away." People go out, and they welcome folks. It's awesome.
Halloween this week… Right now, all of my kids are grown, and my grandkids, other than Ramsey who was up in Frisco, aren't old enough to actually go to houses, so I went to another couple of friends, the Leventhals and the Fournets, whose kids were trick-or-treating together, and I said, "I have to take you somewhere. You have to come with me." There was a house we discovered about 15 years ago. We call it the mother-lode house.
It's the mother-lode house because when you go to this house, they don't give you a little Snickers. They give you a pound bag of M&Ms or Skittles, and not just a pound bag, but they give you a lightsaber or a little spinning wheel that lights up in all of these different colors. At the end of the night, we'd go to this house, and it's just tucked in a little neighborhood, like any other sweet little house, but it is the mother-lode house.
So I loaded up their gaggle of 13 children, between the two of them, and drove slowly, and got to this house. Here they are coming out of the mother-lode house. You can see them holding it up. That little white thing spinning is multicolored. The camera couldn't catch it. It was amazing. Their parents said, "That was the highlight of the night, Todd." I go, "Of course it's the highlight of the night, because they went to the mother-lode house."
What I want to tell you is, guys, everybody on your block ought to go, "That's the mother-lode house right down there." I'm not talking about on Halloween. I'm just saying, "There's more grace and more mercy and more love and more kindness that comes out of that house in this neighborhood than any other house on our block. That is an embassy of heaven there. That's the mother lode. Every time somebody goes there, it's a highlight of our neighborhood that you're in it and that you're here in our apartment complex." For the glory of God.
They might think you're crazy the way you reconcile conflict. They might think you're crazy that when some dog does something to your yard, you don't come out yelling at them; you just walk out there and say, "Hey, how are you doing?" You pick it up and tie it up. "Anything I can do for you? Awesome. I'm so glad we're neighbors." They go, "That's crazy."
How about this? There was another story I literally found yesterday that was so insane and sane all at the same time that NBC News… It was an 8-year-old who did something that NBC News goes, "Hey, we have to talk about this." Watch this.
He said, "There you go. It's all good now," and he walks away. NBC News goes, "Who does that?" I can even think about if I was there, because that was caught on a Nest camera. If I was there and it was my kid… "Oh, no! Baby, baby, that's okay. You don't need to do that." Because I'm going to raid her candy anyway, so I don't want to lose any. Right? But I heard the mom go, "Oh, Jackson," and I heard the world go, "Our world needs more of that."
Can I just tell you something? You have more grace in your bag than you could ever eat, and there are a lot of houses that don't have any of it in their house, and you're just going to take it out and put it in. When you do that and you put in love and grace and mercy in houses that don't have it, you're never lacking, and the world is going to start to go, "Man, look at that. Not a bunch of cloistered, selfish Christians gathering up with their little sweet story." NBC News can't resist love and sacrificial living.
Look at what it says. We're going to go quickly through this. Paul says, "It's the love of Christ that controls me." Is that what controls you or your love of ease? "…having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died…" We're no longer about ourselves. "…and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."
Paul says in verse 16, "Therefore, we don't recognize anybody by the flesh, what they can do for us, how they treat us. We've known Christ according to the flesh, though we don't know him this way any longer. We know he's the resurrected King. That's who he is. Therefore, if anyone knows Jesus, everything is changed. The old things have passed away; something new has come. There's now an embassy where you are."
"Now all these things [these truths I share with you] are from God, 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…" That's what God was doing through Christ. "…not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God [himself] …"
That every day, between now and November 17 and on November 17, God was making an appeal through us, where he's begging others on behalf of Jesus that they be reconciled to God. That's why we're here. It's what we do. We're going to get judged according to our works. What a privilege. We get to give a mission report every day. I'm just out there… This is the "mother lode of grace" house. This is the mercy house.
Let me stick this in right here. That weekend, we're still going to gather together corporately. We're going to gather in this room on November 16 at 7:00 that night, because some of you guys are going to need prayer, because I know you're going to be scared to death. But not really. I know you're ready. I know so many of y'all are doing this right now all the time.But we're going to gather just to remind ourselves why we do this.
Listen. When we gather on Sundays the way we do, our worship time of 20 to 30 minutes… You don't get to really experience corporate singing, worship, in all of the ways that I think God wants us to sometimes, so this is going to be not just three times as much as what we do on Sunday morning. There's going to be a movement to this evening. There are going to be times of silence. There's going to be a time of real celebration.
We're going to encourage you to be free in every way that's biblical, and we're going to have our team set up differently than we usually do. We're going to invite Fort Worth and Plano and Frisco. We're going to meet at 7:00. We're going to pack out out there and we're going to pack out in here, and it's going to be amazing. It's going to be set up to welcome everybody.I would tell you, November 16, we're going to gather, and if you want to know what we really think extended corporate worship should look like, you don't want to miss that night.
If people want to know what God's people look like, we don't want your neighborhood to miss you, so on November 17, you're going to gather, and you're going to invite your friends over and just say, "This is why I'm not usually here on the weekends. We're not selling anything. We'd love to let you know we're here to serve this neighborhood. Hey, we're going to make mistakes, and when we do, don't get mad at us. Would you just call us so we can clear up the mistakes we've made and seek your forgiveness?
And if you've ever wanted to know where forgiveness comes from, we'd love to tell you. Here are some things that are coming up. Here are some things that have blessed our family. Here's where we hang out. Come and see. If you have questions, I'll either answer them for you or I'll point you where you can, but I'm just glad to be your neighbor." Are you ready, church? What a privilege. It's what we get to do. Be the mother lode. Be his ambassador.
Father, I thank you for the chance to gather this morning and remind ourselves who we are. I thank you for what you've taught us, what you've modeled, that, Father, you yourself in the person of your Son… You made him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him, and having become the righteousness of God, I pray that now we would go into our neighborhoods, into our workplaces, into our city, and we would just love, be kind, polite, and sane.
That we'd love and just share the message and that people would watch the way we live and go, "Man, that's a little crazy the way you believe this for the glory of God," and they would say, "But, man, the wisdom with which you live and the wisdom with which you lead your family and the wisdom in the way you care for our neighborhood and the wisdom with which you operate your life… We could use more of that," and, Father, we would let them see those good works and it would push them to glorifying you, our Father. Thank you for this family that spurs me on in this way, that is ready to give a mission report, and that's ready to love. We love you and we thank you. In Jesus' name, amen.