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Community: Part 3
Community: Part 2
Community: Part 1
How was your 2019? What was it marked by? As we gather together for the first time in 2020, Todd Wagner kicks off a new series, Better Together, teaching through the importance of Devoting Daily and Pursuing Relationally—two of the six community core values.
Well, good morning, friends. How are we doing? "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." That's the blessed man.
The wicked are not like that, though. They won't be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, whose leaf doesn't wither, who, in whatever they do, they prosper. No, the wicked aren't like that. "But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous [of all those who know and love God] . For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."
I am certain of that. It is why part of the core value of who we are as a people, as we gather together is to continually encourage each other to devote themselves daily to the Word of God. Let me just welcome you. We are a gathering of people who have come to know the kindness of God. It's the time of year when we all need to know the kindness of God, isn't it?
So much of what happens with new years and especially new decades… It happens every new morning. It happens every new week, every new month. We see these as important times to reset ourselves and go, "This year is going to be different."A lot of us want things to be different.
So many of us have this weird understanding of this verse in the book of Lamentations that says, "The Lord's lovingkindness never ceases. His mercies are new every morning," which sometimes you can screw up by 9:00 a.m. You're like, "Crap. Well, I have to wait until tomorrow morning for new mercy." It's such a wrong understanding.
God is always ready to grab your heart and to bring you close to him and to start a new and fresh work. He's like, "Come to me, all you were are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. You don't have to wait until tomorrow. You don't have to wait until January 1 next year. If you've already messed up 2020, it's not too late.
Every day, every moment, God is begging with you to be reminded of who he is. What he wants to say to you…something I've said a lot lately…no matter who you are, where you've been, what you can be is blessed. But you have to stop walking in the way of the wicked and standing in the path of sinners and sitting with scoffers. You have to delight yourself in the law of God because the law of God is not like, "Do this, or you're busted." The law of God is like, "If you don't do this, it's not going to go well with you."
Again and again, this revelation of God is not a rule book, it's not a moral teaching, it's not a leadership manual. It is a revelation, an unfolding, of the Word from God who loves you and wants it to go well with you. He explains why your world is screwed up. He explained why you keep screwing up your world, and he explains how he wants to redeem your life from the pit.
But we have an Enemy who's a liar, and all he wants to do is say, "God is not good. His Word is not true. Disobeying him is not that big of a deal. What you need to do is numb yourself to your pain, distract yourself from ultimate things, empty yourself of serious thought. Just go along, get along, drift along, and maybe it won't be so intolerable." He's a liar.
God pleads with you to let him speak to your heart because he loves you. I know, as a father, how much I want to say to my kids, "Listen to me. I'm not trying to rip you off. I'm trying to set you up for a course of meaning and fullness and purpose and sleep that is sweet and to have more joy and less scars."
Every time I get done pleading with my children, every time if I shut the door to their bedroom or I stop the dinner conversation or the car ride, the Lord lovingly puts his arms around me. He goes, "Todd, as much as you think you want good for your kids, I want so much more good for you. Trust in me. Don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge me."
The way God speaks to my heart is through his Word. What marks us, what makes us the people of God… If you're a guest who's here this morning, you just need to know something. We are not here to punch a ticket. We're not here to do religious things so God is not going to be mad at us. God demonstrated his love for us in that while we're still sinners, Christ died for us. He gave himself for us. We're trying to figure out what kind of God does this, who seeks us in our rebellion, in our embracing a lie, and woos us with love and grace and kindness and truth?
Then he wants to restore us. He wants to redeem our life from the pit, as I've already said. Then he wants to use us to rescue others from the same delusion that we have been enslaved to up until the moment where we've come to know him.
We are here to remind ourselves of the greatness of our God, and we're here to remember how we should respond to him. Not so he loves us, but because we love him when we see him for who he really is. If we don't devote ourselves daily to the Word of God, we're going to drift. So we open up the Word of God, and we read it corporately, and we read it individually.
We have as our middle name community. We're Watermark Community Church. The reason it's there is because that's what God has created us to be. He calls us all to come individually before him and give an account for our own hearts and our own thoughts. But then he puts us in a family. We become a member of a flock or a body.
These are all things that are necessarily true of you if you are a part of the family of Jesus Christ. You don't just have a "me and Jesus" thing going on. It's impossible to have a just "me and Jesus" thing going on if you are a true follower of Jesus. He connects you to a people, and he wants you to grow in love and in depth and in intimacy with those people. Then there are always six things that those people do together.
It's what we do corporately, and it's what we do individually. Our world is made up of nation states. Those nations are often made up of either regions or provinces or on our land, they're made up of states. Those states are made up of counties. Those counties are made up of cities. Those cities are made up of families, and those families are made up of individuals.
Typically, as the individual goes, so goes the family. As the family goes, so goes the larger neighborhood, and as the neighborhood goes, the city goes. As the city goes, the county goes. As the county goes, the state. As the states go, the nations, and as the nations go, the world goes. I tell people all the time that most relationships are only as healthy as the least healthy person in the relationship. That's why God is so zealous for you not to yoke yourself to somebody who doesn't want to be about what you want to be about.
So part of what we are about, the thing we have to do continually, so we can be the individuals who make up the families who make up the family of God who lives in the city and affects our county and affects our state and our nation and our world, is remind ourselves of what our loving Father wants for us. So we devote ourselves daily to the Word of God.
We don't just devote ourselves daily to the Word of God individually; we also pursue one another relationally because that's another means of grace that God gives us. It's how we feed our soul. How do you feed your soul? If it's not the Word of God and with the echoing, the admonishment, and the encouragement of the people of God, your soul is not being fed the way God says it should be fed.
You're going to see that we also know that because we're prone to wander and feed our flesh, we often have to spur each other on to live authentically about, "This is where I'm feeding my flesh poison." This is where we admonish each other faithfully so we would turn from the things which corrode our soul. When we speak into others' lives, because we want to feed others, we counsel biblically, and we engage missionally. It's what we do.
Those are the six core values of life together for believers. Devoting daily and pursing each other relationally. It's how we feed our souls so we can help each other not feed our flesh in inappropriate ways. We live authentically and admonish faithfully. We're going to focus on that next week. Then we're going to focus on how we're going to engage missionally because we are here to not just make a living but to make a difference.
So we gather like this, and what we are is we're a collection of communities that are a collection of individuals. If those individuals, you and I, as believers in Christ, are not sitting with the Father often and having him speak to us, it will not go well with us. I wish I had time to read with you through Deuteronomy. I mean, like read through Deuteronomy.
If I could pick one place, it would be in chapter 4 where it is God through Moses begging the people again and again and saying to them, "The reason I've given you these words is so that it would go well with you. I'm not mad at you. You're my child."
When Moses was talking to them a little bit later in Deuteronomy 32:47, he says, "For it is not an idle word for you." What's idle? Idle means you just sit there and smoke a cigarette. You have six of them. They're stacked on a shelf. It means it's not put to work. No, this is the word that is to go to work in you so that it can produce in you life indeed.
God wants your days to be filled with the things that are prosperous and joyful and blessing. It's not always materially. It's not always healthy. It's not always circumstance. It's just a strength of Spirit that causes the world to marvel at you. This is our God. So we devote ourselves daily to hear from him that we might be ready in every test.
It says, "If you are slack in the day of distress, Your strength is limited." God raises men. He raises people who are fortified cities with walls of bronze and pillars of iron. The world and all of its chaos, thrown up against it, there will be some who still sing and live with hope and strength and dignity and who smile at every future. Who doesn't want that? God wants it for you. This is why we devote ourselves daily individually and corporately. As we pursue one another, we spur each other on to more of the Father's world in us.
Let me tell you what happens if we don't do that, if we give ourselves to frivolous and fleeting things. One of the ways to find out what's been going on in 2019 is to go to our good friends at Google and go, "Google, what've we been thinking about for the last year?" In the last number of years, Google has done this. They've told us what America has been searching for, what has been at the tip of our curiosity and made us at least want more information about something. Here are the top 10 searches on Google this last year.
The number one thing we searched for is Disney+. These movies that we used to get to watch for free and own, we're paying $9 a month to do that? ESPN is already on my cable network and already on my satellite. I have to pay to get certain other things with that? What's this Disney+ deal?
Secondly, Cameron Boyce. Some of you are like, "Who's Cameron Boyce?" Google him. He's a young man, a child actor, in a Disney show who died apparently tragically. Then, of course, we have Nipsey Hussle, who was murdered in the hip hop world. Hurricane Dorian. That might make some sense. "What's going on here? How can I get information about it?" Then you get down to some other people who crashed onto pop culture. These are the things we most search for. Those are the top five most searched for things in 2019.
How about this? These are the top five news stories. Hurricane Dorian. The Notre Dame Cathedral. Do you remember that? Oh my gosh. That was this year. That little fire happened in Paris. The Women's World Cup. The Area 51 raid. Okay, what's going on? I don't want to miss that. Copa América. A little soccer made its way into the top 10.
"What is Area 51?" We want to know what that is because apparently everybody is going there. "I want to know what's going on." "What's a VSCO girl?" How many of y'all even know what VSCO is? Few of you. Yeah, all the girls out there wearing little scrunchies and wearing their Brandy Melville clothes, carrying cute little backpacks, and they have their pucca shells on and their Vans. That's a VSCO girl. Posting their heavily filtered pictures. Anyway, now you know.
"What's MOMO?" MOMO is basically a creation of a Japanese special effects firm that then became an Internet hoax and lead to some real tragic stories. That's what MOMO is. All the way down to number five, "What is quid pro quo? I don't know what's going on in Washington, DC, if I don't know this Latin phrase. What is quid pro quo?"
Well, here's quid pro quo. You sow to the wind, and you'll reap the whirlwind. That's what it is. You'll get this for that. That a man cannot walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers and have delight in his soul. A man can't give himself to frivolous things and be a person of fortitude and meaning. That's quid pro quo.
Your Father doesn't want you to be Googling the way the world Googles. It's really interesting that in this last year, there are also our good friends up there at the YouVersion Bible app. What they have done for the last number of years is they have noted what Bible verses are the most highlighted, the most shared, the most copied, the most forwarded verses in all of Scripture. The Bible app has been radically changing how we read our Bible.
The YouVersion Bible app is the most popular Bible app in the world. For the last three years, they've noted what the most focused on verses are. Given what we're Googling, what do you think those verses are? I'll tell you. For the last three years, the most copied, highlighted, and forward verses on the YouVersion Bible app have all dealt with the exact same topic. What do you think the topic is?
Anxiety. This year, it was Philippians 4:6. Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Then it says in verse 7, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Verse 8 says, "Whatever is true and honorable, right and pure and lovely, whatever is excellent, if there's anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."
It's Paul pleading with you to not be Googling as the world does but to be the blessed men or woman who devotes daily to think about substantive truth. What is more true and honorable and right and pure and lovely and worthy of praise than God himself? By the way, that's exactly what Philippians 4:8 is talking about. It doesn't say, "Don't watch bad stuff." Which certainly is true. What it's saying is, "Don't flee in morality, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on God from a pure heart." That's to pursue, relationally, one anothers.
God is zealous for us because he cares for us. The year before that, it was Isaiah 41:10. Isaiah 41:10 is just this. "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
The year before was Joshua 1:9. It just says, "Be strong and courageous, for I'm your God. I'm with you wherever you go. You don't need to melt. You don't need to fear." Right before that, it says, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth…so that you may be careful to do [not just to read] according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success."
Do you see a theme here? It doesn't surprise me at all that our God is trying to say, "Some of what you're giving your heart to is not going to lead to peace. It's not going to lead to prosperity. It's not going to lead to success. I've said this before. Do you know that this is the first time in 100 years since the Spanish influenza and World War I that life expectancy in America has decreased? Life expectancy has gone down in 2019, 2018, 2017. The first time since the Spanish influenza devastated our world and a world war devastated our world.
Why? The Centers for Disease Control will tell you why. Because what is happened is there's been a spike in opioid overdoses. There's been a spike in people who have used drugs to the point that it cost them their life. There has been a spike in liver disease, which comes from people trying to numb their soul from the anxiety and the Googling that's all around them, and there's been a spike in suicide. Deaths of despair are why life expectancy continues to go down.
I say this a lot. When we ask our young adult community what they want to hear about, it's not sex and dating. That's not their most anticipated topic. The most anticipated topic is anxiety. "Speak to me about peace." It tells you a lot that Nipsey Hussle and Cameron were the top couple of guys who were Googled because that generation is the one that mostly feeds on social media and things of that sort. Their hearts are the ones that are most anxious. But boy, we have taught them these things, all of us, and our Father is trying to call us back to devote ourselves to the thing which will give us peace: him.
Here's what I want to encourage you with. Your Father isn't even upset that you're anxious. He's not upset with you. But he loves you. I got an incredible, encouraging note. One of my kids was out somewhere recently, and one of the folks who was with him wrote me a note and said, "I love the way your son loved his family and lead his wife and cared for his child and was just a joy and a blast to be with. He made the whole thing better. Well done."
I sent back just 3 John 1:4, which is this. "There's no great joy than to see your children walking in the truth." You're his children, and there's nothing God loves more than for his community of children to have hearts that smile at the future. There's nothing God loves more than to see his children who have strength in days of distress. We're just secure. We sing. We have hope.
We grieve because we're not ignorant, but we grieve differently than the world does. We don't grieve as those who have no hope. God wants that for you, and it's not just going to come magically. It's going to come when you devote yourself daily to the God who is a source of your strength.
My friends and I who I pursue relationally… I feed my soul by daily diving into God's Word, not in preparation for you but in preparation for my day, my life, my heart. As I read God's Word, I share it with friends, and friends share it with me. Yesterday, I got no less than seven or eight forms of communication from those who I'm in community with.
So much so, when I'm reading God's Word, I have to turn my phone off like, "Would you guys stop telling me what you're learning in God's Word so I can just read God's Word or just pray or just be quiet on my own?" My community, who pursues me relationally, is always sharing things with me.
There's a book that I have recommended incessantly over the last number of years by J.C. Ryle. It's the most awful titled book that I can imagine. It's titled Thoughts for Young Men. The reason it's awfully titled book is because this is not for young men. It's for young women. It's for old women. It's for old men. It's for anybody who is willing to just reflect on God's Word a little bit.
J.C. Ryle is who pastors your pastor. I read all I can about J.C. Ryle because I see in him things that I want to be true of me as I live with my family and my friends and you. This is a book that's easy to read. I read it and re-read it and share it and push it on. My friends are reading it with me right now. One of the things they sent yesterday is just a little excerpt from this one section which talks about one of the dangers to young men is a thoughtlessness in life.
Ryle writes this. "Want of thought is one simple reason why thousands of souls are cast away for ever. Men will not consider—will not look forward—will not look around them—will not reflect on the end of their present course, and the sure consequences of their present ways—and awake at last to find they are damned for want of thinking."
In other words, they spend their life Googling trivial things. They spend their life being a distracted pursuer of things that will lead to anxiety. All the while, there's a loving Father who's just saying, "I don't want that to be your story. I want strength and dignity to be your clothing." There are thoughts for young women out of Proverbs 31. God is begging you to consider your ways.
The reason we devote ourselves daily to God's Word is because he wants you to be like a tree, firmly planted by streams of water, who will yield its fruit in season, whose leaf won't wither, and whatever you do, you'll prosper, because God wants it to go well with you. The reason God wants you to consider your ways and to reflect on his word and devote yourself daily to his Word is because he doesn't want you to be conformed to the world.
You're not of the world. Your Father is not in this world. This isn't your home. You've been rescued out of the domain of darkness and called into this marvelous light if you know him. If you're here today, this can be your day where that's true of you. There's no probationary period. You just have to go, "I'm sick of the pit. I'm sick of despair. I'm sick of my 2019."
I'm going to show you something about your God. He is so tender towards you, and he's zealous for you to come and dine with him. He's not waiting for you to seek him. He stands at the door and knocks. He stands at the door of 2020. You've blown the first five days of it. He stands at the door of January 5, and he just says, "Will today be the day you come in and dine with me?"
Don't just have some religious amulet, some little token, some little Bible reading that, "Okay, I read my Bible. My three verses a day, and I might work through the Bible in a lifetime reading plan, where I go, 'Okay. Check.' I don't have a little app that puts up one verse on my phone every day, and I look at it like it's some fortune." No. Devote.
"How blessed is the man," the Scripture says, "who meditates on it day and night?" Joshua, again, I quote to you. "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth…" Ephesians 5, "You should speak with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another." What fills up your mouth? Are you talking more about Nipsey Hussle and Cameron Boyce and VSCO girls? No wonder you're filled with anxiety.
Or is the teaching of kindness on your tongue? "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…" Let the Word of God transform you. "…by the renewing of your mind…" Why? Watch this. "So that your life might experience, might prove out the good life, the acceptable life, the perfect life for the human experience." That's what the Word of God is.
Can I tell you? We don't read our Bibles so God can be impressed by us and we can impress others. We read our Bible because it's not an idle word. It is our life and is the means through which we will be protected from error and thoughtlessness and things which lead to anxiety and despair. So we remind ourselves of what is true and who is true and honorable and right and pure, and we follow him. Are you devoting daily?
One of the things that was encouraging to me as I was around different ways that people communicate today, specifically some social media forums, is a number of my friends are posting Bible reading plans. I was really encouraged.
If you're not familiar, we have a Bible reading plan here. It's called Join the Journey. We're reading the longest and shortest books of the Bible this year. We decided about 15 years ago to every year produce a Bible reading plan that we would corporately would all share in, that every day we would be processing over Scripture together.
So every day, in our Join the Journey, if you'll just sign up, we'll send you the first email in the morning, a little bio by the guy or gal who wrote it who is a member of our body, a central truth, a key verse, a 300-word short devotional, 3 or 4 questions of applications, and then even a chance to pursue Scripture relationally with other people and ask questions and get further insights into the text. So, jointhejourney.com. Jump in with the tens of thousands of others who are doing it.
I was so encouraged to see a number of people who were joining me and others. I am reading through the Bible again in 2020, the whole thing, systematically, chronologically. So I just want to read every single word of God's Word again this year. I was encouraged to see a number of other folks who were doing that.
One of the things that popped up that was curious to me was somebody who said, "This is the reading plan that I'm using." I had seen it before, but I was never really curious about it. This is what it looked like. It had this thing up there, and it was called… I didn't even know how to pronounce it. It just confused me when I read that. I looked at it. "What is that?" There's a chronological reading plan. There's a periscopic (30:09) reading plan, and then, there is this one. I thought maybe it was French, and all this.
So I did what anybody would do when they don't know what Nipsey Hussle is. I Googled it. I go, "Who is that?" It happens to be the name of a Scottish pastor. It's not French. It's Scottish. It's Robert Murray M'Cheyne. M'Cheyne. That's his name. M'Cheyne was a pastor in the nineteenth century (the 1800s) who had the same idea we had here about 15 years ago. "We have to get our people in the Bible."
What he wanted his people to do was to have regular Bible intake, so he sat down, and he came up with what's called the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. It was so effective that others in different parishes began to adopt it, and it's been preserved now for about 150 years. It's just a way to read through the Bible systematically through the year.
Here's what's so interesting. In some other reading that I was doing completely unrelated to this in another book by J.C. Ryle, I was reading along, and there was a contemporary of J.C. Ryle, who was Robert Murray M'Cheyne. Ryle was in England; M'Cheyne was in Scotland. He was observing the character and the power of the ministry and the parish that M'Cheyne led.
He said that he was somewhere, and he bumped into somebody who was a member of M'Cheyne's parish. This was so interesting. I never understood what this thing was that I'd seen before in Bible reading plans. I finally looked it up. I go, "Oh, that's a pastor from Scotland that I'm reading in a book that's talking about a pastor at an effective parish and whose messages were powerful, and J.C. Ryle says that he bumped into this woman, and she said this about Robert Murray M'Cheyne.
She said, "Listen, Pastor Ryle. If you've read all his works, you know nothing about him at all. You must see the man. You must've heard the man. You must know the man, and you must be in company with the man to know what a man of God Pastor M'Cheyne is." Why do I read that to you?
That dear woman, who was a member of his congregation, was saying, "You think his sermons are good that you podcast?" Or in that day, they printed them on leaflets and handed them out. "J.C. Ryle, you ought to know him." This is what the Word of God does. Can I tell you a dirty little secret about this job? There are lots of guys who are podcast and printed and popularized who are not men you want to share company with, whose family are a wreck and who, themselves, are a wreck.
It is one thing to be up here in a one to many scenarios and go, "Wow, that's a man of God." It's another thing to live with people and to watch them and to engage with them, and to have said about them that this is somebody whose company, if you're with them, you will know what a man of God they are. Not by some learning of oratory skills and ability to communicate and assimilate information in a compelling way.
That doesn't make you a man of God. What makes you a man of God is you're a man of God. I can remember a long time ago, somebody asked me this simple question. He said this to me. "Do you want to be a man of God?"
"Does God want you to be a man of God?'
"Are you a man of God?'
All of us, when you get to that third question, if you answer it, "No, I really am not," it's because you answered that first question wrong. You don't really want to be. You have a Father who is desperate to help you. The second question is, "Does God want you to be a godly man or woman?" Yes. So if you're not, it must be because we'd rather just Google our life away. God is trying to rescue you from that pit.
Let me give you one more little anecdote, and we're going to dive into more of God's Word. I quoted a ton to you, but I'm going to take you to John 20 and 21. I'm going to show you who your Father is. This is why you devote yourself daily to the Word of God, so you can be encouraged. This is a picture of a guy named Henry Martyn.
I had known of Martyn. He was a great missionary. He actually wanted to be a missionary and couldn't be because of some financial troubles that his family ran into, and so he had to get a job, and so took a job as a chaplain in the British East India Company where they would go and be a part of the great world trade that British and Indian commerce was.
When he would go as a chaplain on a boat with the British East India Trading Company, and he would get to a place… While the boat was unloading and restocking, he would learn languages, and he would begin to minister to people. He died by the time he was 31. When this guy was a chaplain (from 21 to 31), he had translated either the entire Bible or parts of the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer into Hindustani, Urdu, different Persian languages, and Arabic. The guy was about it.
Here's what's so interesting about him. When he was 21, he was on his way to a bar. His previous year had not been spectacular, maybe like yours. But there's a God who's always knocking. On his way to a bar, he bumped into a time named Charles Simeon, who, at Cambridge, was discussing what made young men great.
He stopped and listened, and as Simeon started talking about what made young men great, he was talking about Jesus, and he was talking about what Jesus wants to do with young men's lives. It captured Henry Martyn's heart, and Henry Martyn became a disciple of Charles Simeon, and his life was radically changed. He couldn't be a missionary because of financial troubles, so he got a job as a chaplain, and he translated the Bible into four different languages from 21 to 31. Then he died tragically.
Well, Charles Simeon, his mentor, did not die. Charles Simeon continued to live into his 70s, but he kept a picture of his young disciple in his bedroom. So here was Henry Martyn on his way to a bar who heard the teaching of the Word of God, his life was changed, and became a source of encouragement to Charles Simeon, who God did not take home but left here to be more about what God wanted him to be about.
Now, watch this. When Charles Simeon died, he gave the painting that I just showed you of Henry Martyn to the Cambridge Art Museum, and it's still hanging there. But it was well known that on a regular basis, Charles Simeon would stand before the painting of Henry Martin, and he would say, "It always seemed to say to me the same thing. 'Charles Simeon, don't trifle. Don't trifle Charles Simeon. Remember whose you are. Remember who you are.'"
He always heard Martyn, who gave his life for meaningful things, say that to him as he tarried. He would say verbally back to it. "I will not trifle. I will not trifle. I will not forget." I need a Henry Martin. Your Community Group ought to be that to you.
Are you trifling? What'd you Google today? What was your Bible intake today? Do you remember whose you are? Do you remember who you are? Do you want more comfort? Do you want more things? Do you want more vacations? Do you want more places that you can go and make a living, or are you going to make a difference? Do you know whose you are and who you are? Do not trifle. I need that.
You don't need a picture of Henry Martyn. Every day when you slip your little necklace around your neck, there's a cross that is hanging there that's saying to you, "Do not trifle. Do you know whose you are? Do you know who you are? You are the church of Jesus Christ, purchased with his own blood. This is no idle word. Let it go to work." Let me encourage you. I want you to be encouraged. I don't want you to walk out of here going, "Man, crap."
I'm like you. I need to constantly be brought back. John 20:30-31. What John writes there in this particular part of the text is this. "There are so many other things that Jesus performed in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book, but I've written in the things in this book that I needed to write so you could know who Jesus is, so you could believe that he is God, that he's the Christ, so that believing, you might have life in his name. Having life in his name, you would know whose you are and who you are, and that you wouldn't trifle."
That's why John wrote this book. Every week, when we come in here, we hand you a Watermark News, which is living stories of people who have engaged with Jesus. I was reading somewhere this week about somebody who was concerned about things that Christians were doing. It cracked me up what they wrote. It was a person who was angry at Christians and how she thought they were representing themselves. She said, "I swear to you. I know that Jesus is rolling over in his grave right now."
I thought to myself, "Look, lady. I don't know what Jesus is doing, but let me tell you what he's not doing. He's not rolling over in his grave. Muhammad, he might he rolling over in his grave. Buddha, he could be rolling over in his grave. Jesus is not rolling over in his grave, for God raised him with power, declaring him to be the Son of God.
He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father. He is interceding for his church, and he is going to return quickly in order to recompense men according to their deeds and to judge the living and the dead. He isn't rolling over in his grave. But I will tell you, he is praying that you would not trifle. He is praying for you that you would not be thoughtless and conformed to the world and that you would believe, and having believed, that you would have life indeed, and your life would indeed be different."
In John 21, it says, "After these things…" This is an interesting little text. "After these things…" What are these things? The triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, the betrayal of a trusted friend, the promise of a new kingdom, the arrest of Jesus, the failure of Peter, the crucifixion, the resurrection, different reappearances. After those things. That's all 2019. Now, in John 21, we're in John (if you will) 2020.
Here's the problem. Peter had a really bad end to 2019. Maybe just like you. "…Jesus manifested [made himself known] Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias [Sea of Galilee] , and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together." They were all together. What were they doing? They weren't making a difference.
Their AD 32, 33 wasn't their best year. The reason we're about to look at this text is because I want you to see why you devote yourself daily and why you should pursue one another relationally, as Christ is in you, and you're experiencing life from him. Jesus is never concerned about our 2019s. He's always concerned about our 2020.
Some of us have work to do to make amends and to confess and to clean up, and that's part of what Jesus will give us the strength to do our 2019. But he says, "Let's just focus. Let's begin to turn that around. Let's redeem your life from the pit by doing the thing that redeemed people do." I want you to see who Jesus is. You only get to know who Jesus is when you focus on what is true and honorable, right and pure and loving. You focus on Jesus.
So watch this. This is so great. They were all together, these disciples, up by the Sea of Galilee, and Simon Peter said, "I'm going fishing. I'm going back to what I used to do, because clearly, I'm a failure." They said, "We'll go with you. You're kind of our leader." Peter was the spiritual leader. They went out. They got in the boat, and that night, they caught nothing.
Can I just note, this was not because of chance that they caught nothing. Nothing is ever because of chance. The Lord is in everything. He's always up to something. One of the ways you can tell that you really are a disciple is you can't just go back to what you were doing before you knew Jesus and have great success.
Let me say it to you this way. If you're having a lot of success going back to what you used to do before you came to know Jesus, it should really trouble you. If you say, "I met Jesus in 2019, 2018, or 2000 or 1967," I don't care. If you say you've come to know Jesus, but you go back to being indifferent to spiritual things, you go back to not caring about man on the precipice of eternity of judgment, if you go back to bondage to sin, if you go back to coarse jesting, if you go back to frivolous living, if you go back to obsession with comfort and wealth and you're having success there, it should concern you. It's a tell.
People whose lives have been regenerated don't have success living and dwelling in sin. I still, at the time, don't cherish and love my wife the way Scripture says I should. I still am prone to wander and leave the God I love. One of the evidences that I have that I'm a believer is I'm never happy there. I'm prone to Google Nipsey Hussle and be obsessed with VSCO girl things, but I'm never content there. It always is a catch of nothing, and I come to my sense quickly. God brings me back to a non-trifling way of life.
If you are fishing the way the world is fishing and having all the success of the world, it's evidence that you're probably of the world. Don't love the world. "For the one who loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Let me just wake you up. If you're okay in 2020 living a BC life, it's probably because you have not yet met Jesus.
They caught nothing. Jesus said to them, "Children, you don't have any fish, do you? It's not working out for you. There's nothing but anxiety and despair there." "No," they answered. "And He said to them, 'Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.' So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish." God used that to open up Peter's eyes, and he said, "It's the Lord. Only God can give this kind of prosperity and peace. What are we doing out here on our own again." We know he ran towards him.
Here's what I want you to see. This is for you. Fast-forward with me to verse 15, because Jesus wants you to dine with him, because when you devote yourself to him and dine with him, you're going to remember what a kind and tender and loving God he is. Here's the exchange. I want to say this to you. I don't care what your 2019 was. You have to decide what your 2020 is going to be.
"So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you [agape] Me…" The word agape there is the word for love. We've heard all about these words of love. If you haven't, tune in quickly. Agape is the word for unconditional, sacrificial, unending, eternal, perfect, Yahweh, God-like, rescuing love.
He said, "Peter, do you love me like that?" Peter responded, "Lord, you know that I phileo you." Phileo. Philadelphia. The city of brotherly love. Peter didn't even answer his question. He said, "You know I don't. If I loved you that way, the last time I was around a fire like this, I wouldn't have denied you three times. I don't feel like I'm worthy of you. I don't feel like my AD 33 can be useful to you because my AD 32 or my AD 30 days ago was not very good, so I'm sure you're done with me. I'm sure you're frustrated by me. I'm frustrated by myself."
Jesus wants him to fellowship. Jesus wants to remind him who he is. Part of the secret to you understanding the strength that God wants to give you is you have to understand who you are. Peter understood, "I don't love you the way I popped off that I would." "Even if everybody forsakes you, I'm all in. I'm going to have a perfect 2020." No, you're not.
There's not a single person in this room who doesn't have a loving Savior who wants to constantly convict you of your drifting towards fishing, pull you out of your trifling, and bring you back to a life of meaning and significance. But you need to pursue the body. You need to stop attending church and attend to God's business. You need a community that devotes itself daily to God's Word and pursues each other relationally and spurs each other on into righteous faith of (49:10) peace. Jesus was that community. Watch this.
"Do you agape me?" "No, you know I phileo you." He said, "Still, I want you to tend my sheep." He says a second time in verse 16, "Simon of John, do you agape me? Love me unconditionally and sacrificially in a perfect way." "Lord, you know that I phileo you. I'm just a man. I love you the best I can like a brother, but I'm not able to love you perfectly." Jesus says, "Well, shepherd my sheep."
This is what's so tender. I read this text hundreds of times before I took the time to see what Jesus did in verse 17. Jesus said to him the third time, "Do you phileo me?" Simon said, "Yes. Yeah, I phileo you."
In effect, Jesus said, "That's enough, Simon. I just need you to do the best you can. I know you're a man. That's why I died for you. I know you won't be strong. You can't do anything without me. You need me. If you'll devote yourself to me, we'll change the world. The gates of hell won't stand against us. It's Christ in you that's the hope of glory, but you need to be devoted to me, Peter.
Your phileo is enough if my agape is yours. If you'll just fellowship with me and and trust in me and devote yourself to me, I'll use you to tend my lambs, shepherd my flock, feed my sheep. But you need me Peter, and without me, you can't do anything. You can't catch fish, and you certainly can't redeem the lives of others from the pit. Do you believe in me?"
This is the question you need to hear. This is why you read your Bible: so God can lift up your head and encourage you. I don't care what your 2019 has been. I don't even care what your January 4 was. I want to know is…Who do you say Jesus is on this January 5, and are you ready to not trifle? Will you devote yourself daily with me to the Word of God? Will you pursue each other relationally so we can be what God wants us to be for his glory and our good? Will you? I pray you will.
Father, if there's somebody here who has never come to understand your tenderness and your love and your kindness, the way you redeem lives from the pit, I pray that they would meet you for the first time today, that they would see you in your love and they would see you in your perfection, they would see you on your cross, and they would quit trying to perform to be good enough for you, because we're not good enough for you.
Thank you that you demonstrated your love for us and that while we were still sinners, you died for us. If there's anybody here who's never believed in your grace, I pray today would be their day. Lord, for those of us who do, thank you for this Word. Would you be our Henry Martyn? Would the cross be that thing that we stand before every day and say, "I will not trifle. I will not trifle"?
Lord, we want to be your church. We don't want to ever go to church. We want, together, to be a source of life and grace, individually, in our families, so our families, collectively, can be a blessing in our church, in our community, in our county and our state, to our country, to our world. O Lord, redeem us from Googling fleeting things. Let us put your Word to work in our lives. May we do it together, always depending on you. Thank you for grace today. Let us dine with you always. In Jesus' name, amen.