Everyone has a different siren song, what is yours? Do you have godly friends that come alongside you and encourage you in your walk with Christ? Today Todd talks about the importance and purpose of community within the church.
Engaging Missionally in Frisco
Community Part 5: Engaging Missionally
Community Part 4: A Call to Shepherd One Another
Counsel Biblically | How are you feeding others?
Authentic Confession and Encouragement | How are you feeding your flesh?
Bible Intake and Relationships | How are you feeding your soul?
Do you have people in your life who know where you are prone to wander? People you can freely confess your sin to without fear of judgment or rejection? As we continue our new series, Better Together, Todd Wagner teaches the community core value of live authentically—and the freedom and life that accompany it.
Good morning! How is everybody doing this morning? We are going to dive into week two of a little series we're doing called Better Together. We believe that we are better together. We are saved, as God's people, to be made part of a flock, a family, a community. We're a body. We're not detached from one another.
We're talking about three questions that we're to always ask when we're together in our smaller communities. First, "How are you feeding your soul?" Last week, we talked about whether or not we were devoting daily and pursuing each other relationally, being individuals who are committed to living life together, as the Scripture says.
Let me tell you why we're doing this. Because God designed us to live in community. He gave us means of grace. First and primarily his Spirit, which convicts us of sin and of righteousness and judgment, the Scripture says in John 16. Then he gave us his Word, which is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword that alone is profitable to teach us, reprove us, correct us, and train us.
We wouldn't ever believe that somebody could seriously desire to know God and not want to commune with him or hear from him, but there is a third primary means of grace God gives us that so many churchgoers…not Christians, churchgoers…squelch and ignore. It is life together. It is the Spirit of God, people informed by the Word of God, who live in relationship with you.
The reason we're talking about this and talking about it a lot is because we wouldn't be a church if we didn't ever talk about the Bible, even though there are a lot of them. We wouldn't be a church if we squelched the spirit and didn't believe that the Spirit of God is the primary means through which we engage with God today. This is the church age, and the church age is empowered by and intimately yoked to God with the Spirit.
Without the Holy Spirit you're not a church, and the Holy Spirit is really hard for us to get our arms around. The idea of Jesus isn't, the idea of God isn't, but the presence of God and the person of his Spirit? What is that? I'll talk a little bit about that today and tell you how you experience more of him. This is what the Scripture says. There are dozens of verses in the New Testament that talk about what we're to do with one another if we're his people. I just put them all together.
This is what the church is to be, and I want you to see the one phrase that pops up. The church is where we love one another, care for one another, serve one another, admonish one another, show forbearance to and forgive one another; where we keep fervent in our love for one another, are hospitable toward one another, and where we employ our gifts in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
It's where we greet one another, are of the same mind toward one another, are kind to each other and speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; where we build up, comfort, pray for, encourage, live in peace with, and seek after that which is good for one another. It's where we clothe ourselves in humility toward one another; where we live in subjection to one another, stimulate one another unto love and good deeds, confess sins to one another, live in peace with one another, give preference and honor to one another; where we encourage one another day after day lest any of us become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
It's where we love one another just as he commanded us. If you are not practicing the "one anothers" of Scripture, you're not a part of his church. God says you are made to do life together. All of us together are better than any one of us alone. We know that here this morning we have friends and guests who God has brought here, maybe through our relationship with them and our invitation or maybe just through a life circumstance, where they just said, "I have to go find him. I have to go find his people. I have to see if there's more than what I have been getting in my rebellion and in my self-will." So you're here, and we're so glad you're here.
There are others of you who have been here for sometimes years who are regular attenders. You call yourself a member, but you're not. You're not a part of this body. You're not practicing the "one anothers" in a committed way underneath biblical leadership in the way God intended. I say it a lot, because I love you, that if you're here and you take the name of Jesus and you've decided that he alone is the means through which you can be reconciled to God and you are regularly attending a place where his people are, you're not a regular attender; you are an irregular believer, and you might be deluded.
You can't be comfortable not doing what God wants you to do if you are one with God. Thomas Brooks, a famous Puritan pastor, said something like this: "Sin in the man is like poison in the viper." It's in its natural place. It doesn't bother him to live contrary to the will of God. But poison in a believer or sin in a believer creates a violent reaction. It makes the heart rise. I love you, and if you're here and you're comfortable not doing what Jesus called you to do, you ought to be uncomfortable with your relationship with Jesus.
We talk about the fact that what Sunday really is… It's our large gathering. We have thousands of smaller gatherings that happen repeatedly throughout the week, because in this larger community of the church of Jesus Christ, we commit to smaller gatherings of one anothers, smaller communities of believers that do all of the things I just read in an even much more intimate way than we talked about here.
The Scriptures tell us to not forsake our own assembling together. If you come to the assembly but aren't regularly assembling with other believers, you are not doing what Hebrews 10:24 wants you to do. God wants you to live in intimate, ongoing, deep, abiding relationship with him and with his people. That's God's will for you.
Now, we call this gathering a pastors' conference, because we're a kingdom of priests. All of us are called to be part of a local expression of a faithful community of believers. Too many people believe that what we're supposed to do is go to a church. I've said it here ad nauseam. We don't go to church any more than you go to a gang. You don't go to gang; you are the gang. If you just go to a gang and start hanging out with them and you're not part of the gang, it will not go well with you. Like, "What are you doing?"
"I'm just going to gang."
"No, no, bro. We don't go to gang. You're either in or you're out."
You're either a victim of the gang or, if you will, in biblical vernacular, you're either a part of the body of Christ or the body of Christ isn't going to come and bring horror to you, but the body of Christ longs for you to become one with it, to join Jesus and to run with his people. Now, when you become a part of the church of Jesus Christ, this is what we do here. We have tried to synthesize a way that we're going to go about being God's people.
When you go through what we call the Discover Watermark class, we explain to you, "This is who we are." We talk about our core values. We talk about how we are going to govern ourselves in accordance with the Scripture, what it is that we believe in accordance with the Scripture, and we don't have anything that we make up and add to what God says, because the Bible is our authority, our conscience, our guide. We're firm where it's firm, and we're flexible where it's flexible.
This is the membership covenant. Watch this. Remember where you are this morning, regular attenders and guests, and we're so glad you're here. We welcome you in as we train ourselves, equip ourselves, remember our God, remind ourselves what we want to do as we worship him all week long. I will say in just a few minutes, "Have a great week of worship" to the believers in this room.
We don't think this is our worship to God. This is our corporate gathering where we remind ourselves and declare corporately who our God is and his worth so we might rightly respond to him in our spiritual living, which is worship. This is our membership covenant: "Having trusted in Christ alone as my Lord and Savior, and being in agreement with the Calling, Commitments, Convictions, Core values, Beliefs, and Governance [as expressed together as a community], I now am called to unite with the Watermark family. [This is going to be my local church.]
In doing so, I commit myself to the Lord and to the other members of the family to protect our unity, share in, serve, and support the ministry of [this expression of God's love for the world by pursuing this]…" We talk about the 4 Bs: believe in Christ, belong to his body, be trained in truth, and be strong in a life of ministry and worship.
"I will belong to his body…" This is the membership covenant that we all sign. "…by living life as a fully devoted follower of Christ." What is not normal is semi-devotion to somebody you call Lord. Full devotion is normal, so if you're a member, you go, "I am completely committed to the Jesus and the God idea and to Jesus as a person and have a relationship with him and not just to kind of go to meetings every now and then. Personally, I want a relationship with Jesus."
That's part of our membership process. Secondly, "By attending faithfully [corporate gatherings]; by dealing biblically with conflict and refusing to gossip; by following the leadership in submitting myself to the care and correction of leadership [and the body at large] should the need arise; by praying for [the health and impact of this community]; by warmly welcoming those who visit Watermark and committing myself to community with those who attend…"
You see, that's part of the membership covenant. "…by having a community group that will know me and help me as I seek to love God, love believers, and love unbelievers." In terms of helping others believe in Christ, I'm committed to developing relationships with the unchurched, de-churched, dead-churched, and unmoved; by sharing my story of grace with them, and by praying for the salvation of nonbelievers who I know personally and by name.
We have what's called a top 10 list, where we're meeting people who don't know God and his goodness who we're praying for all the time. "God, use me in their life that they might know more of you." I'm committed, because I'm a member of Christ's body, to be trained in God's truth, to grow in Christlikeness. I'm committing myself to read, understand, and apply the Bible. We talked about what the core values of this community are in individual parts of the church.
Our core value is to be devoted daily to God and his Word. Do you see that? It's part of the membership covenant that you would commit yourself to read and grow in your understanding and application of the Bible to your life. One of the things that has made Watermark a place that has been radically transformative in my life and my family is we don't just have aspirational goals; we have actual goals.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who finish what they started… Look. I want you guys to understand with me what we're talking about here. We're not going to be those other kinds of people. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who finish what they start and… So, as a result of this (you got it the second time), we don't just say these things. We want to be about it. So what we're going to do, church…
You might be a guest or a regular attender. This hasn't been your covenant. We talked last week about our importance to devote daily. I got away with my staff this week, and regularly, one of the things we do is we just share with one another. I don't ask people to prepare what they've been reading in God's Word.
They just read God's Word, and they turn to folks and go, "This is what God is teaching me. This is a truth I've been reminded of. This is a sin I was once again shown in Scripture exists. This is a truth about the character of God that strengthened my heart. This is a promise I've held on to. This is an example to follow. This is a question I have to get resolved." Those are the kinds of things we see when we study Scripture.
So, are you ready, pastors? What I want you to do is just turn to the folks who are around you and just take a second and share with them what you have read in God's Word this week and what you've learned. Let's go, church.
I know you didn't have a chance to all talk, but what a good problem to have. Let me stop you right there. I love that folks are like, "No, no, no! I want to share. Only one person talked." That's why we have community.
I was with a group of guys yesterday. I walked into a restaurant early in the morning. There were about four or five guys who were there, and I just said, "Hey, man. It's so great to see you guys. I'm sure you're about to read God's Word to one another and remind each other of things that are true, not just hang out." It's part of what God wants us to do when we're together: speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
If you're a guest, we have this thing called Join the Journey that you can sign up to. Every morning, we'll send you an email where you can read through Scripture with us and have questions of application and an easy place for you to jump online and even ask questions you're confused about and start to get assimilated here. There's something called Equipped Disciple that will teach you how to study your Bible. Look in the back of your Watermark News. It's right there.
There are three questions community should always ask when we're together. One of them is, "How are you feeding your soul? Have you done a good job of pursuing us this week? We haven't heard from you, so the answer is no. Have you been in God's Word lately? If you haven't, the answer is no. All right. We're not here to scold each other; we're here to encourage each other day by day. Let's do better. Let's excel still more."
The second question we're focusing on this week that we always want to ask when we're together… By the way, all of these things every week are there and available for you. If you just go to the app store, there's a Community app. If you go to Watermark Community Church, you'll see a couple of apps, one that streams services and has old messages right there for you. There's a Real Truth. Real Quick. app that you can search and download specific answers to questions, and there's a Community app that has these things on there.
"How are you feeding your soul?" Secondly, "How are you feeding your flesh?" See, this is earth. What happens when we trust Christ is old things are gone, new things have come, but some things remain. What remains is your flesh. What remains is the Devil and temptation. What remains is this world that is not itself an expression of God's love and beauty.
This world is fallen. The course of this world is against God. The Prince of this world… Not the Sovereign over it (that's God), but the Prince of this world is still alive and influential, and your flesh is still prone to wander. What has changed is not your appetites physically, your propensity to want to seek self and silver and sex and sloth and all of those things that are so easy to us.
What changes is the operating system. You're no longer a slave to the world and the Enemy and your flesh. You now have a strength in you that, "Hey, I know there is a liar who comes to deceive and to destroy and to lie to me. I know this world is not our Father's world, and I know this flesh is never going to change until it's put in the ground and God gives me a resurrected body."
The Bible's program for your flesh is this: not improve it; it's crucify it. It takes a daily death to your humanness where you go, "I'm not going to lean on my own understanding. I'm not going to follow me; I'm going to follow Christ. I'm not going to be like the world. I'm going to be transformed by the renewing of my mind."
So, what you have to do is with your friends at different times you want to say, "Hey, how have you done this week at feeding not just your soul, which is praise God, but how have you fed your flesh? What not Bible intake have you had, but where have you gone with the way of the wicked? How have you stood in the path of sinners? Where have you sat in the seat of a scoffer? Where have you fed your flesh's fancy instead of forsaking it?"
Theologians for years have called this the mortification of the flesh. It's a daily and continual dying. One of the things I'm not going to let you do to me is make me what I can never be so I can be your pastor. I'm not going to let you not make me a Christian. There is no temptation that comes to me or that comes to you that is not common to man.
Your pastor is a man, and I am sordidly tempted. It is real to me, just like you. One of the hardest problems my wife and I have is convincing not our close friends and folks who are around us, but you go, "Well, if I was married to someone like Todd, if I was married to someone like Alex, I'd have a great marriage too."
My wife and I make war against our flesh, and when our marriage is flourishing and prospering, it's not because we're great people but because we have a great God we're both submissive to and surrendered to, and we're forsaking and seeking forgiveness and pursuing one another and getting the log out of our eyes and cherishing and respecting and yielding and being subject to one another and everything that is totally contrary to me.
I don't know if you've been listening or not, but your pastor is a man, and by the grace of God, because I have yielded consistently to the Spirit of God, because I feed my heart truth of Scripture, because I pursue other believers relationally, I, by the kindness of God, fit the characteristics of 1 Timothy, chapter 3, in terms of what a spiritual leader should be, that the propensity and direction of my life is above reproach. Not perfect. We don't have a perfect man in our body.
I meet the characteristics of Titus, chapter 1, by the grace of God, because so many pray for me and remind me and spur me on and because I've done it for a while, but you need to know something. With 35 years of walking with Jesus, I still feel a pull toward sin. I still commit sin, and when I do, my heart elevates, and it is poison to me, because there is something in me that is greater still, which is the love of God.
The old is gone, which is slave to sin and self, and the new has come, which is an understanding of the kindness and goodness of God, and I want more of him. But friends, you have to learn to live authentically. It's one of the things that will mark you as a believer: that you're not afraid to tell the world, "This is who I am. This is where my flesh goes." I've shared it with you repeatedly over the last couple of decades that we've been a body together, and I share it continually with my friends. "This is where my flesh goes."
Somebody asked me this week… I was with our staff. Our staff got away for three days. It was an amazing time. Hundreds of us. We were praying for you, and we were praying for one another, and we were reminding ourselves of our mission to serve the saints and to equip the saints and to make disciples and to be disciples. We were just sharing stories of work we've seen God do, and I was asked repeatedly, "Todd, does this ever get to your head? Do you ever go, 'Look at what I've done'?"
I have to tell you, I have a lot of things that are tempting to me; that has never been one of them. It has just never been one of them. I am under no illusion about what's happening here. This has nothing to do with me. Yes, God has used me. I've been part of the leadership, part of the vision, part of the strength behind it, but it's Christ in me. I know right away if I had all the experience of the last 20 years of leadership and ministry, if I had all of the resources God has given Watermark, I could not, if we started over today, get us back to where we are today.
This is God's work from beginning to end. I never lie in bed and go, "Aren't you lucky that you've got me, God?" I have never patted myself on the back. What I have done is I have thanked God continually that his Word is true, that he's willing to strongly support those who give him what they have, and I've tried to give him this broken flesh, this jar of clay, that his light might shine through me, because I love him.
But there are plenty of things that this flesh is prone to do, and I share it continually. "If I'm going to play, if you will, with vipers, these are the ones I will pick up. If I am too tolerant toward certain things, these are the things I'm too tolerant to, that I don't hate enough." I tell it to my friends, and they pray for me, and they ask me, "Hey, how are you doing in that area?" Do you have that?
Can I just show you something? Open your Bible to Mark 2 with me. We've quoted a ton of Bible. Let me just give you some Bible. This is what you need to know. What God is doing here is he's working in the midst of imperfect people. I've said it repeatedly. The table stakes to be a part of the church of Jesus Christ is to say, "I'm broken. My life is not what it should be."
I just went through all of the miracles this week, every miracle that Jesus committed. What Jesus typically did is he took people who were experiencing the horrors of sin in this world, which is manifested usually in physical maladies. The physical maladies are not really what make this world a bad place. What makes this world a bad place is our spiritual disobedience, but the thing that makes all of us sad at times are the physical maladies.
Let me just say this about our country right now. Our country is happy because the Dow is at an all-time high and, physically, a lot of people are prospering in it. There are plenty of people who aren't, by the way, but those who are prospering are like, "Hey, everything is good." Our nation is not healthy. I mean, never mind the debt that's fueling some of that economy. There are so many people who think, "Man, America is becoming great again" because economically we're in an uptick, but spiritually, we are on a major downslide.
Most of us are like that. We're like, "Hey! If I'm running fast, if my table has good food on it and my square footage is increasing and my flexibility and comfort are increasing, it's all good, God." But cancer comes, death comes, tragedy comes, limps come, maiming comes, we're like, "God, where are you?"
What God did in the person of Jesus… The reason all of those things are there, the reason brokenness and defilement and sickness and sin are in the world, if you will, the symptoms of sin, which is a fallen creation, floods, hurricanes, tragedies, acne, everything…you name it… The reason all of that is here is because the world is fallen, and sometimes God will immediately reverse the effects of the fall. Who can do that? Answer: only God can.
There was never a miracle Jesus did that delivered people from spiritual sickness. Do you know that? "Well, Todd, what about when he cast the demons out of people?" Well, what he did is he just gave them the right to no longer be submissive to this influence of brokenness and the demon's way, but every single person he delivered, often, in fact…
Like, epilepsy was considered to be demon-possession back in the day, because somebody would be violently thrown to the ground and shake and convulse and often foam at the mouth, and their eyes would roll back, and they'd go, "That person has a demon." We know today it's called epilepsy. I'm not saying there wasn't a physical manifestation in some people that Jesus cast out, but Jesus tells us that all of those things…
Lameness is an effect of the fall. Blindness is an effect of the fall. Deafness is an effect of the fall. Sexual immorality is an effect of the fall. There are times that Jesus would immediately reverse lameness or blindness and say, "That's not going to be on this little part of earth right here." Who can do that? Only the God who creates. But every time he would do this, he would then call people to respond to who he was. In fact, he told a story.
"Some of you guys, the demon comes out of you of some dependence and brokenness to a certain thing, but if it's not filled with the Spirit of truth, then that demon is going to go out and find some buddies and is going to come back, and because you're not looking like a train wreck anymore because of what you've been doing, people have kind of left you alone, and now seven worse demons are going to come inside of you and you're going to be in a worse condition than you were in the first place."
Jesus is constantly calling people back into relationship with him. Watch this. I'm going to say this very quickly. Jesus healed people with sicknesses, diseases, leprosy, paralyzation; people who were enslaved to certain behaviors, a danger to themselves and others; who were hemorrhaging, blind; they were dumb; they were mute; they were crippled; they had withered limbs; children with maladies; adults with maladies; epilepsy, death, crippled, in pain, diseases; they had dropsy, and they were dead.
But even the people Jesus raised from the dead had to make a decision about who Jesus was. We are all people who Jesus, in a sense, has raised from the death of enslavement to sin, but we are still in a world… Everybody Jesus resuscitated from the grave died again, and if they didn't trust in him, their resurrection would be to judgment and not to life.
Now, what Jesus wants is there were many people who were delivered from these things who then did begin to follow him, and there was a resurrection working in them, and God was busily producing in them a Christlikeness. Let me just read to you this little statement by a theologian of days past.
"He works on us in all sorts of ways. But above all, he works on us through each other. Men are mirrors, or 'carriers' of Christ to other men [when they come to know Christ]. Usually it is those who know him that bring him to others." Isn't that your story? A Christian brought Christ to you. "That is why the church, the whole body of Christians showing him to one another, is so important. It is so easy to think that the church has a lot of different objects…education, buildings, missions, holding services…the church exists for no other purpose but to draw men to Christ, to make them little Christs." That's straight out of Ephesians 4.
So many of us think the church exists to put on a show on Sundays that you evaluate over lunch about how the pastor did, how the music was, how the coffee was, how the parking was. That's what most people think church is. No! It exists to make you a little Christ. One of the things we need to acknowledge is that we are not like Christ yet. We are being made into his image, which means there are things that are not as they should be yet. Mark 2:
"And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, 'Follow Me!' And he got up and followed Him. And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him."
Let me just say this. When Jesus told Matthew to follow him, it wasn't their first engagement. Matthew was at the end of himself. His friends were other tax gatherers and other sinners who were probably paid off by the tax gatherers to either sleep with them or to be their enforcers and protectors.
They were betrayers of their brothers and sisters in Israel, because they had made an alliance with Rome, because they knew people, and they would make sure everybody gave what they were called by Rome to give, and they would always put in more burden so they themselves could be comfortable and pay off their prostitutes, protection, and throw their parties.
Matthew was sick and tired of that, so when he came to say, "I'm going to abandon this life; I'm going to follow Jesus," he invited others who hadn't made that decision yet to be with him. Verse 16: "When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, 'Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?' And hearing this, Jesus said to them…"
"Hey, listen, guys. I'm a physician. I came to make sick people well spiritually. It's not the healthy who need a physician; it's the sick. I didn't come to call righteous people; I came to call sinners. And you don't think you're sick. You think guys in this room with me right here are sick. No. You don't understand what sickness is because you don't understand what righteousness is. Some of these people are at the end of themselves. You need to get to the end of yourself, because you need to follow me just like these folks do."
Can I just say this to you? Every single one of us has some tax gatherer and sinner in us. We know what we're prone to do. Does your community know? Are you living authentically? Are you saying, "Hey, this is where I'm not operating as a faithful person in my land. This is where I'm creating enmity. This is where I'm prone to wander. This is where I'm prone to go. Left to myself, if my flesh defaults, this is what I do" or "This is what I did."
If you're lucky, you're going to have friends who lovingly come alongside and admonish you and encourage you and help you, and that's what happens here. I think so many times you come to this place and you see me and you see others and you go, "Well, their life is easy." Man, you don't know what our life is. I make war against sin. Every day, I am clawing to stay close to Jesus. Some of you guys pray for me, which is the explanation for why I have.
My Community Group prays for me continually. They feed my heart with God's Word. They admonish me when they see me drift. They pick up the phone and go, "Hey, the interaction I just saw you have… Let's talk about that. Tell me what was going on there. Was that Todd or was that you yielding to Jesus in a way that maybe I need some help seeing?" That's what's going on in my life. Do you have that? Are you free to tell folks how you're feeding your flesh so you can forsake it?
Let me show you one last thing. Luke 5. It's a great story. It's the same Jesus. "One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea…" In other words, everybody was around him. This is Luke 5:17. "…the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing."
That is an interesting verse to talk about. I'm going to leave it for now, but let me just say, God's presence and his power to perform healing is here today, just like it was in this moment in Christ's life, but what you have to do is acknowledge you're sick and need a physician and not think your sickness is a limp or cancer; it's a cancer of the soul and a propensity to not lean on him but on self (it's called sin), to not believe that God is good and beautiful and right and true.
It says, "And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him." I wish I had time today to take you to 2 Kings, chapter 5. All week, I was hanging out with Naaman. Naaman is a Syrian general. I'm not going to read the story; I'm going to summarize it for you. Sin in the Scripture is often characterized by the disease of leprosy. Leprosy is a bacterial disease that takes place in the joints and the marrow, in the deepest parts of us.
What it starts to do is eat the flesh around. That bacteria goes to work, and it begins to destroy the flesh that's between the joint and the marrow and the bone. It eats you from the inside out. It makes its way eventually to the skin's surface, and what it does on the way there is it numbs and kills the nerves, so you don't really feel pain, but it just begins to cause your appendages to come in, because there's no longer a connection between your joints and your tendons.
It begins to shrivel, and often, because it doesn't hurt, you just leave it unattended to. There's not much you can do to heal it, in fact, even today. Then it begins to fester and get infected. It has a certain contagion and expressions of it, so they isolate you, and it separates you from beauty and from others. It's a picture of sin in the Scriptures.
Naaman, the general, the most celebrated leader in all of Syria, was a leper, but he was often seen and only publicly seen in his general regalia. He had the stripes, he had the uniform, and you couldn't see the leprosy. Now, very quickly, I'll show you the grace and the kindness of God. He was a terrorist. He would go into Israel, and he would murder and destroy and steal and put people in slavery.
He had a little slave girl from Israel who lived with him, and she got inside his house, and she saw he was a leper. Now watch this. God used his sin to be the means through which the expression of God's love would come to him, because there was a faithful person who understood God, even in the midst of being terrorized and kidnapped and put in bondage, who spoke of the goodness and kindness of God and said, "God will take care of me, but you need God to take care of you."
God used his sin to bring his kindness. Isn't that the case with so many of us? Your sin shows you, "Hey, this life without God ain't working," and the kindness of God comes in your humility. There was a man who was lame. Lameness is not always there because of an individual's sin, but crippled, paralyzed people are in this world because the world is not as God intended it to be.
There will be a day when there will be no tear, no limitation, no disease, no death. It'll be the world God intended, but for now, many of our friends are in wheelchairs and are crippled and many other things. This man could not go where he needed to go, which was to Jesus, because of his sin, but look at what happened. He had others who, in a sense, admonished him and helped him and picked him up and carried him to Jesus.
Do you have those friends? Your sin, just like a leper's, will paralyze you. It makes your life not what it should be. There is a handicap, a disfiguration, to it. Often, our sin makes us isolate, and our life becomes more lame and moves more toward death. What you want is friends who will come to you and see that lameness in you, that un-Christlikeness in you, and pick you up and do whatever they need to do to bring you back into the presence of Christ, that he might speak words of life and healing to you.
Do you have that or do you feel like you need to pretend like you don't have issues, that there is no propensity toward lameness? That's crazy! The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another so that we might be healed. Are you free to confess sins here? I am. This is God's church. All of us have sins.
Can you imagine how insane it would be if Jesus took his followers and said this? "Hey, I'll tell you what. Um, you. Didn't you used to be a prostitute? Don't ever tell anybody that. You were a tax collector. Right? You stole from people? Shh! Hey, you were dead. Right? Man, hey, keep that on the lowdown. You were a leper. Oh my gosh! No one can ever know that. We have to act like we've all been good from the beginning." Of course not!
Jesus says, "You don't delight in the sin and the death that was there, but give glory to God. You need to tell people what I have done in your life, and then you need to abide with me continually and don't go back to it. I don't condemn you. I will be condemned, because God loves you, but don't keep sinning. Don't go back to that which you've been saved from." All of us do in some way, which is why we need to be encouraged day after day and live authentically.
We need to tell people, "These are the roads I go to. These are the siren songs I listen to. These are the songs that are seductive to me." Let me just say this really quickly. I'm talking now about Greek mythology, Homer and Odyssey. They used to try to figure out why guys went to sea and didn't come home. Answer: because they were shipwrecked.
What's the explanation? Well, there off the coast of Aeaea and by Scylla there is a reef and a rock, and there are half-bird/half-women who live there. They have beautiful songs, and they sing songs. The sailors are irresistibly drawn to them, so they take their boats toward them, and the boats wreck, and they die.
All of us hear different siren songs. It is a perilous world at sea, and as we sail through life… All of us hear different music. Right? One of the things I love about what Homer did is he didn't tell us what kind of music the siren sang, because if I told you what kind of music… If it was George Strait and Alan Jackson, I'm like, "I know we're going to die, but we have to go get more of it." For some of you guys, if it's Justin Bieber, you're like, "Hey, we have to go get more of it."
For some of you guys, it's light jazz. For some of you guys, it's Luke Bryan, and you deserve to die. But whatever it is, all of us have a song, and what we don't want to do is go, "Hey, if your song is same-sex attraction, you deserve to die." That's so stupid! "If your siren song is pornography, you can't… If your siren song was you were afraid that you were given a child you weren't ready for so you terminated it, you can't talk about that here." That is so stupid!
There are all kinds of songs that lead to death, and every one of us has one. You need to know that the people of God aren't afraid of it, but they're also not going to tell you it's an okay song if it's not a psalm, not a hymn, and not a spiritual song. This week when we were away, I turned to my staff and said to them… It was on the eighth of January, several days ago. For whatever reason, I just said, "Hey, listen." We'd just got through singing the song we sang earlier about standing in awe of the power of the cross and what he had done.
So I said, "Hey, if your birthday is on an eighth of a month or if you were born in the eighth month…" It was totally random. I said, "I want you to stand, and we're going to sing this song again, and when we get to this point, we're going to stop and just give testimony to what Christ has brought you from, that we can see the power of the cross in our lives." Twenty-eight different people were born on the eighth or in the month of August on our staff.
We got back on Thursday night, and Friday I got as many of them to come in as I could, because I wanted you to hear the authentic transformation that has happened and why we need to keep admonishing each other and picking up people on their mats of sin and carrying them to Jesus continually. Watch this.
Male: I stand in awe of the cross because it represents to me God's patience with me. As a young man, I suffered abuse and assault, and rather than take those hurts to God who I said I knew, I chose first, at the age of about 13, to start drinking. Then later it was pornography. Then later it was success in school, any way I could build up an image of myself that made myself look good in the eyes of the world. By 17, I'd completely walked away from my faith.
At 28, I stumbled through the doors of a church that was studying Israel through the story of the Minor Prophets and saw myself in that story, seeing how God had wooed them continually, pursuing them, bringing them back to himself, forgiving them, restoring them. I saw myself in that and saw that God had been doing that all my life. So, the cross for me represents God's patience with me, that while I was still a sinner, before I had any idea that I needed a Savior, he gave his Son for me so that I could live.
Female: I grew up with self-deprecation because I was overweight the majority of my life. It wasn't that I was overweight but it was that I didn't believe I was made truly in the image of God like his Word said I was. So I'm amazed at the power of the cross now, because I know that it is not by works but it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and I can stand boldly and say that I'm a daughter of the King because of what Jesus did on the cross for me.
Male: In 2015, I lost my dad to cancer, and he wasn't just my dad but one of my best friends and my pastor. In losing something so foundational, I began to try to fill that gaping void in my life with partying and isolation. Now when I look back, I look at how God pulled me out of that, and now I can stand in awe of the cross, because it's through the cross, it's through the blood of Jesus that I have been given access to the best Father to ever exist.
Female: I stand in awe of the power of the cross, that despite the heartbreak of losing four of my closest friends in high school to a school shooting and suicide, God carried me through it, and I don't know where I would be without him. He turned my fear, my devastation, and my bitterness into joy, peace, and identity.
Female: I stand in awe of the power of the cross, that though I still have a propensity toward depression, I am worthy of love and have found a joy and purpose in Christ.
Male: I am in awe of the power of the cross because it changed the heart of this dysfunctional pastor who, in a long season of my life, found life and significance in ministry itself and just having a title, who snuffed the life out of a 33-year marriage because of me being self-serving, being the center of my marriage. I've learned over the last 10 years to find life and purpose and meaning and significance in Christ alone.
Female: Early on in my faith, I loved Jesus, but I also worshiped my reputation, that other people thought of me as a girl who was spiritually mature or wise beyond her years, and that pride led me to a decades long struggle with the sin of addiction…addiction to masking my feelings with food and the addictions of lust and masturbation.
But Christ came in and saved me from that sin through biblical repentance and confession and a community that loved me despite my many failures. I stand amazed and in awe at the power of the cross. Though I once felt like I had to relate to others only in my strength, I now know that I can relate to them in my weakness, because it is in my weakness that he is truly glorified.
Female: I stand in awe of the power of the cross because in my sin and my selfishness and in my pride, Christ sought me out. After suffering from severe hearing loss and a sickness that I didn't want or expect, Christ used even something that I feared to show me his love and redemption and that he is all that I need.
Male: I was a Pharisee. I was blind to my own sin and pride, judging others and being addicted to pornography, all while trying to cover up my shame with religious activity to earn God's favor. I stand in awe and amazement of the power of the cross, that God's generosity would expose my sin, meet me with grace, and earn for me what I could not earn for myself.
Female: I stand in awe of the power of the cross of Jesus who continually pursues me, a quintessential oldest child with fear of man and performance-based acceptance deeply rooted in my heart. Even today, walking with Jesus, I can still elevate what people think of me over who God says I am, but he reminds me that I can rest in his love and in his acceptance and in his work on my behalf. So, while I vulnerably admit my weakness and my fear, I also remember to run not only to the cross but to the empty grave, believing it is finished, it is done, and there is victory in Jesus.
Female: I grew up trusting Christ with my salvation as a child, but it was very much my will versus God's will. I was plagued with pride and control. I was the Pharisee in Matthew 23 that was shutting the door to the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. I stand amazed and in awe at the power of the cross because God transformed my hard and self-righteous heart through the love of this church, my community, his people being faithfully at work.
Female: I stand in awe of the power of the cross because the God of the universe chose me to be his daughter, even though he knew that I would choose the world over him at times, that I would wrestle with doubt, that I would look to men for approval, that I would chase the world's comforts and broken cisterns instead of his perfect peace and his undying truth. I'm constantly amazed at his unfailing, unending grace and love that calls me back to himself to trust and believe that he really is all that I need.
Male: I stand amazed and in awe of the power of the cross, that in spite of my bitterness and frustration and anger toward God because he answered me "No" in saving my father's life, he could handle my pain, my frustration, my bitterness toward him, and he provided me hope in a situation that seemed very hopeless.
Female: I stand in awe of the cross because Christ healed the wounds of childhood sex abuse and redeemed a marriage once headed for divorce due to porn and infidelity. Because of his great love for me, I now know that Christ is enough. My life, my marriage, and my family have been completely restored.
Male: Before I followed Christ, I was prideful, angry, and violent. If I felt disrespected or threatened, I would resort to fighting. It is a miracle that I get to serve others, I'm filled with peace, and I live with joy. I stand in awe at the power of the cross.
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I just don't get sick of hearing those stories. Some of you all may go, "Wow! Todd, I don't have some of that backstory." You can have the story of Nicodemus. "I was a Pharisee. I didn't think I was a tax gatherer, sinner, or prostitute, and I saw the righteousness of God, and the power of the cross delivered me from my 'good enough is good enough.'" Table stakes to be a part of the body of Christ is you authentically acknowledge your imperfection, the infinite separation between you in your sinful humanity and God in his holiness, and that you see the cross is what bridges that gap.
But if you're here and you feel like you have to pretend that there's not some siren song that's seductive to you, you're crazy and you're next. You're going to keep wrecking your life and wrecking your ship. You're going to live in isolation and fear. This is a community of the redeemed. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. Let them confess their sins and their struggles to one another. Let this be the place where we can meet Jesus. That's the church.
The purpose of the church is not just to gather and have polite dinner and supper clubs. No. We live authentically. We confess where our flesh is prone to wander, and we admonish and encourage and remind one another. That's biblical community. So give glory to God, church. Testify to one another where you're making war. There's no sin and no temptation that has overtaken you but such as is common to man.
We all have our sirens. Don't pretend like you don't. It's not even biblical. Don't be confused that you're still tempted. It's war. This is earth. The Spirit of God is with you, and greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. But you're in the world, and your flesh is prone to wander, but your God is sufficient, and his provision for you is his church. Make war and celebrate your King. Let's stand together and remind ourselves of that truth.