Christmas Eve: God With Us
Three Reminders to Remain a Healthy Church
Sunday, June 7 Watermark Fort Worth Service
“Races” Don’t Reconcile, People Do: How to Love, Listen and Live like Christ
When Racial Tensions Rise, So Must The Church
Devotion to Christ While We Disagree about How to Respond to the COVID (or any other) Crisis.
Sober Minded Living That Leads to Sanctification: How We Make War Against Sin
A Message from the Elders on Membership, Connection, Care and Community Formation
The Gift of Trials
Easter, It's Impossible to Overreact
Good Friday | In the Waiting (Plano)
Good Friday 2020
Plagues, Censuses, and Leadership
Leaders That Create Churches Others Are Thankful For: Plano Launch
Evening with the Elders
The Gospel Through Marriage
Our Lens: The Gospel
A Biblical View of Marriage
Who We Are
The Richness of the Gospel
Fort Worth Transition Update
Experiencing Our Purpose in Christ
Good morning, Watermark. My name is Harrison Ross. I'm excited to open God's Word with you and learn and grow together as we see what God has this morning. Before we dive into Scripture, I want to take you back to, I hope, a common experience for all of us: the eye exam. Have you all had your eye exam? Has everyone at least gone through this? If you haven't, then you're trying to get by and you probably can't see. There's a world out there you don't even know, and we want you to see it.
I went to the eye doctor a couple of weeks ago. For me, I've had an eye doctor who I've had almost my entire life that I can remember going to an eye doctor. He quit, so I had to find a new doctor. I went to this random place and had the same experience you have. You go in. You wait for too long. You finally go into a doctor's office, and they start to ask you a series of questions. You're in there, and they have all of these different books. They're looking at you, and then they puff your eye, and you're like, "Oh! Why did you do that? Oh! You got my other eye!"
It's kind of this miserable experience. It's supposed to help you. Then you get to the point where they say, "Okay. I want you to stand on this line, and we have a chart for you." It's a chart you probably know very well. The eye chart is placed before you. They ask you a series of questions. You cover your eye, and you're like, "Okay, I read it here," and then you cover the other eye, and you're like, "Oh, hold on. I can't see. It has these weird spots. Give me a second."
I don't know if you're like me, but I feel this need when I go to the eye doctor to pass the test. It's almost like I've gone through college. It doesn't help to memorize the eye chart, but when the doctor says, "All right. What do you see?" "Oh, D-E-F-P-O-T-E-C," because I memorized it. It doesn't help to memorize it. He's like, "I want to help you see. What do you see, not what do you know?" "Well, I see the big E. That's easy."
The reality is when I look at this right now, I cannot see. I know the E is there. I can kind of make out F-P. After that, it is all fuzzy, because I can't see. I have blurred vision. I see a blob and a mass of people, but I don't see you. I see just little colors. I need glasses. I need a lens to look through, and then I can see people. I can see our students are over here. I can see actual individual's faces.
I wake up every day with blurred vision, and that will never change for me. I have what's called an astigmatism. What it means is my eyeball is misshaped. What it really means is I have more powerful vision than you do, which doesn't help me. It makes it blurrier. I can't go get LASIK because it'll take too many layers off of my eye, and then I'll be blind.
So the rest of my life, when I wake up, I have a choice to make. When I wake up and hit my alarm six times and then my wife finally hits me, I can choose to stumble out of bed and be like, "Whoa! What is happening?" and trip over everything and all of the toys my kids left or I can reach over and grab my glasses so I can actually see. I need them every day. I cannot live life without them, not the way I'm supposed to.
The same is true for my soul. Every day, I wake up to a world with a heart that has blurred vision. The eyes are the window to the soul. What my soul and my heart sees is blurred by sin, by exhaustion, by hurt, by anxiety. I wake up, and I don't experience the world the way I'm supposed to; I see a world that's blurred by all kinds of things.
Here's the reality: I know Jesus. I believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that he is my Savior. I believe it. I know the big E. I have eternity. It's fixed. But will I see the rest? Am I going to choose to walk in him for the rest, for life today? The reality is I wake up blurred. My life, the whole of who I am, the way I live my life, is blurred unless I choose to submit to the corrective lenses of the gospel every single day.
Not just once for Sunday. It's not just enough to know what the Great Physician says, to have his prescription and go, "Okay, I'm good. I'll just keep that prescription in my pocket for that day that I'll be with him." No, you have to fill it, to fulfill it by walking with him daily. We wake up blurred to all kinds of things the world throws at us or we choose in this world.
Will you choose to submit to the corrective lenses of the gospel in a way that will daily correct us, remind us, and redirect us? Not just something we put on when we want, but it's what we see life through. It's who we see life through. It's Jesus. When you look through the lens of the gospel, it changes the way you see God, it changes the way you see yourself, it changes the way you see people around you, and it changes the way you see the world.
It changes your perspective, and that perspective changes everything, but will you choose to put it on? Will you choose to actually wear it, to see through it? Not to just know it but to live it? So I want to ask you. I want us this morning to take a soul exam, an examination of our hearts. I'm no doctor, but I do know the Great Physician, and he has some questions to ask us, to ask me, to ask you. How is the gospel affecting your daily life right now, not just for eternity but for today?
We're going to be in Mark 8 together. Open your Bible. I hope you bring your Bible. I tell this to our students all the time: "Bring your Bible." Bring the Bible that you interact with. If you read your Bible every day on your phone, bring your phone. If you read your Bible in an actual physical paper Bible, bring your Bible. We want to help you learn how to use it or to better use it for those who already know how. Not because you don't know how, but we just want you to interact with it, because we just forget and we get busy.
We'll be in Mark 8. I want to give you some context for what's happening here. Mark is like Jesus' Instagram feed. Of all of the four gospels, it's the most action-packed one of all of the things. You see different depictions of Jesus in the other ones and things he says, and Mark just goes, Bam! Bam! Bam! Miracle. Miracle. This is happening. That's happening. So I want to show you one. This is not the passage we're going to be in the whole time, but I want to give you some context. Mark 8, starting in verse 22, says:
"And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to [Jesus] a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, 'Do you see anything?' And he looked up and said, 'I see people, but they look like trees, walking.'"
I laugh every time I read this. I don't know that I interpret it the right way, but it's like, "Jesus, why are you messing with him?" I don't think he is, but anyway, it's not the point. "Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, 'Do not even enter the village.'"
What we see is Jesus heals a blind man. He helps him see clearly. This sets up immediately where we're going to go, but I want you to understand the context of what's happening here, all in Mark. If you go back, we see throughout Mark Jesus is healing people. He's casting demons out of people. He's raising the dead to life. At the end of Mark 7, we see that Jesus basically performs the almost identical miracle on a deaf man. Not a blind man but a deaf man.
People bring this man to Jesus. Jesus sees that he has a need. He spits on his fingers and gives him a wet willy, and he goes, "Can you hear?" and he's like, "I can hear!" Jesus is like, Boom! Then he continues with his disciples, and the disciples go to this huge crowd. The disciples come to Jesus and say, "Hey, Jesus, they're hungry. What do we do? We've got to send them out of here." He says, "Well, you feed them." By the way, this is two weeks after he just fed 5,000. They're like, "We don't have that kind of money. What are we going to do?"
"What do you have?"
"Oh, there are seven loaves."
"Well, bring them to me."
And everyone is full, and there are baskets leftover, even though Jesus just did this a couple of weeks ago. Then he's hanging out, and the Pharisees go, "Jesus, give us a sign that you're the Messiah!" He's like, "Are you kidding me? I just gave you a sign. I just fed you! I'm not giving you a sign." "Well, then let's kill him." Then Jesus gets in the boat, which he often does with his disciples. He's going away with them, and the disciples are like, "Man, we're hungry. We forgot to eat."
Jesus says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." They're like, "Oh, he knows we're complaining." He looks at his disciples and just says, "Do you not understand? Do you not get it? Do you not see? You have been living your life with me and around me. You have seen me raise people from the dead. I fed 9,000 people with you people, and you don't know if you're going to eat today. Do you know who I am? Do you not yet see?"
That takes us to Mark 8:22 where Jesus does change this man's life and heals his blindness, but I think this is far more than for this man. It was for those Twelve, to go, "Guys, I want to open your eyes not just a little bit where you can see trees that look like men walking. I want you to see perfectly clearly. Do you not yet see?" Really, the Scriptures, the Gospels specifically, are packed with all kinds of teaching, but most of what Jesus has is for his disciples.
There are a lot of different people and a lot of walks of life in this room. A lot of you would proclaim, "I am a follower of Jesus. I trust in him. I've given my life to him. I'm walking with him. I am his disciple." I think he has something to challenge us with, to teach us, to ask us, "Do you see?" to examine our hearts as we walk with him.
So, wherever you're at on this journey… Some of you in here don't see clearly. You're even blind. You might even be like that deaf man or blind person or dead. You need the hope of the gospel. Come find life in him. Some of you are still living blurred lives. You're still blurred to the hurt you have or the sin you're still involved in or to whatever this culture is blurring your vision to. Come find life in him.
That brings us to Mark 8:27. Jesus has been on this journey with his disciples. He has been hanging out with them all over the place. They're walking to the next place, and Jesus does what he does best. He is just hanging with his boys. Verse 27 says, "And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say that I am?'"
"What are you hearing? What's the buzz around town about me? What do people say?" They say, "Oh, some say you're John the Baptist, this amazing spiritual guru, but you're kind of weird. You eat locusts and wear weird clothes. Some say you're Elijah, one of the greatest men who ever lived, back from the dead to do amazing things and to prophesy to the people. Others say you're one of the prophets of old, maybe Moses coming back." All of these great men, and Jesus is like, "That's not who I am." None of this fazes him.
He says, "All right. Forget what others say." He asks the question all of us have to ask. "Who do you say that I am?" Not, "What does the culture say?" Not, "What does my church say?" Not, "What did my parents say growing up?" Who do you say Jesus is? Is he a good guy? He has good teaching sometimes. Is he a good luck charm, just a little rabbit's foot you go to anytime you need him? Is he a fun sucker? He's kind of getting in your way of the life you want, the comfort you have or want.
Is he legalistic, just setting too high of a bar? "Come on, man. It's all about love, not all about that stuff." Is he anti-love? Is he hate? Is he a security blanket that you just go to when you need him to cuddle up with him. Or is he God? C.S. Lewis' famous line: Is he a liar, a lunatic, or a lord? You have to answer that. If he's God, will you trust him? Not with a piece of your life but with all of your life.
I get to have conversations like this not to just big rooms but with different people, and a lot of times what I like to ask them is, "Hey, what do you think of God?" I talked to this guy last week, and he goes, "I don't." "Oh, wow. Great conversation. See you later." I asked another guy the same thing. "What do you believe?" He said, "I'm a Christian."
"Oh, great. What does that mean?"
"You know, just normal Christian things."
Same page. I said, "Hey, how does your faith impact your life?" "Uh, you know, I just go with the flow, whatever's happening. I don't know." Then I talked to this guy and asked, "Hey, how do you see God? What do you think of God?" He said something I've never heard anybody say. He said, "I see life through him. I don't just know him. I don't just know about him. I see everything through him."
Where are you at on that spectrum? You don't care? You're just kind of going with it because you grew up in it? Everyone else is doing it for now. Collin County-ish. Or because he is what you see life through?
"Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asks. "Am I just a fashion accessory? Am I just that thing that when you want to look a little more spiritual that day you throw the glasses on to give it a little sharper look, something you can just take on and off whenever you want?" I'm going to step on toes here for maybe someone in the audience.
"Am I just your readers, just that thing you have in your pocket or your purse that you pull out in a pinch when you're like, 'I just can't squint myself through this one. All right. Here we go'? You always have it around, but only when you need it. Am I an annoyance, just something that gets in the way, something that bugs you, something that's just always on your face and you don't want to deal with?
Am I an embarrassment, just like when you're in elementary school and people call you 'Four Eyes,' and you wear this because you believe it and profess it, but you really are afraid of what people are going to think and call you out because of how you live? Or am I the only thing that gives clarity and focus to your life? Am I life?" Jesus asks. Because there's a difference.
Is Jesus your life, the source of your life, or just a piece of your life? Is he the thing you see life through or just something that's around when you can't see clearly and you just throw it on? Are you living and abiding with Jesus in such a way that it is so connected to your face you don't know any different and you just see life through him? That's what we're called to: to abide with him, to live with him.
"Who do you say that I am?" John 14:6 says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life…" John 1:4 says, "In him was life…" Colossians 3:4 says, "When Christ who is your life…" Jesus is life. Will you choose it, not just for forever but for today? Guys, life is in Jesus. Watermark isn't Jesus. Jesus is Jesus. Hopefully there are some things we're encouraging you in in your relationship with Jesus, but some of us, instead of looking through the lens, cling to the framework.
Watermark is a framework. Re|engage is a framework. Student ministry, women's ministry, Summit… All of those help keep the lenses in place so you can see clearly, but it is Jesus who transforms our lives. Both are necessary. Just having a lens isn't going to help me, and just having frames isn't going to help me. Together we get to see life through Jesus, through the gospel. When we look through the gospel, it changes our perspective, and that changes everything.
Mark 8:29. After Jesus asks him, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter says, "You are the Christ.""You are God. You are my life. You are everything. You're Lord of all and you're Lord of me." Looking through the lens of the gospel. Then they continue on their way. Jesus journeys with his disciples and continues down to the next village.
It says in verse 31, as they're walking, "And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly." Just like he's talking about the weather. He's like, "Hey, guys. Let me tell you what's about to happen here in a few weeks or years. People are going to hate me. I'm going to suffer a lot. Everyone is going to reject me, and probably you. I'll die terribly, but I'm going to come again."
Peter is sitting there, who has just said, "You're the guy. You're my guy." He goes, "Jesus, hey, man. Come here for a sec. Come on over here. You're really killing us with this crucifixion stuff. I don't know that that's going to work. You're saying, 'Hey, I'm going to suffer. I'm going to be rejected. I'm going to die.' We're following you, bro. We left it all. So, you know, if you're looking for a caption for that post, let me help be your PR guy and give you a little bit of… That's not going to get you some followers and some 'likes' on that one, buddy."
Basically, kind of going, "Yeah, that's not going to work for me." The Scripture says Peter rebuked him. Jesus, our nice picture of Jesus, doesn't just go, "Oh, Peter, you're right. Man, I'm so sorry. I'm not trying to get in the way of you. I'm not trying to get in the way of your life. I just want to love you. I just want to be there." It says Jesus rebuked him. He said, "Get behind me, Satan! ""Get out of my way! You are thinking of the things of man, not the things of God."
Jesus, God in the flesh, fully man, who wrestled with the same temptations we have, doesn't give in to sin, but he is tempted and sees that as temptation to comfort, to the things of this world. After he rebukes him, he says in verse 33, "For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." Where are you setting your mind on the things of man? We all do. We all live in this world. It's easy to.
Where are you looking to the things that are around you? I want comfort. I want recognition. I want success. I want busyness, because busyness helps me feel valued, helps me feel valuable, helps me feel like I have something to contribute. Where are you looking at the things of man, focusing on the things of this world instead of the things of God? Where are you trying to fit in? Where are you trying to establish yourself? What are the things you're trying out to see what fits so you can fit into this world?
When I went to the eye doctor, I realized my prescription was way off. I've had these glasses for a couple of years, and I needed a lot more power. So I thought, "Well, instead of just getting the new prescription filled, let me see what else is out there. What are some other things I can try on?" So I went to where we all go to look beautiful and sexy: Warby Parker, to get some cheap glasses. So I went and saw all of these options there.
It's amazing when you're in Warby Parker, because it looks great. You look in the mirror and you look great. You have this guy that you're about to spend a bunch of money and give to him, and he's like, "Oh yeah, that one looks great on you, dude. Oh yeah. Oh, I love it. It frames your face." Your wife is like, "I don't know that those are the ones," and he's like, "Yeah, I don't know they are either. Let's go try some other ones." While I was there, I grabbed a few different frames to see what was going on.
I grabbed some to fit in with the hipster vibe. I know a couple of guys over here who have these. You know, the JP look. So I thought, "Hey, maybe I'll just go with the whole hipster thing and put on those little wired Aviators, bring them back." Or maybe stick with the tortoiseshell, a little lighter, a little studious look but brighten the face a little bit. Maybe that's a good one. I grabbed a little bit on the funky side. I thought, "Well, maybe I'll branch out a little bit, maybe go Pokémon Go and get a little different."
I've shown these to some of my friends, and there are very adverse responses to them. So I was like, "Okay. Maybe these aren't the ones." These are one of my favorites that I've wanted for a long time. They're the least favorite of my wife. She will not let me get them, but I love the clear frames. She thinks I look like a high school science teacher, so I can't go that route, but I love these, so I thought I'd try them on.
While I was there, I was like, "You know what? I'm already spending money. What's another $95 on a pair of sunglasses?" So I got some that are like, "Hey, what if I could just take it up a notch, look a little cool and funky?" It's fun. It's fun to go in there and try on different things and see how you look. Maybe you ask a stranger, "Huh? What do you think?" I had a couple of ladies ask me, and I was like, "Ma'am, I don't care." It's cool to see what happens.
So, just as Jesus asks, "Where are you thinking of the things of man?" I want to ask you a little differently. What lenses are you looking through to find life in? We all know the gospel, but sometimes it's fun to try a few different things, shake it up. Maybe you're just going with the culture. You want to keep up with the times. You want to be hip, so whatever it is that's changing the popular thought of the day, the way culture is going…this political idea, that political idea…you just want to stay with it. That's what guides and directs your life.
Maybe it's all about your achievement. What once was academic pursuit, academic success, academic accolades turns into career drivenness, trying to be defined by your accomplishments. Or maybe you're at home with the kids and you just want to shake it up and not just be in the leggings and tee shirts, but you want to be a cool mom, just throw it on, a little something different. Maybe you want to get outside of your norm, outside of the life you know is there and try something completely different, an escape to fantasy, to the pursuit of pleasure.
Maybe it's porn. Maybe it's alcohol. Maybe it's a relationship outside of your marriage. Maybe it's just flirting. Maybe it's video games. Maybe it's just dreaming about that vacation because what you have right now isn't that great, that fun of what could be. Maybe you just blend in. Maybe you don't want something to define what's going on and you're all things to all people. "Whatever they want, I can be that. Whatever I think I have to be in this moment, I can be that." You're just a chameleon.
Or maybe you're here and you're trying to hide. You don't want people to see. You don't want people to see what's happening in your life, because you know the scars that are there, the hurts that are there, maybe the actual bruises that are there. On the outside, you look like a movie star and you have it all together, but that's all to mask the deep hurt that's inside. What lens are you looking through for life? Culture? Your job? Your neighborhood? Fill in the blank.
What's interesting is none of these help change my perspective. All of these are just clear plastic. It's fun to try them on and picture a different world, but none of these change my perspective. They change the way you see me. They change the way you look at me, and you never know any different, but I still can't see. I'm back to having blurred vision, because, really, what I care about is how you see me, not necessarily how I can see.
We live in this interesting cultural moment where authenticity is celebrated. It's no longer a mark of a Christ follower in the church. It's something that's celebrated across our nation and across the world, where Caitlyn Jenner wins an ESPY for the most brave person on the planet; where Dwyane Wade's 12-year-old son is on Ellen this last week because now he wants to be a 12-year-old daughter; where a popular song from a couple of years ago is "This is me!" in The Greatest Showman. "You do you. I'm going to be fully who I am, and deal with it, world."
That's not authenticity. What's interesting is I have the same frames, but that's all they are. I look the same to you. You can fully see me, but I still can't see you, because these don't have the corrective lenses in it that I can see clearly. I can be fully transparent, but that's different than being authentic. Transparency is an invitation for man to know our hearts while remaining in control of our lives, while authenticity is an invitation for God to know us, to lead us while we live openly in front of others. There is a huge difference.
Transparency is super celebrated right now. Transparency may be something that's happening in your Community Group, happening in your small group, but are you being authentic? In your transparency, in your confession, is it bringing you to a place of repentance, to a place of not just "Hey, this is who I am and this is what's happening," but "I have a need, a deep need for Jesus." That's authenticity in a way that we are open and honest before others and before God so that our lives can be transformed through the gospel.
Some symptoms of a transparent heart are thoughts of, "Well, I'll give myself to God after I have more fun, maybe someday later down the road once the kids are gone" or "I'll serve God as long as he gives me X, Y, Z and it's this exchange. I like to follow God's certain uses for my life. I like the people of God. I'm just not sure about going all in with the whole Jesus thing."
Will you choose to be authentic? Not to just change how other people look at you but to look through the lens of the gospel so you can see clearly all that God has for you for life, so you can see sin clearly. Sometimes what's hard about seeing is now we have to deal with what's in front of us. Sometimes it's easier to be blurred because we don't know. When I see it, I see my car is dirty and I have to deal with it.
Transparency isn't the goal; dependence is the goal, which starts with raw, honest, open authenticity rooted in humility and wanting help. Guys, this is an idea that's not just localized to Jesus. It's all over the Scripture. Let me show you another one. Second Corinthians 3. At the end of that chapter in verse 16 it says, "But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." There is life. There is vision. There is clarity.
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." We can see his image clearly. We are transformed into his image. Jesus died not to just give you eternal life but so you can see today and not just live in blurred vision.
It goes on in chapter 4, verse 4. "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Some people are blind and they can't see, but others of us are in here and we're just blurred. We can see. We just choose not to because of the other things we choose to be identified and seen by.
What we see is Peter, a follower of Jesus, a man of God, the man who starts the church, who goes from this place of "You're God! You're it! You're the Christ!" to then control what he wants that to mean in his life, to manipulate how that manifests in his life and to go, "Hold on, Jesus. Bring that back."
What happens there is Jesus' disciples had heard the truth. They had heard the gospel. They'd heard Jesus came to give life and he was going to come and give his life away, to suffer, to be rejected, to even willingly give himself to the cross to die so he could pay the penalty that each of us deserve and raise to new life so that you and they could have life. Peter in that moment goes, "Yeah, I don't know if that's good enough. That doesn't save my world."
What they're expecting Jesus to be is this amazing conqueror that comes to Jerusalem and defeats Rome and changes their world. They miss that Jesus wanted to change the whole world forever. Maybe what's worse than Peter is us. We don't just know the crucifixion is coming; we know it happened. We know he rose from the grave and conquered sin and death, and sometimes we go, "Yeah, I don't know that it's good enough."
We try different lenses, we try different things, I think because the reality is most of us aren't blind. There are some people in this room who are blind, and we pray that the Lord will open your eyes to see him, that he is God, but most of us here know the gospel, believe the gospel. We are not blind to the truth. We know it.
I think you're color blind. I think you know all about it and kind of dabble in it, but when you think about fully giving yourself to it, you're like, "It's not that awesome. I hear that there's maybe something that's supposed to be better, but it just kind of feels harder." I have a friend Chad who's color blind, and he was that way since he was born. He didn't really know it until he starts coloring pictures in elementary school and everyone is like, "Why is the sky purple?" and he's like, "Yeah. Why is it purple?" And he starts to realize, "This isn't normal."
Really, most of his life is the same as our lives. He's not blind. He can see. He's thankful for it, but when fall comes and all of the leaves change and there's beauty, which in Texas is only two days long… All of the Bradford pears go to this beautiful red and orange and then die. All of his friends are like, "Dude, do you see this? This is incredible!" and he's like, "What? It's a tree."
"No, the colors!"
"Uh…green something? Brown?"
He doesn't see it in its fullness. He doesn't see it in its vibrancy and beauty. Guys, I think we're color blind. We know what the gospel can give, but we don't really believe it's that amazing, because I don't think we live it. I think we kind of do what Peter did and go, "Hold on, Jesus. How about we just call this what I'm supposed to be called to?" when Jesus really calls us to abundant life.
In John 10:10, Jesus says that. "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly." Full, overflowing, incredible, amazing life. Does that describe your life with Jesus? It doesn't describe mine most days. "I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly." We hear that through our American lens.
We hear it through an American gospel, an Instagram gospel, a prosperity gospel, that life is only found when I have that X amount of money in the bank and that house with that much square footage and that kind of dream family I've always wanted and that little friend group that's down the street we always have wanted to fit into, and if I don't have that, then I don't really have life, because maybe God is ripping me off.
News flash: Jesus promised abundant life, but he didn't promise prosperity. He didn't promise health. He didn't promise you'd get rich or die trying. He promised, "In this world you'll have trouble." He promised hardship. He promised suffering. The same thing he said would happen to him, that he would suffer, that he'd be rejected, that he would die, is the same thing he calls us to: to suffer, to be rejected, to die to ourselves, and to find life.
Abundant life isn't a promise of a life of abundance; it's a promise of a life in him, abundant life in him. The gospel is not just something that gets us out of our problems and out of our hardships and out of our trials and out of these things we want to get away from. It helps us see through them. The gospel helps us see clearly through the pain, through the hardship, through the sin struggles, through the suffering, through the prodigal children, through the miscarriages, through the diagnosis, through the hard confession of my spouse.
It helps us see so we can continue to walk with him and walk with each other, but what happens is we try to cling to all of the things our culture throws at us…that job, that pickup truck, that type of family. It all becomes idols. What they really are is it becomes our Christ. It becomes the thing we worship. It becomes the lens we look through, and all it does is it blurs our vision. It doesn't help us see, and it makes us more color blind.
When that happens, when we cling to those things, we miss out on the nuance and beauty and vividness and vibrancy God has intended all along. This world doesn't look like he wants it to look. Someday it will. When we fully live the gospel, then we can see clearly. We can see it in its fullness. Abundant life isn't just a promise when we die; it's a promise today, but it comes differently than we think.
Jesus says in verse 34, "And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, 'If anyone would come after me…'" It translates, "If anyone would follow me…" "…let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." He repeats himself. "If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. Let's go! Let's die! Woo!" Nobody moves, because if we're honest, that's not what we want.
"I'm into the Jesus thing. I love it. I'm so encouraged by his Word and my Beth Moore study. It's so awesome."
"Okay, great. Go give of yourself."
"Maybe. Uh, I think April looks a little free-er. I think that would be nice."
We try to fit it in our box and in our context. Jesus continues. He says, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake [will have life] . For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and [lose] his soul?""Why would you live color blind? I want to give you abundant life. It's in me. It's through suffering. It's in the cross, not just the cross I died on but the cross I'm asking you to live every day, to take up your cross and follow me."
The cross is a sign of opposition, of shame, of suffering, and of death. Are you willing to experience this for Jesus? Most days I don't know. I think I'd want to, but will I? Do I choose to? The opposite of those are acceptance, glory, comfort, safety, all of the things we chase on a daily basis. Guys, it's a struggle. I'm in that struggle with you. Jesus calls us to abundant life in him, but if you choose a life of earthly acceptance, earthly glory, earthly comfort and safety, you will miss out on abundant life.
You will miss the fullness, the vibrancy, the nuance God has for you, because you're just trying to seek your own comfort. You're trying to build a life for yourself here instead of living the life in the good works he has prepared beforehand, even if it's hard. And it is hard, but that's what Jesus calls abundant life as we walk in him.
I think I shared this a couple of weeks ago doing announcements. I sat at a funeral a few months ago of a great friend of mine who buried his 18-month-old son, and I watched a man stand before an entire group of people who were bawling their eyes out and just say, "Guys, there's life in Jesus. I would never choose this, but I'll do it again, because it honors God and glorifies him. I don't want my son dead, but God's Son died for me, and I'm going to live my life because I believe him and he's good and I trust him and you can trust him. If you ever have to bury your son, you could do it, because God is good and you can trust him and there is life in him."
That is a man I'm not worthy of being in the same room as. He knows something I don't think I live: that abundant life is in Jesus in whatever way he brings, even suffering. The gospel is not just for eternal life and the big E we'll get someday. The gospel is for life today. Students, some of you are going to go to college next year or in a few years, and you're going to see this life they call you to, and you're going to go, "You know what? I tried the Jesus thing, and this looks way better."
What I'd tell you is I think a lot of you aren't doing Jesus the way he would call you to live. I think you're dabbling. I think you're trying it out, but we want to call you to life in Christ so that you'll continue to walk with him the rest. That's not just for them; that's for all of us. Not just for eternity but for today, so that we see Jesus, not color blind and going, "Eh, it's okay; it's not that awesome," but full, vibrant, abundant life that he has for each of us.
There's this cool development that happened with technology. People who are color blind can get these glasses that help them see the world the way most of us see it, in a way that they can see color fully, vibrantly. Check this out.
Male: I can put these on and it'll be just like it's supposed to be?
Male: It'll correct your eyes so that you will see how it's supposed to see.
Male: [Crying] It's so clear. I can't believe it.
Female: What do you see?
Male: Everything's more… Oh, wow.
Female: Look at your shirt.
Male: I never realized how color blind I was.
Male: Look! Look at my pants! Blue jeans.
Male: This is great. This is crazy.
Male: Now the question is, how did…? Is he okay?
Female: I think they're working.
Male: Are they?
Male: [Crying] Oh my god!
Female: What do you see?
Male: A different world.
[End of video]
When I saw those videos for the first time, I busted out in tears. Grown men, grandfathers, sheriffs of counties, men's men are just blubbering, going, "Oh my goodness! I never knew this was possible." They were brought to tears and brought to their knees, and so should we when we see the fullness of the gospel. Not just once when you were at youth camp when you were 13 but today. The gospel is not just for eternity; it is for life today so you can see vivid, full, abundant life that Jesus came and died for you for.
It's not just for some people. It's not just for the spiritually elite. It is for the entire world to have life in its fullness, and he gives us a way to see that. When we look through the lens of the gospel, it changes our perspective. It changes our vision. It changes the way we see church, the way we see our faith, the way we see lost people, the way we see our spouse, the way we see our sin. It changes everything, and it leads to full, vibrant, amazing, abundant life.
Guys, we just started a new decade, 2020, which fits perfectly with perfect vision. What if we chose to live that way? Not just in a metaphor, not in an analogy, but what if we chose to every day wake up and put on the lenses of the gospel, to see Jesus clearly, to see the world clearly? What would that do to us, to our marriages, to our families?
Parents, some of you guys are in the throes of having young kids, just like me, and you're just surviving. What if every single day was, "How do I live out the gospel in such a way where my kids see that life is only found in Jesus, that they want what Mom and Dad have?" We sat in here, and there were marriages that were confessing hurts and sin to each other. What if that was normal?
What would happen if we fully gave ourselves to this in a way that this city was completely different? It has to start with each of us. It has to start with this church, and then it goes out to the world. That's what Jesus calls us to: to make disciples, to live the gospel in a way that is fun, that is vibrant, even in suffering, even in burying your son, because there's vibrant, abundant, amazing life there.
What if the next 10 years weren't 10 years of mistakes you regret, years you wasted working late, worrying about things that really didn't matter; 10 years where you just kind of whiffed on your spiritual life and spiritual growth and just kind of kept phoning it in? What if it was 10 years of life…vibrant, amazing, beautiful, joyous, tearful, abundant life? When we look through the lens of the gospel, it changes our perspective, and that perspective changes everything.
The band is going to come up here, and we're going to sing a song, not just because that's how we close a message and "Oh, we have to do something before you get your kids." It's not that. This is what we do to respond. We're going to sing a song, "Be Thou My Vision," and it's not just an oldie favorite. "Finally! We have a hymn." It's not that.
This is a prayer. This is a prayer I hope you sing joyously and exultantly to your God. I forget. I'm one of his disciples. Many of you are his disciples. I forget, and I need to pray and sing, "Lord, will you be my vision so I can see clearly the way fully that God intends?" Let me pray, and then we're going to sing.
Heavenly Father, we need you. I need you. I wake up to a world that is running far from you, and I get caught up in it. My vision gets blurred. I start to chase after the wrong things, and I get stuck in my ways and stuck in sinful patterns. We get stuck in all of these things, and, Lord, we need you.
So as we sing, I pray it wouldn't just be a moment of words on a screen but it would be the prayer of our lives that would change the next 10 years of our lives, that would change the way we see today, the way we see tomorrow; that you would be our vision, that you would be our delight, that you would be our everything, that we'd see the world through you. We love you. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.