In this Easter weekend message, Todd Wagner shows us how God’s promise to perfectly bless mankind by blessing imperfect Abraham culminated in the provision of the perfect Lamb of God who laid down His life as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
La Casa de Nuestro Padre (Bilingüe)
Church At Home
Citizens of Heaven
Love Your Neighbor
Three Things That Never Change
Making Room for Kids | Luke 18:15-17
Oh, But God
Oh, But God
Evening with the Elders
What are two of the best words in the Bible? But God. Through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we see a God of nonstop grace and faithfulness pursue unfaithful people in a world of nonstop trouble. In this Easter weekend message, Todd Wagner shows us how God’s promise to perfectly bless mankind by blessing imperfect Abraham culminated in the provision of the perfect Lamb of God who laid down His life as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
The Bible is not a rule book, it’s a rescue story. It’s not laws you must follow, it’s a legacy of God’s faithfulness – a record of His reckless pursuit of mankind.
Our risen King (Luke 24; John 11:25; Mark 16:5-6) is not finished transforming lives and writing stories (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:6). He still redeems the broken, heals our pain, and gives us strength in our weakness.
Jesus blesses us with His free gift of mercy (Ephesians 2:8-9) so that we can be a blessing to others (John 14:12).
Todd Wagner: There's a tradition amongst believers that on this day, specifically, when they would greet one another, they would say, "He is risen," and those who knew the truth would respond, "He is risen indeed." We'd be remiss not to carry that little tradition on. So, friends, we sang these songs because we are people of hope, because we believe he is risen.
Congregation: He is risen indeed.
Todd: Amen. Let me pray for us.
Father, we thank you that Jesus is not in the grave, that he is seated at the right hand of God the Father where he will return from there one day to judge the living and the dead. Father, we acknowledge that all of us deserve judgment apart from the work that Jesus, who we just sang about, paid our debt for, so it is so easy to sing. We thank you that the one thing that is due you, praise and honor and glory, is the very thing that when we do it helps us the most, because it reminds us of who you are.
So, would you remind us again today of the kindness of your love, and would you use that kindness to lead people who don't yet know it to repentance? Move them out of cultural churchianity and into an abiding relationship with you that spills out for a whole lot more than just a moment in corporate worship. We love you and we thank you. In Jesus' name, amen.
Well, ours is a singing faith. It is so fun to get together and sing and declare truth through song. We have been having a blast just writing songs and strengthening our own hearts by meditating on ways that we melodically and lyrically can celebrate who this Jesus is. We're singing a bunch of those this morning.
In addition to loving songs, I love nicknames. I love the intimacy it shows, the awareness of another person, and just a chance to kind of label them with something we think rings true and loud in their life. I heard a nickname last night of Davion Mitchell. Anybody heard of Davion Mitchell? So, just a few Baylor Bears friends in here. There's another college here in Texas that if I mentioned it, it would get out of control, so we'll leave them alone.
Davion Mitchell's nickname is "Off Night." That's what his friends call him. It's not because he doesn't do well. It's because, like yesterday when Baylor was playing Houston in the Final Four, they put Davion Mitchell and the other team's best player, and that other dude is then locked down and is about to have an "off night." That's a great nickname: Off Night.
There are all kinds of nicknames. Sports are most famous for nicknames, but the king of nicknames had to be the Vikings. I'm not talking about the Minnesota Vikings; I'm talking about the Nordic Vikings. They had some great nicknames. There's one guy who was called "Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye." You can imagine what he looked like just by hearing his nickname.
A couple of my favorite ones… One is "Ulick of the Heads," because, apparently, Ulick, once they had marauded a particular area, would collect heads from his victims and take them back on board his little ship and stack them up in his room. So his buddies called him Ulick of the Heads. There was another guy called "Olaf the Tidbit." I imagine Olaf wasn't very big, so they called him Olaf the Tidbit. So many great nicknames.
There was a nickname that was given to Louis XVIII. Louis XVII was the French emperor who succeeded Napoleon. They were looking for somebody who could lead the land, and they really didn't have anybody of any nobility or any renown, so they grabbed Louis XVII. His nickname amongst the people was "Louis the Unavoidable." Not a great nickname. Like, "This is all we've got. Let's go ahead and take him."
Alexander the Great, about 300 BC, was called the "Madman of Macedonia." We know Elvis was called the "King of Rock 'n' Roll," also called "Sir Swivel Hips." Michael Jackson we know was called the "King of Pop," but his family called him by another nickname. He was called "Applehead." That'll help you out sometime on some trivia game.
Neil Armstrong, first guy to walk on the moon, was called the "Ice Commander." Edwin Aldrin we all know as "Buzz." His sister couldn't say "Brother," so she said, "This is my buzzer," so he legally changed his name to Buzz. That's how Buzz Aldrin got his nickname. Michael Collins, who was the other guy on that initial moon mission, is called the "Forgotten Man" because nobody knows Michael Collins.
Nicknames are great. Probably the greatest giver of nicknames ever was a guy named Grantland Rice. He was a sports journalist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He's the one who came up with the "Galloping Ghost" for Red Grange. He's the one who named the "Four Horsemen." He's the one who named Ty Cobb the "Georgia Peach." I could go on and on and on. I love nicknames. The Bible loves nicknames. "John the Baptist." That's a nickname.
Before I get lost too much in this, I will tell you that sometimes names aren't just nicknames; they just describe who a person is. One of God's favorite, if you will, nicknames of himself is this. He calls himself the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," which is an interesting thing to call yourself. What he's basically doing is saying, "This is my CV. This is my résumé. These are clients I have worked with in the past. So, if you want to know who I am, go talk to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
What I thought I would do this morning (and you're going to see how it ties into the songs we've already been singing) is talk about why God calls himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Before we get to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, let's go back 10 generations to Noah and several generations before that to Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve are physical, historical creatures, created by God to enjoy him forever.
Because God is a good God, he created a world not filled with thorns and thistles, but it was Edenic. It was paradise. Everything was as it should be for Adam and Eve. God said, "I want you to enjoy one another, and I want you to reproduce after your kind other people who will enjoy me and know me." But, ultimately, Adam and Eve did not believe for very long that God was good, his Word was true, and disobeying him was not that big of a deal, so Adam and Eve left God, and they bought a lie.
As a result of what Adam and Eve did, thorns and thistles came into our world, because it was no longer God's world, because men said, "We don't want God's world; we want our world. We want to do what seems right to us." Now, what God did when Adam and Eve did what was right to them is he let them live in the consequence of leaving him. This is how God had described himself. In the glory of his creation, he showed that he was kind, he was good, he was beautiful, he was gracious, and he warned them he was also just and must judge sin.
So, when Adam and Eve left him, the God of love, the God of life, the God of light, what you see is, immediately, death came upon them. Now, it wasn't physical death that was immediate; it was just death in the world. Do you want to know why this world is so despairing? Because this is not our Father's world. I mean, it still is in terms of his sovereign rule over it, but he is letting us, the descendants of Adam and Eve, live in a world that is not the world he intended for us.
It's a world that doesn't have love; it has a lot of hate. It's a world that doesn't have all light; it has a lot of dark. It's a world that doesn't lead to more life; it's a world that leads to death. The wages of sin is death, but God is at work in the midst of death. What God did to show Adam his goodness is he came to Adam and asked this question. Adam heard the God who was kind but was also just coming.
It says when he heard the sound of God approaching him in the garden, the man and the woman hid themselves from the presence of God because they didn't want judgment. God just asked him, "Adam, where are you?" It wasn't because Adam found a great hiding place behind a rock. It was because God wanted Adam to declare that where he was was now in a place of shame and guilt and division and enmity. Creation wasn't what it should be, and his relationship with his wife wasn't what it should be, and his relationship with God wasn't what it should be.
"Where are you, Adam? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Are you alone?" What Adam had done to cover up his guilt and shame is what men always do. He had tried to create a garment for himself based on his own works and his own effort to cover his nakedness and shame, but God said, "That just won't do. But because, Adam, I am not just a God of beauty and goodness and I'm not just a God of justice, I'm about to show you something you've never seen before. I'm a God of grace and mercy."
So, what God did is he introduced sacrifice into that world. It says God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and he clothed them. In other words, "Adam, what you're trying to cover your sin with isn't going to work. Fig leaves, the works of men that you can stitch together, aren't going to cover your nakedness and your sin. What will cover you is when there is death, which is the wages of sin."
The Bible doesn't describe what kind of animal was sacrificed there in Genesis 3, but I believe it was a lamb, because God is the master teacher. You're going to see a lamb continue to appear throughout the rest of recorded history, and ultimately, you're going to find somebody comes who is identified as the Lamb of God who can finally take away the sins of the world.
So, there was an innocent creature whose life was sacrificed as the beginning illustration of the fact that you need something that will cover you and will allow you to be restored in relationship with God. By faith Adam received the gift of God, and by faith Adam's sin was covered. But here's the problem. It is the law of creation that creatures reproduce after their own kind. Adam and Eve had offspring after offspring after offspring who continually left God and believed he wasn't good, his Word wasn't true, and disobeying him wasn't that big of a deal.
It got so bad that, eventually, God decided to destroy the entire world except for one man who, in his kindness, lived in humility. His name was Noah. Noah was preserved from worldwide judgment, but then Noah had three boys, and they didn't do so well. We get to 10 generations later, and all of humankind is dispersed all over the earth, and there is trouble again.
Then, out of paganism, out of rebellion, out of ignorance, God decided again in his grace to pursue men to redeem men, and we have a figure who shows up who became a big part of God's nickname. His name is Abram. Abram shows up at the very end of Genesis 11, but specifically in Genesis 12 we have these words. You need to know this. Abram wasn't seeking God. Abram was not a good man. Abram was not a devout follower of Jehovah. Abram was chosen by grace.
God said to him, "I want you to leave where you are. I want you to leave your family traditions. I want you to leave the way men think about me, and I want you to come and follow me. I want you to trust me. If you trust me, I'm going to do something you could never do for yourself. I'm going to make you a great nation, and not just make you a great nation, but I'm going to bless you, and I'm blessing you not just because you've won the lottery, but because I want the world to see where blessing comes from.
You are going to be blessed to be a blessing. I'm going to be with you, and I'm going to protect you, and I'm never going to forsake you. You're going to forsake me, but I'm not going to forsake you." God made a blood covenant with him, and he said, "I'm going to bless those who bless you, I'm going to curse those who curse you, and my intention is that through you all of the families of the earth shall be blessed."
So, what would you do if you were just some pagan idolater and, all of a sudden, God appeared to you and pulled you out of darkness into his marvelous light and said, "I'm going to bless the world through you"? Would you be locked in and say, "Let's go. I'll trust you forever"? Well, Abram did respond to God, but Abram was a son of Adam just like me, which means even in the midst of God pursuing him… Sometimes, often, consistently, we don't believe God is good, that his Word is true, and that disobeying him is that big of a deal.
Let's just walk you through Abram's story a little bit. I think you'll be encouraged who the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is. Here we go. We're tearing into this little section of Scripture, and we see the very first thing Abram does is he goes to this little land, and in that land God pushes him a little bit farther south, so he shows up in Egypt.
Because God had given him a smoking hot wife called Sarai, he said, "Listen. These Egyptians are going to have eyes for you, and what we need to do is tell them you are my sister. Let's lie. I know God said he's going to bless me, but just in case he's taking a nap, why don't you say you're my sister, because when we tell people you're my sister they're going to want to curry favor with me and things are going to go well with us."
Well, things don't go well with Pharaoh, because Pharaoh spotted this good-looking dame and said, "I want you to come into my household" and stuck her over there with his women he was going to get to eventually. Before he could get to her, there was a plague that came on Pharaoh's household. Pharaoh realized very quickly, because God revealed it to him, that the reason there was a plague was because he was about to mess with another man's wife.
He went to Abram and said, "What are you doing? Why did you bring judgment on me and my family?" and he chased Abram out of Egypt. So very early on, we see that this Abram is a liar. He returned to Canaan, and when he got there, God had so blessed him, he and his nephew Lot had now too much that they could live together in all the abundance that was in that land, so they split. Lot chose the valleys and the fertile plains and the cities.
But God said to Abram, "I've still got you. Look to the north, the south, the east, and the west. All this is going to be yours. I'll take care of you." God continued to bless Abram. Trouble came to Lot's household. God used 318 men to go kill four kings that had oppressed the family of Abram, because God was with him. Abram continued to not be a perfect man, but God continued to perfectly provide for him.
Then Abram is promised a son, but 10 years after that, the son still hadn't come, so Abram goes, "Well, if God wants to give me a son, and my wife and I are not having any children, why don't I go ahead and commit adultery." So he takes somebody from Pharaoh's household who had been given to him when he left as a servant and said, "Now you're going to be my mistress." He sleeps with this mistress. Now this liar is an adulterer.
Hagar has a young man by the name of Ishmael. He becomes the father, ultimately, of the Arab nations as we know them. From them came a faith system that to this day are enemies with Abraham, but God in his kindness continues to bless Abraham. Things happen where Abraham kind of moves himself over to what we know today as the Gaza Strip. It's a land that was run by a guy named Abimelech.
When he goes there, having been promised a son, having seen God's blessing, having God protect him from four kings who attacked him and rescue him from his lying and the plague he brought, he goes to the land of Abimelech. While he is there, he says, "I know it has been about 20 years since we did this thing in Egypt, but you're still a smoking hot wife, so why don't we tell them you are my sister again." He goes there, and he lies yet again.
In a dream, God appears to Abimelech and says, "Hey, I'm going to do to you worse than I did to Pharaoh if you don't not do to Abraham's wife what you have planned to do to Abraham's wife." So Abimelech goes to him and says, "Why are you a liar? Why would you let your God bring judgment upon me?" So Abraham goes out. Eventually, God gives him a son, and then God tells him, "Hey, I want you to see if you trust me, so I want you to take that son and offer him as a sacrifice."
So Abraham goes to offer him as a sacrifice. He builds the altar, he lights the fire, and the son asks, "Where is the sacrifice?" Abraham said, "Well, he looks a lot like you." Abraham goes through with what God told him to do, and he shows a tremendous amount of faith in this moment, but, of course, before God would ever have him sacrifice his son, he said, "Abraham, I don't want you to kill your son," and he provided a sacrifice as a ram was caught in the thicket.
In that which represented Abraham's sin, salvation was about to come. God keeps showing himself faithful, though Abraham shows himself to be a liar. Abraham has a son called Isaac eventually with him and his wife, even though they laughed in God's face when he came back to them and told them that was going to happen. Guess what his son does. His son goes and hangs out in what we know as the Gaza Strip with a guy called Abimelech.
Abraham had gotten his son a wife called Rebekah. When Isaac and Rebekah show up in the land of Abimelech, he says, "Hey, Rebekah, you're smoking hot, just like my mama. Why don't you tell them you're my sister." Have you ever done that? Have you ever felt like you repeat the sins of your family and you just can't get out of the trajectory that was modeled before you for years? Well, Isaac did that, just like his daddy. Even though he had seen the provision of God, he didn't trust in God.
But the God of Abraham and Isaac was committed to them not because they were good but because he's a God of blessing. Man is a liar, but God is true. Isaac had a son. His name was Jacob. Guess what Jacob struggled with. His name literally means to grab at the heel, which is a nickname for a liar. He'll trip you up because he's a con man. This was the con man's con man. That's what he was. Jacob was a deceiver, and he thought he had to make his way through life. God kept showing him, "That's not going to work out well for you."
It got to the point where Jacob had to run away from his family because he had destroyed his entire family by lying to his father and stealing from his brother, so he is found in the wilderness sleeping on a rock in a desert. That is a picture of a life apart from God. When your pillow is a rock, you're not sleeping well. Even though this deceiver lived in the desert, there was a God who was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he sought him.
That night in a dream, he had a vision of a constant chain of angels moving from God into his life, and he said, "Just trust me, because when you trust yourself, you end up in a barren land disassociated from family and your sleep is uneasy, but if you'll trust me, I would love to bless you." Jacob had to learn some lessons from other deceivers in his life until he finally got a little bit humble.
But Jacob had some kids, and how did his kids do? Well, I won't go into it long, but they committed genocide. Instead of being forgiving and gracious to others, as they had received graciousness and forgiveness, when somebody had done wrong to them, they put them through some little event that made them vulnerable, and then while they were healing from that event, they went and killed every man in the area. Simeon and Levi, sons of Jacob, were destructive.
Jacob had one son whose name was Joseph. Joseph struggled with arrogance and pride. As a result of that, his brothers hated him, so they beat him and then sold him as a slave. He was sold by the Midianites to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt, and now he's in Egypt. So Joseph, who was largely a good guy but couldn't stop telling everybody what a great guy he was, finds himself in Egypt, and while he's there, there's a good-looking woman who is the wife of his master who wanted to have relations with him, but Joseph knew that was wrong.
He kept saying no and kept saying no until, finally, she threw herself at him, and he ran away. She grabbed this coat that marked him, and then she went and turned him in and said, "He has made sport of me," and he was thrown in jail though he was innocent. But God in his grace… Even in the midst of injustice, even in the midst of adultery, even in the midst of liars, even in the midst of hereditary family sin, even in the midst of brokenness, but God kept coming after Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants.
The story goes on and on and on. All throughout this entire book, you see God in his kindness running after people who are anything but good. Too many of us think this is a book which describes a bunch of rules that if you obey it, you can say, "I'm a person of tithing, of church attendance. I'm a person of morality. I'm a person who does more good than bad."
We think this is the list of rules that tell us how to be more good than bad, and it's not. This is not a law you must follow to be saved. This is a legacy of God's faithfulness. This is not a rule book; it is a rescue story. It's embedded in history. It's not Aesop's Fables. You can go back archaeologically and historically and see that it is true.
It's the story of God and his reckless pursuit of man who lies and cheats and adulterates and steals and breaks relationships and sleeps on rocks and lives in deserts and numbs himself with pleasures and success and wars and powers and power and yet is still lonely. God still seeks and says, "Where are you? Are you lonely? Are you weary and heavy-laden? Would you like some rest?"
God, into his record of how men should live… And God does tell us how to live, because he wants us to not be ignorant children who have to figure it out on our own. He's a loving Father, so he says, "These things will lead to blessing. These things will lead to trouble." He spells it out for us, but he knew we wouldn't follow the things he asked us to do, so even in the law he tells us will lead to life he gives provision for people who don't follow the law, who can say, "Hey, we're not perfect."
So, there was a sacrificial system that involved lambs. For generation after generation of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants, there was nonstop trouble and nonstop grace until, finally, wonder of wonders, God introduces into the downline of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a descendant who was born not just of woman but also born of God. His name is Jesus. What is impossible for man is possible with God.
God perfectly intertwines humanity, which needs to be judged, and divinity, which can redeem it, and in the person of Jesus they come together. The very first time this Jesus is ever identified, he's identified this way: "Behold, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world." This Lamb of God runs into all kinds of people. He runs into cripples, and they walk. He runs into blind people, and they see. He runs into folks in the grave and calls them back to life.
God is always at work. This Jesus, in the miracle of his working, is rejected by men, because men don't want to be confronted with the idea that they are liars and adulterers and cannot earn their righteousness on their own. He called them to repentance, but men don't repent; men rebel. So they took this Jesus and nailed him to a cross.
But God, being rich in mercy, because he promised to bless the world through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, let that act of aggression and rebellion against him be a great moment of kindness. God allowed this perfect man, because he was fully God and always walked with God, to be a substitute for the sins of man. Not just a lamb that would temporarily anticipate the sacrifice, but the eternal Lamb of God would be sacrificed on a cross so the wages of sin against a perfect, eternal, holy God could be satisfied so that men could be reconciled back to him.
Men are liars and sinners, and they ruin relationships, and there's barrenness and a lack of rest, but God, being rich in mercy and loving us with the love with which he loved us and showing us the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive by having faith in this Lamb. Even as Adam received the covering of the lamb in the garden, we receive the covering of the shed blood of Jesus Christ by faith. It's by grace we have been saved. You're going to see this idea all through Scripture.
Can I tell you what Easter should embed into your mind? Here's a little proverbial statement: God's actions, being good and perfect, are not determined by your ability to see how his actions are good and perfect. If Easter screams nothing, if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob scream nothing, you see that God is good and perfect. So many of us are so angry at God because our world is filled with thorns and thistles. The reason our world is barren and our sleep is on a rock is not because God has forgotten us. It's because we've forgotten God.
But God, being rich in mercy, has not forgotten you. Just like he sought Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he seeks you here today. He reminds you if you already know who he is, and he calls you back into relationship with him. This is what the Scripture says in Proverbs 19:2: "It's not good for a man to be without knowledge." It's not good for any person to not know what is right and true and good. The person who hurries along his own way to deceive and to make comfort for himself… That person errs.
Now what do you think people do when their life is filled with thorns, thistles, deserts, and rocks, broken family relationships, the shame of adultery, and alienation from God? Well, we get mad at God. It's the foolishness of man that ruins his way, but what we do when our world is awful (and this world is awful) is we rage against the Lord and say, "How could you make this world?" God says, "I didn't make this world. Your sin did."
But God wants to bless you, seek you, call you out of your despair, and wants to minister to you and restore relationship with you through the provision of the Lamb of God which has taken away your sin. What's amazing about Jesus is after he was raised from the dead and he showed he was exactly who he claimed to be, which is the anointed of God, who is the free gift that will allow you to be blessed in ways Jacob could only imagine that Jacob would be blessed, is he said, "If you believe in me, the things I did, even greater things will you do.
I'm going to leave people who have trusted in me here in this world of thorns and thistles and hopelessness and despair, and I want you to tell others who I am. I'm going to use you to restore people back into relationship with me. People who can't see my beauty will see. People who walk in ways that are defined by rebellion will stop walking in rebellious ways and will start to walk in righteousness. People who were dead in their trespasses and sins will be raised to newness of life."
Can I tell you something? God is true. What I want to do… Because sometimes you read stories about the Gadarene demoniac who was a madman defined by what we would call mental illness today. He was chained and would break free from the chains, and he lived in a cemetery. He lived among the dead. He was a horror to himself and to other people. God sought him and healed him, and he was clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus. There were lepers, people who were unclean, who were separated from society, who Jesus healed and brought back to be a blessing to society.
When you read stories like that when Jesus was alive, you're like, "I just wish I could see Jesus work like that." Can I tell you something? This Jesus who went to be with the Father has stayed alive, and he is here with us. Listen. That Jesus said, "Just like I let people miraculously be redeemed, I'm going to keep redeeming people. I'm not dead; I'm alive, so those who know me will have the power of God through the preaching of my gospel and the work I have accomplished to bring people into relationship with me."
What I want to do is tell you the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the God of Jesus is alive, and he's here, and he has been working in our midst. I'm just going to walk you through a few stories that have happened here…right here…in the last Easter to Easter. Every week when you walk in we hand you a Watermark News and tell you, "This is what God is doing." He's not dead. Because Jesus isn't dead, he still is doing greater works.
People who can't see the goodness of God are seeing the goodness of God. People who can't walk in righteousness begin to walk in righteousness. People who are adulterers and liars and thieves, whose life is a desert, are being blessed. Here we go. We celebrated this story last April 16. This is a picture of my friend Jack Ridley. Jack was 70 years old, and he was obsessed with perfectionism. He was just like a lot of folks who were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
He thought he had to keep the law, do good, do right everywhere he could, but God in his kindness called him out of where he lived and brought him to Dallas, Texas. He put him in an apartment where he started receiving mail from the person who lived in that apartment before him. Jack, being a perfectionist and not wanting to make mistakes, reaches out to that person and says, "Hey, I'm not going to throw your mail away. Come and get your mail." And that guy came and got his mail.
That guy's name was Joe Daly. Joe Daly happened to go to a church called Watermark, and Joe wanted to deliver some other mail to Jack. That mail was the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jack came to understand that his effort to be a good man and kind and perfection would never, no matter if he lived another 70 years, lead him to grace and peace. Jack became a follower of Jesus Christ and dealt with his addiction to perfectionism and performance, and now he's here and knows Christ and is a leader at this church.
Here's a story of my friend Jason Cirone. Jason was overwhelmed with anxiety because he was living in a barren land, separated from his family that he had ruined with alcohol and drugs and illicit relationships. He had no relationship with his son. He cold called this church to see if somebody could help him get his family back.
They said, "To get your family back you've got to get your dignity back, and you've got to begin to be the kind of man your family shouldn't be scared of." Jason heard the story of Jesus Christ, and God called him out of darkness into light. Jason is now one of the godliest fathers I know and has a relationship with his son. Jason is on our staff.
This is Adrianna Monge. Adrianna's life before she knew Christ… We talked about her in June. She idolized friendship, and everything she did in this world was trying to just fit in the world. That included giving herself away to man after man, drugs to deal with the pain of loneliness even though she was giving herself away in intimate ways, and excessive drinking.
But God, being rich in mercy, brought Adrianna to a place where she met other believers who were blessed, and they wanted to be a blessing to her, and they told her about the grace and forgiveness of Christ and said, "Stop raging against God. God is not your problem; sin is." She confessed her sin, and she came to Christ. Adrianna is now a leader at this church.
This is Marcus Peters. We told Marcus' story in July of last year. Because Marcus is a son of Adam and the world we're in is not the world we always want and sometimes there are horrors and birth defects that fall on this world, and sometimes not just birth defects but things happen to us that make us respond in different ways, Marcus had a hopeless stuttering problem. He couldn't speak, but what he could do was study, so he tried to find his identity in academic achievements and show up his smartness in other ways because he couldn't get words out.
Then he ran into people who didn't really care that he stuttered when he spoke and shared with him how they stuttered when they lived and God brought healing to their lives and how God uses our weakness to show us our need for him. Marcus came to know Christ and deal with the pain and the trials in his life that led to so much of the stuttering life he was in the middle of.
This is the story of Rebecca Ibarra. Rebecca also had a hard time living a righteous life, and it resulted in many unwanted pregnancies that were not dealt with in a way that God encourages to deal with unwanted pregnancies. She battled alcohol and drugs to deal with her pain that came from those unwanted pregnancies.
Then she ran into people who were blessed and decided to be a blessing to Rebecca and to love her and lead her to a place where she could find healing and hope and restoration in Christ. Just like Mary Magdalene was haunted by seven demons, so was Rebecca. Just like Mary Magdalene met Christ and her life was redeemed and she became a blessing to others, so was Rebecca. Rebecca now leads a ministry to people who are in the middle of unwanted pregnancies.
This is the story of Lauren Lubke. We talked about Lauren's story in January. Lauren was codependent, and her codependency manifested itself not in relationships with men but relationships with women, yet she ran into some women in college who didn't want to just exploit her because of her neediness but to love her in her need. Lauren saw the kindness of Christ and what real love looked like, and Lauren is now on our staff.
This is Tricia Griffin. We told Tricia's story just last month. She battled a vicious cycle of addiction, shame, lustful thoughts, and pornography that she hid from everybody around her, yet she found a community that didn't have to manage sin and hide sin, because this is a community made up of sinners. We're Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Todd Wagners. We're all broken, we're all imperfect, and we all need a Savior.
All of us can be defined in this way. This is Titus 3:3-7: "For we once ourselves were also foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But God, being rich in mercy, has saved us, not according to deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his grace, by the washing of regeneration and by the renewing of the Spirit of Christ."
He's alive, and he wants you to know of his love and grace. Is your world barren? Have you destroyed relationships? Do you keep telling God you'll never lie again and you lie? Have you done things that you're certain if you had done them there's no way God could love you? Oh man! Would you meet the God of Easter? Would you meet the God who tells you, "Here's my nickname: I'm faithful to people who will not be faithful to me, but if they'll just have faith in me, I will grow them in their understanding. And they won't rage against me; they will sing songs of my love." That's Easter.
Father, I pray we would be people who would sing songs of your love. I thank you that you're alive, so stories that are all throughout the Scriptures continue to be stories right here in your church, because the church of Christ was born, and the things you've done, even greater works than these will we do. Father, we thank you that there have been more miracle stories that have happened at Watermark in the last year than has happened in all of the Gospels combined, because there are thousands of us who walk with Jesus, not just Jesus who walks alone.
So, Father, may we who know you be a blessing to others and walk out of here confident that we can tell stories to people whose lives are filled with thorns and thistles, who are in barren places and whose sleep is on a rock, and can we tell them of the kindness and graciousness of who you are and what you've done. We thank you that you're alive and you can live in us and, therefore, the power of God can continue to go out.
But if there is somebody here today who is still living a life of malice and envy, hateful, hating one another, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, would they meet the kindness of God? Would the "But God" who loves the sinner be made known to them today? Would you remind them that you're alive through all the myriad of stories we keep seeing happen? May they be the next in the story. O Father, strengthen our hearts as we worship you. In Jesus' name, amen.