Would the people who know you best say that you have never been the same since you started following Jesus? This week, in our sermon series Never Be the Same, David Penuel gives us three metrics by which we can gauge our growth in Christ: Places, People, and Purpose.
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Would the people who know you best say that you have never been the same since you started following Jesus? This week, in our sermon series Never Be the Same, David Penuel gives us three metrics by which we can gauge our growth in Christ: Places, People, and Purpose.
David Penuel: All right, Watermark. I have to start off with an apology, because I know you come here and you want to feel a part of a family and united, but I am going to divide you. I'm going to start off with a very divisive subject, and I'm going to start it off with a video clip. Here we go.
Announcer: And now, formed at the north end of Kyle Field, the nationally famous Fightin' Texas Aggie Band!
[End of video]
David: That's right. I have to talk to you about the single greatest marching band in all of the world: the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band. If you've never gotten to witness them, hold on. I'm going to show you two more clips. Pay attention, though. After they are announced, here's what comes next. I want you to look at the stands. There's a section where the band sits. It's empty, but look around that section. Here's the second clip.
You see, there are other marching bands, and there are some people who like to watch marching bands, but if you ever go to a Texas A&M football game at Kyle Field, you are going to notice something exceptional. At every other college football game, halftime is the time when you go use the restroom or you go get nachos, but at Texas A&M, when it is halftime you stay in your spot. You don't even stay in your seat. You remain standing to respect that band, and if you try to sit down, you get yelled at.
But why? Why do the Aggies stay at halftime to watch their marching band? It's because the marching band is awesome, and they are known for taking risks that no one else takes. Their performance is dramatic. It is captivating. It is inspiring, and it is because of their utilization of 180 degree turns. They march down the field, and they do these turns where they weave in and out of one another.
If you've ever seen a performance, several times in the program it looks like they are going to crash into one another. Frankly, I do not understand why the band members are not all missing teeth and have bloody lips. Because of their precision, it is captivating. It's mesmerizing. I want to show you one more clip. Watch the edges of the screen as they're making these turns. It's incredible. Check it out.
I mean, they morph and change in all kinds of different shapes, and it's all with 180 degree turns. The series of turns produces a sense of drama, a sense of risk that's captivating. It's inspiring. It's what sets them apart. Now I want you to imagine for a second a marching band, specifically that marching band, with no turns, with no change of direction. "Now forming at the north end of Kyle Field…" "Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!"
Then all of a sudden, they start marching. They're playing their song, but they never turn. A group of them is able to find the tunnel, and they just walk straight out of the stadium. Others just hit a wall and run into each other. That's not captivating. That's not inspiring. If I knew that was coming every single week, I would go get nachos. But they don't go get nachos because of the turns.
Now why do I start here? We are in the middle of a series called Never Be the Same, and we're reminding ourselves that life change…dramatic, maybe even risky life change…is what has always defined followers of Jesus, which is what we all want to be here today. We are looking at stories in the Bible of life-changing personal encounters with Jesus Christ, and we're considering the lessons we can apply to our lives today.
So, to start off our time, I want to start by inviting everyone to consider this question. Would the people who know you best say that you have never been the same since you started following Jesus? Some of you guys have been a Christian for a long time. Not just since you first became a Christian and your life changed then, but maybe since last year or the last six months or maybe in the last month.
The people who know you the best… For me, it's my wife and my kids and my coworkers, the people I spend the most time with. Would they go, "You know what? You're not the same as you were a month ago. You're not the same as you were last year. Jesus continues to bring life change into your life." Let's all consider that together, because the change that's supposed to be happening in our lives is not just when we first met Jesus. There's supposed to be a continual sense of drama and risk following Jesus day in and day out.
I start with this question because I believe this is true, and we're going to see it in the Scripture today. Without ongoing life change, we lose our identity as followers of Jesus. That's who we're meant to be: changed people. The Bible says that he who began a good work in us will continue it on until the day we meet Jesus. So, the work of transformation is meant to be a continual, ongoing process in our lives.
So, today, we are going to look at the story of a man named Levi, and we are going to compare our life experience to Levi by asking ourselves three questions to evaluate if we are on track to embracing the "Never be the same" identity we should have as followers of Jesus. Levi is going to lead us to ask these three questions: "Has following Jesus led me to changed places, changed people, and changed purpose?" We're going to be in Mark, chapter 2.
Last week, if you were here, David Marvin read a story from the Scripture. It was 30 verses long. Let's all just admit it was a snooze fest. Wait. No, no. The Bible is not a snooze fest. His teaching wasn't. Just him reading. David is just… I'm just kidding. David and I are friends. We can poke at each other. I'm sure he'll get me back when he's back up here next time. I'm only going to read five verses. You're welcome. Here we go. We're going to be in Mark, chapter 2, verses 13-17.
"Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector's booth. 'Follow me and be my disciple,' Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus' followers.)
But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, 'Why does he eat with such scum?' When Jesus heard this, he told them, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.'"
In this story, I want to make a few observations on the front end. The first is this. The story begins with Jesus on the shore of a lake teaching crowds and crowds of people. You see, at this point in the gospel of Mark, Jesus had already begun to work miracles, and he had begun to teach wisdom from God, so crowds had started gathering to follow him.
They were near a town in Israel called Capernaum. Crowds of people were gathering, not that different than what's happening right here, today, in Dallas, Texas. There are crowds of people gathered to worship Jesus through song and learn about Jesus from looking at his Word. Here's something that's really challenging. When you're a part of a crowd, you can feel like just another number.
Did you see what happened at the beginning of the story? It says, "As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus…" Jesus always sees the individual and knows their name. Every single number in this room, you are a name to God. Guys, we as a church are the body of Christ. We are meant to be representatives of God. We should know each other's names, because every person here matters.
So, this is a reminder to you, Watermark, members who call this place your home. We should go out of our way to make sure everyone who gathers with us anytime we meet here, whether it's Sunday or throughout the week, that everyone we interact with feels known and connected and cared for here, because that's the heart of Jesus that we see in this story.
The second observation is this: Levi was a tax collector. Let me explain to you really quickly what a tax collector is. At this time in Israel, the nation was occupied by the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was expanding, and they were taking over territories, and they had taken over Israel. They had commandeered control of this country. One of the ways they did that was by imposing taxes on the people.
Imagine if the Canadian empire had gained strength, and they'd gotten sick of the United States, and they were able to militarily overpower us, and now the Canadians were in control of us. Then here's what Levi was. He was a Jew, an Israelite, who had defected to the Roman Empire to serve them and their purposes. So, imagine your American neighbor had decided they wanted to go work for the Canadians.
The job Levi had was tax collector, collecting money from his fellow people, his friends, neighbors, and countrymen who he was now disloyal to, and now he's taking their money for the Romans. Not only that. He was abusing the authority he had, with the support of the Roman Empire behind him, to take more money than even the taxes that were due, and he got to keep the extra for himself. So, he was getting rich at the expense of his countrymen. That is a traitor, and he was generally hated by the Jewish people, because he had betrayed them, and he was now rich and comfortable and powerful because of that decision.
The next thing we see is this: Jesus calls to him, and the call is very simple, and the response of Levi is also very simple. Jesus says, "Follow me and be my disciple," and it says he got up and followed him. I think sometimes, guys, we overcomplicate Christianity. We think there is this list of things we have to do to please God. We've heard about these super Christians.
One day we'll become them if we work really hard and go to church every week and go to all of the studies and we're in a Community Group and we become a member and go through all of the programs the church has to offer that they tell you you have to go through. It's not that complicated, guys. It's simply this: open up your Word, see what the Word of God says, and obey it. Take your next step of obedience. That is following Jesus, and that's all Levi did.
The last thing I want you to notice is the last thing Jesus said in this particular story is, "Healthy people don't need a doctor; sick people do. I haven't come to call those who think they're righteous, but those who know they are sinners." If you walked in here today and you know you're a sinner… Maybe you are feeling guilty right now or ashamed about some sin you committed this morning or last night or last week, and maybe you feel spiritually sick.
I know sometimes I do, when there are things I want to do that I don't do or things I don't want to do that I do. I know the will of God, I know what God would have me do, I know what righteousness looks like, yet somehow I'm still compelled and drawn into sin and selfishness. I feel like there's a spiritual sickness in my life.
If you know you're a sinner or you feel spiritually sick this morning, here's what I want you to see in this story: Jesus is your guy and this is your place. Welcome. Now, those are just a few preliminary observations. Now let's get into the meat of what I want us to talk about today. Let's look back at the first two verses and compare our experience to his. Levi is going to lead us to ask this question.
The voice and the calling of Jesus was so powerful Levi physically moved. But here's the problem. Aren't we all tempted to stay in the same place? I know if I look in my life, I have my comfort zones. I have the life I have built for myself, and I don't want it to change. Whether it be my means of accumulation of material goods for myself or money or position or some sort of perceived power I might have in my life, control over some aspect of my life, I am not someone who is quick to want to move. I want to stay in the same place. I want to stay in my comfort zone.
Aren't we all hesitant to give up the lives we've built for ourselves? Imagine how much time Levi must have spent in his tax collector booth. What did his tax collector booth mean to him? It was his source of income. It was the thing he could control. It was part of his identity. How long, though, had he been watching Jesus? Maybe he saw the crowds following Jesus. Maybe his booth was close to the lakeshore and he could hear some of Jesus' teaching.
Just before this in the gospel of Mark, there's a story where Jesus heals a paralyzed man. Maybe Levi had observed that. He had seen the man paralyzed and seen the man walk away or maybe he'd seen the actual healing. He was still in his booth, in his comfort zone, but he knew all about Jesus. How many Watermark News stories do we have to read before we follow Jesus into the same kind of life change others are experiencing?
What would Levi risk if he left his booth? What would we risk if we left our comfort zone? And what might Levi gain if he followed Jesus? When I think about Levi getting up and leaving his comfort zone to follow Jesus, I start to think about all of the people I know who have changed their places because they're following Jesus. It didn't take me long to come up with a list.
I had this roommate named Scott Jackson, and he was a member here at Watermark. We lived together when we were both single. He felt like Jesus was calling him to join a work God was doing in Córdoba, Argentina, and he physically moved to a whole other country that he'd never spent any time in out of responding to the call to follow Jesus, and he has been there for 15 years.
I think of somebody we all know and appreciate, if you've been around here for any amount of time, somebody who leads us in worship, Davy Flowers. I'm so glad she followed Jesus from her home in Mississippi where she had a great job and great friends. She felt like Jesus was calling her to come here to do the Watermark Institute to learn more about God's Word so she could lead others better in worship because she was more deeply rooted and grounded in her knowledge of God. She changed her place to follow Jesus.
I think of John Cox, a guy who recently joined our staff. He was helping other people manage their finances. He was going to an office where people wore suits every day, and now he goes to an office where I'm there every day. He changed his place. I think of a guy I know who's not a Watermark member named Chad Lawson who had a great career as a teacher and a coach at a local high school. He's a great basketball coach, but he felt like God was calling him to do outreach ministry at his church, and he ended up leaving his whole job and taking a job at his church in Plano.
I think of Stewart Shurtleff, a guy who's a peer of mine, a Watermark member, and he traded his family's vacations for family trips to Rwanda to care for orphans. His places changed. Chris and Rachel Shelton, Watermark members, recently took a job to be camp directors down at T Bar M. They left the life they had built here, their kids' schools and their Community Group and all of their friends, to follow Jesus to serve him at T Bar M camp.
Addison and Bailey Herritage are two friends of mine. Both of their families are right here in the Dallas area, but they felt like Jesus was calling them and leading them to go be a part of a church plant called Outpost Community Church in Cody, Wyoming, and they just moved last week. I think of all of the students who are going to be going to Camp Barnabas to serve individuals with special needs this summer. They're leaving their place of comfort here in Dallas to go be uncomfortable in Missouri for a week serving others.
I can't be on this stage without mentioning all of the volunteers who are right in the building next to us. They've given up their place in here or their comfort zone at home to go serve kids in Watermark Kids. Or the small group leaders for Watermark students who are in living rooms every Wednesday night. They're changing their place because they're following Jesus.
I also think of the hundreds of brave souls who have chosen this to be their place on Monday night and walk in here and seek recovery from hurts and habits that have been holding them back in life or they've come here on Wednesday night to work on their marriage. They're changing their place. I think of members who have gone into prisons. I think of all of the health-care workers who are serving God in the name of Jesus in our clinics, and on and on and on.
I think of all of these people who inspire me with these meaningful stories of physically changing their places because they're following Jesus, and I have to ask myself this question, and so do all of us…"Has following Jesus led me to changed places?" It led Levi to changed places. It led all of those people I just described to changed places. What about me in my last six months or my last year? Has my place changed because I've been following Jesus?
In a group this size, I know this is true. Somebody came in here this morning, and God has been calling you to a new place, and you've been wrestling to stay in your comfort zone. Is God using Levi's story and this sermon to give you a nudge? I may be talking to one person or one couple in this room, but maybe God is doing that. Maybe God is giving you a reminder that there is drama and there is risk in following Jesus into new places, but that's part of what gives meaning to our lives.
Jesus led Levi to new people. He decided he needed to be friends with Jesus and the disciples. He was going to leave his place. That was going to be a hard thing, so he needed new people to walk with him. Have you ever heard this quote before? "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." I hate this quote, but it's so true. It's a quote we use all the time with teenagers. We're like, "If you're going to hang out with scrubs, you're going to be a scrub."
It always forces all of us to evaluate "Who am I really spending the most time with?" Think through your waking hours. Who are you with the most? The reality is you're becoming like that group of people. This isn't just some random person's idea; this is stolen straight from King Solomon in the Scriptures. Proverbs 13:20 says, "Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble." You become who you're around, who you spend the most time with.
So, who are you spending the most time with? Do you have people in your life helping you follow Jesus? If Levi was going to follow Jesus, he needed new people, so he instantly invited Jesus and the disciples… "Come to dinner at my house. Yes, all my old friend group is here, but I need you guys to be a part of my new friend group." Do you have people in your life helping you follow Jesus?
Members, how is your Community Group right now? It's summer. Have you guys taken a pass to stop meeting for a couple of weeks, months, years? Is your Community Group pursuing you relationally and are you pursuing them relationally? Are they helping you devote daily to Christ? Are they admonishing you faithfully by counseling you biblically? Are they inspiring you to live your life on a mission and point you to God's purpose for your life? How's that group doing?
Are there any runners in the room? Does anybody like to run for exercise? Look at all of those hands. What is wrong with you people? Running is not fun. You start at one location and you end at the same location. You go nowhere, yet you experience pain. There is no ball. There's no team. There are no famous runners. You can't get online and order a runner's jersey. That would be weird. If your favorite athlete is a runner, you're wrong and you need help.
Here's the thing. I'm going to admit my age. I'm 42 years old, and I have to run, because if I don't run, I won't be a good dad, I won't be a good husband, I won't be a good minister, because I won't be physically fit in any sort of way. Here's the thing about running. Here's why I have to run. I can't play soccer. I can't play basketball. I don't have time for that. I don't have money for that. I can't join a gym. Running is cheap. So I have to run. Running is not fun, but, people, running is good. It keeps us healthy.
I need others to help me run. I need my friend Saleem who's willing to meet me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:30 a.m. on the corner in our neighborhood and run with me. I need the app called Strava. Do you know what Strava is? It's social media for runners. Weird concept. You get on Strava, and other friends who are willing to torture themselves sign up too, and they add you as a friend.
Here's what helps. When you do a run, the Strava app tracks the map of your run, and it says how far and how fast you ran. Then your friends give you kudos. It's a little thumbs-up, and you get a notification. "Jermaine gave you kudos." Now I'm inspired and I'm encouraged to run more. And I know this: if I run less and slower on Friday than I ran on Wednesday, I'm going to feel shame, because all of those people on Strava are going to see me.
Legit. This happened on Friday. I'm running a three-mile loop, and at about two miles, I'm like, "It is June in Texas. It's hot. It's humid. I'm sweating." I'm thinking, "I'm going to stop at two miles, and I'm going to just walk the last mile, because walking is healthy. Right?" But then I realized, "Uh-oh. On Strava it's going to show a map that goes like this and then stops, and they're going to go, 'Why did you do the letter C when you were supposed to do the letter O?' and they're going to know 'David chickened out. He's a wimp, and he walked his last mile.'"
I knew that accountability was there, and I finished my run because of Strava. Here's the point: I need people to help me run, because running is not always fun, but it's good. That is true about being a Christian. It's not always fun and games to be a Christian, especially not today, especially not with all of the distraction and temptation that is out there, but it is good to know and walk with Jesus, so I need others to be with me every day encouraging me on that, and so do you.
Here's your call to action. If you're not a member here, that's all membership is: getting other Jesus followers into your life to help you and encourage you and strengthen you as you seek him. You can join our membership class anytime at watermark.org/membership. Maybe you need to join one of those groups I already mentioned on Monday night or Wednesday night or Tuesday night or come to The Porch or join re:generation or re|engage. You need to find a group. There's a place there for you to find a group.
Maybe your Community Group is terrible right now and you need to email your community director and say, "We need help. We are not being to one another what Jesus has called us to be to one another." All of the things in your Watermark News, guys… These are not just programs where you go learn something new or go through a curriculum. These are places for you to connect with God's people, and there's one for every single life stage, whoever you are. "Has following Jesus led me to changed people?" We all should think about that question.
Jesus had a purpose when he was on this earth. He came to call sinners and to heal spiritual sickness. As Levi followed Jesus, he learned to have a new purpose for his life. Jesus' purpose to heal spiritual sickness became Levi's purpose. It was like Jesus established himself as the divine physician, and Levi realized, "I am the physician assistant." That is a real role and job in our culture today. My across-the-street neighbor Kevin is a PA, a physician assistant.
Here's what I've learned about this role. It is somebody who can do everything a doctor can do, only they must be under the licensing and authority of a physician. So, he can diagnose illness. He can establish a treatment plan. He can prescribe medication. Thank God for Kevin when I have a sinus infection. I just walk across the street, and he calls it in after a thorough examination under the authority of the physician and the physician's license. Isn't that what we are called to be as Christians: the divine physician assistant?
Now, where is that in the text? How do we know what Levi's life was like after this incident of dramatic change where he left his booth and started hanging out with Jesus people? How do we know his purpose actually changed and he became a physician assistant? Well, it's not in this text. It's not in Mark 2. I'm going to take you to Matthew 6:19-20. These are the words of Jesus that are recorded by Matthew in the first book of the New Testament.
"Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal." That is what Levi was doing. In his tax collector booth, he was literally storing up treasure for himself on this earth. Then Jesus says this in verse 20: "Store your treasures in heaven…" You have a new purpose. Don't store up here. Don't live for this earth. Live for the kingdom of God in heaven. "…where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal."
So what does Matthew 6, the words of Jesus, have to do with Levi? This is incredible. There are a few stories in the Bible where there's a guy named Saul and he meets Jesus and his name changes to Paul or a guy named Abram who has an encounter with God and his name changes to Abraham. Levi is Matthew, this obscure, no name, Israeli tax collector. We don't know the name of any other tax collector from first-century Israel. He's obscure.
He becomes the author of the first book of the New Testament. He becomes a new person. So much so he begins to become known by a new name: Matthew, because his life was so radically changed. Matthew is Levi, and we are still talking about him today. Everybody who finds a Bible in their hotel room and opens it up… The first book of the New Testament is Matthew. They are reading the words of this person who had one purpose, and now he has a new purpose.
I'd like to use Matthew's 180-degree turn… I'd like to use an illustration to help you understand exactly what happened. The illustration is a rope. There it is. This rope represents your life. We all know this deep down inside. There's eternity in our hearts. We know there is more than this world we live in here and now today. We know there is life after death. Now, we wonder, "What is it? What comes after it?" but we know our lives are more than our lives on this earth.
So, the rope is an illustration of your life. It goes up into eternity. You don't know where it ends, but it goes on and on forever. Our lives are right here, this little piece of tape on this rope. They're probably even smaller than that. We just have this moment here on this earth. Here's what Levi was doing. He was living for the tape as if all that existed was this little piece of tape and his entire life was just this rope. He was doing what you naturally would do if your life was just this piece of tape. He was accumulating as much wealth and as much power as he could.
How many of us live for the tape and forget that there's a rope and there is a purpose? We don't live for the kingdom of Capernaum. We don't live for the kingdom of Dallas. We live for the kingdom of heaven and for all of eternity. I love that I get to think about this. I'm constantly thinking about, "How can I live today for the kingdom of heaven and not the kingdom of Dallas or of this earth?"
There are some young people who are setting an example for all of us. This Saturday (I've already mentioned it), they are going to a camp in Missouri called Camp Barnabas. This is a camp for individuals with special needs. They will be serving adults who live their lives in wheelchairs, and they'll be doing this service in the name of Jesus. Jesus said that if you give a cup of water to someone in need in his name, you're also doing it for him. It is a way we glorify God by serving others who have needs.
So here's what they're doing. These high schoolers, 200 of them, are getting on buses next Saturday to go to this camp to care for these campers. These campers are in wheelchairs. They can't walk. They have to be pushed around camp, so they can't move on their own. Many of them cannot get dressed on their own. They cannot bathe on their own. They cannot use the restroom on their own. Some of them are unable to speak. Some of them must be fed every single meal. They must have their every need attended to.
These high schoolers are paired up one on one, and here's what they're doing: they're leaving the kingdom of Dallas. You see, here, they're spending time on their phones. They're playing video games. They're meeting up with friends. They're having as much fun as they possibly can. Some of them have summer jobs and are making money, saving up as much money as they can, and they're living for this kingdom. Now they're paying money to go serve and live for the kingdom of heaven.
Where is their treasure in heaven? Someday, we're going to be spending eternity in heaven. I don't know exactly what it's like, but the Bible tells us it's a new earth. It's like everything made new, and it's perfected. There's no crying. There's no sickness. I believe I'll have gills so I can swim with dolphins. (That's not in the Bible, but I hope.) It's perfect, and it's forever. We know we will have a chance to glorify Jesus.
Here's what I imagine. Someday, in the kingdom of heaven, these high schoolers are going to be walking along after a great afternoon snowboarding, or maybe they're swimming with the dolphins with me, and they're going to bump into somebody they recognize. They can't quite place them. "Did I know you on the old earth?"
"Yes. Let me tell you how you know me. When I was on the old earth, I couldn't speak. I couldn't even stand. I couldn't walk. I was in a wheelchair. I had cerebral palsy, and you came to Camp Barnabas. You clothed me, and you helped me get clean, and you fed me, and you taught me about Jesus. You sang songs to me at bedtime when I was upset. You loved me in the name of Jesus. Let's have a feast." The Bible also describes heaven as a feast.
"Let's call the guest of honor, Jesus, to this feast, and we'll call it the 'Camp Barnabas Summer 2021 feast.' We'll invite all of the other campers and all of the other high schoolers from Watermark Dallas who came, and we'll tell stories of God's glory, and we'll worship Jesus together." That's their treasure in heaven.
Those high schoolers aren't going to be in heaven going, "Did you see my top score on the video game? Do you remember when we dated that one time for two months and that was really awkward?" That's not a treasure in heaven. That's the tape. But we get to live for the rope. Levi's story demonstrates that for all of us.
Only one life 'twill soon be past
Only what's done for Christ will last.
I love that little line from a guy named C.T. Studd. (I wish my last name was Studd.) Guys, without ongoing life change, we lose our identity as followers of Jesus. So, has following Jesus led me to changed places, changed people, and changed purpose? I'm going to end this with a little bit of a confession. As I was preparing for this message and studying Levi and his amazing story of radical life change and I was thinking about these questions for myself, I started to get a little insecure.
I could look back on my life… Twenty years ago, I worked at a camp called Pine Cove. At Pine Cove, it was a new place to me. I'd never been there before when I went to work there, but I followed Jesus because I believed he was calling me to work as a counselor at Pine Cove. So I went to a new place, and I only knew two people. Everybody I worked with and all of the campers there were new people, and they became great friends who strengthened my relationship with Christ for many years after working at camp.
Then I discovered this new purpose to selflessly serve others in the name of Jesus as a camp counselor. It was incredible. Not only that, icing on the cake… Levi became Matthew. At Pine Cove, if you're a counselor, they give you a goofy name. Everybody gets a camp name. So, the whole time I was at Pine Cove, and all of my camp friends, even during the school year afterward… They called me Crockett. I got a new name. I wasn't David to them; I was Crockett.
I mean, it lined up. It was perfect. I went to my wife this week as I was studying this, and I said, "Babe, I'm talking to all of these people about the story of Levi, and I'm asking them to think about 'Has God led you to new places and new people and new purposes?' and I feel like the last time that happened to me was, like, 20 years ago." She said, "Wait. Tell me the story again. Which story?" And I kind of walked her through it.
She was like, "David, let me tell you about the new places God has taken us in the last several years, but even in the last several months." She started talking about different places we had been and we had gone that we hadn't gone before right here in this community, but we were moving into new areas. Let me be honest with you guys. This stage is a new place for me, and it's not a place I want to be. You guys are all looking at me right now, and it's weird.
People are looking at me, and you're waiting to hear what I'm going to say. A lot of insecurity here. My friends down here on the front row helped me out right before we started. They were like, "Are you nervous?" I was like, "Shut up!" This is a new place for me. Then my wife was like, "Hey, what about all of these new people we've been intentionally spending time with to encourage and strengthen us and offer encouragement and strength to them?"
I was the student pastor here for 18 years, and my wife said to me a year ago, "David, I think we need to get you some friends who are your own age." I've just so enjoyed hanging out with younger people, and all of the volunteers are in their 20s, and all the staff are in their 20s or 30s. She's like, "You're old now. Get some old friends." So we've been intentional for the last year to bring new people into our lives. I was like, "Oh my gosh! You're right."
And new purpose. There are so many different ministries we've been involved in even in the last few months and different ways we've connected and been able to share what Christ has done for us with other people. It was so encouraging for us just to have that conversation, because even studying the Scripture, I still wasn't exactly sure how it applied to me.
So, that's the challenge I want to end with: that all of us would go out, and we wouldn't just think about these questions, but we would talk to somebody, somebody who knows us well or a group of people who know us well, and we would just talk about these questions. "How has following Jesus led me to changed places, to changed people, and to changed purposes, and how might he want to lead me tomorrow to new places, to new people, and new purposes?"
We're going to finish by singing a song we already sang today. I love the line of the bridge of this song that we're going to all sing. It says, "It's a new horizon, and I'm set on you." It's talking about Jesus. "You are the way, you are the truth, and you are the life." Let me pray, and let's sing that song together.
Dear Lord, I thank you so much for capturing and recording this miraculous and inspiring and captivating story of Levi and the transformation that happened in his life when he encountered you. I pray that each of us would encounter you, not one time 20 years ago but every single time we have the opportunity, every single day. I pray that we would encounter you and that we would follow you wherever you're calling us to, into whatever new place, out of whatever comfort zone, to any new group of people and any new purpose you have for us.
I pray that every soul listening to the sound of my voice right now would live today and every day of their lives not for the tape but for the rope. Would we not live for the kingdom of this world but live for the kingdom of God. Use the reflection. Use your Spirit right now as we think about this and we sing this song to move us in that direction. In Jesus' name, amen.