Being transformed by Christ is not a one-time event at the point of salvation. We are called to continually be transformed by Him every day. John Elmore walks us through Romans 12:1-2 and the first part of Watermark’s vision – “Transformed by Christ, to love like Christ” – to detail three ways we are transformed by Christ.
Vision and Values | Core Values
Vision and Values | To Love Like Christ
Vision and Values | Transformed by Christ
At the start of a New Year, many people make resolutions and quickly break them because they lack the willpower. This is much the same in our struggle with sin. Willpower is not greater than sin’s power, but God’s power is greater than sin’s power. So, we don’t need a New Year’s resolution – we need a New Year’s transformation. We need to be transformed by Christ through His power every single day. There are three ways we are transformed by Christ. We are:
Everyone, happy New Year! It's funny, the "Happy New Year" thing. Everybody is saying it night of and the next day, and then it starts to trail off. Life starts to hit, and it doesn't feel so new anymore. You're like, "Just because the calendar changed doesn't mean my circumstances necessarily did." Everybody stops saying it a little bit, but there may be something that has continued.
Did anybody make a New Year's resolution? Show of hands. Come on, y'all. Be proud about it. That's right. So, it's about 30 to 40 percent. That holds true with global population. Those of you who didn't raise your hands, I'd ask why. Why didn't you make a New Year's resolution? You're like, "Because they never last." That's right. According to Strava in Inc. magazine, they took a survey of over 800 million users of an athletic software, and they noticed something.
People made New Year's resolutions, and the subscriptions spiked incredibly. Then they noticed this strange phenomenon. By the second Friday in January…Boom! Eighty percent of the users dropped off. Eighty percent, y'all! That means 80 percent of New Year's resolutions will be done by the second Friday in January. Welcome to church. I'll be your motivational speaker for the day.
So, all of you who made New Year's resolutions, you need to know that just 8 percent of you will make it to your resolution. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, but what it does mean… They did a follow-up study. They were like, "What in the world? You paid all this money for this athletic subscription to an app and a device. You bought equipment. You went public on social with the New Year's resolution, how you're going to get fit, eat right, sleep well, or whatever it is. Why did you quit?"
They did a follow-up study. The follow-up study revealed they didn't have enough willpower. That was it. We know this biblically. Willpower is not greater than sin's power, but we have a truth, an eternal truth, that God's power is greater than sin's power. So, what we don't need, necessarily, is a New Year's resolution.
We need a new year transformation, that we would be transformed in Jesus Christ and that he would continually transform us every single day of every single year until we are at home with the Lord and the transformation is complete, that third tense of salvation, which is glorification, where we see him fully as he is and are transformed entirely in his presence.
There was a New Year's where I had not yet been transformed by any stretch by the Lord Jesus. I was conformed very much to the world. I was living on a couch. I was an alcoholic for over a decade. I had two doctors tell me, "If you keep drinking like this, you're going to die." Frankly, I was fine with that. I was taking sleeping pills while drinking, hoping I wouldn't wake up. I was smoking weed whenever it was around and taking a combination of painkillers with alcohol. I was a mess of a man. I had stopped going to work. I was wrecked.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so in case you're like, "John, was that really the case? Were you really that far gone?" here's a picture of that part of my life. You can laugh or you can cry. They're probably both appropriate. David Penuel, our creative director, said, "Was that Halloween?" I was like, "No, man. That was just another night in Austin. That was just going out in Austin." Eyeliner; nose ring; a hollow, dead soul of a man; dead in my sins. You can see it in my eyes.
What happened is, after a family intervention, I quit drinking. When I quit drinking, it was like taking a pacifier from a crying baby. My flesh was screaming. The only semblance of peace I had, which was the numbing, sedating effect of alcohol, was now gone, so I was coming undone. You think that picture was bad. You remove the alcohol, it was even worse, until, after having been in an A.A. meeting and hitting step three where it says, "Surrender your life and will over to your higher power, whoever you deem him to be," I got on my knees beside that couch I was living on.
I was like, "Jesus, I've squandered everything you've given me, but whatever I have left, it is yours." Jesus transformed me. He sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of me. He sealed me. He didn't make me better; he made me new. I was born again. He gave me a lasting peace, far beyond that poisonous, fleeting, false peace of alcohol. Now I had life-giving, sustaining, spiritual peace. My depression, my despair, turned to joy and hope, and he put a song in my mouth instead of curse words. I became a new man.
He transformed me, but it wasn't just a 2005/2006 thing. He's still transforming me daily as I yield to him. Jesus began this work and continues it every single day, this transformation. Six months later, after the Lord got me sober, I was sitting there and writing down a vision statement as part of this discipleship program, and I wrote down these words: "Jesus is real." Because I was a deist before. I was like, "God made all this, but he doesn't have anything to do with me."
Now I knew, "Oh, he is real. He just changed everything at the age of 30. Jesus is real. You are never too far gone, and he can change everything. I'm going to spend the rest of my life telling everyone I can that he's real, you're never too far gone, and he can change everything." For the last 17 years, that's what the Lord has allowed me to do, as I've seen Christ radically and wholesale change everyone from every sin under the sun. It's what he does.
What he did for me he'll do for every other person, because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and always. It's what he lives to do. We need only ask. I've seen him do it. I've seen him do it for a decade in re:generation, our Christ-centered, biblically based 12-step program. I've seen him do it in Community Groups throughout this campus, throughout this city, and throughout the world. It's what Jesus lives to do.
I don't know where you are today, but I do know this: no matter what you've done, no matter what's in your past or what is in your present, Jesus is greater than it all. He'll transform everything. He will break every addiction, free every prisoner, heal every broken heart, and give peace to every person wracked by anxiety and control. It's what he does. He is the Prince of Peace, and he will give you transformation in this new year because of this. Jesus doesn't teach old dogs new tricks; Jesus makes old dogs new. He will not give you a better life; he'll give you a new life. It's what he does.
So, if you want a clean slate, if you want a do-over, if you want a second chance, or maybe you're like, "I don't need a second chance; I need a one thousandth chance," then what you want and what you need is Jesus. No other self-help, no other life hack, no other book, no other amount of time, spare Jesus alone, can give you the longing of your heart and the change your life desires. He'll do it. He will do it. I am proof of it, this Word testifies to it, and this room is full of other people who could heartily say, "Amen" to that fact. So, welcome to church. "Amen" indeed.
This is a spiritual emergency room. We don't come here all well and healed. Nobody waltzes into an emergency room just to sip on a cup of coffee. They walk in with some kind of ailment or affliction, knowing they need to be better. They need to be healed. They're broken and need to be made whole. That's what this is. What kind of church, what kind of an emergency room would ever be like, "Hey, you know what? Come back whenever you're feeling better."
No emergency room would ever be like, "You did what? Do you know how stupid that is?" Instead, it's like, "Hey, come. It's okay. We've got you. It's going to be okay." Right in the middle of the word broken are the letters O-K. When you come broken, it's going to be okay because of Jesus. That's what this place is. There is no condemnation, no shame. There is transformation, once and for all in Jesus and ongoing by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is our vision statement for the church.
It is to be transformed by Christ, and not just that, but transformed by Christ to love like Christ, to love God and love others. That is the vision statement of the church, and the reason is everyone in this room is in need of the same thing. No matter where you are, we're all in need of transformation, every single one of us. You're either someone or you have something in your life that shouldn't be. Everyone.
So, we just need to come before the Lord Jesus Christ and be like, "Transform me or transform that part of me. Continue the work you have begun in Jesus Christ my Lord." And he will, far beyond anything any resolution could ever do. This is what we're going to be talking about today: the vision statement for the church. We're going to unpack it, specifically the first half. It's transformed by Christ to love like Christ.
I'm going to cover transformed by Christ. Then next week, TA is going to do the second part, to love like Christ. Then in two weeks, I'm going to cover our four values. After that, we're going to be walking through 1 Peter verse by verse throughout the end of April. It's going to be an incredible spring, and I can't wait for it.
So, here's your road map for today. You're going to see transformed by Christ, because that's the first half of the vision statement, but there's going to be a bracketed section of three ways we are transformed by Christ. First, transformed by the death and resurrection of Christ; secondly, transformed by the daily renewal of Christ; and thirdly, transformed by the declared will of Christ. To do so, we're going to walk through Romans 12:1-2.
Romans 1: the gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who would believe. Well, who's that for? Chapter 2: it's for everybody. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, Jew or Gentile. It's for everyone. Chapter 3: all have fallen short of the glory of God, and no one will be justified by following the law. You can't be righteous on your own. He's both the just and the justifier. Chapter 4: the righteous will be saved by faith, not a matter of works.
Chapter 5: the first Adam brought death, but the second Adam, Jesus, brings life. The second Son of Man, Jesus Christ, brings life. In chapter 6, it says, "But what do I do?" Well, you were a slave to sin; therefore, you were crucified with Christ and have been raised again to walk in newness of life. It begs the question in chapter 7, "But I still sin." Yeah, you do. You still wrestle with the flesh. Who's going to rescue you from this body of death? Thanks be to Jesus Christ our Lord!
"I'm just going to continue struggling then?" No. Romans 8 says those who are children of God are led by the Spirit of God, and nothing can separate you from the love of God. Then you have chapters 9-11. What about the Jews who have rejected him? The Lord's arm is not too short to save. If a wild shoot has been grafted in, how much more will they? So, no one is beyond the reach of the Lord because of all that.
That's the therefore. The therefore is the incredible gospel, and as a result of the gospel… Here it is. Romans 10:9: "…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart [your spirit] that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Salvation, born again, Spirit-sealed by the Holy Spirit, eternity secure, transformed from death to life. That's the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a result, he says, "Therefore, according to those mercies of God, I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, present your bodies, the totality of your being, to God, holy and acceptable, set apart only to him, which will make it acceptable." He says, "This is your spiritual worship." The word spiritual in the Greek is logikos, which sounds a lot like logical. This is the only logical spiritual response. As a result of everything God has done for me in saving me, now I will give myself wholly to him. It's the only logical spiritual response. That is my act of worship that I would do.
Here's the thing. We are saved and transformed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but get a load of this: we are also sanctified by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There's a transformative work when we are born again, and there's a transformative work as we are sanctified more into the image of Christ by the Spirit of Christ. He continues this work.
I thought about our third-born, Judd, because we ran into the doctor who delivered him last week. This doctor is serving on the parking team. He was like, "Hey, Elmore family!" Here's Judd, as a 5-year-old who he delivered November 20, 2017. We're telling Judd now, who can understand, "Hey, this is the doctor who delivered you. When you were born, this is the doctor who brought you into the world."
Then there's another Watermark doctor, Abbie Smith, and that doctor cares for Judd to make sure he grows up right. She does health checks and takes care of him as he grows and continues and develops into a man. There was a doctor who brought him into the world, and there's a doctor who continues as he grows. So it is with us. I think sometimes we're like, "All right, Doc. Born again. I've got this now. I know what to do. I've got your Word. I'm going to figure it out. I'm going to walk according to your way, but I've got it. It's clear. I've got it." We lack transformation.
The reason we lack transformation is we lack that continuity. The one who saved us is the one who keeps us safe, which is the problem. It's why we can be saved but not sanctified, why we don't have further transformation. I think it's because (I know for me at least) we can be content to be transferred rather than transformed. What I mean by that is we'll be content to be transferred to heaven one day. "I'm not going to go to hell. I'll be transferred to heaven one day." We leave it at that rather than desiring the ongoing transformation. We want heaven but not holiness, and it must not be.
How can it be that I say there was a transformative effect to be born again by Jesus' death and resurrection, but there's an ongoing transforming effect of Jesus' death and resurrection now? That was 2,000 years ago, so how is that still taking place? The reason is we were crucified and raised again with Christ. Scriptures make it clear in Romans, chapter 6. Here it is in Galatians 2:20. Paul writes, "I have been crucified with Christ." The old Paul was a slave to sin and Satan, the flesh. That old man had to die. He had been crucified with Christ.
It says, as a result… Think about living sacrifice. "It is no longer I who live…" Now we have crucified with Christ but I who live. So, there is the death and resurrection of Christ in Paul as a sanctifying, transformative work. "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." It's this responsive effect. "You gave yourself for me; therefore, I will give myself for you." To present our bodies as living sacrifices.
John Owen, a great theologian from 400 years ago, wrote a book called The Mortification of Sin. I commend it to you. He writes that there are two ways. There's the mortification of the flesh and then the vivification, or the giving of life, to the spirit. Specifically, he works with the mortification of the flesh or mortification of sin. In the second point we'll talk about the vivification.
The mortification. You think mortician or morte in Spanish. It's death, to put to death sin or the flesh. Romans 8:13 says, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die…" If you do what you want to do (see my picture), you will die. "…but if by the Spirit…" You can't do it. "…you put to death the deeds of the [flesh],you will live." So, there is the mortification of the sin and of the flesh, but it's nothing we can do. I can't "resolution" my way out of sin. The Spirit is the sin-killer, so I invite him to do the work.
Recently… You're never going to guess this, but I'm prone to skin cancer. I can get a sunburn from being out in the night from the moon. I went to my dermatologist for my biannual skin cancer check. She was like, "Hey, there's a lot going on on your forehead, so we're going to need to apply something across all of it." Normally, it's getting something frozen off, burned off, or whatever. This was like, "All right. We need to do a lot of work this time."
She was like, "You need to find a point in time where you don't have a lot going on, and you just need to go five days of this cream." So, I had the prescription, and I took it out and put it on the first day. I'm like, "Not so bad." By the end of the fifth day, I was putting it on, and it felt like I was dragging razor blades across my forehead. I was lit up like Rudolph, except on my forehead. But TA was preaching Christmas, so I did it there at the break.
I didn't do any of it. I didn't heal myself from skin cancer. The cream did. The cream is what has power to kill my cancer. This motion, or rubbing it in, has no ability to kill cancer. This had the ability to kill cancer. It only needed to be applied. So it is with the Holy Spirit. So it is with Jesus. He needs only to be applied.
I think what we can tend to do is we carry around the prescription. We're like, "Yeah, yeah. I've got it. I've got the prescription. I know what it is. I've been in church a lot. In fact, I've got some of the prescription memorized. Do you want to hear it? I've got a few of them memorized. I talk to the doctor. We're on a first-name basis, the doc and me. We talk. I even tell others about the benefit of 'If you were to apply this, your life would be changed.'" Yet in some area of life, we don't take it out and actually apply it ourselves.
I think, having been around enough in Christian circles and churches, there can be this thing where you're like, "Man, I've attended for years, but I have this struggle I've had for decades. I'm glad it worked out for you, but it hasn't for me. I've pled with the Lord, and I've tried. I've gone up front after the service, and I've memorized the Scriptures, so what is it? I'm trying to apply it, and it's not dying, so what?"
It's like this prescription. I applied it every single day. I couldn't have done it once, couldn't have done it twice. She was like, "You have to keep doing this until it dies." So it is with us. I want to give you a little bit of a way that you can walk through this, because I want you to walk out of here with a very practical application of "But what do I do? I believe what you're saying is true." I want you to know it is true for you. No matter where you are or what you have in your life, it is true for you. He is true for you. He will kill the sin. It's what he lives to do.
Here it is very simply: ACT. If there's something going on in your life, you have to take action. You need to act. A is to ask God. Just ask. Ask him to help. He's the sin-killer. You need only ask him. Bring him into the fight. "God, I've got this thing. I need your help. For the next 24 hours, will you keep me free from [X, Y, or Z]?" Just ask. Then the C is commit. Commit to another brother or sister in Christ that you will not give in to your thing by God's strength, not your own. Don't carry it around. You apply it.
Commit by God's strength to another brother or sister before… Say, "For the next 24 hours, I'm not going to give in to [X, Y, or Z]." Drinking, undereating, overeating, pills, changing five times before I walk out of the door because of my body image struggle, that inappropriate relationship at work, or whatever it is. "For the next 24 hours, by God's strength, I'm not going to give in to that." They'll do it back. Find somebody who will do it with you, because everybody has something.
Then the T is text, talk, or you could say tomorrow. It's the next 24 hours. Set an alarm on your phone to go off every single day. In the next 24 hours, you're going to follow up with that individual and let them know how you did. Now, what you've done is you've brought God into the fight, you've brought the people of God into the fight, and you have applied this balm to your soul to bring healing. He's going to kill that sin. He's going to do it.
I couldn't conceive of not drinking for the rest of my life. I was like, "What do you do on Friday? What do you do on a holiday? What do you do at a wedding reception? What do you do on a vacation in Mexico? Are you kidding me? Life without alcohol?" Somebody was like, "Could you go 24 hours with God's help?"
I was like, "Yeah, I could do that, but what about the rest of my life?" He was like, "Don't worry about that." It's daily bread. God is like, "Here's enough for today. I'll see you tomorrow. Here's enough for today. I'll see you tomorrow." For the rest of our days, it's the daily application in which God goes to war against our sin. He'll set you free one day at a time for the rest of your life.
Ask God for help and commit. When I put this wedding band on and said "Yes" to Laura, I said "No" to all of the other four billion women walking this planet, which makes it really easy. It's like, "Well, Laura is mine so everyone else isn't." So it is. When you make that commitment, like, "Hey, God, for the next 24 hours by your help I'm saying 'yes' to you and 'no' to that. I don't think I can commit for the rest of my life…" God doesn't even want you to. He wants you to stay in that dependency with him.
"Don't make some false expectation. Just walk with me every day, and you won't gratify the desires of the flesh." Then, as far as talking and texting with the person the next day, God calls us to walk with each other every day. "Encourage one another daily so you won't be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." I invite you to text someone right now and be like, "Hey, remind me to talk to you about something. I want to start doing this thing with you. Did you make a resolution? Let's do something together and go to war with the power of the Lord and be transformed."
So, I want you to think about, "What are the sources or the forces that are conforming me to the world? What are those inputs in my life that are shaping me to be more like the world than the Lord?" You might think about social media or whatever it is you're streaming on repeat and binging. Maybe it's what's going into your body. Maybe it's the friendships you're around or the person you're dating or want to date who you're trying to impress.
There are those things, those forces or sources, that are causing us to be conformed to the world. The Lord says it must not be. Instead, you have to be transformed. Where it says, "Be transformed by," the verb tense, to geek out on you, is present passive imperative, and it really, really matters. It's present. When he says, "Be transformed by," he's like, "This isn't a one-and-done thing. This is every day, this renewal of the mind to be transformed to the Lord, to be transformed and renewed in Christ. This is daily." That's present.
Then you have passive. Passive means you're not doing it. It's being done to you. This action, this transformation… You can't try. This is by. You get a lot of exhausted Christians as they just try and try. "Why can't I do this?" You're like the New Year's resolution. Your willpower is not greater than sin's power, but God's power is. So it is by. It's done to you rather than trying by you.
Then you have imperative, which means this is no suggestion. This isn't a "What if?" This is the Christian life. We are to be renewed daily, to not be satisfied with our day of salvation but to every day be living in a day of sanctification by the renewing of our minds. So, here's the vivification we have talked about, the vivification of the spirit.
My son Hill has a remote-control boat. We dropped it into the pond and had the remote control. It's beeping and working except the boat isn't responding. I thought, "Maybe it's just not synced up." The wind is blowing, and it's drifting a little farther from the dock. No joke. I lie on the dock, and I'm like, "Sit on my legs!" so I can extend out, because that thing was gone.
I just told my kids, "Yeah, I had a remote-control boat once. I took it out, and then the waves, and it sank. I just watched it on the first maiden voyage." I'm like, "Oh my goodness. It's happening again!" It's like prophetic and pathetic. I'm just watching it drift. It had a battery in it, but the battery wasn't charged, so it was adrift by every wave and whim that would push against it.
The same it is with us. If we are not charged by the Spirit… There I am as the one in control being like, "Go. Turn around. What is wrong?" Like, off, on, off on. "Are you kidding me right now?" And it's just drifting to the waves. We can be charged by the Spirit. We must be charged by the Spirit, to be filled by the Spirit. There's nothing we can do. This is no mustering of effort. Rather, it is a yieldedness to the Spirit.
You can't get more of the Spirit, but the Spirit can get more of you as you avail yourself to him, as you plug in like this battery needed so it wouldn't be adrift, but rather it would respond to me as I'm like, "Now I'm going to have you go here, and I'm going to have you turn." As God desires for us, that we would hear his voice, respond to his voice, and be shaped to Christ, if we are plugged in. There's nothing you can do. It's done to you. It is a by rather than a try.
Here are just some of the ways: his Word. When I was first getting sober, I picked up a Bible, and I determined, "God, there is truth for me on this page." Whatever page it is, there is truth for me on this page. It's not just that it's true. It's true for you. There's a transformative effect by the renewal of your mind. That's why Jesus says in John 17:17… He's praying to the Father for us. He says, "Sanctify them by truth; your word is truth." There was to be a sanctifying, a vivification of our spirit, not for information but for transformation.
Another is by prayer. It says in Ephesians 6:18, "Praying at all times…" Then it gives a caveat. "…in the Spirit." You're like, "What else is there?" I'll tell you what else there is. "Dear God, thank you for this food. Thanks for our house. Thanks for these kids. Please help us. We love you, amen." It's routine and religious, and it's not in the Spirit.
Jesus was like, "The pagans think they'll be heard because of their many words. They heap up these empty phrases. Don't be like them. Your Father knows what you need even before you ask. Rather pray in the Spirit." Be like, "All right." Talk to him as your Father and plug in through prayer, praying at all times in the Spirit, not dead religion.
Oh man, let me jump back. I don't want to miss this. Through Join the Journey… The Word… Have a plan. Don't just be like, "Let's see. Oh! Deuteronomy. This is going to be a long day." Join the Journey is something. There's an app, there's a journal, and there's Join the Journey Jr. My son Hill… Every morning we get up and spend 30 minutes together. I have a big cup of coffee, he has a big cup of orange juice, and he does Join the Journey Jr. He's a third grader. If your kid can read, do it together and let that Word sanctify.
Then there's prayer, and then, thirdly, the family of believers. There's a transforming by the renewing of your mind. It happened to me on this stage moments before you even walked in, as one of my Community Group members, Jon Abel, and I confessed to each other. I was like, "Hey, man, I was harsh to my two boys last night. I raised my voice. I was sharp and biting, and I saw their countenances fall." We get to pray for each other. I need that. I need that renewal of mind.
He was the one who initiated. He was like, "Hey, man, let's talk and pray beforehand." What a gift. So, if you find yourself in this place, I want you to know you can be transformed by the renewing of your mind. There's re:generation (adults) and re:generation for Students. Get online at watermark.org. Re:gen for Students, sixth through twelfth grade, or re:gen on Monday night, 6:30.
I was coming into work one day. I live in Richardson. I was taking 75 South. I hit a little bit of traffic, so I pulled up Waze or Google Maps, and it was like, "Rerouting." It said to go 635 East toward Mesquite. I'm like, "What in the world?" So I exit out of it. I reset it. "Watermark Community Church." It says "635 East." I'm like, "There's no way." But I've driven enough times with Laura where she was like, "Just follow the map. Follow the map," instead of being a headstrong male, like, "No, I'll get there," and we end up in Kansas.
I'm like, "All right. I'm going to do this. I'm going to go east on 635, even though Watermark is one block west on 635. This makes no sense." And I do. I take the flyover, and here I am headed toward Mesquite. It's like, "Exit Greenville. Make a U-turn." Sure enough, there I am right at Watermark. Do you know what there was? There were two wrecks. What I couldn't see, Google satellites could see, however it works, and they were like, "Don't go that way." I learned to trust it.
As we walk with God, he sees what we can't see, that we wouldn't go by our feelings or our gut or our intuition or our know-how but that we would discern the will of God and would be transformed by the declared will of Christ, that we would be like, "I can't see. This doesn't make sense to me, but if you say so, not my will but your will be done."
It says in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture…" All Scripture, Old and New Testament, including Deuteronomy if you go Bible roulette. "…is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…" You're like, "Okay, great. So, those five things?" No, not just those five things. It's not exhaustive. It says, "…so that…" It's not just that it is. It's that it is for you. "…so that the [man or woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Not most good works. Not some good works. Not an occasional good work.
God is like, "I've got you. You live according to the declared will of Christ… You be transformed by the declared will of Christ, and you're going to be thoroughly equipped. You're going to be ready for every good work." God has got us floating around out here if we'd put our phones down for just a second and look up to those around us. He's like, "I've got you there for a reason. That interruption is divine intervention, and you're about to walk into my will."
I was at Trader Joe's last weekend. I'm at the checkout line, and I'm talking to the guy. I'm trying to build a bridge about my alcoholism and invite him to church, so we're talking. The bagger is stuffing stuff, and I invite them to church. She goes, "You know what? Every time people talk about church and spiritual things, it seems like they're from Watermark. Huh." I was like, "Well, it seems like God may be inviting you to come."
I don't say that to make much of Watermark. There are a hundred Bible-believing, Christ-preaching churches here. I say that to you. It chokes me up. Y'all are out there getting groceries, and instead of looking at your phone, you're looking at the bagger at Trader Joe's, like, "Hey, would you want to join me?" You're living out the declared will of Christ to reach them all for Christ, to be transformed by Christ to love like Christ. You're living in the declared will of God that a checkout person and a bagger at Trader Joe's are like, "I know about y'all." I hope you're here today. Welcome.
Transformed by the death and resurrection of Christ, transformed by the daily renewal of Christ, and transformed by the declared will of Christ. As a result… I don't want you to take just my word for it. For my closing illustration, I want you to take their word for it. Please welcome to the stage David and Lauren Kinney.
David Kinney: With parents divorcing when I was 6 years old, my earliest memories are of fighting, arguing, drugs, alcohol, and the absence of family unity. At a very young age, I learned to do things without asking for help, and I didn't have any real guidance in life. I occasionally went to church, but I didn't understand who Jesus was. I quickly became the golden child who seemed to do what was asked of me when, in reality, I was learning how to fly under the radar and become self-sufficient, thinking I was in control.
In high school, I broke my collarbone playing football and was prescribed pain pills with unlimited refills. Mixing pain pills with alcohol led to a car crash within that same year where I broke my other collarbone. This incident started a vicious cycle that led to a very long, progressive addiction to opiates that I was able to hide. Shortly after high school, I met Lauren. During that time of dating, Lauren started attending Watermark, so I followed suit. A few years later, we got married.
We are regularly attending church, serving, and involved with various ministries, all while I'm still hiding my dependence on pain pills. I learned more about Jesus but thought I could have my cake and eat it too, playing the role of a godly husband while still remaining dependent on my drug. I was on a fast track of destruction and believed I was too far gone to be redeemed, so the best I could do was control my image while my sin spiraled out of control. But one day, I had the courage to confess to Lauren.
Lauren Kinney: I'm living in marital bliss with two young daughters at home, and then things came to a screeching halt. My world came crashing down, and I was devastated, but I pulled myself together and naively thought, "Okay. It's just a little hiccup. He'll go to treatment. I'll be supportive. He'll come home. We'll move on. All will be back to normal shortly." In hindsight, it is easy to see how unrealistic all of those expectations were. Instead of quickly returning to marital bliss, what ensued instead was a war waged of chaos and addiction.
David: Once I left recovery, I began attending re:gen, and Lauren and I both started attending re|engage, not because I wanted help but because I needed help drawing attention away from myself. You see, I left recovery sicker than when I went in. I had learned about heroin and started using daily.
Lauren: David's addiction spiraled us into uncertainty as he wreaked havoc on our lives for the next four years. He would disappear for days and weeks at a time. He was in and out of jail, in and out of our home, in and out of rehab. He drained our bank accounts and pawned our possessions. He stole from our family, our friends, and strangers, even stealing my wedding rings and stealing from our neighbors who also happened to be police officers. He was living in the hell of a heroin addiction, and I was trying to not be collateral damage.
David: To make matters worse, I got a call one afternoon that Watermark had evidence that I had stolen tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment from them on multiple occasions. I was facing felony theft charges from this church.
Lauren: I was emotionally distraught, wounded in embarrassment and shame, not just at my husband's transgressions but in myself that this is who I chose to marry. There are not enough words to describe the hurt and heartache I suffered, the fear and hopelessness that tried to consume me, the ups and downs, the one step forward and three steps back. All I could do was cry and pray as literally everything was stolen from or collapsed around me.
Through this storm, I leaned into my faith, my community, and this church. I don't remember my expectations of how it would all stop, but I quickly realized there was no quick-fix solution to end our chaos, yet in the midst of this deep valley, my heart and hands slowly opened. Expectations of the future were cast aside as I chose to fix my eyes on Jesus alone, walking by faith and resting in peace because of the promises that he made. I was steadfast in Christ's love, not because David was sober but because Christ's love was so overwhelming.
David: I was numbing myself out of fear and shame, and I thought there was no way God could love me now. Months after leaving our home, I was walking the streets of downtown Dallas, looking for something to steal, something I could pawn, something of value so I could find my value in the needle.
In the middle of those streets, a piece of paper got stuck to my leg. That paper literally said, "God loves you." You see, even though I was searching the streets, I was crying out, praying, "God, help me. God, I can't do this on my own." In that instance, it was as though the scales fell off my eyes. God used that paper to remind me of his love and grace for me.
That "road to Damascus" moment led me to a men's discipleship program for a year where I finally understood the power of the gospel and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. Upon my graduation from the program, I returned home. That next Sunday, we walked into this church, and the men I hadn't seen in over a year welcomed me home. That following Monday, I walked into re:gen with a renewed commitment to finishing the race I had started years before.
I now serve as a leader of leaders within the re:gen ministry, but what's even more incredible about my testimony is that this very church from which I stole, this church from which I carried felony charges…this church hired me to be on their staff. And not just any position. I now carry in my pocket the keys to every door to every building of this church. That's proof of God's transformative power in my life.
Lauren: If you would have told me that in a few short years all would be well and David would be on staff at Watermark, I would have thought you were doing drugs with him, hands down. But God. David is not the same person I married. He is the man I prayed he would become: a godly husband, servant-hearted, a leader and provider of our family, faithfully walking with the Lord every single day.
People who walked this path with us, know us, or hear our story tend to describe me as strong or brave, but what I hope you see in my story is not me being courageous or strong but Christ's power in me through the Holy Spirit. I'm just in awe that God gave me a front-row seat to watch David's life be transformed. I leave you with Ephesians 3:20. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…" Thank you.
John: The Lord Jesus Christ transforms people. It's what he lives to do. He alone is able. We need only to call out and ask. Fifteen hundred years ago, there was a poet named Dallan Forgaill, and he wrote a poem. In that poem that had been lost for centuries he wrote:
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that you are.
The interesting thing about Dallan Forgaill is he was blind. The one vision that he said and wrote that has been echoing through the millennia was "Jesus, be my vision." The vision for our church: be transformed by Christ to love like Christ. Let me pray.
Lord Jesus, be our vision and let all else be naught. You are the one who transforms. You alone have the power, and to you alone be the glory. God, for anyone who longs to experience your transforming power, I pray that after this service, at the close, they would come forward or go to re:generation on Monday, that you would do a great work in their lives, and you would continue in the lives of everyone in this hearing. To you be the glory. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.
Watermark's vision is to be "Transformed by Christ, to love like Christ." What does it mean to be transformed by Christ?