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What a contrast we see between the four men who lowered their friend through the roof of a house to be healed by Jesus, and the scribes whose hearts questioned Christ's authority.
Jesus was Known for His Friendships with Sinners: What are You Known For?
Jesus, Two Groups and a Guy: The Danger of Lame Living
Baptism: What It Is and Is It for You? The Leper Revisited
The Leper Who Talked & the People Who Don't: How Disobedience Affects God's Purposes
If Busyness is Killing Your Heart, the Secret Place is the Solution
Do You Know Where to Take Your Suffering Friends?
The Testimony of an Unclean Spirit: Are Words & Information Enough?
Spirit Directed Fishing: Get Near Water, Get Your Line Wet, and Bait Your Hook
The Day All Heaven Broke Out
The Great Forerunner of the Great Servant: A Look at John the Baptist
What we've been looking at in Mark is how this person, Jesus, has been an example and an encouragement to us in a lot of ways and how, specifically, he's living a Spirit-directed life, a life that is yielded to the Spirit as the Son of God…fully God, fully man. One who has identified with us in our sin and yet one who is eternally separate from sin himself has come into our midst.
There's a lot we can learn from Christ, and these are not just some nice stories to recount so we might know about the life of Jesus. He is, in every way, our model and teacher. Not just what he says but also what he does can be an example to us, and we are going to look at a story this morning that involves Jesus, two groups, and one guy, and there's some application for all of us, no matter where we are in the spectrum of coming into a relationship with the Lord.
For a number of years, I taught a study in downtown Dallas on Wednesday mornings with a group of business men who worked down there in that area. They used to invite some different friends who worked down there, and we met in a building downtown that has, for years, been a place that folks who have been on the street somewhat have been helped at different times. For three years, we met at about 6:45, grabbed some breakfast, and then shortly after 7 o'clock, we would start to go through the Word together.
All the years that I have been there, we have never had anybody really walk in and join us other than the group that was invited, which was fine. It was an open-door policy, but it was really, folks who were working downtown who would come in there. I had, for a lot of reasons, needed to stop that commitment and my being down there teaching on Wednesday mornings after this last May.
The very last time I was down there, I decided just to throw it open and to say, "Hey, if there's anything that I haven't covered in the last three years that you're curious about, interested in, or would like to talk about or hear me maybe, you know, address just from the Scriptures for a little bit, throw it out. What might it be?"
The very first question that someone had was, "Hey, Todd, we're down here all the time, and sometimes we're walking from our offices to lunch, or even in the morning when we're making our way to our offices, where we're approached by folks who live on the street who want help from us and who want something from us, and it's just so hard to know how to respond to them. How do you handle folks who you meet when they walk up to you and approach you on the street?"
I just took probably about seven to eight minutes and took them to some Scriptures to talked about how there are some verses that would guide us in that, and kind of as an overall riding truth, I just said, "What you need to ask yourself is, 'Why are you wanting to help that person?' Are you wanting to give them just a dollar or two to get them off your back and to feel better about yourself? Sometimes it's easier just to do that, and I frankly don't recommend that at all because it's not always the most loving thing to do.
Why are you wanting to help that person by giving them a dollar? Because it doesn't embarrass you. They leave, and they thank you and sometimes even drop a blessing on you?" I talked about how Scriptures talk about specifically how we are not to help folks live an undisciplined or unruly life. Scriptures talk about how you should let a man's stomach work for him. In other words, when he's hungry, it's going to motivate him to do something different so that he can have the means to which he can put food on the table.
There's no question there are all kinds of different stories on the street and every case is unique and different, but I shared with them conversations that I always have, and then I answered that to their satisfaction and went on to the next one. Somebody started to ask a question, and I'm telling you, out of the corner of my eye, for the first time in three years, all of a sudden, there was a homeless person who was about 20 feet to my right. I had no idea… You know, we didn't see him standing out there or where he came from, but all of a sudden, he was just there.
I kept answering the one question that I was working on, and I looked over at him. I just turned to the friends and said, "Isn't God great?" I said, "Come on in here and grab a seat with us." I introduced myself to him. We had some breakfast there. I said, "Dale, grab some breakfast. This is a study that's open for anybody. We're just talking about God's Word and how we can walk closer with him. Get something to eat and join us."
I answered a few more questions, and I just thought, "Hey, the Lord obviously wants to do something here different than has been done," so I just turned to him and got in a conversation with him and had a chance to walk with him, and through the very thing I'd just said I do with almost everybody I meet, I took about five to seven minutes to do with Dale. I had a great conversation with him, and at the end of that time, he and I spent some time together trying to get him back on the road to making some good decisions.
It was an interruption, one that I thought was just completely of the Lord, that he brought this guy in order to really model for them exactly what I'd just said. It's one thing to teach a study. It's another thing sometimes to say, "Okay, big boy, put it to work right here." I went through this little thing with Dale, and we had a great time, but it really messed up my morning. It took me about an hour that I didn't have budgeted.
I wanted to go home and see if I could grab my kids really quick and run them to school. I couldn't do it. I had to take a chance with a guy and built a little bit of a relationship with him, put a little bit of investment in his life, took some time to really set him up with some people who I trust in the city who are really helping folks and not just giving handouts, not just helping him continue on a road of a self-destructive lifestyle but really saying to him, "If you want help, then it's available for you."
There's a reason… One of the times I think that Jesus is a master of asking questions, which is typically the way I handle these folks… In John, there was a guy who had been, it said, lame and crippled for 38 years, and Jesus looks at the guy, and he says, "Do you want to get well?" which seems like a funny question because the guy in this particular story in John who Jesus was interacting with was sitting by a pool.
It was the belief of the day, that, if you could get into that pool when a certain event happened, you would be healed. That guy had been there for 38 years, and Jesus comes into contact with him, and he says, "Do you want to get well?" You almost think the guy would want to look up at him and say, "No, I really like lying here begging for a living." You know what? I think some people do.
I think some people have determined that it's easier to live that way, with all the humiliations, than it is to sometimes take responsibility and go forward and to bring some discipline into their lives. I asked Dale that day, "Do you want to get well? I know that you really would like me to just give you a couple of bucks, and you can go on and live the way you want, but that's not loving towards you. It might make me feel good, but I'm not engaging in your life that way."
When you engage with Dales, when you interact with people who are living self-deprecating lifestyles, it gets messy. It gets awkward. Interruptions always get awkward, but I will tell you that one of the things that marks the life of a Spirit-directed person is that you're always open for an interruption if that interruption is going to lead to that person knowing more about the one who loves and cares for them.
You're going to see, for the second time in this short book of Mark, Jesus is interrupted in the midst of teaching, just like I was three weeks ago for the first time in that little setting, and like I believe it helped Dale that day because I spent some time with him and laid out the steps that I was going to do, not on his terms, what I think were the ways of wisdom to give him a chance, Jesus does the same with those who he comes into contact with. Two groups and one guy… Look at Mark, chapter 2, with me. Let's read it.
It says, "When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward…" That afterward is the end of a very long day which included him healing a leper, and that leper was telling everybody what Jesus did. From that point on, everywhere Jesus went, he was hounded and harassed by crowds so he couldn't do that kind of ministry he first intended to do, so his modus operandi changed a little bit.
He had come home after a while, and he was probably in Peter's house, and it says in verse 2, "And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and…" Christ, who wasn't one just to throw out casual conversation but was having meaningful conversation, was sharing with them the Word… One of the things, just as a small application there in verse 2, it says Christ was with these people. He had an opportunity.
Folks wanted to be near him, as many of you have friends who want to be near you for whatever reason, but notice, when Christ has an opportunity with people, he doesn't just fill the time with chatter and just light, meaningless conversation. He's always looking for opportunities to direct people towards life. That doesn't mean every conversation is trying to force people to be confronted with God's Word in a way that would make them feel uncomfortable, but Jesus took advantage of the opportunities he was given, more than just casual drivel.
He was going to have meaningful conversation. It says that he was teaching in the Word. One of the interesting things about Christ is people who have looked at this say you can almost look at every word that we have from Christ in the Scripture and about one-tenth of what he said was a reference to the Old Testament, to God's Word.
Now, here is God in the flesh, coming, and everything he says is going to be an encouragement to us and directed to our lives, but he himself when he was here, about 10 percent of what he said was taking people back to what God had already said. It's always a challenge to me to ask myself, "How much of my conversation takes people to the Lord's Word?" Jesus was there with some friends. He was hanging out, and he knew the Book, and he knew how to work it into life. He knew how to work it into a conversation in a way that wasn't combative but that was instructive. It says in verse 2,
"…He was speaking the word to them. And they[the interrupters]came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they[these four friends]let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.' But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 'Why does this man speak that way?
He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?' Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, 'Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven"; or to say, "Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk"? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—He said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.'"
A quick observation right here…notice what Jesus didn't say, "Which is easier to do? To heal somebody or to say, 'Your sins are forgiven'?" It is a whole lot more difficult to forgive somebody's sins than it is to heal them. He says it's more difficult to heal because people can see immediately a tangible result, whether or not what you said was true, but to heal somebody of their sins, that's a whole much greater task and much more difficult to do.
By the way, he was going to deal with that issue later in this guy's life as well. There was going to be a day that Christ came alongside and did the very difficult thing, which was to deal with this man's shortcomings before a holy God, just like he dealt with my shortcomings before a holy God. It's difficult to heal somebody, but it's even more difficult to bridge an infinite gap between a holy God and fallen, rebellious, sinful people, but he did that.
Here in this story, he says, "What's harder to say? 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'You've been healed'?" "'But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—He said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.'" Let's look at two groups and one guy.
The first group, the four friends…four friends who came alongside this individual who was paralyzed by some affliction. There was something in this guy's life that kept him from being unable to come to God. He needed assistance. He needed somebody who knew Jesus and knew where Jesus was and would make every effort to bring that individual to Christ.
I read this, and I thought to myself, "You know what, Lord? I want to be that kind of friend. I want to be the kind of individual, the kind of friend who comes bringing, even carrying, others." I asked, "Lord, let me be undeterred by obstacles. Let me be an individual who is empty of excuses, naive toward expense, undaunted by criticism, full of faith.
I want to be the kind of friend who is confident in the power of Christ, eager to be near him, willing to take risks, willing to break cultural expectations, and ready to work and make a mess if that is what it takes to carry my friends to Christ. I want to be an individual who is willing to be interrupted and to have my life and my comfort and my plans and my strategy for a life that is just filled with me…
I want to stop living a life that is filled with me and be an individual who willing to interrupt my life in order to care for others and to bring them…carry them if necessary, make a mess if necessary…to bring them to Jesus." Like I did that morning with Dale. It wasn't in my schedule, but here was a guy who God threw in my path.
I had a chance to help him with some meaningful conversation, and then, based on the profession that he wanted to make about changing his life, put him in a place where he could be held into account and get some real help and not just an easy meal because his stomach was already working for him. The devastation that he had wrought in the lives of his family and his son was already working for him, and he was paralyzed by the weight of sin, but he needed somebody who knew where help was to carry him that he might begin to walk in the path of life.
You know, I just went through and just jotted down a few notes as I was writing these things down. "Make me this kind of friend," because it's not easy to be this kind of friend. I mean, it's going to take time and energy, and it does. Whenever you run into people who are far from God, it takes time and energy in our already complicated and busy lives.
You know, frankly, sometimes we think, "The two things I don't have much more of are time, that I have to get involved and get to know other people and come to be aware of their concerns, and I don't have a lot of energy. It's all I have sometimes to be what I need to be in my home." You know, last night, my wife and I went out and had a little meal together, and afterwards, I went up to my office to do a few things.
There are three great security guards that work at our office building where we have a chance to kind of work to serve you all and equip you and to make you successful in what God's called you to be as a body. One of them is a student here in a school, and he's wanting to go into the ministry, and every time that he's there late at night, he's so lonely he just wants to talk, so my wife called me around 9:45, and she said, "I thought you were going to be right home."
I said, "Well, I did too, but I just got through with a conversation with one of the guys here." It interrupted my night. It wasn't what I had planned, but there was somebody in my path who had a need that I had an opportunity just to sit and to listen and to pray and to take him through God's Word. It's messy. It takes times. It takes energy. I was looking just to go up there and be alone, when no one would call. No one would be there to ask questions, but here was a guy that needed some love.
Another one, Gary…you know, when they used to work up there 24 hours… I was leaving one night real late, just moving in and getting my books put away. Gary is an agnostic (that would be the kindest thing you would call him). He's not even really a spiritual seeker, but he loves to talk, loves to debate. He's incredibly well read. Gary and I got in a conversation that started at 1, and about 3-something in the morning, I realized that it was time for me to just wrap that particular one up. It takes time and energy with these guys.
It happens all the time, but just to stand there, and the Lord was opening some opportunities in his heart. I'm a night owl, so I wasn't going to go home and probably but read a little bit there anyway, so I just stood there and talked with him and had great opportunity. Slowly, God, I think, has softened his heart as I prayed for him, but it takes time I don't always feel like I have. It takes energy like I always don't want to give. It takes discipline. To be this kind of friend, you have to be disciplined.
For these guys, they had to be disciplined to figure out a way that they could transport their buddy. For us it takes the discipline of study. I mean, you have to know what it is you want to take folks to. You have to know how to get them there. It takes the discipline of prayer in order to be involved in these individuals' lives. It takes the discipline of reading. It is expensive to be this kind of friend…time, energy, discipline. It takes dollars. You know, sometimes when you do things to help some other people, it gets expensive. You buy lunches.
You spend money on long-distance phone calls…friends from college I still have relationships with. Sometimes when you visit with them and talk to them, you know, you go, "Man, it's been a long conversation, and this is not a free Internet phone call. I'm paying for this thing. It can get kind of expensive." Sometimes it even takes a plane ticket to go somewhere to be where that individual is. Maybe you have to come alongside a real felt physical need that they have and to care for them.
It's expensive sometimes to come alongside folks who are hurting and far away from Christ. It can be expensive, not just financially, but sometimes, it can be expensive…how? In a sense of your very person. You can sometimes feel like you're getting embarrassed because you're having a conversation and this guy is looking at you and going, "Are you nuts? You think this guy who lived and died 2,000 years ago cares for me and can do something in my life? You believe that? Are you nuts?"
You can experience some rejection. Folks will start to avoid you and treat you differently than they used to, and sometimes, you can experience some outright persecution. Folks will talk about you in a way that you don't want to be talked about. There's a situation that's going on with my family right now, where we've really tried to reach out to some folks who are near us in our lives, and I've done all that I could to serve them in different ways.
Just 10 days ago, it came to me that these people, in a way that I never would've imagined God would've shown me, have been just saying some things about me about the way they feel judged by us and the way they feel like we have made a statement about their lifestyle, which we've never even talked about with them, but because I don't live that way and do those things, word has gotten around…all the way through.
Just some folks who were happening to visit Watermark came up to me afterwards in the Discovery class not too long ago and said, "Hey, we love this church, and we'd love to be here, but we have a question for you. The other day, we were at lunch, and we were talking about where we go to church, and my friend and I here said, 'We go to Watermark,' and with that, somebody across the deal goes, 'Watermark? Isn't that where Todd Wagner is?' They go, 'Yeah.'
They said, 'Well, I wouldn't go to that church. He's got to be the most legalistic guy in town. I have some friends that know him that he's trying to have a relationship with,'" and they just went off in my name. These folks were kind enough to come to me and say, "Hey, Todd. We heard what you said this morning in the Discovery class about how, if we have a problem with you or if we hear somebody speak ill of you, we want to come to you with it and not just let it go and not let it drive a wedge between us.
We're really wondering, 'Do we need to come to this church? Are you going to teach us to be judgmental and legalistic towards other people?'" I just said, "Tell me what you're talking about." It broke my heart when they mentioned that this girl was a friend of this couple who we're trying to minister to who had some issues in their lives, that we're just trying to serve them, but because we didn't live a certain way, the way they did, they felt very judged by us.
It's a funny thing. They happen to live on our street, and they make up a phone list on our street. We have nothing to do with the phone list, but one of the things they said was, "Well, they heard, when you made up the neighborhood phone list, that you specifically made it clear that they were living together and not married." I go, "I don't do anything with the phone list." Meanwhile, folks were out there ridiculing my name, causing other people to want to be away from me. It's one of those situations.
You've been there. You know, say what you want about drinking. I mean, that's stuff between and the Lord. It's a gray area if I think you're having a simple drink somewhere. I choose not to do it because I think, as a person in my position, it causes some folks confusion, it compromises. Does it make God love me more? It doesn't make me any more righteous than anybody else.
I just choose not to do it because it's such a powerful deterrent to healthy living in this culture and because people see what I do in moderation and sometimes will do it in excess, and I become a big permission slip for some people to abuse what I might use moderately. I choose not to do it, but you've been there before, where somebody is drinking and you're not, and because you don't, they go, "Man, that's the most judgmental person I've ever met." Sometimes, it just hurts, right? Well, that's what was happening.
That persecution and that slander about us hurt me…folks that we tried to reach out to, mow their lawn, care for them, know their burdens and needs… It is messy sometimes to get involved with those who don't know Christ. I say this all the time. Let me just tell you… Some of you guys here, some of y'all are friends that we've been loving and reaching out to, and this morning, somebody has brokered their influence to say, "Come," and we're so glad that you have, and we want you to know that there are a lot of folks already who are here who feel like it's worth the mess.
You might go, "Wait a minute. We're messy?" Yeah, you're messy. You're real messy, and so are we, and you're going to find out that, just because we know this Jesus and come to him that we're not done being messy in your life. We are in process, but we've met the one who can change us and touch us, and in some of the areas of our lives where we've been living paralyzed by the weight of sin, we've experienced a freedom that we want to tell you about.
I tell folks all the time, "Listen, don't be surprised when sinners sin. They're just fulfilling the job description. That's what they do. Why wouldn't they talk bad about you? Why wouldn't they talk behind your back? Why wouldn't they avoid you if it was awkward? That's what sinners do, and it's sometimes what those of us who know Christ do, and it affects their opinion of him." It's expensive. It sometimes can hurt you. It just complicates your life, but boy, isn't it worth it?
You know, there are now five kids in our household. Last night, about 12:30 or 12:45, my wife and I lay in bed and laughed as two of them in that room absolutely screamed at the top of their lungs for about 45 minutes. There was nothing we could do but laugh. I remember one time we drove back from Colorado with Ally, our firstborn. She cried for 13 hours in that car seat. She cried so long I was thinking maybe she'd get hoarse and lose her voice forever. I was going to be pleased with that.
It got to the point where you almost couldn't hear her. It was like there was one of those white noise machines that, you know, just kind of drown out everything else. My wife and I sat and listened to her cry because she had one of those Woody Woodpecker cries. You know, "Waa! Waa…ah…ah…ah…ah!" It would just go on and on and on and on. For 45 minutes last night, Cade and Landry, our two under 2, were just going nuts.
They mess up my life. They complicate my life. They are expensive. It takes a tremendous amount of reading to be the kind of parent who we want to be. We invest a lot of prayer in those kids, but I will tell you, it is the greatest joy of my life to care for that little one. I will tell you that some of you out there, I know, are committed to a messy lifestyle, a complicated life with folks who are babes in their understanding of who God is.
There are nights that you just sit there, and you go, "Why would I put up with this? Why would I sit here for 45 minutes and listen to that wailing and that crying in that other room? Let me just shut that door. Let me just move out of this house. Let me move out of this relationship." You feel that way, and yet, you've stayed there because you know the joy of being involved with a child, a babe in the understanding of who God is.
There is nothing more meaningful in our lives than to get to invest in our kids and to help them understand their relationship with the living and loving God, and the way we model care and concern and expense and sacrifice for them, slowly, those doors will be unlocked. Because for four years my wife has been so gracious and tender and loving to him, because she's invested time reading to him, because I've prayed with him and told him stories my little 4-year-old this week, I think for the first time, can clearly articulate his faith.
We had a great time Thursday night. It was late. My wife said, "Let's get him to bed early," and I started to read him stories and do puppet shows and do all this stuff and was telling a story out of the book of Acts, and we were having fun. We got done, and we talked about how this jailer in the story of Paul and Silas said, "What must I do to be saved?" and I asked my two older ones, "What's it mean to be saved?" and they said, "Well, it means saved from this or that."
They immediately took a rabbit trail and said, "Daddy, what's hell?" so now, we're talking about hell with a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 4-year-old, and I said, "It's at the place where there's nothing even remotely good that reminds you of God." I said, "Name something good." They go, "Friends." I go, "There are no friends in hell. Name something else good." They go, "Ice cream."
"There is no ice cream in hell. Name something else good."
"There is no music in hell. When your body gets a wound, and that scab comes over and the blood coagulates, your blood doesn't coagulate in hell. Sleep…there's no sleep in hell."
I mean, I had them scared to death before this thing was over, and then, they said, "Who goes to hell?" I said, "Little folks, it's anybody that's not a friend of Jesus'. That's what he says." Kirby, my 5-year-old, goes, "Cooper is going to hell." Cooper was not thrilled to hear that at this point, and he said, "I am not going to hell."
She said, "You have not asked Jesus into your heart," and he goes, "I think I have." I'd never heard Cooper tell that before. I said, "Well, Cooper, tell me about that." I go, "Why are you a friend of God's?" He could articulate. Because of the time that Cathleen McCown and Tresha Kaigler and Alex Wagner and others have invested in him this last week or two weeks at a Backyard Bible Club, it was fresh in his mind. He knew the stories.
He knew what it meant that God loved him, that Jesus died on the cross. "Why did he die on the cross?" "To forgive me for my sins." He said he wanted to be a friend of God's. I said, "Cooper, what's a sin?" He said, "It's when you do things that God doesn't want you to do. When you don't obey your mom and dad." I go, "You write that one down in bold, baby."
To sit there with little Cooper, it was really funny because, almost a year ago to the day, my two oldest ones had made the same little profession, where they independently kind of had a conversation that led them to this point. Last year, when I did that with Ally and Kirby, it was 10 o'clock at night with them too, and I took them up to Tom Thumb, and we got a birthday cake. We came home, and we had a birthday party for them because they were, you know, born again. You may not like that phrase.
It's just biblical, and we talked about how they were born once from Mommy's tummy and we celebrate that, and now they're born again by God and made new, so we had a party. Between Kirby saying, "Cooper you're going to go to hell," and Ally saying, "If you trust Jesus, we'll have a party tonight," the kid easily made a decision. We'll see if it stands up for eternity, but he had some motivation. We load up the car. We go up to Tom Thumb. We get a dadgum birthday cake. We come home, and we eat it till 10:30, and we read Luke 15.
I said, "Let me tell you why we're doing this…because, Cooper, right now, if you truly understand that, if you've done that, (we don't know when, Coopie) but if you really understand that, you realize that the Bible says there is a party in heaven for you because you've come home." Can I tell you something? Kids are messy. They are expensive. They cost you sleep. They cost you emotional peace of mind sometimes, and they are the greatest joy in my life.
It's no less of a joy when the complicated others in my life come into a relationship with God too. They've been just as messy, sometimes just as expensive, sometimes cried just as late at night, but is there anything else you'd rather give your life to than a child…somebody who's far from God who comes to understand that, because of what Jesus did, they one day will not have to be eternally separate from him in a place where there is nothing that would even remotely remind you of God?
The best the biblical writers could do is describe that as a lake of fire. I wouldn't be disappointed if I got there and it was a lake of fire, but I have to tell you, I think it's far worse than that. That's the best that John could do to describe to you what it must be like to be somewhere where there is nothing that would remotely remind you of a loving, creator God. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father.
If you don't want anything to do with the Father, there'll be a day, the Scripture says, he will grant you that desire, and he'll put you in a place where, for eternity, you will never experience another thing that will remind you of the goodness of the God. People say all the time, "Well, I'll go to hell and be there with all my friends." You need to be smarter than that because friends are a good thing and they are a gift from God, and if you're in a place where you're not where your Father is, you can be sure there are not good things there.
I said it before, and it makes sense right here. If you know Jesus Christ, this is as bad as it's ever going to get, and if you don't, this is as good as it's ever going to get. If you feel the weight of that hopelessness and if you are paralyzed by that distance from God that you have in your life, there are friends here who you need to know are willing to go to no small expense to come alongside of you and to carry you to Christ. Everything we do, in part, is to help you come to understand Christ.
When you come to understand him, we ask you to join us in a life of surrender and devotion to him. I am very much in process. My life is still complicated in the lives of those who are my good friends, but I will tell you, I know who this Jesus is, and I know that he has said to me, "My son, your sins are forgiven." That makes an eternal difference in my life and a temporal difference today. It's messy to get involved with those who don't know him.
Good friends are undeterred by obstacles…by crowds like those guys were facing or by criticism for going up on the roof. They are empty of excuses. They're not too busy. They're not naive toward the expense. They don't care about the expense. They don't care that others criticize them that they're up there on that roof ripping off layers of reeds and bushes and mud, which is what those roofs were made out of in that day.
This story is completely biblical, completely culturally relevant to that day because you could take a roof off that way. It was just some cross timbers with some reeds and some bushes and some mud over that, so you could break through it really easily. In fact, every year before the wet season came, you replaced your whole roof anyway. These guys went up there, and they were willing to do what they had to do to bring that friend to Christ.
I want to be that kind of friend. I have this little note I wanted to throw you guys up there. It says just simply this. I wrote this down. Till you're ready to knock the roof off your neighbor's house to get to hope, you're not hopeless enough. Until you're ready to knock the roof off your neighbor's house to get to the one who gives you hope, you're not yet hopeless enough. As I thought about this, I thought about how there are some people who feel numbness in their lives.
There are probably some of you out there today that you have a sense that something is not right in your body. You're not yet completely paralyzed by your distance from God, but you know something isn't right, yet somehow, you can shake it off. You stand up, and there's a stinger that runs through your leg, and every step you take in life is filled with heartache and pain but not so much that you're crippled by it.
You're not really yet hopeless enough to do whatever it takes to break through some of the cultural expectations that are out there, that you don't talk about spiritual things, you don't admit that you're a needy person, you don't investigate to see if there really is an answer with the Lord. Until you are so filled with hopelessness that you're willing to do whatever it takes, at any expense, to go and maybe find this one who offers us life and hope, you're not yet hopeless enough.
If the Lord is gracious with you to bring that severe mercy in your life where you come to a place where the pain is enough…the heartache of broken relationships and a string of emptiness and hurt, a wondering if there's any reason to go forward, a wondering if there's any true significance and purpose and meaning in this life…until God brings you to that place where you're paralyzed by hopelessness, you may not look, you may not be sensitive to the friends who want to pick you up and carry you.
Too many friends aren't there. For those of us who know those kinds of friends, I would like to say, until you're ready to incur any expense to help a friend in need of healing, your faith is limited. What I mean by that is if you're not sure that Jesus is the answer, if you're not positive that Christ is the one who can really address your friend's problem in marriage, problem in relationships, problem with the burden of habitual sin, then you won't really keep investing what you need to invest to maybe carry them there.
Our faith is limited, so we're not going to really take great steps in investment to bring people to him because we're not sure that Jesus is the answer. We might have a faith problem, and that's why we don't carry out friends, because we go, "Well, you know, it's nice that they kind of bump into Jesus, but to really, really risk my reputation is too expensive."
I will tell you that's a problem we sometimes have as believers. We're not sure it's worth our own public persona, worth some of our discretionary dollars, worth a lot of our discretionary time to invest in lost folks to bring them to Christ. That's a faith problem. If we knew who he was, if we knew what Kirby knew that night, that you want to be anywhere but a place that there's nothing that can remotely remind you of God, you're willing to, in appropriate context, offend your little brother and just tell him like it is.
I know a kid who came to Christ because he was riding in the car with his older sister and they were singing together, "I'm in the Lord's Army," that great little kid's song, "I'm in the Lord's Army." I'm going to zoom over the enemy, you know, fight with the artillery, and all this stuff, and finally, after a verse or two of that, the older sister turned to the younger brother and said, "You're not in the Lord's Army."
The kid goes, "Yes I am." She goes, "No you're not." He says, "Why not?" She shared the gospel with him, and the kid goes, "Okay" and made a decision so he could sing the song with integrity from there on out. Sometimes, we never want to have that conversation, to just say, "Hey, you know, I don't know where you are with spiritual things."
Can I share with you what I do with my friends? At any point, some point, that I'm involved by the grace of God, that they've let me into their world a little bit through much prayer, through much sensitivity, through serving them, through just intentional casual conversation, I look for the right opportunity to say, "Hey, you know…"
There's almost always a way to get to it and just say, "Well, let me just tell you what's the most central important thing in my life, and I want to let you know I'd love the privilege to share with you what has changed me, what makes me long to be a different kind of dad, long to be a different kind of neighbor, long to be a different kind of spouse," and I talk to them about Christ and how he's dealt with the sin issues in my life and how I've found forgiveness in my separation from God and now I've found a light for my path.
I tell them, "I want to share that with you because it's at the core of my being, and I couldn't be a friend to you if I didn't tell you it was at center of who I am, but you can be sure of this: every time I'm with you, I'm not going try and work the conversation in this direction. I want to be your friend.
I want to tell you that I think your eternity rides on the person of Jesus Christ until you say that he is, but you don't have to wonder if every time I'm with you I'm going to try and back you into a corner to make you make a decision. No, but you also need to know that any time you ever want to talk about it, any time I can help you discern and work through some very complicated or sometimes confusing spiritual things, I would love nothing more than the privilege of carrying you out of spiritual confusion. Now will you let me be your friend?"
Then I just wait for that little stinger that they can sometimes shake off to grow into a deadness, sometimes grow into a place where they're absolutely paralyzed, and because I'm their friend and have had that conversation, sometimes they come to me and say, "Can we talk." It doesn't matter what kind of time or energy I've put it. It doesn't matter what kind of expense I've incurred. It doesn't matter what has happened to my reputation previous to that. I delight in letting somebody become a child of God.
Some of us are afraid to have that conversation, so selfishly, we hold back. There's a little poem that I've had for years that I often read to myself. I want to read it to you. It says:
My friend I stand in judgment now
And feel that you're to blame somehow.
This is the story of a friend who had a neighbor who didn't want to get his or her life complicated by really getting involved, by taking a chance and by saying to them, "You know, the fact is, there are some areas in your life that you're paralyzed. You are completely unable to walk and to carry yourself before a holy God, and there's nothing you can do, unless somebody picks you up and carries you there.
It's not me. It's the person of Jesus Christ and his finished work and his Spirit which loves you which will draw you to him, maybe through my words, maybe through my friendship as an agent of his grace, but you are unable to help yourself." Some of us don't want to have that conversation, so we'll hear this conversation from that friend one day.
My friend I stand in judgment now
And feel that you're to blame somehow.
On earth I walked with you day by day,
And never did you point the way.
You knew the Lord in truth and glory
But never did you tell me the story.
My knowledge then was very dim
You could have led me straight to Him.
Though we lived together on earth
You never told me of the second birth.
And now I stand this day condemned
Because you failed to mention Him.
You taught me many things, that's true
I called you 'friend' and trusted you.
But I learned now that it's too late
You could have saved me from this fate.
We walked by day and talked by night
And yet you showed me not the light.
You let me live and love and die,
You knew I'd never live on high.
Yes, I called you 'friend' in life
And laughed with you through joy and strife
And yet on coming to the end—
I cannot now call you my friend!!
See, that's complicated. That's messy, and that's messier than any sacrifice you'll ever make in trying to love somebody that's far from God. I promise you, there is no greater privilege than being somebody who will incur whatever expense, break through whatever cultural expectations, because you're confident in the power of Christ and you're eager for those who you know and love to be near him.
Look what Paul said. He says, in Ephesians 3:8-9, "To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things…" That's a lot of words. All Paul was saying is, "I have the privilege of knowing Jesus, and God gave me the responsibility and the stewardship to tell you about him so he might carry you through the ministry of his Word into his presence." That's what he says in verse 10.
"…so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him."
Paul's saying, "I know this Jesus, and I know you might think there's no way you can get to him and God is far off and there's a crowd who will keep you from him, but I will tell you that I know Jesus, and I will interrupt anything he's doing. I will rip the roof off the place where he's teaching, and I will carry you there because he has given me that authority and he has given me that ability to interrupt him because, at any time, you will find Jesus is always looking for somebody who's seeking him."
He says, "Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory." Do you see that? Part of what my wife and I want our kids to see, all through our lives tremulously and radically, is how valuable they are as individuals. I tell them, "The love I pour out for you is much more than just a biological responsibility. It is an illustration of God's infinite concern and care for you, that he would have me alter everything in my life in order that I might serve and offer you unconditional love. You matter to God, so you matter to me."
That's what you say to lost folks. "You matter to God, and all these things you see me do on your behalf, the criticism I'm willing to endure, the awkwardness I'm willing to live with at times, the expensive that I will incur is your glory because it shows you how much God loves you that he would let me, his son, suffer for your sake." Look what Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians. These are some of the things.
"…in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." Just to bring you the gospel.Then in chapter 12, it says, "I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls."
That's the life of a Spirit-directed person. That's the life of a friend who is willing to do whatever it takes to be a minister of reconciliation and to carry people to God. Paul says, "I do all these things, and I gladly do it to be expended for your souls." Isn't he just a shadow of what God has already done for us, and aren't you and I just a shadow of what God has already done for your neighbor and your friend?
Hey, if you're here today as a guest or a visitor, if you feel like you're far from God, you need to know we believe you're complicated. We know we're complicated. We have a hard time getting along with each other sometimes and spurring each other in love and good deeds, and we know this Jesus who's transformed our hearts, so why wouldn't we expect you to be the same, just like us?
We're willing to let you know that anything we can do… As you forgive us for our faux pas and our lack of godliness, we are desperate to carry you to him. The reason we do what we do to reach out to you is because we have great faith that this Jesus matters. The second group is the scribes and the pharisees. It says they were there, and when they heard Jesus say, "Son, your sins are forgiven," it says they in their hearts were having a problem with what Jesus did.
Here's what I want to challenge you with today. I ask you to have the wisdom, to have the courage even, to let the questions in your heart make their way to your lips. Let me just say this to you. I don't think it offended Jesus that these guys were thinking what they thought in their hearts. The problem was they had already predetermined that this Jesus was not who he had already claimed to be, so they thought, "Who is this guy and what can he do?"
The fact is his claim was either absolutely remarkable or it was the most offensive thing that anybody had ever said. They were predisposed to believe that, whoever Jesus was, he wasn't who he had already claimed to be and who his works had given evidence that he was, so they just left their question in their hearts.
I think, if they would've spoken and said, "Master, the Scripture says it is God alone who can forgive our inequities. It says it in Exodus. It says it in Deuteronomy. It says it a number of times in Psalms. It says it in Isaiah. We have studied the Scriptures, and it says there, Rabbi, that God alone can forgive sins. Sins are not yours to forgive, unless you are God. How then can we know you are God?" but they didn't say that.
They just in their hearts went, "The guy can't say that," and they hid it there, but Jesus, being a discerner of men, knew what they were thinking. Who wouldn't think that? That's why he said what he said…because he wanted to force them to deal with that claim. Can I tell you something? You have questions about Jesus and what we think is true of him, and I don't blame you for those questions. There are some huge issues out there.
If God is as loving as we say he is and he is sovereign, as we claim he is through the Scriptures, then why is there evil in this world? That's a big question. What about people who have never heard about Jesus Christ? That's a legitimate question? Are they going to go to hell, Todd? What about people who are sincere in their faith today who happened to grow up in a different culture, not one who invited them to Watermark or some church who teaches the Scriptures? Are they going to go to hell?
How do you know your book is inspired by God and not the Qur'an or some other sacred writing? Why are there so many conflicts within Christendom…all the denominations? Why can't you all get along? Those are legitimate questions, and we tell you we welcome those questions because, if there are not answers to them, we need to get out of what we're wasting our time with, and I will tell you that I think there are good answers.
That's why we are committed to you, and we're committed to the folks here who follow Christ to give them the tools so they can alongside and meet their friends and say, "You know what? We're going to tell you something about Jesus. He can forgive your sins. He can make a difference in your eternity." That might sound offensive to you at first, and what we want to say is, "You know what? Come and ask the questions that are on your heart. Have the courage. Have the wisdom to sit and to see if these things are so."
We have studies that are specifically set up just for those who have questions in their hearts, folks who have no agenda except to discuss and dialogue with you legitimate questions that ought to be brought before your mind and your heart. Are you going to sit back predisposed and scoff, or are you going to say, "You know what? Let me just interact with this Jesus"? He has already shown… He's just proven in this text he doesn't mind interruptions when they're part of somebody seeking him, so you're not going to get in his way.
God loves those who hunger and thirst after truth. The thing I love about our faith is, if it's true, no amount of scrutiny can affect it, so we say, "Come. Come and see. Come and let us reason together." I love your questions, and I want to tell you, one of the great horrors of the church in America today, especially with you guys, man… You know, you grow up, and you're young kids, and you're here hanging out with your parents.
They drag you to church on Sundays, and we tell you, "Believe what we believe. Do what we do and get in line." We just want to let you know, "Ask your questions." It is not wrong here to say, "Mom and Dad, you know, I don't want to be a Christian just because I grew up in Dallas. I want to know, is this Jesus different? What difference could he make in my life? What if I happened to have a Muslim mom and dad? Why would that not get me where you say I'm going?
What about the problem with evil? What about the friends right now who are making some of the choices they're making and don't appear to have any consequences in their lives? Can't I just have some fun and get saved after college? That's what my dad did." Those are great questions, and I want you to know this is going to be a church you can ask them in. Have the courage and the wisdom to bring it to your lips.
If you don't, you have to be honest about what that means. You're not a seeker of wisdom; you're a scoffer. Do you have the courage to examine your questions? Will you have the courage if you're confronted with truth? See, the second group didn't want to, and Christ had some harsh words for them, but there's a third group. This is where we close. This third group was an individual, and Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven," and the group said, "Hey, you can't forgive his sins."
Jesus said, "Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'You are healed'?" In order that you might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, he says, "Take up your pallet and walk." Now let me ask you a question. What do you think would've happened if that guy had said, "I can't," or if he had worked his way up, taken two steps, and fallen flat on his face? I know what would've happened. We probably wouldn't have a much longer book here.
They would've said, "Hey, this is a guy you don't need to worry about, a guy you don't need to follow because he can't deliver. The people he says he can bring transformation to… It's the mark of the Messiah that the blind would see, the lame would walk, the deaf would hear, the dumb would speak, and Jesus can't do that.
He can't transform lives. He cannot take selfish individuals and transform them into others‑centered people. He can't take obstinate, self-willed neighbors and make them gracious in their neighborhood. He can't take people who cannot work through conflict and transform them, so they live lives of self-sacrifice and mercy towards others, biblically working through conflict, reconciling their broken relationships.
He can't take individuals who are actually addicted to some chemical dependency and, through their admitted powerlessness over that sin, through their absolute prostration before a sovereign God who intervenes in our lives and gives us the means through accountability, through discipleship and through friendship, and through the power of the Spirit to break that cycle of destruction… He can't do that."
We lie there on our mats in our cities, and people go, "Well, whatever Jesus must be, he must not be the great healer because I see the people to whom he spoke, 'You're forgiven,' and they are still lame in their living." Lame lives cause others to lose interest in Christ and scoff at his claims. There are those of us in this room who have to wonder, "Why is the name of Christ not more revered in my office?
Why are my kids not drawn to him? Why is my spouse who is far from God not any closer?" I will tell you there's a decent chance that the only living illustration they have of somebody to whom Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven" is still lying lame in his or her life, so they've lost interest in this Jesus who can forgive because he can't make you walk.
Look what Jesus himself said in Matthew, chapter 5. He says, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
What he's saying right there is, "Turn the light on. When I come into your life, your life transforms, and you should be a beacon on a hill, but if you're still filled with darkness, if you're still walking in defeat, if you're still a self-willed, self-dependent, isolated, selfish individual, the world will not believe that you've met the one who can change you."
That is why it is the core of our body and the core of our purpose to call all people to be fully devoted followers of Christ and why we want you to grow in your commitment, your competency, your connectedness, your contribution with using your gifts and your treasure and your creativity in thinking about how you can apply that to our society. Those are not destinations. Those are things that will grow in volume.
You need to know I am very much in process, and when I fall down paralyzed with sin again, as I sometimes do before my family and sometimes before my neighbors, I need to look them in the eyes and say, "Will you forgive me." I roll my mat back up, and I say, "You know, what you just saw me do… That lame lifestyle you just saw me live, had to confuse you about who my Savior is, and I just want to let you know the problem is not with him.
The problem is I went back and chose to have that disease in my life again when I don't need to, and I'm picking my mat up, and I ask your forgiveness. I'm going to walk in the light again." Lame living, lame lives cost others interest in Christ and cause them to scoff at him. I challenge you. I beg you to walk in the light. I beg you to be somebody who's not a cause of the name of Christ being scoffed at. Let me just read you this one verse from Romans.
This is what he says in Romans, chapter 2. "But if you bear the name 'Jew' and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness…" Verse 20, chapter 2:
"…a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For 'the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you'…"
Y'all see what's at stake when we don't live lives as fully devoted followers of Christ, when we don't acknowledge at least that we've walked back into a life of paralyzation with sin? We're not about being perfect, but every time your life is full of lame living, there is a responsibility we have to roll our mat up, stand back up, and say, "Would you forgive me? Christ has given me the means to walk in freedom, and I just stumbled again but not because of the lack of power he provides but because of my choosing to wander away from him.
This is the truth. If I as a follower of him confess my sins, he is faithful and just to cleanse me from sins and to get rid of that paralyzation that was in my life and to walk in newness of life. Will you forgive me?" If not, people will lose interest. If not, we cause his name to be blasphemed, just like it would've been that day had that guy not stood up and walked. Watch this.
Male: I said one more. Watch the water jug! Aw!
Male Friend 1: Make way! We have a sick friend here.
Paralytic: It's no good. It's no good.
Male Friend 2: Look. We're going to take you to Jesus, even if we have to…
Jesus: How can you say to your brother, "Let me take that speck of dust out of your eye"? Who are you to judge when you have a huge log in your own eye?
Male: I know what's good for you. I'll help you see clearly. Ow!
Jesus: Take the log out of your own eye, and then you can help to remove the speck in your brother's eye.
Scribe 1: I hope we're not too proud to learn something from a younger man.
Scribe 2: This man has no respect for anyone.
Scribe 3: Oh, he has plenty of respect for thieves and vagabonds.
Male: Hey, what's going on!
Jesus: Friends, come on down! There's plenty of room. Welcome!
Male: My roof!
Paralytic: It's no good. It's no good! Just let me die.
Jesus: My friend, your sins are forgiven you.
Male: Sins? Forgiven?
Scribe 1: Who can forgive sins but God?
Jesus: Let me ask you a question? Which is it easier to say? "Your sins are forgiven you" or "Get up and walk"? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has the power on earth to forgive sins, I command you, "Pick up your bed and walk."
Paralytic: Ah! Yes! Glory to God! Glory to God!
Female: Praise the Lord!
Male: It's impossible.
Paralytic: It's true. I've been healed! I've been healed. I've been healed!
Crowd: Ha! Ha!
Paralytic: I've been healed!
Do you remember that? Do you remember when he first touched you and you could get up and you could walk? Do you remember when you were no longer in bondage to her flesh, when you were no longer a slave to pride? Do you remember that? You jumped up, and just like that guy did, you were just filled with the joy of the Lord. You wanted to tell everybody you could.
I was with a guy at lunch this week, and we were talking about where he came to know the Lord, and he said, "Will you forgive me if I cry because every time I tell this story, I cry?" I said, "Would you please never stop crying when you tell this story?" Don't forget the joy of your salvation. Don't forget the mystery that gave you the ability to walk lest you lose your ability to be moved to worship him.
We worship God for who he is, period, but we don't care who he is until he touches us and lets us walk in the life of righteousness. What I want you to do is just take a short moment, and I just want you to be still. I want you to confess where your life is lame. You know, some of you are far from God, and maybe what you just need to say during this time is, "Lord, would you let me come in and come crashing right now through this roof?
If you can touch me like you touched that guy, like that guy up there is saying that I can be touched, in this lame life that I'm paralyzed by fear, by hopelessness, by hatred, by bitterness, by lack of forgiveness… Can you touch me? Will you forgive me for the things I've done that have separated me and paralyzed me in my ability to please you? Can you touch me?" Then I want you to think about this God and why he's so worth worshiping, and we're going to do it in song together for a few minutes.
Please, when we finish that third song, don't think that's where worship ends. Worship begins here on Sundays, and the way you'll treat each other as you leave, the way you'll be kind to your waitresses, the way you'll tip your waitresses, the way you'll be gracious to your neighbors, available for your kids, a servant to your spouse, faithful and effective at work is worship. Be still before the Lord.
May your week of worship just be beginning. May you be spurred on to not live lame lives, and may you know that we would go to any lengths to get to carry those of you who are here who are far from God to Jesus. Interrupt him. He loves nothing more than letting you come. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you next week.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 1:1 through Mark 2:17.