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For our sake Christ gave his life on the cross for our sins, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Apart from Him we are devoid of Christ, but in Christ, He breathes life into us so that we might know He is Lord and serve Him. As John 14:12 shows us, "Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these." This is what we will see from Mark 5 and from stories within the Church body today.
Parable of the Sower: What Is the Soil of Your Heart?
Don't be a WENI - Christlike Communication
Remembering Our Core Values: Examine Your Life, Excel Still More
Get Busy: Individual Next Steps
The Exclusivity of Jesus
Living Life in the Grace and Sufficiency of Christ: Baptism Celebration 2014
The Continuing Story of Easter
Todd and Greg Answer Questions About the Faith
5 Characteristics of Relationships that Succeed
A Tender Word for Pharisees
Stewarding the Life of a Shepherd
Love is Always Better than the Law
Welcome. It is an amazing privilege to get to stand here. I need to let you know I never wanted to stand here. I never wanted to stand up in front of a church and be a pastor because I thought church and pastor was just kind of code for boring and couldn't do anything else. I really did.
I had somebody just Friday ask me this. They said, "Todd, there is some stuff going on a Watermark that we just love. We see God at work there. We see young people responding there in a way that they're not around us. We see in you guys some really amazing programs, and we would like to do those at our church. Can we have those programs?"
I said, "Of course you can have those programs. We share everything we have with anybody who asks, but you need to know something. This is not a place where there are a lot of programs going on. I mean, yeah, there are a lot of people doing things, but you don't need a syllabus or a structured outline of talks. That's not what's going on here. What's going on here is there are a bunch of people who live in relationship with a living God who still rescues people from the grave."
I said this to her and the whole group. "Here's the way I kind of envision a lot of churches are. People are kind of stuck on the runway of life, and then God, by his kindness, says, 'Have faith in me,' and they are kind of lifted up, if you will." These are people who are just doing what the world does and don't really have any understanding of God.
This is what I see the church as. It's a bunch of people who are like an airplane just circling over the control tower. The view never changes. You're glad you're not still stuck down on the ground with all those other people, but nobody is really doing anything. Eventually, after a number of years the plane starts to run out of gas, then we sing a song and we send you on to glory, going, "Okay. Now they're living this great and free life with Jesus."
I was like, "That bores me to death. Especially when they start to say that where we send them is to some said cloud where they're issued some said wings then they play some said harp and sing the same hymn for 10,000 years. And they've only just begun. That sounds like hell to me, if you're asking."
I want you to know the Bible doesn't talk about heaven at all like that. There's nothing…no cloud, no wings, no harp…that is anything like that in the Bible when it talks about heaven. Yet, what I do see on earth are a lot of people who are just kind of circling around this very average meeting of largely bored adults waiting until they die so they can really go on to glory.
I told them this. I said, "That's not what we're doing. What we're doing is we're involved in the most amazing life-saving privilege that God could ever call somebody into. What you see here is a bunch of people who live in relationship with a living King who is still actively at work to radically change them and powerfully equip them to help others."
I asked them, "Do you know what a sortie is?" I said, "I didn't know what a sortie was until really sometime in the 90s. I heard it for the very first time when Operation Desert Storm began. It's just a military term used for a deployment or dispatch of a military unit. It comes from the French word for exit.
My roommate from college and others who are navy pilots would take off from aircraft carriers and fly over enemy territory, strategically placing bombs into places where there was real evil, real imprisonment, real terror, and real horror going on. That was the narrative everybody was told.
The military went in there, and it was amazing to watch very surgical strikes go in. We could see them for the first time, evil being eradicated. These guys would fly 6, sometimes 7 missions a day. As quickly as they could get back to refuel and reload they would go again, and every time they'd be welcomed back they were like, "This is amazing!"
They said, "Every now and then something would happen behind enemy lines where we would need to move or somebody would be fallen, and we would get these big Chinook helicopters that would drop down to pick up the troops and get out. They'd be like, 'Yes! You're free again. We've delivered you. Even though you were captive you've been set free.' It was just like zero dark thirty 24/7/365. It was awesome." Everybody was like, "That is really what God calls us to."
I said, "What you see here is not just a bunch of people just circling, waiting to die. You see a bunch of people here on mission, and what you see us doing is going in and loving folks, and by the power of God with us, we are winning. Darkness is being defeated. Every now and then there's a casualty, for sure. Every now and then people will just circle for a long while and just die. Not from the casualty of war; they just die. But we still sing, because this world isn't our home and we have no fear.
Sometimes they take us captive with their slurs, and sometimes they take us captive to their intimidations, and sometimes they ostracize us, which doesn't seem like a lot of fun, but we still sing because we know Jesus said, 'Hey, look. It's okay. I've got it all covered. No matter what they do to you, no matter what you do, because of what I've done and your faith in it you are saved. But what I want you to do is to walk with me and to learn my ways, not entangle yourself in the affairs of everyday life, because I've enlisted you as a soldier and want you to do great things.' So be strong in the grace that is Jesus Christ. I mean, that's what we're doing."
They just looked at me and were like, "Uhhh, we just wanted a program from you. That's all we wanted." I go, "Well, that's your problem. You don't need a program. You guys need to radically follow Jesus and to quit doing church and start being the church." I said to them, "Can you imagine what it was like to walk with Jesus? I mean, to really walk with him when he was here. Let me just take you back." I just did it really quickly with them, but I'll give you the extended version.
Imagine walking with Jesus, because that guy was a riot. If you were running with him, if you were one of his disciples, you just couldn't believe the stuff that happened every day. Like, "Every night around the campfire we'd sit there and be like, 'Did you see that?' We'd look for Jesus, but Jesus wouldn't be there. He'd be off in a lonely place praying and fellowshipping with his Father.
Every now and then he'd drop back in with us, but for the most part we were around the fire, the other disciples and I, and were just going, 'Can you believe that? Did you see that today? Did you hear what he said to those guys? Did you see what he did?'" They would talk about healing, prophetic words, and teachings that were not as other men teach but with deep, personal authority, saying things like "Truly, truly I say to you…," speaking like he had authority to say things that were true.
I think about one time he was teaching like that and all of a sudden everybody around the room started to look up, and there were little pieces of dust and ceiling that were falling down. The next thing you know they look up and here's this guy being lowered down from the roof. "Sorry to break up the Bible study, but our buddy here is kind of messed up, and we've heard that you can help guys like him."
So Jesus just laughed. Down comes the guy, and he goes, "I'll tell you what. I see your faith. I'm going to make your friend well. 'My son, your sins are forgiven.'" They must have been looking at each other like, Is that why we came? To have his sins forgiven? "Hey, that's not why we came! We didn't come to have his sins forgiven."
Let me say this really quickly about Jesus. See, Jesus never really focused on the symptoms when he was here. He was always ultimately concerned… Sometimes he'd deal with the symptoms to let you see he had power over them. He had power over everything because he's the Sovereign God. That's who Jesus is. But he really was concerned with sin, and that's why even when he healed people he said, "Go and sin no more," because sin is your problem. Your lameness is not your problem. Your blindness is not your problem. Your problem is sin.
Now, look. Some of you are blind because you live in a world where things aren't as they should be. That's why we have cancer. That's why we have acne. That's why we have loneliness. That's why we have unemployment. That's why we have despair. That's why we have every horror to humankind imaginable. It's a world that is not as God intended it to be. Our problem is sin.
Sin has all kinds of symptoms. Its greatest symptom is death. That's why we're so thrilled with Easter. It shows that he's taken care of the primary problem with sin: it separates us from life. But you have to understand. Life isn't what you and I are experiencing now. Life is intimacy with God, and the reason we're going to die is because our flesh is judged because our whole world, with our flesh being a part of it, is separated from God.
God says, "Come back into relationship with me. When your sins are forgiveness you who are unholy can fellowship with holy," and that's our problem. That's why Jesus said, "You really love your friend. You have faith. You've come to the right place. Your friend's problem is sin. Not lameness. Lameness is just one of the symptoms. 'My son, your sins are forgiven.'" You can see the guys on the roof thinking, "Was that worth that? How much is it going to cost to repair this roof? 'Your sins are forgiven, buddy.' We're still going to have to carry you out of here."
Then some guy in the corner who didn't really like Jesus and was there to test him raised his hand and goes, "Hey, can I just say something to you? What you just did kind of offends me, because nobody on earth has the authority to forgive sins. Sins are God's problem. Sins are an offense against God. Only God can forgive sins."
To which Jesus replied, "That… Are you all listening? That is a very good point. What my friend over here just pointed out is while you guys are upset that I really didn't heal your friend the way you wanted me to, which really isn't his problem, this guy over here pointed out the primary problem, which is that I, being just a man, forgave this guy's sins. Were the rest of you listening when I did that?
I'll tell you what. So that you might know that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins, I'm going to do what only God can do, which is I'm going to breathe life into that lame body. Who can do that? Does any doctor here want to take a shot before I speak up? Bro, how long have you been to doctors? Guys, how much money have you spent? Where else have you been? Have you been to the Mayo Clinic? He still can't walk. Anybody else want to give it a shot?
I mean, who can heal this guy? He's been lame as long as any of you guys have known him. The only person who can regenerate something that's dead is the God who created it in the first place. So that you might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, because he is God, I say to you, 'Brother, take up your mat and walk.'" And up and out he goes.
If you're one of his disciples you go, "That was awesome! He shut that guy up. He did it in a very kind way. He kind of pulled that guy into a relationship with him if he wanted it. Those people were happy. The guy was like, 'That was worth my roof being wrecked.' Everybody got a lot at that Bible study, and we're his friends. We just had dinner with him." What's tomorrow? You couldn't go to bed fast enough to wake up the next day to see what he might do.
Let me tell you what he did. The next time he's around some of those guys who were always watching him to see if they could catch him in some wrong, Jesus, who was always trying to bring people out of slavery and bondage to the creations of men, saw a guy with a withered left hand. It was on the Sabbath. See, God made the Sabbath. He gave us the Sabbath. The Sabbath was God's idea.
He said, "Listen. I know you'd work yourself to death trying to be happy and content. I don't want you to work yourself to death, because the truth is, no matter how much you work you could never accomplish the thing you ultimately need to do. I need to accomplish that for you. Every now and then I want you just to be still. Enjoy your family, eat a lot of food, sing songs, celebrating the greatness of your God. The Sabbath is my gift to you."
But religion doesn't make the Sabbath God's gift to you; religion makes it something you have to do or can't do on certain days to honor the God. So Jesus says to them, "Hey, was Sabbath made for man or was man made for Sabbath. The answer is Sabbath was made for man. Quit burdening people with your dumb laws." So what he did was he said to the guy, "Come here and give me your withered hand. I'm going to heal you."
The rabbis go, "Wait a minute! You can't do that. That's work. You can't do work on the Sabbath." Jesus basically said to them, "Let me ask you a question." (This is a combination now of a couple of miracles.) He goes, "Which one of you if your ass was in a ditch…?" (I think Jesus said ox,but ass is the better double entendre for these purposes right here.) "Which one of you if your donkey, your beast of burden, your ox, was in a ditch wouldn't do something to get it out of a ditch?"
He said, "Let me tell you something. That's not my beast of burden. That's my son created in my image. It's never unlawful to do good on the Sabbath," and he healed him. If you're one of his disciples you go, "That was just genius what he did. The way he did it. How he taught. What he reminds us of," and you couldn't wait for the next thing. And on and on and on the story goes. You build fires. You laugh about the way different guys responded.
Think about this one. This is one of my favorite stories. It comes from Mark, chapter 5. We're just making our way through Mark, which is one of my favorite gospels. It just goes quickly because it's action packed. There's this little guy who lives over in the land of the Gerasenes. He is crazy. Everybody knows how crazy he is. He's so out of control that nobody…nobody…can control him. You're going to see just how out of control he was.
He was living among the tombs, naked, out of his mind, unable to be held captive by anybody. He was just destructive to himself. That's what the narrative says. (Mark, chapter 5) They get in a boat. Jesus says, "Let's go to Gerasene." They're like, "Are you kidding me? Gerasene? That's where that guy is." The disciples get in a boat and they sail. He goes, "Hey, let's go over there. There are people over there who need to see who I am." So they start paddling across this little lake.
They get to the other side and it says, "When He got out of the boat, immediately…" Right away. They were hardly getting rid of their sea legs, and all of a sudden this guy they'd heard about… He's described by the text as, "…a man from the tombs…" What kind of people hang out in the tombs? Dead people. Unregenerate people. "…with an unclean spirit met Him…"
"What's an unclean spirit, Todd? What's that mean?" I'll tell you what an unclean spirit is. It's any spirit that's not holy. If you're not in relationship with God you're not in relationship with the Holy Spirit; therefore, you're in relationship with some other kind of spirit that's not as holy as God, so it's an unholy or an unclean spirit. That's what anybody is.
Everybody wants to make a big deal out of demon possession. Let me just say something. Anybody who's not possessed with the Holy Spirit of God is possessed by an unclean spirit, and what they need is to come back into relationship with God. You don't need to cast out anything from them; you need to invite them into relationship with God.
When they come into relationship with God there is no fellowship with light and darkness. Light will get rid of the darkness. You don't need to get rid of the darkness; you need to insert light. That's what you're about to see happen right here.
So this guy comes. It says "…he had his dwelling among the tombs." He was living among the dead. He was a dead man walking. There was nobody in any community that could put up with him except dead people who wouldn't talk about how miserable it was to be near him. "And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him…"
You know how it is. Crazy people are sometimes just like crazy strong and like crazy violent. That's this guy. "…and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him." Nobody. No sheriff. Nobody. They just left him out there with the dead people. Even in a town that doesn't know God, no one can hang with that guy. Worse than that, the guy was destructive to himself.
" Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones."Even though he wasn't around they could hear it. Wouldn't that be awful? I mean, this is not a big village. You need to think about living right next door to the graveyard. You're out there barbecuing. The sun's going down, and you hear this guy just screaming. Even your dog gets a little closer to you. The wife and the kids say, "When you're done, bring it inside!"
That guy… Think Ray Lewis packed with 'roid rage, naked, and screaming. You've just gotten off the boat, and he just comes charging toward you. You're like, "Oh my… Jesus!" All right. Thomas, who's doubting anyway, is back in the boat going, "Come on boys!" and starts to paddle. Philip is freaking out. Peter is going, "We're gonna get him, Jesus!" Right? You just know that later that night they sat around and talked about this and just laughed.
Let me tell you what happens. That guy comes running up right there at the feet of Jesus. Jesus didn't give an inch. He just waited for that guy to come, and that unholy spirit that controlled that guy, he brought it immediately into submission. That spirit even declared, "I know who you are," and Jesus said, "Then you're going to do what I tell you."
What happened freaked the people out so much… In fact, watch. If you drop down to verse 15 of Mark 5 it says, "They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the 'legion'…" That's a word for 6,000 soldiers. He had 6,000 things wrong with him. This guy is jacked up.
That guy is now clothed, in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus, and you just go, "Wait. That is wild." Now I want you to think about a wild, rabid dog that is just barking at everybody, and all of a sudden that dog is totally normal. You go, "Whoa!" And Jesus hadn't spoken over him. They were freaked out by Jesus because no one had power over that guy, and Jesus has power greater than that. The disciples had to be so wide-eyed.
In fact, it goes on. This is important for later. *"As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him." *"I want to go with you Jesus. I want to follow you everywhere. You brought light into my darkness. You've delivered me from my rebellion, from my hell, from my death, from my self-destruction, and from my loneliness. I want to go everywhere you go!"
Jesus says, "'I'll tell you what I want you to do.' He says, 'Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you…' You go everywhere. You clothe yourself. You stay in your right mind. You brush your teeth and comb your hair. You go back and tell them that across that lake there's a God who lives who has come to redeem all men, and they can know him. His name is Jesus. You go be my disciple right here."
Meanwhile, the disciples are in the boat on the way back. They probably didn't talk a whole lot and waited until they got on the other side. They built a fire and probably just sat there and recounted the day, made fun of each other because of their cowardice and lack of faith, and marveled at the greatness of God and what he had done.
Are you with me? This is the church. The called-out ones to follow him. That's what their day is like every day. The next day they wake up and there is a leader of the synagogue… Synagogue leaders were not big fans of Jesus. One of them shows up. His name is Jairus. His life is so broken because his precious little girl is about to die that he just breaks ranks. He goes and sleeps with the enemy.
He goes to Jesus and says, "Jesus, people think I'm crazy for coming to you, but I've heard what you've done, and I believe you're the only one who can help my little daughter. They tell me she's going to die. Would you please come?" The disciples are like, "Oh my gosh. What's he going to do now? This guy…" These are the people who are trying to catch him all the time in public conversations.
Jesus says, "Jairus, you've come to me. I said that I would love anybody who came to me. Let's go." They start to walk. On the way there… I mean, there's a crowd following him, because this is really crazy that this guy would have come. They're following along, and all of a sudden in this very crowded space Jesus goes, "Who just touched me?"
They go, "Jesus, it's been a long day. That Gerasene demoniac got us too. Everybody's touching you. It's Times Square on New Year's Eve. What do you mean, 'Who just touched me?' We all touched you!" Jesus says, "No. Somebody just touched me with a touch of faith." In that moment when he asks who touched him, everybody stopped. "Who touched me?"
Scripture says there was a woman who for 12 years hadn't touched anybody because she had a constant issue of blood, which in that society made her completely unclean. There was no sanitation device that they would employ to allow women just to socialize with others in that particular time. For 12 years she was hemorrhaging, and for 12 years she had no contact with man, much less society.
In the midst of that she finally said she heard about Jesus' love and that Jesus took even the broken, the unacceptable, and the unclean. She reached out to him in faith, and he cleansed her. He healed her. He lifted her head and said, "Daughter, your faith has made you well." That woman hadn't done anything. It was just something going on in her life, but the world said that wasn't acceptable. Jesus dealt with the symptom as an expression of his love for the sin.
About that time though, since that took more time on the journey there, the guys who were not big fans of Jairus going to get Jesus in the first place showed up and said, "Jairus, come here. Over here. Listen. We told you that you shouldn't go to him. Now, not only have you kind of shown your cards, but your little girl is no longer sick; you missed her dying breath. Her last words were, 'Where's my daddy?' People mocking you in the village said, 'He's with that fool Jesus. And your dad's a fool'"
The disciples were like, "Oh, this is not good. This was our moment maybe to make some ground with those guys, and now this delay has this guy exposed. What is he going to do?" Jesus just says, "Hey, Jairus. Come here. I know they're mocking you for coming to me. I know you think it's over. Jairus, follow me. Your daughter isn't dead; she's just sick."
I can hear somebody go, "Oh no, Jairus. She's dead. Very dead! And so is your career as a synagogue official. You're a fool!" You can hear him say it. Off they go. Jesus takes a couple of the disciples in. Jesus breathes life back into that little girl, and she's walking again. If you're a disciple, that night around the campfire you're just going, "Oh my gosh!"
A little bit later so many people were hearing Jesus talk… There are 15,000 folks. The Bible says 5,000. It counts men. Those men are married. Those men have kids. They think it's about 15,000 people. Jesus feeds them all with a few loaves and fish. Just one little kid's school lunch. The disciples are like, "Oh my gosh!"
They get in a boat that night. It's crazy. Jesus starts to walk on the water. Peter just goes, "Lord, let me do that," and he says, "Come on. If you trust in me you can do things nobody else in this world can do," and Peter starts to walk on the water himself. Do you think that was a great story? Peter was probably going, "I walked on water!" They tell him, "You also sank!" Then he goes, "Yeah." Jesus had to be over there just eating and laughing.
He got to the other side. He rebuked the people for wanting him because he was doing carnival tricks. He says, "I'm not doing carnival tricks. You want me because I'm feeding you bread. I'm not here to give you that kind of bread. I'm here to show you I'm the Bread of Life." Later he feeds 12,000 people again.
Later he takes some guys up on a mountain. It says the light there was brighter than the light of the sun. Let me tell you something. If you're a disciple following Jesus, it is a party, it is a conversation, it is a life-altering, eternity-shaking experience everywhere you go, and all you want to do is be with him.
What I want to tell you is that is what it means to be in relationship with Jesus today. He's a living God today. He wants you to be a part of that kind of ministry today. He doesn't want you to run some program and just circle around the control tower. He wants you to be running sorties off this command ship with him and inserting yourself into the Enemy, destroying evil, rescuing people, bringing them out, celebrating, singing, discipling and equipping them, fueling them, feeding them, and going again.
Jesus, at the end of his life, grabs his men together. He goes, "Boys, come here. Let me just tell you something. I know this has been amazing." But, watch this. He says, "Truly, truly…" Like, "This is fact. This is authority." "…I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also…" No, strike that. "…greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father."
The reason I'm going to go to the Father is to tell the Father, "Hey, Father. You know those wicked people down there riddled with sin? I just covered them with my righteousness. Those people who have had faith in me. The debt they had, I just paid it. Now those people are mine and yours; therefore, they can fellowship with us." So what did Jesus say?
He said, "...you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.""In Dallas, the Metroplex, the State of Texas, up to Oklahoma, throughout the entire southwest, and everywhere this Word goes you guys are going to keep doing not what I did but more than what I did, because all of you who trust in me will have the spirit of the living Lord inside of you, which means the gospel accounts should continue.
What I'm here to celebrate with you is not something that happened 2,000 years ago. I don't need to tell you about lame men, blind kids, dead girls, and crazy guys 2,000 years ago, because I have seen guys living lame lives, blind and could not see, people who were dead in their trespasses and sins brought to live right here all the time.
Jesus prophetically said, "If you know me, you follow me, and you believe in the power of my resurrection you'll have a campfire every night and will marvel at stories of what I continue to do." What I'm here to tell you is that Jesus lives, and because he lives we are on mission. We're seeing God do the same kinds of things that have been happening right there in those Gospels that are in the Bible behind me.
Thursday I went to lunch with a group of friends. There were seven of them. I just said, "You guys can ask me any question you want. I want to get to know you a little bit better. If you want to get to know me, ask whatever you want, but I want to hear each of your stories. I want to hear about your journey to how you came to Christ and what's going on with your life."
As they went through and I listened to every single one of them, I just went, "That is unbelievable. Guess what. I'm going to share those stories on Easter morning. That's what I'm going to do: I'm going to talk about you on Easter morning. What I want you to do is just bullet out for me the highlights of your story, then I'm going to re-write it into a gospel account. I'm going to insert you into the gospel of Jesus Christ today, because Jesus lives, and if Jesus lives, that means he's still doing miraculous things today.
I'm just telling you, this was just one lunch for me on Thursday. So what I've done, in prophetic fulfillment of John, chapter 14, verse 12, is I'm now going to leave the book of Mark and read to you from the book of Watermark, chapter 9, verse 10, through chapter 4, verse 14, which means September 2010 through April 2014. Are you ready? Watch this. I took the bullet points, and I wrote this gospel account, this narrative.
"Later in the same city a young woman whose name was Carisa, which means grace, was given the blessing of growing up in the same community as others who spoke of God and knew his name but did not walk in relationship with Jesus or authenticity with his disciples. She clothed herself in the false beauty of performance and religious attendance even while increasingly living a life of immorality and self-destruction."
Do you remember when I was talking about Gerasene with you and what you envisioned that crazy guy to be like? I want you to imagine a crazy girl in her twenties in Dallas, Texas. Let your imagination run wild for a second. Think of immorality and self-destruction and everything that would go with it.
"She was controlled by the devils of shame and lived in a land called loneliness. For 10 years she sought to find life in the false gods of casual sex and fleeting affections from men. She constantly dealt with her pain by numbing herself with alcohol and lies, even while she heard stories in certain settings of Jesus' kindness, power, and love. Her name was Grace, but she did not know her name. It came to be that Jesus sent an angel…"
The word angel means a messenger. That's all it is, and whether or not it's a spirit being created by God or a faithful servant human is always determined by the context. So, in this gospel account it says, "...Jesus sent an angel to remind her of his love and his desire to restore her beauty…" It was a human in this instance. You'll see who in a minute. "…to remind her that he was there to forgive her sins and rescue her from the lies of men.
A community of disciples in Dallas called Watermark who loved the Savior took her in, sang songs of healing around her, and spoke truth that powerfully worked inside of her. Grace came in faith to Jesus, and she received from him her name. The power of the Lord radically worked through her with such renown that others began to find healing and hope through her.
The one whose name was Grace became a herald of grace to others, and as a result the name of the Lord increased throughout the region where she followed her Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. She constantly proclaimed to others, 'He lifted me up out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock. He gave me a firm place to stand.' The resurrection power of Jesus Christ lived in her."
That story happened right here because Jesus Christ still lives. If you're one of those guys running with Jesus and you hear about that girl Mary Magdalene who was just prostituting herself everywhere all of a sudden be brought to Jesus and be made clean again, you would go, "Can you believe Mary Magdalene [or Carisa] came to Christ?" That happened right here because Jesus lives.
Here's the story of another gal. Her name is Claressa, which means brilliant, if you look it up. This story happened in Watermark, chapter 11, verse 8, through chapter 4, verse 14. "During the days of Jesus there was a brilliant young girl who moved as much as any Bedouin; therefore, was insecure as any sheep.
Though she learned early in her life that Jesus was a good Shepherd, she allowed herself to be led by another shepherd who controlled her, used her, and chained her to his heart during her high school years." I want you to think about an abusive relationship with a 19-year-old that started with a 14-year-old girl and continued for five years. That's what's going on here in this gospel story.
"Even though she was able to eventually break free her heart remained broken, and she found herself continually in relationships with men who promised her love but always left her lonely. The girl named Brilliant, which is translated Claressa, soon became burdened with darkness and was ruled by the demons of guilt, isolation, immorality, and shame. After many years, many pains, and many false promises from false messiahs, Brilliant found herself angry, alone, and scared." Divorced, a couple-of-times loser, involved in adulterous relationships, and living anything but a brilliant life.
"During the years of her wandering Jesus always called to her and watched her, but Brilliant never chose to respond in faith or to live in relationship with him. It came to be after many years and more failures in her many relationships that she ran into some disciples of Jesus who lived near her where she saw and was drawn to their love for one another.
While the young girl contemplated suicide…" That's Brilliant's story. "…the Spirit of the Good Shepherd showed her others full of life. Tired of her pain and hungry for healing the young woman ran to Jesus, and he healed her. His resurrection power brought her out of darkness into the light until the whole region saw the beauty in her life and she became a brilliant shining star that gave hope and became a source of light to others.
Because of her changed life, many more followed Jesus and trusted in his name." (Just like the Gerasene demoniac. "You go back right into that lamb where you were darkened, and you tell them about the light of Christ.") "It was said of her, 'How could this woman who was dead in her trespasses and sins prove…' This is from Philippians 2:15. '…to be blameless and innocent, a child of God, above reproach in the midst of a crooked, perverse, and dark generation, among whom Brilliant now appears as a bright star in this dark world.'"
That story happened right here because Jesus lives. It can be pulled right out of the gospel of Mark. But, no. God says it's going to be the gospel of Jesus played out at Watermark. All Mark is is an eyewitness testimony to what Jesus did. All I'm being this morning for you is an eyewitness testimony of what Jesus is doing. Do you know that? Do you know that Jesus, or are you just going to circle the tower? Man, I'm not. I'm following him. That plane is constantly moving. "Come on, come on, come on. Let's go. Yes!"
Around that same table was a friend of mine I've known for several decades. Until about 15 years ago I always knew there was something I wasn't really getting in my relationship with her in terms of authenticity, but I never could really put my arms around it. This is actually from Watermark, chapter 1, verse 0 (Watermark in January 2000) all the way through Watermark, chapter 4, verse 14. It's the gospel of Jesus Christ. Watch this. I start this way intentionally.
"Jesus was known throughout the region for many things, especially for his great love of children. Rarely did he speak to a crowd without being interrupted by little ones running into his arms and the air being filled with laughter.
His teachings emphasized his specific care and affection for the young and contained constant warning for the powerful who ruled over them." ("Don't you mess with my kids!") "Almost as common, though, as his teaching about kids was Jesus' endless reminding to those who followed him that this world was not their home and that the troubles in the world would be here until the end of the age."
I extrapolate here. "Often his disciples would wonder, 'If you love kids so much, why would you let the horrors in this world continue to affect them? Why don't you roll up the evil in this world and rescue them from all the abuse that's out there?' Jesus would say, 'Because if I rolled up all the abuse out there I'd roll up a lot of people who are still mine. You really can't understand what I'm doing, but I want to tell you I'm always at work and I know about all my kids.'
They saw him speak. His words were a mystery to the multitudes, but wherever he went, everybody wanted to understand more about his compassion and power. Daily, others watched him bring joy to every person who received what he offered them. They loved his words. 'Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.' They marveled when he said, 'Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.'" Watch this.
"One little girl Jesus knew named Purity, which translated into English is Catherine." I know this girl from this gospel story. I call her Cathy. "She lived in a hypocritical yet outwardly religious home. When she was little, Purity's father, the very man who was to be a source of great protection for her, was instead a source of great pain. Instead of loving his little girl as God intended, this hurting father abused Purity and mocked her name.
The young girl hid her pain and the abuse from her father for decades, though others in the land would see it surface often in her interactions with men, her hatred for authority, and in the careful way she related even to those who were close to her. Though she hated being alone she grew to love her hate. One day Jesus passed by and again called her to trust in the power of his love and then receive the resurrection that came with it."
I've known Cathy for a long time. I watched her get married, and I watched her grow, but I always… There was something there. Cathy is one of the wives of the eight couples who started Watermark with me in 2000. When we were talking about what we believe about Jesus and what he wants to do she really began to, for the first time, trust in his resurrection power that could even deal with the pain of what she went through as a little girl when she lost her purity at the hands of a father who was supposed to protect her.
It says right here in this gospel narrative, "The one she knew as a child she chose to finally fully trust as an adult. His name was Jesus, and he saved her from hate. He made her pure again. As Purity followed Jesus, the multitude watched the one who used to hate miraculously learn to love. Most amazing to all who knew her story, they saw her forgive the very man who took her purity from her when she was young.
She was seen by his deathbed tending to his needs, forgiving him, and reading the Word of God to a man who was about to meet the very God he had offended. As a result of Purity's faith and faith's pure love many in the land came to know and love Jesus. Today the wounded young girl is a wise older woman whose strength, love, and life are used by God, who saved her to help even the greatest of enemies reconcile with one another. As a result of her transformed life, many have come to believe and be transformed by Jesus Christ."
That happened because Jesus still lives. He's still rescuing people. He's still dealing with that kind of craziness. Look. I'm just making my way around a table. These aren't stories I've collected for a long time. This is Thursday. I'll give you one more from Thursday. I took the bullet points and just wrote the gospel of Watermark as an eyewitness to this. This is Watermark, chapter 12, verse 10, through chapter 4, verse 14.
"Then the power of Jesus reached into Louisiana in a city called Baton Rouge and rescued a girl whose name was Natalie. Jesus pulled Natalie back to Dallas every now and then to visit her brother, who had come to know the Lord and testified to everybody he met about Jesus' power to deliver from the dead.
Over the years this man's sister's knowledge of Jesus grew even as her faith, trust, and commitment to follow him died. Though she was a regular still at religious meetings, if you can believe it, she did not regularly follow Jesus. Despite having moments of satisfaction in her quest for acceptance from this world, her thirst for life and real peace daily increased.
She continued to drift from any semblance of faith and soon found herself shipwrecked in a relationship with another woman, and not just an emotional one. With nothing but the saltwater of sin to drink from she found herself dehydrated and devoid of strength. Though everything appeared normal to those around her, Natalie understood she was dying. She was fearful, tired, and lonely, constantly carrying about in her heart the secrets that poisoned and betrayed her.
Aware of this, Jesus reached out to her through her brother, who spoke truth from God's Word and embodied its power through the healing and hope in his own life. Natalie believed in Jesus, confessed her sins, and became clean. Soon Natalie removed herself from Baton Rouge and moved in with a devoted follower of Christ who loved her and discipled her, and she began to actively love others with a love with which she had been loved at a place called Watermark.
Here, Natalie experienced the healing her heart desperately needed through God's Word, God's people, and God's Son. Her life radically changed, and after some time she met a man who would become her partner for life, and to this day they boldly are ministering in Jesus' name to those who are as lost as she once was. Many would now say to her, 'Were you not born one way? How is it that you now live another?' The question was misinformed, but it was a societal question.
They couldn't understand how she was one way born and now was living another. Her constant reply is famous in the land. 'God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved me even when I was dead in my transgressions, made me alive with Christ,' she would say. 'He died for me, he paid my debt, and he raised me with him to new life. By his grace I have been saved. Trust also in him, and you too will be raised and made new in life.'" That story, like thousands of others, happened right here because Jesus still lives.
If you have any heart in you, you would gather around campfires at night and go, "What happened today? Who'd you talk to today who might be a Natalie who needs to get rescued from the dehydration of trying to find satisfaction in relationships that God says will never give it to you." By the way, that's not just true in homosexual relationships; it's true in heterosexual relationships. We can't even fully give satisfaction to each other there. We need Christ. When we have him, relationships work, pieces fit, and there is joy.
I'll give you one more, because I think many of you in this room will identify with this one. This one happened on Tuesday. I'd have to give this one a different kind of verse reference. I would call this Watermark, chapter 415, verse 14, through Watermark, chapter 420, verse 14. Listen carefully.
"There was a young man from just west of Dallas whose name was Jonathan, which means God has given, who had given himself over and was completely enslaved to pornography. Though Jonathan attended places where Jesus was celebrated and his name was continually being honored, he did not honor him with his heart or his eyes.
He was happily married, a proud father, a beloved servant, gifted in his work, celebrated by men, and yet depressed in his heart. For 18 years he was trapped in a life of secrets and lies. He hid his sin, but he could not hide his despair. From the time he was a young man, only 14 years old, he found solace and pleasure in a world that never existed.
Instead of living in victory in real relationships he instead found moments of triumph and pleasure in a false world inhabited by smiling women pretending to be eager to meet him when, in reality, they were eager to numb themselves again with an array of narcotics, alcohol, and prescription medications that they abused as easily as men like Jonathan continued to abuse them.
Jonathan abused those same medications himself. He climbed behind a history of family issues, mental illness in the family, to fully explain his despair, and for decades he found himself constantly seeking comfort from the bottles of pills rather than Jesus, who should be his pillar of strength.
But Jesus did not despise Jonathan. He loved him and reminded him daily of his desire to set him free from his isolation, lies, and fantasy. Jesus begged him to come into the light, and Jesus loved him enough to leave him in his despair so he would learn to hate it. Finally Jonathan could hide no longer.
His trail was found by a loving wife, and soon he, himself, was found by a loving Savior and his disciples…" I was one of them. "…who were ready to embrace him, forgive him, and love him. Jonathan confessed his addiction, acknowledged his lies, and found a resurrection to a real life filled with real love, real relationships, and lasting pleasure, free from guilt, isolation, and shame.
To this day Jonathan would say, 'I have no guilt in life. I have no fear in death. Jesus has set me free.' After 18 years of living in a fantasy world and trying to numb himself from the pain of it with prescription meds he said he needed because he is from a family of broken people…" And he is. Aren't we all? "…Tuesday he said, 'This is what is depressing.'"
Some of you guys are here and you're still depressed, despairing, and giving yourself into false messiahs and false relationships. Or maybe your lives aren't that kind of wrecked. Maybe you're just in the false promise of a promising career or beauty or outward morality, but inside you know you don't have a holy spirit because you're not walking with the King. I'm telling you, because Jesus still lives, this can be the moment you can be part of the gospel story.
I told my friends what I was going to do was teach out of Ezekiel, chapter 37, and this was going to be my entire message. I'm not going to make it my entire message, but I am going to share the text with you, and I'll show you why in a moment. I want you to know this is where you can now say, "Okay. Todd, you're telling me I have to hear stories that happened 2,000 years ago? You're telling me Jesus still does something right now with perverts?
You're telling me Jesus still does something right now with guys who have the world by the tail and think they're never going to have any problems? And I know I'm going to have problems. I'm just trying to numb myself with sex, drugs, partying, and wealth, or maybe just propriety, but I am scared to death or I'm just not satisfied."
I'm here to tell you it's because you were created for something other than what this world can give you. It doesn't mean there's a lie inside of you; it just means you're looking in the wrong place. I'm here to tell you God came to you to tell you what you're looking for: Jesus. Ezekiel is talking specifically to a nation, Israel, that was supposed to live in relationship with him.
Through their relationship the entire world was supposed to know of the goodness of God, but Israel wasn't doing what it was supposed to do so it became a bunch of dead, judged individuals, and God said, "If you won't trust in me I'll take my message to somebody else who you were supposed to take it to. They'll receive the message, and they'll come back to you singing of the God you can still know." That's what's going on today.
Ezekiel says, though, in talking to them and, in many ways, talking to us, "The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones." Bones! "He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry." They'd been dead for a long time. ** **
"He said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live? [Can they be healed?] ' And I answered, 'O Lord GOD, You know.' Again He said to me, 'Prophesy over these bones and say to them, "O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD." Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, "Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews [muscle and tendon sheath] on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD."'"
If you're here today and you know you need some life because you're just dead men's bones and very dry, and you've been dead for a long time, or you know the life you have wrapped around your dead bones is a false life and it's just a matter of time before it comes in judgment, I say to you, "Hear the word of the Lord. Jesus lives, and he wants to breathe life on you. Today. Right now."
But you have to decide you need him. Jesus will not force you to follow him. He will let you continue to live in your despair or in your wrapped-up world of success until you hate it. The whole time he won't despise you, but he'll be sad that you have a deformed life and no rest. He says to you, "Awake. Ask for me to breathe the word of life on you and I will raise you, be with you and in you, and give you life."
In a moment we're going to sing the truth of Ezekiel 37 over you. You're going to want to stand and sing it with us. Then I want to close, but let me just tell you. This is your moment to awaken your soul and sing that God alone is the one who can give you life. If you already know that God, this is your moment to be mindful that God wants you to participate with him in bringing the gospel story and all the power of it and all the resurrection story of it today to others and quit…quit…saying you know him and not have any stories of his power working through you. Let me pray, and then let us preach again through lyric and melody.
Father, I do pray for my friends right here, right now that they would hear the words declared from your Word one more time through song that they would then want to cry out, "Breathe on me, O breathe on me, breath of God. Set me free. Allow me to know the truth that can only be found in the resurrected Jesus, who still lives today, who still goes out there looking for men dead in their trespasses and sins and says, 'Come to me, and I'll give you life.'" Would you allow that miracle to happen now, and may we never stop telling of your story. For the glory of God, the good of our soul, and the salvation of all who hear and will hear, I pray. Amen.
All right. Hey, just remind Grandma we started this whole thing with a choir singing "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today." I want to tell you something. God doesn't care whether your soul is awakened through a hymn with a choir or somebody rapping Ezekiel 37. He just wants you to know he is your Father and that he loves you. Amen?
Stop fighting about the ways we celebrate God and just know that he is God. Hear the Word of the Lord. "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God…" Hear the Word of the Lord. For "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
Hear the Word of the Lord. "…though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." Hear the Word of the Lord. "For God so loved [you] the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Hear the Word of the Lord. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God…"
Hear the Word of the Lord. "…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…" Hear the Word of the Lord. "…he who believes in Him will not be disappointed." Hear the Word of the Lord. "Today is the day of salvation." "Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him."
If you hear the Word of the Lord, today could be your moment when the living Jesus… He's not dead. This isn't some fable. This is a living God, and what he's done is he's allowed me, his servant, like many other servants, to be his follower who can tell you of this guy on the other side of the lake who is alive, here, and ready to do business with you.
You just have to respond, and you do it by talking to him, not just having empty words but having your words express what's going into your heart. "…for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." I want you to pray right now with me if you're ready as dead bones to have your soul awakened.
Father God, I come to you right now. I believe that I, like a sheep, have gone astray and that you have caused my iniquity to fall on him and that Christ died for me, suffered for me, and that you then declared him what I hoped he was, the Son of God, by power through the resurrection.
Lord, I trust in him. I trust that Jesus, who lives, can clothe me in his righteousness that I might just believe and in believing be reconciled to him, that he's gone to you and said, "Hey, hear that one down there who right now is crying out. I'm a dead man caught in my trespasses and sins, unable to ever do anything to please you.
I can bring you no righteousness of my own, only my need, and I ask you to be my Savior. Will you forgive me for my sins? Would you allow your broken body and shed blood to be my provision, and would you clothe me in your righteousness, which I could never earn but by grace through faith I freely receive?
Father, I pray you would give me a love for your Word, a love for your people, the wisdom to walk with them, to be discipled by them, to be growing in truth and grace, to constantly be strong and stay alert in the faith, to act like your daughter or your son and let everything I do be done in love in fellowship and relationship with Jesus. Would you guide me, shepherd me, and protect me? Make me yours by grace, for your glory, I pray. Amen.
Amen. If you prayed that prayer, you know he is risen. The Bible says you shouldn't just pray that quietly. The Bible says you should out yourself. You should say, "Okay, man. I'm a follower of Jesus." Then you hook up with other people who are followers of Jesus and say, "I want to get to know him. That's where it sounds like the party is, where the life is.
I'm trying to create these false parties. No more. I'm going to go where the party of Jesus is, where he's rescuing people. Not damaging people. I'm not going to exploit them anymore for my own comfort and my own pleasure. I'm going to walk with him, and I'm going to watch God use me as an agent of grace."
We invite you here to do that. Take that perforated section inside your Watermark News, write your name down on there, and just circle that little thing. It's, "Hey, man. I want to know more about how to have a relationship with Christ." Say, "I did that today. Help me as an older brother now know the Father better." You need to do that before you leave. If you love him you'll do that before you leave. You'll come up here and maybe talk to us in person, if you want to do that. We don't care. We just want to help you begin to grow.
If you came in here knowing that, I hope you go out of here and you're writing more gospel stories through the power of God which resides in you and that you sit around the campfire of community every night and share them, going, "How did God use you today to declare that love?" Because he is risen! He is risen, indeed! May you worship him with all you have. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.