So we’re near the end of a series on authority. Let me walk through our Authority series so I can begin to tie up authority in the church. We started saying that God is the Creator God of the universe, which means God ultimately has all rights. You and I, in a human sense, have some rights. So if you and I are interacting with one another, your and I have rights given to us by our government and our laws, but before God, you have no rights. He is ultimate; you are not. And He
can do whatever He wants with His creation, and there is no court you can take Him to. You can rail your fist at that, you can complain about that and you can get angry about that, but it doesn’t change the fact that God can do whatever God wants to do, when God wants to do it and how God wants to do it. Because He is not limited like you and I are limited. If we lived to be old, the Bible says you’re dew on the grass that is here in the morning and is gone by the morning. Think about how limited our perspective is if we’re here in the morning and gone by the morning. Let’s just look at one of our days. I got up this morning to come up to the church, and there was ice on our grass. Before I got to the church,
I guarantee you it was gone. So it knew nothing of the afternoon, it knew nothing of our lunch, it knew nothing of the meeting we had to come up for at 1:30 and it knew nothing of this meeting here tonight. It was there for an instant and it was gone. Its entire span was, “Man, it’s cold out here.” It is just absolutely limited in what it sees, how it knows and how it can judge. And the Bible is going to say that’s what you are. You’re here for a second, and then you die. God is eternal. He has always been, He will always be. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is in the heavens; He does what pleases Him. So that was week 1.
In week 2, we simply said that if the Bible is God’s word and God is ultimately authoritative, then God’s word holds authority over us also. That means our lives must submit to the Scriptures. We don’t make the Scriptures say what we want them to say, but rather the Scriptures shape and mold us. And we must submit to the Scriptures because they are the very words of an authoritative God. That was week 2.
In week 3, we got into institutions and we started with government. So we walked through God setting up governments, how God sets up those governments, how we are to interact with those governments and when it’s okay to rebel against those governments. And then we got into the church. What is the church? How did God design the church? Who did He put in charge of the church? We walked through what an elder is, what a deacon is, what a church member is, who is responsible for what and how it is to function.
From there, we moved into church discipline or the reality that, at some level, all of us are held accountable to all of us. In a lot of instances, there are times that I must submit to you and you must submit to me. And there is mutual submission in order that we might grow into the fullness of Christ. And we walked through church discipline and what that looks like and why it’s a necessity for any church and any group of people that long to look into the mature things of Christ, that grows into the fullness of what Christ has for His people.
Now I want to continue in that vein this week. I became pastor of this church almost eight years ago now. We know that because our daughter was born in February and I became the pastor of this church in December. And so Audrey is our constant measuring stick of how long we’ve been at the Village. When I came to the Village Church, which at that point was Highland Village First Baptist Church, in all loving respect, it was just a bit confused. It was kind of a willow model, a seeker model of church. A seeker model of church is simply a model of church that says, “Let’s not offend anybody and let’s keep it as light as we can to get them in the door, and then we’ll at some back-room Bible study and tell them
what the Bible really means, what the Bible really says.” And I don’t think that’s overstating it. It was kind of this slight of hand. So not a lot of people carried their Bibles in. Not a lot of people were aware of what the Bible theologically taught on suffering. It just wasn’t that type of place. In fact, some of the documents they gave me early on confused the mess out of me because they were literally moving towards having women elders, but a divorced man couldn’t be a deacon. That’s literally taking one text and going hyper-liberal and hyper-conservative out of the same text. Most churches just pick one. “We’re conservative. . .We’re liberal.” HVFBC was like, “We’re both. We won’t even be moderate. Out of the same text, we’ll choose both.” So when I got here, we wanted to drop some pillars into the ground early on and said, “Theologically, here’s what we believe, here’s what we’re going to preach and here’s what we’re going to teach.” It was a part of the hiring process. And then I banged the drum so loudly for so long those first four years here.
And so let me very quickly go over those pillars of what we believe and what we began to teach at what is now the Village Church. Pillar number one: We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and the faith to believe in that grace is given to us by God so that no one has anything to boast in but Him. Now I’m quoting Scripture there. That’s not me; that’s Ephesians 2. Now why is that so important? It simply means that salvation belongs to God, and you, by your behavior, cannot save yourself. You doing these things and not doing these things does not magically get you right standing before God. If you will stand holy before God, it will require an act of God. And praise His name, in the cross, He did it. So we wanted to teach over and over again it is not by your merit that you stand in front of God. It is by Christ’s merit that you stand in front of God. I have nothing to plead before God Almighty but the blood of the cross. If I can’t plead that, I’ve got no hope, I’ve got not shot and I have fallen way too short, I continue to fall way short of what He demands, which is perfection. So if it’s not the cross, if this isn’t a free gift, we’re all in trouble. Now let me just go through some of the benefits of believing. Number one, it’s what the Bible teaches. So there’s a benefit. It lines up with the sacred literature. It lines up with what God says and how God says salvation works. Number two, it absolutely frees you up to pursue God. If your right standing before God is predicated by your behavior, then when you’re doing great, you and God are awesome.
But when you stumble and fall, you run from Him because you feel like you can’t stand before Him because you haven’t earned it. So think about what this does in regards to maturing into Christ if, one a Tuesday, you’re feeling like the Lord really loves you and accepts you, but then on a Wednesday, you’re felling like He has condemned you and at any moment He is going to pounce on you like a puma. And then on Thursday, you go up and had your quiet time and read My Utmost for His Highest and listened to KLTY because it’s “safe for the whole family,” and in the end, you and God are cool because you did a list of things. So this creates this awkward, horrible tension where you’re never free to really press into and know the God of the universe and know that He has purchased for you right standing with Himself. So we want to drive that stake into the ground.
Now, one of the things you’ll hear about us if you stay around long enough is that we’re Calvinistic. I could care less if you knew that term, used that term or could define that term. My goal is not to exalt the teaching of John Calvin. My desire is for you to praise and worship the One whom He worshiped. Now, do I believe that Calvin was right about a lot of things? I do. You’ll be hard-pressed to read his writings without seeing them saturated with the Scriptures. He was a dense-thinking, brilliant man who saw God as Lord of all, sovereign of all and powerful over all. He was just a deep, deep man of God. Do I want us to be known as a Calvinistic church? Not at all. I want us to understand that salvation belongs to God and that we are in deep, deep need for Him to open up our hearts and our minds to His goodness and His grace and that you as a sinner cannot save yourself, regardless of how moral and upright you keep your life. This is the gospel, that where there was no way, God made a way. That is pillar number one.
Pillar number two actually caused some problems here early on. It was one of the few times in our history where we lost some people over a theological matter. And we might lose some of you tonight. In the end, we wanted to drop the
pillar of biblical manhood and biblical womanhood. What do the Scriptures ask a man to be? What do the Scriptures ask a woman to be? So we began to teach that men and women were created by God equal yet distinct. Now I’m still overwhelmed at how offensive this is to people. You tell a woman, “You were created equal but distinct.” “So are you telling me there are some things I can’t do?” “No, I’m saying that you have been created by God distinct.” “Oh, you want us all pregnant and in the kitchen?” “If you are pregnant, you are eventually going to have to go in the kitchen, but we’re not saying, in this belief system, that that’s where you dwell. We’re just saying that you have to get something to eat eventually, and that’s where the food usually is.” So what we taught from day one is simply that men have been given charge by God to lead, to lead the church and to lead the home. And they are to serve, love and empower their wives. At the Village Church, there are no female elders. There will never be female elders as long as I’m the pastor here. It was a hill I was willing to die on. It was a deal killer for me. Why? Because I’m sexist? No. You can talk to my wife. I’m not sexist at all. In the end, our hope is this. You’ve got an absolute man crisis in the Western world. Mark Driscoll calls them “boys who can shave.” You’ve got an absolute man crisis where young men have no idea, no rite of passage, no way to gauge whether or not they’re men or still boys. And everything in our culture celebrates the boy/man. Think of all the movies that come out that have a bunch of 30 and 40 year olds playing video games, screwing around, not committing, not getting married and being an idiot. It’s celebrated. So in the end, we wanted to say, “This is what the Bible says a man is supposed to be.” And I want to be real careful because I think some of the stereotypes get ridiculous. I’m not saying that you need to hunt and dress a certain way, because that’s the stuff that you read and go, “What if you don’t like camping?” It doesn’t make you less of a man if you don’t like to camp. But it’s more, “Do you live a disciplined life? Do you serve your wife and children? Do you build up the body in love? Do you set an example for those around you? Are you willing to lay down your life? Do you work hard?” My son is five years old. We pray every night. He repeats after me, and I’ll
just say, “Dear God, make me a man. Make me strong and brave. Make me gentle and sweet.” I want him ferocious and hard-working and somewhat of a poet, because that’s a man. It’s more complex than that, but I don’t have time. So we dropped that pillar into the ground.
We are Christian hedonists. Here’s what we mean by Christian hedonism. The fullness of joy and pleasure is found in a submission to God and how He designed the universe to work. So what you’re going to hear me say over and over again is that every command in the Bible, even when it’s difficult, has been given to us by God for our joy. So when God says to the man, “This is what it means to be a man. . .this is what it means to love your wife like I designed you to love your wife,” in the end what God has in His mind is the joy of the man and the joy of the wife and the glory of His own name and His own renown. All the commands of God in Scripture, as difficult as they might be, are not about God in His power forcing you to do His will, but they’re about God in His love trying to put you into how He created the universe to work, so that you might walk in joy and He might be glorified. Because God is not glorified in making you miserable. Think about what a horrible tactic that is. “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to make My people very gloomy, very sad and very repressed, and in that repression, people will look at them and go, ‘Oh, I want some of that.’” It’s just simply not true. This goes back to what we said in the first week. If God is the Creator of all things, who knows how things work better than the One who created them? So we teach here that obedience to the Scriptures, which is ultimately obedience to God, leads us into, walks us into joy. Now, it might take us a while to get there, but it will get there.
The fourth pillar is that we believe in a Spirit-filled life. Let me be very clear what I’m talking about here. We believe that our faith is not just an intellectual faith. It’s not a set of facts. That set of facts is like kindling around a fire that the Holy Spirit ignites and burns brightly. There are people who know a lot of facts about the Bible and God who are just jerks. Have you met any of them? Are you one of them? So a simple knowledge of the things of God doesn’t always equate someone who understands grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. It’s why Jesus tells the Pharisees, “You study the Scriptures in vain, because you think that in them you have life, and yet you refuse to come to Me, to whom those Scriptures testify.” Jesus says you’re studying your Bible in vain because you don’t see Him in it. And so our life is not just
one of intellectual affirmation, but it’s one of the Spirit’s power. And those were the four pillars that we dropped on the foundation of Jesus Christ as the head of the church.
From there, we had nine pastoral prayers. Prayer number one is that we would see the greatest problem in the universe as not mere moral failure but failure to honor God. We pulled that out of Romans 1. So our first prayer is that you would deeply understand that any sort of external sinful behavior in your life is not the issue but a symptom of the issue. And you don’t want to treat the symptom; you want to treat the disease. You have a lust problem because you have an idolatry problem. You have an anger problem because you have an idolatry problem. You don’t manage your finances well because you don’t understand the gospel. On and on I could go. All these things that we get so concerned about like debt or marital problems, we spend all this energy trying to fix those things, but those things are just symptoms. The greater problem is that you and I fail to see God for who He is and put our hope firmly in Him. And then you’ve got that further misunderstanding of the gospel as, “Oh, if I could just get this right, God and I would be cool.” No, you and God are cool because of the cross, or you and God aren’t cool. Your behavior is very much secondary.
Prayer number two is that we would understand that discipline will never bring about love, but love always brings about discipline. In my home growing up, both my parents worked and we didn’t have a lot of money. I didn’t even really know what furniture cost until I got married and my wife and I went to a store to buy furniture. She picked out a dresser, I asked how much it cost, he told me and I thought I was on some hidden camera show. We had the particle board furniture growing up, so I had no idea what real wood furniture cost. And my wife was like, “Well here’s what happens, baby. We buy it and we give it to our kids and they give it to their kids and it becomes a family heirloom.” So my question immediately is, “Where’s our stuff then? Why am I buying a dresser? Because if what you’re saying is true, then I shouldn’t have to buy a dresser. Somebody should have given me a dresser. We shouldn’t be in here talking about $600 for some wood.” I just didn’t know. Now, here’s what I find myself doing now. I find myself doing things I never did growing up. I never noticed that the dishwasher was full and needed to be unloaded. I never noticed that there were dishes in the sink that needed to be put in the dishwasher. Now I don’t think that stuff magically happened, but I didn’t know how exactly it happened. I just thought laundry got done. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started going, “Something has gone wrong. What do I do?” Now, here’s the crazy thing. In my house right now, I take out the trash, I load and unload the dishwasher, I put my glass on a coaster if it’s on something that the glass might ruin. Do you know how that happened? Lauren. Now here’s why it happened. It’s not because when we got married, she gave me a set of rules. . .although that did happen. That happens because I love her. You see, love brings about discipline. Because the last thing I’m thinking when I walk through the door after working all day is, “You know what I’d like to do? I’d like to load the dishwasher. I’d like to do the laundry. I’d like to just walk in and spank my kids for something they did six hours ago.” None of that goes through my mind. But do you know why I do it? Because I love my wife. So they are acts of discipline, but they occur because I am in love. Discipline does not bring about love, but love does bring about discipline. So I want you to feel the weight of your inability to flip the light switch on and go, “My heart is completely His.” I want you to feel the weight of that inability, because if you do, you’ll press in, you’ll plead with God to give you a heart that loves Him,
to give you a mind that thinks on Him, that dwells on Him. When it’s not there, you’ll know that you can’t muster it, that you need God’s help, you need God’s mercy, and if He’ll light that kindling, then all the things that you lack the willpower to do now all of a sudden aren’t as difficult. When that Holy Spirit turns on the light, you’ll just love the Bible. When He turns on the light, you’ll love to pray. And some of you have been trying to do that with willpower for decades, only to come up with nil. So we position ourselves under the waterfall of God’s grace and we wait and plead and beg and fast. And those things are disciplines, but we do those things to say, “I want more of You. Help me.” That is a pastoral prayer of ours.
Pastoral prayer number three is that we would realize that, as children of God, we are not under wrath but we are under mercy. Let me tell you why this is so important for you to get. Bad stuff is going to happen. It’s going to happen. There
is no one in this room whose life can’t come crumbling down around them tonight with a phone call. Literally anyone in this room can have the rest of their life changed by the ringing of a cell phone. That’s just how fragile we really are. Last Thanksgiving, I woke up fine. I woke up probably in the best shape of my life. I grabbed a cup of coffee, sat down and then the whole trajectory of the rest of my life changed in an instant. I had been eating my spinach, I had been working out like a champ, I had been getting plenty of rest and wasn’t real stressed out and I did all the things you’re supposed to do to make sure you don’t get cancer. That didn’t stop me from getting it. Now here’s what I know. According to the Scriptures, my journey the last hear is not punitive. God is not looking down going, “Three quiet times this week and you didn’t share the gospel with that guy on the plane? Alright, oligodendroglioma for you.” That’s not how it works. It’s not punitive. Although I believe deeply that God did not give me this, He certainly did not stop it even though He was able. So what does that mean? That means somehow in all of this, God is refining, redeeming and drawing me unto Himself and glorifying His name. And we’re to a place a year later that there is not doubt that God has decided to make much of Himself through this journey. Think of all the ridiculous things that have occurred. The Associated Press does a story last year on it, and it goes to hundreds of newspapers. It’s gospel-centered and they let me use the word Jesus. Normally all news stories are generic God, as in “faith in God.” Eric Gorski and those guys just strait up let me say “Jesus” as many times as I wanted to. And we just tried to say it so much that they couldn’t edit it out. Think about how crazy
that is. And then NBC 5 goes, “Hey, we’d love for you to talk about your faith in Jesus through this storm.” And then the Dallas Morning News was here this morning very awkwardly taking pictures while I preached. So for whatever reason, God said, “This isn’t punishment. I’m going to make much of Myself, and I’m going to draw you very close to Me. And I’m going to expose some things about your heart you didn’t know where there, and I’m going to make you so dependent on Me, more dependent than you ever dreamed or imagined. And I’m going to show you some idolatry in your life that is keeping you from more of Me.” And it wasn’t punitive; it was a deep and divine act of love that let me have that seizure on Thanksgiving. I believe that, and I want you to believe that because your time to bleed will come.
Prayer number four is that we would find the fullness of all things, especially life and joy, is in Christ. This is John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” I want to preach my guts out so that you will find your fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Now I’ve said from day one that I’m not that guy that thinks if you don’t know Jesus, you’re miserable. We have a neighbor who is a good man. He loves his wife and he loves his kids well. In fact, I would put him loving on his wife up there with anybody. There are times they are working in the garden when he’ll go over there and start smooching. He’s 60 years old. I’m standing there trying not to vomit. It’s just a cool thing. He’s not miserable. He’s not laying in bed at night going, “What’s the purpose for which I exist? Oh, I’m so miserable.” He’s a good man who has made good money, his kids are good kids, he’s a good man, but he’s overly interested in devout religion. I think he goes to church randomly, maybe during Christmas and Easter. In the end, he’s not miserable, he’s not lonely, he doesn’t hate his existence and he’s not drinking away all his sorrows. He is none of those caricatures that get painted about those people outside the kingdom of God by those inside the kingdom of God. But here’s the thing that is absolutely true. If God is the Creator of all things, then outside of a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, you will not know or understand the fullness of anything. You see, marriage has a greater purpose than just marriage. Children have a greater purpose than just being our children. Money has a greater purpose. And if you don’t understand God and Jesus and His mission, you don’t understand all those things. So you’re always swimming at a shallow level instead of really getting underneath what’s really going on here. It’s when you know and follow Jesus that you begin to walk and live in the deep joy of knowing that loving Lauren when it’s difficult, that Lauren loving me when it’s difficult is this beautiful picture of God’s resilience towards us in Christ. When I want to go, “Well, I’m doing this,
and she’s not doing that,” that’s just a real quick reminder God going, “Huh, that sounds like a relationship I know.” All of a sudden, I get to be aware of God’s infinite mercy and grace on my life, and I get to humble myself before Him and apologize to my wife for being a jerk.
The fifth prayer is that we would experience a holy discontentment with where our lives are and hope for where they could be. If the Creator God of the universe is this well of inexhaustible love, joy and hope, shouldn’t we all at some level be a bit discontented? If there is an infinite amount of love to know, an infinite amount of joy to know, and infinite amount of peace to know, an infinite amount of boldness to have, shouldn’t all of us be discontented at some level?
I want to love Him more than I do. There are parts of my heart that don’t want to submit to Him. There are parts of my day that I don’t want to cling to Him. There are places where I think I could just do it. Shame on me. I want to love Him more than I do. I want more joy than I have. If you read the Scriptures and watch these men of God, watch the people beat the skin off of the disciples’ backs only to have them leave rejoicing that they were able to suffer for Jesus, that’s not just, “I’m going to endure this for the sake of Christ.” That’s, “How great is God that He let the skin get beat off my back so that He might be known more clearly.” That’s a far cry from where most of us are. I think the thing that has always driven me crazy is why it doesn’t bother us. It sure bothered David when he goes, “I’m dying of thirst here. Where are You? I want to know You more than I do. Where are You? I want to just gaze upon You every day. Where are You?” There is just this deep, unsettled nature. You’ve got Paul, who had been to the third heaven, his handkerchief and apron would heal people. When we see sick people, we lay hands on them and we pray. Paul would go, “You’re not sick. Get up and walk,” and they would do it. That’s different. You and I going, “Okay, give me some oil. Jesus, heal this person. Amen. How do you feel?” is a lot different than just going, “All right, get up. You’re healed.” So Paul walked in a different power than you and I walk, at least him in his fullness. In Philippians, he says, “Oh that I might know Him.” There is just an insatiable desire to know Him. Why? Because He’s inexhaustible. My prayer for us is that we would be a place that’s just never satisfied with what we’ve got. Why are so few people being saved here? And I’m saying that as a place that baptizes hundreds of people every year. But why so few? Why are so many of us stuck in addiction? Why are there so many people with cancer and other illnesses and difficulties here? Why won’t the Holy Spirit of God fall in such a way as to really work in power? And why don’t we pester God about those things? When is He going to return and end all this? Jesus said that we would fast and plead for Him to return. Where is that? That’s one of our pastoral prayers.
Pastoral prayer six is that we would recognize that God has purposely placed us here at this time, in this place. You have been uniquely wired, uniquely designed and uniquely placed by God for God. We are not men and women who find our purpose in life in our jobs. Our jobs, our neighborhoods, our homes, those places are where God has designed and placed us so that men and women might seek Him and find Him because He is not far from any of them. That means God moved us from Corinth to Highland Village and put us on the street He put us on, next to the neighbors He put us around so that He might be known, loved and worshiped. Now, how all that works itself out and the timing of it, that’s all in God’s hands, but it’s my understanding that we live in the neighborhood we live in by the created design of God who knew who our neighbors were going to be and wanted to try to save them, engage them and reveal Himself to them. It’s why you work where you work, it’s why you play where you play. And there are some people here who have really mastered this and really got this down. There is a group of guys who work out and their whole goal in working
out is to share the gospel to people. They have it down to a science. Jeff Scruggs will basically walk up to a young guy on the bench press and go, “Hey, when you’re done here, can my daughter use this?” And that’s how men say, “What’s up, bro?” From there, they just begin to build relationships and before you know it, they’re in a Bible study with Jeff, Chris and those guys. In the end, they’re going, “There is a reason I work out at this gym, and there is a purpose behind the gym besides vanity.” We want you to understand that when you get up and go to work tomorrow, there is an eternal significance and purpose behind this all.
Pastoral prayer seven is that we would develop a taste for truth, even the difficult ones. One of the reasons I love preaching through books of the Bible is because it will make me discuss topics and address situations I would never think to address. We never want to be afraid of what the Bible teaches, even though we know culturally there will be times a lot of you don’t like it.
Pastoral prayer eight is that we would embrace biblical Christianity, not American Evangelicalism. I’ve been really wrestling lately with my own heart and being convicted by the Lord. So I feel like I owe you an apology and I feel like I need to publicly repent. As I’ve gotten older, some of my cynicism has calmed down, and I realize I’ve left a bit of a wake behind me and have caused some problems for some men who probably really, really love God and really, really long to serve Him but in end things I’ve said have done some damage to the Kingdom and I feel like I need to repent. Here’s what happens. I’ll get a little mouthy and say, “Well this is how we do it here. We don’t put some thermometer on the stage and raise money that way. . .We don’t take some obscure passage from the Old Testament. . .You don’t see a tank on the stage. . .I don’t shoot out of the floor with wings and then land on a bed. . .We don’t do those things. This is what we do. We just preach the Word. It’s sufficient. . .” And what I’ve found is that there becomes this sense of pride that wells up in us where we look at places that do those things, as if what they’re doing is sinful. And I have ended up wounding men who genuinely love the Lord and genuinely love the Bible, but they just package it differently than we do. You see, packaging is not a sin if the content is correct. So if you want to put a tank on the stage, a bed on the stage and build content around it that’s right and good, then praise His name. So there starts to be this swagger despite the fact that our way is just a way; it’s not the way. And I’ve lead out on that and I’ve lead us in some areas and some sin, and I need to say I’m sorry and I need to be careful. In the future, I’m going to do it again, so confront me on that and don’t allow me to get away with that. Because in the end, I’m hurting the Kingdom that I love. So forgive me on that.
Now on a side note, if you’re outside of the gospel, if your content is wrong, then that’s free game. So our boy down in Houston, that’s free game. Don’t e-mail me about that. He’s preaching a false gospel. The social gospel, that emergent church idea of, “Hey, let’s feed the poor, let’s take care of the homeless, let’s keep the atonement out of that,” that’s free game. That’s heresy and needs to be pointed out as such. It’s a false gospel and it’s not what I’m talking about. What I’ve done is I have viewed some of those things with cynicism. I have assumed the worst about people instead of saying, “Maybe there’s genuine men of God who are just more creative than I am and do things in a more creative fashion, who do spend the time, energy and money to think though how to communicate the gospel really well.” And I’m not good at that, so I have probably judged it. So forgive me.
Pastoral prayer nine is that we would believe in the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit and desire them earnestly. The Holy Spirit of God still speaks, and He speaks outside of the Scriptures. But He never says anything that contradicts those Scriptures. There are still words of prophecy, there are still visions, there are still dreams and there are still tongues. Those things come from the Lord. They never contradict the Bible, but they still happen. You would have a very difficult time exegetically arguing otherwise, biblically arguing otherwise. There is a way that we do it here. In fact, just this afternoon, I got an e-mail from a woman who feels like she has a word from the Lord for this campus in particular. She sent it in written to the lead pastors of the church, it will go to the elders, we’ll look at it, pray over it and decide what to do with it from there. I’ll either accept that and work it into a sermon, we might say, “Maybe the Lord just gave us this to pray,” or we’ll just say, “Thank you, but we don’t believe this is for us right now.” But these things exist and they happen.
Now, this is who we are. This is what we teach in our membership class. We never apologize for this. This is who we are theologically and philosophically. This is how we do things. The Bible tells us to not be unaware of the devil’s schemes. The devil has schemes where his plan is to get churches and the Church off their mission, off what they’ve been commanded to do by God and to really self-destruct. How many of you have been a part of churches that have either split or, because of some sort of moral or ethical failure of your pastors, fallen apart? That is devastating to me. Division and wars within the church is one of the primary tactics of the enemy.
I’ll read you a bunch of texts just to prove my point. Romans 16:17-18: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such
persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”
1 Corinthians 1:10, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Titus 3:9-11: “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
James 4:1-3: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Now I’ve been at the Village Church for eight years. We have walked in an unreal amount of harmony and peace here. I am not preaching this sermon today because there is division and dissension at the church; I’m preaching this in the hopes that, in our future, God will continue to protect the deposit that He’s put here and that we would be on guard for such a thing as this since it seems to be one of the devil’s favorite tactics when it comes to Christ’s church.
So what does division and dissension look like at a place like the Village? I think most of the time it will occur because of naïve ignorance. In a small group setting, we’ll begin to talk when we shouldn’t be talking. “Well, I think. . .” Here’s what happens when a bunch of people get around the Bible and start to think about what they think when they don’t know the Bible, but they’re looking at one verse and going, “Well, here’s what I think this one passage means,” with an ignorance to what the rest of the Scripture teach, you begin to pool ignorance. Not only that, but when you start with, “Well, I think it means. . .” what you’re saying is that the text actually doesn’t have any meaning except the meaning you’re giving to it. So if that’s the case, then you never have to submit to the Scriptures; you just have to make the Scriptures say what you want them to say. And at a cultural level, this happens constantly when it comes to the church. “Well yeah, that verse says that, but what I think is _____.” And now all of a sudden, the Scriptures don’t have the weight, the glory that we talked about two weeks ago. So when you make Scripture say what you want it to say and it doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning within itself, dissension, rivalry and division occur when people should be quiet and they’re not. If someone came to me and said, “Hey Chandler, how do you throw a curve ball?,” I’m not going to show them. Why not? Because I don’t know how. I’m going send them to a guy named Brandon at the church who is a former pro ball player and knows how to throw a curve. Why? Because he knows how to throw a curve. So at the end of the day, when you begin to talk in groups of other believers about doctrines and theologies that you don’t know what you’re talking about, that’s kindling of another kind that if ignited can really rip apart and tear up God’s good deposit and what God is doing in a place. It happens because of naïve ignorance. Know the Word. If you don’t, just be quiet. I know this is offensive. What you think doesn’t matter. It’s what the Bible says that matters. Your opinion on a text outside of what the text means and what the whole
of Scripture teaches shouldn’t bear much weight even to yourself. And I know nobody wants to hear that. In our culture, everybody’s opinion matters, and anyone should be able to say with authority, “This is what this is and this is what this is.” But that’s simply not true. If you’re ignorant, the best thing you can do in regards to unity is be quiet and go to people who know.
The other way division and dissension happen is with referees. Referees are people who are at a church and they don’t really play, they’re not really plugged in and they don’t really do anything, but they just run around with a whistle and call fouls and when they retire or die, nobody cares. I’ve never talked with anyone who goes, “You know that referee who used to call the Bulls games? I sure miss him.” Do you know who they talk about? Michael Jordan. . .and occasionally Pippen. . .and then all the little white guys who hit all the threes from the outside when the game was on the line. People miss guys who played in the game, who sweated, who bled and who failed, because they played the game. But there are men and women who feel like, in their own cynicism and their own critical spirit, that their role and job is to point out all that has gone wrong, all that doesn’t work right. Now they don’t want to help fix any of that, because they’re not players. And apparently there is an inexhaustible well of them. The last thing that will cause division is simply just wolves. We have covered this a lot in my last two sermons, so I don’t feel like I need to say a lot about that.
Now, how can we combat this? How can we fight this tool of the enemy? Let’s go to Hebrews 13:17. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” How do you watch and guard the work of God at the Village Church from division, dissension and a fracturing of the unity that God in His grace has allowed us to walk in? You submit to and follow the leaders God has put into place, not blindly but because, in every avenue, we have not been perfect, but we have absolutely sought your good. We have tried to hide nothing about what we believe, about how we spend money. There have been times we have rolled out information quicker than we should. There have been times that we moved so fast that maybe you didn’t know quite what was going on. There have been times that we should have moved faster than we did. There have been times when you’ve been turned away. There have been times you haven’t been able to get your kids in. Organizationally, we’re growing very quickly, which has caused some strain and pain. But every decision we make is being made with you and your spiritual vitality and health in mind. What I’m asking you to do is trust us. And if you see biblical error, you are more than welcome to point it out to us. We are not inaccessible. We vote on things we don’t even have to constitutionally vote on. You voted on the elders. Did you know our constitution doesn’t say we have to vote on elders? We just did that because we’re saying, “You have to believe this.” If you don’t believe this, then the authority we give to them doesn’t matter. We don’t want to set up some puppet government. We want you to believe in these men who lead us. Are you naively ignorant? Are you quick to talk about what you think when you just don’t know and you just like to hear yourself talk? So don’t talk. Just be quiet. We’ve written 45 position paper and hundreds of articles about, “This is what the Bible says about this. . .This is a wisdom issue. Here’s where the church would land.” We’re trying to coach you through life in every means possible. What you can do to guard against division and dissension is watch your mouth and follow us. If you can’t, then just find a church where you can. We’re not for everybody. We really believe that. Some people want twenty minute sermons. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t possess that ability. So may God protect us. He’s doing such powerful things here, such good things here. May He save us from us, may He save us from the wolves, may He save us from naïve ignorance and may the men of God given charge by God to lead this place be faithful in prayer and faithful to love you as individual souls and to want for you more than you want for yourself.
Let’s pray. “Holy Spirit, we just move into a time of crying out as the saints have for thousands of years in song that we do want more of You, that You are inexhaustible and that we want more joy, more life and more peace. We want more of those things that only You can offer. My hope today is that You would give rest to who have been confused about what the gospel is, who may be stuck in the trap of religion and who are trying to earn Your favor with good deeds. Will You open up their hearts and minds tonight? Will You rescue them once and for all tonight? Will You show them that, by Your cross and through Your cross and in trusting in Your cross, they might have right standing before You? Might You rescue and save from moral deism and external religion? Wee need You. Help us. It’s for Your beautiful name. Amen.”