Porch, how are we doing? Man, it's awesome to be here. My name is Todd. I get to hang out with you guys every now and then. I'm part of the team here at Watermark, and it is awesome to be here with you guys and around the country who are tuning in. We are talking about self-care. We are specifically here not having some myopic, self-centered obsession. We're not spiritual narcissists, but we know we're blessed to be a blessing. If we don't take care of ourselves, if we're not taking care of who we are, we can't be caregivers.
We're wrapping up this series Self Care tonight, and we're talking about probably the most important thing you can do. People sometimes ask me, because of my role here at Watermark in Dallas, which has grown to be something of pretty significant responsibility and size… They ask, "Todd, what's the most difficult thing about leading this community?" My answer is always the same, and it comes quickly. The most difficult thing for me to lead at Watermark is me.
If I can control me, if I can discipline myself, if I can do the things I need to do, it's amazing how much everything else just falls into line. But you need to know something: it is hard to discipline me. I heard a guy say a long time ago, if there was a radio station named after him he would tune into it all the time. You know, "K-Todd. All Todd all the time." I would tune into it. It's just a fact. I love me some "me." That's who I am as a person who has been separated from the God who cares for us.
Let me tell you why that's who I am apart from the grace that has invaded my life. Have you ever noticed that you pay attention to certain parts of your body only when they're jacked up? How many of you guys thought about your elbow today? The answer is everybody who banged their elbow. That's who thought about their elbow. How many of you guys thought about your kneecap? The answer is those of you who got up in the dark and forgot that dadgum little coffee table was there, and you were walking and smacked your knee. You thought about your kneecap.
How many of y'all thought about that third finger on your left hand? All right. That's a bad example for a bunch of singles, because you probably thought about that a lot. Let me just say this to you guys for a second. The reason you think about certain body parts is because something is wrong with them. When you obsess over something or your brain says, "Hey, we're going to give some attention and care to that thing," it's because that thing is throbbing. That thing is not operating the way it should and is saying, "I need some attention."
Let me tell you something. When you're self-obsessed, when you are consumed with how you're being perceived or when you turn in to your self-infatuation and your pleasure and your life plan all the time, it's because something is broken there. It's screaming out, "This isn't how it should be!" But when you see somebody who has a sense of peace and is not riddled by anxiety or despair or self-love and gloating and pride, you go, "Man, there's something really glorious and beautiful there."
I love the statement… When a man or woman forgets themselves, they usually start to live in a way everybody else remembers. Most of the people you meet are throbbing in pain, and they're reaching out either to use you because they think you have something that will give them life or they're trying to get you to give them something you think will have life. That's not the way God created us.
If you want to be a person who can really care for others, who can be that person who forgets themselves and live in a way everybody else remembers, then you have to learn to care for yourself. God wants you to know the best way to care for yourself is to come to the one who cares for you. That's what he says. "Cast all your anxieties on me. Why? Because I care for you."
There's an old statement that's in the Scripture again and again and again. "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt you in due time." I love the statement that if you try and do God's job… What's God's job in that syllogism I just gave you? "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt you in due time."
If you try and do God's job, which is to exalt yourself, then he will do yours, which is to humble you. None of us can care for ourselves and produce for ourselves what our souls were created for, which is to be in intimate relationship with the God who is and who loves and who gives grace and glory. That's who God is. If there's a little catchphrase of my life, it has become this: God is not looking to rip you off; he's looking to set you free.
Let me read you some Scripture for a second. It's found in 1 Timothy, chapter 4. This is what it says. The Spirit (meaning, God) has told us explicitly (without any confusion)… "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times…" And we're living in them. "…some will fall away from the faith…" In fact, many people. This is even people who are around spiritual conversations. They're going to fall away. They're not going to maintain the devotion to that which ultimately helps men and women live with a sense of peace.
"…paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…" You're like, "Oh my goodness!" Spirits and demons. How do we deal with those? The way you deal with deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (I'm going to tell you what deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons are in just a second) biblically is not to cast them out and not to bind them. The Bible doesn't say we bind Satan. Satan won't be bound until a much later part of God's kingdom program. Right now, he's a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
What you're going to find out is Satan has no power to create. All he has the power to do is destroy. All he has the power to do is take what God says is good and right and beautiful and true and deceive you that it's bad and boring and life-sucking when, in fact, it's life-giving. He is a deceiver. He doesn't create anything beautiful; he just deceives you into thinking that which seems right to you, but in the end is the way of death, is the right way to live.
The way we deal with demons biblically is not to cast them out; it's to bring truth in. That's what we do. It's always a truth encounter; it's never a power encounter. I want you to think about this for a second. Jesus is the Light of the World. He came into the world, the Scripture says, to bring them light. He is life and light. Where there was death that was ruling sinful humanity that was separated from a God who is life, he came to bring life. Where there was darkness and a lack of understanding, he came to bring light.
How do you deal with darkness in your house? What do you do? Do you get in there and cast out the darkness? Do you try and have a power encounter with darkness and grab it and take it and throw it outside? No. The way you get rid of the darkness is you bring light in. Darkness can't handle light. That's all darkness is: the absence of what should be. It's like you can't make cold. All we can do is produce heat. Cold is the absence of heat. Darkness is the absence of light. That's all it is.
I'm going to tell you what the doctrines of demons and deceitful spirits are, and I'm going to tell you how we're going to handle them in order to not be deceived. The doctrines of demons and the deceitful spirits that are in this world that are destroying people are going to be spelled out right here, basically, in verses 2 and 3, but it all is wrapped up in this: when God says, "I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly."
Demons say, "You'd better work hard to get life and bring yourself to God in such a way that he'll maybe decide to let you in a little bit on his blessing." The doctrines of demons and deceitful spirits is that man must earn his way to God. You're going to see it spelled out right here. "…by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth."
In other words, the works-based mentality… This is why sometimes when people ask, "Todd, are you a religious person?" I don't ever answer that "Yes" or "No," because I want to always understand what you mean by religion. If what you mean by religion is what most people are talking about when they talk about religion, which is "I do these things, and eventually God will make a decision about how I've done," then I would say I'm not a religious person.
Religion, ultimately, is what man does, but Christianity, the story of the Scriptures… You need to know. So many people in this room still even think this is a rule book, a bunch of morals, and you'd better open it up and do what it says or you're not going to get done what you want done, which is to be okay when you meet God.
No, this is not a rule book; this is a revelation. It's a rescue story of God's love for you. He explains why our world is filled with so much chaos, why it's so hurting, why it's throbbing in war and pain and poverty: because we have left the God who brings order and beauty and life. He cares for us, so God pursues us and runs after us. This book tells us who God is.
He says, "For sure, I'm holy. For sure, I'm beautiful and perfect and holy and blameless and I can have no fellowship with those who aren't like me. I'm a just God, so I have to judge what is not and what should not be, but because I love you, I'm going to make provision for those of you who have contributed to that chaos, and I'm going to show you a way back to me. I'm going to pay a debt I did not owe. Being an eternally perfect creature, I'm going to need an eternally perfect sacrifice, and guess what: I'm the only one who can provide that."
So, God told you it was coming, and then he brought that great promise in the person of his Son who said, "I'm going to do something for you that you can't do. I'm going to go someplace you can't go. I'm going to go before God and offer my life as a perfect sacrifice. God is going to make me, though I'm rich, to become poor so that through my poverty you might become rich. Demons are going to tell you that you're rich enough in good works, and I'm going to tell you that my standard is perfection and none of you have met it.
I'm not mad at you. I'm sad that you're broken in your imperfection. I'm going to rescue you from that, and the way to rescue you from that is not to tell you to stop, but I'm going to show you how good I am and love you. I'm going to make provision for you, and then I'm going to call you to follow me, making up for every failure you have, but I'm not going to tell you to forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from certain foods and not drink coffee or eat pork. What I'm going to tell you to do is to trust in me, and anybody who tells you the way to get to God is through your own works is teaching a doctrine of demons and is a deceiving spirit."
This is such an amazing verse here in verse 4. You need to know this. Everything created by God is good. Everything. Sex is good. At The Porch here, and anyplace the Bible is taught, we don't say, "Sex is bad; stay away from it." We say sex is good. What's not good is to use it poorly. My classic illustration of this is… I think about when my sons turned a certain age. If we lived out where we chopped wood to heat our house and cook our food, it would be a pretty big deal to get a chain saw for your 16th birthday. That would be a pretty big gift.
If I gave my sons a chain saw and we needed to chop wood, both for a living, maybe to sell, and also to warm our house and cook our food, they would be like, "This is an amazing thing. A chain saw is a glorious thing." But if they used the chain saw as dental floss, that good gift I gave them would be a problem, wouldn't it? The problem wasn't the chain saw; the problem was how they used this beautiful thing.
What did I tell you about Satan? He's not a creative god. He can't give you anything. All he can do is take a good thing and distort it. Can I just tell you this? Everything, including cocaine, including heroin, including marijuana, including alcohol… All of those things were created by God and are good if they are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. You go, "Wait a minute. Did Todd just say those things are good?" The answer is yes…when they're sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.
All those things are are derivatives of plants God has made that, frankly, when we use them right now in modern science correctly (and we haven't exactly been using fentanyl and hydrocodone correctly in the way we're dealing with some people right now who are coming in to have normal surgeries)… When we use medicines correctly, it's a means of grace for people. When we use them incorrectly, as street drugs or inappropriately overly prescribed, it brings destruction.
When you're sanctified by the wisdom of God and use them the way he created them, sex all the way to heroin, they can be a blessing to humankind. All I want to do is tell you that your God loves you. Your Father loves you. Learn to use these things correctly. Watch this. He cares for you. In verse 6 he says, "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus…" That God is good and he loves you and he has come to you; you don't have to make your way to him. That's the doctrine of demons: works.
Can I say it to you one more time? God has demonstrated his love for you in while you're still throbbing in your insecurity and reaching after things (meaning, taking God-given things and using them in a God-forbidden way and having legitimate needs that God gave you met in an illegitimate way that doesn't bring a blessing to you but guilt and shame)…
God is trying to rescue you from that and set your mind right and tell you there's grace at the cross, and then begin to let you use those things in a way that is life-giving and is going to be caring for your soul and not destructive to your soul. When you teach people the goodness of God and how to know him by grace through faith and walk with him and use all the beauty of God's creation well, then, it says, in that moment you're a good servant of Jesus Christ, because God loves people.
"…constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables [the way that seems right to man but in the end leads to death] fit only for old women [speculating, gossiping, and bittering] . On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."
Let me give you the first little point I want you guys to get tonight. As a person who cares for yourself (we talked about this last week), it's okay to eat right and to exercise. You should, but when you obsess about your physical appearance, it's because you're hurting. When you take food God has given you and binge on it for comfort reasons, it's because you're hurting. When you live to eat instead of eat to live, it's because you're hurting. Life is more than food and clothing.
God loves you and wants you to enjoy food, but he doesn't want you to be ruled by food. He doesn't want you to be ruled by exercise. This is just a warning. When you see somebody who is so sharp and put together it looks like they might be the most important thing in their world, chances are it's because they and their body are the most important thing in their world, and they do not a good life mate make.
It's a fact that you should spend more time on your inside than your outside. This is a lot easier to say than it is to do, but let me tell you one of the things I do to care for my soul is I have regular daily Bible intake. One of the things we did here a number of years ago is we decided to help people with that, so we created this thing called Join the Journey. Join this journey through God's Word with us as we try and figure out more of who this God is who loves us and isn't asking us to perform for him but is asking us to understand his provision for us.
We created something called Join the Journey. If you've never heard of it before, there's an app online. Join the Journey. Just download that thing. Every single day we will send you a short 300-word devotional. We'll have a little Scripture right there on the app. You just hit the "Play" button, and you can listen to it as you drive. Then you can go back and read it right there in the app.
There's a little devotional question there, a central truth that takes away from the passage, and then some application questions. Then check this out. If you're confused by something you read, you can go right there on the app and just type in and say, "This confused me. I don't understand what this means. It wasn't really addressed in the 300-word devotional," and people will respond personally to you.
I was in Join the Journey today. We're reading right now in the book of Genesis. I was reading the story of Joseph. If you don't know much about the story of Joseph, Joseph is a historical figure, but he's what's called a type of Christ. In other words, he anticipates the provision that God was later going to provide people through Jesus Christ. He's a picture of that.
Let me tell you the story of Joseph. Joseph is there. His brothers are jealous of him. He knows God is using him in a unique way. He knows that one day he will provide life for his brothers. His brothers don't like hearing that, so they reject him and, after they beat him, leave him for dead. They think he's dead, but, in fact, he's not dead, and what they intended for evil God is going to use for good.
He puts Joseph ultimately in a place where he's ascended to the right hand of the most sovereign of all, to where the brothers then come in their poverty and need. They go to avail themselves to ask for grace, only to find out that the one who is there who they need grace from is the one they betrayed and left for dead, but what they intended for evil God was going to use for good.
Does that story sound familiar? He came into his own, and his own received him not, and they beat him and left him for dead. They didn't know he was God's provision, and even though he told them he was God's provision, they rejected that idea. Then, instead of being mad at those who beat them, he says, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing. What they intended for evil I'm going to use for good." What kind of God does that? The God who chose them, the God who is Jesus.
This is what was so interesting when I was reading about this today. In Genesis 39:6 it says, "So he [Potiphar] left everything he owned in Joseph's charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate." Then it makes this observation: "Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance." A little bit later, we find out that Potiphar's wife agreed with Moses when he wrote that Joseph was handsome in form and appearance, because she went after this bad boy. She kept throwing herself at him.
Eventually, one day, when he was alone in the house and nobody else was there, she came at him, and when he resisted and fled immorality, this good man, she grabbed his cloak. When he left, she was embarrassed and ashamed, so she screamed, "Rape." She held his coat and would not be consoled until her husband came home, the Scripture says, and she said, "That Hebrew slave you have here in our house tried to rape me," and Joseph was thrown in jail. But God was at work in the midst of all that. You need to go read the story, because it's an amazing story.
When God made Joseph, it says, he made him this way. What's so interesting is that when Jesus came, this is the prophecy about who Jesus would be. Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 2, down through verse 13, have the clearest picture of the work of the coming Messiah that Joseph is going to be a picture of, and this is what it says about this one who would come who would take away the sins of the people:
"For He grew up before [us] like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground…" In other words, not a really strong shoot because it comes out of not really rich soil. "…he has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him."
When this Messiah, the one who's going to save the world, comes, he will be despised and forsaken of men. He'll be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their face, he's despised and someone we did not esteem. This is amazing. I want you to think about this for a second. You're God. You could come on earth and reveal yourself any way you want. What kind of body are you going to give yourself? What kind of look are you going to have?
It's so easy to tell people what matters is not the outside but the inside, but when you have a chance to go, "Okay. I'm going to go down there and roll for 33 years, and I'm going to let them beat the crap out of me and nail me to a cross, so I may as well look good when I'm stripped naked, hanging there," I would go, "That's fair." Throw Aquaman on the cross. That would make sense to me.
That's not what he did, because there was something else that allowed him to go to a cross and, when people betrayed him and beat him, to say, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." This is so interesting. When God is talking to Samuel and telling Samuel to appoint a king in 1 Samuel 16:7, he says, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him…"
Right now, at that age, David wasn't this impressive individual. We're going to find out a little bit later David was an attractive man, but at this point he said, "Don't look for great stature." "…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." It's okay to be pretty and handsome, but you'd better make sure what's inside is really right. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain…" Bodies deteriorate; persons develop.
One of the biggest mistakes we make at the age many of us in this room are is that we are totally swayed by the outward appearance. That outward appearance is going to change. Let me tell you something. Bodies deteriorate, but persons develop. You want to marry somebody who is committed to becoming more beautiful as they age. I don't care how much they nip and tuck. Mother Nature will win.
I'm going to also encourage you. When you go to the Father who loves us and seek him, you become more beautiful every day. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a [person] who fears the Lord [is to] be praised." Let me just give you something. It's so interesting. I'm going to walk you through a couple of points really quickly, and then I'm going to get to the main heart of our message very quickly. Here are just a few things.
Right now, when we're in our 20s, some of us aren't taking care of our physical bodies, and you can get away with it. My kids have said this to me. I now have kids who are in this room. I have to tell you how many times they look at me and go, "Oh man. When I'm your age, I guarantee you I'm still going to be able to throw it down and dunk." I go, "Uh-huh. All right. I'm writing that down right now." I just watch them.
When you're 18 to 26, I don't care if you think a Cheeto is a carrot and you eat it all day long. Your metabolism is chewing everything up, and you just look good in the family photo with your shirt always off. But here's the thing: you don't realize you're developing patterns, and you don't realize that metabolism is not always going to fire at that rate. It's just a fact that practicing disobedience in our lives without immediate consequence is the fastest way to grow bolder in disobedience in the future when you won't have much margin for error.
It's why you want to discipline your body right now and not make it your master. You want to learn right now in your youth and in your strength to conduct yourself in a way that's going to be a blessing your whole entire life. Spiritually this is true too. Practicing disobedience right now in your spiritual life without immediate consequence is the fastest way to grow bolder in your disobedience in the future.
In other words, some of you guys are out there and are like, "Hey, man. I've not really been walking with God, not really seeking God, and it hasn't really messed with me too much yet." Let me just tell you what we say here all the time. We don't find people who get married who really have marriage problems; we find out they have single people problems they dragged into marriage.
So many folks are still under the illusion that pornography is a single man's problem. So many people are still under the illusion that they can just flip a switch one day and stop thinking the way they do about the way a man should conduct himself, a woman should conduct herself, and that switch doesn't flip quite as easily as we think.
The Scripture says in Ecclesiastes 8:11, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of [men and women] among them are given fully to do evil." Here's what's crazy. God comes up against men and women who are committed to do evil, and he's trying to make himself known, because he loves you. Can I tell you something? God is not mad at you in your lack of self-care. He sees you throbbing.
He sees you reaching after things that are no gods at all and trying to make them gods and not seeing that they can be used properly when you see them for what God created them to be. Instead, you're making them something they're not, and they're hurting you because you're misusing that gift. You're using that chain saw which should make your life easier as dental floss, and you have the scars to prove it. He's not mad at you. He just loves you.
He says, "If you like what you have, then keep doing what you're doing, but if you keep doing what you're doing, you're not going to like what you have. Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Then come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I'll give you rest." God is committed to making himself known. This is what the Scripture says in Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock…"
This is encouraging to me. God is more anxious to know me and to seek me than I will ever be to want to know him or seek him. Is that not amazing? You don't have to hire some Sherpa and get some yak and find the right mountain in the Nepalese mountain range and make your way up a hill and find the right cave where some swami is going to impart to you a little bit of information that might help you. God has come and has told you he loves you and has made himself known. He's standing at the door and knocking.
He says, "…if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." God is committed to making himself known. Those who seek him will know him. "Seek and you'll find. I'm not hiding; I'm right here." Those who know him will learn to live for him. Here's the thing: I am not performing that God might accept me. I see the way God accepts me and loves me, and I am trying to respond to that.
Why wouldn't I move toward the God who loves me so much that in my forsaking him he rescued me? The Scripture says in Romans 8, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also [give us everything else we need] ?" It's just the logic of… He left the comfort of heaven. Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that in your poverty you might become rich. A God who will do that…
Do you think this is just some kind of setup? Do you think it's a shell game? Do you think it's a bait and switch? "Hey, here's what we'll do. We'll go die for them, and then when they love us, we'll jack with them." That's not the program. He's trying to bring you home in a way that doesn't in any way diminish his character, because make no mistake: God will always not let the guilty go unpunished, but so that you may not be among the guilty, he has brought you out of judgment and into life. That's who God is.
Those who know him will begin to seek him, and living for him means dying to yourself. Dying to yourself is the hardest discipline, but spiritual disciplines are the way you go about learning more of God. Spiritual disciplines are what enable us to live for him, to live in a way that will lead to blessing. What I want to spend some time talking to you about is what this idea of self-care is through what are called spiritual disciplines.
Spiritual disciplines get a bad rap. We think spiritual disciplines are these things we do. They're not so much things we do as they are things that do something to us. What's the something? Think of this. God is light and life and love, so when you discipline yourself to spend more time with the God who is light and life and love, you're going to get more light in your life, more love in your life, and less darkness and despair.
Spiritual disciplines are not… Let me walk you through this. When we hear the word discipline,we immediately go, "Man, I don't like that. I don't want to discipline myself." Well, you do, because discipline is the heavy door that leads to freedom. Spiritual disciplines are not a spiritual to-do list of activities that will make us love God more. They don't make us love God more; it's what we do because we see that God is love.
I do these things because I want to move toward the God who gives grace and glory. I want to move toward the God who has my best interests in mind. I want to move toward the God who's going to let sex be a blessing to me. I want to move toward the God who's going to show me how to operate in this world and sanctify everything by the Word of God and intimacy with him, because he's the divine Creator.
Spiritual disciplines are not a spiritual to-do list of activities that make us love God more. They're not a way to show our love for God. We don't show God our love through the spiritual disciplines; we show God our love by, having been intimate with him, living the way he delights to see us live. There is no greater joy than to watch your children walking in the truth. Not because I can be some amazing parent in the eyes of everybody else but because I love it when my kids are blessed. I love when my kids are doing things that don't destroy their lives.
Spiritual disciplines are not an unrealistic activity designed only for the spiritually elite and well educated. That's not what they are. Do you guys know the whole Peloton craze that's out there? What's crazy about the Peloton craze is not just how much it costs but then that $40 a month you have to keep on giving. Have you ever looked at a Peloton ad? Just last month, somebody jumped on Twitter and started to make some observations about Peloton ads, about people who use Pelotons. Here's a series of them.
They put these pictures up there, and one said, "I had my carpenter build a $9,000 finished wood riser for my Peloton bike in my glass-enclosed zen garden/home gym." Every time you see a Peloton ad, it's always these people who won the CrossFit championships four years in a row, living in some unbelievable spot. Here's one: "I put my Peloton bike in the center of the panoramic living room window in my New York penthouse."
I like this one: "A good place for your Peloton bike is between your kitchen and your living room facing the cactus garden so you always remember your virtual spin class." How about this one? "I took my Peloton bike to Europe and used it on the balcony of our $2,000/night Airbnb, and honestly, I felt like I was flying over London; you should try it." This is my favorite: "Sometimes I'll move the Peloton bike into our gallery so I can spend time with my [metrosexual] husband while he reads Architectural Digest wearing combat boots." That's hilarious.
"My bright and airy sunroom is a great place for the Peloton bike. I leave the arcadia door ajar so I feel like I'm actually riding a bicycle." "My Peloton is in the living room because it's my favorite work of art aside from the turquoise marble peacock I keep in the fireplace." "In the mornings, after my housekeeper meticulously makes my bed, I like to ride my Peloton bike in the window of my high rise and literally look down my nose at people." It's so funny.
I'll skip to the last one here. "I put the Peloton bike in the kitchen of our loft so I can get a workout and also cook the vegan three-bean tortilla soup recipe I downloaded from Goop." These crack me up. Sometimes when you look at these Peloton ads, it's like the Peloton is only for really beautiful, fit, rich people who can make a $9,000 handcrafted wood mount for their Peloton bike.
Sometimes I think we have this mindset that the spiritual disciplines are only for people with names like Spurgeon and Edwards, and they're not. That's not what they are. They're the means of life for all of us. They're not legalistic activities to make us feel guilty about what we're not doing. Spiritual disciplines are not things we do so we can look spiritual to others. This is so important. We're not spiritual narcissists.
We don't become people who are conformed to the image of God so people can go, "Wow! You're really godly." No. What the Lord does for us is never just for us. Remember what I said? The reason you care for yourself, the reason you want the blessing of God is so you can be a blessing. That was God's program from the beginning. From the very first time he developed and pursued a relationship with man, he said, "I'm going to bless the world through you because you have a relationship with me."
The goal is not that we do the spiritual disciplines or soul care; the goal is that we have intimacy with God. Why does God want us to have intimacy with him? Because he's the God who gives grace and glory and because he loves you. He's not looking for you to read your Bible so you can read your Bible. He's looking for you to read your Bible because that's where your loving heavenly Father speaks, and he wants to encourage you to walk in the paths of life, the ancient path where the good way is.
This is what spiritual discipline is. This is what soul care is. It's a means of grace so we can receive life from our loving Father. It's how we get near Jesus. If I told you guys you could spend time with Jesus, what would you do? You'd want to go everywhere he goes. You'd want to listen to him speak. What's so amazing is that the priorities and habits of a disciple today are the exact same as they were 2,000 years ago, except we don't have to wait in line because it's not just one physical embodiment of God.
Now we've been brought near to him through the provision of Jesus Christ, and we can have intimacy with our Father. We can come boldly before the throne of grace. He has recorded the messages Jesus gave, and he lives and speaks to us in the context of prayer rightly understood, promptings that the Spirit will give us, always as informed by Scripture. Jesus practiced the spiritual disciplines when he was here. Why? Because when he came, he never denied the fact that he was God. He never stopped being God, but he didn't grasp on to that. That's not the way he got through life. He identified with you and me.
Again and again, you'll see these things. Like in Mark 1:35, it says in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus would get up, and he'd leave other people, he'd leave the house, he'd go to a secluded place, and he would spend time with the Father. He would say, "Lord, remind me of your love for people. Remind me why I want to maintain the identity with humanity and not just on my own start acting like God but depend upon you to give me insight, to let the Spirit of God use me to do amazing things."
What happens is so many of us just try to live like Jesus wants us to live, and we don't do the things to care for our spiritual heart and our spiritual center, so we can't. There is a world of difference between trying and training. Trying is a flawed strategy. There's a huge difference between wanting and being willing. I just want to encourage you guys with this: you're never going to want to be closer to God than he's going to want to be close to you.
Let me ask you three questions. Do you want to be a godly man or woman? If you could be the glory God intended humankind to be, do you want to be that? Second question: Are you a godly man or woman? Right now, are you a godly man or godly woman? If the answer to the first question was "Yes" and the answer to the second question was "No," it's because you answered the first question wrong. Here's the third question: Does God want you to be a godly man or godly woman? You bet he does.
So if God wants you to and you say you want to, why aren't you? The answer is because so many of us say we want to and we try to, but we don't do the thing that will allow us to find the healing and the strength God wants us to find. This is Proverbs 13:4: "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing…" In other words, the soul of the sluggard wants everything the soul of the diligent wants, but the soul of the diligent actually gets what the sluggard only wants.
Proverbs 13:4: "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat." Do you want to be a godly man? "Yes, Todd." Does God want you to be a godly person? "Yes." Are you a godly person? "No." It's because you answered that first question wrong. God is committed to conforming you into the image of his Son, and the way you're going to get there is by spending time with him.
So many people talk about how hard the spiritual disciplines are. The truth is that embracing the spiritual disciplines is freedom. Freedom is the reward of discipline. One of my best friends growing up was a guy who when we were all out doing what 11-, 12-, and 13-year-olds did, his mom would whistle him in, and he would always have to go and practice tennis. A little bit later, my friend had the freedom to win Wimbledon. My friend had the freedom to win a US Open. My friend had the freedom to win the Australian Open.
My friend had the freedom to win the French Open. My friend had the freedom to be the first American to win a gold medal in tennis because he disciplined himself to be an amazing tennis player. I played tennis with him on the same high school team. I just didn't play tennis all the time like he did. I was a typical kid who kind of dabbled in it and went my way, and I didn't have the freedom to keep competing. Freedom comes through discipline. Discipline and self-care is the heavy practice of diligence that leads to what it is we all want.
So, how do we practice it? How are we supposed to practice these things? I would just say, you want to do it patiently with yourself. Be a little patient with yourself. You don't grow spiritually mature overnight. Most of us overestimate what we can do in a week but underestimate what God can do in our lives in a year. I would encourage you to start simply and simply start. The way you practice the disciplines is on a long, steady life of pursuit. You don't grow up overnight. You can't will yourself to be more godly. It takes patience and endurance and steadfastness. Start simply and simply start.
Secondly, do it continually. The spiritual disciplines are not separated from our daily lives. It's not something we do for 30 minutes and then just move on. Jesus says, "Follow me." That's a continual action. Jesus says, "Abide with me." That means, "Remain in constant conversation with me." Jesus says, "Don't just read the Bible, but meditate on it. Memorize it. Make sure it doesn't depart from your mouth." Jesus says, "Get around other people who will encourage you."
We do it patiently and we do it continually. It's a fact that if we sow a thought we're going to eventually reap an action. If we sow an action, we're going to eventually reap a habit. If we sow a habit, we're going to eventually reap a character. If we sow a character, eventually we're going to reap a destiny. So the thought that is in your mind day by day ought to be, "God is good and kind and gracious, and I don't want to miss him."
People think about the cost of discipleship being so heavy, but we forget what the cost of non-discipleship is. Listen to this statement. Here's the cost of not knowing the God who gives grace and glory, not knowing the God who makes you and restores the glory he intended for you. Non-discipleship costs abiding peace. Anybody here struggle with anxiety?
Non-discipleship creates a life penetrated throughout without love, without faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. Non-disciples don't have that. In short, it costs exactly the same abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring.
The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is, after all, an instrument of liberation. Power to correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is but the fulfillment of the highest human possibility and life on the highest plane. The cost of non-discipleship means you lose the freedom to lead yourself and eventually one day lead a family in the way that's going to lead to blessing.
The cost of non-discipleship and self-care is the inability to resist temptation, to use Scripture in a way that would bring strength to your life and then grace to the life of others. God is saying, "Can I help you?" We do it patiently, we do it consistently, and we also don't do it alone. We say here all the time that if you don't change your playground, where you're hanging around all the time, and what is the activity of your life, it's not going to go well with you.
So you have to change your playground. You have to change what you're sowing into your life in terms of what your thought is, and you have to pay attention to what God said is going to be life-giving. We say this all the time. You don't just sit there and take a Cheeto and eat it while you're saying, "God, would you please change the molecular structure of this Cheeto into a carrot as I take it down and swallow it?" That can be a fervent prayer; it's just not the way God works. He's like, "No. Put the Cheeto down and grab a carrot."
Quit binge-watching Game of Thrones and approach the throne of grace. When I was in my 20s, about your age, I'd played sports my whole life. I was an athlete. I wasn't a guy who was such a non-athlete that my sport was just to run in a long straight line until everybody collapsed. I would make fun of my friends who were runners. But then this whole craze started sweeping the country: 10K races. I had no idea what 10K was. I thought, "Ten thousand steps? Who can't run ten thousand steps?"
So my friends go, "Wagner, you couldn't run a 10K in any kind of time that was reasonable." I go, "Yes, I could. What's a reasonable time?" They go, "I don't know," and they kind of figured it out in their minds. They go, "Well, an eight-minute mile is not a terrible mile, but let's just say it's going to be a seven-minute mile." So they did the math really quickly in their heads and said, "I bet you cannot run a 10K in under 45 minutes."
I go, "How far is a 10K…10,000 steps? A mile is 5,280 steps. I can run two miles in 45…" They go, "It's 6.2 miles." But I was young and stupid and foolish. I had never run more than a mile for time in the sports I played. I go, "I can do that." They go, "I'll bet you dinner anywhere in Dallas on the other guy's dime." I go, "Done." That was Thursday. Saturday was the first 10K I was ever going to run. All I had was basketball shoes. I played that sport longer than any other.
I put my basketball shoes on and go, "Okay. I'm going to go run 3.1 miles just to see if I can do that in roughly 20 minutes, and that'll give me a chance to have a little extra time to finish the other ones." So, in a pair of basketball shoes on Thursday, about 3:00 in the afternoon, I went and ran 3.1 miles, and it wasn't in 20 minutes. I got home and went, "This is not going to work." I went to Luke's Locker and bought my first ever pair of running shoes that night, because I realized running in basketball shoes was not the way to do it, and I got a friend.
I said, "Hey, I need you to help me." This guy was a runner. I said, "I need you to pace me." Have you seen this? They didn't have this when I was running, but if you go run in marathons or 10Ks, you'll have people like this. They are folks who will mark how you're running. So if you want to run the 10K in under 50 minutes, you follow the person who's running the 8:30 mile. If you want to run it in 45 minutes, you follow somebody else who runs a mile in a certain time. There are different paces there so you can figure out how fast you're going to run to run the race.
Well, let me just say this to you before I give you this last closing illustration. Some of my friends, 26 to 28 years old, when they decided to run their first 10K, because they ran long distances when they were in high school and competed at 4.5- or 5-minute miles, for them, eight years later, to run a 6-minute mile was no big deal, because they had conditioned themselves at a young age to run. I hadn't.
Basketball is a lot of short bursts. Football is a lot of short bursts. You just have to make your time for a mile, and then you're good. I had never run that way before. So, for me, all of a sudden, to run a seven-minute mile six times in a row was not going to be easy. I had had, in a 10K vernacular, the wrong playmates. We could do a lot of other things, but we could not run the way we were going to run if we were going to pop off about how we could run.
Some of you guys are doing the same thing. You're around some people who are going to kind of hold up 8:30 miles, and your life is filled with anxiety. You're going to be around people who run 10-minute miles, and you're addicted. That's where this heads. If the goal is to run a 4-minute mile…that's world class, that's a glorious mile…then you can't be hanging out with people who go, "We're just going to skip through life and be churchgoers. More moral than most. I mean, we're not invalids, but we're not glorious either."
We're people who are struggling with divorce later in our lives, because this is a whole lot better than most, but there are people who are a whole lot better than most whose marriages are not what they dreamed about. Not bad. Right? But not life. One of the reasons that my life now, a little bit later, doesn't look like some of these words is because when I was your age I wasn't running 10Ks, but I was disciplining myself to run with Jesus.
I have to tell you, running the four-minute mile of being what I would say, by the grace of God, was somebody who didn't binge-watch Game of Thrones or Seinfeld or whatever the show was in the 80s but binged on Matthew, Mark, Philippians, Colossians, Proverbs, and Psalms… I've run a four-minute mile now for about 30 years, and I'm just going to tell you, it's the good way. I didn't win just some dinner anywhere I want. I sit around my dinner table with the wife of my youth, and she loves me, and my kids respect me, and by and large, I'm a source of grace to my community.
Don't give the Devil your youth. Right now is the time to start running…right now, because you want to, the rest of your life, maybe as life gets a little bit busier… You're never going to have more time to seek God than you do right now. It doesn't get easier. Use your good mind and your strength of days to cement your relationship with Christ. It's what you want to do.
Run to the one who gives grace and glory. Run with the one who doesn't withhold any good thing from those who love him; the one in whose presence is the fullness of joy and in whose right hand are pleasures forever; the one who it's the blessing of him that makes rich, and he adds no sorrow to it; the one when you are humbled before him and fear him it leads to riches, honor, and life.
Right now, folks, is when you want to start running with Jesus. This is a young man's God, because he wants you to have not just provision for the other life, but godliness has great gain for this life also. I'm just telling you, as a guy who learned to run with other people who were running four-minute miles in my 20s, it has been a blessing for 30 years.
Father, I pray that my friends in this room would run hard right now, they would take care of themselves now, they wouldn't go, "Oh, it's not a big deal that I can't train right now, because I'm young." Young people can do 10Ks in decent time. The scars aren't there yet. The plaque hasn't filled their life yet, but it's coming. So I pray that they would, right now, Lord, start caring for their bodies and realizing that the way they're training now to walk with you and to know you is going to be a blessing for the marathon that is the game of life.
I pray they'd be patient with themselves. I pray they would do it continually, and I pray they wouldn't do it alone, that they would find other people here and in other places who are committed to running hard with you, running with Jesus, so there can be a group of men and women here who others can draft with and learn from and they can be a source of grace, of life indeed. Would you convince us, Father, that you are the God who gives grace and glory, and would you help us start to run where there is life? In Jesus' name, amen.