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Following John the Baptist's testimony about Messiah, we now watch as his disciples begin to follow Jesus. This passage explains how the early church formed and the expectation Jesus has of those who decide to follow Him.
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John the Baptist: A Witness to the Word, an Example to Us
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The Word: Not What You Think... But Even Better
Open John with me. We are in John, chapter 1. Let me set up where we have been, because these last couple of weeks we've been out of this book. In John, chapter 1, what you really have in verses 1 through 18 is John the disciple who is telling you, "I have seen him! You no longer need to wonder what the highest truth is. I have met truth. You no longer need to wonder where life is. I have met the author and giver of life. You no longer need to wonder how to be reconciled to God. I have met God, and he has reconciled us to himself through grace."
John said, "We have seen the Word. We have seen the one who is God, and we have beheld his glory, and he is filled with grace and truth." That's John the disciple's testimony in verses 1 through 18. Then, in John, chapter 1, verse 19, you have this guy named John the Baptist. This is the way verse 19 goes.
"This is the witness [or testimony] of John the Baptist. This is what this guy thinks." In verses 19 through 34, you have John saying, "I am not the Messiah. I am not Elijah. I am not the prophet who is the Messiah. I am not the Word. I am a voice. I am not the Light. I just come to bear testimony to the Light. I baptize with water."
"I baptize with water," he says three times in those 15 verses, "but there is another one coming after me who won't just have some ritual or some symbolic washing in identification but somebody who will actually baptize you in the Spirit," which was an eschatological promise or fulfillment of Ezekiel and Jeremiah that there would be a day when God would reconcile people to himself, and they would be indwelt with his Spirit, and he will baptize you into relationship with him.
What John the Baptist did was he was calling folks to leave the corruption of the Pharisaical system that was in Jerusalem, to come out of that religion or that effort to be reconciled to God apart from the provision of Christ the Messiah. In the corruption that was there, he called them away from Jerusalem out to the desert to study the Word of God and to look at what the Scriptures said about righteousness.
He had many disciples, and he was calling Jews to come out, and he was baptizing Jews, which you never did. Gentiles got baptized when they left the corruption of their godless ways to identify with Judaism. They were the ones who were physically baptized. They didn't just go through spiritual washings like the Jews did; they were identified in submerging themselves in a need for a complete and total cleansing and not just a little washing.
John said, "You religious people who are not trusting in God's provision but in yourself, you need to identify yourself with God's provision. You need to repent and prepare yourself for the coming King. I am not that King, but I want to prepare the way for him. Repent!" Then, John said these great words. He said, "Behold! There he is! That's the Lamb of God!"
When you hear that little phrase, if you were an individual who studied the Scripture and if you were a righteous Jew, you would have known, "Oh, my goodness! You're saying that's the one who is the fulfillment of the long-anticipated provision of God?" If you knew your patriarchs, as I mentioned, you know the chosen Son, the Son of Promise, was delivered from death and the need to be sacrificed before God because of, if you will, the offense against God that you knew God put a ram in the thicket and God provided so that chosen one could live.
You know the Passover lamb was the one the nation hid behind so the angel of death when he came and brought judgment to the land of Egypt would pass over you if you sheltered yourself underneath the blood of the lamb. Jesus said later in John, chapter 5, verse 24, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."
You'll know he is the Passover Lamb. He is the one you can shelter yourself underneath and judgment will pass over you. You'll know Isaiah 52 and 53. This is the Lamb of God who offered himself up to slaughter without uttering a word for you that you might be reconciled to God.
When John said, "This is the guy," there were a number of folks who were ready to follow him, and they weren't going to try to earn their own salvation. They were going to trust in the provision of God. That's John 1:1-34. When you get to verse 34, John the Baptist summarizes his effort to communicate to you with this line. "I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."
Do you see that? John the disciple said, "We have beheld his glory. I have seen him." This is not just some metaphysical idea. "We have seen God. He has come into this world." John the Baptist said, "We have seen and told you he is here." The reason so many folks recommend that you read the gospel of John is because of what it demands from you, which is a response.
You can reject the witness of all of the folks who are now going to be paraded before you, but the question becomes at the end of the day…What are you going to do with this Jesus? The gospel of John is an effort for you to see that you have to do something with this Jesus. You have to decide who he is. Is he very God of very God? Is he the one who is the Creator of all things, the one who was before me, as John the Baptist said, even though John was born on this earth? He said, "This one existed before me." Why? Because he is God. Who do you say Jesus is?
What I love about this passage we're about to look at is this is one of those passages you might be reading devotionally one day and you'll go, "All right. I read that. So what? What difference is that going to make in my life?" Let me just read to you John, chapter 1, verses 35 through 42. Then, let's study it together. When you read this, it's interesting, because John, the author of this gospel, is like he's ripping pages out of his journal.
It's saying that John the Baptist on one day answered questions from the Pharisees and identified Jesus as the Lamb of God. Then, the next day… Then, the next day… You'll find in John, chapter 2, verse 1, "On the third day…" It's like he's just giving you a blow-by-blow, day-by-day account. Everything we read today is on one day, but here you have in verse 35,
" Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!' The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?' They said to him, 'Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are you staying?' He said to them, 'Come, and you will see.'
So they came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter)."
What I love about that is you read that and you go, "Okay. That's what I came for? That? That's why I opened my Bible today? What difference is that going to make in my life? What am I called to respond to in that text?" What I want to do is unpack this. I'm going to give you six observations from this little section of Scripture. I will tell you, if you'll just sit with the Bible and look at it and pray and study and reflect and read in it and around it, you will go, "My goodness! The truth that is there!"
You want to look at what Christ said. You want to look how folks responded to him. What you have here is the beginning of the church or, if you will, the very first two followers of Jesus. You're going to see what a follower is, and you're going to see what Jesus thinks of his followers and what he desires for his followers, and you're going to see tremendous application for you. Let's dive in.
In verse 35, John was standing there with two of his disciples, guys he had been telling about the coming Messiah, who he had been studying the Scriptures with, and who he had been remembering about the provision of the ram in the thicket with Abraham. They had remembered the vision of the blood in Egypt when God passed over them and delivered them by grace through faith through the provision of another. They had been studying Isaiah. They had been looking for the long-expected one, the Consolation of Israel.
John knew that one was coming. He even knew Jesus at some level, but he did not know Jesus was the one, he told us, until the Spirit of God revealed to him, "That one… That's the one. He's the Messiah." When John identified him, he took his disciples and said, "There he is! That's the guy!" Now, I love what happens.
There are two men who have been following John who are disciples of John the Baptist. Many people believe… We know one of them, you'll see definitively, is Andrew, the brother of Peter. The other one most folks believe and I happen to agree was John, the author of the gospel. He was seeking clarity on where righteousness came from, not through the traditions of men, not through the broken, perverted system of Judaism that had begun to trust in its own traditions and self and had lost its contrite and broken spirit and was more concerned with form than function.
Young John, you're going to find, was there. He beheld these things. He knew these things. He's an eyewitness to these deals. John says, "There he is. You go after him." I love the fact that John is eager to let them go. Those guys had been taught well. If you are taught well, you will always have your teacher have you grow in your affection for Christ and not just your teacher.
Let me say that again. One of the things that's a problem so much today and especially around Dallas where there are a lot of gifted teachers and now with the advent of the Internet and podcasts and things like that, everybody has their pet guy who they love. It's Piper. It's Chandler. It's Nelson. It's Stanley. It's Wagner. Who cares who it is?
I want to tell you all of those men are doing you a great disservice, we are doing you a great disservice, and I am doing you a great disservice if I don't increase your affections for Christ. We must decrease, and Christ must increase. We should all appreciate the gifts we have for one another and the way we use those gifts to serve and to build up one another, but at the end of the day, if you have a teacher you are falling more in love with than your Messiah, that is a bad teacher.
I love what John says. "I'm going to get out of the way. This is the guy. I am not the guy. That's the guy. Follow him." We are not the thing (Watermark). I am not the guy, not that any of you thought for a second that I might be. My goal is for your affections to grow for Christ, not for me. Now, honestly, if you're somebody who causes my affections to grow for Christ, I'm going to love you and be grateful to you for it, but you're going to keep trying to get out of the way.
I rightly should be able to say, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ," but I am not the Word. I am a voice. I am not the Light. I bear witness to the Light. I am a lampstand. That's what the church is. Now, I love Watermark. I invite people to come to Watermark all of the time. Why? Because Watermark is a lampstand, meaning we hold up the Light, and we want men to come to the Light, but we're not trying to get you committed to Watermark.
Watermark is the body. We're trying to get you to fall in love with the head, and that's why the body has to be obedient to the head. John says, "This is the guy." Two guys heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Are you ready for the first observation?
1 . When you really believe who Jesus is, you will follow him. When you really believe who Jesus is, this is what you do. You begin to follow him. You go, "Are you kidding me? That's the observation?" Yes. Let me explain this to you. When you are an individual who comes to great clarity about Christ (the Word, very God of very God, the one who can redeem you and who cares for you and who desires good for you and in whose presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forever and who no good thing does he withhold from those who love him and who is a Shepherd to you, you little lost sheep, and who is a head to you, you little body that needs direction) you will then begin to say not just, "I have made some profession of faith in him," and not, "I have accepted him as a sacrifice for me," but, "He is my Father, my Lord, and my God. I will follow him."
I'm right now teaching a Bible study with a bunch of dads and fifth-grade boys. It's one of the things I do during the week with some of the guys I live in town with who go to school with my son. I was teaching a lesson. We're using the metaphor of a training camp to help these kids understand what it means to follow Christ.
I was just talking to them about the role of a coach. Tom Landry once said the goal of a coach is to get people to do what they don't want to do so they can be who they want to be. I was telling them, "Guys, what is the purpose of a coach installing an offense?" They're in fifth grade. "I don't know."
I told them, "The purpose of an offense is to give you a way to move the ball down the field that you might accomplish your goal, that you might score, and that others would watch you move in the direction you intend and should go so they go, 'That right there… They've got it going on. They are moving the ball down the field.' As a man, you are becoming more of what a man should be. Others should watch the offense you're running in the way that you live and see you execute in a way that is penetrating that which is trying to resist you being a person of glory."
"This is who God is," I said. "He wants you to live in such a way that the glory that is lost because of sin is restored because of truth and righteousness and clarity of thinking." I said to these guys, "Here's you guys' offense. First, trust in the Lord. Secondly, lean not on your own understanding. Thirdly, in all your ways acknowledge him, and when you do that, he will make your paths straight, and folks will look at you and marvel."
When you have an effective offense that scores at will and that accomplishes that which it intends, people throw you parades. People marvel at your greatness. I said, "This is who God is." I want you to know he is the provision for your sin, but the reason he is the provision for your sin is because he is glorious and perfect, and he is glorious and perfect not just in his sacrifice but in his person, and his person calls you to live for him and live with him.
To not lean on your own understanding, you must follow him. People ask me sometimes, "Are you a Christian?" and I go, "Well, define that," because depending on how they define that I may or may not answer it. The word Christian becomes so watered down and ineffective that I almost don't even use it. When folks ask me to tell them about myself, I mention to them I am a follower of Christ. That's who I am. I follow him.
In other words, I don't lean on my own understanding. In all my ways, I want to acknowledge him. I trust in the Lord. Now, I don't always do that. Sometimes part of my running my offense is when I run a play and I don't listen to the coach and I audible and run a Wagner. I get sacked or it gets intercepted or I do something wrong. I then begin to run his offense again. I seek forgiveness. I acknowledge that what I did was self-willed, and I do what I can to make restitution, and I run his offense again.
When I do that, people go, "That's not normal. Folks don't usually execute that way when they fail." We move the ball down the field. Let me just tell you something. What you want to be is not somebody who just owns a Bible and not a Qur'an or somebody who wears a cross and not a Star of David. You don't want to call yourself a Christian and not an agnostic or an atheist.
Listen. You don't even want to be somebody who just says, "I believe I'm a sinner and that Christ died for me." When you really believe who Christ is… By the way, do all of those things. Own a Bible and not a Qur'an. Acknowledge that you're a sinner and that Christ died for you, but when you really believe who Christ is, you will follow him.
One thing I had those dads and sons do last Wednesday… I said, "You come and tell me one thing you did because you are a follower of Christ." Now, the reality is we always think it has to be something dramatic like, "I drilled a well in Africa this week," or "I decided to sponsor a kid." Let me just tell you something. If all you do is have a picture of a kid on your refrigerator, good for you. That doesn't make you a Christ-follower.
A Christ-follower is somebody who says, "Rabbi, teach me. I want to learn how to interact with others. I want to walk through this life. I want to learn how to do everything I do the way you, Rabbi, do." Teacher is what rabbi means. "Tell me to do it. Why? Because you're not just a normal teacher. You are very God of very God, and you love me, and you have an offense that, if I execute, will restore me to glory." It won't make me perfect. That's why I need a Savior, but it will make me be an individual who now begins to execute.
When you really believe who Christ is… Let me just say this to you one more time. You don't have a Bible by your bed. You trust him. I told the kids, "What did you do? What did you do this week because you're a Christian, which is to say a Christ follower? If you can't tell me that, then you might have made a profession of faith somewhere along the way, but you are not accomplishing that which God intends for you if you are not peripateo, walking with him."
That's what Christ says. "Abide in me," meaning, "You hang with me. You walk with me. You follow me." Jesus never says, "Come. Make a profession of your need for a Savior. Acknowledge you're a sinner. Acknowledge that if I don't die for you, you're going to hell and carry on," but don't we act like that?
Do you know what Christ says? I'm going to show you what he actually says in a minute, but I want to tell you what you are to do. "Follow me," meaning Christ. Are you a Christ-follower or are you somebody who has checked the box saying, "I believe this thing happened, and I guess I'm okay because I say I'm a sinner"? No. Do you know what it means to be a sinner, that you are broken, that every aspect of your reasoning and your morality and your desire has been tainted by sin?
If you appeal to yourself in any form or fashion, you will not be executing his offense, so you deny yourself, and you say, "I'm not going to go to how I feel. I'm not going to go to what I want. I'm going to trust in the Lord. I'm going to acknowledge him. I'm not going to lean on my own understanding."
I said to these kids, "Here's one. What did you do this morning when Mom said…?" I picked on my own son, because I was there. Mom said, "Go brush your teeth before you go out," and you rolled your eyes and went, "Mom! No! We're just going to eat a donut at Bible study anyway."
I go, "Whose offense was that you were running right there? How did that work out for you, by the way? What would have been Christ's offense? Because you're a Christ-follower, you go, 'I don't want to run back upstairs and brush my teeth again, but I'm going to do it because God has given me this provision of a mother who wants me to have teeth when I smile a little bit later in life, so I'm going to go upstairs, and while I'm on my way upstairs I see my brother's shoes that he didn't take up last night when his parents told him to, so I'm going to pick up his shoes without wanting to be patted on the back, and when I go upstairs anyway, I'm going to carry them up there.
I'm going to lay them by his bed. I'm going to notice my bed is not made. I'm going to make it. I'm going to turn my light off and see that the lights are on in my sister's room and shut them off. I'm going to come down and tell my mom, "Mom, I love you. Thank you," and head out to the car.' Why? Because I want to? Does that feel good? Is that what 11-year-old boys do? No. They roll their eyes and moan about everything. They run their own offense."
Do you know what 50-year-olds do? Very similar stuff, because they run their own offense, and it is not well. I'm not moving the ball down the field. I don't have children throwing me a parade because of the grace and love that flows from me when I execute my offense. When you really believe in Christ… Have I made this point yet? You follow him. How are you doing at following him and leaning not on your own understanding?
2 . When you follow Jesus, he wants to make sure you are following him and not a fantasy. I love this. Verse 38: " And Jesus turned and saw them following…" He said, "I got two, baby!" He's on the map! You can't be a leader unless someone is following you. Right? The old saying is, if you're out there leading and others aren't following you, then you are not a leader; you're just taking a walk.
Up until this time, Jesus had just been taking a walk. All of a sudden, he turns around and goes, "I think someone's following me! I think this is going to work out. I might be the Messiah." Of course, he's not thinking that. We would be, but he's not. "There are two!" What are you going to do if you have your first two? You'd go, "All right! I'm so glad you're here. We can get this thing started. It's going to be fun. You're going to like it. Just hang with me here. You two first! Good!"
No. Do you know what Jesus does? Look what he does. "What do you seek?""What do you want? Why are you following me?" I love this. This is huge! This is what Christ is going to say to you tonight. "Why are you here? What do you want from me? Who do you say that I am? What do you seek?"
There are some folks out there who have bought this lie that if you come into relationship with God it's all going to be well with you. Your wife will lose 10 pounds, you'll get a raise, and your kids will obey you, or if you're a woman, your husband will lose 25 pounds, he'll get a raise, and he will obey you. That would be even better, but that's not what happens.
God says, "What do you seek? What do you want? Who do you think I am? Do you think it's going to be easy for you? Is that why you're going to follow me? Because now I'm going to be here? Because why?" Let me just say this. The Jew rejected who Christ was for this reason. When Christ walked in three years later from this moment into the city of Jerusalem, word was out that this dude raises the dead, walks on water, calms storms, and feeds multitudes, that lepers are healed, the lame walk, and blind see. This is the guy! Word was out.
There were more than a few folks following him at that moment, and they thought, "Okay. Here comes the Consolation of Israel. Here comes the guy who is going to take us all the way. Let's get the palm branches out. Let's lay our cloaks down. Let's prepare the way for the King so there is nothing in the way of him and his donkey. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest! God save us! Here's the Messiah!"
Then, what happened? Two or three days later, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" What in the world happened? I'll tell you what happened. They were seeking a Messiah on their own terms. They wanted God to do what they wanted him to do. They thought God was going to be, again, a great political leader, a military genius who would usher them into a time of great economic prosperity (just what you and I want).
If I told this country there was going to be a great Deliverer who was going to come and I said, "He is either going to deliver you from the morass of you own moral failure, your own blindness, your own unrighteousness, and your own chaos of sin," or I could tell you there would be one who would get rid of the gridlock in Washington, deal with this foe we have out there that is making all of us show every nook and cranny of our bodies as we go through the airport, and eliminate our worldwide enemies militarily so we can live in peace again and restore confidence in the dollar and get us out of this cycle of debt which is going to lead to certain coming destruction, which one of those two Messiahs do you want?
I have to tell you, a thousand to one, this country would take that second one. What they don't understand is it's the first problem that leads to the second group of issues. Jesus is going to say to these folks, "Let me tell you something. Your problem isn't Caesar; your problem is sin. You just want me to run Rome out of Israel, and I need to run unrighteousness out of you. Once we deal with that and you begin to follow me, we'll take care of Rome, but we have to get Egypt out of you before we worry about getting you out of Egypt, because that's the problem."
Christ is saying, "What do you seek? Are you wanting me to be a king? I'm not going to be that kind of a king just yet. I'm going to be a Lamb first and then the lion. You make no mistake. There will be a glorious day when I come and deal with all unrighteousness, but just so that I'm not alone, I have to create righteous so when I come to get rid of all unrighteousness those unrighteous ones will not be totally consumed. There will be a few righteous that have identified with the Lamb of God and who walk in faith with me and who have been reconciled to me. Then, we will deal with sin one day."
Do you get this? What do you seek? Do you seek a wife? Is that why you're here? Do you seek a husband? Do you seek a guaranteed series of positive reports from your doctor when you go get your mammogram this year that there will be no cancer in your breast? Is that what you seek? He doesn't promise that.
I want to tell you there are folks who are out there in churches all around this community and around the world who look a lot like ours who are selling this nonsense that if you come into relationship with Christ it will be well with you in a physical and material way, that there is health, wealth, and prosperity for those who follow Jesus, and that is completely inconsistent with Scripture.
It comes from a perverted view of equating Israel and the church together and taking the contractual agreement God had with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament as he promised them as a revelation of who he was that if they walked in obedience and humility before him he would give them peace with their enemies.
There were only a few times in the nation of Israel's history (during the reign of David and slowly into the reign of Solomon, these periods of great blessing) that there was some shadow of that, but by and large, Israel would never really receive it. What were contractual and conditional statements to Israel in the Old Testament, people have made unconditional promises to Christ in the New, and it comes from a perverted understanding of Scripture, and it sets people up for a great deal of despair.
What do you do when a guy's 6-year-old gets cancer? Are you going to tell him it's because he didn't have enough faith? What do you do when a guy who is faithful loses his job? Are you going to say it's because he didn't love God? I've watched men have to do this to defend their theology. I've watched them say, "The reason your husband died is because you didn't give enough. You weren't faithful enough, because God always blesses people who follow him."
Really? That is not consistent with your New Testament. In your New Testament, the sign, if anything, of being a fully devoted follower of Christ is not prosperity. It is persecution. Second Timothy 3:12: "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Paul said, "Three times I have asked God to deliver me from this sickness or this oppression, and God has said, 'No, but my grace is sufficient for you in your weakness.'"
He says, "Most gladly I boast in my weakness," and he goes on to say, "I am going to be content with insult and distresses, with persecutions and difficulties. Why? Because I'm not following him to make it easy now. This is when I carry my cross." What do you seek? Are you going to be after him as long as it goes well with you? Then, you are not ready to be his disciple. I love this. Matthew, chapter 8, is a consistent message throughout Christ's life.
When there are a few more folks who are following him a little bit later in Matthew, chapter 8, verses 18 through 24, watch what happens. It says, "Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him…" It's not just two, but this group of two around him had grown. "…He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. Then a scribe came and said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever You go.' Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'""Do you still want to follow me?"
Students would want to be in certain rabbinical schools because the dorms were nice, the food was good, and there was prestige in being one of that guy's disciples. Jesus says, "Do you want afflictions? Do you want persecutions? Do you want distresses? Do you want to give your life away? Do you want to drink of the cup that I drink? Follow me. What do you seek? Why are you here? What do you want? Prosperity? Health? Wealth? I'm not going to promise that."
Jesus says, "My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled…""I'm going to give you a different peace (not conditional peace but faith and the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen), and I'm going to have you take up your cross and follow me right now. There will be a glorious day that I will return, but right now, let's go to war."
What do you seek? A political king? A military genius? An economic savior? Somebody who will hook you up and give you a love or somebody who is the love you're looking for? I love that. It's right here, all in John. It goes on. These guys, when Jesus says that, by the way, that the foxes didn't have a hole and the birds of the air didn't have a nest, what is the next thing that happens?
If you jump down to verse 23, it says, "When he got into the boat, his disciples followed him…" after that little discourse when he told somebody else to let the dead bury their dead. They got into a boat and they began to cross the sea. What happened to the sea? They sailed right into a storm.
During that storm, Jesus was asleep, and they go, "Don't you care about us?" They tried to wake him, and they eventually did wake him. "'Save us, Lord; we are perishing!' He said to them, 'Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?'""If you are with me, there will be perfect peace." "Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea…" Just to clarify. "Let me tell you who is in control in this boat. It's not Mother Nature but Creator God, and he's in the boat with you."
Don't you be concerned about cancer, because Christ is in that boat with you. Don't you be concerned about betrayal, because the Faithful One is in that marriage with you. Don't you be concerned about the economy, because you're not living for wealth on this earth if you're his follower.
Christ is saying very clearly here, "What do you seek? I'm not going to tell you calm waters. I'm going to tell you relationship with me. If you want to be restored to God, come on." I love what the disciples say next. In John, chapter 1, look at verse 38 still. "They said to him, 'Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are you staying?'"
"We want to…" The word there is the same word that shows up again and again throughout the book of John. It's the word menō. It means abide. It does mean to rest or to associate with. "If you abide in me and my Word abides in you… If you stay here…" You could easily say, "Where is your abode? Where could I go and be with you? We want to go and stay where you stay."
Christ was going to tell them in just a minute, in effect, "I'm not telling you we're going to a nice, fancy house. This is not Harvard with coiffed lawns and really nice dorm rooms, but there is veritas. There is truth here, and there is life here, and this is the way. Follow me, but not for the dorm rooms and not for the nice frat houses. Follow me because I am the teacher, and I alone have the authority to reprove, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness so you might be adequately prepared for every good work."
"We just want to be with you. You are the Lamb. You are the long-anticipated Messiah. You are Eternal Father. You are Prince of Peace. You are Wonderful Counselor. You are Mighty God. We just want to be where you are," to which Christ says, "Come on then. I'll give you some of that. Come." Now, I love what happens next. Let me just say this to you. Here's an observation I just made.
3 . When you follow Jesus, it won't be because of where he stays geographically or materially what he offers you but because of where he stays theologically and morally. What do you really get when you're a Christian? Here's what you get. You get forgiveness. You become regenerate. In other words, you no longer think with a fallen, corrupt mind. You have understood that man has left good, that man has created right and wrong, or he knows right and wrong but he doesn't choose right because rightness does not dwell in him, so you become regenerate.
You begin to be spiritually appraised. You know there is a God who is good who wants to reconcile you to himself, so you begin to follow him. You are no longer a slave to your flesh. You are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb in order that you might to begin to walk freely. Freedom doesn't mean you can do whatever you want to do. We're already free in that sense.
Freedom biblically is having the freedom to not do what the body that leads to death and destruction wants to do. I now have the freedom to go, "I now understand why I crave those things. I now understand why the current of the world carries me that way. I understand now why the Enemy makes it so appealing to disobey God," but I am free to rebuke that lie. I am free to resist that broken flesh, and I am free to follow truth.
That's what you get when you become a follower of Christ. You see clearly things which eyes haven't seen and ears haven't heard, things that have never entered the hearts of man. All of these things God has freely given to those who love him, but you're not going to go hang out with God. Again, this is that error again.
Do you remember last Sunday? Steve Johnson is the leading wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. Do you remember Steve Johnson dropped a pass last week playing the Pittsburgh Steelers? The Bills had lost seven games in a row. Then, they won two and they were about to win their third against Pittsburgh. Steve John in overtime got wide open on a corner route. About a 45-yard pass was spot on and hit that brother in the hands, and he dropped it.
This photo was taken as he sat there and cost his team the victory. A little later on the bench, he was just sitting there looking dejected. His problem wasn't that he looked dejected in the end zone. He looked dejected on the bench. Pittsburgh ended up getting the ball back and going down to kick the game-winning field goal and beating his team.
His problem was when he went back home and picked up his iPad. He got his little Twitter account out and he threw this up there. He said, "I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! I'LL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…" I kind of like that at the end.
To his credit, a little bit later Steve Johnson came back. This is, by the way, why 23-year-olds should not have Twitter accounts right there. It's normal to go through these kinds of cycles, but what he did was very publicly said, "God, I followed you! I praised you 24/7." He dropped about five passes that game, that one most famously.
I want to say, "Steve, is that why you're following him? Because the promise wasn't if you follow him that you'll catch everything thrown your way. You're not going to become Fly Williams if you know Jesus Christ." Sometimes Sam the Sinner hits the three and Bill the Believer will shoot an air ball because God is not ultimately consumed about that little sport outing. He is concerned about your heart, and he doesn't frankly care much about the Bills and the Steelers.
What he cares about is you, and you follow him not because of what house he's going to give you or what material you're going to gain. You follow him because theologically he can reconcile you to truth and morally…? You run his offense the way you handled that dropped pass, and men look at you…
Let me tell you something. The world is filled with rich men. It is not filled with men who are rich in good works. When the world watches you be rich in good works, whether you're rich or poor, they're going to say, "May there be more men like you!" We don't need more rich men on this earth. We need more men who are rich in good works whether they're rich or poor. That's God's offense.
My buddy, Matt Chandler, who a year ago almost to the day, about a month ago, was diagnosed with cancer, had a tumor in his head and went through some rather major surgery. Matt never in any way felt like God owed him healing. I can remember right before he went into surgery, he said, "Todd, I'll either wake up tomorrow to glorious revelation or I will wake again to a foggy awareness of the goodness of God." In other words, "If I'm still here, I'll have some sense that God is good, but I won't know as fully as I might know if I don't come back out of this thing."
Well, as it turns out, God has chosen, it looks like, for Matt to have more than a bit of a miraculous recovery, not in any small part, I'm sure, through the hand of skilled doctors God has given great ability to, but at the end of the day the Lord is the one who said, "Do you know what, Matt? Your days aren't over, at least not for this purpose today."
He blogged something this week I want to read to you. This is what he said. Matt had a number of things in his blog, and one of the things he wrote was, "The only thing that matters in my life is that I am his." Watch what he says. This is what you get when you become a follower of Christ.
"If you ask people about me, depending on who they are, they will tell you I'm a husband, I'm a father, I'm a preacher, I'm a leader, I'm a son, I'm a brother, I'm a friend. When I was preparing for surgery a year ago, they went over the long list of things that were possibilities. I could lose the ability to speak, walk, and could lose short-term or long-term memories. The list was much longer, but I think you get the point.
I am primarily known as a pastor and preacher, and here's the truth that slammed into me when I was wrestling with God over this surgery. One day I'm not going to preach or pastor. One day I'm not going to be Lauren's husband or my kids' dad. All of the things that define me here will be gone, and I will simply be his. I'm still meditating on that. That's all I really am (his).
Now, when he gives me breath, there are sermons to preach and people to shepherd and children to impart the glory of God to and an extremely beautiful wife to love. All of these things, though, are shadows of a greater reality. What I know is that I am his, so when I can't preach anymore…"
When I can't run fast anymore, when I drop balls, and you're going to drop them, is it enough just to be his? One day you're not going to be a president of a bank. One day you're not going to be a college athlete. One of these days you're not going to be married. You're not going to be Dad. You're not going to be healthy.
Are you his? If you're his, what else matters? Will you follow him? You follow him. You want to stay with him, not because of where he is geographically but because of where he is theologically. He is very God of very God. I like this. He said, "Come and you will see." This is so great.
Christ doesn't say, "See. Then, you'll come." In other words, "I'm not here to do a bunch of tricks for you and make you happy so that you'll stay and come on back." By the way, this is what a lot of churches are getting into these days. They want to tickle your ears. They want to give you a show that you like.
Listen. We rightly put excellence into everything we do up here. I try to be fairly creative in the way I communicate, but at the end of the day I'm not trying to have you see so you'll keep coming here. What I want to do is invite you to come and follow Christ with me, and you will see that he is who I am claiming he will be.
Romans 12:2: " And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…" In other words, you follow the Word of God and it says you will prove. It will flesh out in your life. You will personally experience what the will of God is (that which is good and acceptable and perfect).
Here's the deal. Don't ask me why you're not experiencing abundant life. I'm going to say, "Follow Christ. Walk with him." Don't do what you want to do. Run his offense and you will see. What? That your wife will lose weight or you'll get a raise? No. That it is a better way to live. You will then have proved out in your life (that's what that means) what the will of God is. It is a good will. It is an acceptable will. It is a perfect will for you. He has your best interests in mind.
Christ said, "Come and see," not, "I'll deal up what you want so that you'll keep coming. Come and see. You have to follow me." I was talking to a guy today who had first made a profession to want to follow Christ. Then, we told him what he had to do. He goes, "I'm not doing that." I go, "We're still going to be friends, but let's be very clear right here. I can't give you what you want until you come and get it."
"Well, I'm not convinced anymore that he is the Christ." This literally happened after the second service. I told him, "This is your next step." He goes, "I don't want to do that." I go, "Just so you're clear here. This is not my opinion. This is the Christ you said you wanted to follow." Somebody told me they had prayed with this guy out here that he would receive Christ and trust in him.
It was my message. He stayed here. He came in and said, "Now, that I'm a part of your team, are you guys going to give me what I want?" I go, "No, no, no! Come and see. You need to do A, B, and C." "I thought when this happened you guys would give me a room, you'd give me gas, and you'd give me money, and I could keep hanging out with you guys and all of this stuff I've done would go away."
"No. This is the next step."
"How do you know?"
"Let's turn to Matthew 5. Let's turn to Matthew 7. Come and see, and eventually you will see that God's way is good and acceptable and perfect, but if you're going to just CLEP out to this and if you don't get this today, if you're going to go, make no mistake that you aren't following Christ. You're trying to follow a plan that will get you what you want." He says, "Come and see. You have to walk with me." You have to execute this thing and put it to play. Here's my next point.
4 . When you really follow Jesus, you're not going to be disappointed. Anybody else you follow you're going to be disappointed. I love what we're doing right now in our Foundation Groups. If you're a young married couple and you're not in a Foundation Group, you're missing out. Get with other young couples in that first year or two years of your marriage with a marriage mentor going through some curriculum that we have seen consistently set you up and lay a foundation.
One of the books you're going to read in that class is called When Sinners Say "I Do." The reason we're having you read that is because some of you guys have gone into marriage and you think you have just found your Shangri La, but you will be disappointed. It is not long… There is no club you can join that eventually you won't be disappointed. It's going to not be all that you thought it would be. There is no man or woman you can be with who eventually you're not going to go, "This is not how I thought this would pan out."
Now, let me just say this. My marriage has been a greater blessing to me than anything physically on this earth, but if that was my salvation I got taken, and my wife exponentially got taken. She married this young guy. He was in ministry. He was a nice guy. Everybody thought the world of him, but I knew she was marrying a broken guy who sometimes ran his own offense.
We got married. That first year she was like, "Oh, my goodness!" I was like, "What? Did you think you married the fourth person of the Trinity? He's not on eHarmony." There wasn't even an eHarmony at the time. I wanted to just tell her, "You married a sinner, sister." I know that I did. My problem is not who I married or who you married.
Our problem is that we're at times running our own offense, and I had to learn that I wasn't just a good guy who was a joy to be with all of the time. For me to love my wife meant that I had to die to myself in ways that I was not familiar with. I could not say to my wife, "Come and see, sister. You'll like it," because I at some level am going to disappoint her, and everybody will disappoint you at some level except the good one, the one who is true (God).
If you were a hippie in the 70s… Not a hippie, but if you just liked good music, there were a few of us who were alive then. You listened to the Beatles. You might have heard this song if you were deep into the Beatles. On the White Album there's a track. It's not one of the more well-known Beatles songs, but it's "Sexy Sadie."
Sexy Sadie, what have you done
You made a fool of everyone
You made a fool of everyone
Sexy Sadie, ooh, what have you done
Sexy Sadie, you broke the rules
You laid it down for all to see
You laid it down for all to see
Sexy Sadie, ooh, you broke the rules
This is a little John Lennon song. What's interesting about this song is the original title of the song was "Maharishi." When Lennon and the Beatles were at the height of their fame, they were longing and looking for something else, something that would center them and give them hope, so the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said, "Come on over here to my little compound. I'll teach you the wonders of Eastern mysticism."
They went over there, and they hung out with the Maharishi for a while. While they were there, there were a lot of other stars and starlets there including one young Mia Farrow. Word got out to Lennon that at the meditation center one day the Maharishi wanted to do more than meditate with Mia, and it disappointed Lennon.
He said, "Let me just tell you something. That guy is just a cankerous old letch, just like me. That guy is still seeking for meaning. He wants that starlet to give him some physical pleasure. He wants some validation. In fact, he's kind of getting all wound up because we're here. That guy is no different than us. What are we doing here? I am disappointed." Lennon said, "I'm leaving."
Now, George Harrison and McCartney weren't as quick to want to leave. In fact, they weren't really sure they bought the story about Mia, but Lennon just went to his room and said, "Call a cab." When he went to his room, he wrote that song, and as he was leaving that little meditation center, he said to Harrison, "I want you to listen to a song."
When the cab went away from there, he played, "Maharishi, what have you done?" He talked about the lines he wrote that were filled with expletives. He was dropping the F-bomb and the C-bomb and other words in that song. He said, "This guy who we've come all the way to India to be enlightened by is just like us. There ain't nothing here." Harrison said, "You can't do that to the Maharishi. I don't care who you think we are."
About two years later, Lennon was being interviewed by the Rolling Stone, and he said, "I caved. I sold out, people. I changed that lyric to Sexy Sadie, but let me just tell you who sexy Sadie is. This sexy gal out there that you think you can find fulfillment in is the Maharishi. He's not who you think he is."
Jesus, on the other hand, says, "Not me. Come and see." I love what it says in Romans 9:33 and Romans 10:11 and 1 Peter 2:6. It quotes Isaiah 28:16. "He who believes in it will not be disturbed." Can I just tell you guys? You've heard me say this a bunch. I've followed Christ for 30 years, and I have never once executed his offense not one time in 30 years and been disappointed.
I'm going to tell you another story about Lennon next week that's going to blow you away, but we'll leave him for now. Let me just tell you this about Christ today. If you know Christ and you follow him, you will not be disappointed. I'm going to give you one more little observation. It comes after it says, "…and they stayed with him…" They didn't leave. I love that. "…for it was about the tenth hour." This is where I think it was probably Andrew and John. John said, "I know exactly when I began to follow him."
5 . When you really start to follow Jesus, you know exactly when you began to follow him, and it isn't long before others around you know. John said it was about the tenth hour, which means it was 4:00 in the afternoon. "I was with John the Baptist. I was his disciple. We were studying the Scripture. We were looking for the coming Messiah. He said, 'There he is,' and I started to follow him, and I have stayed with him. It was 4:00 on this day, and my life changed." Now, that doesn't mean that's when I walked forward. That means when I started to follow him. Since that day, everything has been different.
You know it when you begin to really follow Christ, and not only do you know it, but everybody around you knows it. You turn from being Peter to being the rock, not some guy who emotionally flies off the handle and who constantly fails in his flesh but becomes one who, built on the foundation of Christ, becomes himself a foundation for the church.
Because he walks filled with the Spirit convinced by the resurrection and intimately informed by God's Word, a vessel for him who no longer leans on his own understanding and his confidence in his own ability to follow but follows by faith, and the world goes, "You are no longer this flimsy guy, but you are Cephas, the rock." Here's the last one I'll give you.
6 . When you really follow Jesus for the first time, you cannot help but compel others to come and see what it is that you have found and to see what it is that you have seen. Andrew and John went off with him and stayed with him. They got up the next day and, as a matter of course, Andrew said, "Excuse me, Rabbi. I have to go get my brother and I have to tell him to come and see, because he has no idea that you are here. I have found the way, the truth, and the life, and I will compel him to come follow you with me."
When you really know truth and life and Christ and forgiveness and redemption and you are spiritually appraised, you can't keep your mouth shut. You say to your friends, "Come and see. Follow him with me. Forgiveness, peace, hope, restoration, regeneration, reconciliation, renewal, and life are here. Follow him."
I love this. I want to close with this one story, because he changes you completely, and you can't wait to testify about him and tell others about him. This is a guy who has come to find Christ. I want to tell you he has come from no small background of dysfunction like all of us. I mean a felon's background.
He wrote me this email after a couple of weeks ago in the Compelled to Converse series. We did a little drama up on stage with the folks who were on the flight with that little girl who was mentally disabled. I don't know if you were here for that. Go back and check it out. This is what he said.
"Todd, the skit about the disturbed young woman and her mother on the airplane really brought back a memory of just a few years ago. Like many others, I was standing in a long line at the post office to buy a one-cent stamp. The postal rate was increased that day. It was announced just before Christmas, so I needed some stamps, and the place was packed.
Well after approximately 30 minutes in line, a woman entered through a door from the line that extended outside the front door. With her she had a child who looked to be 13 or 14 years old who had a leash around her waist and chest. The child was clearly distressed, wailing loudly and making the most unusual noises. The woman and child were clearly a disruptive presence in the long line, and they were annoying many people.
She was carrying two large packages, and the pulling and tugging of the screaming young girl was making it difficult for her. For five minutes or so, the line slowly inched forward. I observed the revulsion on the faces of many in line. They kept looking back at her, as if to say, 'Can't you shut up that thing? Why don't you just give up and leave?' At this moment, I remembered you saying to look for opportunities to extend grace to others in need."
They're not my words. They're just the words of the one I follow. I had been teaching this follower that we should live as he wants to live. "I had been in this line for 30 minutes at that point, and she was now in line with that child way in the back. I started saying to myself, 'How could I help them in a crowd of people who hated them so much?' as I saw the looks in their eyes.
At this point, I was third in line from the front. I told the woman behind me to save my place, and I walked past approximately 40 people and said to that woman, 'Come with me.' I took her and the child to my place in line which now was number two, and I started back to the end of the line when someone in line yelled, 'At least take where she was in line if you're going to do that,' which I did.
Soon, the mother and child came up to me with tears welling up in their eyes and said, 'Thank you so much. No one has ever done something like that for me. No one has ever been so kind to me, and I will never forget this.' She then said, 'Why did you do that?' I said…" If you know my friend, he hadn't been following him long, and not especially boldly.
He goes, "I said, 'I learned it at church.' Someone in line said, 'Where do you go to church?' I said, 'I go to a church that is a community of believers called Watermark where I'm learning to serve rather than be served.' Then, I did the boldest thing I had ever done in front of 60 people, and I still can't believe I did it. I said, 'Jesus would not have stood by and not helped this mother and child in distress, so who am I to do any less?' and got back in line." He said, "The story doesn't end there. I went home that night reflecting on what had happened that day. I prayed and I asked Christ to forgive me."
You have to know this guy! "I asked God to forgive me for taking five long minutes to respond to this mother and child. I asked Christ that he would have me be more Christlike and that next time I would not wait so long before I respond, that it would be immediate, and that I would be bold.
Todd, this whole process didn't hurt like I thought it would. I didn't even know what I was going to say, but just like the Bible says, the Holy Spirit gave me the words to say and created for me a teachable moment in front of 60 people who witnessed what had happened and I got to tell them in the post office about my Christ."
He said, "As a final point, I want to let you know that I got back to my first spot in line (number three). The postal people shut the door and said, 'We are out of one-cent stamps.'" Perfect! Because he wasn't there for one-cent stamps and you're not here for one-cent stamps. You're not here to live in 75225 or 90210. You're not here to get a wife. You're not here to not get cancer.
You are here to live in such a way so when people say, "Who is your Christ? Who do you follow?" you say, "Let me tell you who he is. He's the one who, though he was rich for my sake became poor, who though he was a king he came to serve me and to ransom me from the depths of sin, and I follow him. I am not the Light, but I give testimony to it."
Father, I pray for my friends that they would follow him. I thank you, Lord, that you say, "Come and see," and you know we will not be disappointed because you know that you are truth and no amount of scrutiny will affect who you are. Lord, I thank you for my friends that they would come and sit and listen and labor with me through this text and we would find, again, a reminder that when we stay with you there is life there. There is hope, and we are satisfied.
We don't want to come because of what we think you'll provide us physically or where we will be geographically. We want to come because you theologically restore us to the righteous one and you teach us to live and to operate in a way that restores the glory that our sin has lost. I pray, Father, that you would free us from living for one-cent stamps and that we would follow you. For your glory, I pray, and for our good, I pray, that we might be your people, and if we are not, that we would come tonight and see your goodness. May we follow you! In Christ's name, amen.
Let's go pray. Let's go love. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.
Who was Jesus Christ? A mythical man created to give a false sense of comfort after we die? Some sort of character that enables us to justify our own choices while simultaneously giving us the power to judge others? Or was He something much bigger? God, in the flesh, walking and living among His creation. A sinless man who became the sacrifice for our sins. The Gospel of John is more than Christology 101. It is an invitation to a living and active faith in Jesus Christ. Come join us on this life-changing journey through the book of John: the story of Jesus Christ.