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Do miracles still happen? What does basing our faith on miracles say about that faith? And are miracles or "signs" the sure way to faith in Christ? Todd makes the case that many will believe despite the clear indication of God's intervention, not when they see miracles but when they reach a time of crisis, which often produces clarity.
Compassion and the Compentency We Have with Christ: How We Can Feed Five Thousand
Bingo! The Answer is "Jesus". (And the Question is: "Who is God?")
The King and His Kingdom and What You Must Know to Enjoy them Both
Jesus on Jesus
Do You Want to Get Well? Here's Your Man and Here's How.
From Confusion to Crisis to Clarity to Completion: The Progression from Christlessness to Contagious Faith
What Worshiping in Spirit and Truth Means for Disciples and the Harvest
The Woman at the Well: A Picture of Grace, a Picture of Us
It's the Relationship, Stupid: The Right Well for Your Bucket
Clearing the Way, Preparing the Way, Getting Out of the Way: How Great Men Respond to the Greatest Calling
Open to John 4 with me. We are going to wrap up this particular chapter. We've been here for a while when we've been in John. The good news is we're done with this tremendous example of grace and this tremendous example of God's provision for all people, this woman at the well. We're going to move on now to yet a third example.
Let me say this about John, and why it's such a great book for us. Anybody who ever picks up a Bible finds out very quickly that there are four different biographies, really, of the life of Christ. Frankly, they're all a little different, but the first three…Matthew, Mark, and Luke…are what are called Synoptic Gospels. That's a phrase you may not be familiar with unless you hang around folks who pride themselves with knowing phrases like that, but here we go.
What it basically means… Syn- means together or like, and –optic means view or sight, so synoptic means to see alike or to see together. They're called Synoptic Gospels. Like synagogue, which means to gather together, or synonym, which means to name together, or words that name the same thing. So synoptic means to talk about something in the same way because you see it the same way.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are really biographies that use parables, miracles, and stories about Jesus to help you really understand the story of this man who was God. What they're doing is they're talking a lot about his teachings, about his program with the Jews, about his being the great Servant, about his being the Great Physician.
John wrote decades later. Some people go, "Why was John stirred to write this fourth take on the life of Christ if there were already three?" Here's the reason. John said, "Look. You have these stories out there, these testimonies about who Christ is and what he's done, but let me bring it all home for you." What John does is John does not try to look at the life of Christ with the same eye Matthew, Mark, and Luke did. He is efforting, specifically, to grab certain words or certain discourses, certain works, and then he limits them.
He says, "Look. I have been very specific about what I grab to put in this book. The reason I'm doing this is so you might believe Jesus is the Christ, and that in believing in him, you would inherit eternal life." Not just about life at the grave where you live again. He's saying, "I want you to have life to the fullest. You're not going to have life to the fullest until you run to his arms. Everything I choose in this book is for this purpose: that you might see who he is, and you would love him."
He uses this phrase the Word that we talked about way back in the beginning. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John uses that because the word was a phrase that had been tossed around by philosophers for centuries at this point that represented this impersonal logic, this force, this truth they knew was present in the universe. If you mocked it in physics, if you mocked it in math, if you mocked it in morality, it was going to cost you.
They called this thing, this God-like presence and law that existed in both the physical and the spiritual world, to give it a name, the word. John's point was, "Look. Quit speculating on what the word is like. The Word has become flesh. The Word has always been with God. The Word is God, and the Word hung out with us not too long ago," about 60 years from the time John wrote it, in this little tract of land called Palestine to many, Israel to others.
"His name is Jesus. He hung out in these little places called Cana, Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem." He marks him with specific days and specific places. He says, "This Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. He is the Word made flesh. Know him." It's not just a proposition. It's not just a set of facts. God is real. He is there, and you can know him. The way you know him is through Jesus. That is why John wrote the gospel.
I say that because what he does, then, is everything John grabs (because he's very selective) he grabs to take hold of you and to show you something. The people in John's gospel are monoliths. I mean, they are pictures of greater truth. They are real people, but he's saying, "Look. This represents something you don't want to miss."
Nicodemus. John 3. A moral, Jewish, religious, educated man who desperately needs the Word to make him new, or he will be lost. The woman at the well. This godless, immoral, non-Jew, female, uneducated person. Nicodemus represents: How good is good enough that you don't need Jesus? Answer: You can't be that good. She represents: How nasty is so nasty even Jesus is no help to you? Answer: You can't be so nasty Jesus can't help you.
Now we're coming across this third figure, the nobleman. What does he represent? Wealthy, respected, gifted, provided-for, esteemed, valued in society, and yet watch what God is going to do with him. It's what he does with us. You're going to find that this guy is a picture of us. Most of us have come to Christ the same way this guy comes to Christ. This is no small guy. Only John talks about this guy. There is a centurion who has a similar incident that is represented in other gospels. That is not this guy. Only John talks about the nobleman.
You're going to learn some stuff today. I'm going to show you what God uses to bring people to faith, and I'm going to show you what he does not use as a primary means: miracles and signs. Not his primary means at all. Never were. Are not today. Don't be disillusioned that there aren't more miracles among us, because miracles were never for the purpose of power evangelism or advancing the kingdom.
They were there…just like they were there in the Prophets and in the Law before that, in the time of Christ, and in the time of the church early on…to authenticate the message. Once the message has been authenticated, that the words are true, many men can claim to be messiahs but not very many can walk on water. A lot of guys can say they can lay their life down and take it up because they have conquered sin and death, but only one has done it in history.
Those works are there to authenticate, not to once and for all, or continually, bring people to repentance. I'm going to talk a lot about that this morning. I'm going to clarify some things on signs and wonders. I'm going to talk about pain and death. I'm going to show you a picture of faith's progression.
You might be here this morning and Christless, without faith. I'm going to show you what maybe lies ahead for you. You might be here in crisis. I'm going to make a case for what that crisis is for. You might be here and have a little faith, but it's a confused faith. It's not fully informed. I'm going to tell you you're just on a journey.
You might be here, and your faith is growing in confidence. You might be here, and your faith is completed. Where I want to get all of us, where God wants to take us, is where he takes this nobleman: to where your faith goes from Christless to contagious. All that. Are you ready? Let's go. All right.
John 4, verse 43: "After the two days He went forth from there into Galilee." Galilee is not a place. It's a region. It's in the northern part of Israel. We've looked at this before. He had just hung out with the Samaritans for several days. They begged him to come. They believed in him. John is showing you that Jesus is going to take the gospel to the whole world. He died for the world, not just for the Jews. We have a Jew. We have a half-Jew. Now we have a Jew who was working in the Roman government. He is a worldly man.
You're going to find that even in the book of Acts, the gospel goes from Judea to Samaria to the uttermost parts of the world. You'll find the gospel goes out to Jewish people, to Samaritans in Acts 8, then to Gentiles in Acts chapter 10 with Cornelius. It's the progression Christ is showing, that he is the Savior of the world. John chapter 4 says that right there in verse 42, where it said the Samaritans had heard for themselves who this one was, and they had seen him to be what he said he was in John 3: the Savior of the world.
So, why did he go? This is interesting. Verse 44 is kind of an interesting verse. I'm going to throw it in there. We're going to have some fun with this. He says, "For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country." John, chapter 1, verse 11, starts this way. It says, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him."
Okay, now Matthew, Mark, and Luke all use this phrase, "A prophet is without honor in his own town." We have a phrase in our society which says, "Familiarity breeds contempt." Right? When you're around something a lot, you really don't appreciate it for the fullness of what it is. Or you only appreciate it for what it kind of does for you because of your association with it, but you really don't know what you have right there.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke always use this in reference to Jesus' ministry up in Nazareth, which is a city in Galilee. It's interesting. Jesus never does a miracle in Nazareth, where he was from, except for the miracle of living 30 perfect years in their presence. He's like, "Look. If that ain't enough to show you I'm different, then nothing is going to pull it off, so I'm not going to give you a lot of signs."
There is a time when the Nazarenes specifically… When he just claimed the book of Isaiah and applied it to himself, they took him up. A mob grabbed him and went to throw him off a precipice there looking over the valley of Megiddo. It says Christ said, "Not now." In a sense you might say that was the very first miracle, that he kind of Heisman-ed his way through a radical mob who wanted to throw him off. He said, "Not going to happen, because I'm King," but he never did a real miracle there in the sense of miracles.
What he did do, though, is a lot of other miracles up in that region around the Sea of Galilee, and the people there did not respond. They did not respond. He said, in fact, it's going to be better and more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than many of those cities he hung out in most of the time.
There are two ways to take this, when Jesus himself said that a prophet is without honor. He's either talking about the Galileans… The hard part about me thinking that's what John is doing right here (which is what Matthew, Mark, and Luke did) is it says in verse 45, "So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him…" So, it seems odd he would say, "I'm going to Galilee here because there's nothing going on there." I'm going to give you a take on that in a minute.
Probably what John is doing is he's saying that he's moving now from Judea, where he had been doing the festival, up to Samaria, and now he's going to go up into Galilee because it's not yet time for him to be confronted with the place where he really considered his home: the temple mount. "My Father's house. It's not time for me to be received for who I am, which is the visible image of the invisible God. I've cleansed the temple. I've pronounced myself there. I've done miracles there. They rejected me. They haven't received me, so I'm going to go back up north," to the blue-collar, if you will, or even sometimes the looked-down-upon Jew.
Galilee was a region where the Roman garrison was. Herod Antipas was there. It's where most of the Roman soldiers were. A lot of Jews who went up there went up there to make cash, because that's where the trade routes were. It's where the soldiers were who, when they were on furlough, would buy your goods. A lot of the Jews said, "If you're up north in Galilee, you're not up there because you love God." Jesus went up there to show them that, but I want to show you one more thing.
I do think what's consistent with the life of Christ is when he finds someplace… Which, by the way, was Galilee and Judea. That's why this is really largely irrelevant except for the chance I get to teach you something here. When he says this, when he says he's going to go up into Galilee and they don't receive him, Jesus always loved to go where the battle was.
He kept going, by the way, back into Jerusalem so they could know there was a prophet in their midst. He kept going back to Galilee. They rejected him. Now, he stopped doing miracles, and at one point he said, "There will be no more miracles, except the sign of Jonah." He did that because he's gracious, because there is judgment on individuals that's going to correlate to the amount of light they've received.
Everybody has received enough light, through conscience and creation, that they're going to be judged, Romans 1 says. But especially when you have Christ, the clarity of the Scripture, and special revelation, and you reject that, look out. That's why he said, "It's going to be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, for Tyre and Sidon, than it is for you Chorazin and you Bethsaida," in those particular times. Here's what I love about Jesus.
I have been to Israel a couple of times and taken some friends. One of my favorite places to go is in the Galilean region. I'm going to show you something about Jesus this morning as we get started. I think too many of us have this effeminate view of Jesus, that he is this guy who needs a little bit more sunlight and definitely a few more push-ups, that he kind of wears soft clothes and speaks in a soft voice, reads a lot of poetry and pets lambs.
Let me tell you something. You have the wrong view of Jesus. This guy was a warrior. There is no doubt he was approachable, loving, kind, and gracious to the down-trodden and abused, but I'm going to tell you something. This is a man's man. At the end of three years of ministry, Jesus takes his disciples… It's at the very end, and he jerks them up into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee to a place called Caesarea Philippi, the Caesar of Herod Philip.
What he has done, is he took them to this place that is the pinnacle of pagan worship of the day. There is, in that particular region, intense Baal worship. You'll see that in Scripture. Baal worship is a Canaanite fertility religion which basically believes (Baal just means lord) that the lord…the one who brings forth crops, the one who brings forth produce so we can live…his concubine, his lover, is Asherah or Anat. You hear about these high places, these Asherah poles, all throughout the Old Testament.
What they believed is every winter… The way their pagan worldview views, the way they understood, the world is that Baal and Asherah would go on furlough, or they'd go to sleep for the winter. That's why the earth died. Then, every spring, he would come back to life. They needed Baal and Asherah to copulate. They needed them to have intercourse. Baal was the god of the sky, and they believed his semen was the rain.
It would come down on the earth, and out of the earth would come their children, the earth's children, which were crops they would eat. In their worldview, they said, "Hey. If we're going to eat his kids, we have to offer him ours." These Canaanite fertility religions… It's a great way to get folks to come to church. Say, "Look. You have to come sleep with the temple prostitutes. That's your tithe and worship this week." Guys are like, "Okay. If I have to go, I have to go."
They would go, and they would copulate. They would have sex and intercourse with male prostitutes and female prostitutes. They would put on, basically, human acts of pornography they believed would make Baal go, "Wow. That reminds me of what I haven't done all winter with my wife." He, then, would initiate with her. Rain (semen) would come, and then crops would come from the earth. Crazy, right?
It's amazing what men can do when they're trying to justify behavior. I always say there's nothing quite so creative as a person in the midst of self-justification. Or I would say whatever church growth strategies are being used today, at least we've bypassed this one. Here's the thing. In addition to that, they would also involve human sacrifice. They would offer their children to Moloch, to Baal, and they would throw them in. Now why am I saying all this? Let me show you about your Jesus.
Caesarea Philippi is up in the Northern Kingdom. When you're there today, there's a big old cave there in the northern part of that area that is about 40 or 50 feet high, about 60 feet wide. It's right there at the base of Mount Hermon, which is a true mountain in Israel, not just a hill. It is a mountain range, and it has snow-capped peaks. It's right there on the Syrian border. It's the Golan Heights and that whole area. It's beautiful.
When the snowmelt would come down, there used to be in that desert region a rush of water that would come out of that cave. It would begin to feed the valley that would go down from there. It would go into the beginning of… It's one of the three tributaries to the Jordan River that would dump into the Sea of Galilee. Then, further on down, the Jordan River would come out the other side.
This was a very strategic spot. It was life-giving. There would be Baal worship here. In an ancient picture of it, a drawing archaeologists say it looked like, you would see there was a temple built right over the mouth of the cave on the left. The water would come rushing through that temple and down into the beginning of the river.
What was going on here is this. After three years, Jesus takes his disciples from the Sea of Galilee. It's about an hour drive today, so you can imagine the walk. They get up there, and he says, "Hey. Who do you guys say I am? Who do you think I am?" They go, "Well, some say you're John the Baptist. Some say you're Elijah. Some say you're a prophet." He goes, "No, no, no. You haven't been listening to me. Who do you say I am?"
It's a question you have to answer today, by the way. "Who do you say I am?" That's when Peter spoke up. He said, "Well, I think you're the Christ. You're the Son of the living God. You are the Word made flesh. You are the hope of the nations. You are the Savior of the world." He said, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona […] upon this rock I will build My church…"
Now listen. This has been a source of great debate between the Protestants and Catholics for centuries. The Catholics believe at that moment he anointed Peter as his vicar, as the one he was going to build his church on, and there would be apostolic succession from Peter onward. He was the first pope.
Protestants understand that there's a reason God changed the masculine and the feminine. He said to Peter, "Look. Very good. On that profession, or on all you apostles, on the foundation you will teach as my Spirit informs you, I will build my church." He wasn't naming a man there would be apostolic succession from, but he was saying, "No, on that profession and on the foundation of the teaching that comes from the apostles."
Let me give you a third option. It's the one I like. By the way, if you're going to choose one of the prior two, go with the profession and the teaching of the apostles, but here's a third one. Caesarea Philippi is called up there, that place where the water came forth from the rock that they had no idea where it came rushing from… They thought it just went down to the bowels of the earth.
They called this place the gates of hell. At the gates of hell is where the supreme manifestation of cult worship…mythology, human destruction, devaluing of life, and immorality…was manifest. I mean, it is Vegas, baby, and it is whatever you think is the supreme expression of perversion and death and human distortion of truth.
I think Jesus took his disciples up there and said, "Boys, we've been here for three years. Who do you think I am?" They speculated. He goes, "Who do you think I am?" They go, "You're God." He goes, "That's right. You see this place right here which is the supreme distortion of truth? Even right here, I'm taking this ground. Hell, immorality, false worldviews that destroy people and take innocent lives are going down. You guys, with me, are going to change the world, and even hell will not stand against it."
Now, look. I like that. That's at the end, and he is saying, "Boys, we're fixing to go to war, and we're not going to be some little group that hides in closets and meets on Sunday mornings sheepishly. We're going to go where darkness is, and because I am God and I cannot be stopped and truth is always a majority, we will not shrink back."
Right after that, by the way, what does he do? He goes up to Mount Hermon. He takes Peter, James, and John. He scrolls back the flesh, and he says, "You didn't just speculate, boys. Let me show you." It's called the transfiguration. Then he comes down, and guess where he goes? Directly to Jerusalem, where this man lays his life down, not to start the war but to end it.
Let me tell you what's going on here in this little verse in John, chapter 4, verse 44. Jesus says anyplace…whether it's Galilee, Judea, or the gates of hell…that does not recognize him as prophet, he is game, and he is in. He goes, "Let's go. Don't you shrink back." I want to tell you something. You serve a King who steps into the ring. When he sees trouble, he goes, "Game on." He doesn't shrink back. He takes them to the most pagan, dark place, and he says, "I will stand here. This will go." I've stood there now myself. It ain't going on there, but the gospel continues. It's good.
Watch this. Don't you love this? You read the Bible sometimes, and you kind of move through and go, "What good is that for me?" Dig a little bit, folks. There is some truth that is there that will motivate you, inspire you, get you up out of your little room, get you out in the world where hell reigns, and bring peace.
Verse 45 says, "So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him…" What does this mean, they "…received him…"? I think they received him because they were down in Jerusalem when he got after it. In John, chapter 2, at the very end of that chapter, it talks about how in Jerusalem, "…during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing."
I think a bunch of folks go, "Hey, this hometown boy has done good. He's going down there, and he did some things. Not only did he do some things in the temple, he did some miracles that, man, I want to tell you what…" It says they gladly received him, but they received him in a way that was not consistent with who he was. They didn't have a full understanding yet, so he was going to try and up their understanding.
It says right there in verse 45, "…having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast. Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official…" Let me tell you. We're about to find the second sign.
Note on the first sign: Jesus has authority over time. If you're God, you have authority over time. In other words, his very first miracle was the miracle of creation. Wine, when he turns water into wine. What is wine? Wine is old grape juice. So, he can change the nature of something, and he can change the time it takes for something to be transformed.
He said, "This is the good wine you brought out. Most folks bring out the bad wine." The very first miracle in Cana showed he has authority over time. What's the second one going to show? You're about to find out. Something John wants you to see about who this Jesus is so you can know him and find life.
When he got there, he met a royal official, a basilikos. That word means royal. When you go today to some churches, they're called a basilica. A basilica is a royal place. It's a transliteration from this particular word. This is a royal officer. This is a noble guy. This is a guy who has it going on. He's wealthy, impressive, admired, influential, and privileged, as I said, but there's something else going on with him. He is dying and desperate, and God is going to use that. He's going to use it big time. Watch.
It says this royal official had a son who was sick at Capernaum. Now Capernaum is about 20 miles away in this little region right there. This guy had come. Why did he come? Not because he himself had been down there in Jerusalem watching the things Jesus had done, but no doubt some folks had come back and said, "There's a guy who was down in Jerusalem who was doing some things that were miraculous. We've never seen anything like it."
What happens is God is going to introduce a crisis into this man's life. This noble person became a needy man, if you will. This guy was here, not as somebody who saw himself as powerful anymore, but somebody who needed provision. He'd come to the end of himself, just like Queen Elizabeth at the end of her life. She said, "All my possessions, for just a moment of time."
Voltaire, who was on a tear against Christendom and a tear against Christ, said he himself was going to take down 1,800 years of Christian teaching. At the end of his life, he said to a doctor, "I am abandoned by God and man; I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months' life."
The doctor said, "You can't even have six weeks." Voltaire said, "Then I shall die and go to hell and may you go with me." That's what he said. What God is doing is he's saying, "Hey, Voltaire, I'm going to fire a warning shot across your bow. I don't care how intelligent you think you are, you're going to see the death of self." This great guy…
By the way, this is what God uses. Isn't this consistent? Let me say this. Cancer has led as many people to Christ in this church as I have. You did not come to Jesus by living a largely moral life and then sitting there one day and saying, "You know, this morality that is in me is evidence there is a great moral force in the universe. This great moral force, I don't really approach in goodness and dignity; therefore, there must be some provision made for my lack of perfection.
Which would mean that deity must manifest himself in an image according to my likeness to where I could then, by faith, appropriate his sacrifice for me so, though I needed to be far off in my imperfection, I would be drawn to him, and my depravity would be righteously justified and satisfied. I could be sanctified and move toward him in love."
That is not what happened with you. What happened with you is you probably, like me, came to the end of yourself. You saw that operating according to your game plan wasn't working out really well, so you go, "I wonder if there's another offense I could run? I wonder if there's another system of truth I could live by?" That is a story that shows up again and again and again and again.
There are two kinds of people, by the way, whom God brings trials and tragedy into their lives. There are really two monolithic, if you will, camps. There's some cross-section. There's some middle ground, and probably nobody is perfectly in either one of these. Let me say this. If death, disease, trial, or tragedy is in your life, it's primarily for one of two reasons.
First, it's because you are far from God, and he wants to draw you near to him. Like the nobleman. Like many stories I'm about to share with you. Or, secondly, you are near to God, and he wants to use you as a picture of true faith so others might be drawn near to him. Be careful before you presuppose which one it is.
Remember, Job's friends made the terrible mistake of assuming God never has the second category. It's always the first. "You must have done something wrong, because there's no way a good and sovereign and loving God would ever allow you to suffer if you are righteous and blameless in all you do." In fact, that was the case with Job.
I had a friend this week who had something happen to him (this is not an overstatement) that you wouldn't want what happened to him to happen to your worst enemy. You pick the greatest dark figure in human history, and I would not have wanted this thing to happen to him. He goes, "I need your help. Why? Why did this happen?"
I said, "Well, I'm going to tell you this. There is one of two reasons. Number one, because you're far from God, and he wants to draw you near to him. Number two, because you're very near to God, and he's going to use you as a means through which others who are far from him can see what real faith looks like, the real goodness of God, and the provision of God even in darkness. He's going to use you to bring others to him. I marvel. I stand in awe in your presence, because I know you. You're not far from God. I know you seek him. I know you honor him with your life. I know you love him. I know you have a relationship with him intimately every day."
I am humbled that God continues to trust me with strength, health, and provision and says, "Todd, you represent me with that." Then I look at my friend, Sue Bohlin here, who has had polio since she was a child, faithfully dealing with it, and I marvel. I look at the Landis family here with their son, whose body is going through a muscular degeneration. I watch this junior high boy be a picture of strength, grace, hope, and faith in God, though his body continues to shrink. I marvel at individuals in our body who labor and struggle. Our body is full of them.
Folks who have buried children. Godly people who have dealt with cancer, and who are dealing with great tragedy. God sometimes trusts those he loves deeply to endure those things in a way that will cause others to go, "What is it you have that I don't have? I'd be so angry and depressed and discouraged. I'd end my life. I wouldn't live with joy. I wouldn't sing to him. Who are you?" You respond with, "No. Let me tell you whose I am. This world is not my home. I will wait for him. Until he takes me home, I will glorify him in the state he calls me to serve him in."
That is not the case with this nobleman. This nobleman is the first case. He is Christless, and God is going to use crisis to bring him to him, just like he did my buddy Freddie Mayfield, who sat right here first hour. Freddie and I met one Sunday right here when he was at the end of himself. Freddie was such a miserable wretch.
He had progressively given himself over to the ways of the world until he couldn't get high without a massive investment of drugs into his body. In fact, he said, "My roommate and I used to wake up in the morning, and we would fight. The very first thing that would happen is there would be a physical fight every morning, because we both wanted the other one to inject our body first with heroin so we could make it through the day. We would fight about who got the needle first from the other guy."
Freddie's life got darker and darker and darker until he couldn't get high with what he had been getting. He went to Tractor Supply, bought a horse syringe, and filled it with black tar heroin and shot that in his butt. He ended up down in Parkland Memorial Hospital. Parkland said, "You have enough dope in you to kill 10 men." A couple of birthdays before, his mom had bought him a funeral plot for his birthday. That was his gift, because he was a dead man walking.
Freddie had come completely to the end of himself. Lying in the hospital bed, he read an article in the Dallas Morning News that referenced this particular place and our love for prodigals. As soon as he got out of that hospital bed, he walked in here. I remember meeting Freddie right here and praying with two other guys.
Freddie went from a crisis and saying, "I can't even kill myself with a horse syringe. If I'm going to live, I have to figure out how to live." That brother has gone from being Christless to being complete in his faith, to being contagious, to where now he is leading in ministry here. He is making disciples here. He is serving here. He is caring for others here. He is leading out for Christ.
Now, look. God had to break him beyond breaking. The truth is, most of us don't look up until we're lying flat on our backs. Until we come to the end of our own flesh, we often don't look to the Spirit. That's what God uses. That's all of our stories. I think about sweet Amanda on our staff, who said from the time she was 15 on, she just ran after pleasure and vice. She said she was trying to deal with an eternal problem with temporal solutions.
She had a lot of fun. Cute little girl. Beautiful. Guys were happy to find a girl like that who was trying to find pleasure by pleasuring herself. On she went until, in a life of alcohol and drugs and illicit relationships, she found herself one day with a positive pregnancy test. She didn't know what to do. The father of that child said, "I'll tell you what to do. I'm not going to raise it, and you shouldn't either. Let's keep partying." She terminated that life.
Then she said, "From that moment on, I went from partying to find life to partying to try and cover up the loss of life in me, and depression and discouragement ruled me." She said, "I moved from cocaine to methamphetamines and crystal meth. I weighed less than 100 pounds. I was arrested time and time again. I'd get pulled over. In 2005, I got a DUI. I was busted for felony drug possession. In a small cell for the first time, instead of looking to alcohol, drugs, and relationships to make me whole, I began to consider there might be something else, and I found Jesus."
Amanda found him because while she was in that cell, a friend reminded her of others here. They invited her, and she came here. She specifically came to a baptism service right out of jail, and she heard you sing. She heard you give testimony to Christ, and it changed her and brought such glory in her life that we later observed her and said, "Would you join us and become a leader here?" Now she serves you as a member of this staff, ministering with a contagious faith, but it took a crisis to get her there.
I think about a guy who for seven years sat in a Community Group here at Watermark. They had prayed for him. They'd bring him to church. They'd do strategic moments. He would come, and he would argue with them. He would hide behind his intellectual ideas. He was all full of self-confidence and said, "It's good for you. I don't need it."
Then, one day a tingling shows up in his fingertips, and he thinks he has Lou Gehrig's disease. All his wealth, all his fortune, and all his intellect he knew were not going to do him any good. All of a sudden, he started to listen differently. That crisis brought him to faith, to where now he greets you, welcomes you here, ministers to you here, and leads in his Community Group with others. Crisis brought this Christless man to faith.
Now God later told him, "Hey, it's not Lou Gehrig's disease. It's carpal tunnel syndrome," but it accomplished his purpose. Lucky him, but I want to tell you something. If he needs Lou Gehrig's disease to come to faith, lucky him. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "If your eye is going to keep you from heaven, pluck it out. If your hand is going to keep you from heaven, cut it off. There is nothing…" He's speaking in hyperbole there.
Can I tell you a prayer I prayed a lot when I was a kid? I did. When I first came to faith, I said, "God, if you are who you are, then there is nothing I want to keep me from knowing you." The one thing that, as an athlete, I thought would be the worst thing that could happen to me is what my friend Chris has gone through over here. Another athlete who sits right there in a wheelchair and worships God day after day and tries to honor him, training at seminary to follow him.
I said, "Lord, if you have to put me in a wheelchair and make me immobile from the neck down so I might know you and you alone and run into your arms, take it. But, Lord, please, please, give me a tender heart so I don't need a crisis like that to show me how futile, whimsical, and empty I am in myself. Lord, let me live in such a way that if I do end up in a wheelchair, I won't wonder if the wheelchair was necessary for me to know you. It would just be my opportunity to glorify you."
I can show you my journal when I wrote that as a kid, a high school kid, a college kid, a post-college kid. I mean it today because he is King, and he is good. What God often uses in most of our lives is crisis. I want to tell you something. If you are running high on the hog right now, and you are Christless, then there is one of three awful possibilities.
There's one possibility, which is that you'll come to your senses today, be tenderhearted, and not wait for a severe mercy. Two, a severe mercy will come, and you will be eternally fortunate. Or three, he's going to leave you alone, and you are not his own. That is a terrible thing. But this man was in crisis. Now watch this. This is good stuff right here. Watch.
He goes, and Jesus has this royal official whose son was sick. In verse 47, "When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down…" This is a nobleman going to a village carpenter. How humbling. "…and heal his son…" So, we have a Christless guy, and then he has a crisis. But watch this. He is confused. He is confused about a couple of things.
First of all, he's confused that Christ needs to come to do something, because he doesn't know this is God. He's sovereign over time and space. He also thinks he has to come before his son dies. He has no idea who he's dealing with. This is the God of the living and the dead. He is very confused. He has an ill-formed faith, and so he is confused. He says it. Watch this.
"So Jesus said to him…" Watch this response. This does not seem very pastoral. "Hey, I heard you can do something. My son is dying. I just ran here 20 miles to be with you." "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe." Now is that encouraging? It appears not, to me, at first glance.
In fairness to Christ, you need to know that you right there is plural. He is talking to all of Galilee who are listening. "Let me tell you why you guys receive me. You don't know who I am. You just know I caused some buzz down there, which is bringing some notoriety to your villages. Maybe a few of you have some sick boys, or maybe you have some empty pots. Maybe you want some more wine at your wedding. That's why you're receiving me, but you don't know who I am. All you want is signs."
Let me make a note here. Let me say this. Faithful people don't use God. They love God. Faith trusts and obeys. Faithlessness tests and uses. Tests and abuses. Can I make a note right here? This is a big deal. I want to tell you something. I don't have the gift of healing. I never have, in the sense that God has said, "Todd, I want to heal people through you." I don't believe anybody has the gift of healing Christ had and that was manifest in the Scripture.
Watch. Careful. I believe God can heal. I have seen it. I want you to know. I want to be on record. I know people firsthand, but in 30 years of knowing Christ, not many. I mean, one hand kind of stuff. Folks who doctors go, "You have this. You have this. You have this. Here's the test to verify it," and before medical science showed up… By the way, praise God one of the ways he heals people is through medical science. We've seen that. Right? We should pray for people and avail ourselves to all medical science offers.
God will sometimes use that to heal, to mitigate, or to draw back disease, cancer, and death, but I'm talking about people who they said, "You have this. This is what the spectrum ahead is for you. This is where you're headed." Then, they go, and they get tested again. The doctors go, "Bro, you don't have what we thought you had. The only explanation we have for it is the tests were wrong. The diagnostics were not right."
They go, "But we have the hard data right here. We just don't know if the computer malfunctioned or if the blood work got confused with somebody else, but that ain't you. You're here, so medically speaking, there was a mistake." We know it wasn't a mistake. We know God heals, and we know God can heal. Let me say it again. God can heal. I pray for healing, but I don't typically say, "Lord, heal them as a matter of something you need to do to show your goodness and love to anybody."
In fact, last week a sweet dear girl, Lisa, who is totally involved and plugged in right here in community, serving, leading… She has a form of cancer that is wrapped around her entire insides that only one other person in the country has. Two people right now. So rare. So extreme. They had treated it for a little bit. It had kind of gone away. She went back to work, and now it's back with a vengeance. I don't even know if she's on earth this morning, frankly, but I know Lisa is fighting or was fighting.
We prayed with her last week. I said, "Lisa, I'm going to tell you something. Come here. I marvel at how God is using you at this moment. I don't know how much longer he's going to use you this way. What do I want? I want him to heal you. I'm going to pray he'll heal you but, really, I'm not. I'm going to pray he will glorify himself through you. If that's through healing, I'm in on that. If it's through death, your faithfulness to death, and healing you at the grave, they're going to watch me sing at your funeral." Her mom and dad were there. A sweet 20-something-year-old little girl.
I want to make some statements right here. You need to know this. It is not something that… Specifically, people who look for signs are not commended in Scripture. They are condemned. Matthew 12:39 says, "It is a wicked and perverse generation that looks for signs," whether it be some ecstatic utterance of a tongue, some prophet word, some miraculous healing. "A wicked and adulterous generation looks for signs."
Are signs wrong? No, but they're not to be expected. We don't need them. "Blessed are those who believe and do not see." All right. Now I'm going to make some comments right here, and I want to tell you I don't believe anybody has the gifts of healing Jesus had and are manifest in Scripture. I do believe God heals, and we pray for healing appropriately, as I said. I've seen it a few sure ways.
By the way, when folks come to me and say, "Todd, will you pray for me?" I go, "Well, why do you want me to pray for you in that way?" "Well, because James 5 says, 'Go to the elders and they'll anoint you with oil. You who were sick will be made well.'" That is a misunderstanding of the text. We've taught on it. It's talking about going before the leadership of the church and acknowledging you're living your life in contradiction to the Word. Therefore, there is a sickness on you, and the oil is the anointing of truth.
Look. We're not absolutely against putting oil on your head and praying for you, but you don't need an elder. The Scripture says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Righteous men are righteous because of Christ alone. You get your community around you. I love to pray for you, because I love to see God at work in your life. I want to be a part of God's grace, but you don't need me as an elder, as a pastor.
You don't need any other pastor on TV or anywhere else in this community who says they have some gift. I've been in these places. I've watched the way work. They're using magician's tricks. I've been a part of exposing them, and they know what they're doing. There are wheelchairs and polio and death here, and they're praying for psoriasis and tennis elbow.
They are manipulating words in order to give themselves fame and to make people swoon in their presence, when we should only swoon in the presence of Christ. It is a mockery, which you see in the Scripture. That's what I think. Let me say this. Here are a few statements. I wrote them down because I want you to get them. They'll be posted. As I thought about it this week…
First, real faith does not predetermine what deity must do, and it does not presuppose either the wisdom of their own desire or the lack of wisdom in God's apparent inaction. This is what Jesus meant when he said there is a wicked and perverse generation who seeks signs. It does not presuppose either the wisdom of their desire… That I want Lisa healed. I don't know if that's best.
By the way, up there at Caesarea Philippi, Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said, "You're right, and the gates of hell won't stand against me. I'm going to go give my life away in Jerusalem, and by that I will start the freedom which you will take forward." Peter goes, "God forbid it, Lord. You're not going to do that." He said, "Get behind Me, Satan!"
In other words, had I been there with Peter, and Jesus said, "Hey, Todd, I'm going to let you speak up here. Do you think I should go and die? Do you think I should go be nailed to a cross? Cut my ministry short at 33, this one who just affirmed he is God made flesh? Or should I kind of keep the mojo going, go for a crown, and install myself right now as the King?" I would have intervened in the very thing that turned out to be the only thing that led to my salvation.
If I, like Peter, would have chosen Satan's program, which is to keep Jesus from the cross, over God's program, which is to save me, then in that moment I ought to be a little bit more humble when I tell God I'm pretty sure what he should do. Amen?
That's what I mean by this statement: It does not presuppose either the wisdom of their own desire or the lack of wisdom in God's apparent inaction. When you say, "God, you have to do this to show yourself to me," you're saying, "I know better than you what to do, and your not doing it tells me you're not as smart as I thought you were."
Secondly, a belief which requires signs and wonders is no belief at all. It is a demand that the genie you are willing to call God performs at your whim, or else you will reject him as God and remove him as your genie. Does that make sense? In other words, "God, I'm going to rub up against you. I'm going to ask, seek, knock, and pray, and you're going to do what I want you to do. If you don't do it, then you're not going to be a very good genie. In fact, I reject you as genie, and you're certainly not God, because I'm telling you this is what God would do." Another statement I wrote down this week as I thought about this…
Thirdly…bottom line…if God must do whatever we ask, then he is not sovereign, and we, the ones who are asking, are sovereign. Does that make sense? Look. God, in Christ, is showing you he has your best interests in mind. Here we go. Watch this. This is very important. Faithful people trust and obey. Faithless people test, use, and abuse. Let me show you a picture real quickly of faith, of how you should respond when this happens.
In 2000, James Montgomery Boice, a pastor in Philadelphia had cancer. He wrote this, and it is genius. He said this to his church body: "Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you're free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles—and He certainly can—is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they're rare by definition."
Those of you who care to follow me when I tweet, yesterday I tweeted just that. The reason they're called miracles and not regulars is because they don't often happen. They're not regulars. It is not a regular expectation that people pop up out of wheelchairs, put down their polio cane, or get healed from rare forms of cancer without any medical intervention, immediately, all the way, all the time. Can God do it? Sure. You want to ask? Great. But here's what he says. This is genius.
He says, "Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying Himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn't by delivering Jesus from the cross, though He could have. […] God is in charge." Always in charge.
"When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It is not as if God somehow forgot what was going on when I got cancer, so something bad slipped by. […] God is not only the one who is in charge, God is also good. Everything He does is good. […] If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you'd change it, you'd make it worse. It wouldn't be as good." To which I say, "Amen."
Eight weeks later, he was dead, and wasn't God glorified? Wouldn't God have been glorified in his healing? Absolutely. Was God glorified in his living? Absolutely. What should we pray for one another? That God would be glorified. In my selfishness, I have no problem telling God, "I want everybody healed all the time." Hospitals would be empty, and the world would be a very crowded place. Cemeteries would be empty. But death is a reminder we are not in control, and we have a debt to one who is King. Death is not an end. It is an eternally-fixed beginning.
This Christless nobleman, who thought his riches and fame would never put him in crisis, found himself in a place where, for the first time, he was willing to look up. So, he says this. He comes to Jesus, and he says one more time, after Jesus rebuked that… It was really a test. It's a test. What are you going to do with that? You just want a sign.
The guy goes right back, and he says, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Again, still very confused. Jesus didn't need to go, if he knew who he was, and his dying was not going to be too late. We have evidences of death not being too late for Jesus. Watch what Jesus says. It's very dismissive.
It's almost like this, like he's saying, "Hey, all you guys want is signs from me." "Sir, my son is dying. Please come down with me." I say, "Go. Your son lives. Now, back to you guys." That's exactly what he did. In fact, the word go is the word some have said is like the British word cheerio. "Carry on. Go your way. Carry on. Go about your business. Your son lives," and went on. That's really, literally, what that word is.
Now watch what happens. That guy sat there and listened. He thought, "You know what? This guy either is who they say he is, somebody who can do what no one else can do because he's not man, he's God. Or he's not. He told me to carry on." Guess what this guy did? Carried on. He was done. When Jesus responded and said, "Go. Carry on. Stay busy," he just backed away.
Here's what we know. It's 20 miles. Now, look. If you're a rich person, you didn't walk there. You had a chariot or horses. It's about an hour or a two-hour chariot ride. It's about a six-hour walk. It's one in the afternoon. It's called the seventh hour. If you start at six in the morning and add seven, you have one in the afternoon. You have plenty of time to make it home by nightfall. If that's my boy, I am hoofing it to see if, in fact, this guy does it.
Whatever he was in Cana to do, he stayed there and did. He spent the night. How do we know that? Because it says, "The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and [went away] ." By the way, that word went away means he carried on. He got on with it. He just went about his business, because he knew God was doing his business.
Verse 51: "As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, 'Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.' So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, 'Your son lives…'" The third time. "…and he himself believed and his whole household."
You see, what happened is his confused faith had a little bit of clarity brought to it. Here it was brought to completion, because he goes, "There's nobody who can do what this guy did. He didn't need to come with me 20 miles. My son could have been 20,000 miles away. This is God." Three times in this text it says, "Your son lives." Jesus is the one who has authority over time, the first miracle in Cana, and space, the second miracle at Cana. He is the one who can give life.
See what John is doing here? This is you. You might be Christless, and he'll probably use a crisis. It's what he uses with most of us. Some crisis where you will come to the end of yourself. You'll come to him in confusion, thinking all he is, is a genie, and if he shows up for you, then you'll serve him. He doesn't always come through in that way, but he lets you know he's a God who can come through.
You'll move from some confusion and growing confirmation to clarity. Your faith will be completed like this man, because what happens… You see, he believed the Word and went away. He started to apply the Word to his life. As he applied the Word to his life and he saw his trusting and obeying, he met people who said, "There's life here." Then, his faith was completed, and he said, "This is God." Look what happened.
It says that he, then, and his whole household believed. His faith went from completed to contagious, and he started telling everybody. "Let me tell you who that guy is. He ain't just some miracle worker. It's the Word made flesh. Boy, let me tell you who healed you. Mama, let me tell you who healed my boy. Community, servants, let me tell you about our King. It ain't Herod. It's this man, Jesus."
I want to close with this. There is one boy here in our body who is on staff with me, who I know had given himself away to a lot of things. He came to the end of his flesh, and one day he was reading in the Word, just looking for hope. He read something in there about where God says hope can be found, not in fleeting things. He closed his Bible. He walked away from his pursing all the world said he should pursue in this flesh and in his industry, and he began to follow him. His faith was completed and has become contagious.
This week, I got an email that was sent to him and me. This could be said of many, but let me show you what should happen, Noblemen, when your faith takes full turn and becomes contagious. Talking about this guy, a member of our body wrote and said, "I just want you to know that I'm a better husband and a better dad today because of this guy. My relationship with the Lord is now more intimate because of this guy," who used to be Christless, went through a crisis, was confused about who God was, had some clarity, was brought to completion, and now he is a Christ-follower.
"Through this guy, I am able to acknowledge and surrender the addiction in my life, because he led me to Jesus. I have purpose and passion, because this guy discipled me. I am pouring, now, into other men who are discipling others, because he discipled me first. After being a believer for 10 years, he reminded me that I need to step up and be obedient in baptism." Because of this guy.
The Lord has allowed me now to take part in leading numerous nonbelievers to Christ because of this guy. Men I've discipled, as I've said, are now discipling because of this guy. I struggle less with seeking the approval of men because of this guy." This nobleman who found where life is. It's in Jesus.
If you're here this morning, and you're trying to figure out who Jesus is, he is ruler of time and space. He is very God of very God. He is the visible image of the one you wonder if you can know. He is where life can be found. Come on, before crisis brings you, if you're lucky.
Father, I pray for my friends, that they would be faithful, and that they would go on their way, full of cheer, because you are King, and you love them. I pray if they are here in the middle of crisis this morning, that crisis would be useful to them as it was to the nobleman, and that they would hear Jesus speak to them this morning. "Come to me. Receive my Word. Accept my provision. You, my son, you, my daughter, will also live."
I pray we would not seek signs, but that we would just be faithful, that we would be marked by trusting and obeying, that we would not be people who would test you, use you, and abuse you. I pray we would not confuse our own sense of what is right with right, but that we would come to the end of ourselves and say, "Not my will, but your will be done."
May this be a body, Father, where true faith lives, and that true faith would be contagious, so our households, our teams, our places of work, our city, our country, yea, your world, would be people who believe as well. May we run into your arms, trusting every day and every situation that you would give us to. May we comfort one another who are sick. May we encourage those who are strong, all of us, to glorify you, that others may know you have come, and you are King. In the name of this Jesus, I pray, amen.
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.