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Reactions to Jesus have been remarkably consistent over the last 2,000 years. Whether it's the intelligentsia of our day or the Pharisees of that time, Jesus causes division that has almost always found His detractor calling His followers "deluded" or worse. Are you keeping quiet in the face of this opposition or growing stronger in your ability to make a defense for truth?
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The Division, the Defense, and the Duty: Breaking the Spiral of Silence
John 7: The Bible Collapses Here
The Decision that Leads to Division: Who is this Jesus?
The Sovereign and All-Satisfying Jesus: Will You Follow Him?
The Most Grumbled About, Argument-Inducing, Difficult, Disciple-Losing Message Jesus Ever Taught
What Must be True in Our Lives if We are Going to Say "Christ is Enough"
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The Perfect Shepherd. For Green Pastures and Violent Waters.
There's probably no more divisive person right now in the American public eye than Tim Tebow. Right? Everybody has an opinion on Tim Tebow. I will tell you this. If you think Tim Tebow is divisive, you ought to get to know his hero, because that guy is really divisive. In fact, from the very beginning, it was prophesied and said of him that he would be divisive.
Many people think Jesus came to bring us all together. He did, but the way he was going to bring us all together is by having us all reconcile to God. There are some people who are not going to reconcile to God and certainly aren't going to reconcile to God the way God, in his infinite wisdom and kindness, provided for us. Because they'll reject that way to be reconciled to God, they will not be reconciled to good. Therefore, they will be evil. Therefore, there will be a great divide.
When Jesus was presented by Joseph and Mary in the temple as a young man, Simeon received him. He said, "I can go to my grave in gladness because I've seen the provision of the Lord." The long-expected Jesus, who we sang about a minute ago, has come. It says in Luke, chapter 2, that when Simeon received him he said, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel," and, frankly, all around the world. Many will be opposed to him. This long-expected Jesus was going to create opposition.
That's exactly what you see happening right here. If you think Tebow creates division (and he does, who knows why) Jesus does for reasons I'm about to remind you of and tell you today. Then I want to equip you on how you are to respond and remind you what is at stake if you don't. Are you ready? All right. Here we go.
What you're going to see is there are two groups of people. There are the masses, and then there are the religious elite. They have division among them and different responses. Let's see if we can learn something. In verse 40, it says, "Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words…" What words? Let's remind ourselves.
These are the words Christ said: "Eat of me. I am the soul-satisfying bread who comes from heaven. Drink of me. If you're thirsty, come to me and drink." Then it says, "He who believes in Me [when you drink of me] … 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" He was making some pretty radical claims.
When people heard these claims, it says of those who heard this, some said (right there in verse 40), "This certainly is the Prophet." That's a reference, as we've talked about before earlier in John, to what Moses said would happen in latter days: God would raise up from among us a prophet. Deuteronomy 18:15 says that.
In Deuteronomy 18:18-19, God tells Moses about this prophet. He says, "I'm going to raise up a prophet from among their countrymen, like you, except he'll be even greater than you. You'll give bread that if they eat it, they'll hunger again, but this guy will be life-giving bread. You're going to bring forth water from a rock. This guy is the water I will bring forth that will give them eternal life. I'm going to put my words in his mouth."
He said then, "…and he shall speak to them all that I command him." He says in verse 19, "It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My [prophet] which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him." Some people were saying, "This is the guy who God said if we don't listen to him, God is going to require from us an explanation." That explanation is going to be eternal, starting right now, and forever in consequence.
Note this. If you, right now, are not following Jesus, if you don't believe he is God incarnate, the long-expected one, the desire of the nations, the means through which you can experience the abundant life by not leaning on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledging him, you are already costing yourself something. The Scripture says, "The one who despises the word will be in debt to it…"
After the first service, I had two guys literally in tears who came up to me and said, "Because I'm not currently following Jesus, because I have rejected him, it's affected my relationships, and this is where I am with my family." Literally, both of them in tears, said, "God is requiring of me great pain." In their brokenness, they are now willing to listen. Sometimes the only time we look up is when we're flat on our backs.
This is one of the reasons God said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit…" Because in your brokenness, you might look somewhere else for life. Jesus said, "Are you thirsty?" If you're here this morning and you're sick and tired of being tired (that is a direct quote from my friend this morning: "I am sick and tired of being tired"), Jesus is your man.
He says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." This is the Prophet. That emptiness in you is what God is requiring that you experience when you turn away from life and light. "Others were saying, 'This is the Christ." This is the Messiah. This is Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. This is Wonderful Counselor. This is Isaiah 9 come to life, this guy who you're looking for in Christmas cards. Christmas has come! This is the guy.
Then there was a third group who were saying, "No. No. I'm not really sure." "Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes…from Bethlehem…?" Yes, it did. In Micah, chapter 5. "And that his descendant was going to be from David? I mean, come on. This guy doesn't look like that guy." See, there was some misinformation or some incomplete information, so there was division. There was confusion in the crowd.
By the way, there was this bias that the guy who was going to deliver us was going to come through West Point, right? Or through Annapolis. Through the military ranks or through Harvard. Through Yale. Through the intellectual elite. Through the seminary-trained, if you will, the rabbinical schools.
Jesus is from none of those. He's no great conquering king. He is no classically trained intellect. He's from Galilee. Everything good comes from Judea, so how can that be? Well, what they didn't know when they said he was born up there, is he wasn't really born there. They forgot about the census, where everybody had to go to their region of origin. Joseph and Mary are from the tribe of Judah, from the tribe of David, where the King was supposed to come from.
He was born in Bethlehem, but that wasn't part of his PR sheet. Because folks weren't well-versed, they just started to scoff. They didn't have all the information, but they had enough to go, "Are you sure? I don't know." Anyway, there is a great divide. By the way, let me say this. I told you already that from the very beginning that was prophesied. He's going to be the cause of the rise of many and the fall of many.
Let me walk you through some Scripture here, because right here it's important to note this in verse 43. "So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him." That's how it was, how it is, and how it always will be. I want to say to you, if you get along swimmingly with everybody, if there is never a division that comes from your convictions, it is because you take no position. Truth always creates a divide. When your teacher asks you to add two plus two, if you put anything other than four, your grade will be divided from something less than an A.
When people are talking about ethic and morality, right and wrong, light and dark, if you move into gray and abstract and post-modernity into ideas that there is no absolute, you'll get along with everybody because you'll say, "Why can't we just say, 'You believe what you believe. I'll believe what I believe? I'm okay. You're okay.'"
That's not what God says. He says there is right. There is wrong. There is good. There is evil. There is light. There is dark. There are those who respond rightly to who God is, and there are those who compromise it. If you're somebody who never creates division, then you ought to really ask yourself if you're following this King.
The Scripture says, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." The Scripture says you will probably be mocked for his name's sake. There's going to be a cost to that. The way you give, the way you lead, the way you love, the way you make choices, the way you invest your resources should cause other people to go, "That kind of affects me because you're not doing what I'm doing; therefore, I think you think what I'm doing is wrong, even if you don't say it."
Sometimes you had better speak up and say it. "I cannot support that candidate. I cannot support that idea. I cannot support that law. I cannot support that relational method. I cannot support that lifestyle choice. It will bring about destruction, and love does not stand by silent while destruction is running rampant."
Jesus always caused a division. He was gracious, but he is the one who said, "You thought I have come to bring peace. No, I say not peace but a sword." Right? Matthew 10:34. "I'm going to divide the fat from the meat, the wheat from the chaff." He said, "If you're my disciple, then don't be surprised if you get the same response I did. If you're not getting the same response I did, you ought to ask yourself what kind of disciple you are." Verse 44 says, "Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him," because it was not yet his time.
Let me show you. Jesus tells a story in Matthew, chapter 21, about the owner of a vineyard who sends his servants to collect, basically, what is rightly his. The people say, "The heck with his servants. We're not going to give you what you think is yours. We're going to take it and make it our own." They murder them. He sent other servants, and they murder them.
Finally, it says he sends his own son. They go, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him…" Then, they kill him. Jesus then asks the question, "What do you think the owner of that vineyard will do to those who treated his servants and, finally, his son that way?" They respond, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end…"
Jesus says, "That's exactly right. That's exactly what I am going to do. This is my vineyard. I am the heir. You're going to kill me, and you will not rise with me. You will fall. You'll be divided from right, and you will live in the wrong. You will be divided from life, and you will live in death."
He goes on to say this very famous statement, pulling from the Psalms, in Matthew 21:44: "And he who falls on this stone [this cornerstone that builds the kingdom of God] will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.""You are jacking with the wrong Messiah," he says.
Paul takes this same idea. In 1 Corinthians 1, verse 23, he says, "I'm going to preach Christ crucified. When I do, it's going to be a stumbling block to the religious, and it's going to be foolishness to those who reject the idea that there is a God who loves that way." Again, in 2 Corinthians, Paul talks in chapter 2, verse 16, about the fact that when you share this, you're going to be "…to the one an aroma from death to death [and] to the other an aroma from life to life."
When I talk about Jesus being the means through which God can reconcile you to life, that's going to be life to you. It's going to make sense to you. Others are going to go, "Ah. Dadgum it, Wagner. That just offends me, and you're wrong." When I tell you about the consequences to that, it's the aroma of death. You're going to want to oppress it, suppress it, and get rid of it.
Finally, Peter picks up this idea in 1 Peter, chapter 2. In verse 8, he says he's going to be "'A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE'; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed." Just like Simeon said about this baby. He's going to be the rise of some, and the fall of others.
Jesus causes a divide. Always. My job is to help you be on the right side of that divide. It's to call you to a point of decision. Jim Elliot said, "Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me." When you get to the words I speak, with grace and with truth, you have to make a decision that you're fully in with Jesus. Not just intellectually, mind you.
Jesus didn't want you to say, "He's the Christ," or "He's the Prophet." He wanted you to eat of him, drink of him, relate to him fully, yield to him, call him Lord and King, and follow him. Anything less than that is a rejection, according to Scripture. You can't just say, "I'm not an atheist," or "I'm not a Muslim." You have to say, "I am a follower of the King. He is my Lord, and it is not my will but his will to be done. In the way I relate. In the way I release resources. In the way I love."
There's another group who is watching this, and it is the religious elite of the day. I want you to see the way they respond to this is the way men who are confronted with truth, who don't like that truth, always respond. I'm going to show you what happened in Nazi Germany, what's happening in the twenty-first century today. I'm going to show you what you have to be willing to do to stand up against those who don't like the truth you talk about.
I'm going to tell you what's coming your way, how you're going to be marginalized and criticized. I'm going to share with you some of the prophetic writers of the insurrectionist movement that has always been around, what their strategy has always been. I'm going to show you they're not as smart as they think they are.
They're reading John 7 and going, "Hey. This has always worked with tyrants, with suppressers of truth, who want to propagate their own power and will to justify their own morality and ethic and not deal with truth." They will deal with truth. This Rock of offense will scatter them like dust, but you need to brace yourself for what's coming. Watch this. There's a lot to learn here.
John 7, verse 45. Now, this says, "The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, 'Why did you not bring Him?'" You go, "Well, what officers?" You have to go back to where we were a couple of weeks ago in John 7:32. When the Pharisees saw that Jesus had showed up on the temple mount and was teaching people the truth… Back then we saw this. Some people said, "Hey, why aren't they arresting this guy? He's basically claiming to be the Messiah. Do they think he's the Messiah?"
The Pharisees, for lots of reasons, didn't feel like they could confront him. Mostly because every time they did, they got shamed and silenced. They could not take him on on the basis of truth, so they had to take him on on the basis of some other things. They were going to intimidate people, and they were going to marginalize people and try and marginalize him. They could not win the truth war, so they were going to go another direction.
What they did is they said, "Look. We have to get rid of this guy. We have to say he's an insurrectionist. We have to say he's stirring up the people. Rome doesn't want the people stirred up." So, they took the temple officers, and they sent them to go arrest him. Here we are, from verse 32 all the way to verse 45, and those guys show back up. This is kind of funny.
The officers showed back up, and there was no Jesus in handcuffs. Then, they go, "Why didn't you bring him?" What I love is the integrity of these guys, because they could have said, "Well, look. We got there, and it was a little bit more out of control than we thought. We're going to wait till nightfall and then get him." Or, they didn't make some other excuse about how they weren't quite able to pull it off.
They looked at the guys and go, "Have you listened to him? Do you know what he's saying?" "Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.""We were going to go what you told us to do because you're the ones who told us to go do it, but as we walked up and we listened to him, we go, 'This guy is not an insurrectionist. This guy is making some claims. If those claims are true, we ought to listen to him. And the way he speaks. He doesn't speak like you guys speak. He speaks as one in whom authority is inherent in him."
In fact, let me go through this. Let me give you some of the things he said that the people had heard. No one speaks like he speaks. Are you ready? This is one of the things he said: "I and the Father are one." He's going to say that later in John 10, but these are the kinds of things he's saying all throughout his ministry. In other words, "If you've seen me, you've seen God."
In fact, that's exactly what he says in verse 7 of chapter 14. "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Who says that? Who says that? How about this? In chapter 14, verse 9, he says, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?"
In chapter 8, verse 58, he's going to say this: "…before Abraham was born, I am." The guy claims to be eternal. Have you heard what this guy is saying? Chapter 14, verse 6, he says he is the way, the truth, and the life, and nobody can be reconciled to God except through him. He's going to be causing the rise and the fall of many. Nobody speaks like this guy.
In chapter 6, verse 35, remember he said, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." In John, chapter 10, he says, "…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
In verse 11, he says, "I'm going to give you life by laying my life down." So, these guys show back up, and these are just some of the things Jesus says. "This is crazy talk. Are you listening?" They walk up, and they go, "Hey, are you sure you want us to arrest that guy? Because nobody talks like that guy. He is either a loon, or he's Lord."
By the way, this is C.S. Lewis' great argument. I've read this quote almost as much as any other quote I've ever read in the history of Watermark. It comes from a book called Mere Christianity. Christianity in its essence. This is Lewis' great, great theme. By the way, what I want to tell you is I'm going to, today at the end… I'm going to read you Lewis right now, but then I'm going to quote for you from the greatest theologian of the twenty-first century, a guy by the name of Paul David Hewson.
Everybody in this room knows Paul David Hewson. Every one of you guys loves him at some level, and you've heard what he's had to say about many, many things. You kind of go, "Well, why would he tell me I know Paul David Hewson? I don't know Paul David Hewson." Yes, you do. Yes, you do. Just hang with me. Like Paul Harvey would say, we'll give you the rest of the story in a moment. But listen to C.S. Lewis. He says this:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about [Jesus]: I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
That's Lewis. There's a dividing point here. Lewis says he's either Lord, liar, or lunatic. Some would say legend as a fourth option. There are good reasons to believe he is none of the other three, but he is the one. He is Lord. Here's what's going to happen. Watch this.
When folks don't want to sit and do the hard work of looking at the preponderance of the evidence, or when they see the evidence is against their position, they always take a certain tack. It's the tack the Pharisees take right here. I'm going to give you three words and the verses to write down in your Bible. Right there next to verse 47, write down the word deceived. Next to verse 49, write down the word damned. Next to verse 52, write down the word deluded. Now, watch this. What they're going to do, because they can't take out Jesus' claim to be Messiah…
Jesus says, "Hey, look. You don't like what I say, then what about what I do? Argue with that. Go walk on water. Go feed the multitude. Go make the lame walk. Go make the blind see. The reason I do these things is because anybody can say these things, but who can do these things? I'm going to stop doing things now, because I've given you enough evidence. Your problem isn't a lack of information. Your problem is you do not want to respond. I'm going to stop giving you revelation as a sign of mercy, because the greater the revelation, the greater the judgment."
He says, "There's going to be one more sign." A little bit later, he'll say this when we get to John 11. That's the sign of Jonah. "I'll be swallowed up in death for three days, spit out, and declare newness of life and repentance that you might be reconciled to God. But that's it." Watch what they do here.
This is what they say to these guys: "Hey, you haven't been taken by these knucklehead townspeople, have you?" "You have not also been led astray, have you?""Are you really that stupid? Are you really that uninformed and ignorant as the people of the land? I mean, we expect the ignorant masses to follow him, but you guys have come through our military academies. You believe he might be that? What do you mean no one has ever spoken like him?"
They don't talk about what Jesus said. They go, "Are you too ignorant and deceived?" Notice there is no reason they would tell you they're deceived. They go, "You're deceived if you believe him." Watch this. They go, "No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?" The answer is going to be, "Yes. As a matter of fact, there is one." His name is Nicodemus who went to find him at night in John 3.
You're going to find Nicodemus isn't really ready to step all the way out in the light, but he is going to kind of go, "Well, boys, maybe we should at least take a look at him from an evidentiary position." Nicodemus wasn't ready to come all the way out now. We find out a little bit later he is. After Jesus is crucified and buried, Nicodemus steps forward and ask for the body to treat it with honor. He increasingly comes into the light.
The truth is some of the Pharisees were starting to believe, but they were intimidated by the mass intellectual religious elite to stay a little bit neutral. This is very, very telling. Watch. "But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed." You see, the Pharisees believed no one but them could really have insight into spiritual things.
They called the masses the people of the land, and they thought they were accursed. They couldn't follow the law as rightly as they did, in their spiritual elitism. They couldn't be reconciled to God. Many of them, they felt like, were illiterate and even if they could read, wouldn't be able to understand it. This is what they said. There were six things they said about the people. This is what the Pharisees' position was.
First, they said you should never entrust testimony to them. Secondly, you should not take testimony from them. Thirdly, you should trust them with no secret. Fourthly, don't appoint them guardians of orphans. Fifthly, don't make them custodians of charitable funds. Sixthly, don't ever travel with them.
That was the known position. It was said if you let your daughter marry one of them, you may as well take her naked and strap her to a beast. That was the way the leaders felt about the sheep. They're saying now, "Those people are going to hell. Are you going to go to hell like them? Is that the guy you want to not arrest? You're deceived, and you're damned if you don't agree with us." Watch the third one.
You're going to find Nicodemus at this moment speaks up. It says in verses 50-51, "The one who came to Jesus before, though he was a Pharisee, said, 'Well, guys, maybe we should pay attention to the law you say the people of the land don't pay attention to.'" "Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?"
All these guys are saying is "Have you listened to what this guy is saying? What's wrong with what he's saying? Tell us what's wrong with what he's saying, and then we can say he is deceived and he's a lunatic." But they do not respond. Watch this. They cannot get in an intellectual conversation with him. See also my comment a couple of weeks ago about Christopher Hitchens.
He will not get in an intellectual conversation with you about the fact that God is not great or God doesn't exist, because he can't. He will say you're deceived. He will say you're deluded. He will say you're divisive and, therefore, causing all the trouble on earth. But he can't intellectually bring forth an argument that is consistent and thorough. Neither can Dawkins. They will say you're anti-science. They'll say you're anti-intellectual, but when you say, "Well, great. Let's talk about science. Let's talk about this level," you'll find out their story, their theory, and their philosophy fall apart.
Darwinism is a failed scientific theory. Intelligent design? Creationism? Maybe it's not completely locked up, but all the evidence we keep unpacking diminishes Darwinism and increases the likelihood of design. The Bible goes, "Well, we can explain the design, because we know the Designer," but they will come at you and say you're believing in a myth. Learn to respond. They're going to say you're deluded. Watch this. This is the last thing they say.
When Nicodemus speaks up, they don't take him on. They don't say, "Well, thank you for pointing out our own law so we won't be accursed." They go, "Hey, what are you doing? What are you? Are you from Galilee? Is that why you like him? Are you one of those homeboys from that tribe up there? Is that why you're speaking up? Nothing good comes out of Galilee." What's that have to do with what Nicodemus just said? Nothing. Gang, this is what usually happens.
This week I was paying attention to some folks who were talking about a German political scientist. Her name is Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann. In 1974, she wrote a book called the Spiral of Silence. Interestingly, Elisabeth was around in 1940 during Nazi Germany. She wrote for a Nazi newspaper. Some 30 years later, she wrote this book and explained how Hitler rose to power. She talks about how the vast majority of people listen to what a small minority talk about. They listen to the conversation of the elite. They take a, "Well, this doesn't really affect me," mentality.
"Let them get the Catholics. Let them get the homosexuals. Let them get the Jew. It doesn't really affect me." Until all of a sudden, they come to get you, and there's nobody there to help you, as Martin Niemöller famously said. Or, "What am I going to do about this? I'm just a small person. I can't change anything. Poor little me is unable to stop this. I am helpless." They don't want to appear out of step with what they think is the majority, but here's the problem. Silence is not really a matter of the evidence. It's not a matter of debate.
She says silence happens when people are fearful of reprisal. Tyrants and bullies exploit this. They know people don't want to appear out of step with others. Because they think no one else likes to stand up against others, they keep their mouths shut. That reinforces, then, the idea that nobody believes anything other than the fact that the emperor is fully clothed. We go, "The emperor happens to be naked," but because nobody says it, everybody else goes, "Well, he must think he has clothes," and that spiral of silence increases.
By the way, there's a book by a guy named Saul Alinsky. Saul Alinsky wrote kind of the book that has been the most often-championed book among those who are progressives. He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals. Listen to Saul Alinsky. See if this isn't what Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, the German political scientist who was a Nazi newspaper writer, said happened in Germany. See if this isn't what happened in John 7.
Alinsky writes in Rules for Radicals, "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon." Marginalize your opponent. "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." In other words, "You're deluded. You're deceived. You're evil." He says to undermine their legitimacy; make them look stupid or evil in the eyes of the public; call them anti-science, bigots, delusional; and mock them. This is what Bill Maher does. Every time he starts to lose a discussion, he'll go to humor and ad hominem arguments and flippantly dismiss it. Everybody laughs, and we uncomfortably move away from the truth to, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. That guy is crazy."
There was an article written in The New York Times in the Op-Ed department. It was called, "The Evangelical Rejection of Reason." Two guys wrote it. Listen to these words that are written about evangelicals. It says evangelical fools who believe are arguing against climate change and evolution and saying it's an "unproven theory." Well, I do. It says evangelicals "reject science." Really? Let's talk about science. It says they endorse a "simplistic theology," and there's a "stubborn anti-intellectualism." Look at what they're saying.
The guy writes that he's a Christian. This is a guy named Giberson and a guy named Stephens. They say, "Like other evangelicals, we accept the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ and look to the Bible as our sacred book…" But they say they don't get all hung up on "…the increasing legitimacy of abortion and homosexuality; the persistence of pornography and drug abuse; and acceptance of other religions and of atheism." They say, in effect, "What's the problem with that? We can still love Jesus and not have an issue with those things."
Really? Well, Mr. Giberson and Mr. Stephens, I bet you get along swimmingly with the elite, because you're not the kind of Christ-follower who affects them. They quote a guy by the name of Mark Noll, who wrote a book called The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Mark Noll says, "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind."
Can I tell you something? There is an evangelical mind, and that evangelical mind is not afraid of truth. In fact, where something is true, no amount of scrutiny can affect it. We would love to have discussions about science. Science is our friend, not our enemy. We have a faith that does not go against reason. It goes beyond reason.
There are some things that are supernatural. If you reject supernaturalism as a possibility and say all things must be explained in natural means, you're the one who is obscuring reality. You're the one who, for no reason, can say there's never been anything that's happened outside the natural course of things. Uniformitarianism is the idea that things have always been this way and always will be this way. That might be fine, except it doesn't have to be true. If that's your basis and your premise, we have to talk about your basis and your premise. Let me go forward quickly.
You're going to find this idea, that they will marginalize you and attack you, to be the thing they will seek to use to silence you. It is our job to equip each other to respond winsomely, kindly, strongly, and thoroughly. I'm teaching my kids what it is to be a man. My boys know, "This is what a man does. He steps up, speaks out, stands firm, stays humble. He serves the King." You may get nailed to a cross when you do that, but because we believe this is truth, there is a crown that is waiting.
Those kinds of people are dangerous, when they say what Paul said: "For me to live is Christ; it's better for you. But for me to die is gain; it's better for me. Kill me if you want, but if I'm going to be alive, I'm going to serve you by speaking the truth. You can imprison me. You can cut my tongue out. I'll just wait for my King to come and make it right."
Are you ready to follow Jesus that way? A lot of folks go, "I don't know. I'll just kind of… I'll sing songs, but when it gets ugly, I am not going there." You may never think it'll happen one day in our society, but it's happening already in your neighborhoods, on your teams. Are you ready to step up?
About 10 days ago, I had a chance to go to the Council for Life luncheon. They were nice enough to ask me to come and be a part of that. They sat me next to a girl named Kathy Ireland, who most of us don't know because she's part of a design industry that has been tremendously successful. We know her because she happened to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated three times and inside it a record number of times.
Kathy Ireland has progressed beyond that to being a person who has taken a position on life. We talked about how early on, when she very reluctantly became a person who believed there was life in the womb, she said, "I was pro-choice by choice, and I was pro-life reluctantly, very begrudgingly. I was very pro-choice. I was a believer who was very committed to pro-choice."
She was actually going down to LA to interview to be cast for the Movie of the Week. It was a movie that was very pro-choice. She was reading the script as she went down. They asked her, "Now, you're pro-choice, aren't you?" She sat there, and she said, "Oh, yeah. I'm pro-choice." She said when she heard himself say that, she goes, "Something is not right about that." She even looked at the script. The script described the character she was trying out for as this pro-choice person. The pro-life people in the script were described as unattractive and unintelligent. That's what's they were trying to cast.
She went home, and she opened up her husband's (who is a doctor) medical books and started to look. She read medical books. She looked, and she goes, "This is a life. There's no way around it." She called her husband, and she said, "Darling, look at this. Why didn't you tell me this? That's a life that's right there." He said, "I have never looked carefully either. I can't believe I've missed it, but you're right." She said she became a reluctantly pro-life person. She didn't take the part, and she got very active.
Right when her career was starting to take off as a businesswoman, Politically Incorrect called her and said, "Would you get on the show with Bill Maher?" She said, "I'm not going to go on there if it's going to be a fluff show, but if they want to talk about something substantive like the sanctity of life, I'll go on." They said, "We'd love to have this supermodel go on with Bill Maher and talk about sanctity of life." So, she stepped right into that arena.
In fact, it's interesting. When Kathy was first coming to the pro-life position (just like every other supermodel, by reading medical journals), she said she called abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood, and others and said, "I want your best argument for why this is not life, so I can continue to hold to that pro-choice position." She said the best arguments they gave her were, "Well, we think it's just a clump of cells, and we think if you catch it early enough, it doesn't look like a baby."
She goes, "Really? That's your best argument? Every human is a bunch of cells. That's what we all are. Of course, it doesn't look like an infant, because a fetus doesn't look like an infant any more than an infant looks like an adolescent. An adolescent doesn't look like a teenager any more than a teenager looks like an adult than an adult looks like an elderly person. That's your argument, that you can get rid of it before it looks like a child? Why don't we get rid of a child before it looks like a teenager?" By the way, as the parent of a teenager, I'm just saying.
Kathy learned to get in there. She sat at a table one time with a political strategist for the currently sitting president, who said, "Are you going to vote for my candidate?" She said, "If he changes his position on life, I might consider it." The guy goes, "Well, you and I have to have that conversation." Kathy said, "Let's have it."
The guy goes, "Well, no. That's kind of a relatively difficult issue. Your children are here at the table, and there's a bunch of men here. Let's not get into that." Kathy goes, "My children are firmly versed on the issue of life, and I think a bunch of men decided Roe v. Wade, so let's go ahead and have this conversation." The guy went on and said, "Well, it's kinda… Kathy, I mean. I don't know. We can't be sure it's a life."
She goes, "We can't be sure it's a life? Let me ask you a question. If you and I go to destroy a building, and right before we hit the wrecking ball on that building, someone runs up and says, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don't. There's somebody on the eighth floor.' Are we going to say, 'No, there probably isn't somebody on the eighth floor'?
Are you going to send everybody in there and sweep the building to make sure there's no life in there, or are we just going to go ahead and destroy the building, not really being concerned it might be a life? Which one do you think we're going to do? What do you mean, 'It might not be a life,' and we're going to go ahead and destroy what's in the womb?" You see, that's how you learn to communicate. If you can be outdone by a supermodel, you have issues. She's done the work, and she's learned to, in a winsome loving way, communicate.
I told you guys I was going to end by calling you to decide. I told you this great theologian whom every one of you has heard from at some point in some way had a position. You're going to find out he's also, like Lewis, from Great Britain. He's an Irishman. His name, as I said, is Paul David Hewson. He released his biography in 2005. I actually read this same quote in 2005 when I was doing another series, but I'm going to bring it back because it's right here. You are called to decide.
The cover of his biography reads… Are you ready? Bono: A Biography. Bono! Cher's husband. Right there. Nope. No. That's Sonny Bono, but you know. Bono! Right? Bono. Listen to what Bono said. Bono was doing his biography, and a guy was interviewing him. He said, "Look. Bono, you're saying some things I've never really heard you say before. This idea that the Son of God takes away the sins of the world? That's a great idea. There's no denying it. It's such a great hope. It's wonderful. Even though it's close to lunacy, I think, Bono. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers, but Son of God? That's a little far-fetched, don't you think?"
Listen to Bono's response: "No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook.
Christ says: 'No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate."' And people say: 'No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you.'
And he goes: 'No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah.' At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: 'Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this.' So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson.
This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had 'King of the Jews' on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: 'OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it.' I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched."
That's Bono. Now, look. Use that quote the next time you're talking to your secular leader. Let them go after the little U2 star, but don't hide behind his skirt. Learn to communicate lovingly and winsomely and say, "Let's talk about this Jesus. Let's look at the evidence. Let's talk about this clump of cells that doesn't look like a baby. Let's talk about what's going to happen if we deconstruct marriage. Let's talk about what's going to happen if we abandon ethic and morality. Let's see where that leads intellectually. Then, I'll tell you what my solution is."
Christopher Hitchens, when that is done, he says, "I admit that's a coherent argument, but because I reject your coherent argument, I don't know if there's another argument that makes sense. Therefore, I'll be witty, call you deceived, delusional, accursed, and evil." It's the plan, and we're in a spiral of silence. It must not be so.
Not only must we not be in a spiral of silence intellectually, we must not be in a spiral of sin. Jesus says, "If you know who I am…" And you don't just agree with Bono. I hope Bono does more than agree with himself. I hope he follows Jesus. You can say you agree with C.S. Lewis and not be a Christ-follower.
Jesus didn't say, "Agree with Lewis." He said, "Eat of me. Drink of me. Follow my Spirit. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge me, so I can make your paths straight so the rest of the world will look at you and go, 'Who are you?'" Can I tell you, there are people in our body who are doing that?
This week I became aware of a story of guy who in 1983 was arrested for sexual assault. For 25 years, he proclaimed his innocence. While he was in jail, he was known as a warrior. He was a guy who took on individuals who wronged him. He was a guy who was not really ever yoking himself with different prison gangs, but whom prison gangs learned to fear.
When they stole things from him, he walked right into the middle of them and said, "I want my typewriter back." They said, "You can't have it. We're the Mandingo Warriors," the most notorious gang in the entire unit he was in. He said, "I'm going to get my typewriter back. If you don't give it to me this way, I'll get it another way. I have no reason to care if I live anyway." He got his typewriter back, he said, in ways that are associated with shame and a lot of pain, that he regrets, I'm sure, in many ways.
In 2008, through the Innocence Project our district attorney was a part of, DNA evidence came back and, in fact, he was innocent of the crime. He gets out. The state gives him a lot of resource because of the 25 years they've falsely incarcerated him. That tremendous resource leads to broken patterns in his life, which led to great addiction where he lost much of the fortune he had received.
He found himself at re:gen, where he began to work through the issues and remember more about the Jesus who, late in his prison years, he said he came to know. He became a Christ-follower here. He began to be discipled here. He's in a Summit group here. One of the things he had done with some of the resource he had left over, is he bought houses in South Dallas.
One of the things he would do is he let men live there who had some of the transitional issues going on that he did out of prison. There was one guy in one of those houses who was significantly behind in rent. Not only did he get behind in rent and was stealing from him in that way, but this guy started to have a relationship with members of his family that stole from him more than just income through a rental house.
This is a guy who is used to enforcing conflict resolution in a way that, shall we say, is not consistent with Christ. He shared with his Summit group, "Hey, guys. This is what's going on. I'm about to go and execute a little justice to this guy who I've been gracious to, who has stolen from me in ways that are unspeakable for Sunday morning."
One of the guys leading the Summit group said, "No. Come here. We don't just talk about Jesus being a well of living water. He is." He walked him through the little guide we did when we did that series on conflict, Conflict: A Constant Opportunity, and reminded him about how Jesus wants us to deal with conflict. That guy looked at it and wept. He studied that sheet. He went down, and he found that guy.
He said, "I'm here to tell you something. I'm here to tell you I forgive you. I'm here to tell you I don't want to destroy you. I mean, I do, but I want to tell you I realize there are some things, I'm sure, about the way I set up my family and the way I set up this situation, the way I haven't been sensitive to you, that have caused you, or at least given you the opportunity, to do some things that are wrong. Nothing I did would justify it, but I want to do this in a way that shares with you grace and forgiveness. The grace and forgiveness I've received from Jesus, I want you to have."
He said that guy just melted before him. He fell on his face prostrate before him and said, "Who are you?" He said, "I'm a man who wants to kill you, but I am a man who follows a Man who was killed for me. His name is Jesus. I want you to receive the forgiveness I have received. I want you to experience the love I have experienced."
Folks, that happened days ago. That's what it means to follow Jesus. That's what it means to give your life to him. You have to learn to defend him with the way you speak, and you have to learn to defend him with the way your life is sanctified, so others say, "Who are you who lives like this? Who are you who responds like this?" Your answer is, "I'm a follower of Jesus, who died for me, who is one with the Father, who is the Bread from heaven, who has given me life. I want you to know him." Are you ready?
Father, I pray for this body, that it would not just come and listen. It would come and be equipped. It would realize, "I have to learn. Todd, I have to learn to respond to people who say things that intimidate me. I'm part of the spiral of silence. I'm part of the reason people think there are no good answers to questions the intellectual elite are throwing out there at us. I'm part of the reason why folks are shamed, that the Rules for Radicals are having their way in our society."
I pray, Lord, we would learn to give an answer, be gentle in our defense and loving, but bold, not shrinking back. I pray we would be on the alert, that we would stand firm in the faith. We'd act like men. We'd be strong. We'd let everything we do be done in love. Father, I thank you for this morning and a chance to be here.
I thank you we have a chance, not just to know things, but to live a certain way. When we seek to live that way you tell us, as we become your disciples, you will never leave us or forsake us. You will go with us even to the uttermost parts of the earth. I pray that would be the case today, that we would go out into all the places we've been wronged, and we would love and we would forgive. We would still call people to account, but we would not look for vengeance on our own. We would trust vengeance to you. We would be agents of grace and mercy, even as you have been an agent of grace and mercy to us, until such a time as your vengeance is poured out.
If there is one here today who will be a recipient of that vengeance, I pray they would turn to this Jesus who has revealed himself in this Book, and they would learn to follow him and respond to the gospel of forgiveness and freedom. They would learn to follow him.
For those of us who know, I pray we wouldn't just be said followers. I pray we'd be radical followers of Jesus Christ, that we would humble ourselves, follow you, lean not on our own understanding but take up our cross, speak the truth in love, step up, speak out, stand firm, stay humble, and serve our King. For his glory, I pray. Amen.
You all 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.