Jesus - crazy loving, completely fearless, continually joyful, yet constantly in trouble. In trouble with the spiritual leaders of the day for confronting them with their error. Today, if we hope to let His light shine through us and walk in truth and grace like Jesus did, we can expect to encounter resistance. We will find ourselves inevitably at odds with those who are "pursuing enlightenment" rather than embracing the One who said He was the Light.
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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"
The Danger of Loving the Provision More Than the Provider
The Perfect Shepherd. For Green Pastures and Violent Waters.
Lord, thank you so much for a chance to be together and encourage one another. I pray as we're now attentive to your Scripture that you would open our eyes wherever we're at in our relationship with you, in our journey toward understanding who you are, in our effort to respond fully. I pray, Lord, that you would allow grace to intervene, and that includes my friends in this room who are far from you, who don't have clarity about who you are, that you would break through that veil and give them clarity this morning.
For those of us who think we have our arms around who you are, that you would reprove and correct and you would train us and allow us to have a crystal-clear conviction about who you are and how we ought to respond to you. Would you do that this morning? For your great glory and our good I pray, amen.
This week, I came across a list I was not surprised that I wasn't on and probably not discouraged enough that they didn't think to put me on there. Nonetheless, I wasn't on this list. It was the list of the 100 most spiritually powerful people in the world today. You weren't in there either. What was interesting is the folks who put this list on… It was not until the deep teens that you, for the first time, find somebody who might represent themselves as a follower of Christ.
The first almost 20 were other kinds of spiritual people. Again, not that these folks had any right to put this list together or they're necessarily right. In fact, I'm going to make the case that they're wrong, but Nelson Mandela, who was in the deep teens, was the first person who represents himself as having a relationship with Christ. Desmond Tutu shows up in the 30s. They list the pope somewhere in there.
There's not a single evangelical leader or person who you might look at as an orthodox Christ follower who is on that list earlier or even throughout. It's really interesting. It makes you wonder what it is the world thinks is spiritual. I just want to share with you the top 10 names that are on there. The reason I want to do that this morning is because I want to let you know Christ was here to talk to people about what makes you a person in step with the Spirit, and it didn't go so well for him.
When he represented what God said makes you a spiritual person… The spiritual folks of his day were kind of religiously spiritual. The spiritual folks of our day aren't so much religiously spiritually infatuated in terms of outworks of doing, although you find that still in the church community by and large in America, that if you do certain things, rub certain things on your head during certain times or seasons or show up at certain services or give certain ways, you are, therefore, a religious and, therefore, spiritual person.
Jesus really took that idea on. There's no question he wants us to gather. There's no question he wants us to respond to what we believe, but he said if ever you focus on your external acts as a means to establish your righteousness, your spirituality, you're not a very spiritual person. Now, today's spirituality, at least according to this little group of folks who ranked them… These are the top 10 folks they threw out there.
First, they said Eckhart Tolle is the number-one most spiritually powerful person in the world today. The Dalai Lama, our friend from Tibet who talks a lot about enlightenment and reincarnation. Wayne Dyer you'll see up there, author of The Power of Intention (I've never heard of Mr. Dyer). Thich Nhat Hanh is fourth. He has introduced Buddhism in new and innovative ways. Deepak Chopra, whose name you've heard.
Then you jump over here to Louise Hay, who does a lot with the whole self-help movement. You have Mr. Coelho, and then Oprah is up there, who interestingly enough, has engaged a lot with these people; Mr. Wilber, who writes a lot about philosophy, ecology, and psychology; and then you'll see Rhonda Byrne who wrote The Secret. These are people who are spiritually in tune.
One person who looked at this particular list said if you really studied what these spiritually powerful people were about, you would find they are about emotional healing. They're about empowerment. They talk a lot about removing negativity from your life, about creating an exceptional experience for your life, an awakening in terms of inner self-enlightenment.
That's really not the kind of spirituality God talks about at all. In fact, this person went on to say what they really do is they talk about feeling good about yourself, getting what you want, and making the world a better place. This writer said, "If combined, their philosophies might be summed up this way: do yoga, thank the universe for your existence, visualize peace, force reality to adopt to what you think it is by the power of your mind, and don't worry, because all will be well."
If that is the prevailing idea of spirituality in our world today (and I think it's one of them; the other one is what I would call dead religion, external works that somehow manifest righteousness or earn God's love for us because we do certain things)… When you show up and say, "That's not spirituality at all…actualizing yourself, enlightening yourself, or earning favor yourself…"
You say, "No, no, no. Righteousness has to be established by something other than you, because righteousness in God's eyes is absolute perfection, which all of us fall short of; therefore, if there is not some merciful provision for you, you will never be righteous; therefore, you'll never be a spiritual person at all."
That's going to be offensive if everybody else kind of agrees, "No, these are spiritual people. In fact, the fact that you come up with your intolerant, bigoted, narrow ideas shows how unspiritual you are, because spirituality is always going to bring us together." I would tell you that that's inconsistent with what the Word of God says. The Word of God says that truth, Jesus, the Word, is first pure, and then it's peaceable.
Jesus, who said that he is the visible image of the invisible God, who is Spirit, who is truth, who is holy, said, "I didn't necessarily come to bring the whole world together. I came to die for the world, and there's nobody who wants the relationship with me who's not going to get it, but the truth is none of you want it, and unless I did some efficacious work in your life, you'll never even tune in to grace and spirituality."
Jesus shows up and says, "I came to divide. I'm going to bring purity and truth and light, and I'm going to vanquish the darkness. I'm going to deal with error, and I'm going to correct what is wrong. My grace is going to make it possible for everybody who is in darkness and death and error to first respond to me, but you have to tune in, and if you want to define spirituality on your own in some loose term or establish spirituality on your own apart from me, you are no friend of mine." That is Jesus.
What you'll find out about Jesus is that he was this crazy loving person. Everybody, even the folks on that list, are going to all be about Jesus. They're for Jesus. They like the crazy loving Jesus. They might even be for the completely fearless Jesus, but they have not really tuned in to exactly how fearless Jesus is in the way he speaks out against even their definition of spirituality, whether it be self-enlightenment or external religiosity.
Jesus was continually joyful. I want to have you note this, Christ followers. Not only was he crazy loving, not only was he completely fearless, not only was he continually joyful, but he was constantly in trouble. Constantly in trouble. If you're going to follow him, you're going to be in the light, out of the darkness, but you're going to be constantly in trouble. This is not for weak men and fearful women to follow Jesus.
In fact, as I tweeted this week, borrowing from my friend C.S. Lewis, if you are looking for a spirituality to make you comfortable, you'd best not try Jesus, because he is not interested in your comfort; he is interested in correcting you and saving you from your error, and he wants you to have life. When light comes on, darkness goes and runs. Or if you are not the darkness yourself, just somebody who loves it, you're like a cockroach who, when the light of Christ comes on, runs to the corners and burrows your way in places we didn't know you could burrow to escape it.
Jesus says, "I am the Light, and one day no one will escape it, so you may as well reconcile to it." I'm going to introduce you to gentle Jesus, meek and mild, defeater of darkness, not a source of enlightenment but the Light of the World. We are in John 8. Open up your Word there. Our last time together in the book of John, I made mention to you that John 7:52 all the way down through John 8:11 probably is not in the original gospel of John. It was inserted a little bit later. It's a love story.
Everything in that story can be supported as biblical. I think it's an event that probably happened but probably not one John recorded. If you want to know what my favorite story that's not in your Bible is, go back and listen to my last message on John. Understand about textual criticism and why I still love that story though I don't consider it authoritative, inspired Scripture. God didn't want us to. You can still learn from it, because everything in that story and its application is true and supported by other texts.
That being said, that means we need to go back to the setting right before this little story. What you'll find is in this little Feast of Tabernacles where Jesus is crashing on the scene, he is revealing himself as the bread of the world that will satisfy. If you eat of him, you'll never hunger again. A rather arrogant claim. He says he is living water. Anybody who drinks of him will never thirst again. It is causing quite the stir.
In this little Feast of Tabernacles, there are certain people who are now coming at him a little bit more. There were men who were sent to arrest him, in fact, we saw in John 7, who kind of came back and said, "You go arrest him. Have you been listening to that guy?" They rebuked them, saying, "What? Do you think he is who he says he is?" And they go, "Kind of."
Nicodemus speaks up and says, "Why would we make a decision about this guy without first really hearing his testimony?" Then they accuse Nicodemus. "Shut up! You're supposed to be one of us. You're not from Nazareth too, are you?" Then we pick it up. We're probably right there toward evening, at the end of the evening sacrifices, during the Feast of Tabernacles.
Every year there was this time of celebration that God had given them a place and a home and established them as a nation that would have a relationship with God and declare to other nations the goodness of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They would take huge lampstands, and they would take old robes of priests that would be used all year long in temple services. They would dip them in oil, stick them in these lampstands, and light them at sundown throughout all the Feast of Tabernacles.
Anywhere you were in and around Jerusalem, you could see this light emanating forth from the temple mount. It was always within what's called the court of women, which Gentiles couldn't go into. That's where they lit these big lampstands. Jesus is probably outside on the temple mount, outside this place that only certain folks could go into.
He sees the lights go on. There he is, the master teacher. "Are you hungry? Let me teach you about what really satisfies. Are you thirsty? Let me teach you about what will really quench your soul thirst. Darkness is coming? You celebrate the light that comes forth from the Jews? Well, let's talk about the real light that God intends to come forth from the Jews: the Deliverer of the world."
So Jesus, never the shrinking violet, saw the lights go on and goes, "Oh! That reminds me. I am the Light of the World." He just introduces himself as the hope not of Israel but the hope of everybody. Let me stop right here and make a note for you. Are you ready? Look at John 8:12. It's a verse we're going to read three or four times today, but I'm going to read it once right now.
"Then Jesus again spoke to them [with all this controversy] , saying, 'I am the…'" That's key. It doesn't say, "I am a light. Me and Deepak, me and Eckhart, me and Rhonda, me and Oprah…we're here for you, so, you know, just peruse through each of our books, choose the one you want, and just, you know, move toward inner healing." No. He didn't say that. He said, "I am the Light of the world…""The whole world is in darkness apart from me."
He goes on to say, "…he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." This is huge, because what Jesus is going to say here is simply, "If you don't have me, you're going to walk in darkness." You might be here this morning (I'm always thoughtful of folks who come in here), and your life is broken. You're discouraged. You've been divorced. You've been betrayed. You've committed terrible choices yourself. You're impoverished. You're enslaved to debt. Last night, that addiction you swore you'd never do again, you did it.
Your kids who you love are making destructive choices. Things that are near and dear to you in this world have been taken from you or are dying, and you just go, "I need comfort." What I want to say to you is this: you're going to continue to bang your shins as you walk through the darkness and grope through life, and you're going to keep bleeding, you're going to keep being bruised, you're going to keep walking off of cliffs, you're going to get out of one desperate situation and go into another until you figure out where true light is.
I just want to share with you as quickly as I can, as honestly as I can, if you're here this morning and your life is defined by darkness, by despair, by anger, by bitterness, by overwhelming lack of forgiveness and hopelessness, it is because you are not following Jesus. It is because you are not believing in Jesus. Now listen. If you're making destructive, sinful choices, that doesn't necessarily mean you're not a believer.
I don't want to freak you out, but I made some destructive choices this week just in the way I didn't love my wife exceedingly well with tenderness in the moment, kindness in the moment. I'm sure there are times I was less than spectacular and perfect as a father. Now, there are a lot of things I didn't do that we think believers shouldn't do, and I'm glad I didn't do them, but I will tell you, there were moments this week when I did not follow Jesus, and when I didn't follow Jesus, darkness came into my house.
I was not a good man. I was a typical man who used his position, his power, his influence, his tongue, his gifts to further his own purposes, to not be others-centered, to not consider others as more important than myself, and it wasn't anything dramatic. I had a great week with my wife, by and large, but I can tell you there were moments that I did not walk in the light, and every time I did, darkness rushed in. And I knew it, and everybody could see it.
People who don't like to live in the darkness, people who aren't cockroaches, kind of go, "Hey, this is awful, man. Darkness is coming around here. That means the cockroaches come out." But I want to say this to you: As a rule, if your life is defined by despair and darkness, it is because you are not a follower of Jesus. It's because you are not believing in Jesus. You might be a believer, but you're not experiencing what Christ wants you to experience.
If it's your consistent issue, I'm just going to tell you what Jesus tells you. "You're not my follower. You don't believe in me." That's John 8:12. He wants you to believe in him. Let me start by telling you why some people don't believe in him. I want to read you a few things. If you want to, go back to John, chapter 1, with me. I'm going to read you a few verses right here. This is what it says.
"There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him." You're going to find out that following the Light, believing the Light, following Jesus are the same thing. In other words, if you're not a follower of Jesus…I mean, a steadfast follower of Jesus…you are not a believer in Jesus. If you're a believer in Jesus, you're a follower of Jesus.
I'll say it another way. If you believe in Jesus, you obey Jesus. If you obey Jesus, then you're a believer in Jesus. Christ didn't come to just inform your thinking. He's not just some guy to kind of rope in. He came to save you from your thinking. He is the Light, and if you're outside of him, you're into darkness. When you think or talk about how Christ informs your thinking, you'd better be talking about all of it.
When the light goes on, how much darkness stays in the room? It's all gone. It's not like you can say, "Well, I'm not going to let the light go to this corner of the room." The light is not on if there's still darkness in one little corner of this room. You're just informing yourself in a way that's comfortable for you, but you're not following him, and darkness still exists. If you really turn on light, darkness cannot stand in its presence. John came to bear witness to this light, it says in John 1:6.
"He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…"
Here's a truth: Anybody who wants to can believe in Jesus. Anybody who wants can follow him. There is no God who says, "Nope. You're not mine. You're not coming." The truth is none of us want to come anyway, and God goes and seeks those of us. That's what verse 13 says. When you come, you're going to be a humble person, because you're going to know you're not born of blood, you're not born of the will of the flesh, not born of the will of men. Your mama can't will you into heaven, but God in his grace is going to woo you in.
My prayer today is that what happened when Christ said what he said in John 8 would happen in this room today. I am not the Light, but I'm coming to bear witness of the Light, and when the Light spoke the word of God, many believed in him and were removed from the domain of darkness. They moved out of judgment, from death into life, and they were forgiven and made free and were given an ability to walk.
Light is a beautiful thing. When you look at light in the Scripture, in the Old Testament, light was a symbol of truth. Psalm 119:105: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Truth helps me see. That's what light is. That's the imagery of light. So Jesus, basically, when he says he's Light, is saying, "I'm truth." That's something he'll say a little bit later. It's a picture of blessing. It's a picture of life, of true righteousness.
This is the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26. It says, "May the face of God shine on you. May there be blessing there. May God give you life." That's one of the great prayers of a Jew. It's a picture of joy when light is there. The book of Esther is the story of when wicked Haman was trying to destroy the Jews through a holocaust. God rescued them, sent Haman to the gallows, and Mordecai and Esther were used by God to deliver the people.
It says in Esther, chapter 8, that night there was a light on and joy in every Jew's house. They didn't have to hide anymore, afraid that the Gestapo of the day was going to find them, but the light was on. There was celebrating. There was dancing. There was, "Here we are. Our God is for us. He protects us." So, light is a picture of truth, of righteousness, of blessing, of joy, of life.
Jesus goes, "I'm all of those things, and you can't find any of those things apart from me. You can get tastes of them, fleeting pictures of them, but you're not going to get them in all their fullness apart from me." I don't know what your situation is, but Jesus is what you're looking for, and it's my job to tell you that.
If you look for it in Oprah, if you look for it in Deepak, if you look for it in Eckhart, you're not going to find it. You're going to find an imitation, and that light will eventually go out completely, in the same way the moon goes out when the sun rises. The moon has no light. In fact, if there's any light in some of those top 10 and others who are on that list, the only reason there's light there is because they are touching some things that Jesus is in all its fullness.
It's the same reason people run after illicit sex, and they find some pleasure in sex, but it's always tainted with guilt and shame and disease and death and broken relationships. Sex God's way is not tainted with any of those things. It always is glorious and leads to greater joy and fulfillment and intimacy when it's done God's way. You can find some pleasure in it, but it's a pleasure with a really bad aftertaste. Jesus has no bad aftertaste. He is the Light of the World. That's what you're looking for.
I have nothing else to offer you. It is either Jesus or darkness. Those are your only two choices. There's a reason, though, that men don't like the light of Christ. Part of it is because we like this world to like us. Our flesh doesn't really like to be exposed, the world and the current of it is away from God, and the Enemy who wants to deceive us that God is good… That's all there. Let me just show you this. We're going to read this in John 12 in a little bit. I want to read it to you this morning. John 12, verses 35 and following:
"So Jesus said to them, 'For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.'
These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: ' Lord , who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'
For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 'He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.' These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in[Jesus], but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue…"
In other words, let me tell you why some of you guys are not confessing, why some of you guys aren't embracing Jesus the way Jesus wants to be embraced. It's the same reason they didn't then, and it comes in verse 43: "…for they loved the approval of men…" There's a reason you're not sharing your faith. There's a reason you're not testifying about the Light the way John did. There's a reason you're not testifying about the Father the way Jesus did.
At the end of the day, it's because you either don't know where true light is or you love men and love approval of men more than you love light and God. There really isn't any middle ground. If you love the approval of men, you're not going to say, "There is no list of 100 most powerful spiritual people who are not indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. He is the Holy Spirit." Listen. I think there are spiritual people out there. Everybody is a spiritual person, but I'm going to tell you, if you're not filled with the Holy Spirit, then you are filled with an unholy spirit.
So I think you're a spiritual person, and I might even agree that you're a powerful spiritual person, but I would add unholy spiritual person. When you talk like that, it's not exactly going to get you elected mayor. Folks are going to go, "Man, that's offensive. That's the problem. We are trying to visualize world peace, and you're coming in and dividing people. We're trying to get along and awaken enlightenment."
Jesus says, "Here's light. There's darkness in you. You're separated from God. God is going to judge the world. You're going to be dead in your sin and be cast away from light into the outer darkness, and I don't want you there. I love you. I've made provision for you to come from there to here, but the reason you don't accept me is because you don't love God. You love what you make God out to be, and you're convincing yourself it's going to be all okay."
Folks, I have to tell you, if it is true (and it is true) that friends don't let friends drive drunk, friends don't let friends think it's going to be okay when it's not going to be okay. The world is going to tell you that you either earn righteousness through external works or you discover spirituality and righteousness through inner enlightenment and self-healing.
Jesus stands in the middle and says, "No. Unless I establish your righteousness for you, unless I rescue you from the domain of darkness, unless I forgive you, unless I give my perfect eternal self as a means for you in your lostness and brokenness to be reconciled to an eternally perfect and holy God, you have no hope apart from me."
When you find out there is a God who does that for you, you run to him and embrace those arms that are open, but this is an offensive message. It's not "You can do it; attaboy" or "Hey, we can work it out, and we'll feel okay." It's "You're broken. You're dead in your trespasses and sins." It is a God-glorifying, self-deprecating piece of good news, and the world hates it. If you want the world to love you, you will be silent on Jesus, but if you're silent on Jesus, you're not a follower of him.
Watch this. This is beautiful stuff. If you ever thought Jesus wasn't clear, read John 8 with me. Are you ready? I'm going to read John 8 now, verse 12 down through verse 30. I'm going to end in verse 30, telling you why Jesus said these things. I'm praying today that somebody will respond to Jesus today the way they responded to Jesus then. Are you ready? This is great stuff. I'll read it. You're going to go, "Wow! What does all that mean?" and then I'll see if I can explain it to you, and we'll bless each other. Here we go.
"Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.' So the Pharisees said to Him, 'You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.' So they were saying to Him, 'Where is Your Father?' Jesus answered, 'You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.'" John makes a little comment here I'll speak on in just a moment. Let's go to verse 21.
"Then He said again to them, 'I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.'" They were confused. "What does he mean, where he goes we can't go?" They thought he was going to kill himself. Verse 23: "'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am…'" He is only implied there. It's not really in the text. ** "'…you will die in your sins.' So they were saying to Him, 'Who are You?'**
Jesus said to them, 'What have I been saying to you from the beginning? I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.' They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am…'" Again, he is implied, not in the text.
"…and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." Now watch. Verse 30. This is why Jesus said these things. I'm going to explain them to you, but here's my prayer. Verse 30 says, ** "As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him."**
I'm going to speak them again today, because I hope that many come to believe in him, many come to follow him, and as a result of that you keep banging your shins, walking off cliffs, choosing destruction, that you see he's a God who is good, who has come to bring truth and righteousness and blessing and life and joy. Do you want some of that? Jesus. That's what he did.
Now listen. This is very encouraging. You'd think when Jesus feeds 15,000-plus folks with bread, then they're going to believe in him. You'd think when he walks on water, that's going to get the job done. You'd think when he raises Lazarus from the tomb, that would be power evangelism. When he heals the lame guy, when the blind can see, that's when they believe in him. That's not what it says. Look at what verse 30 says. It says he spoke these things. It's the word of God.
This is Romans 10:17. It says faith comes by hearing, and then it implies hearing is hearing the word of Christ, the gospel. You hear who God is and you believe what God has done and you trust him. The reason people's lives are changed is not because of some miraculous work; it's because you speak truth to spiritually dead people, and God uses the Word to quicken them and to draw them out of darkness into light, but you must speak, you must share, you must love, you must know truth, and you must share it.
This is encouraging to me, by the way, because I can't make lame men walk. If God wanted to, I could pray and a lame man could walk, but it wouldn't be because I'm some special saint of God; it's because God in his kindness chose to reveal himself that way, but, folks, he says the generation that seeks a sign is a wicked and evil generation. So quit looking for power evangelism to be your trick.
Jesus purposefully, by God, came from very humble means, I think for this very purpose. I was just thinking about that this week, and I wrote this down. I want to read you what I journaled for myself. "Jesus came from humble means, from Nazareth, this no-good, two-bit town away from the religious epicenter, from a questionable birth and a suspicious family life, for the same reason God chose Moses from a humble place, not while he was in Pharaoh's palace but while he was a nobody shepherd out in the fields.
He chose David from the shepherd's field not from the field of battle or from birth-order prominence, and it's the same reason you can be encouraged today. Your greatness comes not from any human place but from your relationship with the Father. You don't need a degree. You don't need a trophy. You don't need a fortune. If you have a relationship with the Father and you speak his Word, you can be as effective for Jesus as someone as degreed as Ravi Zacharias or William Lane Craig or your favorite Christian intellectual genius.
You can be as celebrated as Tim Tebow or as funded as whoever your favorite rich person is that you want to mention. God doesn't need you to be famous or funded to be useful. He expects you to be faithful and full of his Spirit." Folks, this is great news. Do you want to be effective for God? That's all I want to do is be effective. He says, "Well, speak the word of Christ." That's what Jesus did, and in verse 30 it says many believed.
So listen to me. It's a really odd thing. He starts off in John 8:12. The lights go on. He goes, "Hey, by the way, I'm the Light of the World. I'm for the whole world, and, Jews, you are supposed to be for the whole world. You're supposed to be a kingdom of priests for everybody, but I can't use you because you're committed to dead religiosity. The Greeks are over there. I can't use them because they're all about inner enlightenment and understanding. You both need me, the mediator between God and man. That's who I am. Come to me, and the light will go on of truth, of righteousness, of joy, of blessing, and of life." What kind of guy says that?
What's interesting is we now completely leave the light motif. From John 8:13 all the way down to John 8:30, light doesn't come back up. Let's just learn from the text. Are you ready? "So the Pharisees said to Him, 'You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.'" Why? Because earlier, in John 5:31, Jesus says, "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true," and they misunderstood it.
All Jesus was saying then was, "I'm not here to go, 'Ta-da! Look at how awesome I am. Look at my school of learning. Look how brilliant I am.'" Why? Because he's the perfect God-man. The perfect God-man does what man is supposed to do. He can do it because he's perfect as God in the flesh, fully God, fully man. What he does is he says any man who's going to get his greatness not from his greatness as a man…being well funded, trophied, or intellectually approved… No. You become great because you don't really testify about yourself.
You don't need to tell people how great you are. We ought to be people who boast in nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. That's who we are. But Jesus goes on to say this. So that's what he was saying in John 5:31. They misunderstood him. They go, "See? You're giving testimony about yourself; therefore, your testimony is not true." He says, "First of all, even if I was testifying about myself, my testimony is true. Why? Because I am God, I came from God, and I'm going to God."
He goes on to say, "For I know where I came from and where I'm going, but you don't know God. You don't know who he is. That's why you don't recognize me. You don't know where I come from or where I'm going. You want to redefine me. You want to reposition me," just like men are doing today. "Oh, he's a good teacher. Let's work him into our teaching. Jesus is one of the great enlightened men of all of history." He goes, "No, I'm not! I am not enlightened. I am the Light." Do you see the difference?
Look. I am all fine if you don't want to follow Jesus, but let's quit redefining him. I mean, he is a madman. I love what the Pharisees said in verse 25. "Who are you? What kind of idiot when the light goes on in the temple court says, 'I am the Light of the World'? That is to represent God being the Light of the World, that his goodness emanates from Jerusalem to all of the nations of the world. What do you mean you're the Light of the World? Who do you think you are?"
Answer: "God in the flesh, Creator, maker of heavens and earth, sacrificed for you, sole provision for hope, the one who will terminate darkness in your life, and one day, if you don't accept that, I will terminate you with darkness. And I love you, and I don't want you to go there in the outer darkness, so I'm here. Follow me."
If this story is true that there is a God who is so crazy that he loves us so much that when we spit in his face and walk away from him he pursues us in our rebellion, and when we get here he even uses our rebellion against him to nail him to a tree in order to save us, that is a crazy loving God. That is a completely fearless God. That is a God who is continually joyful because he knows he's glorifying himself in the process, but it is a God who is constantly in trouble, and people wrestle with him because they don't even fathom what that God is like.
Verse 15. Jesus says, "Here's the problem. You judge according to the flesh. I'm not judging anyone." In other words, "You judge what you see, and you're in darkness. You don't have a spiritual eye. You think spirituality is this external behavior." If we went to Matthew 23 and I talked about the religious expression of that day…
He says, "You take a razor blade to mustard seed and to mint, and you just make sure that one-tenth of it goes over here, but you neglect the greater teachings of the law of justice and mercy. You have folks all around you in suffering and need, and you hide behind the Sabbath, and I meet their needs. And you don't care for your parents, because you say, 'Oh, I've pledged that money to God, so I can't help you.'"
He goes, "You offend me with your external righteousness. You judge based on the external. I don't judge based on the external. God doesn't see as men see. God sees the heart. Don't you know (Mark 7) that it's not what goes into a man or what a man does with his hands that defiles a man?
But it's what comes from the man…enmity and adultery and sorcery and hatred and strife and malice and envy and greed that comes from the heart of a man. That's what makes a man unrighteous. So you can masquerade all day long that you do certain things, but do you really think putting a costume over your decrepit, broken, and dead heart is going to make me think you're righteous? I don't judge that way, and God doesn't judge that way." This is the gospel, people.
Verse 16: "But even if I do judge [since you brought it up] , My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it…" Then, for the first of seven times, watch what Jesus does. This is all you need to do. He's going to say, "Look. All I'm doing is telling you clearly who the Father is." So, the first time right here. I'll point them out to you as we go through."…I and the Father who sent Me.""That's who I am. I'm a messenger from the Father."
Verse 17: "Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself…" Second time: "…and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.""He told you a deliverer would come. He told you that one would come who would lead you away from your sin and trespasses, who would take the sins of the world. All of you have gone astray like sheep, and I'll bear your burdens. He told you I was coming. Here I am.
I'm the Bread that satisfies. I am the water that quenches the thirst. I am the Light that deals with the darkness. I am the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. I am the way for sheep to walk through into green pastures. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the vine. There is no life apart from me. You snap yourself apart from me, you wither and die. There is no fruit." He goes, "We told you this was coming. Here I am."
*"So they were saying to Him, 'Where is Your Father?' Jesus answered, 'You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.'" * He's saying, "To know me is to know the Father. You know light, you know life." Watch this. John stops here. You have to remember John was there.
This is when, if you're a part of Jesus' posse, you're going, "Hey, dude, this is getting a little bit edgy. These people here are hearing what you're saying. These people here take the name of God very seriously. You are rather clearly throwing it down." John marveled. It says these words he spoke in the treasury, right there on the temple mount as he taught, and nobody seized him. Why? Because he was sovereign and he was in control and it wasn't his time yet, just like every other time when they tried to seize him and he wasn't seized.
It wasn't time for him in the perfect fulfillment, in the perfect picture of the slaughter of the Passover lamb at the fulfillment of the seventieth week of Daniel, just like God said, when he would walk into Jerusalem and, "Behold, this is your King. The salvation of the Lord is upon us." On that day…that's the day he would let them seize him. Until then, it wasn't going to happen. So John put a little parenthetical thought in there and said, "This was really a nervous time, but Jesus was immortal until the Lord was done with him." Just like you and me.
I love this. He goes right back at them in verse 21. He says to them again, "I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come." In other words, "If you don't deal with me now, you're going to die apart from me, and you will die in your sin. That's not going to work out for you to die in your sin, because the wages of sin is death…death forever, death away from me, death from my common grace, death from the common light. You need me.
You can limp your way through life. Oprah can help you get down the road a little bit. It won't be too terrible for you, but this is your heaven, and I'm going to jerk away from you anything that ever reminds you of me. It'll be an outer darkness. There will be no light, no sex, no drugs, no rock 'n' roll. Those are all my gifts, and you pervert them and destroy them, and they give you enough little fleeting bit of light, but no life really, because it always has an aftertaste.
There are not going to be any of my gifts in hell, so don't think the party is there. There is no party. There won't be any friends there. Friends are my gift. I don't want you in the outer darkness; I want you with me." These guys were so locked in on their righteousness apart from God they didn't understand it. They go, "Okay. See, what he's saying is he's going to kill himself. This guy is such a loon he's going to kill himself."
According to the Jewish law, if you killed yourself, you were away from God and you were going to go to hell. So they go, "He must be killing himself," verse 22 says, "since he says, 'Where I'm going you cannot come.'" Jesus says, "No. Let me spell it out for you. Here's the reason you can't go where I'm going: because I'm not like you. See, you're from below."
Think about this. Here's the reason. "You're from down here; I'm from up here in this heavenly realm that you don't understand, the spiritual realm. I'm the Creator, and you're just temporal people walking around. You die every 80 years. I am. I've been around forever. I created you. I love you. You're of this world. I'm not of this world. Therefore, I say to you that if you don't recognize my love, you're going to die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am…"
This is amazing. Again, the he is stuck in there. It's not even in the text. "Unless you believe that Yahweh, unless you believe the I am, you will die in your sins." This is amazing. About five times already in this text, the gospel of John, they've identified him as the prophet Moses spoke about in Deuteronomy 18. "Is this the one Moses said would come after him, the one that Moses said is a prophet greater than I? How can you be a greater prophet than Moses?"
Well, here's how. You're not just telling the truth of God; you are God yourself. Watch what Jesus says here. He says, "Unless you believe I am, you will die in your sins." This is Exodus 3:14. Moses didn't know what to do. He said, "If I go, who am I going to tell them sent me?" God said, "Tell them I Am Who I Am. That's my name." He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel. You say to them the I Am has sent you."
Furthermore, he said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob has sent me to you.' This is my name forever and my memorial name to all generations. I Am." Jesus says, "Unless you believe I am… I am the Light, not a light. I'm God. I'm here, full of grace and truth, and I love you." Now, when you say that… They looked at him, incredulous, and they go, "Who are you? Are you nuts? Who do you think you are?"
People who say Jesus never claimed to be God aren't paying attention. I mean, just take this one little text. You're like, "Are you kidding me?" Look at what this guy is doing. This is as radical as it gets. Jesus goes, "I'm glad you asked. Hello, McFly. Let's go over it one more time." He says, "What have I been saying since the beginning? Let's go back to the beginning. I have many things to speak and to judge to you, but he who sent me is true…"
That's the fourth time, and here's the fifth time: "The things which I have heard from him, when we're hanging out together…" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among you, full of grace and truth. "…these I speak to the world. I am a faithful prophet." Faithful prophets speak to the world the word of the Father. That's all you do. You don't need a trophy. You don't need to be a Heisman winner. You don't need to be well funded. You don't need to do great acts of service. You don't need to be some intellectual genius.
All you have to do is say, "Listen, man. I love you. This is going to upset your inner spirituality and your external work. I know it is, but listen. I think this is truth, and I'm going to be crazy in my love for you. I'm not going to love you more or love you less whatever you decide. That's God's business. I'm going to be completely fearless. I know this might mean you're not going to want to be around me. I'm going to be continuously joyful even if you reject me, because I know in the end that you'll know I love you.
When you stand before the light that last time in all your cockroach-ness, you're going to say, 'Wagner loved me. He was willing to risk his friendship. He was willing for me to be awkward around him. He wasn't preachy; he just sat me down and in a loving way represented God to me in kindness. And you know what? We didn't like him. We spoke poorly about him. We said things about him. He was continually and constantly in trouble with us, but at the end of the day, I loved him.'" How are you doing at that?
That's what Jesus did. That's what faithful prophets do. Faithful men speak the word of the Father. I don't need to come to you with a great résumé. I just want to come and say, "If any man regards me, let him regard me as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mystery of God." I don't need you to like me. I don't need you to agree with me. I don't need you to say this easy truth. I just have to go, "If it's true, I have to say it, and I have to say it as lovingly as I can." I have to be fearless, joyful, loving, and brace myself, because everybody who decides to do this is going to experience some trouble, and I will tell you, even more and more and more. It says in verse 27:
"They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am…and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.'"
What he said is, "When you lift me up to crucify me, that's when you're going to know." It doesn't mean they're all going to be believers. He's going to say, "On that day there are going to be a few things that are going to go down that are going to get your attention." Specifically, one of those things was "When you kill me and darkness tries to overcome the light, you're going to find out that darkness can't overcome light, that light will rise forth and the grave will be empty.
Truly spiritual men are not sinful men. The wages of sin is death, but since there is no death in me, when you lift me up to kill me, I'm going to be lifted up to life, and then I'm going to go where you can't go with me, and I want you to, but you'll see. You'll see." Gang, I want to close with this little deal. When Jesus spoke, he spoke full of grace and truth. He always had them both together.
Probably all of us mess up on one of two sides. We're just all grace and just want to get along and love people, which is good, and we neglect truth, because we don't want to upset the apple cart, or we're just so abrasive with truth that people go, "Man, I'd love a little love with that." Jesus always had it perfectly mingled. It doesn't mean at any one given time he wasn't clearly speaking truth, but behind it was this heart of love.
There were times he was confused as a madman. There were times that maybe people could see, "Hey, aren't you going to drive home the point?" But here's the deal. We have to consistently ask ourselves, "Am I willing to speak out for true spirituality? And, Father, by your kindness, might I do it with grace and unwavering truth?" There is not a light. There aren't a number of roads; there is one Light. It's either Jesus or darkness. Do you believe that?
If you don't believe that, chances are your life is experiencing consistent pain, frustration, and travail, and I would recommend you consider following Jesus with all your heart. You'll still get cancer, tsunamis will still come, people might still betray you, but you'll have a workable, congruent worldview that will allow you to be continually joyful, knowing that God is going to make it all right one day. You'll keep pursuing him, and you'll be comforted by others, and you'll just keep telling folks, "He loves you. He saved me. He's saving me," and you'll be a faithful prophet just like Jesus.
Father, I pray for my friends, that as we walk through the rest of the day we would walk as Jesus walked, filled with grace and truth; that we would not shrink back from the story of Christ and what he came to do; that we'd be very clear and wouldn't try to redefine Jesus to make him palatable to others; we'd just go, "Hey, listen. All I'm going to do is represent him. This is not about me. Your problem isn't with me. Your problem is with what Jesus said."
I just want to faithfully and rightly represent Jesus. Show me if he's a loon. Show me if that grave isn't empty. Show me if when we lifted him up we settled the point once and for all that he was just a madman, but if, in fact, that tomb is empty, we'd better lock in, and we'd better follow him so we can experience light and love, blessing, truth, and joy. We'd better be people who are well aware of your kindness, who say there's one Light and the Light is Christ alone. He's where our hope is found. He is our Light, our strength, and our song.
I pray, Father, you'd remind us that in the truth of this great modern hymn and then you would use us, as people filled with the Spirit who speak in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs throughout the week, who speak to others with the hymn of our lives rightly representing the Father who sent us as servants of Jesus Christ. Lord, if there is one here who is not yet a follower of Jesus, would they listen to this song, listen to the words of Jesus we just shared? Would they come today, that they might be forgiven and removed from the domain of darkness into the inheritance of your beloved Son? Would you do that by grace? In Christ's name, amen.
Gang, that's exactly what we do. We just go out into the world filled with grace and truth, not compromising on either side, and we just say, "Here in the power of Christ I stand. You can hate me, you can reject me, but I'm going to be crazy-loving. I'm going to be consistently fearless. I'm going to be continually joyful. I'm going to be constantly in trouble."
On the day Christ was raised from the grave, it says many of the tombs were opened and those who had believed in God and had trusted that he would provide a place one day rose from the tomb and went out and declared the wonders and majesty of God. That's all we are. We're people who used to be lost in the domain of darkness who, by God's grace, have been raised from our dead works, our dead spirituality, our dead understanding, and we go out into the world and testify of what Christ has done.
We don't claim that we're perfect; we claim that he is. That's why we need him. When we blow it, we testify. We say, "Hey, will you forgive me? That was not spirituality you saw. That was not the Spirit of Christ; that was the spirt of Todd. It was an offense to God. I'm so grateful I have a Savior. And it was an offense to you. I want to make amends. I want to acknowledge that. That's why I love my Jesus. He's teaching me and training me, convicting me of sin. That's what light does. It exposes the darkness in my life. I've seen it, and I'm going to love more."
Do you want to know that Jesus? That's the hymn you sing. We're dead men who have been raised up who profess that to others, and people go, "Wow! Who is this Jesus?" We say, "He is our King. He is the Light of the World, and he loves you." If you don't know him, will you come so we can share him with you? And if you know him, will you go, and may your life be that hymn every day.
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.