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The religious leaders decide in John 11 to kill Jesus in order to protect the nation of Israel. Like them, we can perform acts of "faith" that have a veneer of piety but are at their core self-centered and destructive. Todd explains that what we do is not as important as why we do it, why what others do ultimately should not matter to us, and that what God has done is the only thing that should matter.
No Mean Love
The Sovereignty of God in the Sabotage of Judas
When Jesus Took Up the Towel and Loved us to the Uttermost
Israel and You: A Good Example or a Horrible Warning
For This Purpose He Came: Unveiling God's Glory in His Humiliation
John: Where We've Been and Our Intention Moving Forward
A Perfect Message if you "Wish to see Jesus"
King Jesus: Why the Leaders Missed Him, Why You Must Not
Albert: A Living Picture of Lazarus a Man Once Dead
Lazarus: A Dead Man Who Becomes a Picture of Life
The Pivot Point That Is Personal Belief and The Rightness of Radical Response
What Should and Shouldn't Matter To You
Jesus versus the Ultimate Predator
The Reason for Everything and How We are to Respond to It
The Identity of the Good Shepherd and the Attributes of His Sheep
The Good Shepherd: What He is Doing, Why He is Doing It, and How it's Going to Get Done
A Blind Man You'd Better See Yourself In
Sons, Slaves and Freedom Indeed
Well, it's good to be back. As you guys know, I was up with about 400 folks from Watermark as we did our little Watermark in Estes Park, maybe for the last time. We don't know. Sorry you missed it. It was a good eight-year run. We had a lot of fun up there. Anyway, nonetheless, after that I spent a week with some folks up in Denver who we have a relationship with, built into them on a Sunday, and made my way back here. Glad to be here.
We are going to be in John 11. Open up your Bible to John 11. Third week there. You're going to come across a little section in John 11 that you might typically read in your time alone and just blow off. You might go, "What in the world does this have to do with me? A bunch of things that guys did after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? They convened to respond in a specific way against him, but this is why I don't read my Bible. There's nothing really there for me."
Well after today when I walk you through John 11:45 through the end, I hope once again you are encouraged and motivated to never believe that there is an idle part of your Scripture. Everything is there for a reason. It should be put to work in your life not just to give you information but to produce transformation.
We're not just going to learn Bible facts this morning. We're going to see that this little section of Scripture is unbelievably relevant to your life. Let me tell you three things that you're going to learn today if I do my job from this text. First, you're going to see this. What you do is not the only thing that matters; why you do what you do matters. I could say it the other way.
Not only why you do things doesn't matter, but also the reason or what you do or how you act matters. You might go, "That's not real genius." Secondly, whatever somebody else does to you should not ultimately matter in your life. Thirdly, what God has done for you is the only thing that should matter. You're going to see all that right here. Let me read it, and then we're going to pray and dive in.
Here's what it says in John 11, verses 45 and following. "Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him." After he had called Lazarus from the grave, this dead man came to life, and he came out. Many believed. Verse 46 says, "But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.
Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, 'What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.' But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, 'You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.'
Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.
Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves.
So they were seeking for Jesus, and were saying to one another as they stood in the temple, 'What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?' Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him." Now you read that, and you kind of go, "Okay, a lot of facts there, a lot of historical narrative, but what's that have to do with me?" Let's see if we can't learn. Let me pray.
Father, I thank you for this Word. I thank you that this morning if there is somebody who is here that both what they have done or maybe why they have done it is a direct contradiction to your will and, therefore, they are under much guilt and shame and chaos, I pray that they would find in this text the solution to that disorder and despair in their life. Then there are others in this room, Father, I am sure who come in here who are suffering at the hands of evil men and suffering in the face of a broken world that is not as it should be.
I pray that this text would have relevance to them. For all of us, wherever we are, would you use this Word to enlighten our hearts, to open our eyes that we might see you and to understand, and it would bring about hope and joy and endurance and perseverance and right response in every way that would bring glory to you and, therefore, goodness to our lives as we're obedient to what you've shown us here this morning? Teach us now. In Christ's name, amen
Well, I told you there were three things I hoped to kind of get across. I'll maybe drop in a few more nuggets along the way that are hopefully helpful to you, but the first thing I thought I would do is use this text just to maybe even state something rather obvious: it's not just what you do that matters, but sometimes why you do it that makes all the difference.
It's funny because a lot of times what we do is we judge other people according to what they do, but a lot of times when folks are saying, "Man, I don't like what you just did," you go, "Well, if you knew why I did it, you would understand." We want people to judge us according to our motive. Let me just say this. Sometimes I don't care what your motive is, what you do is just dead wrong. That's just a fact.
I'll give you an example on that. First Samuel 13, verse 22, is the story of Saul when he was king. He had been told by Samuel the prophet to not do a specific thing, to not offer sacrifices until he got there because God separated the offices of prophet, priest, and king. Because of the depravity of man, no man can have all that power because it would corrupt him. Only one man in the history of the world was a prophet, priest, and king, and he was incorruptible because he was God himself. It was Jesus.
Saul was told not to do this, and he did it. It turns out the reason he did it is because he was fearful of how the people might respond if he didn't lead the way he wanted them he thought to lead, but anyway, Samuel walked up to them and said, "I don't care why you did it, Saul. Don't you know the Lord delights more in obedience than sacrifice?" Something Jesus himself a little bit later repeats.
So don't tell me your motive. It's just dead wrong when you violate the commandment of God. But there are a lot of things that, necessarily, we have to know why you did it to determine whether or not it was the right thing to do. Let me just ask you guys this. What if I told you there were some people in the Bible, and there are right here in John 11 and John 12 when I say this, who said a couple of things?
How about if I told you they said, "I want you to know all that Jesus had done." You'd go, "Wow, that's a good guy." How about if they said, "I want you to seek Jesus." You'd go, "That's a good guy." How about if I told you, "Look, I don't want to waste money on extravagant worship. I want to give money to the poor." You'd go, "Hey, that's a pretty good idea," right?
You have somebody who is saying, "I want you to know what Jesus has done. I want you to seek Jesus. I don't want to waste money in a way that doesn't make sense to me. I want money given so that we can really care for the poor." What if I told you those three things are what happened in John 11, and John 12, and none of them were done by people in a way that honored God? Why?
Well, the first one is because, contrary to believing in who Jesus was as he revealed himself through the many signs that he had done, including the resurrection of Lazarus, these guys didn't believe. They ran to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done to stir up trouble. The Pharisees told others to seek Jesus, not so that they might find life in him, but so that they might kill him.
In John 12, you're going to find out that Judas didn't want Mary to worship Jesus in an extravagant way, not because he really cared about the poor but because the text tells us that he was the treasurer and he was pilfering from that money. It's really interesting when you just go through there and you start to look at this.
What you do is important, but why you do it often determines whether or not it was really done well or not. So look, the Scripture does tell you that you should discipline your child and if you don't discipline your child, that you, in effect, have a death wish on him and do not care for his soul, but I will tell you, how and why you discipline your child makes all the difference.
There are times when I have disciplined my children in a way that has been inconsistent with God's will for me. "…for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God." I wish I could tell you that I have never done anything outside of God's will for me and God's way, but that would not be true. No surprise. There are times that the anger of Todd, that the anger of God, that the righteous anger that should be there when you see wrong that is handled well is executed, but there are times my kids…
For an example I have, when they were younger especially, employed corporal punishment to them. I whupped them good and they were never really fearful or scared of me or bothered by me when I did that, when I took time and I explained to them that I loved them but there was a consequence to their choices and that as a father who cares for them, I want them to understand those consequences.
I tanned their little hides in a way that they understood. They cried because it hurt a little bit, but they would even thank me and hug me, and they would not run away from me. There were other times when I have hit them with one tenth of the use of physical force, but they could see in my face not a prayerful attitude. I would look at them and go, "What a…"
I would look at them like this. I wouldn't even squeeze them hard, but you just look at them and go, "What are you doing?" They go, "No!" They'd be all upset. The reason would be is because of why I was doing it. They understood that it was scary to them because there wasn't a man who was in control of the spirit, who was thinking about what was best for them but was doing what seemed right to him and it was caught up in the moment.
So is disciplining your kids and maybe even letting them know that there is a certain amount of indignation that comes with wrong behavior appropriate? Absolutely, but is that indignation supposed to be the indignation of man? Why I did it in those moments that I'm describing was for me out of frustration and that was always destructive, always. Even when it was a brush, a flick, it caused more pain and trauma than a severe disciplining moment when it was done in love and with care. That's why you discipline, not just the fact that you discipline.
How about this? Why do you share your faith? Should you share your faith? Yes, but why you share your faith makes a big difference to people. If this is just some self-righteous pronouncement that you're pleased to let them know that they, outside of the grace that you have discovered in your genius, are destined for hell and all their rebellion against God and immoral living then you're not doing what God has asked you to do.
If people think that they're a project to you or that you delight in pronouncing judgment on them… In fact, that's inconsistent with what God himself is like. It says, "I [God] take no pleasure in the death of the wicked…" Are you doing it out of guilt, out of a compulsion of anything other than love? The Scripture says, "Let all that you do be done in love."
If you're doing it because people are projects to you? Then I'm telling you, why you're doing it is wrong, even if what you're doing is right. I agree with what Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life, said a long time ago. That people don't really care how much you know until they know how much you care.
We are all to do the work of an evangelist, but we are also to do the work of evangelists for the reasons that God has called us to: because he loves people. Now look, if you're not sharing your faith at all, that's wrong. What you do or what you're not doing matters. Why you're not doing it doesn't matter: because you're scared, because you're not equipped. Well, you have to overcome that fear. You have to get equipped, but I will tell you if you're doing it, I still need to know why you are doing it. How are you executing? What you do matters. Why you do it matters.
How about this? Why are you here this morning? I'm glad you're here, but if you're here because this is just a little tick in your box, that's what you do, you're a Sunday going-to-church Christian, but after you fulfill God's wish on your life, Monday through Saturday is yours? That isn't right. That isn't good.
In fact, God says of these kinds of people in Amos, chapter 5. Folks who were performing religious services because they thought that's what God wanted though their hearts were far from him. He says, "I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them…"
Why? "Because you still go on out of here and go on about your way. Why you're here is you think I need your offerings." God said, "No." We're here to be reminded of the greatness of God, to remember a right way to respond to it because we love him and we want it to inform everything we do. So if you're a person who goes to religious service like a mafia don in The Godfather just because it's what you do culturally, but you're still destroying people and living corruptly, God says, "Nuh-uh. You can just forget that little unholy habit of being a nominal church attendee."
How about why you read your Bible? If you read it just to get smarter, have more information, and be able to answer Bible trivia, not a good idea. The purpose of reading your Bible… It's not an amulet. It's not protectionism. An amulet is like a rabbit's foot. You rub it for good luck. "God, I read my Bible today." The purpose is not for you to get through the Bible. The purpose is to get the Bible through you. It should produce transformation.
There are many people who are here whose family sees them study the Bible, but they go, "Why do you do that, a little pious, self-righteous act. How about apply it?" I've shared this story before about the guy who said to his wife, "Sweetie, look at this travel brochure. Wouldn't it be awesome if we went to Mount Sinai and the Egyptian wilderness and read the Ten Commandments where Moses did?" She said, "Wouldn't it be great if we stayed here and obeyed them?"
So why you do something matters greatly. If you're reading your Bible just to bully people, to remind others what they should do and it's not informing your life, as a good luck charm, as some obligatory act? Nuh-uh. It's not a textbook. It is a love letter from a Father who is trying to shepherd your heart.
It's interesting. Some folks… we're in the middle of these last years of praying about God putting a facility together. It's been amazing the way that folks have been generous for that. We've never had any kind of campaign. We've tried to have careful communication along the way at different times. I think we've shared recently that we're at the very end of this opportunity in putting together finally a place just uniquely for the children and we have enough money to do all we're doing. We'll stop if the money is not there to finish it.
There have been some people all along who have said, "I don't want to give money to a building campaign. I don't think it's right to build a place like this. Churches spend too much money on facility. I wish the church would give money to the poor." Two things. First, it's funny that a lot of folks who say that have no problem using those facilities that others have stewarded to equip and encourage, to remind, and help us remember and train.
Listen, to you I say, "Listen, if God doesn't stir you to give this way, that's great. Go ahead and give the money to the poor." Folks who have not felt like they should invest here in a facility that we're trying to use for God's glory to raise up people who care about the poor, and you go, "I can't do it. Don't think it's right. Too excessive." Great.
So have you given money to the poor? Did you give more than the rest of us this week during Hunger Month so the poor could be fed because you haven't participated in putting together a place where we can equip people and remind them that God cares about folks who don't have what we have, that we should be leading and loving them?
Is there a semi that pulled up because the last seven years you've chosen not to participate in building a place here? That's great. I'm all for you not being stirred if that's what God leads you to do, to not participate in a building opportunity. But are you doing what you said you were going to do or were you like Judas, making an excuse because you had ulterior motive to use that money for what you wanted, not what God wanted?
So why you don't give to building campaigns is a big deal, not just that you in your piety or your being above bricks and mortar because you care about those who are the least of these. Fantastic. This is the last day to jump in with us and get your semi from Kroger and bring it on over. Now those of you who want to do both, let's finish that thing and let's continue to feed…
I'm really encouraged, by the way. We've heard from so many of the folks that there is more given from this one group of people in this month than some places they get from any organization the entire year. So, well done. It's a great time for us to be doing this, not just in the Thanksgiving season where many of us do it alone, but corporately there's a reason we do it in June. That information is in your Watermark News. I'm glad you care about the poor. I'm glad you care about the poor. All right. So why you do what you do matters. These guys?
Here, look what it says. It says that there were some who believed. "But some of them…" In contrast to those who believe. "…went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.""He is still out there. He is still doing things and making claims that you boys might want to know about." The Pharisees said, "Seek him." Not because they wanted to follow him, but because they wanted to trap him, and Judas said, "Don't worship that way. Give money over here so it goes to the poor," but he really didn't care about the poor. He cared about him.
Secondly, I told you I want to teach you about this idea. What someone else does should not ultimately matter to you. I'm going to get there in just a moment. Let's catch some other lessons. Let's read this. Look here in verse 45 again where it starts. It says, "Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done…" He had raised a man from the dead! "…believed in Him."
You might read that and go, "Well, of course they believed in him! If somebody would just go around raising folks from the dead today, I'd believe in God too if they did it in the name of the Lord." I want to tell you that is bad thinking. There is a movement, it was especially prevalent through the 80s, but it's still very much exists especially in certain houses that are trying to woo people's affection for God based on what they can see and experience from God.
I've made this statement before. That false teachers will always call you to come to the King's table because of what's on it. Whereas I think true shepherds, true teachers call you to come just to be with the King. Not because you're going to get healthier, wealthier, or wiser necessarily even or not because it's going to let you see some really awesome stuff, but you just come because God is there. Where God is there, he is the awesome stuff. Wisdom does follow him.
It's not about what you get on your own because you showed up. It's because you get him in oneness with the God who is the way, who is life. A lot of folks think that, "You have to see God doing some awesome and powerful things and then you'll believe." That's just the sign movement, this power evangelism. Let me just tell you, that is not only inconsistent with Scripture, it's a wicked thing to seek a sign from God. Let me show you where I get that.
First of all, you can see it doesn't work when you look at John 11. Jesus raised a man from the dead and not everybody believed. That was the seventh of his signs that John highlights, revealing who he was. Let me take you for a second over to Matthew, chapter 12. Let me just walk you through. There are going to be some things here that are really interesting to you.
This whole section right there in Matthew 12, has in it a statement that concerns a lot of people. It has this thing called the unforgivable sin. Everyone wants to know what it is. I'm going to show you what it is this morning very quickly. Matthew 12. Watch this. Jesus had come across a man who was blind and mute, and he healed him.
Instead of being impressed by that, it said the Pharisees discounted it. A sign happened, and they didn't necessarily believe just like in John 11, when a man was raised from the dead they didn't believe. In fact, they said that they only reason that Jesus could do it was because he was a demon himself. Jesus gives three reasons why that is bad thinking. Look what he says.
He says, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand." The first thing he does is he quotes Abraham Lincoln, Jesus does right there. He appeals to the sixteenth president of the United States. People go, "Okay, well that's a strong argument, quoting Lincoln." Then he goes in verse 26.
He says, "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?" In other words, "I'm not of Satan. If I was of Satan, why would I be ruining my own work?" Verse 27: "If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out?""You guys do the same thing. You see that which is evidence of a fallen world through the grace and power of God. At times God minimizes it through the prayers and petitions of his people and you get rid of it and you call it of God, so why is what you do of God and not what I do of God?"
He says, "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.""You guys do this by praying that God will let you do it. I do it just because I can do it. What does that tell you?" In verse 28 he says, "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house."
He goes, "To beat…" He said, "If you're going to be the man, you have to beat the man. This one who is oppressing you? This one who is discouraging you and overwhelming you? I came in and I kicked his rear. What does that tell you about who I am? There is someone more powerful than Satan here."
Jesus responds to their saying that he is of the Devil, and then he says in verse 30, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." In other words, he is saying, "You guys aren't for me because you are not paying attention and you are running away those who I'm trying to bring in." "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven."
Whoa! What does Matthew 12:31 mean? Well, let me explain it. In the context of this moment where Jesus came and offered himself as Messiah when he showed up and he presented himself at the baptism where he identified with people, the Father spoke. He said, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" There was the testimony of the Father.
Jesus, throughout his ministry, made it very clear that he thought he was the Messiah. He thought the reason that he could defeat the effects of sin is because he is the God who created and can recreate. He is the one who has power to forgive. Jesus himself testified that he was God. Then Jesus, because he identified with man, said, "I don't do anything unless the Father wants me to do it and I yield to him. It's by the power of the Spirit of God that as a man who walks by faith now does these things and the Spirit allows me to do it.
Why? Because I am who I say I am and so the Spirit is giving evidence that I am who I am. You reject the testimony of the Father, the testimony of the Son, and the testimony of the Spirit. We have nothing else to offer you. There are no more expert witnesses to bring. The Trinity has spoken, and you're saying that I am not who God wants you to reckon with. Therefore, you are going to be left to your own devices."
A historical moment to the nation of Israel when Jesus presented himself as Messiah when they rejected testimony of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. He goes, "That's it. There is no more for you. You are committed to rejecting the provision of God. That is the unforgivable sin." In a larger sense, what is the unforgivable sin?
Hebrews 9:27 says, "…it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…" In other words, you don't ever respond to the gracious offering of God to be reconciled to him through the substitutionary atonement of his Son Jesus and you die. Your life is over and the moment that you had to reconcile with your King.
It's not rejecting the gospel. It's not quenching the Spirit or grieving the Spirit, because all of us have done that. There are many times I heard the gospel before I believed. There are many times, having received the gospel, I still do what I want to do. The unforgivable sin is when people reject Jesus as God's ultimate provision, and there is no further opportunity to respond.
For us, it's after death. For them, Jesus was here living, walking, and the nation in a formal decree by its national leadership, said, "We as a nation reject God's offering through you." Jesus said, "That's not going to work out well for you. As a nation, you're going to move into judgment." Let me just say this.
After this in Matthew 12, individual Jews still believed, still came to faith in him, but as a people, the clock began to tick to where they were ultimately dismissed as a nation and brought into judgment because their King who was to bring them together and provide for them what only he could provide, that hand of protection left them, so they were sheep waiting to be slaughtered. It broke his heart. Individuals came, but the nation went into judgment.
Now God is going to show you that he is still going to reconcile those people fully to him one day. It's right here in John 11, where we're looking, but for a while, there is a hardening of their hearts, individual Jews come, but as a class of people, a nation, Israel to this day does not seek Jesus, their King and Messiah, and there will never be peace in Jerusalem until they become more Christian.
By the way, this is what's beautiful about God. Can I tell you guys something? You need to be Jewish. Do you know that? If you're going to be right with God, you'd better be Jewish in the sense that there is a singular male Deliverer who is God himself who has come to offer himself for you that you might be reconciled to God and brought back into a place of blessing.
That is a messianic view which comes from the Jewish faith. You'd better believe in the Jewish Messiah whose name is Jesus. Now if you're here this morning and you're Jewish, can I say something? You'd better be a Christian. In other words, you'd better reckon that Jesus, Christos, which is the Greek way to say the Hebrew word Messiah, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Anointed One.
There is one body, one faith, one Lord, one baptism, and one hope of our calling. This is a mystery that ultimately is accomplished in John 11, this knitting together of the nation of Israel and the world that God loves, which was always this program. The world needs to be Jewish, and the Jews need to be Christian.
Look at Matthew 12. Watch what happens here. Jesus goes on, and he says this, "You be careful what you say about me." There are Scriptures that talk about using words idly. "There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword…" Proverbs 12 says, so be careful with your tongue. Ephesians 4 talks about how no word should be spoken that is not for the purpose of building others up. That's just speaking to a broad class of language.
Here in the context, he is saying, "Listen, don't you just write me off like some average Joe. I am not just some average Joe. I am Jesus. I am the Messiah, and what you say about me matters." He says this. "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him…" We read that in verse 33.
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit." What he is about to say here is, "The reason that you guys are saying bad things about me is because you have a corrupt root system. Your heart is not reconciled to truth."
"You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment."
"I'm not just a cuss word. I'm not just a by-word. What you say about me matters." Let me just say it to you again. Who is Jesus? and What is he doing on the cross? The way you answer those two questions determines your eternity and your relationship with God right now. I would not be idle in writing this man off who has been raised from the dead and who raises others from the dead. He is distinguished among men, and you'd better deal with this Jesus.
"For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." We know that we're not justified by what we say, but by what Christ has done, but what you say about what Christ has done doesn't mean everything to you. Is he Lord? Is he raised from the dead, as we looked at these last couple of weeks? If so, you will be saved.
If you say, "No, he is not raised from the dead. He didn't do what he said he was going to do. He is not God. He is just an angel. He is just a good man. He is just a teacher. He is just a prophet." Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. Verse 38: "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'"
People ask us at Watermark all the time, "What do you guys think about the miraculous gifts? Are you guys Cessationists?" Do you know what I like to say? By the way, we just did an hour on this. We had this little thing called Counterpoint. We did one hour on Cessationism (Are the Sign Gifts for Today?). Let me save you a little bit. Go back and get the full dose. We are not Cessationists.
What I usually do when people say… I used to say, "Define that. What's a Cessationist? If by that you mean, do I believe God can do whatever he wants to do whenever he wants to do it? Of course. I think he can part seas, can raise the dead, and can speak through an ass, with Balaam now. He can do it. But if you're asking me about some specific sign gift that has been misunderstood to mean something else, then I'll give you a different answer."
That's what we talked about during that hour. Okay? We are not Cessationists. God is still mighty and powerful. He is sovereign. We're not going to tell him what he can and can't do. I believe he can do anything. I pray for people to be healed. I believe God can heal them. I believe that God can do whatever he wants to do whenever he wants to do it except contradict his own character and nature.
We've always believed that, but don't tell me that I need to see a sign, and if I just believed in God, we would believe more in the sign gifts. Let me tell you about what the Scripture says right here about people who seek signs and believe that signs are a necessary form of evangelism. By the way, there is a sign that God says, "You'd better have it." Do you know what it is?
He said, "This is going to be the ongoing sign that you are rightly related. This is the miracle of the New Testament church." Do you know what it is? He said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples…" It's not casting out demons, raising people from the dead. It's not speaking in strange tongues. It is love. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples…"
Here is your sign: the way you are transformed from a self-centered person to a loving person who loves your wife as Christ loved the church. There's your sign. How are you doing? The way you live to increase not your standard of living but your standard of giving. There's your sign. You love others more than your own comfort. You love others more than your own ease of conversation in a moment because you're going to speak the truth in love.
Watch what Jesus said when they said, "Give us a sign!" He answers that, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign…" Now that's kind of clear. "…and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet…" People ask me, "Wagner, do you really believe in the story of Jonah?" Let me tell you, based on Matthew 12, it is not a story. It is not a question of genre. It's a question of Christology. Who do you say Jesus is? Because Jesus thought that Jonah's death was not just metaphorical. Jonah's swallowing up by the whale happened.
Watch this. He says, "…for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Was that crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection metaphorical? I think not. He said, "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here."
"There's a better sign than Jonah. Some guy swallowed up in a whale, spit up on your shore, probably looked like a ghost from the stomach acid. He walks, and he preaches about repentance and reconciliation to God. They listened to Jonah. You'd better listen to me. I'm going to come. I'll give you the sign of Jonah.
You'll kill me. I'll be three days in the belly of the earth, and I'll be spit up from the dead and reinforce what I'm telling you now. Hey, the queen of Sheba? She trekked up all the way from Africa to spend some time with Solomon. Somebody better than Solomon is here. Pay attention." You read verse 45, in John 11, where it says that as a result of this little resurrection with Lazarus or this resuscitation for a moment it says that many of the Jews believed. You go, "Of course, I'd believe too." I would say, "Not so fast."
By the way, let me just say this. This little Christian conversation with critics that we're going to have? This thing in September? If the reason you're going to go to that apologetics conference is to be armed to beat up people who don't believe so you can argue them into the kingdom, don't come, because just like signs don't convert, arguments don't convert.
Now listen, we ought to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us. When someone asks a good question, we have to give good answers, but people are not argued into the kingdom. The grace of God brings them. I don't ever try and convert anybody. I don't ever try and convert anybody. It's the Spirit's job to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment, John 16 says.
But I want to give a loving and right and wise response. There is not going to be a better gathering of learned Christian philosophers, thinkers, and men in any one place in our country this entire year except at Watermark in September. It's going to be amazing 24 hours we're going to have together. I would come.
If you think it is the antidote to all disbelief, you're not paying attention. If it's going to be used by you as a club? You're not coming for the right reason. So come and learn so that your faith can be strengthened, you might be encouraged, and so that you can give reasonable responses to reasonable questions.
At the end of the day, it isn't the sign and it isn't the systematic arguments. You just need to know they're there. Intellectual suicide is not what we commit. Faith is not believing what we know not to be true. We will make that infinitely clear that Saturday, but it still does require faith.
Pascal said we have a faith that does not go against reason, but it goes beyond reason. I'm going to tell you, the folks who you run into out there who don't believe? It is not a function of their intellect. It is a function of their will. Let's go ahead and answer their intellectually honest questions, and you will be encouraged. There are great answers, but you still have this little thing called the will that no sign and no systematic argument will ever defeat. It takes humility. That's the one thing men don't have a lot of. Watch this.
It says, "But some of them [who didn't believe] went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council…" This is the Sanhedrin. This is like a formal gathering. It's not a mob response to the works of Christ. This is a formal, national event where 70 men, the Sanhedrin, the leaders of Israel got together and said, "We reject Jesus."
This is a lot like what happened in John 12 before the council. This is like the Congress of the United States voting and saying, "We the people reject God and his ways. As a nation, we scoff at him." God says, "When that happens, brace yourself." Brace yourself. Because they have stood up and they said, "No, this man is not of God. This man is of the Devil and we reject him."
When you reject God and you call that which is evil good and that which is good evil, you have trouble. It says, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." These men were fearful that if men identified Jesus, as they were increasingly doing, as the Messiah…
Why? Because he was doing what the Messiah, the prophecy, said he would do. He came from where the prophecy said he would come from, and he was speaking as the prophet. They said, "If this keeps happening, the people are going to believe this is our coming King. They're going to resurrect behind him, and Caesar is going to say, 'Nuh-uh, I've told you guys you can gather and play your little Jewish games as long as you're subservient to me, but the second you think you're subservient to something other than me, I'm going to squash you."
What really the national leadership was doing is they were saying, "We don't believe in the promises of God." Because God had promised them that he was going to raise up a deliverer and they would not be subject to their own flesh, they would not be subject to sin or anything else in the world, but they would serve him. He would be their caesar.
These guys said, "We don't believe God can pull that off, especially through this carpenter from Nazareth. So it's better that this man die than all of us because people are starting to think this man might be the man." Now this is where it gets genius. Are you ready? This probably is the most important part right here in John 11.
Verse 49: "But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, 'You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.'" That right there isn't the most important part. It's what comes after that. Caiaphas said, "This is good that this man dies so that all of you can live."
Now what we're going to find out is that Caiaphas wanted Jesus dead so he'd be out of the way, but it wasn't really Caiaphas who wanted Jesus dead. Somebody else wanted Jesus dead. Guess who it was? God. God…just like he used Balaam's ass to speak truth…used a godless, rebellious, faithless man to speak prophetically.
This should encourage you. This is my second point. Watch this. Why you do something and what you do matters. The second thing I said I was going to teach you is that no matter what somebody else does over you or to you it should not ultimately matter. Why? I'm going to tell you it's because God is sovereign, even over godless people and power. They are his puppets…always.
"The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever He wishes." What you're going to find out right here is it says, "Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied…" Which means he spoke the truths of God. He said, "Jesus was going to die for the nation."
See, this was God who put those words there. It was God's plan all along. Let me say this. Caiaphas was still completely culpable. What he did was wicked, what he did was wrong, but God was using him to say this. Watch this. Caiaphas wanted Jesus dead to get him out of the way. The truth is God wanted Jesus dead. Why? To have him in the way of your judgment and my judgment.
Substitutionary atonement is at the center of our faith. God loves you. He must judge you because you've left him and you're no longer yoked with him in faith. He is perfect. You are not. There is a problem. So what's God going to do? How can he be just, judge sin, and still the justifier of those he loves? Answer: his eternal, perfect nature can be satisfied when there is an eternal, perfect sacrifice, which of course requires he himself to come, which is of course what Jesus said he was: the visible image of the invisible God.
Jesus said, "No one has taken [my life] away from Me, but I lay it down…" Caiaphas said, "We're going to take your life so the nation can survive." Jesus said, "No, I'm going to give my life so you can truly live." Do you see that? Isaiah 53. If the priest knew his Scripture, Isaiah 53 says this. Jesus was "…Smitten of God…" Not Caiaphas.
It says that the good Lord laid his wrath on him. It says in verse 10, "But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief…" Not Caiaphas. Can I tell you this? I don't care what anybody is doing over you. There are two things that you can count on, and this is why what they're doing to you should not ultimately matter to you.
Look, if you're a Jew and you're living in 1940 Nazi Germany, it mattered to you what Hitler and the rest of the Nazi regime was doing. If you're an African-American living in southern United States and being oppressed as a piece of property, it mattered to you that there were wicked men over you in that moment, but not ultimately, which is why, God bless them, they would sing songs of hope like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
There's going to be a day when my plantation owner, God spare his soul, sees that what he is doing is an offense not to man but to God. That's why God tells you to pray for your enemies, because if you knew what God was going to do to them, you would have mercy on them. Though it's going to cause you some physical discomfort and abuse, ultimately you're going to be saved, and they're not. Here are two things you need to know when someone does something wicked to you.
First, God will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. That's Exodus 34:7. It's coming. So you pray for them. You are commanded by God's Word to pray for them, Luke 6 says. Secondly, you can trust that your sovereign and good God is in the middle of it at work to redeem it and ultimately, if you know him, use it for good.
You might say, "Todd, don't you dare tell me what Jerry Sandusky did will ever be used for good." Look at me. It was wicked, and he rightly will be judged. I pray he is reconciled to Christ so he doesn't really get judgment, but I'm telling you God is in the middle of everything, even the wicked, rebellious acts of men. I'm not going to tell you why Sandusky was allowed to do that. I'm just going to tell you he couldn't do it if God wouldn't allow it, and I know God allowed the crucifixion of his Son.
Here's what I would tell you. It's up to us to speak up against Sandusky, and if you're here and you're being abused, you come tell us, and we will run to the battle with you. We will rescue you. We will call it evil. We will bring healing into your life in every way that we can. We will suffer ourselves if the government says it's okay for that action to happen. We'll wait for that day when God comes and makes it right.
All I want to tell you is this: God is always at work. Genesis 50. Watch this. I'm going to let you read two more verses. We're pretty much done. Genesis 50, verses 20 and 21. See if this sounds familiar to you. There is a brother who is rejected by his brothers, beaten, left for dead, sold off into the bowels of the earth where he is imprisoned and forgotten and left for dead.
God resurrects him from that judgment, puts him in a place of ultimate power to where at their moment of greatest needs the brothers come to him. They see that, "Oh my God, this is the one who we have betrayed. He is surely going to consume us." That brother speaks in kindness. "…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…" Does that story sound familiar to you? It ought to. It's the story of Jesus. Watch this. Why?
"…in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." Watch this. Go to John 11, verse 51. "Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad."
That he might bring many people to him through the death of Christ. You go back to Genesis 50, verse 21. What does he say? "You have hope. Do not fear because of evildoers." "'…do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.' So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." You get that?
Don't you ultimately concern yourself with what wicked men do to you, because you have a hope beyond their abuse, beyond that Hitler, beyond that husband. Now you lovingly say it's wrong. You widen the circle. Those of us who love God will step in with you, will die with the Jews, will die with the communists, or will die with the homosexuals. Will say, "No, you're not going to treat them that way."
Just like the faithful Christians did in Germany in the 1940s. Just like the faithful Christians did in the South in the 1960s. "You can beat us all you want, but I'm going to believe God is in it to redeem it for good. It will not go well with me for a moment, but it will go well with me and it doesn't ultimately matter what you say, because I fear God, not Rome." See, Caiaphas feared Rome. He should've feared God.
Now what's the third thing I said I was going to teach you? I'm going to close with this. I told you, what God has done for you is all that should matter to you. What did God do for you? He stepped up, and he said, "I'm going to go and I'm going to lay my life down. I'm going to substitute myself on the cross for you so that you can lay your iniquity on me so that God can be just and justify you if you'll have faith in me."
Folks, if that does not matter to you, then your eternity is at stake. What I'm here to tell you is that our faith is a substitutionary faith, that God loves you enough to step in the way of the wrath that you earned and you should love him and you should trust him. You should follow him. It should inform why you do everything. It should inform what you do. It should give you hope no matter what somebody else does because of who he is. That's your Jesus. That's John 11.
Father, I pray it changes everything about our lives. I pray that we would be people who would be so in love with you as we see that you did not spare your own Son, but delivered him up for us all that we would understand that every good thing comes from you and that we would never distrust you again.
Lord, I pray that this morning if there is somebody who is here who is suffering that they would see that you're intimately aware of that. They would raise their hand and tell us so we can enter into that abuse, that we could speak out against it. I pray if there is somebody here who is abusing themselves and suffering because they don't recognize you for who you are and don't believe that you're good that this morning they would come to you and see that not only are you good a little bit, you're good to the cross.
You're good to die for us that we might be reconciled to you. I pray that we would be people who would respond to that in every way that you intended. So Lord, this morning would you bring those who are far from you? Would you give them a sign of an empty tomb, the only sign you said that was going to still come that matters, that you burped Jesus up from the grave?
You raised him by the power of your Spirit that we might hear again that what he said was true confirmed on that day so that all men would know that this was not just a mere prophet. This was the King who had come. I pray that they would come to you in faith this morning. Then for those of us, Lord, who have had that faith walking in, I pray we walk out of here and we say, "Lord, I don't want there to be anything I do except for the why to bring glory and honor to the one who gave himself for me."
I pray that every what we would do would be informed by your Word. I pray we'd live with hope, with joy in the midst of every circumstance at the hands of wicked and evil men in a fallen world, knowing that ultimately you're at work to accomplish your purposes. Until that day, may we just suffer faithfully, because all that matters to you and all that matters to us is what you've done for us in Jesus. Would you glorify yourself by having us believe that completely this morning? In Christ's name, amen.