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John 14:9-10 NLT – Jesus replied, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.”
God is revealed through Jesus.
If we want to know God, then we need to get to know Jesus. And thankfully there are four entire books of the Bible dedicated to the life of Jesus. We call them the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Through this series, we are working through the book of John and observing the way of Jesus. What we’re finding out is that the way of Jesus is different.
Last week, we camped out in John chapter 6. We did a deep dive into the miracle when Jesus fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish.
Then He walked on the water and instantly transported the disciples to their destination. Then He rebuked His followers for caring more about their basic necessities than the kingdom of God.
All three of these stories tied together to show us that Jesus doesn’t want us striving and hustling and worrying about our basic necessities. He wants us to be about the Kingdom of God while trusting Him for provision.
But to rest in His provision, we must move at His pace.
He’s on a walk, but most of us are running through life, rushing to a destination that keeps moving on us.
We like to think that we can do our own thing, move at our own pace, and expect God to take care of us. But it doesn’t work that way. You don’t automatically get to walk in God’s provision. There’s a condition:
Matthew 6:33 NKJV – But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Seek your own kingdom first, and you’ll live your life striving and hustling and unfilled. Seek the kingdom of God first and you’ll still be working, but it will not be burdensome. And better yet, you can trust God to take care of your needs.
To me, this is good news. But I guess not everyone feels that way. Because when Jesus asked His followers for this kind of commitment, many of them stopped following Him.
Turns out, they wanted Jesus to take care of them without giving anything in return. That may be the way of American welfare, but it’s not the way of Jesus. If you really follow Jesus, it’s going to cost you. Paul said it best:
Galatians 2:20 NLT – My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
You don’t hear much about dying to self these days. Probably because pastors are afraid of losing their crowd. I mean, that’s what happened to Jesus.
When He gave them a free meal, they were all for it. But when He asked them to give up their life to follow Him, they said, “Nah. I’m out.”
Jesus Rejected by Family
So we are at the point of story where Jesus loses many of His followers. I can only imagine how disappointing this was for Him. All He wants to do is save people from eternal death, yet people still choose not to receive salvation.
After all of this, Jesus went back home to Galilee. You’d think His family would comfort Him during such a troubling time when many of His followers turned away. But, nope. Instead, His own brothers mocked Him:
John 7:3-5 MSG – His brothers said, “Why don’t you leave here and go up to the Feast so your disciples can get a good look at the works you do? No one who intends to be publicly known does everything behind the scenes. If you’re serious about what you are doing, come out in the open and show the world.” His brothers were pushing him like this because they didn’t believe in him either.
Typical brothers right here. But wow, what a blow for Jesus. Not only did He lose hundreds, maybe thousands of followers, but even His own brothers don’t believe He is the Son of God.
Has there ever been a challenging time in your life where you needed your family’s full support, but instead they kicked you while you were down?
This ought to be encouraging for you. Jesus went through that too, but it didn’t discourage Him from His purpose. He didn’t bow down to the pressure of His family. He stayed focused on what God asked Him to do.
This reveals something about following Jesus:
To follow Jesus, I must obey God over family.
You mean if God leads me to start a blog but my family thinks it’s crazy, I’m supposed to follow God instead of pleasing my family?
You mean if God leads me to blue collar work instead of becoming a doctor, I’m supposed to follow God instead of pleasing my parents?
You mean if God leads me to get married right out of high school but my family tells me to go to college first, I’m supposed to follow God instead of pleasing my family?
I know, I know. All the parents with teenagers are starting to hate me about now. But the truth is, God leads our kids. And our goal as parents should be to teach them to discern God’s voice and obey Him regardless.
It hurts to think about, but there are going to be times where God gives direction to your kid directly instead of speaking it through you as their parent.
So, when they tell you about it, it will not immediately resonate with you. You’ll be thinking, “Huh? God really said that? Nah, I doubt it.”
Instead of shutting them down, let them walk it out. Sure, they might get it wrong. But man, you can learn a lot through trial and error.
Our goal as parents should not be to guard them from all mistakes. Instead, we should allow them to make mistakes and show them how to use mistakes to propel them forward. Mistakes are simply a learning experience.
All that to reveal that there are going to be times where God is calling you to do something and your family won’t agree with it. In these cases, to follow Jesus, you must obey God over family.
When God led me to get married at 18 and not go to college, many in my family thought I was crazy. You probably would’ve too. But now Beth and I have been married for almost 14 years and each year keeps getting better.
When God led me to start a blog and build a business from the ground up while my wife was the breadwinner, many in my family made fun of me. Now, Beth gets to be a stay-at-home mom for our four kids and the business not only provides for our family, but for my two employees and this church.
When I look back, the things that have produced the most fruit in my life were the things most of my family and friends did not approve of.
But I did them anyway because the only one I’m following is Jesus.
Write down your off-the-wall idea.
I bet there’s been an off-the-wall idea God’s given you. But you never pursued it because your friends and family thought you were crazy. Take one minute right now to write it down on the back of your message notes.
We’re going to come back to that later. But first, let’s get back to the book of John.
We just read how Jesus’ brothers were trying to coerce Him into doing more miracles for the public to see. He simply told them, “Nope. Not going to do it because that is not God’s assignment for me.”
It would have been the perfect time for Jesus to show off to a crowd because all the Jews were gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles. But instead of showing off, Jesus snuck in to the feast and stayed incognito even though people were looking for Him.
In the middle of the feast, Jesus breaks His silence, goes up to the temple and teaches the people. They were astonished because His teaching was really good even though He didn’t have all the education and degrees they thought He should have.
Knowing that they were bickering about His lack of education, here’s how Jesus responds:
John 7:16-17 NLT – So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.
Wow. Jesus drops a load of wisdom right here. He reveals how we can know if what we hear is accurate or not.
It has nothing to do with the speaker’s education or experience. It has nothing to do with personality, or age, or gender.
For you to discern if what you are taught is accurate or not has nothing to do with the person delivering the message. It has everything to do with you.
Do you want to do the will of God?
If so, you will know whether the teaching is from God or a lie. But if you are not pursuing the will of God, you will be deceived by wrong teaching and you’ll have no idea.
That’s why Jesus clarifies in the very next verse:
John 7:18 NLT – Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the One who sent him speaks truth, not lies.
We are in such a dangerous place in America. We’re told to follow the “experts” because of their education and experience.
I’m not against education or experience. They can both be very helpful things. But neither will determine if the so-called expert is telling the truth.
The only thing that can help us discern if someone is teaching us truth or lies is pursuing the will of God. If we determine in our hearts to obey God above all else, we will easily see what is truth and what’s not.
In all the confusion last year, I finally figured out that I only need to listen to people who are pursuing the will of God. I don’t care how educated or how popular they are, their message will be more deceptive than it is truth if they are not pursuing the will of God.
And when someone criticizes me, I take a moment to ask, “Does this person pursue the will of God? Do they honor the Word of God above all else?” If not, their criticism has no value and I’m not going to give energy to it.
But if someone comes to me with criticism, and I know they pursue the will of God and honor His word, I accept it and ask the Lord what I need to learn from it.
Isn’t this great? You don’t have to put your trust in experts. You can know the truth for yourself because it is revealed by God when you make the choice to pursue His will above all else.
Let me put it to you this way:
To follow Jesus, I must pursue God’s will.
After explaining how to discern truth from lies, Jesus says something that probably made the people listening red hot. He brings up one of their favorite leaders from the past, Moses, and points out how they didn’t even listen to him!
This would be similar to bringing up Martin Luther King Jr. in the middle of all the racial tensions last year. We love what he did for racial reconciliation, but the so-called advocates of 2020 were not following his teaching.
I love this quote:
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
This is a beautiful, hopeful mindset. But most people had quite the opposite last year. The reigning mindset last year was that everyone and everything was racist and would always be racist. And the only way to solve it is to suppress the truth and accuse everyone of being racist.
I don’t have time to get into this, but I want to encourage you. Just because your white doesn’t mean you’re racist. Just because you are accused of being racist doesn’t mean you are racist.
You know if you are racist because it’s something you do on purpose. And if you struggle with racism, God is the only one who can free you. So look to Him to fill you with unconditional love for all people.
The Right Kind of Judgement
So, Jesus brings up Moses and makes the people mad. What do they do? They accuse Him of having a demon. Who knows, maybe you think the same thing about me right now?
Jesus then reminds them of how they got upset when He healed a man on the Sabbath. Then he points out how they would do circumcisions on the Sabbath all the time.
How could it be wrong to heal someone on the Sabbath and not wrong to perform surgery on the Sabbath? Can you explain that to me you silly beans?
Jesus was good at this kind of stuff. He could get you in a pickle in no time. Although I’m sure it was fun, He didn’t do this for fun. It was a powerful way to make a point. Here’s what He was teaching this time:
John 7:24 NKJV – “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Oh crap. Now we are in a pickle. Doesn’t the Bible say not to judge? I mean, that’s a scripture even unbelievers know by heart. Yet, here, Jesus is telling us how to judge.
To figure this out, let’s take a look at the most popular misquoted scripture of all time:
Do not judge anyone, anytime, for any reason. -Not Jesus
That’s how we like to quote it and then it gets spread around like a disease. But here’s what Jesus really said:
Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV – Judge not, that you be not judged.
From this one isolated scripture, I can see how people think Jesus is telling us not to judge anyone, anytime, for any reason. But let’s keep reading to see if this is an accurate understanding:
Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV – For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Okay. Now the picture is starting to come into focus. If I do decide to judge someone else, I better be prepared to receive the same kind of judgement in return.
Let’s keep reading because Jesus uses and example to help us understand:
Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV – And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?
To understand scripture, it’s crucial to know who it was written to. At first, it seemed like Jesus was talking to everyone. It seems like He’s saying, “Nobody judge so we can all live our own lives unchecked by those around us.”
But Jesus wasn’t giving this instruction to everyone. He was talking to a specific group of people: hypocrites. He even calls them by name in the very next verse:
Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV – Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Whoops. Maybe I should hide that second part. I mean, since we are not supposed to judge, we can’t have Jesus telling us it’s okay to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Let’s go back to that first verse now that we have more understanding:
Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV – Judge not, that you be not judged.
Jesus is basically saying, “Hey hypocrites. Since you don’t want to judge yourself, stop judging others.”
The problem is, hypocrites don’t know how to stop judging others. It’s how they make themselves feel good about their own mess. And because they judge others without judging themselves, they face the same judgement they give to others.
Judge yourself first.
But, there is a way out. First, judge yourself. Am I pursuing God’s will? Am I doing what God asked me to do? Am I obedient to the Word of God?
Once you establish these things in your own life, then you are ready to help someone else out of their mess.
Let me tell you, your mindset is completely different at this point. You used to point out people’s mess to make you feel better about your own mess. But now that you’ve judged yourself first, you point out other people’s mess to help them experience the same freedom you have.
So back to the book of John:
John 7:24 NKJV – “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Now we know what Jesus is talking about. Quit judging others to make yourself look better. Instead, judge with righteous judgement by judging yourself first, pursuing God’s will, and then helping others do the same.
With all of this, we’ve learned another thing about following Jesus:
To follow Jesus, I must judge with righteous judgement.
The damage that’s been done to our nation is the church’s fault. Christians everywhere are responsible for this nonsense we are facing today.
We’ve bought into the lie that you can’t judge anyone, anytime, for any reason. So we let everything go unchecked. We don’t call anything out. We sit back and watch as our fellow believers live in sin and tell others to live in sin.
What do you have when you take away judgement? Lawlessness. What if we shut down the court system in America and got rid of law enforcement… what would happen? Lawlessness.
What does Jesus say about lawlessness? Well, it is part of His description of the end times:
Matthew 24:10-12 NKJV – And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
Why do we ignore sin? Because we’ve been told that’s how you love people. But what does ignored sin, or lawlessness, actually accomplish? The destruction of love.
“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
It’s up to the church to judge with righteous judgement so that true love doesn’t completely fade away. It’s up to us to push against lawlessness so the gospel can be preached to the entire world.
Here’s how Jesus says it in the very next verse:
Matthew 24:13-14 NKJV – But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Edures what? Well, the three things Jesus just mentioned: persecution, offense, deception, and lawlessness.
You have a responsibility to judge yourself. You should look at yourself in the mirror every day and ask, “Are you pursuing God’s will?”
Once you’ve determined in your heart that you will pursue God’s will in your own life, then you have a responsibility to judge the things around you with righteous judgement.
That means we don’t run from the issues of our day. We bring forth truth with great boldness to expose and eliminate deception.
We look at the issue of abortion and we say, “No. Abortion is not okay for any reason. God knew us before we were born. We are not just a clump of cells. From the moment of conception, we are a human being created in God’s image.”
We look at the pandemic and say, “No. I will not hide in my house. I will go forth with great courage and demonstrate the promises of God. I look to God for protection! And He promises me that no pestilence will come near my house.”
We look at the LGBTQ issue and say, “No. God didn’t create anyone to live their life in the trap of sexual perversion. He created a man and a woman, a husband and a wife, to enjoy intimacy together, just the two of them, to build a thriving family together.”
We look at the racism issue and say, “Come to Jesus. Follow Jesus. Because we are all one in Christ. The only thing that can heal a racist heart is Jesus.”
We can’t look to the government to solve moral problems.
We can’t hide in our closets and pray. We have to rise up as the army of God and share the truth with love and boldness.
How do we do this? Jesus gives us the answer on the last day of the feast:
John 7:37-38 NJKV – Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
It goes on to clarify that what Jesus it talking about here is the Holy Spirit.
So, in this chapter, Jesus explained how important it is to seek the will of God above all else. It’s the only way to keep from being deceived.
Then He gives us the instruction to go out and judge righteously.
Seeking the will of God isn’t exactly a cake walk. And judging righteously is a pretty intimidating assignment. Jesus realizes this, and that’s why He offers us the Holy Spirit.
With the Holy Spirit on board, out of our hearts flow living water. In other words, when we speak truth, even though it’s hard to hear, it helps people – it brings life.
With the Holy Spirit comes boldness and power to do what God has asked you to do. You no longer bow down in intimidation, but you show up boldly with the truth and you don’t apologize when people don’t like it.
We can’t do this without being filled with the Holy Spirit.
And that’s why I want to ask you today, do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
If so, all you have to do is ask, in faith, and you’ll be filled right where you are.
The Crazy Idea
Now, back to the crazy idea you wrote on your paper – the thing that God led you to do that you never did because others didn’t approve. I want you to look at those words you wrote and ask God right now if you are still supposed to do it. The Holy Spirit will give you a clear yes or now right now.
If you heard a yes in your spirit, the time to start is now. And you need to keep at it regardless of what others say, regardless of how long it takes. The result of your obedience is going to be incredible.
If you heard a no in your spirit, cross it out and move on. It can be a little tough to realize you missed an opportunity, but God is a God of second chances. You need to be listening in the days to come for your next assignment.