So far, we’ve discovered two things about following the way of Jesus:
To follow Jesus, I must embrace grace and truth.
We have a tendency to embrace one or the other. Some are on the grace side and think that you should never say anything to upset people even if it is the truth. Others are on the truth side and use truth to beat people up.
But to follow the example of Jesus, we must become masters at bringing the two together. The simplest way to explain what this looks like is:
When sharing truth is motivated by love, go for it. Otherwise, shut it.
Here’s the second thing we learned:
To follow Jesus, I must use spiritual gifts to reach people.
We did a deep dive into this last week. I took you through the nine spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Cor 12 and showed you an example of Jesus operating in each of the gifts.
The main thing I want you to remember about spiritual gifts is:
The purpose of spiritual gifts is to reach people for Jesus.
They are not so that you can look more spiritual, or for your own financial gain, or any other selfish ambition. They should be used to make a difference in the lives of others.
Many well-known people have used them for selfish reasons in the past, but that’s not really the main problem these days. The problem we face is that hardly anyone is using spiritual gifts at all. I believe this is for two reasons:
First, we think we are so sophisticated that we don’t need spiritual gifts. We have all our technology and fancy buildings and great kids programs. Who needs spiritual gifts?
If Jesus needed spiritual gifts to reach people, then we need spiritual gifts to reach people.
The second reason people neglect spiritual gifts is because we are obsessed with being normal. Spiritual gifts aren’t normal – they’re different – so we tend to neglect them in order not to run people off.
But, we are actually running people off by not using spiritual gifts. Once again, if Jesus needed spiritual gifts to reach people, then we need spiritual gifts to reach people.
They are not even as weird as you think. To give you an example, a few nights ago our newborn was fussy. We had tried just about everything and nothing was working. Then, a picture dropped into my mind of him sitting in his chair placed next to our bed.
I thought that was a terrible idea, so I almost didn’t even try it. Then I remembered about my own message from last week and thought, “Hm. This might just be a word of knowledge.”
I put his little chair next to our bed, sat him in it, and guess what? He calmed down and laid there quietly until he was ready to eat again.
As a refresher, a Word of Knowledge is when the Holy Spirit enables you to know something that you could not have known otherwise. This whole chair thing was not my idea. That’s how I know it was a Word of Knowledge and the Holy Spirit gave it to me to help my newborn.
Cool, huh? And this is how it starts. When you open yourself to spiritual gifts, God will give you opportunities to practice at home. That way, when you are at work, church, or wherever, you are more likely to recognize when spiritual gifts are at work.
John Chapter 2
Alright, today we are finally going to move on to chapter 2 in the book of John. There are 21 chapters total, so no telling how long it is going to take us to get through this series.
But John chapter 2 starts with the story of Jesus turning water into wine. We talked about this story last week in conjunction with the spiritual gift called the working of miracles.
I went back to re-read this story after my message last week and found that there are layers upon layers of meaning in this miracle. People always wonder why Jesus would give drunk people more wine. Now I know and I am going to explain it to you at the end of my message today.
First, let’s head to the next story in John chapter 2 where Jesus runs people out of the temple with a whip. This is a good story. Let’s read it:
John 2:13-22 NLT – It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.
We no longer have to sacrifice animals for the forgiveness of sins, so the significance of this story is hard to understand until you know the difference between then and now.
Back then, people would sin just like us. They would lie, cheat, steal, participate in sexual immorality – the whole bit. And as we all know, sin separates us from God and also leads to the destruction of our community.
I mean, if everyone was stealing from each other, how healthy do you think our community would be? We are seeing firsthand how destructive widespread sexual immorality is on a nation. It’s unfolding right before our eyes.
But God. God loves us. He wants to be close to us. But He also knows we are not very good at living without sin, so He had to make a way to save us from our own pitiful choices.
Before Jesus, God made a way through animal sacrifice. Those who sinned would have to kill an animal to cover their sin. The death of the animal was representative of how sin leads to death.
It was also a substitute for what should have happened to the person who sinned. In other words, the animal died in their place.
They deserved eternal death because of their sin. But loves us too much to just sit back and let it happen. So, leading up to Jesus, God made a way of restoration through animal sacrifice.
As you can imagine, a lot of animals had to be sacrificed. I mean, if we had to do that today, just imagine. So, animals were regularly sold at the temple for people to use to cover their sin.
That is what is going on in this scripture. Just normal, everyday activity in the temple back then. And this was necessary to fulfill the requirements of the day.
Let’s take a look at what happens next:
John 2:13-22 NLT – Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
Ok. This is perplexing. First of all, this is not the calm, politically correct Jesus that American Christianity makes Him out to be. Secondly, animal sacrifices were provided by God for the atonement of sin. Why is Jesus so upset?
It’s tempting to oversimplify this scripture and say, “Jesus just didn’t want people buying and selling things at the temple. After all, money is evil, right?”
This sounds good, especially when we have a warped perspective on how God sees money – which is very common. So most people will accept this thought as the meaning of the story and just move on.
The problem is, animal sacrifices were mandated by the Law of Moses and designed by God. Not everyone back then had their own animals, so they had to buy and sell animals for sacrifices or people would be doomed to eternal death because they couldn’t get the right animal.
So, I don’t think Jesus is really upset about the fact that people are buying and selling animals for sacrifices. There has to be more to what meets the eye.
If you do some research, you discover two interesting points:
- Animals had to be without blemish, so they had to be inspected.
- Secular coins were not accepted, so they had to be exchanged for Jewish currency.
Here’s the problem. The inspectors and money exchangers charged high prices for their services. They took something that God had given the people to cover their sin and used it as an opportunity for personal gain.
This is just like when the Roman Catholic Church monetized indulgences. With a generous donation, you could buy an indulgence which was simply a printed letter that supposedly reduced the penalty of your sin.
There was even a time when you could purchase indulgences not just for yourself, but for your dead relatives as well. If you’ve ever wondered where the wealth of the Catholic Church comes from, well, as you can imagine, they became very rich off of indulgences.
How do you feel about the Roman Catholic Church taking advantage of people by exploiting their grief over their dead relatives?
How do you feel about the inspectors and money exchangers taking advantage of their own people by exploiting something God had provided?
I imagine you’re ready to go make your own whip and overturn some tables yourself. And that’s why Jesus was so upset. People were being taken advantage of for financial gain. Disgusting.
In the next verse, we find the next thing I want to show you about following the way of Jesus:
John 2:13-22 NLT – Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
To follow Jesus, I must passionately protect my church.
Back then, the temple was considered God’s house because it’s where God’s household – the Jewish people – gathered together. Just like your house is where your family gathers.
Let me ask, if someone tried to break into your house, would you be passionate about protecting your house? Yes. If someone tried to hurt someone in your household, would you be passionate about protecting them? Yes.
We learn from Jesus that we should see our church the same way. This is our household of faith. This is our family. And we should be passionate about protecting each other.
If someone is taking financial advantage of somebody here at church, we make a whip and turn over the tables. If someone comes in and bickers, gossips, and works to destroy unity, we run them off.
Y’all, we should be protecting each other. Yes, we are here to reach others for Jesus. But we are also here for each other. I mean, if we are not taking care of each other, how can we care for anyone else?
This reminds me of something that happened last week after my message on spiritual gifts. Someone in our church reached out with a concern they had about speaking in tongues.
In short, they were concerned that the way I presented the gift of speaking in tongues would lead people to believe that speaking in tongues should become a main part of our weekly services.
And I did say that we should pray in tongues all the time. But let me make something clear. Speaking in tongues is how you speak mysteries to God, not to man. You should speak in tongues often in your personal prayer time.
There’s another gift called the interpretation of tongues. This is the one that happens in front of people. So, if you are speaking in tongues for all to hear, there should be an interpretation. Otherwise, it will confuse people, not help them.
To sum it up, I am not advocating for you to run around speaking in tongues for all to hear. But I am advocating for all of you to be filled with the Spirit and use the gift of tongues every day in your personal time with God.
At the same time, tongues and interpretation is a welcomed gift here at NoLimits and I don’t want you to be afraid to use it. But don’t just get up here and speak in tongues because you want to.
This is a great example of what it looks like to be passionate about protecting your church. This person who came to me with their concern cared enough about you guys to risk a confrontation.
Alright, let’s finish this story because we learn one more thing about following Jesus:
John 2:13-22 NLT – But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.
Somehow, Jesus was able to this dramatic scene of driving people out with a whip and turning over tables and use it as an opportunity to inspire faith in His disciples.
To follow Jesus, I must use every opportunity to lead people to faith.
We tend to get stuck in the idea that we can only lead people to faith at church. Not only that, but we have to have the perfect service in order to do it. If Dillon sings a wrong word, it’s shot.
This is how the enemy keeps us from making a difference. We put off sharing Jesus until everything is perfect. We put off sharing our testimony until more time has passed to make sure we don’t backslide.
But if we are going to follow Jesus, we use even the most unlikely situations to inspire faith in others.
How about this pandemic? People are scared out of their mind. Then they hear that you show up to church without a mask and it causes a big ruckus.
Instead of backpedaling, you could inspire faith by explaining how we’ve been gathering together without masks for months, believing God to keep us from the virus, and not one person has contracted the virus here at church.
Even our members who have contracted the virus elsewhere experienced a quick recovery and didn’t pass it to anyone else here at church.
They probably won’t like your story, but they are going to think about it after you leave because of the seed of faith you just deposited in their life.
Use every opportunity – even the most unlikely – to lead people towards faith. And let the Holy Spirit help you out by welcoming the spiritual gift called the Word of Wisdom to operate in your daily life.
Now, let me take you back to when Jesus turned water into wine. After we experienced this story last week, I said “I don’t know why this was the first miracle that Jesus performed.”
Apparently that was an invitation for the Holy Spirit to teach me because when I went to re-read the story Monday morning, my eyes were opened.
First of all, this was at a wedding celebration. Marriage is an example of the intimacy we should experience in our relationship with God. The Bible even calls us – the church – the bride of Christ.
It’s no coincidence that this miracle happened at a wedding because the miracle was a prophecy of what Jesus would accomplish at the cross. But wait, it gets even better than this. Take a look:
John 2:6 NLT – Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing.
The stone pots represent the Law of Moses. And the water represents how the Old Covenant required you to wash often in order to be considered clean.
But then, Jesus turned the water into wine. Wine represents the blood of Jesus which cleanses us once and for all.
Ephesians 1:7 NLT – He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.
The wine was the best they had ever tasted. This explains how salvation in Jesus Christ is far better than the Law of Moses.
Matthew 5:17 NKJV – “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
Some people think since we have something better than the law, then we do not need to follow the law anymore. And that’s how we get off thinking it’s okay to live a life of sin and say that we believe in Jesus at the same time.
Jesus didn’t destroy the law. He brought you something much better. He purchased your freedom from sin with His blood and forgave your sins. You don’t have to live in sin anymore because Jesus set you free!
I don’t know why we abandoned this truth. Somehow the American church became obsessed with telling people to just repeat a prayer and that’s it.
But that’s not it! When you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and commit yourself to Him, your spirit – the very core of your being – is born again. You are not the same person anymore.
He forgives your sin. He frees you from sin. And He pours out His grace and power that enables you to follow Him. He doesn’t expect you to do this on your own. He gives you everything you need to live a life of righteousness.
You receive all of this by faith. You believe that Jesus will forgive you and free you and you open your mouth and express your faith by saying, “Jesus, I’m yours.”