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Until recently, being a Christian in America was no big deal. Most people either respected us or ignored us, but hardly anyone was pushing against us, until now.
The way of Jesus is different than the way of the world. And we’ve come to a crossroads in America where you have to choose one way or the other. Are you going to follow Jesus or get sucked into the ways of the world?
I want to help you follow Jesus. Because it’s the only way to truly experience life here on earth and spend eternity in Heaven. So, it’s time to get used to different.
This brings me to our core scripture for this series:
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 luckily 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 going to travel through the book of John and observe the way of Jesus. Then we will take what we learn each week and apply it to our lives so we can effectively follow Jesus.
Get ready for different.
This is actually one of the best ways to study the Bible. As I work through the book of John with you, you’ll be able to use the same study techniques through the rest of the Gospels so you can discover even more about the way of Jesus.
I went through all four books last year, one chapter at a time, and it was one of the most life-giving studies I’ve ever done.
In previous years, I always liked to study the books of the Bible written specifically to the church – Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians. I love these books because they are so practical.
Because I’m such a practical guy, I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Gospels until last year when the Holy Spirit said, “Read through the Gospels and write down everything you discover about the way of Jesus.”
Let me tell you, I found out I didn’t know as much about Jesus as I thought I did. I was surprised almost every day by something Jesus said, or what He did, or the way He did it.
American Christianity likes to paint this picture of Jesus as this super nice guy who was politically correct and never required too much of you. Well, we’ve been duped. And it’s made us ineffective because we don’t really know Jesus.
When we know Jesus, we know God. And you are going to get to know Jesus through this series. A lot of inaccurate, religious ideas about Jesus are going to be blown to smithereens. So this might hurt a little, but it’s worth it.
Let’s get started.
John 1:1-5 NKJV – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
This is foundational stuff right here. Jesus didn’t just come into existence when he was born to a virgin named Mary over 2,000 years ago – He’s been here all along. He was in the beginning and all things were created through him.
Jesus is the very author of life and He is the one who brings us light. This light shines in the darkness and the darkness can’t even understand what’s going on. That’s why the world doesn’t “get it” when you choose to follow Jesus.
Notice how Jesus is also described as the Word in these verses. The Word of God, the Bible, is not just a book. It is Jesus in book form. No matter where you are reading – Old Testament or New – everything points back to Jesus.
Even just a few verses later in the book of John, we get a full explanation of how salvation works.
Most people think good morals will earn your way to heaven. Or, they think that God is such a loving God that he wouldn’t send anyone to hell. Both of these ideas are lies and a lot of people have gone to hell because of them.
The truth is, Satan is not against good morals. If Satan can deceive you into thinking good behavior will earn you eternal life in heaven, he absolutely loves it because you’ll end up in hell and take people with you.
The reason is, good morals without Jesus is nothing. The key to eternal life is believing in and following Jesus. Then, good morals show up as a result.
Thankfully, the true way to salvation is made plain over and over again in scripture. You only have to read to the twelfth verse in John to see the truth:
John 1:12-13 NLT – But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
To become a child of God, two things are involved:
- First, believe in Jesus.
- Secondly, accept Jesus.
Other translations say to receive Jesus. And if you look at this word in the original language, you find out that it means: to give Jesus access to yourself.
In other words, this is what salvation sounds like:
I believe in you Jesus. And because I believe in you, I follow you.
There’s a burden on my heart to make sure everyone knows the simple Gospel. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. To take hold of abundant life here on earth and secure your eternity in heaven, simply believe in Jesus and follow Him.
I don’t want you going to hell because you thought that good morals would earn God’s forgiveness. I don’t want you going to hell because you thought that God’s love wouldn’t let you go to hell.
God’s love sent Jesus so that you could be saved. But you can’t be saved without Jesus. Because without Jesus, you are relying on yourself. You’ve probably realized by now, you’ll never cut it. You’ve already messed it up. And good things will never undo bad things.
Only Jesus can clean the slate. When you believe in Jesus, you are born again. It’s like a fresh start. Everything you’ve done wrong is forgotten and the power of God comes to live inside of you and enables you to live free from sin.
You’re not going to get it perfect, and that’s why you keep following Jesus. You believe in Him and then you follow Him. Along the way, you’re going to mess up, but Jesus is going to take you by the hand and say, “Keep following me.”
Alright, now let’s talk about what following Jesus looks like. The first thing we learn about following Jesus in the book of John is found in verse 14:
John 1:14 NKJV – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
In case you were wondering earlier how I knew “the Word” was referring to Jesus, now you know. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus.
In this verse we also learn the first thing about following the way of Jesus.
1. To follow Jesus, I must embrace grace and truth.
There’s a group of Christians who fully embrace grace but neglect truth. This causes people to believe that living in sin doesn’t even matter after you get saved because grace covers it all. So, just do what you want.
The problem is, when you sin you welcome deception into your life. Eventually, if sin continues, deception wins out and you get to a place where you no longer follow Jesus, indicating that you don’t really believe in Jesus.
That’s a discussion that no one likes to have, so let’s talk about the other group of Christians who fully embrace truth but neglect grace. These are those legalistic churches that we all know about that tell you what to wear, how to cut your hair and the list goes on.
Neither group is actually following the way of Jesus. They’ve created their own way and disguised it as following Jesus. To truly follow Jesus, you must embrace grace and truth.
I can’t think of a better story that illustrates this than one found in John chapter four where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well in the middle of the day and asks her for a drink of water.
She was astonished that he would even ask because Jews didn’t have anything to do with Samaritans. But Jesus uses the opportunity to explain to the woman that He is the messiah and is able to give her living water. Take a look:
Jesus is the master of meshing grace and truth together in the most beautiful way. We like to use truth to run people away, but He used truth to draw people closer to Him.
It all comes down to motivation. Jesus deeply cared about this woman. So He spoke some hard things because He knew it would lead her into freedom.
To follow Jesus, we must embrace grace and truth just like He did. Let grace serve as our only motivator to share the truth and never shy away from truth because of grace.
It was amazing what Jesus did with the Samaritan woman. Even though He had just met her, He was enabled by the Holy Spirit to know specific details about her. He knew she had been married five times and what happened in each marriage.
This spiritual gift is what 1 Corinthians 12 calls a word of knowledge. It’s when the Holy Spirit enables you to know something that could not have been known otherwise.
This brings us to the next thing we learn in John chapter 1 about following Jesus:
2. To follow Jesus, I must use spiritual gifts to reach people.
You are going to see this over and over again throughout the gospels. Jesus uses healing to reach people. He uses miracles, prophecy, the word of knowledge, faith. He welcomed spiritual gifts into His life to reach people every day.
We just witnessed how He used the word of knowledge with the Samaritan woman. Now let’s read the story in John chapter 1 where he does the same thing to connect with one of his disciples, Nathaniel.
John 1:47-51 MSG – When Jesus saw him coming he said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.” Nathanael said, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.” Jesus answered, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!” Jesus said, “You’ve become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven’t seen anything yet!”
The American church is really weak in the area of spiritual gifts. We think we’re so sophisticated that our fancy buildings, lights, sound and good looking preachers are all we need to lead people to Jesus.
Isn’t it great for us to think that we know better than Jesus? No, this is foolishness! If Jesus needed spiritual gifts to reach people, then we need spiritual gifts to reach people.
Can I have spiritual gifts?
You might be wondering, “Can I even have spiritual gifts? Or is it only for certain people, like the leaders and the people who pray long prayers?”
I can answer this for you. It’s very clear:
I Corinthians 12:7 NKJV – The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.
We have all been given spiritual gifts. When I operate in my spiritual gifts, it profits all those around me. When you operate in your spiritual gifts, it profits all those around you.
In other words, when you choose not to operate in spiritual gifts, you are missing opportunities left and right to make a difference in the lives of others.
9 Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians chapter 12 goes on to give us a list of spiritual gifts. This is not a complete list as you will discover other spiritual gifts through the Bible, but let’s look at them so we can get an understanding of what’s available to us.
I Corinthians 12:8-11 NKJV – For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit,
The Word of Wisdom refers to an intimate understanding of God’s Word. It enables you to take something in the Bible that seems hard to understand and make it simple for people to understand.
I Corinthians 12:8-11 NKJV – to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
We just witnessed two examples of this. The word of knowledge is when the Holy Spirit enables you to know something that could not have been known otherwise.
I Corinthians 12:8-11 NKJV – to another faith by the same Spirit,
We all have a measure of faith. Every person has enough faith to believe in Jesus and follow Him. But the Spirit can give the gift of faith on top of this.
This is when you obtain absolute confidence in what God is going to do. It might seem crazy to everyone else, but you know God is going to come through.
I Corinthians 12:8-11 NKJV – to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits,
Healings, miracles, prophesy – these are the three gifts of the spirit most people are familiar with. However, healing is a miracle so you might wonder how they are different. Miracles refers to things like how Jesus fed the 5,000 and calmed the storm and raised people from the dead.
Discerning of spirits is a gift that lets you in on what is really going on. Like somehow you just know when the other person is lying to you, or when a situation isn’t what it seems.
A perfect example from Jesus is when He knew sickness was caused by a demon, and so He cast the demon out and the person was healed.
I Corinthians 12:8-11 NKJV – to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
In other words, the Spirit enables you to speak in a language you don’t even know. It can even enable you to interpret a language you don’t even know.
I Corinthians 12:8-11 NKJV – But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
The Holy Spirit distributes these gifts as He wills. This person might have one gift, another person might have three. You might operate in one gift one day and another gift the next.
This seems like a great mystery, but it’s really easy to understand. God wants to draw all people to Himself. If a spiritual gift is going to help with that, He’ll freely give it for you to use.
The reason we don’t see them at work more often is because we are close-minded to spiritual gifts. We run from spiritual gifts because we think our knowledge and science is all we need.
But let me remind you:
To follow Jesus, I must embrace spiritual gifts.
If you are ready to embrace spiritual gifts, simply reach out your hands in a posture of receiving and let the Holy Spirit know you’re ready.