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Jesus Unfiltered - Testify
Testify is the 4th and final volume of Chip Ingram’s series, Jesus Unfiltered, an exposition of the entire Gospel of John. Testify reveals Jesus’ last days on earth and His final words to His followers, from then to today. It’s a bold, gritty assignment – far from the ease and prosperity of content religion. Jesus tasked His followers with a mission to testify; He promised a future of tribulation; He provided the limitless power of the Holy Spirit; and He guaranteed the hope of victory. Testify will encourage and challenge you to take your faith to the next level – to be strong and courageous – for the sake of His Kingdom to come.More from this series
How does God restore us from that thing that I asked you to honestly think about in your life? That one-night stand that no one knows about. That meth habit, that cocaine in the past, that lying on the résumé that you hope no one goes and checks. We have all got something back there, right?
So let’s find out what the grace of God looks like in people that are fallen and struggling just like us. Number one, here’s what we learn, Jesus meets us where we are and He meets us with both grace and truth. He is going to meet you where you are. You don’t have to wait until you get something straightened up or you get a little bit better or you get more clean. He is going to meet you where you are. He meets Peter where he is with grace and truth.
Grace: there’s a lot of fish here. The same miracle that, when he was far from God. Truth: there’s a coal burning fire. And he’s going to be reminded, gently, and then notice the truth doesn’t happen in isolation. As much as good counseling is helpful, I have had it; as much as talking one-on-one with a friend is helpful, I’ve had that; but this shame is brought out in front of the people that he dissed, because the restoration of real shame has to happen wisely and carefully but in the context of community.
If you don’t take, at some point in time, that shame has got to get up, and you’ve got to get it out, among someone trusted that won’t say anything to anyone that will allow you to deal with it, or you’ll spend your time numbing it.
Do you understand that addictions aren’t like, “I’m going to try harder; I won’t drink so much. I’m going to try harder; I won’t take those pills. I’m going to try harder not to shop so much. I’m going to try harder not to eat so much. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
The core is shame! The core is you don’t like you and you’re numbing or compensating. And that will never get fixed until you let God say, Let’s look at this together. And what you’re going to get is you’ve got to be honest about it, but there is grace to cover it and love it.
And it’s more than forgiveness. It’s to restore you. We are convinced that if people found out about something we have done, that their estimation of us would lower. I would suggest that done authentically at the right way at the right time, just the opposite, often, happens.
The second thing that happens is He gently demands that we face the truth about ourselves. Did you notice that He asked questions and there wasn’t condemnation? For a lot of us, from our backgrounds, if we did something really, really, really bad, we would expect or some of you, like me, have this picture of God, at least I used to, His arms are crossed, you have done this terrible thing, His toe is tapping. “Hey! We need to talk about this. What in the world were you thinking? You’ve got a great wife and wonderful kids, why did you do that? I provided enough. Why did you cheat?” Right? You’ve got that in your head.
How did Jesus? Grace. “I love you. Let’s have breakfast. Let’s talk about this.” And then, instead of pointing the finger, He asked him diagnostic questions because what is the goal? What is the whole point of this? It’s not like God is going, Oh, if I could just figure out what’s going on in your heart, or mine. Gabriel, do you have any idea? “No, Lord, I have no idea.” Right?
The person that needs to discover what’s in your heart is you! And so He asks these questions to bring it to the surface. And He brings it gracefully, but He also brings it with truth. You have to own it. You have to see it for what it was. This is what I actually did. This is the feelings that it brings. This is why I don’t want anyone to know.
And secrets destroy your soul. Truth, He goes to the core, “Do you love Me?” And then He helps him to see who He really is, like all the rest of us, broken, struggling people making progress. And He doesn’t ask them to make some promise. I hear people make promises to God, and promises to other people, that they can’t keep. So they set themselves up. “I’ll never cheat again. I’ll never lie again. I’ll never lust again. I’ll never log onto porn again. I’ll never spend money we didn’t agree on again. I’ll never, never, never.” Duh! How many times have you said that?
That’s not true. Stop making promises we can’t keep. How about, “By the grace of God, this is why I am doing what I am doing. And I am, by His power, and in the context of community and with the right kind of help, I’m going to keep moving toward what God wants.” And He will restore and He will heal.
We, early in our marriage, we went to seminary. And my wife, some of you know her story, and we were in a housing complex for poor students. And she was with another seminary wife and she felt like they were really becoming good friends and she says, “Well, tell me your story, Theresa.” And she goes, “Well, I didn’t grow up as a Christian, I had this really bad background, and I got married early, and then my husband did these drugs and ran off with another woman, and ended up getting divorced, and later I met Chip, and blah, blah, blah.” And she is thinking, Wow, we are really connecting.
And this lady looked at her and said, “Oh, I didn’t think they let people like you in seminary.” Shame. So we start our first little church. It was a mini church. You have heard of mega-churches. Thirty-five people. And so, the first three years, Theresa didn’t tell anybody. The leaders knew our story, but it was like it was a secret. And we were probably five or six years in, and she never felt like, she felt like she had this secret. She is divorced.
And then it got harder because our youngest son was born and he got to be five or six years old and so, funny story, we have this picture of our wedding, and in our wedding, Eric and Jason were, like, four-and-a-half years old. And they were the little ring bearers. So my son, my little son is six years old. He says, “Hey, Mommy, how come Eric and Jason got to be in your wedding and I didn’t?” Well, that gets a little awkward, right?
And so Dallas Seminary did a thing called LEAD – Leadership, Evaluation, and Development. And they spotted five or six people they thought might be leaders in the future and they took you through a week of analysis with a counselor and all aspects of your life and all these inventories, and we are walking through and your life story and take all these tests, you write all this stuff out.
And I’ll never forget the moment. He just turned to Theresa and said, “Theresa, you really don’t get it, do you?” And she goes, “What do you mean?” He said, “You don’t understand; you’re hiding. You’re hiding because you’re ashamed. Don’t you understand that God has this great mantel in heaven and you’re a trophy of His grace. There are people that have been abandoned that need to know there is hope afterwards! There are people that need to know that you can have children that actually get adopted someday, someway. There are people who need to know that after the kind of family background that there is hope and God can work. You’re a trophy of His grace! Why are you hiding it?”
And we started to deal with our shame. And so we, little by little, she began to share with the church there and she had a talk with our little six-year-old and, “What am I going to say and how is it going to go?” And so she tells Ryan everything. She gets done, he goes, “Oh, thanks, Mom. Can I go out and play now?” See, we think that there is some big thing how people will think.
Well, we went to Santa Cruz a number of years later. And for us, it was a huge church. There were eight or nine hundred people at the time and really overwhelming. And so we went through a big interview process. And then my first Sunday morning, I taught and I’m, Okay, I’m going to be on my A game.
And they had a Sunday night service where the place was just packed. You get a new pastor. And a few days before, we are driving, and my wife is a real introvert. And she used to be super, super shy. Not true anymore and she rarely would ever get up in front of people. And I think she does a really good job now, in my biased opinion.
But for her it was like, Oh my gosh. And so we are in the car driving, she goes, “Sunday night, I want to share my testimony.” I said, “You want to do what?” She goes, “I’m not going to live here and feel like someone is going to find out my past. Chip, if I’m a trophy of God’s grace, if they don’t accept that I’m someone who came from a messed up home, that was married, and abandoned and forgiven and met you, if they don’t accept that kind of person, then I don’t want to be here and this isn’t the right place. But I am going to be clean and tell them, ‘This is my life.’”
And I remember that Sunday night and my little introvert wife brought it for forty-five minutes. And I’ll never forget afterwards, because I had done the morning. And people, when you’re the new guy, they, so there was three or four guys that I was talking to here. And we were done and my wife was over there. And there was a woman on this step, this step, this step, this step, this step – she was talking to this one. And that worship center, it went all the way around. And I couldn’t help myself, I counted forty-five or fifty women waiting to talk to my wife.
Her testimony was not, “I have it all together.” Her testimony was, “I am a trophy of God’s grace. And, by the way, this is my story. I wasn’t the victim in all of them. I made some significant mistakes along the way, and I have been forgiven and I have been restored. And guess what. God used and is using that.”
God uses your past and your weakness. And when that shame came off her shoulders, I got a new wife. What does God want to bring up out of you and get out in the open? And, by the way, she doesn’t share and I don’t share and you shouldn’t share everything with everyone, but you need to be sharing some things that you’re not now.
In fact, the third thing, here’s why. Notice He affirmed our value and He affirms our worthiness by commissioning us to service. See, you’ll be an ineffective testifier of the grace of God if you don’t deal with your shame!
Peter dealt with his shame. We have this whole chapter about Jesus and Peter that’s the end of all the gospels because this is the core. The Christian faith is not: pray a little prayer, your life totally changes, you never have any problems, so come to meetings and sing songs and listen to people talk and be a good, little, moral person and be a bit nicer than others. That’s not it.
We must deal with our shame – why? Because the very last thing Jesus said before He
ascended was this: “All power in heaven and earth has been given to Me.” So resources will never be a problem. Now, as you are going, “…make disciples of all nations, or ethnos, or people groups, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teaching them to observe, to actually live out all of the things that I have taught you. And don’t worry because I will be with you, even to the end of the age.”
He is going to do greater things when the person in your seat deals with your shame and you have a full testimony to share the good, the bad, and appropriately at times, the ugly. And what you’ll find is there is so much ugly out there, that will be the key to your boss or your supervisor or your babysitter or your workout partner or your mom or your dad or someone that you thought God could never reach, because they would finally realize there may be hope for me.
I grew up in San Jose and came from a great town, great family. Me and my dad and all my friends really bonded over sports, so that was really what I was into. My senior year in high school, I went out for the team and I ended up getting cut and that floored me. So immediately, the next day, I went to school looking for another crowd. Things quickly progressed because it felt like I didn’t fit in and I was afraid that I wasn’t going to make this team. When acting a certain way and talking a certain way wasn’t working I quickly started to obsess and started to think, What can I do to hold on to my image?
And so I got this idea and I said, I know what I’ll do next. I’ll rob a store. And I eventually did it. Not only once, twice, and a third time. And so the third time, I went in and I put myself in a situation, but I felt like I was losing control. And there I was, in that moment, I was thinking back and forth, I can’t stay and I can’t go. So I did the only thing I knew how to do, because I couldn’t let go. I did both. I pulled a trigger and I ran.
Two days later, I confessed completely to the detectives and I remember calling home to my family, telling them how sorry I was and I remember stopping and saying, “Do you still love me?” And I remember something so specific that they said. They told me, “Not only do we love you, but we will get through this.” We will get through this. Not, “You will get through this.” We. And in that moment I really realized God had shown me for the first time in the best way He could and in the best way I could understand at the time that love never fails, even when I do. Two days later, I was arraigned in superior court at eighteen years old for attempted robbery and first degree murder.
I remember the next few days just crying out to God, Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! This wasn’t supposed to happen. This is not who I am. I thought it would all go away. I thought the walls would fall down around me and I would walk out and this would just be erased. But that didn’t happen. So one year later, after going through the process, I was eventually sentenced then, at nineteen years old, to twenty-eight years to life in state prison.
So in 2009, I eventually got my first opportunity to ask for a second chance, for that freedom. And when I was sentenced in 1993, no one had ever come home under a twenty-eight year to life sentence. Some people would tell me there’s not a chance. But I never stopped believing. So I went into the hearing in 2009 and essentially just put my heart on the table. It led to a recess where they eventually deliberated. No sooner than I got comfortable on the chair, they said, “Okay, we’re back on record. And we have concluded that the inmate is suitable for parole.” Just after they had told me, “We have found you suitable for parole,” I heard a voice as clear as I am speaking now, say, “I have been with you this whole time.”
And that’s when I lost it. That’s when I had my white light moment, but in reverse! That’s when God showed me the things that I did not understand, that He had been with me this whole time. That despite the pain, despite the shame, despite the failure, He didn’t let me go. He didn’t abandon me. I think the greatest lesson and the greatest insight and the greatest understanding that God gave me in my darkest hour was even though we may feel there are no answers around us, and we are alone and we need to be asking “why” and we have to keep up the dance on the outside, we are never alone.
You could be surrounded by people and feel so alone, be in such a dark place. But if we keep that darkness within us, and we do not share it, we do not open up, God’s grace can’t come in. I am getting the opportunity to speak to people one-on-one or getting invited to Stanford and speak to a group of kids who are there for the day at a camp. These are great opportunities and they are such a blessing. So when you just put your heart on the table, it’s amazing how that vulnerability can really set you free and how God can really step up and do amazing things and inspire people. And that’s really where my heart is, is just to continue to share God’s story.
[Video ends] 38:16
Amen. Some of his final words are, “When you put your heart on the table and you share the vulnerability, then God’s power comes in.” And it’s amazing what He can do.
I am guessing that what you’re ashamed of is coming into perspective. What is in your mind right now that you feel like you need to at least tell someone. What, out of your past, what are you currently thinking, feeling, or doing? What is that something that, in fact, parts of you in this room right now are like, you have wanted to run? When I started bringing these things up, you just wanted to run out of here, but that would have been very socially inappropriate and most of us would have thought, Ah, shame, shame, shame! See, something is wrong with them, right? So you stayed.
I just want you to hear Jesus saying, I’m not surprised. That can’t define you. But you’ll keep eating or numbing or hiding or compensating or being driven or faking it until you deal with the shame. No amount of memorizing Scripture, no amount of work for God will ever substitute for restoration from Him. I want to tell you why, okay? We have an assignment along with the disciples. Jesus says to them, I want you all to go and make followers or disciples of every people group on the earth. Every nation. The word is every ethnos.
It’s not just they pray a prayer. I want them to be fully blown disciples or followers. We would call them Romans 12 Christians and then I want you to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which is about identity, of being fully in.
And then I want you to teach them all the things that I taught you, not so they know it, but so they will actually observe it. And I want it to be as you go, as you’re in your life, this is for everyone in the church, testifying. And you’ll never be alone. “I will be with you until the end of the age.”
Another passage, Acts 1:8, He tells them, “Now, don’t get thinking that the weight of this is on you. When He, the Holy Spirit, comes,” okay? “He is going to fill you with His power and you will be My,” get our word again, “you’re going to be My witnesses,” the goal is good ones, not perfect ones. But we deal with our past, we deal with our shame. And you will actually testify by how you live and by what comes out of your mouth boldly. Right where you’re at, your Jerusalem; your Judea; your Samaria, culturally breaking some barriers; and to the uttermost parts of the world.