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Jesus Unfiltered - Follow
If we think about it very hard, we admit that there’s not much in this life we actually control. In this series, from John chapters 6 – 10, Chip Ingram explains that to follow someone or something means we willingly let someone else lead. When Jesus asks people to follow Him, He means He will take on the responsibility to provide, lead, protect, and love – and as followers, we agree to believe, trust, and obey – even when it’ll take everything we’ve got, to do that. Chip details the journey from forgiveness to freedom, as he fills in the blanks of what it means to follow Jesus.More from this series
Finally, the Good Shepherd reveals His identity as Savior and God. And this is critical. Because what He is going to say is, I am not one of many. The thieves and the robbers that He is talking about, Josephus makes this comment. He is a Jewish historian of the time, and he talks about Jesus and he talks about that period of history. And there’s a little hyperbole here.
But before Jesus, the last fifty, sixty, eighty years before Jesus, he said there were tens of thousands of messiahs. Well, obviously there weren’t really that many. But what happened is there were groups. And a messiah, someone would claim, “I am the answer. Follow me. We will take down Rome!”
And listen very carefully, because this really hits close to home today. These messiahs would willingly be martyred, they didn’t care if their followers were killed, because they all had the same core theology. They believed that they were ushering in a new apocalyptic day. And the way that day would come is that you followed him and he would die and you might die, but that is going to bring the end of the world.
How many people have done much reading on ISIS? Start reading. They are not a bunch of crazy people who just are bloodthirsty, who just want to kill people for no reason. It is a very clear theology, and it’s not a new theology. ISIS believes that they are bringing in an apocalyptic age, that the end of the world is coming, that their role is to kill all infidels, which means if you’re not ISIS, you’re an infidel. Even if you’re a moderate Muslim, you’re an infidel.
And so they believe that as they kill these people, they are doing a great act of serving Allah and that it will bring in the ushering of the end of the world. And Jesus is saying, those false messiahs, that’s what they were trying to do. And what did it bring? Killing, stealing, and death. It’s what we see today.
He says, “I came to bring life, and bring it abundantly.” Not a religion of fear and death and intimidation, but a relationship of life and love and forgiveness and restoration.
In fact, your hurts and your needs and your mess-ups and your problems causes Jesus to feel about you the way I felt about my little grandson. I so wanted to fix it, I so wanted to help him, but he couldn’t understand.
Well, pick up the story at verse 22, “Then came the Feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple, walking in Solomon’s colonnade. The Jews gathered around Him and said, ‘How long are You going to keep us in suspense? If You’re the Christ, if You’re the Messiah, just tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe Me. The miracles I do in My Father’s name speak of Me, but you do not believe because you are not My sheep. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow Me.’”
Notice, here’s His offer, and it wasn’t just for them. It’s for every person in this room, “I give them,” grant, in other words, grace, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”
And then He makes the statement where they want to kill Him again, “The Father and I are One.” And grammatically here He is not saying, “One person.” He is saying, “One essence.”
In grammar you have male, female. And in Greek you have neuter. This is grammatically, “The Father and I are one being,” or, “one essence.” Two people, the third one is the Holy Spirit.
And so, what is the response? “Again, the Jews picked up stones to stone Him. But Jesus said, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father; for which of these do you stone Me?’” Was it when I raised the little girl from the dead? Was it when I fed the five thousand? Was it when the blind man could see? How about the lame man by the pool? How about when I fed the four thousand? How about the young man who was in the coffin near the village and I touched the coffin?
These are all historical things that happened. These are not myths. These are not nice tales. These are not a competing religious salad bar or diet. This is a Man who historically lived, both inside and outside the Bible. And then after He died and rose from the dead, it’s not like He told two of His special friends and we are supposed to believe them or they had a dream.
For forty days, space/time history, walking in a resurrected body, to over five hundred eyewitnesses. It holds up in any court of law. That is the Jesus that we are worshipping. That’s why all of history is A.D./B.C.
Now, here is the big question: If this whole resurrection and visit by God to the planet was that He could help us, restore us, love us, cleanse us – that our hurts actually emote compassion from Him, here’s His big request, and it’s just amazing. If you get this, it will radically change your life. Jesus wants to be your Shepherd. That’s the goal.
He is not trying to sign you up to be some rigid Christian, He’s not trying to sign you up to become some religious fanatic. He wants to be your personal Shepherd.
I want to tell you what you could expect of Jesus if, before you walk out these doors you said, You know something? Everybody trusts something or someone.
I have got a family of origin, I was educated here, I have basically thought about life here, I’ve trusted a lot of people what they have said. When I look at the evidence, I think the smartest, wisest thing to do, since He is the only one who has come back from the dead, He is the central figure of history – I think the smartest thing to do is allow Him to be my Shepherd. I am going to ask Him to forgive me, come into my life, and be my Shepherd, and then I am going to start following Him.
I want you to know what it would look like, and what He wants to give you, okay? Because this is not how you see God. And this is how most people can’t even dream God would see them.
Jesus wants to be your Shepherd, number one, to meet your deepest needs. Jot that down, will you? He wants to meet your deepest needs. Your deepest needs are not just health, it’s not finding the right person, it’s not for your kids to come out right, it’s not to get a better job, it’s not to get a second home, it’s not to remodel your kitchen, it’s not for your kids to get in the right school. Those are fine. It’s not that you someday, someway go public.
Your greatest need is to be deeply loved and accepted; to feel significant in who you already are, not what you do; to have a deep, overwhelming sense of security, that it is well with your soul and you can handle any circumstance; and have a very clear purpose in your life. That’s your deepest need.
Now, what I will tell you is our workaholism and we have to do this or we have to have that and I have to look a certain way and I have to earn so much money and drive a certain car, my kids have got to be in this school. And if I’m single, I’ve got to get married. If I’m married, I don’t like it, I’ve got to be single.
All of that is about what? Trying to meet these needs of, Now I’m a somebody! I’m significant! Look at what I have. Now I’ve got security, I added one more zero to my portfolio. Now I’ve got purpose in life! I’m going to raise the greatest kids in the world and when they are successful I’ll feel like, vicariously, I have really done something.
We run our lives like crazy, trying to meet needs that only God can meet. And what He would say is, If you’ll let Me be your Shepherd, then you know what? All those things, the right time in the right way, become tools that I can love you and you can actually have in your hands to help and love other people.
Because at the end of the day, all of us, or at least most of us, we have at least enough relationships with people that have all that, have been all that, and are super successful, and ask them, “Is it enough?” And it never is.
And so, we run around trying to gain what other people who are already there, their lives scream, I’ve been through three marriages, I’ve got lots of zeros, I have a house here, a house here, and a house there. The most unhappy people I have ever met in my life are people, not in abject poverty, people who have run it and thought if they had this, this, this, this, this, and this, then. And they have it and they can do whatever they want, any day of the week and go wherever, and it’s empty.
Those aren’t bad things, they just can’t deliver life. “I came that you could have life, and have it abundantly.”
Second, He wants to restore your soul. “He makes you lie down in green pastures, He leads you beside quiet waters, He restores your soul.” The word soul, we get our word “psychology” from. It’s “psyche,” “psykhe.”
Think of what is broken in us – our shopping addictions, our sexual addictions, our alcohol addictions, our work addictions, our pleasing people addictions, our co-dependency addiction, our addition that everyone has to see me a certain way. We run around like crazy and what we have is a soul problem. Our soul is messed up. It’s warped.
He says, “I want to restore it.” Literally the word restore means, “I want to turn it back and bring it to where it really belongs.” And notice He says how He does it, two ways, He goes, “I’ll make you,” that doesn’t sound very fun. He says, “I’ll make you” – what? “I’ll make you sit down,” or, “lie down in green pastures.” This is where it’s good.
But, see, sheep are not all that smart. And some sheep are hardheaded. They have an Ingram tendency in them, that, “I want to do my own thing.” And God says, “No.” Right? He is going to lead us in paths of righteousness. There’s a bad path; there’s a good path. Some sheep, even from the time they are lambs, don’t listen very well.
So what a shepherd would do in that day, with a sling, they were really good. Put a rock in it, tchoo! And then about two feet in front of this sheep it’s this string, and smart sheep will go, Oh! I think I’m going to get back with the other sheep. But some sheep aren’t very smart. And they just keep wandering and wandering. You know what’s going to happen? They are going to die. A wolf is going to get them.
And so, the shepherd, literally, it’s called, “the bell sheep.” The shepherd, on purpose, would go over and break the leg of the lamb. And then he would set the leg, then he would take the lamb and put it on his shoulders. And for the next few weeks while that was healing, that lamb would be on his shoulders all the time.
Well, he heard his voice, it built intimacy, it built connection. And then, I’m guessing four to six weeks, that’s what I hear with every broken bone, he would put a little bell around this sheep and it was called, “the bell sheep.”
And because of what happened, one, the pain; the shepherd’s love in the pain; the intimacy – that sheep would never leave the shepherd’s side. Closer than any others. So all the other sheep when they hear, Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! There’s the shepherd.
Can I just, I want to say this gently, some of you are going through horrendous times right now in a relationship or in your finances or at work. Horrendous. And there is bitterness and hurt and betrayal and struggle or cancer. And God doesn’t cause evil, because He is good. But He uses evil and difficulty.
And sometimes He does discipline His sheep, and you know what? So He will make you lie down in green pastures. That’s not a good relationship, and, wow, I lost my job. I’m spending my money here, my time is going here, I forgot, ooh, wow, this happened. Sometimes the kindest thing God ever does is bring difficulty into your life.
Because when difficult things happen, what happens to your attention? All of us, right? I have a kid in ICU, I pray differently. I lose my job, I pray differently. I have a friend going through a horrendous time, I pray differently.
I have been a pastor for a little over thirty years, and this is what I can tell you, and it’s just personal observation. But the people who have been hurt deeply seem to have the greatest appreciation and intimacy with God and seem to display the characteristics of Christ more fully, more brightly, and more powerfully than other people that I know.
So God, He wants to restore you. So sometimes the difficulty is He wants to get your attention. You’re here! Right? Some of you, if you were like me growing up, if someone said, “Do you want to come to church?” “What? On purpose? Are you kidding?”
I had a very warped view of God. And I met a lot of Christians who helped me get it, to be honest.
Third, He wants to guide you and direct your life. “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Don’t we all have personnel decisions to make? Should I marry this person, not marry this person, good roommate, bad roommate, should I take this job, don’t take this job, hire this person? We have personnel decisions to make.
Don’t we have wisdom decisions to make? Should I change jobs, should I go this university or that university? Forget universities, I’m an entrepreneur. I should probably…
You have decisions to make, right? Do you want to make good decisions that put you on a good path, or do you want to make bad decisions or wrong decisions that put you on a bad path? Okay. That was a rhetorical question.
Now, just for a moment, lean back. If God is who He says He is – all knowing, all powerful, eternal, all wise, knows all things actual and possible – and your hurts, even your hurts and pains and struggles and mistakes and your sin causes His compassion to well up, infinitely more than me for my grandson, and He wants to help you, and here’s the offer: I know everything. Tomorrow, next year, end of the world. I know how you think, I know everything about everyone. Would you like Me to give you My counsel on what to do tomorrow, on what relationship to get into or out of? On what school to go to or put your kids in? Would you like to know where to invest and what to do with your time, your energy, your money? Because you are My sheep.
And what do shepherds do? They take care of them. Why? Because they love them. They don’t bail out.
So you have this option. He could be your Shepherd, or you could just read the Wall Street Journal. They’re right all the time. Read it on the Internet. You know that’s true, right? I’m messing with you.
Or you could just say, “I got it. I know what’s best for me.” Well look at some of your past decisions. Honest. This is the Dr. Phil moment. How is that working for you? And Jesus is saying, I want to be your Shepherd. I want to meet your needs, I want to restore your soul, I want to direct your life, I want to protect you from evil. “Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” This is not talking about dying.
This is talking about the sheep, in the summer, in the lowlands, the grass starts to dry out, you have to take them through these ravines up into the mountains and the plateaus where the grass is green. And so when you do that, instead of the big group coming, there are these narrow places and it gets dark and shadowy. Well, that’s where the wolves take out his sheep.
And so, David is saying, I have been in some of those times. Partly because I got myself in them. The Bathsheba deal was all me. I blew it. The murder, that was me. Other times, man, that guy betrayed me.
Here is the most amazing thing about God. Whether you mess up your life or someone else messes up your life, the moment you come and say, I just need help, you know what you receive? Compassion. I don’t understand it. Compassion. I’ll forgive, I’ll restore, I will reset it, I will make it right.
And so, He says He wants to protect you from evil. It says there is a rod and a staff. And it’s interesting because the rod was a power thing. It was like a billy club of a policeman, wood, and then it had a big ball at the end and had spikes or nails that would come out of it.
And sheep, wolves, they would fight with that. And then the staff was of comfort. It was the long thing with the hook and the sheep is in the briar, you have to pull it out; or it’s in a ravine, you help it out. Or maybe a little nudge to keep him on track.
And all I can tell you is I didn’t grow up as a follower of Jesus, and I remember I was a young pastor, maybe twenty-eight years old, coming out to California. And I saw God’s power. And since I have had multiple things like this. And it’s not because I’m a pastor, it’s just I’m a sheep and my Shepherd wants to take care of me.
So I’m on my way to California, going to the airport. I’m living in Texas; young pastor; little, tiny church. And I wanted to come learn, I actually was coming out to this church way back when to learn some stuff.
And so it’s Texas, it’s super, super hot and it hasn’t rained in a long time. And it starts to drizzle. And in Texas, they call it black ice. There is oil that has been there.
And when it just mixes right, it gets literally like black ice. And so my friend, my buddy and I are driving. And all of a sudden I look three, four hundred yards, and the cars are spinning. It’s like a movie. Tchhh, tchhh, tchhh, tchhh, tchhh. They are all spinning.
I was like, “Oh my gosh!” And so being the intelligent person that I am, I slam on the brakes, right? And so it’s not like it’s snowing, so I wasn’t thinking. And so I slam on the brakes, and the brakes lock, and we start speeding up. I’m going about sixty, now I’m going about seventy.
And all I can tell you is, F-O-R-D. And it was there and then pretty soon it filled the complete windshield. And I don’t know if you have ever had one of these, I have had two, at least, in my life where I thought, I didn’t think, literally the thought was, I didn’t think this is how I would die.
The car does this with no one on the steering wheel. Like this. And then shoots through fast through spinning cars. I believe in angels. It’s impossible.
And then I looked back and there are twenty-five cars all strewn over and my heart is going. God just saved my life.
Now, I’m not saying that He does that all the time for everybody, I’m just saying He wanted me to know, Chip, I am your Shepherd. I want to protect you from evil.
In fact, sometimes He doesn’t use the rod, sometimes it’s the staff. So, a few years ago, my wife got cancer, and I prayed. And she prayed. God didn’t remove the cancer. God doesn’t promise He takes us out of the world.
We went to Stanford every week. We had treatment after treatment after treatment. I didn’t know if she would live or if she would die. But He comforted us. And I praise God for smart and great doctors and medicine and technology.
And I will tell you this, this happened in my marriage. I thought I had a four-speed car and I had no idea that there was a fifth gear. But our fifth gear came because I didn’t know if I would have her. And there was a level of intimacy and connection that happened after cancer with us and with God that I would never trade, because God says, “Even though you go through the valley of the shadow of death, My rod and My staff, I am with you.” Do you want a Shepherd like that?
The fifth thing He promises, He says, “I want to fill your life with joy.” It’s that picture that I shared of a big battle has happened and there is the big buffet. This is hard to get because so many people think God’s arms are crossed and He is down on you and waiting for you to mess up.
God wants to deliver you from your enemies. And He wants you to have a buffet life of joy. And He wants His goodness and His mercy and His kindness to pursue you. You don’t have to live with, Oh, the shoe is going to drop and what about this? I’m sure something bad is going to happen.
When people live in fear like that, you make really dumb decisions, and you don’t enjoy what you have. Most people in the world don’t enjoy what they have. They are always fearful about how they might lose it or what is going to mess up.
And the final thing He says is just beyond my wildest dreams, He says, “I want to give you eternal life.” He says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord” – notice, “forever.”
This is why He came. Your hurts, your needs, your struggles and mine, your mess-ups did something down deep and if I can use this word, into the bowels of God, of His compassion, and He ordained that on a certain time at a certain day you would walk into a room so He could tell you, I love you. I want to be Your Shepherd. But in order for that to happen, you must recognize that I am King, that I am God, and that I have forgiven you. And in the empty hands of faith, you need to turn away from sin that you know is wrong and ask Me to forgive you, and I will come into your life on this day, forgive your sins, and then we will walk together. And it won’t be easy, but it will be amazing.