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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
What are you most thirsty for today? Not your whole life, but just today. What are you most thirsty for? What do you wish? What are you hankering for? What do you long for?
Second, there are days where it seems that events, circumstances, answers to prayer, relationships – it really does feel like it is a wonderful world. And you feel satisfied. You ever think about what the word means?
To be satisfied is the feeling experienced when one’s wishes are met, when you are content, when you are delighted, when you are happy, when there is enjoyment, gladness, gratification. It’s just a moment and you relish the moment.
See, we all have times where we thirst for certain things. It’s human. And there are times when we experience deep, deep satisfaction. So let me ask you. What has really been satisfying for you lately? What event, what person, what moment in the last twenty-four or forty-eight hours or week you would say, Whoo, boy, that was good. It is a beautiful world.
And then, finally, life isn’t always what we would like it to be. It’s not even what God would always want it to be. And the word “dissatisfied” means: not to be content, not happy, not pleased with something, not pleased with someone. To be dissatisfied is to be miserable, aggravated, gloomy, melancholy, despondent, restless, annoyed.
If you had to come up with the one thing, right now, that you’re dissatisfied in, you’re really dissatisfied about, what would it be? It could be a person, it could be a relationship, it could be a job, it could be a circumstance, it could be something about your health. But where are you dissatisfied?
Because, see, the fact of the matter, if you don’t process and begin to ask yourself, What do I desire? What do I wish? Where are my passions? What am I thirsty for? Where am I really satisfied, but where am I dissatisfied? Then what happens, you just go through life juggling.
Jesus made an outrageous, outrageous promise to quench our thirst and to satisfy us at a very deep, deep level that would be completely independent of external things.
We will look at this a little bit later, but follow along as I read John chapter 7, “If anyone is thirsty, come and drink of Me.” And then in case you don’t know what that means, He’s going to say, “For everyone who believes,” to come to Him and to drink is to everyone who believes, who relies on, who depends on, who trusts in Me, “‘out of his innermost being will flow rivers, continuously, of living water,’ speaking of the Holy Spirit that would come,” and the intimate relationship of actually knowing God. Not knowing about God, but knowing and being connected deeply to Him.
Solomon was the wisest man in the world. He took over for his father, David. And he was pretty uptight about a big job that he couldn’t handle. And God came to him and said, “What would you request of Me?” And he had a great moment. He had a few bad ones later, but he had a great moment.
And he just said, “This job is way bigger than me. Give me wisdom.” And God answered his prayer. He said, “I am going to give you more wisdom than any person before you who has ever lived, and I am going to give you more wisdom than any person that will ever live after you.”
And the Hebrew word for wisdom, it’s not just intellectual or cognitive. The word literally means, “skill.” It’s understanding how all of life and how relationships with people and priorities and money and decisions – it’s: How has God designed life? And the skill or the wisdom to do life according to God’s path, in order that He might bless you and prosper you and give you that joy and peace and love, and that things would work in a way that your life works in a way that points up to Him.
And this is what he said, Proverbs chapter 2. I just, this desire for satisfaction, this thirst that you have, there is a way to quench it. And we are going to talk about how you can experience that.
Solomon would write, “My son, if you’ll receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, and incline your heart to understanding.”
Now, just stop for a moment. This is the wisest man in the world, he is speaking to his son, and to us. He says, “Receive my words; treasure,” like in a safety deposit box, like super precious, “my commandments” – where? “within you.” And then there is this attitude, “Make your ear attentive,” or literally, “incline your heart to understanding.”
Then notice verses 3 and 4, he talks about a passion, a commitment, a desire, a thirst. “If you cry out for discernment, lift your voice for understanding.” Literally, pray! Ask! Come after it! If you seek for her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasure,” then here is the result, “then you will discern the fear of the Lord, who He really is, and you’ll discover the knowledge of God.”
Now get this, “you’ll discover,” this isn’t knowing about God. This isn’t like you would have a textbook and say, “This is what God is like.” This is like you would actually meet and experience. Jesus, at the last night that He lived, He said, “This is eternal life, that you might know Him,” experientially, “and His Son, whom He has sent,” speaking of Himself, “for God gives wisdom.” He gives this skill, this ability, to know how to live in such a way to quench the deepest thirst of your life.
And just before we turn the page and learn how – where does Jesus say, look at the notes, where does Jesus say this thirst gets quenched? “Streams of water within you.”
See, what I am going to suggest is when I ask questions about, What are you satisfied about and what are you dissatisfied about? For most of us, we are thinking there is something out there. If that happened or if that wouldn’t have happened; if this person or that person or this job or this health…
So many of us look to satisfy our thirst out there and Jesus is going to teach us that, you know what? You can get this, you can gain this, you can do this, you can have that, but pretty soon, the new car gets old, the new job gets old, the relationship you thought would never, ever have a problem. He is going to say, “Let Me quench your thirst from within with Me first.” And when that happens, all the rest will get in order. Make sense?
Now, turn the page if you will. And I want to talk about, How do you get that wisdom? Literally, how to unearth spiritual wisdom from God’s Word. And here’s what I want you to get.
Solomon said you’ve got to dig, you’ve got to search, you’ve got to seek, you’ve got to treasure, you’ve got to cry out. There is a wisdom that leads to quenching the deepest thirst of our lives, and it comes out of God’s Word, but it’s not just on top of the ground. You’ve got to dig. There has to be a passionate pursuit.
God wants to know, Do you really want to know Me? And here’s my experience, I believe most Christians really don’t know how to open the written Word in order to experience the living Word, where you have a relationship where when you have a decision to make or you don’t know what to do or when you’re really down.
My experience is most Christians don’t know how to get into this written Word so the Spirit of the Living God begins to speak very personally and passionately and clearly to give you the wisdom to, not just address big problems, but to be on a path that you were made to be on, to do what He made you to do, to bring the greatest joy and the greatest peace in your life.
And so, what I am going to suggest is there is a truth here. And the truth is that the Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. And then underline this: “The words I have spoken to you,” and then circle the word: “are Spirit and they are life.”
Jesus said, “The actual words,” they are written down now, but His actual words, the words of the New Testament, they are Spirit and they are life.
I want to give you tools and teach you how to actually open and study the Bible, where you can learn it as well or better than me.
Early on, when I read it, I couldn’t understand much of it. I want you to know you can. And it’s the key to quenching your deepest thirst.
Three tools. Tool number one is context. As you read through the Bible, the context. In other words, what informs this passage? We are going to read in just a minute that Jesus goes during this time, He has been out. The context is He has been out in a rural area, because they are seeking to take His life.
The timing is it is six months before the crucifixion. His popularity was blown out of the doors, then He set the bar and said, “If you’re really going to follow Me, you need to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.” And a great many of His disciples said, “We are not going to follow anymore.”
And so there is this big feast. It’s called The Feast of Tabernacles. And the context of this, I want to give it to you just before we read it. The context is, is there are three great feasts in the Old Testament, the Jewish Law. This was the happy one.
It was called the Feast of Tabernacles, because what it was is, remember they were delivered from Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, then they are in the wilderness, it’s really desert.
And God, there was a cloud by day and a fire by night. So He guided them, He provided the manna or the food. They ran out of water; there was water out of the rock. He did all these miracles. And, yet, when He gave them a chance to go into the Promised Land, remember? They wouldn’t believe.
This is really important because of what is going to happen. And then when they finally would believe, actually, the whole generation, it took forty years. They die. And then those who were under twenty and above, they go into the Promised Land, the Jordan parts, there is Jericho. It’s this formidable city. They walk around it seven times for seven days.
And then they shout according to what God says, because He wanted them to know He is going to be the victor, not them. The walls crumble, and you have this amazing land of milk and honey and promise and vineyards that you didn’t plant and houses and so God, the Promised Land becomes a reality.
After that happened, the Feast of Tabernacles is you would go and gets some sticks and some leaves, and you would make a little lean-to and the roofs were flat back then. You would do it on your roof, they did it in the streets, they did it in the courtyards of the temple.
And if you were twenty years old and older, as a male, and you lived within fifteen miles, you had to, it was an obligation, to come to this feast in downtown Jerusalem. So here is the picture. There are all these sticks and all these people. The kids are going, “We camp out for seven days! This is great.” Okay?
Thousands of people come, and it’s also, it’s often called the Feast of Ingathering. So the grapes, first, are coming in. The wheat had just come in. The fruit trees, everything is blooming. So there is music, there is food, it’s seven days, it’s a party, they are celebrating. Remember our forty years in the desert? We are remembering God did this and He brought us! We have the Promised Land! And remember there was water that came out of the rock? And it’s just seven days of this.
And then on the seventh day, this would be really important, the chief priest, or at least one of the head priests would take a golden vessel and there would be a parade and he would go down to the Pool of Siloam, right in Jerusalem, and he would fill it with water, and they would follow him, and then he would come back and he would walk around the altar seven times, and then he would take the water and he would pour it out, reminding them that God gave water out of the rock to end the big celebration.
Now, in your mind, remember this. Here’s what happened. On the last day of the feast, right after that happened, okay? They are remembering, Promised Land, all that God did, okay? Jesus steps up. The water has been poured on the altar. Everyone is remembering on the memorial of what God has done.
And when it says, “a loud voice,” the literal word is: “He cries out!” “If any man thirsts, let him come and drink of Me! For whoever believes in Me, relies on Me, trusts Me, follows Me, out of his innermost being will continually flow living water.”
So you got the context? Okay, let’s read it. And what I want to do is I just want to give you, let’s read just the first thirteen verses, because I want you to now, with that in your mind, think about what was happening. Chapter 7, verse 1.
“After this,” after what? After He fed five thousand, and many of the disciples aren’t following Him, but Peter and His disciples said, “Lord, where would we go? You’ve got the words of eternal life. We are in. We are all in.”
“After this Jesus went around in Galilee, purposefully staying away from Judea, because the Jews were waiting to take His life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles,” that I just described, “was near, Jesus’ brothers said to Him, ‘You ought to leave and go to Judea, so that Your disciples may see the miracles that You do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show Yourself to the world.’ For even His own brothers did not believe in Him.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but could we pause for just a minute? If you had a brother in your family who you really cared about, and you knew that they were trying to kill him in Jerusalem, I’m not sure the most loving, kind thing you have ever done is, “Hey, you’re doing these miracles. If you really think you’ve got it all together why don’t you go do a few miracles…?”
So the first group who doesn’t believe are the people who have grown up with Him, His own brothers. “Therefore, Jesus told them, ‘The right time,’” literally, the word for time here is opportunity. “‘The right time for Me has not yet come, for anytime is right for you. The world cannot hate you, but the world hates Me because I testify that what the world does is evil. You go to the feast, I’m not yet going up to the feast, because for Me, the right time has not yet come.’ Having said this, He stayed in Galilee.” So His brothers go.
“However, after His brothers had left for the feast, He went also, not publicly but in secret. Now, at the feast, the Jews were watching for Him, and asking, ‘Where is that man?’ Among the crowds, there was widespread murmuring.” It’s actually the exact, same word used in the Old Testament when they were getting ticked off with God and things weren’t going their way, so the people murmured.
“Some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, He deceives the people.’ But no one would say anything publicly about Him for fear of the Jews.” If you said Jesus was a good man or the Messiah, you would get kicked out of the synagogue, and you’re gone and you’re alienated.
Now, do you have the context? You’ve got the idea of what is happening here? Let me tell you why this is so important. If, and, again, please hear, all I am saying is I love you. I want to help you.
If your routine is, I read a little devotional and I read a couple of verses and I read “The Daily Bread,” or I go on YouVersion and I read a little something here and something there. And I do it maybe once a week, maybe twice a week. And I don’t really know what is going on but I want to get a little nugget for the day, you’re never going to have streams of living water coming out of your heart and life.
You’ve got to know what it says. When you were learning to write code, you didn’t go to class every seventh day. When you were learning an instrument, what you’re great at right now, you didn’t say, I’d like to learn to play the clarinet or the guitar or the piano, or, I took two voice lessons. I think I’ve got it!
When you were deciding that you would be an artist or an athlete or one of your kids who are doing that, you didn’t say, “Why don’t you go to the first practice and then we will go to the game later. You don’t really need all that stuff.”
When some of you who said, I want to do a startup, you didn’t say, I think I’ll read a couple of books. Let’s see, “Essentialism,” that sounds like a good one and maybe “The Lean Start Up,” but who needs an MBA? Right? Who needs to study physics, who needs to study technology? I’ll just wing it.
Right? Does anyone do life like that? But here’s the thing. Unconsciously, that’s how we approach the Bible. And, yet, we expect that God is going to speak and give us wisdom and direction, because you don’t know the context.
Now, let me tell you something, because some of you are saying, Well, Chip, where do you get all that stuff about the tabernacle? Well, where do you get stuff about your technical area? Books, right?
The first one I started with is this is called The Daily Walk Bible. It has an overview of every book, it has the background of every book, you don’t have to stay right on track, but you read through the Bible. Every year I did it for the first fifteen years I was a Christian. And it gave a background and a context, so that a thinking person who didn’t grow up in a Hebrew culture or the New Testament times, you can actually do it.
Anybody send you a one-line email that is just filled with, I am absolutely ticked off with you? Email, by the way, is not a really good way to communicate emotions.
And this is a really good friend. And it was about a very important situation, and he really was very ticked off with me. And it was like, Oooh, like I need to pray before I talk to this guy.
So it was about a situation that we needed to do at Living on the Edge and some action we took. And he was pretty close to it from another vantage point. And so I got myself prayed up, made a call, got on the phone. And he is a godly guy so I said, “Hey, let’s just start with this. Why don’t you really tell me, that was a very short email, but I am not the smartest guy, but you’re really mad. So why don’t you tell me what is really on your heart?” And he did.
And, “You went and did this and what about this and what about that? And I can’t believe…”And I said, “Okay, can you step back a minute?”
And he said, “Sure.” “Okay, here’s the last three months. You may not be aware, but with this particular situation, we worked with this person. We did this, this, this, and this on top of that, even when we had to make a very hard situation with this person out there. What we did is we provided this, this, this, and this. We told them no matter what, we would keep continuing…”
And I gave him the whole context. And it was really silent on the end of the phone. And then he said, “Oh. You know what? Sorry. I just assumed you probably didn’t do A, B, and C before we got to D. Actually, now, I apologize. Knowing what I know now, I think you guys handled it just exactly the way you should have.”
Do you understand how many times that you can jump on a verse or think God is saying this or make a decision that is really important, but you don’t know the context of what the Bible is really saying? And you can miss.
The second thing is context is important. The next is content. And by content, this is what I mean, is, what is the basic flow of information? Just the basic flow. If you’re studying physics and there is a whole chapter on quantum physics, you don’t read the first two pages and say, “I’ve got it.” You read the whole chapter. What are we talking about in this chapter? And then you go back after you get the flow and then you get it.
We have a thing that we do every two years. Theresa and I save up. I have four grown kids and between them, we have ten grandkids. And so every two years we find a place on a lake or a place near the beach and we bring all of our kids and all of our grandkids for seven days of, Let’s make memories, let’s remember we are all one family, love one another.
And I have these two daughters-in-law. Some of us play hoop or tennis or ski or wakeboard and everyone takes a turn making a meal. It’s a blast. But I have these two daughters-in-law, they find either a big table, and they bring these puzzles with five thousand pieces.
So I take one or two pieces and I’m frustrated. I just can’t do that. I don’t get it. Why would anyone want to do it? That’s just my personality. You can’t do it fast. I don’t get it.
Well, when you want to do this, because I want to also hang out with them, so it’s like, I’ve got to have a little puzzle time. And so, what do you do if you want to get five thousand pieces, where do you start? The edges. You know what? The one thing, it was like, “Hey, I can do this.” And then I’d put the blue pieces over here and the red pieces over here.
Here’s what I want you to know, if you want God to speak to you, when you are looking through a chapter or a section, just get the border. Just get the quick overview. Like this chapter 7, I just read it, probably, five, six, seven times. Quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly.
Because I just wanted to get the big picture before I started trying to ask, Okay, that’s what it says, but what does it mean? You’ve got to know what it actually says. I took three or four pages on a yellow sheet of paper. Just, what does it say?
And so I gave you my notes. So what you find is Jesus goes to the feast, verses 1 through 13, right? We just read that. Second, Jesus teaches in the temple, verses 14 to 21. And I am going to walk through it in just a second. But just an overview, He goes to the temple and He teaches.
And when He teaches, there are two responses. The Jewish leaders go, “Wow,” in fact, go ahead and look in your Bible. Look at 14, 15. The Jewish leaders go, “Where did this guy learn this? He’s an expert in the Law, He is an amazing communicator, He has all this authority, but He didn’t go to any of our seminaries.”
And so, what Jesus is, since the issue is His identity, Jesus says to them, “If any man is willing to do My will He’ll know the teaching, whether I speak for myself or from God.”
And so, then what He says to them is that, “You can’t hear Me, you can’t hear God’s voice because you don’t obey the Law. You’re not obedient.” And then He says, “You don’t even obey Moses,” He is speaking to religious leaders who think Moses is the greatest person in the whole world. But Moses said – what? “Thou shall not murder.”
And their heart had already determined that they were going to murder Him. No trial; no justification.
And so, what He is saying to them is that, “I come from above. My authority is from God who sent Me.” And so, what you need to know is He goes to the feast, He speaks, they are amazed, and when He says this, “You’re trying to kill Me,” well, some of the crowd isn’t in on it.
So actually look down at about verse 20. They said, “You are demon possessed! Where are You getting this idea that they are trying to kill You? You’re wacko, man!” And so, He becomes, out of this, a real controversy during this feast.
Then Jesus defends Himself, look at verse 21. He said, “I did one miracle, and yet you are all astonished? Yet because Moses gave you circumcision (though it actually wasn’t Moses, it was the patriarchs – Abraham and Isaac and Jacob),” He said, “If you have a kid that on the eighth day is when the Law demands that you circumcise your son, if that happens on the Sabbath, you circumcise him.”
And, yet, here is a guy, remember in the Pool of Siloam? Thirty-eight years he is an invalid. “I don’t just obey the Law, I heal him and you guys are uptight and angry because he is walking with a little mat instead of rejoicing in God, actually the whole point of the Sabbath was a gift to you. It wasn’t some rigid, legalistic thing.”
And so, He corrects. And then notice what He says to them, look at verse 24, “Stop judging by mere appearance, and make a right judgment.” Basically He says, “You guys don’t get it. You are so off, you just take your little view and your lens of the Scripture and the truth and you have missed the heart of God.”
And then notice after that, then He is this big point of controversy. So look at verse 25. “At this point, some of the people in Jerusalem began to ask, ‘Well, wait a second. Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill, and yet He is speaking publicly, and no one is trying to get Him.’”
So they are going, “So maybe, maybe the Pharisees really think He is the Messiah.” But then they say, “Well, we’re not sure because when the Messiah comes, no one will know where He is from.” That was a rabbinic tradition. The rabbis would say there are three mysterious things, in other words, that come out of the blue. The Messiah is one thing. This is in the oral tradition. A godsend, in other words, you get some money or something happens, it just comes out of the blue. And the third is a scorpion.
And their point was, I remember camping one time and I had a sleeping bag and I opened it up and there was a scorpion and it was like, Ooh, I didn’t expect that. It came out of nowhere.
Their point was that no one would ever know where the Messiah comes from. Well, the Bible didn’t teach that.
And so, they are rejecting Him based on tradition instead of the truth. And so, the people were getting a little uptight because some of them were saying, “Well, maybe He really is.” So look at verse 30. “At this, they tried to seize Him,” literally the word is, “to arrest Him,” but no one lays a hand on Him, but He is the center of controversy now.
They said, “When Christ comes, will He do more miracles than this One did?” So some people, look at this, verse 31, “many put their faith in Him.”
Well now the Pharisees respond. And so, He is in the controversy, the Pharisees say, “Well, wait, we have a problem here. He has done these miracles, He has had this popularity, now He is here right in the middle of the feast and, man, we have got to get rid of this guy. And some people are believing in Him.”
And so, they send the temple guards, verse 32, to arrest Him. “Jesus said, ‘I am only here for a short time,’” and now in the next few verses, He is going to give a veiled expression of the resurrection that is going to come.
And go ahead, you can scan the verses, the next three or four verses there, verses 33 through about 36. And He goes, “I am going to go to a place, and where I go you can’t come.”
And, of course, they don’t get it. They just listen literally, So are you going to go preach to the Greeks? Are you going to go to the Gentiles? And He keeps repeating, “No, where I’m going you can’t come. You can’t come, because I am going to the Father, and you don’t believe because you have rejected Me.”
And then notice verse 37. This is the climax of this entire text. And so there is controversy. Jesus goes to the feast, Jesus teaches in the temple, He is now the center of controversy. And now it’s the very last day and everyone is wondering what is going to happen, who is He, what is happening? Some people say He is demon possessed, some people say, “No, He is the Messiah.” Some say, “No, He’s the prophet.” Other people say He is insane. It’s all over the map.
And then that priest pours out that water, and boldly He does and He goes super public, “Behold, if any man thirsts,” and He declares. Now, remember the context. The water came out of the rock. Why didn’t the people, why were they in the wilderness for forty years? They did not believe.
The promise was a promised land. Those who believed went into the Promised Land. Why? To have the best life, their thirst quenched for purpose and meaning in the midst of a battle.
And Jesus is standing up and says, “You all are celebrating a Promised Land that God did in the past. This is the Promised Person and I am offering Myself to whoever will believe, who will trust in Me. I am the Messiah.”
Now, do you see how the context, now that you know about the feast, how it starts making sense?
Then notice the Jewish leaders, what they do. “On hearing His words, some of the people said, ‘Whoa,’” see there are different responses by different people. “‘He’s the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘No, He’s the Christ.’ And someone goes, ‘Wait a second. The Christ doesn’t come from Galilee. He comes from Bethlehem.’”
So they are ignorant. He did come from Bethlehem. Then notice the final section, getting the frame, the border of the puzzle, is the Jewish temple guards came back, then the Pharisees go, “Where is He? We sent you to arrest Him. Where is He?” And they go, “No man has ever spoken like this Man.” They were mesmerized.
And so, the Pharisees, you can look at it, they say, “Are you under His spell? Are you cursed as well?” And then their elite arrogance, “None of us Pharisees, none of us have ever believed in Him because, see, we are educated, we are sophisticated, and we are deeply threatened and insecure and we want control.” They didn’t say that actually in the text here, but it’s what is going on.
And so, Nicodemus, remember, he has had that visit with Jesus at night. And he said, “I know You are from God because of these dramatic miracles.” And so, Nicodemus puts his hand up and goes, “Hey, guys? I’m a respected leader here too. Don’t we have a law that we all obey about we never condemn a person unless we hear from him and we do this the right way?” And he gets rebuffed and with this sarcasm, “So are you from Galilee too?”
So do you get the framework now? Now you see what has happened. The context: tabernacles, the last six months of His life, He goes to the feast, He teaches, He becomes the center of controversy, He is rejected by the leaders.
Finally, the climax is this: What seems to be the most important event or action in the passage. So you’re reading your Bible, okay? I’m just talking, you’re just doing this and you’re learning. And you’re saying, Okay, got it. And this doesn’t have to take an hour every day. You’re really smart people.
But then you ask yourself, Okay, I’ve got the context. I’ve got the flow. What is the most important event or truth? What is it that really sticks out this chapter is about? And isn’t it pretty obvious? Verse 37 through 44 is when Jesus makes His statement.
Well, then that’s where you camp. And you say, Wow, that’s the most important thing in this whole passage. Lord, I want You to speak to me. Now, follow this very carefully.
Jesus promises, now we are going to go to our day, to quench your thirst, and whoever’s thirst that would believe and trust in Him, if He would be the center of your life. As important as your wife, your husband, your job, your money, your future, your company – all those things can be distractions.
He says, “All those things have their place. I want you to believe and trust and follow Me, and I will put those things in place, because the Spirit of God will give you what they can’t. When the Spirit of God produces the life of Christ, the love and the peace and the joy that you’re looking for, I will give. The generosity, the patience, the kindness that you need in relationships – I will produce that as well. The self-control and the discipline to stay on track, the Spirit will produce that from within you.”
He is saying, “I want to provide that for you as you follow Me.” He said it to them and He is saying it to us.
Now, here’s the big question. How do you move from simply knowing a passage, knowing about wisdom, and knowing about God to hearing His voice, personally? You, the Bible, the Holy Spirit working in you. How do you hear God’s voice?
We looked at a truth. The truth was very clear. Jesus said, “My words – they are Spirit and they are life.” Now, look at this promise. The promise is, “If any man,” “if any man,” and it’s generic, “or a woman is willing to do My will, he will know of the teaching, whether I am speaking from Myself or whether I am speaking from God.”
So here is an axiomatic principle of hearing God’s voice. You have to be willing to do what it says. I will tell you, you can read the Bible until you are blue in the face, you can go to Bible studies, you can hear messages, you can do all kinds of things, but unless you are willing to do, to obey, then here is what God does.
Why would God give you or me new truth if we won’t respond to the truth that He has already given me?
Jesus, in His teaching in Mark 4 says, “If you respond to the light that I give you, you’ll get more light. If you refuse perpetually, or habitually to not respond to the truth or the light that I give you, even the light that you have will be taken away.”
Now, by the way, this isn’t just about “becoming a Christian.”
Uhm, I got a call and actually had an event with Walk Thru the Bible, and they asked me to come and lead that organization. And it was a compliment, I suppose, but I was just like, Okay, I’ve got to really…we love where we’re at. I thought I’d be in Santa Cruz until I died. All of you, right? Haven’t you been where you’ve got a really big decision and you feel tension?
And what do I need? I don’t need to just study the Bible. I need to hear God’s voice. And so I prayed for a month, two months, three months. I’m into the fourth month, I’m hearing nothing. Does this happen to anybody else? I mean, nothing!
God, show me! This is really big! Here’s what goes through my mind: What if I am supposed to do it, and I don’t do it, and I miss what You’re supposed…oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! What if I’m not supposed to do it and then I go and then I mess up? You’ve given this great church and these great people and my family loves it.
So one day, another day, another day, right? I was like that passage where it talks about being tossed by the waves, back and forth. And so I fasted. That didn’t work. I didn’t know what God wanted me to do.
Here’s what I did know. My wife did not want to go. And I didn’t want to go. And so they said, “Look, we have to have a decision by this date. We have given you one month, two months, three months, four months.” And I did my due diligence, my research, I visited, figured out strengths, weaknesses, all the rest.
And I was doing something, some sort of event, because I remember I was at John Wayne Airport and I had two or three more days, I had to give a decision. And as is my practice, I always get a cup of coffee before I get on the plane.
So I went over to Starbucks, got a cup of coffee and my back was hurting that day. And so I went and sat on the floor in the corner and I said, God, please speak to me. And no audible voice but it was, Well, Chip, are you willing to do whatever I say? And my honest response was, Maybe. Right? Maybe.
I just really want to know what Your will is so I can decide whether I will obey You or not. Anybody else ever do that? And it was just like nonstarter. Oh. And I said, Okay, Lord, this isn’t emotional, this is just flat out decision. If You will show me, no matter what, because I didn’t want to go, I will do whatever You say. But I don’t want some emotional experience. I’ve got to know whether it is really You, not me.
Because I had been yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. Right? About nine times. And so I just, I am going to read where my normal reading is, and I was in the book of Acts, and I read. And it was like, literally, a passage went, Tchoo! Bing, bing, bing, bing, bing! “Arise, go!” Oh, no. This is not going to go well with Theresa. And it didn’t.
But God, it was a pivotal point in our lives.
Here’s all I want you to hear. See, what I described, the process of learning to study the Bible, you have all done it, right? But not usually in the Bible.
When I was talking about those of you who write code, those of you who have started companies, those of you who have gone and gotten graduate degrees, those of you who are so committed to helping your kids either in ballet or music or violin or something. The discipline, the passion – you are seeking it as silver, you are pursuing it as hidden treasure.
It’s like, I want to be happy, I want to be fulfilled, I want my kids to be successful, I want to find the right person. And it’s like you are people who go for it! And, yet, that same intensity and discipline and work and focus and willingness to do whatever God says is almost non-existent with most Christians.
And we think we can read a little verse and pray a little prayer and that we are going to have streams of living water. And it doesn’t work.
So what kind of questions do you ask once you’re willing? Let me give these to you. Questions that I ask when I read the Bible then are: Is there a command to obey? In this case, it is, “Come to Me and drink.” So have you done that? This isn’t a suggestion. This is the God of the universe, fully man, fully God, on the earth saying, “You! Come and drink! If anyone believes,” and “believe” isn’t intellectual. Trusting your life, following Him, “If anyone believes in Me out of your innermost being.”
Second question is: Is there a promise to claim? Well, there’s a big promise here in verse 38, “Streams of living water will flow,” – from where? “from within you.” It’s a huge promise. So you ask yourself, Am I experiencing that? He promised that so, well, it’s not just some experience. It’s if I will search for Him as for silver and I’ll make Christ the priority like a hidden treasure. If I would pursue God the way I am pursuing my business. If I would pursue God the way I am trying to raise my kids. If I would pursue God, guess what would happen. Inside of you, streams of living water.
And it’s not just His Word. He lives inside of other Christians. There are some Christians that you never sit down, have heart-to-heart, absolutely vulnerable, authentic conversations, and do life with other Christians. And so, you miss the Jesus that lives in them, and they miss the Jesus that lives in you.
Some of the direction God wants to give you is through them. So I ask myself, Is there a command? Is there a promise?
The third thing I do is I ask: Is there an example to follow? In verse 31, there were all these people with all this stuff. Many of them put their faith in Him. Maybe that’s you. Have you put your faith in Him? Certainly, for salvation, for your sins to be forgiven.
Have you, as you sit here, on a certain day, at a certain time, I remember or I have said, I am in need, and You’re God. I am going to turn from my self-focused control, or passive, “I’ll do my life, God, you stay over there; to, I need You. Please forgive me. Christ, come into my life. Have you done that?
And for those of us who have done that, are you still believing? Are you trusting Him to meet your needs, or have you come to Him by grace and now you’ve got it? I’ve got it, God. You run the universe, I’ve got this one taken care of. Right? Anyone else do that?
Now, here’s the thing, please listen carefully. I am astounded and amazed at the level of denial that I can have in my own life. If you would have said to me, “Okay, are there commands to obey and promises?” Yes. “Well, one of the commands is that we honor the Sabbath principle – that one day out of seven you realize the world can live without you and you get refreshed and you don’t work.”
Twenty-four hours out of one sixty-eight, the world can go on without you, it’s a gift from God, and it’s a statement of faith, but it’s a weird statement of faith. Like running an internet company and your company says, “We are only going to be online six out of every seven days, but we need to make as much money as everyone else.”
See, that’s what the Sabbath is about. It’s not about: Don’t do this, don’t do that. It’s about trust, it’s about faith.
And so God, as I was whining said, So, Chip, how are you doing? Oh, if you would have asked me, I would have said, “Oh, I, man I believe in Sabbath, on Fridays it’s my day off and I don’t look at my email, hardly. And I don’t look at many calls, barely. And I try to really, boy, really take a day off.” And I’m pretty religious about it, in a good way.
I went back five Fridays, I actually, God is speaking to me and I look at my calendar and it was like, You’re a liar. You are absolutely convinced that you obey this Sabbath, and for five weeks and a half, so for six weeks you have not had a day off and you’re asking Me why you’re sick? Ha! Ha!
You know what it is? It’s God, I think I heard a gentle voice, Chip, you are stupid. Why do you think you’re sick? You haven’t obeyed Me. Well, why haven’t you obeyed Me? I’m going to exaggerate, just mildly, but not much. “Well, I haven’t obeyed You because You don’t understand how important I am! You don’t understand that, I mean, without me, how could those events ever happen? And I had to do this and I had to do that. And they were just exceptions, because I am so important and I matter so much.”
When I violate the Sabbath or any other command, at the heart of it is almost always my own pride and my own arrogance. And I just repented. I repented. I said, “Okay, God, my denial is over. I want to obey You. I’m willing. I will do whatever You say.” Five different speaking things came the very next week. No, no, no, no, no.
I want to have a healthy soul. I want to be a good husband. I want to love my grown kids. I want to love my grandkids. I want to be a good pastor. I want to have margin in my life. I want to come refreshed to give God’s Word. I want to be a good teammate on our staff.
I can’t do that and disobey God. Does that make sense?
Notice there is an example to follow. Nicodemus, he went public, didn’t he? I think there is a way to do that.
But there is an example there. I realize I need, literally at times, this session is really helping me. This counseling session. I’m just thinking, God, I didn’t plan to share quite this much.
But I just want to admit to you that there are times where I’m not bold in my faith because I care more what people think than God thinks. Does anyone else struggle with that?
And then I will go through a season and so I’ll have to discipline myself and say, Okay, Lord, for the next seven days or the next ten days, I am going to let someone know in a winsome, kind, loving way – and maybe I am going to buy them coffee or I’m going to do something for someone – that I am a follower of Jesus.
Because, little by little, if I’m not, pretty soon, you get inside this little cul-de-sac with all your Christian friends. How will people that are longing and are thirsty hear about the living Christ if we don’t tell them? And we tell them with our lives, we tell them with our relationships, but we also tell them with our mouths.
Last page, because here are some barriers to receiving God’s promise. Barrier number one is familiarity. His brothers don’t believe. Why? They grew up with Him!
There are times I’ll be in the Bible and I’ll be reading and, Oh, I’ve got that. I’ve got that memorized. Yeah. So God doesn’t speak to me, it’s so familiar. Some of you, you’ve been around church all your life. And church, basically, has become, Yeah, I go to church. I understand it. Be a good person. I’m better than most people, morally. I know I’ve got a few issues. But there’s no power. There’s no satisfaction. There’s no excitement. There’s no adventure because you’re just so familiar.
It has just become like a moral code, a formula, instead of a supernatural adventure with the living God, His Spirit living in you.
The second reason is fear of what other people think. Verse 13: A great many people, no one would say anything publicly.
Because so many of us are more concerned about what other people think than what God thinks.
I, actually, I will often, and by the way, I still struggle with this, so if you’re thinking, Oh, gosh, that’s me. Yeah, it’s me too. And sometimes I’ll just say, Okay, every day for the next ten days, I am going to do something, somewhere where I go public with my faith.
In a winsome way. It’s not like, “Hey! Did you see my ‘Praise the Lord!’ sticker on the back of my car?” Or, “Hey! Here’s a big Bible. What do you think?” But in very winsome ways, I had a moment yesterday, I was behind a guy and I didn’t know it but I, inadvertently, it was a bagel shop and I think I dissed him.
And you know how you feel like, I didn’t mean to. They were looking at something and so I got my coffee and this and that. And I just had this little prompting. And they were with his two kids.
And he started to pull out a bill and I put it back and I just said, “Hey, I want to take care of all of us.” And he looked at me like, Wow! “I think I kind of dissed you.” He goes, “No, no, no you didn’t. We were just still deciding, this and that.”
And he looked at me like, What drug are you on? And I just told him, I said, “I think God just really wants to bless you today.” And he said…
And you know what? It was like, Click! When we are public and loving and winsome with our faith, it doesn’t turn people off. We’ve got a whole generation of Christians that think that if you really go public, you’ll turn people off. People are, literally, dying to hear.
The third is unwillingness to obey. I couldn’t hear God’s voice. I remember I was doing a Bible study on a college campus when I used to be a basketball coach. And I would play basketball, pickup basketball in the gym, and then we would go to a guy’s dorm room and we would pass out gospel of Johns. And we would just read a chapter out loud and talk about it. I didn’t preach, I didn’t teach, I just asked questions, “What do you guys think it says?”
And we did John 1, John 2, John 3, John 4. Something like that. And this guy comes to me and he goes, “I’ll be playing basketball, I’m not going to come to the Bible study tonight.” I said, “Okay, that’s great.” None of them were Christians, by the way.
And I said, “Well, why?” He said, “Because I can’t keep reading this stuff.” I said, “Well, what do you mean you can’t keep reading this stuff?” He said, “Look, I’m starting to get it. If I keep reading this, I can’t keep living the way I am.”
And I said, “Well, so, what do you mean?” He goes, “Look, man, can I just give it to you straight? I’m living with my girlfriend, and if I keep reading this, I am going to come to a point where either it’s Jesus or my girlfriend or it’s Jesus and sex. And I just want you to know, I’m going to go on record, it’s girlfriend and sex, not Jesus. But if I keep reading this stuff, it’s messing with me.”
And I just said, “You know something? Thanks for being so honest.” And then I just took a moment and I said, “Now, from what we have learned, if you ever wanted to believe in Jesus, because this is a potential someday, someway, this may not really work out with this girlfriend and you might find there is something even more important than sex in your life. I know it’s hard to believe at nineteen.”
And then I had him share the gospel with me. So I wanted to know for sure. And then I said, “Hey, you’re going to play ball with us, aren’t you?” See, you don’t need to be the Holy Spirit. You just need to love people. Love people and get them in God’s Word. Let Him speak to them.
But, see, he was unwilling to obey. But what I liked is he was honest enough to say it.
The fourth reason people don’t believe is just ignorance. That idea, the false presupposition in verses 25 to 31 where they said, “The Messiah, when He comes will just, poof! out of nowhere.” Well that was a tradition by the rabbis and the oral tradition.
So they believed that the Messiah was just going to come out of thin air. So they rejected Jesus. The Bible never said that. The Bible never said that at all. So some people reject Christ because they have ideas about Him that aren’t true.
Number five there is, actually, I did five. I’ll do four. Superficial assessment or evaluation. The one group who talked about, “Wait a second, you had this guy walk on the Sabbath so You can’t be from God,” and He said, “Stop judging superficially.”
This happened as a new Christian. I had been a Christian about eight months and it was on the basketball team and a guy who was anti, anti-God and especially Christians said, “You believe in God?” “Yes.”
“You believe in the Bible?” “Yes.” “You believe the Bible is true?” “Yes.” “Do you eat meat?” “Yes.” “You hypocrite!” He was six-eight, so like, errr. And I said, “What are you talking about?” “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Thou shall not kill?’ You kill animals to eat meat. See, you’re all hypocrites.” And I went back like, Oh my gosh. Maybe he’s right.
And I did a little research and the Bible doesn’t say, “Thou shall not kill.” I mean, it says, “Thou shall not kill.” But there’s a word for kill in Hebrew and there is a word for murder. The Bible says, “Thou shall not murder.”
But he had a superficial assessment of what He thought the Bible taught, and as a result, rejected God, rejected the Bible, and kind of put me in a tailspin.
See, here’s my concern and the reason I am going through John and trying to help all of us really learn what it says, my fear is a lot of you have a very superficial understanding, and you think you know what this says, and you’re listening to all kinds of things and all kinds of people, and you have legitimate thirst.
And some of you are so doggone smart and so doggone gifted that you actually figure out how to quench your thirst, and you’re successful and you’re smart and you become wealthy and you have great positions. And you end up with what everyone else wants in life.
And then you look in the mirror and you look down in your soul and it is empty. And you can’t figure it out, because you say, I believe in God. I go to church 1.6 times a month.
But the fact of the matter is, is you’re not searching. You’re not studying the Bible like you learned to read code and develop code. You’re not studying the Bible the way you did a musical instrument. You’re not studying the Bible the way you had your kids doing ballet or athletics. You’re not studying the Bible the way that you started out with physics.
You’re not taking the Bible the way you did when you were in that startup and everybody knew that you need to give your life to a startup or they don’t work. And God is saying, in the words of Jesus, “Come and drink of Me. Come and drink.”