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About this series
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
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.”