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About this series
Jesus Unfiltered - Believe
When life gets really hard, because of choices you've made, or circumstances in which you find yourself, wouldn't it be great to know you've got the source of all wisdom and strength right there with you? That's what Jesus promised you could have. That's what He longs to do for you. Knowing the real Jesus is the most important relationship you will ever have. Chip Ingram reveals, from Scripture, who Jesus really is and how you can have this relationship - beginning today and for forever!More from this series
I’d like to ask you four really important questions as we get started. Question number one: Who is Jesus? Question number two is: Who is Jesus to you? And then maybe behind that: Why do you believe that? Whoever He is in your mind, why do you believe that is true? And then finally: What difference does that make? Any real difference in your life, in the way you live, your hope, your dreams?
How you answer those four questions really will determine the quality of your life on this earth and the future of your life after you die.
Regardless of your belief system or your background, I can tell you that the most influential person that has ever lived on the face of the earth, that has ever walked on this planet is Jesus Christ. And whether He is just the great prophet who is mentioned, actually, more times in the Quran than Mohammed; or whether He is the divine ideal of the New Age; or whether He is a miracle worker or just a great moral teacher – those are some perspectives of Jesus.
Or whether He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the founder of Christianity – here is what I will tell you, regardless of where people come from, on all the spectrum of who they think Jesus is, His life and His teaching is the center of more than just debate and controversy and ardent devotion. It’s the center of human history.
Every time you write a date down, you testify with all the world that the history of mankind is B.C. and A.D. And here is what I learned. About eighty-two percent, not outside the Church, but those of us in the Church, eighty-two percent of all of us Christians only read the Bible, at least nationally, in America, when we come to church.
So, what I know is that for most Christians, our view of who Jesus is is primarily what someone tells us or what we heard or what our family said or what we heard on the radio or what some book tells us about Jesus.
But here is the thing – most people, even followers of Christ, have not personally said, For me, I am going to look at the evidence and I am going to examine the research in the original New Testament documents to find out who He is, who He is to me, why I believe that, and what difference does it make.
And so that is what we are going to do on our journey. And we are in for a ride and it’s going to be great, because I will tell you that when you discover who He really is, how much He actually cares about you, and how relational and real He wants to be in your life on a daily basis, it will make a huge difference.
So, are you ready to roll? There are some critical questions as we begin to examine, not what other people say, not what commentators say, not what church says, but this is the authorized biography. Not the culture. This is the firsthand, eyewitness documents, this is the authorized biography of Jesus Christ.
So why study the Book? I basically said: Because you owe it to yourself. When I was a basketball coach and a teacher, I would do basketball and coach by day and then we’d go up on a college campus and I would share Christ, play a little pickup ball. And I admit that I sort of manipulated with what I am about to tell you, but it worked.
And so, I would be playing ball with these guys and afterwards we would be all sweaty, sitting down. I’d say, “Hey, have you ever examined what the New Testament says about Jesus Christ?” I mean, these are college guys. “No.”
And once I got to know them a little bit I’d say, “So, you mean to tell me you’re here getting a higher education and you’re studying philosophy and mathematics and computer science, and the most important, most influential person in the entire world, you’re going to just take other people’s opinion? What you heard at church, what you heard on TV, or what some guy said or what your parents even said. You have never examined the documents for yourself?” You know, ha, ha, ha, ha. And they would go, “No.” I said, “Would you want to?
And you know what? I didn’t preach at them, I didn’t tell them anything. So, we just read chapter 1 and I asked a few questions, we talked about it. Next week, we got together, we played hoops, we read chapter 2. Next week, we played hoops, we read chapter 3. The next week we read chapter 4.
I cannot tell you the amazing things that happened in those guys’ lives. And I never told them, “You ought to do this or you should do this.” I didn’t even do a lot of explaining. We just read it, I said, “What do you think it means?”
Have you ever done that? You are in for the ride of your life. And so that is why we are going to dig in.
Second is, you’ve got to ask, Why was it initially written? Two reasons. Externally, it’s 90 A.D. There is only one apostle left, it’s John. Matthew, Mark, Luke – they are called the Synoptics – they have already been written. The story about the genealogy of His life, Matthew, the Jewish side of Luke, Mark is written to the Romans. It is all done. We know the story of Mary and Joseph. We know the parables; we know His teachings.
But now, fast-forward, whew, fifty years, almost sixty years, the last living apostle. Everyone else has been martyred. He is about ninety years old. And then here is what is happening, externally. Mysticism and materialism is creeping into the Church, something called Gnosticism. The idea that everything are these higher emanations and angels and this real spiritual mystical side, but the reality of Christ, the resurrection, who is He? It’s all beginning to infiltrate the Church.
And so, John will give us ninety-three percent new material. The gospel of John has ninety-three percent material that is not in the other three gospels. Writing from his perspective to this need of this Church that has multiplied and there are thousands upon thousands, hundreds of thousands of believers going all over the world and what they need to hear clearly now is: Who is Jesus? Where did He really come from? What did He really teach? And that is the gospel of John.
And what it is going to talk about is, unlike any of the gospels, from chapter 2 to chapter 12, he is going to give seven specific signs. A sign is a miracle. Supernatural, amazing things that happen that validated in space/time history who Jesus is and was.
And then there are seven specific interviews with people so you can see, So, what was Jesus like to really religious people or people who really blew it? So you can exactly get to know Him.
And then he gets to the end of the book and he says, “You want to know why I wrote this? Here’s why I wrote it.” Chapter 20, verse 30. “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.”
In other words, this is just a sample. Man, He did a bunch of stuff. Now here is the purpose: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
If you have your own Bible or in your little one that I just gave you, circle the word signs, circle the word believe, and circle the word life. And that is the theme of this book.
He said, “I want you to know, I want you to check out, there are signs, there are specific things you can know about,” and what does a sign do? It points, right? A yield sign or an arrow that goes one way. It points. It’s pointing to who Jesus really is.
And the signs are so that you would believe. And in John’s vocabulary, believe is not, I intellectually agree with or I just comprehend. The word believe is used ninety-eight times in this gospel. And believe means to understand relationally, connect, commit, entrust, follow, develop deep relationship, and be transformed. And that is the word life.
And the word life here isn’t bio. It’s not like animal life or plant life. It’s zoë. We get our word zoology. But zoë is this eternal life, this relational life. In fact, in chapter 17, He will explain exactly what this kind of life that happens from belief is. It’s that you might know Him, the Father, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent.
It’s this supernatural, relational thing that happens – God visiting the planet, living this life, offering forgiveness, then coming to live inside a mortal human being, transformationally, for today. But then as you die, translated to ever and ever and ever. That’s why he wrote it.
So, what are the parallels today? Externally, we live in a day that is characterized by pluralism, which basically means there is no one right or wrong. Every opinion, every truth claim is equal. And that is beginning to infiltrate the life of the Church.
The second is what I just call spiritual erosion. You know what? Every season of the Church has its ups and downs. Our season of the Church, most people are biblically illiterate, most people are taking other people’s words for it, we are seeing some real drift.
Teaching and doctrine of Jesus that has been solid for two thousand years is drifting inside the Church and the average believer is not having the kind of dynamic relationship that God wants. So that is why we are going to study it.
Then the final question is: How are we going to get our arms around this? It’s a pretty thick book. I don’t know about you, I did not grow up reading the Bible, I never opened it, actually, I did. I think it was about junior high, about fourteen, my parents were gone, family life was not going all that well. And I thought, Maybe God can help.
Some of you remember the old days. We had a coffee table with a Bible in the middle of it. A big Bible with golden pages, you know? And then you’d open it up and it had scribbly writing like grandmother or grandfather or so-and-so born.
And so I thought, Okay, if God exists, so I opened it up. “Hitherto, unto thine, given to thy, hitherto, shebadebado…” you know? You know what? I don’t know what they are talking about, but it makes no sense to me.
And I think a lot of the reason, some of us, don’t read the Bible is because down deep you’re thinking, I can’t understand it and it doesn’t really make that much sense. And you have tried, right? You’ve read a little bit. So, you know what we are going to do? Here’s what I want you to get, the picture on the front of your notes, here’s the box. The book of John, written in the first century, revelation is delivered in A.D. 90 to a specific group. Okay?
And there was a historical context. It is written to what was going on in the world then. And guess what, the author has an intent. This isn’t just mystical little words. The author has an intent that you would read these signs, see these interviews, and that you would believe and because you believe, you would experience life, supernatural life.
And it’s revelation. It comes from God. The Spirit of God is given. Now, our job is to take the timeless principle of that same truth and we are not going to get truth delivered. We need to discern the truth.
And so, what we have here is they had a historical context, well, so do we.So, what does this truth have to do with our world? The author’s intent is exactly the same. That we might believe, that we could experience God’s power. And then, finally, theirs was revelation, it came from God. Ours is what we want. We have the truth! It’s illumination. The word illuminate, does that ring a bell? Like light? It means the lights come on! It means that instead of just a few people or pastors or you hear someone speak and you think, Oh, wow, that really makes sense. It’s like you begin to read the Bible and it goes, Whoa! I get it! God speaks clearly, personally, and powerfully to me. That is the journey we are going to go on.
I hope you’re asking, How? How could that really happen in my life? I’m glad you asked. Were you asking that, maybe? Okay. Turn the page. Are you ready? We’re not only going to learn what the gospel of John says and teaches, we are going to learn how to study it for ourselves.
You’re going to see there are about five specific things you can do, they are very, very simple, and they are revolutionary.
Number one, ask three questions whenever you study God’s Word. That’s the number one thing, first. Ask these three questions.
Question number one you want to say is just: What does it say? And it’s observation, right? Just what does it say? Not rocket science, not like [sings Twilight Zone theme]. Just what does it say? I read it; it’s talking about this.
Second: What does it mean? That’s interpretation. Okay, he said this but what he meant by that is…So you want to get there.
The third question you ask is: What does it mean to me? That’s application. And so, as you study the Bible, it’s so simple, I have been doing this for over thirty years and you get better and better and better. It’s gets easier, easier, and easier.
But you just say, Okay, I read this, what does it say? As I look into it, study it a bit, what does it mean? I ponder and reflect and I am open to the Lord, the Holy Spirit, what does it mean to me? He will speak to you and tell you and before you leave today, you’ll actually experience and see how it works.
The second thing that you do is not just ask those three questions, but read the passage repeatedly to get the big picture or the general idea. It’s just like anything. You have to read it over and over in order to let it sink in so you just get the big idea.
Personally, I often, say I’m going to read chapter 1 of John. I’ll read it as fast as I can. Twenty seconds I may get the whole thing, maybe thirty-five seconds or a minute.
I read it as fast as I can, just, What is it about? Okay, it talks about the beginning, John the Baptist, something about the first disciples, got it. Then I read it again slower and out loud, because now my eyes are seeing the text, I’m hearing the text, I read it out loud.
Then I’ll read it a third time and I’ll just read it slowly and I’ll ponder and begin to [think], What is going on here? It kind of talks about creation, it talks about Jesus, the Word becomes flesh. Okay, this John the Baptist, he keeps saying this word, “testimony, testimony, delivered.” Okay, there is something here. And so, I start making a few observations.
Here is what I would like to do, in honor of God’s Word, the first section is one of the most dynamic in all of Scripture. It’s really, really powerful. So, for the first eighteen verses, why don’t you stand with me and follow along as I read the book of John. We are going to have a few different translations. Just go with the flow, right?
But when you listen and hear it, you’ll think, Oh yeah, we’re on the same page. And before I read, here’s what you have to get. Imagine this. Imagine yourself. Because if you don’t get this down clearly, you’ll never get what God wants to say.
Imagine yourself, it’s 90 A.D., you came to Christ about twenty years ago, your kids have come to Christ. There has been persecution and it has happened like crazy. There are tens of thousands of Christians everywhere.
And then these false teachers are coming through and they say, “Jesus didn’t really come, He just came as a spirit,” and there is all this stuff happening and you’re getting confused.
And then all of a sudden, the old man, the apostle of love, John, he has written, the last living apostle, and it’s being passed around and word-for-word, carefully recorded and orally memorized by all eighty percent of the Church who were slaves. And you’re hearing this in the midst of your confusion. You got it? Now you are.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not understand it,” or literally, some of your translations, “did not overcome it.” He introduces a battle. Light and darkness.
There came a man who was sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning the Light,” – why? “so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the Light, he came only as a witness to the Light. The true Light, or the real light that gives light to every man, was coming into the world. He, the true Light, was in the world and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, the Jews, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right or authority to become children of God, children born not of natural decent nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
“The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us, we have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John the Baptist testifies concerning Him. He cries out saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me, because He was before me.”’) From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.”
Why? “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man has ever seen God – fullness, in His face, in His glory – but God, the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.”
Literally, the last word is exegete. Jesus exegeted the Father. The word “exegete” means, to explain. So, when later in the book, Jesus will say, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” John is introducing at the very beginning: you really want to know what God is like? Whoo. Jesus, His life, His speaking, how He treats people will tell you exactly how God thinks, exactly how God feels, and exactly what God is like.