Broadcast

Love… Gives!

From the series Jesus Unfiltered - Love

It’s been said that you can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving. So, what does that actually look like - especially when we’re talking about loving God? He already owns everything. So, what could we possibly have that He would want? Chip shares what God really wants from you and why giving Him what He wants will allow you to receive His highest and His best.

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Message Transcript

I want to begin by asking you a question that to me is one of those really, really neat questions. The question is: Do you know what the three most important words in all of life are? Any three words, these are the three most important ones.

Hint: When a child hears these three words, it means I am safe, I am valuable, I really matter to you. Well, when you are dating someone and they hear these three words, it means you’re moving to the next level of commitment. It means exclusivity, you’re just the only one for me.

When a friend hears these three words, it means: I am here for you, I’ve got your back. It’s a statement of loyalty and resolve. I’m guessing, have you figured out the three words. “I love you.” Right?

I’m going to go on record and say when a parent hears those three words, it makes your heart melt. And the joy surges as little children or grown ones say, “I really see what you do for me, and I really appreciate you, Mom and Dad.” Four-year-olds say that differently than twenty-four-year-olds.

When Jesus says those three words to you, when the God who created all there is and the Second Person of the Trinity has you on the forefront of His mind and says, “I love you,” to you, what it means is that you are wanted, that you are valuable, that you are precious, that you, just as you are sitting here today, are accepted.

And then as you have come into a personal relationship, He says, “I will never, ever leave you or forsake you.”

Now, the second question I want to ask is that when you are praying and you might say to Jesus, I love You. Or, I love You, Father, what attitudes or what actions or what behaviors, both of the heart and your behavior, would, if Jesus was receiving an, “I love You,” from you, that He would say, Oh, he or she really means it. That really resonates. Yes! I feel very loved because of those attitudes and actions and behavior.

Because, see, with every “I love you,” you can just say, “I love you,” right? We have all said it. In fact, sometimes you hang up the phone, “I love you.” “I love you.” “I love you.” “I love pizza.” I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about. Right?

We are talking about when you say, “I love you” to someone and it fills the depth of their heart. When you say that to Jesus, you are going to learn three specific things that, when these are happening from your heart and in your life and in your relationship, He feels loved by you.

So open up your notes, because the answer to that question is in John chapter 12. The context of John chapter 12 is that we are chronicling and we are beginning the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, right before He is crucified.

It’s six days before the big Passover. The resurrection of Lazarus that we learned about last week has ignited a movement. Thousands and thousands of people, “Have you heard? Have you heard? Have you heard?” “What?” “That Lazarus guy! It wasn’t a coma! It wasn’t soul sleep. He was in this grave for four days, he spoke, he came out. The Messiah is here!”

And so you have this movement of people around Bethany and Jerusalem. At the same time, it’s the Passover. And so literally, two to two point seven million people from all over are descending on Jerusalem. We have actual records that in one Passover, they sacrificed two hundred and fifty-six thousand lambs. And if you just even say maybe there’s at least ten people for every lamb, you’ve got two to two and a half million people.

And so you have this bustling place. And then on the top of that, you have religious leaders who realize now Jesus and this movement is out of control and we need to take Him out and this Lazarus is a big problem. We are going to take him out too.

That’s the context of what is happening. And now I would like you to just look at the very last line. It says there are three specific events that will teach us what it means to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, and all of our strength.

And I am going to introduce you to a private dinner in Jesus’ honor before this happens. I’m going to introduce you to a public parade, it’s usually called the Triumphal Entry. But I’ll give a picture of that that you’ll realize, Oh.

And third, there will be a prophetic moment, that something is going to happen, a request will come to Jesus that will, literally, start the prophetic clock that, before that week is over, He will be crucified. And by the end of that week, He will be risen from the dead.

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus raised from the dead. Here, a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume, and she poured it on Jesus’ feet and then wiped His feet with her hair.

“And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was later to betray Him), objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth an entire year’s wages.’ He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. He was the keeper of the moneybag and he used to help himself to what was put in it.

“‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘It was meant that she should save this perfume for the day of My burial. You’ll always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.’ Meanwhile, a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and they came, not only because of Him, but also because of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead.”

Commentary: “So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in Him.”

We have this outrageous act. Let me picture it for you. First of all, it was perfume that was made of roots and mixtures imported from India. It would be in a little vase or alabaster, it would be extraordinarily expensive.

One of the other gospel writers tells us she didn’t start pouring it, she broke it. In other words, it’s completely, she is giving it all. In all likelihood for Mary, this is her entire life savings. But something has happened. Her brother has been restored. She has seen, eyeball to eyeball, and Jesus say, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

And she has a sense of what is going to happen and so she wants to, with just no shame, she doesn’t care what anybody thinks. It would be an honor in the Old Testament or in the culture, you would anoint someone’s head. When a king was anointed, when a prophet was anointed, even Psalm 23, God says He anoints your head with oil.

She doesn’t feel worthy even, and it wouldn’t be her role to anoint His head. So she anoints His feet. If a woman would go out in public with her hair down at this time, it meant she was an immoral woman.

If you were married, your hair would be pulled up. And in front of people, she comes and she lets down her hair, she breaks it all, and then she wipes His feet. And she doesn’t care what anybody thinks.

And she is overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude. And the application is that love gives extravagant gifts to God. This is extravagant. Love gives extravagant gifts to God, even when harshly criticized.

She gave this gift, not to meet a critical need of a poor person, or someone who had been in an accident. She didn’t give this to propel the cause or to encourage a movement. She didn’t give this because she had a sense of obligation or duty. I know it’s important to give, people who really love God give.

She didn’t give wondering, I wonder what the ROI is on this kingdom investment. I wonder what He is going to do with this. And if I’m going to invest my money, it’s really gotta…

She didn’t give this thinking, I wonder if I am going to be rewarded on the gross or the net of this gift. She gave it to Him. She just gave to Him. She gave to a person. She gave the best, the most extravagant thing she had in all of her life in worship and adoration to a person.

And when you say, “I love you” to Jesus, He would expect there would be times where you would give Him extravagant gifts. Sometimes it will be your time, sometimes it will be your talent, sometimes it’ll be your money or a possession.

I got a call about three months ago, a very unusual situation, and for those that might be new, Living on the Edge is a teaching ministry. It’s radio and small group and TV here, and around the world. And it flows out of the life of our church.

And there was someone in another city and he called Living on the Edge and said, “I got a prompting from God. I have five classic cars and we want to give them to Living on the Edge to help you all.”

And five classic cars, it was clearly an over six figure gift. It was pretty amazing. And I try now and then to try and just call people, like when I get a letter from a sixteen-year-old girl who gives seven dollars and forty-three cents out of her babysitting, to me, that’s a really big gift. A sacrifice. Or something like this, I just call to say, “Thank you, and could you tell me…”

Anytime there is an extravagant gift, what I know, there is a story behind it. Someone’s heart got moved.

And so I called Lannie, and I said, “Is this Lannie?” He goes, “Yeah.” I said, “Well, this is Chip Ingram and I just heard last week that you gave this extravagant gift. There’s got to be a story behind it.” And he says, “Yeah, there really is.”

And I said, “Well, would you mind sharing?” He says, “Well, I don’t want to take too much of your time.” I said, “No.” And I’m thinking I’ve got maybe ten, fifteen minutes. He’s going to tell the story. And so I said, “No, Lannie, go ahead.”

Well, an hour later he says, “No, I’m really, I’m taking too much time.” I said, “Would you keep talking? I’m getting way more out of this than you are.” Lannie is what he would call himself maybe a blue-collar entrepreneur. He says, “I don’t know anything about tech or investments or this or that. I just know how to start businesses and they make money.” And he had this business, that business, this business, that business.” Had five, six of them going.

And he said, “I love God, I read the Bible, I go to church, I’m really a Christian.” And he said, “I was praying one day and I realized those cars are an idol. I don’t even drive them anymore. But there was just something that I had some cars that no one else in America had. And God said, You know what? You get rid of that idol. And I said, Well, where do You want to give it? And He told me Living on the Edge. So I did.”

He said, “But that was just the tip of the iceberg.” He said, “That started a revolution in my life. And the revolution was He just showed me that I was a really proud person. And one of my businesses, it’s with my brother, and we argue a lot and there’s a lot of tension.”

And one of the businesses was, I don’t know exactly what they are called, but they are usually put in low income areas where people don’t have money, they can’t get credit, and you offer them a loan and then they pay exorbitant interest. I don’t know what that’s called, but you guys do. You got it?

So that’s the business. And so he said, “Then I’m praying because I took that first step and the next step was, You know what? You’re exploiting a lot of people. I want you to help those people. And he goes, “I started talking to my wife.” She goes, “What are you thinking?” My kids, “Hey! You’re giving away our inheritance! What’s with you?”

And so he said, “I decided that I was going to give the business to my brother. Just clean my hands; he can have it all. But before I do, I’m going to take some of these people that I know we need to help, and I am going to go down there. And when they come in, I’m just going to forgive, and give them all their money back. And I decided, if they had a long loan, this is how much they get. And if it’s a medium loan, they get most of it back.”

And so he is telling me this story. And he’s mystical, he goes, “But I felt like I needed a sign.” And so he said, “I prayed and I said, God, You have got to show me a sign, if this is the right thing, because this is kind of big.

So he said, “There was a big thunderstorm,” and it’s a pretty good drive from his house to where this business is. And he said, “The thunderstorm, lightening hit the building.” And lightening hit the building and they had a sign for their business and, “He hit the sign!” He goes, “The sign was burned! And it hit the building so that the computers didn’t work. So I couldn’t go look at a bunch of stuff. Well, the first lady comes in and I wrote up some things by hand, I forgave her, gave her her money back. And people came in all day. I did it all day. I did it for, like, three days. And then I gave my brother the business.”

I think there was a lot more to it than that. And he just said, “I’ll be in a grocery store, some lady will walk up and she’ll hug me and go, ‘Do you understand? My husband was in prison and now we are back together and you forgave me.’” And it’s the story. He says, “There are over one hundred stories,” he says, “Here’s what I’ll tell you, Chip. I had no idea what it meant to give, and I have never experienced such joy.”

That’s an unusual story, but I will tell you this. Love gives extravagant gifts to God.

Two questions: What is the most extravagant gift you have given to another human being? It might have been, as one person told me earlier this morning, out of a horrendous family background, they have loved a parent who has been harsh and angry and abusive and continued to visit and love them for over…it’s extravagant love.

For others, it’s a big financial gift. But what is the most extravagant thing you have done with another human being? Have you got it? Now, tell me your relationship. Why that person? Why that person? And I am going to bet it’s like, because they matter more than anybody.

Second question: What is the most extravagant gift you have ever given to God? A talent, a time, financial gift, a possession. What is the most extravagant gift you have ever given to God? Here’s what I want you to get. I think all of us fall into, Oh, I write a check, I give so much amount. Oh, I don’t even think. And we divorce our giving from our loving.

The second scene is a multitude are praising Jesus. And you’ll notice in your notes there are a couple of different groups, and they begin to worship Him as the Messiah. He fulfills a prophecy in Zechariah. And I want to just give you the picture before I read the passage, because sometimes it’s hard to really imagine what was going on.

Imagine a couple million people descending on a city and they are coming to worship and they have done it and it’s the Passover and they are celebrating that great moment when God delivered Israel from Egypt.  And you have all kinds of people there. And as they get to the city, there’s this buzz. Have you heard? Have you heard? Have you heard?

– “The Messiah!”

– “What do you mean?”

– “There’s this guy who was dead and Jesus has been preaching and we heard. He is coming up! He’s been in Bethany today! A little bit later today, He is coming up to Jerusalem!”

– “No, no, no! You mean the guy that they have the contract on His life and they are trying to kill Him?”

– “Yeah!”

– “He’s going to come publically anyway?”

– “Yeah!”

– “Oh!”

And so ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba. Thousands of people. There’s another group and they are down in Bethany. And they are down here and there was a dinner last night and so they are going to, He is coming up to Jerusalem. And so they are picking down palm branches and this is the Messiah and He has fulfilled everything!

And so they are following behind and as He comes up and as they come down, these multitudes mesh. And as they mesh, Jesus, you’re going to see He has requested to ride on a donkey or an ass.

And for us, that’s like, Gosh, low level animal. This was an animal of honor in those days. When the Old Testament talks about David’s sons who were all princes, they all rode on donkeys. When a prophet often would come, he would ride on a donkey. When a king was on a mission of peace to another city, he would ride on a donkey. If he came on a mission of war, he rode on a stallion or a horse with his army.

Now think of this: Jesus first coming on a donkey; Jesus coming back, the book of Revelation, on a horse. Justice. Let’s pick up the story and find out what happens.

We pick it up in verse 12, “The next day the great crowd that had come for the feast heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!’ Jesus found a donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,” Zechariah 9:9, “‘Do not be afraid, O daughter of Zion; see, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt!’ At first, His disciples did not understand all this, only after Jesus was glorified, did they realize that these things had been written about Him, and that they had done these things to Him,” speaking of Him riding on a colt.

“Now the crowd that was with Him had continued to spread the word that He had called Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead. And many people that had heard this, and they saw the miraculous signs, they went out to meet Him. And so the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look, the whole world is going after Him.’”

Now, here are just a couple of points. Jesus is publically declaring Himself as Messiah. The word “Hosanna” in Hebrew, literally means, “Save now.” We sing songs, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” And it is praise. They are reaching back into Psalm 118, verses 25, 26. And in the Passover, they would sing Messianic psalms.

Sometimes one group would sing and the other group would answer. They are declaring, “You’re the King! Save us now! Intervene!” Now, their expectation: He is coming in, He is the Messiah, He takes down Rome, Jews are in control, He reigns, fixes everything that is wrong.” That’s their picture.

They are going to be disappointed. He is the Messiah, but not exactly the way they want.

But here is the interesting thing for me; here’s the application: Loving Jesus, it means you give public profession. Love gives public acknowledgement even when it is unpopular and even when it is illegal.
“The next day the great crowd that had come for the feast heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!’ Jesus found a donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,” Zechariah 9:9, “‘Do not be afraid, O daughter of Zion; see, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt!’ At first, His disciples did not understand all this, only after Jesus was glorified, did they realize that these things had been written about Him, and that they had done these things to Him,” speaking of Him riding on a colt.

“Now the crowd that was with Him had continued to spread the word that He had called Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead. And many people that had heard this, and they saw the miraculous signs, they went out to meet Him. And so the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look, the whole world is going after Him.’”

Now, here are just a couple of points. Jesus is publically declaring Himself as Messiah. The word “Hosanna” in Hebrew, literally means, “Save now.” We sing songs, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” And it is praise. They are reaching back into Psalm 118, verses 25, 26. And in the Passover, they would sing Messianic psalms.

Sometimes one group would sing and the other group would answer. They are declaring, “You’re the King! Save us now! Intervene!” Now, their expectation: He is coming in, He is the Messiah, He takes down Rome, Jews are in control, He reigns, fixes everything that is wrong.” That’s their picture.

They are going to be disappointed. He is the Messiah, but not exactly the way they want.

But here is the interesting thing for me; here’s the application: Loving Jesus, it means you give public profession. Love gives public acknowledgement even when it is unpopular and even when it is illegal. Because if you remember, right? If you would say that Jesus is the Messiah, in fact, if you even intimated that you were a follower of Jesus or interested in Jesus, you got kicked out of the synagogue. That’s a big deal back then.

In fact, look in your Bibles or skim down to verses 42 and 43. It says that in this whole process, a number of the Jewish leaders actually believed in Jesus, verse 42. But it says they didn’t publically acknowledge Him. And then look at verse 43. It says they didn’t publically acknowledge Him because they feared that they would be put out of the synagogue. Social status; reputation.

Look at verse 43, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” When it came right down to it, they cared more about what people thought than what God thought.

Well, I didn’t grow up as a Christian, I never opened this book until I was eighteen, I trusted Christ and I will just tell you, the first couple years, I don’t think this is abnormal, it’s not fun, but I really had come to know Christ. I had started reading my Bible, and when I went there, there was a Bible study on Thursday night and we would sing some songs and it was real and God was really working and changing in my life.

But it doesn’t happen all at once, and so I struggled. And so you probably, no one here has ever done anything like this, but on Thursday night, I would go to Bible study. But I was on a basketball scholarship and it really wasn’t cool to be a Christian. And so I wanted the basketball guys to like me, and I had the people skills to introduce us to all the girls.

And so on Friday and Saturday night, we went to all the bars. And I was the designated, “Get those pretty girls over there over here to see us.”

And so Thursday night, “I love God! I love God!” Friday night and Saturday night you get in at two thirty, three in the morning, Oh, God, I’m really sorry. And church, maybe no. I’ll go; I’ll never do that again. Until the next Friday night. Bing, bing, bing, bing, bing. Now, I’m sure none of you have had any of this.

And it was just, man, it was terrible. I struggled. And little by little, God began to work on my life and I just realized that I was ashamed of the gospel. I was ashamed of my Savior.

And by God’s grace, little by little, He allowed me to go public with my faith. And I saw one of the other basketball players come to Christ and little by little, some changes occurred.

Well, fast forward four or five years, by the end of that time I led the ministry on our campus with this bricklayer. And my dad, who was a Marine, an alcoholic, three and a half packs a day – out of my sister’s and my life, he comes to Christ. And radical change.

And I am coming home, I think I’ve been out of school for a year, or maybe it was my senior year, I can’t quite remember. But I have been a Christian about four years now. And he had been to church and he was at a good, Bible-teaching church.

And I said, “Dad, how’s it going?” He goes, “Oh, this is an exciting day!” I said, “Well, how come, Dad?” He goes, “Oh, I am going to get baptized today!” I said, “Well, hey, that’s really great!” He said, “So, when did you get baptized?” “Well,” being the spiritual giant that I was, “I think it’s really about the heart and I’m really one with God. I’m in the Bible.” And I was in this para-church group and we didn’t really talk about baptism or the Lord’s Supper or some other stuff.

So he looked at me like, You’ve never been baptized? “Uhhhhh, no.” “So, you want to come with me?” “Well, Dad, you know, you know, I think it’s, no, I’m not a part of your church and I don’t really…”

And I remember, you ever have one of those times where you can remember right where you were? And I remember walking to my bedroom and right now I could create that bedroom in my mind.

And I remember standing in my bedroom realizing the only reason you’re not responding to your father who is less than a year old in Christ and who is obeying God is you are arrogant and proud and you don’t want to admit that.

And it’s because he turned to me and he goes, “So, I don’t know, you know a lot more than me, but it seems like He said after we make disciples, the very first thing you do, you are baptized, you go public, right?” “Yeah, Dad. That’s what you do.” So I got baptized with my father in a creek that afternoon.

The third event isn’t Mary expressing her love. And the third event isn’t even this moment where this great parade occurred. The third event is when a group of Gentiles or Greek come and they ask Jesus a question.

And this question will, literally, click in or put the firing pin, if you would, in to a prophetic moment that all the time that has been prepared for Jesus coming to the earth, it would signal, “It has now been activated.” It is going to happen; it’s going to happen in the next seven days. Do you remember in chapter 2 where His mother said to Him, “Son, they have run out of wine. Could you do something with it?” “My hour has not yet come.”

Chapter 7, do you remember when they wanted to make Him king by force? And it says He slipped through the crowd because His hour had not come. You might remember when His brother said, “Hey,” they didn’t believe in Him at the time, “Hey, you’re such hot stuff, you’re doing miracles out there, why don’t you go to this Passover? Do a few miracles. Show people Your stuff.”

And He says, “You all go ahead. Anytime is good for you. My hour has not come.” When these Gentiles want to see Jesus, they are what are called, “God-fearers.” They are people who were Gentiles and Greeks and they were so attracted to the Jews and their love and the monotheism instead of all these idols, that they had become proselytes or following Judaism. And now there is a Messiah, and they want to meet Him.

And, see, Jesus came for the whole world. And when these non-Jews take these steps, it’s almost like, bam! It goes into process.

Follow along as we read. We pick it up at verse 20, “Now there were some Greeks among them who went up to worship at the feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee with a request, ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ Well, Philip went to tell Andrew; and Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.”

Now, hear His reply to this. It is quite unusual. “Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come. For the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls unto the earth and die, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it will bear much fruit. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servants also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.’”

Now, there’s this prophetic moment, “Now my heart is troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ No. It was for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your Son.”

This request, bam! It starts. And Jesus is thinking, Oh. He’s like you. You know that feeling we have, like, Do it God’s way? Do it my way? Because He was fully God but fully man, He felt that. He is tempted like us. Everything in Him said, Oh, should I…? I can’t bail out. This is why. This is My purpose.

Notice how God the Father confirms it, because, yes, He was God. But everything Jesus did, He did it in dependence on the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. He lived the Christian life the way He modeled for us.

He didn’t just rip off His robe and have a big “S” on His chest when it got tough and said, “Well, I’m God.” He did it as being fully human. And so He needed affirmation like we do.

So notice what happens, “Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ And the crowd that was there heard it and said they thought it thundered. Others said, ‘No, an angel has spoken to Him.’ Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not Mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out,’” speaking of Satan. “But when I am lifted up,” John always uses this of going to the cross.

And the word, it’s interesting, there’s a prefix, it’s literally being lifted up and lifted out of. So it prefigures not only the cross, but He is going to be lifted out of the earth in the resurrection. “‘I will draw all men to Myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death that He was going to die.”

Something big is happening here. This request, the hour has come. If you, most of us are Gentiles, some of you are from a Jewish background, but if you were a Gentile and went to the Passover and you heard about all these miracles, and then you met Him and you said, “Hey, we would like to meet You and ask a few questions,” would you expect the answer to be, “Unless a grain of wheat fall unto the earth and die, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it will bear much fruit”?

Would that ring with, Oh, wow! Right? And we don’t even know whether He ever met with them.

See, what this was was this is a prophetic moment to put something in gear. Now Jesus is explaining to His disciples, “The only way for God’s purposes to be fulfilled,” first, He is speaking of Himself, “I must die so that others can have life.” When He dies on the cross, He pays for the sins of all people of all time. And when He rises from the dead, He proves it’s true.

Being fully man, He could die. Being fully God, His death had infinite value to cover the sins of all people of all time, that whosoever would believe and trust in Him would have eternal life.

But He doesn’t stop with – it’s a principle as well as a truth. And then what does He say to them? “If any man, if any woman, if you want to save your life,” use of the word, we get “psychology,” – psykhe or soul.

If you want to save the real part of you that really matters, “Anyone who seeks to save his life, he will lose it. But if anyone is willing to lose his life,” zoe, your physical life, “he’ll save it.”

And He is saying that, I am calling you to follow Me, and where I am going is to the cross. And the only way people will have life is if I go to the cross and I die. Then I will rise. And He is saying, The only way that you will have real life: joy and peace and purpose and God’s plan for your life is you die.

And there is a very narrow path of following Him, and there is a wide path that everyone says, “Here is what you get, here is what you do, this is what matters. And Jesus is a little thing over here.” He says, If you try to stay in control and do your life your way and not follow Me, you’ll lose your life.

And then He goes on, “Those who are mine, who serve Me, they must be with Me.” Well, where is He going? He is going to the cross.

See, the day of the last thirty to forty years of evangelical Christianity in America, pray a prayer, I love Jesus, try and be a little bit nicer than other people, give a little money here and there, and Jesus is your self-help genie, and what He really wants to do is make you prosperous and happy and you never get sick and everything turns out right and if you’re single you meet Mr. Wonderful, and if you’re married, this is an amazing marriage with no problems whatsoever, and all your kids turn out absolutely wonderful, and they go to Ivy League schools and then they just love you, love you, love you, love you. And everything is perfect.

And you know that’s not true, but the gospel of American Christianity has been, by and large, Jesus plus something that He could work out for your agenda will make you happy.

I’ve got news. That doesn’t work in Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, Sudan, or Syria. It’s Jesus plus nothing. And, by the way, it doesn’t work in America. And we are now entering into a phase in American life where some intellectual commitment that I “believe in Jesus and I am going to try and be a nice person,” is not the gospel. He is saying, “Will you follow Me?”

See, what happens is we get expectations about: This is what it means to follow Him. And we want to follow Him as long as He makes our life work out on our terms, on our schedule, right? We’re human! Everybody does that.

In fact, watch the text. This group of people has the idea, as we have mentioned, that, “You’re going to come and pull down Rome.” And now He is talking about being lifted up and dying. And so they are going to say, “No, wait a second!”

“The crowd spoke up, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever. So how can you say the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’”

And He answers, “Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light with you a little while longer. Walk while you have the light before the darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where He is going. Put your trust in the light.” What has He said about Himself? “I am the Light of the world.”

“‘…while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.’ When He had finished speaking, Jesus left and He hid Himself from them.”

See, we can have this picture of what following Him is, but it really is, very subtly, is following Him on our terms. And what He is saying to them and what He is saying to us is once you receive eternal life, there needs to be a moment in your life and mine where we bow the knee and we say to Him, I surrender and I am going to follow, and I don’t know what it means. But I want You to know that my future and my relationships and my finances and my dreams, I believe that You are so good and so loving and so holy that Your purposes for me are better than what I could come up with. And so I trust You.

And often, He just is so kind, so kind, He brings great people into your life. And for some of you, He has made you upwardly mobile, and He has opened great doors. But that’s not part of the package. That’s just grace and blessing.

Because I don’t know what next week is going to be, I don’t know what next year is going to be, and neither do you. But if it’s based on what you get, and trying to manipulate Him, you will have one of those days, and I hear many Christians where, “I believed in Jesus and then my mom got cancer. I believed in Jesus until one of my friends got hit by a drunk driver.” Oh, so I believe in Jesus as long as my life works out my way, on my schedule, on my terms in a fallen world?

And God is way bigger than that. In fact, notice what happens. He is now going to speak to this group of people who have had all this truth. The Jewish leaders, most Jewish leaders, a rabbi would have all the Old Testament memorized. They know the truth, know the truth, know the truth, know the truth. But they refuse to obey. So watch what happens.

“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs,” – how many people do you need to raise from the dead or heal before people get that You’re the Man? “they still would not believe in Him.”

If you have your own Bible, would you underline, “would not”? Not, “did not,” not, “could not,” they would not. Here are the facts, here’s the data, here’s the truth. They wouldn’t. And for those who refused to, they are hardening their heart.

“This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet, ‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ For this reason, they could not believe, because as Isaiah says elsewhere, ‘He has blinded their eyes and deadened their heart, so they can neither see with their eyes, or understand with their hearts, nor turn, and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and he spoke about it.”

This is reference to these Jewish leaders. They have seen miracles, He has taught, He has raised people from the dead. Here’s the deal: When you have a lot of truth and you reject it and reject it and reject it, what happens is it’s harder and harder to hear God’s voice. It’s harder and harder to get in touch with God. And when you have that much truth and you reject, reject, reject and your heart gets hard, at some point in time, like with Pharaoh - Pharaoh hardened his heart and then God hardened it - and now they have come to the point of no return. That’s a very dangerous place to be.

But there is good news. Notice the next group of people, “Yet at the same time, many even among the leaders believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they wouldn’t confess their faith, for they feared they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise from God.”

He has been proclaimed as King, this is who it is, this is what has happened. That group: “No, and we are going to kill You.” This group, “Yes,” but they are afraid to acknowledge.

And it’s like this last plea. Jesus shouted, “When a man believes in Me, he does not believe in Me only, but in the One who sent Me. When he looks at Me, he sees the One who sent Me. I have come into the world as light so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.” God loves people.

Notice what happens, “As for the person who hears My words but does not keep them, I do not judge Him; I did not come in to judge the world but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept My words.”

Here’s what judges you, “The very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I didn’t speak on My own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it. I know this is His command and it leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say.”

When Jesus hears you driving in the car and you’re overwhelmed and some reason by how good He is good, and you say, I love You. Or when you are praying and you have one of those deep times with God and you say, I love You. Or when you’re in a big, big jam and you just think, Oh, God, I love You. Help me!

Jesus would say, As we go on the journey together, I measure and feel like you really love Me when, from your heart, you make extravagant gifts to Me. From your heart, when you give public acknowledgement that I am the Lord of your life, even in the Silicon Valley and even appropriately at work and with your neighbors and at the gym. And even…

Here’s the application: Love gives sacrificially of your life, even at the cost of your life. We are living in a brand new day. We have brothers and sisters in Sudan and in Syria, in Jordan that being a follower of Jesus may well cost us our lives.

And this isn’t trite religion. This is a person, this is the Creator of the universe who came to this earth and, again, who wrote this Book in Greece, in a city called Athens that is still there, that was verified, historically. And has called then and has called now, “Will you follow? Because where I am, My servants need to be.”

And have you ever surrendered your life to Him? Have you ever said to Him, I really am all in? And whatever that means. And, by the way, if part of your emotions right now aren’t, Man, that is scary, then you are not listening, because if it’s not scary, if there’s not a sense of, Whoa, what if He…

Because I don’t know what He will ask. I know He will test all of us. But here’s what I can say. The offer goes something like this: “In view of all of God’s great grace, I command you, I urge you, I plead with you, offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him. This is your spiritual or reasonable act of service.” That’s what God really wants.

“And don’t be conformed any longer to this world and the world system, but be transformed from the inside out by the renewing of your mind, so that your life,” on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and morning and at work and with your kids and in your singleness, “that your life could prove or demonstrate to everyone what God’s will is, that it’s good.” The word means, “beautiful,” “fragrant.”

“…that it is acceptable,” in other words, you’ll love it, “and that it is perfect.” And the word “perfect” has this idea of it’s according to a design, that it’s exactly right for who God made you to be and what He wanted you to do.