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Love... Gives!, Part 1

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? Join Chip to find out. The answer may surprise you!

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Message Transcript

We are in a series called Love. But it’s out of a larger series called Jesus: Unfiltered. And we are going about: who is Jesus, really? Not what people have said, not a book that you’ve read.

And the apostle John wrote this from Ephesus. And I want you to just remember: a real man at a real time, who was an eyewitness of everything wrote this. Then verified by over five hundred other eyewitnesses.

We are kind of on this journey where we want you to explore and say, “What does this really say? And do I really believe this?”

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.

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 got to…

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.

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? 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. I want you to get reconnected and ask yourself, What does what I have and my giving have to do with my love for Jesus?

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 publicly 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 publicly 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.