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About this series
Jesus Unfiltered - Love
When we get past the poetic, ideal of love and dig down to the practical, day-to-day details, “love” begs some questions: What does it really mean? How does it think? How does it behave? In this third volume of his series Jesus Unfiltered, Chip Ingram explains, through John chapters 11-15, what love really looks like for those who call Jesus, Lord.More from this series
As we return to our study of the gospel of John, I want to address at least for me the most difficult question in the Christian life.
If God really loves me, how could He let this happen? Can you fill it in? If God really loves me, if Jesus is really for me, I cried out, I prayed, I asked Him, I was sincere, I may have fasted, Oh, God, please! And…?
I have had times – nothing. Nothing. In fact, if God really loves me, I have had times where God didn’t allow it to go from bad to worse, He allowed it to go from bad to impossible.
And the only thing I could hang on to was the promises of God and the character of God, that somehow, someway He is working in all of this.
I would like you to think about where that is in your life right now. When you’re honest, we push it down and we try and forget some of that and not deal with it, but if God really loves you, if Jesus is committed to you, if He is for you, if His promises are true, then…
What is the biggest thing that really doesn’t make sense?
If you’ll open your notes, we are going to walk through a new journey.
But I want to remind you, this was written by a certain man at a certain time, who really lived. And what I want you to know is that the apostle John was the apostle who had this very special relationship. He wrote also the book of Revelation and three short letters: 1, 2, and 3 John.
And as you look at your notes, here’s what the challenge is. I want you to go on a journey, especially in our day, where you don’t hear someone else, you don’t take someone else’s word, but you ask these questions: Who is Jesus? Where did He come from? Why did He come? What does He want for us? And what does He want from us?
We looked at the first five chapters, and I called that, “Volume One,” and it was about believing. And in chapter 1, Jesus said that He created the world and He came to reveal the Father, full of truth and grace.
In chapter 2, He, in this first miracle, said, “I came to transform the world and people from the inside out,” as He turned the water into wine.
In chapter 3, we learned together that it’s not being religious, it requires a spiritual birth, and we learned about Nicodemus.
And in chapter 4, we learned that He is for everyone. And a woman who had five husbands and was living with someone and who was far, far from God, experienced His grace.
And in chapter 5, we learned that when we get hurt and in an impossible situation, He healed a man and demonstrated His power as the Messiah and God. And so, the question was: Will you believe? There is all this evidence. Will you believe in this historical Jesus?
The next we looked at Volume Two and that was around the theme of “Follow.” And so, as the young disciples were following Him and in chapter 6, He says, “I am the bread of life. I will sustain you.” And He fed five thousand.
In chapter 7, He, at the great Feast of Tabernacles, He would cry out, in the midst of it, fulfilling Old Testament history. “If any man thirsts, let him come! I will satisfy your soul.”
In chapter 8, He said, “I am the light of the world,” and He would forgive a woman caught in the very act of adultery.
In chapter 9, He opened the eyes of the blind and said, “If you’re blind, follow Me,” and in chapter 10, “I will be your Good Shepherd. I will lead you, I will guide you, I will help you.”
And now in chapter 11, the next five chapters are going to talk about the love of God. And it’s going to be the door that swings both ways. We are going to learn what it looks like for Him to love us, and then He is going to answer this question: What does it really look like to love Him? What does it look like to have a personal relationship with the living God and love Him?
So are you ready to go? Are you ready to examine the question: How can we really believe that God loves us when sometimes He doesn’t just let it go from bad to worse, He lets your life or your family or your health or your relationships go from bad to impossible?
Let’s pick up the text. It opens up in chapter 11 with a problem, “And now a man named Lazarus was sick and he was from Bethany, the village of Mary and Martha, his sister. And this is the Mary whose brother Lazarus now lay sick. This is the one who poured out perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped it with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’”
All I want you to get is that the text is going to be very clear in the next five chapters, it will be sprinkled here, then sprinkled here, and sprinkled there. This love, everything that is going to happen in this chapter is because Jesus loves Lazarus, Jesus loves Mary, Jesus loves Martha, and everything that happens in your life and mine is because He loves you. But sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.
Here’s the application. The application is: Love trusts Jesus in difficult times. See, it tells your heart and my heart, when you go through a separation or a divorce or you find out you have cancer, or you lose someone that you love, or as I have had a close friend whose son in high school, the end of his junior year, one of his friends was killed in an auto accident.
What they are modeling is, We have a big problem. We know You love us, our brother Lazarus was one of your closest friends, we are going to bring our problem to You. Love says, “I am going to trust You when it’s really hard.”
But that young man, after his friend was killed in the auto accident, he answered the question like this, “If God really loves me, and allows one of my best friends to die in a car accident, that’s not a God I can follow.” And he turned away from God, never to return.
See, how we respond to adversity and what we do with the pain in our lives tells us a lot about: What do we really love? Who do we really love? Do we really trust?
The story goes on, because after the problem is brought to Jesus, He responds to it. And this is one of those times where you read through this and you think, This doesn’t feel very loving.
“When He heard this,” closest friend, Lazarus is sick, “He says, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God, that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’” And then just because it doesn’t make sense, notice He emphasizes, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”
And then read the next line, “So, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” I don’t know about you, but if I was Mary and Martha, and Jesus had been in our home, He hung out with us; Mary, I sat at His feet, Martha, I cooked all the meals. He would go on these ministry tours and He needed a little R&R and Lazarus and Jesus would be in the back room hanging out, put their feet up, they were bros!
You could tell they had this really close relationship. Oh, right! We know He really loves our brother! You sent the message. “Lord, will You please help?” The messenger comes back, “So, what did He say? Is He going to do one of those long distance miracles? Like speak it and it happens like with the Centurion’s slave? Is He coming back?” And I’m reading into the text here, but the messenger basically had to come back and go, “Ummm, He decided to stay where He was a couple more days.”
And what we will learn from the text is Lazarus must have shortly died. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t feel very loving. It just said He loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus, and His response is that He stays two more days.
Now, at the end of this story, a lot of it will make sense. But I just want to remind you, it didn’t make any sense to Mary. It didn’t make any sense to Martha. And I will just tell you, personally, there are times in my life when it didn’t make any sense to me.
The application is: Love trusts God’s timing, even when it doesn’t make sense.
In 2005, that goes back a little bit, I uh, I made, like, a decision that really changed the course of my life. Actually, it changed the course of this church’s life. And in 2005, what I, I realized was, uhm Wowie, I’m not teaching the Bible anymore. But I’m just going to keep pressing ahead. And by 2007,
I was leading an organization that was doing stuff all around the world. And I had become a CEO, but not a Bible teacher. I was traveling all around the world all the time. And if I was awake, my job was mostly raising money and going to budget meetings with seven vice presidents with separate P&Ls that didn’t match up.
And I’m not a CEO, I didn’t go to Harvard Business School, anything I have learned about business or leadership I read books and got with smart people. The Peter Principle had finally come to fruition, and I had been promoted right out of what I was good at. And I was miserable.
And so in 2007, clearly led by God, I took one of the biggest steps ever and I said to the board, “You need a president that is a good business person. I’m not teaching the Bible anymore. I need to go back. God, I mean, it wasn’t a gentle nudge. God has reproved me, I need to be in a local church and teach God’s Word, and He can decide where He wants to take the message.”
And all that sounded really, really good and I have had a number of friends who say, “Wow, if you ever get free from what you’re doing and I know you love the local church, come and be our teaching pastor or do this or do that.”
And so I just thought, It would be two, three, four, or five months, and I’m taking this big step of faith, I’m afraid, I don’t have a job, what is going to happen to Living on the Edge, how is this going to work? Right?
But when you obey God, great things happen, right? Yeah! Well they do. Eventually. And all I can tell you is, have you ever had a time in your life with the Lord that you’re in limbo? From 2007 to 2009, God miraculously launched Living on the Edge, Well, thank you, Lord, because we didn’t have any money and I didn’t have a salary and I didn’t know what was going to happen.
And then I’m driving around on Sunday mornings for two years church shopping. I have to go to church! I don’t know how to look for a church. I have been a pastor most of my life.
And then I realized what most of you experience, like, there are some really wonderful churches; there are some not good ones at all. Okay? And then we would come home and, “How are you doing, honey?” “Ah, okay.” And I would teach here or there and can I tell you something? God’s timing isn’t my timing.
There are certain things that needed to happen in my character and my life, there are certain things that need to happen that I didn’t know that He was going to develop Living on the Edge into a small group ministry – could have never happened.
And I don’t know if you remember, but in 2007, the exact same month, September, a couple of churches merged. And those two churches merged and from 2007 to 2009, they needed to figure out how they were going to work together. And so I was over in Atlanta with God, going, Mmmm! Here’s what we need to work out and here’s what we are going to work through! And over here there was this church.
And you know what? I wasn’t ready to be the pastor, and the church wasn’t ready to have one. Can I tell you that no matter what it feels or looks like, God’s timing, He loves you, He is for you, but it just doesn’t feel that way.
In the third section, Jesus announces there is a plan to solve the problem. And so, in verse 7 it says, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘Let us go back to Judea.’ ‘But Rabbi,’ they said, ‘a short while ago, the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet You’re going back?’” And then Jesus does, I call them a “Jesus-ism,” right?
Here’s the deal, the last time they were there, they tried to kill Him. This is going back to Chicago and there’s a contract out on you. And you go, “Oh, we’re going to go back to Chicago.” And you’re a follower. And Jesus answers these fears like, Let’s see now. We followed You, we left our homes, we left our businesses, we are totally committed, we’re in, we believe You’re the Messiah, we almost got killed last time. We’re going to go back? Everything in you is going, This is not a good idea. This is not a good plan. I know You’re God.
Notice, “Rabbi, You’re the teacher.” You’re the authority, we are followers of You, but…
And then Jesus answers that deep, emotional fear with something that I think was really helpful, initially. I’m joking. “Are there not twelve hours of daylight?” And you’re thinking, Well, of course. “Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
And I’m thinking right about now, Peter privately is looking at John and going, Is that helping you, man? We are going to get killed and He is talking about daylight? Right?
And, of course, they would understand Jesus just told them earlier He is the light of the world. And what He wants to tell them, what He wants to tell us is there are a lot of circumstances, there are a lot of issues, and a lot of logical ways where you think, I got, or got or should do this or that. And you know what? When you’re in the will of God and when you’re walking with Jesus, you’re in the light. That’s the safest place in the world, and the wisest place.
And so then He explains what they are going to do and why. It says, “After He said this, He went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up.’ His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he’ll get better.’” Translation: We don’t have to go!
“Jesus had been speaking of his death, but His disciples thought He meant natural sleep, so He told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And for your sake, I am glad I was not there.’” You might underline that in your notes. “For your sake.”
Jesus’ motive in not going is love. Jesus’ motive in taking His disciples into a scary, scary dangerous situation is love, so that you may believe.
He wants you to believe, He wants you to trust, He wants you to believe His character not on circumstances and what you can see. He wants you to believe and trust Him all the time. And so, He is going to do something to help them and to help us.
“‘But let us go then,’ Thomas said, known later as Didymus, to the rest of the disciples, ‘let us also go that we may die with Him.’” And I think you could read this as false bravado, but I don’t think so. Later on, he is going to realize that he needs more proof than the average person. But we have been following Him, we said we are loyal, He is going to go back, we are going to go with Him, if we die we die because that’s what we signed up for. If He is the Savior of the world, if He is the Messiah, if He is the only hope, then we have to follow no matter what.
And here’s the application: Love trusts Jesus’ plan even when our security is threatened. You follow regardless of the cost. The laws change, you follow. Finances change, you follow. Your health changes, you follow. People betray you, they let you down, you follow. When the price tag goes up of being a follower, it’s hard and you’re afraid and you follow.
I think of one of my favorite characters is a very, very courageous woman in the Old Testament. And it was a time in Israel’s history where there was an edict for all of God’s people to be annihilated, literally.
The Persian government at the time had whispered some false stuff, and there was a day coming when every Jew would be killed. And there was a very beautiful, beautiful, good looking gal named Esther, who no one knew she was a Jew and she ends up, through a set of circumstances, being the queen.
And her uncle Mordechai says, this is the Chip Ingram translation, Sweetheart, I think God put you in the palace for a time like this. Go tell the king that you’re a Jew and that we are all Jews, and this is a really bad idea, and we are all going to be massacred unless you step up.
And, of course, like us, she was very afraid and basically said, Don’t you understand? If I go in without being invited, if he’s having a bad day, I get killed. And I think he said, You know what? We are all going to get killed and maybe God, maybe God has you here at this time. And she began to process that and realize her own personal fears, but following was something she had to do. And she got, “For such a time as this, I am God’s woman in world history.”
And I have thought about our country and I’m just thinking, you where you live, me where I live, for such a time as this is the time when God’s plan seems like it might be dangerous to your promotions and jobs, it might be dangerous to some family relationships, it might cause even some persecution and rejection.
I think this is the time where we, like her, say, “For such a time as this, I believe. I love God so I trust His timing. I love God, I don’t get His plan, but I am going to be like Thomas. I’m going with Him regardless of the circumstance.”