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Jesus Unfiltered - Follow
If we think about it very hard, we admit that there’s not much in this life we actually control. In this series, from John chapters 6 – 10, Chip Ingram explains that to follow someone or something means we willingly let someone else lead. When Jesus asks people to follow Him, He means He will take on the responsibility to provide, lead, protect, and love – and as followers, we agree to believe, trust, and obey – even when it’ll take everything we’ve got, to do that. Chip details the journey from forgiveness to freedom, as he fills in the blanks of what it means to follow Jesus.More from this series
As we get started, I would like you to lean back before we open the Bible, look at your notes, and I want to ask you a few questions – four very, very important questions.
Question number one is: What is the biggest mistake that you have ever made in your life? What is your biggest regret?
When you think back on your whole life – if there is one thing you could do over, one decision you wish you hadn’t made or one decision you wish you would have stepped in and done something and you didn’t – what is it?
There is no way that we can talk about Jesus and life unless we talk about Jesus and life and our failure. We all fail.
And for some, it was an affair. For others it was an abortion. Or for others it was prodding someone to get an abortion. For some, you just hurt someone deeply, badly. Or you betrayed someone.
For some of us, it was a lie, a very, very big lie and you just, for the life of you can’t, Why did I do that? But everybody, either small or big, have some things that – they were a big mistake.
Put another way, if you could have a do-over, if you could take time and move it back and that certain day do something different than you did, what would it be? What would you do differently? Have you got it?
Now I understand part of this is unfair probing around and because of the way our minds work and the levels of protection that we have for ourselves – I know I’m poking, for some of you, you haven’t thought about that big mistake in ten years, or five, or twenty.
And so, question number three digs just a little bit deeper. How do you picture God when you think of that big mistake? How do you picture you, what you did, and God? How does that fit together in your mind?
What is His attitude toward you? Have you built a little compartment where somehow you intellectually know better but you think He doesn’t see that? Or maybe the last question, how have you chosen to deal with that big mistake that maybe it was far in your past or maybe it’s you’re living with it?
Have you tried to hide it? Like, No one knows. Or, Only two people, and they promised never to tell. Have you just pushed it down? Repressed it? Tried to forget it? Tried to not deal with it? I’ve just got to move on.
As humans, we have a wide array of ways that we try and handle stuff that is very difficult. But our souls don’t let things go. Something gets in there and it’s very, very difficult.
Have you decided that you’ll make up for it? That’s a pretty typical response. I did that, but this is what I am going to do now, and I am going to pay back and I am going to…
Or for some, it just becomes, I’m going to learn from that. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s not that big of a deal. And for others, part of the drivenness inside your life and your soul is, I am going to try harder. I am going to make sure that, or something like it, never happens again.
Mistakes. Blowing it. Sin. Really good people doing really bad things in a weak moment is part of being human. How you deal with them, however, sets the trajectory for your whole life.
And you probably will not be surprised, but most people never fully or deeply deal with the big mistakes of their past. And as a result, unconsciously even, it has major impact on their today. It has major impact on your future. And it has major impact on your soul.
We are going to look at a story where someone does something very wrong, and gets exposed. It’s probably one of the more famous stories – Christians, non-Christians all around the world – the story that we will read, people are familiar with and it has been quoted. And it’s how Jesus deals with failure. It’s God’s attitude. It’s the picture in your mind of when someone comes to Him honestly and broken and there is no place to hide, no place to run. This is how God will respond to you and to me.
It’s the woman caught in adultery. It is John chapter 8, if you would open your Bible.
The context is the Feast of Lights, or the Feast of Tabernacles has happened. There has been food and music and parties, and this occurs in a place called the Court of the Women, or sometimes it’s referred to as the Treasury.
And there are fifteen, small steps that lead up to it. And it’s the big pathway where people are. And then on the other side of that is the holy place. And then beyond that in the temple is the Holy of Holies.
And the leadership, the Sanhedrin would meet over here. And this is a large, general area that is called the Court of the Women. And eight days of festivals have happened. In this place there have been four, huge candelabras that one researcher says that they were about one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet high. Huge torches. Because they celebrated the light of God and it would glow all over Jerusalem.
And all of that is done and if you can imagine after a big rock concert or a huge event, there is the big letdown. And it’s the day after and it’s dawn. And when large groups of people get together with lots of music and lots of food and lots of fun and celebration, usually some really wonderful things happen and often some not-so-wonderful things happen.
Let’s pick up the story. Follow along, “They each went to their own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning,” literally, it’s at dawn, “He came to the temple. And the people came to Him, and He sat down to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act,’” literally in the very act, “‘of adultery. Now in the Law of Moses it commands us to stone such a woman. So what do You say?’ They said this to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him.
“Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and He said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more He bent down and one by one, they left, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. And Jesus stood up and said to her,” and I believe they made direct eye contact, “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.’”
They wanted to trap Him, so here was the trap. He has challenged the spiritual elite, their religious laws. They are stuck in their religiosity. They are stuck in their performance. And He has threatened everything. He has made outrageous claims about: He is the Messiah; that He, in fact, is God; that He has come to forgive the sins of the people.
Multitudes and popularity have been off the charts. He has done miracles. He has fed five thousand people, He has raised a little girl from the dead, His disciples have actually seen Him walk on water.
And now at the Feast of the Tabernacles, He has gone public. Six months before the crucifixion this occurs. And He declares Himself as the Messiah and the hope of the world. And so the religious leaders: “We have got to take Him out.”
I would assume that this was a set-up for this woman. I don’t know how you exactly just knock door-to-door, “Anyone committing adultery in here? We need a little evidence.” So I am guessing that it was a set-up.
And here was the set-up. The Law of Moses – in other words, the Old Testament – teaches that if two are caught in the act of adultery, they should be brought forth and stoned.
Well, it had not been practiced. And the Pharisees had realigned Scripture and realigned interpretation and Jesus has been this champion of the people and the Roman government told the Jews, “You don’t have any right to execute anyone.”
So they really didn’t care what Jesus did. They wanted to put Him between the rock and the hard place. If He says, “Oh, don’t stone her,” you disagree with Moses. “Oh, You don’t believe in the Law? We are going to charge you religiously.”
He would have said, “Okay, yes, stone her,” the common people would have said, “Where is Your compassion,” number one; and number two, Rome would have said, “You can’t do that.”
They didn’t care. All they wanted to do was take Him out. He knew it was a trap. So in the context, He leans down and He starts to write in the dirt. And I don’t know about you, have you ever wondered what He was writing in the dirt?
What I am about to say, I want to go on record, is a “Chip-ism.” Okay? This is not to be confused with, don’t go tell someone, “You know, everyone has really wondered what He was writing in the dirt, and Chip told us what He was…” Okay. But I think it’s close.
Now, in Hebrew, you go left to right. But since I can’t do that, I’m going to go right to left. And there is this crowd, and this woman caught in the act. And the shame and the embarrassment and she is overwhelmed. And I think if He did it in English, He would have started, “W-H-E-R-E, apostrophe, S.”
When you write in the dirt, you can’t write too many words. So I think He is going to go with three. Then, “T-H-E,” and then probably in really bold letters, “M-A-N.” Where’s the man?
See, the Old Testament law said if you are caught in the act of adultery, bring them. These Pharisees didn’t care about the woman. What they wanted to do was set up Jesus. So they, in all likelihood, got a man to be complicit in this, and Jesus is saying, “Wait a second. I’m calling you. This isn’t honest, this isn’t a concern for the Law, this isn’t a concern for righteousness. You violated the Law. Where is the man?”
And then He did what I think is the ultimate spiritual judo move. Right? They are coming at Him and He does this. And He throws them into a dilemma. And the dilemma that He throws them is, first of all, if you are an accuser in the act of adultery, the Scripture says you have to be the first ones to cast the stone, because you were the eyewitnesses.
And so He gives this premise. Anyone here who has never sinned casts the first stone. Well, now the Pharisees are realizing, Well, wait a second, if we cast the first stone, we will be guilty of the very thing that Jesus would have been guilty of that we wanted to trap Him in. But if we don’t cast a stone, we are admitting that we have sin, that there is something wrong with us.
And so now in like manner, it doesn’t matter how they respond. Jesus has trapped them. And really what His heart was, His heart was to show these people and to show us: How will God respond to the biggest mistake of your life? How will God respond to the thing that, if you could do it, you would go back in time and you would do a do-over?
How would God respond to the thing that, down deep in your heart, makes you feel guilty and dirty and ashamed, and you have either repressed or tried to forget or make up for or you try harder? How would God really respond?
And part of this story is so that you would know, this wasn’t just for this woman. This is for me and this is for you.
The truth I want you to ponder is when we started, I put it on the front of your notes. John chapter 1, we are told exactly why Jesus came to the earth, and we are told exactly who He is.
It says, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” When you come and own your stuff and you have a broken heart and you are willing to be ruthlessly honest and you come to God with, I blew it. This is what I did. No excuses, no blaming, no stuff. This is me. Like this woman caught in the very act, no place to hide.
Jesus will always greet you, God will always greet you with grace and truth. Isn’t this what He did to the woman? “Does no one condemn you? Neither do I.” Grace. Truth. “Go and sin no more.”
Does He accept the behavior? Does He condone what she has done? No. But there is compassion and there is forgiveness.
And that is what I can receive when I blow it, and that’s what you can receive when you blow it.
And, see, usually we err, there are people that are just grace, grace, grace, grace, grace. And all it is it’s just sympathy. It’s just wishful thinking. There is no freedom when it’s all grace and no truth.
Other people are just true, true, true, true and they are really hard. And all that is is legalism. When you study the life of Jesus, as you are, you will see in every situation there is this perfect, winsome balance of truth – it doesn’t compromise what we have done – and grace, where there is not just forgiveness, but restoration.
He actually forgives. The word literally means to be “released from.” God puts it behind you. The Old Testament talks about, “As far as the east is from the west, God has removed our sins from us.”
The New Testament says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all of our sins and cleanse us from all of our iniquities.”
But here is what I think a lot of you don’t believe. I don’t think a lot of us believe that God not only forgives but can completely restore and completely heal.
And so, when I went through those hard, penetrating questions, a lot of things went through your mind, and you said, Oh, God, thank you. You have forgiven me. But you really haven’t dealt with it, because if that would ever be public, if anyone ever found out, if so-and-so, what about…oh…
You just can’t believe that God or God’s people could get down to the root and the heart of that and make you whole and deal with your shame.
There’s a video. It’s very brief. I want you to see because it’s a picture of how this actually happens. Dave did one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen any man do. In fact, it’s very rare in churches, I’ve been a pastor for over thirty years and I’ve seen all kinds of people, whether on staff as pastors or people in the church and when sexual sin happens and there’s a restoration program, I’ve watched lots of people go about a month or six weeks or maybe three months and then, as we did, we paid for counseling for Dave and Kendall and there’s accountability and support provided and you go on this journey. Because the goal is restoration. The goal isn’t to make people feel bad or push them down or – they’ve got enough of that.
The goal is you deal with the truth, but it’s restoration. And all I can tell you is, the great majority of people, they bail out. The counselor starts poking around about some of the deep areas and some of the consequences and they bail out, and Dave didn’t. He was courageous. He was honest. He didn’t run. He didn’t hide. He didn’t blame.
And he is at a place where God will use he and Kendall probably in the future even more than in the past.
There are things he has done in them through that pain. There’s maturity that has happened. And this is a moment where you say, Thank You.
Second thing, though, is that I have been around the block in churches too and there is a pretty significant reason why people don’t go public and don’t ever deal with the things that need to be dealt with.
I was speaking to a friend. We are getting to know each other really, really well. And part of his history, he was in full-time ministry, he had an affair that went on for a significant amount of time. He lost his wife. And he lived in that situation. He lived with the lie, he lived with the pain, he lived with all the things. This is right, but this is where I’m at.
“There are these two forces, and one pulls at you so strong that what you’re experiencing in the sexual sin; and the other pulls at you. You know this is right and you want to confess, you want to make it right with God.”
And he said, “I so wanted to do this, but honestly, I thought God would forgive me, but I just wasn’t very sure about the church. I just didn’t know how I would be received. I just thought, I don’t know that I want to go there.”
I got an email from Kendall and she shared with me a little bit more of their journey. And I will tell you that Dave and Kendall’s journey may be in the top one percent of the most wonderful moments I have ever had in ministry in my life, of seeing the body of Christ act and respond and the beauty and the power that God calls us to, and see a man and a woman courageously deal with pain and be completely restored.
I want to share a bit of what she shared with me. And I want you to listen very carefully, because here’s what I know. Fifty percent of the men in this room are involved in pornography right now.
About thirty or thirty-five percent of eighteen to thirty-year-olds are currently sleeping together or living together who are born again Christians. And, by the way, it’s not restricted to them, it’s just where we have the stats. Sexual sin is epidemic in our culture and it’s now epidemic inside the Church. And I think lots of people’s souls are stuck.
But I want you to hear the inward journey. Kendall writes, “The night Dave shared with me about his unfaithfulness, he took full responsibility for his actions. He shared openly and honestly. In that moment, God brought clarity and perspective to my heart. I, too, had come to a place of deep despair and lack of trust in God after Dave’s chronic pain diagnosis and the loss of our baby.”
Kendall says, “God opened my eyes to my pain as I looked at this man I had known for fifteen years and I saw a man that was so broken and hurting, so desperate to get out of physical and emotional pain, so responsible for his actions, asking for forgiveness, all I could say is God would not let me turn him away or reject him.
“I told him that I loved him and that I forgave him, and I would be willing to work through this with him. We talked a lot that night and I knew immediately there would be significant consequences for his job. I knew he would be resigning, and I also knew he would need to do it publicly.
I had seen this done both well and very poorly in churches, but I believed our church would respond well to us.
“I wanted Dave to be able to take ownership of his behavior and then demonstrate in real life the things that we taught the high school ministry and claimed to believe. I was also in need of support and I knew going somewhere else would be very difficult.”
Listen to this, “I believed the people of our church who had already demonstrated their love and support over us over the last years would do the same things. I believed they would see in Dave what I saw in him.
“The next week, Dave shared in front of the ministry in the high school that he had crossed a sexual boundary and be resigning. I asked to go up so that we could pray with them for Dave and see the faces of those that we loved. And in a sense, it was our last opportunity to lead through how we responded to failure.
“The next weekend, an announcement was made, and Dave’s letter was read to nearly three thousand people in attendance in the weekend services. We didn’t go to church that day, but the following Sunday,” talk about courage, “the following Sunday,” they didn’t run. They didn’t hide. They didn’t repress. They didn’t try to make up for it.
“The following Sunday, we made our ways down the halls into the worship center as we had done every week for the last eight years. The first Sunday back, I was anxiously confident. I believed people would respond lovingly toward us, but I also knew it’s hard to handle, and some people probably can’t.
“I was so grateful for the families and friends that demonstrated their love for us that first week and the next couple of months and now, years. People we had known for many years would see us across the worship center or down the hall and they would come right up to us, encouraging Dave and sharing their support and love for me and encouraging me to still meet with their students. And they just loved us without asking details or questions or judging us. Our friends protected us, they protected our privacy, they honored us in a way that I will forever be grateful for. They continue to be people that we meet with on a regular basis for community and accountability.
“Their acts of kindness and love allowed us the opportunity to heal in our time, in our own way, without shame and without embarrassment.” Do you hear the hope?
“I have been a Christian since I was twelve and I have walked with God through some very difficult times. This is” listen carefully. God is going to ask those of you and those of us who are involved in sin, but specifically sexual sin, to come clean the way Dave did. And here’s what you will experience from God.
“I have been through difficult times, but I have never experienced the intimacy and the gentle love of God in ways that I have in this season of my life. His presence has been so real, it’s almost tangible. Through His Word, His people, His creation – He has undeniably spoken into my life, gently meeting me and slowly walking me through deep places of pain and fear and shame and giving direction and clarity and hope and perspective.
“The process of obedient surrender has been slow, and not without missteps and failures, but I see the trajectory of life as heading toward wholeness and intimacy in my relationship with God and with Dave.
How does healing like this really occur? What’s the process? How do you move from simply experiencing forgiveness and knowing in your heart you have asked God to forgive you, how do you get to where there is a level of courage that you can own some stuff and get some stuff in the open, in the appropriate way, with the appropriate people and be forgiven, but then be restored, to have your soul set free, to have the guilt and the depression…?
David sinned, sexually. And for a year, no one knew about it. Psalm 32, you might jot it down. And some of you will read it and go, That’s me. He said, “When I was silent about my sin, it was oppressive. It was like being in a desert.” Literally, as you read Psalm 32, here is a man who is clinically depressed.
When we deny, when we shove down, when we repress stuff in our souls, especially sexual sin, it erodes your soul. It will destroy you from the inside out.
And, finally, he is confronted. And in Psalm 51, you get this picture of a man who experiences the gentle intimacy, grace of God.