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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
John chapter 9 opens with the story of a blind man. And very instructively, he is blind from birth. We know it’s not his fault or his parents’ fault, but it’s a very special miracle, because God will be glorified.
As you read later in that story, you will find that some people can’t even believe it’s the same man. They even bring his parents in and they testify. They cross-examine him twice, because they think maybe he is lying.
And at the heart of it is Jesus opens his eyes and does a Messianic miracle. Now, you’ll never understand the real meaning of that man who was blind until you go back to chapter 8 and find out that it came after the most intense and unique conflict up to date that we find in Jesus’ life.
That there was a point in time where they were ready to kill Him. They were ready to stone Him. He is going to say something about Himself, they are going to have this dialogue, this debate, where the issues of His calling and His claims against the religious establishment will be so intense that they will be blind, and what you just listened to is Jesus helping them understand there are some people in the world who are physically blind, and He can make them see. And there are some people who can see, and they think they are not blind, but they are.
I’m going to ask you to open up your notes, because we are going to talk about what it means, what it really means to follow Jesus. And I want to suggest as we get our arms around that, that everybody in life, everybody follows something or someone.
Some people are very intentional about it, very conscious. Other people are very unconscious, but they just don’t know that they are following someone. There are probably a hundred different ways people follow things, but I put six down. See if these don’t ring a bell with you.
Some people follow in the footsteps of their family. I know a family that, if you’re born in this family – son, grandson – if you’re born in this family, the personal light is you go into this family business, you go to this college, you will live geographically near mom, dad, grandfather, great-grandfather. The whole world revolves around – Christmases are always at this house, Thanksgiving…
Everything in the world revolves around the family. That’s their light. That is what gives them perspective. That’s what really matters more than anything else.
A second is some people follow a philosophy of life. I have a friend who is an excellent businessman and I am always talking to him about, “Have you been reading the Bible much?” “Nah, I haven’t been reading it, not as much as I know you want me to.”
And intimacy with God, I’ll talk with him about that, he goes, “Look, Chip, here’s my philosophy: The Golden Rule. I just do to other people the way I want them to do to me.” And he does. He’s got more integrity than anyone I have ever met. He is kind, he is generous. But his is sort of like, You know what? You just follow that rule and…
I have another friend from my days in Santa Cruz and his entire philosophy of life, we talked deeply on a lot of occasions, was one word. I said, “So what do you want to do?” “Whatever.” I’m dead serious. Just, “Whatever.” “What do you mean, ‘Whatever’?” He says, “I mean whatever! Just kind of go with the flow and whatever happens and I’m just going to kind of…”
Third is I find some people follow a religious leader or a spiritual path. It’s the Dalai Lama or this New Age teacher or someone with some enlightened way. And if they follow that path, what light always promises is direction, perspective, and it’s going to deliver the life that you really want.
Fourth is some people follow their own intuition. They are eclectic. They just pull from the salad bar of philosophy and life and parents and family and say, “Basically, I’ve got it. I’m just going to figure out, I think I know best what is best for me.” And you ask them, “Well, what do you base that on?” “Well, me. My intuition. In my gut, that’s good for you, whatever that is. Whatever it is with anyone. This is what I think is best.”
Fifth, some people just follow what is popular. If everyone’s kids are doing this, their kid is doing this. If they start the kids at this age or this age, that’s what they do. If the internet and everyone says, “This is what you need to eat,” they all eat that. Whatever the fads, wherever, they just follow the crowd. And whatever is popular, they have a world that is “like,” “like,” “like,” retweet.
And finally, there are some who follow what I just call a formula for success. This is how I grew up. And it goes something like this: Education is paramount, work hard, practice, get disciplined, be an overachiever, over-prepare, get in the best schools, get a good-paying job, and wealth and success will make you very happy.
And so, in each one of these, here’s all I want to say, is that all of us, I call this people’s personal light. This is their perspective that, even if they don’t know it, this is their perspective that light promises fulfillment. Light promises: Living this way provides values, a process, a filter, an interpretation.
And so, they are on a path, following one of these, or maybe ten or fifteen or thirty others. And so, I thought it would be fun, since we all follow something or someone, to just probe a little bit together and find out what you follow and what I follow. And so, I have three questions for you. Are you ready?
If you have a pen, pull it out. Question number one is: Who or what do you think you follow? If I really pushed you; just the first thing that comes to your mind. Who or what do you think you really follow? Just the direction for my life, decisions, what really matters, why I say “yes,” why I say, “no.” Okay?
The second question, and I’m messing with you here just a little bit, but it’s because I care. Who or what does your time, money, and energy reveal you follow? Because, see, I have this weird thing that happens is mentally, and I’m thinking I’m being honest, this is what I think I follow. It’s really important. But when I look at my time or my energy or my money or, for some, if we just looked at your whole…who are the people that you follow on Twitter?
If we could go through all the buttons that you pushed “like” or whatever you retweeted, who do you follow?
Or which of the TED Talks are your top five? Right? Doesn’t it say on our little devices everywhere, “Follow! You can follow us by this, this, this, this.” That tells a lot about what we are interested in, what our passions are. So my time and my money really reveal who I really follow, instead of who I think I follow.
And the last question is: Why would anyone follow Jesus Christ?
What did He say? “If any man will follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Me.” Why should we? Why should they?
And in John chapter 8, beginning at verse 12, He answers that question. But He answers it for them, and He really answers it for us. So, what you see is a context in which He says some very radical things. Then you have some content, which is a fierce debate. And then it comes to a climax.
Here’s the context. In other words, here is what is happening. This is the “You are there,” so you can get what is happening.
Remember, there is the Feast of Tabernacles. People have been camping out, they have made these little lean-tos. And they are all over the place, on top of houses and kids think it’s camping out. There’s all this food, there are all these parties, there’s all this dancing, there is remembering all those forty years in the wilderness. It’s just great.
And then there’s the feast of Tabernacles. It’s also called the Feast of Lights. And so, there is this whole section called the Women’s Court where the treasury is. And then next to it is the temple area. It’s called the Holy Place, where the actual sacrifices and things are brought in. And then there’s the Holy of Holies.
And so, Jesus, after the Feast of Lights, and if you’ll remember that in this area, this courtyard, it’s quite large. There are four candelabras that were seventy-five to one hundred and some feet that were just huge with this light. And it would remind them of, Remember when the children of Israel, the light, the fire above? And it would move and they would move and a cloud by day.
And so, Jesus has said, “The water out of the rock? That’s Me.” And now He says, literally, grammatically, He says, “I am,” in the emphatic position, “the light of the world.” Not a light. “I am the light of the world. If any man, if anyone follows Me, you will never walk in darkness, but you will have or possess the light of life.”
It’s radical. So they have been thinking about all of God’s history. It’s in the very place where all these big candelabras were with the lights. It’s all over. And He comes out at dawn, we have already seen the scene with the woman caught in adultery. And then He makes this outrageous statement.
It’s a promise; it’s a declaration. “I am. You want to follow someone? I am the light of the world.” Promise. “If you follow Me,” and by the words, it’s a present participle, “if you continue to follow Me, you will never walk in darkness, but instead, you will have the light of life.”
Now, in about six months, He is going to go to the cross. A lot of times, He has done lots of ministry in rural areas, and a lot of times, He heals someone or does a miracle and says, “Please don’t tell anybody. Would you just please just go to the priest and get this taken care of? Because every time you tell someone, thousands of people make My life impossible to continue My ministry.”
But He is done with the secret Messiahship. He is now in Jerusalem, at the place of the tabernacle, He is going public, and He has declared, “I am the light of the world.”
Now, the Pharisees are going nuts. And the religious leaders, now, are going to say, “Wait a second. The Jewish law says that the testimony of one person is invalid. We need the testimony of two.”
So now, they are going to go into this big debate about why, in fact, what He is saying can’t be true.
You’ll notice on your notes, after His declaration, the Pharisees challenge Jesus’ credibility in verses 13 through 20. Follow along.
“Here you are appearing,” verse 13, “the Pharisees challenged Him, ‘witnessing a testimony that is not valid, the witness of one.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, My testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you have no idea where I came from or where I’m going.
“‘You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, My judgments are right, because I am not alone, I stand with the Father who sent Me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for Myself, My other witness is the One who sent Me, the Father,’” He is speaking of God the Father.
“Then they asked Him, ‘Where is Your Father?’” And, by the way, this is probably a dig. There were many rumors about Jesus. By now, they are trying to cut Him down every way possible, and the rumors are He is the bastard son of Mary, who got pregnant by someone else before she married Joseph, “Where is your Father, I mean, your real Father?”
And Jesus responds, “‘You do not know My Father. If you knew Me, you would know My Father also.’ He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area, in the place where the offerings were put,” where we just described. “Yet no one seized Him, because His time had not yet come.”
Now verse 21, there is a shift. And verse 21, He said, “Look, I have credibility. I have two witnesses. There is Me; there is the Father. You guys, we have been through a lot. You don’t have a clue of who I really am. And that’s why you have no spiritual perception.”
And now He is going to take it to the next level. And notice in your notes, the next section, He warns of the consequences of unbelief. He is going to be very direct and say to them, “The consequences of your continued unbelief, you won’t even look at the facts.”
He said earlier, he said, “If you don’t believe My words, at least believe the works of the miracles that I have done.” He is going to say in this section, that because of their unbelief, they will die in their sin. He is going to say that the only time they will ever realize who He really was is after the cross and the resurrection.
And then you’re going to notice in the very last verse, there is one group of people who actually believe. Because there are about fifteen of these steps that lead up, and the Levites, they would come and they would say a Psalm on each step and it was a lot of pageantry and those feasts.
Well now it was dawn and so you’ve got a crowd of people listening to Him, and then you have this group who is really wanting to kill Him and get rid of Him. And so you’ve got this mixed group and now He is talking to the religious leaders, but a lot of people were listening in going, “Whoa!” This would be heated.
Don’t think like a presidential debate, “Would the senator from Illinois, you have two point four minutes. Would you like to make a statement? And I thank you very much. And now the next question goes to…”
This is vein-popping! If you have ever been to Israel, or downtown New York, right? And you watch culturally Jewish people talk to one another when they are ticked off and pretty animated? When they are not ticked off and not animated, “Hey, could I get that cab?” Sure, man, it’s all yours. Right?
And this is what is going on. This is intensity with a capital “I.” So here’s what happens. Notice verse 21, “Once more, Jesus said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will look for Me, and you will die in your sin.’” That’s pretty radical. “‘Where I go, you cannot come.’ This made the Jews ask, ‘Will He kill Himself? Is that why He says where He goes we can’t come?’ But He continued.”
Now, He is trying to help them see, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you,” He is just reminding them and He is being direct, He is being clear, “‘I told you that you would die in your sins if you will not believe that I am the One I claim to be. You will indeed die in your sins.’ ‘Who are you?’ they asked. ‘Just what I have been claiming to be all along,’ Jesus replied. ‘I have much to say in judgment of you, but He who sent Me is reliable, and what I have heard from Him, I tell the world.’ They did not understand that He was telling them about His Father.
“So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up,’” and John always uses this phrase for the cross and the resurrection later, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am, and I do nothing on My own, but speak just what the Father has taught Me. The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” And then this little sidebar, “Even as He spoke, many people put their faith in Him.”
Now, it’s interesting, because if you can imagine this crowd, it seems now He takes His attention and speaks to those people who have believed in Him.
And we are not sure whether they have partial belief or they have full belief or whether He is the Messiah. But He is going to just, He is going to now going to say, “Look, let Me give you the acid test of discipleship. If you really want to be a follower, this isn’t just an intellectual belief.”
And so there is this mixed group of, there’s a hostility and debate going over here. There are people who have believed over here. And so, verse 31, almost through the end of the chapter, I want to tell you in advance what He is going to say, because as I read it, I want you to catch it.
The first thing He is going to say is that, “If you obey My Word, it will result in freedom.” He is going to talk about, “The acid test of discipleship is you have to obey My Word. This isn’t intellectually believing something about Me. This is about relational and obedience.”
Second, He is going to say, “If you love Me,” and by the way, don’t think of love as just an ooey-gooey feeling, but, “if you love Me, have very personal alignment, if I am your light, and the alignment of your life, then the result is you will hear God’s voice. You’ll be able to hear God speaking to you.”
And the third thing He is going to teach them is that, “If you keep My Word, you’ll never die. If you keep My Word.” And so He is going to say, “The acid test of discipleship doesn’t have to do with just an intellectual belief, but it will be a belief that leads to a following where the focus of your life centers around this Man, who now claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and later, One with the Father.”
See if you don’t see it. Pick it up at verse 31. Imagine the picture in your mind. “To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold,’” or literally, “abide in My teaching, you are really My disciples, then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
And so, He is speaking to this group. Well, that last line got the, What do You mean, “Set us free?” Who do You think You are?
“They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and we have never been slaves of anyone.’” They have a very short memory. Egypt, Persians, Rome, okay? But what they are saying, basically, is they are a pretty independent group.
“‘How can You say that we shall be set free?’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now, a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you are ready to kill Me because you have no room for My Word in your heart. I am telling you what,’” listen to this phrase, “I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
There are no holds barred. There is no, I wonder who He really is. “‘Abraham is our father,’ they answered. ‘Well, if Abraham is your father, or you were children of Abraham,’ Jesus said, ‘then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.’ ‘We are not illegitimate children,’ they protested. ‘The only Father we have is God Himself.’
“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on My own, but He sent Me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say, you belong to your father,’” now, imagine this in their face, “the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me. Can any of you prove Me guilty of sin?”
Now this is just like, whoo. You can’t say these people are the stewards of God’s Word. These are the religious leaders. These are the people who know more of their Bible of their day than anyone. These are the people who keep all the rules. These are the people in authority and Jesus has said, “Your father is the devil, you are trying to kill Me because you are a murderer and you are liars. And, by the way, test case, can any of you, I have been around three years, I have done all this in public, can any one of you have one person that has one testimony that I have sinned?”
It’s an amazing confrontation. And they can’t. “If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe Me? He who belongs,” listen to this, “to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
Can I just interject this? The most dangerous place to be, spiritually, in all the world is to be blind, but think you can see. See, blind people who think they are blind are looking for light. Blind people who think they can see think they have already got the light.
“The reason you can’t hear is because you do not belong to God.” They are religious, they are knowledgeable, they are morally pretty upright. “The Jews answered Him, ‘Aren’t we right now in saying You are a Samaritan demon possessed?’” You are accusing us, the religious leaders of the day? “‘I’m not demon possessed,’ Jesus said, ‘but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. I am not seeking glory for Myself, but there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge. I tell you the truth, if any man keeps My Word, he will never die.’”
Another huge, what? You have never sinned, “‘If any man keeps My Word, he will never die.’ At this, the Jews exclaimed, ‘Now we know that You are demon possessed. Abraham died, and so did the prophets. Yet You say, “If a man keeps Your Word, he will never die.” Are You greater than our father, Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets! Who do You think You are?’
“Jesus replied, ‘If I glorify Myself, My glory means nothing. My Father whom you claim is your God is the One who glorifies Me. Though you do not know Him, I know Him. If I said I didn’t know Him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and I keep His Word.’”
Notice, He is modeling how He follows, “I do what pleases Him. I keep His Word. I do His will. Your father Abraham,” this is where it got really off the charts. This is the climax, “Your father Abraham rejoiced,” notice, past tense, “at the thought of seeing My day. And he saw it and was glad.”
They are just baffled. “‘You’re not yet fifty years old,’ the Jews said, ‘and You have seen Abraham?’” Fifty years old, if you were a Levite, a priest, a rabbi, at age fifty, it was automatic retirement. And so they are basically saying, “You’re not even retired! You’re thirty years old, or so, and You’re saying You’ve already seen Abraham?”
“‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am.’” Not, “I was.” “I am.”
This is the climax. Do you remember in Exodus chapter 3 when Moses was asking God, he says, “I don’t think I’m up to the job and I can’t deliver Egypt and, boy, if I go they are ask, ‘Who sent you?’ and who am I going to say?” And God’s name, Elohim, the great Creator, the general word for God. But His covenant name, He never shared with anyone.
And God says to Abraham, “Take off your shoes; it’s holy ground.” And, man, he’s there. And then the bush is flaming, but not consumed. And then God speaks out of it and says, “Tell them, I AM WHO I AM sent you. I am the Ever-present One, I am the Ever-existing One. I have no beginning and I have no end. Tell them, I AM sent you.”
And Jesus now is saying, “The I AM of Exodus 3 is Me. I am one with the Father.” And, by the way, they did not miss His point. “At this they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”
Now, notice, can you just look at chapter 9? We won’t get into it. But notice the very next line, because it may be shocking, but these numbers are actually not in the original text. So some of these stories actually go beyond the chapters. “As He went along,” so the idea right after this, “He saw a blind man from birth, and His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?’” And you have heard the story.
And what He is now going to do, after being with blind, intelligent people who think they can see, He is going to take a man physically and heal him from birth, miraculously, so he can see. And this man will have more spiritual knowledge than any of the religious leaders, because he follows the light of the world, not their own personal light and view of the world. Does that make sense?
So you have the context: the Feast of Tabernacles. You had this heated debate with these outrageous claims. You have the climax where Jesus says, “For sure, I’m God! I’m the only hope for the world.” We now know what happened then for that group.
If we would ask the question: Why should anyone follow Jesus? One, He’s the light of the world. Two, you’ll die in your sins. Three, He is one with the Father. Four, the Father testifies with Him.
Five, He has never sinned. Six, He will be the judge. Seven, He is one with God.
If you were there on that day, you either believed that and that is the light and truth, testified by miracles and fulfillment of prophecy, or you reject it. Here’s my question: What does it mean to us? That’s what it meant to them.
If we dipped back into the text and said: Why should we follow Jesus in the twenty-first century, not the first century, how would God whisper from this passage to us? And I want to suggest that there is a powerful, powerful promise to claim from this passage; there is an important command to obey; and there is an amazing example to follow.
And if we will look at that, we are going to say, Oh. This is why I should follow Jesus as the light of the world. Are you ready?
Get your pen out, because I want you to jot down a couple things, I think it would really help you. The promise to claim is from verse 12, “Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” You might circle the word “follows,” if you will,
in your notes. It’s a present participle. It means, “Whoever continues to follow Me.” It means there is relationship, it means it is ongoing.
Notice, there is a negative, “You’ll never walk in darkness.” But there is a positive, “You’ll have the light of life.” If you would, and I’ll just ask you, if you would, turn, if you will, to 1 John. It’s by the same author. Go all the way to the back of your Bible. In fact, if you get to Revelation, the very last book, turn left.
And there are three short, little epistles. The same author. Sometimes, especially when the same author addresses the same subject, he gives us much more clarity, because he is telling Jesus’ story, but now in 1 John, he is actually writing to them about what it means to be a follower, and how to know if you’re a genuine follower of Christ.
And notice this idea of light. Picking it up at verse 5, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declared to you,” 1 John chapter 1, verse 5, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” And then notice the premise, “If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son purifies us,” or, literally, it’s, “keep on cleansing us from all sin.”
So what does it mean? It means that you’ll have the light of life. It means that you never have to walk in darkness. It means you will have the very light and the presence, like, sometimes we read the Bible and you think, Wouldn’t it be great if there was a light over our house or over my car or maybe over my head that only I could see, and whenever it moved, I would move. And this decision, go here. And wouldn’t that be great?
Jesus is saying, I am that. It’s not over your head and it’s not over a tabernacle. It’s inside the temple, and you’re it, and I will come and I will not just forgive you, but I will live in you. And I will direct your life. And as you walk in the light, as you would read all of 1 John, he is going to say walking in light has two primary – one is a vertical relationship and the other is horizontal. Walking in the light is walking in holiness before God.
Walking in the light, horizontally, is walking in love. And he will give you five or six tests throughout 1 John. He goes, “If I say I love God and hate my brother, I am a liar and the truth is not in me. If I say I love God and habitually continue to sin, I am a liar and the truth is not in me.”
When I was growing up, it was a typical American family. Both mom and dad were schoolteachers; both with advanced degrees; both good, smart people; both from good homes. Dad was a veteran. And on the outside, we looked good. We got good grades, we played sports, I got a scholarship, we lived in the little cul-de-sac communities, but we were walking in darkness.
We actually went to church regularly. No one believed the Bible and no one believed it was really true, but we went to church. We went through the motions – sit, kneel, stand. You say this, I say that, repeat after me. Glad we got that done, but that’s what good people do.
But we walked in darkness. As my dad would say later, he said, “Even when I was drunk, I went to church.” My dad was just an absolute alcoholic. Three and a half packs a day of cigarettes. He had wounds and pain so deep in his life.
My mom was in the dictionary where it says “codependent,” she was the enabler of all enablers, who explained my father and worked all of life so that everything kept looking good on the outside.
When we were grown children, every conversation went through my mom. We didn’t triangulate, we quintupulated. And when she died, the strings were gone. My older sister, in typical fashion, with a deeply disturbed man with unresolved pain and anger issues, and a loving and caring, but enabling – she rebelled. And, man, she went off the deep end for a season.
My middle sister had an eating disorder because she could never measure up and she got lost in the fray. So she thought if she could be more and more and more beautiful – I remember when she would just eat these wheat puffs all the time. And she got where she was just skin and bones.
And then the young son became the performance, workaholic, get good grades, get a scholarship, be good in sports, try, try, try, try, try to be…
My light was success. Somehow get approval. But no matter how much you got, the bar always raised. And we were this dysfunctional family. But we looked good! Our parents had advanced degrees, we lived in a nice house, all went to college, were religious. If you asked me, “Do you believe in Jesus?” “Well, sure! I’m an American!” Right? I read the Bible.
“Is He the light of your life?” No. I had a formula that was the light of my life. I had the fear of failure that was the light of my life. I was an absolute chameleon. I learned to be different people to different groups all the time.
See, you walk in the dark it’s always bump, bump, bump, bump, bump. And there are chains on you.
So, how do you walk in the light? I’ll tell you, because I’ve experienced it and I have seen it happen to thousands and thousands of people. The command He gives us tells us how to walk in the light.
He says, “If you hold to My teaching,” or, literally, “if you abide in My Word, you are really My disciples,” acid test. It’s a condition. You might or you might not. Here’s though, if you do, “If you abide in My Word, then you will know,” circle the word “know.” It’s not intellectual knowledge. There is “eido”: intellectual knowledge, factual in Greek. The other word: gnōscō, you even hear the word gnostic in that. Gnōscō is knowing by experience.
“Then you will know by experience the truth.” And the word for truth here is very interesting. The truth, it’s something that was sealed, gets unsealed, and then is open. It’s something that you don’t really get, but it gets unsealed and then it’s opened.
And then, literally, it will set you free. And the word free here means you can do what you want. But the “do what you want” isn’t just crazy stuff. The “do what you want” is you can actually do what is right.
See, I couldn’t do what I wanted. I was living to fulfill who knows? Trying to please my father or trying to impress people I didn’t know. My sister wasn’t doing what she wanted. She was starving herself to try and look pretty. My other sister wasn’t doing what she wanted. She became a slave to her sin, and she rebelled.
My mother, later in her life, she always wanted to travel. She always wanted to do this, she always wanted to do this. She never did any of that, because her whole life was consumed making everybody else’s life work out. And I felt so sad for her.
And my dad – he was a prisoner of his alcoholism, a prisoner of his fear, a prisoner of his anger.
And then my sister with the eating disorder met a friend named Tami. And Tami said there was a person named Jesus. And Punky said, “Well, I heard about Him.” “No, no, no. He’s real. He brings light to your life. He wants to forgive your sins. He thinks you’re beautiful, just the way you are. He wants to come and live in your life. And He wants to give you what light does: perspective and direction and perception and awareness and life. And He promises that as you walk in the light, even as He is in the light, you’ll have fellowship with people, you’ll have relationships like never before, and He will cleanse you and He will forgive you.”
And my sister took that offer up. And I remember watching her life. I didn’t know what it was. She was so different. And little by little, she whispered to me and I went to a couple meetings and I heard the gospel and I didn’t respond. But it was planted.
And then toward the end of my senior year, I heard the gospel with a group of athletes, and the light entered my life. And a lot of people, they came from drugs, they came from alcohol, they came out of prostitution, they came out of this and came out of that.
You know what I came out of? I came out of being a multi-personalitied, chameleon who had no idea who I was. I didn’t even like me, let alone even know.
I remember the freedom of feeling like, I don’t have to pretend anymore. This is who I am. It’s who God made me to be. I have these strengths, I have these weaknesses, I’m desperately insecure, I struggle with this, and I am loved. And all I need to do is…
And little by little, follow. And then my older sister, and then my dad, and then my mom. And then I watched a revolution. And it wasn’t just some experience. It wasn’t, “Oh, have you heard about Jesus?” “Oh, yeah! Yippee, yippee, yippee, yi, yi, yah.” Okay?
It was stepping into the light and then what does He say? “If you hold to My teaching, if you abide in My Word.” So I had never read this. I had no idea what this book was about. And because of my philosophical background, and I’m a skeptic, oh man, I had to study all these religions and all this apologetics, and I had to go through all…I was not going to throw my brains in the trash to be a follower of Christ.
And so I studied and I dug, and I’ll tell you, I didn’t throw my brains in the trash. And I follow Jesus because it is the most intellectually feasible, best answers to all the big questions of life on the planet. And the only One that has died, verifiably; risen from the dead, five hundred witnesses, and all of life and all of history revolves around Him.
You’re going to bet on your life and everyone is going to bet their lives on some philosophy, some light, some system, some formula, some spiritual leader, some inner-something. But I am going to bet mine on the One who died, came back, and put together a supernatural Book that has promises in it that I have trusted and has transformed my life, and millions of people.
And that is God’s desire for all of us! But notice He says, “Then you’ll know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But He says, “If you continue, if you abide in My Word,” well, how do you do that? You listen. And you listen to God’s Word in the car, you listen to God’s Word as you listen to messages, you listen to God’s Word as you get in it every, single day, just like you eat food. And you don’t just read it and say, Oh, wow, I’m glad I got two…a chapter a day keeps the devil away. Ooh!
It’s, I read it to say, “Oh, living God who loves me, take Your written Word and make it alive as the living Word, and speak to my heart and to my mind and to my soul and speak to me, relationally and intimately. I want to abide in You.” Because, see, I want to follow! If I follow Him, it doesn’t say reading the Bible makes you never walking in darkness. The Jews were reading the Bible like crazy.
It’s following Jesus. I want to follow the Jesus of the Bible. So what is His light say about relationships? What does His light say about pride? What does His light say about sex? What does His light say about priorities? What does His light say? And then I want to follow that.
What does it mean to walk in the light? Just live my life the way Jesus lived His life. How did He? In dependence upon the Father. He would get up a great while before dawn, not because He had to, He wanted to talk to His Father. He wanted to get instructions for the day. He wanted to clear His mind.
And what was His goal in life? To please the Father? What was His aim in life? To fulfill God’s agenda. See, that was His light. And you know what the word “follow” means? It means to proceed behind. It means to do as the person in front of you. It means to passionately pursue.
And so He says, “If you abide in My Word, you hear it. You read it. You think on it.” But here’s the acid test. You obey it. You obey it.
See, you don’t think your way to life. You obey your way to get light. Jesus said, “If you respond to the truth or the light that I give you, I’ll give you more. If you don’t respond to the truth or the light that I give you,” there can come a day where He will take the light away.
See, loving God is not about an ooey-gooey feeling or a great worship time and putting my hands up in the air. All this is wonderful. I’m glad. I can do all that and be cheating people at business. I can do all that and be sleeping around. I can do all that and be addicted to sex or food or shopping or whatever. And I can have emotional, wonderful “experiences” that I think I am having with God.
Jesus said, “Here is the acid test: he that has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me.” Obedience is the organ of spiritual growth, not intellect.
Now, our intellect is used. And then as I obey and, by the way, the hardest obedience is when you don’t feel like it. If I waited until I felt like obeying, I’m not sure I’d obey ten percent. I guess I’m just weak and not very smart.
And so it’s a choice. Jesus did not want to go to the cross, emotionally. Have you ever thought about that? He wasn’t there in agony going, “Oh, Father, this was the plan! It’s going to be great! I’m going to be completely rejected, cut off from You, they are going to beat Me to a pulp!”
What was He, remember His prayer? “If there is any other way, let’s choose that one. Nevertheless, not My…”
See, you don’t have to like what He says about money, you don’t have to like what He says about sex, you don’t have to like what He says about priorities, you don’t have to like it. But you can just do your light and watch the consequences, or you can actually do it His way and then you will know by experience the truth, and you’ll experience God’s love and then you’ll be free.
And so, one by one, that dysfunctional crazy family: Punky, then me, then mom, then dad, then Jeannie. Very imperfectly, over a span of about fifteen years, started walking in the light instead of walking in darkness. And it changes the whole trajectory of your world.
There is an example to follow. And he quoted Abraham. He said, “If Abraham’s children, if you were Abraham’s children, you would do the things Abraham did.” And I think to myself, What did Abraham do?
Romans, in your notes, I think it says John. A little misprint. You can put Romans chapter 4, verses 20 and 21, “Yet with respect to the promise of God, He did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, being fully persuaded or assured that what God has promised He was able to perform.”
I memorized that verse as a very, very young Christian and I think it’s in the Old King James, “He staggered not at the promises of God.” I love that. He didn’t trip over them. “He staggered not at the promises of God, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”
So God says to Abraham, “Leave this comfort. Go where I will show you.” And for some of us, that’s what faith looks like. You’re in a relationship, you’re in a situation, you need to leave! You need to step out.
For some, you need to step out and do what God has called you to do. I don’t know about this, I don’t know how, I don’t…Follow the example of Abraham.
The second big thing he did is he waited. Now, he waited imperfectly, which gives me a lot of hope. But God made some big promises, but a decade goes by and nothing happens. Another decade goes by and nothing happens.
But he waited on God, and God gave him what He promised. What are you trusting God for? What are you really trusting God for? What promises are you claiming? God wants to come through.
And so many of us, we want to help God make His promises come true. And that usually is a very bad way to go. Ask Hagar. Ask Ishmael. That was Abraham trying to do God’s will his way. And it has produced a lot of problems.
Finally, he surrenders. Remember? He finally believed to the point…you want to follow Abraham’s example? God, this little boy that you gave me, You’re telling me You want me to take him up on this mountain and sacrifice him? And I believe, because that little boy became an idol in his heart.
And what idols do are two really bad things. Number one, it separates us from God. Number two, we put our hope in them and they can never deliver. And out of mercy, God says, “Give up your idol,” whether it’s education or success or your kids or your business or going public or your body or whatever it is.
“Surrender that to Me and walk in the light. I will bless those things. But they can’t be the object of your life.” So what do you need to surrender? What a great example. What do you need to trust God with? Maybe it’s your money. Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s your singleness. Maybe it’s for one of your kids.
Write this on your notes, will you? Here’s the question when you are struggling, that you should ask yourself. Because it changes the equation from, I’ve got to fix this, or, What about this? Or, How will…?
Here’s the question: What does it look like to trust God in this situation? What does it look like to trust God in this situation? That’s different than, Will You fix my marriage? Would You change my kid? Would You make this business go? Would You get me…?
What does it look like to trust God? Because faith is what brings the Father joy, and He is a rewarder of faith. He loves you, He is for you, He wants to bless you.
As you turn to the very back page, I gave you a little assignment. And the title of this message is: So What Does it Really Mean to Follow Jesus? It means, are you ready for this? He is your light! He is your source, He is your direction, He is your priority, His will is number one, pleasing Him becomes your number one desire.
And the reason that He healed that blind man, as your assignment is to read John chapter 9, is because all these religious leaders, with all their religion, were completely blind to who He really was.
So John 9 opens up, as we have already heard, and as He was going by, there was a man born blind, and the issue is, well, what is the source of it? He heals him. And if you know the story then, no one can believe it was really him. Well, they get his parents to come in. He gives his testimony. And, finally, he talks with the religious leaders and they say, “Well, it can’t be.” And he says, “Jesus did it.”
And then he, “Are you sure? What really happened?” He goes, “Look, I have told you twice.” And then the blind beggar says, “We know that only God can do a miracle like this.” And the Pharisees said, “He is a sinner.”
And Jesus ends afterwards, he finds the man, and He says, “Do you know who I am?” He goes, “I don’t know, but I want to know.” And He tells him who He really is, and the man believes.
And the Pharisees come to Him and say, “So, You, so, do You think we are blind?”
And Jesus ends chapter 9 with this, with the big question.
He says, “If you were blind, your sin wouldn’t be held against you. But because you think you see and you are blind, you’ll die in your sins.” The most dangerous place to be in all the world is really thinking where you’re at in your life is kind of okay, and you’re really blind.
And I just see this compassionate Jesus taking a beggar and letting him see, and because he stepped into the light and simply trusted, God said, “Oh, the future for you, My love for you,” that’s what God wants for all of us.