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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
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, “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.