Being all in for Jesus will require our worldview to be challenged.
We’ve been exploring this theme, this idea of what it looks like to be all in with Jesus. That is to say to follow Him with everything we’ve got, rather than to simply dabble with what this faith journey is all about. When I think about this, I think about the reality that our faith journey will inevitably, it’s only a matter of time, bump up against assumptions that we have made. Assumptions that we come to Him with, assumptions about other people, assumptions about scripture, assumptions about God, culture, whatever it might be. What happens is, our assumptions will bump up against what He might be saying to us. In that place where we might feel a degree of challenge, we will discover a decision opportunity. I do say opportunity because it’s an opportunity for us to choose what is more common, especially today. That is to take up an offense or to remain open to what He may want to speak into our lives. This line here to follow Jesus, really what it looks like is to follow Him beyond a possible offense, because I will say, it’s going to happen at some point, it’s just a matter of time.
I don’t know if you’ve ever made an assumption. I have. I’ve made many assumptions, some of them correct, and some of them I’ve discovered were incorrect. It’s one thing to make assumptions, that’s how we relate with people, in our job situations, in our culture. This is how we move along certain assumptions that we feel comfortable making. It’s a different thing though when an assumption is made about us. Have you ever been in that place?
This morning I decided I’m going to go ahead and take an Uber to church, it’s raining. I got into the car and the driver checks who you are to make sure you’re the right person, which is smart. It’s good. But they’ll say, Louis? I said, “Yeah. Or Louis, either one works. I go by both.” He says, “Yeah. So there are many Louis’s in my country.” I said, “Oh, okay.” He says, “Yeah. Where are you from?” I say, “Well, I’m from San Francisco.” He says, “Okay. Okay.” I say, “But my parents are from El Salvador.” He says, “Oh, okay. I’m from…” He told me the country and it wasn’t El Salvador. That was the end of the conversation. I thought. “Oh, okay. All right, that’s fine. That’s all right.”
Other times I’ve gotten to know people, I’m talking to them. They inevitably asked me, “What do you do for a living?” I’ve told you about this. It goes any number of directions, but what has happened a lot to me actually, is first they decide, once I tell them I’m a pastor, they decide, I could tell, I could see it in their eyes, the gears they’re turning. “Am I okay with this? Am I okay with him being a pastor? More so, am I okay still being in this conversation?” Right? More times than not, I could see the answer is yes. I think, “All right, sweet. We’re good.”
At that point, they stepped into an assumption. They say, “You Latino? Which Latino church do you lead?” At first, it caught me off guard. It was thinking, “Whoa. Okay. That’s okay. Ah, Hmm. I don’t know how to answer that.” Right? That’s happened to me enough times where I have an answer. I say, “Well, there are Latinos in my church, but there are also other types of humans, different ethnicities and races and backgrounds. It’s actually more of a reflection of this city than not, it’s not monolithic. I love that.” I could see a little bit of disappointment on their face, and we continued to have the conversation.
None of those assumptions actually stick out to me more than one that occurred to me several years ago with my wife and me. We went on vacation, and we went to the tropical part of the world. I don’t want to say where, but we went there. My skin has a feature, it’s dark mode. It happens whenever the sun is out, I could be in the shade, but it is still activated. It starts to turn darker shades. We were there for several days and we were enjoying ourselves. I felt myself looking more and more like the locals. I thought, “I’m going to embrace this.” I decided, I saw what they were wearing, I saw the sunglasses. I said, “Honey, let’s go shopping, we’re on vacation.” So I got myself an outfit. Shorts and shades and all that.
At the time, we were about almost a weekend away from our trip. We were taking a tour. We had scheduled a tour for ourselves. We were looking forward to it. It started early in the morning. We’re moving into this tour on a boat and there are different aspects of it. But one of them was that we had a tour guide who welcomed us on the boat. He was talking to everybody. Then when he saw us, he zeroed in on us and he said, “You guys sit here.” We’re thinking, “Okay.” It turned out, they were the best seats on the boat. I said, “Okay, I’m not mad at that. I’ll take it.”
We sat there and as we were going on the tour, he was talking to everybody professionally and kindly. But things changed whenever he would address us. As he would talk to everybody and he would point different things out and everything. When he talked to us, it was like we were friends and he was talking to us in a different way. It’s just a little bit more comradery and a little bit more laughter. I thought, “Wow, I must be pretty funny.” We were getting along and it was like we were one of him. Right? We were together. Where it’s a different type of embrace.
We were going and it got to the point where the kind of preferential treatment was to the extent where I started wondering, I really wanted to ask my wife, “Honey, did you pay more than everyone else?” But I didn’t, I kind of just restrained myself and we kept going. We’re getting too close to the point where we’re going to have our lunch or our meal. He says to us, “Hey, so where are you guys staying?” I go, “Oh we’re staying in this part.” He says, “No way. I know people out there, where are you staying?” I was like, “Oh.” He says, “Who are you staying with?” I go, “Well, we’re staying in an Airbnb.” He goes, “Oh, okay. Okay. Well, who are you visiting?” I go, “These, all of these, we’re visiting this. It’s beautiful. I love it.” He says, “Oh.” Then he says, “Where are you from?” I said, “Well, my wife and I are from San Francisco. My parents are from El Salvador.” He says, “Ha.” We weren’t in El Salvador.
I discovered that mattered because he discovered we weren’t locals. After we got there, we had our lunch and everything. How do I put it? We didn’t get the best seats on the way back. We didn’t get preferential treatment on the way back. I remember thinking to myself, “Man, I had no idea you had assumed that.” I remember thinking, “If I had known I would have kept it up.” But I didn’t know. We step into these assumptions we make about ourselves and about others. Do you know what happens when they get let down or when they get rubbed up against? There’s something that happens. Especially in our society today, we can so easily lead into offense and the rupture of a conversation, even maybe a relationship.
This is true. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but we live in a time in history right now where it is so hard to disagree. Where a disagreement can threaten everything. The tendency is to become polarized and to entrench ourselves in our perspective, and to cut the other person off and to distance ourselves and say, “Well, that’s the end. I can’t tolerate that.” If that’s the truth relationally, well, there are going to be moments in our faith journey, where we might feel ourselves having a little bit of a disagreement or challenged by Jesus, where His words might speak into assumptions we have carrying, or worldviews that He may want to expand or paradigm He may want to shift. How we respond, will determine if we’re willing to actually follow Him beyond a potential offense. Whether or not we’re actually all-in.
This is not something that’s foreign to Jesus, it happened to Him regularly in his earthly ministry. But I don’t think there’s any one moment in His ministry that elevates above the one we’re about to explore. A moment, by the way, that is characterized as highly controversial and filled with enormous amounts of tension. I think it has so much for us to be able to glean from. I thought we could walk through it and experience some of what it may have been like together.
If you open up your handout, I’d like to explore this with you in John 6:60, where we’re told from the very beginning that when many of His disciples heard it, his followers said, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?” That term, hard saying, speaks of an objectionable statement. That is an offensive suggestion made by Jesus. The part of it that says, who can listen to it. It’s another way of saying, “How is this even tolerable? This is not tolerable. What you just said is very offensive. It’s hard.” These are His followers.
It kind of makes me wonder, “What did He say that was so charged? It created such a polarized response. Earlier in this chapter of John 6, which is part of this entire conversation, Jesus steps into the scene. He says, “Listen, I want you to understand something about myself. I am the bread of life.” Now, we may have heard of that before. We may have come to terms with what He meant about that. We may say, “That’s what caused such a polarized expression? I am the bread of life. He was in essence saying, “No, I am the sustenance of your soul.” They didn’t quite understand what He was saying.
Jesus, rather than moving toward immediate clarity and de-escalation, does something different. He doubles down and ratchets up the tension. He says, “No, you’re not understanding. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. I will raise him up on the last day.” Even now, 2000 years removed from when He uttered those words, we could say at very least, those are weird. “Really Jesus, what are you saying? What are you insinuating? Do you understand what you’re implying?” But Jesus was speaking metaphorically, and they were receiving Him literally. What was the metaphor Jesus was making?
They wanted to receive Jesus on their terms. They wanted Him to become supplemental. Jesus said, “No, you’re not getting it then. You don’t get anything from me unless I become central. I cannot be supplemental to your life. I cannot simply be as good as that is, a good teacher. I can not simply be as good as that is, a good prophet. No, no, no, no. I must be the source of life in order for you to actually benefit from my life.” Do you understand this? Jesus uses this metaphor to just put it right there in front of them. In essence, what He was claiming was that they needed to embrace His humanity. The fact that He was who He said He was in human flesh, who stepped into human history, He’s not a myth. It wasn’t a creation manufactured. He truly was a person who walked among them. That is the flesh. He was not just who He said He was, who walked among them and lived as a human being. But He would sacrifice His very own blood on their behalf need to be received by them. In believing in His humanity and receiving His sacrifice on their behalf, Jesus says, “To those, I give you eternal life. To those who embrace me totally in my totality, they receive eternal life. If you keep me on the edges, you’re going to miss out.” This word is what caused them to say, “You ask too much Jesus, it’s intolerable.”
Jesus handles this tension in a unique way because we’re told in verse 61, that Jesus knowing in Himself that His disciples, his followers, were grumbling about this, complaining. “What is this?” You sense the undertone of offense. He said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Is this going to be a make-or-break thing for you? What if you were to see the son of man ascending to where he was before?” “If this metaphor I’m presenting to you is so offensive to you, what are you going to do when I’m physically no longer with you? What are you going to do when actually I’m revealed to be who I said I was? If these words stumble you, how are you going to continue with me?” In those words, you sense at the core, Jesus has compassion and patience. At the core, Jesus has an approach that wants to continue the conversation, not end it. He is not looking to demand. Do you know what you don’t feel? You don’t feel agitation and anger from Jesus.
You see Jesus saying, “Come on guys, let’s talk about this. You may not be seeing what I’m saying, but we have to get past this together. There’s too much at stake.” Then He continues, “It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh has no help at all. The words that I’ve spoken to you are spirit in light.” It’s almost as if he’s saying, “This is a metaphor, not literal. Listen, my body, what you can see, what you can touch, what you can handle, the material things of this life. They are good, but they have their limit on being able to ever meet the needs of your soul. They were never meant to. It’s no good if you’re looking to those to meet the internal needs of who you are. No amount of possession, resource, education, or comfort will actually be able to supply your soul with life. But my words, my words are able to give you a step in to look, to transcend the material world. They step into the spirit realm that we all know is real and true. They feed you. Come on don’t you understand this? Even now as Jesus looks, he says, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning though, who those were. Who did not believe and who it was, who would betray him. He said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by my father.’ Now after this, many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.”
It’s words that Jesus was essentially trying to wrestle with His disciples. Disciples who are literally facing their own doubts, facing their own fears, facing their own confusion. He’s trying to address, “I’m speaking to you this way because I want to give you life. I want to give you life.” But even now, you could sense it. You could sense the pain, but you know what you don’t sense, shock and surprise. “I know for some of you, that what I just said, it’s too much for you. I know many of you are going to turn back. I know you’re going to leave. I know it.” You could sense the awareness of where people are at on Jesus’s behalf, the sadness of heartbreak, of knowing people were going to leave Him. Do you really know what you don’t see? Is there any demand for compliance? No demand for obedience, no demand to manipulate or coerce anybody. The complete and utter respect for individuality and freedom of choice, for the independence of each human being. Since I know some of you are going to think, ‘I know you can no longer follow me past this. I wish it weren’t so, but I’ll allow it.’ If there ever was one who could actually restrain, it would be Jesus. He chose not to.
In fact, in that very vulnerable place, you see something else of His tenderness. You see as He turns in verse 67, he says, “Jesus said to the 12, ‘Do you want to go away as well?” He turns to His closest companions who have been with Him the entire journey. He asks them a question, a hauntingly open-ended question, a question that is vulnerable. A question coming from the respect He has for each one of those men and their ability to choose. A question displaying absolute openness. To what? To be rejected and abandoned. “Are you also wanting to leave?” You can’t help, but admire Jesus’ vulnerability here and His transparency. “Do you also want to go?”
In the midst of the Exodus of people, in the midst of His influence quickly and rapidly dropping, the entire influence that Jesus had is now diminishing. He’s reading it on the faces of His disciples. He’s wondering, “Do you also want to join the crowds who are leaving? Because I’m not saying something that they agree with and it’s no longer popular. Are you going to go with them too?” It’s not guilt-ridden. It’s honest. Many of those people recognized, they discovered something about Jesus they could not tolerate.
It reminds me of what Tim Keller said. He said it in such a way that I thought it was worth quoting exactly. He says, “If your God never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself. Rather than who God actually is.” Because if we have to force God to fit into our box in order for us to be okay with Him, we may not actually come to know who God actually is. We may be trying to prop up our version and assumptions about Him. Many of those people decided, “I can’t, I can’t handle it.” In the midst of this very controversial time-tense field environment, Peter steps into the scene. We’re told in verse 68, “Then Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that you are the holy one of God.”
How else does Peter say it? I appreciate Peter because he steps in and creates his great proclamation. Do you know what he doesn’t do? What Peter doesn’t do in these words is pretend. You know what else Peter doesn’t do, he doesn’t say, “We’re all good, Jesus, no doubts here. No concerns here.” He doesn’t do that. It’s almost as if he’s acknowledging that he is wrestling with this and he’s considering deeply what has just happened, what he’s witnessing, what he heard Jesus do. He’s wrestling within himself. Jesus looks at them and says, “Do you also want to go?” Peter starts to consider the possibility and comes to a conclusion. Yes, I have my doubts, Jesus. Yes, I have my points of concern. I don’t even know if I agree with what you’re saying. I don’t think I understand what you’re saying, but the truth of the matter is, where am I going to go? Where else I’m going to turn? Who else is like you? Who has words that have fed me and given me such hope? No one. I’ve come to believe something about your character that outweighs my doubt. I’ve come to believe something about who you are that surpasses my fears, concerns, and yes, even my offenses.”
It’s Peter’s version of saying, “I’m all-in. I’m not going to pretend. I’m not going to hide. I’m not going to sweep anything under the rug.” Do you know what this is? It’s an authentic declaration of faith. “I am having a hard time with what you’re saying, but I am with you. I’m not going to leave you. As Jesus hears these words that are profound, they’re truly a transparent, real, and honest assessment of his own heart. Jesus looks at him and says something almost strange. He says, “Did I not choose you the 12? Yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas, “the son of Simon Iscariot for he, one of the 12, was going to betray him.” It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “Peter, that’s amazing. That’s really good. In fact, that’s the best answer you can give. Yet I want you all to recognize something. I know all of you, not only do I know all of you, I welcome all of you.”
Jesus does something that I don’t think any of us could ever replicate because He is fully aware of the motives, ambitions, and the underlying current, that fills Judas’ heart. Do you know what he doesn’t do? Cut them off. This is remarkable. Jesus doesn’t kick him out. He embraces him. What? Yes. Whether it’s the highest declaration of faith or the highest point of resistance, Jesus literally says, “I’m not insecure. I’m not afraid. I’m not threatened, come.” This also means proximity doesn’t always mean alignment with Jesus. We can be close to Jesus and yet resist Him every step of the way. We can not be in alignment with what He longs to say or do in our lives. At its core, do you know what this shows us? That our faith journey will call certain things to the surface. What will be required of us is the ability to be teachable.
Whether we’re at the beginning of our faith journey, perhaps we’re a little bit more seasoned or maybe we’re at a point where we would say, “Well, I’m all-in.” No matter where we are, no matter what season we’re in, we will never outgrow our need to remain teachable. Teachability looks like a couple of things. One, I think this kind of brings it to the forefront, is teachability. Teachability looks like being a lifelong learner of Jesus’ words in ways. That is, a lifelong learner of what He has to say and how He lives. It’s been said, Jesus is simple enough to satisfy a curious child, profound enough to compel a scholar. That he has the ability, the approachability for anybody to come into the shallow end of Jesus and be satisfied by His love and His grace. If one longs to, one can discover an ocean where it’s not just a matter of closing a knowledge gap with Jesus, It’s a matter of discovering truly how deep He goes.
We could discover more dimensions of who Jesus is. We can never outgrow our need to learn from Him. Think about this because not everyone turned away from Jesus. Some remained, obviously including Peter. Later Jesus says to those who believed in Him, “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. You’re all in. You will know the truth and truth will set you free.” The operative word here is abide, which means remain. If you remain, in my words, you will know the truth. Truth is not a point of knowledge. It’s a person. As you remain with my words, you allow them to continue to soak up more dimensions of who you are. If they bump up against something and stretch things, you remain open. Do you know what happens? You will come to know me personally. When you come to know me personally, you’ll discover increasing amounts of freedom in your life. Freedom from what?
I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken with people who are convinced God is against them. I can’t think of somebody more determined to remove that deception than Jesus. For he is the one who declares, “No God is for you. He’s never been against you. God will never leave you nor forsake you. He loves you. He loves you so much, he gave his only son on your behalf.” To be free of deception is an enormous thing. There are so many times our fears paralyze us from moving, taking one step forward. But to know Him is to know courage, to be able to face our fears and then move forward.
So many times our past whispers shame into our soul and it threatens to actually define our future. But to know Jesus is to know that our future with Jesus is always going to be brighter than however dark our worst fears are. There’s tremendous freedom to come to know Jesus, to remain in His words. Because if we are invited to know His words and ways, you know what we’re also invited to do? We’re invited to consider that teachability looks like becoming someone who receives feedback. This one’s harder. I don’t know about you.
Actually several services ago, right after a service someone came up to me and said, “Hey, I got some feedback for you.” Sometimes I love feedback and sometimes it’s a little tougher. Sometimes certain people, man, they’re so good. Even when they’re criticizing me. I’ll end that conversation feeling so inspired. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that, but they’re expert feedback givers. They’ve been trained. It feels like, “Oh yes, yes. You have something to say, give it to me. I’m going to feel better. I know it.” Right? Then, other people, they’ll get feedback and it’s kind of, “Oh no, I didn’t want that one.”
Sometimes we say, “What do we do when that happens?” We say, “No, I don’t like that so much. I’m going to suggest, I’m going to say, I’m going to conclude, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. You’re just flat-out wrong. See, the reason you’re wrong is that you’re not seeing the entire picture. If you saw the entire picture, you would never have said that in the first place. You don’t know what it’s like to be in my shoes, if you knew what it was like to be in my shoes, you’d give me a hug. You’d congratulate me, rather than give me feedback. So you don’t know, you don’t know, and since you don’t know, you’re giving me this feedback, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to protect myself. I’m going to end this conversation and I’m going to take a step back. I don’t even know if I’m going to be open to what you have to say in the future. I’m going to isolate myself. I knew it was only a matter of time before I got hurt. So you know what, I’d rather do this on my own.”
Here’s the reality. If this happens relationally, they’re going to be moments when we read Jesus’s word and we’re going to feel it the same way. What? In those moments, you know what we’re going to be tempted to do? Much the same thing. Or we might be tempted to say, “You know what this needs? A 2019 update. This needs to be relevant to this culture, this time in history. I don’t like what it says. So I’m going to reinterpret it, to make it fit the stream that I’m swimming in. Clearly, it doesn’t mean that. So I’m going to go ahead and rewrite it.” Oh, we do that.
We have to understand something. If we can’t trust His scripture, which by the way has stood the test of time, transcended culture, language, people, groups, history, socioeconomic status, education, ethnicity, race, and it stood firm. Anyone who receives feedback is better for it, stronger, and receives life. If we can’t come to trust these words, it’s going to be very hard for us to ever have a reasonable relationship with God.
Any true and honest relationship allows the other person to disagree, contradict, and challenge you, without jeopardizing the relationship. Any true and honest relationship does not require complete and 100% agreement. Oh, it says, “I value this relationship so much, that when you disagree with me, I’m going to consider it. When you challenge me, I’m going to consider it. I’m going to lower my defenses. I’m going to consider it. I’m going to be open to it. I’m going to let you speak. I’m going to give you permission to disagree with me, God. I will continue to follow you beyond any possible offense your challenge might provoke.” Because there would be times when we might read His word and He might put His finger on something, point something out, or might say something to us. His motive is never anything but good, ever, because Jesus is the one who said, “Not only do I say these things, I live it. I gave myself for you. So I’m not interested in manipulating, coursing. I’m interested in giving you life. Will you receive my feedback and embrace life?”
Teachability, when it’s all said and done, you know what it looks like? It looks like controlling, it looks like choosing to surrender control in the midst of doubt and fear. It doesn’t mean surrender to doubt and fear. It means choosing to surrender control in the midst of doubt and fear. See, doubts aren’t bad. Doubts can motivate us to explore and discover more. Here’s the thing. God’s not afraid of doubts. He’s not insecure about that. He’s trustworthy with them.
Fear isn’t always detrimental. Without fear, courage never exists. To have the courage to face our fear means we have to be honest about the fact that we’re afraid. Great, but in the midst of our doubts and our fears, you know what it looks like to follow Him with an all-in posture? It is to say with Peter in the best way we can, “Lord, I don’t know about this. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what you’re saying. I don’t think I totally agree. I’m not even sure I’m understanding everything you’re saying. I don’t know why you’re doing this, why you’re not doing this? I don’t know all of these things. I have my doubts, my fears, my concerns. I’ve all these things, but you know what, where else am I going to go? You have the words of eternal life.”
I know Jesus didn’t say it. He meant it. “Your will be done. Your will be done, God. I come to you honestly, transparently. Thank you for accepting me for who I am. Thank you for not requiring me to fit into a box. Forgive me if I try to make you fit into mine. I surrender. I surrender my control to you. I want your words of life. I want your words of life.” Oh, may we be there. May we be able to utter those words whenever a potential offense might come up. May we be all-in with Jesus.
In a moment we’ll receive our time of giving and closing song, but I just want to pray. Lord, I thank you. I thank you that you are the one who knows us completely. Truly, we might think we’re hiding something, but we can’t hide anything from you. I thank you, Lord, that in light of that, your approach to us is tender and kind, patient and loving, always wanting to continue to dialogue, always wanting to give us life. Wherever we might be right now, Lord, I pray you would help us. Maybe we don’t understand everything. Maybe there are certain things that are difficult, but help us utter with Peter, “Lord, where are we going to go? You have the words of life. Your will be done, your will and not mine.” I pray for that Lord, help us be all in. In Jesus’ name. Amen.