Jesus is the standard for being All In.
Lord, I just thank you. I do. I thank you, God, for the opportunity we have whenever we set some time aside. I thank you for how encouraging it is, really, to be in a place like this. To be with other people who sing of your goodness, who set some time and space aside to reflect on you. So I ask, God, that you would help us because there’s not one of us here who hasn’t stepped into this place with something on our mind. Something, perhaps, weighing on us.
Also, I ask, God, you know what those things are. You know the details of them. I pray that you help us pause. I pray that you would help us, not just hear your words, they are good words, but I ask, God, that your spirit would ignite these words with life. As we hear your words you would help us hear your voice for us. That you would address us exactly where we are. You know what we need. Some of us need to be refreshed. Others of us need to know who you are. Wherever we’re at, God, I pray that you would meet with us. I pray for your blessing. I ask for this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We’re exploring this theme of “all in.” What I’d like us to explore is what it looks like to live a life of faith that goes beyond simply speaking about it. Beyond words. You know the saying: actions speak louder than words. Right? I agree, it does. Actions do speak louder than words. They represent somebody’s life. Their actions will always supersede whatever they say. This is true. But I think words, actions actually, go a little bit beyond that. I think actions don’t only speak louder than words, I think they have the ability to transcend words, transcend culture, transcend language barriers, people groups, socio-economic status, time periods, and history. I think actions that were done 2,000 years ago have the ability to transcend time and still have an impact today. I think they have the ability to communicate in a way that no language is able to do except in action, especially when that action is a kind deed or a loving gesture.
I’ve become more and more convinced of this, especially as I’ve gotten an opportunity to travel a little bit throughout the world in different places where I may not know the language of the people there. My wife and I, several years ago, decided we’re going to take one last trip before we start having a family. We had made our plans and we had decided where we were going. This was kind of our last one for maybe, who knows? Twenty years? I don’t know. Where do we want to go, right? She thought “I’ve always wanted to go to Paris.” We decided we were going to go to Europe and spend some time there. My wife made the plans, we made everything. Then we found out she was pregnant a number of weeks before we went. It turned out to be our baby-moon without us even knowing it. It was our last thing. We went to Paris and it’s everything. Paris, if you just look at a picture of Paris, it truly is the city of lights. It’s beautiful.
But I travel a little differently than my wife does. How do I say this? I like to assess the situation first. I tend to shy back, kind of clam up a little bit, and observe everyone and everything that’s around me. I remember when we first got married, wherever we would go, whether it’s the woods, backpacking, or another city, or another country, I do the same. I like to think of it as reconnaissance. I like to gather facts and information and assess them.
My wife is my opposite. She is the one who has zero inhibitions. She loves to give people the benefit of the doubt, environments the benefit of the doubt, and she’ll just dive into it. She’ll experience it and take it all in. I remember when we first got married she would be like “what’s wrong with you?” Whenever we would go somewhere. “Why are you so quiet and shy? Why aren’t you yourself? You almost look suspicious of everyone. Even me.” I remember thinking, just telling her, “honey …” she was full of life and joy. I was assessing. Is it okay to be full of life and joy? Is it safe? Is it all right? I don’t know. This tribe might be different. I remember feeling that way. Over the years, I can’t say I’ve necessarily changed that much, but she’s given me space to assess. Space to gather information. So she knows, for the first several days or hours, I don’t know, it depends, she’ll just give me that space.
So we were in this part of Paris, Rue Claire. We were having our breakfast there, and it was, I mean, it’s French food, so it was good. We’re sitting there, enjoying it, and the cobblestone street. It’s a little in the morning, so it’s a little hazy but the sun is peeking through the clouds. It was just beautiful. But I was sitting there in the café on just the corner overlooking just the street and everything, and I was just observing everybody. I was taking it all in. What’s okay here? What’s not okay here? How do these people behave? How do they interact with one another? What’s this like? I was enjoying my food cautiously. I was taking it all in. All of a sudden, there’s this nun that was walking down the street. Not many people were in the street, it was a little early in the morning. She was an elderly nun, a little short. She was making her way, and she reminded me of my grandmother. My grandmother wasn’t a nun, but she just reminded me of my grandmother. All these memories started flooding, and she’s just making her way toward us, and as she’s walking, she has the habit on and everything, she’s walking toward us.
As she was close to us, and we were sitting there enjoying everything, I locked eyes with her. I looked at her, she looked at me, and so I went ahead and did the respectful head nod and smile. Then she looked at me really intently. I felt very uncomfortable. She just stared at me. It was very serious there. She lifted her hand, and she went ahead and did the sign of the cross. She blessed me. I didn’t expect it, but what she did next I really didn’t expect because after doing the sign of the cross at me, she went ahead, winked, and blew me a kiss. I thought “me?” She just smiled a little bit, cracked this little smile, and then just kept walking. My wife saw the whole thing go down, and she was like “did that just happen? A nun just blew you a kiss? Do you know her?” And I remember thinking, “man …”
It was one of those things. It was way out of there. This doesn’t happen to me a lot, but when this happened, obviously that never happened to me before or after, but I remember at that moment feeling an impression, something actually whispered to me. It was an impression, I can’t explain it other than that. It whispered to me and it said “Louis, relax. Let your barriers down. Let your guard down, and enjoy yourself.” I remember that. Huh. Somebody just gave me a kind gesture, no ulterior motive, and wasn’t trying to get anything out of me. Just decided they felt inclined, they wanted to bless somebody, and in their own way transcend entire cultures and people groups, language barriers, and just say “hey. You’re loved. You’re accepted here.” I just remember thinking “wow.”
So I did my best. I did my best to lower my guard. I did my best to enjoy everything I was taking in because here’s the deal: I share that because I think there are sometimes, some of us, maybe not all of us, I certainly am, can be very skeptical when we enter relationships, situations, or environments. We can be skeptical. We can be skeptical of others. Here’s the fascinating thing: we can be very skeptical and suspicious of others but very gracious toward ourselves. We have a fascinating ability to not immediately give others the benefit of the doubt. But oh how badly we feel we deserve the benefit of the doubt.
It’s an interesting combination, this human condition. We can step into different environments. We can be skeptical especially if we have been injured or betrayed, let down, or burned in the past. I had never been to Paris, but the baggage I was carrying had always been with me. It had decided to travel with me. It decided to enter that beautiful city with, truly, friendly people and delicious food. There are a lot of times we enter with our guard up, not necessarily because of the people or the environment, but because of the stuff we’re carrying. This is true in our relationships. If this is true in how we interact with people or new experiences, I want to suggest to you it is certainly true when it comes to our faith. When it comes to the most intimate part of who we are, of what it is to be human, it is so easy for us to enter this journey guarded.
We may have heard of Jesus. We may have even heard His words. That’s not really the issue for us. His words, a lot of times, truly are good words. That’s not the question. The question that could arise is: you know Jesus, He spoke of forgiveness. That’s good. That’s great. The question is: is that forgiveness available to me? Will you behave, God, if you exist, will your actions toward me be as good as your words? You speak of mercy and grace. That’s great. But my question is: will you be merciful and gracious here in my life? In my set of circumstances? That’s the question. That’s where we’re guarded.
This is why, for me, following Jesus having not grown up in any kind of Christian environment. Not growing up being taken to church, but finding Jesus in my life later in my teen years. Later in my early adulthood. I can tell you, now following Him for over 20 years, I can tell you with every day that passes, I can honestly say I love Jesus more and more. Because Jesus, if I can say it this way, He is unlike anyone else. His beliefs, His words, and His actions are in complete harmony. No one else can make that claim, by the way. There is no discrepancy between what He believes, what He says, and what He does. None. That’s a profound reality. Jesus truly was all in. He was the epitome of it. If that’s the case, then what I’d like us to explore in the time we have here together is that going all in. I put this up there just for us to consider on the front end here is that going all-in with God, you know what it will do? It will challenge us to close the gap between our beliefs, words, and actions.
The other way of saying it is: it’s fair to assume there is a gap in our beliefs, words, and actions. That’s the starting point for us. For us as people, as humans. The false assumption would be that there are zero gaps between what we believe, say, and do. But to follow Him is to be challenged in the best way possible to close that gap and to synchronize our lives so that it is all actually moving forward in the same direction.
If you open up your handout, I’d love to explore His account. It’s found in the gospel of John. It’s in the tenth chapter here where John is speaking. He’s writing down this incident that occurred in Jesus’ life where Jesus decided to no longer speak in mystery, parable, or story. He decided to clearly and without apology reveal who He actually was. We’re told in verse 30 that Jesus says “I and the Father are one.”
Another way of thinking about this is that Jesus essentially claims, he makes a statement, that cannot be misunderstood. It was nothing short of a declaration of equality with God. I don’t know if you’ve heard this said about Jesus, but there have been times where I heard people suggest that Jesus wasn’t clear about who He truly was. That He never claimed to be anything beyond a good teacher. If we’ve heard that, I can assure you, we’ve been misguided. Because John made it absolutely crystal clear Jesus, without apology, essentially said “I and the Father are one.” It’s a statement that demands a polarizing response. It makes a demand of those listening to Him.
If Jesus is correct, you know what’s required of those who listen if He’s correct? It’s required for them to bend the knee in worship. God, right then and there. If He is incorrect, at the very least He must be rejected. At the very least, He must be opposed. Those who heard Jesus make this statement, we’re told in verse 31 that the Jews or Jewish leaders, picked up stones again to stone Him. This would mean it wasn’t the first time. They heard these words and their response was one of complete opposition. We’re told in verse 32, Jesus answering them said “listen, I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which one of them are you going to stone me?” The Jewish leaders answered and said, “it’s not for a good work that we’re going to stone you, but for blasphemy.” “What was the blasphemy?” “You, being a man, make yourself God.” That’s why we’re so opposed to you.”
Do you know what doesn’t happen? Jesus doesn’t step into that moment when they say “you are a man, but you’re making yourself God.” Do you know what Jesus doesn’t do? He doesn’t say “oh, you misunderstood me.” He lets them sit in it because they were accurate. They understood exactly what He was saying. They understood that He was claiming to be something no person could rightfully be unless it was true. I don’t know about you, but I find it fascinating. They acknowledged His good works. They weren’t opposed to His good deeds, but they chose to ignore them because they were so offended by His words.
Think about that. Jesus asked them “what of the many good things that I do are you so opposed to?” No, it’s not your deeds, it’s what you say that we don’t like. It’s a fascinating picture of what it might be to step into an angle of human nature. To ignore what Jesus has done because what He says is so offensive. It’s almost as if He’s saying “I’m not just talking it, I’m living it. Would you look beyond my words?” They say “we cannot. We cannot look beyond your words. Cannot consider anything else because of what you’re saying.” Then Jesus moves with them, dialoguing, and He says in verse 37 “if I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”
Another way of saying this is Jesus basically stepped into a place that I don’t think any of us could truly, fully step into because He basically is saying to them “will you look at my deeds?” Have you ever heard the saying “do as I say, not as I do?” Have you ever said that saying? Have you ever thought of that saying? We have an 18-month-old now, and my wife has let us know we don’t want screen time for her. At first, I thought “oh yeah, no problem.” When I take care of her, I find myself wanting to have my screen time. I have a phone, and I’ll watch something on YouTube or whatever. While carrying her I’m watching the highlights of the Warriors, which is always good. I’m watching something, and I see Adeline starting to look over to look at the screen, and so I’ll hide it. I’ll be like “nope. That’s not for you.” Right?
I did that a couple of times and I realized “oh. No screen time for her means no screen time for me.” Because I don’t want to say to her “no, Adeline, you can’t but I can. Do as I say, not as I do.” It begins now. I think about that. Many of us, that is us. Do as I say, not as I do. At least in some way, shape, or form. Do you know what Jesus did? He changed it up. He said, “look at what I do, and judge my words by my actions.” Do we understand this? Jesus basically says to them “you don’t agree with what I’m saying? Then look at how I live. Judge my words by my actions. Which one of us would dare say that? Oh, you don’t like what I’m saying? Well, examine my life and tell me I’m wrong. Tell me, c’mon. Some of us might want to. I don’t advise it. Because it’s only a matter of time. Something will be found. A discrepancy will be found. Conscious or unconscious. There was always going to be a gap. This is where Jesus elevates Himself well above any other person. He is the Mt. Everest compared to us. He had no fear, no trepidation, and essentially to them “listen. Fine. You have a hard time with my words. Fine. Look beyond that. Look at how I live. Look at my actions. Look at them. Tell me. Tell me where there is a space. Tell me where there is a gap. Show me.”
It’s a remarkable, remarkable word because what he ends up doing is putting them to the test, and they had no response. They had no ability to find anything. Anything. Because of that all they could do is truly either believe, “this is why He’s polarizing.” They could either believe or oppose. In their case, they decided, we see in verse 39, they sought to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands. Jesus went away, again, across the Jordan to a place where John had been baptizing, and there he remained. Which is fascinating. Jesus chose to vulnerably make Himself known. Expose Himself, truly, who He was without hiding anything.
When being rejected by those who were influential in his society, you know what he does? He decides to go back where it all began, to the place where John had been baptizing. John the Baptist. In the river. Jesus goes back to that place where there was one day, years prior to that, Jesus steps onto the scene and John looks at him and he says “behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus steps into that water and receives the baptism of John. It is there that the skies part and a voice thunders through. A divine voice speaking of affirmation and love for His son. His only begotten son.
Jesus, having been rejected, and we know what it’s like to reveal a little bit of us, to be rejected. Who knows what it must’ve been like to expose himself completely, yet be refused. He goes to that place, perhaps to gather strength, perhaps to be reminded, perhaps to recenter himself. We don’t really know, but what we do know is what we’re told in verse 41, “many came to him and they said ‘John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.'”
John was a prophet, and everything he has said about you is true and many believed in him there. Many who had not known him yet, many who had followed John. John, the one who we had been following, exploring his life, and they came, and they for themselves decided to experience who Jesus was. They believed in him there. This is an account always worth exploring. Always worth contending with, wrestling with, especially if we are in a place where we are wondering what this faith journey is all about. I’d like us to just sit with it a little differently, and I’d like to explore what this says about Jesus being all in, and what this says about His invitation to us.
First, I want to just put it on the board. Do you know what this tells us? This shows us that Jesus’ actions always reflect God’s goodness. His actions never contradicted the goodness of God. They never violated it. They never undermined it. They never went against the goodness of God. Ever. The truth is, there has never been a more loving person than Jesus. We are in a culture that loves to redefine love. But Jesus is the gold standard. There is no higher. Jesus alone loved more than anyone was even capable of.
Jesus’s actions always speak of God’s goodness. Do you know what He didn’t do? He never harmed, He only strengthened. He never ever ended up disempowering people. He only empowered those who were around Him. Isaiah said this about Jesus: he would be like a servant who would see a wick, a little flame, and it was about to be out but he would be the one who would restore the strength of that flame. He would never snuff it. He was like the man, the gardener, who would see a bruised reed. Rather than plucking it and replacing it with something, Jesus would restore it. He would not break a bruised reed. Jesus lived up to that word and superseded it. Do we understand this?
It needs to be something we have to be reminded of from time to time. Especially if we’re finding ourselves in places where life is challenging and difficult. What we have to understand is He is the one who had more power than any person, any person has ever experienced, and He didn’t allow it to corrupt Him. Jesus, unlike so many examples throughout history, did not abuse His power. He ended up willingly enduring injustice for our sake. This is what He did. There is no man more innocent than Jesus. Easter, what we’re going to celebrate, you know what it does? It elevates to the foreground that the man who was more innocent than any other received an unjust punishment for us. Even when He was on the cross, even when He was being nailed, He uttered these words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
He never violated. Never violated God’s goodness. Ever. Those actions still echo, and they still impact. Peter said this of Jesus, it’s good for us to sit a little bit, he said this of Jesus to the early church. He said “Men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, He was a man attested to you by God with mighty works, wonders, and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know.”
Do you know what this means? It’s basically Peter’s way of saying “listen, if you don’t believe what I’m saying about Jesus, remember how He lived His life. There were deeds that accompanied His words. They were mighty, they were wondrous, they were significant, they had signs that pointed back to God, and here’s the deal: no one could actually do that simply by choosing to. No, they were evidence that God was using Him. He was the greatest vessel ever to enter for God. He was it. That’s him.” Peter wasn’t talking to people thousands of years removed like us or hundreds of years removed like those before us. He was speaking to those who had seen Jesus, maybe months prior to this statement. Because this statement was so true, the early church was birthed. We understand this, right? If Peter makes this statement, and those who are there had not witnessed it with their own eyes, there’d be no church. They would easily challenge him. But because of the veracity of how Jesus lived, they said “you know what? You’re right. What do we need to do?”
Because of Jesus’ actions, they spoke horizontally. They never harmed humanity, they always were for the betterment of it. They always strengthened people. Healed people. They always accepted wherever they were. They also spoke vertically. It always elevated God. Jesus’ actions always put God above any other. His life never undermined God. Never contradicted or violated Him. Not only that, you know what Peter was saying is Jesus’ life wasn’t just Jesus saying “God truly is who He says He is, and I am His son.” It was God saying “I endorse my son. I sponsor Him. My name rests with Him.”
So when Peter says these words and they hear him, they decide to do what we are all invited to do, which is the reality is that faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus will always be proven true. It will be. We have to know this. We have to know that when we put our trust in Jesus, we may not be experiencing everything we desire to experience from Him right now, but we will prove true. He will not allow us to be put to shame. Here’s what Paul told the Romans in verse 41. “Many came to him, and they said ‘John did no sign.'” Those who follow John. “but everything that John said about this man was true.”
I love that. They were the ones who heard John and they trusted him to be someone sent from God. But even beyond that, they came and they saw Jesus for themselves, and they sat at his teaching, and they listened to him, and they observed his way of life, and they ended up saying to each other “do you realize that John was different than Jesus. He didn’t have the same evidence. He didn’t point us in the wrong direction. Everything he said about Jesus is true, and is accurate.” Do you know what it means? He wasn’t selling us a false bill of goods. I don’t know, have you ever bought something that you thought was something, and when you got it, it wasn’t what you thought it was? Have you ever had that? It was a month ago that I decided “you know what? I’m going to try to get a different case for this iPad Mini.” Right”
I went online and it was like, whoa! Didn’t expect that. Didn’t know it was that expensive, so I’m going to look everywhere. I’m looking for deals, right? I find something half off, and it’s from Apple, and I’m like “oh sweet.” Except it was international. I don’t want to say where. So I decided, I said “okay. Yeah. Let’s do it.” I got it in the mail. I was happy. It was this cover, back end, and everything. I put it on, and I’m doing it, and using it and everything. Then one morning I look at it, and I’m just kind of reading and then I notice this brown spot on the cover. I’m like “oh what is that?” I rub it, and it’s cardboard. Yeah, I know. I know. Devastating. Ruined my day.
So I remember thinking “what? No, but this is supposed to be, I don’t know, not cardboard.” Then I scrape it a little bit more, and it’s browner. It’s like “this is cardboard. This is not good. Ah! That’s why it’s half off.” So then I go online, and I’m researching who sold this to me, and I’m trying to communicate to them please give me my money back because you stole it. But I’m sitting there, I don’t want to say that, right? Because then they will say no, it’s mine now. I decide, what do I say? So they said please state the reason you want to return this. The best I could come up with was, I didn’t want to offend them, I wanted my money back, so I said “it wasn’t what I expected.” It’s true. It’s true. I just sat there, I was waiting, looking at my email every once in a while. They responded and said, “go ahead and send it back.” I said “sweet, go ahead and give me my money.” Right?
There’s nothing worse than thinking we’re getting something, going in, and being let down. I’ll tell you what. Jesus won’t do that to us. He won’t sell us a false bill of goods. This is important for us to know. This is why it matters, actually, who we speak to about our faith in Jesus. I don’t know about you, but one of the hardest things to do is to speak to somebody about my love for Jesus. I wish it was the easiest. Sometimes people make it easier for me, but it’s always a risk to tell somebody about Jesus. It’s a risk because there is something of a fear that we have to confront. We have to, at some level, be okay with the fact, not just that they might reject Jesus, but the feeling that they might actually reject us too. This is why I think it’s so important for us to take advantage of these opportunities. For us to say “hey, will you come and we’ll do what this says. Come and see. On Friday night, Saturday night, let’s go out to eat in the mission afterward, or Sunday morning let’s get some brunch.” You never know, let’s just hang out. Let’s talk about life. My church is doing something pretty cool. I can assure you, it’s pretty cool.
You never know because it might not happen immediately where they might come to a point. Do you know John? He didn’t have a ton, a ton of success. But he spoke about Jesus, and they tried to put him on the spot and they said “John, are you the man?” He’d say “no, no, no, no. It’s Jesus. It’s Jesus.” All those people that came to hear Jesus, it was after John was removed from the scene, but you know what? They ended up saying “what John said was true.”
Do we understand when we tell somebody about Jesus or invite them into faith, do we know what we do? We put ourselves in the sacred place down the line, maybe years, maybe decades down the line, when they come to know Jesus, we were one of those. We didn’t sell them a false bill of goods. They’ll discover it’s true. It’s true. There’s nothing more special, in my opinion, in this faith journey than seeing somebody come to experience Jesus is as good as His words say. I feel it in my soul. My life has changed. My relationships are changing because Jesus wasn’t lying to me. He really is that good.
At the end of the day, this faith, you know what it will do to us? Faith in Jesus will always elevate us to our highest potential. Always. No one was more powerful than Jesus. True. No one was more humble than Jesus. Also true. He never used His power to oppress. He used His power to elevate. He was like the counterweight for humanity. Born into a position in which they could not bring themselves out, and so he decided to be the one who would descend. In His descension anyone who would attach themselves to Him would be lifted up and elevated. This is what was remarkable about Jesus. Usually, an environment can affect the individual. Jesus affected the environment. Usually, bad habits can corrupt. But Jesus would actually create good habits in people. He would transform them. He would step into people’s lives no matter where they were, indiscriminate.
If anybody, by the way, was able to be self-righteous, judgmental, and condemning, it would be Jesus. But He never was. Jesus would step into the lives of those who were hurting, in need of healing, outcasted, behaving very unkind, very wickedly the scriptures would say. Do you know what he would do? He wouldn’t make them outcasts. He would bring them in. He would speak to them and say “you’re created of so much more than this. You’re better than this. You’re better than this. You could be a person who is loving. You can be generous. You can be a person who’s honest, true, courageous, noble, and honorable. Your past may have been a certain way, but if you stick with me, your future will be far greater than you’ve ever imagined.”
This is what Jesus did, this is what Jesus does. He takes any one of us, and you know what he does? If you’ve ever felt restless with God, it might be because He’s saying to us, in the best way possible, “you got more in you. There is more I put there. There’s more skill, there’s more talent, there’s more drive in there. You need to let it come out. You need to do your absolute best. You need to do your absolute best at home.” Why? Because we’re trying to earn and deserve anything? No. Because we’re loved. Because we’re created and nothing that He creates is wasted. We have an opportunity to do many good things.
In the relationships where they most matter, we are the ones who are called to be the best we absolutely can. To go all-in at home. To go all-in with our work environments. To do it, why? To get a promotion? To get affirmation and be noticed by those who we work for? No. But this is what Paul truly said. You do that, and you’re truly doing it as unto the Lord. When we do that, you know what we become? Something inside of our character changes, and the highest expression of what it is to be human starts to appear inside of us because the character of Jesus starts to transform our character. We get to experience all of that, but we also get to experience the reality.
Do you know what the best expression of a human being who is fully alive is? It’s love. At the risk of oversimplifying it, it’s love. Paul said “Romans, listen. Don’t owe anybody anything except to love one another. For when you love one another, you fulfill all of the law. You fulfill all of it.” Jesus was the picture of humanity at its best, and when we say “I’m all in with you, Jesus,” He says, “start joining me at your best.” That’s what He does. May we go all-in. May we go all-in with Jesus.
In a moment, we’re going to receive our time of giving and our closing song. Lord, I thank you. That you are one who doesn’t know any shadow or turning. You truly are the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. Yet you are the one who knows us. You are sympathetic toward our weaknesses. I thank you, God, that you are worth trusting. You are worth us willing to let our guard down, to follow you with everything we have. I pray, Lord, that you would give us the courage we need to bring our lives into alignment. To strive to lean into this life you’ve given us. To live to the greatest, highest potential you’ve breathed into our soul. I pray you to help us go all in. In Jesus’ name, amen.