In this message, we learn that our obedience determines our intimacy, not our identity.
Good morning and Happy Father’s Day. Never gets nearly the celebration as Mother’s Day, but that is okay. For all of you here that are fathers, here’s what I want to say to you, Happy Father’s Day. And I pray that this becomes the year that you learn how to live as a beloved son, because you have a great father in heaven who loves you. And great fathers are great sons first. And may you live as a great son this year, because of who Jesus is and what he did for you. So, Happy Father’s Day, and Welcome to Valley Creek Church. I’m glad that you’re here. If you got your Bibles, turn with me to Genesis 22 and James 2, Genesis 22 and James 2. Genesis is in the beginning of your Bible. James is towards the end of your Bible. We’re going to just jump right in today. We’re in a series called Let Go. We’ve been talking about being loved fiercely and holding loosely and it’s a little bit of teaching today.
And I kind of want to walk you through some stuff, because I believe again in this series, I shared with you the first part of this series. There’s a bunch of stuff that’s pent up in my heart for our church. So, I’m kind of throwing it out. You got to grab what the Holy Spirit has got for you. I believe he’s got something for you. And so we’re going to kind of go a little bit deep today. So, I want you to be ready for it. We’re just going to jump right in. You see, we’ve been talking a lot about grace. And we’ve said that it’s the grace of Jesus that will always lead us to following after him. In fact, you know, you’re starting to understand the grace of Jesus when you passionately pursue and willingly obey Him. The grace empowers what the law demands. It’s the grace of Jesus that allows me to walk in the truth of Jesus. And the more grace I receive, the more I willingly obey. And so, what we’re trying to do really in this series is reconcile grace and obedience, because if we’re honest, they often feel like tensions. They often feel like they’re against each other.
What does undeserved favor have to do with my obedience? And how do they work with one another? And we’re trying to unpack that together. In fact, the first question that I just want to ask you in these messages is why do you obey God? Some of you are like, I don’t. Well, that’s okay. That’s a message for another day. That’s just fine, but for those of you that do, like why do you obey? Do you obey out of fear? Do you obey because you think you have to? Do you obey because you want to be a good person or you don’t want him mad at you? Do you obey because someday you want to make it to heaven or do you obey because you love him?
You see, we don’t obey God to be accepted. We obey because we are accepted.
We don’t obey to obtain the favor of God. We obey because we have the favor of God. In fact, obedience has nothing to do with your salvation. It has everything to do with your intimacy with God. In fact, Ephesians 2:8 and 9 says, for you have been saved by grace undeserved favor through faith. This is not of yourselves. It’s not by works. It’s not your obedience so that no man can boast. You’ve been saved by grace, which means your salvation has nothing to do with your obedience. In fact, your obedience has no impact on your identity, your position with God or your righteousness. When you buy faith, trust Jesus, nothing. Your obedience has no impact on your identity, your position with God or your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21, for God made him Jesus, who knew no sin to be sin for, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God. You’ve been saved by Jesus’ obedience, not your obedience, Jesus’ obedience made you righteous. Or how about Romans 5:19, it says, through the disobedience of one man, Adam, many were made sinners.
That’s an identity statement. You and I became sinners because of Adam’s disobedience. But through the obedience of one man, Jesus, many were made righteous. Identity statement. It was Jesus’ obedience that made you righteous. Your salvation, your identity has nothing to do with your obedience. It has everything to do with Jesus’ obedience. In fact, if your obedience couldn’t make you righteous, why do you still believe that your disobedience can make you unrighteous? We’ve got to start giving Jesus’ obedience more authority in our life than Adam’s disobedience. We got to start giving the finished work of the cross more power in our lives than our failures. Our salvation, our identity has nothing to do with our obedience.
That was Jesus’ obedience that completed it or finished it for us. Our obedience though has everything to do with the level of intimacy we experienced with God. Like John 14:21, Jesus says, “Whoever has my commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves me and he who loves me will be loved by my Father and I too will love him and show myself to him.” In other words, Jesus says when we obey him, he will reveal himself to us. Every next step that you take on your journey with Jesus, you see an experience, a little bit more of who Jesus is. He reveals himself to those who are willing to obey him. So, basically, here’s what I’m trying to share with you is that it’s Jesus’ obedience, that allows us to experience a new identity. It’s our obedience that allows us to experience a new level of intimacy. Jesus’ obedience changed our identity. Our obedience changes our level of intimacy with God. Are you with me on that?
Can you catch it? Like, do you believe it? Most of us are like, no, I, I don’t understand anything you’re saying today. Okay, well, that’s a problem.
This is where we’ve been for a while. And we’ve been talking about Jesus’ obedience. His finished work changes us. Gives us this identity where we’re now accepted by God. So, the question you have to ask is, then, well, why would I bother to obey? I then bother to obey because I want to be intimate with him and go to this deep place of knowing the heartbeat of God. So, that’s what I want to talk about. Look over with me at Genesis 22. Let me show you a story, a familiar story. I want to talk about this, our obedience leading to this intimacy with God. Verse 1, it says, “Some time later God tested Abraham.” Okay, pause. Good news, God will test you.
God tested Abraham, it says, which means he will test you. I know we like to think, that doesn’t happen. We wish it didn’t happen. We want to pretend like it’s not going to have. God tested Abraham and he will test you. And in the original language, there’s a huge difference between the word test and tempt. The word test in the original language means to put pressure on something in order to expose its weaknesses, so those weaknesses can be restored. It would be like a carpenter that builds a bookshelf. And when he is finished building the bookshelf, he presses on it in all the corners to see if there’ll be cracks or pops or a weak spot, so then he can fix it to make it strong.
So, God will test you to strengthen you, which is very different from the word tempt in the original language, which means to put pressure on something in order to break it. Satan wants to tempt you, put so much pressure on you that he can break you. So, God will test you to strengthen you. Satan will tempt you to break you. And maybe you’re here and you feel like you’re being tested in life right now. Turn and run to Jesus because he’s putting pressure on you to expose a weak spot, so he can strengthen you. And maybe you feel like you’re being tempted in life right now. Satan is putting pressure on you to break you. The Bible says resist the devil and he will flee. Okay? God tests you to strengthen you. So he’s testing Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham, “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and go to the region of Moriah, sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Early the next morning, Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son, Isaac.” Okay, pause. Again, it says early the next morning, which means Abraham didn’t negotiate with God. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t say God, maybe next week, next month, next year.
It says early the next morning, he got up and he went. We said a few weeks ago that faith chooses to respond before the question is even asked. Faith also chooses to respond immediately. Fact in the Bible delayed obedience is really just disobedience. It’s just saying God, I’m not going to do it. Abraham gets up. “He responds immediately when he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, stay here with the donkey while, I and the boy go over there. We will come back and we… we will worship and we will come back to you.” So, you can see his faith. He believes he’s going to go over there with Isaac, but somehow still come back with Isaac. “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac. He himself carried the fire and the knife as the two of them went on together. Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire in the wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Anyone think that’s a fair question for Isaac to ask at this point.
If I’m Isaac, I’m like, “Dad, I’m a little concerned here. Why is the wood on my back and why are you carrying the fire and the knife and we ain’t got no lamb? I’m just saying, Dad. I’ve been thinking about this for like three days now. This ain’t looking like it’s going to work out all that. Well, for me, I’m a little concerned.” “Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reach the place God had told them about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son, but the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me, your son, your only son.” And Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw ram caught by its horns. He went over took the ram, sacrifice it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place the Lord will provide. And to this day it is said, “On that mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.”
Okay, wow. Talk about being tested. You think you got it bad. Abraham was probably tested more than any other human that’s ever lived on the face of the earth. And it’s this story with this tension built in it. And you and I have the gift of hindsight. We know how it works out. Abraham had no idea. They have no idea how this deal was going to work. If you imagine the three days of walking with Isaac wondering what was going to happen. And what I love about this story is there’s two incredible prophetic pictures built right into it. You see, the first prophetic picture is, this is a story about Jesus. In fact, if you read the Old Testament, look for Jesus. He is all over the Old Testament. All you have to do is look from this is a prophetic picture of Jesus.
I mean, it says Abraham is going to give his one and only beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice. That’s sure sounds like the Father and Jesus, doesn’t it? One and only son. And it says the wood was placed on Isaac’s back, symbolizing the cross put on Jesus’ back, wood on his back that he was willing to carry. And it says that Isaac willingly and obediently followed his father up the hill, the same way that Jesus with the cross on his back willingly and obediently followed his father up the hill of Calvary to be a sacrifice. And it says they went on a three day journey. Three days from the time Abraham thought he lost his son to when he got him back. Jesus was in the ground for how many days? Three days, from the time the father lost him til the time the father got him back. You see, if you’ve ever wondered whether or not the father loves you, especially on this Father’s Day, all you have to do is look at the story of Jesus and you can know he gave the thing he loved more than anything else for you. He loves you fiercely. So, prophetic picture of Jesus, but it’s also a prophetic picture of you and me.
You see, every one of us, we’re like Isaac. We’re like Isaac. We have the wood to our back. We should be carrying the cross. We’re bound in our own bondage. And you might think, well, Isaac is innocent in the story. Really? Because the Bible says that no one is righteous. That the wages of sin is death, that, that there is no one who seek God. There’s no such thing as innocent. Every one of us deserved to die for the failures in our own lives. We should have the cross strapped on our back. We should be the ones carrying it up. And then God, at just the right time gave us Jesus, the perfect, innocent, spotless sacrifice. And it just the right time when Jesus was given, now we get to live in his freedom. In fact, we remain in bondage until we believe that Jesus was bound for us. And what I think is so cool is it says the Ram was caught in a thicket, a thicket full of thorns and thistles which would be a picture of the curse of Genesis Chapter 3, when Adam and Eve fell. Thorns and thistles, which is a picture of Jesus became bound in our curse, so we could live in his freedom. It’s a prophetic picture of Jesus. It’s a prophetic picture of us. I’m grateful for the cross of Jesus today. I don’t know about you. I’m grateful for the sacrifice.
And here’s what I want you to see and all that. That was just bonus. That has nothing to do with the message. That was just all bonus. Verse 12 is what I want you to see, is “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” You see, in this moment, we learned that Abraham is desperate for God, that there’s nothing that’s going to hold him back from God. He’s hungry. He’s passionate. He’s driven. He’s pursuing. He knows the Father loves him fiercely. He holds loosely. He obeys fully so that he can get a hold of all of God. And what we learned from Abraham in this moment is obedience is not determined by reason, but by relationship. Okay? Obedience is not determined by reason, but by relationship. What God is asking Abraham to do is not reasonable. Anybody who want to agree with that?
Especially on this Father’s Day, you’re thinking like, man, okay, that ain’t reasonable. There nothing reasonable about it. Abraham wouldn’t have understood it. It wouldn’t have made sense to him. It didn’t logically compute. You got to think about Abraham, I’m thinking for three days. How am I going to explain this one to Sarah? Like, how am I going to go and come back home without the boy? And Abraham knows this is the promise child he’s waited for years for him. God says, the covenant will be through Isaac and will be the blessings will come through Isaac. I mean, this is not reasonable. And yet, he does it because of a deep relationship he has with God.
In fact, if you read the Bible, you’ll find people that God asked them to do things all the time that are not reasonable. God says to Noah, build an ark. Like, really God? It’s not raining and there’s no ocean around here. You’re telling me to build an ark. That’s not reasonable, but he did it out of relationship. God says to Moses, a shepherd, go confront Pharaoh, the most powerful man on the face of the earth and tell him to let my people go. Okay, that’s not reasonable God, like maybe we should reconsider what you’re thinking here. Or how about Nehemiah, God says go and rebuild the walls of the City of Jerusalem. Nehemiah is a cup bearer. What does the cup bearer know about rebuilding the walls of the City of Jerusalem? That’s not reasonable. Or how about Peter? He’s in the boat and there’s a big storm and Jesus is walking on the water. And Jesus says, Peter, come walk on water. If I’m Peter, I’m like, whoa, Jesus, I only walk on water during the calm season. Like when it’s wavy, then my skills go away. But when it’s calm, I can, like, that’s not reasonable.
But he does it out of relationship. And maybe God’s asking you to quit your job. Move your family. Just get rid of a relationship. Start something new. Trust him for this. Get in a group and you think it’s not reasonable. It’s not. Obedience is not determined by reason. It’s determined by relationship. You see, you and I say things like this. We say to God, we say help us understand and we will obey. And we say, help us understand and we will obey. God says obey and you’ll understand. We said, no, no, God help us understand, like, show me how it’s all going to work out, how you’re still going to provide for my family and take care of everything.
Put all the pieces of the puzzle together and then I’ll obey. God says no, obey and you’ll understand. In fact Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand.” We don’t understand and then have faith. We have faith and then we understand. The understanding unfolds in the experience of obedience as we start walking it out. And if God is love, then everything God will ever ask you to do is loving. In fact, he’s constantly asking you to give up things that harm and enslave you, so you can live in his love and in his freedom. And if you’re unwilling to obey what God asks you to do, you can just know that that means the relationship between the two of you is not deep enough for you to trust him in that moment. In fact, do you think about it like this, disobedience is just misplaced trust.
It’s all disobediences. It’s misplaced trust. It means I am trusting in someone or something more than I trust in God to bring me blessing and protection and security and satisfaction. It’s misplaced trust. Listen, I was thinking about it this week, I will only obey someone I trust, and I will only trust someone I know who loves me. But that’s true for you, too. I will only obey someone I trust and I only trust people who I know love me. Abraham obeyed God because he trusted him and he trusted him because he knew he was loved fiercely. Now, flip over with me to James Chapter 2, because this is what I want to show you. This is what James has to say about what happens in this moment, in this story with Abraham, Isaac and God, James 2:21. Are you still with me so far?
Verse 21, “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together. And his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness and he was called God’s friend.” In this moment, in Genesis Chapter 22, Abraham becomes a friend of God. Are you kidding me? Heaven records Abraham as God’s friend. Talk about intimacy, talk about closeness. Talk about an extended invitation. What other God do you ever know of or have ever heard of that wants to be friends with his people? Every other God wants servants and slaves to just be the master. Our God wants friends to walk together and talk together and laugh together and share secrets and do life with one another. And it was Abraham’s obedience that led to this place of intimacy.
It was Abraham’s obedience that moved into a place of being a friend of God. Listen, I don’t know about you, I want to be God’s friend. That’s incredibly inspiring to me. And I read those verses and I think, well, that seems so far away, like God, he’s somewhere way out there, isn’t he? Well, no, remember, Jesus died and his obedience now changed my identity. So, I’m righteous and holy and blameless and pure, which means I have total access to God. And now it’s up to me whether or not I want to be his friend, because God will never force you to be his friend. He will never force you to have this intimate, close relationship with him. And what we learn again from Abraham is that its total surrender leads to a total encounter. It’s only in totally surrendering, obeying God that we get a total encounter or revelation of who he is.
A partial surrender, a partial obedience gets a partial encounter. In fact, Jeremiah 29:13 says, “When you seek me with all of your heart, then you will find me.” When you seek me with everything then you’ll find all of me. And if we’re honest with ourselves, this is why we’re so disillusioned in our walk with Jesus. We partially surrender, so we get a partial encounter. And we always feel like we’re missing out, like where is God really? And we’ll say things like God didn’t show up. The truth is, is not that God didn’t show up, it’s that we didn’t follow. I mean, think of people in the Bible, think of Moses. Moses was a guy just like you and me. He made mistakes. He messed up, but he was totally surrendered with God, so we got a total encounter.
God puts him on the side of the mountain and reveals to Moses his glory. And it says, God would speak to Moses face to face the way a man would speak to his friend. Are you serious? I want that. Think about David, Bible refers to David as a man after God’s own heart. David messed up. He made mistakes. He made some big mistakes, man, if you read the Bible. But David was totally surrendered. And in his total obedience to God, because of intimacy that he wanted with God, God revealed himself to him. In fact, David says, I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my god than dwell in the tents of the wicked. In other words, I’d rather be in the house of God just serving him in the worst role possible than out there having everything the world has to offer. And because of his surrendered life, God revealed himself to David in a profound way. I want that. Think of Paul, Paul. He goes where Jesus asked him to go, preaches the gospel, beaten, persecuted. I mean, he had a tough life. Paul had a tough life. And yet in 2 Corinthians, it says, “I’ve received such revelation. I’ve been lifted up to the third heaven. I have revelations so deep, Paul says, that I can’t even begin to explain him because he was totally surrendered.” Listen, I don’t know nothing about the third heaven, but I’d sure like to see it. You?
Someone say, like, what’s the third heaven? I don’t know either.
But I want to see, it’s in the Bible. These are men and women who would rather have lived in the desert with the presence of God than live in the promise land without the presence of God. And what we learn is Abraham surrenders Isaac, he becomes the friend of God. So the question is, what do you need to surrender? Where do you need to obey? How desperate are you for God? How much do you want to be his friend because he won’t force it? In fact, if you’ve been with us on this series, let me give you this little diagram, this may help you, because this is really what we’ve been saying in this series. They’re going to put it up there for you. Let me explain it. It always starts with being loved fiercely. Okay? Loved fiercely, Jesus loves us fiercely. And when we understand the fierce love of God, which we’ve been talking about for months here at Valley Creek, the fierce love of God, it moves you to this place where you hold loosely.
Where you say, “I’m no longer defined by the things of this life and the things in this world, this stuff isn’t my identity. Jesus’ love is my identity, so I can hold loosely.” And when you hold loosely, you can now obey fully. The reason many of us never obey fully is because we’re still holding on to the things of this life tightly, so we can’t let go to actually follow. And when you obey fully, you move to this place of relating intimately with God. And when you relate intimately with him, you know even more how much he loves you fiercely. So it starts the cycle even deeper. You hold even looser. You obey even more. You relate even more intimately and it keeps the cycle going. I mean this is what happens to Abraham. He knows God loves him fiercely. He holds on to Isaac loosely.
He obeys fully, does everything God ask him to do. Then he relates intimately, becomes a friend of God. And in that moment, he experiences even more of the ferocious love of God. So, he holds even looser, obeys even more fully, relates even more. This is the cycle of called finding friendship with God. And it always starts with his love for you, not your love for him. So, I’ve been trying to tell you for weeks and weeks and weeks now, that’s Jesus’ obedience that changes your identity. And we love because he first loved us. And it sets the whole thing in motion. He said, I love that it says his faith and his actions were working together, that his actions completed his faith. In other words, in the Bible, the word believed actually means to obey. And you know that’s true in life, like, you believe the plane will fly, so you’ll get on it and go somewhere. Is that right? Or you don’t get on the plane because you don’t believe it can fly? Many of you are like, yeah, Malaysia flight 370, I’m just saying.
Like, three of us are excited about that story. I was one of them.
You believe, you believe the plane will fly, so you get on it, and it’ll go somewhere. You go to Mexico. You believe that if you drink the water out of the tub, it’ll make you sick. So, you don’t drink the water out of the tub. Your actions are telling you what you believe. Tomorrow morning, you’re going to get up and go to work, because you know, if you don’t go to work, you’ll be fired. Whether or not you really want to go or not, your actions are going to show you what you really believe. Or how about this, what if someone gave you the winning lottery numbers for the multimillion mega whatever lottery thing, what would you do? If you knew you had the winning numbers, what would you do? Give it to me, if you’re not going to do anything with it.
If I knew I had the winning numbers, I will go and buy the ticket. Why, because my faith is going to determine my actions. Your faith will always determine your actions, which means your actions reveal your faith. How you’re living reveals what you actually believe. Which means you can say all day long that you believe that God is your provider. But if you don’t tithe, that give back to God, your actions are communicating, you really believe you’re your provider. You can say all day long, you believe God as a forgiver, but if you’re still holding on to shame from somewhere in your past, then your actions are telling you, you believe that God forgives some things, but not all things. If you say you trust God, but then he asks you to take the next step and you won’t take it, your actions are telling you, you believe you really trust yourself more than you trust God. Or if you say you believe prayer changes things, but you never pray, then your actions are telling you, what you really believe is that prayer doesn’t change things, but you change things.
You can say you believe that God loves you fiercely, but if you never obey fully, your actions are telling you, you believe God only loves you a little bit. See, Abraham believed that God loved him fiercely, so he obeyed fully. And his actions completed his faith. His actions revealed what he really believed. My question for you is, is what are your actions right now communicating to you about what you believe about the love of God in your life. Because how you’re living right now is communicating to you, not anyone else. Who cares about anyone else? To you, what you really believe about the depth and the quality of the love of God. In fact, here’s how Jesus says it and I love it. John 15, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” So there it is, again. It always starts with the fierce love of God. He sets it in motion.
You are my friends if you do what I command. So there it is, again, Jesus says, it’s his obedience that changes our identity. It’s our obedience that determines our level of intimacy. Jesus’ obedience sets you free. Our obedience moves us into friendship. “I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his masters business. Instead, I’ve called you friends, for everything I learned from my father I have made known to you.” But let me try to explain it to you like this, imagine when my wife, Colleen, imagine if I never did anything she ever asked me to do. Okay, like nothing. I never did the dishes. I never took her for walks. I never took her out on dates. I never processed the things she wanted to process or helped with the kids when she wanted help. I never did anything she asked me to do. We would still be married, but the level of our intimacy would be very low.
I never did anything. We would still be married. We’re in a covenant. It doesn’t change my identity. I’m still her husband. We’re still married. Covenants still exists, but the intimacy level with which we share would be very low. So, I think a lot of us live with God. We get saved. We put our faith in Jesus. We’re now in a covenant with him. Jesus has changed our identity, but we don’t do anything he asked us to do from that point forward, so we live in this place of extremely low intimacy with God. In fact Jesus is saying, he says, “I no longer call you servants, I call you friends.” A servant does the least amount possible. What’s the least amount I have to do? A servant lives out of fear. A servant doesn’t know the master’s heart. But a friend? Think of your friends. A friend says, what’s the most I can do to bless you? A friend responds out of love.
A friend knows the secrets of the heart of the other. In fact, the people in your life, they’re not your friends if you’re not sharing what’s inside here. They’re called acquaintances. Called people you hang out with or do sports with or do your kid’s activities, but they’re not friends. Friends, biblically speaking, friends are people that you share what’s inside here with. And Jesus says, I want to share with you everything the Father has told me. Are you kidding me? That’s the kind of intimacy he’s inviting me to and he set it in motion? You see, your motive for obedience matters. It matters big time. Some of you are sitting here and you’re like, listen, man, I’ve, I’ve been a Christian for years and I don’t feel like a friend with God. Okay. Maybe it’s because your motive for obedience is you’re still trying to obey to obtain your identity. You’re still trying to obey, so God will be pleased with you or be accepting you. That’s done in Jesus.
You already are accepted righteous, pure, blameless, holy, through the obedience of one man, many were made righteous, done, end of story. You can’t add to it or take away from it. You don’t have to obey for that. We now obey for intimacy. Some of you are obeying like Martha, you’re making a meal. Jesus never ordered to determine your identity. He says, obey like Mary to be intimate with me. Maybe you’re obeying like a Pharisee and you’re trying to win or obtain the law. I got to keep the law. And if I can do the 10 Commandments, God will bring me into heaven. No, obey like a prostitute who Jesus met and says, “Your sins, many though they were, are now forgiven much.” And she now knew her new identity, so she related with Jesus different and she obeyed to go to this place of intimacy. See, there’s a cost to great friendship. But all the friends you have in your life, you would say it doesn’t feel like a cost, because you left them. And I think we spend our lives negotiating with God over these little things like little obedience. Little things he’s asked us to do, so we never moved to this place of friendship. Following will always bring you to this place of being a friend of God. Are you with me on that?
Let me close it with this, okay. John Chapter 6 is probably the saddest story for me personally in all of the Gospels. Jesus has just multiplied the bread and the loaves. He’s fed 5000 people. It’s incredible. And there’s big crowd has developed and Jesus is teaching. And he looks at everybody, the disciples in the crowd, and he says, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have no life in you.” Okay. Can we all agree that’s a hard teaching? Like that’s gross, Jesus, we got eat your flesh and drink your blood, what does that mean? Which is exactly what the disciples say? .A few verses down, it says, “The disciples said, this is a hard teaching, who can understand it? In other words, they look at Jesus and said, Jesus, eat your flesh, drink your blood to have life like, we have no idea what that means. Jesus, you have to help us understand and then we’ll obey.
And Jesus says, no, he says, you need to obey and then you’ll understand. They said, “No, Jesus, this is ridiculous. This is not reasonable. This is not logical. We can’t… eat your flesh, drink your blood. Well, you have to help us understand and then we will obey.” And Jesus says, really, he says, “No, you need to obey and then you’ll understand.” And in John 6:66 is probably the saddest verse to me in all of the Gospels. It says, “From that time on, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Disciples, this is not the crowd. This is not the casual church attender. This is not the, I show up once a year person. This is disciples.
And they drew a line in the sand to say, Jesus, this is where it stops. If you don’t help us understand, we ain’t going any farther, because Jesus, we’ve already done a lot and that’s just too crazy. Here is the line in the sand and we’re not going. This is where the train ends for us, Jesus, unless you make it really clear and help us understand. This is John 6. And these are disciples, which means in John 2, they saw Jesus turned water into wine. John 4, they watched him minister to the Samaritan woman at the well. John 5, they saw him heal the pool, the man at the pool of Bethesda who has been paralyzed for 38 years. John 6, they watched him feed 5000 people with a few loads and a few fish. John 6, they watched Jesus walk on water. These are disciples. And now they draw a line in the sand to say, I can’t go any farther. And they turn and they leave. They leave. And Jesus looks at the 12.
And I love what he says, he says, “Do you want to go to?” Because Jesus doesn’t change his standards for you and I. He didn’t change what you expects, but he empowers us to live it with his grace. He says, do you want to go to? And Peter steps forward. This is one of Peter’s bright moments in the scriptures here. He says, “Lord, to whom will we go? We know you alone have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the holy one. To whom will we go?” And they decide to follow Jesus even though they don’t understand. And in John 13, when they sit down at the Last Supper and Jesus takes the bread and he takes the cup and he breaks it, and he hands it out to the disciples. In that moment, it clicks and they understand, eat his flesh, drink his blood. He’s talking about the crucifixion that he would be poured out and broken, that we might live in the resurrected life with a new identity. Their obedience led them to a place of understanding by faith.
They now understand what it means to eat his flesh and drink his blood. That this revelation bulb goes off. And two chapters later, when Jesus looks at him and says, “I no longer call you servants, I call you friends, because you have followed me to this place where now we have this intimacy.” And all these other guys and gals in John 6 that turned around and walked away, they might be saved. They might make it to heaven. I don’t know. But they never got the friendship, which is what Jesus really wants. So, my question for you is, is there a line in the sand that you’re willing to draw? Is there something where you say, Jesus, I can’t, I can’t go past that point. Do you want to dance around the line? Do you feel like this? Maybe some of you, you drew a line a long time ago and you walked away and now you’re just starting to come back, that’s great, because Jesus is always coming back and trying again. And he’s always saying, come and follow me.
He said, I want to be your friend. Do you want to be my friend? And the thing you need to hear more than anything else is that we don’t obey so God will be pleased with us, Jesus obeyed. And God is now pleased with us when we trust in Jesus. We obey, so we can know him more intimately. So we can be his friend, hear his secrets, walk in his life with him. You don’t have a God who sits out there with lightning bolts and a beard. You have a God who wants to be your friend. Friendship is found on the other side of obedience, which makes it always worth it even though we don’t understand. So, we close your eyes with me. I just want to say, I’m very proud of you for how you just received that message. I know that’s deep and I know that some teaching. And I know the topic of obedience stresses us out.
And what I’ve been trying to communicate for a while is what the heart of the whole gospel is, is that it was what Jesus has already done that changes who we now are. And because we know who we now are, it changes what we do. His grace empowers us to obey, to live a life of freedom and purpose and destiny and hope to be a friend of God. Oh, I so badly want that for my life and I want that for you. But maybe you’re here and, and all of this sounds really good. But you’re like, man, my past, my brokenness, here’s what I would say to you, it just starts with saying, Jesus, today I choose to follow you for the first time. I put my faith and my trust in you that you died for me that I might live. Okay, that’s the moment your identity changes. He says you’re clean and holy and pure and righteous, and you never again have to obey to obtain his favor and his acceptance, you already have it. The covenant has begun, you’re interlocked in.
Now the question is obeying to get close to him, to know him, to experience his heart. And maybe you’re here and in your mind, you’re thinking, yeah, I wish I wanted that. But if I’m honest, John, that I don’t even like, I’m not desperate for that, I don’t desire that. Okay, then just ask him. That’s great. Just say to Jesus, say, Jesus, I want to be desperate for you, but I’m not. I want to desire you like that, but I don’t. I think it would be great to be your friend, but to be honest, I’m okay if I walk out of here and I’m not. Would you stir something in my heart, Jesus? And he will, he will. See, the reason God tests us often is to bring us to this place where we finally turned around and looked to him. And my sense that some of you have been being tested in your life, in your marriage, in your health, in your finances, I know put this pressure is on you and it feels like it’s clamping down, it’s God’s way of saying, “Hey, turn around and look to me. And let me strengthen you, and let me walk with you, and let’s be friends.”
Lord Jesus, may we be a church of people that you look at and say, “Those people at Valley Creek, those are my friends.” For nothing else, if you think about it like this, this Father’s Day, which we’ve been talking a lot about living as a beloved son or daughter with the Father, but as a child grows. At some point in time, that relationship changes and the father and the son they become friends. A mother and a daughter become friends. I think our father wants that relationship to continue to change where we are not only his son and daughter, but we’re his friend. So, Jesus bring that to pass in this place. We love you, Lord, and we bless you on this day. Thank you for what you have done. Hey, if you’re here and you need prayer, let these people pray for you. Maybe you need prayer for courage to be obedient or for a new relationship with Jesus. Something going on in your life for testing, let them pray for you. For those of you that want to give your tithes and your offerings, there’s boxes at all the doors as part of our obedience and our worship to him. If you’re new to Valley Creek, I’d love to invite you to guest central right out these doors. But I pray you go this week finding friendship with the God who loves you fiercely. I love you, blessings.