(un)Apologetic Week 11: Unintended Consequences
How do you know that Jesus is actually God? What happens to the people that never hear about Jesus? How can a loving God send people to hell? If God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, why would He even bother creating them? Why would God create the devil if He knew he would rebel? How’s it possible God has no beginning and no end? Why should I believe the Bible if God Himself didn’t write it? Can God and evolution both be true? What if I don’t agree with some stuff the Bible says?
So, why was God okay with slavery? Why does He seemingly allow wars? Where was God when I needed Him? If God is loving and all powerful, why is there evil?
Well, we’re concluding our series called (un)Apologetic this weekend, and I hope that you feel the way I do. Does everybody feel like this has been a good series? Good, good, good. If you’re new, you’re like, “Wow, I’m walking into the end of a service.” Trust me. Let me put you at ease. You’ll be cool because every time we do a series, whatever sermon sort of stands alone on itself, so you’ll feel like you’re right at home. What we’ve been trying to do over the last many weeks is to give everybody some tools for their toolbox to be able to share your faith. The Barna Group, which is a research group, does studies on many things, but it does a lot of studies on the church. They have concluded, for people who claim to be Christian — again, that is a broad category. But, for people who claim to be Christians in America, they have found that 2% actually share their faith on a regular basis.
Now, whether you agree with that number or not, use 10% — that mean 90%. Use 30%. There’s still 70% that are not. You say 60% are doing it, well, then there are still 40% that aren’t. So, the point being that there are still a lot of people that are Christians that don’t share their faith. I believe that the reason that they don’t typically share their faith is because they just don’t feel like they’re equipped to do it. So, we’ve been trying to spend some time bringing in speakers, me doing some messages on this, to give us some tools for our toolbox so that we can better share our faith and we have better answers for things that will come our way.
So, that’s sort of what we’ve been doing. Now, this weekend, we sort of bring this series to an end. And I’ll be honest with you here, as just a speaker and the pastor of the church, I’m usually really excited when we get going with a series, and I just feel like I know where I’m going. It’s always how to end the series that sort of gets me jammed up a little bit because I’m like, “How do you end this in a way that’s cool and meaningful, and the takeaways are there?”
So, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to end series. I’ve been working on this for about three or four weeks, putting things together and thinking through this. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to go through a passage of Scripture with us. We’re going to go through a chunk of Scripture. You’re probably going to think, as I go through that chunk of Scripture, “What in the world does this have to do with apologetics?” I will concede that that’s a decent thought when I’m going through the passage of Scripture. But when I do get to the takehomes, you’re going to go, “Okay. I do understand why he did that.” So, that’s what we’re going to do in a minute, but before we do that, I just want to take a moment here and just share from my heart to you so that you can understand what I’m trying to accomplish, not only in this series, but with the final message of the series.
In anything you do in life — it doesn’t make a difference what we do. Anything you and I do in life, there are always unintended consequences. There is always something that happens that we just didn’t think would happen, or whatever else. One of the things that we did not want to have happen in this particular series was to give people good arguments and good, strong support for the faith to create a bunch of argumentative Christians that just want to go out and bash people into the Kingdom of God. But that could be an unintended consequence. What we wanted is we wanted to make sure that everybody had the tools to share their faith because we believe and I believe — the staff believes, and I believe, as your pastor — that the things that are going on here really are significant and really show that God is at work. It’s not because we do everything so great, it’s not because the staff’s so awesome or anything like that, it’s just God has just really blessed this church. We believe that this church is called to really make a difference in this community.
And if you’ve been here for a while, you know every year I come in here at the beginning of the year, within the first couple of weeks, I have this purple book that I read out of. It’s called Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling by Howard Clinebell. I open up and read you a story about the lighthouse. The lighthouse started off saving people, staying on mission, on focus and doing the things that it was doing. It got caught up into becoming a country club and other things. It had lost out on what its original calling was.
I try to continually say that, as the pastor, that we’ve got to stay focused on the main thing, which is preaching Jesus and not getting distracted from that. Where this all comes from — and some of you will remember this, and some of you won’t. This may be the first time you’ve heard this. But it was about four or five years ago — probably about four years ago — I was asked to go to a conference, as a professor, to a group that plants churches so that I could see a little bit more of how they plant churches because I was teaching many of their pastors what’s called Homiletics, which is how to preach. As I went to that conference, there were like 70 or so young men and women that were planting churches. They got up and talked about, “In this city, we’re planting this church. We’ve gone to the city, we’ve prayed over this city and we’ve gotten this amount of launch team and all of this stuff. God has really given us a vision for the city. This is what He’s called us to do.”
And I’m sitting there in this conference going, “Man, I’m the pastor of a church for three years now, I’m working a job for like 60 hours a week, and I’m also preaching here.” And I’m like, “I don’t have a vision.” I was like, “Man, I stink. Man, what kind of pastor did Grace Community Church get, man?”
So, I went back to my room that evening — the hotel that I was staying in wasn’t one of the higher end hotels. Anybody ever stayed in one of those? The seat was like that plastic that you could pour grape juice on and it won’t stain. You know what I’m talking about? You put your arm on it and it was like — as you pull your arm out. Well, I got down on my knees, I stopped there in that hotel room and I said, “God, I went today and saw all these young men and women that have such a heart for ministry. They have a vision for the church and I don’t have a vision for the church. I’m going to sit here until we come up with something because I need something.”
I scribbled on a sheet of paper that night, after prayer, “Reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.” I came here that weekend, after I had gone to that thing, and I got up and told the church I was sorry. I apologized for not having a vision, and here’s the vision. I did that. Since that moment, I have been so focused, as a pastor, on making sure that everything we do is through the lens of that vision because I really believe that’s what God called us here to do at Grace Community Church. And I’ve taken it on the chin many times from people who have said, “No. We need to focus on this,” or, “We need to focus on that.” I’m like, “No, no, no. We’re focusing on the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We’re not deviating from that.”
And this is what I’ve learned over the last several years, and it’s taken me some time to learn this: When the church focuses on preaching Jesus, and that is the focus of the church, the unintended consequences are beautiful. They’re beautiful. Like, you all of a sudden start going, “How can we get involved in the community? How can we go and get involved in the prisons? How can we go and feed people?”
Because the focus is on preaching Jesus and the unintended consequences are just beautiful, but when a church decides to focus on something other than preaching Jesus — and it may be a good thing — what it brings is chaos, disorder, confusion and division because what happens is that somebody’s focusing over here on this, and then they think that’s exactly what it looks like to be a Christian, and this is what Christians should be doing. And then what they start doing is they start saying, “Well, you’re not doing this particular thing, and because you’re not doing this particular thing, you’re not right,” when reality is not all of us are called to all the peripheral things of the church. Many of us may be called to those specific ministries, but every Christian is called to preach Jesus. Every single one of us.
So, as we’ve taught this stuff on apologetics, we’ve taught it for one reason: We believe that God has positioned this church, with a new church on Bee Ridge, with a church coming out of the ground soon, here in Lakewood Ranch, to do something great for the Kingdom of God. What I do not want to do is squander the blessings that God has given us and become distracted with other things. I want to make sure we stay focused, as a church, on preaching Jesus and telling people the Gospel so that we can settle eternity, once and for all, for as many people as we do. The unintended consequences of that will be beautiful. They’ll be absolutely beautiful.
So, what I want to do is I want to take a passage of Scripture and work through it with you, and then we’re going to do some takehomes. As I get to the takehomes, you’ll understand why I used the passage of Scripture that I did. But the passage of Scripture that I’m going to preach is really powerful. We’re going to feel it in here today. Even if you’re like, “I’m not really that emotional of a person. I don’t really feel anything. I’m just like Spock. I’m cerebral,” you’ll feel the weight of this passage.
But before I go there, I feel like I at least owe, as a pastor, a small little note here just for those that may question or wonder, “I wish he would’ve weighed in one this.” The passage that I’m going to preach out of, probably in your Bible, is bracketed. It’s got a footnote that says, “This passage is not found in the earliest manuscripts.” That would be true. That is absolutely true. It’s not found in the earliest manuscripts. Some of your Bibles may not even have it at all. It just may be at the bottom of the Bible and says, “This is a later addition,” or whatever, which makes people question, “Should this be something that we preach? Should it not be something that we preach? Is this part of the Bible or is it not part of the Bible?”
It’s the passage in John 7:53-8:11. My answer to you is this: It is not found in the earliest manuscripts, but we continue to find manuscripts. So, it’s possible we could find an early manuscript at some point that does have this text and, all of a sudden, there’d be no reason to bracket it anymore. The second thing is when you study the early Church, many of the early Church fathers quoted this story, which means it definitely was in circulation in some form or fashion. So, I think that’s really big that in the early Church there was some talk about this particular story. Third thing is in every print addition of the Bible, period, end of story, up until like the last 50 or 60 years, it was included in every one of those Bibles without brackets, which means that the as long as the Church has had Bibles that have been printed, they’ve had this passage and pastors have preached on it and taught on it.
So, my suspicion and my passion is that we should include this passage of Scripture in Scripture, realizing that it’s not in some of the earliest manuscripts, but somehow, some way, God has intended this thing to be in there because it’s just been in there. So, I’m going to preach it. If you have other questions, you can ask me at another point. But I felt like I just at least owed it to you. So, if you go home and you read it and you’re like, “Oh, why does it say this?” At least you had some pastoral weigh-in on the passage of Scripture. So, that being said, let’s get to work here. We’ll start here in John 8:2. I’m not going to read the first couple of verses.
It says, “Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.”
Jesus’ normal operation while in Jerusalem was to go to the temple in the morning and He would teach. One of the things that He would do — and many teachers did it this way in the first century — is He would actually sit down on the ground and then everybody would sort of sit out to listen. But He would sit on the ground and there was something that was really human about sitting down on the ground and just having a conversation with people.
I would sit down, but people in the back say they can’t even see me when I stand up because I’m vertically challenged. I’m short. I’m not trying to preach at you here. I am trying to sit on the ground, but if I do that you won’t be able to see me anyway. So, all the people came to Him, He sat down and He taught them.
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst...” — they brought her right into the middle of this teaching — “...they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.’”
They caught her in the very act. “Now in the Law, Jesus — Scripture. Scripture says in the Law...”
“‘Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’”
Man, that is a tough start to a Sunday school class. Can I get an amen on that? It’s tough. So, you need to back up here a little bit and get the moment. A lot of times we just sort of read, but as your pastor, when I go through these passages of Scripture, I’m trying to teach you how to read. I’m trying to tell you how to think because there are so many things that the passages are saying that they’re not saying because they just assume that the reader would know these things. So, for us, it’s a little bit difficult because we’re reading so far away. But I want you to see here that Jesus has sat down, He’s teaching these religious leaders that would tell you they love God, that would tell you they are part of God’s chosen people, that would tell you that they know the Bible inside and out, and they’re trying to live wholly for God. They bring a woman caught in the very act of adultery, which means they stood around waiting to catch her in the act, when the Law was also clear that when you see somebody going to sin, you should keep them from doing it. They didn’t do that. They bring a woman caught in the very act, probably with maybe just a sheet covering her body, into the midst of the temple, into the midst of a group of people that are being taught by Jesus. And she’s standing there and they say, “Jesus, the Bible says this. What do You say?”
There are so many things going on here. First of all, you can see when religion goes amuck, what happens is we get focused on an issue. It may be many issues. It may be good issues. But the central issue that the people of Israel were called to be was to be a light to the nations. No different in the Old Testament than the New Testament. They were called to go into the world. Abraham was called to be a blessing to all the nations. Instead, they decided that rather than being a conduit of God’s blessing, they became a reservoir. They thought they were God’s people and everybody else was wrong, which oftentimes the Church mimics some of these things. Like, they’re there for reasons. We need to think through. We need to cognitively think through. These people are so bent on doing the right thing, on being holy, on following every single thing that Scripture says that they no longer care about people. They’re just concerned about getting this issue right. In fact, they’re so caught up in being right that what they do — and this is what John tells us.
He said, “This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.”
See, what happens is when you get focused on an issue — politics, theological debates, ministries or whatever else — and you silo off into that area, what you start doing is you start then looking, “Are you on my team or are you not on my team?” We do this within the understanding that we’re doing God a service. I always say to people when, as a pastor and a professor, people come to me and say, “Chip, do you take the Bible literally?” I look at them and I say, “What you’re asking me is, really, do I read it the way you do?”
That’s what you’re really asking me. You want to know if I’m on your team. You know, I’m on Jesus’ team and I want you to be on Jesus’ team. I want us all to be on Jesus’ team, but let’s not hunker down on some of this crazy stuff, as good as it may be, because the unintended consequences of getting caught up in all the minutia is it just brings all kinds of division and makes sort of a mockery of what the Church should be. The focus is people. The focus is winning the lost.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus, at the very end — like, He’s leaving the earth. The last words of Jesus — you might’ve thought He would’ve said, “What I want you to do is I want you to make sure you go to the prisons. I want to make sure that you pray for the sick.” He doesn’t say any of those things and none of those things are bad. What He says is, “I want you to go into all the world and I want you to preach the Gospel. You’re going to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God in Acts 1, and when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit of God, I want you to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.”
He leaves the world, saying, “Stay on focus preaching the Gospel,” because He knows the unintended consequences of preaching the Gospel are beautiful. So, they’re there testing Him. Now, let’s turn to the lady. She’s standing there, probably with hardly anything covering her, knowing — and I don’t have time to get into this. You just have to trust me on this. She’s in the betrothal period. She’s been married, but in the first century, when you were married, there was about a nine-month waiting period before you consummated the marriage. The reason they did that is to make sure that the lady wasn’t pregnant in that period of time. That was the way they did it. Whether right, wrong or indifferent, that’s the way they did. She’s in that betrothal period and she is with another man in this period.
So, she’s there in the temple, hardly anything over her. Probably people that are there in that group know her. Maybe family members. Can you imagine the shame, the guilt, the ridicule and the fear of stoning that this lady has?
John says, “Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.”
He’s seated. Here in this moment when every eye is on this lady, everybody’s looking at her, in a moment that’s just dripping with what is going to happen, Jesus bends down and writes on the ground. Now, if what He wrote was important, we would have been told that. We have no idea. He might not have written anything. He might have just been scribbling in the ground. We don’t know what He wrote. Now, there’s a possibility what John is doing here — it’s subtle; it’s possible, because Jesus, actually, is going to write twice in this passage with His finger. It’s possible that John is, sort of in a subtle way, honing in or drawing attention to the fact that Jesus is God, the deity of Christ because in the Old Testament, God uses His finger twice to write something — the Ten Commandments and the writing on the wall of Daniel — and now Jesus is using His finger to write twice. There may be some implication or some subtle nudge that Jesus is, in fact, God.
But what’s probably going on here, even if that is true, and John has seen that and drawn attention to that, what’s really going on here is this, because I want you to see the moment: Every eye is looking at this woman that has been drug in, caught in the very act of adultery. Everybody is staring her. Jesus bends down and starts writing in the ground. All the eyes that were on the woman now turn towards Jesus. He has redirected the shame of the woman to Himself. That’s beautiful. It’s just beautiful.
He obviously continues to write. We know that because we’re told, “And as they continued to ask him,”
In other words, they didn’t stop. They were like, “You’re going to weigh in on this. We’re going to get you to weigh in one this subject. You can sit there and play tic-tac-toe in the sand all You want, but we need You to weigh in on this.” Well, when He realizes they’re not going to stop, He stands up because He was seated.
He stands up and He says, “‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’”
Now, we normally look at that and go, “Well, they can’t throw a stone because everybody’s a sinner.” Well, if the case is that everybody’s a sinner, so the Law can never be administered, then we have a problem. Jesus is not saying that no one who doesn’t live other than a blameless life has the right to throw a stone because the Law was very clear that that is what they were supposed to do. Probably what’s going on is He’s probably making the statement to them, which is really interesting — He’s probably making the statement to them, “If you’re without the sin of adultery in your own life, then go ahead and throw the first stone.”
Because this is a truth that you will find out. Find the issues that drive you wild and you probably will find the issue that you struggle with the most. You know, we want to always get mad at those that are controlling? It’s because we’re controlling ourselves. We want to control. Probably, He’s insinuating something to the effect of, “If you’re not guilty of this, then go ahead. Toss away.”
It’s interesting that all these religious leaders that are just clamoring to find somebody caught in adultery are the ones that may be guilty themselves of the very same particular sin.
“And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.”
Why did He do that? Because when He said to the group of people, “Hey, you don’t have any sin? Throw the first stone.” Do you know where all the eyes went? To the religious leaders. Do you know what Jesus did? He bent back down and started writing, and took their shame and their guilt onto Himself. Because, see, He loves both the religious leaders and the woman caught in adultery. You can’t make this stuff up. Gods don’t wash feet. Gods don’t love people like this. But the God of the Bible does. Thank God He loves people that get religion wrong and who get morality wrong, because the bottom line is if He didn’t, we would all be in trouble.
“But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones,” — they just walked away — “and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.”
I mean, if this was a TV program, it would be like, “Join us next week as we continue the story of the woman caught in adultery.” It’d be like, “I can’t wait for next week. I can’t wait.” It’d be like “Who Shot J.R.?” all over again. You know? Some of you all are like, “What?” Don’t worry about it. Don’t even look it up. Don’t Google it. For those of you all that understand, darn Sue Ellen. Anyway, the bottom line is it’s like what is going to happen here? I mean, this is so tense.
“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they?’”
This is so profound. He’s given this woman who’s caught in adultery — she’s fearful, she’s ashamed, she’s guilty. He speaks to her and asks her a question, genuinely wanting to hear her answer. It’s such a moment of dignity. It’s such a moment of respect.
“‘Woman, where [did they go]? Has no one condemned you?’”
“You know, I’m sitting here playing in the sand, I just looked up and everybody’s gone. Where did they go? Did nobody throw stones?”
“She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’”
What a just powerful passage of Scripture. It’s like, man — I mean, we could spend weeks and months on this. There’s so much in there. But what I want to do right now is I want to turn to what I call the takehome session. If you don’t take notes, this would be a great time to learn to take notes. Okay? And what I want to do is I want to draw some things out of this passage that apply to you and me as we try to share our faith, and as we try to talk to people about our faith, that you’ll see as we start working through these takehomes. You’ll see them. I think we need to be aware of them.
The first one is this: There will always be people who try to trap us. We see here in the passage that the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, placing her in the midst, and they said this to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him. Whenever you’re out doing ministry, whenever you’re out doing the things of God, whenever you’re out trying to do the things that Jesus would have you and me to do, you will always have people that will bring stuff to you that will create situations. You know? It’ll be a Christmas party and your cousin will go, “Hey, Chip. Aren’t you a Christian? What about all the bad stuff going on in the world? How about the Gospels? They just contradict each other. Have you got anything to say?”
You’d be like, “Umm, Merry Christmas?” There will always be people. Your neighbors, your friends, your atheist friends. They’ll always have stuff to try to trip you up. If you heard, in the last many, many weeks, “Hey, just go out and preach Jesus. It’ll be rainbows and butterflies, and unicorns will walk across the street when you do that,” you mistook everything that we said here. You’re going to get challenged. You’re going to have issues. There are going to be people that will come and try to trap you. Just be aware of that. In fact, many of them will be Christian friends who try to get you distracted from doing the very thing we’re asking you to do, which is to share your faith, and to get siloed off into some sort of issue, some sort of argument or some sort of thing, and make that the thing that we need to be doing.
You will have those moments. Trappings will come. Be aware of that. In a minute here, we’ll give you some real great tools to get out of those traps. The traps will come. People will test you. People will put stuff in your life that makes you go, “Oh, no. What do I say? How do I handle that?”
“What kind of fish was it that swallowed Jonah?”
“I’m not quite sure.”
They will put things out there for you. Be aware of that. Second. This is important. Every situation has Gospel potential. This is so huge. I hope we can get this in the DNA of our bones here as a church. There is not any situation in your life — the bottom line is it just shows, in many ways, our deficiency about thinking about what we’re called to be as Christians, because most of us are concerned about our own lives, our own stuff and what we want to do, the mall that we want to go to, the clothes that we want to wear or all that stuff rather than thinking about the fact that every single thing that we do is an opportunity for us to share Jesus. The reason this passage is so powerful is because nobody would’ve thought that you could’ve really shared the Gospel and had an honest moment where somebody settles eternity caught in adultery. But it just shows that no matter what the situation is, there’s always a possibility of sharing the Gospel. There’s always a possibility of exhibiting the Gospel to people.
You know, I don’t say this to toot my own horn by any stretch of the imagination, but I try — where I go and frequent a lot, I try to be the best light that I can. I go to Dunkin’ Donuts almost every single day. I go to, usually, the same spot every single day. When I order and say I’d like to have a medium black coffee, they’re like, “Pull up, Chip!” My kids are in the car, like, “Are you a star at Dunkin’ Donuts?” You know? But the reason is because I’m fist bumping people, “What’s going on?” I try to make sure I tip every once in a while, nicely. And now they know I’m a pastor. They’re like, “Oh, it’s the pastor.”
I heard one lady, one time — she didn’t know the microphone was on. They were like, “Oh, it’s Chip. Did you know he’s a pastor?”
“Yeah. He’s really a nice guy. He’s always nice at the window.”
I’m hearing that and I’m going, “Yeah! That is great.” American doesn’t run on Dunkin’. It runs on Jesus, baby. You know? But I say that to say that most people would think getting a cup of coffee is not — and it’s really important because, before my cup of coffee, it’s ugly. I pull up, too, because they know I’m a pastor, and I’m like, “I’m here to get my addiction.” They laugh, you know. My caffeine. So, I have fun.
But, for instance, I like to boat. I love to boat. At the marina I go to, there are people now from the marina that were not coming to church at all, and over the years plus that I’ve been there, I’m hanging out, doing stuff, trying to be nice and going above and beyond, and now I’ve got many of those people coming to church and are a part of what’s going on. God’s changing their lives and they’re watching messages. I don’t say that for me. Don’t look up here. There’s nothing special about Chip Bennett. What I’m saying is this. This is the craziest thing in the world. I mean, I teach systematic theology. I teach all this crazy stuff about theology. Here’s the craziest thing: As somebody who teaches this, if you will allow God to use you, He will. He will. You’re going, “You mean the God of the universe that created the world would use me?”
He will. He will absolutely use you for His glory.
Sometimes it’ll look like a train wreck, but He’ll use it. See, God doesn’t need your strength to get His stuff done. He just needs your weakness. And guess what? Every one of us has weakness, so we can all be used by God. Every moment in your life is a potential for the Gospel. I think if we could just get that in our bones, it would change the world.
Third thing. Two words. Grace and truth. We need to understand these because, see, Jesus says, “Woman, where are they? I’m not here to condemn you.” That’s as grace-filled and mercy-filled as you could possibly be, but He also says, “Go, and from now on sin no more.” So, here, Jesus is teaching us mercy and grace and truth together. Unfortunately, and it’s part of human psychology truth, we tend to have a very difficult time being in the middle on anything. We like to go extremes on everything. It seems like the more we get information, the more extreme we go.
So, you’ve got the people that are on the grace side. “Oh, God loves you so much. He’s so full of grace. He’s like the big teddy bear in the sky. He loves you so much that He wants to be your life coach so that you can do you better than you have ever done you.”
You’re going, “Eh, that doesn’t sound exactly right.”
That’s because it’s not. And then you’ve got the other people over here that are going, “God’s a holy God. They touch the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and He struck ‘em dead. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira lied and God laid them out and struck ‘em dead. We need to get holy, church.”
You’re like, “Man, that is a bright light on a dreary day, right there. Let me tell you. That’s giving me some life.”
We go, “Neither one of those sound exactly right.” It’s like there’s part of those things that are sort of true, but it’s like not all of it seems like it’s true. The reality is that they both have to go together, but the order is really important. Grace and truth. Not truth and grace. Grace and truth. See, when Jesus showed this woman mercy, and He showed this woman grace, He was then able to speak into her life and say, “Go, and sin no more,” and she could receive it. What we don’t typically want to do — and let’s just own it. Just own it for a moment here. We go, “Yeah, I just don’t want to spend a whole lot of time getting involved in people’s lives. I’ve got stuff to do, places to go and things to see. Me getting involved in somebody’s life to the point where they know that I love them so I can tell them the truth, I don’t have time for that. Come down here and let me hit you in the head, or let me just tell you what’s wrong in your life, and then let me go do my thing.”
As the Church, we have to be a place that extends mercy and extends grace in such a way that people then can hear the truth of God that we have to say. That doesn’t mean we’re shirking truth to honoring grace, or vice versa. It means we hold both of them in a tension that we understand that people are going to be able to receive truth when they know that you love them.
The fourth thing: Let’s not hijack Jesus. I mean, we’ve got some information here. We’re supposed to be sharing Jesus. We’re supposed to be talking about Jesus. And now we’ve got some tools so that we can better explain why we believe what we believe. But what’s going on in many places is people have some idea that they get — whatever their idea is, they’ve got this idea about how God should be or how the world should be. And then what they do is they go to the Bible and they find a passage of Scripture to support their position. It’s the exact opposite. It should be what the Bible says that informs your position, not vice versa.
What happens all across America is Jesus is hijacked into certain things that may or may not be good or bad. Many of them may be good things, but it’s Jesus that gets hijacked. Rather than preaching Jesus and staying on point about Jesus, we go into peripheral issues. I just want to show you in this passage because this passage has got some great things to teach us. Look at some of the peripheral issues going on in this particular passage. There’s empty religion. The religious leaders that drug this woman in, I mean, they’re empty in their religion. Many of you would think Jesus should speak to that right there. Man, He should lay the smack down on those people in this passage, but He doesn’t say a word because it’s a peripheral issue. He deals with this at times, when it’s the right time and the place, but it’s not the main issue. The main issue is people. He’s concerned about this woman. He’s concerned about these people. He understands His focus. He’s come to seek and save that which was lost. Many of us may go, “Well, He should’ve spoken to empty religion.”
That is not the issue. The main thing is the main thing. Check out some of the other things that are in this passage. Accusation. I mean, there are people accusing and saying things they shouldn’t say, and all this stuff. This would’ve been a great time for Jesus to weigh in on that, but He doesn’t. How about women issues? You might just have a moment here we you go, “Whoa. You’re right. I never thought about that.”
Did you ever think that to be caught in the act of adultery, there needed to be a dude? You’re like, “Whoa. You’re right.” Where we the dude? Not even there. They didn’t care about the dude. They drug the woman in there. And you go, “Oh, man. Jesus should’ve dealt with that. He should’ve spoke to that issue, right there, about the way they were treating women and everything else.”
Nothing. He says nothing about it. You say, “Well, does that mean that that’s not an issue?” Of course it’s an issue, and there’s a time and a place to discuss those issues, but it’s not the main thing and it should never be the main thing in ministry. The main thing in ministry is a person, and His name is Jesus. He knows how to keep that thing focused in everything He does, and He expects us to as well. You say, “Oh, well, you just don’t want to deal with the issues. You just want to skirt around.”
No, no, no. If we go through a Bible passage and it talks about women, you hang out here long enough and I will draw attention to the fact that the Bible elevates women in many different ways, but that is never going to be the mission, nor is it going to be the accusation, nor is it going to be empty religion. The message of this church is always going to be a person, and His name is going to be Jesus, because when we get that right, the unintended consequences are beautiful.
What about this? Politics. This would’ve been a great time for Him to weigh in because Jewish law said stone, but they were under Roman law because the Romans controlled the Jews, so how do you deal with God’s law versus the people’s law and all of this stuff? Everybody’s arguing about that stuff today. What does Jesus say about it? Nothing. Nothing. You go, “Well, He should.” If that’s His issue. His issue was, “My kingdom’s not of this world anyway. If you’re followers of me, you’re not even citizens of this world to begin with, so what’s the big yank? Why do you guys get so bent out of shape about all this stuff?”
We’ll talk about that next series: Kingdom Come. I’ll mess everybody up in that series. Anyways, politics. What about theological debates? Where does the woman ask for forgiveness in this passage? She doesn’t. Jesus just forgives her and she doesn’t even ask for it. Would your theology allow for Jesus to forgive without you asking? Do you want to argue about that? It’s in the passage. I don’t know. Jesus didn’t say, “Let me stop here for a minute and tell you about how soteriology work.”
No. The point is that — and should we have theological discussions? Absolutely. But is that the focus of the Church? Never. The focus of the Church is to preach Jesus because none of these things save people. What saves people is Jesus. Acts 4:12 says there is no other name given among men under heaven by which man can be saved, other than the name of Jesus. We preach Him in everything that we do. That’s why I’m passionate about this. We didn’t do this series so that we could create a bunch of intellectuals that could go around and argue about stuff, debate stuff and all that stuff. We taught this stuff so that you would feel more comfortable in sharing Jesus because He didn’t give us 44 acres, 7 acres over here and given us the ability to do the things that we’re doing so that we could go polarize somewhere, and go silo somewhere on some crazy issue. He gave us these things because He wants His name to be known in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, at Bee Ridge and in Bradenton. He wants to use you and me to do that. The more laser focused we are on the things that God wants us to do, the more beautiful the unintended consequences are going to be.
So, we did something for everybody. When you leave, you’re going to get a card. On one side of the card, it says, “Always be prepared to make a defense for anyone who asks for the reason of the hope that’s in you. (1 Peter 3:15).” On the other side of the card is the Grace Community Church apologetic cheat sheet that you get to have in your pocket. When somebody raises a question, “I’ve got the answer now.” So, when somebody says to you, “Hey, God, if He’s a good God and everything’s so good, why are so many bad things happening? Where is He at?”
You go, “Free will. Oh, yeah. Because, see, God gave us free will, and to truly love Him, we had to be able to walk away from Him. The fact that we’ve walked away from Him is why we have the things that we have. But we would’ve never been able to love Him if we couldn’t have chosen to love Him.”
So, now you go, “Oh, yeah. I’ve got to get the answer, man. Yeah. Free will. I’ve got the answer. Good ol’ Grace Community Church.”
The main thing. If you want to know what the main thing, the main thing — and if you get lost talking about Jesus, always go back to Jesus’ resurrection. “Hey, I don’t know what fish it was that swallowed Jonah, but man, Jesus got up from the grave on the third day. If He got up from the grave on the third day, who cares about the fish? Game over. He’s God.”
Right? So, you’ve got the main thing. You’re like, “Oh, yeah. I’ve got to get back to the main thing.” What’s the best apologetics? Your testimony. “This is what God did in my life. Let me show you what God did for me. He did this. By the way, He also rose from the grave on the third day. If He did, game over. What do you want to do with Jesus?”
You say, “Well, it’s Christmas time, Chip. There are all kinds of problems.”
“Yeah. You know, there are problems in the world. You’re exactly right. Matthew and Mark, there may be some crazy things in those Gospels, but here’s what I know: I was lost and now I’m found. Jesus changed my life. The one thing I know Is that guy got up from the dead on the third day. If He did that, then even though I can’t explain Matthew and Mark, and I don’t know what fish it was, it doesn’t make a difference because Jesus is still God because He got up from the grave. I know that He did because He changed my life.”
Science? No problem. The atheists believe in more miracles than we do. We believe that someone created something out of nothing. They believe that no one created something out of nothing. No problem. “Yeah, but science...”
“No problem, because what I know is God changed me. And guess what? He got up from the grave on the third day. Let me show you the evidence for that.”
Archeology is our friend. The more they dig with the shovel, the more they just prove what the Bible has already said to begin with. That’s a fact. Archeology has been one of the best friends of Christianity that it could possibly be. God’s existence? “Well, God doesn’t exist.”
“Well, of course He does because a contingent universe that we live in, contingent beings cannot create themselves. We live in a contingent universe, so a contingent universe can’t create itself. There had to be a non-contingent being that created the universe that we live in. And, on top of that, we believe in right and wrong. If there’s right and wrong, if there’s really morality, then there has to be a God because if there’s no God, then nothing is right or wrong. And by the way, Jesus changed my life. Let me tell you how He did that. And would you believe this? He rose from the dead on the third day. If He did that, then that’s...”
See? “Bible? Can’t trust that.”
“Oh, yeah. There are like 5,800 manuscripts, baby. If you read Plato and think you’re reading Plato, then you’re getting what John wrote. There’s no reason to deny that.”
“Nope, nope, nope.”
“There are plenty of biblical manuscripts. Plenty of evidence to read the Bible. You can go Google that. But let me tell you what Jesus did for me. He changed my life, He moved me from here to there, and, by the way, the craziest thing in the world, the dude got up from the grave on the third day, man. If He got up from the grave on the third day, game over.”
“Well, there’s no truth.”
“How do you know that’s true?”
So, this is your cheat sheet. You could carry this with you everywhere. I expect to see you at Cheesecake Factory with an atheist friend doing this. I won’t tell anybody. I’ll just smile. And here’s the cool thing: We’re not done with this because I’m in conversation with Dr. Turek, with Mark Mittelberg and several other people. Our plans — we don’t have a date yet. I’ll get it as soon as I know, but our plan next year is to have an apologetics conference at the new Bee Ridge location where we fly in everybody for a day, a day and a half, and just have a massive deal and start doing that on a regular basis. So, we’re not done. We’re just moving on from this series to another series.
But here’s what I want you to do: I want you to pretend that you have this card. You don’t have this card yet, but you will get this card. Make sure you get this card on the way out. What I want you to do is I want you to act like you have this card. This is your card. I want you to take that card, I want you to put that card right here on your heart with me, and I want you to bow your heads.
Dear Heavenly Father, we have just taken several weeks to talk about You and discuss the various things of defending our faith. We realize that our faith is definitely reasonable, that there’s no reason not to believe, that the proof of Jesus is overwhelming. But Lord, we didn’t do all that so that we could just be assured, we didn’t do all that just so that we could be intellectually convinced, or that we could beat somebody up in an argument. Lord, we’ve done what we’ve done over the last several weeks because we want to be a church that truly preaches Jesus. God, what I’m asking You to do is use me. Lord, use me. Use me with my family, my friends, at work. Let me see every moment as a Gospel moment. Use me, Lord, to tell people about You. Please, Lord, don’t let me think somehow that I’m being used by You by arguing all these other things that won’t save. Help me, Lord, to be focused on teaching and preaching You in everything that I do.
And then, Father, I pray for everybody here in this church, and I pray for our church, that You would bring a spirit of evangelism here, that You would bring a spirit of boldness in our church so that our church would be a beacon and a light in this area for You, that we would unashamedly, and with absolute passion, stay focused on preaching Jesus and reaching the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today, that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, and I pray, Lord, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again, for Your glory. And Lord, I pray that You would help us to remain diligent and focused on what You’ve called us to be here at Grace: A church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Lord, we love You, we thank You, and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.