The Story of Us
I’m going to invite you to the Gospel of John, chapter 1. We’re still in chapter 1 of the Gospel of John, and we’re laying an important foundation to this book. The Gospel of John is a powerful book in Scripture, very life-transforming for followers of Jesus, an important book to know. I’ve told you a few times that Martin Luther once said if you destroy all the Bible and save the book of Romans and the book of John, that the church will be okay. There’s enough communication of God’s truth and what God desires us to know in those two books that it can radically still work within God’s people to transform this world.
And so, the Gospel of John’s a powerful book to know, and we’ve been going through this together. We’ve spent a few weeks just on the introduction of John. The very beginning of John, the first 18 verses, is the prologue to this book, and John’s laying out for us the significance of who this Jesus is, what it means to know this Christ and his identity. Love the way John starts. You read the other Gospels, and you see the story of what happened in the beginning with Jesus’s life. You turn to the book of John, John doesn’t start with what happened, but why, why it matters. So he gives this very powerful introduction to the identity of Jesus, and then in verse 35, which is where we’re going to pick up today, he really starts with the answer to the question, “Okay, so how did we get to where we are right now? What’s the history of us?”
That’s what we’re going to title today, is The History of Us. What’s the history of us? How did it go from this introduction to Jesus to this church being birthed that God uses to transform the world to the point, here you are a couple thousand years later, and we’re sitting still learning about this Jesus, wanting to know this Jesus, praising this Jesus and honoring this Jesus as our King and our Savior? How’s that happen?
So, John’s going to start to tie that story for us, in the beginning stages of this movement that Jesus brought in this world and his salvation as a King who came to redeem us through His plan. And in verse 35, he starts to share with us that story of the very first few disciples that he encounters and how he brings them in, which I think is a very timely message for us, because it’s interesting, when you leave the United States of America and you go to a country that for the last 34 years has been run by a dictator, and while you’re there, it’s like you get news that America seems to be the country that’s lost its mind. It’s just a, it’s a bizarre thing to be a part of.
You know, I find in our culture today, maybe among Christians, we sort of have this more of a doomsday mentality to our outlook in life. It’s kind of like “Buy your bunkers now and get your bullets before things run out because you don’t know what tomorrow’s going to hold” kind of moment. And, you know, I’m not telling you not to build your bunkers or buy your bullets if you think that’s your thing. But what I do want to say is, when I think about the beginning of Christianity, and I start in these pages, because Christianity has always been a… The Christian movement has always been a movement that has been powerful when God’s people seem to have their back against the wall.
I think, yes, the days ahead of you, maybe they will be hard. That’s possible. No one has a crystal ball; only the Lord knows. That could happen. But I still think, for our church and for Jesus’s people, the greatest days are still ahead of us. What I mean is, I don’t want bad things to happen, like if I could choose the course of my life, I want peace, I want the path of least resistance. That’s what I would pick. But, you know, when I look at the gospel, the gospel seems to shine brightest in the darkest of moments. And what that means is, for us, no matter what tomorrow holds, you’ve got a beautiful platform to speak the light of Jesus into this world, and that’s what makes a difference.
I know right now, our country’s trying to polarize people between “Are you red, or are you blue?” And I think we get a beautiful platform to stand on, a kingdom that’s completely different. I’m not here to introduce people to your political preferences of red or blue; I’m here to introduce people to a kingdom that’s totally different. And what Hebrews chapter 12, verse 28 says is it’s a kingdom that’s unshakeable. And yes, sometimes political powers align with maybe some truths of who God is, but if you fall in line with those as if that’s what’s going to rescue, at some point, it’ll always run short. More people that are about Jesus.
Now, I will say, I was in a dictorial country, I don’t know if that’s the proper word, a country run by a dictator for 34 years, and it was their election while I was there, and it got pretty shady. About a week left before I was supposed to leave, I was there for a couple weeks, and the government just started shutting down every media outlet that you had. Like, I had Facebook one day, and the next day not, and YouTube was gone, then WhatsApp’s gone, then I’m in a phone conversation with my wife and all of a sudden, my phone’s shut off, and for a week, it’s like you’re stuck in darkness, and I hope everything turns out okay. Like, it was a little bit precarious, and it just reminds you of just how blessed we are where we live, even if you don’t like some things that may or may not be happening right now, but how blessed we are.
And while I’m sitting in Uganda, Open Doors released their article for the year on how Christianity… what’s taking place on the Christian scope around the world, what’s happening to believers around the world. And I’m sitting in Uganda, and the country next door is the Democratic Republic of Congo, and more Christians were martyred in that country this year than any other country. China closed over 3,000 churches this year. It’s like, you may not like where things are going, you may feel a little bit discouraged by the way things are right now, I don’t know, but I do want you to know you serve a greater King whose lightness pierces the dark, and that’s what Jesus calls you to stand on.
And that’s exactly how he starts this movement in chapter 1, verse 35. Look at this. Look at this passage with me, as the disciples interact with Jesus for the first time. It says to us, verse 35, I’m going to read it from the screen, it says, “The next day again John,” who was John the Baptist, “was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and he said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.”
Here’s what Jesus is saying to them. This question, “What are you seeking?” this phrase for this idea of seeking is where we get our English word for zealous. And Jesus is really asking, “What’s your life about? What are you about? What makes you zealous? Why do you get up in the morning? Why do you choose to do what you do? You want something passionate to live for? Come see me, and I’ll show you something worth living for in this world.”
I think it’s such a beautiful question for us, because I find that as a country, that’s kind of where we are right now. There’s a lot of people very passionate about certain things, but when you try to drive towards a basis as to why you believe what you believe, what ultimately makes that matter, we sort of divorced ourselves from a greater understanding outside of who we are as human beings. Like, if you asked, “What makes right or wrong?” it’s like, as human beings, we don’t even know anymore, because we’ve separated ourselves so far from God, it’s like, “Uh, because I feel this way,” right? Like, you’re the definer of what truth is, what reality should be, it’s all about you. But the conflict comes in, what if someone disagrees with you? Right? Then who decides right or wrong? And it’s like we’ve determined that the answer is “Might makes right, whoever screams loudest wins at the end of the day.” And so, you start warring with one another, because neither person has surrendered to a greater authority, which is the Lord.
And this is where Jesus starts his movement. “What’s at the core of who you are? What are you about? What are you living for? Do you want to make a difference? Do you want it to transcend the moment? Do you want it to matter for eternity? What is it you’re passionate about?” I love the beauty of how Jesus begins his ministry here, because he doesn’t come to the disciples and say, “Look, guys, I’m going to just share with you everything that is lying before you.” Like, he doesn’t say, “Look, Peter, if you come to me as a disciple, here’s what your future is. You’re going to walk on some water one day, but you’re going to watch all your friends get martyred. You’re going to watch me get martyred, you’re going to watch your wife get martyred, and by the way, you’re going to get martyred.” That’s what Jesus says, he just says, “Come and see.” Come and see.
Sometimes when you think about circumstances around you, like when you realize that they’re wrong or they’re not the way that you want them to be, and something needs to be done, sometimes as people, we tend to put that pressure right on us, like, “I’ve got to be the hero that saves the world because I see the problem,” and you start to stress yourself out. But that’s not how Jesus views the world around him, right? I mean, he definitely sees the problem, because that’s why he comes to deliver, but he knows he’s the answer. And so, his invitation for us isn’t “Now that you understand this, you go change the world.” His answer is just “Come and see.” Just come and see.
And when he invites the disciples to journey with him or come and see, I think what he’s inviting them to is really just eat a meal with him and see how he does ministry. “Just do life with me.” It’s interesting, when you read the Gospels, some of the greatest ministry that Jesus does is around the dinner table: the opportunity and ability just to influence lives by spending time with them. It’s a good lesson for us in a culture that’s overly busy in things that we think matter. To recognize the significance of just the importance of relationship, just to spend time with people and invest time in people. To not see yourself as the hero, but to see him as the hero and so point people to him. “Just come and see.” Spend time with Jesus, commune with Jesus. That’s why Jesus came. Jesus desires relationship with you, that you could spend time with him. “Come and see.” And John, he understands the importance of this moment, and he points to Jesus as the Lamb of God. “Come and see.”
You think about, “Jesus, when you’re inviting me to come and see, what is it exactly we’re going to see?” And you know the answer if you see Jesus in the Gospels. He’s going to do ministry, he’s going to love on people. He’s going to meet people where they’re at. He’s going to care for their soul, because he’s made them in his image. Jesus calls us to get with him so that we can impart to others the beauty that he is. Come and see him do ministry.
Sometimes, there’s sort of this, I don’t want to say love/hate, there’s an appreciation for what I do in ministry and being able to communicate God’s word, but sometimes, I wonder if it creates an unnecessary idea of what ministry is, meaning not everybody stands up in front of someone and communicates God’s Word, and I don’t think that that’s necessarily a good picture walking away of what ministry is. It’s an important part of ministry, but it’s not really what God calls us to when we leave here. Like, you’re not going to study a passage and get up before a crowd and just orate that in your home, like invite your neighborhood and just preach at them, right? Or if you try, I don’t know how many people would participate. But you can learn about Christ and walk with Christ, and then walk with people as you walk with Christ and influence them in him. Invite them over, communicate about what you’re passionate about, why you love the Lord, why he makes a difference in your life, and why you want others to know him. Come and see.
And John calls him the Lamb of God, which is a beautiful phrase to think about as it relates to Jesus. He doesn’t just say he is a lamb, but he is the Lamb, the Lamb of God, which is saying he is a deliverer and he is salvation. Right? Think, in Israel’s history, what this represents. This phrase carries the idea of the Passover for the Jews when they were slaves, slaves under this power, they could not figure out how to escape the Egyptians ruling over them. And God comes, and he delivers the sacrifice of the lamb. That’s what happens with Moses, right? He says, “Slaughter a lamb in your family and apply its blood to your doorpost, and when the death angel comes, he’s going to end up delivering you, but he’s going to pass by your home because you’ve applied the blood to your life.” And now, now has come the Lamb of God, the deliverer, the one who brings salvation.
And John’s, two of his disciples that are with him follow Jesus, and it tells us the first one that goes with him, give me the next click here, is Andrew. Verse 40: “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).”
When you think about what the beginning of Jesus’s ministry was, how it started, you know where Jesus first makes his impact? In family. You know who John the Baptist was? Luke 1:36 tells us that Elizabeth, John’s mother, and Mary, Jesus’s mother, were related to each other, and John’s Jesus’s cousin. Jesus’s first area of influence in this world happened in his family. Andrew, when he’s with John, who was a fellow maybe coworker in ministry together, John’s out there preaching the message, and Andrew’s following John the Baptist, that Andrew, the first place he goes when he learns about this Jesus after spending a day with Jesus around his table, getting to know Jesus, watching Jesus do ministry, first place he goes is his brother.
And what’s Andrew’s claim to fame? You read about the 12 disciples, and you think, some of these disciples you know a little bit more about than other disciples; Andrew’s kind of one of those guys that sort of falls off the face of the earth. If you read about him historically, you can, there’s things written about Andrew beyond Scripture. Andrew, it’s told, went on to Greece and was eventually crucified because of his faith in sort of an X-shaped cross. It’s called St. Andrew’s Cross. But here’s Andrew’s claim to fame; it tells you in this passage. He’s the one that brought Peter. Andrew, out of all the things they could say in the Gospels, Peter gets all of this things told about him. You read the book of Acts, and there’s a lot said about Peter and his sermons that are preached. And what’s Andrew get? You’re the guy that brought Peter. Man, when you think about that, that’s a pretty powerful testimony, that God would use you to bring one of the greatest influencers in all of church history. Man, could God do that with me? Not if I don’t say anything. Come and see.
Andrew goes and gets Peter, and he brings him to Jesus, and this is where Peter gets the identity of the rock, which I think happens a little bit later. John’s sharing this a little earlier in the story; Matthew tells us it happens a little bit later. But then it tells us about this other disciple, right? There’s two disciples with John, but it doesn’t tell us who the other disciple is. Who is the other disciple? Don’t things like that drive you crazy? Drives me crazy. I want to know the details. And here’s who I think it is. I think it’s John, the apostle John. Because when you read the Gospel of John, you find that John doesn’t really refer to himself by name in the Gospels; he just refers to him, if he does refer to himself, he often says he’s the beloved. But he never really gives himself his name in his book, and so I think John is really referring to himself here. And this is where John does the same thing as Andrew. First person John tells about… of Jesus has come is James, his brother.
So, when you think about the beginning of this movement in Christ, it’s one that begins in family. If you consider in your life, “Okay, Lord, if I’m going to walk with you in this world, where do you call me to? What do you want me to do?” If you think about the beginning of Christianity, where did it start? It starts with family. It’s taking the goodness of who Jesus is and sharing it with people that are closest to you. And so, John, who’s cousins to Jesus, shares that with those around him, and Andrew shares it with his brother, and John shares it with his brother, and then you see how they become passionate. What are you zealous for? Andrew goes on and gets crucified in Greece, and Peter, he goes on so faithfully in Jesus that he gets crucified in Rome upside down, and James is beheaded by Herod Agrippa. These followers of Christ become passionate about what Jesus is because they’ve seen the resurrected Christ, and they can’t deny the truth about how Jesus transforms life.
Christianity begins as a grassroots movement, really among the least of these. When you consider the pedigree of these disciples, they’re not people that would wow you at first glance with the kind of people they were. Andrew, the quiet type, probably from a lot of wisdom in his life, and Peter the loudmouth. And you got James and John, who were just brutes. I mean, their answers to Jesus when people didn’t do what they want is, “Zap them with lightning and kill them, God.” After a little bit of time, you see that James and John become very compassionate in their ministry because they had spent time with Jesus, and they saw the compassion that he had. Which disciple do you relate to? Very common individuals, but the Lord used them to change the world. Consider how simple the invitation is, right? Just come and see. Spend time with Christ, let him influence your life, transform your life, and make a difference. God doesn’t ask you to change people; that’s Jesus’s job. God calls you to invite people.
Verse 43 to 45, you see that again as it moves forward with some of the other disciples. It talks about Philip in the next passage, it says, “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'” It doesn’t tell us how Philip is necessarily connected to Nathanael, but what it does tell us is that Philip cared about the people where he lived. And so, through some of the relationships that he had, because he cared about the people where he lived, he went and expressed that care that other people could meet Jesus too.
We need people like Philip in this world, don’t we, that just carries a heart for their community because of the joy they find in who Christ is? And when Philip goes and shares Jesus, it tells us that he invites Nathanael to get to know this Christ that Scripture already communicates. He uses the Word of God as his basis to share that they have found what the Bible’s talked about. He’s saying to Nathanael, “You know as a kid, we grew up reading the Torah, and we just anticipated the arrival of this Messiah? You know God’s Word. Don’t you know God’s Word? You’ve been in God’s Word, you’ve seen what it says, right? We found him. We found him.”
Think of just how important maybe it is with even the context of your own home, just to take time to open God’s Word and read it as a family, that your children might find him, to know this Jesus that liberates the soul and brings hope for our future. You think about the story of these disciples, like Philip was the one that goes on to France, and he’s hung by iron hooks. I mean, that’s the way he meets his fate; he’s martyred by hanging upside down on iron hooks. And Nathanael, history’s a little fuzzy on him, but he likely died in Armenia, and he was flayed alive, and some people think he was either crucified or beheaded, but completely committed to Jesus. I won’t tell him he spells his name wrong. It’s supposed to be I-E-L, not A-E-L, right? I say that because that’s my name, if you didn’t know.
But Nathanael tells us in this passage, he was a bit of a skeptic. In verse 46, I love his response, because he’s not arguing just to argue, but he needs a little bit of convincing, like, “Oh, if I’m going to commit my life with some zeal to this guy, I want to know he is who he says he is,” because there were times during Nathanael’s day where there were people that had come and claimed to be Messiah. So Nathanael wants to make sure that he is the true Messiah, and so, “Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'”
I love that question. It’s like this… Out West, I learned real fast my first journey out West. I remember I was, I don’t know, like 21, and I had never been west of the Mississippi. And I get to Kansas, and man, Colorado felt, I got to be honest, if you’re from Colorado, I’m sorry, but Colorado felt like a ripoff to me for the first, I don’t know, two-thirds of the state. Because I hear all these Rocky Mountains, and I get into Colorado, it’s like, it’s Kansas again, right, until you get to the back half. No warning to me that… No one said to me, “Hey, when you go on this journey, you could go like a hundred miles, and there will be no gas station.” That doesn’t happen on the east, right? I remember getting to one of those sections where it’s like, “Dear Lord, help me. Help me get to the next place, coast on fumes, right? I hope it’s got some normal people there that don’t kill me when I get there. Where am I going to end up?”
You ever been on a journey like that where you’re just… You’re going some distance, and your kids might be screaming in the back, “I need a bathroom, need a bathroom,” and you’re like, “We just passed the sign that said no restroom for 20 miles.” It’s like, “Where is the…” And then you get there, and the gas station was built 40 years ago, and it’s had no upgrades since then, and you think it’s been at least three years since someone cleaned the bathroom. If you’ve been to those towns, right, in Utah, I think it’s Scipio, right? You ever go from here to St. George, and there’s that one place that’s got the Dairy Queen and the petting zoo that’s never open? That’s Scipio, right? And you think… This is what Nathanael’s saying, it’s like, “Man, we’ve traveled past there, and I’ve just stopped maybe once or twice for my kids to use the bathroom. Can anything good come out of this place? This is Nazareth we’re talking about, and you’re saying the greatest figure that’ll ever walk this earth is coming from this town? You’re going to have to convince me here.” Right?
So, Nathanael’s… “Anything good come out of there?” And verse 47, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said to him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!'” I love that statement, because he’s saying, look, he’s just being honest, just being genuine. He wants the security of knowing that, if you’re going to dedicate your life to this, is it really true? Is it true? The more confident you are in that, the more you’ll stand on it, right? Is this really true? That’s why we do the class Simply Christian; that’s why I say, “Sign up for Simply Christian,” right? I mean, it’s incredible, the foundation of Christianity. This is not just… God didn’t just leave us with just this uncertainty of, you just pick a religion and hope to God in the end you’re the one that was right. Right? I mean, there’s a foundation to Christianity that you can rest on.
And that’s what he’s saying here with Nathanael. He’s looking for that foundation in his life. He’s a true Israelite, he’s a genuine seeker after God, and he wants that in his life. “Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!'” Nathanael begins to realize that, “This Jesus knows personal things about me that no one else really knew. He was there when I was out by myself, this God.” And so, Nathanael starts to honor the Lord.
When you think about these different disciples in the beginning of what is the story of Christianity, it took several paths for people to come to Jesus. I mean, there’s only one way to God, through Jesus, but there are different paths that the Lord uses to get us there. Maybe if you’ve become a follower of Christ, and you think about, what did it take for you to come to Jesus? I was a little bit like Nathanael; I was more stubborn. I would probably have labeled myself an angry atheist in life. I hated the God that I claimed didn’t exist. Right? And the Lord used a few people to help my stubbornness come to know him. What did it take for you?
When I think about my own journey to Jesus, it makes me be a little more patient with people, because I required that same type of tender love and patience from believers around me. For John, he influenced… John the Baptist influenced John the Apostle and Andrew through their friendship. Andrew, the way he influenced was through family. Philip, the way he influenced was through proximity, people in his area. And Nathanael ended up needing a little bit of a miracle to come to Jesus. I mean, maybe you’re thinking of people like that right now, where it’s like, “I’m thinking about people I would love to see coming to Christ, but man, it’s going to take a miracle.” Well, anyone that comes to Jesus, it takes an act of… a miraculous act for them to know Christ. I mean, God coming in the flesh is already a miracle, and pursuing you, that is a miracle, right? This is what Nathanael needed in his life.
And then, in verse 50 and 51, gives us this story where Jesus says to Nathanael, “Jesus answered Nathanael, ‘Because I said to you, “I saw you under the fig tree,” do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'”
I think Jesus, when he quotes this… He quotes an Old Testament passage here; this is in Genesis chapter 28, verse 12. And he’s saying to Nathanael, “Nathanael, if you’re just impressed by the fact that I knew you were sitting under a fig tree when no one else did, wait until you see this.” And then Jesus quotes the statement.
And this is what I think Jesus is doing here: I think Nathanael’s sitting under this tree, really doing his devotions with the Lord. I think he’s meditating on this passage where God interacts with Jacob in the story in Genesis 28. If you’re familiar with the story, Jacob is fleeing from his brother Esau, and he’s praying and seeking God, and God… Or he’s in a dream, is what it is, and God just delivers this passage to him in Genesis 28, verse 12, and he sees the heavens open and angels ascending and descending. I think what Jesus is saying here, “Here, Nathanael, you want to be more impressed? Not only do I know you were under a fig tree, but I know what passage of Scripture you were in, and I want you to know, I am that passage of Scripture, that you’re going to see the glory of heaven just raining on the Son of Man.”
And when Jesus uses this phrase “Son of Man,” it’s such an important phrase to know within the Bible, because this is the number one way Jesus chooses to refer to himself in Scripture. He calls himself the Son of Man. It comes from Daniel chapter 7, verse 13 and 14, and it’s a picture of the Messiah, it’s a picture of the deity of Christ, it’s a picture Revelation talks about a few times later in the Bible. But the reason Jesus uses this passage is because people had such a poor idea of what the Messiah would be about. Like, you remember the story in Matthew 16 where Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter says, “You are the Christ,” and that’s where Jesus says, “On this rock I’ll build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail.” And you hear that passage, and you’re like, “Yeah, go get ’em, guys.” And in the very next part, Jesus says, “And, guys, I’m going to go die,” and Peter says, “Over my dead body,” and Jesus is like, “Get behind me, Satan.”
How do you go from being called the rock to Satan? It’s like, that is not a good day, right? You’re on the top of the world, then you’re on the bottom, right? It’s like the valley of valleys there. How does that happen? Well, it’s because Peter had a bad image in his mind of what the Messiah was about. They pictured in their mind warrior king, going to finally tell Rome where to take it, right? And Israel’s going to rule over people. And they’re like, “I’m going to be number two in charge, or number three in charge, and we’re just going to lead the charge with Jesus.” And then Jesus is like, “I’m not that kind of Messiah. I come to present a different kingdom.” And the image of the Son of Man is what Jesus wanted them to understand as it relates to him, because it’s more of a servant Messiah. It creates a better picture, I think, in Israel’s day under the false perception of what they thought Messiah would be about.
And Jesus is sharing this with Nathanael, he’s saying, “Look…” In Genesis 28, this is where Jacob really interacts with God for the first time, I think. It’s not until Jacob comes back from fleeing from his brother Esau that Jacob finally calls God his Lord, Yahweh. But this was kind of that moment for Jacob in Genesis 28 where his heart finally gets opened up to the things of God. And I think it’s the same kind of moment for Nathanael, where God is saying to him, “I really want you to know how special this moment is, that God has become flesh for you, and you’re interacting with me right now.”
Because it’s the same thing for us, right? I really want you to know how special this moment is, that God would come for you. I want you to understand the story of who he is and how he starts this movement with just these simple people in life, and through them, the world is transformed. The same normal people of the first century, that God can work through them, and God can do that same thing through you. When you look at the way things are going around you, and maybe you feel like, “Maybe we should look at a bunker. I’m getting another stimulus check, apparently. What will I do with this money, right? Bunker time.” Instead of going that route, think about the first-century church. Just a few people, just a few people, but God uses them to turn the world upside down. Not because of their strength, but because of his strength in them. Started on a simple invitation: “Come and see, and follow me.”
What does it mean for us to “come and see, and follow me”? It’s not just believing in Jesus, but it’s about giving your life for him. Jesus says, right, “What are you zealous about? What is your life about?” Some people treat Jesus like it’s some sort of superstition, where you just show up to church on Sunday because you’re doing God some kind of favor. God doesn’t need us to do that, guys. And I know that you don’t believe that, right? We’re not doing God favors; he’s not sitting in heaven like, “Oh, Lord, if they don’t just give me a Sunday soon, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” I mean, he’s the Creator of all things. It’s not him needing us, it’s us that need him.
So, Revelation 12 verses 2 and 3 tells you to renew your mind, that you’re transformed by the renewing of your mind and the Word of God. Because the world will try to conform you to its image, but Jesus wants to transform you into his, to come and see and spend time with him, and to ask, just like Nathanael in these moments, what do you think God’s calling you to right now? What is that next step in your journey with him? Draw closer to Jesus. Maybe you’ve only gone halfway in your commitment to Christ. Maybe you’ve seen, “Man, Jesus has given his life for me, and all I give him is, like, Easter and Christmas.” Or maybe it is for the first time reading through God’s Word this year, or maybe it is taking that step of maybe having a little bit of boldness and talking to someone about Christ and why he matters to you. Maybe it is that you just need to spend time with Jesus. But what is that next step to grow in Christ? As you grow, you go and share. If I could summarize the Christian life into two steps, this is what I’d say, it’s “come and see” and “go and tell.” Come and see and go and tell. What is that next step for you?
I’ll end with this story. In going to Uganda… We’ve not been able to fully share everything as a family, but if you’ve been to any church service this year, you know that our family’s pursuing a young boy that we want to bring into our family, and part of my trip to Uganda was dealing with that, but the other part of the trip was just seeing the ministry that’s taking place there that’s about rescuing children. Uganda has a problem with child sacrifice, and when I say child sacrifice, I mean… Get on YouTube, and you can just look it up, Uganda child sacrifice, you’ll see it.
And the same year that ABC started, there was a man in Uganda, he is a Ugandan, and he just would fill his backpack up every day with Bibles, and he’d walk around to villages, and he would share the gospel. And for whatever reason, in this town called Kyampisi, he started to visit the town, and people started to gather, and they would just read the Bible together. And one day, on Christmas, he said he got a phone call, and 35 Christians had gathered together to read God’s Word on Christmas, and they called him, and they said, “Where are you at? We’re here to read God’s Word together,” and he said, “It’s Christmas, I’m home with my family. Where do you think I am?” He’s like… And they said, “Yeah. Well, it’s Christmas, and we should be together reading God’s Word.” And he’s like, “Wait a minute, it’s Christmas, I should be with my family,” he said.
Finally, reluctantly, he’s like, “You’re right, we should read God’s Word on Christmas,” so he went, and they all gathered together and read God’s Word, and they decided to start a church. And in starting that church, they began to realize that their community had a lot of needs that they could speak into and do things about and make a difference. And they started with this church, they started a women’s… or, a clinic, where they want to focus on helping women in childbirth. Since this church started, they’ve had five women just in the church die in childbirth, so they want to make a difference there. Ugandan life expectancy, by the way, is only 44 years. Pastor Peter, the guy that started the church, has 16 brothers and sisters, and he’s the same age as me, and eight of them have since died. So, it’s a rough area as far as medical care, and so they started a clinic, and then they started a school for their kids, and they started a rehabilitation center for kids that are impacted by child sacrifice.
Church has not met there since March because of coronavirus. But while I was there, they decided to take me on a walk up a hill. Part of the reason we were on this walk is that the church, because of different restriction and coronavirus, the church on the compound where the ministry meets, where the clinic is, the school is, the church has used an auditorium that the school shares. And the government has said, “Well, because of coronavirus and certain restrictions they have, both of you can’t meet here. Either the school can meet here or the church can meet here, but both of you can’t meet here.” And they decided, “We’ll let the school continue to use the auditorium, and the church will just move.”
And the church took me on a walk up a hill, and while we’re walking up a hill, and you can see a… I have a little video on this. While we’re walking up the hill, Pastor Peter, who’s in the front in the very blue shirt, tells me the story of this hill. He said the area where this ministry exists is considered the capital for where children’s sacrifice happens in Uganda. And he found out, after they started their ministry, that this hill was the place that the witch doctors would go. And Peter decided, because of what this hill represents in that community and their coming as a church to make a difference, that they needed that hill, so he sold his car, and he bought the hill.
And the church got to the top of this hill, once they purchased it, and they put up a cross, and they renamed their church Rock Hill Church to show how God makes a difference with his light in darkness. And this Sunday is the first Sunday this church is going to be able to gather since the coronavirus, and they’re just walking to the top of this hill without any shelter or anything like that, and they’re just holding service outdoors.
I say all this to say to you as a church, 10 years ago, Peter had no idea what kind of difference God would use… what kind of difference God would make in his life, and how God would use him to make a difference in this community. All he did was load a backpack up with Bibles, and he walked around and he told people about Jesus. And from that, God saw a church, and from that church, God rescued lives. And all he did was follow him.
Because I say all this to you to say, what mountain does Jesus want to climb with you? What difference does God want to use you to make in this world? None of it will happen unless you come see. None of it will happen unless you follow him. This world, the hope for this world, this hope for our country is not in a political party. It’s in a revival, and that revival’s found in Jesus. And that difference is made when God’s people are faithful to him, if we would just come and see.