On June 15, 2012 Nik Wallenda set foot on the wire. He had been dreaming, planning, and preparing for years for the historic walk across Niagara Falls. The wire stretched some 1,800 feet across and 180 feet above the falls. Tens of thousands of people gathered on the Canadian and American sides of the falls to watch the historic walk.
Nik began his walk from Terrapin Point on the American side and the mist was so thick that those watching from the Canadian side coulldn’t see him until ten minutes into his walk. For thirty-five minutes on the wire Nik prayed, talked to his dad on a headset, and used a forty foot pole to maintain his balance until he saw the finish line of the platform at Table Rock on the Canadian side. Nik ran the final few steps as his family cheered louder than the rumble of the falls. Once he stepped foot on the Canadian side, Nik had to show his passport to the Canadian border patrol. When I read that I just had to laugh. Can’t you just imagine Nik walking out the door of his hotel room and his wife saying, “Honey, don’t forget your passport.” Too funny!
One hundred and fifty years before Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a high wire, there was a man named Charles Blondin who first made that walk. It was June 30, 1859 when Blondin, a 31 year old Frenchman, became the first man in history to ever walk across Niagara Falls on a wire. I bet he didn’t have to show the Canadian Border Patrol his passport. Blondin hung around for the next few days and crossed the falls many more times. He laid down on the wire halfway across, he walked across on stilts, he carried a stove and a chair and sat down about halfway across and cooked an omelet, he gave his manager a piggyback ride, and he pushed a wheelbarrow loaded with 350 lbs of cement across the wire. One time he asked the crowd, “Do you think I could push a man sitting in a wheelbarrow across the falls?” The crowd cheered and shouted, “Yes! You can do it!” Charles Blondin noticed one of the men who was most enthusiastic and asked him, “Sir, do you think I could push you across the falls in this wheelbarrow?” The man said, “Absolutely!” as he clapped and smiled. Blondin said, “Get in.” The man became white as a ghost, the smile on his face vanished, and his heart raced. He refused.
Do You Believe Enough to Get In?
What a great illustration for our time in God’s Word this morning. It is one thing to believe that Blondin can safely push you across Niagara Falls. It is an altogether different reality to get in the wheelbarrow and make the journey. It’s one thing to lift your hands, raise your voice, and praise Jesus for who He is. “Getting in” and trusting Jesus on the “wire” of life—through its twists and turns, hills and valleys, and the glory and gore of life is an altogether different reality. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning and see what we can learn. Turn with me to John 8:30-36.
30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him. 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:30-36 NIV)
John tells us that as the crowd listened and watched Jesus, “many believed in him.” Like the adoring, cheering crowd who “believed in” Charles Blondin as he made trip after trip across the falls, the people cheered for Jesus and urged Him on…but would they get in and make the journey? That’s the question before us this morning. Are you a fan, an admirer, someone who has a massive amount of respect for Jesus or are you someone who is “in Christ” and making the journey wherever He takes you, whatever He takes you through in this life? This wasn’t the first time that Jesus had encountered those who believed in Him, but were unwilling to commit to Him. Let’s go back to John 2:23-25. John writes about Jesus at the Feast of Passover. Read along with me.
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. (John 2:23-25 NIV)
They saw what Jesus did and “believed in his name,” but Jesus knew their hearts so He wouldn’t give Himself to them, He “would not entrust Himself to them.” Is that confusing to you? We read that they believed in His name. Isn’t that enough? Isn’t that what Jesus asks of us—to believe in Him? Absolutely, but believing isn’t merely checking the boxes on the right doctrines. Believing is trusting to the point of totally surrendering our lives to Jesus. “Lord, wherever you want me to go, I’ll go. Lord, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it. Lord, my one aim in life is to be what you’ve called me to be. Lord, my one ambition in life is to bring glory to Your Holy Name by living this life you’ve given me to live. Use me Lord. You can even use me up! I’m Yours Lord…I’m Yours.”
You’re My Only Option!
The kind of belief, the kind of commitment that Jesus longs for in His followers is the same of commitment that Simon Peter spoke about in John 6:68. Let me give you a little background. Jesus was teaching the people at the synagogue in Capernaum. It wasn’t a motivational speech, not a Tony Robbins kind of talk; it was challenging and tough for the people to hear. Jesus said He was the Bread of Life. He said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” (John 6:54 NIV) In verse 60, John wrote, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60 NIV) Jesus knew what they were thinking, but He didn’t change His message to draw His hearers in, He didn’t say, “Let me clarify what I meant.” He kept on. He went on. Jesus said, “…No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6:65 NIV) And then it happened. They had had all they could stand. They loved Jesus. They really liked all of the good things He did for people. They liked most of His sermons, but this one, this one was more than they could stand. They drew the line and began to leave—one by one. John records the moment like this.
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:66 NIV)
As you read the next few verses you get the idea that everyone had left Jesus except for the twelve disciples. This past week, as I was spending time with the Scripture I stopped what I was doing and imagined what that scene must have looked like. I could see Jesus standing tall, speaking to the crowd and their hanging on His every word. The longer He talked the more they fidgeted. One would turn to the other with “that” look on their face. You know the look. It’s the one you have when I say something that doesn’t sit well with you. Jesus just kept on. He wouldn’t let up. Finally, someone gots the courage to get up and walk away. Then another, and another. Then groups of people got up all at once and left together. Finally, Jesus was alone with the group He walked to the synagogue with—His disciples. It was a heartbreaking exercise for me. I don’t mean that I was brokenhearted for Jesus. I seriously doubt that He thought “I’m losing members. I need to get my PR team together and figure out how to get them back.” The sorrow that I felt as I imagined the scene wasn’t for Jesus…it was for those who walked away. They walked away from the Bread of Life, from the Light of the World, from the Good Shepherd, from the Redeemer of Life, the Sustainer of Life, the One who gives meaning and purpose to life…they walked away from the One who was their Savior. Jesus turned to those who were left, His disciples, and said,
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69 NIV)
That’s what I’m talking about right there! Peter said, “Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” I love verse 69 where Peter finished his statement by saying, “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:69 NIV) The word “believe” is the same Greek word that is used to describe those in John 8:30 who “believed” in Jesus. The word is “???????” (pisteuo) and it means, “To think to be true, to be persuaded, to place confidence in.” Peter and the disciples didn’t stop with simply being persuaded or placing confidence in Jesus. Peter says, “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” The word translated “know,” “???????” (ginosko) in Greek, is an interesting word. It means, “to learn to know, come to know” or “to understand.” James uses the word to remind his readers of the purpose of trials in our life. He writes in James 1:2-3,
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3 NIV)
Did you notice something? James didn’t say “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because we are hoping it turns out well for you, or because you will make it through it.” If that was all we had to hold onto when we go through the troubles and trials of life that wouldn’t be enough for me. The truth is, oftentimes when we go through trials things don’t work out for the best, as we define “best,” and for many, they don’t make it through it. James doesn’t base his exhortation on such flimsy faith. He says, “Consider it pure joy when you go through trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” You ask, “how do I know that?” Ah, you ask such great questions! We know beyond a shadow of doubt that our trials develop perseverance because God’s Word teaches us this truth over and over again. The lives of God’s people teach us this as we read and learn from the trials of Joseph, Moses, Queen Esther, the Apostle Paul, and our most valuable lessons are learned at the feet of Jesus.
Let me show you one more place where this interesting word is used. Turn with me to 1 John 2:3 where John writes, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16 NIV) How do we know what love is? Well, if you are like the young couples that meet with me for premarital counseling, most of them know that they are in love because of how they feel. It’s not just glassy-eyed young lovers who use the barometer of emotions to gauge the depth, breadth, and reality of love. Emotions and feelings have become the norm for most people in describing the love they have for everything from ice cream to their favorite team to their family members. Yet, John says, “This is how we know what love is:” Love is a verb. Love acts. Love does.
Knowing Yet Not Following
So, as we’ve been taking a look at our Scripture for this morning we’ve learned that there were those, like the crowd in John 6, who believed in Jesus, but they walked away. There were others, like the disciples in John 6, who “believed” and “learned.” So, it would be easy for us to conclude that what we must do is first of all believe, second of all know, or learn about Jesus, and we can call it a morning. Not so fast, believing and knowing will not get us to the finish line of faith. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Let’s turn to Romans 1:21 and read together. Paul wrote,
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 NIV)
When you read, “For although they knew God…” you are reading the same Greek word for “know” that we’ve been looking at for the past several minutes. These folks knew God. They could recite the Ten Commandments, they knew the Apostles Creed, they could pass your test of orthodoxy with flying colors, but something was missing because they didn’t do anything with the knowledge they possessed. They knew God, but they desired to live their life more than they desired to walk in His ways. As a result, their thinking became empty and their hearts darkened. So you see, there is something more than believing and knowing, but what is it? Turn with me to John 8:30-32 with me.
30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him. 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:30-32 NIV)
Stay The Course
Here we can find the key to genuine faith. Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” The word, “hold,” doesn’t mean go to church on Sunday or read the Bible now and then. It means remain in, keep on, stay with Me, walk with Me, go where I lead you, do what I call you to do, and stay on the Potter’s wheel so I can shape and mold you into the man or woman I’m fashioning for my purposes. Let me show you the enduring nature of this word Jesus used. Turn over to John 15:4 with me. Jesus said,
4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4 NIV)
The writer of Hebrews uses the same Greek word when he writes, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 13:1 NIV) Now, can you understand what Jesus meant when He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” The mark of a genuine follower of Jesus is a persevering faith in the face of every kind of distraction, trial, and adverse circumstance you can imagine. The mark of a genuine follower of Jesus is a reliance upon God’s grace for every moment, every decision, and every predicament of life. It’s the faith that Peter expressed when the crowd walked away and Jesus asked if His disciples wanted to leave also? Peter said, “Lord, there’s no place else for us to go. You have the words of eternal life. You are the Holy One of God.” The circumstance or situation is irrelevant, the teaching may be tough to hear, but Lord I’m not going anywhere.
We had a special guest at AWANA on Wednesday night. Krista is a friend of our Children’s Minister, Shelby. Shelby had told us a little bit about Krista in our staff meeting and I was so thrilled to hear that our kids and teachers would get to hear about her work. Well, Wednesday afternoon Shelby brought Krista to my office for me to meet her. She’s a beautiful young woman with a smile that could light up any room. I asked Krista when she was going back to Kenya? She said, “In March.” I asked her how long she had been there before she came home? She said, “Well, I was there for 18 days the first time and then I went back for 7 months.” I said, “How long will you be there this time?” Krista said, “I bought a one way ticket.” Wow! I can’t tell you the emotions that filled me at that moment. Krista understands Jesus’ call. “Abide in Me. Go where I send you. Just do what I’ve called you to do for as long as I call you to do it.” The Lord may not be calling you to go to Kenya, but He’s calling you and me to the same level of commitment right where He has placed us.
I need to point something else out for us this morning. Accepting Christ and seeking to abide in Him, to continue in His teaching doesn’t mean that we are going to be sinless saints. Did Simon Peter live a sinless life? Not even close. Peter struggled with sin just like all of us struggle with sin, and yet he set his heart on walking with the Lord, serving the Lord, and he served Him to the end. You and I will continue to battle sin. If you ever meet someone who says that they’ve not sinned since they gave their life to Christ, then you can know that they aren’t telling the truth. You might think that is judgmental, but I say it’s biblical. John wrote,
6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9 NIV)
“If we claim to be without sin…the truth is not in us.” Pretty straightforward isn’t it? We will continue to struggle with sin, wrestle with our flesh, and stumble and fall, but those called by God, drawn by God to the cross, will stay the course by the grace of God. R. C. Sproul once said,
The faith that justifies us is not a faith that never faces doubt or that is as strong as it could be at every point in life. Instead, justifying faith is persevering faith. It may struggle at times to hope in God but it nevertheless endures to the end. (R.C. Sproul)
Oh my friend, if God is calling you to surrender your life to His Son Jesus, then why hesitate? Trust Him. Just think of the man who refused to get in the wheelbarrow when Blondin gave him the chance. What an adventure he could have experienced! What stories he could have told his children, grandchildren, and friends. What an opportunity he missed! I can testify this morning that the ride the man could have had in the wheelbarrow across the mighty Niagara Falls is nothing compared to the journey of walking with Jesus through the fires and fields, the deep valleys and majestic mountaintops of life.
Just as Blondin sought the man out of the crowd so the Savior is seeking you out of the sea of humanity this very morning. We’ve not pursued Him, but He has most certainly been pursuing us. He’s been there at every turn calling your name. He’s prodded you, in the predicaments of life, to trust Him. He’s drawn you, in the delightful times of life, to praise Him. He’s seeking you this very morning. I know you hear Him calling your name, but will you come? Will you come and begin the greatest, most crazy, unpredictable journey you could ever imagine in life? I say crazy and unpredictable, but let me assure you that it is a journey in which Jesus will give you the greatest security, hope, and comfort that you could ever imagine. Ravi Zacharias once said,
I came to Him because I did not know which way to turn. I remained with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him as a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny. I came amid the thunderous cries of a culture that has 330 million deities. I remain with Him knowing that truth cannot be all-inclusive. (Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message)
Come to Jesus and once you come never look back. Abide in Him. Cling to Him. Go where He sends you. Do what He gives you to do. Serve those He puts in your path like they were Jesus Himself. Never look back.
There’s no doubt in my mind that there are those among us this morning with a flimsy faith. What’s done is done, but what is doesn’t have to continue. Surrender your heart to Jesus this morning, confess your flimsy faith, and tell Him that you want to know and abide in Him like never before.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 25, 2015