March 18, 2012
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Not a Fan!
#2—Know about Him or know Him?
Thank you Sarah for sharing your story with us—moving from a fan who knew about Jesus to a follower who knows Him. I think she said He was her best friend. We’re going to talk about that—about really knowing God.
Offering and announcements.
Sarah also talked about her volunteer work with Safe Families. Safe Families is one of our community partners that places at risk children with host families who care for them on a short-term basis. How does this differ from foster care? Imagine a family in temporary crisis—it could be emotional or financial, any kind of crisis. Children in these situations often suffer neglect or abuse. Safe Families provides a chance for parents to get back on their feet before neglect or abuse occur. Parents experiencing a temporary crisis can arrange for their children to stay with families of faith while they address the issues that led to their situation. This keeps kids out of the foster care system and in their families. There are other ways you can serve besides being a host family. You can read more about it in this brochure at the Info Center. And you can find out more in the Safe Families Orientation on Sunday, April 1, during the 9 AM service, in room 200B.
This part 2 of “Not a Fan,” based on this book, Not a Fan. I believe we got 88 more copies; get them while you can! You can buy this on Kindle for $2.99. And you don’t have to own a Kindle; you can download the Kindle app free for your computer, phone or iPad, and then get the book for $2.99.
In this series, we’re talking about the difference between being a whole-hearted follower of Jesus and just being a fan of Jesus. One difference is:
The Big Idea: Fans know about Jesus, but followers know Him.
ILL: Are there any Jim Caviezel fans in the house? Laina and I are enjoying his new TV show, “Person of Interest”, on Thursday nights. Anybody else? We’re fans. I’ve watched most of his movies, including:
The Count of Monte Cristo
Pay it Forward
The Passion of the Christ (in which he played Jesus).
Besides being a fan of his movies and TV show, I have met Jim and his wife Carrie. A few years ago, I interviewed Jim right here during our Sunday services—how many of you were here for that? I have had dinner with him. He has been to my house. He asked to ride my motorcycle! What did I say? What would you say if Jesus asked to ride your motorcycle? I have Jim’s autograph. I know Jim Caviezel. Actually, I am acquainted with Jim Caviezel. I’ve met him a time or two and know about him, but I really don’t know him well at all.
Contrast that with my friend and neighbor Brad Damon, who is Jim’s best friend. They have been best friends since college when they played ball together—they’ve known each other a long time. They hang out and talk a lot. They work together. They vacation together. They are buds.
Brad knows Jim’s hopes and dreams, what he thinks and feels. I know Jim’s films.
Brad knows what’s going on in Jim’s life; I know what’s going on in his TV show.
Brad knows Jim; I know about Jim.
Brad is a friend; I’m a fan. Big difference!
Jesus has lots of fans. There are lots of people who want to say, “I know Jesus”, but lots of them are just fans who know about Jesus, but don’t really know him personally. But Jesus calls us to be followers, not fans, and the call to follow is a call into relationship.
When Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John to leave their fishing boats and “Follow me”, what did that mean? It meant that for the next three years, they literally followed Jesus wherever He went. They lived with Jesus. They hung out with Jesus 24/7. And they got to know Him really well.
The call to follow is a call into relationship.
Do you know Jesus, or just know about Him? Are you a fan or a follower? To help us think about this, we’re going to look at a story in Luke 7.
The Story of the woman at Simon’s party.
A man named Simon invited Jesus to his home for dinner. Simon was a Pharisee, a member of the strictest religious sect in Jesus’ day; like Nicodemus, whom we talked about last week, Simon was very religious. Jesus should have been the guest of honor, but it quickly becomes clear that Simon has invited Jesus out of a sense of duty, not to honor him.
In that culture, when someone came to dinner, three things happened.
First, you gave him a kiss of greeting. In our culture, we say hi and we shake hands, or if we know someone well, we give them a hug. A couple weeks ago, I was in LA at meetings and when my friend John Mazariegos from Mexico saw me, he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. That’s not weird; that’s John—it’s his culture. It’s what was done in Jesus’ culture too. But Simon didn’t do it. No kiss of greeting. This would be like you coming to my house, and I don’t even get up from the sofa to welcome you—no hi, no handshake, no acknowledgement, not even a wave from the couch. A snub.
First, the kiss of greeting. Second, you washed their feet. People wore sandals and the roads were dirt, so your feet got dusty. So it was customary to remove your guest’s sandals and wash and dry his feet. This job usually fell to a servant, but if you didn’t have servants, or if you really wanted to honor the person, you did it. In our culture, when someone arrives at our home, we don’t wash their feet, but we may point them to the bathroom where they can freshen up and wash their hands. Imagine someone coming to your home asking to use the bathroom, and you ignore them, or say no! Rude! When the servant approached Jesus with a basin of water and a towel, Simon waved him away. No foot washing for Jesus. Another snub.
First the kiss of greeting, then the foot washing; finally, oil for your face. Everyone walked outdoors, and the sun and wind chapped your skin, so it was a courtesy to offer oil to relieve and soothe chapped skin. When a servant approached with the oil, Simon waved him away too. No oil for Jesus. Another snub.
All this was deliberate; Jesus was ignored and insulted. In the book, Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman writes:
“Don’t miss the irony of this moment. Simon has spent his life studying the Scriptures. By the time he was 12 he had the first 12 books of the Bible memorized. By the time he was 15 he had memorized the entire Old Testament. He had committed to memory the more than 300 prophecies about the coming Messiah. Yet he doesn’t realize it is the Messiah who now sits at his table with a hand that hasn’t been kissed, feet that haven’t been washed, and a head that hasn’t been anointed. He knew all about Jesus, but he didn’t know Jesus.” (p. 43)
Fans know about Jesus, but don’t really know Him. It’s possible to confuse our knowledge for intimacy. Let’s look at the difference.
Yada, yada, yada: The difference between knowing about and knowing.
One of the first uses of the word “know” in the Bible is in Genesis 4:1, where it says “Adam knew his wife, Eve.” It’s a good thing to know your wife, right? What does this mean? Here’s the rest of the sentence: “Adam knew his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.” Obviously, this “knowing” refers to sexual intimacy: making love. It’s a good thing to know your wife!
The Hebrew word for “know” is yada, which means, “to know”. You didn’t know it, but when Jerry Seinfeld said, “yada, yada, yada”, he meant, “I know, I know, I know.” The Hebrew word is used in a variety of ways, much like our English word, “know”, and can mean everything from “know a fact” to “know a person intimately.” Here it is used of intimate knowledge combined with love. Adam knew Eve. This is not a yada, yada, yada moment! This is a YADA! moment between husband and wife, when they know each other intimately and completely in love.
It is interesting that the same word, yada is often used in the Bible of knowing God. Obviously there is no sexual connotation when we use it of knowing God. But the idea is that we’re to know God intimately and completely, and love Him deeply. In fact, the Bible often compares our relationship with God to a marriage. In the Old Testament, idolatry was considered spiritual adultery: if you worshiped another god, you were being unfaithful to the Lord. I think God chose the marriage analogy deliberately. He chose the most intimate human relationship to represent our relationship with Him. “I want you to know Me like that: completely, intimately. Not just know about me, but really know Me.”
I’ve listed some verses on your outline that talk about knowing God; we’re going to read a few.
Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.
In this passage, God is speaking to Jeremiah about the Israelites who have been taken into exile in Babylon. God promises to restore them, to bring them back to Israel. But restoration is about more than returning to the land; it’s about returning to the Lord with all their hearts. It’s about relationship. “I will give them a heart to know me.”
ILL: Have you ever had someone you love who didn’t want a relationship with you? It could be a spouse who wants out, or a teenager in rebellion, or a friend who is sideways with you. You desperately want a relationship, but this person is not interested—it’s very painful. Don’t you wish you could change their heart? Make them want the relationship?
This is how God feels about us. But He can change our hearts, if we’re willing; He can give us a heart to know Him. It reminds me of a verse we read in our Bible reading plan this week:
Deuteronomy 30:6 (NLT) The Lord your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!
I read that on Friday and I prayed it back to God. “Change my heart, and the hearts of all my descendants, so that we will love You with all we’ve got.” God wants a relationship with You—He wants you to really know Him. Are you willing? Are you willing to be made willing? “Give me a heart to know You.”
Jeremiah 31:34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
God is describing to Jeremiah the new covenant that He will make with His people, when He writes His law on their hearts. In this new covenant, or new relationship, we can all know the Lord. Everyone, from the least to the greatest. This is not just the pastor or the priest knowing God and then telling the rest of us about Him, saying “know the Lord”—but everyone can know Him themselves. You can know Him! Not just know about Him, but really know Him in a personal way. That’s what He wants—He wants a close relationship with you.
John 10:14–15 I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
In John 10, Jesus uses the metaphor of the sheep and shepherd to describe our relationship with Him. Notice the reciprocal knowing: I know my sheep and my sheep know me. Jesus wants a relationship with you in which you know Him and He knows you. Then notice the quality of the knowing: “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” How well do you think Jesus and God know each other? Perfectly. Completely. Totally. This is how well Jesus wants you to know Him, and He wants to know you! Think about that! Jesus wants you to know Him as well as the Father knows Him! Your relationship with God is to be as close as Jesus’ relationship with God! Do you think Jesus knows God or just knows about Him? He knows Him fully, intimately.
Philippians 3:8–11 (NLT) Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
I love this passage! Paul says that he has discarded his old way of life in order to know Jesus. Instead of trying to be righteous on his own, instead of a life of religious effort, he wants to know Jesus. “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Wow! Nothing is more important than knowing Jesus…really knowing Him. One translation renders it simply “the greatness of knowing Jesus.” There is nothing more important than knowing Jesus. The greatest thing is knowing Him. So in verse 10 Paul summarizes, “I want to know Christ,” and explains that he wants to know Jesus fully, including both the weakness of His suffering and the power of His resurrection.
All through the Bible, we see that God wants us to know Him, and that knowing Him is more than just knowing about Him. It means knowing Him intimately, knowing Him as well as Jesus knows Him. Don’t settle for being a fan, for just knowing some things about Jesus. Be a follower, and really know Him. If the greatest thing is knowing Jesus…
How can we really know Jesus?
How do you get to know anyone? By spending time with them. By listening. By watching and observing. The problem is that we can’t see Him with our eyes (to observe Him) or hear Him with our ears (to listen to Him), so how do we get to know Jesus? It’s still by spending time with Him, listening and observing—but different.
How do we spend time with Jesus? I know I sound like a broken record…but it’s PBJ time. It’s daily time with God in Prayer, Bible and Journaling. Every day I make time for God to speak to me. I make time to listen, to learn, to know Him better.
ILL: How do I get to know Laina better (other than the yada knowledge)? We hang out. We talk. Every day. When I was in Europe for 3.5 weeks, I called every day, usually via Skype, so I could see her pretty face! When I was in Portland this week, I called several times a day. Some were short calls during breaks in meetings, but we also had long calls while I was driving back and forth to the meetings.
You can’t build a relationship with someone without spending time together. There is no shortcut—you just have to spend time together. This is what PBJ time is: we hang out with Jesus. We talk, we listen; we read the Bible so we can know Jesus.
The Bible contains the story of Jesus, written by those who followed Him and knew Him.
ILL: When I was a brand new Christian, my friend Nat Stock gave me a New Testament and told me to read the gospels, the first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are the story of Jesus. I read them through once, went back and read them again, and went back and read them again. Why? I wanted to know Jesus!
This is why we read the Bible—to know Jesus. It’s not just to know the Bible—it’s to know Jesus. You can know the Bible without knowing Jesus—don’t confuse the two. The Pharisees did.
John 5:39–40 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
The Pharisees, like Simon in our story, knew the Bible. They memorized it. But they missed the point. The Bible is about Jesus, and yet when He stood in front of them, they didn’t recognize Him and refused to come to Him. They read the Bible to know about God, but not to know Him.
We read the Bible so we can know Jesus. It’s all about coming to Him and knowing Him.
ILL: The last two months in my pastors’ reading group, we read Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons in Gaul (now France) at the end of the second century. This guy was a follower! In 177, Irenaeus was in Rome when persecution broke out in Lyons and several dozen Christians were brutally murdered for their faith, including the bishop, Pothinus. The Christians in Lyons then called Irenaeus to be their bishop, and he went! Think about that—that’s walking into the lions’ den! He was not a fan!
One of the things that we noticed when we read Irenaeus was how he (and many of the other early Christians) saw Jesus everywhere in the Old Testament. They read the Bible through a Jesus-lens. They read it to know Jesus.
If you read the Bible just to say you did (check), or just to know the Bible (so you can win arguments or show how smart you are), you have missed the point. We read the Bible to know Jesus.
And we pray for the same reason. We pray to know Jesus. Prayer is conversing with God. We talk and we listen so we can know the other person and they can know us. In PBJ time, we read the Bible to know Jesus, and we pray (talk and listen) to know Jesus.
John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Remember, this is in the context of the sheep and shepherd where Jesus said that we would know Him like He knows God. How do we do that? We listen. We make time each day to talk and to listen to Him. And we learn to listen for His whispers during the day—we talked about this a couple weeks ago, in the final message of the Listen series. If you weren’t here, get that talk and listen to it.
Obviously there is more to knowing God than just doing PBJ time. Being part of the church is important because we learn from each other. And there are other spiritual practices like fasting, giving, serving, and worship that help us know Him. But just like spending time with my wife and listening to her is bedrock to knowing her (it’s essential), so PBJ time is bedrock to knowing Jesus. If you invest no time getting to know Jesus, you’ll end up a fan who knows about Him, but not a follower who personally knows Him.
Let’s finish our story:
The Story of the woman at Simon’s party…redux.
Simon has snubbed Jesus in triplicate: no kiss, no foot-washing, no oil. Awkward! They move to the courtyard for dinner. When a wealthy man like Simon hosted dinner for a noted rabbi like Jesus, it was customary to allow other people in the courtyard to listen to the rabbi during dinner. So picture the dinner guests reclining around the table, and the guests standing several people deep around the courtyard. There were no chairs. The table was low, and you laid down on your side, propped up pillows, your head toward the table and your feet away. While they ate, I’m guessing that Simon asked Jesus questions, and based on his earlier rudeness, I’m guessing they had a rude or accusing tone to them. More awkward!
Then suddenly, the awkwardness escalated to a whole new level.
A woman had slipped in unnoticed to the party; she was standing in shadows, not wanting to be noticed, but wanting to see Jesus and hear what He had to say. This woman was a local prostitute. We think that she might have heard Jesus earlier, and was intrigued by His message of love and forgiveness. All she got from religious people was condemnation and rejection. For the first time, she thought there might be hope for her, a chance for a new life. If Simon had seen her come in, he would have had her tossed out. But he was too busy being rude to Jesus. The woman noticed Simon’s rudeness, and it broke her heart. “Why is treating Jesus like this? Why does he have to be so rude?”
Quietly, in the shadows, her heart broke and she began to weep. She is so focused on Jesus that she forgets about herself. What she does next is reckless, impulsive, inappropriate, and it’s exactly the kind of follower Jesus wants.
She stepped out of the shadows and went to Jesus and fell at his feet, weeping. When her tears fell on his dusty feet, she wiped them off with her hair, and then she opened the small vial of perfume she wore around her neck and gently perfumed Jesus’ feet and kissed them as an act of love.
Simon was scandalized. “If Jesus were a prophet, he would know what sort of woman this was and wouldn’t let her touch him.”
Jesus knew what he was thinking and said, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Two men owed money to certain moneylender. One owed him $50,000 and the other owed him $5,000. Neither of them could pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon, who was good at math, said, “I suppose the one who was forgiven more.”
“You are right.” Then Jesus turned toward the woman, and said, “Simon, do you see this woman?” Jesus forced him to look, to really see the person he wanted to avoid and ignore. “When I came to your house, you gave me no water for my feet; she has washed my feet with her tears. You gave me no kiss of greeting; she can’t stop kissing my feet. You put no oil on my face; she has perfumed my feet.”
Then here comes the punch line: “Therefore I tell you her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.”
Simon was so smug and self-righteous—but he didn’t know Jesus. He didn’t love Jesus. His self-righteousness kept him from Jesus. He knew all about Jesus, but he didn’t know Him and love Him.
And where does knowing Jesus and loving Jesus start? By simply being forgiven. When we come to Jesus as we are, with all our sins and weakness and hangups and pride and weirdness, He forgives us and gives us a new life, a fresh start. And the more we’re forgiven, the more we love. This doesn’t mean that should go out and sin more so that we can be forgiven more. It means that we’ve already sinned plenty, and we just need to acknowledge it and let him forgive us.
Who was the bigger sinner in the room that day: Simon or the woman? Most people would say the woman, but look again. Her sin was sexual. What was Simon’s sin? Pride. Which is more dangerous? Pride, because it’s more likely to blind us and keep us from God! I don’t think Jesus was saying that the woman had $50,000 sin debt and Simon only had a $5,000 sin debt. I think Jesus was saying that Simon had a $50,000 sin debt too, but his religious pride and snobbery blinded him to it. He thought he was better than the woman, and he wasn’t. Simon needed Jesus and his forgiveness as much as the woman, but he just couldn’t see it. And that kept him a fan.
In the end, the religious leader with all the knowledge is the fan, and the prostitute who expresses her love for Jesus is the follower. Who am I most like?
When’s the last time you’ve poured yourself out before him? When is the last time the tears streamed down your face as you expressed your love for him? When is the last time you demonstrated your love for him with reckless abandonment? I am not asking if you know about him, I am asking if you know him.