Jesus, Giver of Life

Jesus, Our Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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How to begin a life giving relationship with Jesus


Life Giving Relationships

We are continuing our series through the Gospel of John and for these first few messages, we are looking at Jesus as the giver of life and the one who has the power to create life, sustain life, and even to renew life in us. I talked about how parallels the creation account of . This may all sound very lofty and highly spiritual but it’s also more practical than we realize. In this world, there are people that just seem to exude life and their joy, passion, love, and their purpose for living are contagious. When you spend with these type of people and you start building a relationship with them, you feel more energized, more alive, even motivated to follow their example simply because you want what they have. One example for me was a dear friend of mine, Pastor Paul Kim who passed away from a degenerative disease known as Multiple Systems Atrophy, which is a rare neurological disorder that slowly shuts down your body. He was a brilliant man, very well known endocrinologist, teaching position at Harvard Medical, who eventually gave all of that up to serve the poor in the urban center of Cincinnati. I would say that his life and example is what gave me the courage to plant this church in heart of San Francisco. Even as he was dying, he truly embodied what it means to live life to the fullest. There are just some people that seem to have this ability to give others hope, joy, love, and a passion for life simply by virtue of having a relationship with them. And not to minimize the impact of Pastor Paul but if a mere man can do that for another person, imagine what a relationship with Jesus Christ should be able to do for us. The apostle Peter, when he was given a chance to walk away from Jesus, told Him, “To whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life.” As we will find out today, Peter knew from the very beginning of his relationship with Jesus that He had found someone who could give him the true divine life that he had always dreamed of. Many of us have yet to tap into the life that Jesus wants to share with us. This morning, I want to look at how we can have this life giving relationship with Jesus.
John 1:35–51 ESV
The next day again John 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 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. 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). 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.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 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!” Jesus answered him, “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.”
The three key steps in starting this life-giving relationship with Jesus are:
Desire to remain with Christ.
Desire for a new identity from Christ.
Desire to be known intimately by Christ.
At the beginning of this passage, we see that Andrew and most likely the author of the book are interested in starting a relationship with Jesus and possibly becoming one of his disciples. They have just heard their previous leader tell them, “That is the man that I’ve been talking about all this time, the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world!” So their interest in Jesus is piqued and they start following him like two creepy stalkers. Jesus sensing that someone is watching him, turns around and asks them, “What do you want? What are you looking for?”
Jesus’ question is a logical one and the two men could have responded in a number of ways but they choose to ask Him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” If you are going to stalk Jesus, you might as go all the way. The implication of their question is pretty straight forward. They have a lot of things they want to share with Jesus, questions they want to ask. They want time to get to know him and as pushy as it may seem, they want to spend the rest of the day with Him to see not only where He lives but how He lives. And you’ll notice Jesus’ response to these imposing demands. He says “Come and see” and then from about 4 pm to the end of that day, He makes himself available. A life-giving relationship with Jesus begins with the intention of spending time in his presence.
We are told that the most frequent promise repeated by God in the Bible is not “I will forgive you” or “I will give you eternal life”. Although these are certainly promises made by God, the central promise of the Bible is “I will be with you.” This is why the redemptive name of Jesus is “Immanuel” which is Hebrew for “God with us.” This is aos9nwhy when Jesus ascended to heaven, he promised, “I will be with you until the end of the age.” And it is because Jesus wants to draw near to us, that we can have confidence that when we intentionally set time to spend with Him, we can be sure that He will meet us.
For many years, I have set aside the first month to devote to prayer and time in the Word. It is my way of asking Jesus, “Where are you staying because I want to be with you there.” Throughout the year, I also take personal retreats of 1-2 days to seek Him and He has never failed to show up. If you set up some time with Jesus, He is more than willing to meet you but you have to be intentional. (Talk about why Christians in the west don’t engage in prayer)
James 4:8 ESV
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Isaiah 55:6 ESV
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
The God of the universe wants to meet with you! If you haven’t taken any proactive steps to spend time with Christ, join us in this final week of prayer and do a vegetarian fast and see if Jesus will meet you! You have nothing to lose (except some weight) and everything to gain.
Richard Foster describes the pursuit of God’s presence in this way,
“The unity of the Bible is discovered in the development of life with God as a reality on earth, centered in the person of Jesus.”
John Ortberg gives us some foundational truths about living in the presence of Christ:
1. God is always present and active in my life, whether or not I see him.
2. Coming to recognize and experience God’s presence is learned behavior; I can cultivate it.
3. My task is to meet God in this moment.
4. I am always tempted to live “outside” this moment. When I do that, I lose sense of God’s presence.
5. No one knows the full extent to which a human being can experience God’s presence.
James 4:8 ESV
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Isaiah 55:6 ESV
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
“The unity of the Bible is discovered in the development of life with God as a reality on earth, centered in the person of Jesus.”
When you spend time in the presence of the living God, you open yourself to the amazing things that only He can do in you. This leads us to the second key to a life-giving relationship with Jesus is a desire for a new identity and purpose that comes from Christ. After Andrew and John invite themselves over to Jesus’ place, they become very excited about this new relationship that they’ve found and Andrew decides to tell his brother Simon and he brings him to Jesus and something very significant happens. Jesus looks at him and on the spot decides to change his name. He essentially says, “I’ve heard of you, you are Simon the son of John but from now on I am going to call you Peter.” This clearly is not an ordinary everyday event. People generally don’t go around changing other’s people’s names especially the first time that they meet. Can you imagine if you introduced yourself to me and said, “Hi, I am Kevin” and I said, “No, I don’t really like that name, I think I’ll call you Draymond”.
This sounds completely random to us but the Jewish people would have understood the significance of someone changing their name.
Only God has the right to give you a new name. This makes a lot of sense. Other than your parents, no one else should have the right to change your name.
You new name speaks a new identity and destiny over your life. Names in the ancient middle east meant much more than the arbitrary labels that we give our children. Changing your name means changing who you are and the purpose of your life.
The classic example of this is the story of Abram and Sarai from the book of Genesis. If you don’t know their story, Abram and Sarai were barren and unable to have children. But one day God shows up makes a promise to them and tells Abram, “You will be a father to a multitude of nations” and from this point on you will no longer be called Abram but Abraham. His original name means “exalted father”. It’s a great name because who wouldn’t want to be exalted by their family. Sadly dads don’t get too much exaltation. The name Sarai means “princess”. Even back in the day, they had women with the princess complex. (Nothing new under the sun.) Those two names as great as they may be from an earthly, temporary perspective are pretty limited because they don’t speak of God’s promise and the purpose that only He could give. So God changed their name from Abram to Abraham which means a “father to the nations” and Sari to Sarah which means “mother to the nations”. Nearly 6000 years after, all the nations of the middle east trace their lineage back to these two people
But I want you to think about the absurdity of God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah who were 99 years old, well past the age of child bearing and he tells them I have a new identity and a new destiny for you but first I have to change your name. When you look at the chronology of events, the changing of their names came well before the conception of their first child. They didn’t chance their names after they had Isaac, Abraham and Sarah received God’s promise by faith and changed their name right there on the spot. Can you imagine two old people in their nineties with a history of infertility beginning to call each other father and mother of nations? It’s crazy and outlandish except for the fact it became true!
When Jesus met Simon, I’m sure he knew how unstable this young man was, how impetuous, and how unreliable he was, how disloyal he was but Jesus saw who he could be and He called him Peter, the rock on which I will build my church. Again, crazy except for the fact it became a reality!
The ancient sage Theophan gives this bit of wisdom in terms of how to go about seeking Jesus, “Find a place there in your heart and speak there with the Lord. It is the Lord’s reception room.”
Most of us in this room know in our heart of hearts that God must have a better name for us but we find ourselves unable to receive or walk in it. This brings us to our final point which is until you are certain that you are known and loved by Christ, it’s difficult to walk in the newness of life that He promises. In order to receive this new name , all of us have to overcome our doubts and in this conversation with Nathaniel, we see two very important steps that Jesus takes to breakthrough our doubt.
The first step is that He reveals the certainty of His knowledge of us. In my experience, one thing that has produced a great deal of faith early in my walk was the certainty that God knew me personally and that He knew me intimately. Jesus’ first words to Nathaniel are words confirming his knowledge of who Nathaniel is, down to the details of what he was doing right even right before the meeting. The Bible repeatedly tells us of God’s intimate knowledge of us, the fact that he knows us better than we know ourselves, he knows the number of our days, he knows us down to the last follicle of hair on our head, and he has known us even before we were in our mother’s womb. This knowledge is not simply a product of God’s omniscience. It is not simply cold, objective, and factual knowledge about us. It is knowledge that is stored in the heart of God because He loves us more than we can imagine. This intimate knowledge of God for you is something that has to be experienced, you don’t learn about it in a doctrines class.
I first experienced what Charismatic Christians would label prophetic ministry at a prayer meeting in Southern California. At first it seemed like a regular prayer time, we were going around doing popcorn style prayer for one another, very generic prayers. Then one sister began to pray in a way that I’ve never experienced. She would pause, wait on the Spirit, and then say things like “I feel like this is what Jesus is revealing about you and what He is saying to you.” When it was my turn to receive prayer, I was very skeptical but as she prayed I was stunned by how much this person knew about me even though I had never met her. Afterwards I asked her, how do you know this about me? And her answer to me has still stuck with me to this day. “I don’t anything about you but it’s because God knows you. I only know a small part of what God is trying reveal to you.”
Paul reminds us of the value of prophetic ministry, 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. [1]
However, it is not enough to simply rest in the certainty that God knows us. As in any real relationship, God’s desire is that we would want to know Him intimately. Even after Nathaniel makes his confession of faith in Jesus as the Son of God, you’ll notice that Jesus doesn’t let him rest in that confession, he immediately tells Nathaniel, “You will see even greater things than these.” The fact that God knows you is just the beginning of faith, the ultimate aim of faith is for you to come to know God intimately and to love him personally. And this is why Jesus gives Nathaniel an obscure reference to a dream that a man by the name of Jacob has in the book of Genesis. It is a another story of someone whose name was changed by God. And Nathaniel as an Israelite without guile, would have known this reference very well.
In the story of Jacob, we see someone who is trying to find out who he really is and as he leaves home for the first time, which is usually the first time someone wrestles with questions of identity, Jacob has a dream of angels ascending and descending on a ladder and God calls out from the top of the ladder and tells him,
Genesis 28:15 ESV
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
The ladder represents the assurance that God will be with Jacob until he fulfills all of His promises. Its also the assurance that God that there is a way for Him to communicate with Jacob and vice versa. In Jesus’ version of the dream, He tells Nathaniel, “I am that ladder. I am the way that God will come down to you and the way that you can reach out to God.” As one commentator writes, “Jesus is the Son of man, the revealer of God, the means of establishing communication between heaven and earth.” Through this communication to comes to us through, we can be assured that God knows and that He loves and that because of that, He has a better name for us.
[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.



There is an interesting British reality show called the Monastery. Sounds crazy, kind of like the Exorcist, but what the show does is it takes completely irreligious people and challenges them to spend several weeks as monks in a Catholic monastery. In one of the groups, there was a young man who had been working in the porn industry and at the end of his time in the monastery, he realized that he didn’t want to go back to his old life. He was afraid that he would lose everything that he had gained during his time separated from the world and separated from sin. As the monk who worked with him as his spiritual director saw this young man struggle with this decision, he told him slowly and deliberately, “You have a name given to you at birth but you also have a name that you don’t know.” And the monk described how in the book of Revelation, Jesus tells us that our true names are written down in heaven on white stones, and this name on the stone is our real name, which points to our true identity.
I love the analogy of the reception room because once you open you heart to Christ, you have to prepare yourself to stay in His presence. It seems to be a rather bold move on the part of Andrew and John that they answer Jesus question’ with a question of their own, “Where are you staying?” Basically, they are telling Jesus, we want to know where you live, we want to know what you are all about it. A true seeker of Christ must make this second commitment to come and stay, to enjoy some time in his presence. Otherwise how will you know that Jesus is worthy of your undivided loyalties, how will you know that he is worth following, how will you know that everything else is a pile of rubbish in comparison to the surpassing value of knowing Him. The only way you can know these things is through some level of intimate conversation and experience of Him.
Revelation 2:17 ESV
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Revelation 2:
As this young man began to prepare to leave the monastery, the monk took one smooth white stone out of his pocket and gave it to this once hardened, insensitive English hooligan and told him, “This is a symbol of your quest to find out who you really are before God.” Needless to say, the young man left his job, began to attend church, and started to meet regularly with a spiritual director.” It’s a deeply moving story that reminds us that whether you are Christian or not, we all share this quest to find our true identity, to receive the name that God has written down on the white stone. But in other to receive this name, you have to overcome and conquer the pull of the world that is constantly trying to dictate to you what your identity should be. That your identity is tied into the degree you have, the work you do, the approval that people give you, the amount of money you make, or worse yet the success and failures of life. If these are the things that identify you, your life is incredibly limited because you will not realize the promise and the destiny that God has for you.
In the olden days, meaning just a couple of generations ago, people were largely identified by their family name and as minor as that may seem for those of us who live in modern times. This identity as least ensured that people had some sort of root and they lived in such a way to bring honor to that name. (My uncles and aunts always talk about their hometown and the legacy of the Chun family) We even have this in Western culture which we see in books like Lord of the Rings. I am Thorin, Son of Orin, of the Clan of Asgaard. But with the breakdown of family structure in our culture, family is no longer a strong identifier. And so we are left with a mad scramble to find out who we truly are. And the world’s messaging is of no help, you can be whoever you want to be which then ensures that we become no one because we are constantly trying to reinvent and recreate ourselves. One moment we are googlers, the next moment we are facebookers. One day I’m a programmer, in a year who knows what I’ll be. Mark Sayers, a pastor out of Australia who has become somewhat of an expert on western culture tells us that social media exasperates this problem of limited identity because everyone is trying to convince the world that they are cool, hip, glamorous, sexy, or important. That these shallow terms has somehow become our root identity and the purpose for living. I hope you can see how insignificant and limited those names are.
In the place of those names, Jesus tells us “I have a new name for you, known by my Father before time, that name speaks an infinitely better purpose and destiny for you life. If you follow me, your true name will be revealed. ”
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