At Gateway Church in Austin we’re in our second week of tracing the story of Jesus from his anointing at Bethany and Palm Sunday to his betrayal and crucifixion—hence the title, How To Get Killed In 6 Days. We will also look at the lengths to which Jesus was willing to go to die for us, so that we might follow in His steps to take up our cross and die daily for Him.
What really motivates you in life? What motivates your behavior? Is it money? Power? Perhaps accolades and approval from others? Many of us claim to have good intentions and motivations, but so did Judas, a disciple of Jesus chosen by the Messiah Himself to help in His ministry. Yet Judas was unwilling to admit that what he really worshipped was money, so his greed kept him from experiencing the joy and freedom the other disciples experienced. What might you be worshipping through your thoughts, priorities, and decisions that could also be killing your connection with abundant Life?
Discussion questions for your life group or family dinner are here.
Audio of the Message I Shared at Gateway South:
Notes from the Message by John Burke:
Recent research has documented how technology, and social networking sites have given rise to a growing obsession with impression management and self-presentation online. As a result, we subtly get addicted to people’s response.
Social media can be a wonderful gift as well – allows you to stay up with friends, care about what’s going on with each other, have a positive influence world wide! But it can also feed a people-pleasing obsession that will kill the life God wants for you.
A study found that the more time spent on Facebook is positively correlated with the tendency to think that others lead better lives and are happier, and that life is not fair.
In addition, we all live with fans and critics in our heads. They are made up of people who have mattered from the past, or people we’ve set out to “show” or “prove ourselves” to. Or they’ve been people who we feel matter in some way – their thoughts and opinions of us count. We all have those people. Sometimes, they aren’t even people we know, but we give them power over us as we make their opinion of us matter.
As the saying goes: “We spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t even like.”
And oftentimes, we are not able to pursue what will really bring us life, because we are living to please people.
Who are they?
Some of you may be thinking, this really isn’t a problem for me. I don’t worry about what people think of me – it doesn’t affect my behavior at all. But most of the time, I find that’s not true. Let me give you a little diagnostic test to see if you deal with living for the opinions of others – this is just for your benefit, I’m not going to make you raise your hand if you’re obsessively a people pleaser.
DIAGNOSTIC – Just be honest with yourself.
- Do you find yourself doing things to impress others often? Wanting people to notice, namedropping?
- If you achieved all your goals but nobody knew, how would you feel?
- Do you badly need people’s positive feedback to feel good?
- Are you critical of others (this is usually because we fear criticism).
- Do you become angry or depressed when someone points out a mistake or criticizes you?
- Do you find yourself always trying to figure out what people think of you?
- Did you walk in here this morning worried about how you might be accepted?
- Do you hide your beliefs for fear of people’s rejection?
The truth is, most of us battle with trying to please people to some degree. And we are not really free to follow God fully or be ourselves fully because we are always trying to please others.
We’re in part 2 of How to get killed in 6 days. Looking at Jesus’ path to the cross, and how He invites us to die with him to those things that keeps us from coming spiritually alive.
We’re tracing Jesus’ path from Bethany to the Cross his last 6 days on earth as we head into Easter. Jesus is going to be killed, and He knows it. And He is asking us to follow Him—all the way up the hill to the cross—He’s going to die for us, so that we can be set free to truly live. He’s going to pay for all your sins and mine and every person on planet earth—why? So God can be just to forgive those who realize they need forgiveness and they need God’s love and guidance. And once you know you’re right with the Ruler of the Universe—and nothing can change that because He did it for you—you’re free. You’re loved and valued and safe with the only One whose opinion matters—so you can die to trying to prove yourself to others—you don’t have to. It’s all going to be okay in the end.
But to truly live in that freedom, we have to kill the things that get in the way of God’s Life flowing through us. People Pleasing is one of those things we have to put to death. Jesus goes from dinner in Bethany—where Mary anoints him and Judas decides to betray him—rides into Jerusalem on a donkey as they proclaim Him Messiah because He raised Lazarus from the dead. A few days later, we find him in the Temple in Jerusalem. Rather than read the story from the Scriptures, let’s watch as the story is read to us in this film
We don’t know exactly what day this incident occurs in Jesus’ last 6 days. We know the Pharisees have decided He’s a threat and must be killed, Judas has agreed to inform when and where they can quietly arrest Jesus, because many Jewish people were hailing Him Messiah, proclaiming Him King of the Jews, and after Lazarus was brought back to life—everyone was believing. They needed to quietly arrest him, to avoid an uprising.
In the meantime, Jesus goes into the Temple and first cleanses it. See, the Temple was the place Jews would come to every year to sacrifice a lamb or goat as payment for the sins they’d committed that year. The priest would take the blood of the lamb into the Inner Holy of Holies and pour it out on what was called The Mercy Seat of God. God had started this through Moses 1500 years before in Egypt. It was a yearly foretelling of what the Messiah would do as the final Passover Lamb.
All this had been foretold for hundreds of years by prophets. So when Jesus enters Jerusalem on the Colt and people hail him Messiah—the King. This is what the prophet Zechariah foresaw 500 years before Jesus:
Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt…your king will bring peace to the nations. His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. – Zechariah 9:9-12 (520 B.C.)
That day Jesus rides into Jerusalem, the crowds hail him King, Messiah, the one they had waited for—and they expected him to triumph over their enemies and bring peace—but they had only considered the prophecies they wanted to hear, they missed the ones clearly saying that first, He must die for us because all of us reject God and go our own way—that’s why we have no peace. Jesus stops on the Mount of Olives, gets off the donkey, and looks out over Jerusalem and weeps for us.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you…They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” – Luke 19:41-44
Jesus predicted this, and it happened. Miraculously, 1500 years of Jewish sacrifice ended 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion because the Roman General Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple—God said sacrifice can only be done in the Temple—the Temple was destroyed as Jesus predicted that day riding in on the donkey—it still has not been rebuilt. Today the Dome of the Rock sits in its place. This is real history—foretold so we could know—this is God. So we wouldn’t also reject him because we so want the approval of others. Don’t reject Jesus or be ashamed of him because of the opinion of others—they will never ever be your judge—there’s only one who has the right to judge, God.
So Jesus was the final Passover lamb who would die for the sins of all people who want God’s forgiveness and leadership – once for all time. As I said last week, the reason many Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus was due to their mixed motives – they said they loved God, but they loved other things more—instead of killing their idols, they killed God. But many Pharisees did believe.
Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”… Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God. Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. – John 12:37-46
Jesus came to set us free—he made it very clear, He is revealing the unseen, infinite Creator in a form we can relate to. He’s come to show us the extent of the love of God for every human – he holds back nothing, he lays down his life. We can be made right with God by faith – we don’t have to earn that – but we can be eternally secure with God, yet still live more for the praise of people than the praise of God, and when we do, we are seeing the light but choosing to walk in darkness. What can people do for you or to you – in the end? Nothing. Why do you care what they think? They will never be your judge or jury. People don’t matter at all compared to the One who created you, yet when we live for the praise of people, we end up manipulated to do stupid things.
Think of all the stupid things you’ve done because “everyone’s doing it” or “all your friends did it” or you didn’t want to get made fun of or get left out. It gets way less funny and way more tragic when we ignore God and live to please people. We end up doing immoral, unethical things, that hurt us and others, we end up lying to cover our image, we end up comparing and becoming proud or resentful. We live in envy or arrogance, anxiety and insecurity, never free to just be…ourselves. When we live for the praise of people, we are walking in darkness. Jesus came to set us free from all people pleasing—are you ready to die to that today? You can—in Christ you can just quit that people pleasing game—you can get off the treadmill of comparison and live to please God only. That’s what the world needs—the world doesn’t need more people pleasers, the world needs God pleasers. But to get there, we have to put people pleasing to death.
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. – John 12:20-22
So the Greeks want to see Jesus in the Temple Courts. Now the Temple had the Holy of Holies—only the High Priest could enter and only with the blood of the Lamb (What Jesus did is make a way for all to enter—Greeks, Jews, you, me…to enter into the place of greatest intimacy with God, by His blood shed for us.) There were 2 inner courts where Jewish people could worship. Then there was the Court of the Gentiles—where non-Jewish, God fearing people came. These were separated by a wall—Jesus’ death tore down that wall and the veil that separated people from God and each other. So when these Greek Gentiles find Phillip, one of Jesus disciples (Phillip was a Greek name) and said “We want to see Jesus.” Phillip asks his brother Andrew—what should we do? Probably because the Religious Leaders would frown on fraternizing, defiling themselves, in the Court of the Gentiles. But they decided to not care about what people think and introduce them to Jesus—they tell Jesus.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” – John 12:23
These Greeks wanting to see him was a sign—it’s why Jesus was troubled. Up until then, he told his mother and brothers “My hour has not yet come.” He didn’t want his disciples telling people he was the Messiah because “His hour had not yet come.” But now, his hour has come. Somehow Jesus knew, the Greeks coming to him would be the sign—it’s time to die, not just for the sins of the Jewish people, but for all people. Jesus is deeply troubled. Now he knows—it’s this Passover that the final sacrificial lamb will die. And he says,
24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” – John 12:24-28
Jesus’ soul is troubled—he knows he’s going to be killed—just as Isaiah, Daniel, David and many prophets foretold. But It’s never easy to die—even for Jesus. He going to die to bring spiritual life to many.
Think about a seed of corn —it has in it the potential for so much life. It’s just a tiny seed by itself, yet if it dies—if I bury it in the ground in the right soil, the right light and water, it’s life ends as a seed—yet what it produces is so much better. It grows first into one stalk of corn, that stalk has within it many ears of corn. Each ear of corn can feed people and animals and bring life—and reproduce itself 40 fold. And if all these are replanted each year, and all that grows gets replanted the next year, in 6 years there would be more corn than people on the planet. But unless a seed dies, it remains a single lone seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds—much life. This is true of Jesus, but it’s true of us as well.
Then Jesus points it to us. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, but anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. What? Why does he want us to hate our lives? Jesus often taught, not so much to convey information—not to say, here are 7 habits of highly effective people. Or here are three steps to health, wealth and prosperity. Jesus knew the secret to human happiness comes not in making ourselves just a little bit better, but in a total heart-surrender to the Creator of our souls. We were created for God—He made us for Himself—humans were meant to run on love from God and for God. Without that, we’re like a Christmas toy with no batteries—you can use it for a lot, but not what it was created to do—not without batteries. Humans were created to run on God’s love and light and life. That’s why Jesus often taught for shock value. He taught to overturn preconceived ideas of how to get what we’re searching for. Or how to truly find the life we’ve always wanted.
And in a very shocking way, he says, If you really want to follow me into this eternal way of living…to experience a light and life and freedom and power coming from inside—to be free to love God and people the way I created you to love—then you’re going to have to hate this life you’ve built without me at the center. It’s a relative hate. He’s not saying hate people, he’s not saying hate creation, he’s saying hate living to please people. Hate living to prove yourself to people. Hate living to get people to notice you—because as long as you love that, you’ll hate God when he gets in the way of your people-pleasing goals.
But Jesus goes farther. He say, “I’m going to die for you—to bring you spiritual life—forgiveness, right relatedness to the love of your Soul, eternal peace, and the right to live in a New Freedom—You CAN be free. You can quit the world’s game and be free. But first…
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. – John 12:26
Sure Jesus—we want to follow you. You’re going to die for us so we can go to Heaven right? Sign me up—eternal life, joy, peace, all things as they ought to be. I’ll follow you there for sure. And that’s what many Christians mean when they say “I’m a Christ follower.” We want the free gift of right-relationship with God, we want forgiveness for all our sins, we want Heaven—but we don’t want to follow Him up the hill to the cross—we’ll meet you around on the other side Jesus. But He says, it doesn’t work that way. There’s no resurrection on the other side without crucifixion.
He went up the hill to the cross. “Whoever serves me must follow me.” Jesus is asking you something shocking. Will you follow him up the hill to die to all this world promises—to die daily to living for the applause of people. To die to comparison and jealousy and envy and worry about whether you’ll “make it” or “be somebody” or “be recognized” in comparison to someone else. That’s not God’s system, that’s the World’s system—that’s the way of hooking us in the nose and leading us back into spiritually dark places that destroy the soul. Jesus says it even more clearly in other places:
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. – Luke 9:22-24
Do you want to follow Jesus? Really? Or do you really want God to follow you—to give you what you want? And when He doesn’t, you’re going to turn on Him and X Him out of your life? He asks you to follow Him and die daily.
- Will you die daily to what people think, and live in His New Life—God I’m living to please You only—not people?
- What do you need to nail to the cross this Easter—what people pleasing patterns need to be killed so you won’t kill God’s guidance instead?
- What are you doing that you know is not God’s will, but you’re doing it to please a person or people?
Or maybe like the Leaders who did believe in Jesus, but were afraid of being rejected and shut out by the Pharisees, maybe you’ve been ashamed to identify with Jesus.
- Are there people around you who know nothing about your faith because you’ve been scared of what they would think. Why?
- Why does their opinion of you matter at all?
Think about it, God loves them so much Jesus died for them too—it’s not bad news, it’s good news—what we all hoped about God, Jesus said that day in the temple:
“I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me.” – John 12:47-48
The most loving thing you can do for another person is to let them know—God is crazy in love with them, and is for them, not against them—and He doesn’t stand ready to condemn but to forgive and set us free from all judgment.
Finally, Jesus said, “My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
Imagine all the glory and honor people can give, the world can give—picture it—Time Magazine cover, corner office, President, best whatever– one day it WILL all die. All the glory and honor of this world will die. Why live for what you can’t keep, when God promises to give you glory and honor that you can never lose? Live to please him.