I want you to understand that Jesus sees what’s on the inside of your heart, and He sees you on the outside.
Thank you for a powerful time of worship. As we certainly prepare our hearts to continue to worship through the reading and the hearing of God’s Word, let me invite you to turn to John, chapter one, verse 43, and we will finish up chapter one today. It only took two months, so that’s fantastic. John, chapter one, starting in verse 43.
Pastor Greg Laurie, some of you may have heard of him, but Pastor Greg Laurie said this – “A church that does not evangelize will fossilize.” I will say that again – a church that does not evangelize will fossilize. Now I think we all know what fossils are. We can go to museums and see dinosaur fossils. Those big rocks that are shaped and the bones of those great mammoths that used to walk on this planet, that used to live, breathe, they were active, and they thrived for a time. And then they died, and all that’s left are the remnants, which is the fossil. Today, you can go travel the world and you can visit wonderful cathedrals. You can see these magnificent buildings that are painted beautifully. They’re wonderful museums. They’re great buildings, great churches and yet, there’s no church that meets there anymore.
The building is a remnant of what used to be a living, breathing, active church. Remember, the church is a people. You are the church. We are the church. The people are the church, not the building. The building is just kind of where we meet. The building can be the remnant and around the world, the buildings have become fossils of what once were thriving churches. Churches that when they started were on fire for Jesus.
You see, there’s a pattern that takes place in pretty much every single church that’s ever been started anywhere around the world. It is started. It is planted. It’s new. It’s exciting. The people of the church are evangelizing. The people of the church are inviting people. They’re telling people about Jesus. They’re active in serving and meeting needs in their community. And those churches grow, and they grow and they grow. But all churches plateau. There will come a point where it will kind of peak and what kind of happens is as the church grows, some people, a lot of people, pastors, leaders, laypeople, they all kind of think oh, we’ve arrived. Man, we had 10 people when we started. Now we’ve got 500. We’ve arrived and so the ministry shifts a little bit. The attitude shifts. It becomes very inward focused, and so if the church doesn’t grow, it begins to plateau and then over time plateau leads to decline, decline leads to death, and all that’s left is the fossils of what used to be an active, vibrant, gospel-centered, Jesus-proclaiming church.
Christians have to fight really hard against the inward focuses. And so, churches that do not evangelize will ultimately fossilize, and all that will be left is a remnant of what used to be a powerful force for the Kingdom of Heaven. Evangelism is simply this: it is teaching or sharing the Gospel with someone in order to persuade them to follow. Now we don’t like to think of our sharing the Gospel in an effort to persuade people, but that’s what the goal is. We want to tell people about Jesus. We want to live our lives showing people how Jesus has changed us with the goal of them meeting Jesus. We want them to see and know Jesus. We want them to make the decision to follow Jesus. That is the purpose of the church. That is the goal of all the church is to share Jesus, share the Gospel with people so that they would become followers of Christ.
We will conclude this section in John today. We started it last week and we introduced this idea of evangelism, because what was the first thing Andrew did last week? He went and told his brother. He didn’t tell anybody else. He identified a family member who needed to know that hey, I found the Messiah. I found the Christ. So, he went and told.
We introduced it last week, but we’re going to see this idea of evangelism really pop out of the page today, and similar to last week, the main point is when we see Jesus for Who He really is, then we are committed to telling others about Him.
Yeah, last week it was when we see Jesus for Who He really is, He changes our lives. This week it’s when we see Jesus for Who He really is and we have a changed life, we are committed, absolutely 100% committed, to telling others about Jesus. So, let’s pick up this story today as we continue to see Jesus gathering His very first followers in the very first days of his ministry.
Last week we focused in on that third day of His public ministry. Today, we see it’ll be the 4th day of the public ministry of Jesus. Verse 43, starting in John, chapter one.
John 1:43-51: 43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. He found Philip and told him, “Follow me.”
So just a real quick geographic for you. You kind of get a picture, and I should have had a map, but I didn’t. They’re in Bethany. You can go back to verse 21 or verse 28 and see that they’re in Bethany. A lot of this is taking place in Bethany. But it’s not the Bethany that’s down near Jerusalem. This is Bethany on the east side of the Jordan. This Bethany is a little higher up. It’s a little closer to Galilee. It’s a little closer to Bethsaida and Canaan and that whole area, but they’re on the east side. They’ve kind of crossed over the banks. They’re on the east side of the Jordan River. Most maps do not have that identified because no one really knows where this is. We don’t really know if this is the real name of the village, or if this is what John called it and had another name, but this area is on the east side of the Jordan River. It’s a little bit further north than the Bethany that you see on most of the maps in your Bible. So, when He says we’re going to go to Galilee or about 20 miles, OK, and Galilee is like the state, so that’s not a city. So, He’s got like a 20-mile walk, probably a day if they really huff it. So, on this day, the 4th day of Jesus’ public ministry, He says we’re going to go to Galilee. Canaan is in Galilee, so they’re probably heading to that wedding feast that we’re going to see next week in Chapter 2, so that just gives you some context.
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida (the same general region), the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
46 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asked him.
“Come and see,” Philip answered.
47 Then Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said about him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do You know me?” Nathanael asked.
“Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus answered.
49 “Rabbi,” Nathanael replied, “You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then He said, “Truly I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
That’s a powerful story of evangelism and what we see in the text are three keys to evangelism that are very important. These aren’t exhaustive, but these are three keys of evangelism in the text. The first one is this:
1 – Follow Jesus closely.
Follow Jesus closely. For the first time, Jesus issues the invitation to Phillip: follow Me. It is an invitation just like before – follow Me. Come and see. Come and learn from Me. Now I want you to imagine for a moment, Andrew and John, although John is not named, but Andrew, John and Simon have already been spending time with Jesus. Phillip now joins them. And now in this 20-mile journey, depending on wherever Phillip met them, somewhere along the journey, they get to talk to Jesus. And they’re just asking questions, and they’re following. They’re closely listening. They’re asking questions. I mean, these aren’t the most educated people in the world, so they don’t understand everything Jesus is saying.
Last week I told you that the disciples would follow closely enough so that the rabbi’s dust would kick up on their clothes, right? So that’s kind of the picture that they’re following. They’re asking questions. They’re learning.
I want to understand something about following. When I was in college – if you’re in college and if you’re going to be in college one day, you can understand this – you take roughly 15 hours of school a week, some maybe 18 hours of in-class learning. The worst mistake I ever made was a 22-hour schedule. That was awful. So, if you’re going to go to college, try not to do that. You know 15 is a good number, OK, but you spend about 15 hours a week in class. If you’re somewhat nerdy like me, you’ll spend another 15 to 20 hours outside of class reading, writing, researching, studying. In seminary, when doing my masters level work, it was more like probably 30 hours a week, 40 hours a week. I’m not very good at reading, so you read and reread. You spend roughly 50 hours a week on your education. There’s about 160 hours left in the week. You spend about 50 of that just on school, so what do you do the rest of the time? You hang out with your friends, go on dates, go out to eat. If you’re older, you hang out with your family. You do other things. Get a job. Go to work.
That’s not a follower in Jesus’ day, because this is the kind of higher level, graduate level education. When you attach yourself to a rabbi, it is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You don’t really get to go socialize. You don’t get to really have another job, although there might be a little bit of time for some of that. You have to follow the rabbi. You have to do exactly what the rabbi does. You have to do exactly what the rabbi says. You have to learn and learn. I mean, this is 24/7 education. That is what it means to follow. You are literally surrendering your life, your livelihood, your social life. You are literally surrendering all of that to the teacher, and you are following the teacher.
That’s what it means to follow Jesus closely – surrendering your life and saying, and I’m not telling you like you have to be a monk, I’m just telling you, closely follow Jesus, which means are you reading your Bible every single day? Are you really studying your Bible? Are you applying the Bible to your life? Are you really, truly striving to live like Jesus, to speak like Jesus, to do the things that Jesus wants us to do? That’s what it looks like to follow Jesus closely, and as we follow Jesus closely, He changes us, right?
I always find it interesting that this simple invitation is follow Me. It’s not really an invitation to become an apostle, yet that’s going to happen later; it’s just follow Me. It’s not say the ABCs and accept Jesus into your heart. No, that’s not there. It’s not this mass call to come down to the altar and say the sinner’s prayer. It’s just follow Me. There’s a place for all of that, I think. But the initial call for everyone is to just follow Jesus.
Remember, I told you the pattern last week – presentation of the Gospel. Philip got it. Follow Me. That’s the presentation of the Gospel. Initial reaction – all kinds of different initial reactions: immediately accept, immediately deny, or I need to know more. And then you make the decision to surrender your life to the Lord. And then the fourth part of the pattern is you’re going to tell everybody you can about it.
So, I want you to follow Jesus closely, but I do want to point out you do not have to follow Him perfectly. I want that to encourage you this morning. You don’t have to be perfect. You may have woken up this morning and been rushed at home and you forgot to have your quiet time. That’s OK. You don’t have to follow perfectly. Start over tomorrow. Do it again tomorrow. Get back on that wagon tomorrow. If you made mistakes today, start over tomorrow. Pray. Say God forgive me.
Listen, within the last week, I have lost my temper in a very, very, very, very bad, very, very bad way. What’s funny, and I can’t tell you – some know, and that’s fine. They can tell you. I can just say this: after Tuesday, I got in my truck Tuesday night, and I was sitting there thinking I’m preaching on keys to evangelism and what I just did is terribly violating the keys to evangelism.
It all happens. But I pray about it. I get back up. I follow Jesus closely. You don’t have to follow perfectly, and as you’re following Jesus closely, you need to understand that we begin to proclaim Him persistently.
2 – Proclaim Jesus persistently.
Phillip has met someone who has absolutely changed his life. Phillip has met the Messiah or what he says is the One who Moses and the prophets talked about. This is Who he has met. He spent some time with Him. He’s been following Him and the first thing that he did was found his friend Nathanael. He says Nathanael, I found Him. You got to come see Him. You got to. I found this guy. When we were in our education and we were learning the Torah and then we learned the prophets and this is the One that Moses and the prophets talked about. This is the guy we’ve been waiting for. I found Him.
Now listen, I don’t know about you, but when I find something that I think is going to help somebody, I go tell them. If I find a tool that is going to make life easier, I’m going to go tell somebody. I was like, hey, you need to change your oil? I got this little tool right here that’ll save you 2 minutes. That’s life changing when you’re trying to change your own oil, OK. That’s like, this is the tool! You got to go use it!
As a pastor, if I find a resource, I’m like, hey, this is a sermon website or sermon resource. It’ll really help you organize your life. I’m going to call my pastor friends and tell them because it’ll make their life better.
Phillip has found the Messiah. Like Andrew, I got to tell Simon. Phillip is like, I feel like I got to tell my friend Nathanael. I got to go tell him. Now, who is Nathanael? That’s a good question. Because if you read the list of apostles in the other Gospels, you know whose name is not there? Nathanael. So, who is he? Well, it’s possible, and I would say most people say, he is Bartholomew. That when you read those other Gospels and you see the name Bartholomew, that’s who Nathanael is, and that John is using just kind of a different name to describe him or talk about him; that Bartholomew may have been more of a nickname. But it’s also possible, just as likely, that Nathanael is just a guy. He’s just an ordinary, everyday guy who was friends with Phillip.
I want you to understand that Jesus had more than 12 followers. We understand that, right? He had hundreds of people who followed Him. He had 12 close followers that would become apostles. And then He would have even three closer than that, kind of like a really small group: Peter, James, and John. So, you really get a picture of discipleship when you see this model. There’s not really a congregation cause the church doesn’t exist yet, so I’m just illustrating this to you. It is a large gathering of people who are following Jesus like a congregation. He’s preaching to them in large group settings at the Sermon on the Mount and other places. But then Jesus has His Sunday school class, His 12 where He’s pouring into them. He’s taking it a little bit deeper, He’s teaching them things just a little bit deeper, and then He’s got the disciples that even smaller, a lot of people called a D Group, where it’s just the three, and He takes those three and goes even deeper.
That’s kind of a model for discipleship that we see in this passage, so Nathanael could just be a follower. And then he could be Bartholomew. The point is, he’s just an ordinary fisherman. Phillip from Bethsaida, right? Bethsaida means house of fishermen. All these guys are fishermen. They’re just ordinary people, and Jesus is inviting them to come and see. Come and follow. Just ordinary, everyday people. Nathanael is just an ordinary guy.
And Phillip says come here. I found the Messiah. Now his reaction: anything good ever come from Nazareth? We can understand that. How many of you…I better be careful. I’m still new here. Don’t raise your hand. Those of you who go to South Rowan. You probably have this attitude towards Carson. Can anything good come from Carson, right? If you go to Carson, can anything good come from South? I don’t know what the other rivalries in the county are, but if you go to West, I’m sure there’s a school. If you go to East, I’m sure there’s a school. For me, and I found out somebody actually went here, but for me, Central Cabarrus. Can anything ever in the history of the world come out of central Cabarrus that’s good? Maybe one or two people, but that was our rivalry, so there’s a little rivalry here, I think because you got Nathanael, from a different village, and Jesus from Nazareth, just kind of a no-name place. Like can anything good come out of Nazareth? There’s no way that the Messiah is coming out of Nazareth, right?
Now, you’re thinking that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Shouldn’t it be Jesus from Bethlehem? Remember, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, spent time in Egypt, then spent most of his life growing up in Nazareth. This is the town He grew up in, OK. Jesus of Nazareth. And Joseph was a carpenter. You’re telling me the Messiah, this is what I’m talking about, the initial response is not always welcoming. This is not positive. But Phillip persistently keeps saying or using the same words that Jesus uses: come and see. Come, check Him out. Come meet Him. That’s persistently proclaiming Jesus.
Listen, some of you can think of people right now who don’t know Jesus and you are thinking I got to share the Gospel with them and tell them about Jesus. You may tell them your experience with Jesus, and they’re like, I don’t want nothing to do with that. Don’t abandon them. Keep having coffee with them. Keep praying for them. Keep having conversations with them. Don’t take your Bible and beat them on the head. That doesn’t really work in today’s culture, OK. Don’t be rude about it. Don’t walk up and say if you don’t turn, you’re going to burn. That’s not good strategy anymore, OK? There was a place for that in a different time. That doesn’t work anymore. You just persistently live your life loving people like Jesus loves you, telling them about how Jesus has changed you, and then the third thing that we lead into is let the Word work.
3 – Let the Word of God do the work. Philip took Nathanael to Jesus to have a conversation with Jesus. It is important that you tell your story. It’s important that you share your experience, but at the end of the day, the Word has to work. You’re not going to save anybody. Only the Word of God can save you. Another way to put this is allow the Holy Spirit or let the Spirit of God work through the Word of God. The Spirit of God will work through the Word of God. Let the Spirit stir conviction into the hearts of people.
There’s, I know I’ve told this story before, but it’s just so fascinating to me. My favorite professor in seminary, his mother was not a Christian. He became a Christian at a fairly young age. His mom and dad were not Christians. His dad did become a Christian before passing away. His mom was not a Christian. We’re talking for decades and decades and decades, he persistently shared Jesus. He persistently shared the Gospel. He persistently took her and shared Bible verses with her for decades upon decades. Several months ago, he got to baptize her. That’s awesome. Don’t ever give up on people, but at the end of the day he knew, because he told us about it in all these classes. He knew that it was his prayer life. As he prayed for the Spirit of God to convict her, he prayed for the Word of God to work in her life.
Phillip takes Nathanael to the Word of God, to Jesus, which is a very fascinating conversation that takes place. They’re walking up and Jesus sees him and says he is truly an Israelite with no deceit. That’s kind of odd, isn’t it? Here’s an Israelite. Here’s a true Israelite. I don’t want you to read too much into that. Commentators have written books on that one sentence. But I think Jesus just sees Nathanael and He goes, here’s a guy who is just a straight shooter. Nothing good comes from Nazareth. He’s a straight shooter, right? He’s not a hypocrite. He’s not a person that’s going to lie or steal or cheat, he’s just a straight arrow. He was under the fig tree, which again it’s fascinating that Jesus miraculously, spiritually, sees him under the fig tree. Jesus wasn’t necessarily around the fig tree.
There’s a lot of different theories, but he was probably under the fig tree praying. It’s a cultural thing. He was probably there praying and seeking the Lord. So, Jesus says, here’s a man who loves God. Here’s a man who doesn’t put on a fake face. Here’s a man who just tells it like it is. He’s faithful; he prays. He’s one of a kind, not that the others are not. He says I saw you under the fig tree. There’re two things here. Jesus recognized spiritual condition, and then He says I saw you under the fig tree.
I want you to understand that Jesus sees what’s on the inside of your heart, and He sees you on the outside. That’s how the Word can work. The Word makes it very clear. God knows our hearts – the anger, the sin, the worry, the conflict, the selfishness. God sees our heart. We can deceive people, but we can’t deceive God. God knows our heart.
God also knows us physically and knows every hair on our head, knows how much we weigh, knows the clothes we’re wearing. He can see us. He knows us. Those two things impacted Nathanael so much that he says You’re the son of God. The Word, the Spirit of God, worked in his heart. Through this conversation, the Spirit worked through the Word. Nathanael makes this confession. You are the Son of God.
That is a powerful transformation that has taken place. And really it all started with John the Baptist saying behold the Lamb of God. Andrew saying we found the Messiah. Phillip saying I found the guy that Moses and the prophets talked about. And throughout this whole process is the idea of come and see. Come and see Jesus. Come and experience Jesus. Because when you come to Jesus, He will change your life. He’ll change your life.
Jesus closes the chapter like this. Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? If somebody walked up to me and said I saw you last night watching the Duke and Carolina basketball game. I would be interested in that. What did you see? Now, I was also watching Charlotte FC. They’re just as bad. What did you see? So yeah, this is an honest thing. Jesus is like look, you believe in Me because you’ve seen a miracle. You’ve seen something. You’ve experienced Me, but then He goes on to say you will see greater things than this truly is. Truly, truly, I tell you. You will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
Jesus is setting up what’s going to happen in the weeks, days, and months ahead. As these guys, this ragtag group of fishermen, these nobodies Who Jesus is going to make somebodies, follow Him closely, they’re going to tell others about Him persistently. At the end of the day, the Word of God is going to do all the work as Jesus calls people and draws people closer to Himself.
So, my challenge to you this morning and as we kind of close and prepare our hearts for this time of invitation is this: I want you to think about today, this week, people in your life who don’t know Jesus. Think about it. It’s an acronym that I like to use. It’s FRAN. Think of your friends, your relatives, your acquaintances, and your neighbors. It covers most of our social life. Think about those people who don’t know Jesus. Think about those people who have heard the Gospel one or two times, but their initial response was to turn away from it.
Think about the people who are in desperate need of a Savior. Write them down. Put them on paper and pray for them. Pray for them. Pray for them. Pray for opportunities to tell them about Jesus. Pray for opportunities to tell them about your experience. Pray for opportunities to introduce them to Jesus, and pray that the Spirit of God would work through the Word of God and that they would make a decision.
If you love them enough. You might think my boss isn’t Christian, and I really don’t love him at all. He’s a jerk. Oh, Jesus still loves him. Pray for him. I got a coworker who’s awful. Jesus loves him. He needs to hear the Gospel.
So, you follow Jesus closely, so you can proclaim Jesus persistently and then allow the Word to do the work and don’t ever, don’t ever, ever give up on anybody. You pray for them, and you tell them about Jesus until they die or till you die. Don’t ever give up on telling people about Jesus.
Let’s pray together. Father, I thank you so much for these men, who many years ago as Jesus comes on the scene, they recognize Who He is, and they make the decision to follow. I’m grateful for everyone here who’s made the decision to follow Jesus. Father, help us to follow Him closer than we ever have. Help us to have a desire to learn more, to know more, to study more. And then Father, give us a heart for the lost. Help us to be like John the Baptist and Andrew and Phillip and so many of these other disciples and these other followers. Give us a heart to see other lives changed. Help us to understand that we have found something that will impact and change lives greater than anything else in this world. And we don’t mind telling people about other things, but we get scared to share Jesus. Give us the courage and the boldness to persistently proclaim Who You are. And Father, we pray that You would work in the hearts and lives of those who hear. We pray that You would convict them of their sins, that You would lead them to You, the Savior. We ask this in Jesus’ Name.