July 29th, 2018

Trite but True
Part 3 of 4: Discerning God's Will
John 14:6-11

“What Would Jesus Do?” If you asked that question to host of American entrepreneurs, they would say, “He’d use the phrase to make millions.” That’s certainly what has happened in the United State since the 1990s. Either the phrase, or its acronym, “WWJD” has been a wellspring of wealth to hundreds of American marketers.

The Lesco Corporation, who first marketed the WWJD bracelets, has sold over 16 million and is still counting. Several publishers have published dozens of WWJD books, while bookstores and websites from one end of the country to the other carry WWJD products. You can buy just about anything you want with WWJD emblazoned on it, from tee shirts, to sterling silver necklaces to Giorgio Armani suits.

Sadly, the acronym has also been borrowed and abused by a host of other entrepreneurs. No longer does WWJD just stand for What Would Jesus Do? These days, it may be associated with “Who Would Jesus Deport?” “What Would Jesus Drive.” “Who Wants Jelly Donuts?” And some have suggested using the acronym to let others know, “We Want Jack Daniels.”

For me, there’s a tragedy in all the WWJD hype. The tragedy is this: while the phrase has been trivialized by hundreds of entrepreneurs, the phrase itself still holds great spiritual truth. Unfortunately, this spiritual truth has, too often, been lost in the marketing. As we attempt to know and do the will of God, I really know of no better question one could ask than, “What would Jesus do?”

Over the last two weeks we’ve been talking about Discerning the Will of God. On the first Sunday, I talked about the importance of discerning God’s will by divine faith instead of by human logic. Last week, I told you that in order to discern God’s will you had to first open your life to change.

This week, I offer these words of instruction. If you want to know God’s will for your life, ask the question, “What would Jesus do?”

In today’s text, Jesus talks to his disciples about discerning the will of God for their lives. Throughout Christ’s ministry, the disciples discovered God’s will by simply doing whatever Jesus told them to do; but in today’s text, Jesus has just announced he’s going away. He’s getting ready to be crucified and will ascend back to heaven with his father.

As you can imagine, the disciples were shocked, dumbfounded and frightened. They were shocked at the thought of losing their friend, frightened at the prospect of losing their own lives, and dumbfounded about what to do once Jesus was gone. With him no longer there giving them direction, how would they discern God’s will for their lives and their ministry?

Here’s what Jesus tells them in John 14:6-11.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that God’s will is not hidden from them. Instead, he assures them that God’s will has been lived out before them in his own life. Since he and the Father are one, they have been able to see God’s will by watching Jesus’ life.

Jesus said, “If you want to discern God’s way, look at me, for I am God’s way.”

“If you want to discern God’s truth, listen to me, for I am God’s truth.”

"If you want to discern God’s will for your life, look at the way I lived my life, because I am God’s life. I am God’s way, God’s truth and God’s life. There’s no guess work, no secret formula. If anyone wants to know God’s way, His truth or His life all they need to do is simply follow me."

When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” he was, in essence saying, I am a living picture of God’s will for you. So if you want to be in God’s will, just answer this one question, “What would Jesus do?” because when you determine what Jesus would do, you’ve already determined the will of God.

I think, too often, we make understanding God’s will far too difficult. So often we act like the will of God is some theological Rubik’s Cube that can only be discerned by those with superior, spiritual knowledge. The truth of the matter is this: The will of God has been plastered right before our very eyes for over 2,000 years. Yes, the will of God is right before us in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. So if you want to know the will of God, don’t look for some theological guru or some Christian answer-man who looks good on TV. If you want to know the will of God, look at the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament and then just go and do likewise.

I don’t discern the will of God about caring for the poor and needy by pondering contemporary politics. I know I’m in God’s will when I do what Jesus did with the poor and needy of his day.

I don’t discern the will of God by following the trends on Wall Street. I simply give generously – no matter what the stock market is doing - because that’s what Jesus taught me to do. Wasn’t he the one who clearly said, “It is better to give than receive?”

I don’t discern the will of God by analyzing the Old Testament Moral Code to determine how to treat someone who is gay. I simply treat gays the same way Jesus treated the moral outcasts of his day. I show them my love by drawing a line in the sand and saying to their accusers, “he who is without sin among you, cast the first stone.”

Even the little decisions we make throughout the day should be guided by the question “what would Jesus do?” If Jesus saw trash left on the bathroom floor, what do you think he would do? Would he wait for the custodians to come pick it up? Of course not. He, who came to be the servant of all, would humble himself and pick up the trash.

If Jesus saw an unflushed commode, what do you think he would do? Would he turn his head, hold his nose, and leave that nasty job for somebody else? Of course not, he who washed his disciples’ feet would probably also flush their commode.

If Jesus saw a neighbor who appeared lonely and confused, what do you think he would do? Would he hurry on past him so he could spend more time with his friends? Of course not! Jesus would stop and listen, and then he would say, “Come to me, you who are burdened and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”

If Jesus heard a group of people gossiping about their neighbor, what do you think he would do? Would he stand by idly without words of defense? Of course not! Jesus would stop the conversation saying, “Judge not lest you be judge, for by the judgment with which you judge others, they will judge you in return.”

And if Jesus heard an announcement calling for someone to work in Vacation Bible School, what do you think he would do? Would he turn the other way hoping someone else took care of the children? Of course not. Jesus would be the first to volunteer saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of God.”

Discerning the will of God is not really all that hard. You just have to ask one question. You just ask, “What would Jesus do?” then go and do likewise.

Every now and then I hear someone trying to state God’s will by quoting some passage from the Old Testament. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe the Old Testament is important, but I do not put it on the same level as the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. You see, Moses was not the exact image of God. Abraham was not one with the Eternal Father, and Isaiah never called himself God Incarnate. There’s only one person in Scripture who is the exact representation of God, only one person who said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father; only one person in Scripture who can show us exactly how God wants us to think and act; and that person is Jesus Christ. That’s why Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And so, if the Old Testament advises me to do something that Jesus wouldn’t do, I’m going to follow Jesus instead of the Old Testament.

Let me give you an example. In Deuteronomy 21 we hear these words.

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death.

Now let me ask you a question. If you brought your rebellious son to Jesus, do you think Jesus would advise you to stone him to death? Of course not, Jesus would advise you to change your son's stubborn heart by loving him unconditionally.

So if I'm trying to find God's will about my son, what should I do? Should I follow the teachings of the Old Testament or should I treat my son as Jesus would treat him? I think the answer's clear. I'd do what Jesus would do.

“What would Jesus do?” That one little question is the keystone to understanding God’s will for our lives. In the end, if what we determine to be God’s will differs from the way Jesus lived, or differs from the things Jesus taught, I got news for you. It ain’t the will of God. It’s somebody else’s will, maybe your own will, but if it differs from Jesus, you can be assured, it’s not God’s will.

Perhaps some of you are familiar with the name Michael Tait. Tait is a member of the Christian rock group, DC Talk. He’s also African American. Tait tells about going with four of his friends to the Smoky Mountains to do some rock climbing. He writes,

We came to this little town just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. I wanted to pull over and get something to drink and I saw a little country store ahead.

I walked in, and there were three guys sitting there giving me looks I have never seen before. The older of the three said, "You don't belong around here—boy."

At first I thought, “Is he talking to me?” Then I realized he was. I couldn't believe my ears when he said, "Stick around here after dark and we'll hang you.” . . . . It was as if I'd been beamed back to the '50s. Suddenly I was experiencing hatred, the kind of bigotry I'd only read about or seen on TV.

I'll never forget how I felt in that little country store. For just a split second, I felt less than human. I felt alone.

But then I asked myself the question, “What would Jesus do,” and knew God wanted me to keep my anger under control. So I calmly explained to the man that racism is a thing of America's past and that it had nothing to do with the will of God.

Yes, on that day, Michael Tait had a decision to make. When confronted with ugly, hateful, racism, what should he do? Should he run, or should he respond to the bigot with the same kind of hatred he had received? In that tense situation, what was God’s will for his life?

Tait discovered God’s will by asking, “What would Jesus do?” and instantly he knew God’s will. He knew it was God’s will to love those who hated him. And how did he know that? He knew it by following the teachings of Jesus Christ.

So today, as you seek to discern God’s will for your life, ask the question. “What would Jesus do?” You know, the question itself is pretty simple. The hard part is embracing the answer, and after embracing the answer, living out God’s will in your life.