29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi”, “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah”. 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas”.
Last week my wife told me that she was surprised by a piece of news she just read. This news says that in China Apple has for the first time did a sales promotion during the holiday season. You can get an Apple product costing 2000 RMB if you buy an iPhone. So you can imagine that in the terrible hazy weather, Chinese people wait outside of Apple stores and are queueing up in long lines to make sale purchase. It seems to prove again just how much people love Apple’s products. But it also proves that Apple is facing intense competition from many Chinese cellphone manufacturers. In the past year, 2016, Apple’s income dropped in four consecutive quarters. For example, the iPhone’s sales dropped 5%; iPad, 6% and Mac, 14%. It is even worse in China’s market, because the market is overtaken by Chinese cellphone brands bit by bit, and their products are improving better and better, and their prices keep getting cheaper and cheaper. However, an iPhone at $650 can be sold at the cost of less than $230.
Of course no one denies that Apple is still a good or successful company, it is still making by far most of the profit of this industry, but few people still believe it is the greatest company. So here we should mention one person, known as Steve Jobs. Actually he has already left us more than 5 years ago, but he is still remembered and admired by many people. Why? Let’s check our hearts and ask ourselves, what do we remember of him?
Steve Jobs had a very well-known saying: “People don’t know what they want.”
What an arrogant statement! But when he put the iPhone before the world, people realized that this is the very product that they wanted!
Jobs was great leader, for when we didn’t know what we are looking for, he told us what we are looking for, and then told us: Follow me! Then everyone’s life was changed, smart phones substituted for PCs, connecting each person to the world.
And Tim Cook, Jobs’ successor, and all other cellphone manufacturers are still sharing the rewards brought about by Jobs to this industry.
Here is the difference between Cook and Jobs.
What Cook provides is a kind of mother love. He tried his best to satisfy the customers and investors. It worked in short term, but also made iPhone not very unique any more.
But Jobs was different. From him we felt a kind of fatherhood. He stood higher and saw the future. He knew what is good, so turned to us and said, “Child, throw away the garbage in your hand, and let daddy tell you what is best.”
So Apple Computer in Jobs’ care would be a great company.
By this example in the business world, I am trying to say, we often don’t know what we are looking for, and our biggest need is to know what we really need. In this situation, we don’t need a mom to satisfy or respect our needs, but a father to tell us what we really need.
At this point, God can be everyone’s father, for there is only one need that only He can satisfy, and that is to tell us what we really need. Why do we often feel painful, fearful and saddened? That’s because we often use others and that we don’t satisfy our own needs.
Now we can begin to better understand today’s scripture.
First let me briefly introduce the gospel according to John. In John’s gospel, Jesus is totally different than the other three gospel writers’ Jesus. In John’s eyes, Jesus is God. I think that’s why Jesus loves John very much. According to John, Jesus is not just a model whom we can learn and imitate, but a God whom we should worship and believe. That’s why many Jesus’ stories were only written down by John rather than the other three, such as the wedding at Cana and Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead.
Imagine this: when Jesus was walking on the Jorden river bank, at that time, Jesus was unknown at all except by John the Baptist, who told his two disciples, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Who were these two disciples? One is Peter’s brother, Andrews; the other one is John, the author of this gospel. Just after they heard what their teacher said, they then followed Jesus at once. They followed after Jesus without any word, so Jesus turned back and asked them, “Hey guys, why you are following after me? What are you looking for?”
Did you ever notice that in the gospel of John, this question is the first sentence Jesus spoke? This question always resounded deeply in John’s heart. For John, this is not an ordinary question asked by an ordinary person, but an ultimate question asked by Jesus as God. This question causes us to doubt whether or not we really know what we need.
Did they clearly know what they are looking for? If they knew, they could just ask Jesus to give it to them, but they were very embarrassed, and didn’t know how to answer, so they said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
Jesus was not really looking for an answer, but wanted to force them to admit that they had no idea what they are looking for, so Jesus said to them, “Come and see, let me tell you what you should look for.”
Sisters and brothers, this scripture is also reminding us that we do not know what we really need. When I prepared this sermon, I asked some people in a covert way this same question. “What do you really want?” I found out that few people can give me a clear answer. Please think of your answer right now. Do you find that what you want is often something unreal and illusory?
What do you want? You want a feeling.
A feeling of being better. You want to be better. Right?
What is to be “better”? Be better than it is now, or go to a better school, or have a better job, or better house, or better car, or better wife or husband? Regardless, we want a better life. What is the better life for you? It’s hard to have a clear concept of it.
Therefore if what we want is just to be better, just better than it is, or more than it is, we tend to fall into a pit; we are going to exchange the certain present for an uncertain future, and in return our happiness could decrease, for we will worry about those things we have not yet gained.
Unfortunately, I am this kind of person.
I have to say I am a very diligent and hard working person. Since I was a child, I supposed that I am more stupid than others, and my family was poorer than other families. I must try very hard to succeed, if not, then I would be worse than the others and they would look down on me. This is not a positive motivation and an unhealthy attitude. So I studied very hard, and treated myself very roughly.
I remember when I was in 4th grade, taking a midterm exam, I got the top score in my class, but I was criticized by the teacher because I was not the top in the same grade. In one month, I lost all my hair, for I felt hurtful and saddened. That year I was just ten years old.
So I was never a happy kid, because I wanted to be better.
In junior school, in order to prepare for an exam, I got up at 3:00am to study in the early morning. In college, in order to prepare for the postgraduate exam, I locked myself in the home for half a year, no computer, no internet, no TV. I wanted to go to a better school, but I sacrificed my health, my joy and my relationships.
Last year, Pastor Charlie suffered a stroke, so then I quit school and came back from Chicago to help. I felt a lot of pressure on me. In the past year, I have worked very hard, for I tried to make everything better. But there was just too much work that I wanted to do, so I got sick after Christmas. During that two weeks, I felt very bad, my emotions were very low, for there were still many things needed to be done. I was also asked by Jesus, “What are you looking for?” I found I didn’t know how to answer.
I realized that although I tried my best, and tried to make things better, I was not taking care of myself. I completed tasks, but collapsed exhausted, making myself always busy, anxious and nervous. The outcome is that I cannot even finish things, and cannot bless others, and at the same time, I am unhappy.
So Jesus came to me, asking this question to challenge me, to help me break this cycle. We want to be better, but Jesus wants to give us the best.
That’s why he said to these two disciples: Come and see! And so they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.
Jesus didn’t say, if you follow me, go and work hard and to the end of this world spread my gospel, and you will be martyred someday, so then you can be with me forever.
I suppose that maybe Bin Laden said this to his disciples in a similar fashion, but Jesus would not. He asked them to stay with him, to live with him, to know him. After the disciples knew Jesus, they got the best, for only Jesus is the best. They got the peace, ability and unbeatable passion to work for Jesus.
We Christians are not to do our best, but rather to share “the best” with others.
“I have decided to follow Jesus.” We just sang this hymn, it’s one of my favorites. There is one sentence in it: The world behind me; the Cross before me. It sounds good, but I often want to change it to the opposite way: The Cross behind me; the world before me. Why? Because the truth is we come to the cross first, to get Jesus Christ first. Then with the best blessings, with the best news, we can enter the world to spread the gospel, to witness for Jesus. This is a healthy and positive belief. We are not leaving a sinful world and the sinful people of this world, and then trying hard to find God’s redemption. In this way, we might be seen as a pious Christian, but not one who can reflect God’s image. These are entirely different.
We often hear people say, God is good or God is the best, but we never hear that God is better, for this saying is insufficient. If what you believe is a better God, your God probably is just one part of a better life that you are looking for, so then you will not get the best blessings God has prepared for your life.
OK, anything else we want? We are also looking for freedom.
We all like to be free from all constraints. We all believe that the freer, the happier. If you think so, you are being childish.
Now in our church, there are several teenagers, they are all from Arcadia High. One day I made a joke with them, I said to them, “on each of your faces there are these three words: I WANT FREEDOM!”
Because I was also a teenager, I know what they are thinking.
That’s the rebellious period: not wanting to be restricted, not wanting to be with parents, please don’t tell me what’s right and wrong, I can define my own values.
What they really want, they also don’t know, but absolutely not what their parents told them.
This is the child within them.
But are we the so-called adults more mature than them? Don’t we also often think that freedom equates to happiness?
Eat what we want to eat; sleep when I want to sleep, love whoever I want to love, and hate whoever I want to hate. If you dare to try, you will immediately know what is pain.
Freedom is the gift to man from God, in order to make man happy. So it’s no doubt that freedom can bring happiness. However God not only gave man freedom, but also Law at same time, in order to make man happier. But human beings only want freedom and see God’s Law as the enemy of their happiness.
In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve, “You may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden.” This is freedom.
Then God said, “Except the fruit of the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do, you will die the same day.” This is the Law.
The happiness God defined for all human beings is the Law-protected freedom, which was interpreted by Eve as being freedom-less. So Satan successfully tempted Eve.
Satan told Eve, only when you pass over the Law or ignore the Law, you may have true happiness. The reason why God forbade you to eat of that fruit is that God doesn’t want you to obtain the biggest happiness. This toxic logic went into Eve’s heart. The outcome is that after leaving the protection of God’s Law, Eve received pain and death.
Do you realize that many of our life sufferings result from the same mistake we make like Eve?
There was the famous Israelite King, Hezekiah. The Bible says he was a good king and feared God. When he got very sick, God told him, “You will not recover. Get ready to die.” But he didn’t want to die and wanted to be free from death, so he prayed eagerly asking for longer life. He didn’t accept God’s arrangement, he wanted the freedom of time. Then God gave him 15 years. He was so happy that he started to misuse his freedom. He showed all the treasures in his kingdom to the Babylonians. The direct consequence of this was that his kingdom was later destroyed by Babylon. So what God gave us is the freedom controlled by His Law, for God knows that absolute freedom will destroy us. If we are like kids who cry for unrestrained freedom to our parents, and try to break through the natural and moral law God gave us, then we will sooner or later lose our happiness.
Today’s Americans are enjoying the most freedom in this world, this is God’s blessings to this nation. And God also gave this nation the best law system to protect the freedom. But the government and court now only listen to the people. They belittle God’s Law, and even modify God’s Law. They are not only providing people more freedom that is not restrained by God’s Law, but also taking away bit by bit the social stability and people’s happiness. Today in America, and Taiwan and many other areas of this world people are crying eagerly for the freedom of same-sex marriage. God knows that they are exchanging unrestrained freedom at the cost of their happiness and their children’s happiness. All human beings will suffer from this freedom. Why do we tend to value God’s Law only after we suffer, rather than before we suffer?
When Jesus askes us, “What are you looking for?” we can have two types of answers.
One is: Lord, where are you staying? I don’t know what I need, please tell me!
The other answer is: Lord, here I am staying. Please come, I will tell you what I need, please give me!
The first answer can make you grow to become a mature Christian who can give, bless and love.
The second answer can make you a giant baby, always asking for love and comfort, with no courage to face challenges.
Let’s examine today’s Christian churches. Why is their influential power in this society becoming weaker and weaker? That’s because they have no guts to tell this world what they need or they don’t know that what they really need. A lot of people have no idea of what they need; they are seeking; they are waiting for someone who can tell them what they really need. This is the church’s mission. Why don’t we bravely tell the people around us: you have many needs, but your biggest need is Jesus Christ?
Today we are building our church, we want this church to grow. How do we make it grow? Competing with our neighbor churches? Or simply copying their ministries? Or through dinners and many programs to satisfy people’s religious needs and social needs?Becoming a good religious services provider?
We need to equip ourselves until we know and believe that only Jesus is the answer to all human problems. Then we can tell people: your biggest need is Jesus, your primary need is Jesus! Our institution, our fellowships, our ministries, our worship, all should focus on this goal. Then God will grant the power, the unity, the courage, the passion abundantly to this church, for in God’s eye, this is a church which can benefit His Kingdom, a church which cannot be replaced.
May God bless us!