Sometimes we can do the right thing but we do it in the wrong way. Whatever it is we set about to do is good but the way in which we do it isn't necessarily always the best. I have several examples, one from my own life. The very first time I baptized a person. I did the right thing; I did it in the wrong way. I was in my twenties; I had a Bible study in Southern California. There was an elderly woman who gave her life to the Lord. I led her to Christ and I convinced her that she should be baptized in the ocean. There's nothing really wrong with that except you want to choose the right place in the ocean. I wasn't thinking about that. So I brought her down just to the beach and we got her in the water and I had her, second mistake, facing the shore instead of looking at what's coming. So you're sort of picturing what's coming. Our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed, it's such a holy moment, I'm praying with her and this huge wave came in and just--she face planted right in the sand in front of her. It wasn't a great deal. It was the right thing but it was the wrong way.
Here's another example. A missionary was leaving the United States to board a plane to go to a foreign country--true story--to do mission work. They got arrested because they failed to have the right documentation. That's what the officials said. They lacked proper documentation. Turns out the missionary was illegally in the United States, an illegal immigrant. Now going out to do mission work is a noble thing but you have to pay attention to immigration laws as a believer. So that's doing the right thing in the wrong way.
Another story your probably familiar with comes out of the Old Testament when David wanted to move the ark that was in Kirjath Jirah up to Jerusalem and he thought, you know what? Forget about having priests hold it on their shoulders. Let's just put it on a cart--we'll expedite this. This is an automated day and age and we'll quickly move the cart up to Jerusalem. So they're moving it up to Jerusalem and there's a guy who's there watching it and as the ark starts to topple, he puts his hand out to steady the ark and because it wasn't done the proper way, God struck him dead on the spot. And David went… oops! I just did the right thing in the wrong way.
It can happen in any area of life, even in ministry, because we think we're doing God's work, we need to expedite it and we can sometimes, in the ministry, do the right thing in the wrong way. I was given a little piece called "The Meeting of the Board". I'm gonna read it to you. "The Meeting of the Board". It's sort of a modern-day Last Supper. It's Jesus with His disciples and, to modernize it, the names have been shortened. So instead of Peter, it's Pete. Instead of Bartholomew, it's Bart. There's James called Jim. Big Jim and Little Jim, James the Greater and James the Less, etcetera, etcetera. Let me read it to you: Pete: This meeting has been called at the request of Matt, John, Tom, and Little Jim. Bart? Will you open up with prayer? Bart: Almighty God, we ask Your blessing on all that we do and say and earnestly pray that You will see our side as Your side. Amen. Pete: Jesus, we've been following You around for some time and we're getting concerned about the attendants. Tom? How many were on the hill yesterday? Tom: 37. Pete: This is getting ridiculous. Um, You're gonna have to pep things up, Jesus. We expect things to happen. John: I'd like to suggest You pull off more miracles. That walking on the water bit was the most exciting thing I've ever seen! But only a few of us saw it. Now if 1,000 or so had the chance to witness it, we would've had more than we could handle on the hill. Little Jim: I agree. Those healing miracles are terrific but only a limited number really get to see what happened. Let's have a little more water to wine, more fish and chips. It never hurts to fill their stomachs. Calm more storms, Jesus. Give more signs. That's what the people need. Pete: Right. And another thing--publicity is essential. You tell half the people You cure to keep it quiet! Let the word out! Matt: I'm for miracles but I want to hear a few more stories I can understand. This "those who have ears to hear, let them hear," bit just clouds up the issue. You got to make it clear if we're gonna have stuff to go home with. Big Jim: I'd like to offer an order of service. First, a story. Then, a big miracle followed by an offering and then maybe sing or something like a poem followed by a small miracle to bring them back next time. Oh yeah, You can pray if You'd like. Tom: We gotta do something! Jim: That's for sure. Attendance has been awful. Judas: I'd like to say, if we're gonna continue to meet in this Upper Room, we gotta do something about the carpet.
Did you know it's possible to follow Jesus the wrong way? With the wrong motivation? Now here's a story about a crowd of people. This is a crowd of people who had just witnessed something amazing. They were the very crowd that Jesus fed. 15,000 roughly who were up on a hill outside of the towns of Galilee and Jesus was there with His disciples and took a few loaves of bread and a few fish and blessed it and broke it and fed this great multitude. So they had a free lunch. And now we find that they are looking for Jesus after Jesus leaves the area, walks on the water, they don't know that, and they're looking for Jesus in Capernaum. And what we're gonna discover in this short paragraph are three things about how people interact with spiritual things, especially when it comes to Jesus Christ. And I'm gonna give you three statements about how people interact with Christ and with spiritual things.
Number one: searching for God can be hypocritical. That's the first statement. Searching for God can be, doesn't have to be, but can be hypocritical. Look at verse 22: "On the following day," this is the following day after that wonderful miracle, "when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone--however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks--when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus." Now if that's all that it said, we'd probably do a whole sermon on what it is to seek Jesus. And that's a wonderful statement but we read on: "And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled."
Now this sounds wonderful. This is a crowd that is seeking Jesus but, like my first baptism, which was a fiasco, and like that missionary getting on the plane, they are doing the right thing in the wrong way. Yeah, it's really cool that they're looking for Jesus--no question. But why are they doing that? Are they doing it because they really want Him and love Him and will worship Him and will obey Him? Not at all. They are seeking Jesus simply because it's morning and He's not there. In other words, dinner last night was really cool but what about breakfast? Where's the breakfast? We're hungry.
Now here's the deal. This whole crowd that had been following Jesus and was taken up to this very lonely country environment and were fed, evidently they spent the night. They spent the night in the area because it was already the evening time by the time this episode was over. It was springtime of the year around Galilee. It's very warm, very pleasant. They just slept overnight--a lot of them did. They got up the next day and Jesus wasn't there.
Now here's the problem. They distinctly remember what you and I already read: that Jesus had escorted His disciples down to the lake, there was one boat on the shore, and Jesus made sure that His disciples left without Him. Jesus remained. Therefore, they expected, when they got up, to see Jesus there. He wasn't there. So they're trying to figure this out: where did He go? And not only that, how did He travel? See they weren't even thinking that He may have walked on the water. They thought, He didn't go around the lake, it's too long. And there's no other boat to take Him. Now it's interesting in this little passage, John the apostle, the writer, seems to make a big deal about the boats. Right? He gives all this detail about the boats and there was only one boat and then there's no boats because the disciples left and Jesus isn't there but then there's all these boats from Tiberias. What's all that about? Here's probably what happened. The singular boat that took the disciples away was gone. There were no other boats. But the storm was so fierce that the fishing boats that dot the Galilee, the lake, at nighttime, the wind was so severe it blew those boats to that shore and now there's boats from Tiberias which the next day served as convenient water taxis to take many people in that crowd over to Capernaum because they were seeking Jesus. The point is this group expended so much physical energy seeking Jesus but for the wrong reason. That's why Jesus, in verse 26, said to them what He said to them. And you know what? People today seek God for a whole lot of reasons. And it's not always because I just love God, I just want to know God, I just want to worship God. There's a lot of different reasons. And this crowd will turn away from Him--many of them. Once they figure out that Jesus isn't gonna give them a meal, they're outta there. Because all we have to do is read on, we don't have the time this morning, but here's what happens. They come, they're looking for Him, they have this conversation, Jesus launches into a sermon. That's the last thing they wanted. They want a meal not a sermon. But He gives them a sermon. He teaches them. And some of the things He said are things they didn't quite want to hear. And once they figure out, hey we're not getting lunch or breakfast, fellas, look at verse 66: "From that time," from that time, "many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." We're done! We're looking for Jesus but now we're done. And that's why in verse 26 He says what He says. And did you notice that our Lord didn't even answer their question? They're like well how did You get here? When did You arrive here? He didn't even answer that. He goes to the core issue and He says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs," they had seen signs of healing, they had seen the multiplication of the loaves and the bread, and those signs should've made them go, who is this guy? Maybe this is the Messiah! In fact, maybe this is God! We need to deal with that. They didn't do it for that reason. He says, "but because you ate of the loaves and were filled." So Jesus, right on the spot, exposes their motivation. In other words, you're not moved by a full heart, you're moved by an empty stomach. They failed to grasp the meaning of the signs that Jesus had performed.
James Montgomery Boice, who wrote a commentary on John, is very helpful. Here's a portion of what I read this week. He says, I am convinced that in our day in American Christianity there is a lamentable tendency to focus on human need rather than on God Himself. That stuck out to me because I would have a tendency to agree. In our churches today, it's all about the felt need. Let's address the felt need. That's what people want to hear. And so he says, the focus is on human need, not on God Himself.
He continues, I'm equally convinced that this is the worst possible way to actually have your needs met and to achieve a healthy Christianity. Which leads me to ask, well then what is the best way to have your needs met? If going after God, having an ulterior motive of having my needs met, isn't the best way to have my needs met, then what is? Save that thought. We'll get to that in the very next verse. Here's the core issue. Here's the core issue. Why do we do what we do? Why do we pray? I hope we do pray. Why do we pray? Why do we read our Bibles? I hope we do read our Bibles. Why do we do it? Why do we come to church? I remember Billy Graham, after all of his crusades, when he would pray the prayer with people who made decisions to follow Christ, he would always tell them afterwards, and make sure you go to church on Sunday. Always telling them to go to church. But what about all the people that do go to church on Sunday? Why are they there?
There was an interesting survey done of churchgoers in America and here's what was unique about this survey: they just didn't look at people going to church, they decided to give a survey and examine four areas of churchgoers' lives besides church attendance. Probe into their personal lives. And so they discovered, according to this survey, this reveals a varying level of commitment. 19% of Americans, we have found, are religiously committed. 19%--religiously committed. That is, they practice what they say they believe regularly in all these areas of their lives. 19%. 22% are modestly religious. It's good. It's important. It's sort of needful. 29% are barely or nominally, in name only, spiritual.
So here's the question I have: as a total package of your life, are you seeking the Lord? It's not, do you ever read your Bible? It's not, do you ever go to church? As the total package of your life, are you seeking God? And if so, why are you seeking God? Are you seeking God because He's so worthy or are you seeking God because you're so hungry? Now if it happens to be not a, but b, that's ok, actually. I want you to know that if that's honestly the reason you're seeking God, the best thing to do is deal with that and admit that because God is very able to deal with the motivation of one's heart and lift that person up to a higher level. That's His intent, in fact. But if you just stay there, that is, if you're really just using God to get what you want, then here's the second statement that applies.
Not only number one is searching for God can be hypocritical but number two, living for self will be detrimental. If it's really all about you and yourself and your needs period, that's a dead end road. Verse 27 Jesus continues: "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." What does that mean? Simply this: don't aim below, just meeting the physical need, the now physical decaying fleshly life, don't aim below, do aim above. That is, as a priority above even physical need, your spiritual life should be paramount.
Now He will develop this thought. In the very next paragraph, go down to verse 35 and notice this. Jesus amplifies this thought. Verse 35: "Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life." They're hungry. He says I'm the bread of life. "He who comes to Me shall never hunger". He's not speaking physically but spiritually. "And he who believes in Me shall never thirst." So don't make your life all about just satisfying this decaying physical fleshly life but rather seek spiritual nourishment. Now did you notice, if you put John together, did you notice this is the second time in which Jesus emphasizes the spiritual above the physical life and uses basic human needs to do so? First time was at the woman at the well. Remember the Samaritan woman at the well? She's there to get water and Jesus uses the water analogy. Remember what He said? He goes, you drink of this water and you will thirst again but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst. And now here He uses the same idea but He uses the analogy of bread rather than water. So please understand that Jesus is not saying, I don't care about your physical needs--He's not saying that. Because He just fed them, right? He's not saying physical needs are not important. He's simply saying what is most important is not physical need. What is most important is spiritual well-being and spiritual life.
So my question this morning is do you have a spiritual hunger? Are you hungry spiritually? Is there some drive in you that makes you want to get closer to the Lord and want to understand more and you are… hunger would describe you? Remember on the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus said blessed, or oh how happy, are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Did you ever stop to think about that? He didn't say happy are those who casually snack after righteousness. Happy are those who take a bite here and a bite there. Happy are those who hunger and thirst--that's a deeper, more intense longing. A hunger for spiritual things.
If you've never read a book called The Screwtape Letters, please read it at least once in your life. It's by the great C.S. Lewis. It was required reading for some of us in high school. It's a story about an experienced senior demon who's mentoring his young nephew Wormwood, a younger demon, on how to tempt people and ruin people's lives. Very interesting perspective. And so in one part of the book, the uncle, this senior demon, is telling his young nephew Wormwood, he goes, look, the goal here isn't wickedness. The goal is indifference. Just make people indifferent. And if your patient, that's what he calls a Christian or anybody the guy's tempting, if your patient starts getting really concerned about really important issues like spiritual issues, just encourage him to think about lunch plans. Plant that thought in his mind. And this senior demon says I'll always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, Wormwood, is to provide me with people who don't care.
How much do you care about spiritual things, about spiritual life? Now that's a pretty easy question to answer because, as soon as a person says I really care about God, I care about spiritual things, it's easy to see how much just by looking at how much time that person devotes to spiritual things and spiritual life. The time they devote to it shows how much they really care about that over anything else. Now this answers a question I left hanging previously. Remember we said, and we noticed, that if you want to get your needs met in life, the best way isn't to use God with an ulterior motive of getting your needs met. And so what is the best way to get your needs met? It's not by seeking God in order to get them met, it's by seeking God period. It's by seeking God period. Remember this is what Jesus said: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. Did you get that? Number one, first, God, spiritual things, the kingdom, righteousness and all the other things that you need in life? They'll be added to you. God will take care of you. That's the small stuff! And so here we are, we have all reversed, don't we? Our worldview so often is, I'm gonna seek first all those other things, all of these physical needs, and use God to do it. And expect the kingdom of God to be added. Jesus said no. Seek first the kingdom God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
If you're interested, I found a little piece called "Recipe for a Miserable Life". Here it is: Think about yourself. Talk about yourself. Use the word 'I' as often as possible. Mirror yourself continually in the opinion of others. Listen greedily to what people say about you. Expect to be appreciated. Be suspicious, be jealous, be envious, be sensitive to slights. Never forgive a criticism. Trust nobody but yourself. Insist on consideration and respect. Demand agreement with your own views on everything. Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favor shown to them. Never forget a service you may have rendered. Be on the lookout for a good time for yourself. Shirk your duties if you can. Do as little as possible for other people. Love yourself supremely. Be selfish. I'd guarantee you, if that's your worldview you will lead a miserable life. But if you seek first the kingdom of God and seek first His righteousness and place the spiritual life above even the physical need, God will take care of the physical need. That's His promise to you. That's His promise to all of us. Again, the great C.S. Lewis put it this way and I love the way he put it: if you aim at heaven, you'll have earth thrown in; if you aim at earth, you'll get neither heaven nor earth. I think that sums up what Jesus is saying here.
Here's the third statement that I'll make about how people deal with spiritual things and with Jesus in particular. That is, believing in Jesus, believing and I'll describe the word, believing in Jesus must be foundational. Look at verse 28: "Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." Let's get the flow here--do you get the flow? He's saying don't focus on the physical as much as focus on the spiritual life. And so they go well then what do we have to do? Now why did they ask that question? What must we do? What do we have to do to work the works of God? Because all of their lives they had been taught that if you're going to have anything to do with God, anything to do with heaven, anything to do with a relationship with God in heaven, you gotta work and do something in order to get it. You gotta work for it. That was the way they were trained. You work and you earn it. It was Paul the apostle who, in considering his Jewish brethren, the Jewish nation, in Romans 10, said I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God but it's not according to knowledge. For they don't understand God's way of making people right with Himself. Instead, they're clinging to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the Law. They won't go along with God's way. God's way? What's God's way? Jesus tells you what God's way is. Believe. See what the crowd is doing? What do we got to do? Is there something we have to do? Jesus said no, there's someone you have to believe. Here's the work of God: that you believe in Him whom He has sent.
Now I've discovered something about John. John loves the word believe. The Apostle John, the writer of this Gospel, and he looks for every occasion to put it in his writings. He loves it. That's why the theme of the book is stated behind me: Believe 879. Listen to this: the word believe is found 241 times in the New Testament. Genesis to Revelation. 241 times. 107 of those times are eaten up by John in his writings. 98 of those 107 times are used in the Gospel of John. So he is looking to write about people who believe or Jesus challenging people to believe. That's what his whole Gospel is about. Faith. Believe. Trust in Jesus. That's the foundation.
But justification by faith was foreign to His audiences' ears. In fact, I would even go a step further and say they really weren't listening to Jesus. Why would they say what must we do? Because they weren't listening. Did you notice in verse 27 that Jesus speaks about everlasting life which the Son of Man will what? Give you. He'll give it to you. You don't have to work for it, earn it, do something. Everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give to you. Well what do we have to do? I just said I'll give it to you. Well what do we have to do? It's a gift. What do we gotta do? Well what do you do if somebody gives you a gift? You take it. You receive it. That's all I gotta do. Believe. Take it. Have you ever gotten a gift from somebody at Christmas time and turned to them and said, I'll pay it off! I'll work really hard to pay you back! Ahh… it's a gift. I'll give it to you. It's free. But it's so contrary to the mind of man, especially religious men and women, to receive a gift. What do I gotta do? How do I gotta earn it? How do I gotta work for it?
Now I'm gonna say something I want you to really grasp. There are only two religions in the entire world. Only two. You say no there's not. I've been to college and I took that class in comparative religions. There's tons of them! There are many roads that people choose to God. There's only two. You could take every single belief system, any name, any ideology, and it fits into one of two categories. Number one is the religion of human achievement. The other is the one of divine accomplishment. All of the systems, all of the philosophies, are typically about what one must do in order to get saved and get to heaven. And you gotta keep this discipline and make that pilgrimage, say those prayers. It's the religion of human achievement. The second is the one of divine accomplishment. The first one is salvation by works. The second one is salvation by His finished work on the cross. First one you earn; second one is a gift.
Now here's the tragedy. Most people go through life banking on the first, put all their eggs in that basket. And they say things like well I believe if you're really a good person and sincere and you really try hard that you'll go to heaven. Really? See, here's the problem I have with that statement. I want you to hear my heart. As soon as somebody says all you have to do is be good, my question to them is well how good is good? Whose standards of goodness are going to go by? Yours? Hers? His? Theirs? Whose standards? By some people's standards, everybody's going to heaven because everybody's good enough. Everybody tries hard. In fact, most people will say about themselves, I'm a good person. I try hard. I'm not perfect, but I'm very sincere. And their conclusion therefore is that as long as I work hard and be good, I'll go to heaven.
There's a guy who died and he was at the pearly gates and Peter was there with his clipboard, like all the stupid jokes have, and so Peter said well you know before I can let you into heaven, you have to prove that you're worthy to be in heaven. That you have done some kind and noble deed that will allow me to give you entrance into heaven. Can you think of something? The man said actually I can think of something. There was a time when a group of motorcycle gang members were beating up an elderly lady and I saw it and I stepped in. I did something about it. I pushed the head guy's motorcycle over and I went to the guy who was beating up the lady and I kicked him as hard as I could in the leg and told the lady to run and saved her life. And Peter said wow that's pretty impressive! When did that happen? The guy looked at his watch and said oh about three minutes ago.
The reason those jokes keep coming is because most people believe that heaven is earned. People do something, they work hard at it. Somebody once said there's gonna be three surprises in heaven. Number one, who's there. Number two, who's not there. And number three, that you're there. And if you're there, you won't be there because you earned being there. You will never be able to stay let me tell you how I got here. Let me tell you my life story. Let me tell you how good I was and God just had to let me in. That's not called a testimony; that's called a bragimony. And heaven would be so boring if everybody was bragging about how they got there. If you're in heaven, it'll be because you have a testimony and you point to the Man with the wounds and say, I'm here because of Him. Because I believe in Him. Not because I did anything, but because He did it all for me. And so when they say what must we do to work the works of God, I'll tell you what you have to do: believe in the One whom He has sent.
But here's the problem. When we westerners hear the word believe, we have a problem with the translation because we typically take the word believe as to acknowledge. An intellectual assent. The reception of information and it registers in my mind. So they would say oh I believe in God. That is, I intellectually agree that a higher being exists. But the word believe is a very strong word. It means more than that in the Bible. The idea is to lean on, to trust in, to lay one's whole destiny upon. And that's why I've chosen to read verse 29 to you now in the Amplified version, to give you the gist of it: "Jesus said, "This is the work that God asks of you, that you believe in the One whom He has sent, that you cleave to, that you trust in, that you rely on, and have faith in His messenger." That's what it means. That's what it means.
So here, in this short little paragraph, Jesus confronts this crowd, these people, seeking Jesus. He confronts them with three things, three truths about how they were interacting with spiritual things. And it's true for all people. He dealt with the wrong motivation, He dealt with the right ambition, and He dealt with the real decision. The wrong motivation: you're seeking God but you're really seeking God because you're seeking God to do something for you and that's really not seeking God at all. Number two, the right ambition. Spiritual things must come first--not secondary--first. Seek first the kingdom. Labor not for the food that perishes but the food that is for eternal life. And then finally, the real decision and that is belief in Jesus, His finished work. That's what's required.
So my prayer is that you'll do the right thing and you'll do it the right way and that's God's way. And that you'll personally and whole-heartedly, completely surrender and trust in Jesus Christ. Somebody once said faith is putting all of your eggs in God's basket and then counting your blessings before they hatch. That's good. Count your blessings before they hatch. And it's my prayer that that happens to some of you today. I'm gonna ask some of you to do that today. To put all of your eggs in His basket and to count your blessings before they hatch. To give your life, to surrender your life personally, whole-heartedly, to Christ if you haven't done that.