Tony Evans - Jesus: The Great I AM
Things you've done a long time ago that you think will miss pass over, ignored; on God's clock, he knows how to bring that thing back up at the right time to accomplish his bigger purposes. You don't know who you're dealing with. So you can praise the Lord today that Goliath does not have the last say over your life, over your circumstance, over your family, over your feelings, over your world 'cause you know somebody up there that's bigger than the somebody you're facing down here. And if he will not remove himself from ruining your life, he's got enough forces to remove them from you.
Bless the name of the Lord. He can turn your Goliath around 'cause he's a game changer. My closing question this morning is, does anybody need a reversal? Is anybody here today who's terminal? Is anybody here who's in a crisis and you can't fix it? It's too big. It's too deep. You can't get your arms around it and you are literally dying. It's killing you. God knows the right time to turn a situation around. I'm trying to tell you, you don't know who you're dealing with. That's what you do in communion. "Do this in remembrance of me, that I defeated them on Calvary and I'm still whipping them today". I want to challenge you to live under the providential hand of God even when it looks like it's not working out.
The context is Jesus declaring that those who believe in him would never die. And they can't believe Jesus is talking like this, the religious leaders, and say, "Whose authority can you say that"? I mean, they say, "Look at Abraham. He lived 2.000 years ago. He died. All the prophets died. Who do you think you are? You're a demon. You're right from the devil talking crazy like that". Jesus tells them, "No, I ain't the crazy one. No, it's not me. I know the Father. And if I said that he's not going to die who believes in me, he not going to die".
They said, "But wait a minute. Abraham our father died. You're not even 50 years old. He died 2.000 years ago. On what basis can you make such a crazy statement, such a demonic statement about death and you're not even 50 years old"? And that's when Jesus gives us our name for today, and it is a doozy. Jesus looks at them and says to them in verse 58, "Truly, truly, sure enough, sure enough I say to you, 'Before Abraham was born'". So we can skip the death part. I'm going to start off at the birth. "Before Abraham was born, I am". The name we're going to talk about today is the name I Am. "Before Abraham was born, I am".
It says when they heard him say that in verse 59, they picked up stones to kill him. Why would you kill him for such a statement? Because they knew what he was saying. If he just wanted to talk about predating Abraham, then he would have said, "Before Abraham was, I was". But he doesn't say, "Before Abraham was I was", he says, "Before Abraham was, I am". That sent them into the ionosphere of anger so that they sought to kill him because they knew what he was saying.
You see, Jesus in identifying his name, bypasses Abraham and jumps to Moses. So the reason they were throwing rocks at Jesus when he declared his name to be I Am was because they knew that he was using the term God used to define himself to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3. So they knew Jesus was declaring himself to be the God who actually talked to Moses. What does "I am" mean? "I am" is made up of four letters. All four letters are consonants with no vowels, which made it unpronounceable. You couldn't pronounce it because it was all consonants with no vowels. It was God's use in identifying himself with four consonants that you could never say.
So therefore his name was viewed by Israel as the unspeakable name because there was no way to recite the four consonants. In order to talk about God, what they did was they took vowels from the Hebrew word Adonai, which means boss or supervisor or manager, and they took the vows and they put it with the four consonants so that you can now say the word Yahweh.
So Yahweh are the four consonants with the vowels from Adonai so they could speak the name. When the name Yahweh got translated into English, it is Jehovah. So Jehovah, God, is Yahweh, Hebrew, which is the tetragrammaton four letters with some borrowed vowels. The question is, what does "I am" mean? First of all, "I am" is personal. I. So when you get a personal pronoun, that tells you that this is a person talking.
So when God uses this name, he is saying to you, "I want to relate to you person to person". Not only is he personal, but he's personal in the present tense, "I am". Not I was, nor I will be. I am. So let me tell you something about God's name. God has no past and he has no future. He has no yesterday and he has no tomorrow. Everything about God is now. It's in the present tense. You and I can't relate to that because we live life linearly. That is, we go from one to ten, A to Z, beginning to end, first to last. That's how we live life because we live life in time and space, but God lives outside of time and space. So the first thing is he's a person. Second thing is he's present tense. So everything is now.
Now, the reason why I throw this in, the reason why this is important is that means whatever God has prophesied in the future; we're waiting on, he's not waiting on. That's why you can bank on anything that God says that has not happened yet that he declares will happen because as far as he's concerned it's now.
I studied the Bible in college for four years, I studied the Bible for four years working on my master's degree, another four years working on my doctorate degree, and then I've been preaching all of these years and I'm still learning new things from this awesome, inexhaustible book, the Word of God. That's why I'm so excited about the "Tony Evans Study Bible" and its accompanying works, "The Tony Evans Bible Commentary". It will take all of this training in this teaching and make it available to you to understand, utilize, and apply God's most powerful Word.
So he's not waiting like we are waiting. We are waiting for fulfillment of what is now in his reality, okay? Because we're talking about another reality. Of course Jesus is saying, "I am". Well, he doesn't just say, "I am", he says, "I am that I am", okay? He talks about himself twice in the "I am" signature. Why is he saying "I am that I am"? Number one, he is who he declares himself to be. He is not who you may want him to be, and a lot of misconceptions about God because men want to define him in man's terms. And he says, "No, I am who I am".
Now, because he is who he is and he's defined by himself and everything is now, that means he is who he is eternally because he always lives in the same state: state of being. So he is an eternal being. It's built into the nature of God to be who he is and to forever be that way because he changes not. Now somebody may say, "But doesn't the Bible say God repented, that God changed his mind"? Even though James 1:17 says, "Every good and perfect gift comes from above. It comes from the father of light in whom there is no shifting shadow".
He does not change, yet the Bible talks about him changing his mind or changing this or changing that. Let me help you with that. God does not change in his essence, but he will change in his methods. So when people adjust to God, it may look like God is changing. But God is not changed, he's just responding to the fact that you have turned. That's why repentance is so important to experience God. It means you got to turn if you want to experience more of God. Because if you're not turning right, then you're not experiencing the side of God that you want to experience.
He says, "I am who I am. I am defined by myself. I am self-defined. I do not have to go outside of myself or anything". He says, "I am that I am, that it is my view of me that you should be dealing with". So God is the I Am, totally self-contained, self-sufficient, personal in the present being who wants to communicate with you. And Jesus says, "Before Abraham was, I am". So when you are talking about Jesus, you're talking about the God who speaks in the Old Testament, you're talking about the eternally-created God who became a man; and his name is I Am, the eternally present one.
Now, having established that, that God lives in the eternal now and Jesus claims to be that God, there are seven I Ams in the Book of John. So let's look at the seven concepts of I Am in the book of John and see why they matter, and then talk about you and me today. John chapter 6, verse 35 is the first of the seven I Ams. And Jesus says in John 6, verse 35, "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst'". He's talking about the Old Testament in the wilderness when the bread of life came down from heaven called manna.
Manna in Hebrew is a question. It means "what is it?" or depending on where you're from, "what it is". But it was a question, what is it? Why would God send cornflakes from above? They were little wafers that floated down from heaven, literally angel food, and it floated down from heaven and they ate it six days of the week. And they called it "what is it", manna. The reason they called it "what is it", question, is because they had to answer the question; and the answer to the question of "what is it", it was the supernatural provision of God for his people from heaven.
Verse 41 says, "I am the bread of life. Come down from heaven". So what Jesus is saying is, "What God fed you physically in the wilderness, my job is to feed you spiritually in your day-to-day life. My name is I Am and I am the bread of life. It is me who's designed to fill you spiritually, and nothing else you do can do that. No place you can go, no person you can talk to can be spiritual bread for your soul, which is the essence of yourself. I am the bread of life". And he brings in the incarnation because he says, "And I've come down from heaven", which means, "I was already existing in heaven before I came down to you as bread. So I preexisted up there. I came down here, and one of the reasons I came is to feed somebody".
Chapter 8, verse 12, "Then Jesus spoke to them again saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life'". Oh, I love this. Jesus says, "I'm the bread, I feed you, but I'm also the light, I'll illuminate you". Okay, when the sun rises in the morning, that's illumination 'cause you can see. The darkness goes away and now you can see straight because now you have light.
Jesus says, "If you will follow me, I'll let you see where you're going". 'Cause a lot of us don't know where we going, and the proof that a lot of us don't know where we're going is we keep going down the wrong streets, wrong alleys, and making bad decisions. He says, "But if you let me be the illumination of your life, then you will find the way to go". So if you're here today and you don't have direction or clarity but you definitely want it and you want it from God, he said, "You got to follow me. You got to find out what I say, what I think, and you got to do that regardless of what your peeps say, regardless of what your posse says", and here's the big one, "regardless of what you think".
Chapter 10, verse 7, "Truly, truly, sure enough, sure enough I say to you, 'I am the door of the sheep'". Shepherds had a gate, the door where the sheep could enter. And he says, "If you come through me", verse 9, "If anyone", somebody say, "Anyone", 'cause that means includes you. "If anyone enters through me, he will be saved". Okay, he'll go to heaven, but that's not all. He will go in and out. He'll find freedom, and he'll find pasture. "I'll satisfy him". Abundant life means fully realizing what God wants done in your life. But he says, "You got to come through this door 'cause I'm the door". Okay?
The next "I am". He says in chapter 10, verses 11 and 14, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep". That's the cross. Fourteen, "I am the good shepherd, and I know my own and my own know me". He says, "I'm the good shepherd". A shepherd, he opens the door for the sheep, but the shepherd does something else. He watches over the sheep. See, a shepherd is responsible for the sheep.
Let's keep going. Chapter 11, verse 25. It's good stuff. It says in chapter 11, verse 25 to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He will believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this"? Lazarus has just died. Jesus is the incarnation of the Word. And so he says, "If you let the Word drive you to me, then the reason you're going to get up out that grave when everybody else says you're dead is 'cause of me, not just some theology about me". It will be that relationship that will make the difference.
Okay, let's keep going. He says now in chapter 14, verse 6. Got two more. Chapter 14, verse 6. He says, "Jesus said to them, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me'". I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life, okay? Number one, I am the way. I know where I'm going, okay? Most of us hope we know where we going. We desire to go somewhere with our life, with our career, with our plan. Jesus says, "I know the way", okay? "You don't have to guess. I'm GPS all over, all up in here, all up in here. I know where I am going. I know the way, the way to eternity first and then the way for living your life".
That's what he concludes with. I am the truth, okay? Don't misread this. I'm not a truth, okay? I'm not one among many truths, okay? It goes back to I think stuff, okay? "I'm not a truth, I am the truth", okay? Jesus says, "I am the truth. I am the absolute standard by which reality is measured. So save yourself some time. Find out what I say and adjust your thinking to it". Because if you're a Christian, you have the mind of Christ.
I am the truth. And then he says, "And I am the life. You want to live? Go my way. Go my way and then you will live. You won't exist. You won't just be trying to make it, trying to get over, doing the best you can. You'll have life that is my life". Finally, he says in John 15, verses 1 and verse 5 these words: "I am the true vine. My father is the vinedresser". Verse 5, "I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit for apart from me you can do nothing".
Oh, okay. Watch this then. He says, "I am the true vine". That means I am the real deal, okay? "Abide in me. Stay with me. You got to run with me. You want running buddies? Run with me. And if you run with me, you'll be fruity". Now, the last time I checked, fruit exists for the benefit of somebody else. So when's the last time somebody wanted to take a bite out of your life? Because they see Jesus doing so much in you that they want... They want to get a piece of that. They want to get a piece of that.
Everybody like to say, "Come on, you want a piece of me"? Okay? People should want a piece of you because you're fruity. The only fruit that eats itself is rotten. Rotten fruit is the only fruit that eats itself. So if you're all about you, only about you, "It's about me, myself, and I", that's 'cause you're a rotten Christian. You're rotten fruit. 'Cause the only fruit that eats itself is rotten. The reason Jesus wants us to be fruitful is he wants us to be impacting the lives of others while he abides in us and impacts us so that it goes to us, through us, and from us so that others are taking a bite out of our lives because of what Christ is doing in us. He wants you to be fruity saints.
When God told Moses, "My name is I Am", it was in the midst of a contradiction. The best time to experience the I amness of Jesus is when things aren't making sense in your life. The best time to experience the I amness of Almighty God in the person of Christ is when things have gone haywire and they don't make sense.
When you throw up the question "Why?" and you're trying to live for God, you're trying to please God, I'm not talking about somebody's rebelling, I'm talking about somebody who's trying to please God and it's all contradictory and you can't make sense of it. You're in the perfect position to hear him call your name. That is to reveal himself to you. And what did he reveal? He revealed to him his purpose. He says, "I want you to go to Pharaoh and tell him, 'Let my people go'". He gave him a reason for living. He gave him his purpose, and let me tell you something about his purpose. His purpose was bigger than anything he could do on his own. 'Cause this was a big deal to tell Pharaoh, "Let my people go", and to lead the children of Israel.
Psalm chapter 9, verse 10 says that when you know God's name, you trust him. You don't have to see it yet 'cause you know his name, and you know "I am" means he's already been there and he's come back. And I like the fact, I like the fact in John chapter 18, verses 4 to 9. In John 18, they were getting ready to arrest Jesus, all the Roman soldiers. They're coming to arrest Jesus, they're coming to arrest Jesus; going to lock him up and they said, "Are you he, are you this Jesus that we're looking for"?
And Jesus stood there and said, "I Am". And the Bible says and when Jesus said, "I Am", all the soldiers fell back and collapsed on the ground 'cause the I amness was overwhelming. I don't know what's after you, I don't know what situation is threatening you, I don't know what difficulty is facing you; but when they run into the great I Am, they got to back up, they got to back up 'cause I Am only gets taken when he's ready to be taken. So what I'm challenging us today in this name, the I amness of God that he is the God who speaks in the Old Testament, but he is the personal God for you right now. If you've received him as your Savior and you are following him as your Lord, then you have access to the I amness of Jesus Christ.
One of the all encompassing names for God in Scripture is "I Am". God told Moses when Moses asked his name, "Who shall I say sent me"? And God said, "You tell them I Am that I Am sent you". That spoke of God's eternality, that he lives in the ever present tense. His self-sufficiency that is I Am takes care of I Am. He takes care of himself. Doesn't need anything outside of himself to be himself, and his self-existence. Just like the sun doesn't have to be made hot, that's just the way it is. God doesn't have to be made God. All of his attributes, that's just who he is.
So it shouldn't surprise us that Jesus's enemies got real upset when he used the name of God in the Old Testament to name himself, to say, "Before Abraham was, I am", and it was crystal clear what he meant; that he was the same God who spoke to Moses in the Old Testament. Oh, that brought a little irony. That's because Jesus Christ is not just some superstar human being in history, he's actually the superstar of the universe being God, or very God become man.
What's in a name? Well, when it comes to Jesus Christ, all of deity is in a name. Because all that makes God, God, is resident in the person of Jesus Christ. And that's why you can't treat him casually, you can't treat him just as another great teacher or example. You got to recognize when you're dealing with Jesus, you're dealing with all that God is.