Truth is the scalpel that corrects a sick soul.

Pastor Jeff Struecker

I had a chance to serve for many years in the Army in special operations. And I was around some of the most talented surgeons in the world, literally. When some of my friends in the military got busted up a little bit, the surgeons that would work on their knees and did surgery on their knees were the same surgeons that were working on NFL players. The guys that had problems with their shoulders were being operated on by the same surgeons that were working on NBA players. These were really talented guys and gals that were serving the special operations community that I served in. Even the medics that I had the privilege of working with, those guys could stitch better than the average doctor in the average hospital. 

And I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but I’ve got this large mole on the side of my face.You can’t see it right now because it’s No-Shave November, which… if you’re not familiar with that in the United States, that’s where we try to send some money for cancer research, the money that we would normally spend in razors, we would send that money to cancer research. In my case, what No-Shave November means is, in about a week, I’m going to get so frustrated with this hair that I’m going to cut it all off, because I haven’t made it through an entire month of November yet. 

But I’d walk into the doors and these skilled surgeons would see this huge mole on the side of my face. And they’d say, “Hey man, I can cut that out for you. I’d be happy to do surgery and to remove that mole from you.” I’m thinking to myself, “Well, the mole is pretty obvious, but it would be even more obvious if I have a giant golf divot on the side of my face after you get done with surgery. You know what? I’m good. I’ll just stay with the mole.”

I’m telling you this because today we’re going to hear about surgery for the soul. -not for the face, not for your skin, but surgery for the soul. And Jesus is going to start to perform surgery. And you already knows this; when you take a scalpel and you start to cut, unless somebody is under the influence of anesthesia, it’s going to hurt really bad. 

I want you to know what we’re going to read from the Bible today comes straight from the book of John. And here’s the kind of surgery that Jesus is going to do: He’s going to do surgery on the soul, and he’s going to use the scalpel of truth, because the truth is a scalpel that corrects a sick soul.

Only the truth can do that. But every time you cut with a scalpel, it leaves a wound, and it hurts. And today, Jesus is going to use the truth like a scalpel to cut, a skilled surgeon to cut right to the center of people’s hopes and desires. And honestly, it hurts so bad that many of them are going to walk away. 

Truth is the scalpel that corrects a sick soul.

I challenged us just a moment ago at the beginning of this service, if you’ve been the kind of guy or the gal who said, “Hey, I came to Jesus and I turned it all over to him. I was asking him to take control of my life, and I had hoped that my life was going to get better, but it didn’t. It got worse.” Were you ever in one of those moments where you started to think to yourself, “Is it worth it? Was this the right decision? Because it’s not easier. It’s actually harder now that I’m following Jesus.”

Well, the truth hurts sometimes.and sometimes it’s really hard to hear. And Jesus is going to use truth like a scalpel today. He’s going to use this truth to try to break a hard heart. We’re going to look at the end of John chapter six. It’s been couple of weeks now we’ve been in this chapter, hearing Jesus challenging a crowd who are looking to him for the wrong reasons. 

Here’s the first thing that I want you to hear about the way Jesus uses this surgical tool of truth to cut straight to my soul, straight to your soul. The truth sometimes has to break a hard heart. Hard truth or hard words can break a hard heart. You see, Jesus is going to use some hard words today.

1. Hard words break the hard heart.

If you haven’t been around us for a while, it won’t take you long to figure out this church is really, really passionate about getting people connected to one another in life groups. Can I tell you before we even dig into the Bible, why life groups are such a big deal to us? You’re going to see the results of this in just a moment. In life groups, people get the opportunity to speak truth into your life. You get the chance to speak truth into other people’s lives. 

That can’t happen in a big church service. It only happens when people start to let their guard down and get connected to one another and then they can start to point out something that’s missing from my hard heart because I’ve let my guard down a little bit. Then they can start to point out something that’s in my hard heart that really shouldn’t be there.

That only happens when Christians and believers come together and let their guard down. If you’re not in a group, you’re crazy for missing this part of your Christian faith. Look at what happens when Jesus starts to cut right to the center of a sick soul with these hard words from the Bible. John chapter six. We’re going to start in verse 60, and we’ll go to the end of the chapter today. 

John 6:60 Therefore, when many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard. Who can accept it?”

I want you to keep in mind that we’re talking about disciples right now. They were looking for somebody that would give them bread to fill up their stomach. And Jesus said, “I’m not going to give you stomach bread. I will give you soul bread. My flesh is the bread that I’m going to give you to eat, and my blood is the drink that will quench your thirst.”

We’re not talking about cannibalism right now. We’re talking about his sacrificial death on the cross as the only way to God. Notice what the Bible says next. When they heard Jesus talk about his flesh and his blood, they said. “This teaching is hard.” Literally, what they were saying is, “Now that we understand what you’re saying, Jesus, who on earth would accept what you’re saying right now? Because we didn’t come looking for that. We came looking for something that would fill our stomach up. And now you are changing the subject and talking about a sacrifice, a human sacrifice for my sins.”

See, I want you to keep in mind John is describing Jesus’ followers. Now, we don’t have the number right now, but we’re talking about disciples. We’re not talking about the fickle crowd, the thousands that showed up on a hillside, tens of thousands that may have showed up on a hillside and got some bread and fish from this miracle worker. We’re talking about people now at this point in the book of John that have been listening to him, have been watching his miracles, and they’re believing that he really is the Savior. 

They’re following him, quite literally in John chapter six, they’re following him around the lake, and they are hungry for more food. Jesus says, “I’m not going to give you more food. I will give you hard truth, though, and only hard truth can break a hard heart.” And these folks are really hardhearted. I’m reminding you that these are disciples.

When the disciples hear how hard this message is, they start to say, “You know what? Don’t think that’s what I’m interested in. I didn’t sign up for that. I’m out.” Because this word is hard. Now, the Bible word for hard is what you would use for food that is bitter and tough. When you taste it, it leaves this bland taste in your mouth. They’re saying, “Look, we just heard what you had to say, Jesus. We tasted it, and we know what you’re saying. We don’t really like what we’re hearing.” 

See, I’m pointing this out because when I read verse 60, I kind of ask myself, there’s some people that are going to leave Jesus today. And before we get to the end of the day, a lot of them are going to leave. Is it that they just don’t understand what Jesus is saying? Like, “Hey, I heard Your words, but eating flesh doesn’t make sense to me.” So are they just confused? Is that why they’re saying, “This is hard, to understand”? 

Are they just confused about what he’s saying, or do they really understand what Jesus is saying and they get the implications and they’re deciding, “I know exactly what you’re saying, Jesus, and I’m not going to do that”? In other words, is it a misunderstanding, or are they mad at what they’re hearing and they’re walking away?

Yeah. They’re mad at Jesus’ words, and they understand completely what he’s saying. And they’re deciding, “That’s not what I’m looking for, Jesus. So if that’s what you’re offering, I’m out.” They turn around, and they’re going to walk away from him. These disciples are the people that have heard what he has to say, but it’s too hard for them to accept. 

I want to remind you, every single one of us… I don’t even need to know who you are to know you need this, too. You need at least one person in your life, ideally five or six, we refer to that as a small group or a life group around here. But you need at least one person in your life who has the right to look you in the eyes and to say something hard for you to hear. In fact, I want to ask the question. Can you really, really call somebody a friend if they don’t tell you when you’re wrong and you’re about to make a decision that you know, that they know is going to ruin your life? Is that a real friend?

You see, Jesus is making some hard truth here, and they’re hearing what he has to say. It’s so hard that they decide, “You know what? I don’t want what he has to say.” All of us need somebody who has the right to speak some hard truth into our life. Because without that person, chances are, you’re going to make a mistake, and that mistake may be so catastrophic that you destroy your life. It’s the friend that looks you in the eyes and says, “I’m not going to let you go down this road.” That will make a world of difference for you. Jesus is saying, “Look, I know what’s going on in your heart, and I’m not going to let you go down this road.”

2. Why you can’t fake faith

The truth that we’re introduced to now in the book of John is to one of Jesus’ disciples, who is literally faking his faith. Now, nobody else surround Judas Iscariot knows that Judas is faking, but Jesus knows. And the Bible doesn’t want us to miss the fact that Jesus knows what’s going on in Judas’ heart. 

That means that Jesus knows what’s going on in your heart. There’s this old say in Tennessee. Well, I know it’s in Texas, but I think it’s in Tennessee, too. You know how this saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” The Bible is going to make it very clear early on Judas is faking it. And Jesus is fully aware that Judas is faking it, because Jesus can see deep into the recesses of my soul, Judas’ soul, and your soul. Let’s pick the story back up in verse 61:

John 6:61-65 . Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, asked them, “Does this offend you?  Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? The Spirit is the one who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who did not believe and the one who would betray him.) He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” 

He didn’t have to hear them grumbling; he already knew that they were grumbling. The word offend, I think is a pretty fascinating word, because it’s the word that you would use to describe somebody who just got tripped up. If you watch a football game and this running back is going around the corner, there’s nobody else out there, and then he trips over his own feet. We call it getting tripped by the turf monster. That’s what Jesus is describing here. You hear what I have to say? You got a clear open lane in front of you. You’re running full speed, and then trip over your own feet.

“Does this trip you up, what I’m saying?” -is quite literally what Jesus is asking. “And if this trips you up right now hearing the stuff that I’m talking about, how could you possibly understand the Heaven things that I want to explain to you?”

All of us are sick with the disease of sin. It is a terminal sickness, and every human being on the planet has it. I do. You do, too. And what the Bible is saying is that there is absolutely nothing humanly possible that you and I could do you to cure this sin sickness that we have. Only the spirit can do this. 

In John chapter two, the Bible has already told us that Jesus knows what’s inside a man or a woman. And now the Bible is going to great lengths to tell us, Jesus can read the deepest thoughts in your mind.

I want you to picture for just a second, that the person that you’re sitting next to at home or in this room knows exactly what’s going on in the deepest recesses of your heart. Listen, every second of every day, they know exactly what you’re thinking about in the deepest thoughts of your mind: the affections and the emotions in the deepest parts of your heart. Because the Bible is telling us, Jesus knows that about me. He knows that about you. -which should cause you to pee in your pants just a little bit. 

The Bible is saying that there are 12 of guys following him right now. And he also knows way before we get to the Last Supper that one of those 12 guys is going to betray him. In fact, what the Bible is telling us today is, one of those 12 guys claims to believe but really doesn’t believe. 

You know people almost exactly like Judas. Maybe they didn’t betray Jesus, but they know all of the right answers. They have all of the test questions, but in their heart, it’s not real. And none of the disciples, even up to the Last Supper knew that Judas wasn’t really sincere in his faith. Jesus knew that, but the rest of them didn’t understand it. And Jesus knows that because you just can’t fool him. You can’t fake faith with Jesus, because he’s the only one that has access to all knowledge and all truth, which means he knows what’s going on in the deepest parts of my heart right now. He knows what’s going on in the deepest parts of your heart. 

If you’ve been following along for the last two weeks in this chapter in John, there have been two times in the last two weeks that Jesus has said the same statement that he’s making today.

“You can’t save yourself. In fact, your flesh is humanly incapable of changing your soul. Only the spirit can do that.” A week ago, He said, “Only the Father can draw you to me.” And two weeks ago, He said, “Anybody that the Father brings to me, I will never leave them.” What you’re hearing today is how the trinity works in salvation. 

This theological concept that says our God is Father and Son and Holy Spirit all at the same time. And what the Bible is telling us is God, the Father, calls his children out of their sin and into a relationship with him. Jesus captivates their heart when he started to call them out of their sin. Only the Holy Spirit can convict, and only the Holy Spirit can convert somebody. I need to say that to us because there are some theologians out there that teach, “You have the power just simply by praying a simple prayer in this fashion, and God has no choice but to change your soul.”

What we would say around here is, God in Heaven is sovereign. He alone can change a human soul. But he chooses to use people like me and you to go to somebody who’s far from Jesus and talk to them and tell them who he is and what Jesus has done for us and how he can do that for them, as well. We believe that God is absolutely sovereign in all aspects, including sovereign in changing a man or a woman’s soul. But that does not leave us off the hook for going and talking to people and explaining to them who Jesus is and what he’s done for them. But the truth is, you can’t fake it. And I can’t do this for somebody else; only the spirit of a living God can change a soul. -which gets us to the third and the final question that I want us to wrestle with today. 

3. Where can you go?  

Let’s say that you were frustrated and you were disappointed, maybe even a little bit angry because you thought that everything would go easy, and it’s not going easy. It’s getting harder following Jesus, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I should just turn away from my faith and walk away.” I want to ask you a question. If you were to walk away, where could you possibly go? If Jesus really is all present, if the spirit of the living God, if the Father can be in all places at all times, where could you possibly go to hide from God?

I don’t have an audio recording of what the Bible says next. But if we did, I’m convinced if I were to play it for you today, you would hear deep pain in Jesus’ voice. I’m convinced you would see tears in his eyes when he asks the last question to these 12 guys, after everybody else has heard this hard truth. And they said, “I don’t want it. If that’s what you’re offering, Jesus, I’m not interested.” This is how John chapter six ends. It’s heartbreaking to read, because I’m convinced it’s heartbreaking for Jesus. 

John 6: 66-71 From that moment many of his disciples turned back and no longer accompanied him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus replied to them, “Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was referring to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, one of the Twelve, because he was going to betray him.

When life gets hard (and let’s just be honest; it gets hard for all of us. It got hard for Jesus’ followers and it’s going to get hard for you), when it gets hard, it might be natural for you to sit there and think, “Did I make the right decision? I thought it was supposed to be better following Jesus.” Well, if in your mind better equals easier, it might not be. In fact, Jesus almost guarantees you that it won’t be. 

He said, “Hey, they persecuted me. They’re going to persecute you too. That comes with the equation. But here’s what I’m going to do for you. You don’t have to go through the persecution. You don’t have to go through the hardships. You don’t have to go through the difficulty alone, because I’m going to be right there with you. I will dwell inside of you in the form of my Holy Spirit. And I will walk with you through these really difficult circumstances of life. But here’s what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to act like everything is okay when it’s not okay inside of you. I need to penetrate deep into the recesses of your soul. I need you to know that there’s some stuff in there that’s got to go. I need to have an honest conversation with you, and I need to remind you that there’s some stuff that really should be in your heart. Your heart should be broken for your next-door neighbor who doesn’t know me, but it’s not. And there’s something that should be in your heart, but it’s not in there. I’m going to have to do some work inside your heart, and it’s going to be like a scalpel. It’s going to hurt a little bit. But if you’ll trust me, I am the great physician. And when I do surgery, it will always be better on the other side, it may hurt a little bit in the process, but it will always be better on the other side, because I’m the only one who knows you at the heart and soul level, and you can’t fool me. You’re not pulling anything over on me. Let me do some work inside of you, and I will change you into a different man or into a different woman.”

When I read this passage this week, and when I was preparing for this sermon, I thought back to one of the most disappointing moments of my ministry. A few years ago, I was asked to speak at the largest gathering I have ever been asked to speak at. In fact, I was headlining it. I was speaking in arena with 10,000 men in that arena. I came up there, and usually people ask me to tell my story, and they wanted to hear my experiences from Somalia or they wanted to hear this combat veteran tell a war story. 

But this time, the leaders of this event said, “Jeff, you can talk about anything that God puts on your heart to talk about.” So I prayed and I prepared, and God really impressed on my heart, “Jeff, you need to challenge men to step up and to stop acting like little boys and to become the responsible, mature adults, the soldiers who will handle hardship, that Timothy challenges us to be. And Jeff, this is a hard word, but I am telling you, that’s the word that I want them to hear.”

I was in the hotel room right before this event started, and I literally begged him, “God, no. I don’t want to share that story. I don’t want to have that message.” And He wouldn’t let me escape from it. “This is the words that I want you to give to these men.” So I stood before them, and I was terrified to open up the Bible, not because I don’t trust the Word of God to cut to the whole heart, but because this hard word. And I did my best to pour my heart out and to give it to them as boldly but as compassionately as I could. 

And when I walked off of the stage, I felt like I was this big and I felt like an absolute failure. In fact, I got hate mail as soon as this sermon was over with, from guys who showed up. They said, “I went there wanting you to encourage me, and you didn’t. You gave me words that made me feel like I wasn’t living up to it or wasn’t living up to the example that I was supposed to be.”

And to this day, I have never had to preach a sermon as hard as I preach to the largest audience I’ve ever stood before. And to this day, I am 100% convinced that I said what the Lord asked me to say to that group. And I didn’t want to say it, because it was hard words for guys to hear. No one at this moment has ever said anything encouraging to me about that sermon, because it was so hard for guys to hear. 

I’m telling you this, because I am convinced that sometimes I have to hear hard words, and those hard words hurt. And when Jesus’s followers heard hard words, it hurt so bad that according to the Bible, it looks like almost every one of them, except for 12, turned their back and they walked away and said, “If that’s what Christianity is, I don’t want it. I’m going to go back to living my life.”

If you would be willing to trust your Heavenly Father, to trust your heart and your soul with him, he’s going to cut away the things that don’t need to be there. And I’m promising you; it’s going to hurt. He’s going to start to put into your heart or to your soul some things that are not there, that really should be there. And I’m just warning you ahead of time, it might hurt a little bit. But, if you will trust him, he will do some work in your life that can change you at the soul level that no one and nothing else can do for you. 

And right now, I think all of us should be courageous enough to say, “God, I realize this is a dangerous thing to say, but here’s my soul. You can do surgery on it because it needs your help.”