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Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Creation: Day 2 - Sky


Introduction
The world we live in is breathtaking and complex.  The artistic genius of it points to Something/Someone higher, greater, more wonderful than we can even imagine.  Who is this Creator who set the world in motion?  What does the story of creation in Genesis tell us about the Creator’s character?

Long before science existed, people were already asking questions about how the world began.  We want to know where we came from.  We want to know Who made us.  We want to know why we are here.  Genesis was written to speak to the mysterious longings within our hearts to know the Truth about God.  The creation story reveals the character of God and the life He offers us.  If you want to know God and why we are here, you can find out by studying the story of creation in Genesis.

Genesis 1:6-8
6 Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters,
to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7 And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8 God called the space “sky.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day. On the second day, God created the sky. At the time Genesis was written, people observed the world around them and tried to understand. They looked up into the blue sky and it reminded them of a vast ocean of water. *Yet, they could clearly see that the air above them was invisible. So it seemed there was an empty space between the blue “water” above and the water and land upon which we stand here on earth.

How would you describe the sky if you had never been told a scientific description of it?  Suppose you had no way of going up into the sky or into space to look around and measure what you found.  How would you explain this mysterious existence of earth below and blue sky above?

Children are inquisitive.  They want to understand the world around them—even before their minds are capable of grasping it.  Parents often struggle to answer their questions.  One day a 5-year-old boy asked his father if a stick was alive.  “No.  This stick is not alive.”  “But it comes from a tree.  Is a tree alive?” Asked the son.  “Yes, a tree is alive.”  “Then why isn’t this stick alive?”  How would you answer this child’s question in a way that they could understand?  Even more challenging: how would you explain the same thing to a dog or a cat?

How difficult it must be for an infinitely intelligent Creator God to explain the intricate details of His creation to people whose thinking is so limited.  This was especially true thousands of years ago when Genesis was written.  So God used words that made sense to ancient people.  He describes the sky or atmosphere as a “space” between the waters of the sky and the earth below. 

The Hebrew word is translated “firmament” in KJV.  This gives the impression that the sky is firm to hold up the blue expanse that we see above us.  God named the sky Shamaym, “heaven.”  The word means lofty—the home of God. God beckons us to reach for higher ideals. God created within each of us a desire to reach for something higher.  We could not even imagine God if it were not so.  One cannot help but look up at the sky and wonder about it.  We lay in the grass on a pretty summer day and stare up at the mysterious clouds above.  What are they made of?  What do they feel like?  They look like giant cotton balls floating in the sky.  It was not until the 1903 that man successfully built an airplane and soared through the sky.  However, people have watched birds soaring among the clouds since the very beginning, and we have longed to be up there with them.  It took thousands of years of longing, stretching, reaching before humanity was able to achieve our dream of flight.  If we never had the ambition to fly through the magnificent sky, we would never have achieved flight. We don’t just long for a higher altitude. God created us to yearn for higher ideals.  If we were just another one of the animals, we might only care about the basics that all animals need to survive—food, water, shelter, reproduction.  Yet the human spirit longs for higher ideals.  We value faith, hope, and love.  Our greatest joys in life come when we realize these; our greatest sorrows are when they are missing. Faith and Hope are two higher ideals God gives us. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1)  Having faith gives you a distinct advantage.  If Orville and Wilbur Wright never had faith that flight was possible, they never would have risked the dangers of flight or the ridicule of those who did not believe it was possible.  The greater rewards in life are rarely within plain sight.  Faith enables you to push yourself beyond the limits of what is immediately visible.  Faith also empowers you to trust others.  Trust is the bond that enables people to work together—as husband and wife, as parents and children, as co-workers, as soldiers in an army, or as a church full of people who can count on each other.  Without trust, we must do everything on our own power—which is very limited.  But when we can trust others, we can work together as a group and accomplish so much more. Ultimately, faith allows us to trust the Creator.  Just because a person believes God created the world does not ensure they trust God.  Many people do NOT trust God.  We see the same mistrust played out in many religions—including biblical Judaism—where sacrifices were made to appease the gods.  Such religious practices reveal a deep mistrust of divine power.  Yet God turns this whole religious practice of sacrifice upside down through Jesus Christ.  Instead of people making a sacrifice for God, God—in Christ—sacrifices Himself for us.  God has done everything possible to show He is trustworthy.  Now it is our choice whether we will take hold of the higher ideals of faith and hope.  Do you have faith in God? Do you have hope? Love is the highest ideal for which God beckons us to reach. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”  We were created for love. There are 21 definitions for the word love on Dictionary.com.  However, the Greek word 1 Corinthians uses is “Agape,” which is “self-giving love, expressed freely without calculation of cost or gain to the giver or merit on the part of the receiver.”  The clearest demonstration of love is found in the life of Jesus Christ.  By all accounts, Jesus was an extraordinary man.  A man who can heal the blind and walk on water could have gained anything he wanted—power, wealth, prestige.  However, Jesus refused to seek anything for himself.  Instead, he gave up even the basic things most people desire—a way to make a living, a wife, children—and he dedicated his life to helping others.  We have seen a few exceptional people, like Mother Theresa, who lived a life of sacrificial love, but Jesus went even further.  Jesus showed us the greatest love of all when he laid down his life for the world. Jesus didn’t just die for his friends.  He sacrificed his life for people he’d never met—people like you and me.  He died for people most might overlook—the outcast, the forgotten, the neglected.  He died for people most might find despicable—those who have cheated, abused, murdered.  Jesus even died for those who drove the nails through his feet and hands into the cross.  He said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) When Jesus died on the cross, he demonstrated the highest form of love.  We admire his self-sacrificing love.  Somehow, it speaks to our hearts.  We know it is good.  We know it is right.  It awakens a longing within us to reach for this kind of higher love—even when it seems out of reach.  However, just as early people must have thought flight was out of reach, we hope that—with God’s help—we might one day love like Jesus.  The Truth is, we can love like Jesus.  With man it is impossible, but all things are possible with God.  And God beckons us to reach, to stretch, to grow toward love. Closing Whenever you look up at the fluffy white clouds that float high above us in God’s beautiful sky, remember to reach for the higher virtues in life: faith, hope, and love. Pray and ask God to help you. And then, keep reaching for the highest ideals in life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ask Pastor Chris - Do You Have to Believe Jesus is God's Son?

Can someone go to heaven if they believe God exists but not believe Jesus is the Son of God?

In this series, I try to answer your questions. So post a question in the comments section so I can try to answer it in a future blog. 


According to orthodox Christian teaching, Jesus is the Son of God. The word orthodox just means the right view. So, according to the right Christian view,

Jesus is the Son of God. This is what the Bible teaches and what all true 

Christian Churches have followed for 2,000 years. But what happens if a person believes that God exists but they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God? Can they still go to heaven?


I’m going to make a disclaimer here, right up front:

Thankfully, I’m not the one who decides who does and does not go to heaven.

That is God’s decision and He is far wiser than me. He knows every person’s situation and what’s truly in their heart. I do not. So, I want you to know, I’m only approaching this question from a hypothetical point of view because it is an important lesson in the nature of true saving faith.


First of all, let’s understand what it takes to “go to Heaven” (which means to have eternal life). John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You have to “believe in Jesus” in order to go to heaven.  But what does it mean to “believe in Jesus”?


We find the answer in the example of a man in the Old Testament named Abram (who’s name was later changed to Abraham). You can read about Abram/Abraham in Genesis chapters 11-25. Abraham is also mentioned numerous times in the New Testament because he is the poster child for what the Bible means whenever it says, “Believe in” or “have faith in God.”


For example, Romans 4:3 says, “For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

So let’s look at how Abraham “believed God”.


Genesis 12:1-3 says, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”


Now even though Abraham was already 75 years old and his wife was really old too, Abram believed in God’s promise and did what God asked him to do. And this is the definition of saving faith or belief. It is believing God’s promise and doing His will.


So now, let’s look back at the famous John 3:16.“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So we see that word again–believe. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.


Based on the definition of faith we know from Abraham’s example, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means we trust what he says enough to follow Him. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. 

No one can come to the Father [that’s in heaven] except through me.”


So, I hope you’re seeing that the kind of belief or faith that saves a person for eternal life is not merely an intellectual thing where you express your approval or agreement with an idea about God or Jesus. The kind of faith that saves you must be the kind of faith that moves you to action.


It’s kind of like a person who is trapped on the 7th floor of a burning building and the firefighters are on the ground outside shouting, “You have to jump!  We have a safety net that will catch you! Jump!” Well, you can believe what they say is true, you can believe the safety net exists, you can even believe it will save you, but unless you jump, you’re going to be burned to death.


Jesus’ brother, James, put it this way in James 2:17 - “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James then goes on to use Abraham from the Old Testament as an illustration to prove his point. James 2:22 - “[Abraham’s] faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.”


So back to the original question: Can someone go to heaven if they believe God exists but don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you see the problem with the way this question is stated? It assumes that people go to heaven merely because they agree with a certain set of ideas about God. In other words, if they agree that God exists and that Jesus is His son, then they will go to heaven. But we’ve just seen from Abraham’s example that faith is not just agreeing something is true.  It’s about acting upon your belief.


So then, we should understand a person can believe God exists and that Jesus is His Son and still not go to heaven if their faith does not compel them to action because they trust Jesus. James said as much in James 2:19, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”


What happens to a person who believes God exists but doesn’t believe Jesus is His Son? Well, I need to know more about the situation.  Is this person’s faith only an intellectual agreement or is their belief in God something that truly moves them to act differently because they believe in God? And how does their belief in the existence of God compel them to act?


There have been many in history who believed in gods and their beliefs compelled them to take horrific actions. The ancient Egyptians believed in gods who justified drowning Hebrew babies in the Nile River. I don’t think that is saving faith that will get you to heaven.


The thing about Jesus is His words and His actions show the clearest representation of God we have ever seen. Jesus revealed who God really is.

I suppose a person could, hypothetically, believe in Jesus’ Father, God, 

and trust God enough to obey Him without ever agreeing “intellectually” 

that Jesus is the Son of God.


That was sort of the case for Abraham in the Old Testament. The Good News about God’s Son had not yet been revealed on earth in Abraham’s day.  Therefore, Abraham did not yet know about Jesus or that Jesus was the Son of God. Abraham’s faith (which the New Testament says made him righteous) was purely in God (the Father) and based on what He did know at the time. Abraham knew and trusted God and and Abraham's faith compelled him to obey. Part of the reason  Abraham’s faith was so amazing is that he acted upon it without having all the details.


Now that we have the Good News about Jesus in the New Testament, we have a much better understanding of God and His plan than Abraham ever did. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, tell us that God said Jesus was His beloved Son (see Matthew 3:17, Mark 9:7, and Luke 9:35). In the Gospel of John , Jesus calls God His Father, and God affirms it (see John 12:28).


People may struggle to accept that Jesus is God’s Son. Perhaps they struggle to understand how God could have a Son or the whole complex trinitarian,

three-in-one nature of God. Regardless, you don’t have to understand something to have faith in it.  (I’m using a computer right now and I don’t really understand how it works, but I trust it to get the job done and even trust my computer enough to keep some of my most important files safe and secure.)


It could be that a person doesn’t yet have enough information to know that Jesus is God’s Son. Maybe they haven’t yet worked it all out or understood how that works or even that God actually called Jesus His son. Maybe they are still like Abraham in the Old Testament, walking by faith with the limited understanding they have right now.  Hopefully, one day, they will come to know the whole story of how John 3:16 tells us, “God so loved the world 

that he gave his one and only Sonthat whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


God is gracious and patient.  God also wants to be known by His people. That’s why God’s Son said in Matthew 7:7 - “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” So someone who truly believes in God doesn’t have to go on long without discovering Jesus is God’s Son. The resources are there and God wants His people to know about Him and His Son. But if they refuse to accept it because they can’t understand it, then isn’t that the definition of disbelief? Isn’t that the exact opposite of walking by faith?


And if someone refuses to accept that Jesus is God's Son because they don’t like it or they don’t want to accept it, then isn’t that open rejection of God?God doesn’t justify those who reject Him.


Thankfully, God is willing to save those who come to their senses, repent of their sin, and put their faith in the God who sent His Son to save us. 1 John 4:10, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”


My invitation to everyone is this: Turn away from your own selfish ambitions and turn to God. God sent Jesus to save you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)


Well, that’s my thoughts.  What are yours? Leave a comment and let me know. If you have a question, post that in a comment too and I’ll try to answer it in a future article.


Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Pastor Chris Mullis

Monday, October 18, 2021

Love Never Gives Up

Introduction
If you followed football yesterday, you may know that Ole Miss beat TN.  Alabama beat Mississippi State.  Georgia beat Kentucky. Auburn beat Arkansas. LSU beat Florida. GT beat Duke.

You know, in a football game, there often comes a certain moment in a game where the tide turns for your team and the game is no longer winnable.  You can sometimes gauge when this critical moment comes, because you may see fans start leaving the stadium.  They know their team is beat at this point.  So they start leaving to get ahead of the traffic.

If you’re a true fan, you may hold on to hope.  You may think, “That’s Ok.  We can still get this back.”  And you’re rooting for your team and you’re hoping that they will retake the lead and win the game.  Then, the opposing team get’s another score.  And you’re frustrated.  But it’s still not over. You still believe—because you’re a true believer.  You believe your team can still pull out a win.  But the time is ticking off the clock and soon your down to the final minutes.  And you’re hoping beyond hope that your team can still do it.  Maybe you’re thinking, “If they get the ball back, and this happens and this happens… They could still do it. It’s possible!” You start running through different scenarios in your mind.  “It may take a miracle, but it’s still possible!”  But then the clock is down to the last minute, then the last seconds, and all your timeouts are gone…

I remember watching a few football games with my dad and older brother as a young kid, I would always be the last one to give up hope.  Dad and Nelson were older and knew the game better.  They could read the writing on the wall when the game was lost.  But I was young and na├»ve and I loved our team and was full of hope.  I would hold on till the last seconds.  But then our team would lose.  It was inevitable. 

Well, that’s football.  But love, according the 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, love is another story. Love never gives up.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

The City of Corinth
This passage is from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians lived in Corinth, an important port city in Greece.  Corinth was especially important because it was located on the isthmus of Corinth—a narrow strip of land separating the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf.  Ships could be carried over land about four miles on a special paved road made just for moving ships.  It saved a tremendous amount of time and money and was much safer than sailing 185 miles around the treacherous Peloponnesian peninsula.  Corinth’s strategic location made it a very wealthy city, and with it’s wealth also came debauchery.

Ancient Corinth was the home of the temple of the goddess, Aphrodite—the Greek goddess of love.  It was said that the temple employed 1,000 professional prostitutes to “help” the people “worship” Aphrodite.  (I guess that's one way to get people to church!)  

By the time Paul wrote his letter, Corinth had been taken over by the Romans, who converted the Temple of Aphrodite to the Temple of Venus (the Romans name for the goddess of love).  Both Aphrodite and Venus “are known for their jealousy, their beauty and for their affairs with both gods and mortals.”[i]

Study notes in the The MacArther Study Bible say, “Even by pagan standards of its own culture, Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity. To ‘corinthianize’ came to represent gross immorality and drunken debauchery.”

Despite Corinth’s centuries of sin and debauchery and corruption of the virtue of love, God did not give up on them.  God sent Paul to Corinth in AD 49 or 50.  According to Acts 18:11, Paul spent 18 months discipling a group of new Christians who then formed the Corinthian church.  God is always working to save people and bring them back from the brink of destruction.  And it doesn’t matter how far gone they seem to be, God still cares.  We see this clearly in the Corinthian church.  From a city as wicked as Corinth, God established a group of Christians to be a beacon of God’s light.

But they still had a lot to learn.  The Corinthian church had some severely warped ideas of love—no wonder; they were a product of a city that worshipped the so-called “goddess of love” that taught love was only a carnal, consuming thing.  Paul wrote about the One True God’s love that is demonstrated in Jesus self-sacrificing love on the cross.  And Paul wrote “Love is patient and kind.”  It had to teach the Corinthians that real love is not jealous like the so-called love of Apphrodite or Venus.  And love “is not boastful or proud or rude.” So they shouldn’t fight amongst themselves about who was the most important or who was more spiritual or who was in charge.  And today we’re learning that “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful…” just as God never gave up on the Corinthians, despite their centuries of wickedness and sexual immorality and moral corruption.  God's love neve gives up and it changes people's live and even changes the whole world.

John 3:16
John 3:16 is probably one of the most well-known verses in the whole Bible, and for good reason.  John 3:16 could be a summary of the entire story of the Bible.  “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The whole story of the Bible—from beginning to end—is the story of God’s love that “never gives up, never loses faith, and is always hopeful” that people will turn from their evil ways and return to a love relationship with God.  Throughout the centuries, while God is reaching out to people to beckon them to come back to Him, God is also setting up His plan to save the whole world.  The ultimate message of God’s love is given through Jesus Christ.  In Jesus, God came in the flesh to show the world His love.  He came teaching people the truth about how to live.  His presence brought healing and life—everywhere he went, the lame were made whole, the blind could see, and the deaf could hear.  Leprosy and deformity and demonic possession were banished.  And so, hoping beyond hope, God reached out to fallen humanity.  There is a way to heal your spirit!  There is a way to be made whole again!  There is a way to be saved!

And there was a tremendous sense of hope.  The Disciples followed Jesus.  And crowds of people heard his teachings and saw his miracles and they believed.  Could this be the Messiah who was sent to save us, even when it seems all hope is lost?

But They Crucified Him
Jesus came in love, but we crucified him.  Can you imagine the disappointment of Jesus’ disciples and followers?  Jesus was love.  He was hope.  They put all their faith in Him.  And then He was brutally murdered on a Roman cross.

Roman crucifixion was the most painful, humiliating, degrading way to kill someone.  It was intentionally designed to make a bold statement to anyone who dared challenge Roman rule.  Crucifixion’s message was: “We own you.  We can do whatever we want to you—any of you.  It doesn’t matter if you are a peasant, a religious leader, a king, or even supposedly a messiah or god, we can strip you naked and beat you to a pulp and nail you to a cross and hang you up to die and agonizing death that will take days while everyone watches in horror—including your mother.”

If ever there was a moment in history when the game was lost, it was on the Friday they nailed Jesus to the cross.  And I don’t care who you were or how much faith you had, everyone who saw Jesus die new the game was over.  Love had lost.

Some cried bitter tears.  Some got angry and cursed Jesus and spat on him.
Some just left, because they knew the game was over. Some ran away in horror and hid in shame.
Some just stared in disbelief.
How could this happen?  How can evil triumph over good?  What do we do now?

There’s a certain point in a football game that’s the point of now return—when the game is lost and there’s no hope to win.  But football’s just a game.  What do you do when it’s real life?

What do you do when the marriage really is over and ends in divorce?
What do you do when your son’s addiction finally takes him?
What do you do when cancer wins?
What do you do when the game clock of real life finally says zero and it really is over?
What do you do when Jesus is really dead?

A Childlike Faith
Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb.  A stone was rolled over the door. 
Soldiers guarded the entrance.  No one was going to get in. 
But Jesus was going to come out!  On the Third Day, Jesus rose from the grave!

With God’s love, true love, divine love, there is always hope.  1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful…”  Love never fails.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

Children often have more faith than adults.
Adults know better.  We know how the game of life works.  We know when the game is over—even if the clock hasn’t finished running out.  We think we know when all hope is lost and how it will all end.
But children believe in magic.  They believe in hope.  They still believe in miracles.
And God can work through miracles.  He saved the world through a miracle.
Jesus was dead, but then He was alive!
Jesus can save you with a miracle.  

So, we need to be mature and use our intelligence, but we also need to keep our childlike faith.
“Humanly speaking, it may be impossible.  But with God, everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Invitation
I want to tell you something though. 
Sometimes you've got to lose before you can win.
Sometimes you've got to die before you can rise to new life.
There may be something you've got to let go of before God can give you something new.
Do you trust Him?
Open your heart. 
Let go. 
Let God do a new thing in you.



[i] http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-aphrodite-and-venus/

Monday, April 12, 2021

Seeing is Believing?

Introduction
For our messages over the last couple of months, we’ve been comparing the conventional wisdom of our world with what Christ actually said.  

Today, we conclude this series with the common expression “Seeing is believing.”  Seeing is believing means you need to see something before you can accept that it’s real. 

We live in the age of science.  Most people don’t believe in silly superstitions anymore because science has shown them to be imaginary.  Furthermore, we know talk is cheap.  How many times have leaders made promises and not followed through?  Talk is cheap.  Seeing is believing.

One state in our union even made the philosophy “seeing is believing” their state motto.  In 1899, Representative Willard D. Vandiver said, "Frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri. You've got to show me." This led to Missouri being called the “Show Me State”.

Maybe we could all do with a little more of the Missourian’s common sense.  It seems like some people will believe anything.  A little skepticism may help guard you from being so gullible.  But what did Jesus say?  Did Jesus subscribe to “seeing is believing”?

Last Sunday was Easter.  We celebrated the incredible ressurection of Jesus Christ.  He was crucified, dead, and buried in tomb.  On the third day, he rose and appeared to His disciples.  Today, we read John 20:24-29.

John 20:24-29
24 
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

Jesus is Alive!
(and patient with our skepticism)
I sort of feel bad for Thomas.  First of all, he missed it the first time the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples.  Thomas must have been out doing errands and when he gets back the other Disciples are all like, “Jesus is alive!  And he appeared to us!” Thomas must have been like, "Great and I missed it!"  In all seriousness, Thomas understandably doesn’t believe their fantastic story.  He says, “Unless I see it for myself, I won’t believe it.” 

I probably would have said the same thing.  After 20 years of church ministry, I seen enough supposed miracles turn out false to make me plenty skeptical.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve also seen countless answered prayers and legitimate miracles of God.  But I've also seen enough illegitimate ones to give me a healthy dose of skepticism. Furthermore, I've seen enough duplicity in people to make me wise enough not to accept everything or everyone at face value.

And—let’s just be honestif all the other disciples started claiming something as fantastic as Jesus coming back from the dead, a lot of us would be like Thomas.  We might even use the expression: “seeing is believing”.

That’s why I love that Jesus showed himself to Thomas.  He didn’t leave Thomas out.  He came back to visit His Disciples when Thomas was with them.  And to Thomas, he’s like, “Here I am.  You need to see it to believe it.  Go ahead.  Look at me.  Touch me.  Feel the scars.  It really is me.” 

Jesus is patient with Thomas’ skepticism.  He helps him. And I think Jesus is patient with our skepticism too.  He understands.  We live in an age where much leads us to be skeptical.  Jesus understands.

However, Jesus also knows the value of faith—deep faith.  Faith is critical, and because Jesus loves us, he doesn’t want us to miss out on the full power of faith.  He even told Thomas and the Disciples something in verse 29 that we need to take to heart.  He told them, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.

Seeing is Believing vs. Believing is Seeing
Have you ever thought of all the things in life you believe without seeing?

When you heat up your leftovers for lunch in the microwave, do you really know how it all works?  Probably not, but you trust that it will.  You press start and the magic light comes on inside the box and heats up your food.  

How about when you use your computer to connect to the internet.  If you are really smart, you may understand how it works in theory, but really you just have faith that it will do it's computer thing when you need it too.

You probably don't give it a second thought that your brakes will work when you drive in a car.  One minute you are hurdling down a road at 60 miles per hour and the next you press the pedal to slow to a safe stop.  You have faith your brakes will work.

We believe these things work the way they are supposed to because someone who knows better than us told us.  We believed them and we trusted the these machines.

Have you ever thought about the kid of faith it takes to go to the grocery store?  I grilled hamburgers for dinner the other night.  My wife went to the grocery store and walked up to the meat counter.  She picked up a styrofoam container wrapped in cellophane.  Inside was some mushy red ground flesh called ground beef.  Why are you able to take that bloody meat home and cook it and put it in your mouth and chew it and swallow it?  Perhaps it's because you trust the food from the grocery store is safe.  We believe because we trust the grocer has kept that meat safe and sanitary.  Or maybe it's because we trust the Food and Drug Administration (FDA )has monitored our grocer and ensured they did the right thing.  Now think about that for a minute.  You trust a government agency to ensure what you put in your mouth is safe.  Government and their agencies have not always had a stellar record of being trustworthy.  Let that sink in for a minute.

We live a lot more of our lives by faith than we realize.  We put our faith in people, products, companies, and even the government.  Hopefully these are worthy of our faith.

When it comes to religion, in whom do we put our faith?  Christians are known in the Bible as “Believers”.  In whom do we believe?  

Sometimes, people put their faith in a pastor.  (Listen, I'm a pastor and I know my own heart.  It’s a scary prospect to think of people putting their faith in fallible pastors.)  People will often put their faith in a church or a denomination.  All of these have proven to be unworthy.  Through the centuries, we have seen corruption and the abuse of power in these organizations.

True Christian faith must be in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  The most reliable witness we have to Jesus is the Bible, which we call the Word of God.  John 3:16 says, “…everyone who believes in him [Jesus] will not perish but have eternal life.”  And in John 16:9, Jesus said, “The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.”

I appreciate that the NLT says "refuses to believe in me."  People are capable of believing.  We live by faith and believe in things all the time.  However, when faced with the choice to believe Jesus or not, very often people refuse to believe.

Would you be skeptical of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Word of God who was with God in the Beginning, who gave life to everything that was created and whose life gave light to everyone? (See John 1:1-4)  Would you doubt Jesus’ own word in the Holy Bible while at the same time you trust the FDA, your grocer, and even the mechanic who fixes your car’s brakes?

The resurrected Christ showed himself to Thomas, the other Disciples.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes Jesus had appeared to more than 500 people.  That’s a lot of people, but the vast majority of Christians over the centuries have accepted Christ’s ressurection by faith and not by actually seeing.  We are able to see Jesus is alive because we believe what the Bible says about him and this opens our hearts to know He is walking with us in all of life's circumstances.

Faith Makes All Things Possible
In Mark 9:23, Jesus said, “Anything is possible if a person believes.”  Have you ever thought of all the incredible things accomplished over the centuries because someone believed it could happen when no one else believed? 

500 years ago, no one really believed people could fly.  Then in the early 20th century, the Wright brothers switched from making bicycles to flying machines.  That made one that could fly only a few hundred yards.  Today, we have airplanes that can fly anywhere in the world and people travel all over through the air.

On hundred years ago, no one really believed a man would walk on the moon.  Then in 1969, we had "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."  For the first time ever, a human foot touched down onto the dusty surface of the moon.

In 1966, the TV series "Star Trek" debuted.  People were amazed at all the fantastic, futuristic gadgets they portrayed--things they believed people might only way off in the distant future.  They had things like personal handheld communicators (cell phones), hand held computers (tablets and smart phones), and voice activated computer ("Hey Siri...")  I wonder what crazy, outlandish, impossible inventions will become a reality next al because someone imagines it and has a vision and faith that it is possible even if everyone else says it's impossible.

How can a high school senior face graduation and an unknown future unless they believe that somehow, they can do it and a bright future lies ahead of them?

How can a wife and husband reconcile a broken marriage if they don’t believe it is possible (if only through the help of God)?

How can an addict become sober if they don’t believe it is possible through the help of a Higher Power than their own?

How can NICU nurse care for a 2 pound baby born 3 months early unless they believe that somehow, that child full of tubes and IVs can make it and live to have an incredible life if only her caretakers believe it is possible?

How can a cancer patient find healing through a incredibly difficult chemo treatment without faith that it might just work?  Or how can they hope to face death if the treatment doesn’t work unless they have faith that their is something more to life than just death?

How can a person work through the grief of losing someone they really care about without faith that somehow the future hold more than just sorrow and tears and darkness and loneliness?

There are countless real-life examples of times when faith is essential to help people imagine a better future despite their current situation. 

Seeing is believing is not enough.  Sometimes, we just can’t see it until we believe.

If you are from the Dalton area, you may remember how on April 5th, 2013, Coahulla Creek High School student Hannah Locke was in a terrible car accident that left her paralyzed.  Her tragedy and also her faith and determination have inspired countless people.  Her journey has not been easy.  For some, it would have been impossible, but Hannah’s faith helped her do the impossible.  Though Hannah is still in a wheel chair, she is a living example of how faith can motivate and inspire a person to live their best life despite tragedy.  Hannah is now married (Hannah Mackenzie Reed) and expecting a child. 

Hannah's faith has inspired so many.  In a recent public Facebook post, Hannah shared this: “As I reflect over the past 8 years, I can’t help but to think about how immensely blessed I have been. While these 8 years have brought trials & tribulation, frustration & heartache, it has also brought growth, perseverance, and immeasurable joy. If it took these 8 years to bring me to where I am today, filled with the peace that only comes from God, full of love for life and the people in it, and full of thanksgiving for the many blessings, I would do it all over.”[i]

Faith makes Hannah's positivity and progress possible.  Faith is absolutely essential for us all.

Conclusion
Today, I invite you to trust Jesus.  His Word is trustworthy.  You may be wise to be skeptical of some things or people in this world.  However, you can always trust Jesus.  Put your faith in Him today and let Him save you.  

And one more thing.  Don't let your skepticism about people or other things in this life cripple your potential.  There will always be disappointments and let downs. But don't give up.  Keep having faith.  It's worth it.