By Believing You May Have Life in His Name

Title: By Believing You May Have Life in His Name

Text: John 19:38-20:31

Time: March 27th, 2005

“If only I had been alive during the time of Jesus, If only I had been one of the original twelve disciples, then I would really believe strongly with no doubts.” We think that if we had been a witness to the things of the Bible we would have strong faith, but we forget that seeing doesn’t always translate into stronger believing. Faith goes beyond what we see or don’t see. That is clear from the reports of Jesus after the resurrection. There were lots of people who saw Jesus during his lifetime but only a few disciples. There were lots of people who saw his miracles and were amazed, but that’s as far as it went with them. The distractions of life, and the care and worry of this life cause many people to simply not give heart and soul to Jesus. It has always been that way. The disciples had a rare opportunity to see Jesus up close, that is, the Son of God, the human representation of God who appeared on earth 2000 years ago. But we shouldn’t feel bad; we get to share in that faith through God’s Spirit today. Some people use the excuse that they’ve not seen Jesus or heard his voice for their unbelief, but faith doesn’t need seeing or hearing to believe. That’s the message today: we can believe just as strongly as the disciples believed, we can live our lives just as dedicated and just as seriously for God today as any disciple did 2000 years ago. Faith is available today, this morning to everyone who will receive it. On this Easter morning 2005, let’s explore this matter of faith.

First, faith is a challenge to everyone, whether for an original disciple or for us today. The disciples were very disappointed after the crucifixion of Jesus because at first they didn’t believe he would rise from the dead. They were sad because they figured that it was the end of Jesus. They didn’t think they would ever see him again. Now the Jews, in a strange way, had paid attention to the words of Jesus more closely than the disciples, because they went to Pilate and said, “Station a guard around the tomb because this man said when he was alive that after his death he would come back to life.” So they remembered the words of Jesus far better than the disciples. The Jews didn’t believe it, but they remembered what Jesus had taught. On contrast, the disciples never even mention that Jesus had taught he would rise from the dead. They probably didn’t want to get their hopes up any more only to be let down again. Or maybe they didn’t even pay attention to the teaching. Anyway, they struggled with doubt and unbelief, not just after his death, but before his death. I talked a few weeks back about how Jesus was always rebuking the disciples for their unbelief. They were slow to understand, which is shown in this passage where even after the tomb was empty, they still didn’t understand. It says, “They still did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead,” John 20:9. And then even after most of the disciples actually saw the risen Christ, one, Thomas, didn’t see and said he wouldn’t believe unless he saw Jesus, and actually touched Jesus’ wounds. So we see these disciples with all their doubts and unbelief. And if you look around today, you see the same thing, even among people who attend church, even among those who call themselves Christians. Doubt, unbelief. Things go wrong in life and we blame God or complain because God isn’t coming through for us like we think he should. We see things in books, or in college, or on television, things that cause us to doubt our faith, and so we live with doubt and unbelief. But that isn’t any different than it was before, in the old days. So when we start thinking, “If only I had been alive at the time of Jesus, then I’d really have a strong faith.” That’s not necessarily true. You were born in the time that God appointed you to be alive. You must learn to have the faith that our time demands of us. The world is a lot different place today than it was 2000 years ago, but God is still calling us to faith in Himself. But that’s not all.

Two, nobody can ever believe unless God opens their eyes. It was the same back then, and it’s the same today. Maybe you come to this Easter 2005 with a strong faith in God, or maybe a weak faith, or maybe somewhere in between. But we are all responsible to respond to the light we have been given by God. Those disciples had Jesus in the flesh, in person. They could listen to him speak, and see him act. But they were responsible for responding to that revelation, just as we are responsible for responding in faith to the revelation we are given. But faith can only come when God reveals himself to us. After the crucifixion, it took Jesus appearing to the disciples for them to believe. It took Jesus appearing to Thomas before he would believe. And God knows what it takes in your life to help you believe. For some people, they need to have answers to their questions given to them before they can believe. For others, they need to feel God’s presence spiritually before they will believe. Some people need to see some kind of miracle; others need to see some kindness offered in Jesus’ name. Each person is different. But unless God opens our eyes, we won’t see, we won’t believe. Jesus says in John 6:65, “No one can come to me unless the father enables him.” Faith is a mystery, a mystery of our own responsibility and the sovereign power of God. Nobody can figure it all out, although a lot of people have been trying for thousands of years. In John 3:8 says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases, You here its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” I was thinking about my own faith the other day. How did I come to trust my soul to the care of Jesus? Was it my religious background? Was it my situation in life during my teenage years? Was it God causing me to believe? It’s all a big mystery the whole process. It’s a riddle. How does God open our eyes today? By His Spirit — invisible, but real. How is God moving in your life today?

Three, everyone can have the faith of the disciples, even today. The disciples saw Jesus and wrote down what they saw. We can have their same faith by reading what they recorded and then by the Spirit’s power believing. In John 20:31 it says, “But these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (that is the Messiah, Lord), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Now here’s a question to ponder, did the disciples have to go back and read their own accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to keep their faith alive? I bet they did. Haven’t you ever witnessed anything and then doubted it later. There was a guy last week in a basketball game that was knocked down on the floor of the basketball court. He somehow got the basketball and from the floor shot it at the hoop and it went in and won the game for his team. I bet there are mornings he wakes up and says to himself, I can’t believe I did that. He has to go back to the video tape and watch it in order to simply believe what he witnessed, it’s just so unbelievable. Things like that happen in sports occasionally. But think of the disciples. I’m sure they had to keep reading and re-reading their own eye-witness accounts in order to believe. Now we have their accounts and we can share in their faith because once we believe what they saw, in Jesus, we share their Christian faith. So we can have the same faith they had. I don’t know where you are at this morning with your faith. But if you want more faith, keep reading over and over the accounts in the Bible because it says, “Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.” I like to read and also watch the Bible movies that come on television and are in DVD and VHS now. I love to watch all the different Jesus movies, there must be about 5 or 6 available, because it’s almost as if I’m right there. I like to watch movies like the 10 Commandments because it makes me feel like I’ve gone through the Exodus with the children of Israel. All of these help our faith. This is a perfect day, a perfect time to renew your faith in God through Jesus Christ. Why not rededicate your life to live for God today, this Easter 2005? Why not focus on God this year like you’ve never done before. If you don’t know God in a personal way, why not make this the time you dedicate your soul to Him. Let’s all pray: Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. Thank you for taking my sins and guilt. Thank you for forgiving me of all my sins. Come into my life, take control of my life today. Give me a strong faith so that I can live for you and serve you for the rest of my life, and someday be with you in heaven forever.” I hope you prayed that prayer, or I hope you prayed that prayer again as a rededication to God. Amen

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