Battling unbelief

January 29, 2012

Topic: Faith

Turn with me to the fourth chapter of the gospel of John. The Gospel of John is called the Gospel of believing because John gives us the purpose of his writing in: John 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

So when we read through the gospel of John, we are going to read about belief and unbelief. The word “believe in God” appears about 100 times in this gospel.

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned.

John 8:30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

In the John 17 Jesus prays on behalf of those who would believe in Him. John 17:20 My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.

What does belief in Jesus do for us?

1. Salvation. Without believing in the Lord Jesus Christ there is no salvation. John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

2. Enables us to do God’s work. John 6:28-29 28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

3. Children of God. John 12:36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

4. Eternal life. 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.

John 6:47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.

5. Resurrection.

John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.

6. Escape judgment.

John 5:24 Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

7. Gift of the Holy Spirit.

John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

8. Empowered for service.

John 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

9. Punishment for unbelievers – Death.

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.

Now unbelief is a universal problem. Jesus in his earthly ministry has been constantly trying to reach out to the different types of unbelief in men and bring them back to faith in God.

If you see the Bible there are different forms of unbelief and likewise there are different forms of faith. John 20:29 Then Jesus told him (Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” There is one faith that sees and believe. There is another faith that does not see and believe.

III. Types of unbelief

1. Unbelief that demands the revelation of Christ

Well for some people they just get a revelation of Jesus Christ and that’s what brings them to salvation. Maybe some of you right here came to the Lord because of the revelation from Jesus and you saw the beauty of His person.

In John 1 we can see such kind of unbelief met by Christ. John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”

The disciples had a similar revelation. Jesus Christ called some disciples and said, “Drop your nets and follow Me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” Now what was it that made them to drop everything and follow Jesus Christ? It wasn’t His miracles. It was the magnetism of the dynamism of His person.

They were men who were in a profession, involved with their families and friends, and Jesus said drop everything and follow Me. They did it because of the revelation of Jesus Christ. That is the first kind of faith that needs just the revelation of Christ.

Apostle Paul had his revelation in his life. Galatians 1:11-17 11I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by Revelation from Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

2. Unbelief that demands the words of Christ

For some the revelation of Christ is not enough, they want to hear what He has to say. And this is illustrated for us in John 4, Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman. John 4:19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. What made her say that? It was because Jesus told everything she did. His words were convincing. John 4:26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you-I am he.” She believed Him. His words were convincing.

John 4:41-42 41And because of his words many more became believers. 42They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” His words convinced them. There is the kind of faith that demands the words of Christ, they want to hear what He has to say. And they examine the Scripture and the words of Christ penetrate their hearts. Maybe some of you came to the Lord because of some Bible verse. For some of you in your trials and situations of life a Bible verse is what it takes to give you the faith and confidence.

3. Unbelief that demands the works of Christ

Some just can’t believe it until they see God do a miracle. They need signs and wonders to believe. This is baby infantile faith that is kept alive by seeming miracles.

Now that’s our text today. We’re coming to stage three type of unbelief, bottom rung on the ladder of unbelief. This is the unbelief that says the revelation of Jesus Christ does not convince me, the words don’t convince me but I need to see a miracle.

I can’t go on without a footnote here. There’s another kind of unbelief that doesn’t believe anything at anytime. This group sees everything; revelation, word, and miracles but didn’t believe any of it. They are the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. They had miracles, the person of Christ and the words of Christ and said no to everything. In fact, they concluded that what He did, He did by the power of whom? Satan, Beelzebub, That’s the kind of unbelief that stays unbelief.

Coming back, today we’re going to see a man today, who moved from third-stage deep unbelief that needs a sign, right to the top to the kind of belief where he and his family got a revelation of Jesus Christ.

John 4:43 After the two days he left for Galilee. This chapter begins with Jesus starting off to Galilee but he stayed in Sychar in Samaria for two days.

Jesus came to the Jews but his purpose was to take the good news from the Jews to the gentiles. He proves his intention by revealing Himself to Gentiles right at the very beginning of His ministry. And this little Samaritan interlude is a prophecy of the ultimate Saviorhood of Christ for the whole world. John 4:42 ..We know that this man really is the Savior of the world.

Now He’s back to His Jewish ministry and moving into Galilee. John 4:44 Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country. Nazareth was a town in Galilee and Jesus was raised there. I think Jesus Christ went there knowing that He would be responded to by unbelief.

In fact Jesus’ Galilean ministry lasted 16 months and he did one miracle right after another. A few believed but majority did not believe after seeing the signs and wonders.

John 4:46-47 46Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

Now here’s the introduction of an unbelieving man. This nobleman perhaps was one of Herod Antipas’ courtiers. He’s not totally unbelieving, he’s got a little tiny smidgen of faith. He had a son who was very ill and so he traveled this almost 20 miles to get to Christ. He asked Jesus to come down to Capernaum from Cana and heal his son for he was at the point of death.

Now he had a little tiny bit of faith. He had this bottom-level faith that needs a miracle. He swallowed his pride because he was a desperate man and he went to seek help from a carpenter. And the reason he that did was because he had a dying boy that he loved with all his heart and he saw in Jesus Christ perhaps the hope for life for that little child.

If it weren’t for a dying son, he would never have bothered with Jesus. He did not want his sins forgiven. He had no thoughts of that. He had a dying child. He had a need and that’s the only reason he came to Jesus Christ and at that it was strictly a physical need.

I imagine there have been many people who have come to Jesus Christ because of a dying son, a sick daughter, the death of a loved one, a physical need. Jesus uses a lot of things. Affliction is often God’s medicine to build one’s faith. And many times affliction is used to bring somebody to Christ.

It is a feeble kind of faith, a faith where Jesus has to go to his house and pray to heal his son. “Jesus, I realize that You might be able to do miracles but You can’t do them at a distance. You’ve got to be where he is.” Remember Jairus in Mark 5, he had the same problem. He said to Jesus, “Come down and lay Your hands on my daughter.”

Here is another faith in contrast in Matthew 8. The centurion said to Jesus, “Lord, my servant lies at home sick.” Here’s another centurion and he wants Jesus to do something. Jesus said unto him, “I will come and heal him.” The Centurion answered and said, `Lord, I’m not worthy You should come under my roof, but speak the word only and my servant will be healed.'”

You see, Jesus in both cases did the very opposite of what they wanted. The centurion didn’t need Jesus to come to his house and Jesus says, “I’ll come to your house.” Here this man wanted Jesus to come to his house, and I’m not coming to your house.

And notice what happened here. Matthew 8:10 When Jesus heard this, He was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” That’s the kind of faith that says, “Lord, You don’t have to come down to my house, just say the word and my servant will be all right.” And you contrast that kind of faith with this feeble faith where the man says You’ve got to come home. And Jairus whose faith…”You’ve got to put Your hands…” Remember somebody else that has that kind of faith and that’s Martha, “If You’d been here my brother wouldn’t have died.”

This faith is very normal for most Christians. We really believe…we say, “O God does wonderful miracles,” and then the little practical things of life, we never believe Him for things.

And Jesus Christ takes him where he is and step by step just lifts him up to full faith. John 4:48 “Unless you people (It is a collective term) see signs and wonders, ”Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” He says, “Your kind of unbelief demands miracles, your stage-three deep type unbelief.” You need a miracle to meet their unbelief. John 4:49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” This is little faith. Jesus doesn’t run down to Capernaum but Jesus did something here to improve his faith.

John 4:50a “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” Watch how Jesus conquers his unbelief. Jesus said to him go and his son will live. While Jesus was talking right there, the omniscient, omnipresent power that Christ had was 30 km away touching the body of that child. And He never had to take a step. You say, “That’s hard to believe.”

Look at the response of this man:

John 4:50b NIV The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

KJV And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.

He believed the word that Jesus spoke unto him. And how do you know he believed? Because he went his way. Now do you notice here that Christ has taken him from third-stage faith and moved him up to the second level? He came and he needed a miracle to believe but now all of a sudden he doesn’t need a miracle anymore, he believes the words of Christ? Do you see it? Christ says he’s alive. And he says, “Oh, goodbye,” and takes off. He hasn’t even seen a miracle. Christ didn’t leave him in that kind of faith, He moved him up.

You say, “Well what made him believe?” It is the word of God. The Word of God has the power for a miracle. The word has the power to lift up your faith. Believe God at his word.

John 4:51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. He’s alive. He’s doing fine. The miracle was verified. But better than verifying the miracle he was verifying the miracle worker. John 4:52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”

So the nobleman inquired, “When exactly did the boy start getting better?” They said, “Yesterday at the seventh hour…Roman time, seven o’clock in the evening the fever left him.'” Now you may think why yesterday. What kind of a deal is this, the father was just roaming around? Well it is an 8-hour journey he came to see Jesus. So it is the next day he got back home and he’s alive. And he says what time did he start getting better? And they said 7 pm yesterday. John 4:53 KJV So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.

Now wait a minute, we just saw that he already believed: John 4:50b KJV And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. In v50 he believed the words of Christ, and in v53 he had a revelation of who Christ was. He turned in to an evangelist just like that. He believed. And he shared it with his whole house and they believed, too.

So here’s Jesus, He takes somebody from bottom level unbelief, moves him up to believe His words and then finally in full face he believes God. I believe he accepted Jesus Christ for who He was in all of His revelation as Messiah and Son of God and his whole house.

Conclusion: This morning as we close, let me ask you this: where is your faith? Where is your unbelief? What does your unbelief demand? Does your unbelief demand miracles? You just saw one, he is powerful to do a miracle for you. Does your unbelief demand the words of Christ? You just heard them. You can read them every time you open the pages of the New Testament. Does your unbelief demand the revelation of Jesus Christ? Whatever your unbelief demands, it’s here…it’s here. Jesus meets it.