Live By Faith

Examining the close relationship between doubt and faith.

George Wright
Sep 22, 2019    29m
In this sermon Pastor George Wright shares verses from John chapter 20 to help us understand the close relationship between doubt and faith. Through sharing the story of the doubts that the disciple Thomas had about Jesus's resurrection, he helps us remember that Jesus calls to have faith in what we cannot see. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Today, as we continue in this series on The Blessed Life, and the life that God blesses, we are talking specifically about a life of faith. And I want to read one verse from John 20 verse 29, this'll set the stage for us, as then we dive into this encounter and this experience that Jesus has with one of his disciples by the name of Thomas. Let me invite you to stand with me as I read this opening scripture to get us started here. We stand around the room so that we can be reminded, the word of God is our authority, the word of God is our foundation, and the word of God reveals to us what God says is right and good and true. So listen to the word of God, speaking through Jesus, to one of his disciples. "Jesus said to him, have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. The blessing of God is on the life of one who lives by faith.

George Wright: 01:28 Would you pray with me as we consider the word of God together this morning? Father God, we come before you now needing to hear from you. It is my prayer, Lord, that you would use this time as we turn our attention to your word, and as we prepare our hearts for this beautiful gift that you have given us called the Lord's supper. Speak to us, open our ears to hear, open our hearts to be receptive. Lord, use this time for your glory, and for our joy, as we see who you are and what you have done. Holy Spirit, we ask that you would move among us and reveal to us exactly what it is that you desire for us to see and what you desire for us to hear. This time is yours, we're thankful for it. In Jesus name I pray. Amen. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing.

George Wright: 02:43 Even if you are brand new to church, which some of you possibly are today, we're so grateful that you're here. If you're new to church, or if you're trying to figure out what you believe about a relationship with God, we're so grateful that you're here. But even if you don't know much at all about the Christian message or about Christianity, there's one thing that we probably can all say we understand about Christianity and it's this, Christianity is about faith. Following Jesus is about living by faith. Foundational to the Christian message is the idea, and the understanding, that to follow Jesus Christ is to live a life of faith. Christianity, Christianity, is called the Christian faith. When we talk about someone who is growing in their relationship with God, we say they are growing in their faith. When we talk about someone who is following Jesus, we say they're on a faith journey. Faith is foundational to the Christian message, and faith is certainly foundational to being a follower of Jesus Christ. It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, that one can be saved and have a relationship with God. So anyone who has an understanding of the Christian message at all would recognize very quickly this is good news to be received by faith and then lived out by faith. We can all come to that understanding to know God through Jesus Christ is to live by faith.

George Wright: 04:34 In fact, the writer of Hebrews says it this way, especially as we think about the blessing of God on the life of faith. Hebrews 11 verse six, "Without faith, it is impossible to please him." Without faith, it is impossible, not unlikely, impossible to please God. "For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." God's blessing is poured out on the one who lives by faith. So here's a question, if you're here today and you say, yes, I'm a follower of Christ, I am a Christian, I am living by faith. Here's just a question for us to consider. How much of your life right now, how much of your life is truly being lived by faith? Is it 10% 25% 50% of your life? How much of your life is truly being lived by faith? Well, let me ask you in a different way, kind of flip that question around. How much of our lives today, how much of your life today, is actually being lived in such a way that you're trying to eliminate faith from the equation all together? Think about the way we make decisions. In our desire for control, are we living by faith? In our desire to know what's going to happen next, are you living by faith? When we live to get what we want, are we living by faith? When we live to be comfortable, are we living by faith? How about this? When was the last time that you made a decision that was truly a faith decision? When was the last time that you made a decision stepping out from what is known, to what is unknown? The apostle Paul makes this very simple short statement in Second Corinthians 5 verse 7, that is a very challenging statement. He says this, "For we." The followers of Jesus, the faithful. "For we walk by faith, and not by sight." When was the last time you took a step of faith that caused you to live in what is unseen, versus living specifically and purely based upon what you can see?

George Wright: 07:54 In the story we are considering this morning we see one of the followers of Jesus, his name is Thomas, one of the early disciples, who is wrestling with doubt. And Thomas even says, as we see in John chapter 20, that he only can believe, if he first sees. He is adamant, the only way he can believe is to see. Listen to what Jesus says, and what the word of God reveals. John chapter 20 verse 24, " Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[d] was not with them when Jesus came." The context for this is, right after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John tells us in his gospel that Jesus appears to the disciples, but Thomas was not there, Thomas missed it. He must had another appointment that day, and he couldn't be there when the resurrected Jesus walked in to visit the disciples, and so he missed it. And we join this story as Thomas says, I don't believe, unless I can see. That's what we see here, the other disciples told him, we have seen the Lord. But he said to them, unless I see his hands, the mark of the nails, the place, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.

George Wright: 09:27 This is a pretty fascinating situation we step into in John 20. The disciples are overjoyed, they have seen the resurrected Lord, everything has changed for them. They went from being totally defeated, totally terrified, totally let down and disappointed, overwhelmed with grief and agony at what has happened with Jesus, and now they've seen Jesus alive. They're fired up, they are pumped up, they are so excited. Their enthusiasm is through the roof, and they come and they find Thomas. They say, Thomas, bro, you are not going to believe it, I know you were in there, but we saw Jesus, he was alive, he talked to us. This real, he has risen from the grave, the tomb is empty. Thomas, come join the party. And Thomas says, you know, I've already been disappointed this week, I don't think I could be disappointed again. I'm not going there with you unless I can first see. Have you ever been in a conversation like that? Maybe with a group of friends, and everybody's in a good mood, everybody's talking about something exciting. And there's just one Debbie downer, you know, just sitting there that smirk, that cynicism on their face. You're like, what is wrong with you? Come on. Well, that's Thomas here. No, I just can't go there, I cannot believe unless I first see. This is the encounter that gives Thomas a nickname that maybe you've heard before, Doubting Thomas, the doubter, the one who doubts. And honestly, I would just say, I think that's a little bit of an unfair nickname that's given to Thomas. Because think about it, none of the other disciples believed until they saw. All right? Thomas just missed it, and now he is the one given the nickname of the doubter. Because he is still processing this the way the disciples were processing this before they saw Jesus. He will not be convinced, he wants to see for himself. I cannot, I will not, I will never believe, he says, until I see.

George Wright: 11:53 Then look at what takes place next. John 20 verse 26, John records for us eight days later. And before I continue reading that verse, I just want to ask you to imagine what were those eight days like for the disciples? I mean really, just think about that. I can only imagine, John didn't tell us, the word of God does not let us know what the conversations were like. But I can imagine there were some lively discussions that must've happened among the disciples. Peter comes up to Thomas, he's like, man, you're missing it, we saw them alive. And Thomas is like, what are you talking about? You're the guy that denied him, like get away from me right now. And John comes up and he's like, Thomas, he's alive, we saw him. And Thomas is like, look John, I know someday you're probably going to write a letter. Okay? And they're going to put it in the Bible, and that's we really cool, please don't include this part. Don't let them know about the discussions that we had for these eight days, because right now I don't believe. Man, I'm sure, just sitting around the fire just sitting at night talking about what they've seen. The discussion had to be lively, and Thomas is holding his ground, he's dug in his heels. He will not be persuaded, he will not be convinced. And we pick it back up eight days later, the scripture tells us, eight days later, the disciples have another opportunity to be with Jesus. It says, "Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

George Wright: 13:52 This scene here, these two verses for me is just so incredible. Think about the drama and the excitement of what is happening right here in these two verses. Jesus appears in the room, a room where the door is closed and locked, we don't know if he walked through the wall or if he just appeared. But either way he's standing in the room and then what does he do? He looks at Thomas, and he does not respond the way I would respond, I just wants you to know. If I could walk through a wall to someone who was doubting me, I would walk into that wall and I would pull out all of my Avenger power and I would cause them to float around the room, maybe hit their head on the ceiling a couple of times, then dropped down really hard, maybe break an ankle or a knee, then pick them back up, heal the ankle and the knee, and then say, now do you doubt? But look at what Jesus does. I believe some of you today really need to see this. Some of you today I know have come into this place, or are joining us online, and you are wrestling with doubt. Some of you have been walking through the unimaginable, and the circumstances of your life have caused you, like Thomas, to say, I just don't know if I can believe. I want to believe, I'm trying to believe, but right now the evidence that I'm seeing, it's not leading me to believe. In fact, it's leading me to question, it's leading me to doubt, it's leading me to worry, it's leading me to fear. I know that's where some of you are this morning. Look at what Jesus does, in the midst of this doubt that has gripped Thomas's heart and his thoughts, the savior comes into the room and speaks to Thomas with compassion, with mercy, and with kindness. He doesn't bounce Thomas around the room. He didn't say, you're such a fool. He doesn't say, now see, I told you so. He doesn't shame Thomas, not even for a moment. He just comes into the room and he says, Thomas, I'd love for you to put your hands in my side. Thomas, I want you to see the marks where the nails were. Thomas, there's no reason to continue in unbelief. You can now believe. Do you see the grace and the mercy and the compassion and the kindness of our savior?

George Wright: 16:59 See, it's the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance. Jesus does not walk into the room to judge or condemn, Jesus walks into the room with the one who is doubting to say, I love you and I want you to see what I have. Don't miss this. Thomas immediately responds. John records that for us verses 28 and 29 let's pick it up, "Thomas answered him, my Lord and my God. Yes, I see." And then Jesus gives us the statement where we started, "Have you believed because you have seen me, blessed or blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed." Isn't this an interesting comment from Jesus? What is Jesus trying to say? What is Jesus talking about here? Blessed is the one who has not seen, and yet believed. Well so far think about this, at this point in the story, the only ones who have believed in the resurrected savior, the only ones who have believed that Jesus has come back to life from the dead are the ones who have seen him physically with their own eyes. They have seen the physical evidence of the resurrection, but Jesus says to the ones who have seen the physical evidence of the resurrection, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. What's he saying? I really believe that this is the beginning of Jesus laying out the mission for his disciples. In fact, I would go so far as to say, this is the beginning of Jesus revealing the great commission to his followers. You have seen the physical evidence, you have seen me in the flesh risen from the dead. I'm going to go be with the father, in the flesh I will not be with you anymore, but please hear this disciples, the evidence is not leaving when I go to Heaven. In fact, the evidence is going to become even more powerful and more rich as the spirit of God falls on you, and people see your life transformed by the power of the resurrection.

George Wright: 19:32 Acts chapter 1:8, "You will be my witnesses when the spirit of God descends upon you in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the remotest parts of the earth." This is the calling of God on his followers. And Jesus is saying to Thomas, and Jesus is saying to the disciples, your lives will become the evidence of what I have done. Yes, there is physical evidence, yes, physical evidence is great. But I want to show you Thomas, and I want to show you disciples, that there is evidence that is even more powerful. The evidence of a life that was far from God that is now been transformed by the mercy of God, the evidence of a life that was blinded by sin that is now been called righteous in the sight of God through the power of Jesus Christ, the evidence of one who was wandering in the dark, who now is living in the light as a result of what Jesus Christ has done. You have seen the physical evidence, Jesus is saying to Thomas, and now your life will become the very evidence that will lead others to faith in me. This is the calling of Jesus on his followers, a life of faith. Blessed is the one who has not seen, and yet believed. A life of faith that leads others to see the reality of the power of the resurrection. So is this the evidence that is in your life? Is there evidence of the reality of the resurrection alive in you? Thomas, I know you've seen, and I know you believe because of what you have seen. But now I'm inviting you in the power of the Holy Spirit to become the very evidence that you were craving. Your life will be a picture of the love of God, and the gift of his grace through Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 22:09 Every time we observe the Lord's supper, we are returning to the very foundation of our faith. We are returning back to the cross. We are reminded of what Jesus Christ has done for us that we can never do for ourselves. The cross of Christ reveals to us the love of God. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The cross of Christ also reveals to us the fulfillment of the law of God, that God has laid out as standard for us to live by. But it is a standard that we cannot live up to because of sin, because of our shame, because of our wandering hearts. Jesus Christ came to live a life free from sin, the perfect life, and to offer his life for us at the cross to fulfill the law so that all who trust in him by his grace are saved and made new. This is what we celebrate at the Lord's supper, but I believe the Lord's supper also is reminding us of the call to live by faith. Because you see, when you take of these elements, please hear me, this is not just a religious ritual, this is not just a routine that we go through so that we can feel better about ourselves when we leave here today. No, this is something that Jesus himself gave us so that we would be reminded every time we returned to the Lord's table that he is calling us to live by faith. It takes faith to believe that Jesus Christ died for our sin. That's what the Lord's supper reminds us of. It takes faith to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the grave, and has now empowered us to live as a testimony and the evidence of his life. That's what the Lord's supper reminds us of today. We return to this table, and we remember what Christ has done. And we remember the call of God to live by faith, and the promise of God that those who live by faith experience the blessings of God. We're going to talk more about this next week, and in the weeks ahead, as we continue in this series on The Blessed Life. But today it is my hope and it is my prayer that as we returned to the Lord's table, this will be an opportunity for us to have reflection before a Holy God, to remember what he's done, to remember why we need what he's done, and to remember that in Christ, not only is there new life, but there is a new invitation to live as a testimony of who he is and what he has done.

George Wright: 25:16 So we're going to have a time of prayer before we open up these tables, and I would just encourage you to get alone with the Lord for just a moment, a quiet reflection. To think about is there something in your life that needs to be brought to the cross, something that needs to be laid down. For some of you perhaps today, there is a step of faith that God has been calling you to take, but you have been doubting, you have been hesitant. Perhaps right now as we pray, it's an opportunity for you to say to the Lord, I will live by faith. Let the spirit of God minister to your heart as we go before the Lord, asking him to reveal to us what we need to see. So let's bow our heads, let's close our eyes, let's get before the Lord right now.

George Wright: 27:13 Heavenly father, we thank you for the gift of the cross. We thank you for this beautiful ordinance that you have given the church to return to the Lord's table to remember. So Lord, as we remember the sin in our life that causes us to need the cross. I pray, Lord God, that you would remind us, yet again, that this sin has been covered in the blood of Jesus, that your grace is sufficient for us, that there is forgiveness for all who trust in you. Father, where there have been steps of faith that we have been resisting. I pray, Lord God, that you would forgive us, and I pray, Lord God, that today would be a day where we return to the cross and remember what you have done and say, I will live by faith. Where there have been those who have been wrestling with doubts, I pray, Lord God, that we would see the evidence of the resurrection in the lives that have changed around us, and even in the life change that we have experienced through the power of the risen savior. And I pray, Lord God, that you would meet us in our doubts, that your spirit would minister to us, and that you would strengthen us to live by faith. How thankful we are for an invitation to return to the most beautiful act of love the world has ever seen. And so as we returned to the cross, we do so with a heart of worship. We thank you, Lord Jesus, for what you have given to us, that we might truly live, and we pray that you would be pleased as we worship today. We commit this time to you. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206