How do I overcome doubt? Part 5

“Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ ” John 20:29

We are learning from John 20:24-29 how to overcome doubt. So far we have discovered we can overcome doubt when we…

– Restore our fellowship with other Christians (John 20:24).

– Readjust our unrealistic requirements for belief (John 20:25a).

Redirect our wills toward believing (John 20:25b-27).

– Renew our confession of faith (John 20:28).

Today we will look at the final way to overcome doubt. RECEIVE JESUS’ BLESSING (John 20:29). After Thomas said to Jesus,  “my Lord and my God,” (John 20:28), Jesus did not correct him for addressing Him as “my Lord and my God.” No, Jesus accepted Thomas’ worship because Christ is Lord and God. Jesus then told Thomas, Because you have seen Me, you have believed.” (John 20:29a). But then Jesus has something to say to you and me two thousand years later, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b).

The risen Lord Jesus is saying to His doubting disciple, “Thomas, I did something special for you. I came and showed you the nail prints in My hands. I showed you the scar in My side where the spear pierced Me. I want you to know the blessing on the lives of those millions of people who are going to believe in Me even though they have not had this experience.”  1

Jesus gave only a small number of people (about 500, 1 Cor 15:6) the privilege of seeing Him bodily after His resurrection. Most who believe do so without benefit of such direct revelation. Thomas and the others saw and heard, and thus their eyewitness testimonies have benefitted many people since then (John 20:30; 21:24-25; 1 John 1:1-3).” 2

Jesus wants you to believe in Him for His gift of everlasting life even though He has not personally appeared to you. He wants you to trust in Him alone to give you never-ending life before you see Him work in your life. This is why He said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” With these words, Jesus is broadening the object of faith from His resurrection to His promise to give eternal life to all who believe in Him for it. That is the transition John makes in the next two verses (John 20:30-31). 3

Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). Do you believe this? If you do, Christ guarantees you now have His life which never ends (John 11:25-26). You now have a personal relationship with Him that lasts forever (John 17:3). And Jesus wants to bless you with His remarkable gifts (see Ephesians 1:3-14).

Keep in mind that Thomas was already a believer in Jesus before Christ appeared to him (cf. John 2:11; 11:15 13:10; 14:5). Even after you believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, the risen Lord Jesus Christ wants to bless your life and work in your life. However, you are going to be filled with doubt if you think, “I’m not a good enough person for Him to bless my life. I will just let Christ give His blessings to somebody else.” Did Thomas deserve what Jesus gave him? Not at all. Thomas had received the eyewitness reports from the women and other disciples who had seen Jesus alive, yet he refused to believe them (Mark 16:10-11, 13-14; Luke 24:9-11; John 20:18, 24-25). Even so, Christ graciously appears to him and gives him the evidence he needed to believe Jesus rose from the dead. Christ’s blessings are not something we earn. They are gifts He wants to bless you with.

His blessings are part of what builds our faith and keeps our faith growing. Receive His blessing. The result of faith is blessedness. The Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6). God rewards those who exercise faith and diligently seek Him.

Jesus is teaching us that those who believe in Him are blessed. Not only are they blessed the moment they believe in Christ for His gift of everlasting life, but they can continue to be blessed as they learn to live a life of faith. People who believe live a blessed life. This is not a perfect life, nor a life without problems; but a blessed life. The satisfaction and fulfillment that the world longs for can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Later John reminds us that the result of faith is life (John 20:31). When people believed Jesus then and when they believe Jesus now, lives are transformed. There is a new quality of life for us to experience. He says there is “life in His name” (John 20:31b). The kind of life that has the name of Jesus stamped all over it. Every blessing that comes into your life has Jesus’ name on it. The decisions that you make – Jesus’ name is stamped all over them. Your family has Jesus’ name stamped all over it. Your job has Jesus’ name stamped all over it. Everything about your life is to be lived in His name.  His power, His blessing, His purpose, His character is to be manifested in your life. 

Do you want to overcome doubt and have faith? I will not tell you to just have faith. Instead, I will say here is how to have faith. Here is how to overcome doubt. These are some practical suggestions. You don’t have to do all of them. Just start with one of them this week and see where the Lord leads you.

1. Intentionally connect with other Christians this week. One of the reasons we struggle with doubts is because we are isolating ourselves from other like-minded believers in Jesus. God wants us to connect with one another to receive love and encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25). Schedule a time this week to get together with a trusted friend who knows Jesus and can offer a listening ear.

2. Write down your doubts on a sheet of paper. You might even be really brave and show your list to someone else. Not to an enemy, but to a trusted friend. Then at the bottom of the sheet of paper write, “Jesus, I ask You to give me Your answers to these doubts.” He wants to do this for you just like He did for Thomas.

3. Then you may need to redirect your will. This week or even tonight, decide to have faith in an area of your life where you have been struggling with doubts. You have been waiting for your emotions to catch up with your faith. Perhaps you have been studying this for months and you think you cannot learn any more. But now is the time to decide to move toward believing. You know what God wants you to do. You know what His Word says to do. It is time to act.

4. For some of us, we may need to renew our confession. Let me encourage you to do this this week if you are struggling with doubts. Start each day with a confession of faith. Use Thomas’ confession every day if you want to – “My Lord and my God.”  Or pick up your Bible and open it to the book of Psalms. Start reading any psalm. You will find two or three confessions of faith in any psalm – “Lord, You are my rock. Lord, You are my fortress. Lord, You are my hiding place.” (Psalm 31; 32; 119). The book of Psalms is just filled with confessions of faith. Find some confessions of faith there and use them to start each day. 

5. Perhaps you need to receive His blessing this week. You might be afraid to think about all the blessings that come from the Lord. You may feel guilty to recognize that God is doing something special in your life. There are times when we may look at our past and conclude that we are not deserving. The truth is, none of us are deserving. I do not deserve God’s blessings and neither do you. We admit that together. We come as undeserving people to God, but because of His grace – His undeserved favor – He gives to us abundantly. This week take twenty minutes and sit down and start to make a list of blessings from God on a piece of paper or on your computer. Since Jesus is in your life now, focus on His life which is stamped all over yours. Write down the different ways He is blessing you.

These are some practical ways that you and I can begin to overcome our doubts and build our faith.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, some of us may feel that we do not deserve to be blessed by You. We have been conditioned to believe that blessings must be earned. But Your encounter with Thomas reminds us that none of us are deserving of Your goodness. It is because of Your magnificent grace that we can be in a position to receive Your many blessings. Thank You especially for the gift of everlasting life that is ours forever the moment we believe in You. Please teach us to live a life of faith; A blessed life whereby we diligently seek You because we know that You are a Rewarder of those who do. In Your hope-filled name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s August 28, 1996 sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

2. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 566.

3. Ibid.

4. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

How do I overcome doubt? Part 4

“And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” John 20:28

In John 20:24-29, we are learning how to overcome doubt. So far we have discovered we can overcome doubt when we…

– Restore our fellowship with other Christians (John 20:24).

– Readjust our unrealistic requirements for belief (John 20:25a).

Redirect our wills toward believing (John 20:25b-27).

Today we learn that the fourth way to overcome our doubts is to RENEW OUR CONFESSION OF FAITH (John 20:28). After Jesus gave Thomas undeniable evidence that He was alive and invited him to believe (John 20:26-27), “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” ( John 20:28). A personal encounter with the risen Lord Jesus caused Thomas’ doubts to vanish. He then makes one of the greatest confessions in all of the Bible. “My Lord and my God!”

When you hear the word “confession,” it may have a negative connotation to you. You might have this image of sitting in a booth in a church. It is there that you confess your sins to this guy you cannot see sitting on the other side of a partition. Or you may have an image of a windowless room in a police station somewhere with a bright light on you and you are being asked to confess a crime. I understand how these first two images can be unnerving. But the kind of confession we are talking about in this verse is a positive confession where we say the truth about someone or something. In this instance, we say the truth about God. 1  

The apostle John uses Thomas’ confession to connect us back to the prologue where we read, 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth… 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.(John 1:1, 14, 16-17). At the beginning of his gospel, John wanted us to know that the Word, Jesus Christ, “was God.” He also tells us that Christ’s glory consists of being “full of grace and truth.” Jesus extends “grace for [after] grace” to His doubting disciple. Thomas knew that Jesus was God and also that Jesus was “full of grace” toward him despite his sinful unbelief. And now we see Thomas soaking up the riches of Christ’s grace as he worshiped his risen Lord and God.  

This confession by Thomas is the high point of the gospel of John. Here was a skeptical man, confronted by the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. He announced that Jesus, the Man of Galilee, is God manifest in the flesh. Thus the truths in the first chapter were realized personally in this apostle (1:1, 14, 18). The Resurrection (a) demonstrated that what Jesus predicted about His being raised was true (Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:34; John 2:19), (b) proved that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4) and was sent by God (‘vindicated by the Spirit,’ 1 Tim. 3:16), (c) testified to the success of His mission of salvation (Rom. 4:25), (d) entitled Jesus to a position of glory (1 Peter 1:11), and (e) proclaimed that Jesus is the ‘Lord’ (Acts 2:36).” 2

“John’s other witnesses to Jesus’ deity were John the Baptist (1:34), Nathanael (1:49), Jesus Himself (5:25; 10:36), Peter (6:69), the healed blind man (9:35), Martha (11:27), and John the Apostle (20:30-31).” 3

“The thing that God used to make a believer out of Thomas is the same thing God wants to use to make a believer out of any skeptic – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 4 Atheists have tried to disprove Christ’s resurrection only to be persuaded of its truth. People of other faiths have tried to dismiss this most important event in history only to be converted to Christianity.

There are several things we learn from this confession. The impact of this confession is underscored when we look at each word contained therein. 5  The first word is “my.” This is a personal word. A word of ownership. It is saying that faith does not belong to someone else. It belongs to me. It is mine.

The next word is “Lord” 6  which refers to one who is in a position of authority.  It can mean “Master” and is a common designation for God. 7  When Thomas says, “my Lord,” he is declaring that Jesus is his Lord God. When I say Jesus is “my Lord,” I am saying that He is the One I look to for advice, direction, and guidance. He is my Boss and my Manager.

The third word in this confession is “and.” It is such an easy word to skip over. But in this confession it reminds us that one cannot contain the Person of Jesus Christ in one word. Jesus is “my Lord,” but He is so much more than that, isn’t He? He is not only my Lord, but He is also my Creator (John 1:3), my Master (Luke 6:46), my Friend (John 15:14-15), my Savior (Titus 2:13), my great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15), and my King (I Timothy 6:14-16). He is so many more things. It is amazing that this former skeptic now recognizes the greatness of Jesus Christ.

Then Thomas uses the word “my” again when he says, “my Lord and my…”  That tells us how incredibly personal his confession of faith in Jesus Christ is. It also reminds us how personal our confession of faith in Jesus needs to be. Yes, we gather together and sing together as the family of God. And yes, we need to draw from one another’s faith. But no one else can have faith for you or for me. No one else can trust in Jesus Christ for you or for me. It has to be your decision and my decision. 

The final word in this confession is the most powerful word – “God.” Thomas looked at Jesus and says to Him, “my Lord and my God.” The Man Thomas has been walking with for over three years is so much more than a mere man. Thomas sees the truth about Jesus. Perhaps he sees it better than the other disciples. He says, “Jesus, You are not just a Messiah sent from God.” In some miraculous way that Thomas may not have totally understood, he said, “Jesus, You are God. You are the Creator. You are the One Who made me. You are the One Who is in charge of everything. You are the One Who is worthy of all my love, my devotion, and my worship. My Lord and my God. The Director of my life Whose Being cannot be contained in mere words. You are the One I look to for my very existence and purpose.”

Throughout the Bible, we observe that worship takes place as people encounter Who God is and at that same moment, they see who they are in His holy presence. For example, when the prophet Isaiah saw God on His throne encompassed by angels proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3), Isaiah immediately cries out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5). For Isaiah, that was a moment of overpowering worship!

When Peter had fished all night without catching any fish and Jesus, Who was in the boat later that same day, provided a miraculous boat-sinking, net-breaking catch of fish, Peter’s immediate response was to “fall down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,’ ” (Luke 5:8). Peter got a glimpse of Who Jesus was and spontaneously worshiped his Lord. Later on when Christ calmed the wind and the waves that threatened to sink their boat, His disciples were afraid and marveled. They said to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” (Luke 8:25). They witnessed the mighty power of Jesus which exposed their own weaknesses, and then they worshiped Christ.

Thomas has the same experience when he encounters the risen Lord Jesus, Who materialized behind locked doors (John 20:26). Thomas hears Christ quote what he had said to the other disciples when Jesus was not there with them (John 20:25, 27). Immediately Thomas realizes that Jesus is not only risen, but He is also all-knowing! Thomas also recognizes his own sinful unbelief in doubting the resurrection. He spontaneously cries out, “My Lord and my God!” He was now believing in the risen Lord Jesus and was worshiping Him.

Some skeptics, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim that Thomas was expressing shock like the common American expression, “O my God!” But that would violate the command not to take the name of the Lord our God in vain (Exodus 20:6), and Jesus would have certainly corrected Thomas. And, like Peter when Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him, Jesus would have rebuked Thomas and said, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” (Acts 10:25-26). But instead of correcting Thomas, Jesus commends his confession and worship of Him as an example of the faith that all people are to have who have not seen Christ personally (John 20:29). All of us are to believe in and worship Jesus personally as “my Lord and my God.”

In the gospel of John, God wants us to believe specifically “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31). He wants us to believe that the risen Jesus is “my Lord and my God.” If Jesus is anything less than the eternal Lord and God of the Bible, it would be a terrible sin to worship Him. But if He truly is the eternal Lord and God (and He is), it would be a terrible sin not to worship Him.

What will be your response? Can you say that Jesus is your Lord and your God? If not, what is keeping you from saying that? Your bitterness? Your disappointments? Your family? Your guilt or shame? Your ignorance? Your past? Your pride? Your presuppositions? Your religion? Your unwillingness to move toward believing?

Thomas experienced the fullness of Jesus’ grace when He encountered Jesus behind locked doors. Have you experienced God’s abundant grace in Jesus Christ? He sends His Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin so we may see our need to believe in Jesus (John 16:7-9). He convicts us of our need for God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus instead of our own righteousness (John 16:10; Romans 4:5). He convinces us that we rightly deserve the same judgment that will be given to Satan in the lake of fire (John 16:11; cf. Revelation 20:10, 15).

But then God’s Spirit opens our eyes to the good news that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, including you and me (1 Timothy 1:15). And we realize that God does not save sinners after they have worked hard to clean up their lives and earn it. No, God saves sinners by His grace through faith alone in Jesus alone. A former persecutor of Christianity writes, “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” (I Timothy 1:16). Eternal life is a free gift that we receive by believing in Jesus. No amount of our good works can earn this gift. It has already been paid for through the death and resurrection of Christ (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

But then after believing in Jesus, we still have doubts, just like Thomas did when he doubted the resurrection. What are we to do then? Like Thomas, we are to be honest with the Lord about our doubts. When we do this, we make a personal connection with Jesus so He can answer our doubts.

What doubts are you struggling with right now? Some of us may have doubts about God’s direction in our lives. Perhaps we doubt God’s ability to provide for our needs. If you have doubts, don’t hide them. Talk to the Lord Jesus like Thomas did. When you start to make it personal between you and Him, He can start to answer those doubts. That is the beauty of what Jesus can do.

Thomas teaches us some important principles about confessing our faith in the middle of our doubts. 9

1. Confessions are important. Without them faith can lose its vitality. If I am not telling God what He means in my life then my faith will be less alive. If I am just listening to others talk about God or someone else sing to God, then my faith is going to become dead or useless. But when I confess my faith together with other believers and personally to God, my faith will grow in vitality.

2.  Confessions are personal. Thomas said, “my Lord and my God.” The Bible’s idea of confession is a personal declaration of belief. You cannot live on borrowed faith. It doesn’t matter if it is your parent’s faith or your friend’s faith. It must be personal for you to overcome your doubts.  

3.  Confessions are visible. They are heard by others. We are to confess our faith with our mouths before other people. The Bible tells us, 9That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10). The “salvation” spoken of in these verses includes both salvation from hell and salvation from the power of sin after we become Christians. For this kind of “salvation” or deliverance to take place in our lives, you must first “believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead” to receive God’s “righteousness.” After we are justified and reconciled to God through faith alone in Christ’s death (Romans 3:21-5:9a), we can then be saved from God’s present-wrath (Romans 1:16-32) or the power of sin through faith in Christ’s life (Romans 5:9b – 8:39). 

This second type of salvation requires confessing “with your mouth” and believing “with your heart.” God’s people could not ask for assistance (with the “mouth”) from Christ to obey God’s commands without first believing (with the “heart”) in Christ resulting in God’s righteousness. Verse 10 explains (“For”) this sequence: “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” We come to know Christ by believing in Him from the heart resulting in God’s righteousness (Romans 10:10a; cf. Romans 3:21 – 5:9a). We make Christ known to others by confessing Him with our mouths resulting both in salvation from God’s wrath on present-day sin (Romans 10:10b; cf. Romans 1:16-32; 5:9-10) and victory in our Christian lives (Romans 5:9-8:39; cf. Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8). To believe in the heart resulting in God’s righteousness is justification. To confess with the mouth resulting in salvation is sanctification. 

This sequence is confirmed by Romans 10:14-15a when the verbs in these verses are reversed – “sent …preach…hear…believe… call on Him.” We see that calling on the name of the Lord (confessing Christ) is done after believing in Christ and is therefore something Christians do after their conversion to obtain divine assistance in living the victorious Christian life (Romans 5:9-8:39; cf. Acts 9:21; I Corinthians 1:2). 

These verses tell us the importance of making our confession of faith visible so other people can know about our faith. Obviously there are people who can’t speak but they can make their faith visible in other ways. The key is to be willing to share my faith with other people. This is what makes my faith real. One of the reasons we may have doubts about our own faith is because we are not telling other people about it. But once you start to let other people know about your faith in Jesus, you will find out what Thomas found out. Confessions of faith are vital to having a faith that is alive and growing.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we must admit that there are times when we struggle with doubts. Although we may have fewer doubts now than we used to have, there are still things we are not sure of. Some of us may have doubts about a decision we need to make or uncertainty about Your constant love for us or even doubts about Your forgiveness. Like Thomas did two thousand years ago, we need to admit we are doubters and talk to You about it so You can answer our doubts. Because of Your radical love for us, You can transform out doubt into faith if we will simply be honest with You. Lord, we cannot figure it all out on our own. So we come to You confessing our need for You. Help us to hear from You now, knowing that You want to be personally involved in the doubts we are facing. You have a personal answer for each of us. Please fill us with Your loving answers to our doubts. Grant us the courage to make our faith known to others so that our faith is alive and growing. In Your mighty name we pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s August 28, 1996 sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 700.  

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Kindle Edition, pg. 383.

4. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1193.

5. Adapted from Holladay’s sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

6. In the Greek it is Kurios.

7.  Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 577-578.

8. Adapted from Steven J. Cole’s sermon on September 6, 2015 entitled, “Lesson 103: The Aim of the Gospel (John 20:24-31)” at www.bible.org .

9. Adapted from Holladay’s sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

How do I overcome doubt? Part 3

“The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I WILL NOT BELIEVE.’ ” John 20:25 (Emphasis added)

In John 20:24-29, we are learning how to overcome doubt. So far we have discovered we can overcome doubt when we…

– Restore our fellowship with other Christians (John 20:24).

– Readjust our unrealistic requirements for belief (John 20:25a).

Let’s remember that Thomas was already a believer in Jesus for everlasting life (cf. John 2:11; 11:15 13:10; 14:5) when he struggled with doubts about Jesus’ resurrection. Likewise, as believers in Jesus, we will all have doubts in our lives. There are many different kinds of doubts that we will face. 1

One kind of a doubt is what is called the sudden kind of doubt. You are driving down the highway and all of a sudden this thought jumps into your mind that says, “None of these things about Jesus are real.” Or, “No one is really going to heaven. What if this is all a lie?”  Have you ever had those kind of thoughts? Where do those thoughts come from?  They come from Satan, the evil one. These kind of thoughts will just pop into your mind. You can just throw them out like trash as quickly as possible. Don’t be concerned about these. 

But another kind of doubt is called circumstantial doubts. These doubts come into our lives because of certain circumstances that we face. Doubts that come because of certain relationships or disappointments. These are longer lasting doubts. They come into our lives when circumstances do not turn out like we expected God was going to do.

When these circumstantial doubts take place, we have to decide how we are going to deal with them. How are we going to trust God in this? The way to do this is the same way Thomas needed to do it.

Thomas was not among the disciples the first time Jesus appeared to the ten disciples the day He rose from the dead (John 20:19-23). After Jesus’ appearance to them, the disciples came to Thomas, saying, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas then said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25). The disciples are encouraging Thomas to have faith that Jesus is alive. But Thomas says, “I will not believe.”

Thomas is telling us, “I am choosing not to believe.” He is making a choice not to believe Jesus is alive. It is a matter of his will. Those who deny that faith is a choice are ignoring the truth of the Scriptures. God makes it very clear that faith is a matter of the will.

Jesus amplifies this when He comes to His disciples eight days after His resurrection. 26 Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ 27 Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ ” (John 20:26-27). Although the doors were locked, Jesus materialized in front of the disciples and said, “Peace to you.” Then Christ turned directly to Thomas, as if He had come for his sole benefit. Knowing full well the struggles going on in Thomas’ heart, Jesus invites him to explore with his hands (“Reach your finger here”) and his eyes (“look at My hands”) the reality of His resurrection body.

When Jesus said, “reach your hand here, and put it into My side,” he was referring to a literal hole in His side that was left by the spear. It had healed over but it left an obvious impression. Jesus did not condemn Thomas for his unbelief. He didn’t say, “You should not ask questions like that Thomas!” Christ gave Thomas undeniable evidence that He rose from the dead to answer his objection and then invites him to believe.

Christ began with Thomas’ objection and then gave him evidence. Peter taught the same thing in principle when he wrote, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (I Peter 3:15).

When sharing the gospel with an intellectual skeptic, they may say to you, “Where did Cain get his wife?” The answer is he married his sister. But we can go beyond that and show the reasonableness of that answer. Granted, there are some problems with that answer. The first problem is we know that Adam had sons – Cain, Abe, and Seth (Genesis 4:1-2, 25), but we cannot name any of his daughters. Now if Adam did not have any daughters, how could Cain marry his sister? The answer to that difficulty is that Adam did have daughters. Genesis 5:4 says, “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.”

But this brings up a second problem. Today we cannot marry a sister because if a brother marries his sister the mathematical possibilities of the weakness of their genes coming up in their children is great. That is why this is called incest and is forbidden today.

The only way to solve that problem is to have genetically perfect parents. That is exactly the case with Cain and his sister. Adam and Eve were created directly by God so Cain and his sister had perfect heredity. Their children would have had few harmful mutations. When sin entered the world at the fall (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12), it brought with it mutations in the DNA resulting in disease, death, and destruction. The gene pool would gradually become corrupt. At first no harm would result from marrying a brother or sister, but as generations passed harmful genetic mutations along, those harmful mutations and defective genes would increase and accumulate. Eventually, it became too dangerous to marry a close relative because of the increased likelihood of inherited disease. This is why God forbid marrying a close relative in the time of Moses, about 2,500 years after the creation of Adam and Eve (Leviticus 18:6-8).

But there was no prohibition against marrying a close relative in the beginning because there was no need for it. So the point is that there is a reasonable answer to the question, “Where did Cain get his wife?”

Some of us may conclude that we could never witness because we will not be able to come up with all those intellectual answers. But often times, non-Christians do not ask the questions Christians ask. Those of us who are believers in Jesus hear the Bible discussed and explained and we expect non-Christians to ask the same questions we do. But more and more non-Christians in the world are biblical illiterates. They usually don’t ask the questions we do.

Most non-Christians ask very basic questions: What about those who have never heard? Is Christ the only way to God? How can you be sure Jesus is God? Why do the innocent suffer? How can miracles be possible? Isn’t the Bible full of errors? Isn’t the Christian experience psychological? Won’t a good moral life get me to heaven?

Rather than worry about non-Christians asking difficult questions, simply share the gospel with those who will listen. If you do not know the answer to their questions, be honest and tell them you do not know. I find it helps to say to them, “Thanks so much for a great question. I do not have an answer to that right now, but I will do some research and get back to you with an answer.” The internet has many helpful Christian websites that can help you answer tough questions. 2 Ask your pastor for some help if you don’t find any on the internet.

When an intellectual objection is given to you by someone, start out by giving a reasonable answer to the stated objection. Some people do have honest intellectual questions. They want answers. They will usually accept reasonable answers, or at least the reasonableness of an answer.

But when a person objects to Christianity and does not accept the reasonableness of an answer, his or her problem is moral, not intellectual. These people tend to argue rather than listen to the reasonableness of your answers. So pursue the moral issue.

Perhaps they are struggling with guilt. For example, an evangelist was having a rap session with high school teenagers. One girl who sat in the back had been quiet. Near the end of the session, she said, “The Bible says God loves everyone. Then it says God sends people to hell. How can a loving God do that?” The evangelist gave reasonable answers but she kept coming back with arguments. He didn’t convince her nor did she convince him. Soon the session was dismissed.

Afterward, the evangelist approached the girl and said, “I owe you an apology. I really should not have allowed our discussion to become so argumentative.” Then he said, “May I share something with you?” “Yes,” she said. So he began to present the gospel to her. When he got to Romans 3:23, he said, “We are all sinners.” Then she began to cry. She then admitted to having an affair with a married man. The one thing she needed was forgiveness. After the gospel presentation, she trusted Christ alone for the forgiveness of all her sin and received the gift of eternal life. The reason she had not believed in hell was because she was going there. Rather than face her guilt, she denied there was any future hell.

Others we may witness to may struggle with bitterness. Many non-Christians have been turned off by Christians or Christianity. They have had Christianity crammed down their throats or they have been stabbed in the back by a Christian. Their response was bitterness. They have been wounded and they are hurting. They need to hear and see the grace of Jesus Christ.

Another moral issue that can hinder a non-Christian from hearing reasonable answers to their questions is a sinful self-will. After hearing the gospel presentation, one student said, “I can’t answer your presentation, but it is reasonable. It is just that I refuse to accept it.”

This is what kept many religious leaders from believing in Jesus when Christ walked the earth. Christ said to those who refused to believe in Him as the Christ, the Son of God, 39You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40). These religious leaders devoted their lives to studying the Scriptures “which testify of” Jesus, but they never found Him. Why? Because they were “not willing to come to” Him that they “may have life.” They were unwilling to believe in Jesus even though the Bible testifies of Him from cover to cover.

When witnessing to intellectuals, we must avoid two extremes:

1) Anti-intellectualism which says, “Don’t bother me with intellectual questions. Just let me present the simple gospel.” The result is the thinking non-Christian will conclude that his honest questions have no answers and he won’t listen to the gospel.

2) Intellectualism that says answers will win the person to Christ. So we rely on intellectual answers and not on God. Keep in mind that it was not the disciples who convinced Thomas (John 20:25a), it was Jesus Himself who convinced this skeptic. Giving people the gospel will often do what all the intellectual arguments fail to do – break down the barriers. There is only one way to God – the gospel or good news of Jesus and His death and resurrection. But there are many ways to the gospel. The road may be straight, or it may contain curves. You have to travel the road the person is on when you find him or her. No matter where you find him or how many roads he takes, or how many rest stops he insists on, guide him gently toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rely on the Holy Spirit instead of reasonable answers to persuade the person to believe in Christ alone as his or her only hope of heaven.

After Jesus gave Thomas the evidence to answer to his objection, Christ commands him, Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 3  It is a matter of the will. It is a choice to stop doubting and to believe.

When Thomas said, “I will not believe” (John 20:25b), in the Greek language he used a double negative. 4  Literally, he is saying, “I will no not believe.” We might translate it, “I will positively not believe.” At least Thomas is being honest. He is making it clear that the reason he will not believe Jesus is alive is because he has made the choice not to believe it. He is choosing not to believe.

Some people think that having faith is a matter of the intellect or logic. Others view faith as being based on emotions. So which is it? Logic or feelings? Neither is true. Faith is volitional. It is not based upon the intellect or feelings. It is based upon the will.

There are people who are waiting for their mind to inform them or their emotions to lead them into the kind of faith in God that they see other people having. It is not going to happen. Yes, information or emotions can influence our decisions. But simply having enough information in our minds or enough emotions in our hearts is not going to automatically give us faith in God. Faith is a matter of the will.

When I choose to believe, then my emotions will follow and my mind will start to understand more and more of Who God truly is. It is a matter of the will.

When Jesus told Thomas, Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27b), He was telling him to choose to stop moving in the direction of unbelief and to decide to start moving in the direction of belief. So the third way to overcome doubts is to REDIRECT OUR WILLS TOWARD BELIEVING (John 20:25b-27). We are either moving in the direction of belief or we are moving in the direction of unbelief. We either decide to accept God’s Word is true or we decide to reject His Word is true. We either decide that God is a Promise-Keeper or God is a Promise-Breaker. We decide that God is either a Truth-Teller or a Liar.

Please understand that Thomas still had eternal life even though he had doubts. When you believe in Jesus for eternal life, you can never lose eternal life. That is why Jesus says you “shall never perish” after you believe in Him (John 10:28a). The word “never” means forever. If you could “perish” in hell after believing in Jesus, then Christ told a lie in John 10:28a. But Christ will not break His promise of eternal life to those who believe in Him because He is “full of truth” (John 1:14) and is “the truth” (John 14:6). He always keeps His promises.

But you may ask, “If I doubt my salvation, does that mean I am not saved?” It is possible. Those who doubt their salvation fall into one of three categories: 5

– You may be a doubter at heart. In other words, some people doubt everything. They doubt whether their mates love them or whether their children respect them. They doubt they will reach the age of retirement, or that their plane will reach its destination. Such people have issues they must deal with that are far different than eternal salvation.

– You may not understand the gospel and are not saved. Perhaps you are trusting in Christ plus your works or just your works alone, instead of trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross (John 3:15-16; 19:30). Therefore, you don’t have any certainty of going to heaven. Or you may have been taught that if you cannot remember the date you became a Christian, then you are not saved. So you wonder, “Could that mean I’m not saved?” Let me ask you, did Jesus say, “Whoever believes in Him and knows the date they were saved has everlasting life?” No. The real question is, “Whom am I trusting right now to give me eternal life?” Our salvation is established by Whom we place our trust in, not when we trusted Him.

– You have trusted Christ and are saved, but you have confused entering the Christian life (John 3:16; 5:24) with living it (I John 1:4-10; 2:3-6; 3:6-15; 4:20:21). When a believer takes his or her focus off of Christ and His promise of eternal life, he or she may begin to doubt their salvation. When you listen to teaching that confuses entering the Christian life with living it, you are going to have doubts that you are saved.

For example, a few years ago I listened to a famous preacher on the radio in America say that the book of I John was written to provide tests to see if you are saved. He said to ask yourself, “do I have fellowship with the Father?… am I abiding in Him?… do I keep God’s commandments?… do I love other Christians?…  am I overcoming sin?” If you couldn’t answer “yes” to all these questions, then he said you cannot be certain you are saved.

But this preacher failed to observe the purpose of I John is not to tell you how to become a Christian or how to know you are a Christian. First John was written to tell us how to have fellowship (closeness) with Christ or how to know you have fellowship with Christ. The author of I John, the same author of the gospel of John, writes, 3 That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”  (I John 1:3-4).

The gospel of John tells you how to receive the gift of eternal life, mentioning the word “believe” ninety-nine times. 6  The book of I John tells us how to get close to the One you have believed in, using the word for “abide” (menō) twenty-three times. 7

Therefore, closeness to Christ is discussed in I John, not salvation. People who don’t act like a Christian or a disciple may not be a believer. But to use characteristics of a disciple to determine if you are a Christian is not helpful. Some people might live a good moral life without being a Christian. It could be that those people are trusting in their works instead of Christ’s finished work on the cross to get them to heaven.

Losing your assurance of salvation is not the same as losing your salvation. As we have seen in the gospel of John, when you believe in Christ for eternal life, you are eternally secure at the moment of faith because of Christ’s performance and promise (John 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 10:28-29; 11:25-27; 19:30), not your performance or feelings.

However, being certain of your salvation can waver if you start looking to someone or something else other that Christ and His promise of eternal life. If you doubt your salvation, ask yourself: 8

Do I understand the simplicity of the Gospel? Since Christ paid the full penalty for my sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6), God can now forgive me based on what He has done for me, not what I do for Him (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14).

– Have I trusted Christ alone for my salvation? We appropriate Christ’s death on the cross by coming to Him as sinners, recognizing that He made the full payment for sin on our behalf, and “believing.” Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). The word “believe” means to place our trust in Christ alone as our only basis for living eternally with God. If you are trusting Christ alone to get to heaven, you are forever God’s child regardless of when or where that occurred.

Am I taking God at His Word? Once you trust in Christ, you must trust His Word. That means accepting God’s promise that, having trusted Christ, we are forever His. Jesus assures us: “And I give them  eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28).

If I were to ask you whose child you are, you would say, “I am the child of …” You have proof that would stand up in a court of law – a birth certificate. A piece of paper assures you that you are their child. God has given us a piece of paper – the inspired Word of  God, the Bible. It assures us that once we have believed in Christ, we have everlasting life. We are His forever. If you could lose your salvation, then Jesus just lied to us in John 3:16 when He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Our salvation is based upon a promise that cannot be broken. It comes from a God who cannot lie.

In closing, Jesus looked at Thomas and said, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27b). This meant it was a matter of Thomas’ will. This was something he could choose. And Thomas did. His decision teaches us our next way to overcome doubt. But that is for our next time together.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me that it is my decision to move toward doubting or believing. I cannot blame my doubts on my circumstances, my past, my parents, my personality, or my peers. I am responsible for whether or not I choose to doubt or believe. Simply having more information in my mind or more emotion in my heart is not going to automatically give me faith in You. It is a matter of my will. This day I am deciding to move in the direction of believing, not doubting. Whether I feel like believing or not, I will choose to move toward believing. Whether I have more or less information, I will decide to move toward believing. When I doubt my salvation, I will refocus upon You and Your unchanging promises. Please help those who doubt Your resurrection to realize it is their choice to do this. Just as You gave Thomas evidence to answer his objection, please give others what they need to come to faith in You. They can choose to believe or not believe. The choice is theirs. But that choice has eternal consequences. In Your name I pray, my Lord and my God. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s August 28, 1996 sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

2. See www.answersingenesis.org ; www.josh.org ; www.probe.org ; www.carm.org ; www.christiananswers.net .

3. The verb (ginou) in the phrase, “do not be unbelieving” (mē ginou apistos) is a present imperative.

4. Ou mē pisteusō.

5. Adapted from R. Larry Moyer, 21 Things God Never Said: Correcting Our Misconceptions About Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004) pp. 79-81.

6. In the Greek Majority Text John uses the word for “believe” (pisteuō) ninety-nine times: John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36; 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47,  64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 40, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

7. In the Greek Majority Text, John uses the word for “abide” (menō) twenty-three times: I John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 24(3), 27(2), 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24(2); 4:12, 13, 15, 16 (3).

8. Moyer, 21 Things God Never Said, pp. 81-83.

How do I overcome doubt? Part 2

“The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ ” John 20:25

We are learning from John 20:24-29 how to overcome doubt. Last time we discovered we can overcome doubt when we restore our fellowship with other Christians (John 20:24). In our previous series of lessons, Jesus appeared to His ten fearful disciples the day of His resurrection (John 20:19-23). But one of His disciples, Thomas, was not there at that time to see Jesus after His resurrection. Eight days after Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to those ten disciples, Thomas is now with those disciples.

“The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ ” (John 20:25). The disciples who witnessed Jesus’ appearance on resurrection day reported to Thomas, “We have see the Lord.” The word “seen” (heōrakamen) is in the perfect tense. They saw Jesus in the past and remain convinced of His resurrection at this time. The word “said” (elegon) is in the imperfect tense which implies that they kept on telling Thomas this report. Those who saw Jesus alive were overflowing with excitement and could not keep quiet! They were bubbling over with enthusiasm and they just had to keep sharing it with Thomas.

But this did not meet Thomas’ need. It is like telling someone to “just have faith” when what they really need is to be shown how to have faith in Jesus’ resurrection. Thomas had no doubt that Jesus died on the cross, which is another proof that Jesus really did die. However, he refused to believe the other disciples’ report—that Jesus was alive— without personal physical evidence. He insisted on touching Jesus’ wounds, specifically His crucifixion wounds “in His hands” and in “His side,” not just seeing Him. No one else in the New Testament made demands like these before believing. 2 This is where Thomas got the nickname, “doubting Thomas.”

Thomas teaches us a very important lesson to learn as a believer in Jesus Christ: It is okay to have honest doubts. Don’t pretend they are not there. Don’t try to hide them from those who love you and care about you. Honest doubts can grow into great faith if we are open to God’s truth. 3

We learn from Thomas that the second way to overcome doubt is to READJUST OUR UNREALISTIC REQUIREMENTS FOR BELIEF (John 20:25a). Thomas had his own standard of requirements for belief. He says, “Unless….  I will not believe.” Unless I can see and touch the nail scars in His hands and place my hand in His side where the spear went in, I will not believe.”

We do a similar thing, don’t we? We say to ourselves, “Unless I can get everything just right, I won’t take this step of faith in my life. Unless every Christian that I meet is a perfect person, I won’t believe. Unless God runs the world in the way I think it should be run, I won’t believe.”  We demand that certain unrealistic conditions be met before we believe.

Thomas is like many modern-day skeptics. He was a natural pessimist. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry when Christ was going back to Judea where people were plotting to kill Him, Thomas says to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16). The cross was the only thing Thomas believed would happen to Jesus. Christ’s resurrection was not on his radar. This pessimistic spirit is seen in Thomas’ response to the disciples’ report that Jesus was now alive.

This cynical spirit is also seen among many Americans. We are trained to be skeptical by ads or commercials online or on TV. If we believed everything that was said in every one of those ads or commercials, we would either be dead or in the poor house. We would have consumed this drink or that food, or invested in this weight loss program or skin treatment or that medicine. We are trained to be skeptical because these ads and commercials are just trying to sell us something.

We are also trained to be skeptical in our educational system which teaches the scientific method. The scientific method is great for comprehending certain things that happen in biology or chemistry, but it is terrible for understanding how things happen in matters pertaining to faith. So sometimes when it comes to matters of faith, we say, “Let’s just apply the scientific method – if I cannot see it, if I cannot touch it, if I cannot repeat it in a laboratory and prove it, then it cannot be real.” And we find ourselves lacking faith.

But we need to recognize that there are some things that we cannot see or touch that are very real such as love, God, grace, and heaven. These are all very real things. But we are trained to doubt such things because of the unrealistic requirements we impose on them.

Thomas lived with doubts because he imposed unrealistic requirements on faith. He said, “Unless I see it and touch it, I will not believe.” Do you know someone like that? Have you ever been like that? You must see it or touch it before you can believe? 4

The Bible tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).  In its essence faith is being sure … and certain… about unseen hopes and realities.” 5  The unseen realities of God are not dependent in any way upon faith to give them substance or to offer proof for them. They are there whether we believe them or not. Faith simply apprehends the unseen realities of God and is sure of them. 6  Faith brings unseen future realities into one’s present experience.

One definition of faith is informed trust. The Bible informs us that Jesus Christ came to this earth over two thousand years ago (Matthew 1:18-2:11; Luke 2:1-7). In fact, history informs us of this every time we write down today’s date. It is AD 2021. To what does “AD” refer? It is Latin for “Anno Domini” or “Year of the Lord.”

The Bible also informs us that out of love for us, Jesus Christ laid down His life for us on the cross and rose from the dead (John 3:16a; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6). And we are informed by the Bible that Jesus Christ invites us to believe in Him alone for His wonderful gift of everlasting life (John 3:16). The Bible also tells us that Jesus is preparing a wonderful place for us in heaven (John 14:2-3). But having this information is not enough.

You may know some people who have an uninformed trust in the wrong things. They trust without information. And they can easily trust in anything that comes along.

You may know other people who have lots of information. They have learned many things because they study and read all the time. But all that information does not translate into faith. They are very informed and intelligent, but they do not trust anyone.

There must be trust. The information or the truth that God has given us must be joined with trust for the unseen realities of God to become reality to us. The way we begin a personal relationship with the God of the universe is by an act of faith or trust. When we come to the living God as a guilty sinner who deserves to go to hell (Mark 9:43-48; Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15), and receive from God the gift of eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ for it (John 3:16; 11:25-26), we are engaged in a tremendous act of faith! Why?

Because we have never seen God. We have never seen these places called heaven or hell. We have never seen Jesus Christ in person. We have never seen this thing called eternal life. And yet, when we believe God’s Word, those things which we cannot see become realities to us. They take on substance for us. And by faith, we gain the assurance  and conviction about things our eyes cannot see. By faith, we lay hold of the realities that are invisible to our eyes.

Recently, my wife and I watched the “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” movie. Near the end of the movie, Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, had to pass a series of tests to get to the Holy Grail. He knows from his father’s diary, that one of them will be a “leap from the lion’s mouth.” With his father, played by Sean Connery, close to death after being shot, and the Holy Grail, which is believed to have healing powers and the only hope to save his father, Indy rushes through a doorway below a carved lion’s head. Suddenly, he finds himself facing what seems at first to be an impassible bottomless ravine to get to the Holy Grail. On the opposite side of this ravine is a doorway, but in between there seems to be nothing but air.

While Indy says to himself, “It’s a leap of faith,” his father keeps saying, “You must believe, Boy. You must believe.” What can Indiana do? With no other options, and time running out, he does the only thing he can do – he steps out into that chasm by faith. And his foot lands on solid ground. The camera pans down and reveals a bridge across this ravine – perfectly comouflaged to look like the opposite wall of the ravine.

When Indiana stepped out in faith, he discovered the unseen reality of that bridge across the bottomless ravine. What was once unseen, became reality when he exercised faith.

Faith is informed trust. Thomas had to learn this to remove his doubts. He had to readjust his unrealistic requirements for belief. And we may need to do the same to remove our doubts.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I must admit that I have had unrealistic requirements for my faith. Before I became a believer in Jesus, I was expecting Christians to be perfect before I would believe. I focused on their imperfections to avoid my own. Even after becoming a Christian, I have demanded that circumstances by just right before I step out in faith. I have struggled with doubts because You have felt distant to me during painful times in my life. Thank You for helping me to understand that Your presence is not a feeling. It is a reality that faith apprehends and is sure of. Please help me, my Lord and my God, to readjust my requirements for faith so the unseen realities You have revealed in Your Word can become reality to me. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 368.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 381 cites Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: Revised Edition (New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pg. 752.

3. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s August 28, 1996 sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

4. These last several paragraphs are adapted from Holladay’s sermon.  

5. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

6. Adapted from Professor Zane C. Hodges’ Class Notes, Greek 225, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Spring Semester, pg. 207.

How do I overcome doubt? Part 1

“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.” John 20:24

When we are in the midst of doubts, one of the hardest things to hear is, “Just have faith.” For example, when you are having doubts about your finances and someone comes up to you and says, “Just have faith,” does it help you to have faith? No, it discourages you. Or if you are facing difficulties in your marriage or you are having health problems, and you stay up late at night worrying about them. You have never had to face these problems before in your life. And a friend comes up to you the next day and pats you on the back and says, “Just have faith.” That is like going up to someone who just broke their arm and they are laying on the street, and you bend down and say to them, “Just don’t hurt.” It does not help that person. That is not what they need.

When I am struggling with doubts I do not need someone to come up to me and say, “Just have faith.” I need someone who can come alongside me and show me how to have faith. Here is how to have faith when you are struggling with your finances or in your marriage. Here is how to have faith when you are facing a serious health problem. Here is how to have faith when God seems so distant. Here is how to have faith when you feel like giving up. 1

One of Jesus’ close disciples named, Thomas, struggled with doubt. He struggled with having faith. In our last series of lessons, when Jesus appeared to His ten fearful disciples in the evening of His resurrection day (John 20:19-23), Thomas was not there with them. We do not know for sure why Thomas was absent. Perhaps he was discouraged so he sought isolation instead of fellowship with the other disciples. Hence, He missed Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to the other disciples. From these verses in John 20:24-29, we are going to learn how to overcome doubt.

The first way to overcome our doubts, is to RESTORE OUR FELLOWSHIP WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS (John 20:24). Eight days after Jesus had appeared to His ten fearful disciples behind locked doors (John 20:19-23), He comes to them a second time with Thomas present with them this time (John 20:24-29). John tells us, “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20:24) the first time. This is very significant.

If Thomas had been with the other disciples that first time Jesus appeared to them, he would not have struggled with doubts about Jesus’ resurrection that past week. If he had been around the other disciples when Jesus appeared the first time, he would not be burdened with lingering doubts. He would have the faith he needed.

Keep in mind that Thomas was already a believer in Jesus for everlasting life (cf. John 2:11; 11:15 13:10; 14:5). Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, Thomas was willing to go into hostile territory and die with Jesus (John 11:7-8, 16). But a week after Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas still did not believe Jesus had come back to life as He promised. So it is clear from the Bible that you can be a spiritually strong believer one moment, and be a spiritually weak believer the next. 2

John informs us that Thomas was “called the Twin” (didumos). Figuratively speaking, Thomas has a lot of twins – believers who doubt. When we remove ourselves from fellowship with other Christians like Thomas did, it can strengthen our doubts and weaken our faith. But if I am going to overcome my doubts, especially during difficult times, I need to be with other believers in Jesus.

The Bible tells us, “24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). God wants us to know that it is vital for Christians to encourage one another and motivate each other toward love and good works. The word “consider” means to carefully focus on another person in such a way as to “stir up” or stimulate one another to love God and each other so they can live a godly life (“good works”). Worshiping together is a key part of this calling. But Sunday gatherings are not the only time this is to take place. We should be encouraging one another and building each other up in the Lord throughout the week.

Why does God say this? Because we need each other. It is not just what you hear and learn at church, it is the relationships that you develop in those gatherings. Hebrews 10:24-25 is telling us that as we see the Day of Christ’s return drawing near, we are to meet with one another all the more to encourage one another to love others and do good works.

Satan wants Christians to withdraw from other believers so he can attack them and destroy them much like a lion that preys upon animals that are isolated from the herd and more vulnerable to attack (cf. I Peter 5:8). But God wants us not to forsake “assembling ourselves together, as is the manner of some,” so we can focus on “exhorting one another” in such a way as to encourage and strengthen each other to persevere in the Christian faith.

What is one of the first things we do when we start to struggle with doubts? We withdraw from other Christians, don’t we? Perhaps we do this because we have been wounded by believers who tell us, “Just have faith,” when we are struggling with doubts. Or perhaps our pride gets in the way and we don’t want other Christians to see us struggle. Or if we do gather with them, we hide our doubts because we don’t want them to see us in a vulnerable position and think less of us.

But the first thing we need when we start to experience doubt is to draw near to other believers who love and support us. A smile or a kind word from our Christian friends can turn our doubts into faith. Listening to their struggles with doubts can also validate our own struggles and remind us that we are not alone. Such interactions with one another can dispel our doubts and strengthen our faith.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for the body of Christ which offers us encouragement and hope in the midst of our doubts. Thank You for reminding us of the importance of gathering with other believers in Jesus to motivate us to love and good works. Help us to move toward other Christians when we are struggling so we can share our doubts with them and receive their encouragement. You never intended for us to live the Christian life in isolation. You created us for relationships with You and one another.  Please give us the courage to pursue healthy relationships so our doubts will be transformed into faith. Guide us to other believers who are also struggling with doubts so we can encourage one another. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s August 28, 1996 sermon entitled, “How to Have Faith.”

2.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1829.

How can I overcome my fears? Part 5

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:23

Since coming to faith in Jesus in 1979, the Lord has enabled me to share the gospel of Christ with many people. For the past ten years, God has also given me the opportunity to train believers in evangelism and discipleship. I have found that it is very normal to experience fear when sharing the gospel with non-Christians. The goal is not to not have fear in evangelism, but to overcome that fear with God’s boldness.

The Lord has taught me that one of the reasons Christians experience fear in evangelism is that they do not know what to say to an unsaved person. So the obvious solution is to teach fearful believers what to say to a non-believer. This leads us to our next verse about overcoming our fears.

We are learning how to overcome our fears by looking at how Jesus enabled His disciples to overcome their fears when He encountered them the evening of His resurrection day hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.From this encounter we have learned to overcome our fears when we …

– Rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19).

– Redirect our focus to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to convince our doubting hearts (John 20:20).

– Renew our sense of purpose (John 20:21).

– Relate to the Person of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

After breathing the Holy Spirit upon His ten disciples to prepare them physically and visually for the coming of the Holy Spirit fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (John 20:22; cf. Acts 2:1-21; 11:15-16), Jesus then says to them, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:23).

What does this verse mean? Is Jesus giving His disciples the ability to forgive and retain sins? Does this verse provide the biblical basis for Roman Catholic priests to forgive the sins of their parishioners?

To properly understand this verse, it is important to know that the Bible teaches that God is the only One who has the power and authority to forgive sins committed against Him. The Lord God said, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25). Mark 2:7 points out that only God can forgive sins. “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus demonstrated that He was God when He demonstrated the divine authority to both forgive the paralytic’s sins (an invisible healing) and enable him to walk (a visible healing). Jesus said to the scribes who thought He committed blasphemy by claiming to forgive sins, “ ’But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’ ” (Mark 2:10-12).

When we look at the Greek grammar of John 20:23, we learn that the first verbs in the two clauses (“forgive” and “retain”)are an aorist (aphēte) and present tense (kratēte), whereas the second verbs in each clause (“are forgiven” and “are retained”) are perfect tense verbs in the passive voice (apheōntai,  kekratēntai). “The perfect tense portrays past action and affirms an existing result.” This implies that the abiding state of the second verbs in each clause began before the action of the first verbs.

The passive voice indicates that someone has already done the forgiving or retaining. That Person must be God, since He alone has the authority to do that (Matt. 9:2-3; Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21). This means that God’s action of forgiveness (“they are forgiven them”) took place prior to the announcement of forgiveness by Jesus’ disciples (“If you forgive the sins of any”). It also means that God’s action of withholding forgiveness (“they are retained”) also took place prior to the announcement of the withholding of forgiveness by Christ’s disciples (“If you retain the sins of any”). “The grammar used by Jesus did not provide the disciples with the personal authority to forgive sin.” 3

Robertson states, What he commits to the disciples and to us is the power and privilege of giving assurance of the forgiveness of sins by God by correctly announcing the terms of forgiveness. There is no proof that he actually transferred to the apostles or their successors the power in and of themselves to forgive sins.” 4

God does not forgive peoples’ sins because we decide to do so nor does He withhold forgiveness because we will not grant it. We simply announce the previous forgiveness of God. We don’t create it. God has given Christians the privilege of proclaiming His terms on how a person can receive forgiveness of sins. 

The basis for forgiveness is not that God likes us or even that He loves us. It is that Christ laid down His life to pay the penalty for all our sins. “The Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13b-14). Forgiveness is based upon the cross of Christ, not our performance or good works.

Some people think forgiveness is like a man saying to the child down the block who threw a baseball through his window. “It is okay kid. I like you. Forget it.” No, God is love, but He is also righteous and just. Biblical forgiveness is like a child throwing a baseball through a window and the owner’s son paying for the broken glass. Then the man says, “It is okay. My son paid for it.”

What God wants Christians to proclaim to people is that they can obtain His complete forgiveness freely by believing in Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter told a Gentile named Cornelius, “All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (Acts 10:43 NIV).

What this means is when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the unsaved, which includes His death and resurrection (I Corinthians 15:3-6), we can say to them, “If you believe or trust in Christ alone, I can say on the authority of the New Testament, that you are forgiven.” Or we can say, “You are entitled to your opinion, but I must warn you that according to the New Testament, unless you believe or trust in Christ alone, your sin remains unforgiven.” The Holy Spirit enables us to  authoritatively declare that God has indeed forgiven the sins of any who believe in Jesus Christ. 5

Jesus did something similar when He said to the Pharisees who overheard Christ’s conversation with the former blind man, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:41). Christ is saying to these self-righteous religious leaders, “If you recognized your spiritual blindness and acknowledged your sin and guilt, you would have believed in Me for forgiveness. And I would have forgiven you so ‘you would have no sin.’ But because you claim to have spiritual sight and deny your own sin, and refuse to come to Me for forgiveness, ‘your sin remains.’ ”

Now Jesus’ disciples (including you and me) would continue His ministry relative to the forgiveness of sins. When we share the gospel, care must be taken to make sure they understand that only God forgives. But the messenger does state it. What a high privilege we have in announcing the forgiveness of sins to those who believe in Jesus Christ alone.

This leads to our final principle for overcoming our fears. REVIEW CHRIST’S MESSAGE OF FORGIVENESS AS YOU PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL TO THE LOST (John 20:23). If you are afraid to share the gospel with the unsaved because you are not sure what to say, review the message of the gospel with another Christian before going out to share with non-believers. You can role play with that believer. Have the other person assume the role of the non-Christians while you assume the role of the Christian and share the gospel with him or her. And remember, the gospel by which we are saved is that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). Then invite the non-Christian to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of all his or her sins (Acts 10:43).

When we share the good news of God’s forgiveness with non-believers, we not only bless those who hear the message, but we are also blessed to be reminded of the unlimited forgiveness we have in Christ. One of the greatest blessings we can receive is the joy of knowing that all our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ! Every time we share the gospel with a lost person, we are blessed to review this incredible truth. Any doubts or fears we may have about being totally forgiven are quickly dispelled as we proclaim God’s free and unlimited forgiveness through Jesus Christ to a lost world.

But it is also true that one of the greatest fears a person can have is knowing your sins are not forgiven before you face a holy God. This is one of the main reasons why people are afraid of dying. They are not prepared to face their Maker without the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

As we saw earlier, the Lord God said, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25; cf. Hebrews 10:16-18). God chooses to remember our sins no more when He forgives us.

If you are a Christian and you know God has forgiven you, but you are struggling to forgive yourself, listen to what Larry Moyer says about such a dilemma. “This is a beautiful way to explain God’s forgiveness: if what we have done is no longer on His mind, it doesn’t have to be on ours either.” 6

The more we focus on Christ’s forgiveness of all our sins, the less fear we will have about our future and the more joy we will have today.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for entrusting us with Your gospel message. Even though we are often afraid before sharing this life-giving message with the unsaved, we are also excited to watch what You will do in the listeners’ hearts. What a high privilege You have given us in announcing the forgiveness of sins to those who believe in You, and Your death and resurrection. Please provide other Christians we can practice sharing the gospel with to overcome our fears of not knowing what to say to a non-Christian. We are realizing that the more we share the gospel with the unsaved, the more we are reminded of the complete forgiveness we received the moment we believed in Jesus. Please let Your forgiveness ring throughout our communities and world. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 367 cites H.E. Dana and Julius Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1927), pp. 200-201.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John (2017 Edition), pg. 380.

3. Laney, pg. 367 cites Julius R. Mantey, “Evidence That the Perfect Tense in John 20:23 and Matthew 16:19 Is Mistranslated,” JETS 16 (1973): 129-138.

4. Archibald Thomas, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strongs Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (The Ephesians Four Group: 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 77918-77920.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1829.

6. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How to Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pg. 288.

How can I overcome my fears? Part 4

“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” John 20:22

We are learning from Jesus’ appearance to His ten disciples the evening of His resurrection day how to overcome our fears. We have discovered we must…

– Rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19).

– Redirect our focus to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to convince our doubting hearts (John 20:20).

– Renew our sense of purpose (John 20:21).

The ten disciples of Jesus had been calmed, convinced, and commissioned, but they were still paralyzed by fear. They were still  sitting in the locked room for fear of the Jews. They lacked power to overcome their fear, so Jesus prepares them physically and visibly for what would come to them spiritually at Pentecost, fifty days later (Acts 2:1-21). 1  “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” (John 20:22).

Some see this verse as a temporary filling of the Holy Spirit to give the disciples the knowledge, understanding, and enablement they would need to continue Christ’s work until Pentecost when they would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.2  But the weaknesses of this interpretation include the following:

“Two bestowals of the Spirit seem unusual, in view of Jesus’ earlier promises to send (not impart) the Spirit (7:39; chs. 14—16), and the importance in Acts of the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:4; 11:15). Also, opponents of this view claim that there is no indication that this temporary infusion with the ‘Spirit’ had any effect on the disciples.” 3 The disciples do not go out and share their faith. Rather, they hide, and on occasion go fishing (21:1-11).” 4  “Furthermore, there is no evidence that when Thomas returned to the scene, Jesus gave him the Spirit—as one would expect if the Spirit’s presence was essential for the disciples then (v. 26-29).” 5

It is better to see John 20:22 as a physical and visual preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-21; 11:15-16). This “was a demonstration of what Jesus would do after He returned to the Father, and which He did do on Pentecost. He was not imparting the Spirit to them in any sense here. This interpretation accounts for Thomas not receiving the Spirit before Pentecost. It also explains why this event may have had no permanently changing effect on the disciples comparable to that of Pentecost. Evidently there was only one coming of the Spirit on these disciples, and that happened on Pentecost.” 6

Also in favor of this view is that an aorist imperative, which is used in John 20:22 (Labete – “Receive”), is used by Jesus in this way elsewhere. For example in John 2:19, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). It was three years before that imperative was fulfilled. 7  Likewise, the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell Jesus’ disciples would take place fifty days later. Keep in mind that the time of Acts 1:5 is forty days after John 20:22, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit was still future. In Acts 11:15-16, the apostle Peter explains that the Gentiles in Acts 10 had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit “as upon us at the beginning.” That means that the beginning of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. Therefore, John 20:22 is not referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but to the preparation for it.

The word “breathed” (emphusáō) in John 20:22 is also used in the Greek Old Testament in Genesis 2:7 where God “breathed” into Adam the breath of life. John seems to be connecting the disciples’ experience with Adam’s to show that Jesus is the Giver of both physical and spiritual life.

After the early stages in Acts when some received the Spirit after being born again by believing in Jesus (cf. Acts 2:38; 8:14-17; 19:6), reception of the Holy Spirit always occurred at the very moment a person believed in Christ for everlasting life (e.g., Acts 10:43-48; 15:7-8; 19:2; cf. Mark 1:8; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14).

Overcoming our fear, especially in carrying on the work of Jesus Christ, is not something we do in our own strength. The Holy Spirit must empower us. So the fourth way to overcome our fears is to RELATE TO THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (John 20:22). The power for overcoming our fear is not found in our personality or our performance. It is found in the Person of God the Holy Spirit. Get to know the Holy Spirit.

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is God, since lying to the Holy Spirit is equal to lying to God (Acts 5:3-4). But the Holy Spirit is not only God, He is a Person. He is not an impersonal force or influence. Like God the Father and God the Son, He possesses the same characteristics of a Person that they have:

1. He has knowledge or intellect. The Bible tells us, 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:10-11).  The Holy Spirit “searches” (ereunaō) all things which means He has the ability “to examine or investigate.” 10 This implies He has personality. He searches “the deep things of God” and reveals them to believers in Jesus. He “knows” (eídō) the things of God. This means he has the capacity “to grasp the meaning of something or to understand.” 11  The Holy Spirit has the ability to think and know things which are attributes of personality.

2. He has emotions or the ability to feel. The Holy Spirit not only thinks like a person, He feels like a person.The Bible says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). Christians can “grieve” (lupéō) or cause severe emotional distress 12 to the Holy Spirit with our hurtful communication to one another (Ephesians 4:29). The fact that He can be “grieved” or offended reveals personality since one cannot hurt an influence or an impersonal force. The Bible also instructs us that the Holy Spirit has the ability to give and receive love (Romans 5:5; 15:30). The fact that the Holy Spirit responds emotionally the way that a person responds, demonstrates that He is a Person.

3. The Holy Spirit possesses a will or the ability to choose. After referring to various spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul says, “ But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (I Corinthians 12:11). The Holy Spirit not only empowers these gifts, He also distributes them “to each one individually as He wills.” The Holy Spirit has the ability to choose which is also a mark of personhood. Just as God the Father and God the Son have a will, so does the Holy Spirit.

We also see in the Bible that the Holy Spirit acts like a Person. He teaches (John 14:26; 15:26-27; I Corinthians 2:13), gives guidance (Romans 8:14; Acts 16:6-7; 20:22-23), helps or comforts (John 16:7), convicts (John 16:8-11), gives commands (Acts 8:29; 10:19-20), He appoints believers to leadership (Acts 20:28), gives understanding (John 16:13), speaks (Acts 13:2), He intercedes or speaks on behalf of people (Romans 8:26), performs miracles (Acts 2:4; Romans 15:19), gives spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:8-11), raises the dead (Romans 8:11), creates (Genesis 1:2), provides companionship (John 14:16-18), testifies and bears witness to Jesus (John 15:26-27), and glorifies Jesus (John 16:14). All of these actions demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is a Person. He does things that only a Person can do. But keep in mind that He is Spirit, which means He does not have a physical body like we do. He is a Person without a physical body which enables Him to indwell believers in Jesus (John 14:16-17; Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 6:19).

In conclusion, I want to share an illustration our pastor shared with us at church a few weeks ago. 13  It involves a woman who just graduated from Harvard University. She went to the Amazon River area of South America and was given a choice. She could either have a perfect map to navigate this area unknown to her or she could choose a guide to enable her to reach her destination. She said, “I just graduated and I’m pretty smart, so I will choose the map.”

The map was perfect and she was smart. So the first couple of days went fairly well using the map to navigate the area. But after three days or so, things got rough. It began to rain extremely hard. She tried using the map, but she didn’t know what to do. She was extremely confused about which way to go. Suddenly, she hears the voice of the guide. He says, “Hey, come this way. Follow me.” So he helps her navigate her way through that mess and confusion. He asks her, “Do you want me to stay with you?” She says, “No, I’ve got my perfect map.”

Using only a map to guide her, she starts going again. Three days later, she ends up in another confusing situation in a bog and gets lost. Finally the guide comes again and asks her, “Do you need help?” Ashamed, she says, “Yes, I need help.” As they are walking, the guide asks her, “Do you want me to help you?” She says, “Yeah, that’s fine. You can help me and guide me.” Then she says, “Do you need the map?” He replies, “No, I don’t need the map. I wrote the map.”

The Holy Spirit wrote our map, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). He enabled holy men to record God’s Word without error in all of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20), so that every word in the Bible is from the mouth of God. As “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), the Holy Spirit guides us with the Bible. We must have the Holy Spirit to understand the Bible (I Corinthians 2:10-16).

The way we receive the Holy Spirit, is to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life (John 7:37-39; Acts 10:43-48; 15:7-8; 19:2; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:2, 26-27; Ephesians 1:13-14). Every believer in Jesus has God the Holy Spirit indwelling him or her (John 14:16-17; Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 6:19) to guide them into all truth (John 16:13; Romans 8:14; Acts 16:6-7; 20:22-23) and empower them to live a life that glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:13-14; Galatians 5:22-23). Learn to listen to the Spirit’s guidance through the Scriptures. Rely on His powerful presence to overcome your fears and become more like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:26-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for sending Your Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us to become more like You. We could never overcome our fears in our own strength. But You have given us the Person of the Holy Spirit to enable us to not only overcome our fears, but to replace our fears with Your courage and boldness. Holy Spirit, teach me to hear Your voice through the holy Bible so I can know You more intimately and experience the joy that You, the Father, and Jesus created me to have. Forgive me for neglecting my relationship with You. Please renew my love relationship with You so I can not only overcome my fears, but become more like my Savior, Jesus Christ. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1829. 

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 699; J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 366; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: Revised Edition (New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), pp. 747-48.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 379.

4. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 565.

5. Constable, pg. 379.

6. Ibid.

7. Wilkin, pg. 565.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10.  Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 389.

11. Ibid., pg. 694.

12. Ibid., pg. 604.

13. Adapted from Pastor Tim Agrimson’s April 25, 2021 sermon entitled, “The Spirit of Peace” at https://www.newlifedsm.com/episode/the-spirit-the-spirit-of-peace/ .

How can I overcome my fears? Part 3

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ ” John 20:21

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6), they experienced shame for the first time. The complete innocence and vulnerability they once had with God and one another were now lost. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7). They were now self-conscious and ashamed of their nakedness before one another, so they tried to remove their shame by covering themselves with fig leaves.

But their sin and shame also adversely affected their relationshipwith God. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”(Genesis 3:8). Instead of being open and vulnerable before God, they now hid themselves from His presence when He pursued them. God is presented in this verse as pursuing His fallen children by walking in the garden in the cool of the day as if this was something He had always done to connect with them.

We might assume that God came to them to punish and shame Adam and Eve for the wrong they had done, but notice that God does not seek to punish or shame His fallen children. He seeks to restorethem. “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”(Genesis 3:9). Why would an all-knowing God ask Adam a question to which He already knows the answer? Because the Lord wanted a confessionfrom Adam. “Where are you in relation to Me?” God asks. God knew where Adam was, but did Adam know where he was in relation to the Lord?

When Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked” (Genesis 3:10), God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Genesis 3:11). God never told Adam and Eve they were naked. This was the natural consequence of their sin.

Satan also reveals our shame to us when we sin (true shame) or don’t sin (false shame). His accusations against believers produce shame in their lives. The Devil uses fear and shame to isolate Christians from God and one another. Like a roaring lion who focuses on those who are isolated and weak, Satan focuses on believers who are alone and weak (cf. 1 Peter 5:8).

Would Adam and Eve believe God is still the same loving and merciful God that He had always been prior to their disobedience? Or would they believe the lie of the serpent who implied that God could not really be trusted (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)? The Lord did not abandon Adam and Eve when they sinned and felt ashamed. He seeks them out to restore them to fellowship with Himself.

But instead of trusting the Lord, Adam and Eve were now afraid of Him. “So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’” (Genesis 3:10). Their fear and shame now became a barrier to His loving and merciful pursuit of them. Not only were they self-conscious of their nakedness before one another, they were now self-conscious of their nakedness before God. By covering themselves with fig leaves and hiding themselves among the trees of the garden, Adam and Eve hid themselves from being able to receive God’s love, grace, and mercy which He was freely offering to them. Their faith in God had now changed to fear. Unfortunately their fear and shame pushed them away from the Lord instead of drawing them near to Him. And fear and shame can do the same to us today.

We are learning from Jesus’ encounter with His ten fearful disciples in the evening of His resurrection day how to overcome our fears. The disciples were afraid of opposition from the Jews so they were hiding behind locked doors. I wonder if they may have felt ashamed too since they had abandoned Jesus in His hour of suffering after promising to remain faithful to Him even unto death (Matthew 26:35, 56).

Like He did in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, Jesus sought out His disciples who were afraid and ashamed. And from this we are learning how to overcome our fears. So far we have discovered we must…

– Rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19).

– Redirect our focus to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to convince our doubting hearts (John 20:20).

Today we see that we must also RENEW OUR SENSE OF PURPOSE (John 20:21). After calming and convincing His fearful disciples, they were still paralyzed by fear. They still remained behind locked doors. Amazingly, Jesus remains calm and gracious. He does not give up on them even though they may have given up on themselves.

Christ believes so much in these frightened men, that He commissions them. “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ ” (John 20:21). Why does Jesus repeat His extension of peace to His disciples?

Because they were terrified of the Jews. That’s why they had locked the doors (20:19). Yet Jesus gave them his peace. Notice that their situation hadn’t changed. The Jewish leaders would still oppose them in the days ahead (see Acts 4:1-24; 5:17-42). But Jesus can speak peace into trouble. Though your circumstances are unstable, he can provide the internal stability your heart needs.” 1

Christ wants to reassure these frightened men of the deep and lasting peace that could be theirs. Peace prepares them for His commissioning. Notice that Jesus’ peace is given to them before they are commissioned. Sometimes we can mistakenly conclude that we must work to gain God’s peace. But Jesus reminds us that this peace comes from His presence in our lives, not from our service for Him. Christians can easily make the mistake and conclude that peace is based upon their performance instead of the peace-giving presence of Jesus Christ. And when they do this, the peace for which they are working so hard to gain, constantly escapes them.

Can you relate to this? Instead of ministering to others out of the peace Christ’s presence has given to us, we minister to others out of fear. The fear of not measuring up. The fear of being disapproved or rejected. The fear of failing. The fear of not having what it takes to be a God-honoring follower of Christ. We can even use ministry as a way to medicate our fears. Ministry can function like an addiction. It becomes our fig leaf to cover up our fear and shame.

But when we understand that Christ’s peace comes from His presence in our lives, we can minister to others out of our identity in Christ, not out of a desperate attempt to earn God’s peace or to prove that we have what it takes. The latter leads to ruin. The former leads to fruitfulness and glory to the Father (John 15:1-8).

After extending peace to them, Jesus begins the commissioning of His disciples. Keep in mind that this is regarded as the first of Christ’s commissionings in the Gospels and Acts. It is followed by Mark 16:15-16, then Matthew 28:19-20, and finally Luke 24:46-48 and Acts 1:8 which seem to be two versions of the same commissioning.

Christ begins by stating that the Father had sent Him. The Greek word for “sent” (apostéllō) in the phrase, “As the Father has sent Me,” refers to an official or authoritative sending. It is in the perfect tense (apestalken), indicating that the mission of Christ is not being regarded in its historical fulfillment, but in its permanent effect. The form of the fulfillment of Christ’s mission was now to be changed, but the mission itself was to be continued.

The Greek word translated “send” (pempō) in the phrase “I also send you,” is a general word for sending. It is in the present tense. The disciples were not to start a new work, but were to carry on Christ’s work. Just as Jesus was the Father’s Representative on earth, so Christ’s disciples would be His representatives on earth.

It is much like a baton exchange in a relay race at a track meet. One relay runner passes a baton to another runner. He receives the baton, and runs with it. And when he finishes his leg in the race, he places it in the hands of another who is to continue the race.

“Since believers no longer belong to the world (15:19), it was necessary for Jesus to ‘send’ His disciples back into the world to complete the mission. Our mission does not replace Jesus’ mission, however. He carries out His present mission through us.” 3

“. . . what is central to the Son’s mission—that he came as the Father’s gift so that those who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life (3:16), experiencing new life as the children of God (1:12-13) and freedom from the slavery of sin because they have been set free by the Son of God (8:34-36)—must never be lost to view as the church defines her mission.” 4

Christ responds to their fears by pointing them to His mission for them to carry out. Remember, whatever we fear, we give power and control to. Christ wants them (and us) to renew their sense of purpose and replace their fears with His mission in their lives. For this to take place, they must give power and control to Jesus.

Christ gives us His peace so we can give Him power and control over our lives. He will not take advantage of us or misuse our trust in Him. He is a good Shepherd Who radically loves His sheep. His death and resurrection prove this. Will we trust and follow Him?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise You for giving me Your peace before giving me Your purpose for my life. I can now operate out of Your peace-giving presence instead of operating out of fear. I don’t have to minister to others as a way of avoiding my fears. I can now minister to others out of the peace Your indwelling presence gives to me. Thank You for entrusting me with Your mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life so that those who believe in You should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). I praise You for the new life believers can experience as children of God (John 1:12). Thank You for the freedom from slavery to sin they can experience as they learn to abide in Your word (John 8:31-32). Please renew Your church all around the globe with the urgency of this mission. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1828.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 377.

3. Ibid., pg. 378.

4. Ibid., cites Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), pg. 649.  

How Can I overcome my fears? Part 2

“When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” John 20:20

We are learning from Jesus’ interaction with His ten disciples in the evening of His resurrection day how to overcome our fears. Last time we discovered that we must rely on Jesus to calm our fear with His peace-giving presence (John 20:19). Today we will see that our fears can be overcome when we REDIRECT OUR FOCUS TO THE EVIDENCE OF JESUS’ RESURRECTION TO CONVINCE OUR DOUBTING HEARTS (John 20:20).

We see in Luke’s account that the disciples themselves did not believe the testimony of others that Christ had risen from the dead. When the women reported it, “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). Even when some of the disciples saw Christ themselves they were “slow of heart to believe “ (Luke 24:25). Indeed, when Jesus appeared to the ten disciples, 37 they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?’ ” (Luke 24:37-38). Their fears were mixed with doubts.

But how could they doubt the Lord was risen? The Old Testament had predicted His resurrection (Psalm 16:10; 22:21b; cf. Acts 2:30-32), and Jesus had proclaimed it several times prior to His death (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; John 2:19, 21; 10:18). It is possible they were looking for Jesus to establish a literal kingdom on earth. So even though Christ had told them He was about to die and be raised from the dead, they did not hear Him because they were so convinced He was going to usher in a political kingdom. Then when Jesus died they were dumbfounded. The crucifixion left them confused because of their own preconceived ideas. Now they didn’t know what to believe. Doubt and fear overwhelmed the disciples.

Consequently, they were not shouting the gospel from the housetops; they were sitting silently behind locked doors. When believers doubt and fear, they are incapable of speaking up for the Lord. This explains why the church has failed to obey Christ’s command to preach the gospel to everyone since the time of Christ (Mark 16:15). It is centered around the church’s doubts and fears.

How does Jesus respond to the disciples’ doubts and fears? Does He rebuke them? Does He shame them for allowing their doubts and fears to overtake them? After all they had abandoned Him in His hour of suffering (Matthew 26:56). No. After graciously speaking “peace be with you” (John 20:19), Christ convinces them of His resurrection through a personal display of His wounds. “When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side” (John 20:20a). The disciples had no concept of the nature of a resurrection body and supposed that they were seeing a “spirit” or ghost (Luke 24:37). 1  

Christ reassured them by displaying His hands which had been pierced by the nails and His side which had been pierced by the spear (John 19:34). Although Jesus now possessed a transformed glorified body, the presence of the wounds showed that He did not have a different body, but the same body.

Those scars had not been removed from his resurrection body. One day, then, all believers will see them. They will serve as eternal reminders of the cost of our redemption, and they will forever give us reason to praise him. Jesus will be the only scarred person in eternity, a perpetual reminder of the price paid for our redemption.” 2

In Luke 24:39-43, Jesus invited the disciples to touch Him showing that His resurrection body was a material body. He also asked for food to demonstrate that He was not a disembodied spirit appearing in human form. They gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb and He ate it in their presence. There was no mistaking Him! It was really Jesus!

The results were something Jesus promised three nights before (John 16:22): 3  “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:20b). Their fear turned into faith which was expressed through their testimony of joy. The disciples were overjoyed as the reality of Jesus’ resurrection penetrated their minds. 4

Although the disciples were afraid and filled with doubt, Jesus dealt gently with their struggles. His presence brought them peace and the personal display of His wounds convinced them He was their risen Lord.

Are you troubled or doubting the reality of Jesus’ resurrection? Have you tried to shut Jesus out of your life because you are afraid or you doubt His love for you? Jesus can pass through our locked doors and give us peace. He can provide the evidence we need to overcome our doubts and fears.

The scars on Jesus’ hands and side are proof that He died in our place on a cross and rose from the dead. He truly does love us and His scars serve as eternal reminders of this. I can think of no greater power to remove our fears than the perfect love of Jesus Christ. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18).

Therefore, we can boldly proclaim the love of Jesus Christ through the proclamation of His death and resurrection. Eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive after His crucifixion. Christ gave them the evidence they needed to overcome their doubts and fears. And He can do the same for you and me. Are you willing to let Him?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I must confess that I struggle with doubts and fears at times just like the ten disciples did the evening after You rose from the dead. It is easier for me to admit this struggle now after seeing how gracious You were with Your disciples that night. You did not condemn them nor scold them for having their doubts and fears. Instead, You met them where they were at (behind locked doors) and You gave them what they needed (a display of Your wounds) so they would know that it was their risen Lord. I am convinced that You still come to people when they are afraid or doubting today. And You come to them not to condemn them or scold them, but to give them the evidence that they need to know that You love them. For the disciples they needed evidence that it was really You Who rose from the dead. And the scars on Your hands and side, will serve as eternal reminders of the great cost of our salvation, and they will forever give us cause to praise You throughout eternity! Thank You, my Lord and my God, for giving us the evidence we needed to convince our doubting and fearful hearts. Please enable us to boldly proclaim Your death and resurrection to a very broken and lost world that needs to know You love them far more than what they do or don’t do. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 505.

2. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1828.

3. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 565.

4. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 365.

How can I overcome my fears? Part 1

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ ” John 20:19

The right part of the human brain known as the limbic system reacts with survival responses to three areas: food, sex, and safety. One of those survival responses is fear. In the limbic system of the brain, pain results in fear. We may fear abandonment, criticism, disrespect, embarrassment, inadequacy, rejection, shame, and vulnerability. 1

In a world of insecurity and uncertainty, we are going to experience fear. But it is important to understand that whatever we fear, we give power and control to. When we fear the things of this world, including humans, we give authority and control to the god of this world, Satan (John 12:31). 2

Most fear is based upon lies and can give the father of lies (John 8:44) control in our lives. This is why some of the most often used commands in the entire Bible are, “DO NOT BE AFRAID,” “DO NOT FEAR”, “FEAR NOT,” “DO NOT BE TERRIFIED,” “DO NOT TREMBLE.” I counted these commands appearing one hundred forty-four times in the NKJV of the Bible. 3

For the next few days we are going to discover how to overcome our fears by looking at how Jesus enabled His disciples to overcome their fear. The first way to overcome fear in our lives is to RELY ON JESUS TO CALM OUR FEAR WITH HIS PEACE-GIVING PRESENCE (John 20:19). After appearing to Mary Magdalene early on the day of His resurrection, Jesus then appeared to other women (Matthew 28:9-10), to Simon Peter (Luke 24:33-35; I Corinthians 15:5), and to the two disciples on the Emmaus road (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32). It was late in the evening of that most memorable day when Jesus appeared to ten of His closest disciples (John 20:19-23).

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ ”( John 20:19). On one of the greatest days in the history of the world, when Jesus’ Eleven disciples minus Thomas should have been dancing in the streets, they were trembling behind “shut” (kekleismenōn) or “locked” doors. 4  The verb kleiō is in the perfect tense, meaning “the doors” were locked in the past and they remained locked to the present.

Notice also the word “doors” is plural, suggesting that the door into the room and a door into the house entrance were locked. Why? “For fear of the Jews.” It is understandable why the disciples were afraid. The Jews had managed to put Jesus to death and the disciples were His closest companions. A rumor was being spread by the Jewish leaders through the Roman soldiers that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His dead body from the tomb (Matthew 28:11-15). Now that Jesus was removed, the Jews may focus their bitter hatred toward His followers. After all, Christ had warned them of coming persecution (John 15:20; 16:1-2).

The disciples were paralyzed with fear and understandably so. We too can experience paralyzing fear. We are no different than the disciples. We may not share Christ with others because we are afraid of failure, rejection, or what others will think of us. Remember whatever we fear, we give power and control to. When we remain silent in our witness for Christ because of fear, we are giving Satan control over that area of our lives.

While the disciples were hiding in isolation, Jesus suddenly and supernaturally appeared to these ten disciples. Keep in mind that the doors remained shut and locked when “Jesus came and stood in the midst” of them. This phrase can be translated, “Jesus came and stepped into the midst” of them. “Jesus’ resurrection body had passed through grave clothes and a rocky tomb. Now it passed through the walls of this structure.” 5

Now, clearly, Jesus had a physical body. Mary touched him (20:17); Thomas would touch him (20:27); later he would eat with his disciples (21:12-13). He was no mere phantom (see Luke 24:39). He had risen bodily from the grave. But his resurrected body no longer had material limitations. Apparently, he could pass through locked doors if he wanted. And later he would ascend on a cloud into heaven (see Acts 1:9). The apostles tell us that our resurrection bodies will be like his (see 1 Cor 15:45-57; Phil 3:21; 1 John 3:2).” 6

Even though the disciples took security measures, they could not prevent the appearance of Christ in their midst, for He materialized before their eyes. 7 Likewise, human governments and religions can outlaw Christianity, but all of their security measures cannot keep Jesus from revealing Himself to people in those countries or regions. Jesus still comes “to seek and to save that which was lost(Luke 19:10).

For example, “For decades, a well-documented phenomenon has been occurring in the Muslim world—men and women who, without knowledge of the gospel, or contact among Christians in their community, have experienced dreams and visions of Jesus Christ. The reports of these supernatural occurrences often come from ‘closed countries’ where there is no preaching of the good news and where converting to Christianity can invoke the death sentence. But these are more than just dreams… A common denominator appears to be that the dreams come to those who are seeking—as best they can—to know and please God.” 8

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, He said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19b). The Greek word for “peace” (eirḗnē) arises from a life of faith in God. It refers to a calmness “that would come to their hearts from trusting God and from knowing that He was in control of all events that touched their lives.” 9

Before we can possess this kind of peace, we must first receive “peace with God” through faith in Jesus for eternal life (Romans 5:1). Why do we need peace with God?

The Bible tells us, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled” (Colossians 1:21). Before we become Christians, we are God’senemies. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). We need to be reconciled to God because of our sin. God does not need reconciling to us, we need reconciling to God. We turned away from God. He never moved. We moved. The people God created rebelled against their Creator and sinned so that death spread to all people because all sinned (Genesis 3:1-7; cf. Romans 3:23; 5:12-14, 18a).

The Bible tells us, “Having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20b) means causing God’s former enemies to become His beloved children by faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). Notice that “peace with God” is not through our good life, our prayers, or our religion. Peace with God is “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The moment we believe in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for all our sins, we are “justified” or declared totally righteous before God as if we had never sinned.

To be justified before God means to be declared the opposite of what we are. If I was hateful, I am now declared loving. If I was impatient, I am now declared patient. If I was impure, I am now declared pure. If I was selfish, I am now declared selfless.

When you believe in Jesus, He comes to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20). Christ now lives in you and promises never to leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Through His death on the cross, Jesus conquered Satan’s control of death (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan can no longer use your fear of death to enslave you to his will. Christians can now face death with the same confidence in God the Father that Jesus had (cf. I Peter. 2:21-24). Believers are assured of peace with God forever (Colossians 1:19-21).

Christ’s peace does not mean an absence of pain or conflict in our Christian lives. Jesus Himself was “troubled” (John 12:27) when He looked ahead to His crucifixion. He was “troubled” when He focused on Judas’ betrayal (John 13:21). The peace that Jesus speaks of in John 20:19 refers to a deep-seated calmness that stems from trusting in the Lord and His presence. This peace is not the absence of problems, but the presence of Christ in the midst of those problems. Jesus is aware of our difficulties. He is present with us in our problems. We fear not, because He is with us and He is in charge. People who have discovered this have a quiet peace in their hearts even when things are going wrong.

No matter how troubled your heart is, and some of us may be deeply troubled – Jesus’ peace can calm your heart. Talk to Him. Keep your mind focused on Him. The Bible says of the Lord, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). Jesus’ presence brings us peace. In Matthew 28:20, Christ promises, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus guarantees to be with us always as we make disciples who follow Him. In Philippians 4:6-7, God assures us that as we pray, His peace, “which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Christ can calm us with His presence and His peace just as He did for His disciples.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, for so much of my life I lived in fear behind the locked doors of my broken heart. I was afraid if people really knew me, they could not possibly love me. But the day came when You revealed Yourself to me behind my walls of protection. Your love dispelled the darkness of sin and shame in the depths of my soul. When You invited me to believe in You for Your unlimited forgiveness and everlasting life, I quickly responded in faith and You freely forgave all my sins and gave me everlasting life. You took up residence in my body through Your Spirit. And You kept Your promise to never leave me nor forsake me since that time. Your presence continues to calm my fears and give me Your peace. I pray You will continue to reveal Yourself to others as the Prince of Peace. Please use me as You deem best to share Your peace with those You place in my life. In Your peace-giving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process (Michael Dye, 2012), pp. 45-46.

2. Ibid., pp. 95-96.

3. See Genesis 15:1; 21:17; 26:24; 35:17; 43:23; 46:3; 50:19, 21; Exodus 14:13; 20:20; Numbers 14:9; 21:34; Deuteronomy 1:17, 21, 29(2); 3:2, 22; 7:18, 21; 18:22; 20:1, 3(4); 31:6(2), 8; Joshua 1:9; 8:1; 10:8, 25; 11:6; Judges 4:18; 6:10, 23; Ruth 3:11; I Samuel 4:20; 12:20; 22:23; 23:17; 28:13; 2 Samuel 9:7; 13:28; I Kings 17:13; 2 Kings 1:15; 6:16; 17:25, 35, 37, 38; 19:6; 25:24; I Chronicles 22:13; 28:20; 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17; 32:7; Nehemiah 4:14; Job 5:21, 22; 11:15; Psalm 23:4; 27:3; 46:2; 49:16; 56:4; 64:4; 91:5; Proverbs 3:24, 25; Isaiah 7:4; 8:12; 10:24; 12:2; 35:4; 37:6; 40:9; 41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8(2); 51:7(2); 54:4, 14; Jeremiah 1:8; 10:5; 23:4; 30:10; 40:9; 42:11(2); 46:27, 28; Lamentations 3:57; Ezekiel 2:6(3); 3:9; Daniel 10:12, 19; Joel 2:21, 22; Zephaniah 3:16; Haggai 2:5; Zechariah 8:13, 15; Matthew 1:20; 10:26, 28, 31; 14:27; 17:7; 28:5, 10; Mark 5:36; 6:50; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10; 5:10; 8:50; 12:4, 7, 32; 21:9; John 6:20; 12:15; 14:27; Acts 18:9; 27:24; I Peter 3:6, 14; Revelation 1:17; 2:10.

4.  Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 547; J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 365.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 375.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1828.

7. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pp. 504-505.

8. Retrieved on May 21, 2021 from https://lausanneworldpulse.com/perspectives-php/595/01-2007.

9. Pentecost, pg. 440.