Do you believe? Do you believe in God? How about Jesus…do you believe in him? You might be thinking…duh…of course I do…I’m sitting here!
What if I told you that…Belief is a conviction that affects how you live. To believe is not just intellectual assent …belief changes things…has your so called belief affected your life? If not perhaps you don't believe as you think you do!
And I what if I suggested there are levels of belief:
Disbelief -- Skepticism -- Ambivalence -- Curiosity -- Belief
Where are you in your belief in Jesus Christ?
Today we will explore the concept of belief…and when we’re finished you will know where you are on the continuum… and depending on where you fall… you’re going to have to decide what you are going to do next. Today - And some of you will believe in Jesus for the first time.
Review: Legacy – a walk through the story line of the Bible…now in the NT…gospels…story of Jesus. We are now one day from the last week of Jesus’ life. Today’s story is a famous one…
1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. 7 Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." 8 "But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" 9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light." 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." 12 His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.
· There’s that word – belief (a conviction that affects how you live). This concept is about to dominate the story…this is just #1. Do me a favor, every time I say the word “believe” say out loud how many times we’ve heard it. This is number 1.
But let us go to him." 16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes (2) in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." 28 And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." 40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, (6) you would see the glory of God?" 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. John 11:1-45
8 times the word shows up in this remarkable story of a man being raised from the dead.
Belief is a conviction that affects how you live
Clearly belief was important to Jesus …clearly it’s important to the story line …as a matter of fact it’s important to this whole gospel of John.
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31
Belief is the most important concept in John – 98X. Belief is the most important concept in all of the bible. Belief is the most important aspect of Christianity.
And believing in Jesus is the most important thing any human being will ever do.
Do you believe? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? You will never be asked a more important question. And the way you answer that question will affect the quality of your life all the days you have breath in this world and will go on to impact your eternal state.
Do I have your attention now?
So if it’s that important perhaps we should probe it a little deeper…if you are going to be held responsible for your level of belief in Jesus maybe you should know what is expected of you.
Let’s first compare you with the other people in the story. When it comes to your belief in Jesus … which character are you more like than the others…
Martha: "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe (lit. I have believed and still do believe) that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." John 11:27
Mary: When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." John 11:32
Thomas: Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." John 11:16
· some interpret this as courage. I don’t. Based on the rest of the story I think Thomas waffled btw skeptic and curious until that fateful moment 8-9 days later.
The Jews: But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" John 11:37 This was cynical statement by his enemies.
Who do you identify most with?...honestly I think many of us are ambivalent!
OK…Maybe that helps…or perhaps you need some more information…understand the word a little more…
OK…let’s figure out what it means to believe…
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:26
Note what Jesus did not say: He who believes in religion, doctrine, or spirituality
He didn’t even say he who believes in God! He was very particular as to the focus of the belief he was calling for…IN HIM.
Belief is confidence in the person of Jesus not spirituality or religion.
Belief is conviction that Jesus was a real human being sent by God into this world!
Do you believe that? By the way Muslims believe that. But let’s go further…
27 "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." John 11:27
Here’s where it gets really important to pay attention…cause here is where we depart from Islam and the rest of the world’s belief about Jesus.
Belief is the conviction that Jesus is the “son of God”
Now...this still doesn’t feel like earth shattering stuff I’ll bet many of you would say that you believe Jesus is the son of God but do you have any notion of what you mean by that?
· This phrase is used numerous ways in the OT…angels…Israel…some human beings…
· But here in this fourth gospel it takes on much deeper meaning. To believe that Jesus was the son of God was to equate him with God! Jesus not just special human being but God in the flesh.
· Which btw he believed about himself...I and the Father are one." John 10:30
Now, either that is true or he was out of his mind.
What do you believe? Let’s go further… 27 "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." John 11:27
Belief is the conviction that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah)
This is the culmination of all belief in Jesus – the most exclusive belief...that only a minority of Americans actually believe...THE Messiah.
· THE Messiah – the only one in history qualified to save human beings and the world. Most people do not believe THAT. That belief is antithetical to all cultural desires for tolerance and inclusivity.
· Most church going Americans think he is one of many ways to God. But Martha didn’t…she believed he was THE Christ = the anointed one”= Hebrew – THE Messiah … not A Messiah.
· Martha totally accepted this claimn of Jesus: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Do you? Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus was a real human being equal to God and sent by God to save you and this world? If you do that will change you.
Belief is a conviction that affects how you live.
If you do…let’s talk about the results of that belief:
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
That’s pretty intense. If you believe that Jesus was a real human being equal to God and sent by God to save you and this world… you will live eternally.
· eternal life in the Bible included both post mortem and pre-mortem existence… quality and longevity!
· Let me be clear…if you DO NOT believe…don’t expect to experience the kind of life you really want AND DO NOT expect eternal life.
And one more thing…one more result of belief in Jesus:
40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" John 11:40
If you believe in Jesus you will see amazing things…the glory of God
· …things happen to you when you believe: belief allows for the possibility of seeing the spectacular – belief unlocks the actions of God – or at least allows us to see things we normally would not have seen
· If you believe in Jesus be prepared to experience the glory of God!
And If you do not believe in Jesus DO NOT expect to see the work of God in and around you.
Now…where are you? Are you where some of the crowd were that day? Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. John 11:45
I think some of you have been Disbelievers. Some Skeptics. Some Ambivalent. Some curious…Are you willing to make the most important decision of your life to date…to believe in Jesus?
It is an action…it is a decision…you don’t back into belief you run headlong into it.