“I won’t believe it unless I see ….” John 20:25b (NLT)
Doubting Thomas! Have you ever doubted like Thomas? I have. In fact, I’ve had many doubts throughout my faith journey and have come to respect Thomas for his doubts. That may sound strange for a pastor; but if we’re honest, I think most of us would admit we wrestle with doubts. We often don’t admit those secret doubts that haunt us for fear of not appearing spiritual. The problem with keeping your doubts secret is that silent doubts rarely get answers. I’m thankful Thomas expressed his doubts. That tells me that the disciples were real; and an authentic faith community is a safe place to express your doubts. Some people need to doubt before they believe. If doubt leads you to questions, and those questions lead to answers, and if you accept those answers, then your doubt has been productive! It’s when you allow your doubt to lead to stubborn disbelief and become prideful that doubt harms faith. Doubting doesn’t mean that an answer doesn’t exist. It just means you haven’t found it yet. When you doubt, don’t stop there and conclude there is no way of knowing. Let your doubt deepen your faith as you continue to search for the answer. Thomas’ doubts were resolved when He personally encountered the risen Christ. No one can live on the faith of someone else. It wasn’t enough for Thomas that the other disciples had seen Jesus. He needed an encounter of his own with Christ. You and I need our own personal encounter with Jesus as well. Though we may not see Him in His physical form as Thomas did, we can still believe! That’s why Jesus said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing Me.” (John 20:29 NLT) Doubting may be your way of responding, but it doesn’t have to be your way of life. Doubt should encourage rethinking. It was never meant to be a permanent lifestyle. When you experience doubt, do what Thomas did. He didn’t stay in his doubt. He allowed Jesus to bring him to belief.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message.” John 17:20 (NLT)
It was the night before His crucifixion. John records all that Jesus said to them in Chapters 13-17 before He was arrested in the garden and led to the cross the following day. Jesus was preparing His disciples and us for all that was about to happen. These chapters are best read in one setting to grasp the impact they would have on the disciples that evening. He concluded His talk with His longest recorded prayer in the New Testament. The entire Chapter of John 17 is Jesus prayer. As He prays for His disciples, Jesus includes you and me specifically! He says, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message.” (Vs. 20) What did Jesus pray on our behalf as He interceded to the Father for us?
- He prayed for our protection from the evil one. (Vs. 11-15)
- He prayed for us to be holy. (Vs. 17-19)
- He prayed for our unity. (Vs. 11; 21-23)
This world is a battle ground! The normal state of affairs for every true child of God is spiritual warfare. We need not despair because in Christ we have over overcome the world, and greater is He who lives IN us than he who lives in the world. Or as one friend of mine put it, “Greater is He who is in me than he who is after me!” Jesus didn’t pray that God would remove us from the world but that while we were in the world God would protect us from the evil one that we may live holy lives. The distinctive difference of a Christ follower is the conduct of their lives. It should be demonstratively obvious by what you do and say and are that Christ lives and reigns in you. Jesus gave Himself for us as a holy sacrifice so that we may be made holy by His Word. Your time in God’s Word changes you from the inside out making you holy so that those who encounter you can see that there is a quality of your life that has no other possible explanation but Christ in you! That glorifies God! Jesus prayed that we would be one in Him as He is one with God! Our unity is by virtue of His presence indwelling us! He alone makes us one. Look for the Christ in others that lives in you and celebrate your unity in Him! Jesus said that kind of unity would change the world!
“Come and see,” John 1:39 (NLT)
The first invitation of Christ to a curious seeker is “Come and see.” Check it out. He is never demanding or forceful. “Whosoever will may come …” The decision is yours. God always takes the initiative. “Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost.” Had God not come to where we are first, we would never be able to go to where He is. Love reached out. Love reached down. How thankful we should be for a love that looked beyond our faults and saw our need. Have you experienced a love like that? God’s love is unconditional! There is nothing you could do to earn His love anymore than there is anything you could do to cause Him to stop loving you. What a relief! When Jesus invites us to come to Him, His love is reaching out to embrace us with grace and acceptance. With that offer comes another invitation. “Follow Me.” Curious seekers will come and go; but, disciples will follow Him. Are you a curious seeker? Great. Listen for the next invitation. Your soul has been awakened to a new reality, a spiritual one, the possibility of experiencing a personal relationship with Jesus that is transforming. Take the next step and commit your life to Him. Follow Him. Jesus says, “Follow Me and I will make you…” As we follow Him, our lives are transformed! Baptism is a beautiful picture of one who has responded to His invitation to follow Him. Still, there’s another invitation. “Learn from Me.” Listen to what The Message says in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
As you learn from Jesus, you’ll discover yet another dimension to His invitation. “Abide with Me.” John 15 describes it well. As the branch abides in the vine to receive its very life, we are to abide in Him. As we abide in Him, we find our voice and mission. We become what I call The Divine Echo. It becomes as natural as breathing to echo the invitation we received in the beginning as we invite others around us to come and see!
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:30 (NLT)
This was the desperate cry of a jailer to his prisoners! “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” You would think it would be just the other way around, but not when it involves those early followers of Christ in the Book of Acts. One of my favorite authors described these believers as incorrigibly happy, utterly unafraid and almost always in trouble! It was certainly the case for the Apostle Paul and his companion, Silas. Would people describe your walk of faith like that? These guys lived out the incredible adventure of the saving life of Christ, clothing Himself in their very humanity! Anyone who got within earshot of them would be exposed to the message of Christ! They weren’t weird street preachers screaming at people to “turn or burn!” But, they did boldly share the love of God and the message of Jesus to everyone they met. On this occasion, we find Paul and Silas in jail. They’ve been beaten with rods and confined in stocks in a cold, dark, damp dungeon. You think that would be enough to silence them or at least discourage their zeal! No way! They began singing hymns while locked up in those stocks. The music must have caused the Lord to tap His feet to the tune because there was an earthquake that shook the jail and opened all the prison doors, setting all the prisoners free! When the jailer realized the prisoners were all free, he took his sword out to kill himself. Rather than fleeing the jail, Paul shouted as loudly as he could for the jailer to stop and not to harm himself with the assurance that they weren’t going anywhere. That’s when the jailer brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This jailer recognized in them a quality of life that he desperately wanted. Let me jump to the end. That very night, this jailer and his entire household listened to Paul’s message about Jesus and were saved! In fact, the Bible says, “Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.” (Vs. 33) Wow! They believed and were baptized immediately! There was no hesitation! No reservations! Have you believed? Have you taken that next step and been baptized? We saw over 1,000 people take that step a couple of weeks ago. If you’re in the Houston area, join us at any one of our Woodlands Church campuses as we celebrate a super summer of baptisms!
“Only one thing is important.” Luke 10:42a (NCV)
Jesus said there was only one thing needful, only one thing is important; but, very few of us operate our lives like that’s true. We find ourselves preoccupied with life’s demands. The tyranny of the urgent robs us of the one thing that is important. What is that one thing that is so important and needful? Mary shows us in this story. It’s a common story descriptive of our own lives — two sisters and a brother, friends of Jesus, offering hospitality to a friend in His ministry as they host Him in their home. Luke tells us that Mary is “sitting at Jesus feet and listening to Him teach.” Imagine that moment Mary was enjoying with Jesus. She is soaking in His presence and His words. She listened attentively and was the only one who seemed to have insight into His death. She would later anoint Him with expensive perfume that Jesus said she did in preparation of His burial in John 12:7. That kind of spiritual insight comes when we do the one thing that is important, when we sit at our Savior’s feet and listen. The one thing that is important in our lives is the presence of God. It’s the one thing that is needful. We need God. God designed us that way, and we are dysfunctional without Him. Have you found yourself, like Mary’s sister, Martha, so busy with life’s demands that you are running on empty? Maybe you’re just too busy. Stop! Don’t miss the presence of God in you’re zeal to serve Him. Hear the loving rebuke Jesus gave to Martha. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.” Today, do the one thing that is important. Then, like Mary, act on the spiritual insight you gain in His presence.