“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Pease be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
“Well Ron is teaching next week at Calvary Chapel West River Valley up in Vermont. So if you have any ideas how we can pay him back for his little motor-oil [stunt], let me know and we’ll come up with a plan, so when he gets up there, we can get him back. If you could turn in your Bibles to John chapter 20. John chapter 20, we’re going to actually this morning look at seven verses, and then go to the end of chapter 20, and it appears we’ll have one more study in two weeks, finishing up John and looking at the Resurrection and appearances here of Jesus to the disciples. And then the following Sunday will be Easter [Resurrection] Sunday. So we’ll…Really we’ve looked at the Resurrection for awhile, and the resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ, so it’ll be fitting to finish John and in the very next week look just at another message on Easter. And you can remember too, it’s in the bulletin, was announced earlier, we’ll have an Easter [Resurrection] sunrise service next door, God willing if the weather is with us. And if the weather’s fine too, we’ll even have the 10am service next door in the Stadium next door. We did that two summers ago, and set up a stage, and we have big speakers that were given to us, that were originally part of Symphony Hall in Boston, and the speakers were donated to the church. And we’ll have a service, those services next door. Something to keep in prayer, great opportunity to invite friends, and we’ll even have ads in the newspaper like we used to when we did the sunrise service. So great opportunity to bring some people in the community. Let’s say a word of prayer again, and we’ll get started here in John chapter 20. ‘Lord, we want to thank you for this opportunity to look at your Word together this morning, and as we study these verses I do ask that you would increase our faith in you Lord. And even in these verses that we look at, as the disciples are gathered together, as it happened on multiple occasions, Jesus you appeared right there in the midst, and we also realize that as we’re together as a corporate body, in a special way as we gather together, you’re also here in our midst. So we do thank you and ask just for a greater sense and realization of that in our own hearts. But speak to us Lord, help us to hear your Word, but also give us hearts to obey. And I pray if there are some here this morning that are unbelieving, unbelieving maybe because of just struggles they’re going through, or unbelieving maybe just because of issues at heart, Lord I ask you now you’d convict their hearts and move their hearts, and open our eyes to who you are. So Holy Spirit we’d ask that you be upon all of us, and even upon myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, Amen.’
“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails…I will not believe”
So, verses 24-29 of John chapter 20, “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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 nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, ‘Peace to you [Shalom].’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Reach your fingers here and look at my hands, and reach your hand here and put into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me you have believed, but blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.’” As we’ve studied just two weeks ago, the last time we looked at John in verses 19 to 23, on the evening of the day [after] Jesus rose from the dead, so on Easter [Resurrection] Sunday, while his disciples were meeting secretly, like they are here, behind closed doors due to the fear of the religious leaders, Jesus suddenly appeared to them also. They of course had endured some difficult days, about three days, the preceding days, were very difficult for them, it was challenging. There was certainly uncertainty and confusion because Jesus their Messiah, their Lord had died and was in a tomb. But then suddenly he appeared to them, and of course with that, everything changed. They went from fear, and in those verses that we read two weeks ago, there was great gladness, as you would only imagine. Of course too, as the result of his visitation, as we studied in verses 19 into 23, he gave them ‘Peace’, verses 19 and 21. But also renewed power, as he breathed on them the Holy Spirit, verse 22, and then renewed purpose, verses 21 and 23, as he reminded them that just as the Father had sent him to the world, he was now sending them. [For the companion passage in Matthew describing what they were being sent into the world to do, read Matthew 28:18-20, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel everywhere, and baptize those who respond favorably, discipling and spiritually nourishing them in the Word, the things I have taught you.’ That’s the jist of this central assignment Jesus first gave the disciples, the leaders of the body of Christ. That’s our job, central commission, and of this site too. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm.] So this renewed purpose. But you know, you can only imagine the awe and excitement of that evening. I would think after Jesus left, I mean, these guys were probably up late, I could just hear their conversations as they were talking about how incredibly Jesus had come and appeared in their midst. Indeed he was risen from the dead. You can only imagine the excitement. Just before, they were incredibly discouraged, things looked very dismal for them, but now things were so exciting. It had gone from intense despair, to where life had changed now to one of hope and vision. At least that was true for ten of the disciples. There were twelve, Judas of course just prior to this has committed suicide, so there’s eleven. But we’re told here that there’s ten, it doesn’t give the number ten, but you can count it up and do your math, there’s ten disciples. That’s because one of them at this point in time now we’re told was missing. And John tells us who that one was, it was Thomas, also called Didymus. And people in that time, Thomas, Didymus, people at that time, it was common to have two names. There was the Greek name, Didymus for Thomas, and Thomas was the Aramaic name. So both of them, as we’re told here in the New King James, means “twin.” Evidently Thomas had a twin sibling we don’t know anything about. But he was called ‘The Twin.’ So Thomas, Didymus, he wasn’t present when Jesus had earlier appeared in the midst of the disciples. Now if you have studied the Gospels closely, as I tried to when I taught one of the Gospels, I noticed in Luke, and you can see this in Luke, but it seems to indicate, Luke does anyway, that just prior to this Thomas was with the disciples, verses 19 to 23, he’s not there, we’re told that here in verse 24. But just prior to that, that evening he seemed to have been amongst the disciples. For in Luke we’re told that the entire eleven were together that night, as two of the disciples, that is two of the seventy, not of the twelve, two of the disciples, those that were on the Road to Emmaus, you remember they saw Jesus, they didn’t realize it initially, but then their eyes were opened, those two, when they realized they had seen Jesus, came to the eleven, it says, and began to share their experience. But also in Luke, it says in Luke chapter 24, verses 33 to 36, that they also talked about how Peter, we don’t know anything about it, but evidently Peter had also seen Jesus risen. There’s a reference to that, they talked about that. So Luke mentions that earlier in the evening, and then gives the, as you follow Luke’s rendition, Luke then gives the sudden appearance of Jesus that we read about here in John. In fact, the way Luke renders it, it seems that Thomas is actually there. But we learn from here [in John] that he’s not. So it’s possible then, Thomas was initially there for the reports from these disciples that had seen Jesus, and then he suddenly leaves. Now why does he suddenly leave? We don’t know. But maybe it’s because, hearing the reports, hearing these things, maybe it’s overwhelming, he’s struggling, there’s confusion, there’s uncertainty, there’s a heaviness in his heart, I mean, it’s been a difficult time, and now people are saying all kinds of strange things, hard to believe. And as is the case sometimes when we’re struggling, we want to get away and be alone. So maybe that’s the sense. And I get that sense here too with Thomas in these verses here. This guy’s been struggling. But he’s initially with them. And then he leaves. And we don’t know for sure why. But he does depart. So anyway, putting the Gospels together, the point is Thomas was just there before, and he leaves, and he just misses out on this incredible experience, he just misses out on it. And of course that’s a bummer for him, because as we see here a little later, when the disciples now have seen Jesus, and they come to Thomas here in these verses we read about, verses 24 to 29, they try to encourage him. They try to share their excitement with him, telling him that they’ve seen Jesus alive, telling him that they’ve seen him risen from the dead. But as you see there in verse 25, he refuses to believe. But instead of believing, he says, I mean, he’s not going to believe. But he wants to see some hard physical evidence, man, he’s not just going to take their word, he wants to see some concrete evidence. In fact, he says he wants to see the nail-prints, the nail-prints in the hands of Jesus. He wants to see the scar in his side, he wants to see something real here, something physical here. And if he sees it, then he will believe. Now that must also tell us that the disciples told him, as you remember just looking back to verse 20, the disciples earlier, the ten when Jesus appeared, Jesus showed them his hands and he showed them his side. So they must have said, ‘You know, we saw Jesus, we saw his hands, we saw his side, man, this was Jesus, we know it was Jesus.’ And in the tense of the Greek they continue to tell him, ‘We saw Jesus.’ They’re trying to encourage him. But he’s not accepting it. He’s not believing it. He’s doubting. And he says, ‘I want to see it myself, I want to see Jesus myself, and I want to see his hands and I want to see his side.’
“When two or three of you are gathered together in my name”---why we all need to be in a church!
Well I can only conclude, we can only conclude really that having not been with the ten, Thomas has missed out on a real special opportunity. He’s missed out on an opportunity for Jesus to minister to him, for Jesus to encourage him, for Jesus to strengthen him. And for that reason, now, the next week or so, because it says eight days later, he goes another week, he had a tough three days, and we can only imagine he goes another week struggling with anxiety, struggling with confusion, struggling with just anxiousness and uncertainty because he wasn’t there, he missed out on the opportunity, he missed out on that time where Jesus appeared with the disciples, the ten together. Well I say all that, and I start my study that way, because there is a picture there. And if you’ve studied this, maybe read some books, a lot of times Bible teachers will reference this, because there is a wonderful picture here, and I’d just like to use the opportunity as an encouragement to all of us. But the Word says, the Scripture tells us, when two or three are gathered together, when the disciples are gathered together, when God’s people are gathered together, we’re told, Jesus even said in Matthew 18, that Jesus is there in the midst. And you see that picture here. The disciples, the ten are together, verses 19 to 23, Jesus appears, and then a little later, 8 days later, the disciples together, Jesus appears. And when Jesus appears, man, he ministers. He comes and he encourages. He comes and he blesses. But when you miss out on that, when you miss out on that dynamic, you miss out on special blessing. You miss out on Jesus there in that context, being able to minister to you, to encourage you, to strengthen you. So I start that way, and I say that, because that’s just a reminder to me of being in church, being in fellowship, there’s a work that God does uniquely when we’re together. And it’s important for us to come together, that’s what the Scripture indeed says. And when you miss out on that, as some do, in a consistent fashion, when you miss out on that, man you miss out on blessing in your life. Because Jesus is there, he appears, he works, he encourages. Man, those ten disciples, man, they’re pretty excited. But Thomas, having not been there, missed out and had another week of just struggling and confusion. Sometimes like Thomas, we can be like that, we can for various reasons start missing out on being in church, and being in consistent fellowship. And of course Satan wants us to miss out on that, so there’s a spiritual battle that takes place too, he tries to keep us away and discourage us, and get us isolated, away from the Body, because he realizes that when we are in fellowship, we are strengthened. When we are in fellowship [with other members in the body of Christ] we are encouraged, so he tries to keep us from being in fellowship. So we can get into that mode like just the picture here of Thomas. Of course Thomas stepped out for a little bit. Just a picture there. We use the opportunity. We can get like that and miss out on that special blessing of being in church. So that’s why God exhorts us, man, exhorts the Church, as he does say in Hebrews chapter 10, the need to be continually and consistently together. Hebrews chapter 10 says “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some. But exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.” So if you’re a believer, I use the opportunity this morning if you’re a believer and you struggle with being consistently in church, for various reasons, maybe there’s a spiritual battle going on, maybe it’s just, it’s not a real emphasis and desire, a strong desire in your heart, you really wonder about the need to be in church consistently. Well look at the picture here of Thomas. He missed out because he wasn’t there. And it would have made a difference in his life if he was. And you can be sure that if you’re not consistently in church, you’re loosing. I’ve shared this many times. But when I was in college, the first few years of college, I grew up in a Baptist church, various Baptist churches as we lived in different places, my family, and grew up in the church. But when I got to college I got into the college way of life, young believer, and for about two and a half years I didn’t attend church. And I can tell you, man, I read my Bible, I prayed, I was around Christians, but my goodness I wish I could go back and erase those two and a half years. Because it really made a difference in my life [in a bad way]. And you would never have believed, if you met me then, that I was someday going to become a pastor. You would have never ever believed it. But I got plugged back into church, and God began to do a work in my life, began to redirect me. And it really just was a beautiful thing of being with Christians and being built up. And I know a lot of us know that, but I use the opportunity, considering this picture here with Thomas, just to exhort you simply, and to understand that if you miss church for extended periods of time, you miss out, you miss out on God’s blessing. But also understand, it’s disobedience to God’s Word, because God [in Hebrews 10] says ‘Don’t forsake, don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves, as some do, especially as we see the Day approaching’, and I don’t know if you’ve been watching TV lately, but the Day is approaching fast, man. So especially now. You know, listening to the live services on our Christian radio is great, and we’re thankful that we have that, I’m mean, what an opportunity, we can broadcast our services live on the radio, we don’t even have to pay for it, man, we’re blessed, what an opportunity. And it’s also great that when I am not able to be here for certain reasons, I can tune in and I can listen and get blessed, man, just thank God. And I pray the Lord continues to give us that opportunity. But I want to encourage some, don’t be deceived into thinking that listening to the radio live [or studying on good Christian websites, even this one] is the same as being here, because it isn’t, it isn’t. Certainly you can get blessed. But there’s something about being with God’s people, being together, God works in a certain way, and ministers to us in a certain way. Now you don’t necessarily have to attend here, there are other churches. I’m not trying to just bring people here. But for your own sake, and your own life, be in church, be in church in a consistent fashion. And it makes a difference in your life. And there’s just a special dynamic of the Holy Spirit, and you’re only cheating yourself if you don’t have that happening consistently in your life. So I use the opportunity to encourage you. [It is also important to attend a church denomination that agrees with your secondary beliefs. All the real Christian denominations will be in agreement on the essentials of the Gospel of Salvation, but almost all have differing secondary beliefs. For example, this group here believes in the pre-millennial rapture of the saints to heaven. I am pre-millennial too, but don’t believe in the pre-millennial rapture of the saints. That’s important to me. It is important for you to find the denomination that fits your personal belief system if you are without a church, or else your spirit will be grieved by hearing those secondary beliefs being taught that you don’t agree with. Log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/choosingachurch.htm for some helpful hints in finding one. If you are Sabbatarian Church of God, having come from the Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Joseph Tkach Sr., but left shortly after he died, you might want to check out http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/historycog4.htm and read through that whole article, and the next one linked to it at the end of it. It proposes a very interesting solution you may be interested in pursuing. Because by now you must be realizing that you don’t quite fit anywhere else, due to your strong secondary doctrinal beliefs, and this hurts, man, I know personally.]
1. Why is it important that we believe in the Word and the works of Jesus Christ?
Now Thomas here, we often think of Thomas as ‘Doubting Thomas’, you know. You hear of him referred to that a lot of times, and of course that’s because of the way he struggles in these verses here. He struggles in accepting and believing the reports that he hears here of Jesus having risen from the dead. By now he’s heard reports from two of the seventy, the two that were on their way to Emmaus. He also heard reports from the ladies, now he hears reports from the ten disciples, and by Luke’s rendition, maybe there’s even others that were part of that, in that room at that time. He’s heard from many people that Jesus has risen from the dead. But yet he continues to struggle, continues to struggle with accepting it, and he wants to see it with his own eyes. And if he sees it with his own eyes, then he’ll believe, but not without that. He needs that evidence. And again as a result, he unnecessarily now has to go another week just struggling with questions. I mean, if he just accepted it at this point, it would have made this next week much easier, just believing, ‘OK, Jesus has risen from the dead. Praise God.’ That would certainly have changed his outlook. It would have encouraged him and strengthened him, and he would have had a very different week, I’m sure the next eight days. And that leads me to my first question, I’ve got a series of questions about belief, and that leads me now to my first question, “Why is it important that we believe in the Word and works of Jesus Christ?” Why is it important? Well one of the reasons it’s important is you see here when I don’t believe in his Word, in his works, I often endure unnecessarily struggles and battles. We may also, like Thomas here, because of maybe a lack of belief in Jesus’ Word and Jesus’ works, miss out on peace in our lives, miss out on a work of God’s power in our life, miss out on also just God’s renewed purpose in our life. And Thomas would have had some of that in his life if he would have believed here, and had just that encouragement and strengthening. So when we do not believe in Jesus’ words and when we struggle with accepting his work in us and through us, we miss out, man, and we miss out and we struggle unnecessarily with battles and different things. So, this morning, maybe you’re lacking in peace in your life. For whatever reason you’re lacking peace, maybe it’s because of a lack of belief. Maybe there’s also a lack of power in your life. Maybe there’s a lack of purpose and vision. And is it because, maybe because of a lack of belief in God’s Word and God’s promises to you, that you’re not accepting and believing in the work that he desires to do in and through you. I believe that is our greatest struggle. God says ‘This is what I want to do’, God says, ‘This is what I want to deliver you from.’ God says ‘This is where I want you to live,’ ‘This is the fruit I want to see in your life.’ Yet it’s so often not in our lives, and it’s not in our lives because of a lack of faith, just believing. So we continue to struggle. ‘I keep struggling with this, because I don’t believe.’ ‘I continually wrestle with that, I continue to carry around this burden, or this anxiety, or this heartache, because I’m simply not believing in God’s Word and his promises to me, and his work that he wants to do in and through me.’ So Thomas is a picture of that here too, this picture of Doubting Thomas. My encouragement to you, if that’s maybe been the situation in your life, and I would imagine for many of us, that is, because that is so often the case, that we’d just consider the story of Doubting Thomas, and remind ourselves and purpose ourselves not to be Doubting Thomas’s, not to doubt the Work of the Lord, not to doubt the Word of the Lord, man, because it’s no fun, it’s no fun when you miss out on God’s blessing. So you’re here, and maybe you’re missing out on blessing, you’re missing out on peace, you’re missing out on power, simply because you’re not believing [or attending regularly in a Christian fellowship, congregation], simply because you’re not trusting. Man, that’s a bummer, that’s no fun. But you know at the same time, I don’t say that to condemn you, we can’t come down on Thomas either, we can’t come down hard on him for not believing these reports, no doubt, the reports that he’s hearing right now are truly unbelievable in the sense that they’re incredible, it’s about an incredible event. A man has risen from the dead. [But you have to remember, that Jesus himself raised at least three separate people from the dead in the Gospels, the apostles saw it, along with Jesus healing potentially thousands of people, including lepers receiving whole limbs back.]
New-believers often need hard evidence too
So I can’t come down too hard on him for not accepting just the reports, and struggling in doubting and wanting to see a little bit more evidence. [Better not, he’s an apostle, you’re just a pastor.] As you remember too in verse 25, the disciples, they had the same problem earlier, when Mary Magdalene came to them, and she said to them, ‘Hey, I’ve seen Jesus risen from the dead,’ they had the same problem, in fact, it’s the same words that Mary Magdalene, what they have here and what they share about Jesus are the same words that Mary Magdalene shared with the other ten earlier. Just they were in the plural here, and they were in the singular with her. But they struggled earlier. So the other disciples struggled with the same type of thing just hearing reports, it was hard to accept that, that alone. There needed to be in many of their lives a little bit more than just reports, there needed to be some physical evidence. [Often when God the Father draws a new-believer to Christ, he will provide evidence, immediate answers to prayer, give us the evidence we need as new-believers. It’s not so different. I can remember some pretty awesome answers to prayer back then, and some pretty visible miracles too.] So, we really can’t come down on Thomas, and get on his case, look down on him, that’s for sure. He’s not unlike the rest of the disciples, and I would say he’s not unlike many of us. You know, as some commentators have noted, we don’t know who his twin was, but we know who his twin could have been, and his twin could have been me, you know, he’s a lot like me, struggling, hearing things, hearing the Word of God, hearing the work of God, hearing what Jesus has done or wants to do, and then just struggling, working through that, doubting and wondering. Now we should also note, it is clear in the text, that Thomas wanted to believe, it’s clear here, he wanted to believe, it’s not that he didn’t want to believe, he wanted to believe. He just doubted, he struggled. He wanted to really believe and accept. Of course it would have been awesome to him if this indeed was the truth, he wanted to believe. But as the other disciples also struggled earlier, and for whatever reason, he needed something more, he needs more than just words. Maybe he’s wondering, ‘These guys, I think they’re just caught up in the emotion, there’s some delusion, they want it so bad that there’s some kind of euphoria going on, and they’re deceiving themselves, they’re thinking they saw something, but they didn’t.’ Maybe he’s wondering, so he doesn’t want to be doped like that. He doesn’t want to be deceived. He wants to see the real deal, he needs more proof. So he’s doubting, but yet it’s a sincere doubting. It’s an honest doubting. And that’s OK. When you’re honest and sincere about it, you’re just wresting through it, there’s questions and uncertainties, intellectually there’s things going through your mind wondering ‘How could it be?’. That’s OK. A sincere doubt is OK. But there’s a big difference between doubting and unbelief, just unbelief, there’s a big difference. Doubting often is wanting to believe, but you’re struggling, sorting through just what seems to be problems and inconsistencies or questions [and it is those, just coming to Christ, that God will provide the needed evidence for]. But unbelief, on the other hand, is simply not wanting to believe, just simply because of the heart, not wanting to believe. And it’s just a, you just find excuses not to believe. So there’s a difference between doubt, and unbelief. So Thomas has a sincere heart, he’s struggling, he’s doubting, but it’s not this unbelief, the moral issue at heart where he just does not want to believe. He wants to believe, but he’s struggling. He’s not looking for excuses, he just wants some more evidence. As William Barkley writes, he says “He was not airing his doubts just for the sake of mental acrobatics, no he doubted in order to become sure. And when he did, his surrender to certainty was complete.” So maybe that’s been you, you’ve been testing and wondering, maybe you’re not a Christian, maybe you’re not born-again, but you want to be, you want to know God. So you’re studying, and you’re asking questions, ‘How can it be? How could Jesus really be God the Son? How could Jesus come down and, I mean, how could God do that, how can he raise from the dead?’ Hard to imagine, and you’re wrestling with it. But as least in your heart there’s a desire to know. That’s OK. Continue to ask questions, continue to test and seek. Seek and you will find. God will reveal his truth to you [for some proofs of God’s existence and who Jesus is, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/dinosaurs/dinosaurs.htm and http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/1stcoming.htm.]. I remember when I was an engineer, and I’ve mentioned this to you before too, but I used to challenge engineers I worked with at Caterpillar in San Diego, and say, ‘Hey, lets do a Bible study. You’re asking questions about God, you’re wondering about Buddha and all these different things, let me challenge you. I’ve got the Bible, man.’ And I’d challenge them, ‘Test it. Ask any question you want to ask. That’s OK to ask questions. And let’s see if we can find the answers. God is real, his Word is real, and I believe he wants to reveal himself to you. And he’s not going to let something hinder you from coming to him, if you want to know him, he’s going to reveal to you what you need to know.’ So maybe that’s you this morning, so I encourage you, keep testing, don’t be discouraged if there’s just a wrestling going on, and you’re wondering ‘How can it be?’, but yet there’s a sincere desire in your heart. The Lord is going to reveal himself to you. So, sincere doubt is one thing. But then on the other hand, there are people, again, that have unbelief. They try to use intellectual reasons and excuses to say, ‘Well, I don’t believe, because how can this be?’ But they’re just giving excuses because they don’t want to believe. They just don’t want to hear it. And maybe that’s you this morning. You try to say, ‘You know, I don’t believe because, I mean, come on, God becoming a man, that’s foolish, how could that be?’. And you make excuses with a different heart. That’s different. And if that’s you this morning, if you’re struggling with that type of heart, man, my prayer for you is that God would convict your heart this morning, because you are in a dangerous place. The Bible says there’s one sin that God will not forgive, and that is blaspheming of the Holy Spirit. And that is just to deny the Holy Spirit to purpose your heart, repeatedly, that ‘I don’t want to believe.’ And if you continue to do that, the Bible says, your heart gets harder and harder and harder, and if you do not believe and never put your faith in the Lord, the Bible says then you can’t be forgiven of your sin. So that’s a dangerous place. And if that’s you this morning, it’s certainly possible, there could be some with us this morning, maybe attending church now and then, maybe listening in, maybe you’re here because of a relative, a spouse or a friend, but you don’t want to believe. And I just reach out to you, just with my heart this morning, to say, ‘You’re in a dangerous place, you’re in a dangerous place.’ I pray for you, I pray God would soften your heart this morning, and he’d remove just the deception, and he’d put it in you a desire to know the truth, to know the truth. Well, if you’ve been struggling with doubt, man, that’s a little different, a sincere doubt. God is going to minister to you.
Gideon had sincere doubt, not unbelief in God
I think of our Bible reading this week, the story of Gideon, you remember Gideon. You know, God came to him and said some incredible things. He said, ‘I want to use you Gideon. I know you’re from the least of the least of the tribes of Israel, but I want to use you to deliver Israel from the Midianites.’ And the Midianites were strong and oppressive, and Israel was very weak at that time. You remember Gideon says, ‘OK, well Lord if it’s true, I need you to do a couple things here, I need a little bit more proof Lord. I’m gonna put out this fleece…’ And you remember, you know, and then God works, and Gideon says, ‘I need a little bit more proof Lord, do it again, and let’s just reverse this whole process.’ But God worked, it was sincere, he wanted to know. And I thank God that he’s like that, he wants to help us. If there’s a sincere heart, ‘I want to know Lord. I need a little bit more proof, I’m struggling, wrestling. Give me a little bit more proof’, a little bit more help, he’ll do that. You remember too, God knew that was the situation with Gideon, he was so gracious, because then later he says, “Alright, I’m going to give you an army, I’m going to raise up an army around you, so there’s thirty thousand, God then says ‘That’s too many, we need to weed it down, gets it down to eventually 10,000 and then down to 300. And it’s 300 now against over 100,000. There were over 100,000 Midianites. They destroyed, it said, over 120,000 of them. So 300. Now God knows Gideon is going to be struggling with that. He says, “I’m going to take 300 against that big number?’ So what does God say? This is what God says, ‘Go down to the camp, that’s the Midianite camp, for I have delivered them into your hand.’ But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Puriah your servant, and you will hear, you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hand shall be strengthened to go down to the camp.’ He said to Gideon, ‘If you’re afraid, listen, go down and listen, I’m gonna give you a little bit more help.’ And you remember some Midianite guys are talking, one guy shares his dream with the other guy, and the other guy says, ‘Oh man, that’s nothing less than the sword of Gideon, man, Gideon is going to destroy the Midianites, he’s going to destroy us.’ So a fear went throughout the camp of the Midianites, and Gideon was encouraged…So if you’re wrestling, it’s OK, if you’re honest and sincere, ‘Well God, help me out here, give me a little bit more. I want to know what to do, I want to know your will, I want to trust you on this one, help me, Lord.’ He’s so gracious, and he does. Well, Jesus knows the sincere struggle of Thomas. After eight days he comes, and in verse 26 he ministers to him. Although again it would have been easier if he had accepted the reports earlier. And it’s interesting to note that he appears to him again when the disciples are together as a group. Two or three together, you know, Jesus appears in the midst. But there suddenly, they’re together now eight days later, it’s again the first day of the week, so it’s our Sunday, suddenly Jesus, like he did before just appears in their midst, standing in their midst. It tells us a little bit about his physical body after he rose from the dead. He does something very supernatural here, he just appears in the room, so he can pass through doors, walls, whatever. He’s able, just appears in the room. [As I said before, Jesus is now in his glorified state, but as we saw with Yahweh when he wanted to appear to Abraham, like in Genesis 17-18, he and the two angels with him took on human form and likeness. Yet this was Yahweh, in human form that actually sat down with Abraham and ate a meal with him. This is something some other denominations haven’t grasped yet. But he is a Spirit Being, God the Son.] But he’s not a phantom, he’s not just some kind of illusion, or a spirit, he’s actually a physical body, because he says to Thomas, you see there in verse 27, ‘Reach out and touch me.’ We know in another Gospel he actually eats some fish. So he has a physical body, but it’s pretty wild, he’s just able to appear right in a room. Kind of a neat thing to do, kind of like the Star Trek transporter, you know, just beam right in there, and woof, that’s what he does. Maybe that’s where the guy of Star Trek got that idea, I don’t know. [Einstein’s E=MC squared formula shows matter and energy are interchangeable, which makes transporter technology possible, yet undiscovered as of yet.]
There is lasting peace as long as we are with and in Jesus
But he just appears in the room. As he appears, his first words to Thomas are the same as he said to the disciples earlier, his first words are, “Shalom, peace to you.” And that’s just cool. I love that, he does that over and over. The Word of God, just peace to you, peace you. They’re struggling, Thomas is struggling. Maybe there’s even guilt going on. You know, ‘Lord, I want to believe, but I can’t believe, I mean, come on, maybe these guys are just flaking out, too hard to believe.’ He’s struggling, maybe there’s confusion going on all week. Having a hard time, but Jesus comes and says ‘Peace to you, peace to you.’ I love that about the Lord. I love that about the Lord. He doesn’t come down so hard on you, beat up on you, and rebuke you like in a mean way. He comes and says ‘Peace.’ He does correct Thomas here. But he says ‘Peace to you, peace to you.’ So you’ve been struggling, maybe with doubting, maybe with unbelief. God doesn’t condemn you. He loves you. He loves you, that’s for sure. He says ‘Peace to you.’ And may we be reminded too, peace is only found in one place. You know, Thomas and the disciples, they’re hiding in secret, right now it’s not very good outside this place. The religious leaders are out to get them, that’s what they think anyway. So they’re hiding, there’s hostility around them. So there’s not peace in the world, but Jesus says ‘Peace to you, peace to you.’ And that’s a reminder to us that peace is only found in one place, you’ll never ever find it in this world. If you thought you could, just look at the news this last week, man, there’s nothing close to peace in this world right now. [Our war with Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein may have just started during the week that just passed, as well as the fact that our troops are in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban as well.] In fact, I don’t know about you, watching the news, I wonder what the future holds not too long from now. You’ve got huge rallies, people emphatically saying they want to fight our country, come against Americans, there’s not peace in the world, that’s for sure. It’s far from peace in the world. We’ll never find peace in the world though. So I don’t want that to stress me out either. The world isn’t a place of peace. It never has been and never will be. I mean, throughout history there’s only been a handful of years where there hasn’t been war. [Except when Jesus returns to set up his government, the Kingdom of God, over the world, when he will be King of the World, cf. Zechariah 14:9. To learn about this time of peace and prosperity Jesus’ government will set up over mankind, log onto: http://www.unityinchrist.com/kingdomofgod/kog.htm. At this link two major sections detail this coming millennial Kingdom of God, a commentary on the Book of Isaiah, and a special online book giving the details of this coming Kingdom.] So what’s happening now has been happening all along. But there is peace, and peace is found in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. The Bible says his Kingdom is a Kingdom of Peace. In fact, the Bible says that “he is our peace.” So there’s peace, he can show up, things can be hostile, we’re here on a Sunday [or Saturday] morning, watching the TV, I don’t know about you, but there’s been times my wife and I’ve stayed up late talking, going ‘Man, what is going to happen with this deal?’ Hearing people on the news say ‘This is a no-win situation for the United States, we can’t win this one. We might win the war, but we’re not going to win the bigger thing that comes.’ [And that would be the farsighted analysts saying we would win the immediate war against Saddam and Iraq, but we would fail to win the peace, bringing lasting peace in Iraq—which so far has alluded our military over there, and it’s now 2009. Things look like we may succeed now, but a new President is coming into office now, with a different agenda in his heart, so who knows.] In fact, somebody put it this way, and I wonder, it’s like we’ve gotten involved in a domestic dispute [and this is true, three separate religious-ethnic groups live in Iraq that hate each other, the Sunni Muslims, the Shiite Muslims, and the Kurdish people, a volatile mixture that spells ‘years of civil war’.]. And if you get involved in a domestic-spousal dispute, you never can win, you become the bad guy no matter what. [And police officers dread going into a domestic dispute more than anything else, including facing armed robbers.] Just trust me, they’re people fighting and you try to get too involved, especially a husband and wife, if you’re not in the power of the Holy Spirit, you’ll find that you often come out the bad guy, even though you were just trying to help. And it seems like that, we’ve got a situation where we may lose no matter what we do, you know, or at least reap some difficult times. But you know, that’s the world. But my kingdom is the Kingdom of God, and that’s where I rest. [And all believers have been and are in training as the future leaders in that Kingdom, where we’ll rule with Jesus upon his return, ruling over mankind. Cf. Revelation 5:9-10. But we’re also spiritually in that heavenly kingdom right now, as Colossians says, we’re actually in that kingdom now, by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, he has brought us “into that kingdom of light.”] So yeah, a little unnerving at times as we’re watching the news. But yet when I come back to Jesus, and I say, ‘But yeah, I walk in his peace, I trust in his peace, because Jesus is my peace.’ Well he ministers to Thomas here, he ministers to him and encourages him not to be unbelieving, but to be believing. Now it’s kind of cool, you know, he says ‘Peace to you’ and the first thing he says, he goes right to the point with Thomas. Now Thomas earlier didn’t see Jesus, didn’t think Jesus was there, he states what he states, but was Jesus there? Jesus was there, because Jesus certainly knew what he said. Didn’t see him, but he was there, and he’s there in our midst right now. So Jesus shows up knowing exactly what Thomas said, and goes right to the point. And I’m sure Thomas had to consider that a little later, you know. ‘I didn’t see him, I said these things, but man, he certainly heard them. He certainly knew what I was all about.’ And he goes right to the point.
2. What is true belief?
Well Thomas seeing Jesus, and I would image many believe he probably doesn’t reach out. Jesus says, ‘Here are my hands Thomas, here is my side, touch it, check it out. You said you needed to see to believe, here I am, check it out Thomas.’ Well Thomas, I would imagine probably doesn’t even need to reach out to look at that or touch that. I’m sure he doesn’t stop and examine, make sure, I mean he just looks at Jesus, blown away, and in a very beautiful way, one of the strongest declarations in the Scriptures as far as someone declaring God and worshipping Jesus, he says, Verse 28, “My Lord and my God.” And there’s just a real emphatic declaration there. But it’s more than just a declaration, he’s not just getting excited. In the Greek, he is addressing Jesus, he is saying “MyLord and my God.” That is what he’s saying, ‘My Lord and my God.’ He sees the resurrected Jesus, he sees his Messiah, and he says ‘MyLord and myGod”, that’s what he says. Now the next question, you know, ‘why believe?’. The next question “What is true belief?” I think Thomas shows us here in his words, gives us a picture of what true belief is. Those words, this is a great example. To really believe in Jesus is that heart. It’s not just to say, ‘Well I reasoned through it’ either. And it makes sense to really believe and say ‘Yes, I believe, you are my Lord, you are my God, I will follow you. You’re my everything, you’re my all in all, you’re my Master.’ What is true belief? You read here in that statement, you remember the Scriptures say, you know James said, “Even the demons believe in Christ, and they shudder,’ but they don’t really believe in the sense of what we’re talking about this morning, that is faith. So what is true belief? One Christian leader put it this way, “The Christian faith is not just a mental ascent, nor only a verbal confession, but it is a spiritual reception and a moral submission to Christ.” That’s belief. Why do we need to believe? If we don’t believe, we miss out on blessing. When we do believe, we’re blessed, and there’s a ministry and work of God in our life. But also, believing is, it’s more than just saying ‘Yeah, I believe’, and then you go and live your own life. To believe is to say ‘Yes, my Lord and my God, I believe your Word, I want to obey your Word, I respond to your Word, Lord.’ Well Thomas was doubting. It was a sincere doubt though, because you can see when he gets a little bit more help and ministry from the Lord here, man, he completely surrenders. There’s such a certainty now, and a confidence. So that just shows you, he wanted to believe, and the Lord was going to help him get there, just as Gideon, just as Gideon. I thank the Lord that he does that in our lives, and will come to us and just give us that little extra thing we need to just move us along and help us. I was even thinking of this last week, just a little story. You know this last, week I’m going to India tomorrow, and I’ll be honest with you, in the last couple weeks especially as this war got started [in Iraq], I wondered ‘Well, maybe I’m not supposed to go.’ Good reason not to. Our nation is at war in Iraq. A lot of flights are being cancelled, you know, and we’re being told that travel isn’t all that safe, I’ve got young children at home, my wife is a little nervous. My in-laws, who aren’t born-again believers are really thinking, they’re calling all the time, every day, every other day, ‘Is he going? Is he going? Is he going?’. And then I’m a pastor of a church, and you know if this war really gets hairy in Iraq, I want to be here, I want to be in this community. ‘So am I supposed to go? Lord I thought you were leading me.’ So we have these seasons, ‘Lord, do I need to trust you and believe that you want me to go, and just go for it? Lord just speak to me, I’m struggling. I thought you told me to do this, but man, with all this going on now, I’m wondering what to do, Lord, I’m struggling, I need a little bit more [confirmation],’ But you know, I actually came Wednesday night, if you were here at Wednesday night Bible study, I said ‘I’m not going.’ I had gotten to that point, ‘I’m not going. I’m just not going.’ I told everybody. A few of you are saying, ‘I thought you said you weren’t going.’ [laughter] But I was there, but I was not at peace with that, I didn’t want to miss out on a blessing for my life, for my family and for the congregation, I believe the Lord has a vision here. This is a unique trip for various reasons. So, anyway I called up the travel agent, and the Lord was giving me little nuggets. You know, my in-laws, you know, I love them, and I’m bothered by the fact that they’re not going to respect me if I go. Although they did send me a suitcase for the trip, so I said, ‘Alright.’ [laughter] So I’m thinking, ‘Maybe Lord you can give me a little extra proof’, and then they’re going to Panama in the next few weeks, ‘Wait a minute Rob and Marge, I love you guys, but you’re having a hard time with me going to India, and you’re going to Panama here, wait a minute.’ So I’m thinking about that, and then I call the travel agent, and I’m starting to cancel my ticket, and the lady is an Indian, and she says, “You know, it’s totally safe to go to India. I’ve been talking to my family, there are people from my area…”, you know it’s a missionary travel agency, “there are people traveling back and forth. This is a Hindu country, this war has not affected India at all.” And of course, going through Amsterdam, it’s part of the Coalition, it’s a safe place. So she’s telling me, all right, all right. So I say, “Let me pray for another day, call you back tomorrow.” [chuckles] And then the Lord was just ministering to my heart. Get this, I say all this, I’m now in my commentaries, I have a group of commentaries, sometimes I get more than I need, and I have a lot, and if you study too much, I have to do data-dump, I have to keep it to a certain amount of studying. But because I was going to just do these verses, I had already prepared for it, when I do that, I prepared for these before, the last study, I pulled out some other commentaries I have, so this is one I hardly use, William Barkley. But I like it, I like him, he’s colorful. Don’t always agree with his doctrine, but he’s colorful the way he writes. So I pull out Barkley and I’m reading, and this is the first thing he has to say. He starts talking about Thomas, and maybe you know the Apocryphal book, the Acts of Thomas. It’s a legend, it’s apocryphal, it’s not inspired by God. And you can study some of those apocryphal books, I did in college when I was at Boston University, but anyway, he notes this book, he says it’s only legend, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some historical data that came into that, and that’s why they wrote it. We know it’s not inspired by God, but there might be some information, you know, it certainly was something that has been around…Well anyway, here’s the story. And I’m just going to read his words to you real quick. But check this out. I’m wondering, I even wrote that day, ‘Lord I need to know, should I go to India?’ “After the death of Jesus, the disciples divided up the world among them, so that each might go to some country to preach the Gospel. India fell by lot to Thomas.” (The Thomas Church in south India does trace its origin to him.) “At first he refused to go, saying that he was not strong enough for the long journey, he said ‘I am a Hebrew man, how can I go amongst the Indians and preach the Gospel?’ Jesus appeared to him one night and said ‘Fear not, Thomas, go thou into India, and preach the Word there, for my grace is with thee.’” So Thomas, he’s telling a story about Thomas struggling about whether or not, he’s fearing about going to India, and Jesus’ is saying ‘Go to India’. I just think that’s interesting, I’m reading this thinking about this, you know. [chuckles] I mean, that’s kind of one of those clear ones, you know. [laughter] But Thomas still stubbornly refused. ‘Whither thou wilt send me, send me, but elsewhere, for to the Indians I will not go.’ Well anyway, he goes on, and I’m not going to read it all to you, but Jesus works and finally Thomas says, ‘Alright, I surrender.’ When he got what he needed, that little extra evidence, he said, ‘I surrender, and I’m going for it. I’m going to India.’ Well he goes to India as a slave for the king. And here he says this. “The story goes on to tell about how Gunda Fores commanded Thomas to build a palace, and Thomas said that he was well able to do so.’ This is king Gunda Fores, wants him to build a palace. The king gave him money aplenty to buy materials and to hire workmen. But Thomas gave it all away to the poor. Always telling the king the palace was rising steadily, the king was suspicious, in the end he sent for Thomas. ‘Hast thou built me the palace’, he demanded.’ Thomas answered ‘Yes.’ ‘When then shall we go and see it?’ asked the king. Thomas answered ‘Thou canst not see it now, but thou, when thou departest this life, then thou shalt see it.’ At first the king was very angry, and Thomas was in danger of his life, but in the end the king too was won for Christ, and so Thomas brought Christianity to India.” So, struggling, should I go? Fear, Jesus says “Go.” And then he gets there, and what does he do, he ministers to the poor. That just ministers to my heart. And maybe you’re thinking it’s silly. But God got my attention with it. So tomorrow I leave…Now it’s important, Thomas says “My Lord and my God.” And maybe you’ve been taught in your upbringing that Jesus isn’t deity, that he isn’t God the Son. Thomas here calls him God the Son, he calls him God. And it is important to note that Jesus does not stop him from saying that. Jesus doesn’t stop him from worshipping him, Jesus doesn’t say ‘Hey, wait a minute, let me straighten you out here.’ In fact, verse 29, he says there’s blessing in believing. So he calls him “God, his God” and Jesus only affirms that. Verse 29, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
3. How do you come to a place of believing---how do you come to that point of faith?
Well, as we’re at the end of our time, verses 30-31, “Truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” So, John writes that Jesus did a lot of things. He did so many miracles, and we’ll talk about this in the next chapter, “many things in the presence of his disciples, not all of them are written,” in fact, John has only written about seven, he decides to write about seven miracles, seven signs. Six of them we studied before, the seventh one is chapter 20, which is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s all he writes about, those seven signs. But he says, “Jesus has done many others.” But he says ‘These things I’ve written, I’ve chosen these seven, they’re written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.’ The third question, “How do you come to a place of believing?”---if you’re wanting to believe, struggling about believing, how do come to that point of faith? Well the Bible says, faith comes by hearing the Word. And that’s what it says here, he says, ‘I’ve written these things, you study these things, I’ve written them to you so that you may believe, you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.’ And what is the ultimate result? The ultimate result of believing in Jesus Christ, the ultimate result here, verse 31, is that you may have life in his name. That’s a favorite subject for John, 36 times he talks about life in his Gospel. And that is life in the here and now, here, abundant life, that’s also eternal life, and he says “that you would believe that you may have life, that you may have life.” Now, why does he say that? Why does the Word of God say that we may believe and find life? I mean, why do we need life? You only need life if you lack life, meaning, you only need life before you are dead. And that’s what the Bible says. Jesus came to give life, that is because without Christ, because of our sin, the Bible says we are spiritually dead, separated from God. And not only that, if we stay in that condition, spiritually dead, we will be dead eternally, meaning we’ll be judged, for the wages of sin is death, separation from God. But Jesus came to give life, spiritual life. And we find that, we have that, we receive that as we believe in him. It is in the present, abundant life, spiritual life, but it’s also eternal life. Jesus said in John chapter 5, “Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears my Word and believes in him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” And Paul says in Ephesians “And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” So, do you want that life this morning? If you’re here without Jesus Christ, do you want that life? You can have that life. Let’s close in prayer…[a transcript of a sermon on John 20:24-31, given somewhere in New England.]