February 7, 2021

QUESTIONS OF FAITH

Passage: John 14:7-14

7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
— John 14:7-14, ESV

In this part of the upper room discourse, Jesus asks some questions, important questions, eternal questions.  In keeping with the overall theme of the Gospel of John, they are questions of faith, faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is a test the whole world must take, and not every professing Christian will pass.  Only a real disciple can answer the true questions of faith.

Do you believe in God?

An atheist would answer, “No,” for by definition he or she is a person who believes there is no God, or even gods for that matter.  They would prove their unbelief by refraining from religious activity such as public worship, prayer, or evangelism, for in their minds there is no God to worship, pray to, or try to convince others of.

An agnostic would answer, “I don’t know,” for by definition he or she is a person who really does not know if there is as God, or gods, or not.  They carry these doubts through life and rarely assuage them by reading the Bible or any other religions books, except perhaps out of occasional curiosity or in a desperate search for inspiration.  You seldom see them in church, although they are not normally antagonistic towards God, since everyone should have the right to what they believe, or not believe.

While the numbers of atheists and agnostics are rising in modern culture, both are still slender minorities.  The vast majority of us are deists, which means we affirm there is a God, or gods, but most deists do not know what to call him, or her, or it.  Many of the founding fathers of the United States were deists.  God is mentioned twice in the Declaration of Independence, as  “Nature’s God” and “Creator.”  They could have just as easily called Him “The Man Upstairs,” as deists are want to do.

Among the deists are pantheists, who believe God is, and it is everywhere, kind of like the force in Star Wars.  Others are polytheists, believing in many gods, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, or modern Buddhists, Hindus, and SEC football fans.  The majority of deists, however, are monotheists, believers in one true God.  Monotheists comprise the world’s three largest religions: Judaism, which produced Christianity, and the seventh century counter to both, Islam.

So, do you believe in God?  A vast majority would answer, “Yes.”

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

We should not waste our time asking the atheist, agnostic, pantheist, polytheist, or run of the mill deist, for they would all quickly conclude, “No,” then deflect their rejection by adding He may have been a good man and a good teacher.  But Jesus is much more than a mere good man to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

To the majority of Jews in His day, Jesus was a bad man, a rebel, a blasphemer of God who had to be exterminated.  Exterminate Him they did, or so they thought, until Good Friday gave way to Resurrection Sunday.  Jews of today are more kind, even serving as benevolent tour guides in the Holy Land.  Yet they believe Yeshua is the Messiah only to Christians, not Israel.

To many peoples’ surprise, most Muslims are respectful and kind when it comes to Jesus.  To them, “Isa” is actually a highly respected prophet.  A prophet only, and not the prophet at all, for that distinction belongs to Muhammed.

This leaves us with the Christians, who surely among the monotheistic people of the world would affirm the deity of Christ, don’t you think?  It all depends upon what kind of Christian you ask.

In liberal or progressive Christianity, beliefs about Jesus Christ range from those who do not believe He actually existed at all, to those who believe He did, but did not do the things the Bible claims, like walk on water and raise people from the dead.  They also flatly reject the substitutionary atonement, for God would not do such a bloody thing to save people who are good anyway; and, they deny His literal, bodily resurrection, for such a non-scientific thing is impossible.  You might as well be an atheist.

In moderate Christianity, differing beliefs abound as well.  Moderates believe in the Jesus of the Bible, but not too much.  They are like the husband who comes home and tells his wife, “I love you, moderately.”  They believe the gospel and the word of God are inspired in spots and some of them are inspired to spot the spots, but little can be taken literally about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They are typically unitarians at heart.  You might as well be an agnostic.

I am not sure I would want to identify with conservative Christians, necessarily, because this batch includes Bible believing Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as a whole assortment of fruits, nuts, and Pharisees.  It is good to believe the Bible is the word of God, and it is good to believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but superficial, heretical, or hypocritical claims to truth cannot save your soul in the end.

Saving faith in Jesus Christ must be deeper, truer, and more impactful.  It must be historical, theological, and practical.  It must be total, and it must control your attitudes and actions.  This question of faith can only be posed by a more complex, internal, eternal, and external question, and only a true disciple of the Lord can answer yes to this question of faith.

Are you a Disciple?

Jesus was engaged in a question and answer session with true disciples.  The dialogue in English might be a little misleading, but the original language shows that Jesus was being affirming, comforting, albeit challenging.

It is not enough simply to believe in God, or even believe in Jesus Christ is some superficial way.  Unless you believe in the particular doctrines of Christ, and unless you live a life totally devoted to Jesus Christ, you really cannot call yourself a Christian,

Jesus said that only those who rightly believe in Him can truly answer “yes” to believing in God.

It is not enough to believe in a generic “God” or an aloof “Creator” or a friendly “Man Upstairs.”    You must call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved.  In other words, you have to acknowledge Jesus as deity, God of very God, Lord of lords.

The whole of John 14 reveals God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This is the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity, or tri-unity, one true and living God revealed in three persons.  Other religions and cultic pseudo-Christianity cannot accept the tri-unity of God.  A true Christian must accept the Trinity, not necessarily explain it.  But one may only come to the Father through the Son with the aid of the Spirit.  This is precisely what Jesus was teaching the first disciples in the upper room, and this is what the word of God teaches today in every room.

To say “no” to the deity of Jesus Christ is to day “no” to God, which sadly is the answer all men give, except for the remnant of born again, believing Christians.  So how do you know your answer is a valid “yes” on the test?  You prove your faith by your works.
Jesus said that only those who truly behave like Him can truly answer “yes” to believing in Him.

It is a common theme in the New Testament that true Christians are saved by faith, not works, but such saving faith always finds a way to do, in the words of Jesus, “The works that I do” (vs. 12).  The Lord’s half-brother, James, put it bluntly, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (ref. James 2:17).  Faith wants to work, and faith in Jesus wants to do the works Jesus did on earth.

As they listened in that upper room, the disciples must have thought back over the last three years and reviewed the works Jesus had engaged in during that time.  Most might major on the miraculous, but it is the mundane, every day works of the Christ and the Christian that should capture our attention at this point.

Jesus never missed a chance to publicly and privately worship and pray to God the Father.  They were with Him at the Passover, again.  They had attended every synagogue in Galilee with Jesus.  They heard Him often quote Scripture and affirm its authority.  They watched as He prayed and begged Him to teach them how to pray.  Worship is the uttermost work of Christ, His church, and the true Christian.

Jesus constantly preached and spun parables to share the gospel of the kingdom of God.  He was a constant witness to the Father and a consistent evangelist to all people.  He had often sent the disciples out two by two to share the gospel and no doubt wanted this work to continue, with even more results, until He returns to earth.  Evangelism is the urgent work of Christ, His church and the true Christian.

And yes, Jesus turned water into wine, healed the sick, calmed the storms, and raised the dead.  Some of these powers He deemed to the first Apostles, but there is no consistent evidence these sign gifts survived the first generation of Christians.  So, I do not think the spectacular was the “greater works.”  When is the last time you saw someone turn a bottle of water into an exquisite cabernet, walk on the water, or evacuate a cemetery?

The “greater works” refer to the fact that at the time of this preaching, there was only one Jesus on the earth.  Subsequently, because of genuine Christianity, Jesus is in everyone who richly calls upon the name of the Lord for salvation, and its subsequent service.  There were a handful of believers then in one church, there are millions now in many churches.  This is the “greater works” Christians have accomplished for Christ, according to His promise.

And, true Christians act in accordance with prayer.  Do you want to know God, and have assurance of your relationship with Him?  Do you want to have Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and live a life that is pleasing to Him?  Do you want to engage in worship and witness in such as way that satisfies your soul and wins souls for Christ?  Then pray to God the Father, talk to Him, in the name, in the authority, because of the person and work, of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, ask for those things that will further and glorify that great name.  Work and pray not for private things to be left behind, but kingdom endeavors that will last forever.

Believing in God, or even believing that Jesus is God, is not enough to pay the cost of discipleship.  True faith in Jesus Christ, proven by worship and works in His name, boosted by unselfish prayers are the only answers to the questions of faith.  Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, sincerely and consistently, and I will see you and these eleven disciples in a true upper room one day.

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