home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022> JUNE 10 > WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.

So they said to Him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe You?
What work do You perform?”…
But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.
John 6:30, 36

 

THE EVIDENCES FOR THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE

What does it take for someone to believe the Christian message? Miracles? God visibly appearing to them? Hearing directly from God? When Jesus the Christ appeared and did many extraordinary things – including each of the things just mentioned – many people did indeed believe. But, even despite many of these evidences being demonstrated before their eyes, some still would not believe. What was it that people were either accepting or rejecting, or believing or refusing to believe? The Christian message is what Jesus taught. It might be summed up as: all people are alienated from God by their sin; Jesus Christ had come to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who would die to atone for the sins of all mankind; His death would be the means by which God forgive each person of their sins; but this forgiveness could only be enacted if each person turned to the Christ as their Saviour by putting their trust in Him and what He taught. Jesus supported His claims by performing many miracles, which the apostle John described as “signs”. In fact, when he eventually wrote his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, John chose seven of Christ’s signs to demonstrate that He was who He claimed to be: God in the flesh. 

¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

JOHN’S SEVEN SIGN-PROOFS LEADING TO BELIEF IN JESUS

The apostle John carefully selected seven profound miracles performed by Jesus that revealed His claim to be the eternal God. Each of these miraculous signs revealed that Jesus was the eternal God who was Lord over creation, the weather, time, the laws of nature, and even death.

Sign: Scripture: Revealed:
1. The Changing of Water into Wine John 2:1-11 Master of quality
2. Healing of the Official’s son John 4:46-54 Master over distance and space
3. Healing of the 38years of being a lame invalid John 5:1-9 Master over (the ravages of) time
4. The Feeding of The Five Thousand John 6:1-14 Master over quantity
5. Walking on water John 6:16-21 Mastery over natural law
6. Healing of the man born blind John 9:1-12 Master of misfortune
7. Raising of the four-days-dead Lazarus John 11:1-46 Master of death

Any one of these miraculous signs would have convinced any reasonable person that Jesus of Nazareth was no mere mortal. But despite these extraordinary evidences, some people still refused to believe in Jesus.

Though He had done so many signs before them,
they still did not believe in Him.
John 12:37

Quite possibly the most dramatic, and otherwise inexplicable, miracle that Jesus did before His own physical resurrection, was the raising of Lazarus from dead. Lazarus had been dead and entombed for four days. People had witnessed him die and more people had witnessed his dead body being placed in the tomb. The absolutely startling thing to me is the extent to which some people will choose to remain closed to the evidentially-based truth! Not only did some not believe in Jesus after witnessing this astounding miracle, they sought to oppress those who did become believers — and even made plans to kill Jesus so that people would stop believing in Him! 

When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”
The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
¶ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did,
believed in Him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do?
For this man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him,
and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
John 11:43-48

 

WHY SOME REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS

Every time I read this story I am deeply struck by the hardness of heart among the Jewish Council comprised of chief priests and the Pharisees. John gives us an insight into why these religious leaders were not prepared to accept the evidence that Jesus was Immanuel (“God with us”, Matt. 1:23). They feared their loss of power if they turned to Jesus and accepted that what He was saying was true – “the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” they said.

LOSS OF POWER: Power comes in many forms. It comes from an appointed position. It comes from a popular vote. It comes from prosperity. It comes from their place in a family. It’s true that turning to Jesus could lead to a person losing their position, their popularity, their prosperity, or their place in their family. Jesus acknowledged that this could be the cost of following Him.

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and
do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
John 5:44

Some people refuse to believe in Jesus because they fear a loss of power or prestige – but in the process they may put their immortal souls in risk of eternal peril!

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out,
those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
John 5:28-29

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
Mark 8:36

LOVE OF SIN: Sin is what alienates all mankind from God for eternity unless it is judiciously removed. Mankind is completely unable to remove our own sin. Its power over us utterly enticing. The Bible describes sin as being able to deliver “fleeting pleasures” (Heb. 11:25). This is especially the case with sexual sin. The ancient sage described sexual sin being sweet to the taste that then becomes bitterness once swallowed which causes pangs of pain similar to being stabbed by a two-edged sword (Prov. 5:3-4). It is true that turning to Jesus necessarily involves repentance (turning from sin) which would mean renouncing sexual sin (sex without, or beyond the bounds of, marriage). By the way, all sin is in some way a distortion of something that God made and designed to be good in some way. This is true of sex which God had designed as something very good which was meant to unite a husband and a wife, have the potential to pro-create children, bring comfort and acceptance to a spouse, provide a pleasurable means to tame otherwise wild sexual passions/desires — and most importantly as a shadow of the type of love that God has for the Church (Eph. 5:22-30).

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
Matthew 15:19-20

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh.
What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Matthew 19:4-6

God had designed for us to flourish without ever having to sin. Yet the Evil one has deceived mankind into thinking that their Creator is against them and wants to keep them from pleasures. This is lie. Our Creator is for us. He created us to share His love and good pleasures with us. He has created all things for us to enjoy (1Tim. 6:17). The Enemy of our souls whispers into our minds that there is no good evidence for believing in Jesus – when he, above all people, knows that there is actually ample evidence for believing in Jesus.

The first 11 chapters of John’s Gospel describes the seven signs that Jesus gave. The last ten chapters of his Gospel culminates Christ’s signs with the Ultimate sign: His resurrection from the dead. John concludes his Gospel by writing – 

¶ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples,
which are not written in this book; but these are written so 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

 

WHY SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE

Confronted with the same evidence, why is it that some people believe and others do not? There seems to be one consistent similarity among everyone who becomes a believer. They are open to accepting the evidence. This openness nearly always (if not always) results in them prayerfully affirming their openness to God with a prayer that sounds like a desire to know the truth about God.

“God, if You’re real, reveal Yourself to me.”

Dr. Guillaume Bignon

Dr. Guillaume Bignon

Jesus actually promised that if someone would just be open to the evidence, and seek the truth, they would find it (Luke 11:9-10). I recently heard the story of a French atheist, Guillaume Bignon, who thought that Christianity was equivalent to fairy-tales and that anyone who believed it was “below par”. But then he met a reasonable Christian. He set out to prove to them that they were wrong, but in the process he encountered evidence that he was not aware of, and eventually prayed an openness prayer. It was from that point, that his life dramatically changed. You can view his testimony here.

Perhaps you are reading this and have either thought that there was no supporting evidences for Christianity; or, possibly, you think it is all irrelevant. But if what Jesus Christ said was true, then as the apostle John wrote, the Christian message is actually the most relevant message any person anywhere on the planet could ever give their open consideration to. Therefore, if I may, I would like to invite you to begin a journey of openness to the claims of Christ by praying the openness prayer and see what happens. And maybe, just maybe, you too will discover that all people who transition from unbelief or non-belief to belief have all commenced their journey to believing in Jesus by praying a variation of the openness prayer.

Let me know what happens if you do.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    Thank you Andrew.
    ‘Openness to accepting the evidence’…
    I followed thru and listened to Guillaume Bignon. A totally inspiring testimony. As he said…and believed firstly that to believe in God would be intellectual suicide and then later his intellect connected with his emotions re-activating his conscience. I thought this was profound.

    Reply

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CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > JUNE 3rd > UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY I have a thing for bags. Not shopping bags or lady’s handbags, but manly bags - functional bags. A few years back I became fed-up with the number of bags I was...

HOW TO OPEN LIFE’S LOCKED DOORS

When I turned 50, I decided to do something really difficult. I enrolled in a university course to learn Biblical Greek. And, trust me when I say, this in no way is a brag – because I struggled through it and took far far longer than the average Biblical Greek student ordinarily takes to complete this course. I had to do twenty translation tests and then two major translations exams of the New Testament’s Greek text into English. I scraped through the course and somehow managed to pass it. I can testify that learning another language later in life is really hard! This is why I have the utmost respect for non-English-speaking migrants who come to our country and manage to learn English. Learning languages is not the only thing I find difficult. I envy those people who do the things easily that I find difficult to do or understand (like quadratic mathematic equations for example). Over the years I have pondered why it is that different people doing the same task can result in a person finding it incredibly easy who then gets it done quickly, and why another other person finds it next-to-impossible and as a result gives up trying to do it. I have discovered the answer to this conundrum lies in the “mat” principle. 

JESUS ATE with SINNERS!

This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee. 

¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41

Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…

CHRISTIANITY IS A PROPOSAL NOT AN IMPOSAL

I do not want to give anyone the impression that Christian is just a set of intellectually propositions. It is much more but it is certainly not less. One of the propositions that we Christians make is that Christianity is a spiritual transformation of a soul. While its propositions are true, they are not just true, they invoke a miraculous transformation in a human being. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3). The New Testament describes the moment this happens as being a transaction with God where we surrender our life and our sin to Him and He gives us His life and His pardon (1Jn. 1:8-9)! This transaction includes a hope that goes beyond the grave. God the Father adopts all those who turn to Him. It results a new way of seeing life and the world. The things that once troubled us no longer do, because we have a growing confidence that God has a plan and is currently outworking that plan. If you have never surrendered your life in a transaction with God, you can now. You are just one prayer away from peace with God and purpose for your life – both now and beyond the grave! The choice is yours. We can’t impose this offer from God on you, but I do have a proposition for you.

DIVINELY PRECIOUS TRIPLETS

Some of the profound truths in the Bible are expressed in just three words. The late J.I. Packer, one of the world’s most respected modern theologians, was asked to sum up the gospel message. He did so in just three words: “God saves sinners.” Many of the most eloquent prayers ever uttered have consisted of no more than three words: “Help me Lord”, “Thank You God”, “God save me”, “Please heal her.” One of the greatest royal invitations only consisted of three words: “Come unto Me.” Three words is all it takes to start an exciting journey: “Come and see.” Many of these three words statements, prayers, and invitations, have become divinely precious triplets that have rescued a lost soul, repaired a broken relationship, and replenished the worn-out.  

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT JUST MERELY A MATTER OF TIME

The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is so simple it can be understood even by a child; and yet, as a believer’s knowledge of God and His Word grows, he or she will come to discover that there is a wealth of spiritually-satisfying treasure to be mined! In its simplest form, Jesus died so that all those who turn to Him in trust will go to heaven after leaving this life. Dig a little deeper though, and you also discover that the eternal life on offer is not merely about a location (‘heaven’) or a duration of time—but a quality of life and status of existence that elevates the believer into a glorified state with God Himself (Rom. 8:17; 1John 3:2). Our lives are now the training ground for our status as co-regents and co-rulers with Christ over all of His redeemed creation (1Cor. 6:2-3)! 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU FOUND A NEWBORN BABY AT YOUR DOORSTEP?

What would you do if you found a newborn baby that someone had left at your door? Hopefully your answer sounds similar to “I’d take care him or her.” What if it wasn’t a baby? What if it was a young child or a teenager, or an adult, who turned up at your door requesting to be helped? I hope that each of us would also be prepared to help whoever it was. What if it was not an abandoned child, a youth, or an adult? And what if it was not your front door? Instead, how might we each respond if it was a spiritually abandoned, and spiritually hungry, person who turned up at our church seeking help to know how to be saved? While you might feel a similar compassion as you might have felt for the child at your door, you may not be as confident in how you would spiritually help this person seeking a spiritual connection for God through Jesus Christ. “Where would I begin?” “How could I be an effective discipler of a new believer?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you’ve asked. For any Christian to effectively disciple a new believer it must involve an individual, a small group, and a congregation.