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A Skeptic Who Believed–Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
March 22, 2024 2:00 am

A Skeptic Who Believed–Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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March 22, 2024 2:00 am

Is there room for doubt in the Christian faith? Jesus’ followers hid away in an upper room after His devastating death. In this message from John 20, Pastor Lutzer introduces us to a skeptic, Thomas, who faced disappointment in Jesus. Let’s discover two life-giving reasons why we should believe even though we haven’t seen.

This month’s special offer is available for a donation of any amount. Get yours at rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. As we think of the resurrection of Jesus, we recall a doubting disciple who needed solid evidence before believing the master was really alive. Jesus showed Thomas his wounded hands and side, saying, Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.

From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, is it a sin for us to doubt God from time to time? Dave, you know, I actually heard it said by someone that unless we have doubted, we have probably not really believed. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but of course it's not wrong to doubt. I always want to distinguish between honest doubts and dishonest doubts. An honest doubter is someone who is open to belief, but struggling with his faith or her faith. But a dishonest doubter is someone who will not believe regardless of the evidence. That's a dishonest doubter. But honest doubts, God welcomes them. As a matter of fact, we have several instances in scripture where God honored those who doubted. Well, we here at Running to Win are committed to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to millions of people.

And from time to time, I emphasize that it is because of people just like you that we are able to do this in seven different languages in 50 different countries. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner, someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts? Here is what you can do.

Go to RTWOffer.com, click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let us now listen to God's word. All of us know that we're living in an age of skepticism. We're skeptical of politicians who make promises they do not keep.

And by the way, aren't you glad that they sometimes don't keep their promises? We watch the news and we see stories of clergymen accused of everything from sexual abuse to embezzlement. And we say to ourselves, who can you trust? Who can you believe? And can we even trust God in this world?

Let me ask you a question today. Is there room for doubt in the Christian faith? I think that the answer is yes, because sometimes doubt is really the raw side of honesty. But I do need to point out that doubt should be distinguished from unbelief.

There's a great difference between the two. Someone has written that doubt is not unbelief. Unbelief is rebellion against evidence that we can or will not accept. That's unbelief. But doubt is stumbling over a stone we do not yet understand.

Unbelief is kicking at that stone that we understand all too well. What I'm trying to say is that there's a difference between honest doubt and dishonest doubt. Honest doubt is not gullibility. It's not accepting anything without any evidence, but it is being open to the possibility of evidence.

It's open to the possibility of one changing his mind. But dishonest doubt is different. Dishonest doubt always wants to raise the bar. Dishonest doubt wants evidence that probably is not available. Like a man said to me, you know, I believe in God if he came out of heaven and were to speak to me.

Or like the college girl, the atheistic college girl who prayed, God, I don't believe you exist, but if you're there, please make me beautiful by morning. In other words, dishonest doubt is always finding some reason to not believe. Today we're going to speak about a man whose name is Thomas. He is known in history as doubting Thomas. I often wonder when we get to heaven and we meet him, you know, is he going to be glad about the fact that we as preachers always called him doubting Thomas?

I think in heaven he's going to be so perfect it's going to be okay with him. What do we know about this man? First of all, he had what could be said, he was a loyal pessimist because in John chapter 11 we find that Jesus said, I'm going to Jerusalem to die. And he said, he said, let's go and die with him.

I mean, that was loyal pessimism, wasn't it? But we also are intrigued by this melancholy part to him. He's saying, you know, we're going to die.

He's the kind of person who perhaps would see the cup as being half empty rather than half full. And then in John 14, we have an interesting story about Jesus says, you know, I'm going away to my father and you know where I am going. Jesus said, and, and Thomas is speaking on behalf of the other disciples.

Have you ever been in a classroom and somebody raises his hand and asks a question that everybody else wanted to ask? That was Thomas. He said, Lord, I don't get all this metaphysical stuff about you going somewhere and we're knowing where you're going.

He said, tell us. And Jesus then said, Thomas, I am the way, the truth and the life. I'm really glad that he asked that question because of the beautiful answer that Jesus gave. But of course, today on resurrection Sunday, we're thinking of the story in John chapter 20, where Thomas was living in great doubt. As far as he was concerned, when Jesus died on that cross, it was the end of a beautiful life. All that Thomas could think about is, is blood, scars, shouts, angry mob, fear, harassment, and Jesus was now gone. And as far as Thomas was concerned, that was the end of it.

Melancholy people, they like to be alone. And so we read in chapter 20 that on the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, the door was locked for fear of the Jews and Thomas was not there as we shall see. Jesus came and stood among them and said, peace be with you. After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side and the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, peace be with you.

As the father has sent me, I am sending you. And with that, he breathed on them and said, receive the Holy spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.

If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. But we read in verse 24, now Thomas called Didymus, that word means twin. He had either a twin brother or a twin sister. He was one of the 12 was not with the disciples when Jesus came. There are two kinds of people who like to be alone.

People who are hurt, people who are angry, people who are depressed. We're not sure, but that may be the reason why he did not gather together with the other disciples on that very special day. And so he misses the appearance of Christ. Now, let me ask you, should Thomas have believed in the resurrection?

I think so for a number of reasons. For example, the predictions of Jesus, Jesus in Matthew chapter 12 says, as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. So shall the son of man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights?

And in Matthew chapter 16, he began to explain to the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, be crucified, buried and rise again. That should have been enough for Thomas. He should have said to himself, the Lord said it, I believe it.

That's enough for me. Don't you envy people sometimes who have a very simple faith? I know a man like that. He just believes and he just trusts. He has no problem trying to reconcile the love of God with a Holocaust or the love of God with the fact that there is so much child abuse. Somehow, some of these questions that trouble many of us just never trouble him. He just goes on believing. There are other people for whom the bare word of Jesus is not quite enough and they struggle with the doubt.

In 1822, a man by the name of George Matheson was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He was blind as a college student and his two sisters helped him and because of their help, he was able to get two degrees from the University of Glasgow and he was a minister and being blind, he memorized his sermons. He memorized the scripture and he memorized all the hymns. He knew it all by memory but he went through a deep period of doubt. In fact, he wrote about an eclipse of faith.

An eclipse of faith that was so great that eventually he left the ministry though he came through that period of doubt and then ministered with great blessing afterwards but this is what he wrote. To all of us who struggle with doubt, Lord, there are times when my experience is the experience of Thomas. There are days when I hear not the bells of Easter morn. I tread the road of Emmaus and meet not the risen Christ. I stand on the mountain of Galilee and there comes no voice amid the breezes. I sail on Galilee's lake and I see no vision.

I frequent the upper room and get no hint of his presence. My faith cannot walk by sight in hours like these. Lord, what shall I do? Has thou a remedy for the loss of light? Yes, my father, thou has to gate where faith can enter without seeing where it goes.

Its name is love. Oh Lord, lead me by that gate when my eye is dim. When I cannot follow him to all of it, let me worship him on Calvary. When I lose sight of his risen form, do not shut me out of the hearing and the bearing of his name.

If I cannot soar with him to heaven, let me at least go back to finish his work on earth. Let me mourn with the Martha's whose Lazarus I cannot raise. Let me pray with the paralytics whose weakness I cannot cure.

Let me sing to the cyclist whose eyes I cannot open. Let me lend to the lepers the touch of a brother's hand. Let me find for the fallen a chance to renew their days. Then shall my Easter mourn shine again through the clouds of night. Then shall I know the meaning of the words blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.

Yes, there are times of doubt that we might experience. Thomas is going through a terrible time of doubt because there is no disappointment as deep as the disappointment in Jesus. He believed in Jesus, but he thought it was over. But there's a second reason why Thomas should have believed and that is the account of the disciples.

We read that he was not with them when Jesus came, but we also read the disciples said in verse 24, we have seen the Lord. Can't you just imagine Thomas? He won't believe this. He came to us. He showed us his scars and he showed us his side and he invited us to touch him. Honest, honest, Thomas believe us.

He's alive. An attorney would have given anything for this kind of evidence. Ten men all saying the same thing, telling the same story spontaneously and with enthusiasm, but it wasn't enough for Thomas. You know, there's some people like that. They hear the gospel. They know that the evidence for Jesus is compelling.

They may live with a Christian wife who has demonstrated the graces and the love of Christ and, and all this, and still they do not believe. They say, I don't have enough evidence. There's not enough evidence for me to believe.

So Thomas bless him. He sets down his own kind of evidence that he is going to accept and let's look at what he has to say. You'll notice also in verse 25, this is an apostle talking and not sounding very apostolic. I'd say, unless I see in the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. If you read this in Greek, you discovered that Thomas actually was not expecting these conditions to be met. He was absolutely convinced that his faith in Jesus had been misplaced.

And so he raises that bar of evidence and he says, if this happens, but he's not expecting it to happen. And for eight long days, a whole week, he continues to brood about the hurt and the disappointment in Jesus. But I want you to notice how Jesus met his demands a week later, his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. And though the doors were locked, Jesus came through.

Don't be troubled by that. By the way, this is a resurrection body and Christ's molecular structure has been changed just like ours shall be by the way. And Jesus came and stood among them and said, peace to you. And then he said to Thomas, Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands.

Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. And Thomas says, my Lord, my God, he's here. He is alive.

Oh, I can't believe it, but yes, I can believe it. Jesus is here. You know, there are those who do not believe the Bible and what they like to say is that, you know, the stories about Jesus were made up by disciples who were hallucinating and, and they were just so excited about taking a mirror man and making him God.

Nonsense. The disciples were hard headed fishermen who would have never taken a man and made him God. That would have been blasphemy. The reason that they believe that Jesus was the son of God is because the evidence was so compelling and so overwhelming and all that Jesus had said and the miracles he performed and his resurrection was so strong and it could not be controverted that they just based on that kind of evidence said as did Thomas, my Lord and my God. Why was Thomas convinced? First of all, because at the end of the day, bless him, he was an honest doubter. See, if he'd been a dishonest doubter, he could have said, Hey, even though Jesus appeared to me, Hey man, it's an a hallucination. And furthermore, you know, all of us are hallucinating. This is just a Phantom. I'm still not going to believe if you're a dishonest doubter, nothing is going to convince you.

Within the Providence of God. Last night while I was working on this sermon, I received a phone call from a woman who is trying to convince a dishonest doubter to become a Christian. I'll tell you, I would rather try to convince a tiger that he should love straw more than meat personally because she was telling me these objections that he had. The problem is that even if you answered the objections, he'd have other objections. Have you ever met people? Let me ask you, have you ever met people who've got issues? You know, they've got issues. Well, this guy's got issues, so he's constantly finding reasons to not believe. And if you answer this objection, as I mentioned, he'll have another objection and then another, and it goes on and on because that's not really the real issue. He's not an honest doubter.

He's a dishonest one because he knows that the closer he comes to Jesus, he's going to have to deal with some sin issues and admit his helplessness and his need. And so he's running from it for all that he can. And so he keeps throwing up one reason after another, after another, after another. Do you remember the story about the man who believed he was dead? And here he was walking around believing he was dead. So a psychiatrist said, well, you know, we have to convince this guy that he actually is alive. And so he convinced the man of one truth, namely dead men don't bleed. And so the man memorized this and he knew it cold. Every day he said, dead men don't bleed. And then they took a pin and pricked him and blood came.

He said, dead men bleed after all. Jesus said to Thomas, Thomas, stop doubting and believe. You'll notice that because he had an honest doubt, he ended up with an honest faith, an honest faith. It was not only a personal and honest doubt, but it became a personal and honest faith. Notice how personal it was.

My Lord, my God. This was not now the faith of the disciples. It was not the faith of his parents. It was not the faith that he had been taught he was supposed to have. Those of you who are brought up in Christian homes, you know that you have to come to a point where you accept the fact that your faith has to become your own.

It's not your parents. It's not your church, my Lord and my God. You say, well, pastor Luther, if Jesus appeared to me like he appeared to Thomas, I'd believe too.

Well, let's continue reading in the text. Verse 29, Jesus told him, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet they have believed. No, I don't have a revelation from Jesus like Thomas did. I don't know of anyone who does, but blessed are those who even though they have not seen, they have believed and we believe because of the witness of the apostles. They gave us the stories of the New Testament, which can be verified from the standpoint of archeology and history and in every way that we can check the Bible out.

It's checked out as being a reliable document. We have the witness of, of people who have been converted by the work of Jesus Christ. You see the reason that the scars in his hands and on his side are so important is because that's the cross.

Jesus died on the cross for sinners and there he offered himself and made the connection to God possible. If we humble ourselves and receive him as our very own, if we believe, though our eyes have not seen him physically. By the way, I think this is the closest that any one of us will ever find our names in the Bible. Now, some of you have your names in the Bible if you're David or Ruth or somebody with a real nice name like that, but those of us who have odd names, we can't find them in the Bible.

But this comes very close, doesn't it? Because Jesus is saying, I'm talking about you. I'm talking about you because blessed are you. This is Jesus Christ's last beatitude. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet they believed.

Let me ask you a question today. Where are you on your journey of faith? Where are you on your journey of faith? I'm not concerned about whether or not you have doubts. That does not trouble me. What troubles me is whether or not you're an honest doubter and whether or not you're just throwing up one smokescreen after another. And the real issue is you do not want to admit to your sin and to know that Jesus died for sinners and to respond to him in simple faith. And it is because of that that you keep giving one excuse after another. Have you ever met people with whom you cannot have a discussion about these things? You can only have an argument. People who simply will not believe.

I urge you today to open your life and your mind to Jesus. Some people relish doubt. They think that doubt is really a sign of being an intellectual. The more doubts that you have, the wiser you are. No, the more doubts that you have, the more likely you are to miss the opportunity to believe in Christ and be saved.

I asked you today to reach out and I'll tell you why. I believe that it is going through the doorway of doubt that we come to the room of assurance and certainty. Would you come to Christ today with your doubts? Well, my friend, you've probably heard me quote this. Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt, fighting's within and fear's without. O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

My friend, come with your doubts. Running to win is actually heard in 50 different countries in seven different languages. We're in English, Arabic, Spanish, Romanian, Russian, Portuguese.

I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who has written to us, a Spanish-speaking listener in Costa Rica. Your teachings are practical, specific, and dynamic, very true to the Word of God, and I am blessed. You, my friend, are a part of what we are doing. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.

Of course the amount that you give is entirely your decision, but here's what you do to get some info. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com, and when you're there, you click on the endurance partner button, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. One more time, go to rtwoffer.com, click on the endurance partner button, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. A man needing healing for his son once said to Jesus, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Doubting Thomas needed proof to believe Jesus was indeed alive. We're blessed to believe this even without seeing the proof ourselves.

Next time, why we must believe, even without laying eyes on his wounds. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-23 02:57:12 / 2024-03-23 03:06:01 / 9

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