"Stop and believe." I think those words need to be spoken over the Church these days. We have lost so much of our identity in Christ in favour of what we are in the world. Many of us are heading off to our places of worship, beautiful buildings that run great family programs. We may go early enough to attend Bible Study while our children are in Sunday School. We are probably looking forward to the worship and then the Word which will give us some great insight into how to live our life better. But most of it is garbage, based on psychology and has no place in our worship. We are wasting our time if the Holy Spirit is not present in power and truth. I don't mean to be negative this morning because I am not in a negative mood but we had better wake up to what we are turning the Church into because Jesus is not going to be pleased.
It is a week after the Resurrection and according to the Word Jesus is going to appear again to his disciples. Thomas was not present a week ago, probably hiding out somewhere, afraid to assemble with his friends. However, he eventually found his friends who told him the good news, but Thomas was a practical guy. He was the sort of person who believed what he saw. Much of the Church is like that now. We don't look for miracles. We believe that being a Christian is not about power and authority but instead it is about coping and living a good life. Lies! Lies! Lies! Christianity is about following Jesus Christ, doing what he did in power, and making disciples.
As I said, Thomas was a practical man. When people had come to get Jesus about Lazarus, Jesus delayed his going. He had the knowledge that Lazarus had died and his disciples did not want him to go. He was heading into an area of stiff opposition where they had already tried to kill him so his disciples were concerned. Thomas looked at it and declared they needed to stay loyal to the Master, which was nice, but I want you to examine his statement:
“Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16)
It was void of any faith. It is a beautiful statement of loyalty but it has no value. This is what it is like for many Christians. They stand by Jesus but they don't believe. They get something out of going to church, a sense of community, friends to stand by them, great music, good programs, something to keep them busy, but no real, practical faith that we serve a present and powerful God. They live by the motto, "God helps those who help themselves", which is not in the Bible and is a guise for man replacing God.
It was also Thomas who demonstrated the lack of spiritual insight and understanding of the disciples concerning Jesus' death. As Jesus was preparing them, telling them not to be troubled but instead to trust him, he said to them: "You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:4)
Thomas then turned around and made a statement that showed he could not see past the nose on his face, spiritually:
“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5)
I wish we could see the damage we are doing when we try to live this supernatural relationship in the confines of the flesh. We believe what we see which is a humanistic centered Church. We do not give much thought into the fact that Jesus lived his life through the Spirit, then told us we would do even greater things, told us to go and equipped us with the Spirit so that we could do what he did. Instead we treat the Church like a wonderful community center instead of the power house that it is.
That brings us to the events of today. Thomas' reaction to his friends is not far from what you would hear from the average Christian today. His friends tell him, "Hey Thomas, we have seen the Lord". Thomas responds:
“Unless I see 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 it.” (Matthew 20:25)
We need to be careful how we challenge Jesus because he will prove himself to us. Those atheists who are demanding proof, God will give it to them and we need to pray that he will reveal his glory to them. The question is whether they will be willing to respond when God presents the evidence they want? I have challenged them to allow God to prove himself supernaturally instead of with the words of man but they only laugh. I must assume that they have some doubt about their own beliefs.
Jesus appeared again to his disciples, this time with Thomas present, and he said to Thomas:
“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27)
There is that declaration that I feel the Lord is speaking over his Bride today, "Stop doubting and believe". There is no indication that Thomas attempted to touch the wounds. We only have these words of response from Thomas:
“My Lord and my God!”
It doesn't say it but I imagine those words were muffled as Thomas lay prostrate before his Lord. It wasn't so much that Thomas had doubted his friends but instead that all of them had doubted what Jesus had told them. Jesus had told them to trust him and they did not.
You know, when someone says something to you enough times, even though you don't believe it, you will start to accept it as truth. If someone calls you stupid even when you know that you are not, you will start to accept that you are stupid. If the world tells us that our belief is stupid and we have allowed ourselves to enter a condition where we have no root in the real truth of the gospel, then we will eventually start accepting that there is nothing to this Jesus thing. If people keep proclaiming that signs, wonders, miracles and God's power were just for a time in our history then we will accept it as truth. We already have for the most part and we ridicule those who do operate in the power of the Spirit. We are denying Jesus his glory. Jesus said to Thomas:
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
If only we could understand how we are robbing the world of salvation and Jesus of his glory. The world does not just doubt the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, they are doubting that he ever existed. We are causing this to happen by trying to live in a bunch of words wrapped up in flesh instead of declaring the Lord in Spirit and truth. We must believe beyond what we see and be willing to operate in his Spirit with power so people may see his glory. Some people speak lies saying that this does not allow for faith and we must live by faith. The world will still try to explain away the miracles but many will put their faith in Jesus because of them. It still requires faith.
Come on my friends, it is time to escape the trap of the enemy and allow Jesus' to be revealed in us. It is time to become the mighty warriors he called us to be. It is time to show this world, one person at a time, how real, present and powerful our God is. They need to see so that they will understand that if Jesus can heal the blind he can certainly save our soul. If he can cause the lame to walk again he can cleanse us of our sins. If he can remove cancer from the body he can remove death from us as well. Let them see Jesus today in more than our kindness and love; allow them to see the resurrection power. Stop doubting and believe.