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Grace Bible Church - Gatesville, Tx
Grace Bible Church - Gatesville, Tx

Episode 85 · 9 months ago

New Belief

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

New Belief

John 4:43-54

Dax Bryant - Preaching

We've confessed our sins and we've been reminded of God's assurance of our pardon. And now we come to the part of our service where we are set apart, now sanctified by God's word. And so, as we look at this passage in John Chapter Four, will you pray with me is so we can prepare our hearts to come before the word of God. Lord, God, we acknowledge before you our own weakness and insufficiency for anything that is spiritually good. And even though we've trusted in our own hearts a million times and failed each time, we're inclined to do the same thing again, to move ahead in our own foolishness, trusting ourselves. Save us from that. Save us from trusting ourselves, God, and help us instead to trust and rest in you. We thank you for sending us your son, who lived and died and rose again, so that we can now boldly approach your throne to find grace for help in every time of need. And father, how we need your help fill us even now with the right attitudes toward you, toward our fellow creatures, guard us against the evil desires of our hearts, which give birth to sin and bring forth death, keep us from seeking Christ with the wrong motivations and enable us to walk with the spirit who resides within us. US take our our small faith, our weak faith, our misplaced faith, are insufficient faith, and unite it to the perfect faith of Jesus, so that on the final day we can stand before you in him. He is all our righteousness and strength. Lord, we ask that you would use this time even now to speak to us from your word, to build our faith, so that we might live by faith for our good and your glory. Amen. So we will be in John Chapter four this morning, ending the chapter. So if you moved away from that in your Bible, make sure you're there in John for versus forty three through fifty four. It was Benjamin Franklin who famously said nothing is certain in this life except death and taxes, and I know a lot of us are busy with taxes this time of year. But I want to focus on the first part of that certainty. Death. Regardless of your status in life, death comes for each one of us. It's the great equalizer. Death is no respecter of persons. It does not discriminate. It comes to everyone eventually, including even as this passage hints at, and perhaps even maybe, as some of you have experienced, death, or the threat of death, even sometimes comes to children, and I can think of nothing that is more devastating, nothing that can shatter you more quickly than when your child is afflicted. And of course one of the worst things about that is that so often there's nothing you can do. You are reduced to a helpless, useless mess, just asking over and over again God, why is this happening, just like the official here in this story. Even if you have wealth and position and influence and power, well, the truth is there are things that money cannot buy. It can't buy health, it can't buy the life of a loved one. Death is inevitable. No one has ever escaped it. Sooner or later, death comes knocking at your door and the door of those you love. Now, how's that for a positive and encouraging introduction? I wanted to start with that tone just to help you get in to the same desperate, same frame of mind that this father in this story is when he comes to Jesus. Sometimes we get so familiar with the stories that we forget these are real people, real emotions, and I want you to not only feel what this father felt, but help you see, just like this father did, that even though you can't prevent death, you certainly can prepare for death. But that's getting to the end of...

...the sermon. Let's back up an INN it here and and place this story in its context. If you remember chapters two through twelve of John's Gospel, really that first half of the book is sometimes called the Book of signs, right because of how Jesus reveals his glory through the working of several miracles in that first half of the book. And in fact there are seven signs in particular in John's Gospel that are highlighted as for us. And the second one that's highlighted is is notated in this story the very last verse in the chapter. So we're coming we're still in that but as we come to the end of chapter four, we're also coming to the end of a shorter section of this Gospel that started in chapter two. So I don't know if you remember that or not, but chapters two, three and four are part of this other unit. Sometimes it's called the Cana Cycle. Why? Well, leave a finger in chapter four and and flip back to chapter two and we're going to go back and forth between chapter four and two just a few times to how kind of help you see this? So get ready to turn your pages or scroll on your device or whatever it is you do. So notice there in chapter two, verse one, on the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Now back to chapter four, Verse Forty Six. So he came again to Cana in Galilee where he made the water wine. Back to chapter two, verse twelve. After this he went down to Capernam. Back to chapter four forty six again, and at Capernam there was an official whose son was ill. Just one more back to chapter two, verse eleven. This the first of his signs Jesus did at Cana in Galilee. And then finally, back to chapter four, Verse Fifty Four. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. So you see there at the beginning of chapter two and the end of chapter four, John is bringing this full circle here for us. He's putting a nice little bow on it and and along the way he's been showing us also that Jesus makes things new. Remember there, of course, in chapter two there's the new wine that that symbolizes the new age of the Kingdom and and the the end of the old age. There's the new temple. Jesus speaks about himself that replaces the old temple. He talks to Nicodemus about the new birth that comes from above. He speaks to the Samaritan woman about new worship that must be done in spirit and truth. He reaps a new spiritual harvest. They're alongside his disciples in Samaria. And then right here at the end of chapter four, we get a story of new belief. Full Circle. And again, I won't make you flip back and forth, but but just think about how closely this last story here in chapter four parallels that that story of the wedding in Cana at the beginning of chapter two. Because in both stories there's a problem. Right the wedding party runs out of wine. Here in this story that this man's son is at death's door. Both of those problems lead people to seek Jesus for help. Right in chapter two it's his mother who comes to him seeking help. Here this man travels from Kapernam to Cana to plead with Jesus to intervene. And then both of those requests notice are initially met with a rebuke from Jesus. Remember, he tells his mother in chapter two. Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come here. In chapter four he tells this father. Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe. But then in both cases does spite the rebuke, Jesus does actually help both people through miraculous means, turning the water into wine. And of course he's going to heal this official son. Both Times he does that without any theatrics, without drawing attention to himself, and this is important. Both of those miracles lead to the same critical result, belief. At the wedding, if you look at the end of that story, his disciples, which includes his mother, I think, are said to believe, and in the passage we're looking at this morning, at the end of that the official and all of his household were told believe. So there are these remarkable parallels between these two stories that start and finish this Cana cycle, and the thread that ties them together, along with everything in between, is belief. And we've seen that,...

...haven't we, with the various encounters that Jesus has had with people along the way in these three chapters. How do you believe in Jesus? How do you receive Jesus and his offer of new life? Well, Nicodemus learned that you must be born again. The Samaritan woman learned that you must come to Jesus and ask him for living water. And this here, this official here. He receives new life in Jesus by exercising face faith in him. In fact, that is the big idea this morning. Only faith that is exercised in the person of Jesus Christ is rewarded. I tried to state that very carefully. So let me say that again. Only faith that is exercised in the person of Jesus Christ is rewarded, and that's going to be the big point that that guides us as we move through three scenes in this passage here this morning. And the three scenes are for you note takers, a faithless reception. That'll be verses forty three through forty five, a father's request, versus forty six through forty nine, and a faith filled reward, versus fifty through fifty four. A faithless reception, a father's request, a faith filled reward. Double Alliteration this morning here so let's pick up the story and and trace the pilgrimage of faith in the life of this one individual and along the way, also think about how this applies to your journey of faith. So first let's look at this faithless reception, verse forty three, after the two days he departed four Galilee. The two days, of course, this is a reference to the two days that Jesus has just spent in the Samaritan village of psy car reaping that great spiritual harvest alongside his disciples. And now, finally, he picks up the journey that he started back in chapter four, verse three, before he took this divine detour through Sumaria. That's simple enough. And then, I think things start to get interesting here. In in Verse Forty Four, John Inserts this little parenthetical comment. It seems out of place even at first blush, for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown, but he's going to his own hometown or his own home area. Okay, let's keep reading. Verse Forty Five. So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. Strange John just went out of his way to remind us that Jesus himself said a prophet has no honor in his own hometown, and then very next sentence he tells us that the Galileans welcomed him when he arrives. So how can both of those things be true? Would you believe that scholars have offered no less than ten different solutions to this apparent contradiction, and don't worry, we're not going to go through all ten of those. I actually, I actually think this is quite simple. Jesus is coming home right not not just to the region of Galilee where Nazareth is, where he grew up, but also in the context, he's coming back into Jewish territory after spending a couple of days in Samaritan territory. And in fact, if you were reading chapter four all the way through in one sitting, what should stick out to you? Well, Jesus has just experienced his first unqualified, unopposed, open hearted ministry success. And where did that take place? Not In Israel, in Samaria. That's shocking. But now, as he returns to his own people, he anticipates more of what he has seen from them so far. Challenges from the religious authorities, grumbling about his own ministry, misunderstanding from the crowds, even from his own disciples. So far, the response to Jesus within his own country, among his own people, has been, hmmm, mixed at best, and Jesus apparently expects nothing different this time around, which is why John reminds us of what he said, that a Prophet has no honor in his own hometown. So if that's true, then why do the Galileans welcome him when he comes back? Well, let's take a closer look. What kind of welcome is this? Exactly? So, when he came to Galilee, the Galileans...

...welcomed him, notice having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast, for they too had gone to the feast. So see the connection here? A prophet has no honor in his own hometown, so or or therefore, when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. It seems contradictory, but it's actually meant to be just deeply ironic. Yeah, they welcome him, but not for who he is, not as the Messiah. They welcome him more that, like they would welcome a sideshow attraction, a carnival that comes into town because they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. Remember this and make you flip back to chapter two one more time. Chapter Two, Verse Twenty Three, very end of the chapter. Now, when he was in Jerusalem at the past over feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. And the many who believed because of the signs included some Galileans, apparently, and John Already. Let us know how Jesus feels about this kind of faith, right still in chapter two, Verse Twenty Four. But Jesus, on his part, did not in trust himself to them. You could say they were believing in Jesus, but Jesus wasn't believing in them. Why? Because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. The crowds in Jerusalem, there at the Passover, they demonstrated a kind of faith. It was a faith based on the miracles, and it was a faith that Jesus determined was insufficient, it was faulty, it was lacking, and it is this same type of socalled faith that Jesus expects to receive upon his return to Galilee. In reality it's no faith at all, which makes us a faithless welcome. This, this faithless reception, really serves to transition us in the story from Jesus and his time in Samaria to Jesus coming back to his homeland, and just this cloud overhanging him about what to expect sets the stage for what happens next in the story. So we move from a faithless reception to a father's request. This is seen number two, a father's request, verse forty six. So we came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine, and at Copernham there was an official who whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judaea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. And you kind of get the sense here that it's like just the minute that Jesus gets back into his home territory, here comes someone asking him to perform another miracle, another sign. And again think about this. Compared to what we've just read about with Jesuss time and Samaria, this is so different than the revival that he experienced in Samaria, where those despised Samaritans turned to him. They proclaimed him to be the savior of the world, based on nothing but his words. We're not told of any miracle or sign that Jesus did among the Samaritans. But here, back on his own turf, not only does he usually deal with active opposition to his ministry, but he's constantly dealing with people who are fascinated and obsessed with miracles and signs and the political implications of those. So when this official comes to Jesus with this request, Jesus detects a kind of faith that seems all too familiar. This reception, this welcome he's received, is deeply ironic, because any sort of faith that is present there is superficial, it's spurious, it's based on the miraculous works, not truly trusting in him. But even so there's Jesus and here comes this official asking for a miraculous healing for his dying son. So who is this guy, this official? Well, the the Greek word that's used there is related to the Greek word for king, meaning...

...he is a royal official, this man under which king? Well, no doubt this would be a reference to Herod Antipus, the ruler appointed by Rome to oversee this region of Galilee. He wasn't really a king. He was more of a Roman puppet than anything, just a sign to do what they told him. It's the same Herod who is responsible later for the death of John The baptist. This is a bad guy and this is the socalled King that that this royal official serves under. But for our purposes, what's more important right now is not this man's position under the king, but rather this man's position as a father, a father whose son is dying. Whatever his rank or role in the court of Herod Anthapis, none of that matters, because none of that can save his son. He's desperate. His son is dying. He feels helpless. What can he do? And then there's a glimmer of hope. He hears of this miracle worker who's returned to the area and and in fact he's come to Cana, which is just a day's walk away, or even closer by horseback or by cart. So he sets out to find this miracle worker and bring him back to heal his son. And that just shows you. It's amazing. You probably encounter this how quickly your priorities can change just in an instant. When something critical happens, your priorities line up with this man. Any other business he might have had in Cana, he would probably send a servant or a messenger on his behalf. He's a busy man. He's got a lot of work to do in Copernum. But now everything changes. This, this urgent situation with his son, has radically changed his priorities. This, this, this is so important that that no one else will do he is going to go himself. And now this royal official, who is usually the one giving out the orders, is reduced to begging for help. That's what's behind those words there where it says he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son. It's translated asked. That's, I think, not quite strong enough here. The way this word is used in other places in the New Testament indicates more than just a simple ask. This this in other places, this refers to imploring, pleading, begging Jesus over and over. is the sense to come back with him and heal his son. And and when we understand that something, that how that conveys something of this man's urgency. And his distress and the way that he has to humble himself from his high position to beg Jesus for his help. That makes what Jesus says next a little startling, doesn't it? Verse Forty Eight, so Jesus said to him. Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe. Here's this father desperately pleading with Jesus to save his son's life, and Jesus says this, unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe, seems at first blush, kind of distant, a little aloof maybe kind of unsympathetic. What's he saying? Well, hopefully we will see that that Jesus is reply here is actually saturated with grace and it is surgically designed and directed to to bring about and grow true faith. Before we get there, let's let's look at this a little closer. What's going on here? Well, remember this, this official and his request. It's sort of exemplifies what's wrong with the Galileans as a whole. Right. In fact, the you there when Jesus says unless you see signs and mirror and wonders, that you is plural, which means he's not just talking to this official right, he's also speaking to the crowd that is gathered to witness Jesus's next trick. And so this is a rebuke. Jesus is saying to everyone. You people come to me because you know I'm able to...

...do signs and wonders, but that's not what I'm here for. I'm not here to put on a show. That's why they welcomed him back to Galilee Merom, because they'd seen what he'd done at the feast in Jerusalem. They wanted to see more of that, more signs, more wonders. They believed in the works. But Jesus is saying, you're so focused on the miracles that you're actually missing what I'm here for. You're missing who I am. I'm here as Your Messiah, I'm here as your savior, and the miracles are only there to help you see my true identity, so that you might recognize that what you actually need the most is not the miracle, but me. Jesus isn't concerned about gathering a crowd of spectators to ooh and AH. He's concerned about giving himself to those who actually are trusting in him, and that seems to include this royal official. He comes to Jesus at first out of the desperation of his need his dying son. But he has little thought or little care to WHO Jesus is. All he knows is that he's heard this Jesus Guy can perform miracles and that gives him some measure of hope to try to cling to. But but this faith that he has, it's not a faith in who Jesus is. It's rather a hopeful expectation of what Jesus might be able to do. Big Difference. And so, to make this point clear, it's like Jesus presses pause on this man's request to rebuke it in order that he this rebuke might lift this man and everyone around who's listening with ears to hear, lift him out of his faulty faith in the miracles and lift him into an emerging faith, a genuine in faith in him. That's what this is all about. Right John's Gospel, these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. So this man comes to Jesus with an imperfect faith, a misguided faith and incomplete faith. He has some kind of faith right. He believes in Jesus as a miracle worker and all he needs is for Jesus to come back with him to Copernam and work his magic, do whatever he does, so that he can heal his son. So he's coming to the right source, but with all the wrong motives. That doesn't happen today, doesn't? We come to Jesus a lot of times because something's gone wrong. All of a sudden, war in trouble and we don't know how to get out of it ourselves. We got into it ourselves, but we don't know how to get out of it ourselves, and so what we need is a quick fix. So then we come to Jesus to help us get out of the problem. Desperation is often what drives us to Jesus. And listen, it may be okay to start there. God can certainly use that and work with that and grow it, but it is not okay to stay there just seeing Jesus as your handy man who's on twenty four hour call for you. Belief in Jesus as a miracle worker is only a superficial faith. It's not a faith that will last, because you're focusing on what Jesus can do for you who, rather than focusing on who Jesus, is himself the one who, in himself, is alone sufficient for all of your needs, your deepest needs. Now I want to be careful, because it's not that Jesus is frowning on miracles here. I mean, after all, he's going to heal this guy's son in just a minute, and he says elsewhere, even in John's Gospel, that that miracles can serve to kind of pave the way to knowing who he is. And that's his ultimate desire, that that this sign would lead this man to faith in him, so that this man would think about what he would think less about what Jesus can do and think more about Jesus, to trust Jesus the person. And so his response, Jesus response to this official, when when he comes to him with this belief in merely what he can do, or when you or I come to Jesus merely in hopes of what he might be able to do, without regard really to who he is, that that grieves Jesus, because there's so much more to it than that.

This is a rebuke, without doubt, but I wonder if it isn't said with a with a sense of deep sadness. Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe signs and wonders. There are entire denominations obsessed with signs and wonders, which kind of makes me wonder, because Jesus is clear. We're not to seek after signs and wonders. Where to seek him, and in fact, some of these groups that focus so much on signs and wonders they actually distort who Jesus is in the process and end up missing him all together. I'll leave that for another time. Back to John, for here we see, even in this rebuke to this official and to everyone listening, remember, Jesus is graciously redirecting his belief in the works to a fuller, broader belief in himself, as in Jesus. And notice what happens there. In Verse Forty Nine, the official said to him, sir, come down before my child dies. Notice this man is not interested in the signs and wonders in and of themselves. What he's interested in first and foremost is the well being of his child, and he's not going to be put off so easily. He is persistent, he is determined in his request and I think that something may already be happening here in this man's journey of faith. Is it possible that that true belief is starting to emerge already even here? Because notice this man. He doesn't deny what Jesus says, he doesn't try to argue with Jesus about that, he doesn't pull rank on Jesus. Don't you know who I am? He simply asks for help. He's not interested in signs and wonders. He's interested in the life of his child and he knows that this man, Jesus, is his last hope. And did you notice the subtle change about how his request is framed? See it there in the initial request at the end of Verse Forty Seven was come heal my son because he's close to death. Now it's come down before he dies. What's the difference? What's missing is the direct request for healing. In its place is a request for Jesus to simply come, a request for Jesus's presence. And I don't want to make too much of that other than to say that when true faith starts to emerge, you recognize that what you need is not Jesus plus what he can do for you, but what you need is Jesus alone. Just his presence is enough. Now look at how Jesus replies to this father's renewed request. In verse fifty, Jesus said to him, go your son will live. More literally, your son lives or your son is living. The verb that used here is a present, active, indicative. It's happening now, and this is this is the beginning of seeing number three, this faith filled reward, because what we see here is that Jesus begins to test this man's faith, then strengthen this man's faith, then reward this man's faith. How? So well, on the one hand, Jesus grants the healing, doesn't he? But on the other hand he does it on his own terms. He does not accompany the man back to Copernum to do this, and he gives the man no sign at all. The only thing he gives them is his word. Go, your son's living. and I wonder, did did the man think maybe he was kind of being put off a little bit here and again? I don't think so, because, look, he does not plead. Well, okay, but but can't you give me just one little sign, one little token to let me know that what you said is true. There's none of that. Instead, look at and still in verse fifty, look at this. The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. How did this man respond to what Jesus said? Your son lives. He took Jesus at his word.

Now that's one step closer to true faith, not just believing Jesus's works and what he can do, but taking Jesus at his word in what he says. The test isn't how you react to the signs and wonders that Jesus might perform. The test is how you react to what Jesus says. And now this man he trusts not just the works of Jesus, he trusts the words of Jesus. I think there's something radical beginning to happen inside of this guy, because, you know, the world says that seeing is believing. Right, we've all heard that scene is believing. This is the opposite of that. This is not seen is believing. This is believing without seeing. Or, as Hebrews Eleven, verse one says, faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen. The world says seeing is believing. Faith takes Jesus at his word and allows you to believe what you can't see, to believe the promises of Jesus without the immediate benefit of seeing him. That's what faith is, Jesus says later in this Gospel. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. So Jesus first tests this man's faith. Go your son lives, then he strengthens it. Verse Fifty One. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better and they said to him yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left him. Did you catch that? Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. That means it's now the next day. Why point that out? Well, if we are assuming that this man's position gave him access to travel by some means other than just foot, horseback or coach, something like that, if he left Cana immediately after this encounter with Jesus, he could have made it back to Capernam by nightfall of that same day, if that encounter happened at one o'clock. But apparently he didn't start back to Capernam until the next day. You would think he would immediately be rushing home to see if what Jesus told him was true, but I think this is perhaps more evidence of his faith. He believed Jesus so thoroughly that it seems like he stayed the night in Cana, or at least didn't make it back home that night. I think there's a big difference in this man who made the frantic ride to Cana the day before but now takes a more leisurely approach to get him back to Copernham the next day. Maybe, maybe not, but on this next day you can imagine the scene. This man is headed home finally, head, I imagine, still spinning from this whole encounter with Jesus. He meets his servants as he's headed back down, who tell him that his boy is alive and a well. And instead of saying how did that happen, what are you talking about, he's got one question. What time? What time did it happen? At one o'clock in the afternoon, they say. And in can you picture the big grin breaking out on his face when he hears that I knew it verse fifty three. The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had to him your son will live. What an encouragement that must have been to this man's faith. He had believed Jesus's words and discovered that believing is seen. And of course, a big part of what's so amazing about this whole story is that Jesus heals this boy and he's not even there right. He didn't have to lay hands on him, he didn't need to bring them up on stage. No hocus pocus, no repetitive worship music to set the right mood so that a miracle might occur. No feed offering a faith required first. He didn't even try to sell them a special anointed handkerchief that might make the miracle happen. None of that. All it took was his word. Go your son lives. Just a sovereign word spoken by the Creator King. That's all it took. How did God form the entire universe? He spoke and it happened. Let there be...

...light, and there was light. That's all it ever takes to form a new creature in Jesus Christ, for God to speak the word, and it's done. At the very same hour Jesus spoke from a distance of only two of nearly twenty miles away from Cana. To compirn them. This boy was suddenly healed. Twenty miles it may as well been twenty million light years away. It makes no difference. Jesus speaks the word with the full authority of his divinity and it is done, it is finished. And so now you see how Jesus not only tests this man's faith, strengthens this man's faith, but now rewards this man's faith that has been tested and strengthened, not just by healing his son. Remember, remember verse fifty. The man believed the word Jesus spoke to him. And now, after that experience with Jesus and what he's just heard had happened through the eyewitness testimony of his servants, what are we told takes place when he returns to Copernum and of Verse Fifty Three, and he himself believed, and all of his household, I mean you can imagine. It doesn't take much to to since this man's excitement to tell the story of to anyone who would listen to him about what had happened, his wife, of course, the other servants in the household, especially his son were told that all his household believed. Believed what? Well, they didn't just believe that the miracle took place. I mean that much was obvious. They didn't just believe the word Jesus had spoke, it had come true. Clearly now they believed in the person of Jesus himself. And this is the ultimate reward. And just think about what's happened here. All of a sudden, just like that, suddenly we have believers in the court of Herod Antopus. And, as I mentioned last week, as we look back to the encounters that Jesus had with people in these three chapters in this Cana cycle, with Nicodemus, with the Samaritan woman, now with this royal official of Herod's Court, what we get is a little preview of the Gospel expansion in miniature here that's described by Jesus himself in acts one eight, that it will spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the Earth, and it starts here. So it's a beautiful and touching example, I think this story is, of how Jesus Causes Faith to emerge and grow and be tested and strengthen and be multiplied in the life of this one man and his family. This man first believed in Jesus's Works, then he believed in Jesus's words and finally, ultimately, he believed in Jesus himself, in Jesus's person. Now it is good to believe in Jesus's works. His miracles are pretty hard to deny. Actually, his works are the very works of God. No one can do the things he did unless he is of God. He's the greatest miracle worker who ever lived. Right. You need to believe that, but that's not enough. It's good and necessary to believe Jesus's words, because when he speaks, God speaks, and it's pretty clear when you read scripture that his words carried divine authority. No one ever spoke like this man spoke. He's the greatest teacher who ever lived. You need to believe that, but that's not enough. You must believe in Jesus the person. You must believe that he is your Lord, your savior, that he is the Messiah, that he is the son of God, that he is the savior of the world. And it's only by believing in the person of Jesus Christ that you may come to have the ultimate reward of eternal life. That's what belief is saying. I want to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and Jesus only, and then reorienting your life to match up with what you say. Do you believe in Jesus the person? Like that? He is...

...the object of our faith, and I want to encourage you also because I know that you're just like me in that your faith is not perfect, and the good news is it doesn't have to be perfect. The point is you need to start right here, start where you are, and then exercise whatever amount of faith that is. There's this Scottish pastor, Alexander mcclaren, nineteen century. He said it well. Quote. The way to increase faith is to exercise faith, and the true parent of perfect faith is the experience of the blessings that come from the crudest, rudest, narrowest, blindest, feeblest faith that a man can exercise. He continues to say, trust him as you can, do not be afraid of inadequate conceptions or of a feeble grasp. Trust him as you can and he will give you so much more than you expected that you will trust him more that's how faith grows, by exercise. Even if your faith is faulty and weak and small and blind, trust Jesus where you are, as you can, and he will give you so much more than what you expected that you will grow to trust him even more. That's what Jesus did for this man. Think about what he asked for, initially, just the life of his son to be spared. Think about how much more he receives than what he asked for. That's what Jesus will do in your life. And and I don't know what everybody in here is going through, I imagine there's some stuff. There's always stuff. Maybe you are in a situation where you are feeling emotions very similar to what this father in this story is feeling. A sense of closing darkness, a sense of futility in your life, trials, sufferings, difficulties in all shapes and sizes. I don't want to minimize any of those things in any way, but have you considered that, just like the man in this story, the difficult circumstances you are in also represent an opportunity for you to grow in your faith? That actually, just like with his father, there Jesus has you right where he wants you, so that you will come to more fully trust in him, where you are, as you can, exercising the faith that you have, so that he will grow that faith. C S Lewis said it this way. He says the hardness of God is softer than the kindness of men, and his compulsion, God's compulsion, is our liberation. You tracking with what he's saying? There he's saying when God backs you into a corner where it feels like there's no way out, you feel trapped, that's actually where God has you to make you the most free, to liberate you. So what do we do? Friends, come to Jesus for the first time or for the hundredth time, fly to his feet, marvel at his works, listen to his words, but ultimately you must put your trust in him and then, having done that, wherever you are, whatever that small amount of imperfect faith looks like, act on your belief, exercise your faith, don't let it atrophy. Exercise it, and then you will find life and a growing faith. Only faith that is exercised, that is put to use in the person of Jesus Christ, will be rewarded. Last verse, Verse Fifty Four. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee, the second sign, no one ever questioned his power to perform miracles. Have you noticed that, when you're reading through the gospels, no one ever argues that the miracle didn't happen? They were impossible to deny. But the thing about the miracles is that they are really about...

...believing, believing something, or we might better say believing in some one for which you have no experience or reason to believe, but believing without seeing, even, perhaps especially, in the face of death, you can't prevent death, but you can certainly prepare for it, how by putting your eternal destiny in the hands of the one who is risen from the dead and has conquered death itself, Jesus Christ. One more puritan quote to finish up here, just for fun, William Perkins. He said, if a man is ready and prepared to die, sudden death is in effect no death but a quite a quick and speedy entrance to eternal life. Only faith that is exercised in the person of Jesus Christ is rewarded. The first step of faith is placing your trust in him and if you've never done that, I urge you to do that right now and then tell somebody in this room about it. Start there, put your faith in him, and then see what Jesus will do. See what he will do with that small, little imperfect faith you have, how he will grow it. Ask Him to help you walk with him for the rest of your life, and if you ask him that with a sincere heart, he will do it, and then you can grow and be strengthened in your faith until faith gives way to sight and your faith is ultimately rewarded in the presence of God forever. Let's pray Lord help us, help us to see ourselves in this story and how we are weak and insufficient and in desperate need of you. Lord, cause our hearts to desire Jesus more than any other thing and to seek him not just as a possible answer for what we might be going through in the moment, but as the only solution for our deepest, greatest need, perhaps that we're not even aware of. Our need to be reconciled with you and walk with you in faith and obedience. Help us do that by placing our faith in the only one who's ever done that perfectly and we promised to trust you with the results as that faith is tested and strengthened and encouraged and grown and ultimately rewarded. We ask these things in Jesus name, Amen.

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