TURN DOUBTS INTO CERTAINTY
Dear friends in Christ,
People who study these things say that a huge percentage of jobs that employ people today won’t be around in fifteen years. Many jobs will be eliminated by technology. There are machines that make and sell hamburgers at McDonald’s. That’s why people are urged to get more education to train for the future. Teddy Roosevelt, president of the United States from 1901-1909 had opinions on a lot of things. It would be interesting to see what he would say if he saw society today. The old is replaced by the new.
Satan has adjusted to each age with new temptations, but he has also stuck with the proven and successful. Go back to Eden. What was the first temptation? God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He approached Adam and Eve, and what did he say? “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? What was Satan’s objective? To plant doubt in Adam and Eve’s mind regarding God’s interest in them and love for them!
If God really loved them, why was he keeping something from them? But in reality, God was giving Adam and Eve an opportunity to honor him and love him by showing their obedience to him. Every parent knows what that means. When children are obedient, they are showing love.
Yet Satan has so much success in planting doubt when it comes to God. Doubt is distrust which leads to open disobedience. That’s sin! That’s rebellion against God! Sin leads to more sin. It’s like a snowball rolling down the mountainside and picks up more snow until it becomes an avalanche. It makes such a mess of our relationship with God. You know it. I know it. That’s why we need to listen to John. He tells how to “Replace Doubt with Certainty.” Actually God does it. First of all 1) Believe what God promises; 2) See the evidence that you have faith in your life.
Ultimately Satan wants us to doubt whether we even believe in the Lord and whether he even exists. He loves it when Christians in moments of weakness ask, “Am I really a Christian?” Many times that occurs when we don’t act like Christians. John writes, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” While as Christians we desire to do so, we fall short.
“Dear children,” John says. I have always thought that the Greek word is more like “little children.” I love to listen to little children who don’t always get things right when they hear something. Catie, our granddaughter, was asked what she learned in Sunday School a few weeks ago. “Jesus hid Lazarus in a cave.” She is said to her older sister, “God wants us to share, so you better share with me.” On the phone I asked Caleb, our five year old grandson, “Have you been a good boy?” The silence on the other end of the phone was deafening. “Hey Caleb, are you there?” “Papa! Almost!” Hmmm! Sounds like he needed some confession time!
Yet, we are those little children too. There are all kinds of faults in us too. Often people discuss whether it is better to die quickly or have time to prepare. Most people would say they would like to die quickly instead of having a disease that draws out the process. Yet a lengthy end of life gives time to repent. Or perhaps there are some hard feelings that need to be cleared up. My mother died of cancer. She was a woman who took care of the family by cooking and cleaning and washing and bookkeeping and a million other things that we took for granted. In the two and a half years of chemo and radiation that left her sick, she supervised and taught my dad how to do those things when she was gone. He would have been helpless.
Yet there is this point about slowly dying that makes me feel unsettled. There is a lot of silent times; a lot of time to think. Satan has no compassion on the sick and dying. He loves to bring up the past and all the dark sides of anyone’s life. He would do what he did to Adam and Eve. Do you really think God loves you? Do you really think he can in light of all that you have done? What about the times you really stunk at being a Christian? You have sinned against him thousands upon thousands of times – countless times! Yeah, God talks about grace. Heaven is a gift; it’s free; it’s undeserved! Do you really think that’s true when you have done all that?
I want to just pull a phrase out of verse twenty: “If our hearts condemn us.” That’s not a hypothetical; that is what happens. The heart, the conscience, easily condemns. “There is no hell like a bad conscience,” someone once said. That conscience is that small voice inside of us that makes us feel even smaller. It is the voice inside of us that tells us that our sin will find us out.
But be clear on this, the phrase, “If our hearts condemn us” is also couched in the middle of sentences that instructs us how to deal with a bad conscience. A bad conscience is not terminal. It is 100% curable if we listen to our gracious and loving God. “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”
How do we deal with a guilty and condemning conscience? By turning it over to God! “We know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” God is greater than our hearts because he knows what our conscience doesn’t know. He knows what he did for us. He sent Jesus to be our Savior from the guilty conscience.
It wasn’t a whim or seat of the pants decision to send Jesus. He knew the solution before there was the problem. He knew sin would be a problem. In the Garden, the crime scene of crime scenes, God promised Christ who would crush and destroy the Devil’s work.
All along the way God comforted people that he knew the solution and would provide it. The prophet Isaiah who lived over 700 years before Jesus wrote, “But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.” Israel isn’t Abraham’s blood relatives that he is talking about, Israel means all who know they are saved by the blood of Jesus. Because of the blood sin won’t shame you; you are forgiven. You won’t be disgraced. Your sins have been paid for. You won’t be disgraced. God will say, “Come inherit the Kingdom that has been prepared for you since the foundation of the world.” How? Because of the blood!
My point is that when our hearts condemn us, “God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.” He knew what he would do. He knows what he did do.
Jesus is living and hasn’t forgotten what he did. He knows by first hand experience. He was berated, beaten; he bore the burden of sin; he was bruised and the blood he shed. He knows what it means to be forsaken by God as he paid the penalty of sin. He knows that his death and resurrection guarantees that our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west. He knows our sins have been cast into the depths of the sea and gone forever. He was the agent that took care of this messy matter.
Think about this: if we doubt, if we are skeptical, we are insulting our God who came to save us. Someone said that “Gravity is most accurately described by the general theory of relativity (proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915) which describes gravity, not as a force, but as a consequence of the curvature of space-timecaused by the uneven distribution of mass/energy.” Do you understand anything of what I just read? Me neither! I just know that if I want to tomahawk dunk a basketball, I can’t because gravity pulls me down. Why does God forgive me? Why does God forgive you? Why is He even interested in us? Because He says so! That’s all we need to know and believe. Replace doubt with certainty. Believe what God says is true.
When you have doubts about faith, not only believe what God says but also look at the evidence of faith in your life.
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before Godand receive from him anything we ask.” In our Gospel lesson today Jesus said that people who are connected by faith to him will produce good works. They are called the fruits of faith. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If you are not connected to Jesus it is like a branch being cut off from the stalk of a plant. You won’t get grapes if the branch is not connected to a vine. No one will ever produce anything that is pleasing to Christ if a person is not connected with and loves Christ.
Bill Gates is a billionaire many times over. He gives a lot of money away. He doesn’t believe in Jesus. He gives his fortune away for other reasons than to love Jesus who died for him. I would bet the farm that if you asked Bill Gates if he prays to Jesus, he would say absolutely not. One of the fruits that come from faith is prayer. We don’t pray to get faith, we pray because we already have it.
My point is that if you pray in Jesus’ name, you are a Christian. Prayer is evidence of faith.
There is still more evidence of faith in you. While we are indeed a work in progress as far as our Christianity is concerned, we get disgusted by it. That’s good. That’s a fruit of faith too. “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them.”
Did you hear that? “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them.” Someone wrote regarding what was happened in Baltimore this past week that “they were ashamed to be considered Americans with the people who were burning buildings, throwing rocks, looting and setting cars on fire.” Some in Congress are saying we need to spend a lot more money in Baltimore to straighten all that out. Others say that parents need to get serious about disciplining their kids. Most of the looters and thugs were young people. If I said the solution is found in Jesus, I would be crucified among the media and politicians alike.
The ultimate problem is there is too little Jesus. A whole lot of people need Jesus. What was done was wrong! Hey, no excuses. If the police did something wrong, they need Jesus. Regarding Mr. Gray, as we look, at his rap sheet sure, he needed Jesus. The people who looted and burned and stole, they need Jesus too. God knows he has forgiven them. They need to know just like we need to know it. What they did was sin.
We pray that there is not rejection of the Spirit who brings Jesus to the heart. Rather, turn doubt into certainty! Believe what God says is true; See the evidence of faith in Christ in your life.