Lord, Help My Unbelief
November 15, 2009
In Experiencing God Day By Day, Henry Blackaby quotes Mark, chapter 9:24 which says: Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”
Faith does not come from ignorance. Faith is based on what we know.
Before we will trust others with something precious to us, we first try to find out if they are trustworthy. This father was asking that he might come to know God in such a dimension that he could trust Him to cure his son.
His son had been possessed by an evil spirit since early childhood. The father did not know Jesus well, but he had heard and seen enough to convince him that if there was any hope for his son, it lay with Jesus. In desperation he cried out to Jesus for help. Jesus' response was to heal his son. The desperate father had correctly gone to Jesus with his problem even though he was struggling with his faith.
When you are struggling to believe, that is not the time to avoid Christ or to be ashamed of your struggle. You will never increase your faith by not going to Jesus! Rather, Jesus wants to help you with your belief. He can not only meet your need, but He will also give you faith to trust Him to provide for you.
If you are struggling to believe that God can take care of Good Shepherd Community Church, it is because you don't know Him as He wants you to. Go to Him and allow Him to convince you of His ability to meet every need you will ever face – physical, emotional, spiritual, financial.
“Please open your Bible to the Book of John, chapter five, and we’ll read verses 33 through 47 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?
Let’s pray. Lord God, Father of Jesus the Christ, help our unbelief this morning. Open our eyes and ears to what you want us to learn about You. Amen
We to need focus on something that is massively important, namely, the way Jews viewed the Old Testament Scriptures and how those Scriptures relate to Jesus, and what difference it makes for us. This is a good place for this focus because twice in this passage Jesus says that the Old Testament Scriptures are written about him.
Look at John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures,” Jesus says, “because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” The word Scriptures here refers to the Jewish Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, and what they called the Covenant. We call it the Old Testament, or Old Covenant, because we believe that the Messiah has come—namely, Jesus—and by his death and resurrection has inaugurated a New Covenant. Luke 22:20 Jesus refers to this new Covenant when He says After supper he took another cup of wine and said, "This wine is the token of God's new covenant to save you—an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.
The most decisive thing about this New Covenant is that Jesus, the Messiah, died for sinners so that both Jews and Gentiles who trust him would become the heirs of the Old Testament promises. In other words, all who believe in Jesus the Messiah are included in the blessing of Abraham. And all who don’t believe in Jesus are excluded from the blessings of Abraham.
In other words, anyone will be an heir of Abraham’s blessing if he believes in Jesus, the Messiah. So Paul says, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. . . . If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:7, 29).
So the entire Old Testament is precious to Christians, because all Christians are counted by God as true Jews—beneficiaries of all the promises made to the covenant people. Also, The Old Testament is precious to Christians because it’s a book about God’s work with Israel in preparation for the Messiah who would come not only to save Israel but to save the world from the power and punishment of sin. And so I ask God for all of us this morning, “Lord, help my unbelief.”
God promised Abram in Genesis 12:2-3, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Paul shows us that this promise is fulfilled in the gospel of Jesus, the Messiah. He says, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’” (Galatians 3:8).
So we as Christians don’t reject the Old Testament just because we have the New Testament. On the contrary, we embrace it as the fulfilled word of God. The Old Testament is a lesson book for the nations that keeps shedding light on the work of Christ. Christ did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.
Now back to John 5:39: “You search the Scriptures,” Jesus says, “because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” So Jesus is saying that the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures, our Scriptures, taken as a whole, witness to Jesus. In our communion services we have been following the scarlet thread – the trail of blood – through the Old Testament, the blood sacrifices which culminated at the cross. Those sacrifices pointed to the Lamb of God. Jesus the says, in our key passage. “If you believed Moses] you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” Moses wrote about Jesus, and the Scriptures witness about Jesus.
Ponder for a moment the implications of saying that the Scriptures “witness” about Jesus. What does the word witness imply? Listen to the way John uses the word. In John 1:34, John the Baptist says, “I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” In John 3:11, Jesus says, “We speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen.” John 3:32 says, “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard.” And John 19:35 says, “He who saw it has borne witness.”
So a witness is ordinarily one who has seen something and can witness to what he has seen. A witness gives firsthand evidence. He was there. He doesn’t argue that something happened. He says, I know it happened, I saw it.
So what does it mean when John calls the Old Testament Scriptures a witness to Jesus. Since writings can’t see, I take it to mean that the word “Scriptures” is shorthand for God-who-inspired-the-Scriptures. God saw Jesus and knew Jesus long before Jesus was on the earth. He saw him as his Son in heaven eternally (John 1:1-3), and he saw what his Son would be in history when he came. And because God saw, God could witness.
So when John says about the Scriptures in 5:39, “It is they that bear witness about me,” he means that God knew Jesus perfectly and fully—as it were face to face—and that he inspired these Scriptures, and through the Scriptures revealed Jesus. God said things and did things in the Scriptures which, if the Jews had understood the Scriptures, would have seen them for what they are, a glimpse of Jesus and the Scriptures would have prepared them to recognize him and receive him when he came. We, too, have the Scriptures written by God as proof that Jesus is the Son of God
Perhaps the most astonishing statements about the Scriptures in the Gospel of John is John 12:37-41 But despite all the miraculous signs he had done, most of the people did not believe in him. This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted: "Lord, who has believed our message? To whom will the Lord reveal his saving power?" But the people couldn't believe, for as Isaiah also said, "The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts— so their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them."
Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he made this prediction, because he was given a vision of the Messiah's glory. John quotes Isaiah 6 which has in it his famous vision of God: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3).
This is simply astonishing. When Isaiah saw the glory of God revealed from heaven, he was seeing the glory of Jesus. Nothing more sweeping could be said about the way the Old Testament witnesses to Jesus. In essence, John is saying: Where God is manifest in the Old Testament, Jesus is manifest. If you see God at work, you see Jesus at work. Oh Lord, help our unbelief!
The implications of this for ourselves and for people of other religions are huge. Here’s a quick survey to give you a sense of how important the witness of Scripture is.
In John 2:17 Jesus drives out the money changers in the Temple, and John quotes Psalm 69:9 and says, “His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”
In John 6, Jesus reminded the Jews that their fathers had eaten manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15) and then applied it to himself and said, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). So the manna is a pointer, a type of the life and ministry of Jesus.
In John 6:44-45, Jesus teaches that no one comes to him unless the Father draws him. And then explains it in terms of being personally taught by the Father. He refers to Isaiah 54:13, “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” So the prophets point to how people will come to the Messiah, Jesus.
In John 7:38, Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to living water that will flow out of those who believe on him and says that this has all been “said” in the Scriptures: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Perhaps he’s referring to Isaiah 58:11—“You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail”—and to passages that compare the Holy Spirit to water (e.g., Isaiah 44:3).
In John 7:42, the enemies of Jesus draw attention to the fact that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, referring to Micah 5:2, because they didn’t think that’s where Jesus was born. But he was, and that too pointed to his truth.
John 10:35 is one of the most important references to the Scriptures in John’s Gospel because after referring to Psalm 82:6, Jesus says, “Scripture cannot be broken.” This is one of the strongest claims for the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible in all of Scripture.
And it’s not at all out of character. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Not the smallest teaching of Scripture will fall the ground. It will all be fulfilled. That was Jesus’ view.
The Old Testament got people ready to know Jesus. Scripture implies: If you meet God, and know God, and admire God, and trust God, and are shaped by God as he truly reveals himself and his ways in the whole of the Old Testament, then when Jesus comes, you will know him. You will have already known him. He will have so shaped your mind and heart that when he comes in the flesh, there will be no discord, no dissonance, no contradiction between the God you know from the Old Testament and the appearance of God in Jesus. All of the Old Testament is an amazing window onto Jesus.
From chapter 13 to the end of the book, John pours it on to show that almost every detail of Jesus’ redeeming work was planned by God and witnessed in Scripture.
“He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me’” (John 13:18=Psalm 41:9).
“They hated me without a cause” (John 15:25=Psalm 35:19).
“Not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12=Psalm 109:8).
“They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (John 19:24=Psalm 22:18).
“Jesus said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’” (John 19:28=Psalm 69:21).
“Not one of his bones will be broken” (John 19:36=Psalm 34:20).
“Another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced’” (John 19:37;Zechariah 12:10).
“As yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:9;Psalm 16:10).
The whole Old Testament revelation of God is a revelation of Jesus. If we know God as he really is in the Old Testament, we know Jesus. Scripture tells us we are to always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you … (1 Pet 3:15) And can you? Do you have enough Scriptural knowledge to give such an account? If not, let me point you to a book everyone should have on their shelves. It’s a book called “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell. From the beginning to the end it is loaded with all the proof you will ever need to defend your faith and grow in your faith. With Josh McDowell’s book, the Lord can help your unbelief.
I said earlier that the implications of John’s fifth chapter for ourselves and for people of other religions are huge. Let’s look at three of these implications.
They are very controversial in a pluralistic, relativistic, secular world like ours. You must start with the assumption that, the God of the Old Testament and the person of Jesus are revealed in Scripture.
Then test yourself and test others who claim to know God.
First question Do you know God? And don’t say, “of course I know God.” Do you really know Him?
In John 8:19, Jesus’ adversaries, who claimed to know God, said, “Where is your Father?” And Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” The fact that these adversaries do not know Jesus—do not perceive his deity or Messiahship or his role as the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) shows that they didn’t know God. “You know neither me nor my Father.”
Second question. Do you honor God? Do you really honor God?
In John 5:23, Jesus says, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” The Father and the Son are revealed in Scripture as such a unity that if you dishonor one, you dishonor the other. If you claim to honor God but reject Jesus as the divine Son of God and crucified and risen Savior and Messiah, your claim is false, and you do not honor God.
Third question. Do you love God? Do you really love God?
Jesus said in John 5:42-43, “But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.” How does Jesus know that they don’t love God? Because they don’t love Jesus, the Son of God.
The Test Is Jesus, isn’t it?
You can test yourself and others as to whether you know God, or honor God, or love God. The test is always Jesus. Any claim by a Jewish person or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist or a spiritualist or an animist or a Christian for that matter — any claim to know God or honor God or love God while not receiving Christ as the Son of God and the crucified risen Savior is false. The measure of knowing God, honoring God, and loving God is knowing, honoring, and loving Jesus.
Therefore, Christian, embrace your Scriptures. All of them. Both Old Testament and New Testament. Because in them you come to know God for who he really is, and that means coming to know Jesus. If you know Jesus as your Savior and Lord, He has been speaking to you through His Word. Did you hear Him? Were you listening? Or are you crying out as the father of the possessed boy, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”
When Jesus speaks to us He expects us to respond in obedience! If He is Lord there can be no other response. So, what will you do? What is He telling you to do? Is it something you don’t want to do? – it often is, so you’re not alone. The question is, what will you do? Will you follow Jesus in obedience? Or, will you break fellowship with Him and go your own way. It shouldn’t be a difficult decision. A “no brainer” as we might say!
Like it or not, we will each answer either here or at heaven’s gate when He speaks to us. Hopefully we will say “yes Lord! And if you can’t say a resounding ”Yes” then say, “Lord, help my unbelief.”