Why should you believe in God? Why should you believe in Jesus Christ? I was asked that question a number of times when I worked in a secular environment, almost a daily basis, people would ask, well why should you believe in God or why do you, why should I? I asked different people that this week. I actually, because it was the name of the message, I just would call people at random and say, why should I believe in God? And they, I think, they got worried like, wow, he’s backsliding or something. Why would he ask that question? I said just answer the question. Why should you or I or anybody believe in God? Why do you believe in God? And I got a number of very interesting responses. One person said, well I’ll tell you why for me because no other belief system that I looked at gave me sufficient answers for the deepest questions in my life, including science. The big, deep questions weren’t answered any other place. Another person answered by simply saying and he had quite a background, quite a sinful past, he said, I believe because of what He has done for me, how He’s changed me. That’s a great answer. Another person had a very interesting answer. He said because the alternative is so depressing. And he explained himself and it really made sense. I talked to a pastor’s kid this week. He grew up in a pastor’s home on the East Coast and he said, you know I grew up believing all my life until I was seventeen. Then I started questioning, like, well why do I believe? What is the whole reason that I believe?
So picture the scene. You’re standing in line at Starbucks—even if you go I don’t go to Starbucks—go with me here. You’re standing in line at Starbucks. You’re about three, four people deep. You’re standing there holding a Bible. And somebody behind you notices it’s a Bible and says, excuse me, is that a Bible? And you go, yep. Why are you carrying that? Why do you believe in God? Why should I believe in God? Now maybe you have an answer that’s like, you’re ready for it, it’s like, so glad you asked! Or you’re gonna stand there and go, uhh… You’re getting decaf?
Back in 1944, a British philosopher came up with what he called, and what many have called, the skeptic’s parable. This is how it goes. Once upon a time, two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle. In the clearing were growing many flowers and many weeds. One explorer said, some gardener must tend this plot. The other explorer disagreed. There is no gardener. And so they pitched their tents and set a watch. No gardener was ever seen. Well perhaps he’s an invisible gardener, said the first. So they set a barbed wire fence. They electrified it. They patrolled it with bloodhounds for they remembered how H.G. Wells, the invisible man, could both be smelled and touched, though he could not be seen. And they waited. But no shrieks ever suggested that some intruder had received a shock. No movements of the wire ever betrayed an invisible climber. The bloodhounds never gave a cry. Yet still the believer was not convinced. But there is a gardener! Invisible! Intangible and insensible to electric shock! A gardener who has no scent and makes no sound. A gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves. At last, the skeptic despaired. And he said but what remains of your original assertion? And just how does what you call an invisible and intangible eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?
So what do you do when an unbeliever asks why do you believe? Why should I believe? Jesus was confronted with that here, in a sense. You see, His opponents that He is speaking to in this section, they believed, or at least they said they believed in God, but they certainly did not believe in Him. they did not love Him. they did not trust Him. They, in fact, thought that He, because He claimed to be equal with God, was nothing more than a blasphemer. So Jesus is confronting their unbelief and His assertion is this: that the gardener has stepped into the garden, that He who is invisible is now visible and they were looking at Him. That’s what He asserts to them. The premise of the entire book of John is stated in the banner behind me, is: Believe. 98 times that word surfaces in the Gospel of John. Believe. Believe. John says I wrote these things that you might believe in Him.
But there’s another question after the assertion believe and that is why? Why should I believe? Why should you believe? Why do you believe in Jesus? And Jesus answers that at least in part right here. Now let me explain what we’re about to read. As I read through this section this week, I discovered a word that was repeated a lot and so that becomes really the, the hinge point for our message this morning. It’s the word witness. Witness is used over and over and over eight different times in our text. In fact, eight different times that word, the Greek word which means witness, exists. But three more times the exact same word is used but translated into English by the word testify or testimony. That’s what witnesses do. Now a witness is somebody who has seen something or heard something or experienced something and then explains what he or she has seen or heard or experienced. Typically in a court of law. So what Jesus does here, in confronting those unbelievers, is He calls in witnesses into the courtroom of truth, so to speak. He calls upon witnesses to testify as to who He is and they form the reasons why we should believe.
We’ll begin at verse 30 and go down to the end of the chapter. Jesus continues, and you can see they’re all red letters, so He’s doing all the talking: “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.” What He means by that is My witness won’t be received by you. You won’t buy into it. You won’t regard it. So He says this, verse 32: “There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John,” that is John the Baptist, “and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
One of the things that I appreciate about what Jesus says here is something I noticed in His whole ministry. Did you know Jesus never told people to believe in Him just because He said so? Or just because if they do they’ll feel really good about it? They’ll have a really warm, fuzzy feeling if they do. No, what He does is He backs up, giving them reasons that they should believe. Four to be exact. Now according to Jewish law, Greek law, and Roman law, you needed to have at least two witnesses to corroborate any act or fact. At least two. What Jesus does is He takes the requirement and doubles it and gives them four witnesses or four reasons to believe. Now what He does here is He appeals to real life experience. He appeals to historical fact and He appeals to prewritten documentation as reasons to believe.
Well let’s look at those four and the first one is they should believe because of what others have declared. So here’s Jesus in the courtroom of truth. He calls in His first witness. It happens to be John the Baptist, verse 32: “There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.”
John the Baptist is an example of an eyewitness testimony. He was there for a while when Jesus was there. He heard what Jesus said, he saw His life, he examined Him carefully, and he gave his own testimony about Jesus. What did John say about Jesus? Here’s one thing he said: Behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world! Here’s another thing John the Baptist said about Jesus: He is far greater than I am, for He existed long before I did. That’s interesting, because John the Baptist was older than Jesus. But he’s pointing to His eternal nature. He existed long before I did.
Now here’s what’s interesting. John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins. Just to refresh your memory, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John, were first cousins, making John and Jesus second cousins. To me this adds the weight of authenticity to his testimony because how many of you would ever say about your cousin, now just for a minute think about your cousin, grab a cousin that you know and put him in your mind or her in your mind, would you ever say about your cousin, my cousin is God! My cousin is the One that will take away the sin of the world! Ahh… no you would never do that. You know that cousin. You grew up with that cousin. You went to family reunions with that cousin as did John the Baptist with Jesus. And yet his testimony is unmistakable that He is the Lamb of God and He has an eternal nature.
Now John was just one eyewitness, as I mentioned. But he was not the only one. The New Testament is filled, filled, with firsthand eyewitness testimony of people who encountered Jesus and then later wrote or spoke about that encounter. Now here’s a couple more. Peter. He was sort of an unbelieving at first. Peter said later on in 2 Peter chapter 1 verse 16, he writes, we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We were eyewitnesses of His majesty. Another was John, the author of this book. And he writes in 1 John chapter 1: we saw Him with our own eyes and we touched Him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ the Word of life and now we testify that He is the One who is eternal life.
Now all of these eyewitnesses could certainly tell the difference between legend or myth or reality. And what they appealed to is an historic encounter. An historic context. They did not have secondhand religious experience. They had their own, personal, firsthand experience. In other words, they heard His sermons—firsthand. They saw His miracles—firsthand. And they saw lives of people around them change, including their own—firsthand.
What brought me to Jesus Christ was not some clever theological argument or doctrinal position. What brought me to Jesus Christ is when I saw the lives of people that I knew change. I looked at people who I knew and they were suddenly filled with joy and peace and purpose and I looked at them and I examined them and I thought how does that happen? How does that happen? How do people change like that? It’s Jesus that changed them and the testimony is uniform. Not just them but for the last 2,000 years, millions of people—millions of people—from all over the world, different ages, male or female, different languages, different continents. If you listen to their testimony, no matter what the cultural context would be, you’re gonna discover they all sound very similar to each other. It kinda goes like this: I used to live this way. I used to believe that. Then I came to Jesus and everything changed. Now I have peace. Now I have love. Now I have joy. Now I have hope. So there must be something to these uniform testimonies that are declared by so many people.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I take a banana. Here’s, interesting how bananas appear when you need them, by the way, that’s a gnarly looking banana—not a great example. Ok, let’s say I, here’s my testimony. I say to you this morning, see this banana? Before I met this banana, before I had this banana, life was purposeless and meaningless. I had no joy, no hope. But when I had this banana, I got joy and peace and love and purpose and I can now bench press 700 pounds because of this banana. Wow! Ok. So you listen to that and the first question you would logically ask is are there any other people with a similar experience? Are there any people in Albuquerque? Are there any people in New Mexico or any people around the United States or anyone in the world who can say I, too, got a banana and because of that, I have love, peace, joy, and I can, I’m very, very strong because of it? If it is the same testimony, then there’s something to it. If not, you dismiss it.
When there are that many people, with a uniform testimony about this Person of Jesus Christ, well, it’s time to listen to this person. And so Jesus, as His first witness, is John the Baptist and there were many like him. it’s because of what others had declared.
Here’s His second reason: because of what Jesus has done. Look at verse 36, He brings in His second witness: “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” Ok, so what did Jesus just do before this conversation? What did He just do? He just? Remember the story? Were you with us? He healed a man! He’s at the pool of Bethesda. He healed a man who had a disease for 38 years. It was a miraculous sign. It was a miraculous work and it got their attention. It was on the Sabbath day. They didn’t like that. It was a miracle—unmistakably. But they still didn’t believe in Him. Which I don’t really fault them because of that, honestly, because their own Scriptures, Deuteronomy 13 even says if a guy comes and he says he’s a prophet and he does some miracle, you be careful and listen to the message that he speaks because if the message that he speaks draws you away from the true God, he’s a false prophet. So they would naturally be skeptical. But when you put this witness, the miraculous works of Jesus, alongside the other witnesses that He calls upon in this section, it’s compelling evidence.
There’s over 30 miracles recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When I say miracle, I’m not talking about how some people use the sun rose today, that’s a miracle. The sun set, that’s a miracle. No it’s not. Happens every day. A miracle is the suspension of natural law and the enacting of supernatural forces. That’s a miracle. Walking on water? That’d be a miracle. 30, over 30, 34 of those in the New Testament are recorded. And often Jesus would appeal to those acts as substantive proof for who He was. For example, in John chapter 14, Jesus will say, Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. And others who saw those miracles also would agree. In John chapter 9 verse 16, some of the Pharisees said, this Man Jesus is not from God for He’s working on the Sabbath but others said but how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs. So these works mentioned in verse 36 are activities and miracles that Jesus did that substantiated that He was the Jewish Messiah long ago predicted. That’s why many people believed in Him then.
And now I’m gonna throw this at you. That’s why many people today believe in Him. You go excuse me? You mean, people today believe in Him because of the miracles? I haven’t seen any miracle this week in my neighborhood. Where are all the miracles? Well, here’s where all the miracles are, not all of them, but a lot of them. There’s countries in the world that will not allow the gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached or Christ Himself to be presented. It’s closed to Him. And in those areas of the world that are not allowing the gospel to be heralded, God is bringing people to Jesus Christ through all sorts of creative New Testament means like this.
My friend Joel Rosenberg has written in his, well one of his books, Inside the Revolution, he believes more Muslims have come to faith in Jesus Christ in the last 30 years than any other time in human history and he said there’s evidence that would suggest, since September 11, 2001, the majority have come to faith in Christ. One of his things that he cites is the leading Saudi Arabian cleric who came out on Al Jazeer-a television lamenting the fact that 6 million Muslims a year are converting to Christianity. That’s from a Muslim cleric. Now we don’t know exactly how many are, but the fact that this cleric is lamenting the fact that an enormous amount of Muslims are coming to faith in Christ, begs the question why are they coming to faith in Christ? One, named Hormu Shariat, from the International Antioch Ministries, broadcast messages by satellite to Muslims in Europe and in the Middle East and he says, and I quote, “Every day we have stories of dreams and visions and miracles.” God is getting His message across and many are believing Him for this same reason.
Here’s one story that I got from a source. Mariam Asal, an Islamic evangelist for 7 years, she was teaching women verses from the Koran. She was teaching them prayers so they’d live an obedient Islamic life and she was on track, says the source, to become a female Ayatollah, a Shiite religious and political leader. Well, that was then. What happened after that is her mother came down or exhibited severe M.S.—multiple sclerosis. Got so severe one day she said I prayed to Allah. I’ve served you for many years of my life. I’ve given you my youth and this is what you’ve done for me? I read that. I thought, that’s interesting. I know a lot of people here who, not necessarily in this church, but in America, who pray that same kind of prayer. Well, her mom’s health deteriorated. She became disillusioned with God, disillusioned with everything, and she decided that she and her mom would commit suicide together. They’d kill themselves. They’d get everything ready and, I don’t know if it was television or radio, but some broadcast was on on one of those two sources, and as they were getting ready to commit suicide, this voice over the airwaves said, are you trying to kill yourself today? And it was a message being broadcast into her language about the gospel. She called the station. She received Christ as her Savior. She then took her mother to get an MRI sometime later and it was completely negative—no signs at all of multiple sclerosis. She knew Jesus healed her mother. It confirmed her own faith and led her mother to Jesus Christ as well.
So here’s Jesus confronting these unbelieving Pharisees and leaders, saying, My first witness? Outside testimony. Because of what others have declared. Number two, because of what I have done. Here’s the third one: because of what God Himself, God the Father, the One you say you love and worship, what He has decreed.
Look at verse 37: “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified [or given His testimony, or borne witness] of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.” Well what does it mean that Jesus is saying that His Father testified of Him? Well there’s two incidences in the New Testament where the voice of God the Father spoke out of heaven attesting to His Son. Remember what they were? One was the baptism. He’s down at the Jordan River and God the Father speaks. This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Now that’s recorded by three separate sources. Matthew, a tax guy who had no interest in religion before his conversion, Mark, who got his testimony from Peter directly, and Luke, an unbelieving doctor who became converted and then sought to give an eyewitness account of what happened. The second time is when Jesus was walking up to a mountain with three of His disciples and a voice came out of heaven after Jesus was transfigured. And the voice said this is My beloved Son, listen to Him. Now having God Himself, that is, the Father Himself, testify on His behalf, was a powerful sign to these leaders because they claimed that they believed in God. They claimed that they loved God. So what Jesus would be saying to them is even your God, or at least the one you claim is your God, who happens to be My personal Father, would bear witness and say that you should believe in Me. That’s what He said.
We live in a very interesting era in America right now. I think that it’s probably the most spiritual time of any other time. You’re thinking now wait a minute, I think we’re deeply in secular humanism. I think you’re right. At the same time, people today want to call themselves spiritual. It’s not Christianity. It’s not believing in this God of the Bible, but they want to say they’re very spiritual. That is, I believe in God. They mean a generic god. An unnamed god. An unidentified god. A watered-down god. A father figure or a mother figure god. According to George Barna, he said Americans are probably more interested in spiritual matters today than they have been in any other time in the past 40 years. And before you go man, that sounds like great news, listen to what the editor, religious editor, for the New York Times said, and I quote, “Today we are witnessing a mass movement of individual seekers who are shunning labels but drawing their belief from several contradictory belief systems.”
You know what it’s like? It’s like if you go to a salad bar and you can pick whatever you want, right, on the salad bar? And some of the stuff you think, why would I ever put that on my salad, but it’s there, and so you put it on there and somebody else says, I don’t like that but I like this, so your salads look very different, though it’s salad. Now that’s exactly how people are approaching spirituality today. It’s sort of like saying, um, I’ll take a small order of Christianity, please—hold the guilt. I’m on a guilt-free diet. I’d like a side of Hinduism and a side of Buddhism, because that’s cool. And maybe a few New Age spices because, you know, we’ll just spice it up a bit. And so what, what God would say to them is that this god that you believe in, this generic god that you believe in, is real. There is a God. And He would tell you—believe in Jesus. Even God the Father testifies that.
Here’s the fourth and final reason or witness, if you will, in the courtroom of truth, and that is because of what Scripture discloses. Verse 39: “You search the Scriptures,” now some believe this is put in the imperative. It could be rendered as a command: Hey, you! Search the Scriptures! Either way, it makes sense. “For in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify [or bear witness] of Me.” Verse 45 is interesting: “Do not think that I shall accuse to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.”
You know, they were all into the Torah. Man, we believe in the Torah! The first five books of Moses. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Moses, man, he’s our guy! Jesus says, really? He’s your guy? If you believed him, you’d believe Me because he wrote about Me! And then He concludes, “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” In other words, His fourth witness is the Bible itself that has predicted Him. You go the Bible? How’s that a reliable witness? I mean, it’s just a book! Everybody has a book. Every religion has its book. Every holy belief has its holy book. There’s so many holy books out there, why is the Bible so reliable? I’ll tell you exactly why really briefly. For two main reasons. One is, let’s call it internal evidence, the other is external evidence. Internal evidence, just look at the Bible itself. 66 books, not one, 66 books written by more than 40 authors over 1500 years, in 3 separate languages, on 3 continents, and those who wrote it had different backgrounds. And they wrote about the most controversial subjects like the Person of God, the origin of man, the problem of evil, the meaning of life. And oddly enough, all of those authors of those 66 books from all those different time eras, happened to agree.
You go, so? Ok then I give you a challenge, you ready? Here’s the challenge. Find ten people, just ten, from your own neighborhood, who have the same educational background, speak the same language, have the same culture, and have them write two paragraphs on the meaning of life and see if any of them agree with each other. Probably not. Or here’s another experiment. Take, take 25 medical books over the last 1500 years, and treat a patient based on the information therein. What would happen if you did that from Harvard Medical School all the way to voodoos and whatever country? You’ll kill them! So this is very unique. The internal evidence of the Bible itself.
Then there’s the external evidence. We don’t have time to get into it, like the history. The Bible has survived time, even though it wasn’t written on permanent stuff like stone or clay tablets like the Babylonians, but parchment and perishable products. And it’s survived the time when people wanted to get rid of it. Do you know in 303 BC, for example, Diocletian, the emperor, put out an edict that all the churches should be destroyed and all of the copies of the Bible in the Roman Empire, should be destroyed? Anybody caught with a copy of the Scriptures was killed immediately. And between the second and fourth century that was the kind of persecution going on—the Bible survived it.
Then there’s archaeology. And anybody who’s ever tried to discredit the Bible archaeologically has failed. I have tons of examples of this. One most notable one that comes to mind is Sir William Ramsay. Now he was a, he was a man who was a very well-known during his time, very well-known archaeologist, and he said that he could disprove the writings of Luke and he thought it was important because Luke wrote a Gospel and the book of Acts. So he wanted to discredit him as a credible historian. He spent years of research and travel in Greece, Turkey, the Middle East. And finally published his findings and he shocked the academic world when he said, number one, Luke was one of the best historians ever, and number two, he announced, that he, himself, Sir William Ramsay, had converted to Christianity as an archaeologist. Number three, with external evidence, is what Jesus alludes to in verse 39 and that is prophecy.
You search the Scriptures—they’re testifying about Me! There are events in the pages of Bible that are foretold in incredible detail even before they happen. Very specific predictions. Here’s one. Actually, here’s two in one chapter. Isaiah chapter 44 describes the fall of Jerusalem and when it was written, it was written 100 years before Jerusalem fell. You say well that’s a lucky guess. Ok, here’s number two in the same chapter. The same chapter names the guy who will rebuild Jerusalem. He’s actually written by name in that chapter as Cyrus of Persia and that was written 160 years before he was born! Here’s how it works. Let’s say in my pocket right now are ten pennies and they’re all marked: 1, 2, 3, 4, all the way to ten. And then I make a prediction: Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m about to reach in my pocket and select penny marked number one. What are my odds? Well there’s ten pennies. One in ten are the odds. So I go down and pick it out and go, wow, he defied odds! He picked out penny number one! You all applaud, I would hope. And then I announce, ok, ladies and gentlemen, watch this now. I’m gonna select penny number two. Well now my odds decrease exponentially. It’s not one in ten or one in nine, it’s now one in 100 that I can select sequentially and if I predict to you that I’m gonna select, in order, penny 1, 2, 3, 4, all the way to ten, now my odds decrease to one in 10 billion. And here’s my point. God repeatedly stacks the odds against Himself by writing about things before they happen in incredible detail because they testify of Jesus. One of my favorite little books that I have, by Peter Stoner, called Science Speaks, is where this mathematician analyzes 48 predictions the Bible writes about Jesus Christ, 250 years or more before He was born—48 predictions. And using his scientific background and the principal of probability, Dr. Stoner said, and I quote, “We find the chance that any one man in history to fulfill all 48 prophecies would be 1 in 10 to the 157th power.” Now you go what does that mean? Well here’s a little visual. If you took the entire state of Texas and filled it two feet thick of silver dollars, you marked one of those multimillions or billions of silver dollars and you marked it, the odds of one person finding that one silver dollar would be in 1 in 10 to the 17th power. If you fill the United States of America coast-to-coast two feet thick full of silver dollars and premarked one, the odds of a person finding the one you premarked is 1 in 10 to the 18th power. If you took the continents of Africa and Asia and filled them two feet thick of silver dollars and premarked one, the odds of somebody finding that would be 1 in 10 to the 19th power. What he just said is for one man to fulfill 48 of these predictions is 1 in 10 to the 157th power and he concludes, “In 100 billion years, there is no chance that the prophecies Jesus fulfilled could be fulfilled without God.” Verse 39, look at that once again because it applies to us: “You search the Scriptures”. We do, don’t we? I know I do and I know you do. You search the Bible. You love Bible study. But it says, “for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”
Here’s what I want to say. Studying the Bible won’t get you to heaven. Only Jesus will. They missed the whole point in their meticulous study of the Bible. It’s a warning to us. It’s not about the Bible—it’s about the Author of the Bible. It’s not Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Holy Bible. It’s the Bible points to Christ and if I know the Bible but I don’t know its Author, guess what? I’ve missed it all. As Gypsy Smith used to say, “It’s not how many times you’ve been through the Bible, it’s how many times the Bible’s been through you.” And so we’re confronted with some powerful testimony, powerful witnesses, this morning. Where others have said what Jesus has done, what the Father has declared, and what the Scripture itself discloses as reliable testimony. Jesus says that’s why you should believe.