There were two Native Americans standing on Plymouth Rock in 1620, the day William Bradford and his crew sailed the Mayflower right up on the shores. And as Bradford and all of the pilgrim forefathers dressed in their English regalia walked down the plank toward the shore, one Native American turned toward the other and said well, there goes the neighborhood. Very truly more than they must have thought at the beginning, the neighborhood has changed. And that day opened the door for people from every culture throughout the generations to come to this country and be neighbors of one another. We can't always choose our neighbors. I know we'd love to. Somebody once said, it must've been a realtor, before you buy the house, check the neighbors. I want to talk to you today about your neighbors and your neighborhood and I mean the sea of humanity that is surrounding us. The people of this world. The people that are all around us whether they are across the street or across town or across the globe. They are the neighbors in which you and I deal with.
Now to do that, to look at that, we want to look at a section of Scripture in the book of John that perfectly illustrates a neighborhood. It's a neighborhood setting. There's a blind man. His parents will be introduced. His friends and neighbors are there and they go to the local spiritual authorities, the Pharisees. All of that is in their neighborhood. The key issue in this neighborhood, on this day, in John chapter 9, is that one man who was blind can now see. He's been changed by Jesus Christ. The rest of his life, presumably, he'll be able to see normally, joyfully. His life has been altered by a single touch of Jesus Christ. The issue becomes what is everybody else gonna do with that? Now thinking people would say well everybody's gonna rejoice with that. Everybody's gonna hallelujah--sing the hallelujah chorus. When is the last time they and their neighborhood saw anybody blind instantly healed? Seeing this, I'm sure they're gonna be so excited. Ha--wrong. Far from that, the exact opposite happens. We see a group of people filled with skepticism, with rancor, intractability. They are angry because of what happened. That's the real neighborhood that they're in.
It's a striking story. It should be. Now let's just leave that for a moment. Let's consider our neighborhood. What is it like in our neighborhood? What is it like with people who live next door to you and around us? What do we, in our American neighborhood, what are we dealing with? Have you ever wondered what unbelievers think about you? What does the unbelieving world, by and large, think of us--the Christian world? I found a little article in a newspaper, dug it out, and we have it on the screen. It's a little bar chart that shows something interesting. Notice it says percent of Americans who would not like the following minorities as neighbors. This is from the paper. This is from a poll. 1% say they don't want Catholics living next door. 2% said Protestants. They don't want Protestants living next door. 3%, they didn't want Jews. 9% Hispanics. 12% unmarried couples. 13% blacks and equal with that on the very bottom, notice who's there: religious fundamentalists. What that is saying is that, in our poll, we've discovered that the world doesn't want you living next door to them--because you're crazy. You're one of them.
Now actually this is helpful to us. It's helpful to know this because it shows us what we're up against, what is around us. It gives us a little picture and helps us give understanding to where we're at. I find it very helpful. It shouldn't surprise us, either. Throughout history men and women have said some pretty stark, outlandish, vitriolic things against Christians. Now if you're mildly religious, you're ok. If you're mildly religious and you sort of believe that there's a God and you attend church every now and then and it's just sort of a cultural thing, no problem. But if you cross over the line, the line being no, no, Jesus Christ personally means more to me. In fact, I love Him and I live my life for Him, you're in a different category altogether. Throughout history, men have said things about Christians. Voltaire, being one of them, the French philosopher said Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world. Then Arthur Clark, an author, British author, said religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses. And who can forget media mogul, who started CNN, Ted Turner who said Christianity is a religion of losers. Losers. And, he said, and I quote, I'm looking forward to dying and going to hell. Ok. Because that's where I'm headed, he said. Heaven is perfect. Who wants a place that's perfect? How boring is that! And he spoke of hell and he said at least we'll have a chance to make things better because hell's supposed to be a mess.
There's just a few quotes of just a few people. There's thousands more, trust me, about what they think about us. Multiply what you just heard thousands and millions, even, of times. Now what I want to do today in looking at our section of Scripture, and we have a pretty ambitious section, verse 13 down to verse 34 today. We want to look at four characteristics of the unbeliever. Four characteristics of the unbeliever that are seen in this text. I want to make clear that these four characteristics are not true of every single unbeliever at all times. Nor are these the only four characteristics that unbelievers exhibit, but there are four that are mentioned in the text and they are true of unbelievers. First of all, unbelievers can be ceremonial. That is, they can be religious, devoted to ceremonies, even hiding behind the ceremony while not believing in Christ. Verse 13: "They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes," so you know what's coming. "Then the Pharisees also asked him again," they've already asked him once how it happened. They ask him again, "How he had received his sight. He said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see."
I really like this previously blind man because his answers are very clear and concise and simple. How did this happen? He put mud on my eyes, told me to go wash, I can see--that's what happened. "Therefore some of the Pharisees said, "This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." Others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" And there was a division among them. They said to the blind man again, "What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." Now this represents the religious unbelievers of the world. They love rituals. They love ceremonies. They practice them. They love observances and laws. And I'm not just speaking about people of other religious persuasions that don't believe in Jesus. I also mean there are plenty of people who sit in church week after week who hide behind the ceremony of being a church member and singing songs and performing rituals who also don't believe in Jesus Christ. Both of those groups are included. Notice in verse 13 the pronoun they. "They brought him who was formerly blind to the Pharisees."
Number one, who are they? And number two, why'd they bring him to the Pharisees? They are evidently the people who lived around the area where this guy was begging. They saw him. They were friends. They were neighbors. They saw what happened in their neighborhood when Jesus walked through the streets that day in Jerusalem. And they brought the man to the Pharisees. That's because it was a Sabbath day, John explains in the very next verse. And because it's a Sabbath day, we gotta check with the Pharisees to see if this is ok. Because I don't know if you can do this on the Sabbath day. So they wanted to check it out with the Pharisees. In Jesus' day, there was something well known to those people. It's called the Mishnah. The Mishnah, a collection of writings, going on for quite a long time, outlawed or outlined an entire section of their writing devoted to the Sabbath day. There was a whole tract or a whole book just about what you can't do on the Sabbath. 39 different kinds of work were forbidden on the Sabbath.
Now as I tell them to you, you'll kind of get the picture quite easily. Number one on the Sabbath Day, and this is just a smattering, on the Sabbath day you couldn't walk out of your house if your sandals had little nails in them to hold the leather together because you're carrying nails, thus you are bearing a burden on the Sabbath. So if you walk out with slippers--fine. But if you walk out with sandals with nails holding the pieces together--you've broken the Sabbath--because you're bearing a burden. Number two on the Sabbath Day, it was forbidden to heal. So if a man had a broken arm, you couldn't set the arm. In fact, the law said on the Sabbath, only if it's a life-threatening situation can you handle it and if it is a life-threatening situation, you can only do what is necessary to keep the person alive but you can't better the person. I don't know you'd balance that. Number three on the Sabbath day, you can't knead. Knead. Knead dough or knead clay because you're working. That's labor. That's one of the 39 regulations that the law forbids. Their law, not God's Law, their law. Number four on the Sabbath day, and again I'm just giving you a smattering of the 39, you cannot spit on the ground. You go well that's kind of weird. Yeah, it is. The best part is yet to come. You know why you couldn't spit on the ground? Because if you'd spit on the ground, the spittle might roll in the dirt. And if it rolls in the dirt, you are now guilty of making a furrow in the earth. And that's plowing and that's work. I kid you not. So Jesus did all of those things and this guy is healed. Oh moreover, one of their sages was very clear about mud and spittle on the Sabbath day and that was their sage Mymonates who said and I quote, as to fasting spittle, it is not lawful to put so much as upon the eyelids.
So here Jesus comes, on the Sabbath, makes mud--psh--spits in the ground, kneads it up, and sticks it in the eye. Every single thing He did was forbidden. And they better check with the Pharisees because it might not be ok. Ok, Jesus heals on the Sabbath. This is one time He does it. Do you know that in the New Testament Gospels, He does it a total of 7 times? As if He deliberately chose the Sabbath Day to do many of His healings. This is just the one time. I'll give you the other times. Matthew chapter 9 there was a man in the synagogue in Capernaum with a withered hand. It was the Sabbath Day. Jesus healed him on the Sabbath Day. Mark chapter 1 there is, in the synagogue in Capernaum, a demoniac or a man who's demon-possessed, and they're watching to see if Jesus is gonna heal him. It's interesting that in the synagogue is the demon-possessed man. You never know who you're sitting next to in church. Number three, Mark chapter 1 again, Jesus goes to the house of Peter because Peter's mother is sick with a fever and on that Sabbath Day, she's healed. Luke chapter 13 is another story of a woman who has a bent-over condition for 18 years she's been bent-over. On the Sabbath Day, Jesus heals her. Another time, Luke chapter 14, there's a man with dropsy, which means his arms and legs were swollen. He lived in Jerusalem. On the Sabbath Day, Jesus healed him. And the sixth time, before this one, is John chapter 5, the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. On the Sabbath Day, Jesus walks into that area, finds that man and heals him and creates a huge stir on the Sabbath Day in Jerusalem, making it very clear that Jesus really didn't care a whole lot about their man-made regulations--at all. Because He did it so deliberately and here's the point. People can be very devoted and very committed and very religious and love their ceremonies and still be unbelievers. Jerusalem was filled with them.
Here's question: who wouldn't want to see a blind man healed? Who wouldn't get so excited and stoked because a blind man's healed? Who wouldn't? The people who love policy over people. Policies are more important than people. They strain at a gnat, Jesus said, and they swallow a camel. They're careful about the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. And by the way, it wasn't even God's Law! It's just stuff they made up and threw in the pot and made people keep those values. But they were very, very spiritual people. I've discovered something about spiritual people over the years. I've discovered that spiritual people can say some pretty vicious acrimonious things and can do some pretty, pretty nasty things. All in the name of God and spirituality. Napoleon Bonaparte, I don't agree with a lot of what he said, but I agree with this. He said all religions have been made by men. That's true. It's man's attempt to create a system by which that man or woman can get to God. All religions have been made by men. And then he said religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. That couldn't be more true in this case. The Pharisees were keeping everybody quiet, everybody under their grip, and these people were so afraid to do anything or allow anything unless they would check first with Mr. Pharisee and see if that was ok because it was the Sabbath Day.
Now many of your neighbors in this world are just like this. They are spiritual people. They are religious people. They are devoted people. They're cultured. They're wise. They're sincere. They're sweet. They're well-meaning and they are unbelievers because they don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ. That's what this issue is about. In the midst of this religious neighborhood steps Jesus Christ who changes a man and everybody has to deal with it. Number two, I want you to notice, that unbelievers can be skeptical. That doesn't surprise us. They usually are. That's their skepticism that keeps them as unbelievers. Verse 18: "But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered them and said, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself." His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him." So they again called the man," they keep bringing the guy in! "Who was blind, and said to him, "Give God the glory! We know this Man [that is Jesus] is a sinner." He answered and said, "Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know; that though I was blind, now I see."
See what's happening? The Pharisees are not satisfied with this man's personal testimony. They're not even satisfied with eyewitness testimony of those who saw this thing happen. Now they want to bring in the parents to testify because they're suspicious. They still can't believe this guy was blind. First they didn't believe it was a miracle. Now they don't believe he really was blind. This must be a set-up. This must be fake. This is a fake healing. This is some kind of a stage event so that people in the neighborhood will follow Jesus. By the way, their suspicions are not unfounded. There have been a lot of fakes when it comes to faith healing throughout history. I don't know if you remember a few years back, several years ago in the 80s, is that a long time ago? When Johnny Carson hosted the show. Somebody came on the Johnny Carson Show named James Randy, called The Amazing Randy. He was a skeptic. He didn't believe in faith healers and he, on national television, uncovered an evangelist named Peter Popov. Incidentally, Peter Popov is still on the air. How? I don't know. But Peter Popov in his meetings would walk through the crowd and kinda go like this and he would, you know, it's sort of stage this idea that God is revealing something to me and he'd say the woman in the third row, you with the yellow shirt, and name her address and her illness and some personal things about her life. And everybody--wow--they'd get amazed. Like this guy's amazing. Peter Popov. The Amazing Randy showed what really had happened is everybody who comes to the meetings gets interviewed. What's your illness? What's your name? What's your address? They put a radio transmitter in the ear of Peter Popov and somebody in the back has a microphone and says to him, third row, yellow shirt, here's the address of the lady, her name is. This is her illness. And he called these things out as if God was speaking to him and he was uncovered on national television. Again, the most amazing thing of it all is he's still followed and still watched and has a sizeable ministry.
Look at verse 19. That's the idea. I want you to see something. "They asked them [the parents] saying, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind?" Did you get that? He really wasn't blind--you say he's born blind, but this is one of those stage acts like the televangelists, huh? That's what they're accusing him of. Well they press it. Go down to verse 24. "They again called the man who was blind, and said to him, "Give God the glory! We know this Man is a sinner." What does that mean? It could mean don't focus on this Jesus character, focus on God. If you have sight, if you have been healed, God did it and not Him. But I think it means something else. When he says give God the glory, what they're saying is tell us the truth. Come clean. And I say that because they're simply saying something very biblical. Back in the book of Joshua, you'll remember the incident, Joshua chapter 7, there was a guy named Achan. Remember Achan? Ok, so you don't remember Achan. If you remember Achan, do this. Ok. Because eventually he really was Achan, after they stoned him, but... In Joshua chapter 7 Achan had stolen some of the plunder of war after the fall of Jericho. And he covered it up and he hid it and he didn't come clean, didn't tell the truth. Joshua finally approaches Achan and he says in Joshua 7, give the glory to the Lord God of Israel. Tell me what you have done. Do not hide it from me. And that's exactly what I think these Pharisees are saying. 'Fess up. Tell us the truth. Were you really blind? You said you were. They say you were. That's not the truth. Tell us now the truth. Give God glory by speaking truth.
They are total skeptics in the face of personal testimony, parental testimony, eyewitness testimony of friends and neighbors. The proof is staring them in the face with this man who is healed and they are unconvinced.
Now I want to throw something in right now. Skepticism, though a trait of unbelievers, cautious skepticism is not a bad trait for anybody. The Bible calls it discernment. We could use a good dose of that. If we didn't have discernment, and if there was no cautious skepticism, there'd be Peter Popovs all over the place and no truth would have a chance. In fact, when I was in college in my undergrad studies, I had professors who were very smart and very confrontational against my faith. And it caused a crisis of skepticism. And it was unnerving and unsettling for me, this young college student now all of these unbelievers and their arguments. I didn't know what to do. Happened to be one of the healthiest things that could ever happen to me because it put me on a serious study of truth and I emerged from that period of skepticism and searching and study; I emerged stronger, more stable, more in love with Jesus, and more capable with dealing with unbelievers. I got a call on Friday from a young man, a long distance phone call from Japan; he wanted to talk to me because he was at the lowest of the low. He had a pretty sketchy past life. He was raised in a Christian home. His dad was a pastor. He grew up, he said, abandoning the faith because he did some serious study and his mind wouldn't let him believe. He was grappling with things. And, actually I think where he was at was ok, and I think he's gonna be ok. I want you to see that there is a difference between honest doubt, honest skepticism, and unbelief. And you're seeing unbelief develop right before your eyes.
Now notice down in verse 22 how close-minded they have become. "His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He [Jesus was the Messiah, that's the idea of Christ], he would be put out of the synagogue," excommunicated. Put out of the synagogue. Five words. In Greek it's one word: aposunagogos. If you believe in Christ, you will be aposunagogos. You know what that literally means? You'll be un-synagogued. You'll be de-synagogued. We'll push you out of national Jewish life and excommunication from the synagogue. That's what it means. Now I'll explain a little more about that next week. However, according to the Babylonian Talmud, again writings of the Jews, there were 24 offenses that were listed whereby a person could be excommunicated from the synagogue and one of them included refusing to abide by the decision of the court. In other words, whatever we say goes. The decision of the court goes. Our little religious court. If you disagree with us on any point, we can kick you out of this synagogue. So we have determined Jesus isn't the Messiah. Whoever believes Jesus is the Messiah will be excommunicated from the synagogue. And they were afraid of that.
I love verse 25. It seems that this man himself wasn't afraid. "He answered and said, "Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know; that though I was blind, now I see." Overriding and ignoring their skepticism, he gives a very, very simple, uncomplicated, personal testimony. Here's my testimony. I was a blind guy. Now I'm a guy who can see things. That's what happened to me. That's so beautiful. And irrefutable. I honestly get a bit tired of long-winded testimonies that glorify one's past. Yeah, I was a murderer and a drug addict and I drank 40 gallons of alcohol a day and then I did this and I ran the Mafia and it's like, they want a stack up how bad they were rather than how good God is. The best testimony, the only testimony I'm interested is this: I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see. That's all of our testimony.
Third thing I'd like you to look at is that unbelievers can be irrational. They're skeptical, that's a given, but they can become irrational. Verse 26: "Then they said to him again," they keep bringing him back, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?" Now I've already answered that like 5 times. "He answered them, "I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?" Ooh. Getting a little sarcastic, are we? "Then they reviled him and said, "You are His disciple, but we are Moses' disciples." Oh, the pride that rings in those four words. "We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from." Now it's pretty obvious that this blind man now healed is losing his patience with these Pharisaical interrogators. They keep asking him the same questions. He gives them the same answers, so it's obvious they're not listening to what he has to say. Why should he say it again? Now do you see what's happening? And he understands--he gets it. They're asking me the same thing so they can find a discrepancy in my testimony. Lawyers are good at doing this. Now tell me again what you did. Well last time you didn't use that word--you said that word. And you used it in the past tense. And they'll parse it. They're looking to discredit his testimony. So just follow it so far. Number one, they first didn't believe a miracle even happened. Number two, they didn't believe he was born blind, that it was something they made up. Number three, they thought it was a fake healing, a staged healing. And now number four, they're trying to discredit or find a discrepancy in verbal testimony. They just keep getting at this guy and this guy's losing his patience.
So they say we know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we don't know where He's from. Look at verse 30: "The man answered and said to them, "Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know," this is the healed man speaking now. He's telling them. Listen to his lecture: "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing." Do you hear that clear, lucid, devastating argument? It's so logical. In fact, it's a, he's giving them a lesson in logic. He has a major premise and he has a minor premise. Major premise: God doesn't hear sinners. We know that. Minor premise: God obviously heard Jesus because I can see.
If we were to state this in a syllogism like we did last week, a series of logical steps, we would put it this way: number one, only God can heal congenital blindness; number two, Jesus just healed congenital blindness; number three, Jesus must be from God. It's very simple and very logical but boy this guy's walking on the edge as he gives these Pharisees a lecture. Here's the point I want to make here. Very often, not always, but quite often, unbelievers can be guilty of the same irrationality that they accuse us believers of having. They can be guilty of it. And they will approach with some supercilious piety like well we're smart, you're dumb because you believe in God--let me lecture you. Again, not always but quite often. So many times engaging in the conversation with unbelievers they approach the conversation with cliché arguments and overused arguments. They come with a bent; a presupposition. One of them we covered last week. Well, there can't be a God because there's bad things that happen in the world. That's what they, that's the lens with which they approach the conversation. Or another one: well there's so many different religions in the world and so many different beliefs and so many different sincere people. How can you say you have a corner on the market of God? Or another one: you know I think everybody should be able to choose their own way. Whatever they feel, whatever they want to do, as long as it doesn't hurt anybody and they're sincere. Or another one: well the Bible was just written by a bunch of old guys who didn't know each other and there's gotta be a lot of mistakes in it and you can't really take it seriously like God did something. That is what they often are predisposed to when you first meet them. This is the reason we must do as J.I. Packer says we should do. He said we need to outthink them. Outthink them.
We need to employ what William Lane Craig beautifully calls reasonable faith. Reasonable faith. Not just well I believe just because I believe and I've always believed and it's just in my heart. You gotta do better than that. Reasonable faith. There's a great book out and I recommend it to you. It's by Dinesh D'Souza. It's called What's So Great About Christianity? It was on the New York Times list. And he says this. Here's just a snippet: Precisely because the Christian usually ducks and runs, the atheists have had it too easy. Their arguments have gone largely unanswered. They have been flogging the carcass of fundamentalism without having to encounter the horse kick of a vigorous traditional Christianity. I am skeptical not only of the allegedly irrational claims of religion but also of the irrational claims made in the name of science and skepticism itself. Amen to that. And his book is a good step in equipping.
Number four, let's close this up. The last verse. Unbelievers can be inflexible. Now this man tells them since the beginning of the world there hasn't been anybody healed and he goes through this little lecture. Now listen to their response. "They answered and said to him, "You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?" And they excommunicated him. "And they cast him out." They put down the gavel and said you are no longer a part of this community and he was pushed out of the synagogue in verse 34. Have you ever met an inflexible unbeliever? It doesn't matter what you say. It doesn't matter how much evidence you give them. They don't believe. And they won't believe. Don't confuse me with the facts. That's an inflexible unbeliever. So verse 34 is all about they're unable to counter his irresistible logic. They can only respond in a personal ad homonym attack. They're not about to be lectured by a beggar. Who do you think you are? You're a sinner--that's why you were blind for so long! You're lecturing us? And they cast him out. You know, rejecting Jesus Christ is not always a matter of the mind. It is often really a matter of the will.
Now a lot of people want to make it about the mind. I'd like to believe that, but I can't. I can't because I'm confronted with real life. And I'm a smart person. I deal with reality. And because I deal with reality and you obviously don't, I'd like to believe in that fairy tale but I can't believe because I'm smart. Dig a little deeper through that smokescreen. You'll discover something quite differently. I've on more than one occasions engaged people and said if I could prove to you that Jesus was who He claimed He was, and I always say I'm not saying I can but let's hypothetically just say I could prove to you, unmistakably, that Jesus was who He claimed He was and the veracity of Scripture, that the Scriptures are reliable and very unique as a document and indeed hold and are the very Word of God. If I could prove that to you, would you then believe in Jesus Christ? You know what they always tell me? No! Not always. I've had a few say yes I would. Good--let's talk. But often it's no! And when they say no to that, I know it's not a matter of the mind, it's a matter of the will. They're saying not I can't believe but I will not believe. It's an inflexible unbelief.
See the unbelief of the searching heart is one thing. The unbelief of a searching heart is I don't know but I'd like to know. That's a true agnostic. I don't know but I really want to know and I'm searching to find out and if you can give me compelling evidence, I'll believe. That's the belief of a searching heart. That's different from the unbelief of a hardened heart. You can give a hardened heart evidence and they'll want more evidence. And give them more evidence; they'll want more evidence and more evidence--never satisfied. They have said I will not believe. They're predisposed. So what do we do? What do we do in a situation with these kind of neighbors? Well if you look at these four sections, take them one by one, first of all to those neighbors who are merely ceremonial and it's all about the ritual and the religion and the ceremony, when you talk to them don't make it about that. Make it all about Jesus. Don't get sidetracked into one denomination believes this; one denomination... but what does Jesus say? Who is Jesus Christ? Do you have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? Second to those neighbors who are skeptical, well 1 Paul 3:15 works fine here. Those skeptics, Peter says that we should be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that lies in us. If somebody's skeptical: why are you skeptical? I was a skeptic once. Let me tell you my story.
Number three to those neighbors who are irrational, well you're gonna need to bone up a little bit on your apologetics. Let me encourage you to do that. Move beyond whatever stage you might be at spiritually and get a good dose of apologetics under your belt. I'll tell you why. Life is fun then. Having conversations with unbelievers is fun as you watch the Lord open up doors in their mind and heart. Number four to those neighbors who are inflexible, hard-hearted, continually reject, repeatedly dig their heels in? Stay away from them. Stay away from them. That's what Jesus said. Don't cast your pearls before? Swine. Don't keep throwing out the treasure of the gospel only to have that completely trodden time and time again if that's the kind of person you're dealing with. I want to close with a true story. It was written up in the New Yorker magazine. A man who lived in Long Island, or as they say Long Island, a man who lived in Long Island and worked in New York City bought a very exquisite barometer. He had sent away for it, it came in the mail, he opened it up. Something bothered him. He noticed that the little arrow was pointed to the section of the barometer marked hurricane. It's a beautiful day--it said hurricane. So he shook it and he banged it (never do that with a nice barometer.) But he did it. It didn't unstick from saying hurricane. So he immediately wrote a letter to the company he bought it from berating them for sending him a faulty barometer. How dare they--and just gave him a piece of his mind that he couldn't afford to lose. He wrote it. The next day when he was going to his work in New York City he put it in the mailbox. When he came back to Long Island that night, he discovered that not only was his barometer missing but his house was missing. It was September 1938. The worst hurricane ever to hit Long Island--that destroyed homes and one was his.
He didn't believe that a hurricane is coming. It can't be true! Bang, bang, bang. Shake, shake, shake. That is the fate of the unreasonable, inflexible unbeliever. There is a storm coming called the righteous judgment of God. When God has given time and evidence and ability to find truth. But if a person pushes and pushes and says no, there's a hurricane coming. Doesn't have to be. Thomas Aquinas said within every soul there's a restless thirst for happiness. You can have a satisfied mind and a peaceful heart. And I've known many, many smart people who have questioned the Christian faith only to become devoted, committed followers of Christ. So you're not the first with all those questions. You can have a satisfied mind and a peaceful heart. And that thirst that you all have, that we're all born with, can be satisfied.