Most of you reading this are believers. Some are not. Both are dangerous positions to take but for different reasons—vastly different reasons! This paragraph in John's Gospel is the summary of all that has been written, from chapters 1 through 13. It reviews the two different responses people have to Jesus and then gives us Jesus' own synopsis on faith and unbelief. Today you will be able to understand the real differences and consequences of faith and unbelief.
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
FREE - Download Entire Series (MP3) (Help)
Things to Ponder:
Greek Terms: àποσυνάγωγος - aposunagogos - away from the synagogue, expelled from the synagogue, excommunicated
Figures Referenced: Robert Ripley; Norbert Pearlroth; George Verwer; Thomas a Kempis;
Cross References: Exodus 4:21; Exodus 8:15, Exodus 8:32, Exodus 9:34; Proverbs 29:25; Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 55:6; John 1:4-5; John 2; John 4:46-54; John 5; John 6:1-14; John 6:15-21; John 8:12; John 9; John 9:22; John 11; John 12:36; Acts 17:30; Galatians 1:10; Hebrews 1:1-2; Revelation 2:9; Revelation 19:11
Keywords: belief, unbelief, faith, persecution, light
Let's open our bibles now to John Chapter 12. And if you're new this morning, you're visiting, we've been doing a series in this gospel. We've been in it over a year. We're in week 53 and we're finishing up Chapter 12.
John Chapter 12, let's pray. Father in heaven, we're your people. We need you. We pray Lord that in the midst of this world that is constantly trying to distract us with so many great inventions like email and text messaging and all of those things that we would learn the value of sitting and listening and pondering the truth, that we would learn not to be distracted but focused. And so, now as an act of our worship, we maintain our seat and we give you our full attention because we believe that your Holy Spirit through the Apostle, John, who recorded the words of Jesus, will speak a message directly to our hearts. Help us Lord to learn to apply in Jesus' name, amen.
You've all heard of Ripley's Believe it or Not, yes? So he started in the 1918. Robert Ripley was a syndicated cartoonist. He would draw pictures and he was an explorer and a lover of all things odd and unusual, so he started Ripley's Believe it or Not. Well, he really surged forward when he hired a man by the name of Norbert Pearlroth who spent the next 52 years of his life, six days a week, ten hours a day in the New York Public Library digging up facts, odd and unusual facts. And it went from a comic strip to something in newspapers, magazines, television and now, around the world, 37 Ripley Believe it or Not museums filled with unusual things and if you're into that, that's the place to go.
So I have a little test to take, a little true or false, a little Believe It or Not test for you. In Tokyo, a bicycle is faster than a car, believe it or not?
Participants: Believe it.
Pastor Skip Heitzig: You believe it. Well, it's true. Actually in Tokyo, Japan, if your trip is under 50 minutes, it's faster to take a bicycle than to get in a car.
The Sahara Desert is the largest desert in the world. Do you believe it? You don't believe it? How many believe it? Honest show of hands. Believe it, raise your hand. How many of you don't believe it? Okay, so what is the largest desert?
Participants: It's Antarctica.
Pastor Skip Heitzig: It's Antarctica. Antarctica is considered the world's largest desert. It has no measurable rainfall, precipitation, liquid precipitation, no real life forms and it's considered the world's largest desert. The Sahara's the world's largest hot desert they say.
Here's another one. The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. Do you believe it or not? You believe it. Well, you're right. She has no eyebrows. They painted her that way because in the Renaissance, it was fashionable for women to shave their eyebrows completely off. Weird, I know, but that was the Renaissance.
Here's one. It's illegal to drink beer out of a bucket while sitting on a curb in St. Louis. Do you believe it? Yeah, you think -- that's the truth everywhere, right? There's actually a law on the books in St. Louis, an old law that has never been changed that states exactly that.
Here's another one. French fries originated in France. Do you believe it? No. They originated in Belgium.
French dressing originated in France. Do you believe it?
Pastor Skip: No. Did you know that the French actually hate French dressing?
Here's one. During your lifetime, you will eat the weight of about six elephants. Do you believe that? You do? Well, some of you love to eat. It's actually true. The average human being in a lifetime will eat 60,000 pounds of food or the equivalent weight of six elephants. I know some that would eat seven elephants.
A dog's sweat glands are in its paws. Do you believe it or not? I heard yes and no. It's true. They're in its paws, not on the skin, not on the armpits, on its paws.
52,000 Mazdas are being recalled because of spider webs. Do you believe it?
Pastor Skip Heitzig: You do? Okay, yes, because you've seen the news this week. That's actually true. I could've have caught you on another week. This week, 52,000 Mazdas were recalled because they said spider webs are clogging the fuel lines.
One final question, true or false, God provided only one way for mankind to be saved and that is through Jesus Christ alone. Do you believe it?
Pastor Skip Heitzig: Amen. That it the truth. Well, we come to the last section of John Chapter 12, this last section of John 12. John shows us two groups of people, some who believe it and some who do not believe it when it comes to Jesus Christ. What we have here in this last paragraph is John's general survey of people who listen to and watch Jesus while he was on the earth and they're simply divided into two camps, some who believe and some who didn't.
So this is his poll. He says, "Look, these people didn't believe in him. Look these people did believe in him." I think it's good for every generation to take a poll and to notice the poll of those people in their culture who believe and who don't believe in Christ. It might astound you to know that George Barna, one of the foremost researchers in what people believe, comes up with this, and I quote, "Of those who say they are Born Again Christians in our country, 46% believe in absolute moral truth."
What that means is the flip side of that is more than half of all people who claim to be Born Again Christians do not believe in absolute moral truth. I'll further go on. "Less than half of those who say they are Born Again Christians reject the notion that you can earn your salvation." The flip side of that of course is more than half of those who claim to be Born Again Christians say that you can work your way or earn your way to heaven. All of that to simply say there's only a minority of Americans who believe in and follow the Jesus Christ of the New Testament.
Now, this section that we're dealing with is important. It's transitional and when I say it's transitional, it's because the public ministry of Jesus Christ is ending. The private ministry of Jesus Christ is about to begin, Chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, the crowd is shut out, it is personal, it is intimate, it is with the disciples alone and God the father.
So the public ministry of Jesus ends in Chapter 12 of Verse 36. Notice it says that he departed and was hidden from them. That's over with. Jesus now turns toward his disciples, this private ministry. And in between these two big sections, John gives a summary statement about people who believe and people who don't. And there are three principles I want you to notice in this summary section this morning. Number one, unbelief is dangerous. That's the first principle. You'll see it with me in a moment. Number two, belief can be dangerous also. And number three, Jesus shows us the difference between faith and unbelief. We want to look at those three things.
Let's begin in Verse 37 of John Chapter 12, "But though he had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in him that the word of Isaiah, the prophet, might be fulfilled which he spoke, 'Lord, who has believed our report? To whom is the arm of the lord been revealed?' Therefore, they could not believe because Isaiah said again he has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn so that I should heal them. These things Isaiah said when he saw his glory and spoke of him."
There is in those verses encapsulated the first principle, unbelief is dangerous. Isn't it amazing to read they did not believe in him even though John says they had all of the evidence for faith right before their eyes? They saw all of the science, all of the miracles, the preponderance of evidence weighed on the scales and said believe Jesus Christ, but they did not. Many of them walked away from him in midstream we're told back in John Chapter 6. They did not believe.
What things did Jesus do? Well, he turned water into wine. He walked on the water, the Sea of Galilee. On the other side, he took a few loaves and fish and blessed it and broke it and fed thousands of people with it.
He healed a nobleman's son in a long distance miracle saying, "Go back home. Your son lives". He heals a blind man in Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 of the book of John. There's a paralyzed man in John Chapter 5 at the Pool of Bethesda, and that's only in John alone. Then there's the crowning miracle of Jesus so far, and that is the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. And yet we read they did not believe.
Now, if you were to count up Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, you would discover 34 such miraculous signs occur in the gospels where Jesus demonstrated his power over nature, he demonstrated his power over disease, over demons and over death itself.
Now, just so you know, when we say miracle, we mean a real miracle. We don't mean the kind of miracles that people say, "Oh, the sun rose this morning. Wasn't that beautiful? That's a miracle." No, it's not. It happens everyday according to natural law. God put it in order but it's natural. A miracle is where God intervenes in natural law by supernatural forces. It's the suspension of natural law by God enacting something supernatural, and these people that we're reading about saw all of these signs. They were unmistakable that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and people should put their faith in him. So to not believe in him in the face of that evidence simply demonstrates the depth of human depravity.
Oftentimes, people would say -- I bet you've heard it, "Oh well, I'd like to believe what you believe but I just can't believe that stuff." And the way they say it, it almost sounds like they're just a little too smart. They're just a little smarter than you are. They would love to believe it but they got that extra degree that you didn't get, so they can't believe that. And I often will ask people who say that. "I'll tell you what, let's just say that I could prove to you that Jesus was the Son of God and the Bible is to be believed. If I could prove it to you, would you place your faith in Christ today?" "No." Okay, then you better rephrase your statement. It's not "I can't believe." What you really mean quite honestly is "I won't believe. I refuse to believe as an act of my will."
Some years ago, Julian Huxley, you'll recognize that name, he was an evolutionary biologist who died in 1995. He was called, nicknamed "Darwin's Bulldog" because he just went voraciously after any opponent to the Evolutionary Theory. He said, "There is no longer need nor room for supernatural beings capable of affecting the course of events in the evolutionary pattern of thought." I'll paraphrase that, "I don't believe in miracles. They're impossible. They never happen. They never will. We know better now. No room in my thinking for it."
Okay, it's one thing to say that 2000 years removed from the miracles themselves, but it's quite another thing to be the very people that saw what Jesus did and still they did not believe. So John says that. Here's a group of people, they didn't believe in him. No matter what Jesus did, they didn't believe in him. Now, John quotes two passages from the Old Testament. Did you notice that he quotes Isaiah the Prophet twice, once in Chapter 6 and the other in Chapter 53? Actually, 53 is first, "to whom is the arm of the Lord been revealed," and then in Chapter 6, he quotes twice out of Isaiah. Why does he do this? It's simple.
John wants to show us that men's unbelief didn't surprise God. He knew about it all along. In fact, he predicted it way before they came on the scene. That'd be fun to tell an unbeliever, wouldn't it? "Hey, God knew all about you and your unbelief before you're ever born." So the ardent unbeliever, the shake-the-fist-of-God unbeliever, the agnostic, the atheist doesn't shake God. God didn't go, "Oh!" In fact, it simply proves him right and ultimately accomplishes his purpose.
That's why John quotes what Isaiah the Prophet said. But there's a danger in unbelief, and this is what I want you to see and they're easy to see. It's easy to see as you compare two verses. Verse 37, "Although he had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in him." That's an act of their will. Look at Verse 39, "Therefore, they could not believe because Isaiah said again he has blinded their eyes and he has hardened their hearts lest they should see with their eyes..."
In other words, follow me closely, their unwillingness to believe eventually became their incapacity to believe. You know, unbelief is a two-layered cake. Think of it this way. The bottom layer is human choice, human will, my decision, what I think about God, what I think about Christ. Whatever you put on that layer, God will come along and put another layer on top of that and strengthen and fortify the first layer. So if you say, "I don't believe in God; it's my choice." Great. God will say, "I will come along and I will put my layer of strength and I will confirm that." That's the idea of "I will harden the heart." We've studied all about this on Wednesday nights with Pharaoh.
Remember, God said to Pharaoh -- God said to Mosses, "Mosses, I'm going to harden Pharaoh's heart." But first, we read that Pharaoh hardens his own heart and then again hardens his own heart, and then again hardens his own heart until finally God says, "Okay, now I'm going to harden your heart. If that's the perpetual decision you make, then I will fortify the decision that you have made."
Now, I got to tell you something. I believe that if you make a decision for God, toward God, and you confirm or harden your heart toward him that God will also come along and strengthen and confirm that. But the opposite is also true. Those who persistently harden their hearts will have their hearts hardened.
I'll put it to you in poker terms, if you don't mind. It's like you step up to the table and you say, "I don't believe," and God says, "I see that unbelief and I raise it a hundred dollars. I'm going to confirm the choice that you have made." That is why we're told in the Bible in the words of Isaiah the Prophet, "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near." If you have any feeling at all or spiritual sensibility, move toward him because unbelief is dangerous, and that's the first principle. It's dangerous because it's progressive. What starts out as your unwillingness will end up as you're being incapable of believing.
The second principle I want you to notice, and that is in Verse 42 and 43, not only is unbelief dangerous, faith can be dangerous as well. Look at it. Nevertheless, even among the rulers, many believed in him. Now, stop. So far, that sounds great. "Yeah, finally, a breath of fresh air, somebody's believing and I love it." Hold that thought. "But because of the Pharisees, they did not confess him lest they should be put out of the synagogue, for they love the praise of men more than the praise of God."
Have you ever thought of your faith as being dangerous? Probably not unless you lived in a country where you were persecuted for your faith quite a bit because you see, if you live in such a place where to believe in Christ might mean death, then you suddenly realize my believing in Jesus Christ can be hazardous to my health. There's actually a danger involved, the persecution that leads to a second danger, and that is compromise. That's what's going on here.
Now, I'm going to jog your memory a little bit. Remember back in Chapter 9? It might have been four or five years ago when we were in Chapter 9. If you remember the man who is blind that Jesus healed, and then the Pharisees talked to him and his parents came in and they had this discussion, it says in Chapter 9:22, "Therefore, if anyone confessed that Jesus was Christ, he was put out of the synagogue." That's when the law went into action, remember that? So we also told you that those words 'put out of the synagogue', five words, it's just one simple Greek word, 'aposunagogós' which literally means to be un-synagogued.
So the law was, "If you believe in Jesus, we're going to un-synagogue you, de-synagogue you, or excommunicate you formally so that you have no social status or standing in the community whatsoever." That was the fear that was going on in their minds here. That kind of persecution led to many of them who believed to compromise. That's the danger. That's why I say faith can be dangerous, too.
Okay, let's reel this in a little bit. Did you know that last year, last year alone in the world, 160,000 Christians were killed for their faith in Christ, 160,000?
Did you know that the 20th century from 1900 to the year 2000, there were more martyrdoms, Christians killed for their faith, not voluntarily blown themselves up, killed for their faith in the 20th century? Then in all previous centuries combined from the 1st century to the 19th, all of them combined, there were more on the 20th than all of them. Guess how many were murdered? Guess how many were killed? A hundred thousand believers were killed for their faith in Christ during that time. Excuse me, I got the figure on. I'm way up 100 million Christians were killed during that century.
The same statisticians tell us that if you put all believers in the world together into one group, it's estimated that one out of every 200 people can expect to be martyred in his or her lifetime. Now we're dealing with something that for us is just philosophical. If we rein it in, we don't see that kind of persecution, that kind of martyrdom in our country. I mean, you believe what you believe and then most people will leave you alone and say, "Good, put a bumper stick on your car. I don't care. I'm not into that". But I do believe that is going to change in this country. I think we're already sensing that.
Not long ago, there were 11 people in Philadelphia arrested, including two women in their 70s along with nine other people arrested in Philadelphia for sharing the gospel on the street -- street witnessing, they were arrested, and they face imprisonment because of a longstanding Pennsylvania Hate Crime Law.
Okay, now I want to get to the real crux of this, and that is the danger of believing. And this is foundational to us as human beings. If you are a human being, and I know you are, you'll all be able to relate to this. We have a fundamental desire as human beings to be accepted, to be loved, to be liked. Nobody likes to be unpopular. Nobody goes out of their way to get people to hate them deliberately. We all want to be liked. We all want to be loved, so here's the temptation. Faith is dangerous simply because it places me in a position to want to compromise what I believe in, in order to get other people around me to like me.
So I might not be as strong in my faith for Jesus Christ because they will say bad things about me and they won't like me and I'll be shunned, or in this case, put out of the synagogue. Paul the Apostle asks a question and then he answers it. Let me read it to you in Galatians 1. Paul says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I'm trying to please men for if I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."
I'll paraphrase what he says. I think he's simply saying, "I don't really care what anybody thinks about me or my life. I care about the approval of one person only, and that's Jesus Christ. What he thinks about me is infinitely more important than what anybody else thinks about me." So that's the idea here.
So this group in Verse 42 and 43, they're trying to pull off something impossible. You know what that is? Secret discipleship. Did you know that's impossible? Secret discipleship is a contradiction in terms because what will eventually happen is the discipleship will destroy the secrecy or the secrecy will destroy the discipleship. If you're a disciple, you won't be secret. They tried to do it for they love the praise of men more than the praise of God. I think you know. If you don't, you should know what Proverbs 29 says, "The fear of men brings a snare," or in a more modern translation, "Fearing people is dangerous as a trap but to trust the Lord means safety."
Back in 1871, a song was written. You'll recall it, some of you, "Onward Christian soldiers marching us to war..." how many of you have ever heard that song before? "With the cross of Jesus going on before..." Somebody suggested perhaps that could be rewritten as such, "Backward Christian soldiers fleeing from the fight with the cross of Jesus nearly out of sight. Christ our rightful master stands against the foe, onward into battle we seem afraid to go."
So two dangers so far, the danger of unbelief, and that is unbelief is progressive. And number two, the danger of believing is that persecution can lead to compromise.
Now we close with the words of Jesus in Verse 44 through 50, and he shows us the difference and he, too, holds out those who believe and those who do not believe, and he's weighing them in the balances and showing us what the consequence will be of one of the other. Verse 44, "Then Jesus cried out and he said, 'He who believes in me believes not in me but in Him who sent me. And he who sees me sees Him who sent me. I have come as a light into the world that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not believe, I do not judge him for I do not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my words has that which judges him. The word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day, for I have not spoken on my own authority but the father who sent me, gave me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak just as the father told me, so I speak.'"
So here is Jesus, final words before his public ministry ends and his private ministry begins and he holds up faith and he holds up unbelief and he compares both of them and he says, "Here are the consequences of one of the other. Number one, faith honors God; unbelief dishonors God." That's the point when he says "He who believes in me believes not in me but Him who've sent me." In other words, if you believe in me, you're not just believing in me alone but also, along with believing in me, you're believing in the one who sent me. In other words, we are so together on this. There is such a partnership that my Father and I have on this thing that you can't separate the purpose one from the other.
Now this is important because in effect, there's a crowd of people around them, Jewish people who were saying, "We believe in God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". Jesus is saying, "You say you believe in God but if you reject me, you reject God because it was that God that sent me into the world for you." That's the point -- belief and faith honors God; unbelief dishonor's God.
Here's the larger point. If you place your faith in Christ and you trust him and you follow him, you will honor God because that is the whole purpose, for God so love the world that He gave His only begotten son. Listen to this, the writer of Hebrews Chapter 1 Verse 1 says this, "God who at different times and in different ways communicated to our ancestors, to the prophets, has in these final days spoken to us by his own son, Jesus Christ." In other words, everything God ever wanted to say to people on planet earth, he said finally through Jesus Christ. That is God's answer for humanity.
"The world will not honor you but if you lived to honor God," as we've already read in John a couple verses back, "him my Father will honor." So here's the choice we have to make. If you're going to follow Christ as his disciple in this world, understand the world won't love it. The world will persecute you, so you have to decide which road am I going to walk, which side am I going to be on. Let me give you a little encouragement.
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus wrote seven letters to seven churches. Remember that? I call them postcards. They're just little few words to each church. The second postcard he writes is to the Church of Smyrna. They were being persecuted simply because they love Jesus and followed him and were vocal about it. They started losing their jobs so they became poor. Many of them lost their lives because of it, so Jesus writes them a letter:
Dear Smyrna, I know your works. I know your tribulation. I know your poverty, but you are rich. You see the difference between the world's evaluation of that church and Jesus' evaluation of that church? Yup, you've been beat up and boy, are you poor on a human level, but I got to tell you something, you are so rich because you've honored God. You can be either a wealthy poor man or a poor rich man.
I've met a lot of rich people. I look out and I go, "Poor thing, so empty, so vapid in their life." I've seen people who have nothing but they're so rich, same with this church. So number one, faith honors God; unbelief dishonors God.
Second, Jesus speaking, "Faith brightens your life; unbelief darkens your life." One verse, Verse 46, "I have come as a light into the world that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness." Now you know this. We've covered this. This is a dominant theme, isn't it, in the Gospel of John? It comes in the first paragraph, the first introduction to the book. "In him was life and that life was the light of men."
Then we come to Chapter 8, one of the seven 'I am' statements of Jesus, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life." In other words, faith brightens your life; unbelief darkens it.
I never forget when I pray to receive Christ. Back in 19 -- that long ago, I remember distinctly feeling something. It's not like the ground shook. It's not like angels went -- but I felt like the room was brighter. I felt like I could just see things clearer. I felt like I could walk on air. "I knew this was right." My life was so much brighter.
What do you do when you come home and it's dark? You open the door and it's dark in the house, what's the first thing you do? Flip on the light. Will you live in a dark world? What do you do in a dark world? Flip on the light, follow the light, walk in the light, follow Jesus Christ because I got to tell you something. Like a flower in darkness, it can't ever become what it should until it's brought into the sunlight where it blossoms. Human beings can never become what God wants him to become until they step into the light of Christ. I've said it before, medical science can add years to your life but only Jesus Christ can add life to your years, so that's the truth, Baby Ruth. Faith brightens your life; unbelief darkens it.
Here's the third thing Jesus would say about faith and unbelief as he's showing us the difference. Faith will open your door to the future; unbelief will close that door permanently. Verse 47, Jesus continues, "If anyone hears my words and does not believe, I do not judge him." Now before you get all excited and go, "Oh, I love that verse. I don't judge him. I'm going to circle that." Hold that thought because what he means is the first time I came to this earth, which is what we're reading about, I didn't come to judge, but that's the first time.
"I do not judge him for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world." That was his purpose as a savior. "He who rejects me and does not receive my words already has that which judges him and the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day for I have not spoken on my own authority but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say, what I should speak, and now I know his command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak just as the Father told me, so I speak."
Here's our Lord. It's simple. He's saying let's play this way out into the future. Here's the consequence of faith. It's called everlasting life. Here's the consequence of unbelief, not everlasting life -- judgment. You say, "Yeah, but Skip, you just said he didn't come to judge." You're right. The first time Jesus came to this earth, he came to die on a cross not as a judge but as a savior. But I got to tell you something, the second time Jesus comes, he is definitely coming as a judge.
Revelation 19 John, the same author looks up and sees a vision of Christ coming. He writes in Revelation 19, "I saw Heaven open and behold the white horse and He who sat on him is called faithful and true and in righteousness he judges and makes war." And what is the standard by which Jesus will judge humanity, and he says he will in other places, it's the word, His words.
So take all of the red words in Mathew, Mark, Luke and John that have been translated and retranslated into 2,223 languages and dialects for the last 2,000 years and distribute it around the world and that will be the standard of truth by which Jesus Christ will judge a person. So let me boil it down to the irreducible minimum, the bottom line.
To receive Jesus Christ is to refuse judgment. To refuse Jesus Christ is to receive judgment. He says, "I didn't come to judge. I'm not doing that now. I've come to save but if you refuse that, there will be judgment." There's something that was startling to me as I read this. It's as if I've read it for the first time, and that's in Verse 15. Notice, "and I know that His command is everlasting life."
Isn't that interesting? We've always thought that it's an invitation. He invites you to have everlasting life and He does. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." That's an invitation. But it's also a command. You say, "Why would He give us a command?" Well, if you're a parent, you know the answer to that.
I remember as a kid, my mom would say, "Skip, it's time for dinner." I wouldn't go. I wouldn't come in. I'd be playing. I'm not going to drop -- I'm playing. This is fun. I'm with a friend. I don't want to go in and eat dinner. Now, if I don't eat dinner, I'm going to die. I don't care. So my mom would have to change from the invitation sometimes to speaking my name, my full name -- first, middle and last name in a certain kind of commanding pitch that I knew I better get inside. This is not an invitation; this is a command. And it wasn't because she didn't love me, it's because she love me. I had to eat food to survive.
God invites, God commands, and Paul stood on the Areopagus, Mars Hill in Athens and he said to the people of Athens, "In the past, God has overlooked all such ignorance but now, he commands that all people everywhere repent."
So God gives an invitation and a command to come, step out of the shadows, step into the light to believe in Christ that's honoring God, that's brightening your earthly existence and that's opening the door for your future. It's dangerous to believe. You might be hassled. You might be persecuted. It might tempt you to compromise but it's far worse to not believe. That's far more dangerous. It closes the door to any kind of hope forever.
I close with this. Years ago in the shipping industry, there were two compasses aboard ships, one on the deck and one far above on the mast. There was a passenger aboard the ship who noticed that a sailor went up to climb all the way up to the mast and got the reading and shouted it down below. So he said, "Why do you have two compasses?" The sailor smiled and said, "Let me explain something to you. This is an iron vessel. It creates its own magnetic field. So the compass on the deck is good for general observation, so the captain has the idea of where we're at and where we need to go." But he said, "The one on top of the mast is above the influence of what's going on down here." And he said, "I'll tell you this, we always steer and direct our ship by the one on top."
I suggest you live your life that way because I got to tell you something, your compass in this world is going like this. You're on the world telling you to live like this, believe this, do that, don't do that. No matter what you see or where you turn, on television or radio, your compass is going -- go for the one on top, that God's truth would direct your life because it's still true, father knows best.
Let's pray. Father in heaven, we thank you that knowing what the world needed, you sent your only son, God in a body of flesh. Do not just tell us things but to show us things, that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life. It's the invitation through our scripture. It's even the command that we read here. Help us Lord as believers to be faithful to you, vocal about you, pointing the way out of darkness to men and women around us, but also give us this morning the courage to really believe and to truly commit in Jesus' name, Amen.