Doubting Jesus? Even some Disciples…

The Great Commission in the book of Matthew is one of the most well known and most-preached sections of the Bible. It gives us our marching orders; Jesus tells us what we are to do with our lives: make disciples of all nations. That seems like an overwhelming task! Thankfully, Jesus says that he will never leave us as we do this.

When studying the Great Commission, however, I like to start a few verses prior to verse 18, the traditional beginning of the passage.

“Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!” – Matthew 28:16-17 (NLT)

When Jesus rose from the dead, there was much doubt amongst the people. After all, who rises from the dead? What’s fascinating to me is that even among the disciples there was doubt. Even among those who followed Jesus closely for the three years of his ministry had doubts about Jesus and his resurrection.

If the disciples, who now are seeing Jesus face-to-face, had doubts about Jesus and his claims, how much more can we expect people today (including those in the church) to have doubts about Jesus?

When people think of doubt, they often link it to a lack of faith. But in fact, the definition of doubt is to feel unconvinced or uncertain about something. So, is it necessary for followers of Christ to be completely doubt-free? I don’t think so.

When Thomas doubted Jesus, did Jesus rebuke him? No! He gave him evidence so that he might believe. I believe God still works that way today.

When we have doubt, it shows that we are thinking critically about things. It shows that we are not blindly following. So instead of hiding out doubt, we ought to use that doubt to motivate us toward researching our faith and getting to know more about it, thereby getting to know more about Jesus.

There are certain things that we are guaranteed as followers of Christ, and things we need not doubt. One is our salvation. We can have assurance of our salvation. If we have placed our faith and trust in Christ, we can be assured that Jesus will not leave us. 1 John 5:13 says “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Our eternal destiny is not something that we need to wonder about – the Bible is written to give us assurance.

But what about our other doubts? I would argue that the best way to deal with your doubts is to share them with other followers of Christ. We have been united in a community of faith, and we are to help one another learn and grow in the faith. One way we do that is by being honest with others about what we’re struggling with. Sharing your doubt is not a sign of weakness – rather, it shows that you are always learning and thinking and willing to admit that you may not have all the answers.

One author who does a phenomenal job answering doubts is Lee Strobel. He has written a number of books, beginning with The Case for Christ. Strobel started as an atheist who set out to discredit Christianity. As he studied the facts, however, he became convinced of the truth of the gospel and gave his life to Christ. As a result, he has shared his story and evidence with millions, and has helped many people overcome their doubts.

So today, if you have doubts, don’t worry – you are in good company. Share your doubts with other followers of Christ and lean on each other during these seasons. Don’t silently suffer and allow your doubt to eat away at you and your relationship with God. Think of your doubt as a gift from God, inviting you to know him more and more. Doubt is only wrong if you don’t allow it to motivate you to action.

 

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Am I a Hypocrite? The More Important Laws

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!” – Jesus, Matthew 23:23-24 (NLT)

I was reading a book tonight and it led me to a chapter in Matthew that I thought would hold deep significance to me. I thought that chapter was 23. I don’t know what chapter I was looking for, but chapter 23 definitely hit me like a ton of bricks tonight.

There have been many discussions regarding The Law as of late, and I’m struck particularly by the words of Jesus above, indicating that the Law is not all equal. There are parts that are more important than others. He clarifies by stating that it doesn’t mean that you can pick and choose, or ignore the less important parts, but there are definitely more important parts.

It seems to me that we often make too much out of the less important parts. Jesus’ example here is about tithing. I think every pastor I know would think that teaching people to give (whether we agree on the tithe or not) is essential. But what about “justice, mercy, and faith”?

When was the last time I preached a sermon about justice or mercy? I have preached many sermons about faith, but the last one I preached (just this last week) was about faith requiring action. Faith is not just what I believe, it’s also what I do. James says that “faith without good works is dead.” Jesus in this chapter says basically the same thing.

The Pharisees and religious teachers are not living the way that they are supposed to be living. They are legalistically requiring people to obey the law that is easy to monitor and enforce, but they themselves are not being obedient to what really matters.

Listen further to what Jesus says:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Jesus, Matthew 23:27-28

What is my heart filled with? I don’t believe I am a hypocrite – but neither did the Pharisees. I tithe on my income, yes, but what am I doing about justice and mercy? Am I obeying the little parts of the law and feeling good about myself without focusing on the bigger, more important parts?

I can think of answers to these questions, but for now, I think I’m going to let them marinate. I believe that I opened my Bible to the “wrong” place for a reason tonight, and I need to allow the Spirit to speak to me.

What words is God speaking to you when you read Matthew 23? Don’t allow yourself to quickly dismiss the idea that you simply can’t be a hypocrite or Pharisee because you do x, y, and z. What are you doing with the parts of the Law that matter more?