Doubters Welcome

October 14th, 2018

David Sorn



Do you ever have doubts about God? Is doubt normal? What do we do with our doubts? If you need some answers to these questions, then this is the message for you!



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TRANSCRIPT


INTRODUCTION/PASSAGE

All right…let’s talk about doubt…in church. 

That’s right, we’re going to talk about doubt. 

We take pride here at Renovation Church in being real, in being authentic…

And this is not the type of church where you have to pretend to be perfect. 

So, is it okay to have doubts about your faith sometimes? 

Is it okay to doubt what God is doing (or not doing) in your life? 

Yeah, in fact, what I want to show you today is that it’s actually a normal part of having faith. 

We’re going to talk about that as we continue in the Book of Luke in the Bible and talk about the doubts of one the greatest people to ever live.  

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(Renovation App)  

We’re going to look at the doubts of John the Baptist this morning. 

We last talked about John back in May, and I realize a ton of you are new since then…maybe you’re even new this week. 

Welcome, we’re excited you’re here.  

But John the Baptist, was this guy who did ministry out in the desert, wearing clothes made of camel’s hair and eating bugs for breakfast.

He called the people turn from their sins and repent…and throngs of people went out to him to get baptized. 

He was an intense prophet who captured the heart of a nation…and his purpose, was to spiritually prepare people’s hearts for the coming of the Messiah…Jesus. 

This…is “a great man of faith!” 

So, you might find the following passage a bit surprising…but I hope, in an odd way, encouraging…

(Luke 7:18-23) – NIV

18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

 

 

WE DOUBT #1: GOD ISN’T WHO WE EXPECT HIM TO BE

(Doubters Welcome slide) 

So what’s going on here? 

The great John the Baptist sends his own disciples to ask Jesus, “Hey are you the Messiah…or did I get this wrong…should I be waiting for someone else?” 

This is a loaded question. 

Before we even get into why John the Baptist is even asking this question…think about Biblical context here. 

What has John the Baptist seen with his own eyes? 

In the Spring, we covered the story where John got to baptize Jesus, the Son of God, personally. 

And he saw the Spirit descend like a dove from heaven

And he HEARD the audible voice of God say, “This is my Son, with whom I’m well pleased!” 

John watched tax collectors and hardened soldiers walk in the Jordan River and turn their lives over to God. 

John, himself once pronounced that Jesus was going to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…he knew it!

I mean goodness, remember John and Jesus are second cousins.

When they were both in utero, Mary came to visit Elizabeth (John’s mother), and John himself, leapt in the womb because he knew this was the Son of God! 

So, before we go any further with this message…

If there is anyone in this room who is having any doubts right now about God (which is probably all of you…we’re just bad at admitting it)

If there is anyone in here who is struggling with doubt…stop being so hard on yourself. 

I can’t say for certain, but I doubt you’ve seen the things that John the Baptist saw, and even he, had to, at times, deal with doubt. 

And because I think we’d welcome John the Baptist into this church, I think we can safely say, this is a church where “Doubters are welcome”  

In fact, in the next few verses (AFTER John expressed his doubts), Jesus goes on to talk about just how great John the Baptist is: 

If Jesus was okay with John’s doubts, He can live with yours.  J

But let’s start digging into John’s question. 

WHY is he doubting that Jesus is Messiah?  How come he’s not sure anymore. 

There are two reasons here: 

And honestly, they are two of the main reasons that you and I sometimes doubt God in our lives as well. 

2 Reasons We Doubt

1. We doubt because God isn’t who we expect Him to be

John, like most Jews expected the Messiah to come in power…but not the type of power that Jesus was showing. 

John most likely expected that the Messiah would overthrow the Roman occupation

John certainly had an expectation that the Messiah would execute God’s judgment on evildoers and bring God’s wrath…

And Jesus is going to do that, right, eventually…

But not now. 

But Jesus has come with love, and mercy, and service. 

He shows John’s disciples miracles of giving sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf, and much more…

And all of those things, by the way, are specific things that the Prophet Isaiah predicted the Messiah would do when he came. . 

So, it’s like Jesus is saying, “John, I’m doing what the Messiah is supposed to do…and I’ll do those other things to, but realize it just might look different than you’re expecting” 

So what’s at the first root of John’s doubt? 

It’s that…Jesus…isn’t exactly who John thought He was going to be. 

This kind of doubt often happens to us too as we go along in years as believers. 

We learn more and more about Jesus and we find out that He isn’t exactly who we thought He was when we first met him. 

In some ways, that’s similar to any relationship

You meet someone, you fall in love, you get married, and then you find out they’re secretly a Packer’s fan

They’re not who you thought they were when you first met

Now, the difference with Jesus is, everything we find out about Him, or discover about Him…is right…and good.  

But it’s just that sometimes we have a hard time accepting that it’s right. 

Because it doesn’t fit our cultural paradigms of what is “right” 

Let me give you an example of this:  

Sometimes I hear Americans say things like:  “I’m not sure I can fully follow Jesus because he claims he’s the only way to heaven…I like Jesus, but that doesn’t seem right”

We have to realize that we’re speaking just for our culture when we say, “That’s not right,” …not for right and wrong themselves. 

Plenty of cultures have no problem whatsoever with the claim of exclusivity.  

In fact, data would show that the majority of the people in the world don’t have a problem with that. 

Look at this quote from Timothy Keller: 

“The things that offend you, people in other cultures love, and the things you love, offend them. Can you imagine how incredibly narrow it is to say, ‘The problems I have with Jesus are Jesus’ real problems. The things that offend me are the things that are offensive about him’? People in traditional cultures say, “How could he walk away from an adulterer? Isn’t adultery sinful? Isn’t it wrong? Doesn’t it hurt all kinds of people? Doesn’t it lead to incredible destruction? And he’s saying it doesn’t matter?” They’re offended, but they’re not offended by this idea that there’s absolute truth and if you don’t have it you’re lost. That’s no problem for them. The things that offend them you love. The things they love offend you.  Don’t you get it? If you try to get rid of or void the offensive aspects of Jesus, you have a Jesus only for you.” – Timothy Keller

And so then we look to Jesus’ words in verse 23

(Luke 7:23) – NIV

23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

The old translations used to say, and I bet they’re going to switch this back in the next 10 years, given how popular this word is again…the old translations used to say: “Blessed is he who is not offended because of me”

Isn’t that a good word for today? 

We’re blessed…when we’re willing to follow Jesus, no matter what, and we don’t feel offended by who he TRULY is.  

But what do we do when those doubts come, though? 

The doubts…the ones where we DO kind of feel offended by who God is and what He’s doing? 

Firstly, we need a better understanding of what doubt is.  

Doubt, in a lot of ways, is similar to temptation. 

Temptation in and of itself is not a sin. 

Joseph does not sin just because he’s tempted by Potiphar’s wife.  

The very fact that a temptation comes along, is not a sin…

Acting on it would have been, but temptation merely presents you with a choice. 

And doubt is similar. 

So don’t beat yourself up because doubt is present in your life. 

Like temptation, doubt is merely an opportunity to move further away from God…or closer to Him. 

So let’s play this out with an example doubt about who God is. 

Let’s saying you’re reading the Bible and you get to a difficult passage… and you see God doing something you’re not sure you even agree with

Perhaps God is exacting judgment on a nation or something… (some group of people that ends in “ites”…like the Samsonites or something J

And you think, “God…is what I read really you?  Could a good God do that?  I don’t know.” 

And you experience…DOUBT. 

It’s not always bad thing that you experienced doubt.  It’s a HUMAN thing. 

Remember, doubt, like temptation, is just an opportunity for you to move closer to God or further away. 

And plenty of people do use it to move further away…I think that’s why so many churches are afraid of it. 

Plenty of people read those passages and say, with an aurora of cultural superiority, “Nah, that can’t be God, I know what a good God is really like.” 

Do you?  Do you, 1 person, from 1 culture, from 1 time in history, just, KNOW, what a Good God is really like? 

We ought to be nervous about making such conjectures.  

See, doubt…when you experience it (and you will…) should be a springboard towards you further investigating the truth (not backing away) . 

Think of how a child experiences, not spiritual doubt, but intellectual doubt

My son Lincoln is 2, and about to turn 3, and he…loves to talk…like…all the time. 

Like sometimes at dinner, I just want to say, “can you just stop…I have things to say too!” J

The other day, I was trying to develop an equation for how many questions he asks a day, and I think it could possibly be over 500. 

And I’ve always said, as a parent, that I want to answer all of my kids’ questions. 

I want them to be curious…to be learners. 

But most of his questions start with one word:  CULVER’S. No, j/k…“WHY” 

“WHY he doing that?” 

“WHY is that here?” 

“WHY you wearing that?”

Every once in a while I can’t take it anymore and I say, “WHY you have so many questions?” 

But what’s one of the things that’s underneath almost every “why question?” 

Doubt. 

When you say, “Why is that over there?” ..you’re trying to figure out if what is happening should be happening. 

Doubt is a normal part of learning, 

Isn’t the process of learning just a constant readjustment of what you believe to be true?

And just as doubt is a normal part of learning, it’s a normal part of faith.  

If you’re going to deepen your knowledge of God, in a sense, you have to doubt some things along the way...as you seek truth. 

Doubt is part of the process of inquiry...and of faith. 

Faith ALWAYS co-exists with doubt. 

Even if you’re 98% sure about something, that means you still have 2% doubt. 

If you’re 100% sure, it’s not faith. 

Doubt and faith will always coexist together.  

And so it’s not about whether or not you have doubt, it’s about how you handle your doubt.  

So how do you handle it? 

2 Reasons We Doubt

1. We doubt because God isn’t who we expect Him to be

 

2 Ways to Deal with Doubt

1. Talk to God and Study His Word

                 

When you doubt, there is no more important time in your life to be in God’s Word. 

Open up to Matthew, to Mark, Luke, or John…and start really diving into who Jesus is. 

And ask Him tough questions. 

You deal with your doubts by pressing in and not walking away

Because walking away isn’t dealing with anything. 

Open up the Word…and say, “ALL RIGHT…show me who you really are!”  

This is what God tells us to do: 

(Romans 10:17) – NIV

17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

When we doubt, which we will, we increase the percentage of our faith (and thus lessen the percentage of our doubt) by exposing ourselves to the word of Christ.  

By talking to Him and by opening up His Word. 

If you were struggling in your relationship w/ someone, and you started to doubt that they loved you…

You won’t figure it out by walking away from them.  

You have to go TO them to find the truth.  

 

 

WE DOUBT #2: GOD DOESN’T DO (FOR US) WHAT WE EXPECT HIM TO DO

There really is a second reason that John the Baptist is doubting though. 

It’s not just because Jesus isn’t looking exactly like he thought the messiah should look. 

The clue is actually back in Luke chapter 3 and in Matthew’s version of this same story in Matthew chapter 11. 

We’re told that John has been locked away in prison…and (whether he suspects it or not) pretty soon…he’s going to be killed.  

Surely John must have already been aware of what Jesus was doing…

…that Jesus was giving sight to the blind, hearing to the death, and always talking about setting the prisoners free. 

But John must have been thinking, “But you haven’t set THIS prisoner free.” 

He HAD to have been thinking, “I’m your prophet…you know…the guy who paved the way for you…so why am I…the guy who grew up outdoors…stuck in this dark and cold prison?” 

Why haven’t you rescued ME?!

Most theological doubts we have (not every, but pretty close)…Most doubts we have about God…can be traced to some sort of personal pain or feeling

John isn’t just doubting for just theological reasons…

He’s suffering…personally…and it’s causing him to doubt. 

 

 

2 Reasons We Doubt

1. We doubt because God isn’t who we expect Him to be

2. We doubt because God doesn’t do (for us) what we expect Him to do

 

2 Ways to Deal with Doubt

1. Talk to God and Study His Word

 

John’s most likely hoping for Jesus to get him out of prison…and He hasn’t. 

And are we not like John? 

Do we not say, “If you are this great God, then why are you letting me suffer?  Especially a good person like me?  You used to bless me!  What now?” 

“Why would you let this happen to my family?  Maybe you’re not good?” 

“Why would you let me get sick like this?  Maybe you’re not real.” 

We don’t tend to ask those same sort of questions when things are going well. 

Suffering has a way of bringing out our doubts.   

But don’t let that scare you. 

If the doubts scare you…and cause you to run…it will lead nowhere good. 

Remember: Doubt is meant to be a springboard into learning a deeper truth…not to running

One of the most interesting parts of this passage is that Jesus isn’t mad that John is doubting. 

He doesn’t say, “how dare he doubt me after what I did with Him?” 

He just gives an answer to John’s doubt and talks about how great John is.  J

Read the Old Testament…

In difficult, and stressful times…Moses doubted, Gideon doubted, Elijah doubted, Job doubted

Even all of the disciples…who walked every day with Jesus for THREE YEARS…doubted.  

Doubters are welcome here, because doubt is an everyday part of faith. 

It’s just what you do with it that matters…not that you have it. 

If life has been hard lately, and it’s causing you to doubt God, or His Goodness, or His plan in your life…

Don’t let that push you farther away from Him…but closer to Him. 

Look at Psalm 44, the writer takes his doubt right to God.   

(Psalm 44:23-24) – NIV

23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
    Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
    and forget our misery and oppression?

God’s not bothered by you talking to Him like this…

It’s not like he doesn’t already know you’re thinking it. 

But also remember,  how real God is…is not dependent on how well your life is going! 

It’s dangerous, and egocentric of us to correlate those two things…

…and yet, people do that all the time. 

Some of the hard things that are happening in your life will eventually make sense to you.  

And others will never make sense…this side of heaven. 

But is God still worthy of your worship even if you don’t get to see His grand design? 

And there’s a second way to deal well with doubt too.   

And it’s right in how Jesus answers John’s question about doubt

What does he do? 

He gives John a list of what He’s done. 

 

2 Reasons We Doubt

1. We doubt because God isn’t who we expect Him to be

2. We doubt because God doesn’t do (for us) what we expect Him to do

 

2 Ways to Deal with Doubt

1. Talk to God and study His Word

2. We remember what God’s done.

 

And when you doubt, I encourage you to apply this same Biblical formula to your own doubt. 

One of the things I’ve learned in life is that suffering has a way of erasing our memory of God’s goodness to us in the past

Because suffering draws out our emotions. 

And emotions tend to blur our ability to think rationally about the facts or even the past. 

And when life is going all wrong, it’s hard to remember when it felt like it was going right.   

Let me give you something really practical you can do…I encourage each and every one of you to write down a list of what God’s done in your life

Because that’s how Jesus answered John’s doubt. 

He said, “Hey…check out what I’ve done” 

Some of you need to do this this week. 

Get out a pen, make a list in your phone, or start one in WORD… 

And just start going through it. 

He saw all my sin, and loved me anyway

He died on the cross for me

He saved me

He did this for me…

Remember when he did that…

It’s an exercise that almost always tends to give us more faith and less doubt. 

It’s an exercise in truth. 

And it’s an exercise we even see right in Scripture. 

I want to call our Worship Band back on the stage. 

I want to close out this message and transition into worship by reading you Psalm 77

It’s entire Psalm about Doubt and Faith…and we diminish our doubts by remembering what God has already done! 

Let’s read it:  

 

(Psalm 77:1-20) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION  !!!!!!!

I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
    Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble,
    I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
    but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan,
    overwhelmed with longing for his help.

4 You don’t let me sleep.
    I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days,
    long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
    I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?
    Will he never again be kind to me?
8 Is his unfailing love gone forever?
    Have his promises permanently failed?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

10 And I said, “This is my fate;
    the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

13 O God, your ways are holy.
    Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders!
    You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 When the Red Sea[a] saw you, O God,
    its waters looked and trembled!
    The sea quaked to its very depths.
17 The clouds poured down rain;
    the thunder rumbled in the sky.
    Your arrows of lightning flashed.
18 Your thunder roared from the whirlwind;
    the lightning lit up the world!
    The earth trembled and shook.
19 Your road led through the sea,
    your pathway through the mighty waters—
    a pathway no one knew was there!
20 You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep,
    with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.



Copyright: David Sorn

Renovation Church in Blaine, MN


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