Belief Without Faith

“But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him”

John 12:37

As we read the Gospel accounts it becomes obvious that miracles do not of themselves lead to repentance and faith. Jesus had said that “if they do not hear Moses and the prophets [i.e. the Scriptures], neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Miracles or signs often caused people to follow Jesus but not for Himself. Rather they followed Him for perceived temporal benefits such as food, health or wealth. After feeding the five thousand Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). It appears that He means they didn’t even associate the sign as pointing to Him being the Messiah. Those who follow Jesus for temporal reasons will be disappointed because of unrealised expectations.

Following the lead text above we read, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him” (John 12:42). These rulers believed that Jesus did the miracles in the power of God but they still did not repent, believe Him to be the Messiah, or trust Him for salvation. “They did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). Some today believe who Jesus is and what He has done, but still refuse to trust Him for forgiveness and submit to Him as Lord. A morally righteous life, family history, baptism, or membership of a church, as helpful as these may be, cannot save. They can be idols in the place of Jesus. These rulers of the synagogues valued their position among men greater than they valued their position before God. This is evidence of an unchanged heart. No amount of flattering words to Jesus, which they sometimes tried, could alter the fact that they have not grasped what He was saying and that the signs pointed to Him being Messiah. It is Jesus’ words that will judge them and us (John 12:48). This begs the question as to why so many professing Christians choose to bend and twist His words so that, like these rulers, they may retain their position, power and the praise of men. Jesus says, “Whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:50). Not to take His words in a normal literal sense makes a mockery of this and many other statements of Jesus.

No Disappointment

“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure”

Isaiah 46:10

There are many ways that people have sought to discover future events in their lives but all fail. Fallen mankind will look for knowledge of the future everywhere except to their Creator. Yet God is the only one who is outside time and therefore knows in detail all that is to come. This is why He said through Isaiah, “To whom will you liken Me and make Me equal and compare Me that we should be alike?” (Isaiah 46:5). We have tried to place our astrologers, crystal ball readers and the like on an equal footing with God. Think about this from God’s view point. In Psalm 2:4 we read, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.”

One of the key reasons that the Lord has made so much mention (much of it in considerable detail) of events, future to the time when given, is so that people will know the truth of Isaiah 46:9 when it comes to pass: “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.” People may like to arrogantly argue and may think that they can find excuse but the Lord says, “I will not arbitrate with a man” (Isaiah 47:3). The Lord says, “I have declared the former things from the beginning … Suddenly I did them and they came to pass … I have declared it to you; before it came to pass … lest you say, ‘My idol has done them’ … I will not give My glory to another” (Isaiah 48:3-5, 11).

The reason the Lord tells us things to come is so that, when they happen in the detail He has given, we will know that He alone is God.

For now the world mocks those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even some Christians cast doubt on God’s faithfulness to His word especially in regard to His covenant with Abraham and King David. In Isaiah 49:6 the Lord promises to redeem both Israel and Gentiles. When this is eventually fulfilled everyone “will know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Isaiah 49:23). Those who deny God’s faithfulness to His word will be greatly ashamed when He fulfills it in all the detail He has revealed. Those who live in expectation and faith that the Lord will fulfil His word will not be disappointed even if there is what we consider a long wait.

Run to Him

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” John 1:11

People, especially children, can be unpredictable and we may often be surprised by an unexpected reaction. My grandchildren have often surprised me with their reactions when I meet them. Sometimes they will run up to have a hug or tell me something that is important to them. On other occasions they may be a little indifferent or they may even run away.

When they come running to me for a hug you can imagine the great joy and pleasure that it gives me. At the other end of the scale, you can imagine the disappointment when they do something that discourages intimacy at that time. Each child has their own personality so I recognise that they won’t express their relationship to me in the same way and the way they do will change as they mature.

Our heavenly Father will also experience joy and grief when we act like children; sometimes we run to Him and other times we keep distant. All the time He wants to be close and intimate with us. If our hearts grieve when our child or grandchild keeps distant from us how much more does our heavenly Father grieve especially if we are giving our affections to another?

The words in the verse above are among the saddest that we can read in the Bible. Jesus came to His people, both Jew and Gentile, but they rejected Him. On the cross He was rejected by all those He came to save. He bore our sin on the cross but not ours only but that of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17) and to all who will receive Him He will receive and create new in His family of true brethren.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

It is possible for us to be distracted at Christmas time to the point where we do not run into the arms of Jesus but rather to the gods of this world. The world has its portrait of Christmas which is only a fairy tale. If we allow our hearts to be turned from the Lord and our activity focussed on the world’s values and activities, the Lord we will grieve in His heart.  Just as a child who resists the affection of a parent or grandparent can grieve them so we may grieve our Saviour.

It will require spiritual discernment to keep our focus on things that are of God and from things that are of the world but if our desire from the heart is for the Lord Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit will enable us to do so.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).