Summary: In this sermon we explore the barriers to belief that some people have, and then point out that God wants to help all people overcome the obstacles to belief.
A. This morning we return to our series called Embracing Our Mission. To help refresh our memory, here are some of the things we have been emphasizing in this series:
1. First and foremost – People Matter to God. He loves them and He wants to save them!
2. Second – Reaching out to the lost is not easy, there are costs involved, but the benefits certainly outweigh the costs.
3. Third – The formula for outreach includes – high potency (authenticity, compassion, sacrifice), close proximity (relationships and contact), and clear communication.
4. Finally – I have emphasized that there are many ways to be involved in outreach, and it’s important that each of us find our way to reach out. Whether our way ends up being through proclamation, or a testimonial, invitational, relational, or service approach.
B. Now, with all that in mind, let’s journey back in time to a scene just after Jesus’ resurrection.
1. This incident is recorded in John chapter 20.
2. Thomas is speaking to the other disciples. They have seen the resurrected Jesus, but he has not.
3. He says something like, “Just give it up, would you? What do you take me for anyway, a fool? I’d have to push my finger into the wounds in His hands and His feet, and stick my hand into his side before I will ever believe that He was raised from the dead!”
4. Thomas continues, “So you can fantasize all you want about a resurrection, but what it looks like to me is that I have already wasted three years of my life. I’m not going to give up one more day on anything associated with Jesus. Don’t you get it? It’s over!”
5. Can’t you relate to what Thomas was feeling and saying? Don’t you think you might have felt the same way?
C. About a week later, the disciples were huddled together again, still trying to make sense of what had happened with Jesus and what they were to do next. This time, Thomas with them.
1. Jesus suddenly appeared in the middle of the room.
2. He carefully looked around the room, as if to find a certain person.
3. Then He locked eyes with Thomas.
D. Bill Hybils shares a funny insight at this point. He says that when I let my imagination run wild, I’m reminded of those old western movies where two guys square off in a saloon.
1. While they’re staring each other down, everyone else starts diving behind tables and chairs to protect themselves because they know that bullets are about to fly.
E. And so I can picture Jesus squaring off with Thomas.
1. I can imagine the other disciples, remembering Thomas’ tirade a few days earlier, clearing out of the way.
2. My guess is they were thinking, “Is he ever going to get it now. He never should have opened his big mouth!”
3. Fearing the worst, they covered their eyes as Jesus walked up to within a foot of Thomas.
4. The room must have become deathly quiet.
F. To their surprise they heard Jesus say, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27)
1. Jesus didn’t say what they expected.
2. They expected, “Beat it,” “Drop dead,” or “Straighten up.”
3. But what they mostly heard was, “Touch me.” “If you need to touch me, then go ahead.”
G. Thomas and the other disciples learned an important lesson that day.
1. They learned a lesson that we need to learn, and one that many of our friends may benefit from.
2. What must be understood is that God isn’t angry or afraid of honest doubt from those who are tying to discover the truth about Him.
3. In fact, He invites any and all who have sincere questions to come, to seek, and to ask, because He wants to help them clear up the doubt.
4. Jesus is different from the wild-eyed religious leaders in our world who demand blind loyalty from their followers and who disqualify anyone who has the audacity to doubt them.
5. With deference to our human tendency to doubt, Jesus simply says, “Touch me. Do whatever it takes in order to find out that I am real.”
6. This should be welcome news to those with whom we are trying to share the gospel.
7. As many go through the process of considering a commitment to Christ, they’ll inevitably experience waves of uncertainty.
8. We must never try to shame them or hurry them through their confusion.
9. Rather we should patiently walk them through their doubts, empathizing with them, and offering answers when it seems appropriate.
I. Barriers To Belief
A. Let’s spend a few minutes looking at some of the stumbling blocks that keep people from faith.