A few weeks ago, when we looked at 2:23-25, I titled the sermon, “Belief That Isn’t.” This morning, I’m using the title, “Belief That Is.” Before John introduced us to the person of Nicodemus in chapter 3, he took just a few verses to describe the vast majority of people who were around Jesus at that time. If you remember, those were the people who had witnessed the miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine. Those were the people who had witnessed Jesus showing His authority by throwing the money changers out of the temple. Those were the people who saw Jesus perform many miracles there in the temple during that Passover time. They saw all those wondrous things, yet 2:24 says that Jesus didn’t commit Himself to them. He didn’t commit Himself to them, because they didn’t have true belief in Him. They believed Jesus for what He could do, but they didn’t believe Him for who He really is. And then John introduces us to Nicodemus. Remember that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was the man who had all the answers. The only problem was, all his answers were to the wrong questions. And Jesus told him so. He told him he was going to have to have a fresh start. He couldn’t improve on the package one bit. He had to start all over again. He had to be completely born again. And that brings us to our passage this morning. Has anyone ever told you something that was so foreign to you that it made absolutely no sense at all? I remember when I was in high school and my teacher was trying to explain chemistry to me. It made absolutely no sense. Last year, Katelyn had some pre-chemistry stuff in her science class that she was having trouble with. I went online to get some help trying to figure it out for myself so I could help her with it. And then I remembered. As soon as those pictures came up on the screen with all the letters and lines… I got that same old feeling. I didn’t have a clue. I would say that it was Greek to me, but I can at least recognize what I’m looking at when I see Greek. When I see a problem that has some atoms on this side and some atoms on that side… and then they tell me it makes some molecule on that side… I find myself with Nicodemus—“How can these things be?” It makes absolutely no sense to me. I’m not that smart, but I’m not an idiot either. How can I not figure it out? Because I’ve got a mental block. Because I might be thinking—I’m just not thinking the right way. That was what Nicodemus’ problem was. He was thinking. As a matter of fact, he was thinking hard. That’s why he was there in the first place. He was trying to figure out how this man could do miracles that only the power of God could allow Him to do… he was trying to figure out how to line that up with the fact that when Jesus called Himself the Son of God, in his mind it was blasphemy. So Nicodemus was trying to figure out how a blasphemer could perform the miracles of God. And it didn’t make sense. And it made a whole lot less sense when Jesus told him he was going to have to be born again before it would ever make sense. So Nicodemus pushed the issue. He said, “Jesus, none of this makes any sense—you’re going to have to completely break it down for me. I’m not going to believe you until you show me exactly what’s going on here.” And I want you to see what Jesus’ answer was in verse 11. He said, “I’ve been telling you things that both of us already know. I told you about birth. You know about the birth process, right? Well, I explained to you that you had to have a spiritual birth just like you had a physical birth. That wasn’t that difficult. You know those things. You’ve seen those things. But you know what? Even though the facts are as plain as the nose on your face, you still don’t believe.” You see, Nicodemus’ problem wasn’t that he had a lack of facts. His problem wasn’t that he had a lack of knowledge. Nicodemus was a biblical scholar. He knew the Scripture backwards and forwards. And you couple that with what Jesus told him about being born again… Nicodemus had all the information he needed and more. The problem was that he refused to put it all together. He refused to take what he knew and apply it to his life. It’s like when I saw all those chemistry pictures and refused to apply the simple math formulas to them. I saw them and immediately said, “I don’t get it.” And when I said that, I built up a wall in my mind that made sure I didn’t get it. When Nicodemus said, “How can these things be,” he was busy building a wall. Have you built a wall that keeps you from trusting Jesus? Have you built a wall that keeps you from believing Him enough to trust Him as your Lord? When you line your life up against the Word of God, do you find yourself asking, “how can these things be?” If you have, then Jesus responds to you the same way He responded to Nicodemus in verse 12. He says, “If you refuse to accept the plain teaching I’ve already given you… how do you expect me to tell you about things you really can’t understand?” You see, in His infinite wisdom, Jesus saw that Nicodemus was wanting some type of special revelation from Jesus. He wanted proof. He wanted Jesus to boil it all down to plain facts that would take any mystery away. But Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus demands that we all come to Him in faith. The only time that all the mystery will be revealed is in the last day. And if you haven’t believed before that day, you won’t want to see what is revealed to you then. Jesus gives us everything we need to believe in Him. And then He expects us to believe. In verse 13, He tells Nicodemus that in so many words. He says, “Nicodemus, I’m not going to take you up into heaven and give you all the answers. If I did, that would be sight and not faith. Nicodemus, you are in a point of need. And when you are in a point of need, you have to trust.” Guess what? You are in a point of need this morning too. And because you are in that point of need, you have to believe. Here in the last couple of verses of our passage, Jesus reminds Nicodemus of an event that was recorded in the Old Testament in Numbers 21. I want to take you back to the passage that Jesus is using here. Turn back with me to Numbers 21.
When Jesus reminds Nicodemus of that event, He lets us know three things about what true belief is. First, true belief is submitting instead of seeing. I don’t know how Moses did it. People talk about the patience of Job. What about the patience of Moses. It seems like every time you turn around, the people were whining about something. This was just one example of the many times they complained about food. Now, mind you—God had supplied their every need the whole time they had been in the wilderness. It was because of their disobedience that they were wandering there in the first place. But even in spite of that fact, God supplied their needs. He kept their clothes and shoes from wearing out for the whole 40 years. That meant they didn’t have to go shopping. That was certainly a blessing. They didn’t have to worry about food. Every morning they would wake up and find the ground covered with enough manna to sustain them throughout the day. But, being just like us, they overlooked their blessings and began to complain. Over and over and over again. This was one of those times. And God punished them for it. They spoke against Moses. They spoke against God. And what did Moses do? He prayed for them. God sent an infestation of poisonous snakes among them that was biting them left and right. And they were dying by the droves. So what did they do? They saw their sin and repented. They repented to Moses and the Lord. And Moses prayed for them. And when he did, God had him do something very strange. He had him make a copy of the snake out of bronze and lift it high up on a pole in front of the people. Then he had to tell the people what their responsibility was. If they had been bitten by a snake and wanted to live, all they had to do was look at the bronze snake. Now, what kind of medical advice was that? How in the world would that serve as an antidote for the deadly poison that was coursing through their veins? Or, in the words of Nicodemus, “How can these things be?” The power to save wasn’t in the image. The power to save wasn’t in the bronze. The power to save wasn’t in the pole it was lifted up on. The power to save wasn’t even in Moses or the people doing the looking. The power to save was God’s and God’s alone. Now how can you explain that? “OK people. Here’s what we’re going to do. God has told me to make a bronze snake. When I set it up on this pole, all you have to do is look at it and you will be healed. Got it?” You can almost see a hand go up from the front of the crowd. “Moses, how exactly is that going to work? It doesn’t make sense. As a matter of fact, I think it’s silly. It’s a myth. I’m not going to do it until I have a complete explanation of how it’s supposed to work.” To which, you hear Jesus saying, “If I have told you earthly things and you don’t believe, how are you going to believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” In the wilderness, God didn’t tell the people every little detail about what was going to happen. He didn’t explain how He was going to physically remove the poison from their veins. He was under no obligation to. They had rebelled against Him. They had been unappreciative of everything He’d done for them. They had spoken against Him. He didn’t have to do anything for them. But out of His grace and love and mercy, God provided a way of salvation. All they had to do was submit to the plan He made for them. He wasn’t going to show them all the details. But He would respond to their humble submission to His plan. That’s what true belief is. True belief is submitting to the plan God has for your life. He’s not going to tell you what’s around every corner. He’s not going to give you all the answers to all the questions you might have. But He has given you a plan and a purpose for your life. He’s given you a plan that begins with salvation and continues every day walking with Him. True belief isn’t seeing everything there is to see and having it all figured out before you turn to Jesus. True belief is submitting to Him. Submitting to His plan for your life. Submitting to salvation. Submitting to a life lived for Him. Belief is submitting instead of seeing. Belief is also basis instead of blindness.
Over the years, I have heard people compare Christianity to making a blind leap of faith. Nothing is further from the truth. Let me see if I can illustrate the difference. Picture yourself walking along a steep mountain ridge. The path is only wide enough for your feet and it drops off hundreds of feet on either side. As you’re walking, a thick fog rolls in and you can’t even see your feet anymore. You can’t see to walk forward and you can’t see to turn around and walk back. Then you hear a voice you’ve never heard before that tells you to jump off the side. It says that if you jump off the side, there is a shelf and a cave down there where you’ll be safe from the weather. If you were to trust the voice and jump, that would be a blind leap of faith. That’s not real faith. Because real faith is based on faithfulness. Real faith would be the same scenario. But the voice you heard wouldn’t have been one you’ve never heard. As a matter of fact, it would have been from a fellow climber. A fellow climber that you knew and trusted. One that you had climbed with before and knew that he knew what he was talking about. That is a voice you know you can trust in. So you trust. And you leap. God never asks us to make a blind leap of faith. Instead, He asks us to leap with our eyes wide open. Wide open to who He is and His faithfulness. That’s why He’s given us His Word. His Word is filled from cover to cover with promises that He has made. And at the same time it is filled from cover to cover with promises that He has kept. There is not one time when God has ever made a promise that He hasn’t kept. And there never will be. So when Jesus says that He will never leave us nor forsake us… He will keep that promise. When Jesus says that He will finish what He starts in our life… He will keep that promise. When Jesus says that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness… He will keep that promise. When Jesus says, “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself—that where I am there you may be also”… He will keep that promise. When Jesus says that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus… He will keep that promise. There is no blind leap there. There is a basis. Our faith in the promises of God are based in His faithfulness. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Do you remember what God did in the wilderness with a bronze snake? Do you remember how faithful He was to keep His promise? How when He promised that if people would look at that snake they would be healed? Do you remember that Nicodemus? And what happened to those people? They were healed just like God said.” Based on the faithfulness of God, Jesus told Nicodemus that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life. No one is asking you to take a blind leap of faith this morning. But based on all the fulfilled promises of God and His eternal faithfulness, you can trust Him. You can trust that when you truly believe in Jesus, you will have eternal life with Him. Belief is submitting instead of seeing and belief is basis instead of blindness. Finally, belief is looking instead of logic.
One of the most difficult people you will ever have the opportunity to talk to is a materialist. They are difficult to talk to because they think they’ve got the answer for everything. And their answer for everything is based on what they call reality. They call reality their version of science. A friend of mine teaches biology at Bluefield College. He was amazed that a handful of his students hold to a materialist worldview. They say they can’t believe the creation narrative of the Bible because science doesn’t support it. Anything that isn’t supported by modern scientific theories isn’t real, according to them. They think the Bible is a collection of myth stories and isn’t completely true. I have some really good news. Two of those students got saved this week. The question is, why did they get saved? Was it because they were able to finally assemble everything together in their logical minds? Was it because everything completely and totally made sense to them? Was it because they were able to completely reason their way into a complete and full understanding of God and creation and salvation? No, of course not. Because if they were waiting for their tiny little finite brains to come up with all the answers, there would be no hope. Because our brains are finite. They are limited. God is infinite. He is unlimited. We will never be able to fully grasp the vastness and greatness and wonder of God. Think back to the Israelites in the desert. “Looking on that snake makes no sense. I have to know exactly how God is going to do it. I have to know the exact chemical reaction that is going to take place in my body. When the image of the snake hits my retina and travels down my optic nerve to my central nervous system… and then the synaptic impulses travel through my central nervous system to my brain… I have to know what chemicals are going to be released that will counteract the toxins of the venom in my body. If I can’t get all that to make sense, I’m not going to look.” Then what would have happened? They would have died. All they had to do was look, but their logic got in the way. This morning, Jesus isn’t asking you to have it all figured out. He isn’t asking you to take a blind leap in the dark. He isn’t asking you to see how it’s all going to work. If those are the things you are waiting to happen before you turn to Him, He’s telling you the same thing He told Nicodemus. “If I have told you earthly things and you don’t believe, how are you going to believe if I tell you of heavenly things?”
Your choice is very simple this morning. Jesus isn’t going to give you some heavenly epiphany that tells you all the secrets of heaven. He’s not going to explain all the ins and outs of past creation and future prophesy to you. That’s not what He’s calling you to this morning. This morning He’s calling you to look. Over 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was lifted up on a cross to pay the death penalty for your sins. Do you have to have all that figured out this morning? No—but you have to look on Him. You have to see that He is the one who took the punishment for your sin. He died in your place and lives again to give you new life in Him. Are you going to die in the wilderness while you try to get it all figured out? Or are you going to look upon the One who has got it all figured out for you? Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Will you believe this morning?