Holding Onto God's Truth (Morning)

Pastor Matt Davis
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Dealing With Doubt

Pastor Matt Davis – Holding Onto God’s Truth – Dealing With Doubt Introduction How many of us thing we are strong believers? Would we like to believe our faith is perfected and we cannot faulter, or to assume that there is anyone who wavers not? The Christian life is plagued by a roller coaster ride of feelings and facts, and the grey line that blurs the two. In a moment, we have an over whelming sense of believe, whereas we may find ourselves later feeling there is no basis for what we profess. Not if, but when you find yourself in this scenario, what determines if we have the conviction, we have so declared, is not how we feel, but what we determine we will follow. We will be discussing this topic of doubt, where I feel many of us may be sitting about now. Some of us may doubt the existence of our God, where other’s may be doubting God’s love for them. We may be fearful of discussing our doubts, lest we be turned away. J.C Ryle once stated “Contend to the death for the truth, that no man is a true Christian who is not converted and is not a holy man. But allow that a man may be converted, have a new heart, and be a holy man, and yet be liable to infirmity, doubts, and fears.1” We must come to the realization that doubt is a real part of the Christian experience. And your not alone – Famous Biblical Characters such as John the Baptist, Mary the mother of Christ, Peter, Thomas, and even Abraham had moments of doubt. While we must accept the reality of our life, we must not resign to it. We must rather learn how to deal with the doubt’s and overcome. Primary Passage Mark 9:23-24 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to 24 him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.2 In our text today, we see a father whose child is with demon, and he seeks Christ, “If you be able to do anything, cast this demon from my child”. We see in Mark a dialog between Christ and the father, and Christ challenges him, “If you can believe”. We see a 1 2 Ritzema, E. (Ed.). (2012). 300 Quotations for Preachers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mk 9:23–24). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. response from the father which, on the surface, seems contradictory. I believe, he says, help me in my unbelief. How many times have we been there? We believe, we want to believe, but we feel as if there is so much lacking in our faith department. Our feelings, friends, movies, political landscape, social media, everything around us tries to dimmish our God and remove His relevance. How easy it is to get caught up in that and start thinking like a secularists. We believe, but we have conflicting information fighting for our attention. We want to believe, but we begin to find it difficult to trust what we once held dear. We have seen in this father today the turmoil of each of us – I believe, but I have so much unbelief. I receive and believe the word of God to be infallible, but I also often find myself unbelieving of the many stories we read. The devil works hard to get into my mind and plant a seed of doubt. If your like me, you may have found yourself in a position where you suddenly don’t feel like you believe a particular way anymore. Let not your feelings, which are deceitful beyond measure (Jer 17:9), rule your thinking, but rather, take captive every thought and bring it to submission. (2 Cor 10:5) I find the more regular I am in my fellowship with God and His Word they easier this becomes. You have heard the phrase “You are what you eat” – The same applies to us. If we eat what the world offers us, which is, doubt, we become doubtful. When we fill our minds with the things of God, we become faithful. I find that it is when I go to me, myself and I, the trinity of Matt, that I begin to find myself in trouble. Today, we explore four ways that we can overcome in our times of doubt. Gaining Assurance From God’s Word When in doubt, read it out – That is my new model. For purpose, it could be said, when in doubt, pray it out. For the context of our message, we have found ourself in doubt already, and as our friend from Mark 9, we have cried out to God to help us in our unbelief. But God can only work in us if we allow Him to. Where to, but to the Word of God, shall we turn for Him to help us? We must allow for God to renew our minds by filling it with His thoughts. John recorded in 1 John 5:13 the following famous verse, and his entire reason for writing: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.3” When our mind’s become plagued with doubts and worries, we should take comfort in the written Word of God. Three things we notice from this text: 1. John has written these things to them that believe. John’s letters were written to an audience of believers. Though written to the first century church, John was unknowingly writing to those of us in the twenty-first century as well. John’s purpose in writing is to reaffirm our believes, to provide us comfort, and to point us to the central personage of Jesus Christ. 2. That Ye may know you have eternal life. What a wonderful thing to know. I frequently tell people, I have a know-so salvation. The Word of God is written, not that we may be confounded, but that we may have clarity. That we may see the love and mind of God, and have a surety of the things we hope for. I all to often hear of people who want to believe but struggle to overcome their doubts. When we really investigate the cause of this doubt, it narrows down to the issue of not knowing the Word of God. John wrote his letters that we might **KNOW** we have eternal life – but how can we know if we are not filled with God’s mind? A Bible is nothing but a glorified dust collector and paper weight if not put to use. We must be in the Word prior to our doubt creeping in, and then we must take comfort in the Word that is embedded within us when the doubt knocks upon our door. The foundation for this knowledge is what we have read and internalized within. 3. That you believe on the name of the Son of God. Can I just say what I know your thinking? John states at the beginning of his thesis that he writes to believers, who believe on the name of the Son of God, that they may believe on the name of the Son of God? What gives? Perhaps, John knew that believers would still doubt. The many greats of the Bible have had doubt’s, why should we be any different. It is easy to 3 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Jn 5:13). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. believe when things are going our way, but we must remember when things become difficult. John is writing to believers, not that they believe, but would continue in their belief. Notice carefully, the phrasing “Believe ON the name of the Son of God”. There is great difference in the believe of something, and the trusting of something. Likewise, there is great difference in believing that Christ has existed, and trusting that Christ is the basis by which we are redeemed and His work and glory is alone sufficient for our salvation. I like what Bernard of Clarivaux sad: “It usually happens that the greater number of persons of sense—or I might say that all such—trust the judgment of another person rather than their own in doubtful cases, and that those who have a clear judgment in the affairs of others, however obscure, frequently hesitate and are undecided about their own.4” It be true, that when in doubt, we trust the advice of others more then of ourselves. Be careful who you trust when your mind is the most comprable. Our greatest asset when doubts plague our mind is the Word of God. Paul wrote “4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.5” We can learn from our Psalmist David, who said, “ 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 I cried with my whole heart; Hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes. I cried unto thee; save me, And I shall keep thy testimonies. I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word. Mine eyes prevent the night watches, That I might meditate in thy word. Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O LORD, quicken me according to thy judgment. They draw nigh that follow after mischief: They are far from thy law. Thou art near, O LORD; And all thy commandments are truth. Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old 4 Ritzema, E., & Brant, R. (Eds.). (2013). 300 quotations for preachers from the Medieval church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. 5 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ro 15:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. That thou hast founded them for ever.6” Receiving Correction and Understanding Through God’s Word When dealing with doubt, we must be willing to both be corrected and search for understanding in His word. We must be willing to put forth the effort to read, to study, pick up commentary, search for meaning and context, and wrestle with God in prayer that He will enlighten our mind. 2 Tim 3:14-17 “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 7” Paul packs a lot of content, enough for it’s own sermon, into such few verses. Of note, there are a few things Paul instructs us on that we should pay attention. 1. Continue Paul’s first instruction to us from the passage is that we must continue in the things which we have learned. Paul’s idea, is that we should hold on to. Make no mistake, trial will come, and doubts will follow. The driving force that will carry us through will be determined by the force of how strongly we hold to what we were taught. Even when we fear and doubt, it is true faith that will cause us to risk everything for the sake of the gospel we’ve been given. When we come to the other side, we will be glad we did. 2. That you have been assured of/Convinced of At some point, the believer has once been convinced and assured these things were true. We believed, we clinged to them. 3. Inspired and God breathed scriptures 6 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ps 119:145–152). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. 7 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 2 Ti 3:14–17). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. One of the most debated and misunderstood texts of all time is what “All scripture” refers to. Contextually, the New Testament had not been written and composed yet – Surely Paul was referring to the Old Testament that his readers would understand as scripture. While the New Testament is indeed scripture and inspired, we must rely not on this verse to call it so, but on evidences since the writings of the New Testament books. None the less, when dealing with doubt, we must remember from whom the scriptures proceedeth from. They are not of man, nor interpretation of a prophet, but they are of God. There is a major disconnect between the thoughts of man and the thoughts of God, that we must accept in our ignorance and lack of understanding that God is correct. We must be willing to reassure our doubts with the knowledge that we may not know, but our God does. I had read a story that I liked and agreed with so much, I really wanted to share it here today. Its from Preaching the Word, by Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, it reads as follows: “Dr. William Evans, who pastored College Church from 1906–1909, was an unusually accomplished man. He had the entire King James Version of the Bible memorized as well as the New Testament of the American Standard Version. Dr. Evans also authored over fifty books. His son, Louis, became one of the best-known preachers in America and for many years pastored the eminent First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. When Dr. William Evans retired, he moved to Hollywood to be near his son, and when Louis was away he would substitute for him. One unforgettable Sunday Dr. William, as he was affectionately called, spoke on the virgin birth. All were amazed when he raised his Bible and tore out the pages that narrate the birth of the Lord. As the tattered scraps floated down toward the congregation, he shouted, “If we can’t believe in the virgin birth, let’s tear it out of the Bible!” And then as he drove home his point, he tore out the resurrection chapters, then the miracle narratives, then anything conveying the supernatural. The floor was littered with mutilated pages. Finally, with immense drama he held up the only remaining portion and said, “And this is all we have left—the Sermon on the Mount. And that has no authority for me if a divine Christ didn’t preach it.” After a few more words, he asked his listeners to bow for the benediction. But before he could pray, a man in that vast and sedate congregation stood and cried, “No, no! Go on! We want more!” Several others joined in. So Dr. Evans preached for another fifty minutes. Dr. Evans was right. You cannot pick and choose from the Bible what you want to believe is inspired. The Bible does not present itself that way. Even more, the Bible will have no sustaining power for life if you make yourself the arbiter of what you will and will not believe about it. 4. Teaching/Doctrine All scripture is God breathed and good for teaching. When we lack in knowledge, we have but two places to go. We can go to the source and beginning of all creation, or we can head to our so called great minds of the scientific community. Make no mistake, our scientists are brilliant – Without them, we would have no artificial lights, cars, MRI’s, human flight, or even the technology by which we are communicating today. But when it comes to matters of life, the begging of our realms, and morality, we must turn to the author of it all. When we trust in man to determine all that we believe, we open our mind our heart to doubt. In matter’s of disagreements between the secular world and the Biblical, we must determine and declare that God’s word is all authoritative and the settler of all disputes. 5. Reproof The word of God is also good for reproof – Perhaps one of the hardest things to accept. Reproof is both in the calling out of false teachings, and in the convicting of our sins. I have noticed two major causes of doubt in the Christian life. The first is one of the great lies “You cannot be forgiven of your sin” or “Remember that thing you did fifteen years ago? God will never forget that one”. Ultimately, we become convinced that we cannot be forgiven and doubt set’s in all areas of our Christian existence. When we begin to doubt after this manner, let us remember, 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.8 We will hold firm to what we were taught and as God can’t lie, anything else must be of the devil. Often times, one of the hardest things to do is remind ourselves that the deceptive thoughts as these are not true, but a distraction. More importantly is the second – When you are caught up in sin. The Bible is for reproofing, which means you will be convicted of your sins. The unwilling soul shall find itself pushing the convictions away, which leads to 8 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Jn 1:9). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. the ceasing of prayer, closing of Bibles, and ultimately, the doubting of biblical teachers. Fear not the reproof, but pay attention to when you are convicted and change. Allow God to work in you through His Holy Word that you may strengthen your faith and allow Christ to help you in your unbelief. And when doubt creeps in, take a moment to examine, are you living according to Biblical principles? If not, perhaps and adjustment will fix the problem. 6. Correction Unlike reproof, which was used in a negative tense, correction is used positively. When we begin to doubt, we oft find that we are not in a good relationship with the Lord. The Bible is here to help us course correct and stay on that path. It reminds us of how to commune with God. It teaches us how to live in a manner pleasing to the Lord. Oft times, even without prevailing sin, we may find that we glide away from Biblical living. We may find that we have put reading aside, put praying aside, put church aside, put whatever aside to make room for life. These things, often unintentional, have severe consequences in our ability to stand the wiles of the devil. A willingness for correction and understanding that comes from a Biblical lens, while will not eliminate all doubts, will teach us to deal with it in a Christian way. When we deal with doubts in a Christian way, we can continue to live a life which is pleasing to God. God doesn’t expect that we won’t find ourselves in time of doubt, but what He want’s is for us to turn to Him for the answers and reassurance. We won’t find the answers we seek in the science magazine, or the history channel, or from our government. We must be taught and corrected from the word of God. In Joshua 1:8, the Lord declares: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.9” 9 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Jos 1:8). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. In “this book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth” the Lord doesn’t mean not to speak it. He means to speak it continually. To mumble it day and night. He says that His Word shall not depart, meaning it shall not stop. Imagine for a moment, if you whispered the Word of God to yourself day and night as He commands. You may be offended I tell you to do this, but God said it first. Can you imagine? When you need advice, you have the word to go to. When you think of sin, you have the word to stop you. When you doubt, you have the word to remind you. May we all aspire to do as the Lord commanded, that His word shall not depart our mouths. Avoid Idle Speculation No doubt *Pun intended* there many various and diverse doctrines and religions that exist lend to the doubt crisis in the believer and non-believer alike. Of many questions I am asked, one that frequently comes up is “If Christianity is true, why are there so many branches?” I must say, that is a great question, and one which we don’t have enough time today to dive into. But, we will touch on it slightly in a moment. A danger of any Christian is to begin speculation of things we know not about. Of the many questions I have, Where did God come from? How long in eternity past did He live before creation? If He created us in the very beginning, what was before? And so forth cannot be answered. We must trust the Word of God and not enter into Idle Speculation of things we cannot ascertain to. These questions are dangerous for two reasons, first and foremost, that the inability to ascertain answers open the doorways to doubt. I admit, as much, if not more then most, I too find these questions luring and want to investigate. But the inherit danger is a doubt cycle as we return no results. Rather then answer, “where does God come from”, we accept as He has plainly stated “I AM”, meaning, He is self-existent. And at risk of going to deep into Idle speculation is a sermon I’m preaching against it, we move on to the second danger. Attempting to answer questions as above have led many to develop false theology that have led many astray. Many have attempted honestly, with good intention, not seeing in which the devil would use him to cause diversions in the gospel. Others have done so maliciously, seeking to lead astray those looking for answers. The danger in attempting to answer what God left unanswered is not only doubt, but that we may lead others away from God. Hebrews 13:9 warns against such doctrine: 9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.10 From the beginning of the church, as today, there were enough twisting of the doctrine that Paul writes about the many strange doctrines. Paul warns us that we should cling to the established and revealed word of God and stay from idle thinkings. Ephesians 4:14 “14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;11” In dealing with doubts, we must not be tossed to and fro. There are a plethora of questions and theologies men can make from the unanswerable, claiming to have knowledge no other group has. The reality, is God has given us what He want’s for us to know. The sad, but still true reality is, there lie in wait people ready to snare you up and deceive you, giving you what you want. More then religion as well – Secularists attempt to answer the origins of the universe, the beginning of life, and the progression of species. They say they base their assumptions on facts, but have failed to observe what they claim. In truth, they merely place their faith in a different religion, called science. But the Bible warns of this, too, in 1 Timothy 6:20 “ O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: 12” When dealing with doubt, a first proper step may be to remove the opportunity for doubt to arise. While you may find it acceptable to read a science journal, contemplate questions of origins, and entertain these idle doctrines, God has advised against it. I warn you, take heed, and tread carefully lest you fall into the snare the devil has laid before you. 10 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Heb 13:9). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. 11 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Eph 4:14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. 12 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Ti 6:20–21). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. Remembering God’s Past Deeds Psalms 77:10-15, our psalmist declares: “ 11 12 13 14 15 And I said, This is my infirmity: But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the LORD: Surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: Who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God bthat doest wonders: Thou hast declared thy strength among the people. Thou hast with thine arm dredeemed thy people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.13” He say’s I will remember – This should bring great comfort to the doubter. It’s easy for the devil to whisper in our ear that God doesn’t hear our prayers. And it’s easy for the doubter to forget all God has done. But when we remember and meditate on what He has done, it brings reassurance that what God has done once, He will do again. It brings reassurance that indeed, God is there, He hears, He cares, He is God. I can remember some three months ago, I asked the church to pray my wife would see a two dollar pay raise. It seemed but impossible, as she had just barely gotten a fifty cent bump not two full months prior. And lo, here we are and she has received exactly the pay raise the church prayed for. We shall meditate on that – We shall remember that. For by remembering what the Lord has done for us, we may remove the doubts of what He will do later. I can remember when I first started ministry, I began to doubt my callings and place, and I prayed, calling unto God to reassure me of this calling. From nowhere, my Uncle Buck, of whom I had not spoken to in many years, left me a message on my Facebook wall, “Don’t give up buddy, keep the faith”. Coincidence? I think not – I idea that someone who has not spoken with me in a couple years would send that hours after I have prayed can only be divine. The number of other occasions in which miracle have seemingly happened the same. The psalmist doesn’t just say to remember, he says to meditate on His works. Allow you mind to fill with the wonders of the Lord. Marvel at all he has done, take in the beauty around you, stand in awe at the night skies. 13 The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ps 77:10–15). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. When doubts come, I can remind myself, because I am acutely aware of the handiwork of God around me, He is there. By dwelling on what He has done, I am comforted in my times of need. Seeing He has provided, I worry not about His ability to provide again. Seeing He has saved, I worry not about His ability to save. In Exodus 12, the Lord commanded Moses to establish a holiday, the religious festival known as Passover. In doing so, He commemorated, and established a permanent reminder of the work God did in Egypt, when the children of Israel were passed over by the Angel of the Lord. In remembering what God has done and His works, we protect ourselves from not only forgetting, but from the doubts that arise when we are at our lowest times of need. Closing As humans, the reality is, we will doubt. Doubting will not make us a non-Christian, nor will God forsake you because of it. But how you respond to it will determine how you live your life on Earth as a question. When we doubt, let us remember to take comfort in God’s Word. Remember the promises, remember that in Him we have eternal life. Remember that the people who recorded these things were real people, they lived and talked with Christ. Remember the validity of the Word. It is God breathed. The Bible is God’s word to us, He gave it to us for assurance, for teaching, for reproof and correction. Allow the Word to work in you life and pray for God to till the soil of your heart. When we doubt, we should seek out sin in our lives, or evict the devil from our minds. Avoid idle speculation and allow needless and unanswerable questions to flee your thoughts. We need not fall into the traps of strange and diverse doctrines. When one approaches with such answers to questions, you can reply that What God has stated is enough. When questioned by the unbeliever, who insists that my belief is for not, I can reply, as did G.K Chesterton, “If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, “For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.” I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts.14” And remember where God has done a work in your life. Cling to where He has worked miracles and shown Himself to you. Doing these things with prayer will greatly increase your ability to deal with doubt. Allow the Lord to work it over for you. Invite Him in, but don’t try and tell Him how to do His job. He 14 Ritzema, E. (Ed.). (2012). 300 Quotations for Preachers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. wants to help us, and He has given us instruction on how to allow Him. We must be willing to approach the Lord and allow Him to change us in His image. For the non-believer, you have doubts. That is why you don’t believe. Our faith is based on the evidence of things not seen. The Lord Jesus Christ left a plethora of evidence of His death and His resurrection. Surely, 500 people seeing the glorified Christ is evidence. We have seen the Lord work in our own lives, work out miracles that science and reason cannot explain, and do for us, what men cannot do for themselves. We call upon you, as we have ourselves, investigate the Lord. Reach out to Him. For He wants to change your life too. You may be like the father in the start of our message, “I believe, help me in my unbelief” or “I want to believe, but I need help”. Allow Christ to help you. Submit yourself to Him. Fill your mind with His thoughts, live as He would ask you to live. But if you want to change, if you want to really see Christ, you must make the choice to place your trust in Him. He says if you would believe on His name and confess Him, you would be born again.
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