Second Reformed Church

Monday, September 05, 2016

"They Did Not Believe" Sermon: John 12:36b-43

“They Did Not Believe”
[John 12:36b-43]
September 4, 2016 Second Reformed Church
            We may remember a few weeks ago as we looked at the passage prior to the one that was read this morning, we saw Jesus explain to the crowd that the Son of Man – Jesus’ favorite title for Himself – the Savior – both had to be lifted up – crucified – and to reign forever.
            Jesus had to be crucified to pay the debt for the sins of everyone who would ever believe, and then He would rise from the dead – as a seed planted in the ground sprouts and grows and comes to life – and He would bear fruit through the good works of all those who believed in Him.
            This is the last time that Jesus speaks to the crowd.  He warns them that He will only be with them a short time longer.  He is going to be put to death.  The Plan of God and the sin of man kissed and Jesus bowed to the Will of the Father and accepted His coming brutal death to the Glory of the Father and for the salvation of we who believe.
            From here on until Jesus’ arrest, He goes into hiding and only speaks with the Twelve.  This was His last call to the crowd to repent and believe, and we see the result in our text:
“When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’
And we see, they did not believe.
            For three years, Jesus told the crowd, “I am God.  I am the Savior.  I am the Son of Man.  I am the Only Way to be right with God.  Believe in Me.  Repent of your sin.”
            He healed the sick.  He gave sight to the blind.  He raised the dead.
            He preached the Word of God.  He submitted to the Word of God and the Will of the Father.  He taught the crowd.
            He rode into Jerusalem to proclaim Himself King and Savior.  And He prophesied His crucifixion and resurrection.
            The Word of God was clear.  The Power of God was evident.  And they did not believe.  And there is no excuse for this sin.
            Paul puts it this way:
            “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20, ESV).
            God created humans so that we can look at all the things that have been created and know there is an Almighty God and we are not right with Him.  If you do not believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Wrath is against you because you have no excuse.  You know there is an Almighty God, and you know you are not right with Him, and you have not sought out the Way to be right with Him.
            In this part of the country, you can’t hardly trip without being in front of a church – and some of them are even Christian churches!  You have no excuse.
            If you don’t have a Bible, we will give you a Bible, so you can read it and know the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s a modern translation with readable print.  Just ask.
            They didn’t believe.  There is no excuse for that sin.  But there is a reason.
            John tells us that their unbelief – and the unbelief of all those who do not believe – is to fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah, “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
            This is the first verse of Isaiah 53 – that chapter in which Isaiah prophesies that the Savior would grow up among the people and be despised and rejected – “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, ESV).
            Why didn’t they believe?  Who do people not believe today?  Because that unbelief was needed to accomplish God’s Plan of having His Son horrifically killed, that all we who believe would be healed – that we would be made eternally right with God.
            If that sounds strange to you, consider what Paul wrote, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:22-24, ESV).
            One of the reasons God allows evil and unbelief and all the horrors of the world to go on is so that those who believe will be all the more struck by the Mercy of God to us, and the riches He has given us, and the glory we have received and are being brought into in great joy!
            Brothers and sisters, the evil and unbelief of the world should make us long for Jesus all the more and value the blessings we have received – most of all the salvation He has given us – that we would put the world behind us and look forward with open arms – still living in the world, but not being part of the world – looking always forward in the pains of childbirth, crying out, “Come, Lord Jesus!”  not simply because we want to escape, but because He is so beautiful, so wonderful, so worthy.
            God is preparing us and letting us become all the more excited and full of longing and passionately, joyfully, looking forward to His return and the restoration of all things in the fullness of His Kingdom.
            Second, we see another reason why some don’t believe:  they can’t believe.   
            “Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart,   lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.’
            They can’t believe.  They do not have the ability to believe.  All those who never believe were never able to believe. 
            Why?  Because God made them unable to believe.
            Why?  So they would not be saved.
            Your first thought may be, “Why in the world would God blind and harden people so they would not have the ability to believe in Him and the Gospel?”
            And you may also think, “That’s not fair!  How can God punish someone who cannot believe?”
            Paul faced the same question and gave this answer:
            “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:14-18, ESV).
            You need to remember that Adam and Eve were our representatives in the Garden, and since they sinned, every mere human being is born a sinner – at odds with God – hating God – only seeking sin.  So every one of us was born shaking our first at God.
            What does God have to do to blind us and harden our hearts? 
            Nothing!  If God does not intercede in a person’s life, that person will continue in sin and against God.
            And if God does not show mercy and give that person the grace to believe, he will die in sin.
            When your birthday comes around, do you have the right to walk up to people and say, “You owe me a birthday present; you have to give me a birthday present.”
            Of course not.
            In the same way, God is not under any obligation to give the gift of salvation to anyone.  That fact that He does give salvation to all we who believe, is a tremendous and wondrous gift, because God doesn’t owe us anything – and through the gift of salvation He makes us right with Himself through His Son and makes us holy, as well.
            Here, these people – and some today – were blinded and hardened because God did nothing to save them, because He was under no obligation to save them, and it was not His Will to save them.
            Do you believe savingly in Jesus?  Are you amazed that God has given you such a great gift that you don’t deserve – with all the blessings for all of eternity that come with it?
            Those of us who have been truly converted – those of us who have truly believed in our hearts and minds that Jesus is God the Son and Savior – as we are told in the Gospel – we have seen the Glory of God – and that changes us.
            As we read:
            “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.”
            Isaiah said that these people did not believe and could not believe because Isaiah saw the Glory of God and spoke of Him.  In other words, Isaiah saw the Glory of God – He personally knew Who God is, and that changed Isaiah and what he believed and what he preached.
            Likewise, if you know God through salvation in His Son, you will be changed.
            Isaiah records his call to the ministry:
            “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
            “‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’
            “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’
            “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’
            “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:1-8, ESV).
            Very quickly then, what happen?
            Isaiah went to the Temple, and God revealed Himself to Isaiah is such a way that Isaiah understood more clearly than he ever had that God is the Holy God – He is the One Pure and Perfect Being.  And because Isaiah understood that, he understood that – compared to God – he was the vilest creature in Creation, and he shrunk from God in repulsion of hmself.
            But God, in mercy and in great love, saved Isaiah and cleansed him of his sin, and Isaiah responded by jumping to be faithful and obedient to the call of God.
            Do you understand?
            If you really know God – if you really understand Who God is and what He is like – your view of yourself will become very tiny – you will shrink away, knowing that you are unworthy of this magnificent God and in debt to Him.  But if God has had mercy on you through salvation, He has cleansed you – He has done everything through His Son to make you right with Him. 
            And the right response to that is to hear the Word of God and say, “Here I am!  Send me!”  “Whatever it is that You require of me and ask of me, O Lord, let it be so – Thy will be done – enable me and be with me and cause me to accomplish and become everything You have commanded and willed.  To Your Glory and for my joy.”
            Do you wake up in the morning and ask yourself, “What can I do today to please and glorify God?”
            Oh, that I would desire that each day – that you would desire it each day – that our bread and meat would be to do the will of God Who so loved us He sent His Son.  Can anyone ever do anything greater for us?  Is there any greater Gift? 
            I want us to grow.  I want us to grow.  I want us to want God – to know Him – to be like His Son.  I want our joy to be God’s Glory.
            Well, as we conclude this text, we see that some believe, but were hypocrites.
            “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
            Some people did believe in Jesus after His final talk with the crowd.  But we are told that they did not confess that they believed because they were afraid.  They knew if they confessed Jesus openly, the Pharisees would put them out of the Temple.
            The reason they did not want to be put out of the Temple was that they preferred to have the people praise them and know them and think well of them as they walked among them in the Temple, then suffer persecution as a believer – instead of being open about their faith. Which might have caused some people to think differently about them – not to mention what the Pharisees would do.  They believed – at least intellectually – that Jesus did fit the prophesied Savior, but they did not confess Him from their heart.
            Jesus said, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:26-33, ESV).
            Jesus said not to be afraid of people.  Jesus said not to be afraid of even people that would put you to death for His sake.  Because, if you acknowledge Jesus as God and Savior before men, He will acknowledge you before the Father.  But, if you do not acknowledge Jesus as God and Savior before men – if you believe with your mind that it makes good sense that everything that Jesus says is true, but you don’t have the heart-confidence to answer, “Yes, I believe that Jesus is God and Savior,” when someone says he will kill you if you say that, He will deny you before the Father.
            You and I cannot know that heart of anyone, and people come to saving faith even in the last moment of life.  But Jesus is saying that there are people who claim to be Christians, who say they believe the Bible is true, but when standing for Jesus and His Gospel, when saying, “Yes, I am a believer,” will cost their reputation, their job, their family, even their life, they deny Jesus – even if it is only by not saying anything.
            This is very serious:  if you say you’re a Christian, that you believe the Bible is true and Jesus is God and Savior, but you are unwilling to say that – no matter what may happen to you – you are not a Christian.
            If your friends desert you, and the government imprisons you and tortures you, and says they will put you to death if you do not renounce Jesus, and you think you can deny Him and still call yourself a Christian, be very afraid.
            Some of you may not believe.  Some of you may never be able to believe.  Some of you may be hypocrites, even fooling yourself that you do believe.  Check your hearts and see if you believe that Jesus is God and Savior not matter what anyone may ever do to you.
            If you don’t, remember that time is short.  You are under the Wrath of God and you will have to stand before God to receive His judgment for your rebellion against Him.  Believe and repent before it is too late.
            But if you are like Isaiah and you have seen the greatness and the beauty of our God and Savior – if you have repented and been cleansed by God and you long for Him – then live for Him every day.  Be filled with the joy of our Savior as you grow in faith and obedience.  Be thrilled to find new ways each day to please our God and Savior!
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, we can only imagine the heartache Your Son had as He called people to faith and they did not believe.  We thank You for the understanding that You do not owe anyone anything, but out of Your love chose to save all we who believe.  Excite us to know You better and in finding our joy in faith and obedience.  Let our greatest joy be to see you pleased and glorified.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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