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Living For Eternity: Unbelief and Faith (John 5:25-47) – Mark Ottaway

Living for Eternity

Unbelief and Faith  

John 5:25-47



Turn to John 5. If you are taking notes this morning, your sheets are not word-for-word responses, but I have left room for just some of your own thoughts. What I have enjoyed about our study of the Gospel of John is the relevance it has for our world today. And when we may speak about today’s world, we must really look at both our society and the church, as both of these things are hugely important to us. I asked this question a few weeks ago: can the church thrive in a messy culture? And this question applies here today as what we will be studying includes both the church and the culture. And the problem is twofold, as we have one, a culture that is drifting further from truth; and two, we have churches that are drifting, to a slower degree, but still drifting from truth as well. And in our passage this morning, Jesus is going to address both unbelief in relation to the culture, and then He will give us some insight into the faith of those within the church. So, let’s pray before we begin. Lord, we ask You this morning to be with us as Your people. I pray for anyone here this morning that is outside of Christ, uncertain of their relationship with You. We ask that You might overpower their unbelief this morning. And we pray for us who believe, that the truth of Your words might deepen our faith. That we might fight any unwillingness inside of us to grow spiritually in these vital days. And that our eyes might be on Christ and off of self, amen.


There is a growing segment of the church that is aligning itself with much of what the world is teaching. And therefore, the world’s view of the church or what Christianity is can become very confusing for them. As the culture is not going to be able to differentiate between what we might hold to here at Elim, and what another church down the road or another church across the country might believe, especially when many of the messages that come from churches are often in conflict. Unless they see us as individual believers. As we cannot overstate the importance of us as believers intersecting with those who do not know Christ, and that they see we live the truth and share the truth with them. And the wisdom and the skill in communicating the truth of God’s Word is getting harder and harder all the time, as those outside of Christ have less and less knowledge of the Bible than ever before. So, what many churches have done is try to soften the message of the Bible, so that church becomes a place of greater acceptance, where God’s Word only says things that people want to hear.


I was speaking with one of my daughters the other day about the skill in being able to share with people both the love of God, along with the truth of God, as they cannot be separated, and as this takes a great skill. Last Sunday morning while attending our son’s church in London, we heard a testimony from a new Christian who has just been in Canada from Afghanistan for only 8 months, and it was so moving to hear all that he had gone through. And he was asked this question, what made you leave the Muslim faith and convert to Christianity? He said, a Christian told me something that I did not know before, that God loved me. There is the love of God that we learned about in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son.” The world needs that message, that God loves them, that they have been created by Him. Everyone sitting here this morning, God loves you. He created you, He created everything about you. Before you were even born, He formed you. You were fearfully and wonderfully made.


Yet the Bible says much more than that. As it warns us of the rebellion of the human heart. That by nature we will reject God, by rejecting His Son. Why? Because all of us are sinners, and we were born as sinners. This also is true. Therefore, this also must be shared with those with whom we interact. Why? Because there will be consequences to rejecting Christ. Yet, because this is more difficult to share with people, many Christians and many churches have chosen to leave out part of the message and only focus on the love of God. And yet how can that be loving? How could it ever be loving to not tell someone the danger of rejecting Christ? In other words, for us to know that only through Christ can someone ever be forgiven and escape hell, but not tell them that message.


I heard Andy Stanley, son of preacher Charles Stanley, speaking about salvation the other day. He said, that if the church teaches that kind people are going to hell, then I am out of the church. In other words, if the church teaches that someone is going to hell but they seem like a good person, then I don’t want anything to do with the church. Later in his message, he encouraged his congregation to hang on to one thing. The Word of God? No. The teachings of the whole Scripture? No. No, he said if you are going to hang onto one thing, hang on to this, Baby Jesus. He then went on to say there are some things that he cannot possibly hold onto, assumption, some of the things that the Bible teaches. Some of those things, he said, I cannot possibly believe today because it does not fit with the world I live in today. He is referring to the hard things of the Bible. The judgment of God? The wrath of God? So, what He was saying was that anything that is in our Bibles that no longer fits with our experiences today should be questioned. But hold on to this, Baby Jesus. Because who is not going to accept Baby Jesus.


Now I say all this because this because Jesus is now going to preach some difficult truth at the end of John 5, after He had just told us in John 3 that God loved the world. And as I read this, ask yourself if this would be a seeker-friendly message in the church today, or how it greatly opposes what Andy Stanley has just said. And how it opposes so many that would say today that my Jesus would not judge or condemn. Beginning in John 5:25 (LSB). Jesus is speaking:


25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming [a warning] and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.


So, we have those who are dead, and some of them will hear so that they will live.


26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;

27 and He gave Him [Christ] authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.


God the Father has given authority to the Son to execute judgment. This does not really align with Andy Stanley’s “Baby Jesus.” For now we have the Son as the Judge.


28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming [warning], in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,

29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.


In other words, every human soul will be accountable before the Son.


30 “I can do nothing from Myself [for Christ is always in sync with the Father]. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me [My judgment is just because I do the will of the Father who sent Me].

31“If I alone bear witness about Myself, My witness is not true.”


In other words, if what I say was in conflict with what the Father has declared, then what I am saying is not true. Do you understand that? As many theologians like to separate the Father from the Son in the sense that though the Father condemns, the Son does not. Jesus does not separate Himself from the Father. Therefore, whatever you and I think or speak or believe that does not align with what the Father has declared to be true then we are wrong. In other words, you and I have no right as Christians to withhold the truth, or change the truth, or water down the truth … no right!


32 There is another who bears witness about Me, and I know that the witness which He gives about Me is true.

33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.

34 But the witness I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.


In other words, if what Mark Ottaway is saying this morning is true, great, but ultimately it is true because Christ has claimed these things


35 He [John the Baptist] was the lamp that was burning and shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.


This is true of many good theologians and preachers today. They have the privilege of sharing that message as John did for a time. But like John, they come and go.


36 But the witness I have is greater than the witness of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish⁠—the very works that I do⁠—bear witness about Me, that the Father has sent Me.


See in the end, a person must decide what he will do with Jesus Christ. And Jesus is saying that if this is all true that what I have done confirms that I have been sent by the Father, then, why are people not believing? I have done things that no other man has done. I have been authenticated by My Father. Then why are people not believing?


So, we want to spend this morning looking at the reasons that Jesus will give for why people do not believe. Now remember the reason why the Gospel of John was written, “… so that you might believe and have life” (John 20:31). Now if we took a poll this AM on the streets of say Strathroy, and asked the question to unbelievers: Why do you not believe in Jesus Christ? What kind of responses do you think we would get? Help me this morning, what do you think? If we asked, why do you not believe in Jesus Christ?  am not religious. There are many ways to God apart from Jesus Christ. How do we even know Christ existed? How do we know Christ is who He says He is? Science has proven that we have evolved from whatever. If there is a God, why is there so much evil in the world anyway? I do not believe that one religion is right, while others are wrong. Yet Jesus is going to give us completely different reasons of why people do not believe. Look at your Bibles. Verses vs 37-38:


37 And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness about Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.

38 And you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.


So here are real reasons why people do not believe. Not the reasons they would give, but the real reasons. They have never heard God nor seen Him. His Word, His truth is not in them, and therefore, they have rejected His Son. Verse 39:


39 You search the Scriptures [now Jesus is directly speaking with Jews here] because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that bear witness about Me;


But now He will give another reason people do not believe. Verse 40:


40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.


Jesus is saying, here are the facts plain and simple. You are unwilling to come. You do not want to come to Me! See this is important for us to know when we speak with people. As we address spiritual things with them, and we should. But here is the bottom line, they don’t want to come. Now Christ goes on and says something very unique. Verses 41-42:


  • I do not receive glory from men;

42 but I know you, that [another reason] you do not have the love of God in yourselves.


Now our society might balk at that one. What. We don’t have love? Because most will believe that they are full of love. And if there is such a thing as a loving God, we are full of God’s love. But Jesus says, no, you do not have love. And then Jesus says another strange thing. Verse 43:


43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.


Think about that. That because Jesus has come in the name of the Father, God the Father, you have rejected Me. But if I did not come from God, you would have received Me. Why is that? Notice back in verse 41, where Jesus says that he did not receive glory from men, and now look at verse 44:


44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the only God?


Notice Jesus says here that He receives glory from God and not from men. But each of you receives glory from each other and not from God. And this is sort of a rhetorical question here as He asks how can you believe when you do this. The answer is not stated but assumed: you cannot believe. In other words, Jesus is saying, how can you believe when you are so consumed with yourself and with receiving praise from man? Answer, you cannot!


So, mankind might say that he does not believe in Christ because he is not religious or that they believe that we exist by science, or that Jesus cannot be the only way to heaven. Or we could add a hundred more things that people might respond to defend the reason that they do not believe in Christ. And most of their answers would come from possibly thinking deeply about this, rationalizing it out, and then giving a good reason why they do not believe. But Jesus just blatantly says, here is the reason why people do not believe: the truth is not in them; they don’t want to believe; they do not love God; in fact, if someone came that was not sent from God they would believe them, but they will not believe in Me; and they are so full of self and seek glory from others, they cannot believe.


Now John Piper correctly reminds us here that we do not want to dismiss this as a Jewish problem. Oh, those Jews, they are a stubborn lot! Of course, Jesus is speaking with Jews here for that is His audience. But does Jesus not also speak to every heart? For all of mankind may give many reasons, excuses of why they do not follow Christ. But Jesus says to all of mankind, you do not come because you do not want to come. For if whatever you are doing, even if it is wrong, you can justify. If something is right and we do not want to do it, then the opposite wrong soon becomes right in our eyes. We might also look at this passage and agree this is not only a Jewish problem but that it is a problem with the unbelieving world. But could some of this be our problem at times as well? Verse 44 is very convicting:


44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the only God?


Piper says that you don’t want Jesus because you want praise from man, you want to be at the centre, you want control of the marriage, the control of the ministry, you want to be made much of, you want the attention. We all can be controlling at times. There are many big areas of our lives, small areas of our lives; where we might say, mine, mine, mine and me, me, me. And wanting praise from men, wanting to be at the centre, wanting control, wanting to be made much of, wanting the attention. Pick the one that fits you the best, for they all fit me at times. And without God’s continuous work in my life, I still battle with all this, and so do you.


In verse 43, Jesus says that you will not receive Me if I come in My Father’s name, but you will receive someone who comes in his own name. Why is that? Because if I follow someone else, I can disagree if I want to. I do not always have to agree with them. After all, they are sinners like I am, so that I not need to feel guilty. But serving Christ is not about my agenda, it is about God’s agenda. It does not only require that I do what is right, but that I do the things I do with the right spirit and with the heart of a slave. It means that my agenda gets thrown out the window. Because it means that I must continually say no to self and yes to Christ if He is truly Lord of my life. Far easier to follow an earthly king or an earthly hero or an earthly philosopher. Because if I disagree with him, I can go to another website. I can just pick and choose what I want to obey, want I want to agree with, and what I want to talk about. Be careful that if we claim to follow Christ, we follow Christ. Be careful that it is not a Christ that we have changed so that He is easier to follow.


I have mentioned to you before about the lack of longevity on the Ottaway side of the family. That I have told my boys that Ottaway men can live well into their late sixties. And they were joking about some of the health concerns that they might have. And of course, I was blaming it on Anne’s side, and Anne was blaming it on the Ottaway side. I remember my Dad had no real desire to live to an old age. He would often just say, Lord take me whenever. Something I did not quite always understand. And I said to my guys last weekend, you know I am little like my Dad now, Lord, take me whenever. But help me in whatever time I have to serve Christ well. Because what is the point when you are going to live for eternity in heaven of living to 80, 90, 100 years if you do not serve Christ? What is the point of dreaming of retirement, of having a nice rose garden, or fixing up your house, or even being with your grandkids; if you do not follow Christ as your Lord and Saviour, seeking His glory alone. If your life is not an example of servanthood and living for the glory of Christ. What would be the point and benefit of all that? How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the only God? Let’s pray. Lord, may we heed Your words this morning, reasons for our unbelief that You have been revealed to us. I pray for any here this morning that do yet believe, might they seek glory from You and not men, so that they might surrender their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ as Lord. And for those who know Christ, that we would continuously resist self and give all praise and honour to You alone, amen.


Look again at verses 43-44:


43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.

44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the only God?


Might we not miss how Jesus pits the desire to be praised by man against true saving faith. In other words, you cannot have both. This is such an easy trap for us to fall into, as we might chastise those in the church who for the praise of men stray from their Christian walk. In other words, they are afraid of man, so they do not live the way in which they should. But it is also easy to fall into this trap in the church. That yes, we are not interested in the praise from the world, but if we serve the Lord here in this place, we might enjoy the praise of other believers. Mark, you are doing a great job. Good sermon, oh, thank you! And pretty soon an encouragement that we all need from time to time becomes something that is now desired, wanted, and needed from others. And God hates that because it is not true faith. Listen to what Paul wrote the Roman Christians about the faith of Abraham:


“And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.”

Rom 4:19-20 (LSB)


Faith, true faith directs all glory to God. And this is my prayer for you and my prayer for myself. That we would become so satisfied in Christ, every one of us sitting here this morning, that the praise of man, the approval of those at your school, the commendation of your workmate or boss, would be so far down the line for you compared to the praise of serving Christ. I shared with you a few weeks ago about our discussion of the current affairs with my sister and brother-in-law. And Lynne was working through this dilemma in her own workplace. I asked Lynne if I could share part of a note she sent me, and she said “no.” No, she said “yes.” Lynne wondered what to say at work during this past month. And said that not doing anything was more stressful than doing something. And I won’t tell you the whole story, but this is what she concluded: Mark, I just needed to be faithful. She said, now this didn’t mean that I might receive a superhero’s cape or that I was going to be thrown into the lion’s den. But she said this, Mark, I trust that everything I do should be for an audience of One and no one else. Church family, all the actions we take as slaves of Christ. Actions that no one sees and actions that are before others, should always be done for His glory and His glory alone. And all God’s people said, amen.