Sermons Updates

The Will That Believes (John 7) – Mark Ottaway

Living for Eternity

The Will that Believes

John 7


Turn in your Bibles to John 7. One of the themes of John is belief and unbelief. The purpose of writing the book is recorded in John 20:31, “so that you might believe.” If you have read John 7, you will already notice that John notes that there are people again who do not believe. The cause of this unbelief is sometimes not given, but other times the cause is named. We noticed last week that some doubted, some greatly opposed, and some only wanted to gain from Christ. Now there is one crowd that does not believe in Jesus though it does not say that specifically.

“And after these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.”

John 7:1 (LSB)


There is a good chance that these people were obviously not in love with Christ. Good for us the realize the growing hatred towards Christ as it was not merely that they disagreed with Jesus, but that they wanted Him dead. Helping us to understand the forces that come against the truth of God’s Word today. It is not just a matter of many in society disagreeing with the true followers of Christ, but a desire to quiet them or trample them down, and maybe at some time again to kill. Then I noticed in verse 13, there seems to be a silent group that may have some sentiment for Christ yet is feeling quite threatened.

“Yet no one was speaking openly about Him for fear of the Jews.”

John 7:13 (LSB)


We can understand this today as well, that they were afraid to speak openly about their faith. We see the climax of some of this opposition towards Christ, “So they were seeking to seize Him” (vs 30a). Yet there were still some who did believe.

“But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than this man did?’”

John 7:31 (LSB)


In other words, they truly believed that this must be the Christ. Now this pattern of belief and unbelief is an important topic as John has already written about the dangers of unbelief in John 3:36:

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

John 3:36 (LSB)


Those who believe are eternally saved and those who disbelieve are eternally condemned. There is no middle ground, as the Bible teaches no such thing as purgatory. There is no pretending that Gramma Penelope, though she is nice and may make great pies; that if she dies without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, she is forever lost. So, what I wish to do this morning is show you two more cases of unbelief. One, which is quite easy to see, while the second is harder to understand. And then I want to focus on just two verses that I believe explain why this unbelieving group number two is off the mark. And this is a truth and challenge that is so great, that makes me feel so short of God’s desire for me. And it may have the same effect on you as well. So, let’s pray before we begin. Lord, might You open our eyes to Your truth once again this morning. Pry away from us all that might steal from this valuable time, so that we might leave this place confronted with Your desire for each of us, amen. This first case of unbelief I wish to look at briefly is in verse 30:

“So they were seeking to seize Him; yet no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.”

John 7:30 (LSB)


We see this a lot in the gospels, where we might describe this as jealousy. The Jewish leaders saw themselves as quite big in the eyes of the crowds, and Jesus presents a threat to that. So, they try to discredit everything Jesus does. So, we might call this (in your notes) a jealous unbelief. That everything Jesus did and represented was a threat to them. And therefore, there was no way they were even going to give Jesus a chance, for all they could see in Christ was a loss of their own praise and attention. So, when Jesus does such miraculous healings and other miracles, they quickly complain that they were done on the Sabbath, or discredit where He came from or whatever else. A jealous unbelief. The second example of unbelief in this chapter is not so easy to see or understand. Look at verse 3:

“Therefore His brothers said to Him, ‘Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing [see they were excited for others to see all that Christ had done].

4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known openly [i.e. Lord You cannot do these things so under the radar]. If You do these things, show Yourself publicly to the world.’

5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him.”

John 7:3-5 (LSB)


We see again the brilliance of the writer John, as here in chapter 7, he introduces Jesus’ brothers as those who (vs 3-4) were the promoters of Jesus, the ones that wanted Jesus to be made known to the crowds. That Jesus would be presented as a hero. Yet he says in (vs 5) that even these brothers did not believe in Christ. Well, why would he say that? Well, it seems that John chooses to leave this tension as well, as he really just states that these brothers wanted to promote Jesus and then that they did not believe in Jesus. And it might be worth asking the question: Could Elim Bible Chapel promote Christ, but not really believe in Christ? And could we as individual people promote Christ, speak of Christ, tell others about Christ, but not truly believe in Christ? And this is not the only confusion and tension given in this passage:

“So Jesus said to them, ‘My time is not yet here, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I bear witness about it, that its deeds are evil. Go up to the feast yourselves; I am not yet going up to this feast because My time has not yet been fulfilled.’ Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee [it would seem that it is over now]. But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as in secret.”

John 7:6-10 (LSB)


So, Jesus said that He was not going to Judea, and yet He ends up going Himself in private. And we see here such uncertainty about Christ.

“So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and saying, ‘Where is He?’ And there was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, ‘He is a good man’; others were saying, ‘No, on the contrary, He leads the crowd astray.’ Yet no one was speaking openly about Him for fear of the Jews”

John 7:11-13 (LSB)


The responses and reactions to Jesus are all over the place here. And Jesus says in verse 5, that His brothers did not believe. This would include James, who obviously was not a believer yet at this point. And some questions arise, don’t they? Why did Jesus say He would not go to Judea, but then He went? And why did the brothers of Jesus promote Christ and then John said they did not believe? Well, it would seem that Jesus did not want any part in the kind of ministry that was the desire of His brothers. While the religious leaders were jealous of these miracles and wanted to kill Jesus, the brothers wanted to use these miracles as a promotion of Christ. And this was so wrong in the eyes of Christ, that Jesus not only chooses not to go with His brothers, And He actually calls their wrong actions unbelief. As we might call the unbelief of the religious leaders a jealous unbelief, we might call this a wrong belief. I was going to call this a misguided belief, but it is worse than that, as it is called unbelief.


And this is a warning to us, as we might easily dismiss the unbelief of the religious leaders, thinking that is not me. But Jesus teaches that even belief with the wrong understanding or motive is unbelief. The brothers believed in Jesus in the sense that they saw the miracles. So, in this sense, they were with Jesus. And therefore, they desired to be part of the hype, the glamour that might come from following this King, this Miracle Worker. But Jesus was not willing to go with them for His time had not yet come (vs 8). And what time was that? The time when He would be arrested and killed. In other words, these brothers were willing to follow a coming King, but they had no concept of following a Suffering Servant. Therefore, this kind of following was not a true belief, for they had no concept of taking up their cross and following Christ. Many were following Jesus for self-exultation to be with Christ, believing that He would do great things. And Jesus said that the world cannot hate you, but it hates Me. Yet later in John 15, Jesus said to His true followers that the world hates you as it hates Me. But the world did not hate these brothers. And these brothers thought that they would celebrate and be praised along with Christ, but Jesus was going to Judea to die.


Be careful young people that your motive for following Christ is genuine. That you are not following for the sake of acceptance from your Mom and Dad, or to be accepted into this church, or that your grandparents might think highly of you, or any other reason for some kind of gain or recognition. And for those of you who know that you need to be baptized. Make sure that it is not to please or impress anyone, but it is to honour and glorify God. When Jesus secretly does go to Judea, He actually does not gain any glory, but He goes to teach.

“But when it was now the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach.”

John 7:14 (LSB)


And He does not bring attention to Himself, but He directs all the attention to the Father.

“The Jews then were marveling, saying, ‘How has this man become learned, not having been educated?’ So Jesus answered them and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but from Him who sent Me.’”

John 7:15-16 (LSB)


Then Jesus is about to say something that is so vital in this passage:

“If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know about the teaching, whether it is of God or I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

John 7:17-18 (LSB)


Christ seeks to deflect all the praise of the people God-ward. John Piper said, “The mark of a true person is God-exultation, not self-exultation. Or even better God-exultation at the [result of] self-humiliation.” I am going to go, yes, but not for your reasons, for I am going to go to Judea to die. Piper goes on to say there are other times in the Scripture when Jesus does draw glory to Himself as deity. For Jesus is a One-of-kind. For He is also the God-Man. Therefore, He must show us how a human is to live for the glory of God and not themselves. This again is the tension of the Bible. That at times Jesus shows Himself to be God and therefore be glorified and honoured. And yet another part of His glory was that He humbled Himself as a Man. And this too is part of the glory of God. That he was able to actually humble Himself as He did. Understand that? He is glorified because He is God, but He is also glorified for His submission to His Father. Yet here the brothers were wanting to use Jesus so that they along with Jesus might become more famous. In other words, if Jesus was going to become King, then we want to be the first ones by His side. Again, verses 17-18:

“If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know about the teaching, whether it is of God or I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

John 7:17-18 (LSB)


Compare this with John 5:44:

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

John 5:44 (LSB)


The brothers were wanting praise for their connection with Christ. But how can you believe? Answer, you cannot. And I am learning myself the importance of God-glorification over self-glorification. And as much as I stress teaching and knowledge of God, there first must be a willingness to do and accept all that God wants and wills. You know, sometimes we wonder how can a child become a Christian, especially when we start to learn more and more about God and His Word as we grow older. Have you ever wondered about that? Man, I knew so little about the Bible when I became a Christian. And this should be the case, as I trust that all of us have gained much knowledge since we first came to Christ. But verse 17, helps us so much with this, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know about the teaching” (vs 17a). In other words, what the Bible is saying here is that to know truth, “to know about the teaching,” to know whether it is true of what the Bible says about God; first (vs 17), a person must be willing to do the Father’s will. So even as we study such a difficult truth as we did last Sunday, for you and me to begin to grasp that truth, I first must be willing to allow my will to align with the will of God.


This is so important in your personal study time with God. That when you read something in the Scriptures, you accept it, because the Scriptures are the Word of God. It is His will. And if you do not get or accept this, you will butt heads with the Bible everywhere. And it will either cause you to ignore parts of the Bible, or it may even keep you from picking up your Bible. And this does not mean that we do not think through it or wrestle over it, for some things are hard to understand. But there is a trust in God. That I know this must be true because Your Word says it is true. And a trust that the Judge of all the earth will do right? And always has done what is right. As there must be a resounding yes within us. Yes, He will do what is right! And this needs to be impressed upon us in the amazement things of the Bible. In other words, the wonderment of heaven. That what God has prepared for those who love Him is absolutely breathtaking, because the Bible says it. As Paul describes it as something that we cannot even conceive of. But then also the horrific truth of hell. I was lying in bed the other night and thinking in my mind of the realness of hell. All the warnings given of hell in the Bible. And the complete devastation of missing Christ and His offer of salvation. And I say all this to emphasize the need to accept what God has said. A willingness to believe and a willingness to conform to His will, even when I may struggle in my own mind. I think of the song, Still, My Soul be Still:

God, You are my God

And I will trust in You and not be shaken

Lord of peace renew

A steadfast spirit within me

To rest in You alone

Keith & Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend


Even though I do not know everything in God’s Word or understand everything, I trust completely the One who wrote it. And that I do not change God so that I am at peace. But I am at peace, willing to be at peace with who God is and what He has written. For according to this passage, willingness comes before knowing. Because willingness must come before we understand the teaching. Therefore, we must pray: Lord, make me willing. Lord, conform me to Your will. Conform me to Your truth. Lord, make my son willing, my daughter, make my friend willing. May I not resist it, but accept it. For this is not about my will, this is about Your will.


So that when I read passages about Joshua being commanded to destroy all the men, women, children, and animals. When the Bible says that Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated. When it says that the Lord was angry with the people so he incited David to take a census. When it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. May I not try to justify those things in my human, imperfect mind. But that my will is a resounding, Lord, I trust You, I trust You! Because I know that whatever it is, You must be right! That in all things, You will do what is right! And here is hope that has been on my mind. That life becomes less and less about what Mark Ottaway thinks, and more and more about what God has said. For even the Son of God, deity said (vs 16), “My teaching is not Mine, but from Him who sent Me.” And for my will to see that and to get there, Piper says then I must be changed. My life must be transformed by the Holy Spirit of God.


Yet our tendency is to want to be like the brothers, to be able to relish in the cheers of the crowd. Or to be like the Pharisees and believe I can keep the Law. And this is why my heart needs to change and be conformed to the will of God. And the Law itself is a glaring declaration that my will is outside of God’s will. For look what Jesus says in verse 19, “Did not Moses give you the Law? And yet none of you does the Law.” In other words, how can your minds be in tune with the will of God, when the Law is the will of God, but you do not obey it. You are so outside of God, so anti-God because you cannot even keep His Law, His very will for your life. Well, how do we conclude this? I struggled with this passage this week, as I see the submission of Christ, and have landed on ending with four questions:


  1. What is keeping you from knowing truth?


And when I say you, I am pointing the finger just as much at me, because I struggle with this as much as you do. What is keeping you and me from knowing the truth? From verse 17, is it my head or my heart? It’s my heart. It is the unwillingness of my heart that keeps me from knowing, accepting, and celebrating all the truth of God. Piper said that the greatest problem is our will, not our reason.


  1. How do you respond to the truth of God’s Word?


With wonderment? With amazement at everything that God does? That as we read His Word, that consistently it convicts me. That it says over and over again, that Mark, you are over here, but you need to be here, aligned with what God is saying. And don’t give up on this. Don’t ever use terms like, well we all sin. And you know our response should be to repent. But I am talking about when we resign to the fact that well, we all sin. For when we say something like that, we are saying that it is okay that I have chosen to place my will over God’s. And everything about this challenge is so unhuman. For we are not wired this way, no one is. For we want self, we all want what we want, we want the honour and praise of others. Because when I get my will accomplished, I feel like I have done well. I am satisfied with myself. And we might be convinced like the brothers that God will change everything in our day, everything that I want. And yet God may be saying, “My will is that you suffer.” It was Jesus who gave us the example of the Father doing something that was hard. He submitted and said, “Father, Your will and not Mine.”


  1. What is most treasured in your heart?


When we are interested in something, we can spend much time looking deeply into it. What do you think about the most? Me, my interests, doing well as a pastor! C. S. Lewis wrote:

“I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of work that tickles my vanity today, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world, and my only real treasure is Christ.”

  1. S. Lewis


Jesus said to seek the glory of the Father. And when I seek the glory of God I realize that my true good is in another world. It is in heaven, eternal, and my only real treasure is Christ. In verse 38, Jesus says, “He who believes in Me … From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” In other words, the one who conforms to My will, his innermost being is refreshed and alive.


  1. What is keeping you from having this kind of abundant life?


It is not the lack of facts. No, it is the unwillingness of your heart to find your joy in Christ. Come to Him this morning. Repent of your sins and come to Christ. And most of you have trusted in Christ for many years. The Apostle Paul talked about this:

“Now I make known to you, brothers, the gospel which I proclaimed as good news to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word.”

  • Cor 15:1-2a (LSB)


The only kind of true believer is the one whose faith in Christ continues. For we find many who believed in the Gospel of John. Yet most would eventually fall away. And even as we as believers live out our Christian lives. We too fight this same battle in life, and that is the battle against the flesh that continually wants self and acceptance. And unfortunately, there is no other kind of human, then a human who desires praise and glory and self-satisfaction. But Jesus says, “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 fight this battle well. Might we be God-seekers, and deflect all glory to Him. Might this be the deflecto church. And all God’s people said, amen.