Have you ever noticed that everything Jesus taught was simple, direct and practical? There is nothing mystical or spooky or weird about Christianity, as you find in false religions. Christianity is not about going into a trance or putting on a pious look or attempting to speak or preach or pray in supposed pious tones. It’s not about losing control of our bodies and babbling in strange unknown sounds. It’s not about trying to imitate the latest rock stars or screwing up our faces as though we were in pain when we sing.
The true Christian, though far from perfect, is real. He’s not even perpetually grinning; though a warm, genuine smile that begins in the heart and seeps out through the eyes and to the entire countenance is a beautiful reflection of the indwelling Christ in a Christian.
Jesus came to reveal the Father to us; so the better we know Jesus through the study of His Word, the better acquainted we are with our Heavenly Father. Everything Jesus teaches, touches our lives practically as we live each day. Everything He teaches deals with moral issues, matters of right and wrong. His teachings are going to convict us and often make us feel uncomfortable about ourselves. As long as we face our sins honestly and confess them to Him, His blood shed on Calvary‘s cross makes possible His forgiveness and cleansing from all unrighteousness. That’s the teaching of I John 1.
So with this background, let’s turn to Luke 16 and read the first thirteen verses. Here we will learn of an unjust steward. In this very interesting story we will learn about wisdom and shrewdness. It is estimated that Jesus used about 40 parables in His teaching and about 30% of them deal with money and material things. Why is money so dominant in His teachings? Because money is so dominant in our lives. Most of our waking hours is spent earning it, spending it, investing it and thinking about how we can acquire more of it.
There is nothing wrong in being shrewd and wise in planning ahead for eventualities, including our retirement. But as Christians, our primary concern in the use of our time, energy and money should be how we can invest for the maximum dividends in eternity. We don’t buy our way into Heaven. That is offered freely to guilty sinners who trust in God’s gracious Gift of salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. But as Christians, we ought to be considering how best we fit into Christ’s Great Commission to take the Gospel to the whole world. As we invest in that heavenly enterprise, we are going to reap eternal dividends.
Now if you’ve read the story in Luke 16:1-13 let’s discuss it and learn the practical lessons Jesus taught. A rich man had a steward. A steward is one who manages money and financial matters for another. That is a grave responsibility. The most important qualification for a steward is that he can be trusted. The steward in this story that Jesus told turned out to be irresponsible and untrustworthy. When the master learned of this, he called his steward in to give an account and gave him his notice of termination. The steward, knowing he was too old to dig ditches and too proud to beg, began to consider what he should do.
Then an idea came to him. He called in the debtors one by one. Jesus mentions two of them. To the first debtor he offered to cut his debt in half. To the second debtor he offered to cut his debt by 20%. Why did the steward do this? He was a shrewd, though irresponsible and crooked manager of money. He knew one lesson of sales that every good salesman knows. He knew his only way out of his mess was to work out a win/win situation for everyone involved. By reducing the debts of the debtors, he won their friendship which he would need after he was terminated. He worked out a plan where his master would at least recover part of the debts owed him. After all, 50% or 80% was better than nothing! He also won for himself the approval of his master.
Yes, Jesus tells us that the master commended him for his shrewdness. There are two Greek words that could have been used. The Greek word translated wisely in the King James Version in verse 8 is more accurately translated shrewdly in the New American Standard Bible. One means wise and the other means shrewd. This steward was probably not wise, but he was shrewd.
Then Jesus concluded His story with this factual statement in verse 8, “The children of this world, the unsaved, are in their generation shrewder than the children of light, Christians.” The Lord willing, we will examine this statement in more detail in our next article in this series. Note verse 9. The New American Standard Bible makes it clearer, “And I say unto you, make friends for yourselves of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
One day our money is going to fail. We are going to give it all up when we die. The message of this story Jesus told is that if we invest our money in the spread of the Gospel and in building lives for Christ, one day when we arrive in Heaven we are going to be welcomed by a host of people whose lives we have personally touched for Christ as well as untold others whom we never met on this earth, but who through our sacrificial giving, came to know Christ through God’s servants who were helped financially through our gifts.
I am so excited to think about this. I cannot begin to grasp the influence of my life as I have preached the Gospel in small churches for over fifty years, as well as by radio for about twelve years and now through this web site on the internet. From some reports I have received, I expect I am a spiritual great-grandfather to countless new Christians. But more exciting, the good people who have supported me down through the years are all going to join with me in rejoicing when we arrive in Heaven and begin to learn the full extent of our ministries. These Christians who have preceded us to Heaven are going to be there to welcome us when we arrive in Heaven!
If you are a “Lone Ranger” type of Christian, I encourage you to get involved in a sound Bible preaching church and help spread the Gospel by word and by your financial support to those who are faithfully preaching the Word here and around the world. Get in on the action now and one day you too will be met by a host of people who came to Christ through your financial support. If you are blessed by this web site, help spread the Gospel to others around the world by sharing this web site with others.
In Jesus’ parable of the Unjust Steward, which we dealt with in the previous article in this series, Jesus made a statement that causes us to be startled and taken aback. He says that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
If you haven’t read the previous article, in order to get the background on this thought-provoking observation of Christians, I encourage you to read that article before you read this one. In the previous article we saw how the master commended his steward for his shrewdness when he had just bilked him out of a good share of the money his debtors owed him.
Why did Jesus make this unexpected statement? Why did the master in the story commend his devious steward who was in charge of his finances?
Jesus is saying that generally the natural, unsaved man who devotes his whole life to getting ahead in this world and who gives no concern whatsoever to matters of eternal consequence is actually shrewder in the matter of making money and getting ahead in this world than the Christian who does not make financial success his priority. Is that a true statement? O course it is! Jesus said so. What does that mean to us as Christians? We’ll attempt to answer that question in this article.
Children of Light or Children of Darkness?
Note the two groups of people to whom Jesus refers.
First, the Children of Light. That’s Christians who are walking in the light of God’s Word.
Secondly, the Children of this World. These are the unsaved whose whole life is centered on this world only. In contrast to Christians, they walk in spiritual darkness. So we could refer to them as the Children of Darkness. The father of the Children of Light is God. The father of the Children of Darkness is Satan.
In this article I will deal with:
1. God’s wisdom
2. Satan’s shrewdness or subtlety.
3. The wisdom or shrewdness of the unsaved.
4. The wisdom available to Christians
5. Why Jesus declared that the unsaved are shrewder than Christians.
There are many Scriptures to back up these points. I encourage you to look them up and read them to gain the full value of this study.
I. GOD’S WISDOM
It ought not to be difficult to believe that God is all wise. He founded and created this world by His wisdom. Proverbs 3:19-26 His wisdom is manifold. It is comprehensive, reaching into every area of life. Ephesians 3:8-10 His wisdom is unsearchable. Though we study God’s Word, no human can fully grasp it all, including the fullness of the doctrines of the Bible. When unbelievers come to difficulties in the Bible, they scorn His Word. When we Christians are confronted by things in the Bible that we cannot fully comprehend, we bow in worship before our omniscient, all-wise, Heavenly Father. Romans 11:33-38 Romans 16:27 Revelation 7:11-12
II. SATAN’S SHREWDNESS AND SUBTLETY
Satan, as Lucifer, the first and highest of God’s creation, was filled with wisdom and beauty. He became guilty of the sin of pride and attempted to be equal with God. The story of his fall is told in Ezekiel 28:12-29 and in Isaiah 14:12-17. After His fall we see him in the Garden of Eden subtly tempting Eve to listen to him and disobey God. Genesis 3:1-15 Satan’s servants, false teachers who corrupt and deny the Bible often appear as angels of light, leading people astray. They are master counterfeiters of God’s Word. II Corinthians 11:13-15 So Satan is the father of shrewdness and subtlety.
III. THE UNSAVED
In Genesis 3:1-6 we learn that Satan offers us his shrewdness if we will but listen to and succumb to his temptations. The natural man is limited to natural wisdom and shrewdness. We all have the ability to gain natural wisdom through instruction and through experience. But not all people have even natural wisdom. Some, we learn in Proverbs 1 are just plain stupid. They turn away from wisdom and ruin their lives.
Some of the worst criminals in prison are very worldy-wise and shrewd, though their hearts have been darkened by sin. Romans 1:21-25 teaches us that the natural man who rejects the Gospel soon finds himself on a downward slide to darkness and ruin.
IV. THE SAVED
Though not all Christians have God’s heavenly wisdom; it is available to them and only to Christians. How do we attain that wisdom from God?
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 9:10We fear God when we fear offending Him by our sins. That fear leads us to Christ who is our wisdom. I Corinthians 1:30 Colossians 2:3
We gain the wisdom of God as we diligently search His Word and as we judge everything we read or hear in the light of the Bible. Proverbs 2:1-6, 9:10, 10:14.
We also gain God’s wisdom by avoiding the fellowship and counsel of the ungodly. Psalm 1:1, Proverbs 13:20
We seek preachers and godly friends who will sharpen us by telling us things about ourselves that are sometimes painful to hear. These are among our best friends. Proverbs 27:5-6, 17 A friend who avoids telling us what we need to hear because he is afraid of offending us, is not a true friend. To refuse to listen to a friend because we disagree with him hinders us from being wise.
Humbly accept reproof. Proverbs 1:24-33, 12:1, 15:32, 17:10, 19:25,
Beware of being an unreachable, know-it-all person who is convinced he has nothing new to learn. Proverbs 26:12 G. Beware of despising a faithful Bible preacher who shows us truth from God’s Word that offends you. I Kings 22:8 True Bible preaching does not leave us with a mere theoretical knowledge of doctrine. That tends to make us proud. Rather, true Bible preaching affects how we live and it tends to humiliate us and discover depths of sin hidden in our heart; sin of which we were not even aware.
WHY DO CHRISTIANS TEND TO NOT BE AS SHREWD AS UNBELIEVERS?
First, let’s look at a dictionary definition of what it means to be shrewd. Acute in perception and judgment.Able in practical affairs.Discerning, judicious, (governed by sound judgment), far-sighted ability to see below the surface
A person can be shrewd in these senses, but if he is ungodly, he will use this ability to con people and take advantage of them. Though we as Christians want to avoid the negative aspects of shrewdness, we can and should be shrewd in the good sense of the word. Christians have the capacity to have both earthly wisdom, (shrewdness) as well as Heavenly wisdom.
Both types of wisdom are described in James 3:13-18 Why then are we not as shrewd as unbelievers?
1. We are cautiously aware of the dangers of worldy wisdom. We have learned to lean; not on our own wisdom, but on God. Proverbs 3:5-7, Isaiah 5:21 Rom. 12:16
2. If we tend to lean on both our natural, earthly wisdom as well as on heavenly wisdom, we tend to be unstable. James 1:5-8 These are the reasons perhaps why Jesus stated in Luke 16:8 that the children of this world tend to be wiser than the children of The Light.
Don’t be troubled by the fact that the unsaved tend to be more shrewd and clever than we are and that they seem to prosper more than we do. The Psalmist had this problem as it’s recorded in Psalm 73. Wisdom has more to do with our walk than with our knowledge. Cleverness and our success in life has more to do with Heavenly wisdom than shrewdness. Christian friend, take comfort that Christ is our wisdom. Colossians 2:3-10 In fact, we have the mind of Christ. I Corinthians 2:16 What more do we need?
In the earlier articles in this series Jesus gave an example of an unjust, wicked steward who wasted or embezzled his master’s money. His lord planned to terminate his employment. Before he was terminated, the unjust steward worked out a shrewd plan which pleased his master.
Having told His story, which you can read in the two previous articles, Jesus gives us some lessons about being a faithful steward. The first lesson is taught in Luke 16:10. He states the fact that those who are faithful is small matters can be counted on to be faithful in large matters and those who are unfaithful in small matters are going to be unfaithful in large matters. I’ve found that to be true. Have you? There are those who are consistently faithful in every situation and there are those who are consistently unfaithful in every situation. Let me give you some examples.
First, let me show you why you are a steward if you are a Christian. I Peter 4:10 teaches us that we have been showered as stewards of the manifolds grace of God. John 1:16 refers to is as grace upon grace being heaped upon us. Of that grace we are called to be good stewards. What does that mean for us?
ARE YOU FAITHFUL IN THE LITTLE THINGS?
Luke 16:10 teaches us that if we are to be entrusted with great responsibilities, it is essential that we prove ourselves by being faithful in seemingly, small, inconsequential responsibilities. Actually, there are no small responsibilities in God’s eyes, but sometimes they seem small to us.
Parents should teach their children to be faithful in carrying out any task given to them. It’s only as a child proves his faithfulness in small responsibilities that his parents can entrust him or her with more important and sometimes more interesting and rewarding responsibilities.
Children should be taught to do their chores cheerfully and do them well. School children should be taught to do their homework diligently without being coaxed or reminded.
Can we be trusted to keep our word? If we make a promise, do we keep our word, even if at times it is inconvenient.
Can we see things that need to be done without being told to do them? Do you keep your house and yard picked up and free of litter? Have you taught your children these responsibilities? When in a restaurant, you accidentally drop some food on the floor or your little one makes a mess, do you do your best to pick it up, or do you shrug it off thoughtlessly saying, “The waitress will take care of it.” If you leave it for the waitress, do you also leave an adequate tip to cover the extra work?
If we can’t be trusted with small responsibilities, how can we expect to be entrusted with greater responsibilities?
Proverbs 20:6 says, “Most men will proclaim their own goodness; but a faithful man, who can find?” Faithful people are rare and because of that, if you are a faithful person you have a better than average chance of success in life. A smart employer faced with two prospective employees of equal ability is going to chose the one who has a reputation for faithfulness. That’s a no-brainer decision.
Every day you are building your reputation by your faithfulness or lack of faithfulness. One day you will need a reference for getting a job. Are those who write your references going to remember you as a faithful, dependable person or as a careless person who didn’t care?
We are to be faithful even when it seems no one is watching, God is and Hebrews 6:10 teaches us that He is not unrighteous to forget or overlook our work and labor of love which we have showed towards others. He sees and He rewards faithfulness.
ARE YOU FAITHFUL IN THE STEWARDSHIP OF YOUR MONEY?
Luke 16:11 reminds us of the necessity of being faithful in the stewardship of unrighteous mammon, that is, with our money. If He cannot trust us to use our money wisely, recognizing that everything we are and everything we own: lock, stock and barrel, belongs to Him; then He is not going to entrust us with greater responsibilities. Not only are we who are Christians His; but everything we own is His. We are simply stewards called to manage it well for Him, keeping eternal values in mind. To put it more directly, Christian friend, how much of your time, energy and money are you investing in winning the lost to Christ and building up His Church?
If you are not yet a Christian, God does not want your money. First of all He wants you. He loves you and has taken the punishment for your sins through Jesus’ death on the cross. You can become His simply by coming to Him as a sinner right now. Admit to Him that you are a sinner and that your sins have separated you from Him. Thank Him for sending Jesus to die for your sins and pay the full penalty. Receive Him by faith as your Saviour. He will save you and transform you instantly by giving you His Holy Spirit to live in your heart. You will know it!
Surrender to Him as your Lord. Recognize you are His servant and steward and start investing all He has given you by His manifold grace, in His cause. Join a local Bible preaching church and get busy for Him.
ARE YOU FAITHFUL IN THE USE OF THAT WHICH BELONGS TO GOD?
In Luke 16:12 we are challenged to understand that all we have, including our own life, belongs to God. Psalm 24:1 teaches us that the earth and everything on the earth all belongs to God. Deuteronomy 8:18 teaches us that it is God Himself who enables us to have the health, wisdom and ability to make money and accumulate wealth. He who gave it all to us can also take it all away in an instant.
If you are a Christian, will you acknowledge that it all belongs to Him by giving a percentage back to God? How much? Israel was asked to give back a tithe or ten percent. We in the church age are taught in II Corinthians 9:6-15 to give joyfully, generously and sacrificially to Him. Because it all belongs to Him and you are to be His faithful steward, you ought to seek His will in the use of all your money and other assets. R.G. LeTourneau, the inventor and manufacturer of the large earth moving machines, is a Christian who in his lifetime gave 90% of his income to God’s work and kept 10% for himself.
JESUS SAID IN LUKE 16:13 THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SERVE TWO MASTERS
That is a fact that I have experientially learned as a preacher. On a number of occasions I have tried to work a home based business on the side while I pastored a church. Though they tell you it will only take a few hours each week, perhaps 3-5 hours a week, the facts are that as the business grows, it requires more of your time and energy and your very heart. In time, you are torn in two and have to make a decision. Will it be your church or your business? Jesus does not say that if you just work a little harder or smarter than you can juggle the two interests into your schedule. He simply says, It is impossible to serve two masters.
!n Joshua 24:13-28 Joshua confronted Israel and God confronts us today with the choice. “Choose you this day, whom you will serve.”
In January 1972 while I was pastoring in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I was privileged to hear Dr. John Whitcomb deliver a series of eight lectures at Lancaster School of the Bible (now Lancaster Bible College) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Genesis Flood, which became a seminal book in the modern Creationist movement. I encourage you to read this book. In his first lecture, he shared how he, a pagan evolutionist, became a Christian and a strong creationist. I present to you now that powerful first lecture.
To learn more about Dr. Whitcomb’s ministiry go to http://www.whitcombministries.org
I consider it indeed one of the great blessings that God has given me through the years to minister His Word on university, college and Bible Institute campuses across North America. I am thoroughly convinced that in this day of unbelief and apostasy and skepticism, particularly with regard to the early chapters of Genesis, that those who profess the name of Jesus Christ and profess to honor His Word must carefully search the Scriptures on the subject of the authority of God’s Word, even in areas pertaining to the origin of the universe, of the earth, of living things and of man.
With God’s help we would like to explore these areas together and lay a foundation on the subject of Modern Science and Biblical Miracles, seeking to see where it is that God places His emphasis upon supernaturalism, even in an age of science. In I Corinthians 15:12 Paul is writing to Greek Christians who have great problems concerning the resurrection of Christ from the dead, because the Greek philosophers of the era totally rejected the idea that the human body is important and that it has any future at all beyond the grave. Paul is dealing with a very difficult and delicate question here and yet does so forthrightly and in the power of the Holy Spirit, emphasizing the literality of the resurrection of our Lord and of the resurrection some day of all Christians.
We are living in a day in which the resurrection is by and large rejected. We are living in an age of pseudoscientism which states that nothing has ever happened in this universe, or ever can happen, that cannot be explained in principle on the basis of uniform natural laws and processes, that can, in large part, and perhaps ultimately, completely be explained through the scientific method. If that is true, then Christianity is false. And yet no leading group of scientists in the world today would tolerate the idea that a human body, a human being, having completely died will ever rise again.
Let’s consider this God’s word to the twentieth century then, as well as to the first century A.D., on the subject of miracles. I Corinthians 15:12,13 “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection from the dead? But if there be no resurrection from the dead, then is Christ not risen.” That makes sense! Christ was a human being. He died completely and His resurrection was a colossal, shattering blow to any concept of the universe which says there are no resurrections. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain.” (vs 14.)
Paul perhaps would have had a difficult time imagining a situation like that of our day in which vast numbers of theologians and pastors of the neo-orthodox camp profess to believe in the resurrection of Christ theologically, suprahistorically, but deny the resurrection of Christ scientifically and historically. We are living in a realm of doubt talk in which men out of both sides of their mouth say totally opposite things about basic truths of the Bible. But the fact still remains, as Paul clearly states by the Holy Spirit, if Jesus Christ did not bodily, physically rise from the dead in history three days after He died, then all of Christianity is false. We have nothing to preach, nothing to build our hopes on, all is lost. It is either all or nothing- you cannot have it both ways.
In the light of this fact, the pressure is on for people today who claim they do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus 1900 years ago. What do we mean by that? Simply this. What would you say if a leading modern scientist asked you this question- “How can you believe that such a fantastic thing happened in history when you weren’t there to see it and you’ve never met anyone who was, and you have no tangible, empirical evidence that meets the criteria of verification in modern scientism that such a thing ever did happen? How do you really know it did happen?” I hope your answer would not be something like this. ” I am persuaded that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead three days after His crucifixion because that is what my church has always held.” I hope your church always has held this position, but if that’s why you hold this doctrine, you are in deep trouble. I hope you don’t say ” It’s because this is what my parents taught me.” I hope they did, but if that’s the reason you believe this doctrine, you are in deep trouble. And I certainly hope you won’t say, ” I believe this really could have happened because I have heard rumors that even today people who have died on operating tables; whose hearts have stopped, have been somehow resuscitated and thus resurrection is scientifically feasible.”
Dear friend, you are leaning on a broken reed. Do you know why? Because even the Bible tells us that resurrections are not happening today. Note carefully what I Corinthians 15:22 is saying. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order. Christ the first-fruits; (the first human being ever to rise to immortal, incorruptible, glorious resurrection experience. Not resuscitation to mortal life, like Lazarus, but resurrection life, first fruits of those who died in all of history. Then when will you see the next resurrection?) afterwards they that are Christ’s, (When?) at His coming!” Not here and there, now and then, as little samplers to encourage our confidence that such things can happen throughout church history. There won’t be any more resurrections until the Lord Jesus Christ utters His voice of power and the dead are raised first, and then those who are alive will be transformed by rapture experience. If you wait until then for real proof that it can happen, it is too late.
Do you mean to say that God does not have any really solid, scientific, empirical evidence upon which I can build my confidence in the resurrection of Christ? Do you mean to say that I have to answer the modern scientists to the effect that I just sort of hope this is true, but I’m not sure? Well, dear friend, your answer to that kind of challenge will reveal a great deal about your own stability and your own maturity as a Christian. How do you know Christ rose from the dead?
Turn to Romans 10:9-10. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Did you hear that? Your heart is the key to the resurrection as the assurance of salvation. You say, that doesn’t make any sense at all. If I can’t see it with my eyes, if I can’t test it by commonly accepted, basic, scientific principles of verifying events, then how can I be sure about it in my heart? All modern scientism says with one unanimous voice- “you cannot! It’s a myth. It’s a fable. It’s a dream!”
But with one unanimous voice the Bible says that the heart of man is the target of the Holy Spirit through Words to accomplish the only real verification and assurance of spiritual reality. You see, here is the difference. Modern scientism agrees that man is nothing but an animal which has evolved through millions of years by natural processes through chance and that man has no more equipment for discovering reality than an animal does. He has five senses, that’s all. So do animals. We can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Of course, our brain is a little more complex through evolution. Our capacity to put together the result of sense experience and to analyze the relationship is what we call reason, but we don’t have any more windows on reality, we don’t have any different kind of equipment from animals. Therefore, the only way that we can ever really know that there is a God or that miracles can happen is if we discover these things by the scientific, empirical method.
But the Bible cries out from Genesis to Revelation that that is totally false. God’s Word says that man is not an animal. He was created uniquely by the living God with His image and likeness indelibly imprinted upon man’s innermost being, his soul and spirit with a God-illumined conscience, and the Spirit of God can speak to men directly to the heart, the center of the personal being, apart from sense experience through God’s Word. God can make Himself real; God can press His claims and His authority upon men apart from the scientific method. Scientism and God’s Word are diametrically opposed on the vital question about how you can be sure about the things of God.
May I say with deep humility, but with tremendous confidence, that I have had experiences on the subject of God speaking to man. Thirty years ago your speaker was a pagan evolutionist at Princeton University. I did not know God. I did not know the Bible. I didn’t care! But God in His mercy and marvelous grace, through several months of persistent prayer and witnessing and encouragement by two or three Christian students on that campus, brought me to a Bible class where I heard God’s Word expounded. I discovered that there is a God who loves me and who has made full provision for me. One night in my dormitory room, with a Godly, skillful missionary, I acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour from the penalty of sin. I took God at His Word by faith. I believed in my heart that that Saviour, the God-man, arose bodily from the dead. Do you know what happened at tht moment? Instantly I passed from spiritual death to life. Instantly the Holy Spirit moved in and made my body His temple., He dwelling place. I experienced Spirit baptism into the Body of Jesus Christ, a total and permanent forgiveness of sin, full membership in God’s family, an inheritance in Heaven, and acces to the living God on His throne in Heaven by prayer. Will you believe me when I tell you that in that dormitory room on that campus that night there was not tangible, empirical evidence at all. I did not see any strange sights in the room. I didn’t hear any strange sounds. I did not smell, taste or touch anything different at all. But no sense experience I have ever had or combinations of them can possibly compare to the reality of what happened to me that night! Old things passed away, all things became new instantly. New goals in life, new values, new attitudes, a new sense of purpose, Anxiety , frustration and despair were broken– dispelled forever.
Please, don’t tell me that God can’t speak to men through His Word by the Holy Spirit apart from the scientific method. Can you say that? Have you had a personal experience with the Lord Jesus Christ through His Word? If you have, then you will understand why it is, that in the twentieth century A.D. there is a stupendous conflict between the scientifically-oriented, unregenerate men on the one hand and a unanimous witness of God’s Word and God’s people on the other.
You say, I acknowledge that, but I certainly wish that we could have, in addition to the Holy Spirit’s testimony in our heart, some really tangible, spectacular, visible, proof of the resurrection. If I could just see one miracle, my faith would be confirmed. I used to think that myself as a young Christian, especially when I tried, often in my own wisdom and energy to persuade fellow students at the university that they ought to believe in the Bible too and make this great discovery about the living God. The witness was spurned, ridiculed and rejected! I thought, God, if we could have one visible, tangible proof of miracle, their objections would be wiped out. Would they?
If I, if they, could have been in Palestine for one day to see Jesus of Nazareth performing miracles before their very eyes, their resistance would melt, they would become believers. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? Maybe that echoes a cry that your own heart has uttered before God more than once as you’ve tried to convince people that they ought to believe in the Lord Jesus.
But the amazing thing to me about all of this is that the Bible completely rejects any such idea. The Bible actually says that even the people who did see Jesus perform miracles before their eyes rejected Him anyway. Now that is hard to take, especially when we are constantly reminded today that seeing is believing; that physical proof spells the difference between the rejection and acceptance of the things of God.
Let’s take a look for a few minutes and see what the New Testament says on the subject. John 2:23 “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.” You say, “Well there is proof that miracles did save people. It says that people believed in His name when they saw the miracles, therefore God surely doesn’t expect us to believe as readily and as definitely as they did.”
But just a minute- look at the next two verses. “But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men and needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man.” Now that doesn’t sound very good, does it? Here is a group of people who believed in Jesus because they saw miracles. But Jesus rejects them– no fellowship with them, no relationship with those people for He knew what was in them. What does that mean? John tells us what it means in the next chapter when He focuses our attention on one of those who believed Jesus on the basis of seeing miracle.
Would you like to know what it did for this man, Nicodemus? He came to Jesus by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him.” Now that’s an amazingly clear testimony. Nicodemus said, 1. “I am confident that your miracles are genuine. They are not sleight of hands tricks. They are not fakes at all, they are real. 2. Your miracles are not from Satan. They’re from God.” How do you like that for a testimony? This is the teacher of Israel, Nicodemus, a theologian, scholar, historian. In effect, he is saying, “I know a great deal about miracles. And about the history of God’s prophets and miracle workers and you are the greatest I have ever seen or heard about. You’re from God. The miracles are real.” Don’t you think Jesus would have said to him, “Nicodemus, it deeply warms my heart to hear a testimony from a man like you. I am frankly thrilled to have you join My group of disciples. We need men of your caliber in our group – men of prestige, of influence, of intellect, of experience. Nicodemus, welcome to My disciple’s band.”
Are you ready for what He did say? “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “You are so far from the Kingdom of God, Nicodemus, that you can’t even see it.” Jesus did not commit Himself unto him. He knew what was in Nicodemus. Do you know what was in Nicodemus? Total spiritual darkness. He was dead in trespasses and sin. But he said he believed the miracles! That’s right; but the Bible labors to informs us that seeing and accepting the reality of miracles is not equivalent to regeneration, new birth, salvation, forgiveness of sin, eternal life.
There are two levels of faith in the Gospel of John. One is to believe what you see– empirical, scientific evidence. Anybody with two eyes in his head and even a partial brain behind those eyes can see miracles and accept them. But only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction of sin and an acknowledgement of Jesus as Savior. It is a different level of faith altogether and Jesus patiently explained to Nicodemus, you need new birth, you need transformation of your heart, you need the Holy Spirit to come in and to open your eyes to see the real things of God. Nicodemus, God so loved the world (including you) that He gave His only begotten Son (that’s Me) that whosoever (that’s you) believes in Him should not perish (you are perishing) but have eternal life (and that’s what you need). It doesn’t even say that Nicodemus believed that night, but sooner or later Nicodemus did. Do you see the point of the chapter? Seeing miracles is not conversion.
Turn to John 6:2. Several months have passed now. Five thousand Nicodemuses are following Jesus by night and day all over Palestine because of these miracles. They were fascinated, they were electrified by the things they saw with their eyes. And they were not disappointed. “And a great multitude followed Him because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.” Instantaneous, spectacular healings of hopeless cripples, leprous people, men born blind; one word from Jesus and they were instantly and totally healed. They were so fascinated by this that they forgot to bring food, they forgot to provide for their families. And they suddenly found themselves desperately hungry in the middle of the wilderness.
Jesus said to a boy, ” Let Me have this lunch.– two fish and five loaves.” An hour later a whole mountain of food, sufficient to feed 5000 men plus their families with baskets full of food left over. Do you think there were any skeptics left in that group? No, look at verse 14. “Then those men when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” “We’re convinced– the greatest miracle worker in the world. — we nominate, in fact, we have just elected Jesus to be King! Anyone who can feed us with miracles is our candidate for King! Not a dissenting vote, not a minority opinion. They all agreed. Not one skeptic in the crowd.
Do you think this thrilled Jesus? No, the Lord Jesus totally rejected all of them. Look at verse 26. “Jesus said, ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, (not because you understood what they were for, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.” “The whole relationship between Me and you is mundane, physical, material, carnal level; what you can taste. What you can see with your physical senses. I am the Bread of Life. That’s what the miracle of the loaves was to illustrate. You’ve missed it. He that cometh to Me shall never hunger spiritually. You need spiritual bread and you don’t know it. He that believeth on Me shall never thirst spiritually, and you haven’t the faintest sense of need of thirst for the real things of God. But I said unto you, that you also have seen Me, and believed not.”
You say, it says that they saw and accepted the miracles and believed. What does Jesus mean when He says, “They believed not?” He is taking about that level of faith which brings salvation and eternal life. Jesus patiently explained to them that they were sinful, that He came from Heaven to deal with the sin problem, and that apart from Him they could not have the sin problem solved. They were spiritually doomed!
Do you know what their response was to this? “We are through with you! We didn’t come here to hear sermons, especially sermons about sin. We came here to be entertained. To have our curiosity satisfied; we came here to marvel at signs and wonders; we didn’t want sermons.” And one of the saddest verses in the New Testament is John 6:66. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.” “Good bye, Jesus! If you don’t give us more miracles, we’re going home. We are through.”
Jesus turned to the twelve with a heart filled with sadness and said, “Will ye also go away? Is that the basis of your relationship with Me, too?” And after a pause, Peter, speaking for the group, said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
That’s the difference. Peter believed the words of Jesus, and not merely what he saw with his eyes. He had eternal life. And, of course, the real tragedy behind that statement by Peter is that even in that day, one was an apostate–Judas Iscariot– he didn’t believe. Another was a pseudo-intellectual–Thomas– who had to have a sign in order to confirm his feeble faith. And Jesus said to Thomas after He demonstrated His resurrection body, “Thomas, you have seen Me and believed.” Miserable faith! “But blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” That’s a most amazing statement that ever fell from the lips of Jesus, especially for our day and age. How can Jesus be taken seriously when He says a thing like that?
If you think that is amazing, how do you like this statement by our Lord? “If you don’t hate your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter, if you don’t hate them in comparison to your love for Me, you are not worthy to become my disciple.” How can He expect you, 1900 years after He walked this earth to abandon your closest family ties, to go to the ends of the earth and, if need be, to suffer martyrdom in love and devotion to a man you never saw or, on this earth, ever will see? “Blessed are those who have not seen, but have believed and obeyed.”
You know what the answer is, don’t you? Jesus knew that this was possible because Jesus knew that when He went to Heaven, He would send the Spirit of God who would take the Word of God and make it infinitely more real, more persuasive, more overwhelmingly powerful than any combination of sense experiences that this world can offer. It’s the Holy Spirit who can make Christ real to the hearts of men. And modern science know nothing about that. That is the whole basis of our relationship to an invisible person, The Son of God.
Our Lord told about the tragedy of a man who thought that you could be saved by what you see– by visible evidence. As the scene opens in Luke 16, this man has already died and is in torment in Hades. Lifting up his eyes to Heaven above, he saw the father of the nation of Israel, the friend of God, the man of faith, Abraham, and with him, to his utter surprise, he saw the familiar figure of a beggar who had been beside his own gate for years, eating crumbs and garbage from his table and kitchen– a man who had nothing, except simple faith in God, and there he was with Abraham, in Heaven.
In desperation he said to Abraham, “Send Lazarus back to the world of the living that he may testify to my five living brothers so that they won’t come also to this horrible place of torment.” That was a spectacular plan for converting his brothers. What would you think of the impact on those five living men if they suddenly heard a knock on their door and opened it to see this dead beggar whom they had seen every time they went to visit their brother at his palace, alive from the dead and to hear him say, “I have seen your dead brother in torment, and he told me to tell you to repent and to believe God, lest you join him there forever.”
Do you think that might stir up interest in the things of God and increase church attendance? Abraham said by the Holy Spirit of God, “NO! They have Moses and the prophets, they have the Bible, they have the Holy Scriptures. Let them hear them.”
And the rich man revealed exactly why he was where he was when he said in response to that challenge, “No! But if someone went to them from the dead, they would repent. My brothers, you see, demand empirical proof. They have to see something tangible, they are scientifically minded. Our whole family demands evidence. We will not submit to old wives’ tales and ancient stories in a holy Book. But give us some evidence and you will see a result.”
And Abraham said to him and to us today, “If they believe not Moses and the prophets, if they will not accept God’s own Word, neither will they be persuaded though one rises from the dead.”
Do you believe that? Well Jesus proved it. He did raise a man from the dead, whose name also happened to be Lazarus and the result, according to John 11 and 12 is that the enemies of Jesus, instead of all being converted, decided to kill Lazarus too. And there is only one explanation to that and it was written 600 years earlier by Jeremiah who said, “the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it.”
Jesus confirmed it when He said, “Our of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts.” Your thoughts and your observations of the world around you do not determine what kind of a heart you will have toward God, but your heart will determine what your mind will do with the facts. Did you know that? Did you know that a man convinced against His will, (against his heart) is of the same opinion still?
Did you know that faith does not come by what your see? But faith comes by hearing with the ears of the heart, and hearing by the Word of God. Did you know that without faith it is impossible to please God? For he that cometh to God must not see or feel with tangible, experimental, visible evidence, but he that cometh to God must believe that He is. And that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Those are God’s terms.
What are you waiting for? What am I waiting for? More evidence, more confirmation, more proof, a wider consensus of contemporary, scholarly opinion concerning the Bible? If you are waiting for anything more, you will never have it and you may never be saved. You have committed the unpardonable sin; you have rejected God’s only way. The only way of assurance of the things of eternal life is by taking Him at His Word through the illumination and convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God Himself. If you reject the Holy Spirit’s witness, you’re doomed. God has nothing more to say, nothing more to offer to you forever. You will come to God on His terms only.
You don’t say, wait until I think it through or wait until I investigate a little more. Paul said, “Behold now is the day of salvation.” You come to God on His terms–unconditional surrender– or you have no guarantee you will ever make it. God’s message to our generation happens to be identical to that of the first century; that is, you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ without any visible proof whatsoever.
You say, those conditions are hard, this doesn’t meet my criteria of verification. God is not going to revise His plan for you. God’s Word stands with infinite, final authority. and man today has the same needs as men from the fall of Adam and until the end of the world. May God speak to our hearts on the basis of His own precious Word and bring us to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ in saving faith, in submissive, obedient faith, now.