Barriers to Belief

I met with a guy a number of years ago, and in our first initial meeting, before I could even get anything out, he told me that it was important that I know that he wasn’t sure that he really believed in God. And, so, instead of going through the first session, we stopped, and we talked for about 45 minutes, and I shared with him all of the evidence, the evidence that I felt was quite compelling, that pointed to the existence of God. And, yet, I’m not sure it was that compelling, because he didn’t come away saying,

“Well, I believe now.”

But interestingly, I said,

“Well, since you don’t believe in God, or you’re not sure, are you sure you want to keep going with this? Because the one presupposition we have when we begin is that you do believe in God, a personal God.”

He said,

“Well, I’m not sure I believe that, but I do want to keep going.”

So, we continued to meet and some of our meetings were quite intense and he really got into it, asked great questions. But what’s interesting, we got to the last meeting and he confided in me that he really did believe in God. And, then he proceeded to share with me the barriers that kept him from really embracing the Christian faith.

A second meeting, I went through all the material, we had all the sessions, we got to the very last session, and the guys said to me, very interesting. I think he was being real honest. He said,

“I believe everything that you have told me is true. But I want to stay on the same path that I’m on right now. I don’t want to deviate.”

And, I think I said,

“Well, that’s fine. That’s your prerogative.”

But looking back, I wish I had said to him,

“So, what you’re telling me is that you believe that this is the truth of life, and yet you’re rejecting it?”

Because he believed it to be true, but he says,

“I really don’t want it.”

What I find interesting, and the reason I share these two different meetings is that both of these men had some type of belief in God and Jesus, but they didn’t want Him to play an integral role in their lives. And, so, clearly, there were certain barriers in their lives that kept them from coming to a legitimate faith. And, this is why I’ve entitled this morning’s presentation, “Barriers to Belief” or “Barriers to Faith”. What is it that causes men to keep God out of their lives? And, I came up with this idea after reading through the Book of John.

Something’s interesting about the Book of John. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it. It’s been only the last couple of years, really the last year, that I’ve really noticed this. The Book of John is 21 Chapters, it’s one of the four Gospels. But John Chapters 11 – 20, 10 chapters, half the book, really are about the last couple of days of the life of Jesus. Beginning in Chapter 11 when He raises Lazarus from the dead. Now, in Chapter 11 you have the actual event, and it’s very lengthy and I’m not going to read it to you. I’ll tell you what it says. At the end of Chapter 11 and in Chapter 12, you see the buzz that this incredible event causes. And, what you see is three different responses, three different ways people respond to the fact that Jesus raised a man who had been in the tomb four days from the dead. It’s quite interesting.

Let me just tell you what happens, real quick. Jesus and his disciples were a two-day’s journey from Bethany, which is where Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, lived. And, Jesus gets word, it probably took somebody two days to get to Him. Jesus was really close to this family.

“Your friend Lazarus is sick. You need to come.”

And, since Jesus intentionally waited two more days, and then proceeded to Bethany. And, when he arrives, Lazarus had been dead for four days, or he had been in the tomb for four days is what the text says. He may have been dead for five or six days, you don’t know. And, when Jesus arrives, it’s very important. In John 11:19 it says,

“There were many Jews who were friends of Martha and Mary who were there present, they were there consoling them.”

Consoling these two sisters. And, this is important because there wasn’t just a handful of people that saw this, it was a crowd. And, so Jesus then tells them,

“Roll back the stone.”

And, if you know the story, they protested. And the reason they protested is they said,

“By now his body is decaying and there will be a stench.”
And Jesus persists and says,
“Roll back the stone.”
So, they removed the stone. And, then Jesus raised His eyes and said,
“Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but because of the people standing around, I said it so they may believe that You sent Me.”
When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come forth.”
The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth, and Jesus said to them,
“Unbind him and let him go.”

You know, I wonder, if we were there, how would we have responded to see something like this? Here is a man who has displayed authority over death and the grave. You’d think they’d all fall down and worship Him. But that’s not what happens. You see all the different types of responses. And, there’s three that I want to focus on and look at this morning because I think that it’s pertinent to our lives as men today.
In John 11:46 it says,

“Some of them who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Therefore, the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying ‘What are we doing, for this man is performing all of these signs? If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him.”And, then the Romans,” who had, basically, authority over that land. “The Romans will come, and they will take away both our place, our high position, and our nation. And, so, from that day on, they planned together to kill Him.”

You know, one thing you notice about the Pharisees and the religious authorities, if you’ve read the Gospels, they were intrigued by this man Jesus. During this three year period of His ministry. In fact, in Luke 5:17 it says,

“The Pharisees from every village of Galile and Judea and from Jerusalem, they all came to hear Jesus.”

And, whenever they gathered to talk to Him, they were always asking Him for a sign. “Give us a sign. Do something spectacular.”
We’d probably want that. But what’s interesting, He always refuses. He always refuses because He understood their hearts. You see, they wanted Him to perform, kind of like a magician that would do a magical act. And, He recognized they weren’t truly interested in spiritual truth. And, what strikes me is that the Pharisees knew of Jesus, they were aware that many believed that He was the Messiah. And, yet upon receiving the news of Lazarus, you would think they would want to go and check it out. They’d want to inquire, they’d want to investigate. Could this be the One that we’ve been looking for? Could this be the One that the Scriptures prophesized of? But they didn’t.

One of my favorite authors and I think one of the great and most brilliant philosophers alive today is a guy by the name of Dallas Willard.
He teaches philosophy at USC, in fact, he was head of the philosophy department for years. He’s written a number of books. And, as a Christian philosopher, he has had many encounters at the academic level of religious skeptics. And, he’s made this observation about so many of these people that he encounters. He says,

“Most of them are guilty” of what he calls “Irresponsible disbelief.”

He says, in other words,

“They choose to disbelieve in something without a commitment to coming to that disbelief by way of investigation and sound reasoning.”

And, guys, that’s clearly true of these religious leaders that we read about in the Book of John. They clearly didn’t care about the truth. They didn’t have a love for the truth. Nor, do they ask “Who is this man? Could He be the One? Who is this man that raises people from the dead?” You would think that it would spark a little curiosity in them.

You know, Blaise Pascal says,

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well-established, that unless we love the truth, we shall never recognize it.”

You know, in essence, that’s what Jesus said to Pilot. If you go back and read John 18, Jesus has this incredible conversation with the Roman, Pontius Pilot. And, at some point, in John 18:37 Jesus says,

“I have come into the world to declare the truth.”

And, then he says this,

“He who loves the truth will hear my voice.”

He who loves the truth will hear my voice.

You know, what you see in the lives of these Pharisees is their agenda was more important than the truth of God. And, what they saw in the life of Jesus, in the person of Jesus, was one who had completely disrupted their lives. And, they wanted no part of that.
And, I share that because I wonder, this morning, how many of us sitting here, when it gets right down to it, really don’t want any part of Christ because of the fear that He might disrupt their lives. I really believe this is a barrier in many men’s lives. A barrier to faith. A barrier to belief.

I rarely do this, but there’s a book that I’ve read recently that I want to recommend to you. It’s by Anthony Flew, who’s probably, up until recently, the world’s most famous atheist. I think Richard Dawkins has probably taken his place. The book says, right across the top, “There is no God.” And, then, you see a scratch-out of NO, and it says, “There is a God.” The subtitle is “How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.” And, there’s a part in here as he talks about how he came to believe in God. And, he says this is so important. And, this is where so many people fail in their search for truth. He says this,

“It is so easy for us as human beings to let our preconceived theories and beliefs shape the way we view evidence, instead of letting the evidence shape our theories and beliefs.”

You see, this is what these Pharisees were guilty of. They were allowing their preconceived ideas and beliefs to shape the evidence that was coming to them, the evidence that Jesus had raised a man who had been in the tomb for four days.

I hesitated to read this item this morning, but it was so good I just felt like I needed to, and it’s just so right-on to what we’re talking about. It’s about the life of Albert Einstein. Just bear with me, I know we don’t have a lot of scientists in the room. I think this is something that we all can kind of grasp. And, it’s powerful. Very powerful.

The year was 1916, and Albert Einstein did not like where his calculations were leading him. If his Theory of General Relativity was true, it meant that the universe was not eternal, but had a beginning. Einstein’s calculations, indeed, were revealing a definite beginning to all time, all matter, and all space. This flew in the face of his belief that the universe was static and eternal.

You recognize the problem he was encountering. He didn’t believe in God, and, yet, the evidence from cosmology was pointing to the fact that there was a Beginner. There was a Divine Being behind it. He didn’t like where this was taking him.

Einstein later called his discovery ‘irritating’. He wanted the universe to be self-existent, not relying on any outside cause. But the universe appeared to be one giant effect. In fact, Einstein so disliked the implications of general relativity, a theory that is now proven accurate to five decimal places, that he introduced a cosmological constant into his equations, in order to show that the universe is static and to avoid an absolute beginning. Some have since called this, he placed what he called “a fudge-factor” in there.

You see, Einstein didn’t like the direction his research was taking him. To believe that the universe had a beginning, that it was finite, and that there was a cause behind it, would disrupt his life as a scientist. And, so, he came up with a fudge-factor. But Einstein’s fudge-factor didn’t fudge for long. In 1919, British cosmologist Arthur Eddington conducted an experiment during a solar eclipse, which confirmed that General Relativity was, indeed, true. The universe wasn’t static but had a beginning. Like Einstein, Eddington wasn’t happy with the implications. He later wrote philosophically,

“The notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me. I should like to find a genuine loophole to explain it away.”

But, by 1922, Russian mathematician Alex Friedmann had officially exposed Einstein’s fudge-factor as an algebraic error. Meanwhile, Dutch astronomer Willem deSitter found that General Relativity required the universe to be expanding. And, in 1927, the expanding of the universe was actually observed by an astronomer, Edmund Hubble, namesake of the space telescope. Looking through the 100-inch telescope at California’s Mt. Wilson Observatory, Hubble discovered a redshift in the light from every observable galaxy, which means that those galaxies were moving away from us. In other words, General Relativity was, again, confirmed. The universe appears to be expanding from a single point in the distant past. There was a beginning.

And, this is interesting. In 1929, Einstein made a pilgrimage to Mt. Wilson to look through Hubble’s telescope for himself, and what he saw was irrefutable. The observational evidence showed that the universe was, indeed, expanding as General Relativity had predicted.
With his cosmological constant now completely crushed by the weight of the evidence against it, Einstein could no longer support his wish for an eternal universe. He, subsequently, described the cosmological constant as

“The greatest blunder in my life.”

And, he redirected his efforts to find the box-top to the puzzle of life. Einstein said he wanted to know how God created the world.

“I’m not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts. The rest are details.”

Do you see what Einstein was doing? Initially, he was allowing his beliefs to shape the evidence in his research. But eventually, he allowed the evidence, and this is what happened in Anthony Flew’s life as well. They allowed the evidence to shape their theories, and in the process, he changed his belief. And, he discovered, probably the greatest scientific principle that we have today, The Theory of Relativity.
And, this is why Einstein, later on, made a very significant observation. Listen to this. This is really cool! He says,

“Most people think it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They’re wrong. It’s their character. It’s their commitment to what’s true. That’s what makes a great scientist.”

You see, in this text that we’ve read from John this morning, guys. The Pharisees were guilty of what the Bible calls “unbelief.” And, unbelief means a willful refusal to believe, or to make a deliberate decision not to believe or follow. And, you see this most clearly, most people aren’t even aware of this.

This is an interesting little subscript in the text of John 12.
This was a day or two later after Jesus had raised Lazarus. It says,

“The large crowd of Jews then learned that Jesus was there. And, they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests’ plan to put Lazarus to death also. Because on account of Him, many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.”

You know, not only did they not want to check out the evidence, they wanted to destroy it. They didn’t have a love for the truth. They didn’t like where the truth would lead them. They didn’t like the fact that it would disrupt their lives.

So, that’s the first response that we see. And, maybe you can relate to it.

The second one, I know you can.

In John:12:42 it says, as we look at the second response, and that is,

“Many of the Jews,” it says, “even some of the rulers.”

And, rulers they mean those who are in authority.

“Believe Jesus to be the Messiah. But they didn’t embrace Him.”

And, the reason it says because they were afraid to be put out of the synagogue. They were afraid to give up their Judaism. They were, kind of, torn. But then in John 12:43, we get a real insight into their motivation. Listen to this.

“For they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”

You know, the fear of rejection, guys, is a powerful force in each of our lives. And, we never seem to be able to shake it. If you’ve ever experienced rejection. I know some of you, you can go back 10, 20, 30 years and remember events where you experienced rejection, or you were shunned. Or, you were cast-aside by people whose approval you yearned for. And, it’s like a dagger in your soul. And, you never forget it. You see, I don’t think most of us realize how we gear our lives to meet the expectation and approval of other people.

Anthony DeMello said it this way. He said,

“Look at your life and see how you filled its emptiness with people. As a result, they have a stranglehold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval? They hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company. To send your spirit soaring with their praise. To bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself, spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead.”

That’s an interesting thought.

“You live by their norms. You conform to their standards. You seek their company. You desire their love. You dread their ridicule. You long for their applause and meekly submit to the guilt they lay upon you. And, you are terrified to go against the fashion in the way you dress or speak or act, or even, think.”

I think that we don’t realize or recognize, this can be a barrier to faith, just as it was to these Jews because we love the approval of man rather than the approval of God. Because I really believe, men, that we all allow the approval of men to set the boundaries of our faith.

This is what Blaise Pascal said. This is 350 years ago. He said,

“So many men routinely cast-aside religion because they fear the opinions of their friends. They fear of being thought weak, and they dread being labeled religious. As they desire to court favor with those worldly individuals they admire for their success, fame, or rebellious outlook on life. Men are fools if they allow their friends to keep them from coveting and prizing the ultimate eternal truths of life.”

You know, it struck me, after reading the book Seasons of Life about false masculinity. It struck me that we have come to believe that real masculinity in our world today is about achieving, about making money, to being a sportsman, and just being an impressive individual. And, that’s why I think it’s so easy for men to believe that to come to Christ, to look to God, to look to Jesus, is a weakness. It’s a crutch.

And, yet, Tim Keller says, whether we realize it or not, he says,

“This is a real problem that we have with our masculine identity. We’ve taken hold of a false idea of what it means to be a man. We get our value and our worth from the applause and the accolades of others. The problem is the outer applause never translates into permanent inner fulfillment and satisfaction. It does not convince you, in your innermost being, that you measure up.”

And, then he says this.

“This should tell us that there’s something terribly wrong with us, as men.”

Let me ask you two or three questions, then we’ll move on to the third response. I wonder how many of us today, as we sit here and examine our lives. I wonder how many of us have chosen a path of life, not because it’s the best path, not because it’s the wisest path, but because it meets the approval of our peers. I wonder how many of us are not the men that we should be, leading duplicitous lives because we’ve geared our lives to meet the expectation of other people.

And, then, finally, this is a great question to ponder.

I wonder how different our lives would be, I wonder how freed-up our lives would be if we weren’t so concerned with impressing and winning the approval of others. And, I also wonder how it might impact our faith.

So, that’s the second response.

They love the approval of men rather than the approval of God, as a barrier. It kept them outside of the Christian faith.

There’s a third response to those who witnessed the raising of Lazarus. And, it’s in John 11:45. It says,

“Many of the Jews who had come to console Mary saw what Jesus had done, and they believed in Him.”

It’s important to realize this, too, I might point out. Let me just take a little sidebar here. It wasn’t just any people. The text says it was the Jews. And, it’s important to recognize this because secular historians, who are not Christians, they really had to scratch their head as they study this. Because they have admitted there is something quite remarkable that six weeks after Jesus’ death, and they won’t acknowledge a resurrection. But that six weeks after His death, over 10,000 Jews converted to Christianity, in that little region of the world. And, why this is so remarkable is because it was so, very rare for a Jew to give up his faith. Their lives were steeped in Judaism. So, to leave the synagogue, to leave their faith was quite remarkable. In fact, even the most skeptical Biblical scholars, this comes out of US News and World Report, concede that something extraordinary happened in Jerusalem, just after Jesus’ death, to account for all of these radical changes that took place in people’s lives.

But the point I really want to make here is that many Jews were not afraid of the truth. They weren’t afraid of what people thought. They believed. They believed.

Now, we see that word believe quite often in the New Testament. And, the word believe in English is kind of a friendly, pleasant word. And, I think you’ll agree with that. That’s a nice, easy thing, to believe. But the English word believe does not serve us well when we try to understand the Biblical word believe. You see, we use the word believe in our everyday vocabulary, when we mentally assent that a statement or a fact is true. It’s an acknowledgment that we believe and idea or an assertion is valid. The problem is that this type of belief does not impact the essence of who we are. It’s just something up in our heads, that we believe.

Now, I did some research. I looked up every verse where the word “believe” was used in the New Testament. And, if you take that word and look at every time, you see this Greek word “pisteuo”. I want you to remember that word, pisteuo. P-I-S-T-E-U-O. Because it has a much more dynamic meaning.

It literally means to trust in, to cling to, to rely upon. It is belief that transforms your life. Where your whole being is set to act or follow what is true.

Os Guinness wrote a wonderful book called The Long Journey Home. And, he talks about a European friend of his, who is in Kenya, talking to a Kenyan tribesman, who was a Christian. Not really well-educated. It was the Masai tribe. And, in their conversation, he says,

“The European used a certain word to define the concept of belief. But the tribesman rejected his definition with a snort. The Masai word that the European used simply meant assent or agreement. The tribesman likened this inadequate word to a white hunter shooting an animal with his gun from a great distance. Only his eyes and his fingers took part in the act. But true belief,” This uneducated tribesman says,
“True belief could be pictured as a pursing lion. The lion’s nose and eyes and ears pick up the prey. His legs give him the speed to catch it. All of the power in the body is involved in the terrible death leap and single blow to the neck. With the front paw, the blow that actually kills. And, as the animal goes down, the lion envelops it in his arms.”

Africans refer to the front legs of an animal as its arms.

“And, he pulls it to himself. He makes it part of himself. The tribesman looked at the European and says, ‘This is the way a lion kills. This is the way a man believes. This is what faith is.”

You know, when a person has true belief, his faith, his relationship with God becomes the core of who he is. It transforms him. So, a good question, I think we all should ask this morning is do I really believe? Or, am I just mentally agreeing that Christianity is true?

I found some old notes that I had taken from, I think, Armand Nicholi’s book. He is the one that said this, but I’m not sure where I got it. I think it’s his wonderful book The Question of God. Nicholi, as most of you know or as many of you know, is a very prominent psychiatrist. He teaches at Harvard Medical School and he’s also a devoted Christian. And, he thinks that this understanding of belief, getting it right, is crucial in the church today. And, the remarks that I’m going to read to you seem to be addressed to men. Because he said, so many men in the Western world have, what he calls “extrinsic belief”, which he believes is not really belief at all. He says,

“Extrinsic belief is where you generally believe the Christian message is true. They will join the church because it’s respectable. It pleases their wives and it is good for their children. And, they try to live a good life and do good deeds, in hopes of gaining some type of favor with God.”

But this is not what it means to believe. He says,

“Real belief is intrinsic belief. This is when a person internalizes their beliefs, so that faith becomes the primary motivating influence in their lives. Their life is focused on a deepening relationship with God. This person will generally speak of a conversion experience, a point in time when he comes to faith in Christ.”

So, we have three responses to an unbelievable event, the raising of a dead man who had been in the tomb for four days.

Now, I want to wrap this up and conclude this with a true story, an illustration, and a final comment. It won’t take but a minute.
And, the story comes from Philip Yancey in his book Rumors  You know, back in the early 1990s, this was right where apartheid had ended and a multi-racial democracy was set up in South Africa. I didn’t realize this until I read this book. To try and bring healing to the country of South Africa, and at the urging of some of the Christian leaders, they set up a truth and reconciliation committee. And, for the next 2 ½ years, South Africans listened to all of these reports of atrocities coming out of these hearings of this commission. And, the rules were very simple that had been set up. If a white policeman or Army officer voluntarily faced his accusers, confessed his crime and fully acknowledged his guilt, he could not be tried and punished for that crime.

At one hearing, a policeman named Van der Brock recounted an incident where he, and other offers, shot an 18-year-old boy and burned the body, turning it on the fire like a piece of barbeque meat, in order to destroy the evidence. Eight years later, Van der Brock returned to the same house. He seized the boy’s father, and the wife was forced to watch as policemen bound her husband on a woodpile, poured gasoline over his body, and ignited it. The courtroom grew hushed as the elderly woman, who had lost first her son, and then her husband was given a chance to respond.

“What do you want from Mr. Van der Brock,” the judge asked.

She said she wanted Van der Brock to go to the place where they burned her husband’s body and gather up the dust so she could give him a decent burial. His head down, the policeman nodded agreement. And, then she added a further request.

“Mr. Van der Brock took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend the day with me, so I can be a mother to him. And, I’d like Mr. Van der Brock to know that he is forgiven by God and that I forgive him, too. And, I would like to now embrace him, so he can know that my forgiveness is real.”

Spontaneously, some in the courtroom began singing Amazing Grace as the elderly woman made her way to the witness stand. But Van der Brock did not hear the hymn because he had fainted, overwhelmed by her love and compassion.

You know, guys, this is a picture of the Gospel. The world hadn’t seen anything like this. They don’t understand this type of love. It is so difficult for us to comprehend it. But you know what we don’t realize in this story that I used as an illustration? We’re the policeman. We are Van der Brock. Maybe not outwardly, but inwardly. Because Jesus says,

“If you thought it in your heart, it’s just as if you committed it.”

What incredible love! What incredible power in forgiveness. But you know what? As powerful as this story is, it doesn’t paint the full picture of the Gospel.

I shared this story on Easter morning with my children. And, my daughter picked up on something quite interesting. She said,

“Daddy? You mean that man did all those awful things, and he wasn’t punished?”

You see, this was the only problem with this commission. There wasn’t any justice done. In fact, the only criticism of the commission was the obvious injustice of letting criminals go. And, the reason they did it is that they believed that the country needed healing more than it needed justice. But justice is crucial. And, so, let’s add justice to the story. Let’s say after all this happens, the judge turns to Van der Brock and says,

“Because you’ve killed two innocent people, you’re going to have to spend your life in prison.” Well, the rest of the story is that the woman would say, “I’ll take the sentence. I’ll spend the rest of my life in prison, for him.”

You see, this is what Jesus did. Not only does He have that kind of love and compassion, but you see the justice when He goes to the Cross. It says in 1Peter,

“He Himself bore our sins and His body on the Cross.”

But the flip-side of that coin is that you also see the love, and the mercy, and the forgiveness. He forgives our sins. He buries them in the deepest sea. He remembers them no more.

You know, guys, the world has a difficult time comprehending this type of love, and this type of forgiveness. But once you grasp it, and once you bring it into your life, it will transform you. It will literally transform your life. But what’s so significant, and so important to understand, is that you can’t earn that love. You have to receive it. You have to receive it into your life. You have to believe. Pisteuo.

Now, the illustration that I want to share with you is, really a true story, but it’s an illustration. And, it happened during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. And, what happened is there was a man in Jackson’s administration who was charged with murder. I don’t know all the details. But I do know a lot of the evidence was circumstantial. And, yet, never the less, the guy was found to be guilty and was sentenced to be executed, to be hanged. And, Jackson, who I think, didn’t obviously like the decision. It seems that Presidents, as they get to the end of their time in office, like to pardon people. Jackson gave this guy a Presidential Pardon. But what’s so interesting is when he gave the guy the pardon, he said,

“I don’t want your pardon. I’m not guilty, but I don’t want your pardon.”

He rejected it. That sounds kind of crazy to me.

They didn’t know what to do! Here, you have a guy with a Presidential Pardon on the one hand. On the other hand, he says he didn’t want it. And, so, they did what we would probably do today. They sent it to the courts. This case went all the way to The Supreme Court. And, The Supreme Court ruled, very wisely I think, that a Presidential Pardon is no good unless the person that is given the pardon receives it. And, so, they executed the man.

And, I share this illustration because God has pardoned the whole world. He’s pardoned the whole world because of what He did at the Cross. But the pardon is no good unless you receive it into your life, unless you believe. Pisteuo. Because it says in John:1

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe.”

And, my closing comment is simply this. In the Book of Malachi in the Old Testament, in the Book of Philippians in the New Testament, and in the final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, they speak of a Book of Life. Interesting. A Book of Life. It says,

“This book of life has existed since the foundation of the world.”

And, the implication is, guys, is that it is crucial that our names be in the Book of Life. And, your name is in there, and will be in there, it says,

“If you believe.”

And, so, as we depart this morning, I would leave you with this one question.
Is your name in The Book of Life? Or Are there barriers that are keeping me from believing?

If you’re not sure, the answer is no, you don’t know if your name is in The Book of Life, I want to strongly urge you to go through our investigative study. We’d love to help you sort this out. Check the box. And by the way, I forgot to tell you, you can send these in through the mail. There’s an address on the back.

Because guys, the bottom line is this. When all is said and done, 50 years from now, 100 years from now, 1,000 years from now, all that’s really going to matter is your name in The Book of Life.

Let me close in prayer.

“Father, we thank You so much for Your love and Your mercy and Your compassion, that You love us in a way that we can’t comprehend. Yet, help us to realize, Lord, that all this love, all this compassion, all that You offer us is no good if we don’t receive it, if we don’t believe. I pray that You would just continue to move and work in our lives, that You’d give us wisdom, that You’d give us insight, that You would enable us, Father, to overcome any barriers that keep us from You, that we might believe. It’s in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.


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