Starting Point: Don't Stop

Apr 2, 2017 by: Sam Hestorff| Series: Starting Point
Scripture: John 20:19–20:22

We’re bringing this series in for a landing. There are eight parts and today is part 7 and what we’ve been saying is that everything has a starting point and what we sometimes forget is that faith has a starting point as well.
For most of us, our faith starting point happened somewhere in childhood with a conversation with a parent, or a priest, or a pastor. Maybe it was something you heard in church, or at a camp.
But somewhere in your childhood, you were handed some building blocks and your faith journey began.
But as you got older, you began thinking about life, the meaning of life and the purpose of life and you kind of hope that there’s a God out there somewhere but you’re not sure if it’s the Sunday School God you grew up with.
So, what we've been doing over the past few weeks, is hitting the restart button, and asking the question, "What if we didn't know anything, where would we start?
Today, we’re going to look at a word that is central to this whole discussion . . . Faith.
We have been navigating around it a lot but since this series is about a starting point for faith, I thought that we should talk about faith. What is faith?
When this word is used in a religious context, it tends to become mysterious and a little confusing.
So, what we’re going to do is take a step back and look at the broader context of this word, because although it’s used in religion, it’s not actually a religious word. And I’m going to use the word faith and belief interchangeably because they are basically the same thing. After then we’ll swing back around and see how it works in religion.
My hope is that I can take some of the mystery and confusion out of this word because faith is just faith. You express it all the time.
To get us started, here are three general observations about faith or belief.
First, the ability to believe is the most powerful force at mankind’s disposal. Think about this, everything that has been accomplished was accomplished because somebody believed it could be.
Every problem that’s ever been solved, was solved because somebody believed that it could be.
Somebody saw a problem, they believed they could solve that problem, they talked about it with their friends, and neighbors, and co-workers and then they all believed and the next thing you know a bunch people were believing stuff and the world began to change.
Things change because somebody believed that it could be changed. I’m telling you, the ability to believe is the most powerful thing humanity has ever been given.
And I believe that this is a gift from God . . . it makes life better, it makes life richer, and it allows us to move forward, it allows us to acquire knowledge where every generation builds on the next, and where we have the potential to make things better and better and better.
It is behind everything good we’ve done, but it’s also behind everything bad we’ve done. It’s like a weapon. Whatever direction you point it, something is going to happen. It’s a gift from God but we get to choose what we do with that gift.
A second observation is that we constantly look for evidence to support what we believe to be true and we filter out things that are contrary to what we believe to be true.
And I think this is particularly true of republicans . . . and democrats . . . and libertarians . . . and independents. We all do it. Maybe not consciously but we all do it.
Think about this, when we see something on television or something pops up on our Facebook or twitter feed or somebody says something that supports our belief, we say “See, I told you” but if something comes up that is contrary to our belief, we say things like, “You can’t trust that . . . that’s fake news.”
We are constantly looking for things that support what we already believe, and filtering out anything to the contrary. This is just how belief works. This is one of the things that makes belief powerful and sometimes very dangerous.
Third observation is that belief is easier to maintain within the community of shared beliefs. Here’s why; in a community of shared belief, not only are you filtering information that supports what you believe but you are surrounded with people doing the same thing.
So, when your belief is challenged and you start to think I’m not sure what I believe is true, you have people around you who will say, “no, no, no . . . you are right and here’s why” and then they give you the information that they have filtered.
That’s why when you see stuff on TV about other countries or people groups around the world or even within our own country, you think “Why do they act that way?”
But if you were to go and live in community with them long enough you would say, “Oh, this whole community sees the world a different way, and if I viewed the world the way they viewed the world, I would act the same way.”
In a community, no matter what kind of community; nationality, racial, gender, socio economic . . . people tend to believe the same thing and the community supports their belief system and things happen . . . sometimes good, sometimes bad.
So, that’s belief and faith in a broader context but how does religious belief fit in to it?
Religious belief is simply belief applied to things of a religious nature, that’s it. Now, some of you might disagree and that’s OK but I ask that you hang on with me for a bit longer so I can flesh this out because as said at the beginning, when it’s used in a religious context, it tends to get mysterious and a little confusing and my hope is to remove the mystery and confusion. We’ll start here . . .
Religious belief is not a power, like some of us have been taught or have come to understand, but it is powerful. It’s powerful because belief is powerful.
It has the power to split families but also the power to bring them together. It has the power to destroy nations but also the power to build new ones. It causes people to slaughter people but also build hospitals to bring healing. Belief is powerful.
And religious faith hinges on the phrase . . . Believe that.
• Jews believe that God promised Abraham a nation and land and their entire religious community is based on that belief.
• Muslims believe that the angel Gabriel gave the prophet Muhammed some revelations which later became the Koran and their entire religious community is based on that belief.
• Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God and our entire religious community is based on that belief.
• Even Atheists are a faith community based on the belief that there is no God.
Everybody has some believe thats and when you get a bunch of believe thats together, put a label on it, you got yourself a religion.
If this is true . . . if everything I’ve said up to this point about believe and faith and religion is true then the question is what are we doing here? And it’s a great question.
So, I want to spend that last few minutes talking about why I’m a Christian and it has everything to do with what we just talked about. And if you’re a Christian, you may not have ever heard this before because unfortunately we treat Christianity like any other belief system.
We get everybody together, teach them some new songs and play a few ballads that move people and the preacher gets up and tells you things that affirm what you already believe and we starting thinking, “Man, the holy spirit showed up today” but if the preacher doesn’t say something that affirmed your beliefs or the band doesn’t play something that moved you then we filter it out and often times will move on to another church that will.
Here’s why I’m a Christian and as you struggle with your starting point or restarting point for faith, what I want to share next is extremely important.
When Jesus died, those closest to him believed that he was dead. The people who knew him best, the people who bring us the story of Jesus; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Peter, and all the other disciples, they believed he was dead.
After spending years with Jesus, listening to his sermons, witnessing all his miracles, making the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, after all those cool snappy answers he gave to the religious leaders that were challenging his every word.
After all that stuff, when he died, they believed that he was dead. They believed that he was a powerful speaker whose powerful speaking got him crucified.
And they believed that their lives were in jeopardy.
Remember Peter, hanging out in the shadows trying to see if Jesus was going to be killed or if there was going to be another miracle and a middle school girl comes up and says, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’s guys?” and he completely denies it because he believed that his life was jeopardy.
Remember what the disciples did when Jesus died, they ran away and hid.
The people that knew him best believed that he was dead and that all their hopes and dreams and understandings about who Jesus was died with him. And they believed that their lives were jeopardy because of him and so they hid.
But a few days later something happened . . . READ John 20:19-22
The disciples believed that Jesus was dead and they believed that their lives were in jeopardy and as they were hiding, trying to figure out what they were going to do with their lives . . . Jesus appeared and he gave them the Holy Spirt and sent them out with a message to the world.
And what happens next is found throughout the book of Acts. These same guys who just days before were hiding like cowards went out to the streets boldly sharing the message of Jesus.
And it wasn’t an exposition on the sermon on the mount. They didn’t retell Jesus’ great stories about lost things, or the prodigal son, or the good Samaritan. They didn’t share the teachings of Jesus so that the people who listened could become better people.
Their message was simple . . . Jesus was dead, we saw him die. God raised him from the dead, we saw him alive. Now say you’re sorry!
The reason why I’m a Christian is because when Jesus died, nobody believed. They all gave up their faith.
And none of them wrote later, “Oh, I believed the whole time. I just didn’t want anyone to know.” All of them Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and all the other disciples . . . they were all cowards, they all ran and they all lost faith.
That’s their own testimony about themselves and about each other . . . and then they saw something.
They didn’t believe something . . . they saw something. They saw the risen Jesus and something happened on the inside of them, and they were changed.
And they went out and they told everyone who would listen, “We saw it with our own eyes, takes our lives if you want to, but we’re not dying for what we believe . . . we’re willing to die for what we saw.”
And that’s what happened. They all died . . . not because of something they believed but because of something they saw.
And for the first 20, 30, 40 years the message was the same . . . God has not simply said something through a prophet, God has done something to show his love for the whole world.
He raised a man from the dead.
We don’t simply believe that Jesus taught true things, we believe that something happened. This is the foundation of our faith. We believe that Jesus died for us, and that he was raised from the dead.
And we don’t believe this because the bible said it. Those first Christians didn’t believe because the Bible said it. The New Testament wasn’t even around for them to read.
They believed it because Matthew, an eye witness, wrote about it. Mark and Peter, wrote about it. Luke who said, “I’m going to put everything Jesus did in chronological order so we don’t miss anything” wrote about it. John who took care of Jesus’ mother wrote about it.
Even Jesus’ own brother James believed that Jesus was the son of God. What would it take for your brother to convince you that He was the son of God?
It wouldn’t happen, would it?
But James saw his brother Jesus and he believed and he wrote about it.
That’s why I said in our first message in this series that the fundamental question we have to wrestle with as you think about the starting point of your faith is the question, “Who is Jesus?”
And here’s the thing that I hope you take away from today’s message . . . you ready?
A single event changed how those closest to him answered that question.
Pre-Resurrection . . . Answer A
Post-Resurrection . . . Completely different answer.
This is why I’m a Christian and I hope it’s something you will consider as you struggle with starting or restarting your faith.

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