personal

Becoming Believers

What does it take for a person to become a believer in God? Is it a certain understanding? How is a spark of faith ignited in a person’s heart?

I don’t know of one specific answer. In fact, when you ask a hundred different people how they came to believe, you may get a hundred different answers.

If you ask a theologian, they may give you one specific answer. But if you ask several different theologians and philosophers, you’ll probably get a myriad of answers.

This story at the end of Chapter 4 of John tells of a second miraculous sign done by Jesus. Once again, Jesus was in Cana of Galilee where He turned water into wine. This time, a little boy is healed and his father becomes a believer.

Scripture

After spending two days in Samaria, Jesus left for Galilee. Jesus had said that a prophet is not honored in his own country. But when Jesus arrived in Galilee, the people of Galilee welcomed him. They had seen everything he had done at the festival in Jerusalem, since they, too, had attended the festival. [vss 43-45]

Jesus returned to the city of Cana in Galilee, where he had changed water into wine. A government official was in Cana. His son was sick in Capernaum. The official heard that Jesus had returned from Judea to Galilee. So he went to Jesus and asked him to go to Capernaum with him to heal his son who was about to die.

Jesus told the official, “If people don’t see miracles and amazing things, they won’t believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come with me before my little boy dies.” Jesus told him, “Go home. Your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus told him and left. [vss 46-50]

While the official was on his way to Capernaum, his servants met him and told him that his boy was alive. The official asked them at what time his son got better. His servants told him, “The fever left him yesterday evening at seven o’clock.” 

Then the boy’s father realized that it was the same time that Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” So the official and his entire family became believers. This was the second miracle that Jesus performed after he had come back from Judea to Galilee. [vss 51-54]

(John 4:43-54 GW)

Key phrase—

The man believed what Jesus told him

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Where do Jesus and the disciples travel after being in Samaria?

  • Who comes to Jesus and what does he ask of the Lord?

  • What does Jesus say to this father the first time? How does the father plead with Jesus for his son?

  • What does Jesus tell him and how does the father respond?

Reflection...

Believing in God is personal. It’s neither logical nor illogical. Belief is not the result of some spiritual dynamic or impersonal force, it’s a matter of trust.

The story of this father’s request of Jesus includes insights to the spiritual climate of that time. As Jesus said, “If people don’t see miracles… they won’t believe.” This father—a government official—was an exception.

He believed Jesus could and would heal his young son. He personally trusted Jesus to do this. How can we know this? When Jesus told him his son would recover, the man believed Jesus. Another Bible version says, “The man took Jesus at his word….”

Later, as the man traveled back home, his servants brought news of the boy’s recovery and when it happened. Realizing the power of Jesus’ word of assurance, he and his family became believers.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Why do you think Jesus says people won’t believe unless they see miracles?

  • How is it clear the government official was trusting in Jesus rather than looking for a miracle?

  • When did the man know his son was healed by Jesus and how did it change his life?

  • If you’re a believer, when did you become a believer and what was your turning point?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Faith—believing and trusting in God—is personal. It’s neither logical nor illogical or the result of some spiritual dynamic or impersonal force, it’s a matter of trust. When you are willing to take Jesus at His word, then faith becomes personal and genuine.

Prayer Focus— Choose to interact with the Lord in a personal way when you pray. Start by being thankful and reflecting on God’s faithfulness. Pray from your heart as a child who trusts in her parents. Trust is the key to authenticity as a believer in God.

©2018—Word-Strong

When God Became Human

Generally, we all tend to not believe in what we can't see. Of course, this carries over to believing in God and the miraculous. Many will say it's not logical or rational to do so. And yet, we believe many things exist that are invisible to the naked eye and miraculous in nature—thoughts, atoms, and even feelings of love.

The reason it's not logical to believe in God is that it doesn't fit what we know in the natural world. This is our human dilemma. God is supernatural—He's above and beyond the natural realm. He will never fit within our limited logic. God's existence exceeds our capacity to know Him in a purely natural way.

The Heavenly Mountain

Interpreting the Bible can be difficult, especially when personal biases, opinions, and conflicting views are involved. For centuries, the Bible was interpreted as a book full of allegories and metaphors.

The Scriptures were viewed as figurative language for the most part. In more modern times, literalism was the predominant view. This pendular swing of extremes still prevails.

Spiritual discernment—given by God's Spirit—is needed for understanding what is meant to be figurative and what needs to be understood in a more literal sense.

Above all, it's important to remember the Bible is God's revelation given to all humanity. Because it's from God to us, the Bible needs to become personal for us. Not our own personal interpretation but as a personal message from God to us.

Scripture

Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to tens of thousands of angels joyfully gathered together and to the assembly of God’s firstborn children (whose names are written in heaven). You have come to a judge (the God of all people) and to the spirits of people who have God’s approval and have gained eternal life. [vss 22-23]

You have come to Jesus, who brings the new promise from God, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better message than Abel’s.

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen when God speaks. Your ancestors didn’t escape when they refused to listen to God, who warned them on earth. We certainly won’t escape if we turn away from God, who warns us from heaven. [vss 24-25]

(Hebrews 12:22-25 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

You have come to Jesus, who brings the new promise from God

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Where are we told that we've come to? How is this place described?

  • Who is gathered at this mountain? How many people or peoples are mentioned?

  • Who is spoken of by name and what two things are included with Him?

  • What is the strong warning given here? How is its serious nature reinforced?

Reflection...

This heavenly mountain—Mount Zion—is in stark contrast with the dark, foreboding mountain of Mount Sinai where Moses received the Law. Mount Zion represents not only heaven, the dwelling place of God, but a new relationship with God through Jesus.

This is the fifth and final warning given in the book of Hebrews. It is far more personal than the previous four warnings. Simply put—rejecting the New Covenant of grace is a rejection of Jesus, God's Son. 

The Old Covenant was a Law that required obedience, an obedience the nation of Israel couldn't and didn't keep. The New Covenant is more personal. It is relational. It provides the opportunity for a new relationship between God and humanity.

Jesus came to provide the means of reconciliation and restoration of relationship with God for all humanity. A relationship of trust—faith—based upon God's kindness and favor—grace—gained through the Lord's death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • If this description of Mount Zion—the heavenly Jerusalem—is figurative, why is it spoken of as actual and present?

  • Why do you think it's necessary to have this detailed description of Mount Zion?

  • What stands out to you about this fifth and final warning?

  • Do you understand how personal and relational the New Covenant of grace is?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A Dark Mountain

The value and purpose of fear is usually misunderstood. The absence of fear is often touted as a good thing, as a sign of bravery or courage. But those acknowledged for their bravery and courage speak of moving beyond their fear. It wasn't absent, it was overcome.

There are two broad categories of fear—a fear of respect and an anxious fear. An anxious fear produces worry and muddled thinking. A fear of respect heightens awareness, brings alertness and clarity to our thinking.

Anxious fear paralyzes a person whereas a respectful fear tends to motivate. The flight or fight response illustrates this distinction in fear.

When it comes to God, people tend to mix the two together as if it's all the same. This brings confusion and misunderstanding. When both types of fear are dismissed, it's as if God doesn't exist. Both responses are unwise.

Scripture

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness, to gloom, to a storm, to a trumpet’s blast, and to a voice. When your ancestors heard that voice, they begged not to hear it say another word.
They couldn’t obey [bear] the command that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”
The sight was so terrifying that even Moses said he was trembling and afraid.  [vss 18-21]
(Hebrews 12:18-21 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness...

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are the images of the scene described here? What is this leading up to?

  • Who is spoken to and what are they told? Do you understand why?

  • What is Moses' response to all of this and why?

  • How would this apply to believers then and now?

Reflection...

The fear of God is often misunderstood. It is typically viewed in one extreme or another. Either abject anxious fear or a humble respect.

This scene and several other places in the Bible describe the fear of God as an overwhelming awe. A realization of who God is which made Moses tremble, yet also drew him up the mountain to meet with God.

It is at once, a sense of how personal and powerful God truly is.

This reminder of the scene before Moses received the Law on tablets of stone reinforces how different the Old and New Covenants are (Heb 8:8-9).

It is a solemn warning of how important and necessary it is to hold firmly to the truth of the New Covenant (Heb 8:10-12) of grace through our relationship with Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Are you familiar with this story? If not, it's found in Exodus Chap 19.

  • How does this relate to all that's been written in the book of Hebrews up to this point?

  • How is it related to what's been Jesus and His atoning (redemptive) death upon the cross?

  • Have you experienced the difference between paralyzing and motivating fears, and the fear of God?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A Personal Issue

Faith is not a concept or an abstract belief nor is it a spiritual dynamic. It's a personal issue—a personal trust.

Most every religion holds to a set of beliefs that define it as a religious faith. But even then, holding to a set of religious beliefs requires a personal trust.

The Christian faith is based on a personal trust in a personal living God. This reaches back before the appearance of Jesus Christ—God's only Son—when God became human and lived on the earth (John 1:1, 14).

The essence of faith as a personal trust in God goes back to the first humans on earth and is seen in their descendants up to and beyond the time of Christ. Faith is and always will be a personal issue. 

Scripture

 Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see. God accepted our ancestors because of their faith.

Faith convinces us that God created the world through his word. This means what can be seen was made by something that could not be seen. [vss 1-3]

Faith led Abel to offer God a better sacrifice than Cain’s sacrifice. Through his faith Abel received God’s approval, since God accepted his sacrifices. Through his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Faith enabled Enoch to be taken instead of dying. No one could find him, because God had taken him. Scripture states that before Enoch was taken, God was pleased with him.

No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [vss 4-6]

(Hebrews 11:1-6 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • How is faith explained or defined at the beginning of this Scripture text?

  • How is faith connected to creation and the way the world came into existence? [Gen 1:1-3]

  • Who are two people God was pleased with because of their faith and why?

  • What is needed to please God? What two things are required to please God in this way?

Reflection...

Faith is a two-way relationship. True faith enables a person to see what others can't see who don't have faith.

This is not blind faith. It is a relationship of mutual trust. We trust God and He trusts us with His acceptance and approval.

Do you want to please God? Trust Him! Trust Him with all your heart and with all your life each day of your life.

Pleasing God isn't about living a good or nearly perfect life. That only leads to self-righteousness and eventual failure and disappointment.

God is honored and pleased by our trust in Him above all else and our confidence that He will reward our trust in Him.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you struggle with efforts to be good or good enough to be accepted by God?

  • Have you learned the difference between trust and belief?

  • Why do you trust God or do you trust Him? Do you believe He honors your trust in Him?

  • How are you currently learning to trust God in a deeper way?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews