One of the Church’s greatest mission fields is among those who belong to the thousands of Christian denominations but do not live in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They have never received Christ as their Savior and Lord.
About a month ago, one of my best friends asked me, “How do so many people with little biblical insight and a meager understanding of the Christian faith rise to responsible positions in the congregation?”
My answer was very personal. “Bill,” I said, “do you remember those days when your wife brought your children to church alone?”
“Oh, do I ever? It is one of my greatest regrets,” Bill replied.
“Well, I remember those days too,” was my response. “I felt so sorry for your family. However, you were honest enough to say that you were an agnostic.”
Then I asked Bill, “Remember how I pleaded with you to attend some of my adult instruction classes? After just eight weeks of instruction you could then become a member of the congregation. How I would have loved to have had you as a member of the congregation. Many would have thought that you had become a believer in Jesus Christ, because you stood with a group of people, said that you believe in Christ, and promised to serve Him.”
Bill responded, “Homer, it would not have been right to have received me as a part of the congregation. I could have treated our church as just another organization and become active in it. Who knows what harm I could have done? I could have become a part of the church council, perhaps even taught Sunday School, and still have been an unbeliever.
“Yes, you answered my question. Perhaps many of our members are not agnostics like I was, but maybe not all of them have a personal relationship with Christ. Some might never have received Him as their Savior. Yet these friends can hold places of responsibility in our congregation.”
I remember the day when, after a year of Bible study each week with four men, Bill received Christ and became a member of our congregation. Now he is not only a member of the congregation, but a part of the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. The Church is one and knows no denominational lines. Within the visible church there is the Invisible Church. This teaching – that people belong to churches possessing no clue about what they believe and what the Church’s mission is – is an old teaching of the Church that should be given much emphasis in our day.
In our text, Jesus was announcing to the religious people of his day that he had been sent by his Father to be the Savior of the world. He said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
Can’t you hear our Lord ask them, Why don’t you believe me? Your life would be changed. He was talking to people who were in the synagogue each Sabbath. They were those who appeared religious but had no relationship with God.
The people had been given many evidences that Jesus was the Messiah. Some of them were:
. The great preacher, John the Baptist, pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus said, “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy the light.”
. Jesus performed miracles. He changed water into wine. He healed the paralytic. He fed 5,000 people from five loaves of bread and two fish. These miracles were not only performed to relieve suffering, but to show that Jesus had been given power by God and was more than a teacher.
. They had the Old Testament Scriptures, which pointed to Jesus. They studied these prophecies, which told of Christ’s coming – where he would be born, that his mother would be a virgin, that he would die for the sins of the world, that he would be buried and resurrected.
These were some of the evidences that Jesus was the Messiah. Bishop Ryle has written well, “Unbelief does not rise from the want of evidence as much as from the want or will to believe.”
This same question, “Why don’t you believe me?” is asked today.
The world is not without evidence that Jesus is God, and the day will come when He will return to judge the living and the dead.
. We, too, have our great preachers. A few that we have been able to hear in the last century are George Butrick, Walter Maier, Oswald Hoffmann, Fulton Sheen, Dwight L. Moody, Billy Graham, Charles Swindahl, and Charles Stanley.
Let us not forget the faithful preachers who, Sunday after Sunday, have held up Christ. The Holy Spirit has used them to bring us to faith in Christ. I will never cease thanking God for V. R. Staby and C. C. Kloth, who was used by the Holy Spirit to point me to Christ. And you have your favorites.
. We have the Scriptures – the Old and New Testaments – and gifted teachers of the Word who can open the Bible for us.
. We have the miracles all around us – the gift of life, physical and spiritual healings – where we have seen the impossible made possible.
Jesus asks, “Why do you not believe me?”