The Jesus Effect, Week 4 — The “The Benefit Of The Doubt” Sermon Rewind

This weekend’s Easter message …

Followed believer baptisms at all the Sunday celebrations at Moss;

Admitted to “starting dumb” and “ending strong”;

Focus on Thomas in and beyond Scripture;

Led to this bottom line: Jesus erases your doubts to release your potential.


So I want to start out today by doing something extraordinarily stupid that I believe will lead to something supremely liberating. Is that OK? Can I start dumb as long as I can end strong?

Because what I want to talk to you about for a couple of moments at the beginning is doubt, which is a dumb thing to do on Easter. Nobody DOUBTS on Easter. We dress up, we put on hats, we put flowers on a cross, we connect with family because we BELIEVE. And if we don’t believe, we PRETEND we do, at least for the sake of today. So on this day where we remember something that either DID or DID NOT happen – and whether it did or whether it didn’t matters completely and eternally – we come to church because we believe it or we’re pretending we believe it. Make believe, they call it. And so on a day of BELIEVING / PRETENDING, I am foolishly starting out with doubt/
And that’s because I’ve got a sneaking suspicion about doubt when it comes to the things of God. I say this as someone who for a long time doubted – denied, really – that God exists. Then doubting that Jesus is different. Then doubting that Jesus rose. The doubting that heaven or hell are real or that God is good. All of it. You’ve probably shared some or all of those. But I’ve come to the conclusion that doubt is the ultimate excuse not to SIN but to SETTLE.
See, a lot of us here have this potential, have this ability, to do better, to do more, to be more, but we SETTLE. Because it’s easier to settle than to change. It’s easier to live when we give up the dream that life can be better. Some of you have settled in your work. It’s why you get up every day to go to a job you hate yet it’s too much to look for something better. Yeah, others have settled for a marriage built on unhealthy patterns of passive aggression. Parenting patterns of abandonment and rage. A faith pattern where it’s on autopilot. And then still others for a faith that takes, takes, takes, learns, learns, learns but never gives back, never pours out, never, gulp, leads. A living relationship that is all INHALE and no EXHALE.
Yeah, that’s the deal with doubt because if you believed, really believed that Jesus got up out of a grave and never went back but is still loose in the world, you’d know he’d be empowering us never to settle but always to soar. Doubting excuses settling.
Which is sort of how I see Thomas in the Gospel of John. Doubting Thomas as he is sometimes called, whose story focuses in John 20 but really starts in John 11:16:
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

READ. Oh Lord. THAT’S a great motivational speech, isn’t it? Most of the others were like Let’s take the city! Or We’ll follow him to the end! But not Tommy. Let’s die. That lets you know he’s basically a pessimist. And you know the difference twixt pessimists and optimists, don’t you? Two optimists meet & they shake hands; two pessimists and they just shake their heads. Thomas.
And so on the first Easter, when Jesus, risen, appears to his inner circle, Thomas is on the outs. We don’t know where he is; John keeps that info to himself. How do I know that? Look at Jn 20:24:
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

So though we don’t know where he was, we do know what his colleagues told him afterwards:
25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

Now: don’t you just hate it when people say they’ve seen the movie, read the book, heard the song, bought the technology and you HAVE to check it out?! You know what I say? “No I don’t.” That’s what Thomas must have felt like … there you go again. And then in 20:25b he makes a very specific demand, sets a very specific condition for his belief:

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
You know what I think is behind that with Thomas? His doubt is his excuse to SETTLE. I’m a pessimist, I see the worst in people and in situations, I figured he was gonna die anyway and as long as this unnerving thing didn’t happen, I don’t have to change. I can keep my abilities bottled up under my doubts. And some of you are doing the exact same thing and living the exact same life.

Well, back to Thomas. At 20:26, a week later (and what happened in that week … What happens in the Gospel of John STAYS in the Gospel of John!), Thomas is with them this time when Jesus appears and offers the most absurd command:
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Peace?! Ridiculous! A 3D ghost appears, no doors needed, he was dead and we’re supposed to feel PEACE?! I’d be more like BLOODY MURDER! But then Jesus turns to Thomas and in 20:27 does EXACTLY what Thomas demanded he do:
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Oh gosh, you know what that means? Xnty bodily, not spiritual; it’s historical, not philosophical. After meeting Thomas’ demand, he makes one of his own: Stop doubting and believe. Stop settling and get moving.
And I just love the answer in 20:28:
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Did you notice that? Thomas doesn’t have to touch or place! He doesn’t have to do the very things he said he’d have to do to believe. He is simply overwhelmed and drowned in the experience of Jesus (God, I want that for church!!!!) and gives in to the one who has given all. And think of all Thomas DOESN’T say! You’re my teacher and my guide. You’re my mentor and my guru. You’re my friend and my bro! None of that! My Lord, my God. It’s full circle Gospel of John! From 1:1 to 20:28 Jesus is Lord, risen Lord, creating Lord, sustaining Lord, ONLY LORD. Chills. You get drowned in the experience of Jesus and there will never be any doubt as to who he is and how high he deserves to be lifted up. Why settle for Jesus as role model when you can surrender to him as King?

And then Jesus, as he has earned, has the last world in 20:29:
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

It’s one time the bible is not just FOR us but actually TO us. Jesus sees into the future, John as his vehicle, to know that generations will be reading and gleaning from this. I go through Thomas’ story, from his pessimism and doubt in John 11 to his surrender and shout in John 20 because it’s what happens AFTER the bible that’s even better. The stuff not recorded in Scripture but kept in the records of the early church. Because you know what Thomas did with the rest of his life? He took the Gospel to … India. South India. India is hard to get to today; can you imagine back then? There are St. Thomas Xns in India today! The Xns we partner with in India today had roots in Thomas’ trip then. He was so swept up in the risen Jesus that it unleashed a desire & ability in him to go beyond the bounds of earth as they knew it then and tell. Phenomenal. From pessimist, let’s go die to he is my reason to live.

And all of a sudden it’s pretty clear what Easter does, what John is doing, what has happened with you coming here today: Jesus erases your doubt to release your potential. Yep, when you stop using your doubts as an excuse to settle, your faith will become fuel to soar. Because it’s not faith in you. It’s faith in a Savior who pushed through death, never to return, and is in the empowering business today. See, when Jesus deals with your doubts, when he settles them, you’ll stop settling in life. His goal for removing doubt is not just so that you’ll BELIEVE, even though that’s awesome, but so that you’ll become something, someone you’d never be without him as center.
Because every person here has the potential in you to do more and be more than you think. A bit like the guy with an odd habit of nighttime jogging around the city & through graveyard. And one unfortunate night, he didn’t see an empty grave waiting for the casket the next day and stumbled in. For about 30 minutes he tried jumping, climbing, yelling, scratching, to get out. Nothing. Finally, exhausted he huddled in a corner and just waited. And 30 minutes later, in the pitch dark, another runner did the same thing. Stumbled in. And he tried to climb out up the sheer walls of grave. As he was digging his foot into the dirt, the first jogger puts his hand on the guy’s shoulder and says, “you can’t get out.”
But he did.
Jesus erases your doubt to release your potential.

Or really it’s like the man Josh McDowell who went to college as a committed not believer. Like some of you. And he actually set out to write a paper disproving everything about Xnty. That book never got written and someone asked him why. The answer: “Because the one fact of history I can’t refute is that Jesus rose from the dead.” A different book got written and it’s called Evidence That Demands A Verdict and why should I tell you about that? Because when I was in college, wanting to abandon the faith I’d just embraced, that’s the book that got in my hands and the fact that I couldn’t escape was that Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus erases your doubt to release your potential.

You know what I love about Thomas and India and all that? He did not have the bible. Think about it. Thomas is probably dead by 80 AD at the latest and the NT isn’t finally determined until about 300 AD. So he did all that travelling and sharing without even knowing there was a NT, much less carrying one with him. A lot of times we think, “ah, it’s IN THE BIBLE so IT’S TRUE!” Nope. It’s the other way around. “THE STUFF IS TRUE so IT GOT IN THE BIBLE!” World of difference there! That when Jesus pushed through death and came out on the other side he turned Peter the coward into Peter the martyer, he turned Saul the murderer into Paul the missionary, and he turned Thomas the settler into Thomas the soarer. They didn’t need the bible to tell them so; Jesus did it all by himself.
So we’ve got that power multiplied. The collected, inspired word. The Reigning Savior and Returning King. Not fable, not myth, not delusion, and definitely one among many. The one and only.
Jesus erases your doubt to release your potential.

So I have to ask what potential are you squeezing out by doubting (which you now know is an excuse to settle). This place has been prayed over so that you would be so wide awake to his overwhelming love that you wouldn’t need proof anymore, just like Thomas. That joyful surrender would be as natural as breathing! Please know: this isn’t about growing faith in YOU. Or faith in faith. Nope. It’s HIS ability to release what HE put inside you in the first place. And you’ve just put layers of decay over it for so many years and today is the first time you’ve realized what’s possible. Is it your sobriety? You’ve been so busy blaming other people for your problems that you didn’t realize God has made you powerless to let you know you’re never helpless?
Jesus erases your doubt to release your potential.

Or your marriage? Or your search for marriage? All those broken relationships? You’ve been trying to find your completion in the love of your life when Christ crucified is Christ who completes? That when you find your satisfaction in him, you don’t have the FIND the right mate, you are the right mate?
Jesus erases your doubt to release your potential.

Or most like a woman who wandered into our church about 18 months ago. She came to faith. In middle age. It happens! But knew immediately: she had breathed in a living relationship with Jesus so she could breathe out love to others. Saved to serve. With the next gen in her case. And a few months ago, she got sick. I tell you that because those same kids to whom she ministered (God released her potential!!!!), unprompted, had prayer cards. Here they are: AV. Huh, enough of an impact that when you’re out two Sundays you’re prayed for by the next generation. REFRAIN