Unbelief’s Believable Deception
Primary Truth Taught- Saving faith sees past Christ’s benefits and embraces Christ Himself
We have been utterly surprised so far in the Gospel of John. The Apostle reports so many strange events. These events work to take away our false views of Jesus, salvation, and what it means to follow Christ. Sometimes we’re left with our mouths hanging open and scratching our head.
Why does John report so many things that seem to stretch us and cause us to wonder? It seems that what John is doing is to take away anything that is false in our understanding of who Jesus is and what we might be tempted to see as saving faith and show us who Jesus really is what true saving faith is. The reason he does this is because John is a pastor who loves his flock and who loves you. He doesn’t want anyone to think anything false when it comes to Jesus and the Gospel because to get either of those wrong is to place your soul in jeopardy.
Here’s how important it is to get Christ and the Gospel right, look what Paul tells the churches in Galatia…
Galatians 1:6–9 (ESV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
I pray we see the importance of getting the Gospel right and understanding who Jesus really is…
John 20:30–31 (ESV)
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
I think at this point we need to unpack this passage this morning. John tells us that Jesus has done many signs and certain ones have been recorded so that we will read about them and when we do, we will connect the dots and believe Jesus is the Christ…Messiah King and the Son of God…deity and when we come to this logical conclusion we will have life in His name.
So when we read of a miracle or sign we are to see that either the miracle was prophesied in the OT of something only the Messiah could do or would do and some show us Jesus doing things only God can do. So, then we are to believe that because these are things only the Messiah can do and only God can do and we see Jesus doing them…we are to conclude He is the Messiah or the Christ, the Son of God.
Now here is an important point that, on the surface, might sound like a whole lot about nothing but I assure you it is vital to recognizing true belief from false belief.
So, the sign is to point to not the miracle but the greatness of the miracle-worker. When we begin to see the greatness of the Miracle-worker, namely the greatness of Jesus being the Christ, the Son of God then John would tell us we have been brought to life by the Spirit of God and are saved. Seeing the glory of Jesus is saving faith or true belief.
False belief stops short of the glory of the Miracle-worker and only sees the physical sign or miracle itself.
John 6:25–26 (ESV)
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
John 6:35–36 (ESV)
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
The Greek word PISTEO which is translated to believe or believes is used right at 100X in the Gospel of John. It’s extremely important to learn what this means and to spot false believe when it is present.
John 6:64–66 (ESV)
64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
When Jesus was in Jerusalem the first time there were a number of Jews that were only seeking signs. They saw the miracles and believed the signs but stopped short of glorifying the Miracle-worker. Their belief seems to be at least on the surface, genuine…
John 2:23–25 (ESV)
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
If it wasn’t for John’s commentary about Jesus not being fooled here, we would think this was genuine belief. It goes so closely with John’s purpose of the book, namely, seeing signs and believing.
Many times in the Gospel of John we see times when people follow Jesus and even do some things that might look to be faith at work but Jesus or John will say things like they did not believe.
So, the meaning is to be taken that they did not believe with the belief required by God for eternal life or the belief that is manifested in one who has been brought to life by the Spirit of God.
So, here’s a test…
When someone in Jesus’ day, saw Him perform a miracle and was impressed and wanted to see another…was that saving faith? NO.
When someone wanted Jesus to heal his or her sick or dying relative and believed Jesus could do it, was that saving faith? NO.
When we read about Jesus and believe He really lived and did all the things mentioned in the Bible is that saving faith? NO.
When we read the Gospel of John and believe Jesus existed and that He did do all the miracles written down and we see that only the Messiah the Son of God could do them and we’re left in awe and wonder of Christ and desire more of Him, is that saving faith…YES!
True belief never stops at the miracle but pushes past it to Jesus Himself and sees in Him the fulfillment of all Scripture and sees Him as the Son of God then we will be exercising true belief which results in eternal life…
John 3:16–18 (ESV)
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
I intentionally highlight this because in our text today we are going to see a few people very close to Jesus who believe in His power and miracle working abilities but who do not truly believe. When you see who they are, you might be very surprised.
Here’s another test…Would you love Christ and serve Him with all your heart because He is worthy to be loved and served even if at the end of your life you knew you would end up in hell forever?
Human Need Met
We must be able to separate true belief which results in eternal life from false believe resulting in eternal death.
John 7:1–13 (ESV)
7 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
7 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.
In both cases, the crowd who followed in Chapter 6 and Jesus’ brothers in Chapter 7 do NOT believe even though in both cases they are doing things that, to some degree, make it look like they do. The crowd followed Jesus. They made some sacrifices to follow Jesus. Then, Jesus said they were only following for another hot sandwich, for the good of themselves and for the potential that He might be able to restore power back to them. In another place we read that they wanted to take Jesus by force to make Him their king. In both cases they wanted Jesus for self-exaltation. Jesus was useful to them.
Look at what His brothers were doing…They wanted Jesus to go to the celebration at Jerusalem and Literally, make a name for Himself and do some miracles so that the world would see His miracle-working abilities. Jesus would become famous and so would they because they are His brothers. Look at my brother heal that man…He is something else isn’t He, oh and I’m James His brother by the way…
His brothers were telling Him that if you want fame and fortune, don’t do these great signs in small towns but go to the cities and become famous.
In both cases unbelievers are more focused on the good Jesus can do them over Jesus, himself. Unbelief can be very deceptive. It can masquerade as genuine belief. Unbelief can do things one would expect to be done by belief. We’ve seen how unbelief can follow Jesus, trust Him for provisions, diligently seek Him out, understand miracles and signs are real, believe Him, and even on some levels believe in Him. However, unbelief only seeks Jesus out for personal gain and personal exaltation.
So the common denominator between the unbelieving crowd and Jesus’ unbelieving brothers is self-exaltation or we could say using Jesus to get things.
John 7:7–9 (ESV)
7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
We saw the common denominator of unbelief in the crowd and Jesus’ brothers as self-exaltation. The foundation of unbelief is pride in self and the praise of man. This is exactly what the world of unbelievers is all about.
He tells His brothers that the world cannot hate them. He says this because they seek the same stuff the world seeks. The world loves its own.
We see here the second test of unbelief…the world loves you. Unbelief wants everyone to like it. Unbelief is caring what people think more than what God thinks. Do you see the difference between Jesus and His brothers? One seeks fame the other seeks to do the will of the Father. One is self-exalting the other self-humiliating.
Are you driven by the praise of man? Are you driven by the approval of man?
Husbands why do you do the things you do? Is it to keep your wife happy or because God tells you to do them. Does your wife dictate your behavior or are you driven by God’s glory. The fear of man shows up when keeping your wife happy drives your behavior rather than the glory of God.
How you relate to others is an area where this type of unbelief shows up. Will you water down the truth to keep the peace? Will you not confront someone but gossip about them? Will you try to get people on your side? Do you justify your actions to others?
Jesus tells us that to be like Him is to care more about what God thinks than what people think. 7 The world cannot hate you… the world cannot hate you because you are fitting in perfectly with it.
Then our Lord explains to us why the world hates Him… but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.
Tell someone they are a sinner and need to repent or simply tell someone no and see how good friends you are.
Jesus shows us the life of One who cares more about what God thinks than what people think. Rather than exalting Himself what did Jesus do? Jesus humbled Himself. Rather than exalting Himself He humiliated Himself.
Unbelief and the fear of man, seeking the approval of man go hand in hand. Where belief and doing the will of the Father also go together. We cannot be true and say we believe but refuse to obey what God teaches us to do.
Jesus has already said the same thing to the crowd in Chapter 5…
John 5:41–44 (ESV)
41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing.
Matthew 13:55–56 (ESV)
55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”
A quick case study in Saving Faith will reveal something truly amazing. We see that at this point in the Gospel of John Jesus’ brother are unbelievers. They believe in His miracles but not Him. As unbelievers the greatest thing Jesus could do was go to the feast and get famous. His fame would greatly help them out.
Here is a very accurate picture of Jesus’ brothers before they believed.
One of the unbelieving brothers was James…Book of James in our Bibles.
Before if James would have written it might have gone something like this:
James a lover of self and a promoter of self. Interested in gaining fame and fortune. Count it all joy when you acquire wealth and comfort of various kinds because wealth a comfort produce a meaningful life.
Now lets look at what they looked like after they believed…
James 1:1–4 (ESV)
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Jude 1–2 (ESV)
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Do you see the vast difference between before and after belief?
We must know the difference between true and false belief or belief and unbelief that looks like belief. Genuine saving faith is the gift of God and is manifested in the life of the person believing as self-humiliation and God exaltation, where before there was just self-exaltation.
Does your life show the fruit of belief? Like Jesus’ brothers can you see a change in you thoughts, attitude, and behavior? Do you exalt Christ or are you still seeking to exalt yourself?
Declaration of Grace
In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen