Overcoming Barriers to Faith, Pt. 3
Study Guide, November 7, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
The Great Wall of China was built to be a series of fortifications to protect from invaders. The building of it started in the 7th century BC and continued off and on until almost 1644 AD. That’s a long construction project! It was also used it for border control and even for the transportation of goods. And take a guess at how far this wall stretches across China. It’s about 12,000 miles in length!
So why do we bring this up? Because in many people’s lives, there are some things, some barriers to faith, that are like ‘a great wall’ between them and their Creator. And for some people they, too, have been working on their wall, and even letting others work on adding to their wall for a long time. So, their wall or their walls have become substantial. And walls like this don’t come down very easily. It takes something powerful to break through walls like the Great Wall. The only thing that can break through walls of falsehoods are the powerful truths of God’s Word!
Here is a great verse that also makes for a great memory verse, as well as a being a huge confidence builder in knowing and sharing the Word of God with others. How about this?
Jer 23:29- “Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” NASU Like a hammer that shatters rock! The truths of the Bible are more powerful than we can even think or imagine. Note the corollary verse in Hebrews about this: Heb 4:12- “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” NASU
One of reasons that many Christians get discouraged about sharing things about their faith and the Gospel and such matters is that they let the world steer the conversations into talking about the Bible instead of just letting the Bible speak for itself. I have always loved how Dr. Howard Hendricks put it. He said: “The Bible is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it: you just need to let it out of its cage!”
A fascinating exchange is recorded in the book of John that took place between the Pharisees and the temple guards, and even Nicodemus. Catch what they said: “When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring Him in?” “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded. “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in Him? This foolish crowd follows Him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!” Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” John 7:45-52 NLT
And by the way, they were the ones who were ignorant of the Scriptures, because Jonah the Prophet was from Galilee. But back to what struck the guards…and struck them in such a way that they said something for which they could have been struck dead over. They said: “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” Actually, the Greek states it even more striking, because what they really said was: “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks!” That was truer than even they realized. They were not aware that they had just declared one of the greatest truths ever spoken, because what they revealed is that Jesus’ words were not the words of just a man…they were the words of God Himself!
That’s part of the point that you and I must understand…that no man, no one, no earthly religion has ever spoken the way this Man…the God-Man Jesus Christ has spoken and is still speaking through the revelation of God’s Words to mankind; the Bible! Whenever we share the words of the Scriptures, we are sharing the words, sharing the truths that no mere mortal man has ever spoken. Oh sure, people throughout history have spoken about the Bible, spoken about God, spoken about their faith, and spoken about their ideas about faith and God and such. But only when we let Jesus speak for Himself, when we share the words of the Bible itself, it’s then that the ‘truths of life’ are revealed and the power of the Scriptures, which are attended by the presence of the Holy Spirit, then begin to pierce the division of people’s soul and spirit and begin to burn in their souls and begin to shatter the rocks of falsehoods and human opinions like a hammer shatters rock!
The Bible is unique. The words of God are unique. They are more powerful than any two-edged sword, they are like fire, they are like a hammer that shatters rock. We need to let words of God speak to the people of this world, because no man has ever spoken what the God-Man, Jesus Christ, has spoken and is speaking to the world today through His Word, the Bible. Plus, remember, the devil does not fear words about religion or words by religious people throughout the world and its world religions. Satan knows that mankind is religious by nature. That’s why he has inspired every false religion in the world. He wants to keep people focused on unbiblical humanistic religions in order to keep them from establishing a genuine relationship with the God of the Bible. Again, Satan doesn’t fear ‘religious discussions’…what he fears is God’s Word! In the wilderness temptations every time Jesus answered Satan’s challenges He said: “It is written!”And after three “It is writtens”…Satan was written off!
Jesus example for us is to be our standard procedure when dealing with the challenges of Satan and with any of those he uses to counter our Biblical faith. One of the worst things you or I can do is to try to give Satan or others a piece of our mind. Just give them the Bible. Give them a piece of God’s mind…God’s Word. Our words are not two-edged swords, but God’s Words are! Our words are not like a fire or a hammer that breaks rock, but God’s Words are! In fact, God intends for His children to deal with every challenge of life the same way that Jesus dealt with every challenge in the wilderness…give it or give them an ‘It is written’ and then let the Holy Spirit do what He does with His Word!
Now then, also remember that just before this encounter with the Pharisees and the guards here, Nicodemus had heard words from Jesus that pierced his soul and shattered the rocks of his false religious beliefs that he had learned from man and the devil, but not from God. He learned from Jesus something that separates Biblical Christianity from all the religions of the world. He learned what makes Biblical Christianity unique among all of the world’s religions. He learned the Gospel of the ‘New Birth’. John 3:2-6- “After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent You to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with You.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” NLT
The ‘water’ here was a reference to ‘physical life’ and the ‘spirit’ here was a reference to ‘spiritual life’. But it is this Biblical revelation of the New Birth, of the need for everyone to be ‘Born Again’ in their human spirit that separates Biblical Christianity from all other religions…even from ‘Cultural Christianity’, as Patrick Morley aptly describes it. This lack of understanding the New Birth is one of the greatest walls or biggest barriers to faith that people face.
Here is something that Born Again Christians must understand about people around us. By nature, most people believe that they are going to Heaven, whatever they imagine ‘heaven’ to be, based upon their belief that humans are basically good and that they are basically a good person. In other words, men and women around the world, regardless of whatever their religion might be, even in cultural or social Christianity, believe that going to heaven is based upon behavior. Again, even the Pharisees, who thought of all the people in the world, they had the most understanding about just what behaviors, in particular, would insure a person going to heaven. Why, they had 613 laws about it! But then Jesus speaks the words of God and shatters the humanistic belief that going to heaven is based upon behavior and says… ‘No, going to heaven is based upon ‘birth’…spiritual birth.’ “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
One of the biggest barriers to faith…or we should put it like this: One of the biggest barriers to people going to heaven is that they already think that they are going to Heaven. And the reason they already think they are going to heaven is that, just like Nicodemus, they think that going to heaven is based upon behavior, when Jesus says, ‘NO, entering the Kingdom of Heaven is based upon birth, spiritual rebirth, not behavior.’ Obedient behavior is to follow rebirth, but it cannot give spiritual life. Only the gift of life from Jesus Christ can do that!
Know this: Most everyone around you in your life, unless they have been spiritually Born Again by turning to God in repentance and trusting in Jesus as their Savior as the One who gives them new spiritual life…everyone around you believes that mankind is basically good. And since they believe going to heaven is based upon behavior, and since they believe they are basically a good person, they thus believe that they are going to Heaven. Which also means that they believe that they basically do not need whatever your faith beliefs are or that your faith offers them.
And that is why the only thing that gets through the walls of ‘behavior based religion’ is the ‘New Birth message’ that Jesus said to the premier religious teacher in Israel…“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” The hammer that shatters the rocks of ‘behavior based religion’ is ‘Born Again Biblical Christianity’. The two-edged sword that cuts through ‘works righteousness humanistic religion’ is the ‘New Birth Gospel of Jesus Christ’…which declares the need for everyone to become spiritually Born Again in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. A relationship with God is not established by behavior, it is established by birth…spiritual rebirth! Obedient behavior makes the relationship grow and flourish, but it is the spiritual birth into the family of God that establishes the relationship. And that is a gift from God that each one must receive in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That is the Biblical message that separates Biblical Christianity from all the religions of the world.
That’s something else to understand about barriers to faith in the lives of so many people in our world. They also believe the lie that they are already spiritually alive. That is a basic humanistic belief of all people. Only through the revelation of the Bible can we come to understand that not only have all people have sinned, but that the effect that sin has had on their human spirit is that sin in their life killed their human spirit. And that means that without becoming spiritually born again every person is spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. Eph 2:1-2- “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” NASU
Try adding that revelation to your picture of everyone that you know and see…that unless they have been spiritually born again, you are looking at a person who is still spiritually dead in trespasses and sin…spiritually separated from the Spirit of God and will remain so forever unless they turn to God in repentance and receive Jesus as their Savior and become born again in their spirit…and thus united to the eternal life of God.
The religions of the world, and again, even the religion of cultural or social Christianity, teaches that being right with God is based upon certain religious behavior. But be very clear on this: Being right with God does not begin with behavior, it begins with birth…it begins with receiving ‘life’ from God. As the Apostle Paul, once a behavior based works righteousness teaching Pharisee himself, points out in Gal 3:21-22 that not even the Law can impart spiritual life to anyone. Notice: “Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” NLT And ‘Biblical believing’ means ‘personally receiving’.
This is what we must know and then share with a world deceived by man’s works based religions: The only thing that can give life to a person’s dead spirit is the Life-Giver Himself, Jesus Christ. Religions start with people already having spiritual life. They start with already having a relationship with God. They start with already being basically good. They start with thinking that they are already going to Heaven…so why would they need anything you might want to share with them about God? That’s what we need to know about how people around us are thinking. In fact, most of us use to think that same way…until, either through the spoken word or the written word or both, we came to learn that this unique message of Biblical Christianity is strikingly different from man’s natural reasoning about religion. We learned that the Bible teaches that since all have sinned and fall short of the righteousness of God, that we start not with being right with God nor having a relationship with God nor being basically good…no, we start with being basically dead…spiritually dead because we are already dead in trespasses and sin. We start with being already condemned and already going to Hell because our sins have separated us from the life of God and the just sentence of sin is eternal spiritual death and separation from God.
But then we learned that though Jesus’ own substitutionary life and death in our place, that we could be both pardoned from our sin and then also given new spiritual life…become united to Jesus’ own spiritual life and become re-born in our spirit…born again into an eternal relationship with God. And so we called out to Jesus and asked Him to save us and to make us become ‘Born Again’ with His gift of new spiritual life!
And that message is what is unique to Biblical Christianity. Plus, it is this ‘New Birth’…this ‘Born Again’ message of Jesus that breaks through the barriers…breaks through the walls of false human reasoning that is called ‘Religion’ by so many around us. The world needs the revelation of the New Birth because they will never reason it out on their own and the world’s religions and social gospel churches do not help people become Born Again. This message of the New Birth is what you and I need to commit to finding ways to sow into the lives of others around us wherever we go.
The world needs to know this: An eternal relationship with God is not based upon behavior; it’s based upon ‘Birth’…a new birth of their human spirit as they receive Jesus as their Savior and their Lord and become united to His very own eternal life.