Today, we’re wrapping up the series, “The N Commandments.” The whole idea behind this series is that Jesus started a brand new thing, a new covenant between God and man that would ensure reconciliation. On the cross, Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, so no longer did you need to sacrifice according to the Old Testament. In fact, this new movement that Jesus established was unhitched from the Old Testament, which didn’t mean you discredited the old, instead it meant the story of redemption and reconciliation was continuing. From the beginning of the bible to the end of the bible is all one story. With this new covenant, the relationship between God and man was getting closer to how it was originally designed to be. What Jesus established was the next step, something planned from the beginning of time, a brand new covenant between God and man.
When Jesus died on that cross, then rose from the dead, everything He said and claimed to be was punctuated, and not only finally made sense, but set the new movement into full action.
Just before Jesus was about to leave the earth and sit at the Father’s right hand, He gathered His followers and told them I don’t want you to build walls. I don’t want you to hide. I don’t want you to stay here. I want you to go into all the world, and I want you to teach them all that I have taught you.
Now this new movement may not have had much to go on, like there was no bible or New Testament to teach from, but this Resurrection Religion, as we’re calling it, was more than enough.
So in this series we’ve been stepping back and asking the question, what would it look like to be a Jesus follower before there was a New Testament? What would it look like to be a Jesus follower when all you had was a Resurrection Religion and this strange assortment of commands that we’re calling the “N Commandments”?
The “N Commandments” are things Jesus taught us not to do. Like Worry Not, Sin Not, Fear Not, Judge Not. They are things that are really hard not to do because some of them are things that oftentimes we do without even thinking.
To say not to do these things seems so unrealistic because when you get a phone call that your loved one is in the hospital or your child was in a car accident. How do you not worry? Or when you get the phone call that something is wrong and you need to come quick. How do you not fear?
In the first century, the thing that made all the difference wasn’t just simply that Jesus said not to do these things. What made the difference was that when Jesus rose from the dead, these ‘not commandments’ were all of a sudden put in a completely different context.
Suddenly His first century followers had an “aha” moment where they realized, “What a minute. We’re serving a Risen Savior, who we have seen with our own eyes, who died for our sins, and who is leading us into a completely different kind of life.”
So today, we come to the final “N Commandment:” Doubt Not. This is a hard one, because half the time, I don’t think we even realize we do it.
What is doubt?
Doubt is like worry and fear. You don’t decide to fear. “I think about three o’clock this afternoon, I’m going to sit down and have some fear. After breakfast I’ll just worry.” Worry, fear and doubt, just jump up and grab us. So it’s kind of strange to think that someone could say “Fear not. Worry not. Doubt not” like we can just turn it off. Yet, throughout the Gospels, Jesus tells His closest followers, “Do not fear, do not worry, do not doubt.”
Doubting Your Faith
Now there is basically two big categories that cause doubt. For a Christian, we doubt when we wonder “Is it worth it? Is it really worth it to sacrifice and follow Jesus?” And we doubt when we wonder, “Is it true? Is it really true what I read and hear about Jesus?” Is it worth it? Is it true?
Doubt reaches up and grabs you when you see circumstances that are so difficult for either you, someone you love, or just generally in this world. And you think “Is there really a good God? Is Jesus really real?” And suddenly you’re doubting because you look around in disbelief, or you look at what following Jesus demands of you.
For those who are in high school and those who recently graduated from high school, and even those new in the faith, this will be your struggle. Please trust me when I say there will at time when you struggle and ask “Is it worth it to follow Jesus?” If you decide you think it’s not worth following Jesus, then here’s what you’ll be tempted to do. You will shift your focus from “Is it worth it” to “Is it true?” Because if you can convince yourself it’s not true then you don’t have to struggle with “is it worth it?”
John the Baptist Doubted
Both “Is it worth it” and “Is it true” stem from a sense of doubt. Now here’s some good news. 100% of Jesus’ first century followers doubted, 100%. This should give us a little breathing room. The very men and women who not only saw miracles, but participated in miracles doubted. In fact, John the Baptist even doubted. Remember, he came to lead people to Jesus, and when John was baptizing and saw Jesus coming he made the grand statement “Behold the lamb of God that comes to take away the sin of the world.” That same guy, he gets arrested, finds himself in prison, and begins to ask “Is it worth it. I wonder if it’s really true.” He doubted.
The Disciples Doubted
All 12 of Jesus’ closest disciples, they all doubted. When Jesus was arrested they didn’t hang in there with Him. They doubted. “It can’t be true. Is it worth it?” So they ran off. In fact, one of His closest followers got a nickname. What was his nickname? Doubting who? Doubting Thomas.
Doubting Thomas was Doubting Thomas all the way up to the resurrection. So what I’m telling you is this: 100% of Jesus’ first century followers doubted. And not only did they doubt, they doubted all the way up till the end.
Good News for Doubters
So here’s some good news for all of you doubters. Jesus doesn’t give up and toss you out if you doubt. You can doubt and follow Jesus at the same time. You don’t have to have your doubt all worked out. In other words, you don’t have to understand everything to believe something.
For some of you, coming to faith is a major obstacle because you’re liking the people, you’re liking all this love one another stuff, maybe you’re starting to read the bible, you’re taking Jesus seriously, you find yourself praying, your faith growing, but you’ve got questions. And you’ve got doubts. But here’s some great news. You can follow Jesus with your questions. You can follow Jesus with your doubts. You can follow Jesus even though your doubts aren’t all worked out. I mean come on, the only way you’re going to get rid of them is to follow Jesus, right? You don’t have you understand everything to believe something.
Doubt can take you out
But here’s why doubt is a big deal, and here’s what Jesus also knew. Doubt can take you out. There are certain doubts that if you don’t deal with them, and if you don’t figure out a way to handle them when they reach up and grab you, (because let’s be honest, you don’t plan to doubt, you don’t schedule it, it just happens) if you’re not careful… the doubt will take you out.
This is why throughout His ministry, Jesus would say to the men He loved the most, and the women that followed Him the closest, do not doubt.
I’ll give you an example of who got this lesson first hand, Peter. Peter’s doubt almost literally took him out. We’ve talked a bit about this story a few weeks ago. Remember when the 12 disciples were rowing across the Sea of Galilee, trying to only go a few miles, yet the wind was so strong through the valley that they were out there most of the night just rowing and rowing against the wind and getting nowhere? Then Jesus comes out walking on the water, and the disciples were terrified thinking it was a ghost.
But when they realized it was Jesus, it became this awesome miracle, walking on water. And Peter makes this incredible observation and says to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you walking on the water too.” Basically, if you can do such a great miracle like walking on the water, I believe if you call me out there, and I can do that too. So, because of that initial faith, Jesus calls Peter out of the boat, and Peter began walking on water.
Now if you grew up in church you know what happens next, but I want to read it to you because this introduces us to Jesus’ teachings on the subject of doubt. Here’s what happens.
30 But when he (Peter) saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.
How many have prayed a similar prayer? “Lord Jesus, save me.” Maybe at the pit of your life or when you were flat on your face. Peter models this powerful and simple prayer and immediately, Matthew says immediately because it was not a few seconds later, not a few minutes later, not hours later, immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.
I’m not sure we realize how powerful this moment really is. All Peter had to say was “Save me, Jesus.” Peter didn’t have to first get his life all together, he didn’t have to figure it all out, he just had to recognize he needed Jesus. And without a hesitation, Jesus reached out His hand immediately and caught him. Jesus was right there for him, like He is for us.
Now this is also an incredible imaginary for any of you who have doubt. Maybe you’ve been a Christian a long time, maybe a short time, either way I don’t want you to miss this connection. As soon as Peter begins to doubt, Jesus reaches out and He catches him in one hand, and at the same time says,
31 “You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?”
Many of us think, “Well, you got to give them a little credit, he did have enough faith to get out of the boat.” But here’s where we begin to gain some insight on how to respond to doubt. Peter only started to doubt when he thought it might not work out. Right? He looked around at the wind, he saw all of the waves and all of a sudden, he became afraid and he began to doubt. And with doubt, he sank.
We do the same thing, and this why this is a big deal. When we look at the whole idea of following Jesus, when we look at what God has called us to do, when we consider all that we’ve been called to believe, and then we look around at the real world and we think, “I’m not sure this is working out.” “I’m not sure this is worth it.” And since, I’m not sure it’s worth it, I might convince myself it’s not even true because if it’s not true, I don’t have to try.
For some of you, you became a Christian not too long ago. You might even got baptized, joined the church, your faith started to grow, and then what happened? Real life happened. And you began looking around, you had the same thoughts Peter had. I’m not sure this is going to work out. Is it true? Is it worth it?
And so, Jesus says to Peter, “Why did you doubt.” To which Peter would say, “Because suddenly I wasn’t sure it was going to work out.” To which Jesus would say, and here’s the key for today’s message, “It is okay not to see exactly how it’s going to work out. But you do not have to give in to doubt.”
And then Jesus gives us a second insight as we build this case around why Jesus said it is so important not to doubt. Jesus had just performed a miracle walking on water, and then had Peter walk on water. We know the apostles saw this miracle and were blown away by it because when Jesus and Peter climbed back in the boat, the disciples worship Jesus saying “You really are the Son of God!” But Jesus sees this miracle as a minor thing, especially compared to what He’s about to do on the cross.
And we know this because just a little later in Matthew, Jesus says just to the twelve, a little private teaching. He said…
21 “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.
In other words, if you have confidence in your Heavenly Father and do not doubt, if you continue to respond as if God is who He says He is, if you’ll risk continuing to have faith and do not doubt…then it will be done. Now in our American way of thinking, we think, all right, so basically if I can have enough faith, I can get God to do whatever I want Him to do.
I really don’t think that ever crossed His disciples’ mind. These were men raised on Torah. These were men who had an Old Testament view of God, and therefore never for a moment thought that prayer was about trying to talk God into things that God wasn’t planning to do. Therefore, they did not hear Jesus say, “Hey, come up with an idea, have enough faith, and God will do it.” No, that’s what we think.
They had more respect for God than that. They understood exactly what Jesus was saying to them. Here’s what Jesus’ promise actually was. He’s saying, whatever God originates will be done if you do not doubt. That whatever God originates, whatever God is planning to do through you and through the world, whatever God has invited you to be a part of, God will do.
But you cannot doubt. Because, if you doubt, it’ll take you out. If you doubt, you will miss what God is up to in your life. If you doubt, you’ll be at the wrong place at the right time, and you’ll have the potential to miss out on what God wants to do through you.
Like I said earlier though, doubts are going to come. The question is, what do you do when they come. Will you allow your doubts to rise to the surface to where at some point you decide it’s not worth it, it’s not true, and you go your merry way? And then you miss out on what your Heavenly Father has for you.
The Disciples’ Doubt
Now, there was another time the disciples found themselves doubting. This is the big one. In this scene the disciples almost allowed their doubt to take them out. In fact, I can’t overstate this enough, their doubt almost caused them to disappear from history. If they had allowed their doubt to overwhelm their faith in this situation, we would never have heard of Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Christianity would have had been brought to us by a different set of people. I think this is so fundamental and so to the core of our Christian faith.
Here’s the situation. Jesus had just done the big miracle where He fed 5,000 people. And of course, the crowd is like, “We want more. We want more. We’ll go to the other side of the lake and find him. We want more free food.” Everybody shows up for free food, right?
Jesus tells the people they only wanted to be with Him because He fed them. So He tries to explain that God wants them to believe in the one He has sent, Jesus. They respond by saying, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you.” Uh, didn’t He just do that when He fed you?
So He tries to connect some dots for this audience and basically says, “Just like I gave you real bread to eat, I am the bread of life.” Then He uses some really strange language, and He says, “You need to eat my flesh and drink my blood.” And of course, He was trying to essentially say that, “I’m trying to bring true life; bread is temporary life, water is temporary life, but I’m lasting life.” So He’s trying to be creative.
But the audience is so literal, and there are people in the audience that don’t like Jesus. They’re just looking for Him to say the wrong thing so they can convince the rest of the crowd not to follow Him. And so, they begin to throw out questions like, “Who is this guy?” and “How can he give us his flesh to eat?” And suddenly, the crowd starts to stir.
In fact, John was there as an eyewitness. He says this in John 6:60:
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples (not the 12, instead the general group that had been following Him) said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Then a few versus later, John 6:66 John says,
66 At this point many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
The twelve apostles, they’re watching this. They’re watching the crowd start to disperse, and they begin to wonder, is it worth it? Is it true? Because they’ve been like rockstars and suddenly, they’re losing the crowd. Is it worth it? And besides, this is kind of crazy talk, ‘Eat my flesh and drink my blood.’ And Jesus’ closest followers now consider leaving themselves.
But here’s the thing they don’t know. Jesus has not chosen them to merely walk on water. That’s nothing. He’s not merely chosen them to move mountains. That’s nothing. Why? Because we water ski, wake board, and if you get enough yellow machinery, we can move any mountain. That’s nothing.
Instead, Jesus has chosen this particular group of men to do something extraordinarily important. He has chosen them to bring you and me the Gospel. But they have no idea what hangs in the balance of their decision not to doubt Jesus and not to allow their doubt to take them out. Jesus has called them to make history, but they begin to doubt, “Is it worth it? Is it true?” and Jesus knows it.
And I love this. So, the crowd’s leaving. Jesus is talking. The Apostles are looking around like, “We’re losing the crowd? Should we step back in the crowd, disappear with the crowd? What do we do?” And Jesus turns to them, and maybe today He turns to you and He says….
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Isn’t that great? He knows what they’re thinking. He knows doubt has creeped up and grabbed a hold of them. And Peter, in that moment, sees through the fog, through the chaos, and says…
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?
I want us to all read this out loud, even if you’re sitting at home by yourself. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Now I want us to change the ‘we’ to ‘I.’ “To whom shall I go?”
That is the question that cuts through the fog of doubt.
Oftentimes, doubt leads us to curiosity, and curiosity leads us to discovery. That’s a positive use of doubt. But remember, doubt also has the potential to take you out. And the question that cuts through the fog of doubt when it comes to Jesus, your Savior, is the question, “If not Jesus, then who? If I’m not going to follow Jesus, who am I going to follow?” Or better, “What am I going to follow.”
If not Jesus, to whom then shall I go?
Now high school students, young adults, I want to say something directly to you again. If you decide you’re not so sure it’s worth it and you’re not sure it’s true, that’s fine. You need to wrestle with those questions. But before you abandon ship, before you cut ties with Jesus and your tradition, and what you’ve grown up in, and what you’ve believed all your life, before you go, you need to know to whom will you go to.
Because simply to step back from Jesus because you’re not sure it’s worth it, and you’re not sure it’s true, without looking at what you’re stepping back into, onto, or along with, is a terrible, terrible, risky decision, where you’re risking your future and your life. It leaves you wide open. And as much as that sounds OK to be open to everything, you need to know that leaves you wide open to Satan as well. And you can be sure he will be at work in you. He will mess with your minds.
Look, it is completely okay to question Jesus. So okay, that I’ll be honest with you. If you haven’t questioned Jesus, you probably haven’t really asked Him to be a part of your life. But the question you need to always asks when doubt creeps in is this, “If not Jesus, to whom then shall I go? Until I find a better offer, until I discover something that is as solid as what I think I grew up with, to whom shall I go?”
And Peter knew that. Do you think Peter always thought it was worth it? Probably not. And I guarantee he questioned if it was all true. Then, Peter says to Jesus, what the whole group knew.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
We’re not absolutely sure the sacrifices you’re calling us to make are worth it. We’re not exactly sure how it will all work out and if it’s all true. But we know enough to know this. Nobody else is promising us eternal life. Nobody has loved us better, and until we know who else we’d follow, we’re not going anywhere. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God because we’ve seen too much.
And Jesus answered him, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” I made that up, He didn’t say that. But here’s why I say this. I think Jesus must have been thinking that. Jesus had to be thinking, “You stay with me, it will be worth it well beyond your imaginations. You have no idea what I’m about to do through you.”
And then, after the resurrection of Jesus, these doubters became the shouters. These doubters were the ones that poured into the streets of Jerusalem boldly announcing the resurrection of Jesus. Suddenly, they knew it was worth it, and they knew it was true. And I can’t help but think they thought back to that day on the hillside, when they almost allowed their doubt to take them out.
The foundation of their faith became the foundation of our faith, which is not the teachings and the miracles of Jesus, it’s the resurrection of Jesus. And here’s why this is important for all of us. You will never know what God would have done in your life if you allow your doubt to take you out. You’ll never know what God might have done, through you, your business, your relationships, your marriage, with your family, with your future, with your future children, your future grandchildren. You have no idea.
You’re single and you’re trying to be a single Christian and do it the right way and everybody seems to be having a great time and everything seems to be working out for them and not for you. But you just know in your heart how God wants you to manage your morals and your singleness, and you wonder, “Is it worth it? Is it true?”
You’re generous and got involved with the church financially. You think about all the things you could be doing with that money. “Is it worth it? Is it true?”
Your marriage may be really tough right now. It surely would be easy to walk away. “Is it worth it? Is it true?” You’ll never know if you allow doubt to take you out.
Look, all of us are going to have, “Is it worth it,” and, “Is it true,” moments. You don’t choose doubt, you don’t go looking for it, it just shows up. But in those moments, that’s when you have to ask the Peter question. “I’m not sure it’s worth it right now, and I’m not sure it’s all true, but to whom shall I go?”
You have no idea what or who hangs in the balance of your decision to put your faith in your Heavenly Father. And you have no idea what you’ll miss out on if you allow doubt to take you out.
The N Commandments
I know not one of these five “N Commandments” are easy. This whole series may be a new way of thinking for you. Just know you are not alone. We are all convicted about one, and many of us, more than one of these ‘nots.’ And know this, these five commandments are absolutely impossible to do without the presence of God.
- Fear not… Remember what we said? Fear not, even when there’s something to be afraid of.
- Sin not, not because God will get you but because your Savior died for you and every sin comes with a pre-packaged penalty and consequence.
- Worry not because your Heavenly Father knows exactly what you need.
- Judge not because love does not size people up and write them off or walk away, just like your Heavenly Father didn’t size you up and write you off.
- And last, but not least, doubt not. Because you have no idea what God wants to do in and through you.
The reason we embrace these ‘not’ commands is not because they make sense all the time, and not because they’re easy, but because of who gave them to us. Jesus the resurrected from the dead, the Son of God, who’s resurrection punctuated everything He said about Himself and everything He’s commanded us to do.
What would it look like if Christians took these commands seriously? It changed the world once. I believe it could change the world again.
Heavenly father, doubt, fear, worry all seem to just reach up and grab us. The idea of being able to say no to sin seems impossible at times. The desire to judge others is strong. But would you please take these simple truths and drive them so deep into our hearts that it changes us. That it changes the way we do everything in life.
And Father, thank you for sending a Savior to die for our sins, rise from the dead and punctuate the fact that your spirit dwells in each of us who put our faith in you. And thank you that in your strength, we have the ability to say goodbye to worry, fear, doubt, judgment, and sin. We invite you to finish what you have begun in us in each of these capacities. In Jesus’ name, amen.