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. Why are there still unbelievers?

WHY ARE THERE STILL UNBELIEVERS?

 

John 3:19-21 (ESV) 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 

Introduction

 

We are still looking at the “I am” statements of Jesus Christ. At present we are looking at the statement of Christ, that He is the Vine. He is the Divine Vine. We looked at the fruitless branches, we looked at the fruit bearing branches. One of the positives of being in the Vine is that we are called friends of Jesus. One of the challenges is that the World hates us, unbelievers hate us, because they hated Jesus.

 

This morning we want to ask the question. Why are there still unbelievers? Another way to ask the question is: ‘why are there any unbelievers in this world?’ I want you to realise, not only has God answered that question but He wants us to know the answer to that question. God wants you to know why there are unbelievers, and if God has answered the question then the knowledge of the answer is something very important when it comes to us living our lives in such a way that we will glorify God.

 

So, to ask the question again; why are there still unbelievers in the world? Why doesn’t every man, woman or young person repent when they hear the gospel and trust in Jesus. Why are they unwilling to believe? Jesus gives us the answer here in verses 19-21. There are a few things we will see in this answer.

 

Point 1. The judgment on the unbeliever (condemned).

 

Jesus says in verse 19: ‘This is the judgment’, or this is the condemnation or verdict.

 

“This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

 

Now what does this statement mean? This is the judgment or verdict. There are three ways to understand this:

First of all, it could mean that what He is about to describe or make a ruling on what characterises those people who will be devoted to destruction one day. What characterises them is that light comes into the world, but they love the darkness rather than the light. This is one way to understand this.

 

There is a second way to understand this. This is the essence of their judgement and the evidence of their guilt. What is their judgment? What is it that they will be condemned for one day? They will be condemned because they prefer darkness to light, they reject Christ. They have sinned and they know they have sinned. Their unwillingness to believe is proof of their wickedness which demonstrates the justice of God in condemning them. This is true of all men. ‘The light has come into the world and people love the darkness instead of the light because their deeds are evil’. This is mankind outside Christ. So, this is the essence of what demonstrates the guilt of man.

 

There is a third way you can understand it. This is the way sinners are condemned. The word ‘verdict’ or ‘judgement’ here is not the word ‘krema’ for verdict but actually the word krisis {kree'-sis} which refers more to the process of judgment than the actual results. What English word do we know that comes from this word? Crisis: - which is an unstable period, extreme trouble or danger that requires a turning point. That will mean that the apostle here is not referring to the decree of God but rather to the way in which the process works.

 

They follow their own wicked desires; they follow their own wicked prejudices to their ultimate destination, and this is the way they are condemned now and finally condemned forever. Now if you ask me exactly what it refers to here. I would say that it probably includes all three of those in some way.

 

It is what characterises those who are condemned and headed for ultimate condemnation, and this is also really what makes them guilty because they are sinful by nature and they are sinful by choice and they reject light. It is the evidence of their guilt before God, it is the essence of their guilt before God, and I also believe that this is the way that judgment works. Somebody asked me a while ago how this whole issue of condemnation fits in with the doctrine of reprobation. I do not want to deviate from the text before us but let me say this.

 

Remember God does not work in the same way to damn sinners, as He works to save sinners. God must intervene to save sinners; all God must do for sinners to be damned is to leave them to their own choice. This is the way in which reprobation is worked out. God simply leaves a man to his own choice, all the time appealing to the man to repent of his sins and come to Jesus for life, and that man therefore is guilty by virtue of his own choices.

 

Can I tell you how far we have fallen in this world? The word of God tells us that by nature we are damned, but that God by His grace saves us. Microsoft Word underlined my word ‘damn’ in blue, which means a word error. I then right clicked on the word to see what my mistake is, and you know what Microsoft tells me. “This language may be offensive to your reader.”

 

Also, God did not make him sinful. God does not put sinful desires in a man’s heart, God does not put unbelief in his mind, on the contrary God allows that man to use his free will to go in the direction he wants to go. We are not puppets, we have a free will, the problem is that the free will of man is in bondage to sin and unless God intervenes to save some, we all will go to hell. Men do make choices; real choices and they choose what they want. In that way they are free, but they choose in accordance with their nature and in that way, they are in bondage because their nature is sinful.

 

So, their desires and appetites are all bent away from God and away from truth and away from salvation. You leave a man to the choices that come from his own heart and if God does not intervene to grant New Birth that man will be damned because he chose darkness over light. Such a man will not choose Jesus Christ, he will not choose life. This is the judgment. This is what characterises those who are condemned and will be condemned ultimately, this is evidence of their guiltiness and this is the process of their judgment.

 

Point 2. The course of the unbeliever (condemned).

 

What is this way in which the condemned are walking? Why do unbelievers not believe or why are there lost men in this world who will not come to Jesus? Let me state it negatively.

 

2.1 Negatively stated.

 

2.1.1 It is not a matter of intellect.

 

Firstly, the unwillingness to believe is not really a matter of the intellect. Sin has left the natural man without understanding. But what may not be so evident to us is that at the root of a man’s ignorance is man’s bias against the truth and in favour of his sin. There are certain things he does not understand because he does not want to understand it. He is unwilling to understand it because if he were willing to acknowledge understanding, it exposes him and shows his ways for what they really are, and he needs to change. So, it is true that he does not understand, but sin is at the root of His ignorance, sin is at the root of his lack of understanding.

 

His nature is so repulsed by truth and averse to truth that he cannot grasp the truth. There is no appetite for the truth when it comes to the gospel. There is a passage in the Bible that points this out so clearly. Ephesians 4:17 (ESV) 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.”

 

The question now is how are unbelievers living or walking? Paul goes on to tell us how. They walk “in the futility of their thinking (vain, futile thinking, wrong thinking, misguided thinking.) The question now is why our thinking was turned in the wrong direction and why is theirs still. Why did we lack understanding and why do unbelievers still? We are told why in Ephesians 4:18 (ESV) 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (there is no light there, the light of God the light of truth, the light that comes from the Holy Spirit, the light that comes from conversion. There is no light there, why? Paul goes on) “alienated from the life of God”. Where there is no life there is no light, where there is no light there is futile thinking. You see the progression here. They are vein in their thinking, because they are darkened in their understanding, they are darkened in their understanding because they are alienated from God. They are alienated from God says Paul; because of the ignorance that is in them. Why is there an ignorance in them, is it because they are stupid? No, it is due to the hardness of their hearts. This whole chain can be traced to the condition of man’s heart from birth. They still have a heart of stone. What do we get in the new covenant? We get a heart of flesh. Where there is a heart of flesh, there is understanding, because there is life from God and the thoughts are changed. We are no longer futile in our thinking.

 

So, if you look back in John 3, the ultimate issue is not an intellectual issue. If you understand that, it will have a dramatic effect on your view of evangelism. God works through the imparting of knowledge. Nobody gets saved if we do not preach the truth. But ultimately, if God does not change a man’s heart the truth that we preach will fall on deaf ears. Some of you have loved ones, it may be your child, it may be your parents, it may be your spouse and you have witnessed to them and have talked to them and you have tried different angles and have taken different approaches and they keep rejecting the truth. What is the issue there, why do they keep rejecting the truth? Is it because you have not explained it well enough; is it really an intellectual issue? No, it is a heart issue.

 

Let us keep sharing and let us keep praying because if God does not intervene, we can preach till the cows come home and nobody is going to be changed. Any view of sinners that sees the barrier to the gospel being a purely intellectual one is underestimating the problem. The problem is bigger than that.

 

2.1.2 It is not a matter of influence.

 

Secondly. The unwillingness to believe is not really a matter of influence. Modern evangelistic methods reveal real ignorance at this point.

 

One example of these methods is the invitation system. A pastor who visited Logos for a while asked me why Logos does not make public appeals. You are familiar with the invitation system where people are called forward to kneel at the altar. Listen I know how to give invitations. I grew up with it. I did it; I attended courses on how to give an invitation, how to ensure that people come forward.

 

One of the critical things though was that you must get the atmosphere right for God to move. Soft music, or certain songs that awake nostalgia in a person and so the list goes on (40 verses of Just as I am). If you say the right thing at the right time, then they will come forward and they will be saved. Get your counsellors to come out while the music is playing, and people will follow. If someone comes, let us sing another verse while the Lord is moving. I heard an American pastor telling South African pastors that you even need to so a seed like a musician does with seed money in his guitar case. Help the people by acknowledging hands when there are none, and this will free others to raise their hands. What are we really saying when we say it is about the right music, the right timing, the right lighting? We are saying that conversion is a matter of influence.

 

You see, we do not understand how God saves sinners and then we see it as a battle of the wills. There is the will of the sinner, the will of the preacher and the will of God and if we bombard them with the right influences we can catch them at the right time at their weak moment and overcome their will and they will be saved. That is the mindset that stands behind it.

 

There is another evangelistic system which I want to call the impression system. The real issue is that we must capture their interest, we must impress them.

 

The real problem between Jesus and the world is that we have left the world with the wrong impression. They think that Christians are boring; they think that Christians are out on a limb and out of touch and uncreative. What we need to do to save them is to wow them, and if we can impress them, if we can present Jesus in an attractive attention getting way, we will see more people saved. Therefore, you see all this emphasis in evangelicalism on turning the church into Hollywood.

 

If we can just get a few strong guys on stage to bend bars and break bricks or if we can just get them laughing with no emphasis upon the Word, we will save them. Let us impress them into the Kingdom. Let us get a sport star to preach. Even if he makes a hash of God’s word, his personality and association to a sport will convict people to come to Christ. And again, if we think that that is the reason why they are not believing and not coming to Jesus we have a wrong understanding of man’s problem.

 

Then there is the inclusion system. The real problem is that we have not made sinners feel that we love them. Now lost people must know that we love them. Our Saviour was a friend of sinners. We need to remember that the world is not our enemy, it is our mission field. But we still have this matter wrong if we think that by befriending them, that will make them Christians. You even find Christians who say we must do less talking; we must just live the faith and people will become Christians. Or others say that we must have fun with them, play with them not preach to them. Now we need to love the world, let us feed them, let us clothe them but realise that no man becomes a Christian because of that.

 

If we believe this, then we have grossly underestimated the issue if we think that the unbeliever’s real problem with Jesus is that he does not feel welcome or invited to come to Christ. That is not what our text says. “This is the judgement: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness (what are the next words?) rather than the light…”

 

That means that the light has been made available to the world. They have been invited, the welcome to Jesus sign has been put out, the real invitation has been made, come unto me says Jesus, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Jesus says, come drink of me, come eat of me.  The problem is not the invitation system, the problem is that they do not want Him. It is not that they are not welcomed. The problem is that they do not want to be there.

 

All these approaches and many others that we can name all begin with the thought that man is basically neutral and if given the proper opportunity or the proper influence and if given the proper message anybody would choose Jesus.

 

That is not what our verse is saying. So why are men unbelievers? To understand this, we must not just look at their course but we must also look at their character.

 

Point 3. The character of the unbeliever (condemned).

 

The unwillingness to believe is a matter of the sinful nature. That is why men do not believe. That is the truth, that is the answer to the problem. You can give the natural man the right information in the right atmosphere with the right influence and if he is left to himself, he still will not come. That is how far away from God he is.

 

Now the question begs, why won’t he come? Where is his resistance coming from? Well we are told that clearly in verse 19; “but men loved darkness instead of light.” So, what do we see in his character?

 

Well, this time you are going to join me, next Sunday for the rest of this sermon. In the meantime, our devotions this week will help us to fill in many blanks.

 

WHY ARE THERE STILL UNBELIEVERS? (PART 2)


In our devotions we have dealt with the fact that we are Friends of God, friends of Christ. He calls us friends. But we have also seen in many devotions that we are not friends of all. Unbelievers hate God, hate Christ, and hate us. In our last bit of devotions, we have seen that they are without excuse in the day of judgment, as they have seen Christ. They listened to His Words and they have seen His deeds.

 

The question we asked last Sunday and continue with today is why there are still unbelievers. We then looked at their judgment according to John 3, and we looked at their course which is not a matter of influence or a matter of intellect.

Let us read our text again and then we will look at their character.

 

John 3:19-21 (ESV) 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”


Point 3. The character of the unbeliever (condemned).

Their unwillingness to believe is a matter of the sinful nature. That is why men do not believe. That is the truth, that is the answer to the problem. You can give the natural man the right information in the right atmosphere with the right influence and if he is left to himself, he still will not come. That is how far away from God he is.

 

Now the question begs, why won’t he come? Where is his resistance coming from? Well we are told that clearly in verse 19; “but men loved darkness instead of light.” So, what do we see in his character? Three things we see regarding his character.

 

3.1 The unbeliever prefers darkness.

 

It is not that he loves darkness because there is no other alternative. The light has come into the world. The light has been set before him in a way that invites him, but he prefers the darkness to the light. He would rather have the darkness. Why does he prefer darkness? Verse 19 says: ‘because their deeds are evil’. By the way this word ‘evil’ comes from the Greek word  "poneros {pon-ay-ros'}" literally means that their deeds are worthless, wicked and even painful.

 

Can you believe that a man can stand before Christ and see His glory and reject Him? It happened with the Jews and with Nicodemus’ friends according to John 1. The light came into the world, but His own rejected Him. What do they choose? Man chooses worthless things because that is his nature.

 

How many people listening today on this Whatsapp Broadcast prefer to be muddy rather than clean? Why do you prefer cleanliness rather than muddiness? If you were a pig you would prefer muddiness. Take a pig, clean him nicely, spray him full of perfume and gel his hair and put him near mud and see what happens. He runs back to the mud. You know why? Because it is a pig, that is his nature.

 

I am not trying to be stupid or insensitive now or am trying to gross you out, because I am going to be Biblical. Any one here with a desire to ingest what you vomit up? No! We do not do that because we are not a dog. But if you have been around dogs you would have witnessed them doing that.

 

Look at 2 Peter 2:21-22 (ESV) 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness (he is talking here about apostates, he is talking here about people who have heard the gospel, they have seen the light and have professed faith in Jesus and now they have gone back to their lifestyle of unbelief revealing that they have never chosen the light at all) than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.

 

What is the Bible saying? Show me a man who walks away from Jesus and runs to the world and I will show you a man who has never been changed in his nature. He is the same man he was when he was born into the world. It is the nature of unbelievers to prefer darkness to light. The real issue is not intellectual, the real issue is not influential, the real issue is nature. You can set the light before him and he does not want it, why? Because it represents cleanliness and his desire is muddiness. That is the problem.

 

3.2 The unbeliever hates the light.


Not only does he love the darkness but verse 20 says: John 3:20 (ESV) 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

 

Not only does he prefer darkness, but the natural man hates the light. What is the truth about the natural man? He not only loves darkness, but he positively hates light. It is like I said before. The issue is breathing or holding your breath. He reveals his hatred for the light in so many ways. One of the ways men reveal their hatred for the light is that they are indifferent to it. They do not care to hear the truth. They do not want to hear the truth. You will even find someone attending church for the sake of their loved ones, but they are doing everything while sitting in church trying not to hear rather than making every effort to hear, and we are busy talking about matters of the soul. That indifference is actually hatred. I hate the light; I hate the truth.

 

There is not only indifference, but they are indignant. They insult the truth, they mock the truth, they make fun of it, they make light of it. This is very much what you will see on television and in movies. They are overly sensitive to everyone’s feelings but when it comes to Christianity and Christ, they are indignant. They use the name of the Lord in vain, they stereotype Christians, they stereotype those in the ministry and present Christians in general as weaklings who are totally incapable of performing normally in society.

 

Why do they single Christianity out, why don’t you hear ‘oh, my Allah in every movie’. Why don’t you hear the name Mohammed used for every opportunity that a word is needed for emphasis of disgust or surprise?  It is because they hate the light. In their mind it is alright to insult the light and anything to do with the light. We have people being bombed and killed in the name of Allah and who stands up to call them a religion of peace? It is he very same people who are not Muslims but who call Christianity bigoted and narrow.

 

Not only is natural man indifferent towards the light and indignant towards the light but he is influential against the light. He not only hates the light for himself, but he is more than willing to influence others away from it as well. They have no tolerance towards the light. They are threatened by Christmas and Easter, take the name Christ out of Christmas, do not play carols in the shopping malls. You can play evil stuff that is fine, why? Because they hate the light. He loves darkness, he hates light.

 

3.3 The unbeliever rejects the light.


John 3:20 (ESV) 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

 

Not only do they hate the light, but they reject the light, even if he is in the midst of the light week by week.  I am confident that there are week after week young people in church, because their parents want them to come, or maybe a spouse who is there because their partner wants them to be there, but who do not have any real interest in the light for themselves and they do not turn to Jesus. Maybe somebody today is listening to this broadcast, but your heart is far from it.

 

Here is the reason why. He is unwilling to see the true nature of his life and his choices lest his deeds be exposed. What happens when the light is turned on? Things that you would not see in darkness are exposed. Here is man who loves worthless things, his heart is set on worthless things and when you take life lived for the temporal world and you compare it to the gospel message and the light shines, what you see about that kind of life? It is shown by the light to be a futile life, it is a vain life, it is a worthless life, it is a foolish life and the natural man does not want to see that.

 

That is his condemnation, that is what characterises men who are condemned and judged. That is the essence of their wickedness and sinfulness. Light comes in and they do not want any part of it, and this is actually how the judgment takes place. Men go further and further into the darkness of their own souls until one day when they are damned forever. John Calvin said it this way: “They purposely cherish the ground of their condemnation.”


But there is a person in contrast to this.


Point 4. The character of the believer (Not condemned)

 

John 3:21 (ESV) 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 

Are there people in this world who walk in the truth? There are. What do they do? They come to the light so that it can be clearly seen that their deeds have been carried out in God. There is a person who walks in the truth, and it is not just their initial response to the Lord Jesus, but it becomes their lifestyle. They come to the light, they love the light and it is in the light that they see clearly that they are sinners saved by grace and that salvation was not from themselves.

 

In fact, this person is willing to have exposed on a continuous basis anything that is worthless. ‘Lord show me where I am wasting my life, Lord show me where I am misguided in my thinking, Lord show me where my affections for you are misplaced, if you will reveal to me where I am wrong, I will repent because I want the truth, I want to walk in the light, I don’t want to live deceived, I don’t want to waste my life, I want what is true and meaningful and lasting and God honouring for time and for eternity.’

 

There are people like that in this world. You know who they are. They are believers. Here is what we said last week, and I want to explain it again this morning. How do you explain those people? If a natural man loves darkness, if a natural man hates light and if a natural man rejects the light and if the reason for all of this is that he is living a worthless life and that he loves the worthless life and doesn’t want it exposed and doesn’t want to let it go, then how do you explain any human being who loves truth and walks after truth who loves light and comes to the light, let’s go of things that are worthless. How do you explain that person?

 

The end of verse 21 tells us, “so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 

You see the difference here is that God is the author of His life, he is born from above, he is not left to his nature. God is the explanation for his deeds, God’s power is the explanation. For him loving the truth, coming to the truth, and walking in the light is all explained by God and His grace.

 

I often thank God for the fact that do I sin. It sounds crazy, but do not misunderstand me. When we were in darkness, we did not see our sin as it was as dark as darkness and we thought we were OK in ourselves. Now in the light when I do sin, it is like holding my breath I see my sin and realise that in my old nature I had no hope and I know it is all of God that I am a believer.

 

All we did was to believe and look up to Jesus on the cross carrying our sin and we came into the light and now according to Ephesians 5:1 we “live as children of the light”. If God had left us to ourselves and to our own choices, we would have perished. By nature, we were the pigs and the dogs but now our nature has changed. We are now born of God or in other words, God granted us a new birth and our eyes were opened, our heart was changed and there is now a love for Christ, a love for the truth and a desire for the light. Our life was exposed for what it was. It was worthless without Him, but we repented, we turned from our worthless life, our worthless ways, our worthless thoughts, our vain and futile imaginations, we saw the truth for what it was. There is only one way for us to be reconciled to a Holy God. It is His Son Jesus who died for sinners on the cross and was raised from the dead and we ran to the Son of God and He saved us and now we have a heart that is set on truth and set on light.

 

We are not a perfect people. At least, I am not. We stumble in many ways, but God has given us a new nature  that doesn’t run to the mud, that doesn’t run to the vomit, it’s a new nature that runs to Him so when we fall down and get our feet dirty we see that it is dirty because we live in the light and we get our feet washed and we know that according to 1 John 1:9 (ESV) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

We want to walk in that which is pure. How do you explain us? God explains us. We are born not of the will of flesh, not of the will of man, not of blood but born of God.

 

Summary: (In closing)

 

I need to say what I am going to say in closing now. We have spoken so much about unbelievers the last two Sundays and in the devotion, so I need to say the following, otherwise I will be unfaithful to the essence of these studies. I want to ask you today, have you ever been born of God, have you ever experienced the New Birth, have you ever run to Jesus Christ for life, have you ever said that I see that I am in darkness, I see that my life is worthless and I see that the only way for my sins to be forgiven and for me to have life is Jesus, and I am willing to forsake all my worthless things to have Him whose worth cannot be measured. Why will you hate Christ, why will you hate the light? There is no comparison.

 

Are you born again? If not, come to the light today, look at Jesus, see Him on the cross dying as your substitute. See him willing to take your sins upon Him and to wash you so that you never again have to return to the mud, because He is willing to clothe you with His righteousness, to give you a new nature and to glorify you forever, so that the judgement on you will be ‘in Jesus, not condemned.’ Will you come, will you turn, and if you will not turn, you know today without a shadow of doubt why you are condemned and will be condemned. Your judgment will be just, and our prayer is not for your condemnation but for your salvation.

 

But those who prove unwilling to come to Jesus so that they may have life face the certainty of divine judgment as the writer of Hebrews points out to us so clearly:

 

Hebrews 2:3 (ESV) 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,”

 

Hebrews 12:25 (ESV) 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.”

 

Hebrews 12:29 (ESV) 29 for our God is a consuming fire.”

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: - 30 August 2020