Who are You?
Genesis gives us an accurate description of who we are.
God says, in Genesis 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
So, we're created to reflect God. We're made in His image, His likeness, but how did God make us? Did He make us like He made the heavens and the earth, by speaking them into existence?
Genesis 2:7 says, "Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground."
Who are we? We're creatures made from dirt. So many church leaders in America tell people, "You're victorious. You're strong. You're beautiful." But that's pride. That's self-righteousness. Our flesh is constantly trying to make us forget where we come from.
The problem with the church in America is that we have forgotten who God is and who we are. Because of the fall, because of Adam's sin, everyone is conceived a sinner.
Psalm 51:5 rightly declares, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."
Paul affirms this in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
How can we ever hope to come to saving faith, since we can't earn it through any effort of our own?
It's only when God removes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 26:36) that our blind eyes are opened and our deaf ears unstopped.
When God revealed Himself to Isaiah, the prophet said, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips …" (Isaiah 6:5).
When Jesus commanded Peter to cast his net into the water, even though this experienced fisherman had been fishing all night without success, the net was filled to bursting.
And Peter's response? "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8).
When Thomas saw the scars in the risen Savior's hands and placed his hand into the wound on His side, this doubting disciple recognized the truth.
He proclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28)
We don't need to be convinced that we are innately strong and beautiful. Instead, we must be convinced of God's greatness, our sinfulness, and our desperate need of a savior, the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Extinguish Your Doubts
Even as believers, we struggle with doubt—even though we may deny it or avoid discussing it. It's nothing new—John the Baptist doubted; the apostles who had spent three years in the Master's presence doubted. We can't sweep it under the rug.
A number of things can trigger doubt; personal failure, a lack of understanding, shock, and isolation among them.
Even though Thomas had urged his fellow disciples to return to Jerusalem so they could die with Lazarus (he didn't know that Jesus was going to raise their friend from the dead), shortly afterward, he was filled with so much doubt that he wouldn't take the other disciples' word for it that their Master had risen from the dead. He had to see it for himself. Thomas failed, but Jesus graciously removed his doubt.
No matter how many times Jesus had told them He had to die, His followers simply couldn't understand. Surely, the Promised Messiah was going to deliver them from their oppressors—not be put to death by those same oppressors. It was unfathomable.
But Jesus did die. Their hopes and dreams were dashed. But it wasn't the end. Still, when they saw the empty tomb, it simply didn't register.
And while situations in our life with cause us to doubt, we can address our lack of understanding by prayerfully studying the Scriptures.
Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
We can get to know God and learn to trust Him as we study His Word.
We may confess our failures to Him. We may diligently study the Scriptures. However, certain events may shock us, giving doubt the opportunity to grow.
Thomas and the other disciples were shocked at what happened to Jesus. That shock caused Thomas to doubt the assurances of his fellow disciples that the Master had risen and appeared to them. He had to see for himself. In fact, Thomas believed he would have to touch the wounds to overcome his doubt.
There are times we pray for years and don't receive the answer to our prayer. We may wonder if God hears our prayers, if He cares about our heartache, if He even exists.
When we face growing doubt, we have a tendency to isolate ourselves. We don't know where Thomas was and why he wasn't with the other disciples, but we do know he had isolated himself. In all likelihood, he was overcome with fear, sorrow, and depression. When we feel this way, we don't want to be around others either—especially those who remind us why we feel the way we do.
Many of us have stayed away from church when the emotional heaviness was too much to bear. Still, when we hear how uplifting the music was and how inspiring the message, we want to return. We want to be uplifted and inspired.
Jesus was gracious to Thomas and He will be gracious to all those who seek Him—even if we still have doubts.
Experience the Grace of Christ
When Jesus appeared to His disciples a second time, He could have chastised them for their unbelief. Instead, He poured out His grace—especially on Thomas, who had said he wouldn't believe unless he touched the wounds.
But Jesus didn't focus on the sense of touch but on the sense of sight. In John 20:29 we read, "Have you believed because you have seen me?"
This question reminds me of verses 1, 14, and 16 of John 1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (1). And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (verse 14). For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (verse 16).
Jesus was gracious and merciful to Thomas and He is gracious and merciful to us as well. Have you experienced this? Have you been overcome with sadness, despair, and depression that led to doubt? Have you experienced the freedom that comes when Christ pours out His grace, giving you hope?
It is because of grace that we recognize our sinfulness and come to saving faith in the One who took the punishment we deserve yet rose victorious over sin and death. It is because of grace that we come to faith and because of grace that we journey beyond the doubt that plagues us from time to time.
Even as believers, we continue to sin. By grace, the Lord forgives us. But that doesn't give us "a free pass."
In Romans 6:1-2, Paul says, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"
By studying and obeying the Scriptures, we can do as it says in Romans 13:14, "But on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."
Elevate Christ and Submit to His Lordship
Thomas doubted, but when he saw the risen Messiah, he knew the truth. He believed. But what if he'd been right? What if Jesus hadn't risen from the dead.
First Corinthians 15:17 says, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins."
But our faith is not futile. As believers, we are no longer "in our sins." Of course, when we look around at the tragedies and godlessness all around us, that faith may be shaken. Doubt may, again, try to get a foothold.
But if Christ was raised from the dead, His claims are true and the issues we face are secondary. Still, we struggle. At times our faith is weak. Some doubt may not be resolved until we see Him face to face in glory. But we need not doubt the resurrection. Many faithful witnesses, whose lives were dramatically changed when they saw Him, are the fruit of that truth. Our faith rests on a sure foundation.
We can rest on the truth of the resurrection. When we do, we will increasingly desire to yield to His will, to obey His Word. Still, there will be times we succumb to the sin nature. The mark of a genuine Christian is not how sinless we are but how frequently we repent
First John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
Second Timothy 2:24-25 says, "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth."
So, how do we overcome sin? How do we "put on Christ" and "make no provision for the flesh"? How do we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide our daily decisions? It starts with prayer. We must ask the Lord to help us make the right decisions and be obedient to what we already know is right according to His Word. Plus, we must become diligent students of God's Word.
Why did John write his gospel?
John 20:31 says, "… 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."
May we, like Thomas, continue to see Jesus as "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28).
Our Savior deserves nothing less.