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05 May 2019

Hardened In Unbelief [Matthew 13:53-58]
  • Topic: FAITH, REPENTANCE, SIN, The Gospel

Overview

Why will people not believe in Jesus today? Even when they have heard the gospel many times? Is there hope for them still? And what can we do? The story of Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth reveals a people hardened in unbelief.  Regardless of how Jesus preached or performed miracles, many in Israel simply refused to believe in Him. John tells us the real reason is that they love darkness and will not come into the light, because their works were evil (John 3:19,20). But there is a remedy to unbelief. Find out the answer in this sermon here. And may you also repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ!


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Sermon Transcript

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We're looking at Matthew chapter 13 today, the very last sermon in ‘The Secrets of the Kingdom’. Now, I heard that there were actually some of the parents, told me that their kids wanted to come and hear the last parable in ‘The Secrets of the Kingdom’. And I was somewhat apologetic when I said to them, “I'm sorry, there's no more parable.” The parables were all done by last Sunday. But today, we are going to wrap up as to what's happening after Jesus spoke those parables.

I like to just set the stage as it were, Jesus Christ when He was on earth was not very welcome in general. We thought that He will be a very popular figure, but actually He was very rejected. Isaiah 53:3 told us, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Matthew had been faithfully telling us the life and times of Jesus so far. He told us how Jesus was revealed to the nation of Israel and then he showed us how Jesus was rejected by the people of Israel.
The Jewish leaders hated Jesus. They said that the miracles Jesus did, was not done in the power of the Spirit of God, but was done by the power of Satan.

So, Jesus was a rejected man by and large. So, He took some time to explain to His disciples via the parables, via ‘The Secrets of the Kingdom’ - why things are so. But after He finished teaching them the parables, we see Jesus now returning to face rejection of men.

So, that’s the story we join, in verse 53 of Matthew chapter 13, “And when Jesus had finished these parables, He went away from there.” You say, “What's there?” ‘There’ refers to Capernaum, a city He frequently goes to. So, He went away from Capernaum and came to His hometown.

What is the hometown of Jesus? Nazareth. That's where He grew up. And you imagine when a celebrity comes home, people would gather, right? I mean Jesus by now would be the most famous man to walk in Palestine. Everyone must have heard of Jesus - His amazing sermons, teachings, the amazing miracles He did. How He healed the sick, caused the blind to see, the deaf to hear and even the dead to rise to life.

So, He must be a well-known figure and when a well-known figure comes home, you would imagine a crowd. When Joseph Schooling won his Olympic gold medal and he comes back to Singapore, many people go to look for Joseph Schooling. When JJ Lin comes back to Singapore to hold a concert, many people go to listen to JJ Lin.

And I can imagine when Jesus comes back to Nazareth, his hometown many people will be gathered. And the first place of note that is written here are recorded for us that He went to is the synagogue. He went to the synagogue and taught them. A synagogue is a place of gathering for the Jewish people to hear God's Word, to worship.

So, He went to the synagogue and He spoke to the people in the synagogue. And they were astonished, they were stunned. They were amazed at the wonderful teaching, no doubt of Jesus Christ. Now, if Jesus is to come to town in Singapore and He goes to any place, any church building in Singapore, I am pretty sure, I'll be dropping whatever I'm doing, to go to sit at the feet of Jesus to listen to Him.

So for example, if he’s here, somewhere else, I say, “Guys, sorry, I'm leaving you. I'm going to hear Jesus.” And if we were to go and hear Jesus, I believe we would hear and be so amazed that He's teaching live. And we will be so quick to say, “I want to obey.” And I think a revival might break out here in Singapore. I could imagine that!

So, when they went to listen to Jesus, I would imagine people would respond to Him very positively. But instead in verse 57 we are told, “They took offense at Him.” They were upset with Him. They tripped up over Him. They stumbled over Him. They ‘beisong’ Him, basically in Hokkien, they were not happy with Jesus. They rejected Him.

And the Bible tells us, “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” [verse 58] This is a subject we are dealing with - unbelief towards Jesus. Now you say, maybe this is the first time they met Jesus, maybe they didn't know more enough about Jesus, so they are shocked and not prepared to receive Jesus.

But the reality is far from that! Because one year earlier, a year ago, pretty much the same thing took place. About a year earlier, Jesus entered the synagogue, also in Nazareth, opened up the Scriptures and read Isaiah 61. Beautiful promises about the power, the healing, the grace of the coming Messiah.

And then He said to the people, “This day, this Scripture is fulfilled right before you.” He went on to preach on other things, exposed the sin. And then we read in Luke chapter 4 verse 28, “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath and they rose up and drove Him out of the town and brought Him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw Him down the cliff.”

They were so upset with Jesus that they all ganged up together and wanted to commit cold-blooded murder by flinging Him off the precipice. And one year later, it's the same. They were offended with Him and they were still hardened in unbelief.

This is not a sermon I think that would be very well received. It's not a popular topic. It's not a positive topic in the eyes of many people. It seems rather negative. And I can understand if you're not particularly attracted to dealing with this subject. But nonetheless, God, in His wisdom has included this snippet, this glimpse of unbelief amongst the people in Nazareth for our learning, for our instruction and indeed for our warning.

So much as maybe some of us would like to skip this, I think it is worth our while to just listen and understand more about this subject, difficult subject of unbelief. I like you to note, together with me a few things about this problem of unbelief.
1]. Refusal of Unbelief
Number one, notice with me the refusal of unbelief. Unbelief is not that you can't believe. Unbelief is that you won't believe. There's a very big difference! If you are struggling today, you say, “I, I need more information. I need to understand more, please tell me more, so that I can believe.” That's fine! But the problems cited here is not that they can't believe, but they won't believe. Because they had every evidence to prove Jesus is the Messiah, but they just plain reject it.

They refused to believe. The evidence is clear. They were astonished and they said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works.” [Matthew 113:54] There was no controversy! It was clear as daylight! Everyone knew that when the Master preached His words flowed with great wisdom. Everyone knew that Jesus did incontrovertible miracles. But even in the face of such clear evidence, they refused to believe.

Now, I have two sons. Many of you would have met my sons before either on pictures here or in real life, when they're running around and creating a nuisance downstairs at level one, two and three. My two sons, when you see them, will realize, you will realize they are absolutely naughty sons. You will be surprised, wah, Pastor's sons also like that ah! But they are depraved, sinful, naughty, rebellious, but I want to say, both my wife and I, we love them to bits, alright. We love our depraved kids. We love our sinful kids. We love them. But you could tell straight away that they're sinful.

But if Jesus is to grow up here in this church, you could immediately tell He is also very different. Can you imagine Jesus growing up? Where did He grow up? Nazareth. The very same town we are talking about here. I don't think it will be ridiculous for us to imagine, many of them in Nazareth would have known about Jesus.

These are the uncles, the aunties who have seen this baby boy grew up. These are the children who used to play with Jesus and are now fellow adults with Jesus. And I am pretty sure, everyone would sit up and notice. This boy is different!

Every other boy is like my two sons, Shawn, Matthias - fighting, screaming, pulling people's hair, screaming and so on. But this Jesus, He never fought. He never insisted on His own ways. He was never unkind. There was never a curse that came out of his mouth towards a fellow friend. When He went to school, He was the true model student - never cheated, always gave His best.

When He was a teenager, He don't have teenage angst like many teenagers today. Huh, have or not? Okay, never mind. He, He, He did not have these illicit BGR problems like teenagers may have. When He started to work, He always gave His best in His carpentry. He was amazing! I mean, He was a stand-out citizen by far.

Everyone else pales in comparison with this man, Jesus. Of all people in the world, the people in Nazareth has the least excuse not to believe in Him, isn't it? They saw His impeccable life. They heard about His teachings. They have seen and heard His amazing miracles. Yet, they will not believe.

There are people today who say, “Oh, Pastor, you know why people do not believe in Jesus? Because you don't have enough miracles. Especially your church. Gospel Light, no miracles, so boring. Every time, every time come to church, only hear preaching. But you don't have those magic show. You don't have signs and wonders. You don't have spectacular things, no wonder people don't believe.”

Well, you would see in this passage, even miracles do not necessarily produce faith at all.

I have pastor friends from different churches. And I remember one of my pastor friends, he used to serve in a huge church and he showed me a photo of a palm, of someone's palm and some golden grains and sand on that palm. He says, “Look at this picture!” I say, “What is that?” “Gold dust.” “Huh, what gold dust?” “Oh, we prayed and God gave us gold dust in our hands.” “Wah, like that ah!” Not that I want to follow hah, but I said, “Like that ah, why got gold dust? He says, “This is God helping people to believe in Him.” I say, “Why? Because he said, “You need miracles to help people have faith in Him.”

“That's the miracle! When you pray, you have gold dust.” Then I asked him, “I thought the Bible says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, Romans 10:17.” He says, “Yes, but that's not good enough!” I say, “Why?” He says, “Because the young people today, need more than the Word of God. They need the miracles.”

That I think is quite a prevalent thought in the world and even in the churches today. That somehow we think that with more miracles, it is a guarantee that people would believe. Well, certainly we don't see that in this passage!

The people of Nazareth heard and are clear that this is a great miracle worker, but they rejected Him. They took offense at Him. In fact, it became even more explicit in John 12:37, “Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him.”

You see, unbelief is a persistent refusal. It's not that you can't, but you just won't believe. In fact, Jesus said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, if they do not hear the Word of God, neither will they be convinced even in this great miracle takes place, someone rises from the dead.” [Luke 16:31] I mean, I think someone rises from the dead, beats gold dust in my hand anytime.

But Jesus is saying, “If they do not hear the Word, Moses and the prophets, neither will they even if you do amazing miracles.” So, there are people today who simply refuse to believe the Gospel, who simply refuse to believe in the God of the Bible.

That's what Paul tells us in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” So, there are people today who, who refuse to acknowledge the truth of God and instead suppress the truth.

Keep it down and they do it because they are unrighteous. They do it because they do not want to submit to God. And so God is angry with sinners. They suppress the truth but you say, “How do they know the truth?”

Well, Paul says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” [Romans 1:19] They know the truth because God has shown the truth to them. You say, “How does people, how do people know the truth? Where is it revealed?” Paul goes on to say, “His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made, so that they are without excuse.” [Romans 1:20]

One day, all humanity will stand before the God, the Creator of all, and the Judge of all the earth. And there will be one group of people, probably quite a sizable group of people, who would say, “I protest, you should not judge me because I never knew you existed.” God will pull out Romans 1:19 and 20 and say, “It is clear! You are without excuse. But you refuse to believe and you suppress the truth.”

Unbelief expresses itself with a stubborn refusal. Just won't budge, ‘tee kee’, spiritual ‘tee kee’, spiritual obstinacy. You just won't believe. And perhaps there may be some, even right here, you hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you hear about how God and His love sent Jesus His Son to die on the cross to rise again, to save you from your sins, so that whosoever believes in Him, repents and believes in Him will be saved.

You hear that over and over and over again in this church but you simply refuse to believe. Could that be you? Well, we see that amongst the people in Nazareth.

Now, when you refuse something, you have to give a reason, right? Doesn't sound very clever or very smart if you just say, “I don't know why lah, but I just want to refuse.” So, if you want to refuse something, you usually come up with some excuses. So, you come up with some rationalization, just to justify your refusal.

So amongst the, the people in Nazareth they also come with some rationalization of their unbelief. They come with some excuses. They come with some convenient ways to explain themselves away. One year ago, in Luke chapter 4:23, one year ago this is what was said about them, “Jesus, knowing their hearts, said doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard You did at Capernaum, do here in our hometown as well.”

So, this is what Jesus is saying, “I know what you're thinking. I know your heart. No question, you must be one thing to say to Me, “Jesus, what You did at Capernaum, do it here. Heal yourself. Heal your hometown here. Do it! Do the miracles.” And you may say that you will say this to Me so that we may believe in You.”

But Jesus knew better! Jesus knew that they would say this not because they wanted to believe, but because they did not believe in Him. So, out of a heart of evil and wickedness they said, “Do these miracles, not so that when He does the miracles, they will believe. But they are just trying to postpone or to push that decision further down the line.” Or maybe say, “That's not good enough! That's not good enough! That's not good enough!” And so, it is quite reminiscent of what He said in Matthew chapter 12:39, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign.”

Now, Jesus is not saying that an evil and adulterous generation looks for miracles, so that they can be convinced, they will believe in Jesus. No, they are seeking a sign, just to excuse themselves from believing in Jesus, just asking Jesus to do endless chains of miracles. That's the excuse they gave, or at least they thought of so that they don't have to believe in Jesus, one year ago.

One year later, Jesus is back in Nazareth and this time they changed their strategy. They come up with another excuse. And in order to justify why they would reject Jesus, they said, “Among themselves where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?” “Huh, is not this Joseph's son, the carpenter's son. And don't we know his mother, Mary and aren't His brothers James and John and Simon and Judas. And don't we know there are His sisters as well.” I mean, it's ridiculous! How would this man get all these things!” [Matthew 13:54-56] He's just one of us! And they took offense at Him. [Matthew 13:57]
2]. Rationalisation of Unbelief

They found a convenient excuse - He's just one of us. He cannot be anything special. And they rejected Him. They rationalized. They excused themselves.

And there maybe people here today, who are doing exactly the same thing. You hear the Gospel but you refuse to believe. And so you come up with excuses like - I'm too busy. Don't talk to me about this. You Christians are unrealistic, unrealistic, you don't think about real life, I care about my life here. How do you know that there is only One God? How do you know that Jesus is the only way? Have you ever been to heaven? Have you ever been to hell? How, how can you tell me about these things when you've never been there? Am I really a sinner?

So you we come up with all kinds of questions, excuses. Now, let me get this straight. Nothing wrong with you asking questions. Nothing wrong at all! It's not the questions that's the problem. It's why you asked the question that's the problem. There are some people who ask genuine questions because they want to believe. They need more information to believe. That's great!

But if you're just asking questions to deflect away your necessary responsibility to believe, that's a problem! That's what they're trying to do - excuse themselves, rationalize it all away.

But what's the real reason for unbelief? Why is it that people today in the face of clear evidence in creation, in the face of clear teaching from the Bible, they refuse to believe? Why? What's the reason? What's the real reason? I asked the congregation on Saturday evening. I asked the congregation just now and they came up with great answers. So I like to ask you, “What is your answer? What are your thoughts as to the reason for unbelief?

I just show you one passage, actually three passages but first alright, John chapter 3:19 it says, “And this is the judgment that light has come into the world and people love the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” Why did people reject Jesus Christ? Because they love the darkness rather than the light, and their works were evil.

Many of you know that we have a church building at 360 Dunearn Road. It's right beside Adam Road hawker centre. Good food is there! And there was once, when we were in the building that I heard someone scream, “There's a rat! There's a rat!” And all the macho men, came, heard and siam [escape in Hokkien]. All the macho men, we are a bit scared of the rat and we were all struggling as to how to get rid of the rat.

Now, the rat, we have pretty much quite a big problem of rats Adam Road, because they are well fed by the at the Adam Road Nasi Lemak and the ‘hei mee’ [prawn noodles in Hokkien] and the stuff there. And so they by the way, come over, to our church for some tidbits, as well.

So, we have rat problem. And on that day, “Wah, rat … where? Rat ah! Where?” We saw him run, we saw the rat into the corner. It's hiding behind the utensils, the cutlery or whatever and aiyoh, we need to get it out, don't know how to get it out. So all the macho men, don't dare to go, you know. But we keep a distance, we took a chair, I think that was what we came up with. We took a chair, we stand on the chair, protect ourselves first. Throw things, take some woks and pans and kiang, kiang, kiang, hopefully drive that poor rat mad with the sound. But still stay there.

I think we came to taking a hose, a water hose spraying long-distance attack. But no matter what we did, the rat just hid in the corner. It loved the darkness rather than the light and it will not come out because his works were evil - eat our food. And no matter what you do, it won't come out!

And do you realize that we are all like rats. We all are like rats! God calls us, we wouldn't come. The light has come, but we love our dark corners. We love our sins and therefore we refuse to repent and come to God.

You know, if Joseph Schooling came to Singapore, people will go to him, right? Wah, autograph, everything, love take selfie, take picture, put on Facebook, Instagram, very proud to be Joseph Schooling. If JJ Lin comes, you will pick up autograph and everything and very proud that if he comes. You know why? You know why you have no problem going near to a famous celebrity like these two men from our hometown? Because they will not rebuke you of your sin. They won't! They are like you!

But if Jesus comes and He preaches the truth of God's Word, many wouldn't want to be associated with Him. Many will want to silence Him because our works are evil and we love darkness rather than the light. So, the Bible says, “We suppress the truth.” You know instinctively that there is a God who created all things, but you will not want to acknowledge it because of your unrighteousness, because of your evil heart.

You refuse and you try to deceive yourself, tell yourself, psycho yourself, suppress this truth about the reality of God. And so, John again says, “Everyone who does wicked things, hates the light …” [John 3:20] As Yu Fei said, “We do not want to be exposed.” “… And does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” [Johan 3:20]

It was John Wesley, who when he trained his preachers would send his preachers to preach. And when they came back, he would ask them two questions. One - are they converted? Two, are they offended? And he says, “If the answer is no and no, preaching is not for you.” Think about it! Are they converted? Are they offended?

Now, in this church, I'm glad I don't get too many offends. At least, I don't hear too many of you are offended by me. That shows I'm pretty bad as a preacher actually because true preaching really should result in either faith or animosity, hatred. Because the Word of God is sharp, the Word of God hurts us and exposes us, bruises our egos. The same sun that melts the ice is the same sun that hardens the clay.

So, the people rejected Jesus. They refused to believe in Him. They might have come up with some excuses. They rationalized it, but the real reason behind it all, is a heart that loves darkness.
3]. Remedy For Unbelief
I don't want to be long on diagnosis and short on treatment. So, let me go straight then to the remedy for unbelief. It's such a serious problem. It damns people to hell, then how can men be saved from unbelief?

How can we be helped in unbelief? To get a balanced understanding of the remedy, you really got to hear me out to the end, so please don't just judge on the beginning what I'm going to say first is that only God can deliver men from unbelief. Only God. I want to say that upfront - only God can break the heart of unbelief. Only God can give men faith to really believe.

Ephesians chapter 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.” Now, there are some who say that the gift of God refers to the action of saving, you're saved and that's the gift. But it is also I think grammatically not wrong to understand that the gift refers to the faith that saves. Regardless, I think it is not inappropriate to understand that both that salvation and that faith that accesses that salvation, they are given by God.

We see also in Philippians chapter 1:29, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of faith, you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for his sake.” Christians are called not just to believe, but also to suffer, but this ability to believe is granted to us.

We read also in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

Look at this! There is no man in this world who will ever come to Christ. Why? Because we’re so much ruined in sin, we love darkness so much, we will not come to Christ unless the Father draws him. There is absolutely zero soul today who would come to God, come to Christ unless the Father draws him. This is a very absolute statement. It is God alone who can help people come to Jesus in faith.

And the Bible also says it is God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness. And it is God who has shone in our hearts to give this light of the knowledge.” [2 Corinthians 4:6]

This world when created was shrouded in darkness, and the only person who can create light is God alone. And if God can call light out of darkness, in creation, then it is only God who can give light to a darkened heart for salvation. No one else can!

Unbelief, that love for darkness, that inability to see and accept the light. These are deep problems, no man can solve but only God can. When He cried out, “Let there be light.” There was light in this world, when He cries out, “Let there be light.” There will be light in a man's soul. “It is God who grants repentance and faith in this world.” [2 Timothy 2:25]

So, we read in the Bible, stories of how unbelief or hardened sinners can be brought to salvation and life. I think of one of the greatest man in human history and his name is Nebuchadnezzar. Heard of him, Chinese ‘尼布甲尼撒’ [Ní bù jiǎ ní sā] Wah, very long, but in the, in the English, it's quite similar -Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar is a great man because he was one of the monarchs, one of the kings of the four great empires listed in the Bible. He's the king of Babylon. A great empire, powerful empire but he was so arrogant and proud and lifted up in pride that he erected a golden statue and force the whole of Babylon to worship that statue, that is about him.

He's a, he's an idolater. He worships himself. But at the peak of his arrogance, God cut him down to size when God gave him a terrible disease that reduced him to be like a beast in the wilderness. And it was God, through these pains, through these diseases, through these sufferings that humble this man, Nebuchadnezzar. So that one day, he lifted up his eyes and he recognized the King of the heavens, the God of gods. And I think if you read Daniel's account, Nebuchadnezzar became a true believer of God. Who did this? Who is able to remove that hardened heart? God Himself.

You might recall another man, a man who was zealous for his own religion, so zealous that he went on a killing spree and killed many Christians. He was on this hardened rampage against Christians, cold- blooded murder until God, Jesus met Saul on his way to Damascus.

And God said to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you kick against the thorns? Why are you so silly? You know full well that I, Jesus am the Lord. But you hit out against your conscience and therefore you try to silence the witness of Christians. Why do you do this?” And it was this encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that God had a grip of Saul's heart, broke that unbelief and brought him to salvation and life.

You see, the Bible is very clear only God can really solve the problem of unbelief. And that's why, as Christians we don't lose hope! We continue to pray for parents. We continue to pray for neighbours. We continue to pray for children. We pray for colleagues who are yet unbelieving. But this is what we look to because we know that it's not our eloquence that could save people. But it is God alone who can save.

That is why, when someone goes through hardships, we say, “Lord, use even that hardship to break that heart of unbelief, that perhaps this might be the time they would repent and believe.” Because we trust God alone changes hearts. He's the King, who really turns the hearts of kings whithersoever He will. [Proverbs 21:1]

So we say, the remedy of unbelief really lies in God alone. But let me say, let's move on. That is true, but we must not only understand that part of Biblical truth because it may lead you to a certain kind of passivity, where you say, “Oh, if God alone is the One who can change hearts, then as Christians, we just sit back, relax and wait for God to move.”

But not true! Because the Bible equally says in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the words of Christ.” And how will people hear if there is no one who is preaching? And who can preach unless they are sent. So, there is that need for us to grow and give the Gospel, so that people may hear the Gospel, so that they may believe.

That's why, as a church we believe we are here to know Christ, to grow in Christ and to go for Christ. It is imperative that God's people would go and give the Gospel, because faith comes by hearing. This morning, I don't sit back and say, “Oh, God is going to change your heart anyway.” But no, we give the word of Christ, so that you may hear and perhaps God would use that to give you faith.

So, it's important that we should have preaching and sharing the Gospel, so that people hear. But like we have mentioned hearing alone is not enough, because you need to hear and to repent. [Matthew 12:41]

What is repentance? Repentance means turning from our sins, turning from ourselves and to look to God to save us from our sins. It requires the forsaking of our sinful ways, that willingness to say, “No, I will not carry on that lifestyle anymore. I cannot be holding on to sin and holding onto Jesus at the same time. I turn from my sin, I repent of it.”

And this is something God commands everyone to do. This is God's will for every single one of you sitting right here. Because He commands all people everywhere to repent, not just to hear. [Acts 17:30] This morning, worship is not just hearing, worship involves repenting and then believing. Believing in Jesus. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] What is to believe? To believe means to look, to look to Christ to cast your dependence on Him alone.

So how do you deal with the problem of unbelief? Well, first of all, let's acknowledge that God is the only One, can break the hardened heart. But the great God of heaven chooses to use the simple means of preaching, that people may hear, that they may repent, that they may then believe.

“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.” [John 3:17] “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.” [John 3:18]

Don't be just like a person living in Nazareth in those days hearing about the miracles of Jesus, hearing about His teaching, but stubborn in unbelief.

I'm sure many of you have been to Haw Par Villa. And in Haw Par Villa, you have the many mythical laws and folk laws of time past, Chinese culture and the favourite, not the favourite, but, but the most well-known part probably is 十八层地狱 [Shíbā céng dìyù]. The 18 levels of hell. And it's quite interesting, when I was young, I would be fascinated at how the liars will have the tongue pierced and skewered and barbecued.

I would see that those who still steal would have their hands chopped off. And 十八层地狱is meant to tell people that there will be different kinds and degrees of punishment for different sins. Now, the Bible does not teach of hell like that. The Bible does not say that there are 18 levels. I'm not sure how many levels there are in hell. And I'm not sure where it is and what it looks like, except the Bible describes it as total darkness.

But the Bible does say that there will be different degrees of torment and punishment in hell, just like there will be different degrees of rewards in heaven. So let me ask you, who will suffer the most in hell? Satan. Okay, very good, good answer. But we all not demons, we are humans. So, who amongst humans will suffer the most in hell?

But you look at what Jesus said, “Then He began to denounce the cities where most of His mighty works had been done.” [Matthew 11:20] So He is scolding, rebuking cities where He did many, many amazing miracles. He denounce them, He rebuked them because they did not repent. They were very ‘tee kee’, they were very stubborn. They were stuck in their unbelief.

“Woe to you Chorazin, woe to you Bethsaida, for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon…” [Matthew 11:21] Where is Tyre and Sidon? These are well-known sin cities of time past, terribly wicked cities. And Jesus is saying, “Woe to you these two cities where many mighty works had been done, because if your, if the privilege of seeing these mighty works had been Tyre’s and Sidon's, they would have repented a long time ago. Even though they have been wicked, they would have repented because they're not as stubborn in rebellion in unbelief as you are.

“But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon, than for you.” [Matthew 11:22] You know what's the scary thing? The people who would suffer the most in hell may not be the people out there committing murders and rapes, but it may very well be people who have grown up in church. The very people who have access to teaching, biblical teaching, who have seen the light, who have heard the Gospel over and over and over again but they refuse to believe.

I tell you there's nothing more amazing than to know Jesus as my Saviour. There is nothing that is like that! But I can tell you there's nothing more scary than to hear about Jesus and refuse to believe in Jesus.

This morning, I pray you will not just come to church but you will come to Christ. Because if you come to church and do not ultimately come to Christ, it will be more bearable perhaps for Tyre and Sidon than for you.

This is the love of God! The Gospel is given, the good news is given so that you may be saved. God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world, John 3 but that the world through Him might be saved.

This is my prayer. This is the reason this passage is given that you will not remain in stubborn unbelief. But you will hear God's Word and you will repent and believe in Jesus, that you may come into the light and that you may be saved.

Let's bow for a word of prayer together. I pray Gospel Light will be a church that responsibly, aggressively take the Gospel to many, many lives who have not heard it. Because we believe faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I pray Gospelighters, we would teach the Gospel, we would preach the Gospel and we will persuade men everywhere to repent and believe. Because we absolutely believe that when a man repents and believes, he has eternal life. We must do that!

But at the same time, we also understand that when a man repents and believes, it's not that I was eloquent or that I was persuasive. But that the God of mercy has sovereignly broken the heart of unbelief. God in His mercy has granted repentance and faith. All glory and praise be to God!

And so, I pray this church would shine the light of the Gospel here in Punggol, unto the uttermost parts of the world. But this morning, I want to speak to you, my friend, if you're seated right here, maybe this is your first time, maybe this is your 10th time or maybe you have lost count of the number of times you have heard the Gospel. There is nothing more amazing than to repent and believe in Jesus and there is nothing more scary than not believing in Jesus.

I know for sure Jesus is coming back to judge this world. And all sinners - the fearful, the unbelieving, those who refuse to believe the Gospel, they will be condemned for their sins. But those today who are willing to repent and believe, there is salvation - rich and free. The light has come into this world, come out of your darkness. Come out of your sin. Because we come not to a harsh judge but to a gentle Saviour who laid His life down for you.

This morning, would you pray in your heart, “Pass me not, oh, gentle Saviour. While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by. Let me not just come to church, let me come to You. Let me not just hear the good news, but let me believe the good news. Let me not just be churched, but let me be saved. Help me in my unbelief.”

Father, we thank You this morning for Your Word. What is preached in human weakness, we ask that Your Spirit will bring to conviction and convincement. God, we are looking to You because you're the giver of life, You're the only One who can command light to shine in our hearts. You're the only One who can give to us the gift of salvation through faith. You're the only One who can grant to men repentance.

Please work right now in our hearts. That none, none would just come to church, but that all will come to Christ, that they may be saved. Thank You for Your glorious promise. For God so loved the world He gave His only Son, who so ever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Bless each one here today. Gentle Saviour, do not pass us by! We pray in Jesus’ Name.

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