Callous or Curious Faith
Little Jackie Paper (Puff the Magic Dragon). Peter Pan. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, from the Chronicles of Narnia. Adam and Eve. All have something in common - they all grew up and left an unseen kingdom. Jackie Paper grew up and left Honalee. Peter Pan grew up and left Neverland. The Pevensies grew up and left Narnia. Adam and Eve “grew up,” or so they thought and left Eden.
“Children sleeping. Snow is softly falling. Dreams are calling likes bells in the distance. We were dreamers not so long ago. But one by one we all had to grow up.” ~ Josh Groban, Believe.
What is it about “growing up” that causes us to stop believing? Stop dreaming? What is it about age that causes us to fixate upon the daily grind - “reality” - just trying to survive? “We were dreamers not so long ago, but one by one we all had to grow up” and we leave “there” and become consumed with “here.”
Advent reminds us to believe
... to dream - that we are to live by faith, not by sight - for that is the way of Jesus.
Advent is a collision of two realms – the natural and the supernatural
... where the spiritual and the physical intersect. It is where the Kingdom of God entered the kingdom of man.
It’s the collision of “there” and “here”
Curious - do we still believe? Or have we grown up too much?
Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
We are called to maturity in faith - but to “grow up” and stop believing is simply unChristian. “Growing up” too much prevents us from seeing the unseen kingdom - a kingdom for which we were created - the Kingdom of God. Growing up too much means we focus too much on “here” and not enough on “there.”
Advent is a call to believe - or for some, to “rebelieve.” Curious - do we still believe? Or have we grown up too much? Have we grown up so much that the Kingdom of God is practically make-believe?
Being a Christian or attending church doesn’t mean we’re believers.
I think there is a difference between calling ourselves Christian and being believers. Let me show you want I mean.
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Zechariah - a priest, upright, honorable, righteous and blameless in conduct. He knew the Scriptures. He was dedicated to God and to the church. Only one problem – he grew up. Somewhere along the way he stopped believing – or so is my speculation.
Now, Zechariah was on duty, serving in the temple and burning incense - which was a once in a lifetime event. This is what happened.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
Startled can be translated as shaken up, troubled, great mental distress. Stress card! He was gripped with fear – we’re talking panic, terror, alarm. He was terrified! About to soil his tunic.
Jump down to verse 26.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
Notice the difference in Mary’s response.
Greatly troubled is not the same as being gripped with fear. There is no hint of shock, fear, or terror. She was simply perplexed. She was simply wondering, “An angel - talking to me? Whoa. What this is all about? This is cool.”
Totally two different responses to almost identical situations. What’s the difference between Z and M? I believe Zechariah grew up and stopped believing in the supernatural, stopped believing the spiritual, stopped believing in an unseen Kingdom. Because of he stopped believing he was terrified when his physical world collided with the spiritual.
I think it all comes down to belief or faith. Having pondered this all week, there seems to be two kinds of belief or faith among God’s people. Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t make you a believer. There is …
1) A faith that is confined. Sees only what is visible. It is confined to the natural and the physical.
It’s a faith that’s confined to the Bible, meaning we believe all that spiritual stuff happened in there, back then, in those stories - but not now. (a faith that is not connected to how I live - finances, careers, purpose ….) We may not admit it, but some of us treat the Bible as if it were nothing more than children’s fables.
Some have a faith that’s confined to Sunday morning - it doesn’t expect much or do much or effect much after 12pm on Sunday. It’s a faith that believes just enough to feel safe. That was Zechariah - in my opinion.
2) A faith that is unconfined. Sees the invisible. It is open to the supernatural and spiritual.
It’s a faith that not only believes in the Bible but finds the connection between “there” and “here.” It’s a faith that expects, it lives, it does – it believes. It’s a faith that goes beyond Sunday morning service - it’s a faith that plays a critical part in everyday life. This was Mary - in my opinion of course.
Back to Zechariah.
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
What we need to pay attention to is Zechariah’s reaction. Not only is he gripped with fear, but he more than Mary should know and believe what God is capable of doing. He’s a priest! Mature! However,
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
Literally - “By what will I know this?” You know what he’s saying? “Prove it - then I will believe.” Sounds a little too grown-up to me.
The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
We need to understand -
There are consequences for unbelief.
I didn’t say punishment - I said consequences and I believe there is a huge difference!
What stops people from entering the Kingdom of heaven? Unbelief. A father with a demon-possessed boy - the demon wouldn’t leave. Why? Unbelief. How many times did Jesus say, “Your faith has healed you?” Jesus’ ability to do miracles in Nazareth was hindered. Why? Unbelief.
Unbelief limits the advancement of God’s purposes (1 Tim. 1:4).
Little Jackie Paper, Peter Pan, the Pevensies, Adam and Eve all had to leave their kingdoms - why? They all grew up and stopped believing! Is it possible that we don’t see the Kingdom of God in our world as much as we should because too many have grown up and stopped believing that the Kingdom of God is real!
Christians are funny inconsistent creatures. We believe God can save our souls, but he can’t save our bank accounts. We believe God can forgive sin, but not help us conquer sin (holiness). We believe God can help others and use others, but not me.
We believe He can raise a dead man from the grave, but He can’t __________ (fill in the blank).
Where are we inconsistent in our faith? What is the Spirit of God saying to you right now?
Back to Mary.
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Zechariah questioned Gabriel and so did Mary, but here’s the difference - belief. You know what happens when you grow-up too much? Your heart and faith get calloused. See,
Zechariah asked out of a calloused heart. Mary asked out of curious heart.
What do I mean? Zechariah: “How is God able to do this?” Mary: “How is God going to do this?” Do you see the difference? Mary believed and asked out of a curious heart - “I wonder how God is going to do this miracle.”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary believed, therefore she was curious, submissive, and as a result - blessed. Understand,
There are consequences for believing. Belief propels the advancement of God’s purposes.
As Advent comes to an end, curious, Are you a believer?
Curious faith Calloused faith
Submissive faith Stubborn faith
Simple faith Show me the money faith
Longs for the invisible Limited to the visible
Operates in the natural & supernatural Operates in the natural
Blessed Not blessed
Convinced the impossible is possible Convinced the impossible is impossible
May seem like off in left field, but I need to close with this and it is connected. Gabriel said, “No word from the Lord will ever fail.” Jump down to
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary sings this song as praise to God.
She recognized that God was fulfilling His promise made to Abraham that a Savior would come. But it didn’t begin with Abraham - the first promise about a Savior was to given Eve. From Eve, to Noah, to Abraham …. If you can, look at Matt. 1. All those people played a part in fulfilling God’s promise of a Messiah.
I mention this because some of us stop believing because we fail to recognize something about God’s promises. God made a promise to Eve, but did she see the fulfillment of it? No. God made a promise to Abraham, David, and many others - but did they see the fulfillment of the promise? No. Does this mean God was unfaithful and broke His promises? Not at all. We need to get this -
Sometimes God makes a promise to us.
Sometimes God carries a promise through us.
Sometimes God fulfills a promise in us.
The promise was made to Eve, carried on through Abraham’s descendants and fulfilled in Mary.
“We were dreamers not so long ago. But one by one we all had to grow up. When it seems the magic slipped away, we find it all again on Christmas Day. Believe in what you feel inside and give your dreams the wings to fly. You have everything you need, if you just believe.” ~ Josh Groban, Believe.
Church, let us become believers again.
What is the Spirit saying?