“We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:43).
A sinful woman encountered Jesus one day and an entire village was changed. The Samaritan woman found Jesus at a well. He told her who she was, and then He told her who He was. The Messiah. She ran to her village and called her neighbors to meet the man who changed her life. And they came. And they believed. Not because of what the woman said about Jesus, but because of what He said about Himself. “Because of His words many more became believers” (v. 41). They believed because they heard Him with their own ears and saw Him with their own eyes. Second-hand faith is not a sustaining faith. We must hear and know Jesus for ourselves.
I am so grateful for my time as a seminary student. That experience stretched my mind and my faith in ways I never imagined. In seminary I learned how to study the Bible for life, how to search out its treasures and discern God’s truth. I learned how to think critically, how to compare and contrast the many messages I receive every day. Most of all, I was challenged to consider what I believe. I looked at everything I claimed to hold as true and examined it carefully, scripturally, practically – and truly made it my own profession of faith. I took out everything I learned from childhood on and held it up to the light of the Word of God and the wisdom of the Church under the leading of the Holy Spirit. I found some things needed to be challenged and changed, and some things needed to be nailed down as the foundation of my faith. I no longer stand on what others told me about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the Church and my faith, I stand on what I know is true and right. I know what I believe and I believe what I know.
You don’t need to go to seminary to build a strong foundation of faith. All you need is the Bible and the courage to examine your beliefs through the lens of God’s Word and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We’re going to do that together over the next few weeks. We’re going to ask some critical questions, and dig for the answers. We’re going to become Bereans. Acts 17 tells about a church that took what Paul taught and lay it along side of Scripture, “to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). We’re going to find out if what we believe is really true. That’s the kind of faith that stands firm against the winds of the culture, against the “wisdom” of the world, against the threat of suffering, persecution, and death. Do you really think the martyrs of old would have died for something they weren’t convinced was true? You and I need to be sure of our faith and our convictions too. We need to be certain that we have a faith that’s worth living – and dying for.