Before You Believe

Bible Book: John  9 : 35-38
Subject: Salvation; Believing; Faith; Call of Christ
Introduction

John 9:35-38

It is one of the greatest movie endings of all time, and has become an iconic part of the holiday season. The movie is It’s a Wonderful Life, and the scene is Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey running through the streets of Bedford Falls shouting “Merry Christmas” to the town landmarks on his way home, where he discovers that the townspeople have collected the money needed to keep him from going to jail.

It is a great ending, especially because of the back-story. You appreciate George Bailey’s joy at the end of the film because you remember that at the beginning of the story, he was determined to kill himself. The story leading up to the happy ending is what makes the ending so happy.

In John chapter 9, we find another wonderful ending. A blind man that had been healed looks into the face of Jesus, and in verse 38 we read, “And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.”

In the verses leading up to that verse, we find the back-story of how this man came to faith in Jesus Christ. There are some wonderful truths to be found in the events that led up to this happy ending.

As we study this text, we are reminded of what happens before you believe. For those who have trusted Christ, in their lives there is always a back-story of God’s grace. I would submit to you that there is great value in remembering what led you to the point where you said, “Lord, I believe.” There are three things we draw from this story that always happen before you believe.

Notice first of all that, before you believe:

I. JESUS APPROACHES YOU

Look with me at the text, and notice verse 35. It says, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”

In this story we are reminded of who it is that always makes the first move in the salvation of a soul. This man who had been cast out was sought out by Jesus.

We often say things like, “I found the Lord,” or “I came to Christ.” In reality, they only way we ever found the Lord is because He first came to where we were. He found us. Before you believe, Jesus first approaches you.

Notice with me a couple of things about Jesus approaching this man in this text. Notice first of all that we see:

A. Jesus is seeking

Verse 35 says that Jesus found this man. If He found him, that indicates that at some point, Jesus was looking for him. In this story, Jesus is seeking.

In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “…the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” We should not be surprised to find the Lord pursuing this man. He came to this earth as a seeker.

There has been a lot of talk among the church in recent years about a movement known as the “seeker sensitive” movement. The idea behind seeker sensitive churches is that everything about the church ought to be designed around lost people who are seeking after God.

In reality, the seeker sensitive movement misses an important point. Jesus seeks the sinner; not the other way around.

Romans 3:11 very plainly says, “…there is none that seeketh after God.” Man cannot and will not come to God on his own. That is why the Lord Jesus came to earth – to seek after those who were not seeking for Him.

When you were wandering the back alleys of sin, lost in your spiritual blindness and deadness, Jesus came looking for you!

Consider that! There was a time when the God of the universe, the Lord of glory, was seeking for you! Before you believe, Jesus approaches you.

Notice another thing we learn as watch Jesus approach this man. We not only see that Jesus is seeking, but we notice also that:

B. Jesus is sovereign

Look again at the words of verse 35. It says, “…and when he had found him…” Jesus not only looked for this man, but He located him as well. The truth is, He knew where to find him.

This text reminds us that Jesus is a seeker, that is, He is looking for sinners. It also reminds us that He is sovereign, that is, He knows exactly where to find them.

Have you ever paused to consider the fact that the day you were saved was no accident? In reality, it was an appointment.

You didn’t just “happen to bump into” Jesus. No one meets Him accidentally. He is sovereign over the lives of His people, and knows exactly where to find them, and when to come to them.

Several years ago, an article was published about a British psychologist named Richard Wiseman. Wiseman and his colleagues spent 8 years researching the subject of luck, and what makes some people lucky, while others are not.

The article stated that after thousands of interviews, Wiseman had finally cracked the luck code, and that, “Luck isn’t due to kismet, karma, or coincidence,” but rather, lucky people just make good decisions. Wiseman published a book in 2003 entitled The Luck Factor: Changing your Luck, Changing your Life.[i]

When a person gets saved, it is not due to luck, good fortune, or even good decisions. When a person meets Christ, it is only because in God’s sovereign grace, Jesus sought them, and found them.

Before you believe, Jesus approaches you. Notice a second truth we draw from this text. Before you believe, not only does Jesus approach you, but also:

II. JESUS ADDRESSES YOU

Look again at verse 35. It says, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?”

The story ends with the words of the formally blind man, as he says, “Lord, I believe.” However, before he opened his mouth to confess Christ, the Lord Jesus spoke to Him first.

If you have been saved, then there was a time when you “confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus.” However, before you ever opened your mouth to confess His name, you first heard Him call yours. Before you believe, Jesus addresses you.

Notice a couple of things about the Lord speaking to this man. Notice first of all:

B. His inquiry

Over the last six months or so, we have studied several good questions from the lips of the Lord Jesus. However, it is likely that He never asked a more important question than the one addressed to this man in verse 35.

In verse 35, Jesus asks the man, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” It is a simple question, and yet there is much more to it than appears on the surface. For instance, when Jesus used the name “Son of God”, He was using a title that He knew meant something to this man with whom He was speaking.

This man was a Jew, and knew that the Messiah, the Son of God, had been promised in the Old Testament. He knew that the day was coming when the Son of God would come and save His people from their sins.

Notice that Jesus did not ask this man, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” The question was not, “Do you believe the Son of God exists?” Many believe in Jesus, but that is vastly different than believing on Jesus.

The inquiry that Jesus made to this man is the same question that each and every human being must answer. That is, have you placed all of your hope and faith on Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah, and therefore the only hope for your soul? Before you can say, “Yes, I believe,” the Holy Spirit must first ask you this question about Jesus. Do you believe on the Son of God?

For many people, the difference between heaven and hell could be something as simple as a small preposition, a difference of only one letter. Those who merely believe in Jesus have missed the point. Only those who believe on Jesus can be saved.

Notice something else we draw from Christ addressing this man. Notice not only His inquiry, but notice also:

B. His invitation

Look again the question in verse 35. Jesus asks, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” Again, there is more to this question than appears on the surface.

Obviously, Jesus was not playing with this man. For Him to ask this question was for Him to indicate that the Son of God was actually available, and able to be trusted. This is not just a question, it is an invitation. Jesus was inviting this man to trust in Him. It was an offer of salvation.

When the Spirit of God speaks to a person’s heart about Jesus, it is a heavenly invitation to come to Christ, and allow Him to save them.

Actress Helen Mirren received an Academy Award for her performance as Queen Elisabeth II in the 2006 film The Queen. In May of 2007, Mirren received an invitation from the real queen of England to dine at Buckingham Palace. Surprisingly, Mirren turned down the invitation because she was working on another film.

While it is certainly an honor to receive an invitation from the queen, it is nothing compared to the moment when the King of kings invites someone to come to Him. Unfortunately, many people are too busy to respond to His invitation. However, there are a few who hear His voice, and believe on His name to the saving of their souls.

In Acts 2:21, the Apostle Peter said, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This text reminds us that whosoever calls on the name of the Lord was first called on by the Lord.

There is a third truth we draw from this text. Before you believe, not only does Jesus approach you, and address you, but notice also finally that before you believe:

III. JESUS AWAKENS YOU

Look again at the text. In verse 35, Jesus asks the man, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” Now look at verse 36. It says, “He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?”

Though this man was about to believe, before he could reach that point, he had to be awakened to the truth of Jesus.

The Bible describes the lost man in a number of different ways. In Ephesians 2:1, he is “dead”. In Matthew 23, they are called “blind”. In Ephesians 5:14, they compared to someone who is asleep.

Before we believe, our lives are lived in a spiritual deadness, blindness, and coma from which we must be awakened before we trust in Christ. Notice a couple of things that Jesus does to awaken you. First of all:

A. He opens your eyes

In verse 36, the man says, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” Notice how the Lord answers him in verse 37. It says, “And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.”

Notice that Jesus said, “You have seen him…” This man had been born blind, but earlier in this chapter, Jesus had performed a miracle, and now this man’s eyes were open, and they were looking at the face of Jesus.

This man had been looking at Jesus, but he did not really recognize Him for who He was until Jesus revealed Himself, and truly opened His eyes. This man was given sight twice. He saw physically, and then He saw spiritually

Can you remember the first time your eyes were opened, and you saw Jesus for who He really is? No longer was He merely a historical figure or a religious icon; but you saw Him as the true and living Son of God!

Country music legend, Hank Williams had built his career by writing and singing some of the most famous and beloved songs in Country Music history. One song that Hank had recorded was the gospel song I Saw the Light. The story is told that while Hank was on one of his regular drunken spells, his friend, Minnie Pearle was trying to sober him up, and was singing to him the words of that song, I saw the Light. Hank turned to Minnie with tears in his bloodshot eyes and said, “Minnie, I don’t see no light. There ain’t no light.”[ii]

Until our eyes are opened to see Jesus for who He really is, in the words of Hank, “There ain’t no light.” Before you believe, Jesus must awaken you by opening your eyes.

Notice something else Jesus does when He awakens us. Not only does He open your eyes, but notice also that:

B. He opens your ears

Look again at verse 37. Jesus said to the man, “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.” Notice that last line, “…it is he that talketh with thee.”

This man had spoken to Jesus earlier in the chapter. He had been speaking to him for few seconds before verse 37. Yet, he did not realize that the voice he was hearing and the words that spoken to him were the words of the Son of God.

For the lost man, the Word of God often sounds like a foreign language. Though they recognize the words, they do not make sense until the Spirit of God opens their ears to recognize the voice of God.

In I Corinthians 2:14, the Apostle Paul says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

When a preacher stands and proclaims, “Ye must be born again!” “Repent, and turn to Christ!” Those statements sound like foolishness to the man whose spiritual ears are deaf to the things of God. However, there is a moment when the Lord Jesus comes to the blind and deaf sinner, and opens their eyes and their ears to see and hear His precious Word to their heart. In that moment they are awakened.

Do you remember when you were awakened? Do you remember when your eyes were first opened, and your ears first heard the convicting truth of your sinful condition, and the hope that is only available in Christ?

Years I spent in vanity and pride,

Caring not my Lord was crucified,

Knowing not it was for me He died,

On Calvary,

By God’s Word at last my sin I learned,

Then I trembled at the Law I’d spurned,

Till my guilty soul imploring turned,

To Calvary

Mercy there was great and grace was free,

Pardon there was multiplied to me,

There my burdened soul felt liberty,

At Calvary!

I found an interesting website this week. It is shareyourstorynow.org. The site is owned and operated by the American Bible Society. The website is a place where people can post video, audio, or a blog about how their life has been changed by the Bible. The slogan of the site says, “Share your story now, because God’s Word changes lives.”

If you were going to share your story, where would it begin? Would you start with that moment when you prayed to receive Christ? Would you begin where you first believed? In reality, your story begins long before you believe. The Bible teaches us that before we ever believe, Jesus approaches us, addresses us, and awakens us to the truth of who He is.

All of our stories begin with Jesus and His work in us. It is all of grace, and as a result, we should forever be thankful that even before we knew Him, He knew us and called us to Himself.


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[1] Pink, Daniel H., How to Make Your Own Luck, 7/03, Fast Company, 12/6/08, http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/72/realitycheck.html

[1] Hemphill, Paul, book review of Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams,  2006, curledup.com, 12/6/08, http://www.curledup.com/loveblue.htm