Mike Gerhardt, January 3, 2021, Seeing Isn't Always Believing, Jude 1:17-23. Years ago children would argue that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade has the real Santa, all the rest in other departments stores and malls are just Santa’s helpers, but are they really? I have enjoyed a particular Christmas song entitled So Many Santas but only one Lord of All. Skeptics emerge during this season proving to believers that waiting up for Santa is fruitless. Why so skeptical? I think we have learned to be skeptical and that creates dissatisfaction. We live in an age where everything is suspect and we have all become dissatisfied. Bill Bryson wrote I’m a Stranger Here Myself about changes he saw when he returned to America after being in Africa for 20 years: the abundance of choice not only makes every transaction take ten times longer as long as it ought to but in a strange way actually breeds dissatisfaction. The more there is, the more people crave, and the more they crave, the more they, well, crave more. You have a sense sometimes of being among millions and millions of people needing more and more of everything, constantly, infinitely, unquenchably. Being skeptical and being dissatisfied seem to go together. I have said there are things you cannot see that can truly satisfy. What things can you NOT see and yet NOT deny? Ultraviolet rays, germs, viruses, the wind to name a few. But there are many other invisible things to believe in. A 2005 Gallup poll: 75% of Americans believe in the paranormal. Of this group, 41% believe in extrasensory perception, 37% in haunted houses, 32% in ghosts, 31% in telepathy, 25%in astrology, 21% in talking with the dead, and 20% in reincarnation. People believe in things unseen. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been watching scenes from the Polar Express: let’s watch this scene. The conductor says sometimes the most real things in the world are things we cannot see. We believe in things that are unseen. You cannot see faith, hope, joy, devotion, and love though they are very real. Such treasures cannot be bought, sold, boxed, nor even seen, nor can they be denied. Apparently, the conductor is correct. If we can accept the reality of these invisible attributes, are we that far from accepting the reality of an invisible God? All of us live by faith, even the biggest skeptic. Though this research is old, there has been a turnaround toward belief and spiritual things among the college-age as reported in U.S. News & World Report, in Newsweek and in an extensive study by UCLA of 112,000 students, they found over 80% believe in God, 81% attend religious services, 80% discuss spirituality with friends, 69% pray, 64% say their spiritual life is a source of joy. All of us trust the unseen. Others using the same faith muscle trust Jesus to save them. Let us look at scripture. Remember Hebrew 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Faith is being sure and certain of what we cannot see. Acts 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. God was working in people to help them believe.13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. God keeps his appointments with people so they can make that decision. Being sure and certain of things unseen. Being appointed for eternal life. Being glad and honoring God’s Word. Knowing the Lord is with you. The Lord is able to keep us on the train to glory. We all slip and fall, but Jesus is there to catch us. He wants each one of us to make it home, even more than we do. Jude 24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen. Moses Bittock celebrated became a US citizen. That would have been enough for the native Kenyan but on the way home from the federal building, Bittock stopped at a gas station to see the winning numbers in the Hot Lotto Game. He was surprised to find out that he had won $1.8 million. It is almost like you adopted a new country and then they give you $1.8 million; it doesn’t happen anywhere else, only in America. In the same way, new life in Christ gives us citizenship into the Kingdom of God and a heavenly reward worth more than $1.8 million. Joseph Roy in Leadership Journal wrote: A true Christian is a sign of contradiction, a living symbol of the Cross. He or she is a person who believes the unbelievable, bears the unbearable, forgives the unforgivable, loves the unlovable, and is perfectly happy not to be perfect, is willing to give up his or her will for another, becomes weak to be strong, and finds love by giving it away. There is an account of Jesus healing a blind man in John 9 (we will look at this in a few weeks). The disciples ask: who sinned that made this man blind? Jesus answered no one sinned but that the works of God might be displayed. Jesus makes mud with his saliva, puts it on his eyes, and tells the man to wash it off in a nearby pool. The man is healed and when questioned said: Whether Jesus is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. What keeps a person in spiritual blindness, not seeing the unseen? Or keeps us from seeing the reality of Jesus' love, His care, His power to heal us? Spiritual blindness must be overcome. Let us look at this scene concerning the boy’s unbelief. When did the boy hear the bells, before or after belief? You may have noticed the sound of the bell followed his decision. Though the bell was always ringing, the others heard it. The boy rode on the train of exploration. He pondered the questions of fellow travelers. He heard the convictions of those who believed. But at some point, he decided to believe the sound of the bell that was always there. Billy Graham’s publication was Decision Magazine. At some point, we too must decide to believe. Not in a fictional bell from a children’s story, but to believe in the Christ of history. It is not a choice for or against Santa’s bell but a decision for Jesus to save us from sin. Everyone makes a choice to believe or not to believe, to receive the gift of eternal life, or to reject that gift from God. According to the Bible, Jesus is ever the gentleman, always inviting, never forcing; always patient, not wanting anyone to perish. He knocks on the door of our heart. He doesn’t break it down. He is looking to be a friend to a sinner, a friend to you, and a friend to me. Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me. I can’t make you believe but I can help you on your journey to believe. That is kind of my job. Remember the father of the epileptic boy after the mount of transfiguration: Jesus said: everything is possible for him who believes. Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, I do believe; help my unbelief.