Doubting God’s Existence Part 1 (Romans 1.18-23)


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INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
Doubt has the power to erode our faith in God and/or prevent us from following Jesus in meaningful ways. Doubt can “trouble” us, but let us be like the sick boy’s father in Mark 9 who said to Jesus “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief”.
Pastor Rich said that the word “doubt” stems for the Latin word “dubitare”, which means two. To believe is to be in one mind; to accept and trust something as true. To disbelieve is also to be in one mind; to reject something. To doubt is to waiver between faith and unbelief; to be in two minds. The heart of doubt is double-mindedness; to have a divided heart.
It’s okay to have doubts, to ask questions, but we don’t want to become controlled by our doubts. Rather than “feed” our doubts, we should learn to “feed” our faith.
Tim Keller shared about a conversation where he steered a young man away from “airtight proofs” about the existence of God, by suggesting he “look for clues about God”. Pastor Rich said there are dozens and dozens of “pointers” to God.
The apostle Paul says in Romans 1, some look for evidence against God, because they’re fallen – and Pastor Rich would clarify by saying they’re “biased”. These biases often lead to all kinds of misguided conclusions about God and his relationship to us.
So why do we doubt? Past Rich said, sometimes our doubt in God stems not from honest questions but from a “prior commitment” that might need to be given up in order to follow Jesus. Romans 1:18-20 reveals we doubt because of immorality and self-interest. Sometimes our doubts stem from ingratitude (Rom 1:21). Unless we understand that what we’ve received is a gift and the proper response to that gift is gratitude – our faith can be undermined. We also doubt because of inadequate foundations. There are solid reasons for faith in God, but if we’ve never personally owned them and understood them – our faith can easily come under attack. We also may doubt because of identification. Sometimes association(s), not evidence or truth, keep us from God. We may doubt because of ignorance about God. Tom Wright retorts to an unbeliever, “which God don’t you believe in…?” Finally, we may doubt because of indifference – we become just too comfortable in our own world.

In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.

GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.

• Was there anything in this week’s sermon that stood out to you? Briefly share.
• Have you had any recent conversations with someone who’s wrestling with their faith? Briefly Share.
• When do you find yourself doubting the most? What have you done to ensure your doubts don’t control you? Briefly Share.

SCRIPTURE STUDY

Read Luke 24:13-35 (TNIV):
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.


Context
Jesus had risen. It was Easter Sunday and the Mary’s testimony (v. 10) followed by Peter’s encounter (v. 12) confirmed the tomb was indeed empty. Look in v.18 – apparently Jerusalem was abuzz with the news (at least in the travelers’ circle).
It’s interesting that the disciples weren’t prepared to believe the women who encountered the risen Jesus nor the Angels’ words (v. 11), but they were whom our savior chose to reveal himself to first. God almost always promotes people and values contrary to our cultural norms.

• For many, part of the process (if not a significant part) of coming to belief in Jesus depends on the testimony of others. Has the testimony of others played an important part in your faith journey? Why was their testimony(s) believable or not? Please share briefly
• Who are the main characters in this story ? Where does the encounter take place? (Emmaus is about 7 miles from Jerusalem). What was happening before Jesus came up (walked up)?
• V 15, Jesus “came up and walked with them”. Part of the appeal of this story, is how it can serve as a larger metaphor for many people’s own journey with Jesus. Jesus drew near to them – even though they were not necessarily seeking him. What biblical principle(s) does this illustrate? Have you been surprised recently by God meeting you in an unexpected place (or way)? Please share.
• When considering doubts or crises you’ve had in the past, have you ever experienced Jesus coming and walking with you through it? Please share.
• V 16. Apparently they did not recognize Jesus at first (other scriptural examples – Mt 28:17, Jn 20:14, Jn 21:4). Why might God allow this to occur? Have you ever encountered something similar, where you didn’t realize Jesus was with you or working on your behalf?
• Vv 17-24. What feelings can you pick up from the two travelers? What were their hopes? What were their doubts?
• What did they say about Jesus (v 19, 21)? Like the sermon, sometimes our “prior commitments” to a belief, or pattern(s) of thinking (Rom 12:1-3), can impede our full understanding and faith in Jesus – how have you overcome former patterns of thinking? What stood in the way, and how did you overcome?
• Vv.25-27 why didn’t Jesus just come out and say “it’s me guys, I’m right here”? Similar to the weekend’s sermon, sometimes our ignorance about God or scripture can keep us from full assurance in Jesus (apparently Jesus wanted to teach them from scripture). Has any particular teaching or insight been helpful in your walk to overcome real doubt(s)? Please share briefly.
• Vv 28-29 We know they still didn’t see Jesus for who he was, but “urged him to stay with them”. What does this interaction reveal about Jesus’ heart? One thing, is that God doesn’t leave us “in the dark” if we honestly seek him. Have you ever sought Jesus and he didn’t reveal himself? If so, please share. If not, what happened?
• Vv 30-31 What happens? Did something supernatural happen? Jesus in his infinite goodness will sometimes use supernatural circumstances to reveal himself and help us overcome our doubts – has this ever happened to you? Please share.
• Vv 32-35 What did the two travelers do next? When did you “know that you know” that Jesus was your savior? What did it lead you to do? If you haven’t been telling others about our Risen Lord, why not? Do doubts still remain?

MINISTRY APPLICATION

Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.


• In this story of the Road to Emmaus, the travelers’ perceptions, or patterns of belief about The Kingdom, were keeping them from seeing the Risen Christ. Do you feel like there is something keeping you from fully surrendering and relying on Christ? If so, share with someone and receive some prayer. Consider any “prior commitments” you might have.
• Have you been feeling like you can’t recognize Christ in your life recently? Share with another what’s been going on and get some prayer.
• Are there real questions you have about your faith or about reality of God? Share with someone what you’re wrestling with and ask if someone would go through a study or book with you (Keller’s Reason for God, or some other book).
• Is doubt limiting you from sharing you faith? Or lack of confidence in what you really believe? Share with another what you’re going through and pray for boldness and divine opportunities to tell others about our risen Lord.