Life after Death: Law, Eternity, and the Changed Mind

There are two pieces, at least two parts of the human experience that every human will partake of: being born, and dying.  That’s right.  The death rate for humans is 100%.  I don’t think people like to be reminded of that.  It’s a shocking thing to consider in fact.

We all like to pretend we’re immortal.  But the body dies.  There are graveyards in every town and community testifying to that fact.  Yet I’ve seen entire lives lived in rejection of that fact.  I’ve seen entire stories of people who hide from that fact in their minds.  Until the hospitals descend, and the grimaces of doctors tell the rest.  We’re surprised by death.  Why?  Maybe because death isn’t normal.

Every human being born is afflicted with a disease.  It’s a disease so insidious that no one even gives it a second thought.  It’s accepted.  Yet the human body seems when inquired of by medicine, to have an infinite ability to replenish itself.  Cells in the body have the potential to reproduce and maintain the body structure forever.  Yet for some reason between the ages of 25-30 the stasis of that period begins to descend into deterioration.  Lines form on the face.  Aches and pains begin to develop.  More and more rest is required.  Eventually skin wrinkles and hair turns gray, then white, then loose.

Death comes to us all.  Many dodge the topic, yet I think we all seem to understand that death is a reality.  Yet some starry eyed dreamers might still ask: “What is the cure to death?” Or:

“Where might I drink of the waters of the fountain of youth?”

But most simply ignore the fact, dodge the fact, bury the fact, and eventually when all other options are exhausted… they accept the fact.

Death is coming for all of us.  That fact is indisputable.  The question is, can man live forever?  Is there such a thing as eternal life?  The clock is ticking on every life.  I think something like 100,000 people die worldwide per day.  Is there life after death?

For the atheist the answer is most certainly no.  A person does not live on.  In fact for the atheist, in billions of years the stars of the universe will eventually burn themselves out and all life in the universe will vanish.  And finally the great black nothingness of empty lifeless, light-less space. Entropy is complete.  Is that really the ultimate reality?  I don’t think so.

For the Christian, we believe all people have souls made in the image of God, that live forever.  Yet every person is appointed to die physically.  Even Jesus Christ, God on Earth had to endure the suffering of physical death.  The word of God says “Man is appointed once to die, and then comes the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27).

But the answer for Christians is yes, every person has value and every soul will live forever.  The primary question of eternal life is the quality of that life which hinges on a theological concept called “the judgement seat of Christ.”

Or as it’s phrased in Corinthians: We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

God the architect of the universe, the stars, the laws of space and time and the human soul will indeed one day bring into judgement every single person who has ever lived.  I don’t know that such a process is particularly surprising.  One of the most fundamental aspects of the human experience is our interaction with conscience.  We each have a sense of what is right and wrong.  We wrestle with that aspect of ourselves throughout our entire lives.  It’s not surprising that a good God would indicate and enforce quality moral standards for his people.  Imagine how perfect the world would be if everyone lived in moral perfection.

And so we come to the crux of our problem: Our own moral failings face to face with God’s perfect standard.

Have you read through the various commands of the Old Testament?  There are many, over 300 I believe?  Anyway, probably the most popular are the notorious “Ten Commandments.”  Shall we take a look?

Exodus 20:2-17

  1. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
  6. “You shall not murder.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.
  8. “You shall not steal.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

As a Protestant I guess I’m not a huge fan of the ten commandments.  But feelings aside there really isn’t anything too unreasonable here.

Assuming God is God, don’t worship false Gods, golden caves, carved figurines, and worship God only.  Since God made the universe and loves us, we ought to love him back and worship him.  That takes care of 1 and 2.

3rd commandment, “Don’t use my name as a cuss word.”  I don’t know but I think God is being pretty reasonable when he asks us to not use his name as a cuss word.  I wouldn’t want my name used as a cuss word “Justin Steckbauer!”  God wouldn’t either.  Fair enough.

The 4th command indicates that we should take one day off to relax and honor God.  God says rest.  I’m already on board with that.  Rest is great.  I need more of it.

5th says honor your parents.  I struggle with that one at times, I don’t always get along with my dad.  And I feel the need to vent rather negatively regarding his previous conduct, har har.  But I shouldn’t do that.  My parents did raise me, I think they deserve my respect.

Let’s see… don’t murder.  I definitely agree.  Imagine a world where no one murdered others, or shot up churches?  That would be great.  Seven, don’t sleep with someone else’s husband or wife.  I agree with that.  Why do people feel the need to cut in on other peoples relationships?  I think they have a phrase for that: homewrecker.

Eight, don’t steal.  I’ve stolen stuff.  Many times in my life.  And I try not to do that today.  Yep, the world would be much better if people didn’t steal.  Just think of Wallstreet and the Federal Reserve.

Nine, don’t lie about your friends, or even strangers.  Don’t lie about what they did or didn’t do.  I’ve done that.  I’ve blamed things on my sister when I was younger, when it was me.  And I felt guilty too.  I’m sure I’ve done that as an adult too.  Maybe to cover my poor behavior.

And ten, don’t want what others have.  Or as they said in the roaring 50s and 60s, “keeping up the joneses.”  Today it’s competing over cell phones, Ipads, hot rods, possessions, lawn care, or even sports teams.  God says “stop wanting everything.”  We’ve got all we need.  Stop desiring what your neighbor has.  That seems reasonable.

As you can probably tell, when it comes to the laws of God… I’m guilty.  I’ve broken all ten in one way or another (No I didn’t kill anyone, but the word of God says that anyone who hates a brother is guilty of murder.)  So how does this work anyway, is God grading on a curve?  Can I sneak by with a C+?

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. James 2:10 ESV

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 ESV

God has a perfect standard, and I am guilty.  That means I’m in serious trouble.  On judgment day, standing on my own good deeds, I will not be good enough to live in the presence of God.  I’ll be found guilty, and eternally disconnected from God.  Does that seem too mean and judgmental of God?  I don’t think so.  Look at how terrible our world is today because of sin.  Sin is serious.  Whenever I’ve sinned, I’ve does an offense to God himself.  I have to remember he created me, from nothing, he owns me, and all things belong to him.  I myself belong to him.  It’s reasonable to say that I’m accountable, and that a just God must provide consequences for serious crimes against good conduct.  I think we’ve all been guilty of adding to the problems of Earth, instead of improving them.  Left on my own standing, I deserve to be disconnected from God and left in a place of isolation.  Some call that “hell.”  Spooky, but in reality, a place of disconnection from God.  And I deserve it.  When I really think about it thoroughly, it’s true… I really do.

But praise God that it doesn’t end there.  God himself has provided a savior for us, a certain Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-44 ESV)

In other words: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[a] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4 ESV)

All of that to say: Jesus Christ is our ticket to life everlasting.  (John 3:16)  Jesus Christ is our fountain of youth. (John 4:14)  Jesus Christ is our way to eternal life. (John 14:6)

Each of us need to put on Jesus Christ.  The instant we do that his perfect life, perfect death, and perfect resurrection pay our debt in full.  God welcomes us into full communion with him.  It’s a wonderful arrangement, considering our transgressions, which we work so hard to hide from.

Death is approaching.  It’s coming for all of us.  It’s like a hunter, stalking us through the wilderness.  Though we will all experience physical death (the shadow of death) we can have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. –Galatians 2:16 ESV

We believe in Jesus Christ.  We believe that he really is who he claimed to be: God in the flesh.  And we “repent.”  I don’t really like that word.  What it means is to “have a change of mind.”  We change our mind about what is right and wrong.  We decide to abandon our own distorted views, and embrace God’s teachings regarding life.  We embrace the Christian worldview.  We agree to live as Jesus lived.  We look to Jesus for how to live.

Jesus Christ gave us a new commandment that we are to obey above all the OT commands.  He said the new command is that we love one another.  We are to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34).  Love is the commandment we are under in modern times.

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” -Romans 13:8

Let all that you do be done in love.1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV  
 

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.1 John 4:11-12 ESV 

So assuming we put on Jesus Christ as our “parachute” of sorts for when this world comes crashing down, how can we know that we are remaining in Christ throughout our lives?

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.1 John 2:6 ESV 

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4:8 ESV  

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV 

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:17 ESV

We can know we are abiding in Christ throughout our years on this Earth by living like Jesus did.  Jesus helped those in need, loved the unlovable, and stood up for the truth.  

This has been a difficult topic.  It’s always difficult when we’re trying to look at ourselves in an unfettered light.  The purpose of the laws of God were to show us, to convict us of our need for a savior.  I’m not trying to hurt anyone of you with these descriptions.  But it may be offensive.  The word of God itself says the gospel is an offense to those who are perishing, but it is the very word of life to those who are being saved.  To me, it used to be an offense.  Now it’s the power and truth of God himself saving me.

These are difficult concepts to deal with.  The judgement of God, the wrath of God, the idea of eternal disconnection from God.  I hope I haven’t scared anyone off with these ideas.  But they are the facts.  Yet we must believe and understand that these stark realities can, yes, can be reconciled with the incredible love and grace of God.  He loves us deeply.  He loves us with a full heart.  That’s why he offered this simple agreement of believing in Jesus Christ and having a change of mind about life.  And then we are reborn as his own children.  That is beautiful.  He wants all to be saved.  

But a loving, graceful, merciful Father wouldn’t be a good dad if he didn’t also act justly, and punish those who are doing wrong.  When a child does something wicked, the dad scolds the child, and the child has a change of mind, and the dad lovingly welcomes the child into closeness with the Father once more.  It is similar when we sin against God, and then repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

I can’t say I fully understand all of it.  In fact if I was making up my own god I would do it differently.  But that fact doesn’t change the reality of my situation.  Just because I don’t want to believe in a God who punishes evil doesn’t mean that God suddenly disappears.  The facts on the ground are simple, this is the situation, and the arrangement for salvation is simple: have a change of mind, embrace the Christian worldview, and put on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, your righteousness forever.

I’m sure we will understand better in the next life, but in this one our field of view is limited, and these vast concepts escape our ability to fully comprehend.  We want a God of unconditional love, yet we want justice for those who do evil.  We want Hitler, Stalin and Bin Laden punished for their sins, but we want unconditional love despite our own.  We obviously can’t see the issues clearly enough, personal bias, whatever it is, better to trust God, and his plan.  His arrangement for the salvation of his people is simple: Faith in Jesus Christ, and changing our lives in response to His.

Consider these things carefully if you haven’t yet made that commitment.  If you have made that commitment, are you living it?  Are you really living like Jesus Christ?  Have you had a change of mind?  Consider these issues carefully.  Pray if you are confused, and seek answers in his Holy word.  You won’t be disappointed.  God is good, and God is love.  In the end analysis, though I don’t fully understand these concepts of judgment and sin, I trust my God and his plan, that he is doing the right thing.  I really do.  You should too.  He made us from nothing.  He knows what hes doing.  Maybe I need to stop judging God, and let him do his job, running the universe, while I do mine, serving those in need.

Death is something we all face.  Death is terrifying when we think about it.  Physical death is a stark reality for planet Earth.  Lots of people are dead and lots of people are dying.  Do we have souls?  Yes we do.  We’re all going to live forever.  The question is, when the jury is summoned, the court room laid forth before the throne of God, what shall the prosecutor say?  Will he have a long list of your crimes?  Or will Jesus Christ enter the court room, remove that list of crimes, and declare you innocent before God?  Will you then receive riches in heaven for your many good deeds?  And eternal life, transfixed with joy, with the billions before you whom have chosen the Son?  I pray so.

I hope you will humble yourself, and accept such a simple and profound arrangement.  I find it to be the state of the absolute truth of this moral universe we engage upon.  It is the very soul stuff of existence itself.  We are moral beings, found immoral, yet for those who choose it, made perfect in Jesus Christ the one who defeated death on the cross 2,000 years ago.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 John 2:1-6 (ESV) 

  Related Posts:

  1. Wisdom from Above: Living in Light of the Victory of Jesus Christ
  2. The Mindset of Christ: Teach Me How to Live, Lord
  3. A Rational Inquiry of the Bible: Is it reliable? Is it the word of God?
  4. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of God
  5. Love Others: The Second Great Command
  6. What is the Gospel?
  7. Does man need God in Western Civilization: Young People are Hungry for the Truth
  8. Real Christianity: Clothing, Buildings, Money, & Extravagance
  9. The Stairway to Heaven
  10. Salvation of the Soul: Is it Conditionally Secure or Eternally Secure?

A special thanks to Living Waters, the ministry of Ray Comfort who inspired me to write this post.  Thank you for the Way of the Master.

The Mindset of Christ: Teach Me How to Live, Lord

So get rid of every filthy habit and all wicked conduct. Submit to God and accept the word that he plants in your hearts, which is able to save you.
James 1:21 GNT

You gave me a soul, Lord.  You gave me a life.  Now show me how to live it.  How do we go about living this life before us?  Where do we go from here?

So the Christian commitment comes.  Faith in Christ descends like a dove from heaven.  A transcendent power and presence begins to dwell among us.  The journey ahead takes shape.  I had been going in one direction, now that direction changes.  I ask God where to go, what to do… where does he want me?

Being a Christian is definitely about holding and pursuing a certain mindset.  It’s about embracing a different way of life.  That way is described in great detail in the books of the Bible, especially in the letters of the New Testament.  It can be challenging though.  We wonder how to translate the words on the pages into practical application.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name –Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

For me it begins with a mindset, and I have to pursue that mindset everyday.  It doesn’t just happen.  I have to chase after it.  Prayer becomes absolutely vital to building on that mindset.  And of course that makes sense.  Through prayer we access the power of God to spur changes within us.

God dealt with the sin in my life.  That was a huge part of the positive transitions in my life and mindset.  I’ve had to come to believe again and again that God can and will help me to overcome sins in my life.  He grants victory when I put in the daily footwork.

The primary work of Jesus Christ, God, is the legal absolution of my sins.  He legally absolves me from my sins, like I am in a court room, with a list of my crimes being displayed to the judge.  Then enters Jesus Christ, who says to the judge that he will suffer the consquences of those sins instead of me.

Yet just as important is that I am a new creation in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I have been born again (John 3:1-8).  God has declared me “not guilty” in Jesus Christ, innocent, and now gifted with eternal life.  Though my body will die, my spirit will live forever.  Continuing forward, I’m asked to participate in a new plan for my remaining life on Earth though.  Many Christians seem to forget this part.  They think they are saved, and then they go do whatever they want.  Not so.

God asks me to become a servant of his kingdom and his plan on Earth.  He asks me to participate in my own sanctification, or the process of growing out of past sinful patterns.  That is a gradual process for most, taking our entire lives.

God asks me to serve others, to become the servant of all.  In my past I was a servant of myself.  I did what I wanted, I did what felt good, and I pursued my own goals in life.  Now I look to meet the needs of others.  I look to love and serve those around me.  What does that look like?  I think it means inviting people to relationship with Jesus Christ.  I think it means volunteering and serving in ministries.  I think it means donating money to charity.  I think it means praying for others.  A big part of that process begins with prayer.

Part of my daily walk with God is praying once in the morning and once at night.  I also try to pray an “Our Father” at the mid-point in the day.  Three times a day seems reasonable, that’s how Daniel did it (Daniel 6:10).

I had to watch closely for the messages I was receiving in my life.  Certain movies I stopped watching, certain music fell off my playlist.  I actually got rid of my television set altogether.  Too many ads.  Too many sexual commercials, beer ads, tempting food ads, that is a literal assault on my senses, and it triggers a lot of my sinful desires.  And of course so, that’s how they make money.  I stopped spending time in certain places around town.  The began to back away from friends that were a bad influence on me.  A tough one was beginning to reform my sexual conduct.  Many, many Christian men struggle with that area of conduct.  It definitely needs to be addressed.  Masturbation, pornography, pre-marital sex.  All of those need to be removed.

I was also a cigarette smoker.  And I had to deal with that issue as well.  A friend suggested a plan of sorts.  He said set a date 90 days from now.  Everyday from now until then pray once a day for God to remove the compulsion to smoke from you.  Then on the date, quit.  I did that, in conjunction with calling 1-800-QUITNOW.  I read some free material they sent me.  I used their website.  I even went to a few Nicotine Anonymous 12 step meetings to learn more about freedom from that addiction.  I also used a nicotine patch for the first two weeks.  In short, I accessed God’s power in conjunction with my footwork.  I took practical actions to encourage the desired outcome.  And it worked.  I haven’t had to smoke a cancer stick in almost two years now.  Praise God!

One powerful tool for growing in my spirituality is through reading books.  I love reading.  I love audiobooks too.  I put them on my mp3 player and listen while driving or working out.  I tend to look for books to help deal with issues in my life, or just books by Christian leaders that inspire me.  I’ve learned a ton and it’s very enjoyable.

But the biggest change was a small, yet massive adjustment of attitude.

I had treated God like a wishing well, or an errand boy at times.  “Give me this”  “I want this.”  And I liked to add conditions, and special agreements to my prayers.  The issue was it was almost right.  I was praying a lot.  The goals I were pursuing were certainly reasonable.  But there was a fundamental flaw: I was trying to get God on board with what I was doing.  Whoops.  That isn’t how it works.  My job is to get on board with what God is doing.  That tweak can change a lot.

I’m very good at defaulting back to my old mindset, of trying to manipulate events into my favor.  Left to my own devices I am a fundamentally selfish human being.  Most of us are.  And when I try to manipulate events and they don’t go my way, I get angry.  And upset.  Even depressed.  What helps in those moments is whispering: “Thy will be done, not mine.”

I’ve got to learn continuous surrender to God’s will for my life.  I’ve still got a lot of rebellion floating around in my soul.  I’ve always been a defiant type.  In fact I still am quite defiant.  The defiance is just aimed in a new direction.  Instead of defiance toward society, work, responsibility, now my defiance is toward sin, the ways of the world, and the schemes of the evil one.  In so doing, I abide (remain) in the will of God.

It’s all about God’s will (Ephesians 5:17).  He’s the one running this show called Earth.  He’s the CEO, I’m the desk clerk.  He’s the General, I’m the footsoldier.  My emotions flow much better, in serenity, when I recognize God’s sovereignty over everything.  It doesn’t take long: Thy will be done.

Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV) Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.

I believe that a sorely neglected part of the Christian life is the act of confession.  The Bible says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a ESV).  Confession to God in prayer is vital (Proverb 28:13).  But so is confession to one another (Acts 19:18).

Why confess?  We as humans tend to lock things inside ourselves.  I know I did, and often still do.  Those hurts, pains, and troubles can eat us up inside.  They rot and fester and eventually we become bitter and broken.  I’ve found it extremely useful to journal about past issues.  I write things down that I’ve never really processed, things from the past, and share them with a trusted friend.  It has a way of clearing out wreckage from the past.  It opens me up to the sunlight of the presence of Jesus Christ.

Ever forget to love your neighbors?  I have.  I tended to resent society in the past.  Sometimes I catch myself falling into that mindset.  I have to keep alert to make sure I’m obeying the central command of Jesus Christ: love others as I have loved you (John 15:12).  I’m a flawed human, I can very quickly become contemptuous, nit-picking the flaws of others, resenting their shortcomings, or downright loathing them.  Instead I try to remind myself, love them.  Just let yourself feel love and affection for those around you.  Let it flow out.  I think sometimes we’re afraid to love, because we’ve been hurt or we’ve been rejected.  God calls us to love them anyway.  Love is definitely an emotion, it’s a warm response inside us.  But it doesn’t end there, it continues in actions and warm, kind words spoken.

This life can be ugly.  It can be very difficult.  We see death and struggle around us on a daily basis.  We hear the news, and it never seems to be good.  We see people working long hours for little pay.  We see people trapped in addictions, depression, or diseases that they can’t break from.  We encounter these struggles ourselves and often on days it’s just too much.  We feel broken down.

We’re thirsty for righteousness, for hope, and we’re fed a mouth full of dirt.  Someone kicks us while we’re down.  Then kicks us again.  It does happen, it certainly does.  One bad thing happens, then two more pile on top.  (Why does it always happen in threes?)  Yet life can also be so beautiful.  Hope sneaks in at the last moment.  When we think we can’t go on another day, and all sides are closing in… a sudden faith fills us, and we survive.  God appears in the time fog, and reassures us.  Angels come in the shadows of brokenness and tend our wounds.

Sins overwhelm us and we feel God could never love one of such intense sins.  Then Jesus reminds us, “You are mine.  I have overcome the world.  I forgive you, I love you.”  Like little white flowers dotting the bushes on the sun swept trail ahead, God pours out grace and mercy, mercy after grace, forgiving us, accepting us, tending to us, changing us, and loving us with an everlasting love.

We reflect then, in the shadow of the valley, asking ourselves, with tears in our eyes, “How is it that He is so good, always?”  It’s at those moments when our breath is taken away by His presence, by his response to our turmoil that we know that God is for us, He loves us, and his ways are entirely exceeding of what we could imagine.  Jesus Christ gives us joy.

I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13 The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14 And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another.
18 “If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘Slaves are not greater than their master.’ If people persecuted me, they will persecute you too; if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours too. 21 But they will do all this to you because you are mine; for they do not know the one who sent me.

-John 15:9-21 (GNT) 

As with all things, we grow and learn and step slowly into the mindset of Jesus Christ.  Through practice, dedication, and dogged determination our spiritual muscles bulge and grow.  We learn how to be human, truly human, as we were meant to be.  We get to become who we were always meant to be.  Slowly but surely, day in and day out, doing good and loving mercy.  It isn’t easy.  But he helps us.  

Lord, teach us how to live as you lived.  Teach us love and service. Grant us the mindset of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

A Rational Inquiry of the Bible: Is it reliable? Is it the word of God?

A Rational Inquiry of the Bible: Is it reliable? Is it the word of God?

“It’s just a book of stories.”

“It’s the writings of man, not God.”

“It’s been changed by man, there’s no way of knowing if any of the original writings survived.”

“The Bible is full of contradictions.”

“Miracles are impossible.”

“Who knows?  There’s no way to know for certain.”

“It’s  a book of myths, fables.  Just like Greek myths.”

“It’s been changed, by the council of Nicaea.”

The skepticism regarding the Bible is very extensive in our culture today.  The Bible has been trusted for generations, but in modern times people aren’t as willing to trust the ancient document and it’s statements about the world.

The Bible does claim from within itself to be the word of God.  In conjunction with a sense of the presence of God, conscious contact with God through prayer, and the evidence of changed lives around them, many are willing to take the Bible on a sort of “blind faith.”  There isn’t anything wrong with that, in fact that may be the wiser path given a straight forward analysis of empirical reality.

But some like myself prefer a more objective scientifically and historically rendered approach to the authority, inspiration, and reliability of the 66 books of the Bible document.

However, we must understand ourselves.  As the Oracle said in the Matrix film: “Know thyself.”  Why are we so skeptical?  Is it an honest skepticism?  Or do we have a vested interest in the Bible being false?  For many, it may be that they reject the Bible because if the Bible were true, it would mean they would have to change the way they live.  That is a very real possibility, especially for those who reject out of hand, without a moment of reasonable inquiry.

Or as a great man once wrote: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” -Herbert Spencer

Once we’ve looked at ourselves and cleared out any prejudice, we turn to the Bible documents.  Are they real?  Are they reliable?  Even if they are both, are they really instructions from God?

Theology is the study of the documents within the Bible.  Apologetics is the study of the information surrounding the Bible (history, science, archaeology, etc) that help determine the reliability of the document.  We will start with apologetics, then move into theology.

Before I came to believe that God was really God, I tended to believe that the Bible was nonsense.  But why did I believe that?  I think about 99% of objectors are in this same category that I was.  I hadn’t really read any scholarly articles, journals, books, or essays.  I hadn’t studied much of anything.  I was too preoccupied with self indulgence and the American good life, especially the young good life: parties, jaunting about the town, drinking, some light drugs, and entertaining cute girls.  And anything that might interfere with that good life needed to go.  But I still had a mind.  I needed a little dirt on the Bible, so I could quickly dismiss it under a pretense.

And like an anti-hero riding out to save me, there it was, the Da Vinci Code.  A scholarly, deeply researched, non-fiction piece of work… but wait, when I started reading it, it was a novel.  A fiction novel.  Well, no matter.  That one disciple in the Da Vinci painting of the last supper definitely does look a bit girly.  I’m not sure if that proves anything.  But who cares?

Yes, yes, the Da Vinci Code.  Now I didn’t really care that it was a novel.  Just shut up with that God crap, and let me party already.  Let me paint my day dream walls, and stop interrupting with your “truth” nonsense.  I want to do what I want to do.  And why are you judging me anyway?  You Christians are such backwards homophobic bigots, blah blah blah, and leave me alone I’m going to show God that I don’t need him!  That’s just how I rolled.

So really, the apologetics wouldn’t have mattered to me then.  They matter to me now.  But I didn’t care.  I just wanted the quickest escape from the possibility of an objective moral code.  I didn’t want to have to deal with any sort of accountability.  I didn’t want an arbiter of my sex conduct.  Because ‘I’m just experimenting’, on my journey, and that’s the ethic of today: ‘Do whatever works for you.’  ‘Just don’t hurt anyone else.’  But so often, we do hurt others, don’t we?  And we sweep it under the rug.

It turns out that upon further inquiry, the truth was staggering.  There are over 25,000 partial and full manuscripts of the 66 books of the Bible.  When compared to one another they are 99.7% accurate the discrepancies being minor word changes that in no way affect the content.  Leading archaeologists have admitted that no archaeological discoveries have ever contradicted the biblical

Fragment from the Dead Sea Scrolls

documents regarding ancient history.  The Bible documents are scientifically accurate, describing the Earth as a sphere (Isaiah 40:22), stars as innumerable (Jeremiah 33:22), and that the Earth hangs in empty space (Job 26:7). The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 provided further evidence for the authenticity of the biblical documents.  Within the cave of the Dead Sea Scrolls were manscripts preserved from over 2,000 years ago.  When compared with manuscripts used to translate the Bible, they matched perfectly.  The Da Vinci Code was a farce, and a lame farce at that.  The evidence is clear, the documents that we have today are the Bible of yesteryears.

Click here to read an article that lays out an apologetic along these lines.

But wasn’t the Bible changed at the council of Nicaea?  The council of Nicaea was an event that took place shortly after a long period of intense persecution of the Christian faith in the ancient Roman Empire.  Many Christians were martyred for their faith during this period in history.  The survivors convened at the council of Nicaea mainly for the reason of confronting a growing heresy called Arianism.  Arianism asserted that Jesus Christ was the son of God, but was a created being made by God, not co-eternal with God.  The 66 books of the Bible were not altered or removed during the council.  Various churches in that time in history taught from the accepted books, and occasionally had to weed out forgeries and hoax books, like what have come to be called the “Gnostic gospels.”  The Gnostic gospels were attempts by the inclusive mysticisms of the time period, the pagan religions, to force the exclusivist Christian faith back into the over-arching mysticisms of the time.  Those attempts failed, and the gnostic gospels were discarded as fakes.  Today the forgeries are often trotted out by college professors in an attempt to cast doubt on the biblical gospels.  Believe me, you are being mislead.  The vast majority of respected scholars are in agreement that the gnostic gospels are forgeries.  It’s a historically accepted fact.  If you want an appeal to authority, or a “scholarly consensus” there it is.

The issue is that the Gnostic gospels sync well with ancient Greek philosophy.  They lend themselves to syncretism, an “all religions lead to the same place” mentality.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the gnostic manuscripts tend to be internally inconsistent.  They are most certainly forgeries.  A college professor with an emphasis in the Greek philosophies might prefer them over the synoptic gospels though, given their testament to syncretism.

Well then you say, perhaps they are the original documents.  But how do we know they aren’t just the writings of man?  How can we know if they are the writings of God?  And what about all the contradictions?  What about the odd references to not eating shell fish or pork?  What about all the strange and “mean spirited” commands in the Old Testament?

Let’s look at how we can know if these are the writings of God or man.  Is there evidence to suggest that God inspired the books of the Bible?

There are several lines of reasoning to sweep down, but here is a short clipping of various tracks of argument:

1. There are numerous Old Testament prophecies (many regarding Jesus Christ) that were fulfilled later in the history of man kind (during the period of time when the New Testament was written).  If the OT was written by man, how could man predict future events?  Fulfilled prophecies suggests a divine hand in inspiring the word.

2. The testimony of empirical history, specifically how the Christian faith, after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ grew from twelve disciples and a few hundred loose followers into the dominant religion of the Roman Empire is of supreme importance.  The Roman Empire when first encountering Christianity was deeply hostile, and the first three hundred years A.D. were years when Christians were hunted and down and murdered for their faith.  Yet by 1200 A.D. Christianity had spread across the entire Roman empire, into the eastern part of the world, across almost all of Europe and into North Africa.  That just doesn’t happen, unless a divine hand is at work.  If Jesus had really died on the cross, and never rose to life, Christianity would not have spread.  It would have died in the cradle.  But it didn’t.  Today Christianity is the #1 religion in the world with 2.1 billion adherents.  The Bible is the best selling book in human history.  That is empirical fact, it can’t be ignored.  It suggest strongly that God wrote the Bible.

3. The personal testimony of millions of people who indicate that their lives have been radically changed by Jesus Christ and the word of the Bible.  I myself am one of those people.  But I’m not alone.  Hundreds of millions of people testify that God did for them what they could not do for themselves.  Are they all crazy?  All of them?  I doubt it.  Some of them are whack jobs, some are doing it for money, but many more are doing it out of sincere love for a God who is really there.

4. The testimony of the experts, some of the greatest minds across history who have embraced the Christian faith, and the Bible.  They come from every field of inquiry, every walk of life, and from every part of the world.  This is a subject I’ve done a lot of research on.  There are many.  And many of the greatest names in history are people who were dedicated Christians.  Just to list a few of the great names from history (with notable accomplishments):

Martin Luther King Jr. – championed the civil rights movement
William Wilberforce – ended slavery in Great Britain
Abraham Lincoln – American president, ended slavery in the USA
Isaac Newton – famed scientist
Helen Keller – inspirational writer and overcomer
John Adams – American president, orator and statesmen
George Washington – American General, first President
Denzel Washington – famous actor
C.S. Lewis – famous author
J.R.R. Tolkien – famous author, wrote Lord of the Rings series
Francis Collins – famed for mapping the human genome
Blaise Pascal – French Scientist
Simon Greenleaf – founded Harvard Law school
John Polkinghorne renowned theoretical physicist
Malcom Muggeridge – famed journalist
G.K. Chesterton – famed philosopher
Thomas Arnold – historian and Oxford professor

Just to name a few.  For the sake of time we’ll quit there.  If expert testimony is viable evidence, the experts say Christianity is real.

5. Extrabiblical testimony corroborate the biblical documents, and archaeological discoveries support the Bible’s account of history. Extrabiblical testimony – Click here to read an article along those lines.
Archaeological support – Click here to read an article on this.

Those are the apologetics.  Next we turn to theology.  Does the Bible contain contradictions?  That is a common charge.  Before I became a Christian I used to make that same charge.  Yet I had never really read all the way through the Bible.  Maybe I stopped a few times, like when it talked about God being jealous and thought “jealousy is bad so this must be fake.”  But is jealousy always bad?  Wouldn’t it be wise for a man whose wife has gone to be with another man to be jealous for his wife?  Wouldn’t it motivate him to go after his wife and try to convince her to return to the one she ought to be with?  See jealousy isn’t always a bad thing.  God said “I am a jealous God” regarding how Israel, his nation, his chosen

people had turned away from him and were worshiping lumps of clay they put together with their own hands.  Assuming God is real, and he really made all of us, doesn’t it make sense that we should in fact be with God, and close to him as a Father is to his children?  Isn’t it good that God is “jealous for his people” and desires for his people to be close for him?  Such jealousy motivates God to come after his people, and encourage them to come back to him.  It makes sense.  There are other areas of concern, I would recommend these articles: Solutions to Bible Errors organized by book.

101 Cleared Up Contradictions  Click here to view it.

In conclusion, there is strong scholarly evidence to indicate that the Bible documents are reliable, internally consistent, unaltered, and even the word of a living God.  Even all of that together, it’s still a tough decision.  But the final closing point for me was the power of the message, both in it’s description of the problem, and in it’s description of the solution.  Culminating in the problem and the solution is the way of life intrinsic to the Christian worldview: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  And love everyone around you with a full heart, just as you love yourself.  

1. Love God.
2. Love everyone else: friends, enemies, and strangers.
3. Love yourself too.

That is the perfect way to live life.  Those are the teachings of Jesus Christ regarding what is most important in life.  Love is most important.  And the Bible says God is love.

Jesus describes the problem, it’s sin.  A word none of us like to hear.  Yet we see it everyday.  We see it in the news.  It isn’t called “sin” by the pundits, but that is the theological term for it.  Sin.  Sex slavery?  It’s evil.  It’s sin.  Murder, theft, violence, war, disease, death…  People living in poverty and debt.  Entire nations of people going without food or clean water.  It’s sin. That’s the problem.

And as many charities, political efforts, and altruistic movements try to deal with the problem, it’s never really dealt with.  Why?  Because the problem is not outside ourselves.  It’s within all of us.

It’s sin.  It’s the empty hole in our chests that cry out for something eternal, that nothing in this world can really fill.  No fun party, no marriage, no entertainment, no drug, no drink, no massive bank account, no grand victory or goal achieved can touch: That hole of emptiness and disconnection.

And only Jesus Christ, his perfect life, his perfect death, and his perfect resurrection, his victory over death can fill us.  When we believe that Jesus Christ really is God, and really died for us, and really accept that fact, we receive the Holy Spirit.  We’re reborn, plugged in, that hole is filled and we are part of a new family.

Despite all of the evidence, which is indeed compelling, I was finally full convinced when studying the life of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was awesome.  He lived love, and died for his friends.  As they spat on him, called him a fake, called him evil and a monster, and nailed his hands to the cross… as he lay dying on the cross, he looked to heaven and said, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

That is perfection my friends.  We can run from it.  We can keep trying to hide.  We can try to gorge ourselves on entertainment, self fulfillment, wealth, drugs, alcohol, sex or anything else.  But we’ll always be empty, until we turn an about face, and look into the eyes of our savior and say: “God, you are truly God.  Lord Jesus Christ, you are my God.  I am through running from you.  I am through calling you a liar.  You are my Lord, and I love you, and I will serve you, so I may be with you in eternal life.  Amen.”

“Ecce Homo!” A depiction of the trial of Jesus, by Antonio Ciseri (1871)

Related Posts:

  1. The Philosophy of Jesus Christ
  2. Jesus: The God who Came
  3. Why is Jesus the perfect example to follow?
  4. Justification by Faith Alone, but What is Faith?
  5. Journey of the Christian through the Forest called Earth
  6. True Christianity vs. the Modern Culture
  7. The Modern Mindset & Challenges we Face as the Body of Christ
  8. Academic Paper: Biblical Authority
  9. The Cross of Christ Jesus & Reflecting the Savior
  10. Academic Paper: Council of Nicaea

The Spiritual Journey of Bill Wilson & Implications of the Genesis Mindset

“The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened? I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it. Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. He wasn’t himself. “Come, what’s all this about?’’ I queried. He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he said, “I’ve got religion.’’

I was aghast. So that was it—last summer an alcoholic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion. He had that starry-eyed look. Yes, the old boy was on fire all right. But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin would last longer than his preaching.

But he did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to suspend his commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. That was two months ago and the result was self-evident. It worked!

He had come to pass his experience along to me—if I cared to have it. I was shocked, but interested. Certainly I was interested. I had to be, for I was hopeless. He talked for hours. Childhood memories rose before me. I could almost hear the sound of the preacher’s voice as I sat, on still Sundays, way over there on the hillside; there was that proffered temperance pledge I never signed; my grandfather’s good natured contempt of some church folk and their doings; his insistence that the spheres really had their music; but his denial of the preacher’s right to tell him how he must listen; his fearlessness as he spoke of these things just before he died; these recollections welled up from the past. They made me swallow hard.

That war-time day in old Winchester Cathedral came back again. I had always believed in a Power greater than myself. I had often pondered these things. I was not an atheist. Few people really are, for that means blind faith in the strange proposition that this universe originated in a cipher and aimlessly rushes nowhere. My intellectual heroes, the chemists, the astronomers, even the evolutionists, suggested vast laws and forces at work. Despite contrary indications, I had little doubt that a mighty purpose and rhythm underlay all. How could there be so much of precise and immutable law, and no intelligence? I simply had to believe in a Spirit of the Universe, who knew neither time nor limitation. But that was as far as I had gone.

With ministers, and the world’s religions, I parted right there. When they talked of a God personal to me, who was love, superhuman strength and direction, I became irritated and my mind snapped shut against such a theory.

To Christ I conceded the certainty of a great man, not too closely followed by those who claimed Him. His moral teaching—most excellent. For myself, I had adopted those parts which seemed convenient and not too difficult; the rest I disregarded. The wars which had been fought, the burnings and chicanery that religious dispute had facilitated, made me sick. I honestly doubted whether, on balance, the religions of mankind had done any good. Judging
from what I had seen in Europe and since, the power of God in human affairs was negligible, the Brotherhood of Man a grim jest. If there was a Devil, he seemed the Boss Universal, and he certainly had me.

But my friend sat before me, and he made the point blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised
from the dead, suddenly taken from the scrap heap to a level of life better than the best he had ever known! Had this power originated in him? Obviously it had not. There had been no more power in him than there was in me at that minute; and this was none at all.
That floored me. It began to look as though religious people were right after all. Here was something at work in a human heart which had done the impossible.

My ideas about miracles were drastically revised right then. Never mind the musty past; here sat a miracle directly across the kitchen table. He shouted great tidings. I saw that my friend was much more than inwardly reorganized. He was on a different footing. His roots grasped a new soil.

Despite the living example of my friend there remained in me the vestiges of my old prejudice. The word God still aroused a certain antipathy. When the thought was expressed that there might be a God personal to me this feeling was intensified. I didn’t like the idea. I could go for such conceptions as Creative Intelligence, Universal Mind or Spirit of Nature but I resisted the thought of a Czar of the Heavens, however loving His sway might be. I have since talked with scores of men who felt the same way. My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?’’

That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last. It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning. I saw that growth could start from that point. Upon a foundation of complete willingness I might build what I saw in my friend. Would I have it? Of course I would!

Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view.

The real significance of my experience in the Cathedral burst upon me. For a brief moment, I had needed and wanted God. There had been a humble willingness to have Him with me—and He came. But soon the sense of His presence had been blotted out by worldly clamors, mostly those within myself. And so it had been ever since. How blind I had been.

At the hospital I was separated from alcohol for the last time. Treatment seemed wise, for I showed signs of delirium tremens.

There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch. I have not had a drink since.

My schoolmate visited me, and I fully acquainted him with my problems and deficiencies. We made a list of people I had hurt or toward whom I felt resentment. I expressed my entire willingness to approach these individuals, admitting my wrong. Never was I to be critical of them. I was to right all such matters to the utmost of my ability. I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciousness within. Common sense would thus become uncommon sense. I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me. Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others. Then only might I expect to receive. But that would be in great measure.

My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems. Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements. Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.

These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but
the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound. For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He listened in wonder as I talked. Finally he shook his head saying, “Something has happened to you I don’t understand. But you had better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were.” The good doctor now sees many men who have such experiences. He knows that they are real. While I lay in the hospital the thought came that there were thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be glad to have what had been so freely given me. Perhaps I could help some of them. They in turn might work with others.

My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that.”

Bill Wilson (1895-1971) quoted from The Big Book, Chapter: Bill’s Story.

The change that took place in Bill’s life is incredibly revealing.  He walks us through his mindset and the changes that took place in a very descriptive manner.  I don’t normally include quotes this large, but Bill Wilson’s spiritual journey is a fascinating topic.  He touches on so many thoughts that I’m sure many of us have struggled with in our own spiritual journeys.

Whether you struggle with alcoholism, drug addiction, or just life on a daily basis, or if you’re just an average Joe, I think we can all relate to the thoughts and reactions within Wilson’s story.  Bill’s situation was dire.  And whether we want to face it or not, each and every one of us face this same predicament.

We have our current lives, day by day.  And eventually we face death.  It’s true.  No one comes out alive.  The current death rate of all humans who’ve ever lived on Earth is 100%.  We get 70-100 years and then we’re done.  Many don’t even last that long.  More and more are dying in their 50s and 60s from cancer, heart disease, and other issues related to overeating and poor diet (among other issues).  We all face the death that Bill had come upon early in his life.  The alcohol simply sharpened the edge and forced him to face the full fury of destruction and death early on.

So we all face it.  Many of the attitudes and functions of life and the society around us seem geared to help us ignore and push aside that face off.  But it’s there none the less.  As uncomfortable and difficult as it seems to be.

Every single human being born on Earth (aside from a certain Jesus Christ) begins a journey, after birth, headed in the direction of the first two humans, Adam and Eve post-fall.  They have an attitude of resistance to the correct nature of reality, which is man in connection to God.  There are three basic functions of the mindset of every human:

1) A disgust for any God, a disdain for religion, and yet a quiet yearning for a perfection of existence and a penultimate relationship.

2) A tendency toward wrong actions (sins) and a tendency to flee from God, and from the guilt of those wrong actions.  Yet a notable sense of a moral universe, that is, structures in which things ought to be “fair.”

3) A primarily selfish attitude, a concern for self and the glorification of self, and the service to self.  Included is a tendency to want to play god, and redefine good and evil to suit personal preference.

We live in a sort of tangent universe, a tangent reality, unsustainable and rushing into oblivion.  It doesn’t appear that way at first though.  Especially in the United States.  Things are tough, but overall there are sunny days of laughter and balmy nights of passion.

I get a picture in my mind of a person almost being “force walked” down a path to the left; a path that unwittingly leads to destruction, being rushed down that path… while the head slowly turns and the eyes track toward a path leading to the right, to peace and everlasting life, with an increasingly grimacing appearance to the face and an increasing resistance to the dismal march down the road to disaster.

Is it any wonder that so many choose the wrong path?  Many, many do.  And I can understand why.  The default positions of the human mind, with what theologians call “the sin nature” tends toward selfishness, materialism, and an anti-God attitude.  Is it so strange that the world is just the way it is now?  I don’t think so.  If the “sin nature” weren’t enough, we’re also told there is an evil kingdom on Earth that welcomes us into such derision and encourages us to proceed down the wrong path.

Thankfully, there is also a Spirit.  A sort of Gandalf the White individual, fully God, galloping about the kingdoms beckoning people to come down the path of everlasting light, gathering the body of Light for battles against the growing darkness.  Or as C.S. Lewis pictured it, a sort of Maquis, a french resistance beckoning believers to acts of holy sabotage against the kingdom of darkness.

There is a God.  And we see so clearly in Bill’s Story how God will work on an individual.  We see how God will offer his path.  God kept Bill safe as he struggled more and more, and then made himself available to Bill through the words of a childhood friend.  Yet Bill had to struggle through his old ideas.  His old attitudes about life remained and he had to confront them directly.

Recently I read the stories of two men, Chuck Colson and William Wilberforce.  Both of these men had to experience these transitions as well.  Just like Bill Wilson, and myself.  The old ideas, the post-fall ideas are there right when the conversion occurs.  We give our lives to Jesus Christ, but the old ideas are still in the mind.  I’m convinced the first few years after any conversion exist for the purpose of processing from the old self centered worldview to the Christian worldview.

If the old mindset was 1) anti-God  2) tendency to sin and 3) selfishness, what does the new mindset look like?  Perhaps something like this:

1) A growing love for God, a growing level of forgiveness and grace for those of religious persuasion.  And a growing enjoyment of the newly founded relationship with God through Christ.  Also, a continuing yearning for a perfection of existence and relationship that is yet to come.

2) A growing tendency to live in a healthy (righteous) manner, while also struggling day to day with temptation and sin.  A tendency to begin to come to God in prayer when facing guilt, pain and daily struggles.  And of course a continuous yearning for the perfect moral universe to come when God repairs/renews the tangent universe.

3) A growing selfless attitude, or an approach to life that places Jesus Christ at the center.  Service to others begins to play a prominent role in life.  The default mindset begins to develop, that his or her primary purpose is to glorify Christ who in turn glorifies God the Father. The individual less and less turns to worldly views regarding reality and increasingly trusts the Bible for knowledge about the world (He/she stops playing god and let’s God reign in their lives.)

As Bill Wilson put it “God-consciousness.”  Theologians might call it “the process of sanctification.”  In other words, becoming more like Christ.  Wilson was very severe on the fact that the religious experience was an entire life process that needed to be practiced and built upon.

Another great Christian man named Chuck Colson also believed that the Christian life was much more than a “one and done” affair.  He firmly believed that being a Christian was akin to relationship, but also about holding a “Christian worldview.”  Colson described the process of worldview change that happened in his life after he gave in to God, crying desperately in his car on a rainy day.  That change is an internal change, yet it’s also an external change.  The Christian change is different from others in that in affects entire communities.

Let’s look at an example.  Suppose a man comes to the odd realization that UFOs must be real and aliens are certainly scampering about in the bushes.  As a result, internal ideas are altered but externally nothing really changes.  The people at the local diner may look at him funny.  When a man switches over to Jesus Christ, some may look at him funny, but lives are beginning to change around him.  I saw much the same happen when Jesus Christ entered my story.  I had gone on various crusades about the city, calling for political change, writing stories to inspire, but nothing had really caught.  Apathy reigned in general.  But after the Christian change, I noticed others beginning to rally as well.  After two and a half years I’ve seen a genuine spiritual awakening in central Wisconsin, based around the hard work of many young leaders in this area.  It’s a beautiful thing.

We are human beings in need of an outside source of assistance, not something within us, but a force outside us.  We all need the massive overarching deus ex machina provision, the provision of Jesus Christ.  We need the heroic force from around the corner to enter and save us.  That process plays out in reality as the real God entering our stories.  We are in need of a hero, a certain Jesus Christ to help us to become heroes of our own stories.

Until meeting him we’re all playing it down, and living on the outside of our own stories.  We might be working decent jobs, selling vacuum cleaners or shuffling paperwork.  Or maybe we’re smoking dope and hiding in lavender white walled apartments on the wrong end of town.  Yet glory and eternity call out to us, beckoning us come and die to self.  We must stop begging for pocket change in the ghettos of our stories, when we can be the conquering heroes.  Of course all for the glory of the Lord of life, Jesus Christ.  But we must first face down the problem, courageously.

What is the root problem you ask?  The problem is our desire to rebel against God.  The solution is turning to God, and inviting him to full sovereignty of our lives.  Paradoxically from that submission comes the most profound power and provision.  Or as a certain European philosopher put it: When one makes the commitment, from the commitment flows providence.

Our problem goes all the way back to Genesis.

“Did God really say that?” (Genesis 3:1).

“You will not surely die” (if you eat of the tree) (Genesis 3:4).

And of course:

“Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.”  (Genesis 3:5).

Three lies told by a rogue angelic being.  And they believed him.  Now every person born on this planet is default with those false positions of the mind.  And it’s only through a great deal of suffering that we are broken of them.

Fascinating isn’t it, that those three views are so prominent today?  Think about it.

The authority of the Bible is constantly attacked… “Did God really say that?”

Sin is good, it doesn’t matter, there are no consequences, there is no God anyway!  Sex whenever, drugs, alcohol, materialism, do what you want, live for the moment.  “You will not surely die.”

Self help, self enlightenment.  Ah, and the New Age movement: We must all wake up to the fact that we are gods and our minds control the universe.  “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.”

Red pill or blue pill.  We can go on believing lies, or we can wake up to a hard truth: “I do need God, and I can trust his Word.  Sin is bad (just look at the suffering in the world).  I’m not God, but I can be his friend.”

The struggle of Bill Wilson played out through alcoholism, self achievement, and deprivation… is all of our struggles.  His journey simply magnified the process.  It really jumps out in alcohol or drug abuse.  Yet we can all relate to that process of searching for self achievement, falling short, and being left feeling empty and excluded from something beautiful that we can’t quite grasp.

The spiritual journey hinges on Jesus Christ. We come home to Christ.  He embraces us as his children, adopts us into a new family.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” -Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV)

The promises become a reality, yet so important is the fact of continuing forward in the Christian life.  The daily practice of the faith is vital.  The spiritual awakening must be built upon, or it fades and diminishes.  They call that “backsliding” in church lingo.  Bill Wilson built on his spiritual experience.  He began helping others.  He began studying and learning about faith.  He made amends to those he had harmed in the past.  He made frank examinations of his past, and outlined his character defects.  He dealt with those defects in quality changes, and attempts to practice the opposite.  As a result he became a giant of faith in God, triggering several massive movements, based around the twelve steps which he designed to harness the spiritual experience and build upon it.

In conclusion, God is God.  We can trust the Bible, from cover to cover, every book of it.  We must trust it, completely, because the world is vying for our trust, in it’s false belief systems.  The spiritual awakening that has happened in my life, in Bill Wilson’s life, in the lives of Wilberforce, Colson, and so many others; It’s open to everyone.  It’s open to you.  Simply begin pursuing it.  The apologetics are sound.  The reasonable arguments are powerful.  The expert testimony provided by the greats of history is astounding.  And the magnificent figure of Jesus Christ told of in the gospels is a worthy God to follow.  Most importantly: God is real.  And he has made a way home for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Believe it.  It’s real.  Peel away the false reality, see the truth.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 
-Psalm 148:18  

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 
 -John 8:32

Related Posts:

  1. The Information Age & the Christian Worldview: Is God real?
  2. An Appeal to Heaven: The Movement
  3. Who I was and Who I am: A Poetic Observation
  4. Books and the Joy of Reading: George Washington, Helen Keller
  5. Christian Activism: Can Christianity survive the new cultural attitudes?
  6. Ten Great Minds, Ten Controversial Presentations
  7. Noble: The Life of Christina Noble & her ministry to the Children of Vietnam
  8. What is prayer?
  9. Liberty University Graduation, Young People, and Great Minds
  10. How does God communicate with us?

The Information Age & the Christian Worldview: Is God just a delusion? Or is God real?

What does it mean to believe?  What does it mean to follow Christ?  How is this applied?  What is the process involved?  How does faith stack up against the modern views on life?  Is God just a delusion?  Or is He real?

The late Charles Colson put it well:

“It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn’t want our success; He wants us. He doesn’t demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self.”
Charles W. Colson

Yet many do not believe in any God.  They don’t think God exists.  Or they don’t like the idea of God.  Or they think all truth is relative.

I personally have come to believe that God really is.  I really believe that God is actually real, and actually exists and that Jesus Christ was a real person that was born.  I believe, in audacity I suppose, that Jesus Christ was who he claimed to be: the son of God.  I also believe that Jesus Christ, this man, the carpenter, while on Earth did not make a single sin in his life.  He lived perfection, 100%, the only person to ever do so.  How could he?  Because he was God, yet also a man.

And after living the perfect life, he died the perfect death.  How does one die a perfect death?  Well, for one he must be guilty of nothing.  He was completely innocent.  Secondly, the immortal words that Jesus uttered on the cross seal the deal.  Do you remember what he said?

As they beat him, mocked him, spit on him, Jesus spoke his last prayer to his Lord: “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

That very simply is how one goes about dying perfectly.  I believe these events were recorded by eye witnesses in written form.  Much like how we get most of our history: through written reports.  I believe those reports survived accurately in the gospel accounts.  Why?  It’s very reasonable to believe the gospel accounts are accurate, given the manuscript evidence (over 25,000 fragments) which tend to be highly cohesive when compared to each other (about 99.5%).

Finally, I believe that after Jesus Christ died, that three days later he reclaimed his life.  I believe that Jesus Christ bodily resurrected, through the power of God.  Aren’t miracles impossible?  I don’t believe so.  Miracles are reasonable, given an omnipotent God.  If God could create the universe, raising Jesus from the dead isn’t really that difficult.

All of these things I believe tend to go hard against the grain.  That’s alright.  I’ve always been one to go against the stream.  Dead things tend to ride down stream, afterall.  Modern people don’t tend to believe the things I believe.  They tend to believe many different things.  Not all, but some.

They believe in ideas like evolution, relativism, and naturalism.  These are what we might call idealogies, or presuppositions.  They are sets of beliefs, surrounded by facts, not 100% proveable, yet adhered to.

Christianity is similar, it’s adherence to a certain worldview.  It’s not 100% proveable, yet I adhere to it.  Now I tend to think that the evidence supports Christianity to the point that it can be reasonably believed and adhered to.  I tend to think that Christianity can be investigated to the point of being true beyond a reasonably doubt.

Many agree with my analysis, including some of the greatest minds in the history of man kind.  Just to name a few:

Chuck Colson, lawyer, politician, famed for prison reform
Sir Isaac Newton, famous scientist
Jackie Robinson, famed baseball player
Martin Luther King Jr, civil rights activist, Christian preacher
Mother Theresa, altruistic servant of the poor
C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings series
Helen Keller, philanthropist, author
George Washington, first U.S. President
Francis Collins, scientist, founder of the Human Genome Project
William Wilberforce, famed for leading fight to abolish slavery in England
Eric Liddell, Olympic gold medal winning runner
Sir Francis Bacon, known for establishing the scientific method
Galileo Galilei, famous astronomer
Robert Boyle, famous for his work in chemistry
Max Planck, well known for his work on quantum theory

That’s just off the top of my head in a few minutes.  This is the part that just doesn’t fit into the modern narrative.  It doesn’t fit the narrative of the new atheists.  It doesn’t fit the narrative told in public schools.  It just doesn’t fit at all.  But I never knew this stuff.  I had to research it myself.

Christianity has very effectively been stereotyped and mocked into oblivion in western civilization.  Why is that?  There must be something to that.  Well, if I were coming at it from the Christian worldview, it would be very natural to say that there is a battle being waged for the hearts and minds of all people on Earth.  And it’s a spiritual battle, not necessarily a physical one.

Or as Jesus accurately phrased it: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”

It’s a battle of mind.  And there are two primary competing worldviews duking it out in the west.  The Christian worldview, within the realm of Protestant, Lutheran, Catholic, and other orthodox faiths all surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The apposing worldview over the past 50-100 has gone under many different names: modernity, materialism, naturalism, scientism, and most recently post-modernism.  None of those views tends to be the prevailing mindset today.  The modern mind tends to be highly varied among those views.  For sake of time we’ll just call this mindset the info-age man.

The infoman tends to believe these suppositions:

You only live once.
Life is what you make it.
Science is our best test for what is true.
Believing in God is ridiculous.
I need a good job, a family, and to save for retirement.
Truth can’t necessarily be known.
Ethics are relative.
Tolerance is the most important value.
Who am I to say what’s true?
Jesus didn’t exist, or he was a good moral teacher.

We’ve all heard those one-liners haven’t we?  That is the modern mindset.  It’s very prevalent today.  In stark contrast is the Christian worldview:

We are eternal beings.
Life is ordained by God.
The Bible is our best test for what is true.
Believing in God is reasonable.
I need to pray hard, work hard, and live in service to others.
Truth can be known.
Ethics are fixed and universal.
Love is the most important value.
Who am I to say I know better than God?
Jesus is the son of God, he existed, and he lives today.

Is the modern mind correct?  Is God just a ridiculous delusion?  I tend to think the modern man hasn’t thought through his suppositions.

The modern thinks humanity has surpassed any need for God, and charges into the future as a basically good creature ready to claim his destiny as all powerful.  Yet the modern man tends to forget that World War II was only a short 75 years ago.  The modern man tends to think the west must be above that now.  Yet the modern man forgets that racism and racial violence in our country was only 50 years ago.  The modern thinks he has surpassed all of that though.  I guess just recently?  Very recently.  For it was only 20 years ago that somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million were exterminated in the Rwandan Genocide.  Well perhaps man has ascended very, very recently then?  Yet today the sex trade industry flourishes worldwide, including within the vaunted borders of the United States.

Doesn’t quite fit the enlightenment narrative does it?  The facts are plain and simple: humanity struggles just as much today as it did during other dark periods of human history.  The malady of the human soul has not been overcome by modernity, materialism, or scientific and technological advances.  In fact it may be indicated that man has simply found more efficient ways of destroying one another.

Has science really removed the need for God?  If that’s so, then can science explain how the universe could pop into existence from nothing?  Can science explain how time + chance equals humanity, in all it’s complexity?  If a bomb goes off in a junk yard will the result be a fully assembled car?  Perhaps we haven’t thought through the science under-girding that assumption.

Are ethics really relative?  Well, 2+2 = 4.  In math 2+2=4.  2+2=5 is an incorrect answer.  2+2=3 is also incorrect.  Math is not relative.  Neither is history.  The United States declared independence in 1776.  To say we declared independence in 1775 would be incorrect.  The same with saying 1777.  There is a simple correct answer, historically.  If I go to my bank account and ask how much is in it, and the clerk says $5.25, do you think she will let me take out $250,000.00?  Maybe $5.25 is true for her but not for me?  In monetary systems, truth is not relative, but objective.  In history, archaeology, math, scientific law, politics, and religion truth is not relative, but objective and absolute.  Why should ethics be different?  Hitler’s concentration camps were evil, always, for everyone, at all times, in all places.  Whether Hitler exterminated Jews in Poland or France or Russia, it was always evil all the time.

The apologetics are quite sound to me.  The science for God.  The history for God.  We’ve gone over it a hundred times in this blog.  Click here to view some of those discussions, if you’d like to learn more about the reasonable evidences for the Christian faith.

Let’s jump forward.  Given that the modern man’s suppositions don’t seem to hold up, there is only one direction to turn.  We must turn toward the roots of western civilization: Christianity.  The west was built by Christianity, by it’s stabilizing moral function, in Europe as well as the United States.

How does God come to us?  How do we come to him?  The experiences are extremely diverse.  Paul saw Jesus on the damascus road.  Today much the same is reported in areas of the world like India and China.  Christ appears to them directly.  Yet for many over history, it’s been quite different.

For William Wilberforce, it was a ride in a carriage with a believer who shared his faith along the journey.  For Charles Colson it was on a drive home after being told about Jesus, and sobbing uncontrollably until he had to pull his car over because he couldn’t see well enough to drive.  For Ravi Zacharias it was coming to faith in Christ after a suicide attempt at age seventeen.  For C.S. Lewis, it was reading G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man.  For G.K. Chesterton it was investigating the arguments for atheism and finding them severely lacking.  For the NFL football player Deion Sanders it was winning a Superbowl, ordering a Lamborghini and feeling desperately empty at the moment of his greatest achievement.  For Bill Wilson founder of the twelve steps, it was a bright flash of light in his hospital room after he called out: “If there’s a God out there show yourself!”  For author Eric Metaxas it was a dream of pulling a golden fish from a frozen lake of consciousness.  For rock musician Brian Welch (leader singer of Korn) it was being addicted to Meth and reading the scripture which read: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  For Annie Lobert it was calling out to Jesus for help in depths of prostitution and drug addiction.  For journalist Lee Strobel it was investigating the historical Jesus.  For Mark Driscoll it was walking into a fraternity party and feeling himself stopped at the door by a voice telling him that such a life wasn’t meant for him.  For Nabeel Qureshi it was fighting to defend his Muslim beliefs and being convinced by the love presented by a friend who was a Christian.

And then there’s me.  God presents himself in a million different ways.  Naturally an omniscient God would do just that.  There isn’t really a set pattern.  It’s very often quite different for everyone.  There are many roads to the cross of Jesus Christ.  Much of my work on this blog is to draw roads to the cross.  And to let people know that they don’t have to be a khaki button up shirt evangelical to know Jesus.  You can be an intellectual, a scientist, nerd, goth, hipster, indie rocker, college professor, architectural engineer, occupier, libertarian, liberal, conservative, skidrow bum, rich banker, poor garbage truck driver, American, eastern mystic, western new ager, southern baptist, northern materialist, and anything else you could imagine.  God doesn’t require joining a stiff church congregation, taking up frisbee golf, or agreeing to be boring or listen to cheesy Christian rock, or convert to being a thin lipped judgmental bore who lifts their nose and says “I don’t believe I’d wish to do that, that looks like it might be fun.”

God simply says, come to me and give me your heart, believe in my son Jesus Christ, and follow him.

He bid me to do the same, in a special way.  He saw me in trouble.  He saw me believing a lot of lies.  He saw me addicted and troubled.  He saw me self sufficient maybe, but entirely empty.  God put a Bible in my hands.  He gave me dreams that made me want to search for the truth.  He taught me how to be a seeker.  He guided me along the path.  And he stepped into my writings, and showed me a way out of the wilderness.  God put the gospel of John in front of me, which I watched, read, listened to, and observed hundreds of times.  Finally it broke through my skull: Call out to Jesus for help.  And I did just that.  I called out to Jesus, and abandoned myself to his care in a very real way.

Then everything in my life changed.  I know it sounds cliche.  But it’s true.

There was of course a long progression to that point, over years.  Up until age 20 I had absolutely no interest in any amount of higher learning what so ever.  You might say I was a materialist, but I wasn’t really anything.  I just did whatever felt good.  And screw the rest!  Eventually I started attending college, and learned to love reading and writing.  After daily journaling regarding philosophy and life and reality, and morals and principles and the human condition it wasn’t until 2007 that I began to accept that perhaps there was something to spirituality.  I started off as a sort of esoteric new ager, dabbling in whatever felt right.  Tarot cards, zodiac signs, all of that stuff.  It wasn’t until 2011, on a quiet morning watching humming birds buzz about the front yard flowers that I came to the revelation that “God is everywhere.”  From there I began exploring the various faiths, and then in 2012 I called out to Jesus Christ for help.  It wasn’t a short road to get there.  God meets us at many points in our lives.  He is the grand weaver.  And as it has been said: His brush is time.

The Christian worldview.  It’s reasonable.  It’s right.  The evidence is everywhere.  The witnesses are many.  I’ve been touched.  So can you.  And you should.  We should all know the meaning of life: Coming to know the creator of life.  Coming to know the one who made the world and you and me.  That is the meaning of life itself, coming to know the God who made humanity, through Jesus Christ the savior who sets us right, because let’s just be real: We all need a savior.  The world is a rough place.  We all need a savior.  That one should be easy to tell.

Redemption is the meaning of life.  Jesus Christ is the way.  Is it really such a stretch?  Is it really so hard to believe?  We’re all hurtling through space on a rock, yet we can’t believe in miracles?  We’ve all heard of the genocides and world wars, yet we can’t believe we need a savior?  We’ve all felt the emptiness without him, yet we can’t seem to see that we should know God?

Pray to God.  Talk to him.  He is available now.  Not later, now.  Talk to him!  Say something!  Begin that journey!  It’s worth it.  The answer to the riddle of the meaning of life was not what I necessarily wanted to hear.  But it was what I needed to hear.  Trust me, it’s real.  Ask God to reveal himself.  Be a seeker.  Pursue the truth.  He will reveal himself.  Thank you for reading.

Heavenly Father, I pray you would reveal yourself to the one reading these words, who seeks to know what the truth is about you.  In Christ, Amen.

Related Posts:

  1. Expert Testimony: The Existence of God, the Problem of Evil
  2. Expert Testimony: The Anthropic Principle, Anthropology, and Historicity
  3. Expert Testimony: the Demise of Evolution, Complex in DNA
  4. Expert Testimony: Intelligent Design, Archaeology
  5. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  6. Does man need God in Western Civilization: Young People are Hungry for the Truth
  7. Real Christianity: Clothing, Buildings, Money, & Extravagance
  8. Ten Great Minds, Ten Controversial Presentations
  9. Christianity in the Public Square: The Apologetics & Philosophy Renaissance
  10. How does God communicate with us?

The Information Age & the Christian Worldview: Is God just a delusion? Or is God real?

The Information Age & the Christian Worldview: Is God just a delusion? Or is God real?

What does it mean to believe?  What does it mean to follow Christ?  How is this applied?  What is the process involved?  How does faith stack up against the modern views on life?  Is God just a delusion?  Or is He real?

The late Charles Colson put it well:

“It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn’t want our success; He wants us. He doesn’t demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self.”
Charles W. Colson

Yet many do not believe in any God.  They don’t think God exists.  Or they don’t like the idea of God.  Or they think all truth is relative.

I personally have come to believe that God really is.  I really believe that God is actually real, and actually exists and that Jesus Christ was a real person that was born.  I believe, in audacity I suppose, that Jesus Christ was who he claimed to be: the son of God.  I also believe that Jesus Christ, this man, the carpenter, while on Earth did not make a single sin in his life.  He lived perfection, 100%, the only person to ever do so.  How could he?  Because he was God, yet also a man.

And after living the perfect life, he died the perfect death.  How does one die a perfect death?  Well, for one he must be guilty of nothing.  He was completely innocent.  Secondly, the immortal words that Jesus uttered on the cross seal the deal.  Do you remember what he said?

As they beat him, mocked him, spit on him, Jesus spoke his last prayer to his Lord: “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

That very simply is how one goes about dying perfectly.  I believe these events were recorded by eye witnesses in written form.  Much like how we get most of our history: through written reports.  I believe those reports survived accurately in the gospel accounts.  Why?  It’s very reasonable to believe the gospel accounts are accurate, given the manuscript evidence (over 25,000 fragments) which tend to be highly cohesive when compared to each other (about 99.5%).

Finally, I believe that after Jesus Christ died, that three days later he reclaimed his life.  I believe that Jesus Christ bodily resurrected, through the power of God.  Aren’t miracles impossible?  I don’t believe so.  Miracles are reasonable, given an omnipotent God.  If God could create the universe, raising Jesus from the dead isn’t really that difficult.

All of these things I believe tend to go hard against the grain.  That’s alright.  I’ve always been one to go against the stream.  Dead things tend to ride down stream, afterall.  Modern people don’t tend to believe the things I believe.  They tend to believe many different things.  Not all, but some.

They believe in ideas like evolution, relativism, and naturalism.  These are what we might call idealogies, or presuppositions.  They are sets of beliefs, surrounded by facts, not 100% proveable, yet adhered to.

Christianity is similar, it’s adherence to a certain worldview.  It’s not 100% proveable, yet I adhere to it.  Now I tend to think that the evidence supports Christianity to the point that it can be reasonably believed and adhered to.  I tend to think that Christianity can be investigated to the point of being true beyond a reasonably doubt.

Many agree with my analysis, including some of the greatest minds in the history of man kind.  Just to name a few:

Chuck Colson, lawyer, politician, famed for prison reform
Sir Isaac Newton, famous scientist
Jackie Robinson, famed baseball player
Martin Luther King Jr, civil rights activist, Christian preacher
Mother Theresa, altruistic servant of the poor
C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings series
Helen Keller, philanthropist, author
George Washington, first U.S. President
Francis Collins, scientist, founder of the Human Genome Project
William Wilberforce, famed for leading fight to abolish slavery in England
Eric Liddell, Olympic gold medal winning runner
Sir Francis Bacon, known for establishing the scientific method
Galileo Galilei, famous astronomer
Robert Boyle, famous for his work in chemistry
Max Planck, well known for his work on quantum theory

That’s just off the top of my head in a few minutes.  This is the part that just doesn’t fit into the modern narrative.  It doesn’t fit the narrative of the new atheists.  It doesn’t fit the narrative told in public schools.  It just doesn’t fit at all.  But I never knew this stuff.  I had to research it myself.

Christianity has very effectively been stereotyped and mocked into oblivion in western civilization.  Why is that?  There must be something to that.  Well, if I were coming at it from the Christian worldview, it would be very natural to say that there is a battle being waged for the hearts and minds of all people on Earth.  And it’s a spiritual battle, not necessarily a physical one.

Or as Jesus accurately phrased it: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”

It’s a battle of mind.  And there are two primary competing worldviews duking it out in the west.  The Christian worldview, within the realm of Protestant, Lutheran, Catholic, and other orthodox faiths all surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The apposing worldview over the past 50-100 has gone under many different names: modernity, materialism, naturalism, scientism, and most recently post-modernism.  None of those views tends to be the prevailing mindset today.  The modern mind tends to be highly varied among those views.  For sake of time we’ll just call this mindset the info-age man.

The infoman tends to believe these suppositions:

You only live once.
Life is what you make it.
Science is our best test for what is true.
Believing in God is ridiculous.
I need a good job, a family, and to save for retirement.
Truth can’t necessarily be known.
Ethics are relative.
Tolerance is the most important value.
Who am I to say what’s true?
Jesus didn’t exist, or he was a good moral teacher.

We’ve all heard those one-liners haven’t we?  That is the modern mindset.  It’s very prevalent today.  In stark contrast is the Christian worldview:

We are eternal beings.
Life is ordained by God.
The Bible is our best test for what is true.
Believing in God is reasonable.
I need to pray hard, work hard, and live in service to others.
Truth can be known.
Ethics are fixed and universal.
Love is the most important value.
Who am I to say I know better than God?
Jesus is the son of God, he existed, and he lives today.

Is the modern mind correct?  Is God just a ridiculous delusion?  I tend to think the modern man hasn’t thought through his suppositions.

The modern thinks humanity has surpassed any need for God, and charges into the future as a basically good creature ready to claim his destiny as all powerful.  Yet the modern man tends to forget that World War II was only a short 75 years ago.  The modern man tends to think the west must be above that now.  Yet the modern man forgets that racism and racial violence in our country was only 50 years ago.  The modern thinks he has surpassed all of that though.  I guess just recently?  Very recently.  For it was only 20 years ago that somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million were exterminated in the Rwandan Genocide.  Well perhaps man has ascended very, very recently then?  Yet today the sex trade industry flourishes worldwide, including within the vaunted borders of the United States.

Doesn’t quite fit the enlightenment narrative does it?  The facts are plain and simple: humanity struggles just as much today as it did during other dark periods of human history.  The malady of the human soul has not been overcome by modernity, materialism, or scientific and technological advances.  In fact it may be indicated that man has simply found more efficient ways of destroying one another.

Has science really removed the need for God?  If that’s so, then can science explain how the universe could pop into existence from nothing?  Can science explain how time + chance equals humanity, in all it’s complexity?  If a bomb goes off in a junk yard will the result be a fully assembled car?  Perhaps we haven’t thought through the science under-girding that assumption.

Are ethics really relative?  Well, 2+2 = 4.  In math 2+2=4.  2+2=5 is an incorrect answer.  2+2=3 is also incorrect.  Math is not relative.  Neither is history.  The United States declared independence in 1776.  To say we declared independence in 1775 would be incorrect.  The same with saying 1777.  There is a simple correct answer, historically.  If I go to my bank account and ask how much is in it, and the clerk says $5.25, do you think she will let me take out $250,000.00?  Maybe $5.25 is true for her but not for me?  In monetary systems, truth is not relative, but objective.  In history, archaeology, math, scientific law, politics, and religion truth is not relative, but objective and absolute.  Why should ethics be different?  Hitler’s concentration camps were evil, always, for everyone, at all times, in all places.  Whether Hitler exterminated Jews in Poland or France or Russia, it was always evil all the time.

The apologetics are quite sound to me.  The science for God.  The history for God.  We’ve gone over it a hundred times in this blog.  Click here to view some of those discussions, if you’d like to learn more about the reasonable evidences for the Christian faith.

Let’s jump forward.  Given that the modern man’s suppositions don’t seem to hold up, there is only one direction to turn.  We must turn toward the roots of western civilization: Christianity.  The west was built by Christianity, by it’s stabilizing moral function, in Europe as well as the United States.

How does God come to us?  How do we come to him?  The experiences are extremely diverse.  Paul saw Jesus on the damascus road.  Today much the same is reported in areas of the world like India and China.  Christ appears to them directly.  Yet for many over history, it’s been quite different.

For William Wilberforce, it was a ride in a carriage with a believer who shared his faith along the journey.  For Charles Colson it was on a drive home after being told about Jesus, and sobbing uncontrollably until he had to pull his car over because he couldn’t see well enough to drive.  For Ravi Zacharias it was coming to faith in Christ after a suicide attempt at age seventeen.  For C.S. Lewis, it was reading G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man.  For G.K. Chesterton it was investigating the arguments for atheism and finding them severely lacking.  For the NFL football player Deion Sanders it was winning a Superbowl, ordering a Lamborghini and feeling desperately empty at the moment of his greatest achievement.  For Bill Wilson founder of the twelve steps, it was a bright flash of light in his hospital room after he called out: “If there’s a God out there show yourself!”  For author Eric Metaxas it was a dream of pulling a golden fish from a frozen lake of consciousness.  For rock musician Brian Welch (leader singer of Korn) it was being addicted to Meth and reading the scripture which read: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  For Annie Lobert it was calling out to Jesus for help in depths of prostitution and drug addiction.  For journalist Lee Strobel it was investigating the historical Jesus.  For Mark Driscoll it was walking into a fraternity party and feeling himself stopped at the door by a voice telling him that such a life wasn’t meant for him.  For Nabeel Qureshi it was fighting to defend his Muslim beliefs and being convinced by the love presented by a friend who was a Christian.

And then there’s me.  God presents himself in a million different ways.  Naturally an omniscient God would do just that.  There isn’t really a set pattern.  It’s very often quite different for everyone.  There are many roads to the cross of Jesus Christ.  Much of my work on this blog is to draw roads to the cross.  And to let people know that they don’t have to be a khaki button up shirt evangelical to know Jesus.  You can be an intellectual, a scientist, nerd, goth, hipster, indie rocker, college professor, architectural engineer, occupier, libertarian, liberal, conservative, skidrow bum, rich banker, poor garbage truck driver, American, eastern mystic, western new ager, southern baptist, northern materialist, and anything else you could imagine.  God doesn’t require joining a stiff church congregation, taking up frisbee golf, or agreeing to be boring or listen to cheesy Christian rock, or convert to being a thin lipped judgmental bore who lifts their nose and says “I don’t believe I’d wish to do that, that looks like it might be fun.”

God simply says, come to me and give me your heart, believe in my son Jesus Christ, and follow him.

He bid me to do the same, in a special way.  He saw me in trouble.  He saw me believing a lot of lies.  He saw me addicted and troubled.  He saw me self sufficient maybe, but entirely empty.  God put a Bible in my hands.  He gave me dreams that made me want to search for the truth.  He taught me how to be a seeker.  He guided me along the path.  And he stepped into my writings, and showed me a way out of the wilderness.  God put the gospel of John in front of me, which I watched, read, listened to, and observed hundreds of times.  Finally it broke through my skull: Call out to Jesus for help.  And I did just that.  I called out to Jesus, and abandoned myself to his care in a very real way.

Then everything in my life changed.  I know it sounds cliche.  But it’s true.

There was of course a long progression to that point, over years.  Up until age 20 I had absolutely no interest in any amount of higher learning what so ever.  You might say I was a materialist, but I wasn’t really anything.  I just did whatever felt good.  And screw the rest!  Eventually I started attending college, and learned to love reading and writing.  After daily journaling regarding philosophy and life and reality, and morals and principles and the human condition it wasn’t until 2007 that I began to accept that perhaps there was something to spirituality.  I started off as a sort of esoteric new ager, dabbling in whatever felt right.  Tarot cards, zodiac signs, all of that stuff.  It wasn’t until 2011, on a quiet morning watching humming birds buzz about the front yard flowers that I came to the revelation that “God is everywhere.”  From there I began exploring the various faiths, and then in 2012 I called out to Jesus Christ for help.  It wasn’t a short road to get there.  God meets us at many points in our lives.  He is the grand weaver.  And as it has been said: His brush is time.

The Christian worldview.  It’s reasonable.  It’s right.  The evidence is everywhere.  The witnesses are many.  I’ve been touched.  So can you.  And you should.  We should all know the meaning of life: Coming to know the creator of life.  Coming to know the one who made the world and you and me.  That is the meaning of life itself, coming to know the God who made humanity, through Jesus Christ the savior who sets us right, because let’s just be real: We all need a savior.  The world is a rough place.  We all need a savior.  That one should be easy to tell.

Redemption is the meaning of life.  Jesus Christ is the way.  Is it really such a stretch?  Is it really so hard to believe?  We’re all hurtling through space on a rock, yet we can’t believe in miracles?  We’ve all heard of the genocides and world wars, yet we can’t believe we need a savior?  We’ve all felt the emptiness without him, yet we can’t seem to see that we should know God?

Pray to God.  Talk to him.  He is available now.  Not later, now.  Talk to him!  Say something!  Begin that journey!  It’s worth it.  The answer to the riddle of the meaning of life was not what I necessarily wanted to hear.  But it was what I needed to hear.  Trust me, it’s real.  Ask God to reveal himself.  Be a seeker.  Pursue the truth.  He will reveal himself.  Thank you for reading.

Heavenly Father, I pray you would reveal yourself to the one reading these words, who seeks to know what the truth is about you.  In Christ, Amen.

Related Posts:

  1. Expert Testimony: The Existence of God, the Problem of Evil
  2. Expert Testimony: The Anthropic Principle, Anthropology, and Historicity
  3. Expert Testimony: the Demise of Evolution, Complex in DNA
  4. Expert Testimony: Intelligent Design, Archaeology
  5. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  6. Does man need God in Western Civilization: Young People are Hungry for the Truth
  7. Real Christianity: Clothing, Buildings, Money, & Extravagance
  8. Ten Great Minds, Ten Controversial Presentations
  9. Christianity in the Public Square: The Apologetics & Philosophy Renaissance
  10. How does God communicate with us?

How does God communicate with us?

How does God communicate with us?

The divine designer, the architect, the crafter of the human soul is indeed present and interactive within the matrix of reality we call Earth.  He is present, he is at work.  Yet we cannot see him.  Theologians call this the “hiddenness of God.”  But why is he hidden?  Atheists might say “how convenient!”  The key issue is choice.  We all have choice, free will, decisions we must make in life.  If God was visible, if he spoke with an audible voice, performed miracles before our eyes day in and day out, there would be no choice.  Choice is a mystery.  We have no frame of reference to understand what “no choice” would feel like.

“God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know he’s there and yet hiding his presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free.” –J.P. Moreland
Yet God is not the deist-god that starts the machine going and then walks away.  Why would he after all?  Do you often create things and then detach entirely from them?  No, any good parent who has children cares for them as they grow up.
So how does God communicate with us?  How does he interact in the world?
I’ve found that God communicates in innumerable ways.  Every time I notice one way that God communicates, he changes it up.  A new method appears.  It’s fascinating actually.  God is diverse, incredibly so.  But these are some of the ways I’ve notice him tapping me on the shoulder.
I communicate to God in prayer.  It’s often in prayer that he communicates back with me.  God communicates to us in our thoughts.  Yet very often the reply comes when studying his word.  Sometimes I’ll go on Biblegateway.com and play audio Bibles as I rest.  Then I lay down, close my eyes, and listen.  And reflect.
Perhaps the most powerful way that God communicates with us is through the books of the Bible.  Sifting through the scriptures is powerful.
Yet God will often speak to me through another person.  This happens a great deal during Bible studies and support groups.  Very often the topic of discussion at a given study or group will be exactly what I was troubled with before my arrival.
God sometimes speaks through dreams.  There have been more than a few times that dreams have touched me deeply, and upon waking I considered things differently in my life.  But I usually have to read between the lines, to notice where God is leading me.  Sometimes it’s like he’s herding me in a certain direction.  The dreams don’t come out as an angel commanding me to do something.  No, it’s more like.. I dream of fears I have, and then I’m prompted to confront them.  I dream of longings, desires, and the dreams bring those recollections to my attention.  Or I dream of epic struggles, and later I find myself inspired.
God speaks to us, to me, through pain as well.  During the stale, daily moments of my life, playing videogames, watching movies, bumming about campus, I’m often not moved to do much.  But in pain, in the sorrow of the soul… well, it stirs everything up.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain  
Further, God speaks to me in the natural world.  He speaks to me in a magnificent sunset.  He speaks to me in a star filled night sky.  And often when I pray when standing outside, the wind begins to blow, signifying the presence of God’s messengers (Psalm 104:4).
God also speaks to me through my emotions, and my inner thoughts, but I’m skeptical of those inner thoughts and emotions, because the heart of man is fallen, and often troubled.  I’ve struggled with depression, and self-security issues for many years, so many times my own thoughts accuse me and trigger guilt.  Yet at times I do feel the unspeakable presence of God.
God speaks through world events.  The plans of the world, and moving of his might are revealed in the troubled history of humanity.  His actions in history are clearly visible.  To this very day the nation of Israel which God raised up dwells in the land of Jerusalem.  All-be-it, amid a tense truce.
God has spoken to me the most clearly though, through his mercy.  He spoke to me most clearly when he opened my eyes to the gospel of John, and John’s witness to the life of Jesus Christ.  Belief was gifted to me, upon a call for help.  That was a moment I will never forget.  Yet it was also my job to erect an altar there, so I would never forget what the Lord had done.  It was my job to work with the Spirit, and begin to confront the sins in my life.  It was my job to begin praying, studying the word, and interacting with the ideas and concepts of the Christian worldview.  And so I have.
In a few days I’ll be graduating from Liberty University, with an Associates of Interdisciplinary Studies and a Bachelors degree in Religion.  I’m looking forward to that a great deal.  It’s been a tough journey thus far, and I expect it to get still more difficult as time continues to pass.  Please pray for me, that I’m able to handle the burden of officership in the Salvation Army (which I’m currently pursuing).  A ministry internship in the Salvation Army is the next step, and I’ll find out in a few weeks if that’s happening, and where I might be moving to.  It’s somewhat nerve-wracking.
Yet God comforts me many times.  Other times he allows me to suffer, perhaps to teach me something, or to build my reliance upon him.
God’s interaction is hard to gage.  God has appeared to people, like Saul on the Damascus road.  Sometimes he will lead us out of the wilderness, other times he will lead us into the wilderness.  His angel may travel with us the entire trip, and other times only half the trip.  At times he will break the chains of those imprisoned, and at other times he will allow the imprisonment to continue.  For one person he may deliver them from death, others he allows to be martyred.  The scriptures say, “How unsearchable are his ways.”  And that is certainly true.
God does not promise to protect us from pain and suffering.  He does promise to be with us during those sufferings.  He doesn’t promise to protect us from death, but he does promise, that if we trust in his son Jesus Christ, we will have a future beyond the grave.
God communicates to each of us in different ways.  But there are two universal communications: The Bible and prayer.  Test any other communications against the word of God.  The Bible can be trusted, despite the skepticism of the culture.  The Bible has stood the test of inquiry, and it has stood the test of historicity and it has stood the test of it’s value as a document of sacred truths.
God loves us.  I can’t even begin to imagine how much he loves us, or what he is really like.  Comprehending a being outside space-time, is only the beginning of the ocean of the depth of God’s power and complexity and perfection.  Yet he loves us.  He loves us as a father, as a mother would, as a family loves.  Trust in him.  Meditate on his word.  Stretch out your thoughts to comprehend his communications.  Strive for connection to him, past all the selfishness and self seeking ways, strive to walk the journey with the Father, day in and day out, until the last day.  May we all be found faithful before Christ Jesus on that last day. Amen.