Reason number four that I believe in the God of the Bible is the evidence of impact. The long-term fruitfulness and greatness of Israel and the Church argues for its truthfulness. Now, write in your notes, “Disclaimer.” Have a lot of things been done in the name of God that are horrendous? Yes. But let me tell you this… a lot of things that have been said, even in history, that have been done in the name of God, are simply not true.
I would recommend, and you can jot in your notes, I hope he thanks me for this later, “What’s so Great About Christianity,” by Dinesh D'Souza. He’s not a theologian, he’s a commentator, a political writer, who is now, I think, going to be one of the most significant apologists. A lot of what we’ve heard and seen in textbooks that have talked about some of the terrible, terrible things the Church has done, he sets the record straight.
We hear the Inquisition was like this, and he says, well actually, it was more like this. And we’ve heard that this is what happened to these leaders, and actually no, it was really like this. Now, what we know is, in the name of God, horrendous have been done. In the name of the Church, horrendous things have been done.
In fact, I’ll just say this nicely, when I turn on Christian television, and I watch channel, channel, channel, channel, channel, channel, there are some rare, wonderful exceptions of quality teaching, and there are some things on there, that I just pray that non-Christians never, ever turn on because they so misrepresent everything that we believe that Jesus taught about who He is.
I hear people making outrageous claims and financially plundering people and just absolute ridiculous things that disenfranchise unbelievers from the true Gospel. One of the things we struggle with in our day, is how do we get through that clutter, to say, “We’re not like them.”
So, with that said, that’s my disclaimer… just evidence, ok, we’re looking at data. There’s a nomad in a tent named Abraham, a few thousand years ago. God says, “I’m going to make you a great nation.” Now fast forward… [Sound effects, ticking time] and the nation of Israel is born.
The laws of Israel are given. We take things for granted. The Ten Commandments… the most basic, recognized “how to treat people” rules, whether you believe them or not. The laws that were given to Israel about hygiene and about washing. The circumcising of a child on the eighth day, when Purdue University has taught us that that’s when the platelets clot. The amazing journey from a nomad in a tent, to a nation, to the Law, to David, to Solomon, to influence, to today. I mean, you just got to ask, “What’s behind all that?”
The Mustard Seed Conspiracy of Jesus… we get used to Jesus, and we get used to writing A.D., B.C. and there are churches everywhere, and there are hospitals and orphanages, and missionary movements, and two thousand years… wait, time out!
He’s an itinerate preacher, without videos, or satellite, printing press, who never traveled more than thirty, forty, fifty miles from his birth. Who healed some people, did a few miracles, preached a few messages… how do you get from this tiny little mustard seed to what we see today? Everyday 85,000 people worldwide put their faith in Christ. Eighty five thousand people, everyday, put their faith in Christ.
If you have had the chance to go around the world, part of it was really fun, and part of it was a lot of time on planes, but you see hospitals, you see orphanages, you see learning institutions, you see Bible schools, you see seminaries, you see people partnering with governments, you see projects to help HIV positive in Africa, you look at liberation that’s happening underground in Iran and Iraq. I will tell you what; the mustard seed of the truth of Jesus, and what it’s done to change the world is absolutely outstanding.
The liberation of women… Jesus was the great liberator. He said they were actually co-heirs of the grace of God. They weren’t a piece of property. Wilberforce with slaves, the caste system in India, the basis of jurisprudence, economic impact - you go to countries that have Judeo-Christian values versus countries that don’t and you’ll watch a distance between the rich and the poor, and standards of living, and whether it’s everything from infrastructure to clean water, it’s night and day.
I’m always amused, I grew up in the Santa Cruz area, and it’s a very interesting college that thinks Berkeley is way too far “right.” I’ve sat in coffee shops ‘til the wee hours and talked with professors and people, and we’ve had all these discussions, and this idea that culture is the holy grail.
Who are we, to go into any place of any people and ruin their culture? Well, yeah, we ruined the Aztec culture, where part of Aztec culture was they had human sacrifice, and the way they did human sacrifice, they would… while people were living, they would actually cut out their heart, and pull out their hearts to give it to their god. You’d hate to mess that one up, huhhh?
Or you go to Islamic countries right now, and if you had any idea what was happening … the life of a woman, in an Islamic country, is absolutely horrendous. You go to all over India and you see people that are living… I’ve been to where they don’t have enough food to eat, and then I went to a temple where they worship rats, and it was an open temple and had bars all the way around, and the poorest of the poor would bring their food, and they would put it… and then thousands of rats would come and eat the food. Now, forget all the diseases that it caused, I don’t think I’m violating a lot of culture when I bring the gospel of truth that builds relationships, and hygiene, and economics, and raises peoples lives, that’s what Christianity has done everywhere it’s gone.
Orphans, widows, the disenfranchised of every age, child labor laws… it was the Christian Women’s Temperance Union that got women the vote. All I’m saying is, the evidence of impact is overwhelming.
The fifth reason that I believe the God of the Bible is the pragmatic evidence. The teaching of Jesus in the New Testament - it works in real life. It works! Now, this isn’t the only reason. I don’t think pragmatism is a great reason for saying, “Well, if it works, just do it,” but when you begin to layer these, one upon one, upon one…
The teaching of Jesus and the New Testament, promote healthy relationships, strong marriages, honest business, positive parenting, racial reconciliation, cultural kindness, they champion the value and dignity of all human beings, regardless of creed, race, sex, nationality, or orientation.
People that live a biblical life… you may not agree with the homosexual but they’re made in the image of God, and you love them. You may not agree with someone from a different background but they’re made in the image of God, and you love them and you care for them.
You don’t have to agree with people’s behavior, or what they believe, but I tell you what, you don’t kill them because they disagree with you. You don’t put a bomb on yourself. We are the agents, according to Jesus, we’re agents of love! We’re agents who accept people. It was Christians who helped others, whether it was the black plague in medieval times, or the lepers in the first century… it works!
One of the things that everyone has, I think, is a feedback loop of motivation. We’re all motivated by different stuff. I’m motivated by impact. We get thousands of emails at Living on the Edge and about every week or two, I have them print off my emails. It might sound like an oxymoron when I say, “I read your email on the plane,” because I print them all out. And when I have long plane rides, I just read them.
Jesus said, “You’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.” You need to know, as a man, I’ve got to love my wife the way Christ loved the Church. You need to know, as a woman, if you’re thinking, “My husband’s going to work it all out… and the head of our marriage… it’s Jesus. And He’s got this guy in the driver’s seat, and I’m part of these issues, and boy does he need me. And I’m going to love him the way that helps him become the kind of man that he desperately needs to become.”
People don’t know how to parent. They don’t know how to set boundaries. They don’t know how to discipline their kids. Well, it’s in Scripture. We actually had a situation where we created something called Effective Parenting in a Defective World. We made it a small group series and we did a lot of work in South Africa … this blows my mind. The police department nationwide, of South Africa, over a period of about two or three years, bought almost $200,000.00 of DVDs and workbooks, because juvenile delinquency and crime is so high in South Africa. So they would give it to the policemen and the police chaplains to teach parents how to raise their kids.
Now, did they have any religious orientation? Heck, no! You know what they knew? Effective Parenting in a Defective World, it’s Ephesians 6… some basic stuff, that we all would say… how else would you raise your kids? It works! It’s truth. Even when non-Christians practice truth, it works.
The sixth reason is the evidence of uniqueness. God’s chief messenger, Jesus, and the message of “Grace,” stand in contrast to all religions and religious practice. This might be at the apex of the reasons.
The messenger is Jesus. He doesn’t fit. John 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Nothing has come into being, that has come into being, except through Him. Skip down to about verse 14… and what happened? And he explained Him. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” And we beheld Him as the only One… the only begotten from the Father. “17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
The messenger is unique. He’s not a prophet, He’s not a good teacher, He doesn’t create a formula, there’s not a pathway, there’s not a path to follow, He says, “I’m it.” Very unique.
He says He’s sinless. Colossians 1 says, “He holds all things together by the Word of His power.” Jesus is the Creator. He’s the Savior. It’s outrageous! The thing is, is that, ok… truth-claim, truth-claim, truth-claim, truth-claim, truth-claim, [sound: beep!] Jesus! “I’m it! And I’ll prove it. I’m going to die, I’ll let you know in advance, I’ll come back, here’s what’s going to happen. And then I’m going to build My Church, and the gates of hell can’t prevent it. It’s going to move forcefully forward, invading evil, freeing people, bringing light.” And He’s done it. Our messenger is completely unique to any other religious system.
And then the message…. the message is just a complete contrast. It’s grace. Grace is the unconditional, unmerited love of God toward every human being that compels Him, God, to forgive and to reconcile them to Himself… all who are willing, based solely on the work of Christ on the cross. Not on any religious performance or righteous work of their own.
It’s a gift! This is bizarre. For by grace, free gift, you are saved by faith. And that’s not of yourself. It’s the gift of God, not a result of any works, lest anyone should boast. It’s grace! It’s the person that has done terrible, terrible, terrible things and doesn’t deserve anything for it … and God says, “I will forgive you, if you’d like Me to.”
Well, don’t I have to pray five times a day, or go on a pilgrimage, or only eat certain foods, or do this, or do that, or don’t I need to meditate for at least a half a day, or don’t I need to visit orphans or help people? What do I need to do to earn Your favor? You can’t! You can’t. It’s grace. And it’s a gift that once the gift is received, it’s a relationship that transforms you, not from the outside in, trying to earn favor, but from the inside out, saying, “Thank you.”
I have this picture in my mind and it might be a little bit weird, but I’m visual, and I was driving one day and thinking about how I could actually get this across to people, where we could really grasp grace. I want you to imagine, if you will, a long rack of bowling balls. Ok? Are you ready? The whole front… long rack of bowling balls. You know how it is when you go into a bowling alley and you look at all the balls - they’re all black, except one in the middle is white.
Then for every bowling ball, on one side, I want you to just put the name of religion, and you can put Islam, and Buddhism, and Hinduism, Shintoism, Taoism, whatever religion you can think of. I want you to put just the name on the outside of it, alright? Now, inside the bowling ball is all the claims, all the truth, all the history, all the things they teach in their religion. It’s inside the bowling ball. Have you got it? You with me now? So, black, black, black, black, black… we’ve got the one white one here.
If you would turn over every one of these bowling balls, no matter what religion they are, you turn the black ones over, black ones over, black ones over, black ones over, black ones over, they can be completely summarized by two letters: “D-O. Do.” Now what you’re to do is different. But it’s do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do pray, do give, do blah, do blah, do, do, do, do, do, do, can’t do this, gotta do this, do, do, do, do, do do… that summarizes them!
And then there’s one that’s white, and it says, “Jesus,” and underneath that, “Christianity,” and you turn it over, and inside it has all the teachings of Jesus, and all the fulfillment of prophecy, and everything we’ve talked about, and it just has four letters that summarizes everything: “D-O-N-E.” Done. That’s the difference.
It’s not intolerant. It’s narrow. It’s true. What you could never do for yourself, all we like sheep have gone astray, but the Lord has laid upon HIM, Jesus, the iniquity of us all. Done. And then you live out of that new position in grace, as a dearly loved child… that you can never earn favor but you already have it. The first three chapters of Ephesians are… “Done. This is what you possess.” And the last three chapters are, “Now, walk in a manner worthy of who you already are.”
Unfortunately, a lot of Christians think they’re saved by grace and then emotionally, they try and live it out by earning God’s favor. Having done that, it’s very frustrating, and I’ll tell you in advance, it doesn’t work.
The seventh and last reason I believe in the One, true God, the God of the Bible, is the millions of changed lives in the last two thousand years. I believe that argues, experientially, that Jesus is alive, and is who He says He is. We could take a microphone around this room, and the stories would be different, but they’d come out, “I was blind but now I see.” “I was blind but now I see.”
You know, “I grew up in this really rich home, and I thought I had it all and I went to church and I was a religious person, but I was blind, and I was hurt, and I was lonely and [sound: snap!] then I see.” And whether it’s a drug addict, or a horrendous divorce, or pain, or the guilt of an abortion, or just the overwhelming sense of selfishness of living for ourselves…
At some moment in time, experientially, Christians realize, “I was blind. Now I see. I was lost. I was wandering. And now I’m found.” And certainly not perfectly, but there is a peace, and a forgiveness, and a joy, and a purpose, and a significance, and direction, and love, and guilt removed, and new relationships, and a new reality that becomes normal… and radical. And, of course, our experiences are not a basis for what we do with our life but there’s certainly a great confirmation when you look at the other six.
At this point, I would just ask the question, logically, because this has been asked of me once… I was teaching an Easter service and gave a message that was very clear and logical on the resurrection and it happened at number of services. So, I was praying with a group, and this one guy, he’d heard this message and he just told me, “Man, this is going to be so great, so great, my dad hasn’t come to church in thirty-two years and I’ve been talking to him, talking to him, talking to him, talking to him… And when he sees this, when he hears this, this is so clear… this is going to be the day! It’s great!” I said, “Great.”
So we prayed, and I did the service and think I preached as well as I could the last time, and then I saw him the next week and I said, “Well, how’s it going?” He goes, “Oh man, such a bummer.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Do you realize he sat in that service?” “Yeah, you told me he did.” He said, “Well, do you know what we talked about on the way home?” “What?” “Kentucky Fried Chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken. He just heard the gospel… I mean, it’s as clear as I’ve ever heard in my life. For thirty-two years I’ve been praying for him, and I’ve been asking him, and he heard all that, and then he had some comment like, “You know, that second song was kind of loud.”
You know what this guy’s wrong thinking was? He was thinking that spiritual birth and spiritual understanding is an intellectual issue. Our intellects are part of it. We should be able to give a reason, and answer for our faith. But it raises a question, as clear, at least as we, logically and intellectually have viewed some of these things, why would a person not accept a free gift? I mean, logically.
If it’s do, do, do, do, do and I’ve got to go here and pray so many times a day, and give so much money, and put food out for my ancestors, and I’m scared to death, do, do, do, do, do… and someone says, “Guess what? Why don’t you try this one? Done.” “Oh no, I don’t, that’s...” What is it that would keep people from that?
Let me give you three reasons, as we wrap things up. First is ignorance. Most… even in America, even in churches, people have mislabeled, and they think it’s do, do, do, do… I’ve got to go to church, I’ve got to do this, got to do this, got to do this, got to do this, got to do this, got to do this, instead of, I do those things out of what I already possess.
I grew up in America. I was eighteen years old before I heard the gospel. All I got out of my religious experience, which was very bad, was do, do, do, do by a bunch of people that didn’t even do what they were telling me to do. And so I said, “Forget it.”
But the Bible says, “How can they call upon One they have not believed in, and how can they believe in the One whom they have not heard, and how can they hear without someone preaching to them, and how can they preach unless they’re sent?... As it’s written, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring the Good News.”
Some people, and they may be your neighbors. They’re ignorant. You think they understand. They don’t. They don’t get “Done.” They get do, do, do, do. What they think is you want to recruit them into your church or religious system, instead of introducing them to a relationship. That’s “in” by grace.
The second reason people say “no,” and this is a little harder one to accept, but this was a biggie for me - is pride. It’s just unwillingness to admit our need. And at the core of pride is giving up control. To go to the white bowling ball and turn it over and say, “Done,” and pick it up and receive it, I’ve got to admit I need it. And there are a lot of people that don’t want to do that.
Even in Jesus’ day, John 12:42, it says, 42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in Him” Jesus, but, “would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”
I remember, 1972, the fullback of Illinois is singing The Lord’s Prayer, I’ve heard and understood the gospel for the very first time, it’s 1972, I’m eighteen years old, and I’m in this tug-o’-war, and I realize, that is true. I need Christ. And then this alarm goes off in my head - boy, if I become a Christian… man, this stuff I’m doing over here is probably not going to fly anymore… what is so-and-so going to think?... what, what about this? I mean, I was in this war.
At the heart of my war was the fear of what other people would think, and me giving up control. It’s called pride. It’s why Jesus said, “Unless you become like a little child you’ll never enter the Kingdom of God.” Little kids understand. You know when you’re parents and you have three or four year-old, I have these little grandkids now. If I say to little Ryder, “Ryder, you want to go for ice cream?” “Yeah, Papa,” and he jumps in the car.
He doesn’t think there’s any cost … it’s free, it’s great. They just take things at face value, right? And here the God of the universe says, “Would you like to be a part of My family? Would you like to be forgiven? Would you like purpose? Could you…” And we’re… “Well… I don’t know. Where am I going to sit in the car? What kind of ice cream are we going to have and who gets to pick it out? That’s what I really want to know. By the way, I can make ice cream myself. I’m pretty good at making…”
Pride. Is that keeping anybody here? Is there anybody here that God’s been speaking to? And in your heart of hearts, “What would my wife really think?” or “What would my husband…” or “What would the guys at work…” or …
The final reason is simply a moral problem. In John 3:19 and 20, it says, “19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” And at the end of the day, it’s a moral problem.
Ok, we’ve talked in a number of sessions, and really what we’ve done is we’ve built this bridge to say the foundations of truth, it’s true, and you can really believe it. And here’s a bridge, alright? And God’s on the other side of the bridge and all we’ve done is say that that bridge is trustworthy. There are facts, there’s data, there’s prophecy, there’s archeology. But you’re standing; you have to walk, by faith, across that bridge to receive the gift of eternal life. What’s keeping you?
I will tell you, with a lot of people, at least in my college days, it’s… “Well, I’m sleeping with my girlfriend and I’m thinking that walking across that bridge and continuing to live the way I am, probably is not one of the options.” Or, “I’m hooked on porn.” And it’s not that you have to clean up your life before you receive, but its like, “I don’t want to leave. I love my sin.” At the heart of why many, many, many don’t come to Christ is they don’t want the evil brought into the light.