Why I believe in the God of the Bible. As I shared earlier, the whole purpose of this series was to ask and answer the question, Do you have to throw your brains in the trash, or be anti-intellectual to actually believe that the Bible is God’s Word, that there is one God who created all that there is in all the universe, that He sent the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, to literally be born of a virgin to come to this planet because He loved us and lived an absolutely perfect life.
To explain, if you ever wondered what the Father was like, to explain the Father, full of truth and grace, and then to die in space-time history, for the sins of all men of all time, to then, come back to life, walk around for forty days, and then start a movement in this tiny little portion of the world, that in the last 2,000 years has spread worldwide, and now in the day that we live, sounds very narrow, very politically incorrect, to believe that there’s one God. That Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
And so we’ve said, why we believe in the resurrection, we’ve said why we believe in the Bible, we looked at the evidence for why we believe there’s life after death, and we’ve looked at the issue of creation and evolution. And now what I want to talk about it why I personally believe in the God of the Bible – that there’s one true God, knowing that that’s a very narrow statement.
My early years, where having never opened the Bible, and then putting my faith in Christ and being bombarded with questions, I studied a lot of world religions and then I went to grad school, and then I went to seminary. But probably the best education has been the last twenty-five years or so of being in Jordan, with leaders from 26 Arab countries for about a week and hearing what radical Islam and Islam looks like when you’re a woman. Or when 70% of the population can’t read.
Or being in India and seeing over a million gods in Hinduism. Or spending time with people with a Buddhist background or a Mormon background, or Jehovah’s Witness background, or Shintoism. There’s this huge salad-bar of multiple –isms and religious truth claims and we live in a very pluralistic society that somehow to say the one of them is right, actually makes you sound absurd, narrow, anti-intellectual, and uncaring.
And so is that really the case? And what I want to do is talk about is it intellectually feasible to believe that there’s one true God, the God of the Bible. And if so, what are the facts? And to get there, I want to start out with a couple presuppositions because we all look at life through a lens.
The lens that we’re looking through in our day, the last forty, fifty years is different than the lens of fifty years ago and the lens of a couple centuries ago and a very different lens of the time of Jesus. And a very, very different lens of the time when much of Isaiah or other things were written, and so if you don’t stop and say how do we tend to look at truth and life, because we think that how we view things today, we think that’s the way everybody has viewed things forever. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
So, let me just tap into two presuppositions and clarify them before we jump in. The first one is: Aren’t all religions essentially the same? This is a very un-educated but very popular question, and it really goes deeper. It goes more like this. Don’t we all really worship the same god? People from all over the world just give him different names.
Or if you were from the seventies, the mantra went something like this: We are many going up the holy mountain. There are many paths up the holy mountain. Some go the Buddha path, some in Hinduism, some Shintoism, some Taoism, some Christianity, some Islam, some Judaism. But when we make it to the holy mountain, we will all meet God and we will realize he was just known by many different names.
That sounds really cool and it would be, I suppose, nice if that were true. But I will tell you, if I could put seven or eight chairs and have an expert in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and Shintoism, I will tell you they would adamantly say, “No, no, no you don’t understand. That is not what we believe.” Now, maybe the person at the far end, the Baha'is, would say actually we agree with everybody on everything, which is true, and we could probably get a New-Ager to say “I feel good about that.”
I drive by a church, we’re in a very, very interesting part of the country, and it’s the Universal Universalism Universalist Church… I’m just thinking can we get uni- something in there, but it’s like this is for everyone no matter what you believe any time, any way, and let’s all get together around a concept of God, whatever that means to you, and love one another.
There’s a predisposition to think that that is actually true and the answer to that is, “No.” And the answer to that is not just because I say that, or you believe that, but if you talk to a Buddhist, a Buddhist worships an impersonal god. It’s the picture of the single drop that goes back into the atmosphere and becomes one.
Hindus have a million different gods. Animists live in absolute fear. You go into multiple countries in Africa or Indonesia and they have offerings and worship gods. They worship gods because their ancestors are going to curse them and there are demonic spirits. I’ve been in places where people that are dirt poor come to gravesides and leave money and food at graves so that the spirits of their ancestors won’t attack them.
Well, that’s very different. So some have personal gods some are impersonal gods. Allah is - do you fear Allah. The word “love” is not in the Koran. Allah and the God of the Bible are not the same God. And a good cleric would tell you they’re absolutely not the same God. Just as a good Christian minister would agree with him.
They’re not the same. You can’t have intellectual consistency… it’s like saying that black and white and red and purple are all the same color. No, they’re not. It’s like saying negative and positive are the same. The belief systems are radically different in who they purport God to be, even though they use the same name.
The second pre-supposition, is: Does it really matter what a person believes as long as he or she is sincere and practices those beliefs? Have you heard that? We’re living in a world of sincerity. The answer is, “Yes.” According to Jesus, the most loving person… now, Islam, Judaism, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, almost every religion will say we have high regard for Jesus.
They won’t say He’s the Son of God, they won’t say He’s the second person of the Trinity, they won’t necessarily say He’s the Savior of the world, but everyone agrees, that’s how you really ought to live. He’s the ideal of love.
Well, listen to what this amazing, loving person says. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Now it sounds compassionate. It sounds kind. It sounds like we’re not being judgmental when we say if you’re just sincere…
Let me give you some examples in other areas of life where… let’s just talk about sincerity as the ultimate value. How ‘bout you have a child that’s very sick, and the pharmacist sincerely, sincerely writes out and fills the wrong prescription and kills your child. They’re sincere aren’t they? You can’t be upset with them can you? It was just a different drug. It just didn’t work. But he was sincere. He wasn’t trying to do any harm. Who are you to judge him?
Or how about if your mate… in a season of your marriage maybe you’ve had a child, or maybe you’re going through that difficult time of the empty nest. Or maybe it’s just in how life gets busy… what if your mate just at the gym meets someone, or maybe there’s a cubicle next to theirs, or there’s a neighbor that becomes helpful… and what if your mate sincerely gets emotionally attracted, and gets involved physically with another person and walks out on you because they have these very deep, sincere feelings for another person?
Don’t you think that’s ok? They’re sincere. They feel honest; they feel good about it. They can tell you songs like, I loved you and our season is over …. And, I guess our love has grown cold… and I really do love you and we can be friends… and things will be ok, but something’s happened. I’ve sincerely moved into this new relationship. So, tell me how the sincerity mantra’s working for you right now.
Or someone sincerely says, “You know, I just can’t afford gasoline… it’s getting so expensive. I’m going to sincerely pour water in my gas tank. It’s liquid, right? I mean, what kind of intolerant car … What kind of egotistic, politically correct, intolerant car would demand… liquid’s liquid isn’t it? And so you put water in it, and your car will tell you how intolerant it is.
I’m trying to help us see that we would never allow this sincerity mantra or concept to play out in other practical areas. But we get in discussions or we withdraw with a sense of cowardice or thinking that we’re anti-intellectual, or that we’re narrow, when the fact is, when you know truth, to pretend that things are all the same, when they’re not, is the epitome of being un-loving.
What we do is we hide behind sincerity because we don’t want rejection. Jesus loved people so much He told them the truth. And He told them the truth in love. And He made outlandish claims. And then He back them up, that He’s the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one would come to the Father except through Him.
Now, what I want to do is spend our time looking at the data to say, ok, let’s just call it what it is. Narrow. I mean, if Jesus called it narrow, it’s narrow. Let’s call it what it is. Hard to accept in our day. Well, let’s look at the evidence, and I have seven reasons, and this is really a summary of some things that we’ve said earlier so I won’t spend a lot of time necessarily on each one, if we’ve already covered it.
But here are seven reasons. I had to come to the point, you have to come to the point, everyone everywhere has to come to a point where you’re going to bet your life on something. You do!
You bet your life … and I hear people say, “Well, I just believe that everyone when they die is going to have a happy something somewhere and as long as you’re sincere and you’re a really nice person” …and I say, “That’s a very interesting belief. Why? Back it up. Based on what?” “Well, I just think that way.”
Ok, you just think that way. A lot of other smart people in other centuries think really differently. You tell me why you’re betting your eternity and your life now on this vague feeling. And what you find is, too often we’ve been on the defensive rather than kindly, lovingly being on the offensive.
And ask people, so what do you believe? Everyone is basing their life on something. Most people haven’t stopped to clearly ask and answer the question, “What are you basing your whole life on?” And so I came to the conclusion that I’m going to base my life on the evidence.
Evidence #1: Christianity is subject to objective verification. That’s what I love about the faith that I believe in with all my heart. There are historical events, we know the trustworthiness of the biblical record, we have 25,000 manuscripts, we extra-biblical sources, we have Greek historians and Pliny, and Jewish historians and Josephus, and we’ve got Roman historians and Tacitus. We have eyewitness accounts.
I don’t have to base my faith, my future, and what my whole life in going to be about on some person who had a dream, or someone that grew up in a village centuries ago, about myths and legends, and I can’t I verify it and I can’t evaluate it. I can go to the place where Jesus lived. I can look at documents of the first century. It’s not subjective.
I can evaluate objectively the faith that I believe in.
Second, is the prophetic evidence. Predictions of specific future events with 100% accuracy, confirm authenticity. No vague, veiled reference or patterns of things that might happen someday some way. And I call this the Isaiah principle. And you can follow along in your notes or in your Bible. Listen carefully. The idea that there are competing claims of truth isn’t new.
There were multiple gods during the time of Isaiah. There have always been multiple gods. But listen to what the God of the Bible says. Isaiah 44, we’ll pick it up at verse 6. “This is what the LORD”, capital letters YAHWEY, says “Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty,’” are you getting that He’s putting His pedigree out there? “I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no other God.” That’s pretty narrow.
“7 Who, then, is like Me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before Me what has happened since I established My ancient people, and what is yet to come - yes, let him foretell what will come.” Do you hear the challenge?
And then skipping down to verse 24,"This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by Myself, 25 who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, 26 who carries out the words of His servants and fulfills the predictions of His messengers, who says of Jerusalem, 'It shall be inhabited,' of the towns of Judah, 'They shall be built,' and of their ruins, 'I will restore them,' 27 who says to the watery deep, 'Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,' 28 who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; He will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid."
That’s the reference we talked about earlier. This man won’t be born for another hundred years or so.
Now all I want to say is, do you hear what he’s saying? He said, all the god-claims, let’s all get in the same room. Alright, I’m the Creator. I speak, it happens. I’m the Redeemer. I’m the Lord – the word is Almighty. I’m the all-powerful One. Tell you what. All your gods? You predict the future. With absolute accuracy, and history, and clarity, and you bring your predictions, and I’ll bring Mine and we’ll see whose comes true.
He’s saying there’s only one God and I’m it. Then He gives this very specific prediction that will happen in terms of the deliverance of His people. The test of a prophet in Deuteronomy 18:21-22. It says, “21 You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’”
How do you know what’s true and what’s not? “22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”
How many truth-claims, around the world, have made multiple predictions that haven’t come true? And we just gloss over them. How many people make promises about what things will happen out of their religious systems? And they don’t come true.
So for me, I can evaluate objectively and verify the faith that I believe in. I have these prophetic evidences, and then the fulfillment of hundreds of specific promises and predictions that we talked about in this series.
Number three, the philosophical evidence. The triune nature of God and the testimony of scripture best answer life’s most timeless questions. Now, I want to spend just three or four minutes… some of you will really engage in this part and say wow! This is really helpful. Some of you will say, I don’t really know what that guy was talking about on that philosophical stuff and that didn’t help me at all. So I’ll try and be brief, because our minds work different ways.
Philosophers, thinkers, theologians from all time… there are some basic questions about life. One of the basic questions about life is how do you explain unity and diversity? Basically, if you look at Eastern thought and Eastern religion, it’s about unity, right? Reincarnation… you start here, Buddhism… you’re going to hit nirvana, it’s all about you’re one with the universe, and so you observe seasons and life and the world. And for centuries, people have tried to explain this unity that we see in the world. And so religious thought, philosophical thought will go down those paths.
Well, then you have all this diversity. And so in early Western thought, like the Roman gods and the Greek gods. You had this pantheon of the god of war, and the god of love, and the god of the sun, and the god of the moon. And no one really knew who was in charge and they had battles and all kind of stuff and so you had all the diversity taken care of here and you have all the unity taken care of here.
It is interesting, the only religious system, that at the core, by the nature of the God-head has unity and diversity together. That came out of my time reading Francis Schaeffer as a young man trying to figure out some of these philosophical issues. Apart from God creating anything, there is one God, one Essence, and three personalities. And you have unity and diversity, and nature and the cosmos reflect His character.
Another one is the problem of evil and justice. If you watch Star Wars, or if you read a little Eastern thought, or you’ve got the ying and the yang, and so you get this sense… ok, we’ve got this problem because there’s good, good, good, and there’s evil, evil, evil… and so we’ve got people, a lot of kids, their theology is… they’ve watched the cartoons and because of Star Wars, they’re getting [Monster sound] LUKE, LUKE, LISTEN TO THE GOOD SIDE OF THE FORCE and here’s Luke [Wimpy sound], and he’s got this ying-yang inside of him because all throughout history, people are trying to explain good in the world and evil in the world.
And often, the god they worship has both, and you somehow need to have some sort of schizophrenic way of getting on the good side of god, or the good side of the powers… And in Christianity, what we have is an absolutely good God, who created an absolutely good and pure world, and we have an explanation that there has been a fall.
That sin has entered the world. And that we have a good and sovereign God and we are living in a world that was not His ideal.
But because of the freedom He allowed of His creatures, we have a fall that explains how a good and sovereign God has allowed, and will orchestrate and even use, evil for ultimate good. It’s interesting, look at the book of Genesis and just look at content. The book of Genesis has 50 chapters… and ask how many chapters does Noah get? How many chapters does Abraham get? How many chapters do we give to the whole creation? You’ve got thousands of years going on in the first eleven chapters.
How many chapters does Joseph get? Thirteen. 28-29% of the entire book is Joseph. Why? Joseph is the story that explains a good God, who is sovereign, in the midst of a fallen world. What happens to the injustice of bad and partial parenting… what happens to the injustice of rejection… what happens to the injustice of slavery… what happens when you’re falsely accused… what happens when you’re put in prison…what happens when you are forgotten…? What happens is a good God can take all the evil in the world, when the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you submit to Him, even through the pain, and He’ll produce His Romans 8:28 and 29 purposes despite it. That’s a very complex but amazing world view that no other religious system has.
The third thing, philosophically, is the idea of the origin of personality. Personality has to come out of person-hood. And multiple religious systems say there is no personality. There is this oneness with the universe. There is this blending of all coming into this great ocean…
And so you have God, who is personal, who creates us. This idea … the early theologians and then later the reformers, the idea, the imago-dei, that we’re made in the image of God. The dignity, the nobility, the sense of grandeur, that we’re the pinnacle of God’s creation, versus a part of the animal system.
That you can think. That you can feel. That you can create. That you can love. That you have meaning. That you have purpose. That you can choose. It’s an amazing, amazing thing. That’s a biblical world-view.
Finally, the enigma of man. How can we have mankind be so intelligent and noble and creative and have technology that can put people on the moon, or an incredible amount of information on a little silicon chip, and at the same time, in the era that all those things are created, shed more blood in one century, and annihilate ourselves.
I was watching, after one of the sessions, 20-20 was on, and it was a fascinating and horrifying story, of a woman who was disenfranchised in her marriage and so she gave her first husband a cocktail of, what’s the fluid you put in your car? Antifreeze. So it looked like a heart attack. Then her second husband, apparently things weren’t going well and gave him antifreeze.
Then as the police began to figure out what was going on, she put vodka with a bunch of pills and her thirteen year-old daughter and got her to drink it and then wrote a suicide note where the daughter supposedly killed both husbands. I remember this judge… and I watched this whole thing in horror. And the judge said, “I have been on the bench for thirty-some years and I’ve seen evil of all kinds but I’ve never, ever seen a woman who would kill two husbands and then seek to pin it on her own daughter.”
There’s the enigma of man. How can we be so noble and intelligent and loving and kind and creative in ways that are magnificent and yet be so evil? And the answer, scripturally, is that you are made in the image of God and yet you live as fallen human beings, which require a Savior.