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About this series
Why I Believe
Straight Answers to Honest Questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity
When asked why you believe what you believe, how do you respond? Do you wish you'd paid more attention in Sunday school? Are you able to engage in thoughtful conversation, or do you become defensive? Why I Believe is a series designed to equip you with a simple, winsome approach to explaining why you believe what you believe about issues like: Jesus' resurrection, the authenticity of the Bible, life after death, the reality of heaven and hell, the validity of creation vs. evolution, and the God of the Bible, being the one and only, true God. Chip explains we can actually know the truth, and we can communicate the truth in a way that engages people rather than putting them off. There's solid evidence to satisfy the heart and mind of anyone honestly seeking answers. If you or someone you know has genuine questions about issues at the core of human existence, Why I Believe is an excellent resource. ACSI approvedMore from this series
I was recently walking through the hallways of our church in between services and it was chaotic. One service was coming in and another was leaving and people had their kids and the place was super crowded.
And I was walking, I saw an Asian couple that were just kind of standing there and I couldn’t tell whether they were lost or needed help with their child. We are a multi-cultural church, so lots of people from all kinds of backgrounds.
And so, I just was prompted, I said, “Excuse me. Could I help you all? Everything okay?” And they said, “Yeah, actually, you can.” And then it went from not their child being in a class to, he said, “My wife and I have been coming for several months and we are exploring Christianity. And the place has been very warm here. Our children – the impact on our kids is really good. And my wife actually, after the first few months, she put her faith in Christ. And we were just sitting here talking because we are on our way back to Asia and we are going to visit our families.
“And we come from a multi, multi-generation of Buddhists. And we want to thank you. We feel like the teaching has been clear. We feel like it has been intellectually grounded. That we had no idea about the history of Christianity and the reasons to believe. And I am on the verge of making that commitment.” But he said, “The price will be very, very high, because when we tell our relatives that we are trusting in Christ, we are telling them that they are wrong and past generations are wrong.”
And I don’t know about you, but there’s probably not anything more unpopular, but more important than asking and answering the question: is it intellectually feasible that there is only one true God and that God is the God of the Bible? We have talked about a lot of reasons why I believe and we have talked about thinking through faith issues. But this is at the core.
And this is our final time together. So, I want you to really lean back and more than just take in information, ask yourself, Do I really believe? And I want you to know that I always know there’s a mixed group of people and whether it’s small groups or big groups – I want to give you a chance before we end our time that if you have never placed your faith in Christ, you’ll have that opportunity.
But I want you to know why I believe. There are three hundred and twenty million gods in the world today. There are twenty-two major religions, each with a half million followers or more. So, the question you’ve got to ask is: why do you think the God the Bible is the one true God?
Now, just so we are unequivocal, God makes no bones about this. He writes through the prophet Isaiah, “This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer; the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God. Who then is like Me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay it out before Me.”
God is very, very clear with Israel and as we will learn, Jesus is very, very clear that there is a narrow road and that He is the way, He is the truth, He is the life, and no one comes to the Father except by Him.
Now, before we jump into this, there’s a couple – big word – presuppositions that I need to talk to you about. Presupposition is an unconscious set of thoughts or values that are so a part of the culture and so a part of your life that you don’t even know you believe them, but you just believe them.
But like the foundation of the house that is underground, everything is upon it, so we have presuppositions, especially about religious things and in our culture today. And I think there are two presuppositions I want to talk about, get really clear on, and then I will walk through very systematically the reasons why I personally believe that the God of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the one true God.
Presupposition number one is that: aren’t all religions essentially the same? The answer is no. Now, if you listen to pop psychology or I was recently on a plane with a fellow from another country and he lives in the Bay Area and we got into a discussion about religion and relationship with God.
And he basically said, “Well, I know all religions are basically the same. Like, God is on the top of the mountain and there are many paths and people go up different paths and they give Him many names.” And so, this is very, very common. Very, very common.
What I can tell you, since I study this, if I got a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Mormon, someone from Islam, someone from Judaism – believe me, if I got the top seven or eight religions and got these guys in a room and say, “Okay, now, line out what you actually believe,” do they conflict at all?
Well, the Eastern religions are all impersonal. God is not even a person. Specific other religions are dramatically – they would start arguing. What I can tell you is you can choose to believe what you want to believe, but one of the options is not: all religions are basically the same.
Possibly with the exception of Baha’i. Baha’i is a sort of interesting religion. I remember sitting, actually, next to a lady who was Baha’i and I asked her what she believed and she said, “Everything.” Well, that conversation went in amazing ways.
But here’s what I want you to know: it’s very clear that there is distinctions between religions in terms of who God is, what it means to have a relationship with Him, what it requires to have a relationship with Him, and what each of the different religions teach.
The second presupposition is: does it really matter what a person believes as long as he or she is sincere and practices those beliefs?
These are so common. The fellow that I was talking to on the plane – our discussion, first, was: well, they are basically the same. And then he said, “Oh, you’re probably right. Buddhists are really different than this and that group is really different.” But he said, “As long as they are sincere.” This is in the water system. This is what people unconsciously believe.
And what I want to tell you is that the answer is no. You can be very, very sincere but you can be very sincerely wrong. In fact, think about this. Imagine, if you will, your child is very sick and you go to the doctor and he writes a prescription and it’s a little bit hard to read. And the pharmacist sincerely fills it out and he sincerely believes this is the prescription and gives your child something different. And your child dies. Being sincere isn’t good enough.
I will guarantee those in ISIS are absolutely sincere. They actually believe in their Qur’an and the radical version they are sincerely killing people, thinking they are doing it for God.
Now, here’s what I want to do, and some of this will be review.
But I want to pretty quickly go through: these are the reasons why I am not throwing my brain in the trash, but that I absolutely believe the God of the Bible is the one true God.
Reason number one: the historical evidence. Christianity is subject to objective verification. It happened in a crucial place, crucial time, real people, real events in space/time history. I can verify that.
We have already talked about the actual historical events from archaeology. The trustworthiness of the manuscripts of the Bible. The evidence from extrabiblical sources. So, it’s not just what the Bible says about Jesus, it’s what even historians have said.
And then the eyewitness accounts. In any court of law – I have been on a number of juries. I don’t know how that works but I end up on juries. And when you have two or three eyewitnesses, it’s a slam dunk. There are five hundred eyewitnesses. And it didn’t happen out there somewhere. It happened where it could be verified, right in Jerusalem.
The second reason that I believe God of the Bible is the one true God is the prophetic evidence. Predictions of specific future events with one hundred percent accuracy confirm the authenticity. I call it the Isaiah principle.
Follow along as I read this passage from Isaiah chapter 44, verses 24 to 28. “This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by Myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, 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, ‘That they shall be rebuilt,’ and all of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’ who says to Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd and I will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’”
God is authoritatively saying, “I am the Lord God Almighty,” and He makes prophecies that are very, very specific that are undeniable and that aren’t vague. Now, this is one that I wanted you to get. I spend a lot of time in one of the other messages talking about prophecy and the fulfillment of all the prophecies of Jesus.
But this is one hundred and fifty years before Cyrus was born. And Isaiah is getting a clear prophecy from God telling what is going to happen. A hundred and fifty years, Cyrus the great is born and if you go into this passage very specifically, all specific things that God says this person will do is accomplished. And He names them by name.
And in Jewish prophetic literature, it’s quite different than today. Often, people make lots of predictions, like some are right, some are wrong. Here’s the way it worked with God. A real prophet is right one hundred percent of the time or he’s not one of God’s prophets. And if you claim to be and you’re wrong, it’s the capital offense.
So, what I want you to know is that my faith is in a God who is sovereign who knows the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end.
The third reason I believe in the God of the Bible is what I just call the philosophical evidence. The Triune nature of God and the testimony of Scripture best answers life’s most timeless and difficult questions.
Now, we could spend years on this one and this is an area that was really a part of my coming to know Christ and really believing what is true.
It’s a bit on the metaphysical and the philosophical side. But let me just highlight three things that the God of the Bible answers that other religions don’t. Number one, the problem of unity and diversity.
If you look at Egyptian gods, if you look at Hindu gods, if you look at the Western gods of the Greeks and the Romans, they solve the problem of individual gods – diversity. If you look at the Eastern gods of Buddhism or reincarnation, what you find is the Easterns, they solve unity: we are all one. One drop going back into the ocean.
The challenge is the individual gods competed with one another, the gods of unity are impersonal, and only the Triunity of the one God – three Persons and one essence – really answers the question of: how can there be both unity and diversity in the world?
Second is the problem of evil and justice. Every religion has this problem. How do you account for the evil and the suffering and the injustice in the world? Many religions have a god that has a good side and a bad side or there are two gods. Or the Force, right? The Dark Side of the Force.
It’s interesting, biblical Christianity answers this, I think, in the most compelling way. God is a good God who is perfect who has made a perfect world. He gives humankind, mankind, freedom. And the world that we live in is not the world that He desired. It is our sin that separates and brings what was called the Fall.
And now we have a good God who is sovereign who gave us freedom to accept or reject Him and that the evil in the world is a temporary evil that He will actually come and die in our place to pay for our sin and then make all things right. So, evil and suffering has a very clear source and beginning and there is a good God who gives us the freedom, but in essence is willing to love us so much to solve that very problem.
I think the third philosophical issue is, I would just call it, the enigma of man. Think about this, mankind is noble, creative. Our technology. We put a man on the moon. We have a cell phone for everybody in the world. Medicine, heart transplants, heart/lung transplants, mankind is brilliant, amazing, creative, art, music! And, yet, on the other side, the enigma is cruelty, hate, jealousy, prejudice. Hitler, Stalin, the Holocaust.
It’s hard to imagine how the human species could be so beautiful, so wonderful, so noble, so made in the image of God and, yet, so cruel. The history of mankind is war, after war, after war, after war. Unmentionable cruelty and pain. And the marginalizing of people that look different or are a different color. Hatred and starvation.
How can that happen? The Bible would say man is made in the image of God and so he is noble, but he is a fallen, sinful creature and he needs to be redeemed.
The fourth reason that I believe in the God of the Bible is I’ll just call it the evidence of impact. Every religion has impact. You can go to different countries and you can know what their religion has been and you can look around and say, “Wow, this is what is produced after hundreds of years.”
I have spent some time in India, a lot of time in China, time in the Middle East. I don’t know anyone that travels in India for business that, it’s heartbreaking. So much of India, despite the technology and the growth in some areas is the same that has been.
You see, there is a caste system, formal or informal. And people are getting what they deserve so I shouldn’t help that person, because that’s Karma. They’re just getting what they deserve.
And there is poverty everywhere. Fearful of their ancestors. Limited education except for missionaries came and began to do the teaching and create the hospitals that were Christians.
See, the impact of Christianity, when you begin to study what happened as a result of the teaching of Jesus and, actually, the laws of the Old Testament, the nation of Israel, from one nomad – Abraham – he’s running around on a camel somewhere and God chooses him. And from that He develops this nation, Abraham, and then Moses. The laws of Israel.
We don’t think about all those ceremonial laws, guess what, they didn’t know about germs. The circumcision on the eighth day, they didn’t know that’s when the blood clots. You think of the laws of hygiene, you think of the economic laws. Here is a religion that says, “This is what we are going to do for the poor. Every seven years, we are going to reset the dial. Every fifty years, economically, we are going to reduce things back to the way it was so you don’t have this super rich and everyone else is poor.”
What the Bible has done and what God has done, the mustard seed conspiracy, this tiny, little group of people following Jesus that gets birthed, that changes the world. The liberation of women! The liberation of slaves. The basis of our jurisprudence, economic impact, the care for the poor.
Wilberforce – he stood on Scripture in England and stopped, it took decades, and stopped the horrendous slavery that was happening. When you find and do research, you find that Christians have been in key areas that have changed the course of history.
I have a friend named John. He’s actually an author, quite good one, John Dickerson. And I asked him to do a little bit of research for me. And he is a head down, dig deep. And he had these lists of all the amazing things that Christians have done.
In science: Newton, Kepler, Pascal. And then he gave me reams and reams of amazing material. Let me just read a quick list of: this is the impact of Christians with regard to universities and education and what has happened as a result of it.
They launched the scientific revolution, they launched the industrial revolution, they created the first society which girls were provided equal education. They created and spread Western democracy as we know it. It was Christians that invented eyeglasses and thousands of other life-changing inventions.
The laws of planetary motion were discovered by a Christian scientist. Germ theory. Modern hospitals. Education. Life-saving vaccines. They fought for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery.
All of that occurred because there was a Christian worldview that said the dignity of man and this is who God is and there is only one God and we are compelled to make a difference.
The fifth reason that I believe in the God of the Bible as the one true God is what I call the pragmatic evidence. The teaching of Jesus and the New Testament, are you ready? It works in real life.
It promotes healthy relationships, strong marriages, honest business people, positive parenting, racial reconciliation, cultural kindness, and they champion the value and the dignity of all human beings regardless of creed, race, sex, nationality, or orientation.
Even people that I completely and totally disagree with, I am compelled by the God of the Bible to love them and to serve them and to treat them with dignity. It works. I didn’t grow up as a Christian. And I will tell you, I can’t believe the marriage that I have, but it’s based around Christ.
My wife came from an alcoholic family; I came from an alcoholic family. What I can tell you, the pragmatic reason is when believers come together, Jesus is more important than race.
I was teaching in the Middle East on a series called The Invisible War. And I was doing it to leaders from about twenty-two or twenty-three Arab countries. And there were people from Iran and people from Iraq and they were all believers. And they were going to learn this and take it to their countries.
And as we were teaching it, this guy stood up in the middle, he goes, “I have something to say.” And then he turned and he said, “I was a part of the military in Iran and when we went to war, I killed many of your people. And I feel ashamed.” And the other guy got up and he said, “I have done the same.” And in the middle of this, more than race, more than background, these two men came, hugged one another, forgave each other, and tears streaming down their face, and you know what that is? That’s the power of the gospel.
Jesus changes lives from the inside out. He changes relationships. He restores marriages. He helps parents know how to model the kind of life that raise kids that are productive.
The sixth evidence is the uniqueness of the Christian message and the uniqueness of the Christian messenger. The message of the New Testament is different than any other religion in the world. It’s a message of grace.
Let me give you a picture. Grace is, literally, receiving what you do not deserve and it’s unconditional. I want you to imagine, if you will, that we went to a bowling alley and all across here, they come in and they have all the balls stacked, and you go get your ball and then you go back over to your lane.
And I want you to imagine that there are ten balls, they are all black, and there’s a white one in the middle, then ten more and they are all black. And you get to turn each one. Usually we turn them over to find out is it the right size or how much does it weigh?
And each bowling ball represents, I could do a thousand of them and there would still be one white one in the middle. Each bowling ball represents a religion. And as you would turn it over, it has two letters: DO. Turn it. DO. DO.
It can be Islam, it could be Taoism, it can be pray five times a day. I can come over here. DO. DO. DO. Every, single religion is rooted in: here’s what you need to do to appease the anger of that God or to get on his or her good side.
But religion is based on do, do, do, do, earn, earn, earn. And you never know if you measure up. And then you come to the white ball and you turn it over and there are four letters: D-O-N-E. Done.
It’s mind-boggling. The Christian message is not: this is what you need to do to earn favor with God. This is the God of the Bible that saw your hurt and your sin and knew it was coming and sent His only Son and He lived a perfect life to explain what the Father is like. And after living a perfect life, He would unjustly hang on a cross and pay for your sin and my sin and the sins of all people in the world.
And as the sins came upon Him, the Father would turn away and He would become our sin offering for that split second. And He would take your sin and my sin upon Him and then He would die and He would conquer death and conquer Satan and He would be raised from the dead and then He’ll sit at the right hand of the Father and now He is our elder brother.
And He says, “Whosoever would believe, you can have eternal life. It’s the message of grace. It’s different than every religion, every philosophy, every system.” And not only is the message different, the messenger is different.
Jesus was not just a great teacher. He wasn’t just a good, moral person. He didn’t set just a good example. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And we beheld Him.” And it talks about, “In grace and truth. No one has known God at any time, but Jesus explained Him.”
Jesus is God. He is the Word itself. Fully man; fully God. It is a unique message and a unique messenger. And I believe it, He rose from the dead, He proved it’s true, and all of life and all of history is now before and after the solitary life of one Rabbi who came, claiming to be God, and offering freely the forgiveness of sins and that when a person turns from your sin and in the empty hands of faith recognizes that only He and what He has done for you can save you, receive Him by faith, the Spirit of God actually takes up residence inside your mortal body and you have been taken out of the kingdom of darkness, you’re placed in the kingdom of light, and He actually lives within you.
And He walks with you and you walk with Him. And it’s a relationship, not a religion. And this may be the most important reason why I believe in the God of the Bible.
The final reason that I believe in the God of the Bible is, I call it the existential evidence. Millions of lives have changed over the last two thousand years and they experientially will declare that Jesus is alive, that He is who He said He is. I am one of those people.
Every day, eighty-five thousand people worldwide are putting their faith in Christ. People are admitting, “I was blind but now I see! I was lost, but now I am found!”
And their testimony with all the ups and all the downs that we all have in real life is peace, forgiveness, joy, purpose, significance, love, guilt removed, new relationships, new life.
And so, it raises a question, I don’t know about you, but just logically, this is a pretty hard deal to say no to, right? Most of all the gods in antiquity were cruel and mean and most of the religion was trying to figure a way where they wouldn’t come visit you and hurt you.
Actually, a good God, a kind God, a benevolent God was almost an oxymoron. And Jesus blazed the trail through all of that.
I want to close with these top three reasons why people do not receive the gift that God has purchased for them. Number one is ignorance. Some people, they don’t know. Romans chapter 10, verses 14 and 15 is, “How can they know if there’s not a preacher? And how can they preach if no one is sent?” And he goes on to say, “Blessed are the feet of the peacemakers.”
Some people in your life, you know why they haven’t received Christ? They don’t know about Him. Or all they know is like people I talk to.
I literally talked with a man on a plane recently – if it sounds like I’m on planes a lot, it’s true – I talked to a man recently and he kind of sheepishly said, “I don’t really know the difference between Judaism or Christianity, even historically.
Could you help me understand when stuff happened? And even the basic beliefs?”
Do you know there are people in your world, there are people in your coffee shop, there are people where you drop off the dry cleaning, there are people in your neighborhood, there are people in the cubicle next to you, there is someone on the job site where you’re out there doing your plumbing or electrical work – they don’t know.
And that’s why you’re there. You are God’s ambassador. And my prayer is that through this series you’ll have a boldness because you would believe, not just here, but here and have a boldness and a conviction and because you realize you’re not throwing your brains in the trash, you’re being wise and shrewd and doing what really counts.
The second reason why people don’t believe is pride.
Let me ask you to open your Bible and actually read this, because I want you to see it with your own eyes. Or open your phone; that works. I’m in John chapter 12. And Jesus has been preaching and teaching about being the light of the world.
He says, “Nevertheless, many of even the rulers believe in Him, but because of the Pharisees,” the religious leaders, “they were not confessing Him,” In other words, they weren’t believing to the point of going public, “lest they be put out of the synagogue.”
Now, listen to this, “For they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” There are people in your network and actually some of you listening right now that you are so afraid of what people would think, “Oh, you became a Jesus freak!” Or, “You got religion.” Or, “What about this? Or what about that?” I’ve got news for you, man. I’ve got news for all of us. There will come a day when you will really care less what anyone else thinks except God the Father and the Judge, Jesus Christ.
So, can I encourage you? Forget what people think. But that pride, boy, that kept me back. All I could think of was, Oh my gosh. What are the guys on the basketball team going to say? Or, My family – what will they think?
I will tell you what they think, they saw a change in my life that led the rest of my family to Christ after my sister, then me, then the rest of the family. And it changed our whole family and the trajectory of our whole future, both now and forever.
The third reason that people do not believe is a moral problem. We often read John chapter 3, verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe in Him shouldn’t perish, but have everlasting life.” But we don’t usually read much farther.
Let me read as it continues in John, because Jesus is going to point out at the heart of why some people don’t believe. He goes on to say, “He who believes in Him isn’t judged. He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten God, and this is the judgment, listen carefully, that light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come into the light, lest his deeds be exposed.”
I talk to people sometimes and they have all these apparent intellectual reasons about Christianity or about this or about that. At the heart of a great many people, the reason they don’t believe is they are living in a way that they know is wrong and it’s morally wrong and they are unwilling to confess that that is wrong, turn from their sin, and receive the free gift of God.
Can I ask you, where are you at? Where are you at today? I don’t mean did you pray a prayer or raise your hand somewhere. Does your life and lifestyle demonstrate that the living God, by the person of the Holy Spirit lives inside of you and your values and your love and your capacity and your future and your priorities reflect you are followers of Jesus Christ?
See, I have this great fear, especially for American Christians, I have a fear that people have intellectually agreed with almost everything I have said, but if we looked at your life, it is so dissimilar to Jesus that I would question: are you really in the faith? Because what I can tell you is people that genuinely know Him and genuinely love Him, we have our struggles, but our life changes.
Father, I want to pray right now and I want to ask You, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that Your Spirit would move powerfully, that You would convict of sin and righteousness and justice. Lord, that You would convince people in their heart of hearts, even as they are listening that You love them, that You want them.
And if you’re one of those people that have never received Christ, right now, at this moment, you can cry out to God: Lord Jesus, I believe. I believe You died in my place, rose from the dead. I am asking You, come into my life, be my Savior, and give me the power to follow You. Make me Your son; make me Your daughter.
And, Lord, I pray for those of us that are followers of Jesus, would You give us a holy boldness and a concern for others? Some that haven’t heard and some that haven’t seen a real Christian live out the life so they would ask about the hope that’s in us.
Lord, we know that’s Your will, so we pray it powerfully in Jesus’ name, amen.