Our Moral Compass – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Our Moral Compass – Introduction

Over the last four weeks we’ve examined points raised in the movie, “God’s Not Dead.” Today, I’d like to take a look at one subject that wasn’t addressed in the sermon series that accompanied the movie license – Our Moral Compass.

Spiritual Quote

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
~John Wesley

Thoughts

Is God a necessary component of morality? Can we be moral without God? Many would argue that it is quite possible for a non-believer to be a good, moral person. And, to some extent, they’re right. But, what reason do they have?

I’d like to share some thoughts written by Jason on a blog called Bible Discussions:

Note – I shared some of Jason’s thoughts, and interjected my own as well. Read Jason’s blog postings to get an idea of our discussion.

Bible Discussions Link 1

Bible Discussions Link 2

Closing Thoughts

The Christian path is, for me, the best and right path. Jesus’ teachings move us from a strict, fit in the box set of laws and into a way of life that brings us into a oneness with God. Instead of just behaving “right,” the Christian path moves us from outward behavior to inward change. Through that inward change, having His love and teachings written on our hearts, the outward behavior becomes, or should become, automatic.

Jesus also taught about the dangers of moral absolutes dictated by rigid adherence to the law without regard for the spiritual. This is evidenced in Matthew 12:1-8 (Jesus tells of David feeding the hungry with the showbread that was reserved for the priests, which was unlawful), and Matthew 12:9-13 (Jesus healing a man with a withered limb). In these passages, He defended breaking the Sabbath Law, when necessary, to help others in need (i.e., feeding the hungry and healing the sick).

Basically, He was teaching that, rather than being concerned with the letter of the law, be more concerned with doing good – loving God and loving others.

The way Josh put it in God’s Not Dead is, “For Christians, the fixed point of morality, what constitutes right and wrong, is a straight line that leads directly back to God. Is a moral atheist an impossibility? No. But with no God, there’s no real reason to be moral. There’s not even a standard of what moral behavior is. For Christians, lying, stealing, cheating…are forbidden. If God does not exist, as Fyodor Dostoyevsky famously pointed out, “If God does not exist, then everything is permissible”…not only permissible, but pointless; and all of our struggle, all of our debate…is meaningless. Our lives, and ultimately our deaths, are of no more consequence than that of a goldfish…It all comes down to choice – believe or don’t believe.”

We all have that choice. We can choose to believe or we can choose not to believe. No one has the right, or the authority, to force one or the other. Ultimately, the choice is ours to make. And it is that choice that will determine Our Moral Compass.

Planned Scripture

  • Exodus 20
  • Deuteronomy 10:17-19
  • Matthew 5:16
  • Romans 2:14-16
  • Jeremiah 31:33
  • Matthew 5:21
  • Matthew 5:27
  • Matthew 5:38-39
  • Matthew 5:44-45
  • John 15:12-13
  • Matthew 22:36
  • Matthew 12:1-13

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Our Moral Compass – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Our Moral Compass – Introduction

Over the last four weeks we’ve examined points raised in the movie, “God’s Not Dead.” Today, I’d like to take a look at one subject that wasn’t addressed in the sermon
series that accompanied the movie license – Our Moral Compass.

Spiritual Quote

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as
ever you can.”
~John Wesley

Planned Scripture

  • Exodus 20
  • Deuteronomy 10:17-19
  • Matthew 5:16
  • Romans 2:14-16
  • Jeremiah 31:33
  • Matthew 5:21
  • Matthew 5:27
  • Matthew 5:38-39
  • Matthew 5:44-45
  • John 15:12-13
  • Matthew 22:36
  • Matthew 12:1-13

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Take a Stand – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Take A Stand

God’s Not Dead: Take A Stand – Introduction

Today, we conclude our series based on the movie, God’s Not Dead. So far, we’ve examined “Where is God when everything goes wrong?”, “Is our faith blind?”, and “How do we respond to critics?” In the movie, through all of the challenges thrown at him, Josh never turned away from his best friend, Jesus. He chose not to give in to the pressures of those around him – his professor, his girlfriend, etc. – and he chose, instead, to take a stand – to take a stand for Jesus. Like Josh, we are often faced with challenges to our faith. In the midst of those challenges we, too, have a choice. So today, we’ll take a look at what it might mean for us to Take A Stand For Jesus.

Spiritual Quote

“Friendship should, like a well-stocked cellar, be continually renewed.
~Samuel Johnson

Thoughts

Josh refers to Jesus as his friend. Our hymn today reminds us that Jesus is our friend. But, what does that mean? What is a friend, and what is friendship?

The dictionary defines a friend as one attached to another by affection or esteem, a favored companion; a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection. Synonyms include companion and confidant. An acquaintance, on the other hand, is someone known to us without the intimate quality of friendship. Friendship is the quality or condition of being friends.

So, a true friend is someone with whom we have a deep, intimate bond and relationship.  True friendship is unconditional acceptance no matter what happens – “No matter what happened yesterday, I’m still your friend now.” Basically, a true friend loves us “warts and all.”

How many of you have ever heard of Joseph Medlicott Scriven? If you have, it’s a name you’re not likely to forget. Joseph…Medlicott…Scriven. I’m sure there aren’t many of us who remember ever hearing of him.

Let me tell you a little about him. He was an Irish immigrant, a graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, who at 25 had fallen in love and was to be married; but on the day before his wedding everything changed in an instant.

While crossing a bridge to visit Joseph, his fiancée fell off of her horse, and drowned in the River Bann in Ireland…the very day before their wedding! What a horrendous accident. As we might imagine, Joseph was crushed. So, he sailed to Canada to forget his broken heart, and to try to start a new life. And he pretty much did–eventually falling in love again, and even getting engaged for a second time. All seemed right with the world once more for Joseph Scriven.

But, before they could wed, his fiancée got very sick, and four months later she died of pneumonia. What are the odds?  How would one recover from that horrible shock…all over again?

If it were you, sitting there at your second funeral, would you blame God, turn away from Him, despair of all His supposed goodness?

You’ve probably heard folks say or post on Facebook, “I married my best friend.”

For Joseph Scriven, he couldn’t say that. He had to bury his potential best friend…twice.  And, as if wasn’t enough, while recovering from these dual tragedies, his mother in Ireland became extremely ill, and he couldn’t sail home to be with her.

Heartbroken and helpless. It was beyond adding “insult to injury,” almost a cruel cosmic hoax to see how much he could bear. How many of us have felt those same feelings of despair and hopelessness. How many times have we wondered, “just how much am I supposed to endure?”

In response to his feelings, Joseph did the only thing he could do. In 1860, he wrote to his mother, and sent her a poem that he hoped might give her some comfort in his absence.

Why do I mention Joseph Scriven’s sad story? To depress you? No…to encourage you!

Despite his circumstances, horrible circumstances to be sure, almost soap opera-like tragedies, he never lost faith in his best friend…and that simple poem to his mother became a famous hymn about that same friend, Jesus Christ. Yes, you guessed it…in the midst of his deep despair, Mr. Scriven penned the poem that would one day be set to music – our hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

Let’s take a closer look at a few lines that we sang earlier:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
oh, what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!

Joseph considered Jesus to be his best friend, and despite his loss, his trust in his friend never wavered, and he stood with Him in a life of ministry to the poor in Port Hope, Ontario until his death in 1886.

In the film God’s Not Dead we see a similar friendship with Jesus despite some heavy losses by our protagonist.

In the film, Josh Wheaton, takes a stand for his Christian belief in God with his college philosophy class, trusting in his Friend to see him through as well, no matter what the cost. And, as the movie shows, it costs him plenty.

We’ve seen the movie trailer before. Let’s watch it again, only this time, let’s pay attention to how Josh responds to his professor’s challenge to renounce his best Friend:

Movie Clip*: God’s Not Dead Trailer

How would we respond to a public challenge like this, one that impugns our friend? It may be a co-worker, a neighbor, or someone in your church. It could even be a member of your family or the love of your life.

How far would you go to defend your friend and not disappoint them when they need you most? Think about it for a moment. How often have we come to the defense of a friend, or said something like, “Wait a minute, you can’t talk to a friend of mine that way.”? Would we come to Jesus’ defense the same way we defend our other friends? We take a stand for our friends and family all the time. Do we consider Him to such a friend that we would Take a Stand for Jesus?

Taking a stand can be a hard thing to do sometimes. Josh sets the bar pretty high for all of us in the film, willing to sacrifice everything to stand with his best Friend.

First Peter 3:15 says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

Let’s look at Josh’s motivation and his “Taking A Stand” for his Friend, Jesus Christ, and, in the process, maybe we’ll discover what exactly makes a person a true friend? 

What Makes A Friend?

First of all, let’s take a look at some of the things the Bible says about friendship.

  • A real friend is consistent in their affection.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

What does that mean in our world today? It means that no matter what happens, they are there for us, 24-7, especially when our world falls apart. When it is the worst, even at 4 A.M., we can call them because we know they’ll come and help.

  • A true friend is brutally honest.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:5-6)

If we have a problem, they care enough to not sugarcoat it. They tell you the truth. If there’s broccoli in your teeth, or that color isn’t the most flattering…they’ll tell us. They care too much to let us be a fool, get hurt, or be embarrassed.

  • A genuine friend is closer than family, even to the point of death.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother(Proverbs 18:24).”

Someone who is closer than a brother is someone who will sacrifice even their own life for us, and we for them. They are more than family. They are our go-to-guy in any situation because we know that they have your back. When it’s life or death, they will step in for us no matter what.

Who can be with you 24-7, tells you the truth all the time, and would even die for you as a brother?

I think the answer becomes clear when we consider Mr. Scriven’s best Friend, the man from Nazareth, Jesus Christ, because He didn’t just say it, He “…demonstrates His own love toward us…” (Romans 5:8).

Jesus is that “friend who sticks closer than a brother,”. He is always there, always honest, and as a brother He even died for us. Josh knows this and acts accordingly in his philosophy class.

Scripture tells us:

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:16)
and
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16)

Think about this for a moment. Do you know anyone who cares so much for you that they would actually die for you? Would you die for another? Jesus laid down His life for us. Would we lay down ours for Him?

Take A Stand

This is the litmus test. A real true friend will stand with us when our reputation is in question, when we’re at the very bottom, when we are completely broken, and have nothing.

The whole premise of God’s Not Dead is summed up beautifully in the scene at the library where Josh reveals his motivation to Martin Yip, a student from Communist China, who doesn’t quite get it. His motivation is very simple…pure friendship that does not want to let his Friend down.

Josh lays out all his “difficulties,” – “Everyone thinks I’m crazy…Girlfriend, ex-girlfriend…My parents don’t want me to risk it…I’ll have to work like a dog to catch up in all my other classes.” But, ultimately, he has no real qualms about defending his friend to his atheist professor, despite all the risk and difficulty. It’s a no brainer. Why? Because he thinks Jesus is alive. What a powerful statement of faith.  He thinks that Jesus of Nazareth is really and truly still alive…today, right now! Do we? Is our faith so strong that we believe that too? Do we believe it enough to take a stand for Him?

Do we proclaim Jesus to be our friend? Would we stand up for him in public like Josh? It is a remarkable love that we can also see elsewhere in the Bible. Let’s take a look at the Old Testament story of another true friendship.

Jonathan and David

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.” (1 Samuel 18:1-3)

Setting aside any other possible interpretations of the story of Jonathan and David, of all the stories of friendship in the Bible, this is perhaps the greatest. And what do we see modeled here between Jonathan and David? We see the Golden Rule that Jesus established for us and recorded in Matthew 22:34-40…treat others as you would like to be treated…which means love them as you love yourself. And that’s exactly what Jonathan did, “…he loved David as himself.”

Jonathan even defended David and protected him from his father, King Saul.

“Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.” Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?” Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.”” (1 Kings 19:6)

Now that’s standing up for your friend – standing up to your own father, the King no less, when it’s literally life and death. And I’m sure Jonathan knew David was a “threat” to his right to Saul’s throne one day. Talk about risking it all!

And how did David respond to him? Again, not delving into any other interpretations or possible implications, he loved him in return. Their hearts were knit together, and when David learned of his death he mourned him and said, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26).”

He loved him more than the love itself!

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

That is what we see Jonathan initiated with David, and also what we see Josh reciprocating to Jesus’ love for him in coming to His defense in his philosophy class.  Josh doesn’t want to let him down. “I think of Jesus as my friend. I don’t want to disappoint Him.”

Let’s Get Practical – Dale Carnegie

One of the foremost experts on friendship was Dale Carnegie. For more than 100 years, and in almost as many countries, his methods and courses have been changing the way people view each other for the better.

Carnegie grew up a very poor farm boy in Missouri, but he soon discovered biblical truths about friendship that he put into secular terms in a book that sold over 5 million copies in his lifetime called, How To Win Friends and Influence People. It’s a gem of a book, and if you struggle with relationships, I highly recommend it. In fact, I should go back and re-read it! Mr. Carnegie’s life motto was one that should resonate with all believers: “Forget yourself; do things for others.”  –Dale Carnegie

Pretty simple, right? It’s a bit longer, but Paul wrote much the same thing in his letter to the Church at Philippi, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

One of our tasks as we study Scripture is to give thought to how whatever lesson we happen to be reading can be applied in our lives today. So, let’s get practical and have something to apply regarding friendship.

There are the six basic truths that Carnegie lived by. They’re tried and true and, if we want to have friends, all we have to do is apply these proverbs to our own lives and watch what happens.

  1. Be genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the most important word in the world. Use it often.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. Ask questions.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest. Avoid “I.”
  6. Make the other person feel sincerely important.

That’s it…that’s all we have to do. In short, love others as we would like to be loved.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Never Too Late

What if we haven’t been the best of friends to Jesus? Is it too late?

Time and distance don’t collapse true friendships. For example, I have a very, very dear friend, Billy. While I was living in California, Billy and I enjoyed a very close, very true friendship. If I ever needed a friend, he was there – no questions asked. And I offered him the same in return. As happens, our lives took different paths and I ended up moving to Oregon. It had probably been seven years since Billy and I had seen each other, or even had contact. We had connected though Facebook, but even that was cursory. Then, a couple of months ago I was surprised, and thrilled, to learn that Billy was moving – to Grants Pass! When he got here, he made contact, we connected, and our friendship, our relationship, picked up right where we had left it. It was as if the last seven years of absence simply didn’t exist.

Our friendship, our relationship, with Jesus is the same way. Remember, Jesus promised He would always be with us. In Matthew 28:20 we read, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Notice He doesn’t put any qualifiers on it – just like a true friend, just like my friend Billy, no matter how much time has elapsed, or how much distance we have allowed to creep in between us, He will never, ever leave us. If we haven’t been the best of friends to Him, it’s never too late.

And what would being a friend to Him look like? Unlike Peter, we don’t deny Him. Like Josh, even when everyone around us thinks we’re crazy, we hold true to our faith and to our friend – we Take a Stand for Jesus.

Closing Thoughts

We’ve seen what a real friend is in the example of Jesus Christ, and Josh’s Jonathan/David response to His love when he stood up for Him.

True faith is action – just like Josh standing up in his philosophy class. It requires works…not for salvation, but as evidence of it. Real faith means taking a step, an action, it means standing up. That’s what we call baptism. After we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we take an action, a step of faith, to show our belief. And it doesn’t matter if, up until now, we haven’t been the kind of friend we should have been…it doesn’t matter if we’ve let time or distance temporarily separate us – it’s never too late.

As a side note, Joseph Scriven never married. His action was a life devoted to ministering to the poor for the sake of his best Friend. Let’s look at the rest of his poem, today’s hymn. I’d like to think his mom found great comfort in it, and in her son’s remarkable faith.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged –
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge –
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
thou wilt find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
may we ever, Lord, be bringing
all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
there will be no need for prayer –
rapture, praise, and endless worship
will be our sweet portion there.

With that sort of a friend, why wouldn’t we take a stand for Him and give our all no matter the risk…especially when we know He stands right there alongside us? What a friend we have in Jesus, a friend who stood up for us, and who “sticks closer than a brother!”

In closing, let me share this poem by William Blake, 1757 – 1827:

I looked for my soul,
but my soul I could not see.
I looked for my God,
but my God eluded me.
I looked for a friend,
and then I found all three.

Scripture

  • Peter 3:15
  • Proverbs 17:17
  • Proverbs 27:5-6
  • Proverbs 18:24
  • Romans 5:8
  • John 15:16
  • 1 John 3:16
  • 1 Samuel 18:1-3
  • Matthew 22:34-40
  • 1 Kings 19:6
  • 2 Samuel 1:26
  • Philippians 2:3-4
  • Matthew 28:20

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Take a Stand – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

God’s Not Dead 4: Take a Stand – Introduction

This week we conclude our series based on the movie, God’s Not Dead. So far, we’ve examined “Where is God when everything goes wrong?”, “Is our faith blind?”, and “How do we respond to critics?” In the movie, through all of the challenges thrown at him, Josh never turned away from his best friend, Jesus. He chose not to give in to the pressures of those around him – his professor, his girlfriend, etc. – and he chose, instead, to take a stand – to take a stand for Jesus. Like Josh, we are often faced with challenges to our faith. In the midst of those challenges we, too, have a choice. So today, we’ll take a look at what it might mean for us to Take A Stand For Jesus.

Spiritual Quote

“Friendship should, like a well-stocked cellar, be continually renewed.”
~Samuel Johnson

Planned Scripture

  • Peter 3:15
  • Proverbs 17:17
  • Proverbs 27:5-6
  • Proverbs 18:24
  • Romans 5:8
  • John 15:16
  • 1 John 3:16
  • 1 Samuel 18:1-3
  • Matthew 22:34-40
  • 1 Kings 19:6
  • 2 Samuel 1:26
  • Philippians 2:3-4
  • Matthew 28:20

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Responding to Skeptics – Teaching

Due to technical difficulties the Quote post was not made this week.

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

God’s Not Dead: Responding to Skeptics – Introduction

Today we continue our four-part series based on the movie God’s Not Dead.  As we’ve already discussed, the movie hits on some very important aspects of our faith, confronting some difficult questions that most of us have faced, or will face, at one time or another. In part one of our series we discussed the question, “Where is God when everything falls apart.” Part two examined the question, “Is our faith blind.” Today we’ll be discussing the question, “How to respond to skeptics?”

Spiritual Quote

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
~Philip K. Dick

Thoughts

1 Peter 3:15 tells us, ”but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

This Scripture reminds us that we should always be ready to defend our faith when we respond to skeptics. There are generally two kinds of skeptics–religious skeptics and non-religious skeptics.

Sometimes it can be very frustrating explaining something to the former when they may be extremely self-righteous, like modern day Pharisees. It’s almost like trying to communicate to a fish what it means to be thirsty. They are so absorbed with their “water” that they miss the point of it.

And non-religious skeptics can be so enamored with science that it’s become a religion to them, prizing intellectual arguments above an objective search for truth, making our task very difficult trying to match argument for argument.

Should we even try to do that? Maybe there’s more to it than arguments.

The movie provides some wonderful lessons about how to “give an account” to skeptics. When talking about our faith with skeptics, there are 5 Goals to keep in mind.

Goal 1:  Our Attitude

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15)

What are the three things that we’re warned we should never discuss in public?

Politics, Sex, and Religion, right?

Well, that’s true to some extent. However, the Bible makes it clear that God wants us to discuss our faith as much as possible. We just need to be wise in how we do that. It comes down to this: it’s not what we say so much as how we say it. We want to represent Christ properly as equals in a humble search for the big answers to life.

But there is some truth between the lines in the adage about politics, sex, and religion…discussing sensitive topics can lead to an ugly argument if we’re not careful.  As believers, our goal should be to love the person, not just winning an argument with clever points and information.

The goal of our instruction is love. We see an example of this in the father’s reaction in the parable of the Prodigal son in Luke 15:20: “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

If we don’t have that same desperate compassion, scanning that road every day as the father did, longing for his son’s return, we don’t really get what Jesus was conveying here about God’s love for the lost. It’s critical that we be loving, compassionate, gentle, and filled with the Holy Spirit, manifesting His fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, self-control, etc. when discussing our faith.

No one likes a know-it-all, and it’s critical that we are gracious in sharing the gospel…especially when we may have to tactfully point out biblical differences or misconceptions about God to a skeptic.

If our goal is to be right, to win the debate, and show how much we know, then we’ve already lost the person. We don’t want to win the battle over a minor point regarding Evolution or Creation, and lose the war for bringing them into a relationship with God. So remember…

•  The goal of our instruction is love.

In the film, one of the loudest critics is Professor Radisson. He vehemently opposes Josh, but Josh does a good job of restraining his emotions and stays pretty even-keeled. We discover later on that the professor has some deep pain that’s driving his anti-God crusade. And that can be a pretty typical scenario when discussing our faith with others – especially skeptics. A lot of people have some pretty intense toxic waste from their past that is bubbling near the surface.

We need to be sensitive to their unseen hurts, and compassionate like the Prodigal’s father.

Like the hidden pain in Professor Radisson’s past, there may be an alcoholic parent in their past, a tragic death, or some other personal injury or abuse, maybe even from a church. If we knew their pain, we’d probably be more compassionate with how they arrived at this stage in their spiritual journey.

Darwin himself is thought to have turned away from belief in God because of the death of his 10-year old daughter. It’s so important to remember it’s not an “Us vs. Them” situation. We are all on the same side, mutual captives, trying to help others see His love and grace.

When answering questions Paul advises us in 2 Timothy 2:25 to answer, “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” So remember…

•  Sometimes the more antagonism, means more buried pain, and more compassion on our part.

Let’s look at a scene from God’s Not Dead where Willie and his wife, from Duck Dynasty, graciously take some pretty snide remarks, and still manage to love Amy.

Movie Clip*: God’s Not Dead 3

Did you notice that there was no condescension toward Amy? No superiority in their answers? No self-righteous indignation at her remarks? This is a good example of how to interact with someone who doesn’t understand, without returning evil for evil.

Goal 2:  Share the truth, not clever arguments

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

This is precisely the advice that Reverend Dave texts to Josh when he accepts Professor Radisson’s challenge to defend God’s existence. We don’t have to know every answer or analogy, but we do need to know the truth…the gospel.

It’s not about being clever with facts, dates, and figures. It’s okay to know some answers to hard topical questions, but our goal should be to love them…and the most loving thing we can do is to share the gospel. Remember, like Reverend Dave reminded Josh, we may be the first real exposure some have ever had with the Gospel of Christ. As Paul says in Romans, this is God’s power for salvation. When discussing our faith, our interaction may be the first step on their journey into a deep relationship with Him.

Hebrews 4:12  tells us, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

It makes no real difference if someone doesn’t believe in the Bible. It’s still a sharp weapon and, like a scalpel, it can cut down to their innermost being.

Think of it this way. You point a loaded gun at someone and they say, “I don’t believe it’s loaded.”  What they believe about the gun makes no difference. It can still affect them. Share the Gospel with them, in a calm, loving way, without condescension or snide remarks. God’s Word is powerful.

So remember…

•  This is a spiritual battle, not a battle of wits.

Goal 3:  Be Humble

“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”(1 Peter 5:5)

“…knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” (1 Corinthians 8:1)

We are each just one beggar sharing a piece of bread with another beggar…we have nothing to boast about because our lives have been changed, we have been made new, through God’s grace. Remember what Paul told the Corinthians, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

It’s okay to admit that we don’t know an answer to a question too. We’re human and we don’t have to be a renowned scholars and theologians to lovingly help others understand His love for them. In fact, many people will respect our humility to say that we don’t know everything. When Professor Radisson challenges Josh with new information about Stephen Hawking’s theories, Josh says, “I don’t know…but that doesn’t change my faith in God.”

That’s brilliant! We don’t have to know everything to share the gospel, or defend what we believe. Just because we don’t have all the answers, doesn’t mean we don’t have enough answers to plot a course, to make a choice. We can also use those opportunities of not knowing to research and learn, and to share what we discover with them later on.

So remember…

•  It’s okay not to know every answer – just answer with what we know.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t have some answers, because they do exist. There are lots of apologetic books and websites out there to help us with these questions. (Apologetics means “verbal defense.” Christian Apologetics is the verbal defense of Christianity to critics and skeptics.) So we should study and research, and have an idea of what we believe, and why we believe it.

For instance, many famous scientists were also believers (Newton, Kepler, Pascal, Bacon, Pasteur, Kelvin, Marconi, Maxwell, Carver, Fleming, Hertz, and Von Braun, to name a few). Having a tidbit like that in our back pocket can turn a few science-heads who think science and faith are incompatible. A person can be both a brilliant scientist and still recognize Intelligent Design when they see it. These scientists did, and they were geniuses.

And sometimes “the answer” isn’t what’s needed anyway. Sometimes what’s needed is empathy. Real life has real hardships that just require real compassion and honesty. When we don’t “know” the answer it’s best to be honest and keep it simple. For instance, “I don’t know why your grandparents were killed in that car crash last year, or where they are today, but I know that God loved them, and gave Himself up for them.”

We see this very clearly in God’s Not Dead when Amy meets The Newsboys backstage. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the move, but trust me…sometimes folks just need to know that we care.

And finally, pray for wisdom as we’re interacting with someone. Ask God to open the eyes of our hearts to see what the real need is in their life so we can demonstrate genuine concern.

So remember…

•  We should have some answers…a defense for the hope that is in us.

Goal 4:  Be Winsome (Pleasing, Appealing)

“Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’” (Matthew 9:37)

“And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” (Revelation 14:15)

Sometimes people new to the faith, or even we ourselves, get so excited about our experience and relationship with God that we lose all sense of tact and want to tell everyone how wonderful it is, shoving it down their throats, as it were. And having things shoved down our throats is rarely pleasing or appealing.

While zeal for the Lord is refreshing, it must be accompanied with the knowledge that not everyone is ready to hear or to believe, so we shouldn’t tug on “green” fruit. We should look for opportunities to talk about our faith, but know when to move on when someone isn’t open to our enthusiasm. Remember the old saying…”Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.”

The movie depicts several examples of the different stages of a person’s spiritual journey in the various characters, and it’s important for us to recognize them.

  • Ayisha’s father–some people are not interested in the gospel at all, and are even violently opposed to it.
  • Professor Radisson–some just want to argue, to contest truth no matter what proofs are presented.
  • Amy–some are content with their life, as she seemed to be when dismissing Willie’s invitation to church, “No thanks.  I’m good.”
  • Martin Yip–and some are honestly searching for the truth about God, even someone from a communist country who knows nothing of Jesus Christ.

We need to have discernment and respect for each person’s place in their spiritual journey, combined with a genuine love for them no matter what.

Goal 5:  Intercede For Them

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

When someone first hears the gospel there are a number of things that can happen. Initially, their heart may be tender, like a bruise that is responsive to the slightest touch, but over time if nothing is done about it, the heart can become callous and hardened.

Once we have shared the gospel with someone, we should also remember to pray that the seed would take root and grow in their heart. This is another way to show God’s love to them, by praying for them.

We can ask ourselves if there is anyone else praying for them. If not us, then who?

Specifically we can pray:

  • That the Holy Spirit would move their hearts to recognize their need for a relationship with God.
  • That they would be reminded of the truth of the gospel in little ways.
  • That we could develop a friendship with them and ask for divine appointments.
  • That other Christians would come into their lives and show them God’s love too.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, let’s consider this quote by C.S. Lewis from The Weight of Glory:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit– immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

So let’s remember that Jesus Christ loves the whole world and “…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

We are all in need…like Dean Cain’s character, we have all been, and some still are, prisoners of the trappings of this world. It’s just that some captives have escaped and are now trying to help show their fellow prisoners the way out.

And winning an argument is not as important as winning a soul. So, let’s always be in the Spirit as we discuss our faith and answer hard questions about the gospel with humility and gentleness, seeking to win them, not just a debate. Our reality is our relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit. Even if we were to stop “believing” they won’t go away because they are reality. And we have a strong desire to share that reality with others. In the process, however, we must remember, the goal of our instruction, of our sharing, is, and must always be, love.

*Depending on your browser, the movie clip may play or download, or you may be asked whether you wish to play or download it.

Scripture

  • 1 Peter 3:15
  • 1 Timothy 1:5
  • Luke 15:20
  • 2 Timothy 2:25
  • Romans 1:16
  • Hebrews 4:12
  • 1 Peter 5:5
  • 1 Corinthians 8:1
  • Matthew 9:37
  • Revelation 14:15
  • 1 Timothy 2:4

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Is Our Faith Blind? – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

God’s Not Dead: Is Our Faith Blind? – Introduction

Today we’ll continue our series based on the movie God’s Not Dead. If you haven’t seen he movie, it deals with a scenario which plays itself out on college campuses all over our country – the debate about God, His relevance in our lives, and whether or not He actually exists. In the movie, Josh, is forced to defend God’s existence in his philosophy class at the insistence of his professor, who considers Josh’s faith nothing more than blind superstition.

Last week, we took a look at the question, “Where is God when everything falls apart.” Today, we’ll examine a second question with which Josh was faced – Is Our Faith Blind?

Spiritual Quote

“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

To begin, let’s view the movie trailer.

God’s Not Dead – Movie Trailer

Thoughts

This movie raises some very good questions for all of us as Josh begins to defend his faith publicly, something many of us might be reticent to do if faced with the same challenge. Hopefully, after this morning you’ll feel emboldened to imitate him.

So let’s dive in. Our second question in our series today is this, Is our faith blind?

Or…are there truly rational supports for believing in Jesus Christ, God in the flesh? Honestly, I think there are a lot of reasons to be confident in His reality, but let’s examine just 5 of them.

1.  The Bible

This is by far the most important support for our faith because it is all based on this revelation, so we’ll spend a majority of our time this morning on the Bible.

A frequent argument against the Bible, and our faith being based upon it, is that it can’t possibly be historically accurate. It’s been told and re-told, copied and copied too many times. Now, it’s true that there is still debate over interpretations, literal vs. metaphoric (Jewish Midrash), etc. For now, though, we’ll examine the Bible’s historical accuracy.

First, let’s examine the New, and investigate its viability as a reliable historical document; and later on, if it really is supernaturally inspired…God’s living Word.

A Reliable Historical Document

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18)

There are tremendous reasons to be assured about the authenticity of the New Testament. If we use the same criteria as “pure scientists” and scholars, it’s easy to make a sound, reasoned conclusion that the Bible is historically accurate. As a matter of fact, using the criteria, the Bible is more accurate than any other ancient manuscript; but to fully appreciate this we first need to understand the two primary questions that guide linguistic scholar’s textual criticisms:

•  How many copies are there to examine and compare?

•  How close in time are the oldest copies to the originals?

The reasoning is, the more copies that exist, and the closer in time the copies are to the original, the more accurate the results. So how many do we have to work with?

1.  There are over 5,664 Greek manuscripts and over 19,000 other copies in various other languages besides Greek for a total manuscript base of over 24,600! *

To get an inkling of how significant this number is, we need to see how other ancient manuscripts add up in comparison; works like Josephus or Thucydides, that are rarely questioned as being authentic in authorship or content.

The next closest document in significant copies would be Homer’s Iliad with 643. That’s it. The New Testament trounces that by over 24,000 copies! This is very significant. All the other major works of note from ancient history such as Plato, Caesar, Pliny, Euripides, Tacitus, and Herodotus are 20 copies or less each, and usually much less! Only two have more than 20: Sophocles (193) and Aristotle (49).

2.  The entire New Testament was written within 70-100 years of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

In other words, there were a lot of people still alive when New Testament documents were being penned…witnesses who could have easily contested their authenticity and accuracy, but never did.

The significance of this can be seen when we compare the next best ancient manuscript copies and its original, Homer’s Iliad, as being within 500 years. Conversely, one New Testament piece of John 18 is dated to within 25 years after the original was written! Ironically, none of these other manuscripts are ever seriously contested, despite most of them having an 800-2000 year gap from originals to copies.

So when someone challenges the historical veracity of the New Testament, they probably have never actually investigated their charge.

Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director of the British Museum, said:

“In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament. The last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.”

3.  These New Testament copies have a whopping 99.5% accuracy rate!***

New Testament specialist Daniel Wallace notes that although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this number is very misleading. Most of the differences are completely inconsequential–spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like. A side-by-side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.

Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism. This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. Homer’s Iliad contains 15,600 lines, 400 of which are in doubt. The New Testament, however, contains 20,000 lines, only 40 lines of which are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine.

Greek scholar D.A. Carson sums it up this way: “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”

Given the New Testament stands up to the scrutiny of science and scholars, the “thinker’s” argument simply doesn’t hold up.

A good follow up question to ask is: if God did author the Bible, and He meant it to be His primary communication device to us, do you think He would, as the all-powerful Creator of life, supernaturally protect its contents?

As John Adams once famously said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

A Supernatural Document

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

1. Prophecy

“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

The main distinction between the Bible and other religious writings is in its ability to predict the future accurately, which only makes sense if the author is truly the Creator and wanted to prove its veracity. Therefore, fulfilled prophecy makes the Bible completely unique.

According to The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy there are 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 in the New Testament; for a total of 1,817 future predictions.

But this claim of divine inspiration is no idle boast. We see in Deuteronomy that anyone claiming to speak for God, if not 100% accurate, would be put to death. Now, so we don’t go too far down a rabbit hole, given many prophecies came true long after the prophet’s natural death, remember this could also mean spiritual death.

“’But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

Knowing the severity for a fake prophet not only eliminated charlatans, it also made God’s prophets uniquely qualified as His anointed messengers. Let’s look at just one prophecy from Ezekiel, and remember there are over 1,800 other ones!

The city of Tyre 590 B.C. **

“Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock. She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ declares the Lord God, ‘and she will become spoil for the nations’.

For thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, chariots, cavalry and a great army. Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise, break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses, and throw your stones and your timbers and your debris into the water. I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place for the spreading of nets. You will be built no more, for I the Lord have spoken,’ declares the Lord God.

‘Then all the princes of the sea will go down from their thrones, remove their robes and strip off their embroidered garments. They will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment and be appalled at you’.” (Ezekiel 26:3-5, 7, 12, 14, 16)

Ezekiel prophesies Tyre’s destruction with these specifics:

1. Nebuchadnezzar will conquer Tyre

2. Other nations will take part in its destruction

3. Tyre will be flat like the top of a rock

4. Tyre will become a place to spread nets

5. Tyre’s stones and timber will be laid in the sea

6. Other cities will fear because of Tyre’s destruction

7. Tyre won’t be rebuilt

It all came to pass when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege in 586 B.C., and then Alexander the Great finished it off 241 years later.

According to Dr Peter W. Stoner in Science Speaks:

“Tyre was a city on the northern coast of Palestine inhabited by the Phoenicians, a strong maritime people, greatly feared by their enemies. (The king of Tyre supplied timbers of Solomon in the building of the temple.) In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, laid siege to the city of Tyre. The siege lasted for thirteen years; and when Nebuchadnezzar took the city in 573 B.C., he found that the Phoenicians had moved everything of value to an island about one-half mile off the coast. Though the city was taken, Nebuchadnezzar profited nothing, and the Phoenicians were not conquered. Nebuchadnezzar could not pursue them to their island position, so he returned to Babylon. Thus the first item of the prophecy was fulfilled: (1) Nebuchadnezzar shall take the city of Tyre.For 241 years the mainland city of Tyre remained very much as Nebuchadnezzar left it.  Later, Alexander the Great started his great conquest. His field of campaign lay to the east, but he feared that the fleet of Tyre might be used against his homeland, so he moved south to take the city of Tyre. In 332 B.C., Alexander reached Tyre, but he was unable to take the city at once. So he captured other coastal cities and took over their fleets, but with these combined fleets he was still unable to take Tyre. Alexander finally built a causeway from the mainland to the island. In building the causeway he used all the building materials of old Tyre, and that was not enough. He scraped up all of the soil in and around the old city and with it completed the causeway.After seven months, by a combined attack of land forces marching in over the causeway, and the fleets of conquered cities, he took Tyre. Thus items 2,3, and 5 of the prophecy were fulfilled: (2) Other nations are to participate in the fulfillment of the prophecy, (3) The city is to be made flat like the top of a rock, and, (5) Its stones and timber are to be laid in the sea.Other neighboring cities were so frightened by the conquest of Tyre that they opened their gates to Alexander without opposition and fulfilled another item: (6) Other cities are to fear greatly at the fall of Tyre.Today, visitors at the old city of Tyre find it is a very popular place for fisherman; they are spreading their nets on this very spot. Thus prediction 4 has been completely fulfilled: (4) It is to become a place for spreading of nets.The great freshwater springs of Raselain are at the site of the mainland city of Tyre, and no doubt supplied the city with an abundance of fresh water. These springs are still there and still flow, but their water runs into the sea. The flow of these springs was measured by an engineer, and found to be about 10,000,000 gallons daily. It is still an excellent site for a city and would have free water enough for a large modern city, yet it has never been rebuilt. Thus item 7 of the prophecy has stood true for more than 2,500 years: (7) The old city of Tyre shall never be rebuilt.”

The odds of this happening are 75 million to one!

2.  Our Experience

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

As Christians, our own testimony is proof that God is alive because He has changed our life, our values, our habits, and our destiny.

Of all the evidences of our faith being real, our experience of having the Holy Spirit literally inside our own bodies is the most powerful proof of all. When we allow the Holy Spirit to change us, to make of us a new creature, our very lives become a living testimony to the power of God, and of His Son, Jesus, living through us.

Our conscience is alive, God speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, and we have a peace that we never knew before because we have a clear conscience that comes with the assurance of Heaven.

The effect that Scripture has upon a willing heart is evidence in and of itself, but despite over two millennia of changed hearts as possibly subjective evidence, let’s ask ourselves one other question – would the original disciples and Apostles, who were eyewitnesses to the events around Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection give up their lives as martyrs if they knew it was all a lie? A man may give his life for what he believes, but no man would die for what he knew to be false. Nevertheless, there is more objective evidence than changed lives to prove this book to be the very words of God.

3.  Answered Prayer

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:12)

This is something that is equally powerful to the previous point about our personal experience because God has graciously granted our prayer requests. And as in God’s Not Dead, we know that He does not always say yes right away. Sometimes the answer is to wait. Sometimes it is denied altogether, but we all have examples in our life where God came through for us…sometimes miraculously!

4.  Creation

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

According to Paul, everyone knows that God exists because of the amazing things we see all around us every day–the wings of a dragonfly, a baby’s birth, a snowflake, a rose, the cedar tree outside our front door, or the Milky Way on a clear night.

We all know that these intricate designs in creation imply that there is a Designer. Everything that ever was, is, or will be had, has, or will have a creator. Did your house build itself? Did your car appear in your garage out of thin air? Or did your iPhone just appear in your pocket overnight? Of course not – nothing appears from nothing. It’s not so hard, then, to believe that our entire universe and everything in it must also have had a Creator.

5.  The Church

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Despite the Roman’s persecution in the First Century, and surviving over 2,000 years of global persecutions thereafter, the Church continues to exist…even in deadly Communist and Islamic countries right up to today.

In other words, not only have our lives been changed, but millions of others also testify to this same transformation by God’s Spirit. The permanence of the body of Christ is a strong testimony to the divine protection Jesus promised to Peter.

In closing, let’s look at a scene from God’s Not Dead where a son evaluates his mother’s faith, and concludes after comparing it to his life, that it’s been a wasted and misplaced venture…a blind faith.

Movie Clip*: God’s Not Dead 2

Closing Thoughts

Every one of us have had those who doubt come across our paths. There are those who doubt God, which we discussed last week. There are those who, even if they believe in a god, they don’t believe the Bible. If we listen to them long enough, we hear the echoes of our original question in the back of our minds – Is Our Faith Blind?

As we’ve seen today, our answer is a resounding NO! The evidence backs up our claim. That said, it is not our responsibility to get into shouting matches over who’s right and who’s wrong. Our job is not to beat people over the head with the Bible. Our job is, quite simply, to state our case objectively – with passion tempered with humility. Our job is to truly live our faith, and through our example, pray that we lead others into the deep, incredibly beautiful relationship with God; living by Christ’s example, and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

*Depending on your browser, the movie clip may play or download, or you may be asked whether you wish to play or download it.

Scripture

  • Matthew 5:18
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • Isaiah 46:9-10
  • Deuteronomy 18:20-22
  • Ezekiel 26:3-5
  • Ezekiel 26:7
  • Ezekiel 26:12
  • Ezekiel 26:14
  • Ezekiel 26:16
  • Acts 4:13
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Hebrews 4:12
  • Romans 1:20
  • Matthew 16:18

Resources

Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry

C. S. Lewis Apologetics

Science Speaks

Stand to Reason

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Is Our Faith Blind? – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceIs Our Faith Blind? – Introduction

God’s Not Dead – Is Our Faith Blind?

This week we’ll continue our series based on the movie God’s Not Dead. If you haven’t seen the movie, it deals with a scenario which plays itself out on college campuses all over our country – the debate about God, His relevance in our lives, and whether or not He actually exists. In the movie, Josh, is forced to defend God’s existence in his philosophy class at the insistence of his professor, who considers Josh’s faith nothing more than blind superstition.

Last week, we took a look at the question, “Where is God when everything falls apart.” This week, we’ll examine a second question with which Josh was faced – Is Our Faith Blind?

Spiritual Quote

“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Planned Scripture

  • Matthew 5:18
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • Isaiah 46:9-10
  • Deuteronomy 18:20-22
  • Ezekiel 26:3-5
  • Ezekiel 26:7
  • Ezekiel 26:12
  • Ezekiel 26:14
  • Ezekiel 26:16
  • Acts 4:13
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Hebrews 4:12
  • Romans 1:20
  • Matthew 16:18

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Where is God? – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Due to technical difficulties, no Quote post was made last week.

Where is God? – Introduction

God’s Not Dead: Where is God When Life Falls Apart?

As people of faith, many of us find ourselves in situations in which we must either deny or defend our faith. In the movie God’s Not Dead, college student Josh Wheaton finds himself in this exact position. Today, we’ll begin a four-part series based on the movie God’s Not Dead; and we’ll take a look at some of the questions Josh must consider when defending his faith. One such question is: Where is God when life falls apart?

Spiritual Quote

“Evil is atheism’s most potent weapon against the Christian faith.”
~C. S. Lewis

Thoughts

For those who missed our movie on Friday, God’s Not Dead is the story of a college student, Josh Wheaton, who has his faith challenged by his philosophy professor; and he has to defend God’s very existence to the entire class.

Though the movie is fiction, in reality the story isn’t that far-fetched; and it’s extremely relevant. Like Josh, many of us find, at various times, that we must defend our faith. And many college students today find themselves in the position of defending their faith to friends, family, and fellow students.

This movie has some powerful moments and lessons, and asks some tough questions that may seem troublesome for Christians. This morning we’ll tackle the first question posed in the introduction…Where is God when life falls apart? Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), this topic and question falls right in line with our message last week titled Adversity and Affliction.

The Question

How many times have we heard someone say, “A God who allows horrible tragedies to happen to innocent people is not a god I want to worship.”  Or, “How can a loving God allow innocent people to be hurt so badly?”

These are fair questions that can leave even the strongest believer scratching their head.

Let’s face it, we all want life to be easy and fair, and we want there to be no such thing as pain, loss, tragedy, and grief. Regarding such pain, in the film Josh offers our quote for today – “Evil is atheism’s most potent weapon against the Christian faith.”

How do we explain evil happenings that cause tragedies like the Columbine school shootings, the tsunami in Japan, the typhoon in the Philippines, constant famines in Africa, young men and women killed in senseless wars, terrorist bombings that cripple and maim, fatal car accidents, infant deaths, the Holocaust, and, closer to home…a loved one with cancer or worse?

If a loving God is really in control, shouldn’t everything be nice and easy?

As we discussed last week, the answer is “No”…Jesus made it clear that in this life we will have tribulation. And then He said we should take courage because He has overcome the world. In John 16:33 we read, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus made it clear that in this blip on the timeline that we call our life we would have sorrows and tribulations. Through free-will, God has permitted a broken world to affect us; but it is only through Him that we can have peace in the midst of troubles. Evil is obviously real, so why does He allow it?

For a start, let’s take a look at one pivotal scene from God’s Not Dead.

Movie Clip*: God’s Not Dead 1

Why does God allow evil in our world? If we are honest, the only truthful answer we can give is one of ignorance. Quite simply, we don’t know God’s mind. It’s okay to say to someone’s challenge on why something horrible happened, “I don’t know. I don’t know the mind of God.” It may not satisfy, but like Jesus’ answer it is honest. We simply don’t know everything. And that’s okay.

Scripture validates this truth – in this life, we simply don’t know everything. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul wrote, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

God has graciously given us some things that are certain though, truths to steer us toward a better understanding of Him and His ways. These overarching truths are headlights on the dark road of life that the Scriptures reveal about Him and our world, to help us trust Him when tribulation arrives. My sister puts it this way, “I may not see the light at the end of the tunnel – but I’ve found the light switch.”

These help us move forward in faith, but answers to “why” questions must remain “puzzling reflections” until we can ask Him in person.

Nevertheless, our Bible does give us a foundation of 7 Pillars of truths that help us with 7 Suppositions regarding our question, “Where is God when life falls apart?”

The Seven Pillars

Pillar 1. God’s character and nature is loving, good, and righteous.

  • “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
  • “Put on your new nature, created to be like God–truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:24)
  • “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

God’s nature is, indeed, loving, good, and righteous. The movie puts it this way…“God is good…all the time.”

Pillar 2. God has given us freedom to choose to love Him, or reject Him.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! That you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life…” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

We’re not robots or automatons, and God doesn’t expect us to be. Forced love isn’t love – it’s coercion at best, slavery at worst. God wants us to love Him, but true love must be a choice.

Pillar 3. This freedom means we live in a world with evil, sin, and real dangers.

  • “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
  • “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

Throughout Genesis 1 we read the statement “God saw that it was good.” God’s original creation was good…perfect. As a result of man’s selfish desires, instead of a world of love and perfection, our world became, and remains, broken.

Pillar 4. God intensely desires restored fellowship with us.

  • “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
  • “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.” (James 2:23)

God’s desire is to be gracious to us, and to be reunited in fellowship.

Pillar 5. His love is so great that His Son died so that we could live.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

God doesn’t just say He loves us; He showed it by giving up His very best.

Pillar 6. Sin, that which separates us from God, remains in our fleshly body – we have not yet reached perfection; but, the things of the physical world are temporary.

  • “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12)
  • “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Galatians 5:17)
  • “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

The effects of man’s “sin” – ego and selfish desires – remain; but it has now lost its power and permanence.

Pillar 7. We can trust His finished work because He defeated death (sin) by resurrection.

 “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57)

The empty tomb proves His triumph over sin and death, and our own empty graves.

Now with this foundation, let’s think about Josh’s answer about free will like this:

If you had a boyfriend (or girlfriend) who was forced to love you, who had to be with you, had to do whatever you wanted – basically, a robot relationship – would that satisfy you? Would forcing him (or her) to love you and care about you be true love? Absolutely not. In the movie, we see this in Josh’s relationship with his domineering girlfriend.

God knows this, so He allows us to choose to love Him…or not to love Him. That potential rejection consequence means our world could fall into separation from Him, and we would suffer as a result…temporarily. But His ultimate goal would be to solve this problem by uniting with us in perfection.

One day, this world of brokenness and selfish desires will be done away with, and will be exchanged for actual new bodies and a new world. As C.S. Lewis put it, Narnia was a cursed world “always winter, but never Christmas.” The Good News is that God promises Christmas is coming!

“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” (Revelation 21:4)

Knowing these 7 Pillars, let’s now look at 7 Suppositions; reasons to believe something is true even though we don’t have “proof.”

The Seven Suppositions

Supposition 1: Evil is real and people are blinded by their sin

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

This shouldn’t require much corroboration if you’ve ever driven in rush hour, or even just picked up a newspaper. People are selfish, mean, and spiritually dead. Doubt it? Why do we all have locks on our cars and homes? Police carry guns. Metal detectors are everywhere. Murder, crimes against children, crimes of hate, violence, corruption, and more are reported every day on the news. Evil is real, sin is real, and a lot of mankind is infected with a self-centered nature.

If you have any doubt about evil, just check out some of the comments on the God’s Not Dead trailer on YouTube. Or read the comments section of just about any Facebook post or blog that happens to be controversial. In fact, many people who profess to be “Christian” are just as mean, nasty, and hateful.

Supposition 2: His ways are higher than our ways

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

As ironic as it seems, indignation, confusion, and questioning of God’s intent, motives, and ultimate purpose for our lives demonstrates a rebellious nature. Many question His goodness and so prove separation from Him in doubting His goodness.

He has a purpose and a plan as Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, `plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Supposition 3: There is no innocence; we are all guilty

“as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:10, 23)

In our language today, we use an old adage that sums it up beautifully – “Nobody’s perfect”. And because we have not yet reached perfection, in our world we experience troubles. Trials and troubles are part of the human experience. Unfortunately, many of our troubles are of our own creation – violence, war, hunger, poverty, etc. Going back to another movie, To Save a Life, when the pastor speaks of people asking why God doesn’t stop such horrible things, he offers a different view – I wonder if God doesn’t ask himself the same about us. We have the power to end much of the trials, troubles, and suffering of our world. But our own selfishness, greed, lusts, and envy get in our way.

Supposition 4: Suffering can lead to repentance

  • “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
  • “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

I don’t believe God purposely sets out to cause sorrow and heartache. But I do believe that sometimes it is through our sorrow, our broken hearts, and our pain, that we come to see our need for God. Suffering can result in salvation – which is His ultimate goal for us.

Suffering alerts us to our need for help, a cure for our illness when it becomes so acute that it motivates us to go to the doctor. Pain leads us into His arms for solace, answers, and help. Sometimes, when we’re flat on our back, our last resort can result in finally looking up to Him.

Supposition 5: Suffering can lead to a deeper dependence on God

  • “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
  • ”who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

As Christians, times of trouble can bring us closer to God. And they can bring non-Christians into a relationship with Him for the very first time.

Supposition 6: Let’s put the blame where it belongs

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, `You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

God allowed for our free choice to love Him voluntarily. Part of that free will choice means some will choose to rebel, they choose evil. God doesn’t force us to love Him. It must be so to have true love.

Human beings choose evil, and others get hurt in the processes. It’s not God’s fault. God doesn’t send disasters and acts of great cruelty – they are part of the human existence. But through the disasters, He is always with us – if we choose for Him to be.

Supposition 7: Consider God’s past dealings

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

In the Bible there are several tragedies that the people of that time must have wondered our same question, “Where is God when life falls apart?”

Think about Noah and the flood, the Egyptian enslavement of Israel, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC, Joseph being sold into slavery, the murder of babies by Herod, and even the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. These were horrendous events that God turned around and used for the ultimate good of mankind.

When we consider past tragedies in the Bible, and how God used our bad choices, we get a glimpse of how His purposes can result for our good. We get a peek behind the curtain, so to speak, and see the Wizard at work.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, we cannot answer a “why” question about suffering because God has not revealed all of His purposes. The answer, “I don’t know, I’m not God,” is a valid one. We can only see dimly now, like a foggy reflection, but we can see enough of His ways through the revelation of Scripture to trust Him – to trust that He knows what is best for us, despite the broken world we live in.

And ultimately, what He wants more than anything else is for us to turn away from our selfish, greedy lusts in order to have a restored friendship with us. Like the Prodigal Son, He wants us to give up, and come home. Suffering can bring us to that point of acknowledging that we need His salvation, that we can’t do it alone.

We know all suffering is only temporary, and we can take heart that He has overcome the world here, looking forward to the world to come. Finally, remember that our faith-reaction to suffering may even lead observant friends and family to Him as well.

Scripture

  • John 16:33 1
  • Corinthians 13:12
  • 1 John 4:8
  • Ephesians 4:24
  • James 1:17
  • Deuteronomy 30:19-20
  • Romans 3:23
  • Romans 5:12
  • Isaiah 1:18
  • James 2:23
  • Romans 5:8
  • Philippians 3:12
  • Galatians 5:17
  • 2 Corinthians 4:18
  • 1 Corinthians 15:56-57
  • Revelation 21:4
  • Ephesians 2:1
  • Isaiah 55:8-9
  • Jeremiah 29:11
  • Romans 3:10
  • Romans 3:23
  • 2 Corinthians 7:10
  • Romans 2:4
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18
  • 2 Corinthians 1:4
  • Genesis 3:1

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