Are you familiar with this picture? It is Norman Rockwell’s picture called “Saying Grace.” A picture of either a mother or grandmother saying Grace with a little boy in a restaurant before they eat. Many of us grew up in a “Rockwellian World.” A culture that was imbedded with the Judeo-Christian values and belief.
Yes, times have changed. I am not sad that times change because we have many wonderful things because change can be positive. But I am sad at some of the ways we have changed and it is heart breaking to see the impact and influence of that change.
In the “Rockwellian World” I grew up in most people considered God to be Holy and was worthy of respect…even in public venues. Christianity (while maybe not always a priority for people) was at least respected and the beliefs of Christians were not constantly under attack or a punch line in television shows.
I know that people often like to poke fun at those days as being archaic and out of touch. They will describe these times as a time when Americans were out of touch and even hateful to others. And today they are quick to label the ethic we live by as “hate speech.” I am always quick to agree that those days were different and they certainly were not perfect. But it was a world where the influence of God was encouraged and God’s influence protected the behavior of men and women. And as a result of God’s influence we had a world where;
- Many didn’t feel like they had to lock their doors at night.
- You could let your kids walk to school with their friends and you even felt a peace about having your kids at school during the day.
- While there was some crime you didn’t see the mass killings in Malls, Movie Theatres and Schools.
- Parents were honorable and they were honored by their families.
- People who were in authority were respected.
That prominent role of the Judeo-Christian ethic led to a behavior that was good for our culture.
But as Dorothy would say “We aren’t in Kansas anymore.” Today God is not respected by most who walk on our streets. Today rather than respecting the beliefs of those who believe in God it is expected to aggressively question the concept of God. The enemy knows that if you can remove God then it’s checkmate. If you can remove God, then you remove His morality, His standards thus giving you the opportunity to be the “Captain of your ship and the master of your fate” guided by what you consider to be right and wrong. You want to make everyday and Outback Steakhouse experience… “No rules.”
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)
Skeptics are asking questions today… and we can either be offended by it or we can see it as an opportunity. I want us to see it as an opportunity. If we will remember 1 Peter 3:15 and utilize the approach of being prepared to give an answer with gentleness and respect we will become more effective at building bridges to those who are legitimately wrestling with questions.
If we are going to make a difference two things have to change with us… in the church.
- We have to stop being lazy and invest time and effort in our growth so we can truly understand why we believe what we believe. This takes work because we are dealing with a generation that doesn’t just accept the authority of the Bible. And what I am learning is that God has left His fingerprints in more places than the Bible. And if we can find those footprints they truly resonate with many skeptics.
- We have to stop expecting someone else to answer the questions and we have to be willing to engage the questions. I believe we will be more willing whenever we take time to learn why we believe. We collectively can impact far more people than we can do individually.
There has been some polling over the past few years that reveal some questions that Christians don’t want to be asked. Over the next several weeks we are going to look at many of those questions and seek to ‘Prepare ourselves to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”
The first question that makes Christians squeamish is
“What makes you so sure that God exists whenever you can’t see Him or touch Him?”
He is not tangible, you can’t weigh Him, or measure Him, and you cannot touch Him, or see Him. It is true that He is beyond our senses… yet we still believe in God. Why?
Before we wade to far into this let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of a couple of valuable points.
First, as Christians we understand that God is not material but rather according to John 4:24 “God is spirit.” So God is unlike my friends, or my phone, or even this podium, all which I can either see or touch. The reason I bring this to your attention is that it really shouldn’t surprise us that people are asking these kinds of questions because spiritual truths cannot be seen with our physical eyes, or heard with our physical ears, or even touched with our physical hands.
Second, don’t forget the power of your personal experience. One of the most beautiful truths in scripture can be found in Romans 8:15-16 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” And since the time of receiving His spirit I am sure that true believers can give testimony of feeling His promptings and seeing His activity in their lives. True believers know that God exists because they have known His forgiveness, and experienced His guidance, and been comforted by His love, mercy, and healing touch. What we have to understand is that it is hard to argue with your personal experience. I think that is one reason Paul mentions his story in Acts 26:12-16 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you.”
Friends, I believe it can be a powerful thing to communicate God’s activity in our lives. But how do we address those who are not impressed with our experience and are still not convinced?
Let me pause right now and remind you of an important truth. ONLY GOD CAN REMOVE THE SPIRITUAL SCALES FROM SOMEONE’S EYES. I bring this to your attention because you have to remember that salvation is not dependent on our ability to articulate a point but it is a work of the Holy Spirit. You can’t make someone get saved… you can engage their questions & present the gospel. God uses you but ultimately it is His Spirit who saves.
With that said, I do think there is more to share about why we believe in a God we cannot see.
Have you ever heard of Tommy Lee Andrews? Tommy Lee Andrews was the first U.S. criminal to be convicted of a crime because of DNA Fingerprint evidence. In his first trial the judge refused to allow the DNA Fingerprint evidence into the trial because he was afraid it would confuse the jury. That first trial ended in a mistrial. However, the second time around the judge allowed the evidence and it led to Andrews’s conviction in 1987.
The reason I bring Tommy Andrews to your attention is because I believe God has left fingerprints for us that provide proof for His existence.
Fingerprint #1- The Existence of this Amazing Universe. Throughout history, there have been many incredible minds that have believed that the universe always existed, that there was no beginning point. In the east, minds like Lao Tzu, who was an influential mind from the Taoist religion. In the West, Aristotle and many of his contemporaries believed that the universe was eternal… with no beginning. Now this was a fairly prevalent view until the 20th century.
And then in 1915 things began to change. Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity, which helped people to have a greater understanding of the universe. One implication of this theory is that the universe was now defined as time; space, matter and physical energy actually had a starting point. Now the Hubble telescope actually confirmed Einstein’s findings because it showed scientists that the universe is actually expanding, and the father away the galaxy is the faster it is expanding. So because the universe is expanding most scientists have concluded that the UNIVERSE HAD A STARTING POINT, which BEGAN the EXPANSION PROCESS.
So how is this a FINGERPRINT OF PROOF? Well if the Universe began to exist… then it had to have a cause for its existence. Things don’t begin to exist without a cause. So if the universe needs a cause to come into existence… then it makes sense that the cause is beyond the limits of this universe. The cause would have to be “outside time” timeless, “nonspatial” (outside of a special dimension), “immaterial” (not made up of any matter), does not consist of physical energy but is powerful enough to create this universe, all the billions or galaxies, and the billions and billions of stars. In other words, this cause would be something uncannily similar to what we commonly refer to as God.
Fingerprint #2-A Finely Tuned Universe. Don’t you love to visit beautiful landscapes, or see a beautiful sunrise or sunset? We can look at this world and quickly be reminded of Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” I am often reminded as I look at our world, that all of this life, beauty, and complexity did not just spring into life unaided. Science tells us that the Building Blocks of our world, the physical constants that govern all the matter in the universe- are precisely balanced and fine-tuned for life to occur and flourish.
So whenever & however this world came into existence it had to have certain parameters that would enable life to exist, and many of these parameters had to be “just so” in order for life to be possible. For example;
- Forces of Gravity- Scientists have calculated that the strength of gravitation force must fall within a very specific range or there would be no conscious life possible. So if the force of gravity changed slightly… it would make conscious life impossible in the universe.
- Neutron- if the neutron were not exactly as it is—about 1.001 times of the proton—then all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would decay into protons and life would not be possible.
Did you also know that there is parameters that have to be in place for a planet to be able to support life… at least 2 dozen parameters are needed? Here are a few… [Must consist of the CORRECT MASS, be ORBITED by a large moon, must have a magnetic field; must manifest a oxygen-rich atmosphere, G star (sun), and has to be in the correct location in the galactic habitual zone.] Each of these factors MUST occur in the right place at the right time in order to support complex life.
The probability of these factors converging is so infinitesimally small that many cosmologist and astrophysicists now admit that it’s more reasonable to believe that a divine designer was involved than to believe it happened by chance.
Fingerprint #3- The Understanding of Right & Wrong. I understand it can get depressing to watch the news. So much violence, so much hate being demonstrated towards people. But you know every once in a while you see a story that lifts your spirits. Over the past few years I have read or witnessed some amazing stories of altruistic actions towards others…like the mother who took in her sons killer after he got out of prison with nowhere to go. Or like an older couple (my age) that adopted special needs children after they got their family raised and their lives back. We read about people who donate organs to others they barely know, or even participating in fundraisers to help those in crisis.
The question comes… on what basis do we determine if something is right or wrong? Good or bad? Moral or immoral? I can’t believe that anyone in this room believes that those determinations came out of a big bang? Can’t you just imagine a huge explosion and out of the flames came “Thou shalt act altruistically or thou shalt be kind to the underprivileged.” What about “thou shalt not steal, or kill.” I don’t’ know anyone who believes that moral values came from a physical explosion. So where did they come from?
Before I answer that question please know that I am not saying that only Christians can do acts of kindness. I don’t believe that for one minute. We see example after example of people (who do not believe) engaging in kindness. I guess my question is “how did that get into their DNA?”
I don’t believe that humans invented moral values but rather humans discover them. I also believe that moral values are imbedded in the very nature of a holy & loving God who wants to know us personally. I believe that the Creator, planted a sense of right and wrong in our hearts when we were created and told us to imitate Him in Ephesians 5:1. This is exactly what Paul says in Romans 2:15 “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”