A Fresh Start

 

It was a Thursday afternoon and I was in the middle of a double period of high school German--but I wasn't learning much German that day. I was up the back of the class with Stuart, and Stuart was telling me about Jesus.

'Religious fanatics' were not my cup of tea, so it was odd that I should be genuinely interested in what one of them had to say. I was a 'normal' teenager, brought up in a good middle class Australian family. Like most people I knew, I 'believed in God,' although my 'faith' was vague, not very relevant to everyday life, and certainly not something you talked about. I went to Sunday School for a while--I suppose my parents thought it a good idea, although my teachers may have thought otherwise. When we were still young, Mum and Dad, though not regular church-goers themselves, gave each one of us a Bible—a black, leather-covered King James Version with our initials in gold on the front. I thought it was very 'holy' if somewhat incomprehensible. My knowledge of God and the Bible was pretty vague. I didn't think about such things much--basically I was happy and had no desire to become a 'religious weirdo.'

Looking back I can now see that some of the 'religious fanatics' I knew and avoided were fair dinkum Christians, and it seemed my class mate Stuart was one of them. But this time I was not ducking for cover—this time it was interesting, new and making sense. I am not sure that my German teacher would have been impressed with my sudden and inexplicable interest in 'religious stuff,' especially in the middle of her class.

After school, Stuart gave me a booklet to read. Late that night, I retreated to my room, closed the door, and read the booklet again and again. It was about 'good news'—'gospel' was the old English word for it—but there was also bad news.

I read that God made everything, including humankind, and it was all good. Yep, fine so far—I knew that already. It then went on to say that Adam and Eve, although they had it really good, decided to rebel or 'sin' against God who was the source of life and every good thing. This is where the bad news started in earnest. I vaguely recalled hearing this before in Sunday School and in 'Scripture' at school, but it was like I was hearing it for the first time.

It got worse. The whole human race, and indeed all of creation, was affected by this first act of rebellion. Everyone born after Adam was born 'bent.' Just as hens are naturally inclined to lay eggs, so humans are born 'sinners,' with a natural inclination to keep disobeying God, whether actively, or by way of cold indifference.

There are some major problems with this. Firstly, we are made in a certain way. Just as most cars are designed to run on petrol rather than, say, orange juice, so people have a very basic need to be in right relationship with God, and also with others. The second problem is that rejecting God (actively or passively) comes at a price. God is good, and the source of all good things, but he is also 'holy' and won't have a bar of sin. His standard is perfection, and he is going to judge everyone. Furthermore, this is his world, and he has the right to be the ruler of everything and everyone. But, 'bent' and rebellious, we have decided to go our own way.

Things were now getting a bit close to home. For the first time I was really understanding this stuff, and taking it to heart. Basically I was living in a fool's paradise. Whether 'nice' or 'bad,' everyone has rebelled against God, ignored him and not really loved him at all. And the price of 'sin' is hell—being cut off forever from God and every good thing. Suddenly it dawned on me that it was useless comparing myself with others, and taking comfort from being relatively 'OK.' I had to deal with God and him alone—and his standard was perfection.

I was getting a very heavy dose of 'conviction of sin.' The indifference, the excuses and the veneer of 'OK-ness' were stripped away. Even if I was the best person in the world, I wasn't going to measure up to God's standard of absolute perfection. Now I knew for the first time that I deserved hell. The bad news couldn't get any worse.

But God provided the solution. I started to read about God's mercy. But more amazingly I was learning that God is merciful—forgiving sin—and at the same time holy and just—demanding that the penalty is paid for sin. But how can this be? The solution is mind-blowing. No human could have dreamed it up, and this to my mind is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions.

The solution is a substitute, and the substitute is Jesus. (No wonder they call it 'CHRISTianity!'). God the Father sent his own Son to live and to die in the place of people like you and me. We couldn't live a perfect life, but Jesus did it for those whom he came to rescue. Though he was God, he became a real human being, felt the full strength of temptations, felt pain and humiliation, but never disobeyed God. Then he died in the place of his people, satisfying God's justice. So, God himself paid the price and paved the way for us to be at peace with him.

What was I to do? I went on to read that I could never earn 'salvation'—Jesus had done it all. It was a gift from God. How did I get this gift? I had to come to God 'confessing' my sin—agreeing that I was a rebel and deserved hell; I had to come to God in 'repentance'—turning away from my disobedience and turning towards God; and I had to come in 'faith,' trusting and loving Jesus. I did it! I prayed simply and sincerely. And that night I was 'saved'—Jesus had 'rescued the perishing.'

It is not the same for everyone though. For example, in the case of my wife Joy, coming to Jesus was a more gradual thing. But it is the same 'good news' in every case, and the same Jesus who makes us safe.

So, what about you? God offers you peace and reconciliation, and this is found in coming to Jesus. Meet him now as Friend, Master and Saviour, or in the next life as your Judge.

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How do you know God exists?

 

Once upon a time there was a young boy who lived in a big house. He had loving, caring parents. Mum made sure his meals were prepared, clothes put out, and his bed made. Dad often played cricket with him in the backyard. One day he went to school and, in the class discussion, he said to the teacher and the class, 'I don't have a Mum or Dad. I'm just here by myself.' The rest of the class started to laugh but the Teacher stopped them and said gently and kindly, 'But you must have a Mum and Dad. You wouldn't be here if you didn't have a Mum and Dad.'

In the same way it can be said that we wouldn't be here if God didn't exist. The most basic thing we can say about God is that he is the Creator of all things. The Bible also tells us that 'in him we live and move and have our being.' Since these are basic facts about God, we can say that we ourselves [not to mention the Universe and everything in it] are the objective proof for the existence of God. We need go no further than the existence of ourselves for proof for the existence of God. If we want to go further, we can point to anything--from the farthest star to the minutest organism--and say, 'That's proof for the existence of God.'

Some people don't feel very comfortable with this line of thinking. They will tell us that we're assuming what has to be proved. They would like us to be more neutral about this whole matter and start by assuming God did not exist. That would be about as sensible as the Teacher saying to the class: 'Now boys and girls, this is a very interesting question. Let's all say we don't have mothers and fathers. Let's say we just appeared on the scene--and then we'll try to prove we have mothers and fathers.' I hope someone would say that if you start off assuming they don't exist, how will you prove they do. In the same way if you start off assuming God doesn't exist, you'll never prove that he does!

People who want to doubt or 'disprove' the existence of God usually want to restrict their doubt to that question. But why? If you can doubt the existence of God, surely you can doubt the existence of yourself. In fact years ago there was a very famous philosopher called Rene Déscartes who was a real 'doubter.' He doubted the existence of everything—even himself! He asked, how can I prove I exist? And his answer was: Cogito ergo sum, I think, therefore I am [not, iMac!] He thought that his thinking guaranteed his existence. But even poor Déscartes was not a good enough doubter! He didn't really doubt himself. Otherwise he would have only said, 'There's some thinking going on.' If he had done that, he would have ended up in an asylum.

The upshot of the whole matter is this. If we're going to question the existence of God, we shouldn't really stop questioning until we're questioning everything--even the reliability of our senses, understanding and existence. And this is really where human thought that starts out denying God ends up. It tries to make sense of the world without God, and finds out in the end that it can't even make sense to itself. It ends in emptiness and meaninglessness. At least some non-Christian philosophers have been able to see that quite clearly. The famous German philosopher, Nietzsche, declared that if God is dead, man is dead too; the one gives meaning to the other.

The basic reason why people want to make the existence of God a problem is because they don't want to face him. And they think that the invisibility of God gives them a good excuse. Things seen can't be doubted; things 'unseen' can be. But this is quite false. Often in courts of law people give contradictory evidence about the same event that they have seen. Besides, if we carried that principle through consistently we would have to deny a lot of things we take for granted like the mind and thoughts, which are invisible. But we can go even further. God has revealed himself in this world; the Unseen has become Seen. Jesus Christ was [and is] God in human form. He demonstrated this in the things he did. But did people say, 'Here is God in human Form!'? Not at all. They disbelieved him, criticised him, and finally crucified him. His 'visibility' didn't make any difference at all.

In a nutshell, we can say that every single thing in the Universe is evidence for the existence and richness of God and ultimately, all historical and archaeological research, and all the findings of science in every field will bear testimony to his existence, and the truth of his Word, the Bible. Even today in all these areas there is a tremendous amount of evidence that shows quite clearly the truthfulness of what God has said in the Bible about the world, life, and his Son, the Lord Jesus. At present there are things we don't understand. But this is only to be expected. The Creator is infinitely greater than what he has created. As we study the creation, and the Bible, we will come across things which will stretch our understanding to the fullest, spur us on to greater research, and make us aware of our limitations. But when history has run its course, it will be plain that everything in us and about us, and in the Bible proclaims the existence of the One who alone has life in himself.

But if the evidence is so clear for God's existence, why can't it be seen by everyone? To answer that let me tell a story about the Valley of the Blind. A man was out walking one day and fell into a valley where only blind people had lived for generations. He talked about the wonderful things he could see--the colour of the flowers; the beauty of the sky; the glory of the sunsets and many other things. They said he was quite mad. They had never 'seen' any of these things and believed he should have an operation on his eyes so he would be like the rest of them! So it is with the evidence for the existence of God. Its there in all its richness and awesomeness. But if we're blind it doesn't matter how much there is. We will not see it, and, as the saying goes, 'there are none so blind as those who do not want to see.' And until our eyes are opened we will not see, even if someone should rise from the dead.

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