Monday, September 21, 2015

Question 2: Is there a God?

Why is this an important question to settle and how can we believe He does exist?

Romans 1:19-20  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 

The Next Question that comes up in Exploring God is Simply, Is there a God? And this can be a very honest question. 
It’s not unusual to run in to folks who say, “All we can really know is what we can prove. If we can prove it exists then we can’t know it.” Now I believe very few people actually live like that.  To say it is one thing, to live by that is another. You might ask them if they love anyone. If so, what is love, is it provable? Can they show it to me in a laboratory? How about right and wrong? Show me that in a lab. If it is wrong to steal or murder, why? True, people might experience love or ethics, and conclude their reality based on experience; but God? That’s really hard to pin down!
So Why is it important to decide if there is a God or not?
If you do not believe in God, I’m going to ask you to consider 2 things: 
First, I know I cannot prove to you there is a God. Can’t be done. I know, I make the claim that God exists so the burden of proof is on me, but I can’t prove it. 
But second, I’d like you to at least hear WHY I – an educated, functionally intelligent person - believe this.
So under the category of "Importance for believing in God" I’m going to list two things: 
Meaning and Morality. 
Now this does not prove God, but, consider that without God, life has no meaning. There is no purpose to it. There is only genetic reproduction. There is no difference between me and a tree. No don’t say “amen” to that. I didn’t mean I’m dum as a tree. But without God, I just exist for no higher reason than a tree...or a rock! 
Also my accomplishments mean nothing. I could find a cure for cancer, but the people I would help are going to die anyway, and they have meaningless lives too! 
Also, my future has no meaning. There is death and then nothing, if there is no God. But if there is, and if He has a place for His people to go after death and experience a paradise of eternity, and if He wants us to fulfill in us a purpose here on earth, that changes everything! That gives Meaning to life!
But also there is morality. Now, I am not saying atheists cannot be moral people. They can be. They can be good in the sense of caring for others, acting for the common good, they can be law-abiding productive citizens. Absolutely. But why? They might say, to live among other humans it is better to be good than bad. It is better to help than hurt. But I would say, Why? I mean, if life is short and then you die, why not just take whatever you want? If somebody bothers you, get rid of them. There is no God to judge you. There may be police but, hey, if you can get away with it, why not? Maybe you say, Well I'm just a good person, I don't need the "fear of God" to treat people right. OK, thats fair, but what if its something you really really want. What if someone stole the affection of someone you really really love. And you find yourself thinking, "I would do anything to get them back," Would you? How far would you go? Maybe you wouldn't murder your rival, but how far? I'm willing to bet that we all have a side of us that just might do some pretty horrible things in order to get something that means the world to us.
And unless you know what Straight is how do you know what crooked is? Unless there is a God, who impressed morality on humanity, there is no objective morality. Yet, there are moral codes with similarities all across the various cultures on earth.
Now as I said these don’t “Prove” anything, but I have to wonder, why does humanity look for meaning and why do we accept, across all kinds of cultures, that there is an objective morality? Maybe God made us this way!
Three Kinds of People
I love it when someone says, “there are two kinds of people in the world!” They all have different categories! So if 10 people say there are 2 kinds of people in the world, and they each have different kinds, Now we’re up to 20 kinds. Or the guy who says, There are 3 kinds of people in the world: Those that can add and those that can’t!
But When it comes to the Question today, “Does God exist?” There are 3 kinds. Atheists, Agnostics and Theists. Atheists say there is no God, Theists say there is a God, and Agnostics don’t know!
Atheists: Some people say it takes a lot of “faith” to be an atheist. You have to believe that all of creation is an accident. That the Big Bang explains how the entire Universe comes from nothing, that life came from things that were not alive, etc. etc. But the Atheist says, no. The whole point is they don’t have ‘faith’ for anything. The only thing they have that resembles faith is a trust in scientific theories supported by scientific facts. They say, all there is, is what you can prove. As I said before, they usually think there a few things that exists that are hard to prove, but what is hard for me to accept is their absolute Certainty that there is no God! Many modern scientists say there is no God. But Einstein wouldn’t say that. He said he did not believe in a personal god, but he advocated a certain humility in the face of an overwhelming universe that kept him from being an atheist.
Theists: Then there are theists. Thesists are Christians, Jews, Muslims, even animists who live in the remote jungles of Borneo! Anyone who believes there is a god is a theist.
Agnostics: Agnostics are neither. Some people say “There are three kinds of agnostics in the world!” There are those who say, “I don’t know if there is a god and you can’t know either whether you admit it or not!” Then there are those who not only don’t know, they don’t even care. There is no point to the question for them. They won’t go on record as saying there is no god. But they live like there isn’t. Then there are those who don’t know but wish they did.
I like meeting that last group of people, because I want them to know, there is a way to know, for sure, that there is a God.
But How can I convince them?
Recently on Sunday nights at the Dunlap’s we started a book study of Robert Jeffress’ How Can I Know: The Answer to Life’s 7 most important questions. And we spent a little time a couple months back on all the arguments of how we can know there is a God.
There is the Cosmological Argument that talks about how everything needs a cause to exist and ultimately a first Cause or God.
Theres the Teleological argument or Argument from design. If you find a clock you know it didn’t happen by accident. There had to be a clockmaker. Well the incredible precision of Universe requires a Designer.
There are ontological and transcendental arguments, and all of these have compelling points. But the atheist and the agnostic can argue against every one of them. They reinforce what the Christian believes, but they don’t really convince anyone. What they may do is help someone be open-minded about the subject.
So how can we convince anyone there IS a God? If you doubt the reality of God today, how can I convince you? There is a convincing proof of God! Did you know that?
But here’s the problem. I can’t show it to you.   //
 The Utimate Proof.
Earlier we read, Heb 11:6 …without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him
A few verses earlier it says in vs1-3, 
faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. …3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.

So, Faith is Required to Approach God because you have to have faith that He exists. 
At the same time Faith is the evidence of God. If you have no faith, of course you have no evidence! I understand that! You might decide he exists, you might decide he doesn’t, but without faith you have No Conclusive Evidence! So how or why would you approach a God you have no faith in?
Listen to Rom 10:17 (HCSB) 
So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
Ultimately this is the Only Way a person can come to truly Know there is a God, if they hear the good news about Jesus and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. But, How does that happen?

First, they hear the good news about Jesus Christ. There are many verses of scripture about this, but none is any more precious than:
John 3:16. For God SO LOVED the world, that He gave his one and only Son, so that whoever has Faith in Him, will not die! But have Eternal life!

Next, God gives Faith to believe. But, in Heb 4:2 we learn that not everyone who hears the Word hears it with faith. 
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 

But according to Eph 2:8 In order to believe God, He has to give you that faith. 
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

So what is the Ultimate proof?
Consider the good News of Jesus Christ.
This is not a political claim. It doesn't matter your political affiliation or what country you are from.
This is not a scientific claim. This is not about proving something in a sterile laboratory.
This is not even a religious claim. This is not some religious exercise where you have jump through intellectual hoops, or fast or pray to get enlightenment, or pay for it with money or time or blood.
This is the claim of God. He made the payment.
You Need a Savior because you are a sinner.

But Jesus took the punishment you deserve, and you can be forgiven and receive everlasting life. Will you Trust Jesus today?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Question 1: Does Life Have Purpose?

What is The purpose and meaning of life? Does it have purpose? Do the scriptures point believers to our true purpose?

 What do you think? Does Life Have a Purpose? 
     There are different ways to unpack this question. Some think in terms of purpose, others want to know if life has meaning. Some just want to know if their life has a purpose.
Some look at life like like scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins, that death proves there is no purpose in the universe except genetic replication: He wrote,
”During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by …parasites; thousands …are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. . . . In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.[1](WOW! Why does he get up every day?) 
     But he’s not alone! And he’s not the first one to think that. Remember Macbeth? Shakespeare wrote:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,   To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot,  full of sound and fury - Signifying nothing.
     But that’s an atheist and an old playwrite! What does the Bible say? Well, If Death and suffering are the most basic facts in the Universe, then the Bible pretty much agrees! Vanity, vanity, all is vanity! Everything is meaningless…What do people gain from all their labors?...No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered...”(Ecc1:2-4)
     So Is everything Really Emptiness? Is that really what the Bible teaches? Well, Ecclesiastes starts out by saying all is vanity and empty of meaning. But it ends with this: Ecc 12:13 The end of the matter; after all has been heard. Revere & honor God, keep and guard His Word and commands, for this is the whole duty of man.  Well, well, well, that sounds like something close to a purpose to me!
     But, One thing death does is cure us of the delusion that we are the center of the universe and in control of everything. We are not the Masters of our destiny if we can’t even guarantee tomorrow!
We are obviously not gods! Gods don’t die. But does this mean, because we aren’t gods that we don’t have meaning?  This is important. You don’t want to get this wrong, but neither do you want to say, "sure my life has meaning," but not know what that meaning is!
     What if someone had a Stradivarius violin and you asked them, do you know what that is for? And they looked at you funny and said “Sure I know what a violin is for!” Then they started to hammer a nail with it! They either have a low view of violins or don't care about the price of a hammer! OR, They don't really know what a violin is!
     When Barna Research group asked the Question “Are you clear about the meaning and purpose of your life?” 21% somewhat agree & 64% strongly agree! That’s 85%! But I have to wonder what their answer is based on? Are they driving nails with the Stradivarius life God has given them? 
     So let me ask you - Are you clear about the meaning and purpose of your life? You are a gifted person. Each of you. You may be a teacher, a marathon runner, a song writer, a great parent, or a really good listener! You have something you do well! But is that your purpose! What happens if you can’t do it anymore? What if you're a great listener and then you go deaf. Have you lost your purpose? If it’s not your talents or the abilities you have worked hard to perfect, then what is your purpose?
     Ever heard the expression, “Image is Everything”? Usually it’s used in an ironic sense. We say it about people who value image over substance. Some people don’t care if they are Doing a good job as long as they LOOK like they’re doing a good job. For them Image is Everything. But I don’t mean it that way when I say it. I mean it the way God uses it in Genesis. God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female…” We are made in God’s Image. THAT image is everything.
Why do I say that? Isa 43:6-7 says, Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.” And then there’s Rev 4:16 that says were created to glorify God, for His pleasure and His will. 1Cor10:31 says, ‘whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
     So let me tie this together: We were created in the Image of God, And, God created us for His glory! So we are to reflect his supreme goodness and the excellence of His character! We are to provide that Image to the world and reflect it back to Him!
So God created us for His glory, were are to glorify Him in all we do – BUT, what does Romans 3:23 say? Famous verse! Its one of the verses of the famous Roman Road! 3:23 says, For All have Sinned and…What? Fallen Short of the Glory of God!
God gave us a life that is like a Stradivarius – it should be making beautiful music in reflecting back to God the beauty of His Holiness. And we started hammering Nails with it!
    I am suggesting to you today, God created us for a purpose. God gave us meaning. And we misused our lives because we thought we knew better, or because we thought we could have more fun, or because we want to be our own masters.
     There is a building in London that has a mural painted on the ceiling by Peter Paul Rubens. They say the beauty and intricacy of it is amazing! But you can only stare up at the ceiling so long before you get a neck ache. So they provide mirrors for you so you can look in the mirrors and see the beauty up above without breaking your back! (Now don’t get ahead of me here.)
     But like that ceiling, the Beauty of God is so high above us, that we can’t continually look at it. Not because we get sore necks. It’s because we have fallen so far from where God created us to be. But Listen, God created us in His image! God wants us to behold the beauty of the Lord, so he sent us a mirror!    Remember what Jesus told the disciples? “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father!Col 1:15 says Jesus “is the image of the invisible God”.

     And listen to 2Co 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
   I love that! We have the light of the knowledge of God's Glory in Jesus Christ's face!
So what does that mean for us? Think of all the things we say that God has done for us. He loves us so He sent His son, Jesus, who died for us, He rose again, He forgives our sins, He adopts us into His family, He gives us eternal life, he gives us the riches of grace, on and on and on… Why?
WHY does He do all this? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE????
Rom 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” He did all this, so that we may be just like Jesus, who PERFECTLY reflected the Image of God the Father.

Does life have purpose? Yes. For all the meaning your life might have, for all the reasons you exist, it starts with the Purpose of our Creator! And its Found….. In the Face of Jesus Christ!